Fantasy Baseball 2016: Bleacher Report's 'Do Not Draft' List to Avoid Busts

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2016

Fantasy Baseball 2016: Bleacher Report's 'Do Not Draft' List to Avoid Busts

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    Zack Greinke is a great pitcher, but he's being drafted too high on the strength of his 2015 numbers.
    Zack Greinke is a great pitcher, but he's being drafted too high on the strength of his 2015 numbers.Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

    A player can turn out to be a bust for a number of different reasons when it comes to fantasy baseball, and it's all about trying to identify and avoid those busts on draft day.

    Regression is the most obvious reason for a player to bust, as banking on a player matching the previous year's production is not always a sound strategy.

    Stats like batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and fielder independent pitching (FIP) serve as useful tools in predicting regression in batting average and ERA, while a player's track record also has to be taken into account.

    Players who present a serious injury risk also have to be approached with caution, as grabbing someone early in the draft with a lengthy track record of visits to the disabled list can leave you down a key player.

    Then there's simply the matter of a player being drafted too high. It doesn't necessarily mean he's not a useful fantasy player, but when your second-round pick delivers sixth-round value, he's a bust.

    Players at risk of losing playing time, players who changed teams in the offseason to a less hitter- or pitcher-friendly park and players getting on in years all bring various levels of bust potential.

    So with all of that in mind, what follows is a look at our "do not draft" list in an effort to avoid busts, with three players from each position highlighted and the reason to avoid them made clear.

    Note: This article is based on 10- or 12-team mixed leagues with standard five-by-five rotisserie scoring for hitters (BA, R, HR, RBI, SB) and pitchers (W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV). Lineup construction assumes 22 active roster positions, consisting of one each for catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, corner infield, middle infield and utility, along with five outfielders and nine pitchers.

    All average draft positions referenced in the following article come courtesy of FantasyPros and reflect a cumulative average of multiple fantasy sites.

Catchers

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    A deserving All-Star last year, Stephen Vogt fell off significantly in the second half.
    A deserving All-Star last year, Stephen Vogt fell off significantly in the second half.Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    Jonathan Lucroy (No. 3 catcher)

    ADP: 95.0

    Reason to Avoid: ADP

    A toe injury and concussion issues limited Lucroy to 103 games last season, and his .264/.324/.391 line left him well short of his breakout 2014 numbers.

    He's certainly a candidate to rebound, but keep in mind that he's playing for a bad Milwaukee Brewers team and could be forced to deal with ongoing trade rumors all season. He's worth drafting as a starting catcher, but as the No. 3 catcher off the board going toward the end of the eighth round in a 12-team league, he's a major risk.

    Stephen Vogt (No. 8 catcher)

    ADP: 167.4

    Reason to Avoid: ADP, Regression

    After a .287/.374/.498 line that included 14 home runs and 56 RBI during the first half, Vogt saw his production plummet after the All-Star break, as he hit just .217/.280/.349 with four home runs and 15 RBI.

    He has decent pop for the position and should see some RBI opportunities, but let someone else pay for the impressive final numbers he finished with last year.

    Matt Wieters (No. 9 catcher)

    ADP: 170.2

    Reason to Avoid: Injury Risk, Playing Time

    Wieters was slow to return from Tommy John surgery last season, and he wound up playing just 75 games and hitting .267 with eight home runs and 25 RBI.

    He surprised the Baltimore Orioles by accepting his qualifying offer, and all signs point to him being the team's starting catcher. Expect Caleb Joseph to still see his fair share of playing time, though, after posting a 2.2 WAR and hitting 11 home runs last season.

    You're better off waiting a few more rounds and rolling the dice on a potential breakout candidate like Blake Swihart (225.3 ADP) or J.T. Realmuto (242.2 ADP).

First Basemen

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    Albert Pujols is no longer "The Machine" at this point in his career.
    Albert Pujols is no longer "The Machine" at this point in his career.Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Miguel Cabrera (No. 2 first baseman)

    ADP: 12.2

    Reason to Avoid: ADP, Injury Risk

    When healthy, Cabrera might still be the best hitter on the planet, but entering his age-33 season he's by far the biggest risk of any potential first-round pick.

    Even while battling injury last year, he still hit .338 to win his fourth batting title in five years. He's hit just 43 total home runs the past two seasons, though, at a rate of one every 24.2 at-bats. There are better picks to anchor your team at the end of the first round.

    Albert Pujols (No. 13 first baseman)

    ADP: 85.8

    Reason to Avoid: ADP, Age

    Pujols looks to be on track for Opening Day after undergoing offseason foot surgery, and all things considered he enjoyed a solid bounce-back season in 2015 with 40 home runs. That marked the first time since 2010 that he reached 40 long balls.

    His career-worst .244 average should improve a bit considering his .217 BABIP, but he's no longer a threat to hit .300, and unless he can drive Mike Trout in 100 times he could have a tough time reaching triple digits in that category once again. There's also the very real possibility he misses time to injury once again, considering his age.

    Mark Teixeira (No. 21 first baseman)

    ADP: 165.2

    Reason to Avoid: Age, Injury Risk

    Before suffering a season-ending fracture to his right leg, Teixeira was the New York Yankees' best hitter for most of the 2015 season, and he still finished with 31 home runs and 79 RBI.

    Looking at the bigger picture, the 35-year-old has not topped 500 at-bats in a season since 2011. He won't help your batting average and and he's a significant injury risk, so at his current draft position you're better off grabbing someone with upside.

Second Basemen

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    A huge month of May made Jason Kipnis look better than he was in 2015.
    A huge month of May made Jason Kipnis look better than he was in 2015.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Dee Gordon (No. 2 second baseman)

    ADP: 20.4

    Reason to Avoid: ADP

    Gordon enjoyed a phenomenal first season with the Miami Marlins, leading the NL in batting average (.333), hits (205) and stolen bases (58) while scoring 88 runs in a lineup that was without outfielder Giancarlo Stanton for much of the year.

    Even with his elite speed, he'll have a hard time duplicating the .383 BABIP he put up last season, so expect that batting average to dip down into the .290-.300 range.

    He'll still be an elite stolen base threat and could eclipse 100 runs with Stanton back in the lineup, but his current ADP will make it hard to get any real value out of him.

    Jason Kipnis (No. 7 second baseman)

    ADP: 87.0

    Reason to Avoid: Regression

    Kipnis rebounded nicely with a .303/.372/.451 line last season, but those numbers were a bit inflated by a ridiculous month of May that saw him hit .429/.511/.706 with 22 extra-base hits, and his production steadily declined from there.

    The 28-year-old hit .271/.322/.394 with three home runs and 15 RBI after the All-Star break, and without his elite average he wasn't nearly as valuable due to his lack of power and run production skills.

    He also doesn't run like he used to, as he stole 12 bases in 20 attempts after piling up 83 thefts the previous three years with a pair of 30-steal performances.

    DJ LeMahieu (No. 12 second baseman)

    ADP: 147.2

    Reason to Avoid: Regression

    LeMahieu still has a chance to be a fringe starter in mixed leagues as the unquestioned everyday starter for the Colorado Rockies and someone who is capable of providing 20-plus steals and scoring plenty of runs.

    However, a .362 BABIP last year makes him a prime candidate for batting average regression, and seeing as he doesn't provide much in the way of home runs or RBI, that takes a significant bite out of his value.

Third Basemen

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    Matt Duffy is a gamer, but he could have trouble duplicating his surprise rookie performance.
    Matt Duffy is a gamer, but he could have trouble duplicating his surprise rookie performance.Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Todd Frazier (No. 5 third baseman)

    ADP: 41.4

    Reason to Avoid: ADP

    Frazier set career highs in doubles (43), home runs (35) and RBI (89) last season, but he also hit just .255/.309/.498 in the process.

    His production dropped off precipitously after the All-Star break, as he hit .220/.274/.390 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI in the second half.

    Another season with 30-plus home runs and double-digit steals seems like a good bet, and his RBI numbers could improve with outfielder Adam Eaton setting the table for his new team, the Chicago White Sox, but he's being taken too high both at the position and overall.

    Matt Duffy (No. 14 third baseman)

    ADP: 157.4

    Reason to Avoid: Regression

    Duffy was one of the biggest surprises of 2015, as he hit .295 with 12 home runs and 77 RBI while taking over for Pablo Sandoval at third base for the San Francisco Giants.

    As Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs wrote, much of his value is BABIP-driven as a contact hitter, so his .336 BABIP leveling out would mean a serious hit to his value.

    His home run total also raises some eyebrows, as he hit just 13 total home runs in 1,087 career minor league plate appearances. It's also worth noting that eight of his 12 long balls came before the All-Star break, so pitchers may have found a way to adjust.

    David Wright (No. 18 third baseman)

    ADP: 211.0

    Reason to Avoid: Injury Risk, Playing Time

    This one is pretty simple.

    Wright played just 38 games last season after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis, and the New York Mets have set a target of 130 games this year. Honestly, they'll probably be happy if the 33-year-old winds up reaching 300 at-bats in 2016.

    The health questions, coupled with the addition of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera—which pushes Wilmer Flores into a super-utility role where he'll see plenty of time at the corner—simply don't make Wright worth the risk. Especially with such a deep crop of third basemen and corner infielders in general.

Shortstops

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    Given his lengthy injury history, there may not be a riskier top-50 pick than Troy Tulowitzki.
    Given his lengthy injury history, there may not be a riskier top-50 pick than Troy Tulowitzki.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Troy Tulowitzki (No. 3 shortstop)

    ADP: 48.0

    Reason to Avoid: ADP, Injury Risk

    When he's healthy, Troy Tulowitzki is still more than capable of being the top fantasy option at the shortstop position, and a full season in the stacked Toronto Blue Jays lineup won't hurt his counting numbers any.

    However, the 31-year-old has not reached 500 at-bats in a season since 2011, and at this point you almost have to bank on him making at least a couple trips to the disabled list.

    He's still a terrific option when he's on the field, but you need more certainty out of your fourth-round pick, and that's where he's been going in most drafts.

    Francisco Lindor (No. 6 shortstop)

    ADP: 73.4

    Reason to Avoid: Regression

    A career .279/.354/.384 hitter in the minor leagues with no more than 11 home runs in a single season, Lindor exploded for 22 doubles and 12 home runs in 390 at-bats after being promoted to the majors last year while hitting at a .313/.353/.482 clip.

    There's no reason to think he won't continue to hit for a solid average and his plus speed will always mean a better-than-average BABIP, but there will almost certainly be some regression from the .348 mark he posted a year ago.

    His power numbers may be even more prone to regression, as that .482 slugging percentage will be tough to duplicate. Going forward, a .290 average with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases seems like a reasonable expectation.

    Fantasy relevant? Absolutely. Worthy of being a top-75 pick and the sixth shortstop off the board? Not so much.

    Jose Reyes (No. 11 shortstop)

    ADP: 168.2

    Reason to Avoid: Playing Time

    The Colorado Rockies placed Jose Reyes on administrative leave pending the resolution of his offseason domestic violence case, and once the court end of things is resolved, he'll almost certainly be facing a lengthy suspension beyond the 30 games New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman received.

    Once he does finally return, there's no guarantee the shortstop job will be waiting for him either.

    Prospect Trevor Story has followed up a strong 2015 season in the upper levels of the minors by going 7-for-22 with one double, one triple and four home runs so far this spring. It's looking more and more like he'll break camp with the job, and if he produces it will be hard for the Rockies to justify turning things back over to Reyes.

Outfielders

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    How will Corey Dickerson handle life away from Coors Field?
    How will Corey Dickerson handle life away from Coors Field?Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Nelson Cruz (No. 14 outfielder)

    ADP: 40.0

    Reason to Avoid: Regression

    No one has hit more home runs than the 84 launched by Cruz over the past two years, and there's no reason to doubt his power even at age 35.

    His .302 batting average from a year ago is a different story.

    Cruz had never hit better than .271 in a season where he tallied at least 400 at-bats, and a .350 BABIP is a fairly significant red flag that he's headed for regression. Assuming that levels out to his career mark of .306, you'd be looking at roughly a 40-point drop in batting average.

    He'll still be a terrific source of power as long as he's healthy, but don't expect a repeat of 2015, and based on his current ADP some people seem to be doing just that.

    Billy Hamilton (No. 30 outfielder)

    ADP: 104.2

    Reason to Avoid: Playing Time

    As the old adage goes, you can't steal first base.

    Hamilton swiped 57 bases last season, but he hit just .226/.274/.289 in the process and spent much of the year hitting in the No. 9 spot in the lineup as a result.

    With the Cincinnati Reds failing in their efforts to move second baseman Brandon Phillips this winter, second base prospect Jose Peraza could now push Hamilton for time in center field once he's ready to make the jump to the majors.

    Peraza is 10-for-26 with four steals so far this spring, and while Hamilton's glove will keep him in the lineup for the time being, another .220 average could land him on the bench by midseason.

    Corey Dickerson (No. 34 outfielder)

    ADP: 119.6

    Reason to Avoid: Coors Field effect

    As Mike Petriello of MLB.com wrote in great detail, the "Coors Field effect" often proves to be as big of a detriment to a Rockies hitter's road numbers as it does a boon to the home numbers.

    However, Dickerson is an extreme case that is simply impossible to ignore.

    Last season, the 26-year-old hit .395/.446/.697 at home, compared to .257/.272/.453 on the road.

    Moving to a Tampa Bay Rays lineup with far less firepower won't help his counting numbers either, so while he'll still be worth drafting, he's being taken entirely too high at this point as a top-three outfielder on teams.

Starting Pitchers

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    Signing John Lackey was part of a big offseason for the Cubs, but he'll be hard-pressed to match his 2015 numbers.
    Signing John Lackey was part of a big offseason for the Cubs, but he'll be hard-pressed to match his 2015 numbers.Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

    Zack Greinke (No. 8 starting pitcher)

    ADP: 32.8

    Reason to Avoid: ADP

    Greinke is a great pitcher, but is he really a better fantasy option than Matt Harvey, Corey Kluber, Jose Fernandez and Gerrit Cole, who are all currently being drafted after him?

    He's moving from a very friendly pitcher's park in Dodger Stadium (0.918 Park Factor, eighth-best pitcher's park) to more of a hitter's park in Chase Field (1.962 Park Factor, eighth-best hitter's park), so that alone should mean a noticeable uptick in his ERA and WHIP.

    He's still more than capable of being a top-15 starting pitcher, but as the No. 8 starter off the board on average, he's not worth the reach.

    Tyson Ross (No. 25 starting pitcher)

    ADP: 94.8

    Reason to Avoid: ADP

    Ross has quietly been one of the better pitchers in the National League the past few years, but he's not without his faults.

    The number that sticks out is his 1.306 WHIP, which ranked 52nd among 78 qualified starters. He led the NL with 84 walks and has seen his walk rate climb from 3.2 to 3.3 to 3.9 BB/9 over the past three years.

    He's also playing for a San Diego Padres team that's not expected to win many games this year and could be forced to deal with the distraction of ongoing trade rumors.

    His big strikeout numbers and solid ERA make him a good fantasy pitcher, just not a great one. 

    John Lackey (No. 46 starting pitcher)

    ADP: 160.8

    Reason to Avoid: ADP, Regression

    When a pitcher twirls arguably the best season of his career at the age of 36, he becomes a fairly obvious regression candidate.

    Lackey went 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA, 1.211 WHIP and 175 strikeouts in 218.0 innings for the St. Louis Cardinals last year, and while he'll have plenty of chances to put up wins on a good Chicago Cubs team, an ERA closer to the 3.57 FIP he posted last year might be the best-case scenario.

    You're better off trying to hit on breakout seasons from Taijuan Walker (164.4 ADP), Luis Severino (165.8 ADP), Carlos Rodon (169.2 ADP) or Yordano Ventura (171.8 ADP).

Relief Pitchers

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    Brad Ziegler was a pleasant surprise in 2015, but will he be able to hold onto the closer's job all year in 2016?
    Brad Ziegler was a pleasant surprise in 2015, but will he be able to hold onto the closer's job all year in 2016?Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press/Associated Press

    David Robertson (No. 11 relief pitcher)

    ADP: 106.4

    Reason to Avoid: ADP

    This one partially depends on how well you think the White Sox will play this season and how many save chances you think will be out there for Robertson.

    It also depends on whether you think he'll bounce back from the seven blown saves and disappointing 3.41 ERA he posted last season.

    Hector Rondon, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon and A.J. Ramos are all coming off the board later and look like better options at this point.

    Huston Street (No. 15 relief pitcher)

    ADP: 136.2

    Reason to Avoid: Age, ADP

    After converting 100 of 106 save chances with a 1.97 ERA from 2012 to 2014, Street blew five saves and pitched to a 3.18 ERA for the Los Angeles Angels last season.

    His 40 saves were still good for second-most in the AL, but without elite strikeout numbers (8.0 K/9) or a sub-1.000 WHIP (1.177), he was heavily reliant on that save total.

    For me, the Angels aren't a playoff team or even close to it in 2016, so another 40-save season seems like a long shot. If you're confident he'll get the chances, by all means grab him as the No. 15 reliever off the board.

    Brad Ziegler (No. 23 relief pitcher)

    ADP: 192.2

    Reason to avoid: Playing Time

    Ziegler was a pleasant surprise in the closer's role last season after taking over for Addison Reed, as he converted 30 of 32 save chances with a 1.85 ERA and 0.956 WHIP.

    However, that didn't stop the Arizona Diamondbacks from kicking the tires on other closer options in the offseason, and it's not out of the question to think Ziegler could be on a short leash this season.

    "I think right now, I am the closer," Ziegler told Arizona Sports FM 98.7.

    Not exactly the level of confidence you want to hear from someone you're hoping can give your save total a boost.

    Ziegler doesn't strike anyone out (4.8 K/9), so he's already at a disadvantage in fantasy, and with Tyler Clippard and hard-throwing rookie Silvino Bracho looking over his shoulder, there's a good chance he'll be back to setup duty before the season is over.

    All standard statistics and WAR totals courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, while spring stats come via MLB.com and are current through Tuesday, Mar. 15.