Fantasy Baseball Busts – 2017
Busts have a tendency to focus on players ranked in the top 100.
Why? It’s simple. If you want to give yourself the best chance for accuracy, you shoot for the assets being drafted at their ceilings. More times than not, a player doesn’t play to that ceiling, and a reflective look come September often brings with it the term bust.
While in the past I tried to go against the grain as much as possible with this idea, I’ve come around to accepting that busts in this upper echelon of talent should not be cast aside as a ‘cop-out’ pick. In fact, four of my five busts broken out below are top 100 players. I believe they are being drafted above where they will perform, and it just so happens that these busts are much easier to spot when their draft stock hasn’t crossed into three digit ADP territory.
Arrieta is going to win a substantial amount of games. The Cubs are a good team, they’re the heavy favorite to take the NL Central, and I can’t debate that 14-15 wins is the floor for if health permits 30 starts. There is value in wins, but predicting pitcher individual wins becomes a dice roll, even on the best of teams. If I’m going to value a pitcher, I will always lean on peripherals and pitcher independent performance first.
First concern is the risk embedded in all starters which make drafting a pitcher in the first 40 overall picks in a roto league something I always caution. Making up the power an average lost early on is a harder task than one may initially perceive it as. We’ve already seen David Price and Carlos Carrasco hoist massive red flags with their health, and both those happened in the blink of an eye. I don’t see enough of a difference between the starters ranked fourth through 12th for me to invest in a player like Arrieta, at his current top 40 price tag.
Second, and most importantly, is the regression I see in Arrieta and the rest of the Cubs pitching staff. 2015 was objectively unbelievable season with his sub 2.00 ERA. The following year brought with it a 3.10 mark, with a drop in nearly every peripheral, from swinging strikes to BB% and FIP. One projection model, known as MARCEL, simply weights each of the prior year’s performance on a decreasing basis (2016>2015>2014). It’s no surprise that the prior year is the most predictive, which in very rough terms means Arrieta’s 2016 is a better model for expectation than his 2015.
But with a FIP of 3.52 last year, and a historically good defense to back him up, the trend for Arrieta is not a positive one. When you realize he is the eighth pitcher off the board in NFBC leagues, costing at the cheapest a fourth round pick, it makes immensely more sense to bet on an arm a round or two later and net essentially the same value.
Arrieta is going 35th overall in NFBC leagues.
Why I may be wrong…
I think this rides heavily on how much his win total can compensate the declining peripherals. I would still like Arrieta as my ace, but for his current price, it simply doesn’t make sense. You’ll be able to stomach a 3.50+ ERA with 15+ wins, but I’m holding strong on the peripherals not impressing for a second season in a row.
Fulmer is a player who many are drafting with a bit of embedded name value. He’s coming off a big year, with a very good changeup, but that “ROY”t ag has inflated his draft stock a bit more than I would like. As the 36th pitcher off the board, there isn’t nearly as much room for bust as a player like Arrieta, but there is still room to disappoint, especially if you’re expecting another sub 3.1 ERA and stretch of dominance.
The Tigers’ sophomore just doesn’t stack up to the other arms in his tier in terms of upside. I’ve always been a sucker for higher strikeout rates, and the fact that the consensus around Fulmer is he won’t get to the 8.5 K/9 mark without some drastic changes, means his 2017 could look a lot like the 2016 version of Trevor Bauer or Tom Koehler. Not necessarily undraftable, but not worth the 12th round pick.
Fulmer is being drafted 144th overall in NFBC leagues.
Why I might be wrong…
Well, I’m pretty confident in this one. Fulmer isn’t going to post another 3.06 ERA season, especially in a good division with a 3.95 xFIP from the prior year. There is a chance he can get to the 150 overall mark, but it’s going to take a lot of wins and some generous BABIP luck.
Seems standard that I have to pick a closer to bust every year, and why not go with a guy who was on the fence for the majority of the 2016 season. I wrote for Fish Stripes (the Miami Marlins SB Nation page) last year and saw a good amount of Ramos. While I like him as a pitcher, I don’t believe that Mattingly has immense confidence in him as a closer. Factor in the added pressure from what looks to be a top bullpen in the National League with Brad Ziegler and Kyle Barraclough, and you have a recipe for a new face in the role by the All-Star break.
The main closer I see who I will take 10/10 times over Ramos is the Braves’ ninth inning arm Jim Johnson. He excelled at the end of last year, and only has young, volatile arms breathing down his neck in the Atlanta pen. Johnson is being drafted about 60 spots later than Ramos and has a higher chance to still be the closer come the last day of the season. So much of a closers’ value is based off opportunities, and targeting those is the key to success.
As you’ll see in the projections below, I simply just don’t think he’ll be the closer for long, his peripheral projections I can’t disagree with too much, because they aren’t that good in the first place. Very few closers maintain their role with an ERA north of 3.50. If you believe in that projection, don’t draft Ramos near the 12th round.
Ramos is being drafted 127th overall in NFBC leagues.
Why I might be wrong…
Well, he could be the NL version of Ryan Madson. Which is to say, he holds the role because of some luck and his existence on a bad team. All about holding the closer role with this one, and if he does that, I could be wrong.
Quite possibly one of the easiest bust picks of the past few years, Turner’s ADP is just insanely high for me right now.
He’s going 10th overall, with literally zero room to outperform his ADP. Value creation is the name of the game, and when you’re paying for a return you won’t get this early in a draft, something is inherently wrong.
I picked apart where the expectations should be right here for Turner in late December. It boils down to another one of my consistent philosophies, around the scarcity among steals. Don’t overvalue the players who have value based heavily on steals. Overvalue the players who can put up solid numbers in the power department and return 10-15+ bags. This includes players like Bryce Harper, Gregory Polanco, and many of the later round picks like Kevin Kiermaier and Keon Broxton.
Drafting Turner dictates what you need to do for the rest of your draft and that reactionary track of trying to regain a foothold in the power department, all while realizing that Turner alone won’t win you steals like Billy Hamilton, is troublesome to me.
If there is one thing I advise anybody this year, it’s to not take Turner unless he falls past 20 overall.
Turner is being drafted 10th overall in NFBC leagues.
I have Turner 22nd overall.
Why I might be wrong…
A whole lot of luck and a whole lot of unexpected power output. That’s the only way he touches the top 10. I really don’t even have a bad projection for Turner, we just have to realize what his projection will return in terms of draft-slot based value.
Of all the sub-par teams that may be relevant for fantasy purposes, the Brewers are absolutely stacked with interesting talent. Keon Broxton, Domingo Santana, Hernan Perez, Travis Shaw, Lewis Brinson, Jesus Aguilar, and Eric Thames. It’s all about playing time and who gets it.
So why am I low on Villar, a player I expect to receive an ample amount of playing time, even on a team with a lot of options?
It stems from two things.
First is that Villar isn’t a high average hitter. He managed to put together a .285 average last season, but that was with an unsustainable .373 BABIP. The projection systems see him more as a .250-.260 hitter, and that makes any amount of steals much harder to stomach. Even with the jump in Villar’s walk rate last season, the more telling factor is that his swinging strike rate was virtually the same.
Second, I’m not buying the magical power surge, even in a year where the middle infield seemed to embrace the change with open arms. Nearly a 20/60 season last year is something else, and I don’t have any expectations that Villar is able to get back there specifically on the home run front. While I understand that Miller Park is a great place to hit, it favors left handed bats more, and Villar, as most switch hitters, will always end up with more right handed plate appearances than left. He’ll live on line drives and speed, and that’s not something I’m going to pay premium value for.
Villar is going 21st overall in NFBC leagues.
Why I may be wrong…
Photo via the Flickr Creative Commons, thanks to Lorie Shaull for the photo.
Statistics via Fangraphs.com and Baseball Prospectus.