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February 4, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Dead to Me

by Jason Collette

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DTM. If you have been playing fantasy baseball long enough, you know what that acronym stands for. That, or you have tuned into MLB Fantasy 411 show on MLB Network at some point and seen my good friends Mike Siano and Cory Schwartz utter it when discussing some frustrating player. It is a term safe enough for the airwaves that avoids the heavy hand of the FCC, yet is strong enough to convey the anger a particular player generates within you when looking at him.

We have the luxury of using much harsher and more profane terms than "Dead to Me" from the comfort of our favorite chair or workspace while we do our draft prep. The longer you play fantasy baseball, the longer your DTM list becomes. My own list is typically filled with current Rays players that have done me wrong: Pat Burrell would be right at the top of that list. I would not draft him if I had $1 left and it came down to Burrell or Humberto Quintero and his 593 career OPS as my utility player.

There are times where raging tunnel vision takes over and we focus on the negative with a player that has burned us in either fantasy baseball or real baseball, and that time for me was 2009 with Edwin Jackson. In the AL-only Tout Wars draft, I left the draft table with the following staff: A.J. Burnett, Kevin Slowey, Andy Sonnanstine, Nick Blackburn, Luke Hochevar, Koji Uehara, Matt Thornton, J.P. Howell, and Brian Fuentes. Outside of nailing the Howell closer role, my pitching was simply not good. My hitting was doing well, so I put Coco Crisp on the market. I fielded a few offers, one of which was Edwin Jackson from the aforementioned Siano. When the offer came in, I remembered Jackson's aggravating pitching from 2006 to 2008 with the Rays, and dismissed the opportunity out of pocket. Not three days after declining that deal, I got word that Crisp’s shoulder injury was going to be a season-ender--two days before that news went public. I took the high road and sat on my toxic asset, then watched Jackson in the best four month stretch of his terrible, awful, no good, very bad career up to that point.

Let my mistake be a lesson to you the next time you immediately dismiss a player at the draft table or the trade table due to past transgressions.  That being said, here are a few guys I would recommend you think twice about before targeting with full confidence at your drafts and auctions in the coming weeks (hey, it's a tough habit to break).

Josh Hamilton: By rule, I avoid guys coming off of career years, but I am not sure career year is strong enough to describe what Hamilton had last season. His 4.7 WARP in 2008 was awesome, and he nearly doubled that in 2010 despite playing in only 133 games. The MVP, the World Series appearance, and the $35 value in standard mixed leagues last year are going to ensure he goes for at least that much in 2011. Are you willing to do that when you see that his BABIP was 50 points over his previous career average, and he only has one full season of health out of the last four he has played in? I love the guy and his comeback story is one for the ages, but I would rather let people overpay for Hamilton and grab Matt Holliday in the next round—likely for less money, and possibly for better overall production by season’s end. Give me the guy that has had no less than 540 at bats each of the past five seasons.

Bill Hall: People are giddy that Hall is going to play second base full time in Houston, where he can take advantage of a short porch.  In fact, they are too giddy. They remember his 35 home run season in Milwaukee in 2006, his 18 home runs in just over 380 plate appearances last year in Boston, and his dual-position eligibility—giving him that added value in NL-only leagues where positional flexibility is even more useful.  All of that excitement clouds the fact that Hall is a horrible contact hitter who has struck out at least 25 percent of the time each of the past four seasons which hurts his batting average. Add to that his lack of stolen bases, and you start to see how he can be overvalued. The last time he was close to a full-time player, he earned 0.2 WARP and put up a slash line of .225/.293/.396. He is coming off a career best season against right-handed pitching: his 841 OPS was nearly 300 points better than each of his previous two efforts—pick the outlier from his .247, .174, .186, and .283 batting averages against righties over the past four seasons. He will be a two or three category contributor at best–draft him as one.

James Loney:  Whenever you are thinking about drafting Loney, put him off another round. He turns 27 this year, so maybe the magical player age will turn him into at least half the player we thought he was going to be as a hot prospect. His player page shows two of his three best comps as Sean Casey and Casey Kotchman and frankly, you would have a hard time convincing me that Loney and Kotchman were not birthed out of the same disappointing baseball womb, as the two players are tough to separate these days. Fantasy first baseman have to give you power unless they provide a Carew-like batting average, and Loney provides neither. He is the Edwin Jackson of position players for me, as the promise I saw watching him play in Jacksonville on a daily basis has yet to materialize. The four year downward trends in his batting average and slugging percentage have him in DTM status for me.

Brett Gardner: He is a speedster and he is a Yankee, which virtually guarantees he will be over drafted. His final line of 47 steals, 97 runs, and a .277 average look good in hindsight, but the splits reveal an ugly truth, as Craig Brown detailed earlier this week. In the first half, Gardner hit .309/.396/.415 with 25 steals in 320 plate appearances but saw that fall to .232/.364/.330 with 22 steals in 250 second half plate appearances. He went from Carl Crawford to Carlos Gomez all in one season as his strikeout rate spiked from 16 percent to 26 percent, and he became a guy that could barely hit the ball out of the infield. He is so lightning quick that he could fall into 30 steals just by showing up on the field, but that being said, he is already hurting you in RBI and home runs. If his contact issues do not improve, he will also hurt you in batting average. That puts him closer to Michael Bourn than it does the Jacoby Ellsbury. He is also coming off wrist surgery which may zap the two sparks of power he has in his swing.

Clay Buchholz: Like Gardner, Buchholz gets the curse of being over-priced because of the market in which he plays in. It also does not help he is coming off a phenomenal season in which he won 17 of his 28 starts and posted a 2.33 ERA, in the American League no less. Peel away the layers of the Red Sox uniform and suddenly Buchholz does not look so solid. He had a career 11 percent HR/FB ratio heading into 2010 and put up a six percent rate last season. His xFIP was nearly two full runs more than his actual ERA and we’re still talking about a pitcher who has not posted a 2.0 K/BB ratio since his initial call-up in 2007. Yes, he is walking fewer hitters these days compared to his rookie season of 2008, but he is also striking out fewer hitters. The wins and ERA of 2010 are going to be tough to repeat as his supporting stats normalize. He should have a good year, but be wary of taking him amongst the top twenty starting pitchers.

Those are my five guys to approach with caution–who are yours?

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Luke Jackson

35 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

acmcdowell

What do you think is a fair price for Gardner in a 8 team, AL only league? I have him at $4, and am wrestling with how long to keep him for (1 year at $4, 2 at $9, or 3 at $14). Everything I read seems to indicate that he's due for some regression, but with 30 or 35 steals and plenty of runs he's still pretty useful, right?

Feb 04, 2011 05:02 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

2 at $9 is as far as I'll go with him.

Feb 04, 2011 06:27 AM
 
acmcdowell

Thanks - that is what I was thinking. Three years scared me because of cost and the possibility of losing his job.

Feb 04, 2011 10:46 AM
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choms57

Ian kinsler and Adam lind. Those are my two bugaboos.

Feb 04, 2011 05:37 AM
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CRP13

Pat, oh Pat. I never draft him, am in a 10-player keeper league (even HE should be kept!), and yet somehow he has ended up on my team 5 years out of 6, and helped me limp into the playoffs on several occasions. Don't snub a useful piece when you really need it.

Feb 04, 2011 06:04 AM
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CRP13

You don't mention Buchholz' .266 BABIP (down from career .285) and his subsequent 4.29 SIERA. I'm not touching that either.

Feb 04, 2011 06:10 AM
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Marc Normandin

I think SIERA underrates Buchholz, as he induces very weak contact. The reduced HR/FB also has a lot to do with his sharper, faster slider that he utilized in 2010--the pitch jumped all the way to 90 mph.

I figure him for about a 3.50 ERA in 2011.

Feb 04, 2011 06:21 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Fair points - weak contact certainly is something. I think he gets a bump in his HR/FB to where he's closer to 9% than 6% as we has last year. I'm also curious to see how he holds up down the stretch as he gets a jump in his workload this season.

Feb 04, 2011 06:29 AM
 
hessshaun

Workload and the AL East. Pitching is just so deep this year, these are all great points. At relative value, if you are in a mixed league, no reason not to get a safer pitcher.

Feb 04, 2011 07:35 AM
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Marc Normandin

I'm done drafting Prince Fielder, now and forever. I don't care if he hits 45 homers this year, because based on his career, there is just as large of a chance he will disappoint me and cause my team to start off on the wrong foot.

I'll cover my other guys in a similar piece at some point, but man, Prince Fielder is just not happening for me anymore.

Feb 04, 2011 06:23 AM
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PelotaDiSoldi

I'd suggest you start that policy next year. Prince is uniquely motivated right now http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCkLEo-DT1Q. Dollars to donuts (a bet he would surely accept), he sees 40+ HR and 120+ RBI easily this year.

Feb 04, 2011 08:21 AM
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Marc Normandin

Oh I'm sure he will. I even said as much in my 1B rankings review. But I play in keeper leagues mostly, so I will be avoiding him for when he decides he isn't motivated again (or until he shows he can actually perform two seasons in a row).

Feb 04, 2011 08:41 AM
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PepeShady

Jason, I'm interested in that pitching staff of yours. Of those players, how would you rank them in order of, um, most DTM-est to least? (or, "most likely to become DTM by the end of 2011 for you.")

Feb 04, 2011 06:59 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

the staff I mentioned above? I'm still a sucker for Slowey, Hochevar, and I'll take Uehara, Thornton, and Howell back right now. The rest, they're DTM - especially Burnett.

Feb 04, 2011 07:44 AM
 
Pinson

Alex Gordon has never earned anything close to what he's auctioned for, and his demeanor suggests he could care less. Over my dead body. Kinsler spends too much time in the basket and has probably only earned his fantasy salary once. I would think that guys holding Panda would be leery. Too fat for me to ever bid on.

Feb 04, 2011 07:58 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

I have Gordon at $5 and have to keep him in the final year of a topped contract. He went for $6 and someone took him back at 2 years for $5. That's the only reason he is on my roster for 2011 and I'm hoping he can finally tap into to maybe 50% of what we thought he was going to be.

Feb 04, 2011 08:05 AM
 
ThatRogue

I think Panda is going to have a HUGE season...and I'm not talking about weight. Were I in a redraft league, I would be targeting him heavily (pun intended).

Mar 11, 2011 02:42 AM
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JeffZimmerman

Cano - Another with a career year I see totally over valued.
Don't let the increase walk rate fool you, it was mainly driven by IBB

Feb 04, 2011 08:02 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

The fact Cano had more IBB last year than he did in his previous four seasons combined is rather amazing.

Feb 04, 2011 08:06 AM
 
BurrRutledge

Nick Markakis. Drafted him in 2009: one hot month, one long season of misery. Luckily I had the depth to bench him as the summer dragged on. Nevertheless, I missed winning my league by *that* much, and the blame rests squarely on his shoulders. DTM.

Feb 04, 2011 11:00 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

That's a solid call. If you want to really piss off an Orioles fan, point out the last three years of Markakis to Ben Grieve at the same age on a wOBA comparison. If he doesn't stop this downslide soon, that's where he is headed.

Feb 04, 2011 11:09 AM
 
BurrRutledge

I will be very interested to see where PECOTA pegs him, even though there is no way I'm drafting him ... unless he drops to like the 29th round of my draft, at which point I might take him as a 4th outfielder.

Feb 05, 2011 07:54 AM
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dianagram

Chris B Young ... I've drafted him in practically every league I've been in during the past 3-4 years, and wondered ... "when it will ALL come together"

Feb 04, 2011 11:13 AM
rating: 1
 
wilykat

did you think last year wasn't it?

Feb 04, 2011 16:39 PM
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jriskin

Ricky Nolasco. I can't handle the rollercoaster ride anymore between the injuries and disaster starts, but oh those peripherals...

Feb 04, 2011 12:26 PM
rating: 2
 
maximizer

I don't know what it is with you BP guys and your bla bla bla about Gardner. What he does well, is what he did very well last year despite playing thru a wrist injury. He is a leadoff hitter, with great oba and speed, who can obviously help a team even when injured. If you need a guy to leadoff on your fantasy team it doesn't really get much better than Gardner, not to mention he is entering his peak, so get with it y'all.

Feb 04, 2011 14:27 PM
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LordD99

Weak contact? Has it been shown that a pitcher can consistently induce weak contact? Isnt't that the whole idea behind BABIP? Unless it's Mariano Rivera, I'm skeptical.

Feb 04, 2011 16:43 PM
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amazin_mess

BJ Upton

Feb 04, 2011 18:06 PM
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CRP13

Not me, I'm still betting on the guy.

Feb 05, 2011 15:01 PM
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amazin_mess

Scott Baker is another one. Stat heads love him, but he puts out mediocre results year after year.

Feb 04, 2011 18:09 PM
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k17duffy

Kazmir
Dice-K
Nolasco
McClouth (sp?)
Abreau

Do you think Chris Young (OF) has any chance of repeating last years performance? I had him out of desperation last year, then he ended up staying in my line-up all year. That said, he scared the crap out of me. I still fear a .225 BA

Feb 04, 2011 21:10 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

I think Young is a 25/25 guy this year - safely. The risk is whether he becomes a .225 guy again or is he a .255 guy. Every point above .250 needs to be thought of as a bonus. He's a risk I'm willing to take this year.

Feb 06, 2011 05:59 AM
 
R.A.Wagman

Carlos Pena killed the whole concept of the three-true-outcomes player for me.

Feb 05, 2011 16:06 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

As a Rays fan, that was Pena's fault. The defenses shifted him heavily, and he refused to keep them honest. If you're Ted Williams, that's one thing but they were daring him to bunt or chop something to the left side as the 3B line was wide open and he kept trying to hit it over or through the shifts.

Feb 06, 2011 06:00 AM
 
ThatRogue

Doesn't Pena have a different profile in OBP leagues? Viewing him as a .350 OBP, 30+ HR player changes the roto value proposition significantly. (Seth and I were just discussing this yesterday.)

Mar 11, 2011 02:39 AM
rating: 0
 
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