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February 21, 2014

Fantasy Players to Avoid


by BP Fantasy Staff

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For the earlier articles in this series, click below:

There are nearly 90 starting outfielders in baseball, plus countless (not literally) platoon players, reserves, and prospects who all man the position. You have a lot of players to choose from. Don't choose one of the following.

Michael Bourn, Indians
Considering Michael Bourn’s previous track record it’d be silly to think he’s never going to steal 30 bases again, and PECOTA has him threatening 40 in 2014. What concerns me with Bourn is the slide in overall numbers. In the two years prior to landing in Cleveland, Bourn posted True Averages in the .260-plus range. Last year, his TAv fell to .247 as he saw a slide all across his slash line. Bourn is sliding into “two-category player” status, and you can get guys like Will Venable and Ben Revere later than Bourn. —Mauricio Rubio

Curtis Granderson, Mets
Despite last year’s dreadful slash line of .229/.317/.407, plus seven home runs and 15 RBI in 61 games, the Mets inked Granderson to a four-year, $60 million contract in an effort to shore up an offense with little talent outside of David Wright and Daniel Murphy. The over-commitment reminds me of the one the Braves dished out to B.J. Upton last offseason, and we all know how that ended up in year no. 1. I don’t doubt that Granderson has something left, but Citi Field isn’t kind to left-handed power, which is his greatest strength. The last two seasons, Granderson has hit worse than .235; can you really take that big of a hit in batting average if you’re not guaranteed 30 home runs? Unless he really falls in drafts, I don’t see the opportunity to return value. —Alex Kantekcki

Starling Marte, Pirates
Marte put together a breakthrough 2013 campaign in which he hit .280 and stole 41 bases despite a DL stint for an injured hand. And fantasy managers appear to have bought into the season as a sign of things to come, as Marte's currently going off the board 24th among outfielders and in the top 60 overall. But there are some bright red flags waving majestically in the breeze, and Marte's a tenuous bet to build upon or even replicate his 2013 numbers. His approach at the plate could generously be described as not good. He walked in just 4.4 percent of his plate appearances last season after a five percent career minor-league rate, and he saw his OBP propped up by an unsustainable 21 HBP.

He also managed that .280 average on the back of a .366 BABIP and despite a 24.4 percent whiff rate that ballooned to almost 30 percent in the second half of the season. Even if we grant that his skillset is more likely to be able to support an above-average BABIP, a repeat of that .366 mark is incredibly unlikely. And all of the major underlying metrics that generally drive a poor strikeout rate (poor contact rate, high percentage of swinging strikes, high percentage of balls chased out of the zone) were all present in spades in his plate-discipline profile. All of this is to say that major-league pitchers are very unlikely to work him the same way next year, and we saw some of that adjustment take shape over the course of last season. Unless he shows a sudden ability to completely transform his approach at the plate, he's a prime candidate for a possibly significant AVG and OBP regression. That means less of all the counting stats in addition to the AVG fall, and a negative return on investment for owners forking over a fifth-round pick for his services. —Wilson Karaman

Yasiel Puig, Dodgers
As often is the case for players I write about in this space, this isn’t a truly a recommendation to avoid Puig completely, but rather a caution to tread carefully. Puig is a superstar in the making, but there is often an exuberance that comes with sophomores—particularly those entering their first full season—that isn’t warranted. Puig has consistently been a top-25 pick in drafts and a $30-plus player in the early NL-only auctions I have participated in so far. Puig is going to have to not only duplicate last year’s performance, but add to it a great deal to reach those targets. As we have seen even in the cases of uber-elite prospects like Bryce Harper, the road isn’t always linear. Puig is fine for me in the fourth round or in the mid-$20s, but you’re not going to get him there, and you shouldn’t chase him past that point. —Mike Gianella

Mark Trumbo, Diamondbacks
I had a time choosing an outfielder to avoid, but settled on Trumbo. The 30-95 of the last three years is nice, but the batting average drag and uninspired run totals (which have something to do with his team, but plenty to do with a .300 OBP in that span, including two sub-.300 seasons) have led to just one $20 season among the trio. His career highs in R, HR, and RBI last year still only landed him 84th on the ESPN Player Rater, and yet he’s being taken as the 70th player off the board thanks to a move into a friendlier home ballpark. He struggles against righties (.685 OPS in 2013; .748 career) and only has one exemplary year against lefties (last year’s .923 OPS). What if he doesn’t come storming out of the gates one of these seasons (first-half OPS: 841; second-half: 679)? Tread carefully here. —Paul Sporer

Jayson Werth, Nationals
The argument here isn’t against Werth as a player—because he’s a quality one. It’s that he’s not likely to produce the season he did in 2013, and is being drafted as a top-30 outfielder (per fantasypros.com) at the current time. Even with regression, he’s likely to produce that kind of value if he can play a full season, raising the question—why avoid him? Well, he’s no sure bet to play a full slate of games, entering his age-35 season. While he had a healthy run in Philadelphia, he’s missed 30-plus games in two of his three seasons with the Nationals, and an injury history longer than his beard and not nearly as inspiring. Again, his ability to contribute when healthy isn’t at stake here—even if he is more likely to be in line with his career .274/.367/.471 slash line than the .318/.391/.532 he produced in 2013—but his ability to do it over a full season is. He’s not getting any younger, and while he could produce surplus value if he manages to stay upright, that’s a risk I’m happy to let someone else take. —Craig Goldstein

Chris Young, Mets
In our internal discussions for this series, Paul Sporer advised me against writing up Chris Young. "Who wants Chris Young anymore?" was the general gist of Paul's sentiment. But then we began talking about the man-crush we've both held for Young at various points in our fantasy careers, and it convinced me that he's still worth addressing here. Young averaged a .240/.319/.438 line from 2007-2011, with counting stats of 23 homers, 20 steals, 71 RBI, and 81 runs per season. It's that four-category fantasy upside that so many find intoxicating, especially as Young now has little competition for playing time in New York.

Unfortunately, Young's past two seasons have seen his hit tool further regress, and while the power/speed is still there and still tempting, his average has shifted from "tolerable" to "burdensome." Contextual factors, such as Young's new ballpark and his weak supporting cast, figure to further depress his counting stats, which is really all you can rely on him for at this point. Add in that Young has been especially poor against RHP, and there's a chance that he could become something of a short-side platoon player, too. I want to believe again, but there's too much conspiring against Young to make him as attractive a sleeper as many believe for 2014. —Ben Carsley

BP Fantasy Staff is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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