January 31, 2014
Fantasy Players to Avoid
For previous editions of this series, click below:
The BP Fantasy Staff doesn’t want your dreams of fantasy success to become a hellish reality of mediocrity in the standings this season. So, maybe don’t draft these guys. You can do better. You deserve better.
Jose Altuve, Astros
The idea that steals are overvalued in mixed leagues is an overblown one, but in some cases the old canard applies, and it most certainly applies with Altuve. His extremely high ground-ball rate combined with his diminutive size is likely to always limit Altuve’s power potential and he is fairly underwhelming as a hitter. On a better major-league team, Altuve might be worth owning for his ability to score runs, but the Astros offense is a liability from a fantasy perspective and this isn’t something that is likely to change in 2014. In an -only league, by all means chase those steals, but in other formats, exercise caution. —Mike Gianella
Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
Let’s make one thing clear: I may have targeted Neil Walker, but I’m not under the illusion that he’s better than Carpenter. That said, while the skills are better for Carpenter, I don’t think the gulf is as dramatic as it may seem. Both are contact oriented, non-speed types. Carpenter has a bit more pop and benefits from playing in a much stronger lineup, but his major value came from an absurd number of runs scored. Part of that was due to the Cardinals across the board incredible hitting with RISP, and while they’re still a great lineup, we can count on some regression there. Carpenter also excelled in RBI, another context-driven stat that is subject to variability. While there’s a strong argument that the context remains largely similar for Carpenter, thus the numbers should play out similarly, I always prefer to gamble on skills than situation. With the price you’re going to have to pay for Carpenter coming off his incredible season, you’re better off targeting a poor man’s version of him at a significantly reduced price. —Craig Goldstein
Howie Kendrick, Angles
If it feels like forever ago that you read your first article about Howie Kendrick's breakout potential, that's because it probably was. He's been playing in the majors since 2006. He's 30 years old now. I'm going to write that again, because it's important: he's thirty years old now. At a certain point players are who they are, and perhaps nobody in Major League Baseball exemplifies this quite like Kendrick. A former 10th-round pick from an unheralded Florida community college, Kendrick laid total and absolute waste to some of the most hitter-friendly environments in the minor leagues on his way to Anaheim. His career minor-league triple-slash line of .360/.403/.569 in over 1,750 plate appearances is the stuff of legend, and the helium it generated lasts arguably to this day. I don’t want to discount his contributions since those heady days, as Kendrick has been a fine and steady performer for many years now, and that has value. Over the past five seasons, he's hit between .279 and .297 every season and averaged exactly 11.8 homeruns and 11.8 steals a year. Fine numbers, but... well... kinda boring in fantasy baseball. He's never quite taken that leap we thought might be coming, and at this point in his career the odds are getting awfully long that he ever will. He finished 15th among second basemen last season and is currently going off the board 13th for 2014. The limited ceiling coupled with that draft position doesn’t leave much room to generate value, and that’s what you want to be doing once you hit the middle rounds of a draft. I’d just as soon look elsewhere for a better opportunity at the keystone. —Wilson Karaman
Daniel Murphy, Mets
I owned Murphy last season. Murphy was great last season. But that was last season. According to the most recent NFBC ADP, he’s the no. 10 second baseman, ahead of Aaron Hill, Chase Utley, and Neil Walker. I prefer all three to Murphy, whose value was enhanced by 23 stolen bases, up from 10 in 2012. If he repeats and steals 20 more, I’m going to look stupid for avoiding the Mets’ second baseman. But steals are the ultimate wild card; even if I give him 15, that’s a 35 percent decrease and he’ll need to make up for it by beating last year’s 92 runs and 78 RBI. With a .121 ISO and a 31 percent fly-ball rate since the start of 2012, double-digit home runs aren’t even a sure thing. I believe Murphy can reproduce a .286 BA, but I’d be much more excited to own him if he filled out my MI spot. I’m not about to pay for last season. —Alex Kantecki
Brandon Phillips, Reds
Every so often a player with track record and consistency in one category will post more of the same in a given year, right as the rest of his secondary skills fall off precipitously. That was the case with Phillips in 2013, who once again posted 18 HRs, a trend four years running, but saw a decline in slugging, wOBA, and ISO. Phillips isn't likely to swipe bags anymore, and at 33 it's tough projecting much of an improvement with the bat moving forward. Can Phillips have a dead-cat bounce and come back with a .450-plus SLG and an average over .290 with 18 bombs? Yeah, but those odds are long in my estimation, and I'm not one to take a gamble on Phillips when there's enough talent at the keystone that ranks above the Reds' 2B. —Mauricio Rubio
Rickie Weeks, Brewers
Tools are seductive. Middle infielders are seductive. The Brewers’ throwback uniforms are seductive. Weeks is a sexy player who teems with upside and the remains of lofty expectations only somewhat fulfilled. In 2010 and 2011, he was one of the best second baseman in the game. In 2012, he took a big step back but was still useful for fantasy purposes. And last year he fell off a cliff, once again succumbing to injuries, seeing a decline in power and speed and letting a poor BABIP drag his average down to just .209. Weeks has never been a particularly strong pure hitter, and now that his flashier tools are in decline it’s tough to see where the value will come from. He’s entering his age-31 season, meaning he’s not “done,” but his best days are likely behind him, and Scooter Gennett will begin the year as the Brewers’ starting 2B. I think it’s likely that Weeks ends up starting against lefties this year, but I don’t think he sees enough playing time to put up solid counting stats, and a transition off of second base could be coming, too. Overall, this is a situation fantasy owners are best left avoiding. —Ben Carsley
Kolten Wong, Cardinals
I'm a big supporter of Wong's long-term value for the Cardinals, but he's likely to remain a better real-life player than fantasy one until he either moves up in the lineup or is let loose on the base paths. The first of those two will be easier to overcome, as it's unclear who will start the season at the number two spot in the lineup. However, if it isn't Wong, he'll have a tough time accruing the types of counting stats he'll need to return value on his draft spot, and this ties in with the second point. The Cardinals finished 2013 second-to-last in stolen bases and even though some of that comes from personnel, Mike Matheny appears to be a conservative manager when it comes to the green light. In the right situation, Wong could run enough to steal 25 bags, but expecting more than about 15 isn't something I'm willing to do until I see it with my own eyes. On top of all this, Wong's backup is just someone who has been worth at least 2.5 bWAR in each of the last two years. So, you know, no pressure, kid. —Bret Sayre
BP Fantasy Staff is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Click here to see BP's other articles.
You can contact BP by clicking here