Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
Man, this has a chance burn me badly and make me look really stupid at the end of 2017. Paul Goldschmidt is still an awesome, amazing fantasy asset, so don't think I'm disparaging his skills or anything. It's just that he had some declines in a few areas last year that I want to shed light on.

In a year where power was up across baseball, possibly because of a juiced ball, Goldschmidt had a noticeable drop in power. His .192 ISO was exactly league average for a first baseman, and was down about 50 ISO points from where it was the prior 3 seasons, where it sat at .247. He slugged under .500 for the first time since 2012 and ranked 10th among qualified 1B in slugging, down from ranking 2nd from 2013-2015, when he slugged .556. His park and league adjusted OPS+ fell from an incredible 162 from 2013-15 to 134 in 2016, a drop of almost 30 percentage points.

It wasn’t just the outcomes. Goldschmidt’s Statcast derived contact quality wasn’t as strong. In 2016, Goldschmidt’s expected slugging percentage based on the exit velocities and angles he hit the ball at was .472, down from an expected slugging of .552 in 2015 (via His Statcast value hit percentage, Andrew Perpetua’s creation, fell from an elite 10.5% in 2015 to 7.0% in 2016, where league average is 6.0%. He hit more popups than ever before, with 14.3% of his flyballs being recorded as infield flies, up from 4.2% from 2013-2015. In fact, Goldschmidt hit more infield flies in 2016 than he did from 2013 to 2015 combined. Goldschmidt wasn’t hitting the ball as well as he usually does based on the velocities and angles of his batted balls.

Maybe it was just a one year blip for his power (by his standards) and his power will rebound to vintage levels. His manager, Chip Hale, thought that pitchers were giving him less good pitches to hit, and he was just doing what he could with how he was being pitched. He's still only 29, and if AJ Pollock and David Peralta return healthy, that can make the Diamondbacks lineup around him stronger. It’s definitely possible he goes back to being a .250 ISO/30 HR/.550 slugging type hitter. But the power drop and worse contact quality does raise my eyebrows a little, and I think we should consider it.

A lot of this depends on your league rules, too. A drop in slugging won’t matter as much in 5×5 standard leagues as it would in an OPS or points league. And if he keeps stealing 30+ bases like he did in 2016, that offsets the power loss, especially in 5×5 standard. But can we expect that again? He’s been more of an 18-20 SB type player in his career.

I don’t want to say "avoid Paul Goldschmidt", because that doesn't sound right. I want to convey something more like, "there’s some warning signs here, Goldschmidt might not be vintage Goldschmidt in 2017, especially if his SBs regress, and that's something to consider when you're drafting at the top of fantasy drafts this year." –Tim Finnegan

Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
This is tough. I really like Adrian Gonzalez, and he’s been good for a really long time. The “long time” part is the issue. We all get older. We all get a little slower and a little worse, even elite level sluggers. It’s inevitable. Father Time comes for us all. Eat Arby’s. Last season Gonzalez was pretty decent, slashing .285/.349/.435, but a closer look into the numbers clearly points that there could be trouble ahead as he enters his age 35 season.

Gonzalez hit groundballs in 46.2 percent of his plate appearances last season, a number that was second highest in his career. He hit only 18 homers, which isn’t terrible, but it was ten fewer than his 2015 total, and tied for the lowest output of his career. His .150 ISO and 112 wRC+ were also career lows. He struck out a little more and walked a little less. Gonzalez did still hit .285 last year, which is great, but it’s highly likely that the average was at least somewhat buoyed by a .328 BABIP, meaning he could see regression there as well. Gonzalez could be perfectly “pretty decent” again in 2017, but I’ll probably pass and just remember the good times. –Mark Barry

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
One year ago this week, the 30-year-old slugger signed a massive seven-year $161 million extension to remain in Baltimore. That contract looks like an even bigger albatross now. Despite hitting 38 home runs, while recording 99 runs scored and 84 RBI, Davis hit just .221 and finished outside the top 15 fantasy first basemen from a valuation standpoint in 2016. The strikeouts are just #2much2na.

Seriously, he fanned 219 times (33 percent of his 665 plate appearances) last year. Not only are they preventing him from hitting for an “acceptable” batting average, but they also limit his ability to reach the 45-50 home runs prospective fantasy owners covet. He’s done it before, but the margin for error is razor thin.

As I outlined in the “State of the Position” earlier this week (and throughout the offseason on Flags Fly Forever and our Category Breakdown series), the value of one-dimensional (power-only) sluggers has plummeted faster than Wile E. Coyote holding an Acme anvil in the current fantasy landscape. 111 hitters eclipsed the 20-home run plateau last year. We don’t know if the league-wide power trends will continue, but drafting Davis at his current NFBC average draft position in the sixth round (77th overall) virtually ensures that he won’t return a profit. –George Bissell

Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
This is not an argument against Rizzo per se, it’s an argument against Rizzo as a first-round pick. As I argued in my three-year rankings earlier this week, I’m not expecting more than a small handful of steals for the Cubs first baseman going forward. He became a full timer in 2013 and in three of the four seasons since has stolen six or fewer bases, with 2015’s 17 swipes as the outlier. You can’t just throw that season away, but with the strength of the lineup around him now there isn’t much incentive for Rizzo to run, especially since he was thrown out in five of eight attempts in 2016. If you accept the premise that Rizzo isn’t going to run much it’s hard to see his as a first round profile. Look at the players being drafted in the same range for whom speed is inessential and you see something that separates those players from the pack: Donaldson’s run totals, Miggy’s elite power/average combo and track record, Machado’s shortstop eligibility. What I see in Rizzo is general excellence, and while I do appreciate relative safety in my early round selections, I’m not into paying for an upper quartile outcome. To justify his current price with negligible speed, Rizzo needs to push his power output out of the low-30s for the first time and/or offer up a contextual stat total that places him near the top of the leaderboard, all while keeping the batting average regression to a minimum. —Greg Wellemeyer

Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
On the plus side, Eric Hosmer is a player entering his age-27 season with an impeccable prospect pedigree and several years of production at the major league level including an All Star game appearance, three Gold Gloves and a World Series title. He also set career highs in home runs (25) and RBI (104) last season. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s been durable throughout his six-year career, playing at least 128 games each season, topping the 150-game mark four times (including each of the last two seasons). There’s a lot to like here.

And yet, I probably won’t come anywhere near owning the Royals stalwart in any of my leagues. What’s wrong with me? Short answer: a lot, but none of that is relevant right now. I can refer you to a few people who would be happy to tell you what’s wrong with me if you’re interested and have a lot of time on your hands. Getting back on topic, though, most of my concerns about Hosmer as we head into 2016 are captured in this table:
































He struck out more frequently in 2016 as his contact rates eroded. Granted, this may well be attributable to a conscious change in approach, with Hosmer choosing to trade contact for power. He did set a career high in homers in 2016, after all. I think that’s part of it, but I’m worried that his declining contact rates and increasing strikeout rates aren’t exclusively driven by his intentional pursuit of the longball. I also think that there’s at least a little bit of unrepeatable good fortune in his 2016 spike in HR/FB rate alongside a change in approach and an leaguewide increase in HR frequency.

Plus, I’ve always been a bit leery of his profile. First basemen in the three-star tier who have played six seasons in the majors shouldn’t be coming off their first 20+ home run season or their first 100+ RBI season, and they shouldn’t have posted league-average OPS marks in two of their last three seasons.

I don’t know. I’m probably overthinking this, overreacting to some irrelevant aspect of Hosmer’s profile that I find problematic on a not-quite-conscious level. I just know that I won’t own him in any of my leagues unless he slips way past his ADP in drafts or the bidding stops way below the consensus on his auction bid limit. —Scooter Hotz

Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
There's nothing inherently wrong with Freeman. He's a very good hitter. He's going to be right in the heart of the order of the next good Braves team. But he's also not a top-30 overall player this year because of a step back that should be coming in both the batting average and power categories.

Let's start with the first. Freeman is a career .288 hitter and he's twice hit over .300. That's really good. However, the .302 batting average from last year is unlikely to be repeated again because while Freeman was hitting more fly balls, he was also swinging and missing more often—his 24.7 percent strikeout rate was the highest of his career. And while Freeman is a perfect example of why you can't just regress hitters to a league-average BABIP (his career BABIP is .341), a BABIP of .370 is not bankable.

He also took a step forward in power last year that's not just a fluke because of an elevated fly ball rate. However, even with the increased fly balls, he hit more of them out of the park than he ever has in his career—his 19.9 percent HR/FB rate was by far the highest of his career, and five percentage points above his career mark.

Right now, Freeman is going 25th overall and fifth among first basemen. That's a good place for someone who is a really strong bet to hit over .300 (like Joey Votto) or easily eclipse 30 homers (like Edwin Encarnacion), but it's not a good spot for someone unlikely to repeat either. And, hey, I didn't even use the ol' counting stats argument with regards to the Braves offense. (Though, what he did last year is probably his ceiling in that department as any drop from his raw stats will be countered by a likely tick up in external factors.) He's a great fourth rounder. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that. —Bret Sayre

Wil Myers, San Diego Padres
Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't avoid Myers altogether. But if we're looking for first basemen who'll be overvalued headed into 2017, Myers is a good place to start. His BABIP doesn't portend regression, but Myers didn't hit the ball harder (33.6 hard contact% compare to 34.5% career average) or pull the ball more in 2016. Despite that, his HR/FB rate dramatically spiked as his infield fly-ball rate cratered. We've always known Myers could have this type of power, but I'm willing to bet he settles in closer to the 20-23 homer range than the 28-30 range. Couple that with what everyone can probably agree will be a step back in stolen bases (his 28 in 2016 were more than his 2013-2015 total) and you're looking at a player who can still flirt with a top-10 finish at the position, but not one should finish top five again. –Ben Carsley

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So what you are saying is just avoid all good first basemen?
"just go get Tommy Joseph"
This kind of avoid piece is a little silly. If you push a player down the list, some other players need to bubble up. Who bubbles up ahead of Goldschmidt?

Are you really recommending that we all target Votto, Cabrera, and Encarnacion?

The Wil Myers advice at least suggested he is a #10 1B. The ranked list from Tuesday had him ninth. That's just ahead of Chris Davis and Eric Hosmer. Is there a useful nugget there? Is this really just suggesting "Draft Abreu before Myers!"?

Every player has areas of concern. If he did well at HR/FB, can he do it again? How much will the BABIP change? Is the decreased K rate sustainable?
I don't think we as a staff are saying "avoid all of these players". The point is that we have 12 different writers all with differing opinions and observations about players at each position. We each give a guy we have some concerns about based on the general consensus and where that player is generally going in drafts.
Tim's exactly right. The point is that we have a staff that I think is really great and everyone has different opinions on players. This format is their chance to convince you of someone they want to target or avoid. You choose whether they've made a good argument or not.
Right. I subscribe because I value the insights and advice that I find here.

Your Freeman analysis was VERY useful. """As a top 25 player, his AVG and HR totals could easily disappoint. As a 46 - 60 (4th round), he's a great value.""" That provides clear valuation context and the reasoning behind it.

That context is missing from most of the other player notes.

The red flags that garnered the most attention seemed to be:
infield pop-ups, GB%, K%, declining value of HR vs increased value of SB, Contact Rate, HR/FB %. Would a table of players showing their values for those stats help provide the missing context?
I wouldn't presume to speak for anyone else on the staff, but I think I clearly articulated how the declining value of power-only profiles that offer zero speed and are major batting average anchors, like Davis have been impacted by the league-wide increase in home runs. Just based off last seasons valuations, Davis wasn't a top-15 option at the position in standard mixed leagues. Drafting a player that was roughly replacement level at his position in the sixth round makes no sense, unless you truly believe he's eclipsing 45 home runs, and the batting average rebounds to the .260-.280 range. I don't anticipate that happening.
Yes. I totally agree. I should have also listed your Chris Davis advice as very sound and useful. The decline in HR value has been so large that sluggers need to contribute at least a bit in AVG or SBs to have significant value. I've got Davis down with the Chris Carter group.

I did not mean to start a debate in the comments, but so many top guys were listed.
How about Crush in OBP leagues? The PA in a good lineup, great park, leads MLB in HR over the last 4 years and upside seems like a value in OBP leagues. .335-35-90R-80RBI in a "down" year seems valuable. BA leagues the floor is to low, but in OBP, there seems to be a diff story.
These selections are specifically tailored for standard mixed leagues, which don't use on-base percentage. Personally, I can't stand batting average, so I'm all in favor of using OBP instead, but the vast majority of leagues aren't there yet. Obviously, Davis is a different story in OBP-formats. In AL-only, he was worth $15 in standard formats, and $22 (fifth overall at 1B) in OBP. There's no question that he's going to hit for power, but in traditional leagues he finished outside the top 15 at the position last year. Drafting him as a top-10 first baseman just doesn't make any sense to me. He's vastly more appealing in OBP formats though.
Cool I figured so wasn't thinking I was pointing something out anything special. Thanks.
On another note knowing BP is kicking ass on the fantasy front on so many levels, are/is there a "BA v OBP" player evaluations in the future? I only ask bc of the extreme cases such as Crush.
Joey Gallo is headed in that direction developing a TTO approach much sooner than Crush ever did. a .340 OBP and 40 HR w/a .220 BA playable in MLB?
Best writing of this series since its inception. I really like the context given to each guy. It's not just "don't get this guy," it has context that lets me know Rizzo is really good but not Cabrera good. Well done.