Top 20 Fantasy Baseball Busts

Though it seems mean-spirited, I love writing up my busts list. People are much more passionate if you call one of their favorites a bust as opposed to naming a sleeper they dislike. The goal here is to find some players you might want to avoid. At the least, temper your expectations and don’t overbid.

1. Chone Figgins, third base/outfield. Figgins topped this list prior to his injury, so his stock is really low now. He’ll miss all of April with finger injuries, which could linger into the season. Though things could change, it appears that Figgins is slated to bat ninth for the Angels. That would mean fewer at-bats, and subsequently fewer steals. Runs would probably decrease too. Figgins only qualifies at third and outfield in most leagues. Because of all of those factors, I would not be picking him in the fourth round even if he were healthy.

2. Chris Young, starting pitcher. Young’s batting average on balls in play last year was the lowest for all pitchers who qualified for an ERA title since the year 2000. Many of the great fluke seasons in recent memory were because of lucky BABIP (Joe Mays in 2001, Ryan Franklin in 2003).

Young’s hit rate is due to rise to maybe eight per nine innings, putting his projected WHIP a touch under 1.30. He’s also an extreme flyball pitcher. Young is an excellent young hurler with a strong strikeout rate and the potential to improve his control this year. But he’s not a ninth round pick for me. I’d much rather have Brett Myers.

3. Jason Schmidt, starting pitcher. Speaking of starters getting picked around the ninth round, we have new Dodgers acquisition Schmidt. He’s 34 with health concerns, a declining strikeout rate, and a worse ballpark for home runs allowed. An ERA around 4.00 and WHIP of 1.30 sounds about right to me; there are better options with upside at that stage in the draft.

4. Gary Sheffield, outfield. Lately we’re seeing Sheff picked in the fifth round. Given the uncertainty, I don’t agree with that. It can take a while for power to return from a wrist injury, and he may top out at 25 home runs. RBIs will be down too, as the Tigers certainly don’t get on base the way the Yankees do.

5. Delmon Young, outfield. I can see Young posting a strong average and maybe going 20/20. But that seems to be the ceiling for 2007; he only hit 11 home runs in 468 at-bats last year. Power and patience may not come in his rookie year.

6. Chien-Ming Wang, starting pitcher. Like Figgins, another bust pick whose injury only compounded things. Why you would want Wang on your mixed league team at all, let alone take him with a 10th round pick, is beyond me. Groundball pitchers have volatile ERAs, and 3.63 is probably the floor for him. If he puts up a 3.90 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, his ratios will have little value in a mixed league. His 85 strikeouts will have a negative effect. You’re really only looking at help in wins, and that’s an unreliable stat.

7. Dan Uggla, second base. In his shocking rookie season, Uggla had three excellent months out of six. His second half line of .256/.311/.449 appears more representative of his abilities. Additionally, number two hitters rarely knock in 90 runs. I’d snag Howie Kendrick well before Uggla, but that’s not happening in most drafts.

8. Ryan Howard, first base. I fully acknowledge that Howard is a monster, both in fantasy and real baseball. But how many players in the history of baseball had at least a .300 average, 50 HR, 140 RBIs, and 170 or more strikeouts? Two: Howard last year and Sammy Sosa in 1998. Even if I relax those standards to .290, 45 HR, 130 RBIs, and at least 160 strikeouts, we get those same two seasons plus one more from Sosa. Basically, you can’t count on anything close to a repeat, making Howard a questionable first-rounder. Toss in zero steals and a non-scarce position to seal the deal.

9. Derek Jeter, shortstop. Jeter is another star who will suffer from regression to the mean. Most players cannot hit .340 consistently, even if they are locks for .300+. And with Jeter hitting groundballs 60% of the time, a return to 20 home runs seems unlikely. He’s obviously a great player but it will be hard to top 2006.

10. Chris Ray, closer. Ray’s raw stats—2.73 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 33 saves—look like the numbers of a very solid upper mid-tier closer. However, there’s a lot to dislike under the hood. A 5.2 strikeout rate after the break. Subpar walk and home run rates. And reliance on a ridiculous .203 BABIP. Expect his ERA closer to 4.00 this year; Ray’s hold on the closer job is tenuous. Danys Baez isn’t any better but the Orioles may turn to him this summer.

11. Magglio Ordonez, outfield. Maggs is being drafted around the ninth round. Personally, I’m not buying it. At 33, he’s not getting better. He slugged only .477 last year, which isn’t impressive for a right fielder. He was especially mediocre in the second half. He’ll hit .290 or better, but there’s a good chance he struggles to reach 20 home runs. Don’t bid for the Ordonez of old.

12. Bartolo Colon, starting pitcher. Not that anyone is paying big bucks for Colon, but there are better speculative picks out there. He’s trying to rehab a torn rotator cuff. Even if he does get back in May, he probably won’t pitch well enough to help your team. Ditto for Mark Mulder.

13. Justin Verlander, starting pitcher. He had a rough second half, succumbing to a huge workload increase. Compared to ’05, Verlander pitched more than 75 additional innings (and I’m sure they were more stressful too). His overall peripherals were far from sparkling, and 200 innings seems a long shot. I’m going to steer clear.

14. Adam Wainwright, starting pitcher. Wainwright’s had a nice spring, but how many innings can we reasonably expect this year as he converts back to starting? He threw about 85 last year; 180 would seem to be his limit. He’ll probably have an ERA around 4.00, immensely helping the Cards. But it might make him just a neutral-value mixed leaguer.

15. Brandon Phillips, second base. You have to love him batting third, but Phillips is a good candidate to slip from last year’s breakout season. Think .270 and 15/15. That’s pretty good but I don’t see him as a top five second baseman.

16. Melvin Mora, third base. Mixed leaguers are still drafting this guy, hoping he can bounce back to at least his 2005 level. But Mora is 35 and slugged just .352 after the break last year. Third base is way too deep to draft this guy.

17. Chipper Jones, third base. Third base is also way too deep to pay sticker price on Chipper. He’s going eighth among third-sackers. People are using valuable seventh round picks on him. He’s averaged 385 at-bats over the last two seasons and isn’t getting healthier at age 35. Save your pick and grab Mark Teahen, Morgan Ensberg, Alex Gordon, or Edwin Encarnacion much later.

18. Joel Zumaya, reliever. I see Zumaya’s value in an AL-only league; there’s no disputing it. But in the first 20 rounds of a mixed league draft … not for me. You’ve got nine pitcher slots to fill; you can’t afford to roster Zumaya just for his ratios and strikeouts. It’s not enough without the saves. While it’s certainly possible, you can’t rely on Todd Jones breaking down and Fernando Rodney being bypassed. If he goes late I’m OK with him on reserve.

19. Jeremy Sowers, starting pitcher. With a frighteningly low strikeout rate, Sowers is at risk to fall apart and post an ERA in the upper fours. That he allowed fewer than a hit per inning last year was a clear fluke. You can’t roster him in a mixed league.

20. Jason Jennings, starting pitcher. Jennings’ luck ran in both directions last year. He was lucky on hits and home runs allowed and his strikeout rate is mediocre. He certainly deserved more than nine wins, but his 3.78 ERA wasn’t realistic. Think 12 wins with an ERA in the low fours.

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