Monday, March 17, 2008

Fantasy Baseball 2008: Overrated

I covered some of the players who could be good draft day steals on Saturday. Now I'll cover some of the guys who are sure to be overvalued in your fantasy leagues this year.

1. Dontrelle Willis (SP - DET): How does a pitcher who is moving from the NL to the AL and with horrible numbers go on average at the 131 position in CBS Sportsline drafts? He put up a 1.42 WHIP in 2006 and was fortunate to escape with a 3.87 ERA that year. The luck ran out last year as hitters pounded Willis to the tune of a .294 batting average. His WHIP ballooned to 1.60 as did his ERA to 5.17. If you've had him on your team either of the past two years, you've likely finished near the bottom of your leagues. Going NL to AL typically hurts the ratios by about 7-8%... what does this mean? It means let someone else draft Mr. Willis and send them a "thank you" note after the draft's conclusion!!!!

2. B.J. Upton (OF - TB): Yes, he's a potential 30/30 guy, but he also could strike out 200 times and hit .240. How did he hit .300 last year? No one really knows, but when you whiff nearly a third (32.5%) of the time and you have only an average batting eye (65 walks in 2007), you're more expected to bat the .258 or .246 that Upton did in his partial tours of duty in 2004 and 2006. While I don't think he will bat that low, .300 won't happen anytime soon as long as he's striking out so much. Upton's currently going 27th on average in CBS Sportsline drafts. You'd be much better served taking someone like Lance Berkman, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rios, Troy Tulowitski, Aramis Ramirez, Nick Markakis or even Adam Dunn (who does walk a lot) ahead of him. Unless he slips to the late part of the 5th round, you want to let someone else take on his risk.

3. Vladimir Guerrero (OF - Angels): You may be surprised to see this perennial All-Star who drove in 125 runs and hit .324 last year on this list. For seemingly forever, he's been someone you could count on for close to 40 homers and a good number of steals. While his average number of steals the past 10 years has been great, the reality is that one two times has he stolen more than 15 bases in a season (2001 with 37, and 2002 with 40). Last year, he stole all of TWO bases! Even Prince Fielder had that many! Additionally, "Super Vlad" only hit 27 home runs last year - his fewest in a full season in his career, continuing a trend which started in 2006. In the eight years from 1998-2005, he averaged a home run every 15.5 at bats. The past two years, it's been one every 19.7 at bats. This is a sizeable 27% drop in his home run rate! If this were just a one year aberration (like with Andruw Jones), you wouldn't be that concerned, but this trend has now lasted two seasons! Over the course of a 600 at bat season instead of giving you 39 home runs, he will only give you 30. Yes, a 30 HR, 115 RBI season with a .300+ batting average is still a nice thing from the now scarce outfield position. Just don't go drafting him in the first couple of rounds (he's going 18th on average in CBS Sportline drafts) as you used to - the speed is no longer there, and the power is not what it once was!

4. Joe Mauer - (C - MIN): One of my biggest rules of fantasy baseball and the keys to my success over the years is to NOT draft the so-called "positionally scarce" positions such as catcher early. Why grab a catcher in the 5th or 6th round who might get you 10 home runs, 70 RBI's and a .300 batting average over a slugger like Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn who will get you 35-40 home runs and 100 RBI's? One player will not kill your team's batting average, nor will one make it. Yes, Joe Mauer has a career .313 batting average, and he did flirt with .400 for a brief time in 2006... other than that magical first half of that season, what has Joe Mauer given the average fantasy team? Not a heck of a lot! Why spend your 58th draft pick on the oft-injured Mauer when you could get just as much production out of someone such as Ramon Hernandez, Geovany Soto or Mike Napoli in the 22nd round? If you're drafting Joe Mauer (or pretty much any catcher early), then you're doing the other owners in your league a BIG favor!

5. Chien-Ming Wang (SP - NYY): Thou shalt not chase after WINS. There is no way to kill your fantasy team faster than going after wins. Dontrelle Willis may very well win 18-20 games with the Tigers this year... but at what cost to your fantasy team? 200 innings of a 5.00 ERA or a 1.600 WHIP will kill your team. Now, Mr. Wang is not going to give you those kind of numbers, but he's also not going to do much to help your team other than in the wins column. His ERA in 2008 will be around 4.00, his WHIP about 1.300. While these numbers won't hurt your team, they also won't help them. What will hurt is his inability to strike batters out. In his first full season he struck out an abysmal 76 batters in 218 innings for the Yankees. Many relievers do that in 70 innings! Last year he improved to 103 K's in 199 innings. Still, when your average starting pitcher in fantasy is giving you 140-150 K's, you know that despite his improvement, he's still hurting you in that category. Wang is going on average at 106th in CBS Sportsline leagues at the moment. The net effect is zero, and he doesn't get his projected 18-19 wins then guess what? He's hurting your team!!! You would be much better served using that pick on someone who might be able to double that strikeout total with similar or better ratios and maybe a couple wins less - someone like Javier Vazquez, Matt Cain, A.J. Burnett, Tim Lincecum, Rich Hill or John Maine would be a much better use of that 11th round pick if you're looking for a starting pitcher who will help your team!

With our next column I will look at sleepers. These are the guys that more than likely will get passed upon on draft day and will be available to you in the very last round, or as an afterthought in free agency.


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