We all have players that we never, ever draft. For me, it's Alfonso Soriano, and it's because of my irrational fear that he will never live up to his draft value. If I had put that preconceived notion aside last season, I could have had a top 30 outfielder for a late-round pick.
The point in bringing up my aversion to Soriano is to provide a reminder that identifying busts is a process that has to be repeated every year. Someone may have been overrated once upon a time, but while the Fantasy world usually adjusts the changes in a player's actual value, sometimes we don't adjust to changes in perception.
While Soriano is no longer a bust, there are plenty of other players whose recent trends don't seem to justify their current level of popularity, at least as measured by average draft position. I have picked out 12 of these players. In some cases, there are warning signs of impending decline that aren't easily spotted from a scan of last season's Fantasy stats. Some players made this list, not because they are due for a decline, but rather because too many owners expect more improvement than their recent stats would suggest is coming.
Just because a player is a bust doesn't mean he is completely undraftable. It just means that you will probably need to give up too much on Draft Day to make the acquisition pay off. However, every league is different, so if yours is a Rotisserie league where Austin Jackson is still available after Alejandro De Aza and Chris Davis have come off the board, then Jackson should be a welcome addition to your roster, even though he is generally being overrated. That's just not how things are playing out in a typical CBSSports.com league.
Note: The numbers in parentheses reflect average draft position (ADP) on CBSSports.com, assuming a 12-team league.
Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies (Roto: Rd. 7, H2H: Rd. 11)
Rosario's power-driven rookie performance was completely legitimate, and it was good enough to make him a Top 5 catcher in Rotisserie and Top 10 in Head-to-Head. It's just that many owners seem to be expecting Rosario to take a big leap this season, especially in Head-to-Head, where he currently ranks seventh in ADP. Maybe, as a 24-year-old, Rosario can cut back on strikeouts, but it's hard to imagine him having a better power-hitting season than he did in 2012, when he blew away his level of production from his most recent minor league campaign at Double-A Tulsa. In points leagues, make sure both Monteros (Jesus and Miguel) are off the board before you use a pick on Rosario.
Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Angels (Roto: Rd. 7, H2H: Rd. 8)
What I just wrote about Rosario also goes for Trumbo. Rotisserie owners aren't going overboard for Trumbo, but his homer-happy approach only takes him so far in standard Head-to-Head formats. If he carries over the poor plate discipline that re-emerged during the second-half of last season, Trumbo could actually have a substantially worse season this year than last. Even in Roto leagues, you might get better value going for a player with a more well-rounded skill set like Desmond Jennings or Carlos Gomez, both of whom will at least provide steals.
Danny Espinosa, 2B/SS, Nationals (Roto: Rd. 15, H2H: Rd. 16)
Espinosa's combination of power and speed is tailor-made for Rotisserie, but owners in Roto and Head-to-Head formats alike are drafting the fourth-year player as a solid second base or shortstop option in standard mixed leagues. As a Top 12 second base option in both formats a year ago, it's understandable that owners would expect a similar level of production from him again, but a dropoff could be in store for 2013. Espinosa has yet to show that he can be even a decent contact hitter, and last season, he relied on a .193 BABIP on flyballs to muster a .247 overall batting average. The major league average flyball BABIP was just .131, so there's a good chance that Espinosa' batting average will dip, and that could mean fewer opportunities to steal bases and produce runs. Let someone else take the risk that he will maintain or improve on last season's stats.
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays (Roto: Rd. 10, H2H: Rd. 11)
I do see the allure of going after Lawrie in the middle rounds, as owners are hoping he will recapture the magic of his 2011 rookie season. He was a much more aggressive hitter in his sophomore season, though, and the results were not particularly flattering. Maybe Lawrie can adjust, but even if he achieves markedly better power numbers, he may not have enough clout to keep up with Will Middlebrooks and Pedro Alvarez in Rotisserie value. His contact skills give him more of an edge in Head-to-Head, but again, his current draft position only makes sense if he has a significant rebound. Granted, Lawrie is far from the only unproven third baseman likely to be available in the middle rounds, but with so many promising young players at the position, there's no reason to reach for him either.
Josh Willingham, OF, Twins (Roto: Rd. 11, H2H: Rd. 12)
A career-high 145 games plus an unprecedented burst of home run power made for a career year for Willingham. Owners aren't drafting Willingham like the Top 15 outfielder that he was in 2012, but he is still going a little earlier than he needs to. He should hit roughly 30 home runs, but he could lose some run production unless he can repeat an unsually good line with runners in scoring position (.287/.424/.535). Willingham's power is legitimate, but it's not enough to elevate him above more well-rounded producers like Alejandro De Aza or Norichika Aoki.
B.J. Upton, OF, Braves (Roto: Rd. 7, H2H: Rd. 10)
Upton has become an increasingly impatient hitter, and it showed up in his .298 on-base percentage last season. That was also his OBP through Aug. 10 last season, and with just 10 home runs and a .378 slugging percentage at that point, there wasn't much upside to Upton's aggressive approach. Owners who stuck it out from mid-August on got a huge payoff, as Upton went bananas with 18 home runs over a 50-game span. While that hot finish could signal the beginning of a breakout, it could just as easily be a random hot streak. Given that Upton is already in his peak years and that he has a much longer history of moderate power and declining plate discipline, I feel safer assuming that we'll see the pre-August version of Upton in 2013.
Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers (Roto: Rd. 9, H2H: Rd. 11)
I actually buy into the power breakout that Jackson experiened last season, and he has clearly established himself as a 100-run scorer, yet I don't see him as a Top 30 outfielder in Rotisserie, as he is currently being drafted. Maybe some owners are expecting Jackson to take another big step forward, but it's hard to see him making more than incremental gains on his home run and strikeout rates, and he could even stand pat or regress slightly.
Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants (Roto: Rd. 12, H2H: Rd. 9)
After last season's meltdown, owners are no longer treating Lincecum like a staff ace, but they're also not leaving him outside of the Top 80 starting pitchers, even though that's where he finished in 2012. By drafting him among the Top 40 starters, owners are basically splitting the difference, and maybe that's where Lincecum will wind up. Then again, he has had three straight years of eroding command and efficiency, so counting on anything more than a marginal rebound may be too high of an expectation. Maybe he can return to being a Cy Young Award contender, but I'd rather use a pick in the early portion of the middle rounds on someone whose numbers are moving in the right direction.
Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox (Roto: Rd. 12, H2H: Rd. 8)
To his credit, Lester is having a fine spring, but then again, so did Francisco Liriano, Jake Westbrook and Blake Beavan a year ago, and those performnces didn't portend great things for the regular season. That trio had not been as dominant as Lester has been in his five Grapefruit League starts, but the bigger point is that spring stats are not always a harbinger of what is to come. The plunge in Lester's swinging strike rate over the last two seasons is still a concern, so owners investing a pick within the first half of the draft may not be happy with the return they get from the lefty.
Matt Harvey, SP, Mets (Roto: Rd. 14, H2H: Rd. 12)
With a double-digit K/9 rate and a sub-3.00 ERA in his first 10 major league starts, why not take a chance on Harvey in the middle rounds? Well, there are a few reasons. Even if Harvey can maintain a higher strikeout rate than he had in the minors -- which is a pretty big assumption to make -- walks could present a problem, and he is likely to be more homer-prone than he was last season. Also figuring that he won't strand 79 percent of his baserunners again, Harvey looks due for a fall for the coming season. While Harvey should be better than a mid-round option long-term, it's far from a lock that he'll provide that type of value this year.
Jarrod Parker, SP, Athletics (Roto: Rd. 18, H2H: Rd. 16)
Parker's strong finish in 2012 helped to boost his value in drafts this spring, but don't be too quick to dismiss the first four-plus months of his rookie season. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Parker threw only 61 percent of his pitches for strikes through the end of August, and if not for a highly favorable home run-to-flyball ratio, Parker's ERA could have easily come close to 4.00 instead of landing at 3.47. Though he was a highly-touted prospect, it's not as if Parker didn't have his struggles with command at times in the minors. Unless he can carry over his September success for the better part of a season, Parker may not prove to be a reliable standard mixed league option, at least not just yet.
Joel Hanrahan, RP, Red Sox (Roto: Rd. 13, H2H: Rd. 13)
Because of their limited innings, relievers' stats can be volatile from year to year, but last year's slippage in Hanrahan's walk and ground ball rates are particularly troubling. Struggles with control and keeping the ball down are not new to Hanrahan, and if he doesn't get back to his 2011 form (1.83 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, 54 percent ground ball rate), he could get punished, now that he no longer calls PNC Park home. Having Andrew Bailey in the wings as a potential replacement doesn't help to bolster Hanrahan's job security as the Red Sox's closer.
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