Time to make some enemies.
When I point out potential Draft Day bargains in the Undervalued and Underrated column I'm a hero, but when I do the opposite, suggesting players that probably won't live up to their price tags in this Overvalued and Overrated piece, I'm a killer of dreams.
As a general rule, people like dreams and hate killers. The killer of dreams doesn't stand a chance.
But before you throw tomatoes at me, keep in mind I do it out of love. After all, you can't draft everybody. In order to take advantage of the bargains, you'll need to choose some players to avoid. These are the ones that make the most sense.
None of these players are bad, strictly speaking. They would all be worth selecting at a certain point in every draft. But based on their current CBSSports.com draft averages, they're not often reaching that point.
And in some cases, they're not even coming close.
Note: The numbers in parentheses reflect average draft position on CBSSports.com, assuming a 12-team league.
David Wright, 3B, Mets (Roto: Rd. 3, H2H: Rd. 4)
Maybe Wright's career-worst 2011 would be easy to overlook if it was a legitimate outlier. He missed two months with a lower stress fracture in his back, after all. Why not just give him a free pass?
I'll tell you why: It was just the latest in a long line of scary developments that has me thinking I'd be better off gambling on any of the other high-end uncertainties at third base.
I just don't know what Wright is capable of doing anymore. Even after he was supposedly healthy last season, he was nowhere close to being an elite performer, batting .272 with a .789 OPS in nearly half a season of at-bats. He has now significantly underachieved as a power hitter two of the last three seasons, and when you consider the other discouraging trends during that same stretch -- the steadily declining batting average and equally rising strikeout rate -- he's at a point where he pretty much has to prove himself all over again.
I understand the optimism this year now that the Mets have moved in and lowered the fences at the previously expansive Citi Field, which opened -- surprise, surprise -- the same year Wright's troubles began, but considering his numbers have been just as disappointing on the road during that stretch, I'm not so sure the park dimensions were ever his problem. And again, the height of the fences won't make a bit of difference if he's not making consistent contact.
If you draft Wright, are you potentially getting a player who'll hit .300 with 25-30 homers and 20 steals? Given his track record, it's all within the realm of possibility. But you're definitely getting a player who has averaged 17.7 homers and 132.7 strikeouts over the last three seasons. That's not third-round production in my mind, and at that point in the draft, I don't see the need to gamble, especially knowing that the third base position has an abundance of fallback options available two or three rounds later.
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals (Roto: Rd. 4, H2H: Rd. 4)
Strasburg won't be a bust this season. Let's clear that up right now.
A bust in my mind is a player who underachieves to such a degree that you end up cursing his name every time he takes the mound before eventually granting him his unceremonious release. Apart from injury, I can't imagine any way that happens for Strasburg this year. Based on what I've seen from him in his 17 major-league starts, including five after returning from Tommy John surgery last year, I can confidently say you'll like what he gives you.
I'm just not convinced he'll give you enough of it.
Certainly not for a fourth-round pick. At that point, pitchers like Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, James Shields, Josh Johnson and Madison Bumgarner are still on the board -- you know, ones with a legitimate chance at winning a Cy Young award this year. No matter how well Strasburg pitches, he won't be in the running for such hardware. He can't if he throws only 160 innings.
That's the limit the Nationals have set for him in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, and while some team's "innings limits" end up becoming more guidelines than rules, you can bet the Nationals will stick to this one. Jordan Zimmermann owners found out the hard way in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery last year. Come the end of August, he was done, useless for the time of year when Fantasy owners needed him the most.
With a phenom like Strasburg, the Nationals value long-term potential over short-term gain. So regardless of how close they are to the postseason and how much Strasburg is the reason why, when the 23-year-old reaches 160 innings, he sits. Count on it.
Any time you target a player with a known limit entering the season, you're also limiting your team's ceiling. And while you can get away with it for a peripheral player who likely won't win or lose it for you anyway, making those same concessions with the ace of your staff might be the one hiccup that dooms your team in September.
Again, it's not a question of how well Strasburg will perform this year -- on a per-start basis, he'll be great -- but until the Nationals are ready to turn him loose, he's not the true ace Fantasy owners are drafting him to be.
Hunter Pence, OF, Phillies (Roto: Rd. 5, H2H: Rd. 5)
So Pence joined the Phillies, hit .314 and lived happily ever after.
But his peripherals tell a different story.
First, though, let's discuss the non-peripherals -- the blatants, if you will -- because they speak volumes themselves.
What exactly did Pence do to go from being a middle-of-the-road second or third Fantasy outfielder one year to a top-12 option the next? Sure, he upped his batting average from .282 to .314, but what else? He didn't suddenly become a 30-homer guy. In fact, his 22 were his fewest in four years. He didn't suddenly become a 20-steal guy. In fact, his eight were the fewest of his career. By the looks of it, he didn't improve by any blatant measurement other than batting average.
Because his "breakout season" was entirely dependent on the high batting average, what needs to happen for him to sustain it? Some might say it was just a natural result of him joining the Phillies at the trade deadline last season. In Philadelphia, he's in a favorable hitter's park and has an improved supporting cast. Then again, Minute Maid Park isn't exactly a pitcher's paradise, and it's not like the Astros' lineup was always so bad. As recently as 2009, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee were both All-Star-caliber players in Houston.
Besides, even before last year's trade, Pence was hitting over .300.
No, the answer -- or lack thereof -- is in the peripherals. Among the measurements that didn't change for Pence last year was his strikeout-to-walk ratio. He didn't exhibit the improved plate discipline that often accompanies an improved batting average. His approach didn't budge. Accordingly, his .361 BABIP was about 50 points higher than usual. Granted, it wasn't a completely isolated incident. He also had a .377 BABIP as a rookie in 2007, when he hit an equally unsustainable .322.
Considering Pence now has two instances of significantly overachieving in his career, he could conceivably do it a third time. But considering not one aspect of his game changed last year other than the rise in batting average, he's much, much, much more likely to revert to his usual .280-hitting ways.
Middle of the road, here we come.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees (Roto: Rd. 5, H2H: Rd. 6)
He's old. We get it.
That's what some of you are no doubt thinking seeing Rodriguez's name on this list for the second straight year, and I'll be the first to admit it's hardly a riveting choice. But while most of the world has caught on to the fact he's no longer a first- or second-rounder, he's still getting drafted like he's one of the best options at his position.
Why? Because he's A-Rod, and because at the start of every season, he has some captivating story about how this year's going to be different.
Yeah, if by different he means worse.
The trend is impossible to ignore. For the fourth straight year, his slugging percentage and OPS declined in 2011. His final .461 and .823 marks were both career lows. Yeah, they might have been better if he hadn't missed much of the second half because of arthroscopic knee surgery and hit only .191 after returning, but at age 36, the next injury is already on the horizon.
But wait, didn't he have that miracle Orthokine treatment in Germany this offseason -- you know, the same one that helped Kobe Bryant? He did, and I'm not doubting it'll make his knee feel better. But no matter how fast that centrifuge spins its patients' blood, it can't turn back time. And all outward indications, from his declining numbers to his inability to play as little as 140 games over the last four seasons, say A-Rod's is running out.
He's basically a much more expensive version of Chipper Jones. When he's in the lineup, sure, he's still an above-average third baseman offensively who might even eke out a 20-homer season. But when he's not, you'll regret passing up on Brett Lawrie, Eric Hosmer or any of the other younger types you could have had at the same point in the draft.
So when you read all the reports this spring of A-Rod feeling better than he has in years and being determined to have a bounce-back season, think back to the reports on him last spring, when he showed up to camp slimmed down and had teammates raving about his focus.
Then ask yourself if you really want to fall for it again.
Carl Crawford, OF, Red Sox (Roto: Rd. 5, H2H: Rd. 8):
Calling Crawford's 2011 season a disappointment would be an understatement. The consensus first-rounder ended up scoring fewer Head-to-Head points than consensus late-rounders Brennan Boesch, Bobby Abreu and Alfonso Soriano despite having the most at-bats of the four.
Still, given his track record, if the down performance was his only issue heading into 2012, you could argue he's actually a value pick just outside the top 15 outfielders. But of course, it's not. His prospects for a bounce-back campaign took a nosedive the moment the world learned he needed arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist this offseason.
It's gotten worse since then. Instead of giving his wrist the rest it needed, Crawford jumped into baseball activities only a month after the procedure, hellbent on returning in time opening day, and only added to his problems by developing inflammation in the wrist.
So now it's back to square one. With the swelling in his wrist, his timetable has swelled from mid-April to ... well, who knows when? And if impatience got the better of him the first time, who's to say it won't happen again? And again and again? Who's to say he won't get stuck in this cycle of starting and stopping and starting and stopping until he looks up at the calendar one day and, whoops, it's September. Remember Jacoby Ellsbury's rib injury a couple years ago? It was supposed to be relatively minor too, but the Red Sox couldn't get him to lay off long enough for it to heal.
Oh Scott, you're being dramatic. Am I? Well, here's another example: Joe Mauer late last offseason had arthroscopic knee surgery that wasn't supposed to be a big deal, but he tried to rush back and ended up with bilateral leg weakness, a lengthy DL stay and a year-long power drought.
Coming off an embarrassing season, Crawford is clearly chomping at the bit to justify the massive contract he signed last offseason, especially with his owner openly questioning the move. But his enthusiasm, while admirable, is kryptonite to the rehabilitation process. And because the injury is to his left wrist -- the one that generates his power -- it'll be an issue on each and every swing.
I'm not necessarily predicting a worst-case scenario for Crawford, but at a time when he already doesn't have much confidence in his swing, this hurdle is one he didn't need. Why target a player with so much to prove when you can draft a steady Shane Victorino or a high-upside Desmond Jennings instead?
J.P. Arencibia, C, Blue Jays (Roto: Rd. 13, H2H: Rd. 15)
Catcher isn't the easiest place to find offense in Fantasy, so anytime a candidate for 20 homers emerges at the position, it's cause for celebration. And anytime that candidate happens to be a rookie, it's cause for unreasonable expectations.
Case in point: J.P. Arencibia. The guy hit 23 home runs last year and clearly caught the attention of Fantasy owners. But regardless of whether or not the performance makes him the ultimate fallback option at the position, it didn't earn him a single Rookie of the Year vote this offseason.
Why? He hit only .219. Worse yet, he hit only .199 over the final four months, when the league got a second and third look at him. Worse yet, he had nearly 100 more strikeouts than walks, as was the case throughout his minor-league career, which means he'll likely remain an easy out in between all the homers.
Ah, but I shouldn't be so quick to judge a player so young, right? That's fair -- or at least it would be if he was actually young. But he's not. He's 26 -- as in a year older than Justin Upton, who has been performing at a near-MVP level for three years now.
Like it or not, Arencibia is a finished product, and that product likely isn't good enough for the Blue Jays long-term. Meanwhile, their top prospect, Travis D'Arnaud, also happens to play catcher. He's projected to begin this season at Triple-A Las Vegas and, at age 23, is more or less major-league ready.
Something has to give here, and considering D'Arnaud is capable of hitting for both power and average, it'll most likely be Arencibia.
For a middle-to-late round pick, give me Wilson Ramos instead. Give me Geovany Soto or even Salvador Perez. Give me any other catcher who would make sense at that point in the draft. Surely they'll all be better than a one-trick pony with zero job security.
Here's a quick look at a few other players currently overvalued on Draft Day:
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (Roto: Rd. 5, H2H: Rd. 6): By now, you have to know Cruz can't stay healthy over a full season. Any time he moves his legs, he's liable to pull something, as he showed with his two trips to the DL last season. He has yet to play 130 games in a season, much less 160, which pretty much guarantees he'll disappoint no matter how well he performs in between the injuries. Last spring, he was coming off a career-best .318 batting average, so drafting him this early made some measure of sense. But if, as he showed last season, a high batting average is no guarantee, what exactly makes him elite? Sure, he hits for power, but so do Jay Bruce, Michael Morse and several of the other healthy players available in later rounds.
Michael Young, 1B/3B, Rangers (Roto: Rd. 6, H2H: Rd. 8): In Head-to-Head leagues last year, Young ranked second at third base and seventh at first base, so he was pretty much as good as ever. Yup, no signs of decline for the 35-year-old. Of course, he did hit a career-high .338, which by its very nature is unsustainable. At the same time, he lost about half of his home runs from the year before, so if not for that career-high batting average, he likely would have slipped in the rankings. Perhaps the old man is aging faster than we thought. Granted, his track record pretty much assures he won't be a complete bust, but if you draft him in the sixth round, you're paying for a best-case scenario.
Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Rockies (Roto: Rd. 11, H2H: Rd. 12): The move to Coors Field can only help Cuddyer, but the way some Fantasy owners are approaching him this spring, you'd think we were still in the pre-humidor days, when a purple uniform was enough to make guys like Preston Wilson and Jay Payton overnight Fantasy studs. But no, the thin air no longer gives superhuman strength to middle-of-the-road performers -- hasn't for a while now -- and though Cuddyer is often better than middle-of-the-road, he's had so many ups and downs over his career that you never know when he's going to be the 20-homer guy we saw last year. Plus, at age 32, he's at a point when he might have trouble staying on the field. He's not bad, but with so many high-upside players available at the same point in the draft, why settle for the mundane?
Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees (Roto: Rd. 12, H2H: Rd. 12): Early last season, the concern over Jeter was his sudden inability to drive the ball, and though the talk died down when he hit .327 in the second half, the problem never went away. He had only 16 extra-base hits during that "hot" stretch, which says to me that at age 37, he's resigned to being a slap hitter. That's fine if all you care about is batting average and runs scored, but it's likely not enough to keep Jeter among the starting-caliber shortstops in standard mixed leagues. Investing a 12th-round pick in him isn't the worst reach ever, but considering the number of shortstops who showed last year that they're capable of excelling in either homers or steals -- such as J.J. Hardy, Dee Gordon and Erick Aybar -- why bother with a player who's barely getting by?
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves (Roto: Rd. 12, H2H: Rd. 13): A 13th-round pick may seem more than appropriate for a high-upside player who finished second in Rookie of the Year voting last year, but I'm just not sure Freeman is capable of improving enough at this stage of his career to justify the price tag. Last year, he ranked 21st among first basemen in Head-to-Head leagues, which clearly isn't high enough, but 21 homers might be as good as it gets for a 22-year-old who, even in his prime, doesn't necessarily profile as a 30-homer man. And you can't honestly expect him to hit better than .282 when he strikes out 142 times. A win for Freeman would be just to repeat last year's numbers, so a win for you might be to avoid him altogether.
Joe Nathan, RP, Rangers (Roto: Rd. 13, H2H: Rd. 14:) Nathan's 4.84 ERA in his first season back from Tommy John surgery was nearly three runs higher than the 1.87 mark he produced during his six years closing for the Twins, and yet some Fantasy owners seem to think he's as good as new. Yes, the results did improve after he regained his fastball velocity midway through last season, but he didn't completely regain it, and at age 37, he likely never will. His ERA and strikeout rate, while good enough to justify him closing, were also less than studly during that "good" stretch. Any way you slice it, Nathan is a more hittable pitcher post-surgery. Hittability is a problem in Texas, and given the team's surplus of fallback options, such as Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams or even Neftali Feliz, it might ultimately be Nathan's undoing. You'll find riskier closers than him, sure, but they're all going later than Round 13.
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