Spring is the time for optimism. That’s why you see a lot more articles about breakouts and sleepers than busts. It’s easier to see the good in a player and how things can go right. But not today. It’s time to journey over to the dark side.
The truth of it is that many flops have some sort of injury component tied to them. The obvious ones are where they miss a ton of time and don’t really perform once they return. But then there’s ones like Brian Dozier’s 2018. We didn’t learn until late in 2018 that played most of the season with a deep bone bruise that undoubtedly played a role in his 90 wRC+, a six-year low. Sometimes a player just falls back and fails to meet expectations, though.
I’ve identified 10 players within the top 100 that I’m fading. Cost plays a major role here as I could see myself buying some of them if they became available several rounds later. In addition to their draft cost, I’m going to focus on their skills profile for reasons why I’m fading them and not just lean on potential injury.
For this exercise I’m using the FantasyPros aggregate ADP data instead of just NFBC. I love the NFBC data and playing in those leagues, but I fully acknowledge that it’s a different market and thus only using that data for something like this might not have as much practical value for those in home leagues, especially if your league doesn’t push pitching like the NFBC. You can find the ADP data I’m using here.
Javier Baez – 18th ADP
The obvious pick on everyone’s fade list. There’s more to a player than just his strikeout and walk rates, but there just isn’t a lot of success for guys fanning 25%+ of the time and walks at a 5% or lower clip. Baez’s 2018 doing that was easily the best such season in the 2000s (min. 400) and only five of the 23 were north of a 100 wRC+. His power and speed will prevent a full scale cratering, but I just don’t see a plausible scenario where he puts up another top 20 season with these skills.
Corey Kluber – 23rd
His brilliant breaking ball that Doug Thorburn affectionately calls the “Slydra” (a multi-headed slider) will protect his floor, but a consistently bad fastball lost some velo and started to become a home run issue. His HR/9 has slowly trickled up each of the last four years, reaching 1.1 last year. What I see here is a guy who will still have bouts of excellence, but a handful of blowups will push his ERA up into the mid-3.00s similar to what we saw back in 2015. As a long-time superfan of Kluber, it pains to have any negativity toward him, but I consistently find myself bypassing him in the second round of drafts.
Walker Buehler – 38th
Pardon the backpat, but I kinda saw this one coming. Buehler isn’t quite a top 10 SP right now, sitting 12th as of this writing. I love the talent and think Buehler will be quite good this year as I have him ranked 16th, but I’m just not willing to pay the full toll here. Will the Dodgers manage his innings after the big spike from 98 to 177? Will said spike have a negative impact on the innings he does pitch?
I can’t seem to locate the research, but I seem to remember reading that big IP spikes didn’t usually catch up to a pitcher until the third (so 2020 in this case). If anyone recalls that, link it in the comments please. At any rate, Buehler isn’t necessary a 0 shares guy because if he goes closer to his max pick, I can get him as the 16th/17th SP off the board, but as the 11th/12th, I’m going elsewhere right now.
Patrick Corbin – 47th
It was just such an obvious career year in 2018 that it certainly doesn’t like he can get any better so it’s maintain or dip and I’m betting on the latter. Plus, I’m not a huge fan of pitchers in year 1 of a mega deal. It’s probably just natural regression of coming off a huge year that earned the deal in the first place, but I want to watch the transition period from afar and decide whether or not to buy back in the following season. The projections put him as a mid-3.00s ERA with a low-1.20s WHIP, both of which I can see, but then finishing top 20 hinges upon his netting a third straight 180+ IP season – a rarity in today’s game. Just six pitchers did it from 2016-18 after eight from 2015-17 and 15 from 2014-16.
Eugenio Suarez – 51st
Another career year that’s just being accepted as the player’s new level with little scrutiny. After a strong 2017 and useful 2016, I don’t doubt that Suarez is a solid player, but I’m betting on peel back from a .283/.366/.526 season with 34 HR and 104 RBI. Shave 10 HR, 15 RBI, and 12-15 points of AVG for my projection. More importantly, the positional depth has me bypassing him easily for the likes of Matt Carpenter, Justin Turner, Josh Donaldson, Travis Shaw, Matt Chapman, Max Muncy, and Mike Moustakas. Hell, I like Rafael Devers for a breakout this year and would rather nab him 90 picks later. I just can’t see the case for Suarez.
Gleyber Torres – 60th
This one is mostly positional depth with a little sophomore slump concern sprinkled on top. I won’t deny how strong Torres was in his 484 PA rookie season, but it was unprecedented power for the 22-year old and so I’m more inclined to bet on another 24 homers spread out over a full season as opposed to extrapolating or adding onto what he did in 2018. This is definitely my least confident one in terms of betting against the profile, so I’ll focus on the fact that I’ll either already have my shortstop by this point or just wait and get Corey Seager for a similar profile, Jonathan Villar or Jose Peraza for a speed-focused profile, or Paul DeJong for a more power-focused profile.
Marcell Ozuna – 73rd
We know Ozuna’s bum shoulder plagued his 2018 and limited him to 23 homers as he had surgery in the offseason to repair it. By the way, can we just acknowledge that he still hit .280 with those 23 HRs despite being hurt for much of the season? At any rate, I was ready to buy in on Ozuna this draft season expecting that his 2018 fall off would generate a nice discount and yet he’s not even two full rounds (in 15-teamers) cheaper than his ADP from a year ago when he was going in the early-50s. I’d rather bet on the other high-20s HR/.280+ AVG guys going around him who aren’t returning from surgery like Yasiel Puig, Mitch Haniger, Nicholas Castellanos, and Eddie Rosario.
Miguel Andujar – 77th
A lot of my points from the Suarez portion would apply here. I also wonder if his playing time is fully locked in given how horrible he is at third base. Obviously if he’s performing at a 128 wRC+, he’s going to play, but what if he’s more in the 112-115 range? Do they take the terrible hot corner defense every day for that kind of offense? I’m not so sure. Just too many other 3B options.
Craig Kimbrel – 81st
Signing late is one thing, but Opening Day is next week. And while relievers don’t need a ton of time to get ready, this is just a hassle I want no part of this year. Plus, what if he goes somewhere and isn’t the unquestioned closer? The latest rumor is Milwaukee and we’ve already seen them have no issues rotating several capable guys into the ninth inning depending on matchup. Now, none of them are Craig freakin’ Kimbrel, but is he even Craig freakin’ Kimbrel anymore? His strikeout rate dropped 11 points and his walk rate more than doubled to 13% and that’s before we even talk about the wobbly playoff outings. The relief group is unsettled and lacks depth, but Kimbrel’s situation is part of the problem, not a solution at pick 81.
German Marquez – 87th
Shocking, I know.