First Five Disappointments: The Early Busts

It’s late August. Real life baseball enters into pennant races and playoff chases. Fantasy baseball is filled with stark reality. I’ll challenge in one league, I’ll flirt with prize money in a couple others. I got killed in a few. I’m sure that sounds familiar. But around this point in the season, I start to look back and marvel at the picks which were clearly steals and the picks that almost singularly destroyed title dreams.

Nobody expects every pick to work out. Injuries are practically unavoidable, and certainly we’ve seen the name Tommy John tossed around aplenty this season. But what confounds me are the players who aren’t obviously hurt — at least inasmuch as their team putting them on the disabled list. And perhaps this is more of a venting of sorts, a cathartic calling-out of players who didn’t miss much time this season and just failed to live up to any reasonable expectation. And for our purposes today, I’m just going to focus on offensive players who were slotted to go in the first five rounds of a standard 12 team snake draft.

Chris Davis, average draft position: 8

There were certainly red flags about Davis headed into 2014. His first half was torrid, as you likely remember, slashing .315/.392/.717 with 37 home runs with 70 runs and 93 RBI in 95 games. My goodness. His second half, however, slowed to a .245/.339/.515 slash line with 16 home runs, 33 runs, and 45 RBI over 65 games played. Most reasonable prognosticators and data bots put his 2014 somewhere around .265/.340/.530 with 30-35 home runs and a goodly number of runs and RBI, of course. Maybe not enough to be the 8th overall pick, but certainly quite useful.

And yet the Chris Davis we got in 2014 looks a heck of a lot like the one that the Texas Rangers tired of back in 2011, peddling him with Tommy Hunter for Koji Uehara. His current line stands at .188/.291/.389 with 22 home runs over 112 games played, making him likely the biggest first round fantasy bust in the last ten seasons (not including the disabled list debacles). Grady Sizemore of 2009 comes close, but Davis has been worse. Pitchers zigged and Davis failed to zag, and what managers are left with is a worse version of Adam Dunn. It’s hard to speculate where Davis might go in 2015, but I’m not sure there have been too many other examples of first rounders turned flier picks in recent memory.

Dustin Pedroia, average draft position: 34

If you were expecting Pedroia to go 20-20 again, you were probably setting yourself up for a big disappointment to begin with. But second base didn’t look particularly juicy headed into 2014, and Pedroia seemed like a pretty safe pick to hit .290/.365/.440 or so with 15 home runs, 15 stolen bases, 80 runs, 75 RBI or so. Not a monster in any particular category, but he contributed across the board, and that was a big part of his value. There were many who thought the low home run output had a lot to do with the torn UCL in his thumb which he played through the entire season, and intuitively, that seemed to make a lot of sense. His power never returned in 2014 after a power outage in 2013, but it’s perhaps more surprising that he currently has just six stolen bases. He’s on pace to finish with a career low in batting average and his lowest run and RBI totals in any season which he hasn’t missed significant time to injury. Pedroia probably drops down into the 9th, 10th rounds next year. Maybe even lower.

Shin-Soo Choo, average draft position: 43

This one might not be as fair because Choo battled bum ankle for the better part of the season, but seemed to try to play through it, so maybe this one is on the Rangers trainers. But at 43, Choo was selected late in the third round to early fourth round with the expectation that he would be able to once again be the prolific doubles hitter he’s been for the majority of his career — and along the way produce something akin to his .282/.383/.453 career slash line with 20 home runs, 20 steals, and a pile of runs. Instead, Choo has hit to a .242/.340/.374 line with little power, no speed and not much in the way of counting stats in between. Choo, much like the Rangers, are just limping their way to the end of a lost season, and it’s anyone’s guess what Choo shows up in 2015.

Jean Segura, average draft position: 43

His second half swoon was supposed to be just fatigue related. His first half was a terrific .325/.363/.487 with 11 home runs and 27 stolen bases, on his way to one of the finer shortstop performances in years. His second half, however, produced just a .241/.268/.315 slash line with one home run over 54 games to go with 17 stolen bases, although his caught stealing rate was rather unseemly being caught eight times in that span. Projections suggested kind of a happy medium between 2013 halves, with a .280/.325/.410 line, 10-12 home runs, 30-35 stolen bases and oodles of runs. But that second half flop from 2013 turned into a whole season of misery for Segura owners and the Milwaukee faithful, as Segura currently stands at .237/.277/.320 with four home runs and 16 stolen bases. He’s dealt with some heavy personal issues this year, as you likely know, and it’s pretty impossible to speculate how much of that mental baggage weighs on his on-field performance. But right now, Segura isn’t even a lock to play every day, which seemed impossible headed into the season.

Allen Craig, average draft position: 57

This might be the least surprising of the bunch, as there were plenty of people that weren’t high on Craig’s profile. But projections pegged him right around .300/.360/.480 with 20 home runs, 80 runs, and 90 RBI which is a pretty solid haul in the fifth round. Craig stumbled out of the box in March/April, hitting just .220/.277/.367 with three home runs. May was a little more palatable, but then the wheels really fell off. Since the beginning of June, Craig has hit .208/.260/.292 with two home runs and 16 RBI over almost 200 plate appearances. This one time All Star now finds himself a Red Sox reclamation project who is probably a last round flier or waiver wire fodder headed into 2015.

Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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I think Rios deserves to be on the list more than anybody not named Davis.