Five Hitters I Avoid

It’s bold prediction season here at RotoGraphs. By extension, it’s also sleeper and bust season. Most of my bold predictions were overwhelmingly positive, so it’s time to highlight a few hitters I avoid. I’ll follow up with pitchers at some point this week.

To be clear, I’m not necessarily saying you should avoid these guys. I’m just informing you that avoid them.

In a sense, I’m copying Mr. Talley who offered six negative predictions yesterday. The true inspiration for this post is the first name on Talley’s list, who I dislike for a completely different reason. Shall we?

Devin Mesoraco – C

In my original rankings for the season (preserved here), I had Mesoraco listed fourth among catchers. I buy the spike in power. His home stadium is perfect for home runs, he’s adjusted to a more fly ball oriented approach, and he’s slashed his infield fly rate. The BABIP might have jumped 45 points, but it looks like a sustainable increase. We should expect some regression because history tells us it’s coming. However, a healthy Mesoraco should easily repeat 90 to 95 percent of his value from last year.

My concern has nothing to do with performance – it’s his damned concussion. Once a catcher is concussed, I scratch his name off my list. The injury is very likely to recur, and it will probably be worse than the first time. Mesoraco has the skill set of an above average first baseman. Since he’s blocked in Cincinnati, he should be traded immediately. To force a guy to sustain additional brain damage is criminal. End rant.

Prince Fielder – 1B

I’m right there with the rest of you, Fielder will probably have some form of a bounceback season. The NFBC crowd is drafting him ninth among first basemen and 57th overall. While there are ways he can outperform that cost, it requires way too much optimism for me.

In recent seasons, Fielder reminds me of Carlos Lee. The former stud outfielder played into his mid-30’s before his bad body sapped his ability to produce. By that anecdote, Fielder might have a few more years left in the tank. Keep in mind, Lee didn’t require spinal fusion during his age 30 season.* However, let’s not forget Fielder’s mysterious power outage prior to landing on the disabled list.

*More importantly, it’s foolish to base decisions on one similar looking player.

Fielder is reportedly feeling spry this spring. He’s dived headfirst into second and third base at least once, which has his manager suitably peeved. Stop tempting fate!

Alexei Ramirez – SS

Once again, my issue isn’t with Ramirez’s skill set, it’s how he’s being drafted. He’s the fourth SS off the board in NFBC with the 95th pick. With Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera seated atop the White Sox lineup, Ramirez will probably bat at the bottom of the order. His run production will suffer as a result. He offers some value across all five categories, although only stolen bases is a strength. In this shortstop starved environment, he’s a decent option.

Chris Owings offers a similar, albeit unproven, profile 160 picks later. He’s currently battling with Nick Ahmed, so consider him a flier rather than a full replacement. If you want a more stable option, Jimmy Rollins is available 65 picks after Ramirez. He’s not as good for the batting average, but he should make up for it with more runs and home runs. There are at least half a dozen other options available.

The biggest issue with drafting Ramirez 95th is the opportunity cost at other positions. Mookie Betts, Jay Bruce, Jorge Soler, Mark Trumbo, and J.D. Martinez have comparable or higher ADPs.

Carlos Gonzalez – OF

My first instinct was to take another potshot at Adam Jones. There’s absolutely no way I’m buying him as the sixth best outfielder in baseball. I’ve written at length on the topic.

Let’s instead pick upon the CarGo the First. Prior to his annual appointment with the disabled list, Gonzalez struggled with plate discipline. For no discernible reason, his swing rate increased by six percent. His power plunged, and his sky high career BABIP dropped to league average.

It’s all quite inexplicable from my perspective. Given his injury history, it’s easy to take a pass on Gonzalez. He’s being selected 47th overall, which means you’re passing on Adrian Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, and Zack Greinke.

Could he rebound? With Coors Field at his side, a return to massive fantasy output is possible. In his best season, he posted a 111/34/117/26/.336 line. That was in 2010. In today’s game, such production is inconceivable, but most fantasy owners would be happy with a lot less.

For me, I can’t look past his strange 2014 performance. I’ll let someone else take the gamble.

Matt Kemp – OF

Kemp is coming off a nice rebound season in LA. Most skeptical analysts point to Petco Park and arthritic hips as a reason to avoid him. I’m not overly concerned about either factor.

My biggest concern is centered upon increased playing time. The Dodgers had the personnel to give Kemp frequent rest, and I suspect that contributed to his resurgence. The Padres could do the same with Cameron Maybin and Will Venable. I’m just not sure they will. If Kemp is on a 650 plate appearance pace, I expect him to fade during the summer months.

You could draft him with the plan to sell high after April, but it’s hard to count on the trade market to work in your favor. Like CarGo, I find it easier to grab a guy like Corey Dickerson or Johnny Cueto. Kemp is the 45th player off the board per NFBC.

We hoped you liked reading Five Hitters I Avoid by Brad Johnson!

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Dave W
Dave W

I would have bet a lot of money Kemp was in this article.