9 Studs to Pass on Drafting (2019 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 6, 2019

Javier Baez’s high BABIP last year might make it difficult for him to replicate his 2018 production

Dee Gordon and Brian Dozier are a couple examples of players who were taken in the early rounds last year, only to greatly underperform compared to their expectations and potentially ruin your playoff chances. The adage holds true in all fantasy sports — you can’t win your league in the early rounds, but you can certainly lose it. A high average draft position (ADP) for a player doesn’t guarantee that they are safe. You have to identify who is worth avoiding by assessing the risk each athlete has.

You never want to fully exclude players though, as anyone is worth grabbing if they fall far enough, of course. However, the names listed below are guys our featured pundits would hesitate to grab at their current draft price.

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Q1. Who is the one hitter inside the top 30 in hitter ADP you are avoiding the most and why?

Javier Baez (2B/3B/SS – CHI)
“Not that I am avoiding Baez for a collapse, but I won’t be buying him at the ADP spot he is going. Last year, he put up a career year, with 34 HRs and 21 SBs. He’s being drafted as if we can expect the repeat and without any kind of regression. With a .347 BABIP, I wouldn’t bank on a repeat of his .290 BA — and with his putrid 4.5% walk rate last year, he won’t be on base a whole lot — and will put his stolen bases into question. His HR/FB% rate was a career-high 24%, which is not sustainable, putting his 30+ HR mark also into question. Expect a nice season, but you can’t bank on a repeat. His draft cost is far too lofty and risky.”
– Ariel Cohen (FanGraphs)

Trea Turner (SS – WSH)
“Turner has a top-10 ADP again in 2019, but this time he falls outside the top five on average. Turner finished second in stolen bases (43) and plate appearances (700) last season, but that wasn’t good enough to return value in 2018. He finished outside the top 20 in standard 5×5 leagues, and he’ll likely see a decline in runs with the loss of Bryce Harper. That’s pretty much as negative as I can be about his game, although, I don’t expect him to be a .300 hitter, so 50 SBs is probably his ceiling.

It’s the heavy hitters going behind Turner who can trump him in three, if not four categories. This list includes four shortstops (Alex Bregman, Trevor Story, Manny Machado, and Javier Baez) who are going in the second round, despite finishing ahead of Turner in HR, RBIs, and AVG in 2018. How much of a decline will we really see in those hitters and how much better can Turner be?”
– Chris Meaney (The Athletic)

Bryce Harper (OF – PHI)
“With the news of Harper signing, he has shot up everyone’s board to the point of being a potential first-round pick. I wouldn’t touch him even at the end of the second round because of his track record with injuries. He may have played a full season last year, but even including his 159 games, Harper has averaged 30 games missed over a six-year period. That isn’t the type of risk I want with one of my first two picks.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Jose Altuve (2B – HOU)
“Altuve has been a mainstay in the first round of fantasy drafts for years now, but has slipped down the board this year and rightfully so. I still think the batting average can be great, but I worry this knee injury that he suffered last season will affect his ability to steal bases in the future. Before 2018, Altuve had provided at least 30 stolen bases in six straight seasons. If he’s not providing 30 stolen bases any more or even coming close, I’m afraid he won’t live up to his current ADP at pick 15.”
– Frank Stampfl (RotoExperts)

Francisco Lindor (SS – CLE)
“A healthy Lindor should find himself in the conversation to be a top-five pick on draft day. However, the Indians shortstop is on the mend from a calf strain and his availability for Opening Day is in question. Much of Lindor’s traditional format value is tied into his ability to hit for average and power while stealing bases. But if Lindor is unable to run the bases as well due to the calf injury — which could reoccur at any point during the marathon of a season — his value takes a hit. He is an elite real and fake baseball asset, but I’ll be avoiding him at his current ADP due to his current injury status. With that said, if he slides down the board and turns into a value play during the second or early third rounds, pounce on him.”
– Alan Harrison (The Fantasy Fix)

Q2. Who is the one starting pitcher inside the top 20 in pitcher ADP you are avoiding the most and why?

Chris Sale (SP – BOS) 
“Sale had a career-best 13.5 K/9, 2.11 ERA, and 2.31 xFIP last season, but he gave his owners 71 fewer strikeouts in 2018 compared to 2017. Sale’s 158 innings were the fewest he’s pitched since he became a starter in 2012. His 82.5% strand rate was also his highest mark in eight years. This isn’t a knock on his skill set, though, it’s simply a matter of health.

Sale hit the DL twice due to shoulder inflammation, and his velocity dropped with each September start once he returned. He was limited to 28 innings in the second half and he failed to make it out of the fifth inning in eight of his final nine appearances, including the postseason. The Boston Red Sox were definitely cautious with Sale down the stretch, and it seemed to carry over in the playoffs. Will they be again in 2019? I’m not spending a first to find out.”
– Chris Meaney (The Athletic)

Zack Greinke (SP – ARI) 
“Greinke has been a workhorse, hurling at least 200 innings in four of the last five seasons. The innings might still be there in 2019, but I have a suspicion the production might not be as good. His average fastball velocity dropped from 91 MPH in 2017 to 89.6 MPH in 2018. As a result, hitters made hard contact against him 41 percent of the time, third-most among qualified starting pitchers. His FIP in the second half was also 4.00. I’m actively passing on Greinke and waiting a few rounds for the upside arms going behind him.”
– Frank Stampfl (RotoExperts)

James Paxton (SP – NYY) 
“I have zero interest in Paxton this year unless he falls outside the top 120 picks. I realize he racked up the strikeouts last year, but he still only managed 160 innings. In fact, that is the most of his career, and he averages just 110 per season in that time. You can gamble on his health, but I won’t be joining you. Plus, moving to Yankee Stadium and the AL East won’t do his ratios any favors.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Luis Severino (SP – NYY) 
“This season more than others, I feel very strongly about double tapping aces early on in 15-team drafts. When taking a look at the current ADP for top 20 pitchers, however, one hurler I’ll be avoiding going forward is Severino (I do own him in Tout Wars Draft & Hold, so if healthy, I’m in). All pitchers carry injury risk, but with Severino heading into the season with an inflamed rotator cuff in his pitching arm and potentially sidelined beyond Opening Day, we can simply avoid the unknown by going in another direction. Blake SnellGerrit Cole, and Trevor Bauer are adequate alternatives at the end of the second round in lieu of Severino should they be available. ”
– Alan Harrison (The Fantasy Fix)

Thank you to the experts for naming their players to avoid. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast below for all the latest discussions this season.

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