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6 Early Fantasy Baseball Busts

Feb 11, 2021


Once your draft day arrives, it’ll be important to have a strong sense of which players may lead your team astray and cost you valuable draft capital. One of the biggest questions facing fantasy managers this season is what to make of the shortened campaign last year. How much stock can we put in the performances? Additionally, if last year’s performance is to be ignored, what are the warning signs of a player who will ultimately disappoint? We reached out to our featured experts below to provide answers on who you should avoid this upcoming season.

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1. Who is the one hitter inside the top 30 in hitter ADP that will disappoint you the most and why?

Luis Robert (OF – CWS): Hitter ADP – 26
“Robert displayed undeniable upside when hitting .296 with nine homers and three steals last August. Then he showed a rickety floor by batting .136 (11-for-81) with 32 strikeouts in an alarming September swoon. The good may outweigh the bad over a full season (assuming we get one), but the 23-year-old comes with some serious batting-average risk. I prefer reliability in the early rounds, so I’m more likely to target Whit Merrifield, Tim Anderson, or Starling Marte for five-category production.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

“Depending on who you ask, Luis Robert is either a breakout candidate or a hitter likely to bust. His debut season in 2020 perfectly conveys this as it was truly a tale of two halves. Following an electric start to the summer, Robert hit just .136/.237/.173 in September as he lost his stranglehold on American League Rookie of the Year honors. Throughout the year, Robert did damage when he made contact, but he swung and miss as much as any other player in baseball. Opponents eventually figured out his tendencies and stopped throwing pitches down the middle. Robert is talented enough to have a monster fantasy campaign if he adjusts back, but I want to see him do it before investing an early-round selection in him.”
– Brendan Tuma (BettingPros)

Kyle Tucker (OF/DH – HOU): Hitter ADP – 22
“It’s not that I’m passionately against Kyle Tucker, I just see him slotted in an area where he probably needs to improve to return value. Granted, improvement isn’t a stretch by any means, given his pedigree and career arc. But careers don’t always progress in a linear fashion, and I see a handful of Tucker-similar players at cheaper ADPs. He also needs to step up against lefties, who handled him easily last year, for whatever a truncated season means. TL/DR: There’s a shiny-new toy cost here that I’d prefer not to pay.”
– Scott Pianowski (Yahoo! Sports)

Jose Abreu (1B – CWS): Hitter ADP – 21
“Prior to last year, Abreu had put up an average stat line (in 150 games per season) of a .292 average, 30 home runs, 81 runs, and 102 RBI. His 150-game pace from last year was a .317 average, 48 home runs, 108 runs, and 150 RBI. If you want to parse the statcast data to look for reasons why last year’s performance was illegitimate, you won’t find many. Abreu hit the ball harder than ever and his expected stats were largely in line with his actual stats. But pure common sense tells us that this is just the quintessential oddity of a shortened season for the now 34-year-old. Abreu’s ADP isn’t representative of last year’s performance (if it were, he’d probably be a first-rounder), but it is pushed higher than it should be based on what he’ll likely produce this year.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

2. Who is the one starting pitcher inside the top 25 in pitcher ADP that will disappoint you the most and why?

Zach Plesac (CLE): Pitcher ADP – 23
“Plesac is a fine pitcher, but he’s not going to wind up on any of my teams. His FIP, xFIP, xERA, and SIERA were all more than a run higher than his ERA, and both his strikeout rate and walk rate significantly outproduced what he showed he could do in the minors. His ability to avoid hard contact should keep his BABIP low, but even for him, the .224 he saw last year was fluky, as was his bloated 91.7% LOB rate. In the end, Plesac is a fine addition to a fantasy staff, but regression of probably about two points to his ERA is likely to hit. He’s being drafted as an SP2, but he’ll likely perform closer to a low-end SP3.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

“I want to be more of an optimist, but I’m not trusting enough to take Zach Plesac as a top-25 starter because of eight great starts. His 2.28 ERA, 57 strikeouts, and six walks certainly pop off the page, especially since they came with an altered pitch mix that saw fewer four-seam fastballs (.377 wOBA against) and more of his slider (.082 wOBA) and changeup (.175 wOBA). But again, it was eight starts. Three were against the Royals and Tigers. Nobody with at least 50 innings had a higher strand rate than Plesac’s 91.7% in 2020, and a career 8.6 K/9 in the minors raises doubts about his ability to maintain last season’s enhanced strikeout rate.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

Stephen Strasburg (WAS): Pitcher ADP – 23
“I’ve been a regular Strasburg fader for most of his career, and although a few years I regretted it, it’s been an overall profit. And even his highs haven’t been *that* high – he’s been in the Top 8 of the Cy Young voting exactly one time. And his career ratios are good, but not elite – 3.19 ERA, 1.09 WHIP. Into an age-32 season, coming back from a major injury, pitching in front of a messy defense, I’ll gladly sit this out again. Stressburg.”
– Scott Pianowski (Yahoo! Sports)

Max Fried (ATL): Pitcher ADP – 20
“It’s never fun to bet against a young pitcher who recently broke out, but a lot of Max Fried’s underlying metrics are concerning. The reason for his top-20 ADP among pitchers is the shiny 2.25 ERA from the shortened 2020 campaign, but this wasn’t at all backed up by his 4.05 xFIP. Of course, xFIP doesn’t factor in the ability to induce weak contact, which Fried is tremendous at. His hard-hit rate ranked within the 98th percentile of the league last year, and therefore his 2.97 xERA paints a much prettier picture than his xFIP did. Yet continuously limiting hard contact is far harder to maintain on a year-to-year basis than missing bats is. When investing in my SP2 this season, I want a starter who strikes out at least a batter per inning.”
– Brendan Tuma (BettingPros)

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