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Busts: Hitters (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Carmen Maiorano | @carmsclubhouse | Featured Writer
Mar 9, 2021

I wrote about ten hitters not to draft earlier this offseason, which was largely compiled through early ADP analysis. This time around, we have updated ADP, and with updated ADP comes updated busts. I don’t dislike these hitters in a vacuum, but I certainly do not like where they are being drafted. Of course, there is always a draft range where I’m comfortable selecting these hitters, but I will be actively fading them at their current price.

*ADPs courtesy of FantasyPros Consensus ADP

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Playing Time Concerns

Jonathan Villar (2B/SS – NYM)
Hitter ADP Rank: 111
My Hitter Rank: 216
This is all about playing time, folks. I have Villar down for just 350 plate appearances. The best version of the Mets’ lineup has Jeff McNeil at second base, J.D. Davis at third, and of course Francisco Lindor at shortstop. Villar is known for being a lackluster fielder, so it’s not like he is coming in late in games as a defensive replacement. Sure, he will likely be a pinch-runner and still steal 20+ bases, but my projection of 21 stolen bases makes me the high man compared to the publicly available projections.

Further, Villar is typically a two-trick pony, meaning that his value comes from runs and stolen bases. When he does play, he is sure to be in the bottom-third of the order, given how stacked this lineup is. So, Villar is essentially getting value solely from stolen bases this year. ECR (Expert Consensus Rank) has him 30 spots below his ADP, but that is not enough. Why are we drafting a guy with less than 400 projected plate appearances inside the top 200? Villar should be a late-round dart throw, at best.

Jake Cronenworth (1B/2B/SS – SDP)
Hitter ADP Rank: 112
My Hitter Rank: 183
Like Villar, Cronenworth does not have a path to everyday playing time. Ha-seong Kim figures to get everyday at-bats at second. Otherwise, why would Kim have agreed to a deal with the Padres? After that, Eric Hosmer is locked in at first base. So, Cronenworth figures to battle for backup at-bats at second and the corner outfield spots with Jurickson Profar. We could go into a separate paragraph about Profar being a bust, but you’ll get the gist of that argument here with Cronenworth.

With all that said, Cronenworth figures to get somewhere between 475-500 at-bats, barring an unforeseen injury. That’s not as bad as Villar, but I like players on my team to have bankable production. I assume you do, as well. That production is far from bankable with Cronenworth, given that we saw his value take a nosedive in September.

He was clearly struggling due to not hitting the ball as hard or hitting as many line drives – pitchers likely adjusted to him. As a result, I’m not confident that Cronenworth’s August was for real. Apparently, the Padres agree since they signed Kim. While Cronenworth’s multi-position eligibility is desirable, a similar player such as Tommy La Stella is projected to bat leadoff and is going over 120 picks later.

Jared Walsh (1B – LAA)
Hitter ADP Rank: 112
My Hitter Rank: 183
In a recent “Mining the News” segment by Jeff Zimmerman, he provided dashing evidence that Walsh is expected to platoon with Albert Pujols at first base. Manager Joe Maddon explains that Walsh will likely hit second when he is in the lineup, which is a nice silver lining. However, if he is platooning, we can’t expect more than 475 PAs, even on the strong side of a platoon. Both the public projections and I have him in this range of plate appearances.

Walsh has tremendous power potential, but he has a 40-grade hit tool and struck out around 27% of the time in the minors. Newsflash: that number typically doesn’t go down once a player hits the show. So, we are drafting him based on his power and hopes that he hits high enough in the order to get enough runs and RBIs. However, if he isn’t playing every day, that likely isn’t happening, and there’s no reason for him to be drafted just outside the top-100 hitters.

Jo Adell (OF – LAA)
Hitter ADP Rank: 184
My Hitter Rank: 311
The Angels have consistently been hitting that Adell will start the season in the minors. These hints have come in the form of Dexter Fowler signings, along with Joe Maddon saying that he needs more seasoning in the minors. Finally, Adell hit a paltry .161/.212/.266 with a 41.7% strikeout rate in his 32-game stretch in the majors last season. He’s simply not ready.

Even if he does start the season with the team and hits the ground running, he figures to have a league-average hit tool with above-average power and speed. However, he’s never stolen more than 15 bases in a season and hasn’t run much since his 2019 injury (seven total stolen bases). Based on these grades, his 2020 projects to a .230-.240 average with ten homers and a handful of stolen bases (if we’re lucky). Even if you think he will be up for most of the season, his profile projects to simply an average fantasy hitter.

Jorge Soler (OF/UT – KAN)
Hitter ADP Rank: 88
My Hitter Rank: 118
It seems that Soler is still riding the high of his outlier 2019 season, where he played in all 162 games and hit 48 dingers. It seems like that was his absolute ceiling – albeit a fantastic ceiling. However, he had played less than 90 games in the three seasons before that and missed 17 games last year in the shortened season.

Based on his track record, we cannot expect Soler to stay healthy, even if he’s the DH for most of the season. Sure, the lineup around him is better, so he should provide more counting stats than we are used to. But, I try to avoid injury risk within the first ten rounds of drafts, and the fact that Soler is UT-only on some platforms (at least to start the season – he only played eight games in the outfield) gives me pause in drafting him. I like several other UT-only options more, from Nelson Cruz and J.D. Martinez to Giancarlo Stanton (higher injury risk, but much higher ceiling) and Franmil Reyes. There are many other ways to build a team (UT-only or not) that does not involve banking on Soler staying healthy for a full season. Kyle Schwarber brings the same value to the table but is going 60 picks later.

Andres Gimenez (2B/3B/SS – CLE)
Hitter ADP Rank: 120
My Hitter Rank: 175
Gimenez has eligibility at basically everywhere in the infield, and he showed positively in his brief debut with the Mets last year. However, I’m concerned with the playing time. Cleveland re-signed Cesar Hernandez and also traded for Amed Rosario in the same deal that brought Gimenez over. The vets figure to get the first crack at holding down everyday jobs, leaving Gimenez fighting for backup at-bats. As a result, I don’t see him getting more than 400 plate appearances this season. His stolen base upside is nice, especially this late in the draft. However, if you play in a weekly league, it will be tough to time when he gets his starts and provides value. The fact that he is going in front of guys like Christian Walker and Kyle Scwharber is mind-blowing. Yes, they provide value in very different ways, but they both have everyday jobs. Gimenez can’t say that.

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Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B – PIT)
Hitter ADP Rank: 89
My Hitter Rank: 136
Hayes has moved up somewhat in my rankings since my last piece on hitters going too early, but he still clearly stands out as being overdrafted at his current price. I still think we are overreacting to a 24-game sample, in which Hayes had a 55.4% hard-hit percentage and a .450 BABIP. Both of those numbers will come down as a result of natural negative regression and as pitchers learn to pitch to him. Hayes also had a 25% HR/FB ratio, but he’s not known as a power hitter – he’s expected to have league-average raw and game power. As a result, I’m not expecting more than 13-15 homers over 600 plate appearances.

The counterargument is that Hayes hits second and gets closer to 700 plate appearances if he stays healthy, which would obviously bump all of his stats up. However, he is not surrounded by quality talent in that Pirates’ lineup, so his runs and RBI may not increase as much as we would like. The concept of a .285+ hitter with double-digit homers and steals from third base is enticing, but there’s a good chance we get that with Willi Castro, and he’s going nearly 130 picks later.

Cavan Biggio (2B/3B – TOR)
Hitter ADP Rank: 38
My Hitter Rank: 83
I’ve soured even more on Biggio than last time around, and that’s mainly due to a decrease in plate appearances as a result of hitting lower in the lineup. Since my last analysis on the subject, the Blue Jays have signed both Marcus Semien and George Springer, and we’ve seen in Spring Training that Biggio will hit fifth or sixth in this powerful lineup. As a result, he’s probably maxing out at 625 plate appearances, which seems somewhat generous. If he’s hitting lower in the lineup, this means fewer plate appearances to do all the things we expect him to, whether that be steal a base or score a run.

Even if he were still hitting near the top of this lineup, I still would be fading him. He will always hit for a lower average due to his passivity at the plate and is likely to steal 15-20 bases at the most. 20/20 hitters are hard to come by, but the .220-.230 average we will get is a glaring hole in our typical fantasy format. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Tommy Edman is going about 80 picks later but will provide a higher average with similar stolen bases and slightly less power – which you can get at any other point in the draft.

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Carmen Maiorano is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Carmen, check out his archive and work on RotoFanaticand follow him @carmsclubhouse.

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