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Consensus Busts from 25 Experts (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 16, 2021

It’s inevitable that nearly every fantasy manager will select multiple players who fail to live up to their average draft position (ADP). Sure, some of those picks may still provide value and might just have been overvalued or slightly disappointing, but you always run the risk of selecting someone who completely bottoms out. Those are the true busts, especially when they come into the season with lofty, early-round expectations only to wind up being total duds. Anyone who took Christian Yelich or Patrick Corbin last year knows the pain that followed.

To prevent you from getting stuck holding the bag in 2021, we have polled 25 experts on which hitter and pitcher have the highest potential to drastically disappoint and we asked each analyst to also share their thoughts on who this year’s biggest bust is. Read on to see who you should consider avoiding and see who everyone voted for here. Please keep in mind that we’re not saying you should outright pass on these players. The table solely indicates which players our voters collectively think could return much less value compared to their draft price. The write-ups display the player that a specific expert thinks is highly overvalued.

Note: Hitter and pitcher ADP values are as of March 15.

Top Consensus Busts (Poll of 25 Experts)

Zach Plesac SP CLE 5 SP30 SP24
J.T. Realmuto C PHI 4 H36 H34
Luis Robert OF CWS 4 H29 H28
Stephen Strasburg SP WSH 3 SP19 SP20
Bo Bichette SS TOR 2 H15 H15
Trevor Story SS COL 2 H9 H10
Whit Merrifield 2B/OF KC 2 H32 H30
Blake Snell SP SD 2 SP14 SP14
Corbin Burnes SP/RP MIL 2 SP20 SP19
Lance Lynn SP CWS 2 SP18 SP17
Max Fried SP ATL 2 SP25 SP25
Max Scherzer SP WSH 2 SP9 SP9
Trevor Bauer SP LAD 2 SP5 SP4

Players who received one vote were: Aaron Judge, Adalberto Mondesi, Alex Bregman, D.J. LeMahieu, Jose Abreu, Jose Ramirez, Kyle Tucker, Marcell Ozuna, Nolan Arenado, Ozzie Albies, Kenta Maeda, Walker Buehler, Zac Gallen, Zack Greinke

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Q. Who is the player you expect to be this year’s biggest fantasy bust and why?

J.T. Realmuto (C – PHI) 
“As fantastic as Realmuto has been in his two seasons in the City of Brotherly Love, he has yet to finish either year as a top-40 hitter in roto. Yet fantasy managers are selecting Realmuto in the fourth round in most leagues. He is being pushed up draft boards because he plays catcher, which I understand. However, there is no guarantee Realmuto can match last year’s production, let alone exceed it. The former Marlin is currently recovering from a broken right thumb that he suffered last month. And while reports have been good and he looks like he could suit up for Opening Day, that is not a risk I want to take this early in my drafts. Realmuto also benefitted last season from the universal DH. Nearly 20 percent of his plate appearances last year came as a designated hitter. With that luxury seemingly unavailable in 2021, Realmuto will either have to log extra innings behind the dish, which could wear him down, or be relegated to the bench more often than he was last year. I think Realmuto will still be a solid fantasy contributor as long as the thumb is intact. But I expect him to come back towards the pack a bit at his position, making him a player I will continue to avoid at his current ADP.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

J.T. Realmuto injured his throwing thumb in the onset of Spring Training, but figures to be ready for Opening Day. However, it remains to be seen if the thumb injury saps some of his power (unlikely, but possible) or he adjusts his mechanics to compensate for the injury (more likely). Changing his mechanics could result in being off with his timing, or result in another injury. Moreover, drafting Realmuto means that you are bypassing another top-25 hitter or SP2, which is arguably a better foundation for your team. I tend to avoid players who are already battling injury in the first 10 rounds of drafts, and knowing that I can likely time the draft to snag Willson Contreras or Will Smith nearly 100 picks later is my preferred strategy.”
– Carmen Maiorano (FantasyPros)

“Is J.T. Realmuto really that much more valuable at catcher than say, a Salvador Perez, Will Smith, Willson Contreras, or Yasmani Grandal? Or to put it another way, is he really as valuable as a Starling Marte, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Aaron Judge, or Pete Alonso (to name a few)? That’s where Realmuto’s ADP falls right now and I think that’s way too high, and that was before he broke his thumb. Realmuto may still very well end up as the No. 1 fantasy catcher, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be an overall top-35 player.”
– Mark Ross (Athlon Sports)

Luis Robert (OF – CWS) 
“There are other hitters (like Corey Seager) who I believe will underperform relative to their draft position, but if we’re talking about someone who could truly ‘bust,’ Robert is the choice and the reason is simple: he hasn’t shown he can make consistent contact at the major league level. Last year, his 32.2 percent strikeout rate was the seventh-highest in baseball and his 22.1 percent swinging-strike rate was the worst mark in the entire league. Most of the other names atop those lists struggled to keep their batting average above the Mendoza line, and while there’s reason to believe Robert can post an above-average Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), he’ll still be a major batting average liability if he swings and misses that often. Yes, his home run and stolen base potential could help keep his fantasy value afloat to some extent, but it’s also not inconceivable he could head to the minors for more seasoning if the strikeouts pile up early in the season.”
– Andrew Seifter (FantasyPros)

“For me, it’s Luis Robert. Despite an impressive debut that combined power and speed, there are a number of flaws in his game. His barrel rate and sprint speed are off the charts, but his whiff rate was among the worst in the league, leading to a 32.2% strikeout rate. His poor contact rates will lead to stretches with very low production and a sub-.250 batting average. He’ll likely hit near the bottom of the White Sox order, hurting his counting stats. There’s too much risk here to spend a top-40 overall pick on Robert.”
– Max Freeze (Freeze Stats)

Whit Merrifield (2B/OF – KC) 
“Merrifield logged a career-low .282 batting average in 2020. His on-base percentage dropped over 30 percent and Merrifield saw his K% rise to 12.5% last season. He’s being drafted inside the top-35 hitters in ADP mainly for his ability to generate steals. The 32-year-old’s sprint speed dropped for a third straight year, it’s possible he could swipe under 20 bags (in a full season) for the first time since 2016. Merrifield has been a steady producer for fantasy managers, but with slash lines on the decline, the 32-year-old will continue to regress. That’s a high price to pay for a player who could see a decline in average, on-base percentage, and steals in 2021.”
– Brad Camara (FantasyPros)

Whit Merrifield is being drafted as a top-30 hitter based on his potential for steals, a solid batting average, and double-digit home runs. The problem is that he’s now 32 years old, and his barrel, hard hit, and exit velocity numbers have remained low over the last few years. With deadened baseballs in 2021, that might matter more than it has in the past. And if Merrifield regresses even slightly in one or more of the aforementioned categories, he’s no longer a top-30 contributor. At that point, his production might not look very different from someone like Kolten Wong, who is being drafted more than 200 spots later.”
– Mike Maher (FantasyPros)

Max Fried (SP – ATL) 
“Fried produced a standout 7-0 record in 11 starts to go with a 2.25 ERA and a 50:19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. It might be plausible to view his numbers and believe that Fried is worthy of a top-25 ADP among pitchers. However, I am concerned about sustainable success for the Atlanta Braves southpaw. Fried went past seven innings only once in 11 starts, which provides minimal certainty in Fried providing a hefty win total. Fantasy managers should not overreach for his 2020 numbers considering his surges in 4.05 xFIP and 4.32 SIERA. His inability to produce elite strikeout ratios while also displaying increases in his walk rate from 6.7% to 8.5% leads me to believe that we won’t see a repeat of the elite numbers from last season. Fantasy managers will regret using high draft capital on Fried. Instead, they should set their sights on the upside of Ian Anderson or the underrated Kyle Hendricks.”
– Dennis Sosic (Fantasy Six Pack)

Zack Greinke (SP – HOU) 
“Greinke struggled at the end of 2020, yielding three or more runs in his last seven outings. He posted a 4.03 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and a 67:9 K:BB across 67 innings last season. The 36-year-old’s ERA and WHIP in 2020 were his worst marks in over five years. Greinke’s fastball was topping out at 87 MPH in 2020, which was down two ticks from 2019. Fantasy manager’s best-case scenario for him to be worth his ADP price is that he tops 200 innings and is able to lower his ratios from last year. I would rather take Jesus Luzardo, Charlie Morton, Sixto Sanchez, and Dylan Bundy, all pitchers who are being selected right around Greinke’s ADP.”
– Brad Camara (FantasyPros)

Kenta Maeda (SP/RP – MIN) 
“Maeda enjoyed a career year in a shortened 2020 season, posting a 2.70 ERA and 0.75 WHIP along with a 10.8 SO/9 in 66.1 innings pitched. The problem is he was averaging a mediocre 4.03 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over the previous three seasons before his 2020 breakout. The 32-year-old should have no problem compiling wins and strikeouts, but I expect his ERA and WHIP to come back down to earth this season. Give me the pitchers going shortly after Maeda, like Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tyler Glasnow, and Corbin Burnes.”
– Jacob W. Dunne (New Life Fantasy)

Nolan Arenado (3B – STL) 
“One hitter with a high ADP to fade is Arenado. According to EV Analytics Park Factors, Coors Field boosts BABIP (1.13) and batting average (1.17). However, Busch Stadium rates below average in the park factor metrics with 0.98 in batting average and 0.97 in BABIP. That said, if we regress the batting average, BABIP, and counting stats as the projection systems have, it shows that we can find a cheap alternative later in drafts. Target Eugenio Suarez or Matt Chapman instead.”
– Corbin Young (FantasyData)

Corbin Burnes (SP/RP – MIL) 
“It’s surprisingly difficult to name a bust in the top-25 SPs, but I’m going to go with Burnes. He was excellent in the truncated 2020 season, horrible in 2019, and not as good as it would appear in 2018. His K/9 of 8.3 wasn’t great and his FIP was 3.79. He also never pitched well (at all) in Triple-A, so maybe he was rushed? Burnes is a risk that someone other than me will be taking in 2021.”
– Dave McKay (The Fantasy Sports Brain)

Adalberto Mondesi (SS – KC) 
“Mondesi has speed and in roto (especially H2H category formats) that’s valuable. But at what cost? He hit just .180 with a .508 OPS on the road last year and was equally bad for the first 30 games of the season. Yes, he turned it on in September, but that doesn’t forgive a career .284 OBP and .699 OPS. Remember kids, you can’t steal first!”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Zach Plesac (SP – CLE) 
“An eight-start run in 2020 has fantasy managers reaching for Plesac in the top-75 overall. Even if you believe the changed pitch mix will help him hold most of the gains he made last year, the .224 BABIP is coming up and the 91.7% LOB is coming down. And when they do, Plesac’s vulnerability to the long ball will be much more of a problem.”
– Kyle Bishop (RotoBaller)

Jose Ramirez (3B – CLE) 
“Cleveland has given up on their team, so I have given up on Ramirez. Going as the eighth hitter off the board and 11th overall, he is being drafted like someone who has a sky-high ceiling while being surrounded by a very mediocre lineup. Ramirez has surpassed 83 RBIs once in his career and failed to exceed 100 runs in 2019, making it unlikely that he exceeds these numbers with a depleted lineup around him. If you consider that pitchers will likely pitch around Ramirez more this season and that his RBI and run opportunities will likely drop, it is clear (to me at least) that Ramirez is being drafted at his absolute ceiling and doesn’t offer much upside beyond that.”
– Jason Petropoulos (BRoto Fantasy)

Walker Buehler (SP – LAD) 
“I love Buehler’s skills as much as the next guy; my bust pick just comes down to his workload concerns. The Dodgers clearly want to keep their young ace healthy and even though they’re competitive right now, they have the depth to keep him well-rested. After a season in which he only tossed 36 innings, his longest start was six innings, and he only surpassed five innings in two of his eight starts. Why would the Dodgers suddenly use him like a traditional starter? At an ADP of SP7 and 21 overall, I’d much rather have guys that are comparable on a per-inning basis, but will also far exceed Buehler in volume like Aaron Nola, Luis Castillo, Max Scherzer.”
– Jordan Eisen (Field of Vision Sports)

Kyle Tucker (OF/DH – HOU) 
“Tucker has 13 home runs spread across three seasons and 340 at-bats. For the expert consensus to say Tucker is going to be a top-25 hitter is the purest speculation without evidence I have ever seen. ‘Experts’ predict Tucker will have a better season than Aaron Judge … c’mon! Tucker has never hit 10 bombs in a season. To expect him to be anything more than an OF5 at best is pure nonsense. To add fuel to the fire, Tucker has never hit .270 in a season and his wheels will be lucky to net you 10+ SBs. If you take him with an early pick, you are simply only doing it because of bad advice from another fantasy baseball expert.”
– Muntradamus (Beast Dome)

Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL) 
“Albies’ power/speed blend on a very strong offense pushed him to the top of the board at the second base position and generally into the top-35 picks on draft day. While the second baseman has shown flashes of 30+ home run power, we haven’t quite seen it over a full season. Similarly, Albies has the speed to pile up the swipes but he topped out at 15 steals in 2019. Of course, a 24/15 season with solid counting stats is more than enough to make fantasy owners happy at the weakest position on the diamond, but it will take yet another leap for him to truly register as an elite fantasy play. Albies is a safe bet for double-digit power and speed, so perhaps he doesn’t quite deserve the bust label, but in the third round, there are more than a few options that I would prioritize given the talent typically on board at that time.”
– Wayne Bretsky (BretskyBall)

Blake Snell (SP – SD) 
“Playoffs included, Snell hasn’t completed six innings in a start since July 21, 2019. We all know that he should’ve eclipsed this threshold in Game 6 of the World Series last year and that a major part of his workload limitations have been because of the Rays. I certainly expect him to go six frames more often in ’21, but this is a pitcher who has topped 130 innings just once in his major league career. More so than simply having his team let him stay in games longer, Snell needs to continue refining the command of his secondary pitches. I’m far more interested in drafting Kenta Maeda in this range of SPs.”
– Brendan Tuma (FantasyPros)

Trevor Story (SS – COL) 
“Story should be one of the few sure things in fantasy baseball, but 2021 could be different. He still has the talent to pull off a 30-20 season as he did in 2018-2019 and finish as a top-five shortstop. That isn’t looking like a sure bet anymore, though. Nolan Arenado is gone, the Rockies aren’t adding any pieces to their offense and the lineup suddenly looks sketchy beyond the top three. Story may produce fewer Rs+RBIs and if he gets traded out of Colorado, his numbers are sure to drop in the second half. He isn’t someone to avoid, but those expecting first-round value may be disappointed.”
– Pierre Camus (RotoBaller)

Stephen Strasburg (SP – WSH) 
“Last year, Strasburg’s season was cut short after just five innings pitched, resulting in carpal tunnel surgery. Injuries have been a big part of his career and now at almost 33 years young, a full season workload is concerning and there is not a lot of history on how players come back after this procedure. He only has eclipsed 200 innings twice and he might fall very short of that mark this year. Spending that pick on a younger arm with less mileage feels like a safer play.”
– Todd D Clark (The Fantasy Fix)

Bo Bichette (SS – TOR) 
“Bichette is going to be ‘The 2021 Bust of The Year,’ not only because of high expectations and a high ADP, but because he is going to struggle to hit 25 home runs and he isn’t going to steal double-digit bases. 75-100 players overall could be more productive than Bichette as well as 10-15 at his own position. He is a potential .300 hitter and that’s rare in today’s game, but that doesn’t justify burning a top-25 pick on a player that won’t contribute meaningful steals and has zero chance of hitting 30 bombs. Falling short of expectations, like Bauer, is one thing, but lacking meaningful overall production, that’s the true definition of a bust.”
– Chris Mitchell (FantasyData)

Thank you to all the experts for naming their consensus busts. You can view each expert’s picks below and be sure to give them a follow on Twitter for more great advice. Also, please check out our podcast, which is also available below.

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