It’s Round 4 of my 20 team draft and things are going well so far. Ryan Braun fell to me at 9, and in a 3 OF league I know I can wait quite a few rounds before drafting another. Following my plan, I grab Jose Bautista at 32 as there is a weaker-than-normal 3b crop this year and Josh Johnson at 49 (which is already a risk). At 72, I’m not looking for another OF but Hunter Pence (he of the top-40 player rank in 2010) has somehow slipped down the draft board and the 5-cat production is impossible to ignore. Clearly now there is no reason to take another OF for at least 5 rounds. And then, with the 89th pick, I select…..BJ Upton??
Some players are just too “sexy” to ignore. The potential, the breakout season from 2-years ago, the early, optimistic spring training reports or the promise of full recovery from injury take control of our hands and force us to click the “draft” button even though our minds are screaming “NO!!”. Here are ten other such players; I leave it up to you to decide whether they are worth your love.
The poster child:
B.J. Upton(Y! Rank 80, ADP 86.7) While this ranking is in line with his finish last year (89 overall), it doesn’t take into account two things: the availability of speed in the later rounds and the huge hit to your average. A .237 avg over 536 ABs on the year is extremely hard to overcome. And, when Juan Pierre and his 68 SBs and .275 avg can be had about 90 picks later, it’s hard to justify selecting Upton this early. However, the combination of his ‘superstar’ potential and the 24 HRs he hit in ’07 make him extremely hard to pass up.
The rest (in order of position):
Joe Mauer (Y! Rank 34, ADP 27.4) I know Mauer deserves to be the first catcher off the board. I’m just not sure it should be this high. The talent gap between Mauer and the rest of the pack has decreased significantly in the last year. The emergence of Buster Posey and Carlos Santana, combined with steady production from V-Mart and Brian McCann means you don’t need to reach at 27 for a guy who finished 83rd last year. The highly unlikely to be repeated 28 HRs in 2009 (due to the stress of the catcher position and seemingly pitcher-friendly Target Field) have us reaching for Mauer a bit too early.
Matt Weiters (Y! Rank 108, ADP 112) While we are on the subject of catchers, the fascination with Matt Wieters has definitely inflated his draft stock. If he realizes his potential, he might be a top 5 catcher this year. However, after a 37/11/55/0/. 249 line last year I’m not spending the pick on him when I can have Geovany Soto’s 47/17/53/0/.280 two rounds later.
Billy Butler (Y! Rank 55, ADP 67) Another case of superstar potential, Butler will absolutely give you a .300 average this year. However, the counting numbers will not be good enough to warrant selection in the top 70 players. In a couple years, Butler may have the run-production behind him and the OBP in front of him in the Royals line-up to increase his runs and RBI totals, but this isn’t the year. If I can get the very underrated Aubrey Huff (100/26/86/7/.290) in the 120s, I see no reason to take Butler here.
Interesting side note: Apparently Royals manager Ned Yost wants Butler to run more. This is a perfect example of a spring training story that gives managers hope but should in actuality be completely ignored.
Ian Kinsler (Y! Rank 30, ADP 36.4) At a position that’s deeper than it has been in awhile, there is no reason to reach for the oft-injured Kinsler. The power and speed combo that he possesses has played with our hearts for years, and the constant trips to the DL have the more logical portions of our brain telling us to let him pass by. If you want a consistent dual threat, take Brandon Phillips (averaging 22 HRs and 24 SBs over past 4 years).
Jimmy Rollins (Y! Rank 39, ADP 44.9) A similar case to Kinsler’s, Rollins was injured for about half of last year. In addition, he is now 32 and in all likelihood his best years are behind him. The power and speed is extremely attractive, but more reliable 5-cat production can be had in later rounds with Alexei Ramirez (ADP 69.7) or even Stephen Drew (ADP 101).
Pedro Alvarez (Y! Rank 83, ADP 95.7) The power is there. The patience at the plate is not. In 2 or 3 years, Alvarez might be a top 30 pick in all formats. However, this year he doesn’t deserve to be a top 100 pick. The young slugger finished last season with 16 HRs in 347 ABs, which is very impressive. However, in his sophomore season pitchers will have a longer history to study and I expect the HR/AB rate to decrease as well as the average (which was only at .256 to begin with). Don’t pay for the potential yet, take Casey McGehee a round or 2 later or even Ian Stewart (who will have very comparable numbers) around the 165th selection.
Justin Upton (Y! Rank 32, ADP 41.3) The even-more-upside younger brother of B.J. Justin entered our hearts in 2009 with an 84/26/86/20/.300 (R/HR/RBI/SB/AVG) campaign that led us to draft him top 20 in 2010 (myself included). He responded with a disappointing season-ending rank of 125, and yet is back up to the top 40 again this year! While the potential is definitely there for a stellar campaign, why take the risk when the ever-consistent Hunter Pence and his comparable 5-cat production can be had 25 picks later?
Jacoby Ellsbury (Y! Rank 87, ADP 87) Clearly Ellsbury is a blazer on the basepaths. The problem here is that you don’t know when he will be healthy enough to be on them. A slew of injuries last year limited Ellsbury to just 78 ABs, and the exciting yet reckless way with which he can play the game (Exhibit A: broken ribs) means a full season in 2011 is highly unlikely. Don’t spend a top 100 pick here when you can have Juan Pierre, Michael Bourn or Rajai Davis much later.
Ricky Nolasco (Y! Rank 181, ADP 178.2) A long-time weakness of mine, Nolasco tantalizes with his elite K/9 and BB/9 ratios. However, the ERA never seems to come down to where it’s “supposed” to be, and maybe it’s time that we realize that it never will. Draft him for an ERA around 4.00 and expect to have streaks of greatness, infuriatingly punctuated with 3 inning, 7 run performances. As much as it pains me to say it, given the depth of starting pitching in this year’s draft your best bet is probably just to pass on Nolasco altogether.
Brandon Morrow (Y! Rank 113, ADP 122.1) Young pitchers with huge potential and great K/9 rates tend to get the hearts of fantasy baseball players everywhere racing. While there is no question that Morrow has electrifying stuff, a 17-strikeout performance last year coupled with a good (but still somewhat inconsistent) month of September is not enough for me to take him this high. In fairness, if Morrow can maintain his K/9 rate and drop his ERA down to sub-3.50 he might warrant a selection here. However, pitching in the AL East coupled with the fact that his ERA last year was 4.38 seems to makes this an unlikely proposition. Pass on Morrow and take Jonathan Sanchez or Wandy Rodriguez (if you are looking for those Ks) instead.
There you have it. These are all players that are exceedingly attractive to the typical drafter, yet can be avoided with a steely reserve and comprehensive knowledge of other similar but not as “sexy” options (as a side note, while I believe almost all closers are overrated, I did not include them in this list because there is a growing trend among fantasy baseball players to let them slide farther down the draft board).
Can you resist the temptation? Your season may be hanging in the balance.