Empty Wallet: The All-Avoid Team, 2013

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  • Michael Bourn
    Michael Bourn

The good cops had their say, the optimistic spins are already out there. Today I'm here to play bad cop, throw some red ink around. Let's get ready for the Anti-Value team, the names to avoid.

There's a sneaky industry secret when it comes to target and avoid lists; the second group generally gets the short end of the stick. It's common for many a fantasy pundit to wax poetic about sleepers and pet players, on and on and on - and then go to the short script for the other side of the ledger. Maybe there's more payoff or post-facto marketing potential when a target player makes good. Perhaps it's simply not fun to say bad things about name players; when you tell the fantasy world to avoid a star commodity, you're essentially picking a fight, asking for a never-ending argument.

[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

Heck, I'm sure I've fallen into the upgrade/downgrade trap before, at some point. But today, we intrepidly attack the assignment at hand. For better or for worse here are players I'm avoiding in 2013, marked as such because I don't like the combination of likely return against expected price. You'll find known and intriguing names on the list, perhaps some of your favorites; issuing a Jarrod Saltalamacchia pan or Omar Infante advisory isn't particularly useful. You're welcome to agree or disagree, and I'm sure we'll have some passionate defenses in the comments.

Got the red pen handy? Let's take a stroll down Avoidance Avenue. It's nothing personal, gamers, just business. I'll collect the players with the themes they fit, so you can add your own possible overpays to the discussion.

-- The Bag Block: Michael Bourn, Outfield, Indians (Yahoo! ADP: 85.6)

There are plenty of nice things to say about Bourn. He's a fast guy, a fine defender, a solid batting-average guy. He'd look good on a lot of fantasy teams in a vacuum. That said, if you spend a seventh or eighth-round pick on Bourn, you're locking yourself from a Bourn-similar player at a much cheaper cost. Why spring for Bourn when you can find Ben Revere at 167, or Juan Pierre at 251?

The game has shifted in the last few years, amigos. Pop is harder to find, speed is easier to find. Unless you run into a full room of Bourn-doubters (unlikely), let someone else make the mistake. This player profile can be acquired on the cheap.

-- The Tier Topper: Buster Posey, Catcher, Giants (Yahoo! ADP: 19.5)

Being on this list doesn't mean you're a bad player. It's a value game, amigos. Posey would be anyone's No. 1 catcher if we could snag one without a cost attached, but there's no way I'm paying a premium price for the buzzy backstop when most Yahoo! standard leagues require just one fill at the position.

I know Posey's the reigning MVP and a lynchpin of the San Francisco dynasty and all that, but he's still a three or 3.5-category player and he plays a heavy-attrition position. The catcher position is also loaded with excellent options in the second, third and fourth tiers. There's something to fit every budget, even the owner who wants to avoid the position entirely at the draft table. Don't waste your premium chips at this risky position. This should be a review by now, gamers; we tackled most of this a month ago.

Flipping the battery over, I'm not going to be the Craig Kimbrel guy in my league, either. Unreal save seasons are never good bets to repeat, in part because context and team success have so much to do with them (ask the David Akers owner how he did in 2012). Kimbrel's knockout skills aren't going to fly away overnight, of course, but no one should be chasing last year's ridiculous stats. Relievers are flaky, and every year brings plenty of surprising closer turnover. Heck, Kimbrel blew eight saves back in 2011 (the same year freaking Jose Valverde blew zero). Be a shrewd shopper at this position.

-- The Already-Hurt Guy: Hanley Ramirez, Third Base, Dodgers (Yahoo! ADP: 37.3)

I'm not sure what Hanley's specific ADP has been since he hurt his thumb, but I know he's still fetching an expectant price in most of the leagues I'm sitting in on (he went for $17 in NL Tout Wars last weekend, for example). If you read my work even occasionally you probably know how I feel about long-term injuries: I don't want to trick myself into expecting a miracle comeback or a seamless return. And heck, why inherit a roster problem right off the bat? Unless the price is a downright giveaway with Ramirez, or Chase Headley, or Curtis Granderson or Brett Lawrie, I'm not paying the freight. And that goes triple for Mark Teixeira, a player I didn't even want before the injury (getting into mid-30s; batting-average risk; shift troubles, etc).

-- The Ghost Town: Giancarlo Stanton, Outfield, Marlins (Yahoo! ADP: 14.8)

Baseball is largely a game about individuals and one-on-one matchups. When Miguel Cabrera socks a baseball over the fence, it has nothing to do with Justin Verlander or Phil Coke or Alex Avila. And I also recognize the idea of batting-order protection is considered a myth in the stat community, something that's been debunked and discarded regularly.

Nonetheless, I'm not going to say a player's supporting cast is completely irrelevant. Who is Stanton going to drive in this year? Who is going to knock him in? Can you see any batter on the roster who theoretically could force opponents to feed strikes to Stanton?

[Also: What's keeping Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in Seattle other than $175M?]

While I am willing to tread skeptically on batting-order protection so long as the next teammate is a logical fit for the batting slot, the Marlins could get into trouble here. It's not unusual to see No. 8 batters get worked around in the NL because the pitcher is due up next, so on an extreme level, protection does exist. Perhaps the Marlins will provide a rare example of protection mattering in the middle of someone's order.

Stanton is included in this piece as a fence exercise; I don't think he's an unreasonable play in the second round, but I also know he'll fly off the board in the first round of many drafts. And if you take Stanton in that first round, you're swimming against a time-honored rotisserie maxim: don't pay for a production level the player has yet to post in his career. I know there are plenty of land mines and tricky calls in 2013's first round, but I'm still not ready to push Stanton into that discussion. (Don't fret if you don't agree; Chris Liss, a well-respected roto analyst, just high-fived you.)

Other expectant-value leaps to be careful with: Bryce Harper (it crushes me to type that and I want to be wrong), Evan Longoria, Matt Moore.

-- Radar Hate: Jered Weaver, Starting Pitcher, Angels (Yahoo! ADP: 40)

This one hurts a bit because I've been on the Weaver bus for a while and enjoying the value; a lot of owners avoid fly-ball pitchers like the plague, a short-sighted and grave error. But Weaver's strikeout rate took a bath last year, while his fastball velocity dropped all the way down to 87.8. There's also been a notable decrease in the gap between his fastball and slider speeds, a potential issue.

[Also: Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki stands alone as baseball's most dominant SS]

I've already moved Weaver in one league just to be proactive; Anaheim's park has been good to him through the years, but we've seen problems on the road (Arlington most of all). The Angels in the outfield can't catch everything. More radar hate: Roy Halladay (well-documented theme) and Bud Norris (I know, you probably weren't targeting him).

-- The Injury History Guy: Troy Tulowitzki, Shortstop, Rockies (Yahoo! ADP: 16.8)

Look, I get it – anyone can get hurt. One hundred melons could fall from the sky and land on anyone. But when a player misses heavy chunks of three seasons out of five, as Tulo has, it's part of his profile. You draft him clenching rosary beads. You can't find anyone safer to use a Top 20 selection on? Same question for you, Josh Hamilton Owner (19.1).

Down a few levels, let's look at the second baseman in Philly. I've seen some owners talk themselves into Chase Utley, rationalizing that he's merely a 10th or 11th round pick and maybe this is the year he stays out of harm's way. Don't talk yourself into this headache, gamers. Utley's games-played count has dropped in four straight years (83, 103 and 115 most recently), and his batting average has also decreased four straight years. A .429 slugging percentage is no longer anything to write home about (it was .425 back in 2011). He led the NL in times plunked for 2007, 2008 and 2009, and that's still a part of his profile today (12 HBPs last year). Second base is thin, but it's not thin enough to force you into this sucker play.

Quick-Hitters: Other Possibly-Overrated Themes (Your Mileage Will Vary)

-- Buzzy Rookies (Adam Eaton was this guy before the injury)
-- Anyone with a team-friendly contract (sounds silly, but it's tied into the Longoria hype; meanwhile, poor Alex Rios gets a raw deal)
-- Anyone named Zack Greinke (cover up the 2009 line and wonder why his ERA always seems to disappoint)
-- Any well-known player on a media-beloved team (the Rays and Nationals come to mind)

I've said my piece. It's a game of opinions and it's a game of shifting perceptions, some real and some imaginary. Give me your slant in the comments, and defend the pet player of yours that I've savagely critiqued. The lectern is open.

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