Fantasy Baseball draft prep: Some big names land on players to avoid list

Michael Salfino

Today we look at players I’m generally avoiding in drafts and why.

Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox

There are guys every year that we just want it to happen so badly for. Benintendi is that guy this year. He’s an average slugger, which fits right in with his (about) average well-hit rate (.161). This all adds up to a 103 adjusted on-base plus slugging percentage (100 is exactly average). Now, he plays in a great park. That should not subtract value for us. It should add it. But I’m not buying a repeat of 20 homers and 20 steals given that well-hit and the fact he was a ho-hum 26-for-38 stealing in two seasons in the minors. Benitendi is basically a rich-man’s Xander Bogaerts without the shortstop eligibility.

Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

Look, none of us who employ stats want to be dumb with RBI, which is a team stat. So let’s not even deal with the seemingly completely random paucity of steaks for Bryant in 2017. Vegans accounted for more rib eyes than Bryant. So how about Bryant’s .157 well-hit rate, which is about league average? That is bad and completely unbecoming of a first-round fantasy baseball draft pick yet that is where he goes in every draft. I understand that Bryant can be a top-10 hitter. But he was not one last year so why is there zero discount?

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Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

His well-hit was .143. In our Friends and Family draft, I was questioned about taking A.J. Pollock over Buxton but Pollock is .200 well-hit last year. They both project for about 30 steals. Pollock was a B+ hitter last year and A-minus in 2015 (he missed almost all of 2016); and in 2015 his well-hit was similarly above the average. I know we get on Kyle Schwarber but Buxton Ks in 52% of his plate appearances where he gets two strikes and that number for Schwarber, who has top-shelf power at least, was 50%. Schwarber is also one of our post-hype sleepers. For fun here are the worst hitters in Ks with two strikes: Chris Davis, Joey Gallo, Miguel Sano, Keon Broxton, Matt Davidson, Trevor Story, Randal Grichuk, Steven Souza and the next guy on our avoid list, who also isn’t really a home run hitter and a “sleeper” you’re best served sleeping on.

Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers

Villar may not even start for the Brewers at second base. He was a C-minus hitter according to Inside Edge last year. He scored above a C in just two areas out of the 24 stats that Inside Edge tracks: Chasing with two strikes and chasing none-competitive pitches and well-hit average at swings on pitches down the middle. Would you start him on your real-life team if the other second baseman, Eric Sogard, had a A-plus rating in plate discipline across the board and sported an OBP last year approaching .400? Villar’s offensive WAR last year was 0.2 and Sogard’s was 1.2. Sogard had a 2.2 WAR in less playing time than Villar, who had 0.3. I’m not saying that Villar is definitely not going to play — he was good in 2016 — but how can you say given that performance in 2017 that Villar definitely will play?

[2018 Fantasy Baseball rankings: Overall | H | P | C | 1B | 2B | 3B |SS | OF | SP | RP]

Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

Was hurt and was hit hard last year. Where’s the discount? Who cares how the shoulder was hurt? He was 137th of 177 pitchers in well-hit rate (minimum 1,250 pitches), between Ariel Miranda and Mike Foltynewicz. I’m not taking him in the second round given he could have pitched hurt and could still be less than what he was prior to his mishap.

Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays

He was 136th in well-hit rate, essentially tied with Bumgarner’s .186. And where’s the ability by Archer to battle? League average is 55% outs when behind in the count with at least two balls. Archer is 48% outs. He is great at finishing off hitters (80% outs after two strikes vs. league average of 75%). But we need a little of both. Archer is a two-pitch pitcher and needs both to be working at top levels to be effective.

Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks

120th in well-hit rate (.175). If he is so good why does he get hit hard so often? Remember this is of at bats; so when guys don’t strike out, they are often hitting rockets off of Ray. Like Archer, he falls behind and he is done relative to the league average. And his working-ahead grade across five categories is only a C-minus, according to Inside Edge. He actually declined in working ahead in the count from 2016 to 2017.

Robert Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

He was great full-season in the foundational stats. But he did end up blowing a bunch of saves and allowing 36% of baserunners to score. You can write this off as bad luck but remember he was treated for anxiety. We wish him well but that has to be a factor in his projection if we’re to believe all the stuff we’ve heard in our baseball lifetimes about how closers have to be worry-free and forgetful when it comes to shaking off a bad performance. After he very courageously discussed his illness, he suffered through a very uneven second-half with a collapse across the board statistically; 4.97 ERA and a decline in K/BB from 14.3 to 6.7 (still very good, of course and the WHIP was still elite). Anxiety is treatable but it obviously can linger and clearly can impact performance. So this is a risk we have to price in, as cold as it sounds. Of course I badly want to be wrong here and wish Osuna the very best and will be rooting for him all year.