A successful fantasy baseball draft usually includes a mixture of steady producers and high-upside picks. And today’s article is all about the boom-or-bust players who could make or break your fantasy season.
Before we dive into the names, I want to acknowledge that there are a handful of early round superstars who are the biggest boom-or-bust picks due to injury concerns stemming from the 2021 season. These players, including the likes of Ronald Acuna Jr., Jacob deGrom and Mike Trout, were covered in this article earlier this week.
In today’s article, I’ll cover players who are going a little bit later than the true superstars but have similar levels of volatility.
Adalberto Mondesi (3B/SS, KC)
Mondesi might be the biggest head-scratcher in fantasy baseball. Putting together a healthy season would make the speedster an absolute savior in this steals-deprived era, but Mondesi has yet to pull off that elusive feat, appearing in just 51 percent of the Royals games since the outset of 2019. Still, managers who leave their initial rounds without enough steals could grab Mondesi in hopes that he cashes in on his immense potential and records twice as many swipes as the next-closest player.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. (2B/SS, MIA)
Chisolm showed exciting potential when he piled up 18 homers and 23 steals in 124 games last year, making it easy to see why fantasy managers are grabbing the 24-year-old among the top-100 picks this season. But a closer look reveals that Chisholm had most of his success in April (.969 OPS) and logged an OPS of just .681 after May 1. A slow start to this campaign could leave the infielder battling for playing time.
Byron Buxton (OF, MIN)
Buxton took his career-long boom-or-bust pattern to another level last season when he logged a 1.005 OPS across 61 games. One of baseball’s speediest players and now a dangerous offensive force, Buxton could return first-round value across 150 games played. But after reaching the 100-game mark in just one of his seven career campaigns, the 28-year-old can’t be counted on for more than sporadic excellence.
Bobby Witt Jr. (SS, KC)
This is the only prospect who is currently requiring a premium draft pick, which inherently makes him a significant boom-or-bust option. Truthfully, no one knows when Witt will make his Major League debut, which means that managers will need him to occupy a bench spot for an indefinite amount of time. And although Witt clearly has premium talent, he could fall victim to some rookie struggles in the same manner as Jarred Kelenic last season.
Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, LAD)
Bellinger was arguably the biggest bust in fantasy baseball last season, producing 10 homers and a .165 batting average after being drafted in the second round in most leagues. Bellinger’s career has been an inconsistent one, but the highs have been memorable, including a 2019 MVP season in which he hit .305 with 47 homers and 15 steals. Still just 26, the multi-position asset is worth the risk at his current Yahoo! ADP (pick 87).
Robbie Ray (SP, SEA)
Ray was on many managers’ do-not-draft lists last season, and for good reason. After all, the southpaw was horrendous in 2020 (6.62 ERA, 1.90 WHIP), which appeared to be the exclamation point on a career that had been plagued by control issues. Of course, a few months later, Ray was picking up a Cy Young award and had helped many fantasy teams win their leagues. Drafting Ray as a low-end ace this year requires a leap of faith that he can maintain most of his 2021 improvements after relocating to Seattle.
Yu Darvish (SP, SD)
Darvish met expectations in the first half (7-3, 3.09 ERA) before pitching so poorly in the second half (1-8, 6.16 ERA) that he was unplayable in most formats. A knee-jerk reaction is that Darvish was hurt by the ban on sticky substances, but he had a couple of dominant outings right after the crackdown came into effect. Additionally, Darvish did not experience major changes in his strikeout rate or walk rate after the All-Star break. His demise was the result of problems with homers and stranding baserunners, which are two areas that could easily experience positive regression this year.
Giovanny Gallegos (RP, STL)
Gallegos is clearly the best pitcher in the Cardinals bullpen, having posted a 2.76 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP since the outset of 2019. And the right-hander showed closer capabilities when he collected 13 saves in the second half of 2021. It seems like a no-brainer that St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol will tab Gallegos to anchor his bullpen, but every quote out of Spring Training indicates that Marmol prefers not to have a full-time closer in April. Those who draft Gallegos could be rewarded with anything from 5 to 35 saves.