Regression police: Players most likely to take step back

Can Corey Kluber match his dreamy 2016 season?
Can Corey Kluber match his dreamy 2016 season?

With spring training underway, it can mean only one thing: your fantasy baseball draft is just around the corner. With that in mind, the Yahoo fantasy baseball collective offer up the players coming off standout ’16 campaigns that they expect to come back down to earth this season:

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Q. What infielder are you avoiding at his current ADP (average draft position) because you expect him to regress in ’17?

Brandon Funston: EDWIN ENCARNACION. Encarnacion is coming off a career high in HRs (42), RBIs (127), Runs (99) and Games (160). For his Herculean efforts, he finished No. 27 in the Yahoo game. His ADP for ’17 (28.0) is asking you to pay for more of the same. That’s a dubious proposition given the givens: Averaged 139 games in his previous three seasons before ’16; no longer has Toronto for a home park (has slugged 62 points higher at Rogers Centre vs. the road over past three seasons).

Scott Pianowski:  I’m lumping GARY SANCHEZ into the infielder group and using him as my answer here. When someone performs significantly better at the MLB level than they did in the minors, I get suspicious. That 40 percent HR/FB rate can’t be real; it’s not real for anyone. And his current ADP (54.4) makes you pay for the high range of his outcomes. I can really get Jonathan Lucroy 28 picks later?  

Dalton Del Don: IAN KINSLER. He’s coming off a fine season in which he hit 28 homers, but he averaged a modest 15.0 home runs over the four years prior, so you are paying for the clear outlier over that span. Kinsler will turn 35 years old this season, yet is costing a top-70 pick thanks to recency bias. I have Dee Gordon, DJ LeMahieu and Matt Carpenter all ranked ahead of him on my second base board, all of whom have higher ADPs. 

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Q. What outfielder are you avoiding at his current ADP because you expect him to regress in ’17?

Funston: ADAM DUVALL. With a 133.6 ADP, it’s not like you have to break the bank to acquire Duvall coming off a breakout, 33-HR, 103-RBI season, but that second half decline (.839 OPS before the break, .741 OPS after) and his two-true-outcomes approach make me skittish. I see Kendrys Morales and Miguel Sano going right behind him in current Yahoo average drafts, and I would much rather roll my dice in their direction if I’m looking to make a power play.

Pianowski: Count me out on MARK TRUMBO at 87.9, not that it’s a silly price. Just a little too much. This is a guy who had a .707 OPS two years ago, and was nothing special in 2015. He’s not going to run, and he’ll probably tax your batting average somewhat, too. 

Del Don:  KHRIS DAVIS. He hit 42 bombs last season, which was obviously great, but Davis had previously never hit more than 27 homers during his career. It hasn’t been the longest career, but he’s 29 years old, so Davis is no young prospect. The 42 home runs came with a modest .831 OPS thanks to a .247 batting average that isn’t likely to climb with all of those strikeouts (his 27.2 K% last season was top-10 in baseball). Oakland’s stadium has also suppressed homers by 19 percent for RHB over the last three years, tied for the most in the A.L. over that span.

Q. What pitcher are you avoiding at his current ADP because you expect him to regress in ’17?

Funston:  RICK PORCELLO. His ’16 value was heavily inflated by his 22 wins, and that’s always been an ill-advised stat to chase. Not only that, but his K rate is still only serviceable in IP-capped leagues and his xFIP (3.89) suggested that his ERA (3.15) should have actually landed closer to his career norm (4.20). There’s at least a half dozen pitchers I’d rather have going after Porcello in average Yahoo drafts.

Pianowski: To be fair, it’s not like the price is crazy on VINCE VELASQUEZ, but he is a Top 50 pitcher coming off the boards in Yahoo drafts. I suspect the drafters remember his first half (3.32 ERA), or perhaps the first month, much better than the jagged second-half (5.33 ERA). His ratios hash out to 4.12 and 1.33 — those are not assets— and he also has a history of physical breakdowns. Why is Jerad Eickhoff, for just one example, going 35 picks later?  Velasquez’s pretty strikeout rate is probably driving the price, but you also have to accept the injury risk and homer-prone profile. I’m not cutting the check. 

Del Don:  COREY KLUBER. Obviously Kluber is terrific, but at his price (26.5 ADP), I doubt he’ll end up on any of my teams coming off such a heavy workload. Pitching deep into the postseason, he ended up throwing 249.1 innings, which is an awful lot. Moreover, he has to pitch in the American League in one of the very best hitter’s parks in baseball. I expect some regression, making his current price too high for me. 

Follow the Yahoo crew on Twitter: Andy Behrens, Dalton Del Don, Brad Evans, Brandon Funston, Liz Loza and Scott Pianowski

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