While bust is a harsh term, I’ve come up with 30 players, one from every MLB team, for you to strongly consider avoiding at draft tables based on their price. Either carrying far too much risk early or not enough upside late, the following I’ve deemed overvalued. And here’s my list of sleepers in cased you missed that.
Arizona Diamondbacks: A.J. Pollock – He’s never hit more than 20 homers or stolen 40 bases in a season, but he has averaged 73 missed games over the last four years. Chase Field is likely to see a big decrease in run scoring thanks to the introduction of the humidor, which could be extra problematic for Pollock, whose average exit velocity (87.7 mph) ranked outside the top-185 last season.
Atlanta Braves: Arodys Vizcaino – He doesn’t have great control and struggled mightily against lefties last season, which isn’t ideal since SunTrust Park boosted HR for LHB by 16 percent during its debut. Meanwhile, A.J. Minter is lurking as the team’s future long-term answer at closer.
Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman – A familiar name perennially on sleeper lists, Gausman has at least stayed healthy recently, but he continues to fail to live up to expectations. Pitching in the A.L. East and Camden Yards is tough. Steamer projects Gausman to finish with a 4.50 ERA.
Boston Red Sox: Drew Pomeranz – Squint and you’ll see upside, but last season’s 17-6 record came with a 3.84 FIP, and the injury-prone hurler is already dealing with a forearm strain. Stay away.
Chicago Cubs: Jon Lester – He’s 34 years old and coming off a season in which his average fastball velocity (91.1 mph) was his lowest in a decade, and Lester’s ability to produce a low HB/FB% suddenly disappeared as a result. And at some point, purposely having to throw to first base like this has to catch up to him, right?
Chicago White Sox: Tim Anderson – He’s a former first round pick, still young and in a good hitter’s park, but fantasy owners searching for the next big thing may be left disappointed, as Anderson simply looks too lost at the plate. His 2.1 BB% ranked last among all qualified hitters last year.
Cincinnati Reds: Adam Duvall – The power is nice, but Duvall strikes out so much a prolonged slump is likely at some point, and the Reds have a deeper outfield stable than in years past. Teammate Scott Schebler should put up similar numbers at a cost 100 picks later.
Cleveland Indians: Danny Salazar – He has legitimate upside to finish as a top-10 fantasy starter, but Salazar has a long list of injuries in the past, and he’s currently still rehabbing from rotator cuff inflammation. Don’t expect more than 120 innings.
Colorado Rockies: Jon Gray – He’d be a potential dominant starter elsewhere, but as is, Coors Field really limits Gray’s upside. He averaged 96.0 mph with his fastball last year, yet his SwStr% was a modest 8.8. THE BAT projects a 4.53 ERA.
Detroit Tigers: Nick Castellanos – He’s a fine player who’s still getting better, but Detroit’s weakened lineup will hurt Castellanos’ counting stats. Over the last week in NFBC drafts, his ADP (94) is 50 spots higher than Adrian Beltre and Mike Moustakas, which doesn’t make a ton of sense.
Houston Astros: Gerrit Cole – He’s a former first overall pick still just 27 years old, but his results have simply never matched his stuff. Cole remains in a pitcher’s park going to Houston but is now throwing in the American League, and THE BAT projects a pedestrian 4.14 ERA, which doesn’t equal a top-20 starter like he’s being drafted.
Kansas City Royals: Whit Merrifield – The Royals sport a lineup in rebuild mode and play in a park that’s decreased home runs by 20 percent over the last three years, with only AT&T Park suppressing long balls more over that span. Merrifield is 29 years old and came out of nowhere last season without a strong minor league track record, so remain skeptical.
Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani – He could be a fun player to own, but Ohtani is dealing with cultural assimilation, is pitching through a damaged UCL and has been hit hard this spring (albeit with good peripherals), having allowed 17 runs over four starts if you include B-games against minor leaguers (he’s also just 2-for-20 at the plate). There’s a wide range of outcomes with Ohtani, and his floor is very real and very low.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Rich Hill – He’s really good and in the midst of one of the more interesting careers in recent memory, but Hill is 38 years old and last season’s 135.2 innings were the second highest of his career, and his most since 2007. There’s too much risk for Hill to be treated as a top-30 starter.
Miami Marlins: Brad Ziegler – Maybe this is a low-hanging fruit, but Ziegler is coming off a season in which he posted a 4.7 K-BB% that would’ve ranked as the sixth-worst mark among all relievers had he qualified. And yet his ADP is still ahead of Kyle Barraclough, which clearly seems like a mistake.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun – He’s 34 years old, has missed an average of 49 games over the past five seasons and just posted the lowest OPS (.823) and wRC+ (110) of his career. The Brewers have plenty of capable outfielders, so Braun can take extra rest for the inevitable bumps and bruises as well.
Minnesota Twins: Fernando Rodney – He doesn’t qualify as a profitable boring old veteran thanks to the crazy nature in which saves are being attacked at draft tables. Rodney had 26 walks over 55.1 innings last year and is one season removed from posting a 5.89 ERA with a 1.80 WHIP. Draft Addison Reed instead.
New York Mets: Michael Conforto – He was one of baseball’s best hitters last year, when his 146 wRC+ would’ve ranked top-10 had he qualified, and recent news suggests Conforto is on track to return from shoulder surgery sooner than expected. But he’s still likely out for most of April, and the bigger concern is how the serious injury (he tore his posterior capsule) will affect his performance after returning. It may be some time before Conforto’s back to 100 percent. I like him when healthy but there’s too much risk based on how high he’s going in drafts. That’s changed my mind from him being a sleeper a few weeks back to preferring guys like Odúbel Herrera, Delino DeShields and Bradley Zimmer at similar prices.
New York Yankees: Sonny Gray – He’ll get strong run and bullpen support, but Gray doesn’t have overpowering stuff and will be pitching in the A.L. East and Yankee Stadium, which has boosted homers by an MLB-high 31 percent over the past three years. I have Trevor Bauer, Jameson Taillon, Garrett Richards, Kenta Maeda and Michael Fulmer ahead of him, and all have lower ADPs.
Oakland A’s: Jonathan Lucroy – There were no obvious candidates here since so few A’s are getting drafted high, and I’m a believer in Matt Olson, so I’ll recommend avoiding Lucroy. It’s unclear exactly what type of hitter he is right now , but last year’s version (53.5 GB%, 22.3 Hard%) was extremely discouraging.
Philadelphia Phillies: Maikel Franco – He could prove a steal if he ends up hitting third in an underrated lineup, but Franco had a .690 OPS last year, when his 76 wRC+ ranked No. 138. Franco’s .234 BABIP last year will likely improve, but his career mark is .260 thanks to frequent pop ups, and most importantly, his job security is no sure thing with Philadelphia having so many options (it’s only a matter of time before Scott Kingery forces his way into the lineup).
Pittsburgh Pirates: Corey Dickerson – His average exit velocity (87.1 mph) ranked No. 235 last year, and he remains in a pitcher’s park, yet Dickerson’s ADP is higher than Aaron Hicks, Victor Robles, Lewis Brinson, Mallex Smith and Michael Taylor, all of whom I prefer.
San Diego Padres: Wil Myers – He offers a nice power/speed combo but lacks counting stats and is a BA risk. Myers isn’t a great real-life hitter (he had a 109 wRC+ last year), and while not as extreme of a pitcher’s park as it once was, Petco decreased run scoring by 17 percent last season, which tied with Minute Maid for the most in MLB. Myers has had serious past durability concerns yet is being drafted as a top-10 fantasy 1B.
San Francisco Giants: Jeff Samardzija – His 4.42 ERA didn’t match his stellar 205:32 K:BB ratio last year, but assumed regression seems to already be priced into his ADP, and Samardzija also posted a 4.96 ERA as recently as 2015. Few starters are as durable as Shark, and AT&T Park certainly helps, but realize his K% could regress as well (negatively), so he’ll be on zero of my teams.
Seattle Mariners: Nelson Cruz – After dealing with a bunch of injuries early in his career, Cruz has been remarkably durable of late, playing in 150+ games (while hitting 39+ homers) in four straight seasons. But Cruz will turn 38 years old this season, and he’s already dealing with a quad strain, and I’d rather be a year early than a year late.
St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Carpenter – Maybe his price tag is falling enough at this point, but Carpenter’s ADP is still higher than Ian Happ, Yoan Moncada and Jonathan Villar, all of whom have far more upside. In an oddity, Carpenter had just one extra-base hit in 65 at-bats when not facing a shift last season, posting a 2 WRc+.
Tampa Bay Rays: Alex Colome – He’s a fine pitcher locked into the closer’s role, but Colome is among the top trade candidates, so beware you might be paying for just a half season’s worth of saves here.
Texas Rangers: Elvis Andrus – He has a high floor and therefore unlikely to bust, but Andrus is still someone to fade coming off a campaign in which he clubbed 20 home runs after never hitting more than eight during his previous eight seasons in the league. Power was obviously up league wide, but Andrus’ HR/FB% (11.6) last year more than doubled his career mark (5.1). Draft Trevor Story three rounds later instead.
Toronto Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman – Hopefully the injury isn’t too serious, and the latest hope is he begins the season essentially on time, but make sure Stroman comes at a discount, as he’s returning from inflammation in his throwing shoulder, which would be a concern for any pitcher, let alone one listed at 5-8, 180.
Washington Nationals: Gio Gonzalez – His BABIP dropped to .258 last year one year after it was .316 under similar circumstances despite continued decreases in velocity (89.9 mph) and SwStr% (8.7). His Hard% (29.3) was also higher than his career mark (27.9). It doesn’t mean he can’t retain some value, but Gonzalez posted a 1.38 WHIP from 2015-2016 (any pitcher worse over that span is going undrafted in fantasy leagues right now), so he’s this year’s most obvious regression candidate.