For every like, there’s a dislike.
This is as true in fantasy baseball as it is in every walk of life, and since that Tuesday was the day I slept in, today, in reverse, let’s focus on the players I avoid in drafts.
As always with a list like this, each one of the 10 names on this list is a player I’m willing to put on the roster this season, at a certain cost. Based on what they could provide in 2023, combined with their starting average sink position (ADP) trends — both in ESPN and away leagues — they show, each is too expensive for my tastes.
So let’s take a look at the guys I’d like you to draft in your rosters, so that I don’t have to deal with them.
Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox: I’ve never had much faith in Anderson, which is easier to say when you’re ranking for points leagues than grill formats. However, his 2022 raised some warning flags for either form. Anderson battled multiple injuries, first a groin problem that hindered his swing, then surgery to repair a torn sagittal band in his left middle finger that ultimately ended his season in August. He also showed little recapture of the lost Statcast sprint speed he displayed in 2021, with his 2022 percentage sitting in the middling 76th percentile, while his .255 BABIP on ground balls — remember, velocity is integral to his footy success — represented a two-year slump and the second-lowest number of his career.
Maybe Anderson is right that the groin injury was entirely responsible for his reduced production, but I don’t think he’s worth the price tag he’s been asking so far.
Andres Gimenez, 2B, Cleveland Guardians: He was one of the best defenders in baseball in 2022, fueling his everyday role, and he has excellent speed that makes another 20-steal season possible. He should struggle again to turn in a top 10 second baseman stat line. With the bat, however, almost everything went right, most notably the 40-point difference between Gimenez’s average (.297) and Statcast expected batting average (.257), the fourth-most difference in that direction among qualifiers. Additionally, his batting numbers (36th percentile Statcast hard hitting and 33rd percentile slugging percentages) do not bode well for a repeat of his 17 home runs.
He’s a solid, arguably top 100 caliber, but even there he goes 2-3 rounds early, and in points leagues he’s more of a mid-range player.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: Speaking of BA-xBA differentials, Goldschmidt’s 56-point differential (.317 vs. .261) was the most in the league. either direction, and let’s also point out that the 52-point difference between his actual wOBA (.419) and expected wOBA (.367) was also the largest in the league. To be fair, Goldschmidt is an excellent player, an undisputed top performer in any format. Still, he’ll rank 23rd overall in either the ESPN leagues in points or the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) so far in March, which is too expensive for my tastes for a player who saw a lot of things go right last year.
Also keep in mind that Goldschmidt’s Statcast sprint speed has also been down year-over-year, to the point where he ranked in the 26th percentile last year, meaning his seven steals last season are probably more realistic than his 12 from 2021 .
Kenley Jansen, RP, Boston Red Sox: The epitome of slow relievers, Jansen’s pace last season, per Statcast, was the third-slowest with the bases empty and slowest with runners on base — numbers that would surely be seconds off the new clock playing field boundaries. That requires a significant adjustment, and considering that Jansen is no longer in his prime from 2014-17 and has shown a slight decline in both ground ball and strikeout rates (as well as average exit velocity), it’s reasonable concern.
He has the contract and the record as a well-known 30-plus save lock, but he’s also 35 and now faces more questions than some of the other “behind the top 10” RP guys, many of whom have electric, stuff that creates strikes. Jansen is not a fantasy top-10 closer for me.
Starling Marte, OF, New York Mets: His recent injury history, coupled with the fact that he is now a 34-year-old who derives much of his fantasy value from his stolen bases, has become a growing concern. A rib fracture cost him five weeks of 2021, a partially fractured right middle finger cost him nearly a month at the end of the 2022 regular season and hamstring surgery initially threatened his 2023 Open Day status before he returned to action early. during the Grapefruit League season.
Marte’s sprint speed, like Goldschmidt’s, has been in a declining pattern with his three worst percentages coming in the last three seasons. He also gave up a large portion of the contact gains he displayed during his great 2018-19 run, which is especially troubling for those of us in point leagues. It’s still a good building block in grill leagues, but it would probably cost you a top 75 pick to get, which is way overpriced in my estimation.
Jeremy Pena, SS, Houston Astros: He had one exceptional rookie year, between becoming just the fifth rookie shortstop in history with at least 20 homers and 10 stolen bases and earning American League Series Championship and World Series MVP honors, not to mention proving to be a more than adequate replacement for departed free agent Carlos Correa. In fact, Pena’s WAR, 4.9, was almost as high as Correa’s, 5.5! Still, there is such a thing as being a better real-life than fantasy talent, and Pena might qualify for that.
He’s extremely free-swinging, walked in just 3.9% of his plate appearances, had an alarming 51.5% groundout rate after the All-Star break, and is hitting .243/.267/.398 this year last split. Pena still has work to do at this level, something teams will surely know after such a strong rookie campaign. I suggest he take a step back, let him work them out on a competitor’s roster. Check back with the incoming in 2024.
Jordan Romano, RP, Toronto Blue Jays: Like Jansen, Romano is closer to job security and is probably one of the stronger bets for 30-plus saves at the position for those reasons. The problem in his case, though, is that 2022 looks like his peak, he had a big ERA/xERA gap (1.20 difference), and he delivered a lot of hard contact. So it seems likely that he will take a small step back.
Romano was the No. 4 reliever and No. 52 player overall in average in the NFBC leagues so far through March, though, meaning he’s considered one of the best at the position. He’s very valuable, as you can see from my ranking (RP7/107 overall), but he’s not someone I’d place in the upper tier of the position.
Blake Snell, SP, San Diego Padres: He has five back-to-back seasons with at least a 30% strikeout rate, and his expected Statcast 3.19 ERA last year was almost on par with the 3.15 from the 2018 Cy Young. But that’s where all the positives end, as Snell was held to 107 , a 135 strikeout ratio (pandemic year 2020), 128 2/3 and 128 innings over the last four seasons, demonstrating extreme difficulty both staying healthy and going deep into games. During those four seasons, he totaled 25 wins and 28 quality starts, totals that surpassed in both categories the likes of Brad Keller, Eric Lauer, Jordan Lyles, Wade Miley, Mike Minor and Martin Perez.
There’s something to be said for Snell’s fantasy production per batter, but there’s also something to be said for pitchers who provide more volume.
Gleyber Torres, 2B, New York Yankees: It pains me to put him here, especially considering he posted personal bests in Statcast Barrel (10.7%) and hard-hit percentage (45.3%) last season, but Torres looks more and more like man of no place in New York. Anthony Volpe’s impressive spring has crowded the Yankees, DJ LeMahieu is currently healthy and needs a spot to pitch, and Torres himself has been rumored to be in trade talks at the 2022 deadline to acquire pitching.
Without a dedicated place to play every day, Torres’ fantasy appeal takes a hit — a problem for a player who barely cracked last season’s top-10. If he’s traded, it’s also important to consider that he has a career OPS 59 points higher at Yankee Stadium than on the road and a 1.3% higher HR rate there than on the road.
Julio Urias, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: A member of last year’s list, Urias’ actual ERA (2.16) beat Statcast’s expected ERA (2.81) for the fourth consecutive season in 2022, so of course he’s proven capable of doing it again, right? Well, maybe. Yes, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball at suppressing hard contact. Still, Urias’ propensity for “swings and misses” falls short of some of the similar arms he’s averaged, as his 12.4% swinging-strike rate over the past two seasons is just a hair above league average, neither did he. they have a batted-ball distribution (40.0% GB, 28.5% FB rates last year) that inspires confidence should he lose any of his command.
Additionally, the Dodgers actually hit his innings total last year, casting doubt on whether he’ll ever be trusted with a 200-frame campaign. Urias is a very, very good pitcher, but he’s not a top-15 fantasy starter for me, despite the fact that he’s often ranked or drafted.