2012 Fantasy Baseball: Don’t Buy the Hype

Alex Gordon

Will Alex Gordon duplicate his breakout 2011 season? Don't bet on it.

A few days ago I wrote about some “sleepers” to target for the upcoming 2012 fantasy baseball season, guys going later in drafts who could outperform their preseason predictions.  On the contrary, there are players being taken in the early rounds of drafts in fantasy baseball games everywhere, who are destined to disappoint their owners.  To clarify, I do not consider these guys as bad players, nor do I think they can’t have decent years.  I’m saying that I don’t like what you have to pay to get them, the price is too high for the return you can realistically expect from them.

Over-hyped players can find themselves in such a group for several reasons.  The main thing I look for when assessing whether a player is getting too much love in drafts is body of work,  has this guy shown consistent skills for a number of years or is he just a flash in the pan?  Often,  owners will reach for a guy who is coming off a career year, regardless of the fact that it may be his only big year since reaching the big leagues.   In the same sense, I always try to avoid big name players who may have been superstars 3-4 years ago, but either injuries or diminishing skills have caused them to lose some of their luster.  Owners will reach for such players hoping to get a glimpse of past greatness, a resurgence back to their glory days.  Having said that, here are a few guys I feel are overvalued, and not worth their current asking price;

Alex Gordon, Royals

- Owners who had him benefitted  from his breakout season in 2011  as he posted career highs in all 5 categories.  A closer look at his stats shows that Gordon had ran for double digit steals only once in his career (14 in 2007) before he swiped 17 bags last year. Gordon hit .303 last year, 41 points above his career average. He has shown decent power numbers since coming up with the Royals in 2006 so I’m not going to totally disregard the HR and RBI totals from last season.  The large spikes in batting average and steals seem too good to be true though, and I expect a regression back to his averages in those two categories. A solid player but not spectacular, expect good numbers but nothing close to last year.

James Shields, Rays

- Some say he has figured it out,  and he’s about to take off into the upper echelon of starting pitchers, I’m not buying it. Shields averaged a 4.66 ERA between 2009-2010, as opposed to a 2.82 ERA last year.  His 1.39 WHIP in 09-10 was much more realistic than his 1.04 WHIP last year. Averaging 212 K’s the previous two years, Shields fanned a career high 249 batters last season. Breakout player right?  Not so fast.  Shields benefitted from an extremely lucky .217 opponent batting average last season, something that he will not get again, especially in the hitter-loaded AL East. Going ahead of both CJ Wilson and Josh Johnson in most drafts, I don’t think he comes close to outperforming either of these guys this year. I think he will be a quality pitcher to have on the roster, but not a top 20 pitcher, which is where he’s being drafted.

Josh Beckett, Red Sox

-Beckett has had two significant DL stints in the last 4 seasons, both back related.   His 2011 1st half ERA of 2.20 seemed to be more luck than anything as he struck out more batters in the 2nd half (95 2nd half,80 1st half) yet posted a 3.60 2nd half ERA.   Being drafted ahead of guys like Gio Gonzalez, Brandon Beachy, Cory Luebke, and Jeremy Hellickson, Beckett is not the pitcher he once was and this is the year you let someone else in your league find that out the hard way.  His last year as a dominant pitcher was 2007, and he’s been relying on his name and seasonal flashes of brilliance to cover up that his back may never be the same as it was before the injury in 2008.  Already struggling with soreness in his right thumb this spring training, let another manager pay top dollar for Beckett on draft day, and don’t be surprised when he misses games this year due to some form of injury.

Paul Konerko, White Sox

-  Let me start by saying that Paul Konerko has always been one of my favorite players.  He has been one of the best hitters in the game since making his big league debut in 1997.  As great as his career has been, he is now 36 years old and will have played his 2000th career MLB game by the end of the first week of the regular season.  Although he had another great year last year,  he showed decline in  the 2nd half with a 45 point dip in his batting average(.321 1st half, .276 2nd half) and hit only 10 HR as opposed to 21 in the 1st half.  As much as I hate to say it, this is the year Konerko finally begins his downward slide.  He will still have fantasy value this year don’t get me wrong, but he cannot be considered a top 12 first baseman on draft day. There is simply too much depth and young talent at first base (Eric Hosmer, Michael Morse, and Freddie Freeman) to reach on Konerko.

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