And we’re off! Welcome to the 2011 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit. As you’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks, we’ve already started releasing team previews, but today we get into the real meat of the kit. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be releasing a bevy of goodies for your Fantasy baseball preparation, including complete cheat sheets and profiles for every position, lists of sleepers, fliers and rookies, our top 50 prospects and coverage of at least one expert mock draft with round-by-round commentary. We’ll kick things off with our top 10 flops — the players we’re advising you to either steer clear of, or at least not reach for, this season.
It happens every season. Players either fall back to reality, stop shooting up the juice, or father time finally catches up to them. Every season has its version of Brady Anderson, the player that inexplicably hit 50 home runs out of nowhere in 1996, yet never even reached 25 homers after that. And that’s why we are here, to steer you away from greyballs and bad picks. Without further ado, here are our picks for the top 10 Fantasy busts for 2011.
1. Trevor Cahill, SP, Oakland A’s: Cahill had an unreal year for a somewhat surprising Oakland club that finished second in a weak A.L. West. The soft-throwing righty finished 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, putting him near the top of most major pitching categories. While Cahill is only 22, I doubt he will be able to replicate his 2010 results this season. He only struck out 118 batters in 196 innings (thereby limiting his value in 5×5 formats) and allowed a modest 18 home runs. I’m not saying this kid will be terrible, but I think Cahill will fall back to reality and be something more of an average pitcher, a la teammate Brad Ziegler’s 2009 season compared to his 2008 effort.
2. Jayson Werth, LF, Washington Nationals: Can you say overpaid? Werth’s new contract infuriated many big league general managers and for good reason (although in fairness, the Nats were forced to overpay to lure him to a struggling organization). While he had a fine run in Philadelphia, he was greatly aided by his Citizens Bank Park. Last season, Werth hit just .270 with only nine home runs on the road compared to a .320 mark with 18 home runs at home. Nationals Park is more neutral than SBC — especially when it comes to long balls — and I expect Werth to experience a drop off similar to what happened to Jason Bay with the Mets last season (minus the injury factor, we assume).
3. Vernon Wells, OF, Los Angeles Angels: What were the Angels thinking? Not only did they trade legitimate talent to Toronto (Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera), but they took on all of Wells’s $17-million contract for 2011. It’s bad enough that Wells is on the decline, but bringing him aboard kills the payroll flexibility of the Angels. Wells put up respectable numbers last season (.273, 31 home runs and 88 RBI), but he has clearly declined both defensively and at the plate. Moving from the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre to Angel Stadium of Anaheim — one of the toughest hitter’s parks in the bigs last year — doesn’t help boost Wells’s value. Avoid him at all costs unless he falls you in the later rounds.
4. Wilson Betemit, 3B, Kansas City Royals: Betemit was a pleasant surprise after the Royals brought him back to the majors in late-May, batting .297 with 13 home runs, 43 RBI, and a .378 OBP in only 276 at-bats. Back in the day, Betemit was massively hyped, pretty much since he was signed to a minor league contract by the Braves at the age of 14 in 1996. After bouncing around with Atlanta, the Dodgers, the Yanks, the White Sox and KC, he seemed to have finally hit his stride. But keep in mind, he’s on the Royals. And they suck. And his sample size was small as he didn’t play every game. If Betemit is given the opportunity to be the every day starter, there is no evidence in his past MLB experience to expect anything but crap numbers. Don’t be fooled into thinking he is a solid sleeper pick, because he’s not. Besides, now that KC has acquired shortstop Alcides Escobar, Mike Aviles has shifted over to third, blocking Betemit. And soon, top prospect Mike Moustakas will burst onto the scene, further burying Betemit on the bench.
5. Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF, San Francisco Giants: Despite the fact he wasn’t their first choice, Huff had a good season for the World Series champs last year, batting .290 with 26 jacks and 86 RBI. This was following a 2009 campaign which saw him hit .241 combined between Baltimore and Detroit while managing only 15 home runs. Huff is 34 and slowly becoming a defensive liability in the outfield as well. Everything that could go right for the Giants last year did, and this includes Huff. Expect him to drop down closer to the numbers he put up in 2009.
6. Kelly Johnson, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks: Johnson had a fantastic season for the D’bags last year, hitting .284 with 26 dingers. This popped up out of nowhere for the 28-year-old who had a previous best season of .287 with only 12 home runs in 2008 with Atlanta. In 2009, Johnson hit a mere .224 in 303 at-bats so he has not shown any sort of consistency at the big league level and if the pattern continues, expect a disappointing result this season. In fact, if you take away his huge April and September last year, Johnson managed just 10 homers, 41 RBI and a pedestrian .266 BA from the beginning of May to the end of August — numbers we believe are far more indicative of his true talent.
7. R.A. Dickey, SP, New York Mets: Dickey’s shocking run was a great story last year and I have to admit I pulled for him, since he was on my Fantasy team and all. Out of nowhere, the veteran knuckleballer put up an 11-9 record with a 2.84 ERA, but Dickey is 36 and has never previously had a good MLB season. Granted he adapted into a knuckleballer just three seasons ago, but last season was a fluke. If you waste a high draft pick on him, you’re going to look like a little Dickey.
8. Dallas Braden, SP, Oakland A’s: Not only did Braden throw a perfect game last season, he also punked out Alex Rodriguez. Pretty awesome if you ask me. Braden put up great numbers as well, posting a 3.50 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP while winning 11 games. But the 27-year-old isn’t a high strike out pitcher and is much more of an “average” pitcher with “average” stuff. Don’t be fooled by a career year and reach for him, as he’s more likely to consistently give you an ERA a tad over 4.00.
9. Torii Hunter, CF, Los Angels Angels: Spider-Man is getting old and has lost a step. And some bat speed. Hunter had a good season last year, and rumours suggest the Angels are going to switch him to right field for 2011. But he will turn 36 this season, and his home run totals have averaged in the low 20s since his arrival in LA. His OPS dropped from 874 to 818 in 2010 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it drop even lower in 2011. If you still consider Hunter a top-tier player, you are inviting danger.
10. Bronson Arroyo, SP, Cincinnati Reds: Since his trade from the Red Sox, Arroyo has essentially been Cincinnati’s workhorse. Last year, he went 17-10 with a 3.88 ERA, helping lead the Reds to a division title. But the rock star will be 34 next month and has thrown over 200 innings in each of the past six seasons. I would expect the wear and tear to finally take place on Arroyo and for him to spend some time on the disabled list, but even if this rubber-armed hurler stays healthy, his win total will slip and his ERA may rise half a run.