Fantasy Baseball: Joey Votto, James Shields among MLB’s first half duds

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joey votto

The Reds’ 1B has been a Votto-mless pit for fantasy baseball owners in 2014 (Via Zimbio.com)

Each year the MLB All-Star Game marks the unofficial end to the first half of the season.  This is typically a good time to evaluate players’ performances to see who has and has not lived up to pre-season expectations.

I have compiled a list of the biggest fantasy baseball “duds” by position, where you’ll find players like the Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto and the Kansas City Royals’ James Shields.

Each player capsule will show the player’s pre-season ADP (Average Draft Position), the average round they were drafted in (assuming 12-team leagues) and their current ESPN Player Rater ranking (ranking of past performance not including rest of season, by positional category).

I’d like to thank the guys at Fantasy Pros for the usage of their ADP rankings as well as the folks over at ESPN for their Player Rater.  Without further ado…

 

» Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

ADP = 68

Average Round Drafted = 6

Player Rater = 11

Arguably the best catcher in all of fantasy baseball, Joe Mauer has taken a significant step backwards in his quest towards winning a batting title.  The Twins knew they had a special hitter in Mauer, which is why they forced his part-time move to first base in hopes to get a few more years out of those expensive knees.  However, Mauer is batting only .268 with limited power and a staggeringly bad OPS, not to mention he was just placed on the DL.

Mauer has hit only two homers to date and has a pedestrian .695 OPS.  “Mr. Minnesota” used to be a walk machine, but this is no longer the case.  In 12-team standard leagues, Mauer is teetering dangerously close to becoming a back-up fantasy catcher as opposed to one of the league’s best.

» First Base: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

ADP = 17

Average Round Drafted = 2

Player Rater = 34

Gone are the days of projecting Joey Votto to be a 25-HR, 100-RBI fantasy asset.  Votto is now a player who will score more runs than he drives in, a player that should never bat clean-up, and a player whose once amazing OPS is no longer that amazing.

Let me preface this capsule with the mention that Votto will be heading to the DL for the second time this year with a lingering quad issue — and injury that has almost entirely sapped his power since his initial return in early May.  He’s still not getting a free pass from me.

The bottom line is that Votto is sporting a horrendous .255 BA with an .799 OPS and 23 RBI, squarely placing him as the 34th-best first basemen in the league.  He was a second round draft pick in spring drafts…

fantasy baseball

Mistake by the Lake…  (via Zimbio.com)

» Second Base: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

ADP = 22

Average Round Drafted = 2

Player Rater = 26

Jason Kipnis is another player that has spent some time on the disabled list.  The problem with Kipnis is that he was doing nothing before he went on the DL and has done nothing after coming off.

Many analysts were willing to ignore Kipnis’ brutal second half last season and be so bold as to project him as the best fantasy second basemen in the game.  Maybe they thought that Robinson Cano’s move to cavernous Safeco Field would support the ranking swap.  However, Kipnis is batting .253 with a .690 OPS and only three home runs.  The only thing positive about Kipnis’ season so far are his eight stolen bases.  Fantasy owners didn’t invest a second round draft selection in Kipnis for a handful of steals.  Currently, there are 25 second basemen with better production than what Kipnis has given his owners to date.

» Third Base: David Wright, New York Mets

ADP = 21

Average Round Drafted = 2

Player Rater = 12

As a New York Mets’ fan it pains me to put David Wright on this list, but honesty has always been my number one priority in writing.

Wright has had a mediocre season, which is pretty much what all of the Mets do each year.  He has been predominantly healthy, but many analysts feel that he presses far too hard to compensate for the lack of talent around him.

Wright is currently batting .274 with a .721 OPS, 6 HR, 41 RBI and 35 runs scored.  I know these numbers aren’t horrendous, but let’s keep in mind that he was, on average, a second-round draft selection, yet is currently ranked as the 12th-best player at his position.

Should Wright slide one more slot down on the Player Rater, in theory, he would become a backup fantasy third basemen.  Crazy, right?

» Shortstop: Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays

ADP = 80

Average Round Drafted = 7

Player Rater = 18

Ben Zobrist is always one of those players that comes severely discounted on draft day yet never should.  He helps in every category but not enough to scream LOOK AT ME!  Plus, the value of his multi-positional eligibility comes with no price tag.

However, Zobrist has been absolutely dreadful this season.

If you can believe it, Zobrist is batting just .255 with a .740 OPS, 6 HR and 20 RBI.  I didn’t think it was humanly possible to have only 20 RBI in 294 at-bats, but Zobrist has made me a believer.  Many owners will hold onto him simply because of the positions he plays, and I couldn’t blame you if you are keeping him in reserve role.  What I do worry about, is that many owners are still starting him even though he has been only the 18th-best shortstop to date.  That is not start worthy.

fantasy baseball

Out of Range… (via GettyImages.com)

» Outfield: Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers

ADP = 40

Average Round Drafted = 4

Player Rater = 55

Choo was a player that I coveted in many leagues this year, but was unable to get my hands on; surprisingly, this has turned out to be a blessing.

For the most part, Choo has batted lead off this season but has recently been thrust into the three-hole thanks to injuries to both Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland.

Some analysts feel that Choo is nursing an injury and that he’d be better off recovering on the DL, but the lack of depth in Texas’ lineup forces him to press on.

Choo is sporting a .249 BA with a .764 OPS, 9 HR, 31 RBI and 46 runs scored.  These numbers aren’t catastrophic by any stretch of the imagination, but fantasy owners expected more when using a fourth-round pick on Choo as an OF1 or OF2.  Unfortunately, Choo has only been the 55th-best OF in fantasy baseball, which makes him more of an OF4 than an OF1 or 2.

» Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals

ADP = 54

Average Round Drafted = 5

Player Rater = 29

The rap on Craig has always been that he is a .300+ hitter capable of big things if he could ever stay healthy.  Well, this year Craig has stayed healthy, but he has been a nightmare at the plate.

About a month ago, the initial call-up of Oscar Taveras was supposed to significantly reduce Matt Adams’ playing time, but since Adams has come off of the DL he has been en fuego!  Fast forward a few weeks and Taveras is being called up for a second time — only this time it’s Craig who the one that will be losing the at-bats.

On the season, Craig is batting .249 with a .664 OPS, 7 HR and only 43 RBI.  A fifth-round draft selection should provide more value than being the 29th-best player at his position.

» Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks

ADP = 115

Average Round Drafted = 10

Player Rater = 64

Martin Prado is another player that falls into the Ben Zobrist mold, which signifies a hitter that contributes across the board as well as providing solid, multi-positional eligibility.  This season has been a disaster for Prado, though, with many analysts claiming that he is more suited for a part-time role at this point of his career.

Prado is batting .268 with a dreadful .671 OPS, 3 HR, 34 RBI, 38 R and only 2 SB.  On average, Prado was drafted in the 10th round in standard 12-team leagues, yet he is only the 64th-best OF in baseball.

He is still owned in 97 percent of ESPN leagues even though he is an OF5/6 at this stage of his career.

james shields

Shields hasn’t quite been the fantasy Royal-ty we all thought he’d be in 2014  (via RoyalsReview.com)

» Starting Pitcher: James Shields, Kansas City Royals

ADP = 81

Average Round Drafted = 7

Player Rater = 54

“Big Game” James is not having the type of season that many analysts felt he would coming into 2014.  Given the fact that he eclipsed the 200K plateau in both 2011 (225) and 2012 (223), and just missed it in 2013 (196), owners expected much better from the eight-year veteran.

In 18 starts, Shields is sporting a 3.93 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP with just 10 QS, four losses and a measly 92 K.  His WHIP is telling of a pitcher that is having a difficult time locating pitches.

Shields was drafted, on average, in the seventh round as an SP2 for most teams, yet he is currently producing at the rate of an SP4/5, which is just not enough return on your investment.

» Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds

ADP = 89

Average Round Drafted = 8

Player Rater = 76

Homer Bailey was a player that I was huge on going into the season.  In my opinion, Bailey was an ace that could be drafted well after the more traditional aces were selected.  That spews value, which is at the heart of what every fantasy owner lusts.

Bailey’s peripheral statistics steadily improved over the course of his previous four seasons, leading many to believe that this was the dominant season we were all waiting for. But alas, Bailey currently has a 4.39 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 9 QS, 4 L, and 94 K.

It is important to note that Bailey’s recent complete game shut out of the Giants lowered his ERA to 4.39, so you can imagine how high it was before that start.  For every step forward he takes, he always seems to take another step in the opposite direction.

To date, there are 75 starting pitchers that have been more productive for their fantasy owners than Homer Bailey.

» Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians

ADP = 156

Average Round Drafted = 13

Player Rater = Minor League

I will admit that I fell into the preseason love for Danny Salazar, too.  There are two things that I look for when drafting starting pitchers, and that is youth and a high K/9 ratio.  Salazar had both. I don’t want to spend too much time on him because Salazar is currently in the minor leagues (where he continued to pitch poorly), but at the time of his demotion, the Indians young hurler had an astonishing 5.53 ERA and 1.62 WHIP.  Sometimes we swing for the fences and sometimes we miss — horribly.

fantasy baseball

Joe un-Cool… (via BlessYouBoys.com)

» Relief Pitcher: Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers

ADP = 87

Average Round Drafted = 8

Player Rater = 52

Nobody really knows when aging pitchers will eventually hit the wall.  For Joe Nathan, it looks like it’s the 2014 season.

Nathan has become way too predictable and hittable to be allowed to command the Tigers’ ninth-inning duties on a full-time basis.

To date, Nathan has a 6.16 ERA to go along with a 1.53 WHIP.  No, those numbers are not typos, but are actually a reflection of just how poorly Nathan has pitched this season.

Somehow, by the graces of God, he has managed to secure 17 saves, but he is simply too frightening to own. His current contract is probably the only reason that he is still the “closer” in Detroit, but a top-10 closer he is not.

» Ernesto Frieri, Pittsburgh Pirates

ADP = 142

Average Round Drafted = 12

Player Rater = 125

In one of the more interesting trades I have seen in a long time, the Angels and Pirates traded for one another’s crappy closer.

Jason Grilli was sent to the Angels and the Pirates took possession of Ernesto Frieri.  It is interesting to see the Angels finally part ways with Frieri as it appeared that manager Mike Scioscia would ride Frieri’s propensity to blow saves right to the unemployment line.

Frieri had posted a 6.39 ERA and 1.35 WHIP with only 11 saves in 34 appearance for the Angels.  He gave me heartburn each and every time he took the mound and I don’t even own him.  That should tell you something.

Before I get inundated with hate tweets, I will be the first to admit that there are MANY players that could have made this list, but I didn’t want to write a 15 page article that people will bail on halfway through.  Evan Longoria… I am looking right at you, my friend.  Just wanted to throw that out there.

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