TDG Roundtable: Players To Avoid
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week, our staff take dish on players they’re avoiding.
Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox
Don’t get the wrong drift here. I am not avoiding Luis Robert. I am just avoiding where he is on ADP lists. I don’t buy the current ADP that slates the future of Robert being better than young guys like Corey Seager, Rafael Devers, and Vladimir Guerrero, but for some reason Robert is ranked better than all of them in ADP!
I can maybe understand higher than Seager. With Seager, there is some injury history (but if we are really being honest, so has Robert), and Seager is 3 years older. I won’t heckle you too much on that move. What I don’t see is a universe where Robert is drafted higher than Devers. Just go look at his 2019 numbers.
Even age considered, there is no reason why he should be higher than Arenado and Bregman. Opening Day has passed us by, and if you didn’t avoid him, let me recommend you a song that was famous in Texas 33 years ago, “I Told You So,” by Randy Travis. If I am wrong, you can tell me so!
Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
This fade has two parts: one, how deep and good shortstop is this season, and two, Bichette didn’t show nearly this well in the minors compared to his 75-total MLB games thus far. In Yahoo and NFBC leagues this year he is the sixth shortstop off the board, in front of perennial fantasy kings Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager, and Tim Anderson, and even after subpar 2020 seasons from Gleybar Torres and Javier Baez. Bichette will finish behind all of them. With the dead ball supposedly coming, is Bichette a lock for the 23 home runs he is being predicted for, on average? He never hit more than 14 in any minor league season thus far, with a typical ISO under .200 (his major league ISO so far is .241). Bichette rose through the Blue Jays system relatively quickly, so only played 56 games at Triple-A Buffalo, and as such produced a higher strikeout rate and lower walk rate at the big league level than his time in the minors (which of course is not uncommon).
Bichette had a high BABIP and his major league BABIP thus far is .361 but that most likely is not sustainable. Also, while he had a 32-steal season in the minors, he was caught 23 times with 73 successful steals in his minor league career. As of now, Bichette is the #3 hitter in the Blue Jays lineup so while RBI opportunities may be plentiful, stolen base opportunities will not. If Bichette produces a 20/20 season (like Tim Anderson) that would be great, and 20/30 is certainly possible. But why pay the higher draft cost for possibility, when those aforementioned shortstops have been producing for years? Because he has the name recognition and beautiful flowing locks of auburn hair? For re-draft leagues, let someone else dream on Bichette.
Shohei Ohtani, SP/UTL. Los Angeles Angels
I will preface this with “I love Shohei Ohtani.” Honestly, he is the most talented player in MLB. However, in the ‘silly’ game we play, I don’t think Ohtani is worth the hassle. First, there are league-based questions. Is your league a weekly or daily move league? Is Ohtani one player or two players? Now we have real-life baseball questions. “If Ohtani is in the rotation, how many days off will he receive after pitching? Will he be penciled in as the DH? What about Jared Walsh and Albert Pujols?”
Yeah, this whole situation is a tangled mess and I am totally staying away.
Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros
There are a number of guys I could have written about here, but I decided to stick with someone who I don’t roster on any of my 14 teams: Alex Bregman. This is a slightly biased pick, as I think subconsciously I’m not completely over the Astros’ cheating, but it’s also rooted in a few red flags that have popped up over the last year or two. First, I’m not willing to take a player in the third round of a 15-team league (NFBC ADP of 44) who I think is most likely to only hit 25 dingers coupled with a ceiling of perhaps 8 steals. Second, and perhaps related to the first point, I’ve noticed an unfortunate drop in barrel rate and max exit velocity since 2018, bottoming out at 3.9% and 105.6 mph, respectively, in 2020.
He has an incredible eye at the plate, (so he’s more valuable in points leagues), but in all of my drafts this offseason I’ve felt there are better options in that ADP range, like Whit Merrifield or Starling Marte. Both of those latter players project to have similar batting average floors and more steals, even if they hit fewer homers.
Zach Greinke, SP, Houston Astros
The easy choices are the injury concerns and there are a lot of those already. The second easiest is to pick an old guy and bet on the decline so we’ll keep it simple here. Zack Greinke is 37 years old, struggled to close out the season in 2020, and is now in the bottom 5% of the league in fastball velocity. Greinke still has excellent command but as the MPH continues to tick down it has become less effective. He was just below league average in 2015 at 92.3 and hit just 88.1 MPH last season. He was ranked 160th on the Dynasty Guru 500 and his 2021 NFBC ADP was 104. Those will be some difficult rankings to live up to as his stuff continues to decline. I have no issue with him as your SP4 or SP5 but he is no longer the ace he once was and people are still paying for him as if he could be again.
Yu Darvish, SP, San Diego Padres
Yu Darvish is being drafted 16th overall in NFBC Drafts and I’m here to say that ADP is gonzo. I do love Yu for what he’s done in his career, but let’s remember that it’s been a long career and he’s nearing 35 years old. He’s also coming off of the best statistical season of his eight-year career. Never before has he held hitters to fewer walks, fewer home runs, or posted such a low ERA, WHIP, FIP, or xFIP. And while I do believe park and defensive factors in San Diego can do much to extend Darvish’s value as a reliable starter, I do not believe he will continue to look like the unhittable monster he was in 2020. That was, after all, only a 76.0 inning season for him. Paying for Yu over younger arms like Lucas Giolito, Luis Castillo, Jack Flaherty, and even everyone’s least favorite high-dollar arm, Walker Buehler, will look foolish by the All-Star Break. I think by the season’s end, Darvish owners will wish they’d have waited to draft German Marquez over 150 picks later.
Julio Urias, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
I have been a Julio Urias stan for several seasons now. Unfortunately, his situation appears to be trending in a direction that is fantastic for the Dodgers, good for his arm ligaments and muscles, and really terrible for fantasy managers. Urias is being taken (on average) as the 36th starter off the board with an average ADP of 118. For a starter who is projected to get around 100-120 innings with a K-rate hovering right around 20%, that price is far too high. The Dodgers are going to do their Dodger thing and skip starts, use the short IL, move pitchers from the pen to the rotation, and do everything they can to keep their wildly talented pitching staff healthy for another shot at the World Series. Hell, Tony Gonsolin isn’t even in the rotation at the moment. Owning Urias this season (and for the near future) is likely to be frustrating beyond belief.
On top of the playing time and durability concerns, Urias just isn’t missing enough bats to justify his ADP. Both The Bat and the ATC projections have him under a strikeout per inning this season. His 7.36 K/9 from 2020, while well under his career numbers from the minors and some previous seasons, does nothing to push back on those projected whiffs from two very successful projection systems. Adding to the red flags is the fact that Urias’ swinging strike rate is on a three-year decline. When looking at some of the pitchers being taken after Urias (Musgrove, McCullers, Mahle, Urquidy, Stroman, Civale etc), I simply don’t see how one can justify paying the price for him with all of the question marks swirling.
Randy Arozarena, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
I promise I am not trying to ruin anyone’s fun with this pick, but I am going to call Randy Arozarena a bust for 2021 based on his current ADP and lofty expectations. He is currently going off draft boards before pick 60 on Fantrax and NFBC which is well ahead of other, more proven players. This early ADP is being driven up by a truly Herculean performance in 43 games during the 2020 regular season and playoffs, but there are a few main aspects that make me question just how sustainable his performance is moving into the new season.
Sorting amongst players with a minimum of 75 plate appearances in 2020, Arozarena ranked 80th in average exit velocity at 90.3 mph and 81st in hard-hit percentage at 44.2%. This batted ball data is good, but I wouldn’t consider it elite. Even more troubling was his average launch angle of 9.2 degrees, which was actually up from a meager 5.6 degrees the season before. His track record is well defined with ground ball rates over 50 percent for the majority of his minor league career. This combination of a low launch angle and non-elite batted ball data makes me question his true home run potential.
Arozarena posted a career-high strikeout percentage of 29% in 2020, a significant spike compared to his minor league rates which mostly sat under 20% over the years. Now it’s understandable to see a number like this jump when a player moves up to the majors, and there is always the opportunity for improvement back to his career marks, but there is also a chance it could get worse. Arozarena, like many rookies with impressive initial breakouts, feasted on fastballs to the tune of a .316 BA and .895 SLG. His average exit velocity on fastballs was 94.4 mph (elite) with a 15-degree average launch angle. It’s no surprise to learn that all seven of his regular-season home runs were on fastballs. On the flip side, he hit .154 with a .154 SLG against breaking balls, with zero extra-base hits. The average exit velocity dropped to 79.8 mph with an average launch angle of negative 6 degrees. I have a strong feeling that Arozarena will see a steady diet of breaking balls in 2021 from opposing pitching which could greatly stunt his performance.
Arozarena did show near-elite sprint speed in 2020, as he was in the 93rd percentile of the league. He has shown the ability to steal twenty-plus bases in a season during his years in the minors, making him a true power-speed threat, but his success rates have not always been stellar. Between three levels in 2019, he was caught stealing 40 percent of the time, a significant increase from the still not ideal rate of about 25 percent in the previous two seasons. I don’t see a highly analytical team like the Rays giving Arozarena the constant green light unless his success rates significantly improve from these marks.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Arozarena has a bright future ahead of him with the potential to become a true power-speed threat for years to come, but I am just not completely convinced yet. Opposing pitchers will adapt how they attack him at the plate, at least until he proves he can adjust and hit a breaking ball. Until then, he may struggle to greatly exceed a 20/20 season with a mid-range batting average leaving those who drafted him around the fifth round disappointed.
Cavan Biggio, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Through most of the offseason, there was plenty of hype surrounding Biggio. Cavan, son of Craig (HOFer), teammate to Vlad Jr, son of Vlad (HOFer), and Bo, son of Dante (4x All-Star), the lineage in Toronto is a fun story, and the kids are all truly talented. Cavan though gets most of his success from a very simple concept- swinging at strikes! In fact, Cavan Biggio has the lowest O-Swing% in baseball (min PA 50) at 16.3%, a full percent below Mike Trout. Beyond that though, Cavan’s average exit velocity was low at 87.4 mph, hard-hit rate only 30.8%, and xSLG .343. So, Statcast doesn’t love him… he did hit 8 home runs in 220 at bats. But now with the deadened ball, he’s being highlighted as someone who hits the ball high and not hard, and that his home runs clear the wall by a narrow margin. I look at the numbers, and this analysis, and I’m skeptical that we’ll see 20 home runs this year.
What about the steals? He stole 6 bases last year, again in 220 at-bats. Well, he did, but he was slower than 2019, adding a full 10th of a second to his home to first base time last season, and 6/100ths of a second on his 15 ft break. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. Still not convinced? How about the Blue Jays don’t run much as a team? Under Charlie Montoya, who was hired as manager for the 2019 season, the Jays were both 26th in baseball in stolen bases (51) and attempted steals (71) his inaugural year. 2020 of course was a different story, as the Jays stole 33 bases and good for 10th most in baseball. Unfortunately, 7 of those steals were by Jonathan Villar, who is no longer with the team. Without those 7 steals the Jays would have been tied for 15th, with 26 steals, in 60 games. Toronto has a quick team, they have guys who can steal bases but it doesn’t seem to be a big part of the organization’s philosophy. Again, I’m skeptical Biggio reaches 20 stolen bases in 2021. Add in a potential batting average pull, from a career .255 minor league hitter, and .240 MLB hitter. He’s also expected to hit 6th or lower in the lineup (when Springer is healthy), after spending the vast majority of his time leading off in 2020. All in all, the deck feels stacked against Biggio, and you really have to believe he’ll reach 20/20 to validate a top 60 pick.