Arizona Diamondbacks: Joakim Soria
Zac Gallen is too easy here while he deals with a possibly serious forearm injury, so let’s go with a soon-to-be 37-year-old who just posted the second-worst CSW of his career last season. And even if Soria pitches well, he’s a major candidate to be traded and become a team’s setup man down the stretch.
Atlanta Braves: Mike Soroka
Soroka is a solid pitcher but offers a pedestrian K rate and is easy to pass at his ADP while coming off a torn Achilles. Steamer projects a 4.20 ERA and 1.35 WHIP for Soroka, who will also have to deal with a shaky Braves defense that was one of the worst in baseball last season.
Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle
There aren’t many great options who fit this exercise in Baltimore, but Mountcastle’s ADP feels a bit inflated thanks to his production in last year’s shortened season, including a .398 BABIP despite an exit velocity that was in the bottom quarter of the league. I can’t get behind him having a higher Yahoo ADP than Josh Bell, although Mountcastle does currently have a higher batting average than on-base percentage in spring training, which is always fun.
Boston Red Sox: Alex Verdugo
This one could really backfire, as Verdugo no doubt has nice fantasy upside. But he’s also being drafted quite aggressively for someone with such an extensive injury history. Verdugo’s Statcast numbers suggest big improvements need to be made, and Fenway Park is a drag on lefty power.
Chicago Cubs: Craig Kimbrel
Maybe it’s a mechanical issue that can be fixed, but Kimbrel has allowed nine earned runs over 4.2 spring innings with fluctuating velocity (although he reportedly hit 98 mph recently). Spring stats can be ignored most of the time, but when this bad and coming off two straight disappointing seasons with the Cubs, Kimbrel is clearly one of the bigger closer risks. He’s walked 26 batters over 37.1 innings since joining Chicago.
Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu
I’m not calling Abreu a “bust” in the classical sense here, just that his ADP is overvalued coming off an MVP-winning season that was just 60 games. Abreu has a nice floor, but he’s 34 years old and doesn’t run, so this is a clear red flag as someone being drafted too high as a third-rounder.
Don’t pay for last year’s stats, especially when they aren’t even scarce.
Cincinnati Reds: Sonny Gray
Gray has a smallish build and a history of back problems, so it’s concerning he’s currently sidelined with spasms, which is a symptom of an underlying issue (H/T Jeff Stotts). Gray’s ADP would need to come at a good discount, as it’s usually best not to invite injuries that will inevitably find your team anyway. The Reds moving Eugenio Suarez to shortstop isn’t going to do the extreme ground baller any favors either.
Cleveland Indians: Zach Plesac
Plesac is coming off an impressive year (57:6 K:BB ratio) but screams regression in a few places. He had modest strikeout numbers throughout the minors, and his walk rate went from 3.11 in 2019 to 0.98 during last year’s shortened season. That also came with a tough-to-sustain .224 BABIP that was the third-lowest in MLB, and this season’s schedule should be much tougher while expanding outside the Central. Plesac is a good pitcher, but he’s being over-drafted as a top-25 fantasy starter whom Steamer projects to have a 4.73 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.
Colorado Rockies: Trevor Story
Story could easily finish as the No. 1 fantasy hitter this year, but there’s also a better than 50/50 chance he’s traded away from Coors Field, which makes him a risky first-round pick. He’s hit .250 and been a league-average hitter (100 wRC+) outside of Colorado during his career.
All signs point to the Rockies moving on and dealing him at the deadline.
Detroit Tigers: Bryan Garcia
The Tigers don’t have any players being taken in the first 230 picks in Yahoo drafts, so cut me some slack here. Garcia is being drafted in hopes of him acting as Detroit’s closer, but Steamer projects a 4.89 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP. Meanwhile, Gregory Soto recently hit 100.9 mph and is the preferred Tigers reliever.
Houston Astros: Jose Urquidy
I know smart people who love his stuff and are expecting a big leap, but Urquidy sports a lowly career 7.3 K rate in the majors and posted a 4.71 FIP last season. Put differently, his K% was in the bottom 6% of the league, while his expected ERA and exit velocity were both in the bottom quarter of the league.
Urquidy’s ADP is ahead of Marcus Stroman, Eduardo Rodriguez, and James Paxton (among other better starting pitchers). I must be missing something, especially if the Astros lose some of their special sauce.
Kansas City Royals: Greg Holland
Holland was great last season over 28.1 innings, but he posted ERAs of 4.5+ and WHIPs of 1.35+ each of the previous two seasons, and he’s now 35 years old. Steamer is projecting a 4.57 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP, and Kansas City has sneaky alternatives to close in Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont.
Even if all goes well, Holland is also a prime trade candidate at the deadline.
Los Angeles Angels: Griffin Canning
The Angels should have one of the league’s best defenses, but Canning’s elbow has required PRP injections in the past, and it could go at any moment (I suppose that’s true for any pitcher, but more so for Canning). Moreover, the righty is one of baseball’s most extreme fly ball pitchers, which is an especially poor fit for a home park in Anaheim that’s boosted homers for left-handers an AL-high 28% over the last three seasons.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Will Smith
Smith might be the best hitting catcher in baseball, but the Dodgers are treating the regular season as preparation for the playoffs, so volume is going to be a problem. In fact, manager Dave Roberts recently said he projects Smith to start “somewhere around 90 games.”
That’s not ideal for someone being drafted as the third catcher off the board in Yahoo leagues.
Miami Marlins: Sandy Alcantara
Alcantara throws hard, and his K rate improved last season, but he’s curiously been moving up fantasy draft boards at an awfully high pace for someone who just posted a 4.41 expected ERA. He’ll benefit from a great pitcher’s park (and the NL without a DH), but a lack of run support and bullpen help could really limit wins. Alcantara owns a career 3.99 BB rate, and systems across the board project an ugly WHIP. I’d prefer teammate Elieser Hernandez, and that’s before factoring in his much lower ADP.
Milwaukee Brewers: Devin Williams
Williams was arguably the best pitcher in baseball last season (before getting hurt and being left off the playoff roster), but it occurred over just 27.0 innings, and he’s locked in a setup role in Milwaukee behind a dominant Josh Hader (who admittedly has a chance of being traded but is otherwise going to be used as a more traditional closer in 2021). Remarkably, the 26-year-old with 40.2 career major league innings who’s coming off a shoulder injury and won’t get saves is the No. 10 reliever off the board in Yahoo leagues.
Minnesota Twins: Alex Colome
Colome somehow posted a 0.81 ERA despite an ugly 8.9 K-BB% last season (it helped that none of his fly balls went for homers) and, most importantly, he’ll now have to share closing duties in Minnesota.
New York Mets: Michael Conforto
I’m a Conforto guy, but the year to invest in fantasy isn’t one in which he just posted an MLB-high .412 BABIP that’s 107 points better than his career mark. Conforto is a good hitter, but he doesn’t steal bags, is a legit durability concern, and hits in baseball’s best pitcher’s park. His ADP is top-80.
New York Yankees: DJ LeMahieu
LeMahieu has impressed while putting up the two best seasons of his career after age 30 and leaving Coors Field, but that doesn’t mean you should pay up now. Put differently, LeMahieu’s ADP entering 2019 (his first year as a Yankee) was not in the top-225, but now two years later during his age-33 season he’ll cost you a third-round fantasy pick. His sky-high .370 BABIP last season somehow came with a Barrel% that was in the bottom 9% of the league, but most importantly, he doesn’t steal bases. If you’re not starting your draft with aces, then you better be getting bags from your hitter (not to mention, LeMahieu has also eclipsed 15 homers just once during his career).
While LeMahieu should have the better batting average, THE BAT X projects Jose Altuve to contribute better numbers literally everywhere else, yet the former has an ADP more than 60 spots higher. LeMahieu isn’t a top-five fantasy second baseman on my board.
Oakland A’s: Ramon Laureano
Outfield is extremely deep, so there’s no reason to grab someone who’s already dealing with an injury that could linger. Even if the side issue proves minor (he returned to Oakland's lineup Tuesday), Laureano’s K%, expected batting average, exit velocity, and Hard Hit% were all in the bottom third of the league last season.
Philadelphia Phillies: Archie Bradley
Bradley may have entered spring training as the favorite to close in Philadelphia, but he likely starts the season third on the depth chart. Bradley has actually been plenty effective this spring, but his velocity has been down, while Hector Neris has added a new slider and Jose Alvarado is throwing 100 mph; both have looked dominant totaling a 19:3 K:BB ratio. This looks like another closing-situation headache.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Richard Rodriguez
Pirates manager Derek Shelton reportedly views Rodriguez as better suited in a setup role, while Kyle Crick’s velocity is back up during an impressive spring (10 Ks over 6.2 innings). It’s entirely possible this forms into yet another closer-by-committee.
San Diego Padres: Dinelson Lamet
Lamet has Cy-Young-worthy stuff and finished top-five in K-BB% last season, so this is purely a health concern. After slowly ramping up throwing this spring, it’s a near certainty he opens the year on the IL, so even if all goes well he has a 120-130 innings ceiling. Lamet was shut down at the end of last year with a biceps/elbow injury that doctors said could’ve required Tommy John surgery had he continued pitching.
He’s way too risky for his Yahoo ADP of 106.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey
I wanted to list Posey as a sleeper, but it’s not exactly encouraging he just missed two weeks with irritation in his surgically-repaired hip after taking a full season off. The last time the 34-year-old caught 120 games was 2016, and he’s no longer an option at first base. There’s no DH in the NL this season, and the Giants have curiously spent a first-round pick on a catcher in two of the past three drafts.
San Francisco’s Oracle Park could also be less hitter-friendly than last season if the archways are no longer covered with fans back in attendance — something that’s frustratingly still yet to be determined.
Seattle Mariners: Marco Gonzales
Gonzalez didn’t have an ADP in the top-250 last year, but now he’s being drafted in the first 15 rounds thanks to 69.2 innings in 2020. Those innings were no doubt impressive, but a 2.5 BB% is going to be tough to repeat, as is a .263 BABIP on a team with a middling defense. Gonzalez’s innings might also be a real issue with the Mariners planning on going with a six-man rotation.
St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado
Arenado is coming off a down 2020 in which he posted a .738 OPS that included an xwOBA in the bottom 12% of the league and an ugly .227/.302/.333 line with just one homer outside of Coors Field, so the far bigger concern is him leaving Colorado. Over the last three seasons, Coors Field increased run scoring (35%), BA for RHB (25%), and homers for RHB (18%), while Arenado’s new home digs in St. Louis decreased them all, including HR by a whopping 15%.
He's going to hit better than his career road mark (.793 OPS) suggests because Colorado works in funny ways, but his top-30 Yahoo ADP doesn’t come close to reflecting the 30-50 point batting average hit he’s going to take with the move away from Coors Field. I prefer Vlad Guerrero Jr., Eugenio Suarez and Yoan Moncada all more than Arenado.
Tampa Bay Rays: Nick Anderson
Anderson has been dominant since getting called to the majors, but he dealt with arm fatigue in October, and his spring velocity has been down while dealing with elbow inflammation and soreness. Tampa Bay uses a committee to close games, with both Peter Fairbanks and Diego Castillo strong alternatives, yet Anderson is being drafted as a top-15 fantasy reliever in Yahoo leagues.
Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo
Gallo is tearing the cover off the ball this spring, slugging five homers already with a 1.253 OPS. But that also comes with 12 strikeouts over 34 at-bats, as Gallo is extremely tough to draft in fantasy leagues unless you’re punting batting average. It also really hurts that Texas’ new stadium was no longer aided by a jet stream as feared, leading to a far less hitter-friendly environment.
In fact, Texas went from baseball’s clear second-best hitter’s park and being among the league leaders in boosting homers for lefties to one that suddenly became neutral in run scoring and decreased homers for LHB by 18% during its debut last season.
After slugging .567 and .747 at home in 2018 and 2019, Gallo slugged .393 at Globe Life Field in 2020.
Toronto Blue Jays: Cavan Biggio
Biggio has a career expected batting average of .229 and had an exit velocity in the bottom 26% of the league last season. The Blue Jays should hit in favorable parks this year, and Biggio is a perfectly fine player who’s eligible at three different positions, but he’ll likely be slotted toward the bottom of Toronto’s lineup, and his ADP as the fourth or fifth second baseman off the board is simply too high. Give me teammate Lourdes Gurriel (duh), Ketel Marte, Jose Altuve, and even Mike Moustakas over Craig’s son.
Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg
Strasburg’s ADP is certainly more palatable this year compared to last, but if carpal tunnel surgery on his pitching hand (after it went numb last year) wasn’t concerning enough, the injury-plagued SP also suffered a calf injury this spring. Strasburg is about as good as any starter in baseball on a per-inning basis (his career postseason numbers = 1.46 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 71:8 K:BB over 55.1 innings), but his injury history is long; it’s worth noting just how hard Washington worked the fragile righty in 2019 when he threw the fifth-most pitches during the regular season before tossing another 36.1 innings in the playoffs.
I hope I’m wrong and Strasburg stays healthy.