Before we get started on our first “victim” let me say that the word bust does not denote that they will not be fantasy relevant in 2018, but rather will not produce at the rate expected on draft day.
- Marwin Gonzalez – 2017 Stat line- 23 HR, 90 RBI, .303/.377/.530
Gonzalez was a revelation to fantasy owners in 2017. His production combined with his eligibility across the diamond made him a hot-waiver wire add early in the season, but was it all a mirage? His BABIP was 0.32 points higher than 2016, suggesting that his 2017 batting average may not be sustainable. Add in his home run splits, and it gets even dicier. Gonzalez hit 16 home runs in the First Half compared to only 7 in the Second Half. Also concerning is his play away from Minute Maid Park. He had an unflattering 1.56 GB/FB ratio away from Home. Add all that together plus a soft contact rate above 18% and Marwin Gonzalez seems destined for regression in 2018. His eligibility at First, Second, Shortstop, Third, and the Outfield plus a great lineup surrounding him are in his favor, but look for a decreased average and middling power.
- Elvis Andrus – 2017 Stat line- 20 HR, 88 RBI, 25 SB, .297/.337/.471
Elvis Andrus might be one of the best cases you could present for there being a “juiced” ball in 2017. He hit 20 home runs for the first time in his career. His previous career high? A measly 8. This is no small sample size either, Andrus has played over 145 games each year since being brought up by Texas in 2009. His hard contact rate was just a smidge above 30% in 2017 and his lifetime soft contact rate is 24.7%. He also got run down 10 out of 35 times when trying to steal. This isn’t to say the stolen bases were not legit. Andrus has stolen 21 or more bases every year since coming into the League. The average is also sustainable, as he has proven two years in a row with a .302 average in 2016 and a .297 average last year. All this to say that Andrus is a fine shortstop for later rounds, but if you are drafting him to be the 20/20 guy he was, you will be disappointed come the end of 2018.
- Whit Merrifield – 2017 Stat line – 19 HR, 78 RBI, 34 SB, .288/.324/.460
In fantasy baseball, speed plays and Merrifield brought that to the table in a breakout 2017 campaign. A late bloomer, 2017 was his first full year of play at the age of 28. Like Andrus, his hard contact rate was just above 30%, unlike Andrus he doesn’t have the benefit of a solid lineup around him, at least not at the moment. Currently, free agents Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas have yet to sign with a team. Should they not come back to the Royals, their lineup will be a shell of its former self. In addition to a poor support group, there is no indication that the power he showed is legit. In 2016 he played in 81 games and only stole 9 bases while hitting 2 home runs. His slugging jumped by .68 points in 2017. You could chalk that up to Merrifield maturing as a hitter, but I take it as an outlier for now. Merrifield will be over-drafted on the speed alone in this landscape where power is king, so I would let someone else take the chance that he repeats his 2017 season.
- Paul Dejong – 2017 Stat line- 25 HR, 65 RBI, .285/.325/.532
It seems the Cardinals can pull good shortstops out of their hats. Aledmys Diaz had a breakout 2016 campaign before falling flat on his face in 2017, his replacement? Paul Dejong. Dejong flashed the power, hitting 25 home runs and 26 doubles in only 108 games. He also had a cringe-worthy 28% strikeout rate, which you could stomach if the walk rate wasn’t at 4.7% for the 2017 season. I have no qualms about his power, he certainly can connect with the ball. What I have an issue with is the average. With the strikeout rate, a .349 BABIP seems a bit too high for Dejong. His average should settle down in the .250 to .260s range. I fear that his power numbers combined with the average he showed will make him be taken early on draft day. If not, he could be a good backend shortstop option for your team. It all depends on where owners are on him when the drafts begin.
- Mookie Betts – 2017 Stat line – 24 HR, 102 RBI, .264/.344/.459
As expected, Mookie Betts is not a 30 HR player like he showed in 2016. Rather Betts is a little over a 20/20 guy. The problem? There is no discount on draft day. In a recent 16 team draft I took part in, Betts was taken in the First Round. His average was down from .318 in 2016, to .264 in 2017. Part of that was due to an abnormally low .268 BABIP and his average should climb back up, but it’s hard to justify taking him over guys like Paul Goldschmidt, Clayton Kershaw, George Springer or Freddie Freeman. (All these guys are players that got taken later in the First or Second round of the draft, and since it was a dynasty draft, I included only players under 30 in the mentions.) Boston’s lineup is not what it once was, and while there are rumors on an Eric Hosmer or a J.D Martinez coming to town, that is a wait and see. Dig into his 2017 number and you will see he hit 16 of those 24 home runs in the First Half. Betts simply is not a First Rounder and should be treated as a late 2nd round option if you didn’t grab speed in the first round of your draft.
Photo Credit: Nesn.com