Much figurative ink is spilled each year trying to find top fantasy sleepers, but there’s a facet of draft preparation much more integral to success: avoiding busts at the top of the draft and with your big-ticket auction buys. Think about it — even if you don’t draft the best sleepers heading into the season, many quality players emerge in free agency throughout the year. However, if you whiff on one or two of your marquee players, you’ll find the road to the title exponentially more difficult.
In this article, I’ll sift through the first three rounds of the draft, according to MockDraftCentral.com as of 1/11/12, and find the players who are the most comBUSTible. Dodge these potential land mines on draft day and avoid the risk.
Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Verlander, Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Upton, Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, Evan Longoria.
Justin Verlander. The defending Cy Young pitcher should have a nice follow-up to 2011, but you don’t want to take the risk of drafting a pitcher in the first round. If you simply must have an elite rotation anchor, hold off at least until Round 2, as there are 4-6 starters that have pretty equal shots at finishing the season No. 1. Many of the starters you’ll see through the rest of the piece are a little pricy for my liking, but I’ll refrain from naming them all.
Jacoby Ellsbury. The Boston centerfielder enjoyed an out-of-nowhere power surge to turn in Kemp-like stats in 2011. Can he repeat that power? He had just 20 HRs in 1,372 at-bats heading into last season before knocking 32 bombs in 660 at-bats. Expect regression; it only makes sense. I need to see one more healthy, elite season before I’m willing to take Ellsbury in the top 10.
Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Carlos Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson, Jose Reyes, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez, Andrew McCutchen.
Curtis Granderson. One of the breakout players of 2011, Granderson exploded with 41 HRs and 26 SBs last season. He also had a .262 average, which falls in line with his most recent performances. We know the homers will regress, but how much? If he matches his three-year average, he’ll have 32 HRs, 19 SBs and an average in the .250s. If the power drops any further, he could be looking at a Chris Young-type output, especially if he starts pressing.
Hanley Ramirez. Han-Ram completely fell apart in 2011 thanks to injury, but he had been trending downward for the past few years regardless. We all expect him to bounce back, but how much? If he plays the entire season in Miami, he’s likely going to continue to be resentful at being moved out of the shortstop position — how will that affect his game? That, and the fact that you can’t rely on his health, makes him a stay away in the top 25.
Andrew McCutchen. People are expecting a lot from McCutchen, as he still has that new-car smell about him. However, I’ll point out that a .259 average with 23 HRs and 23 SBs is pretty ordinary. His average should jump back to its normal levels, but what if it doesn’t? Johnny Damon hit .261 with 16 HRs and 19 SBs last year. McCutchen is obviously no Damon, but are you willing to pay this much of a premium for such a small difference? Tread carefully.
Ryan Braun, Mike Stanton, Cole Hamels, Ian Kinsler, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver, David Wright, David Price, Adrian Beltre, Carlos Santana.
Jered Weaver. While on the surface Weaver’s 2011 campaign was his best yet, there are warning signs. His BABIP and strand rate were outliers to years past, while his K-rate dipped back down to a great-not-elite level of 7.6 per nine innings. On the plus side, he’s limited walks over the last two years, but if he gets even a little more wild without returning to a K-per-inning clip, he could go from outstanding to simply good like that.
Carlos Santana. The young Cleveland catcher posted elite power numbers in his first full season, but they came with a nasty .239 average and mediocre run and RBI totals. Position scarcity may tempt you to reach for him, but the position is actually pretty deep in one-catcher leagues. He’s good, but there’s not much separating him from four to six other guys at his position. Invest in a better skill set this high and target a catcher a bit later.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and Razzball and has previously written for FanHouse. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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