We still haven’t even completed the 2013 season yet, but there’s no doubt that some owners are already looking toward 2014 (or, this other sport called “football”). Whether your team has been torpedoed by injuries to Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols and Derek Jeter or you have considered jumping out your window as the owner of BJ Upton and Starlin Castro, it is never too early to start preparing for next year. Every season, there are breakouts and disappointments, some more surprising than others. Unfortunately, human nature is prone to recency bias, the tendency to weight recent events more than earlier events. This causes players coming off breakout/career years to typically become overvalued in drafts the following season. With that in mind, here are three hitters who will potentially be overvalued in your draft next year.
Now with a second straight 30 home run, double digit stolen base season, it isn’t outrageous to think that Jones may very well nudge himself into the first round next year in many drafts. However, I think that would be a serious mistake. The problem is that his skills are overly soft. They simply don’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and confident that his true talent level is the same as his current performance.
Let’s start with his walk and strikeout rates. He loathes the walk. He’s walked just 20 times all season, for a minuscule 3.3% BB%. For those wondering, that ranks fourth worst in all of baseball among qualified batters. You have to wonder why pitchers would ever throw him a strike. Will their adjustment come? His strikeout rate is usually marginally better than the league average, but I’m pretty miffed at how he has accomplished that. Both his SwStk% and Contact% rank in the bottom 25, suggesting much worse strikeout rates than he has posted. Since he’s always done this, you can’t assume the strikeout rate will suddenly match the poor SwStk%, but it adds risk that shouldn’t be present in a first rounder. Getting back to his lack of free passes, it kills his on base percentage and does have the potential to cap his runs scored total. That hasn’t been an issue these last two years, but it’s not often a hitter with an OBP around .330 scores 100 runs.
Last, he’s almost certainly at his power peak. He simply hits too many ground balls to be a major home run source and he requires a lofty 20% HR/FB ratio just to hit his current 30 homer mark. There are just too many question marks here to confidently grab him in the first round, even if it’s late in the round. I would be okay at the back-end of the second round, but most comfortable early in the third. Any earlier than that and you’re paying far too much, with more downside than upside, which is not what you want in such an early pick.
Gomez is another outfielder that brings that exciting mix of power and speed that fantasy owners go gaga over. The funny thing about Gomez is that he is essentially replicating exactly what he did last year, yet he’s going to zoom up the ADP charts compared to last season. Remember what I noted about Jones’ strikeout rate above and how his Contact% and SwStk% didn’t match it? Well, Gomez’s advanced metrics are nearly identical to Jones’, yet Gomez has struck out nearly 25% of the time, a significantly higher rate than Jones.
But enough finding new marks against Jones, since this section is supposed to detail why Gomez may be overvalued. Although Gomez’s BABIP has declined precipitously from its peak earlier in the season, there still may be more room to fall. His current .342 is a career best, and unless he has changed his swing dramatically, the concern is that next year he’ll revert back to the guy who hits fewer line drives than average and too many pop-ups. If that happens, his batting average is going to hurt fantasy teams once again.
On the positive side, his power and speed seem to be for real. Unfortunately, he’s unlikely to be a real asset in either the runs scored or runs batted in categories, as his OBP is going to be mediocre and it’s questionable where he’s going to bat in the order next year. So really, Gomez provides positive value in two categories, while producing essentially neutral value in the other three. Can you really afford to only boost two categories with such an early pick?
In his first full season, Machado got off to a scorching start this year, thanks primarily to a .361 BABIP that had no chance of lasting. While his second half has seen his average drop and stolen base output disappear, he has hit for more power. His solid overall season line, combined with his age (21) and pedigree as the third overall pick when he was drafted, will likely cause many owners to gush at his prospects next season. But, he looks rather underwhelming to me.
Most will point to his second half power surge and his 47 doubles as evidence that he’ll hit 20-25 homers next year. While this may indeed happen, it wouldn’t be prudent to actually pay for those stats. Then he’d have to enjoy a true breakout year just to break even. That’s not how you win your fantasy baseball league! He has also been a pretty poor base stealer this season and had never really been a speed demon in the minors. I couldn’t confidently pencil him in for more than high single digit steals, though at third base, that does have value.
There are other red flags. He has also graduated from the Adam Jones School of Plate Discipline, having posted a hideous 26 walks to 96 strikeouts. Oddly, he took a walk at respectable rates in the minors, so you wonder where his patience went. Last, it may be difficult for him to sustain even a .329 BABIP next year if he continues to post such a high rate of pop-ups. He never posted BABIP marks above .300 in the minors, and usually hitters don’t suddenly gain BABIP skills at the Major League level. It’s hard for me to speculate on a fair round without having run an official projection and dollar value, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I considered him not worthy of a top 10 round pick.
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