We, as fantasy writers, tend to make a lot of favorable recommendations throughout the year. We talk about which players we like, which ones we anticipate having a breakout season, which ones you should think about picking up during the year and which ones you should watch for in-season call-ups. And while all of that “draft this guy” and “pick up that guy” prove to be valuable pieces of information, rarely do we see the equally valuable “I wouldn’t draft this guy if you paid me.” Well, since I’ve already been accused of writing some mean-spirited things about players in the past, I’ve decided to turn that negativity into an entire post and tell you three players who I refuse to draft this season and why you shouldn’t touch them either.
Yasiel Puig, OF LAD — He may have tremendous raw talent and he may have broken out offensively last season, but for me, there are far too many red flags to ignore. His 19 home runs and .215 ISO over 382 at-bats tell us that he’s capable of hitting for power, but when you’re looking at a guy with a .383 BABIP, a 22.5-percent strikeout rate and a ground ball rate in excess of 50-percent, you can’t tell me that he’s not going to find it difficult to repeat his rookie performance. And let’s not forget his below-average contact rates and a swinging strike rate of 16.9-percent. Now add to that his attitude problems, his tumultuous relationship with his manager, and some apparent off-field issues. Some might dismiss the speeding as a minor infraction, but for me, it’s just one more potential problem waiting to happen. Like a gateway problem, if you will. What starts out as minor today balloons to something bigger down the road. And speaking of ballooning, how about coming into camp almost 30 pounds heavier. At least when Mike Trout came in heavier it was almost all muscle and his reasoning for it made complete sense. Puig had no such explanation. Is this what you want to spend a second-round pick on this year? Not me. With no proven track record at the major league level and a slew of negatives presenting themselves, I just don’t see the reward being worth the risk when there are so many other worthwhile options available to you at that point in your draft.
Joe Mauer, 1B MIN — Listen, I get the Mauer love. I do. And if I’ve got myself a time machine and am playing fantasy baseball back in 2009, I would love him too. But this is the 2014 season and I am staying far, far away from his bandwagon. So what if he’s moving to first base full-time this year. Big deal. Yes, it’s liable to keep him healthier for the season and he should see a strong increase in plate appearances, but is that enough to warrant drafting him as a top catcher in the fourth or fifth round? I don’t think so. He doesn’t hit for power, he doesn’t steal bases and his potential RBI total looks to be pretty blah. Even his runs scored seem a little sketchy this season because, while he’ll get on base at a strong clip, who’s bringing him home? He doesn’t have a hard-hitting Justin Morneau batting behind him anymore and, I’m sorry, but the tandem of Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia isn’t enough for me to think we’ll see another season of 80 runs. And even if you think he will see a strong number of runs scored, do we really think a two-category player at a relatively deep position is worth that high a draft pick? I’d rather wait two rounds and take Wilin Rosario. Hell, I’d rather wait five rounds and take Salvador Perez.
B.J. Upton, OF ATL — I’m including the elder Upton brother here because I keep hearing people talk of a potential rebound and how he’ll be at such a bargain price this year. Well, for me, when it comes to Upton, you get what you pay for and if you’re getting him in the later rounds of your draft, you’re getting late-round production, at best. Sure, there’s no risk, but give me someone with either more consistency or more upside at that point in the draft. Don’t give me a guy who struck out 33.9-percent of the time last year and hasn’t seen a strikeout rate lower than 25-percent in the last four years. Don’t give me a guy whose batting average hasn’t been higher than .250 since 2008 or has had an OBP below .300 in the last two years. And certainly don’t give me a guy whose contact rate has steadily dropped the last three years while his swinging strike rate continues to climb over that same span. Bargain price or no bargain price, he’s still a drain on your fantasy team. And how about the stolen bases? Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez doesn’t give the green light very often anyway, so how often do you think he’ll give it to a guy whose stolen base success rate is on the decline and is only at 77.5-percent over the last three years? People say he’s got nowhere left to go but up? Well I say that’s just not true. You can dig a hole and bury him.
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