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Three Players I Won’t Draft in 2012

Keeping up with some of my colleagues here at Rotographs, here are three of the players I’m avoiding in drafts this season.

Delmon Young*

I know Young is a popular sleeper, and I know he’s absolutely setting Florida alight with his .485/.500/.970 line with 4 HR, but I am not buying in. If anything, his 33 great at bats enforce my concerns with Young, namely that while he’s entirely capable of having a burst of tremendous performance, he can’t sustain it over the course of a full season. He had one of those bursts as soon as he arrived in Detroit, hitting .324/.336/.481 with 4 HR in just over 100 PAs, but the other shoe dropped as he hit a 4-for-43 skid just before the end of the season.

This is just Young’s modus operandi. In 2010, he posted a 1.191 OPS in July, then dropped 600 points down to .557 in August. At the end of all the peaks and valleys, owners are left with a full season of production that only amounts to league average. His wRC+ of 97 proves the point, but even that is largely propped up by his strong 2010.

There are things to like about Young, and if he wasn’t so trendy right now, maybe I’d think about gambling on him, but he seems like the perfect example of a sleeper that loses his value when he becomes a popular sleeper. He’s not stealing bases anymore — he has just eight since 2008 — which means his value is tied up in his average, home runs, and his ability to drive in runs from the bottom half of the Tigers’ order. ZiPS has him down for .283 with 18 HR and 86 RBI; if that’s all the production that owners expect, they may not be disappointed, but expecting Young to be anything more than league average is hoping against the trends.

Josh Johnson

According to Will Carroll’s injury risk projection system, Johnson is the single riskiest player in baseball, stemming from the fact that he’s now battling shoulder issues having already had a major elbow issue. That alone is enough to make me think twice about picking him up, but the fact that he’s going ahead of Adam Wainwright — who carries virtually none of Johnson’s risk despite having missed more time last year — Daniel Hudson, Mat Latos, Matt Garza, and an entire rotation’s worth of other starters who can give owners 85 to 90 percent of Johnson’s peak value without anything resembling the same amount of risk.

However, betting that Johnson will hit something close to his peak value this year is also not a bet I’m willing to take. Even if he avoids the potential catastrophic injury, the fact that there has yet to be an exact diagnosis of Johnson’s injury leads me to believe he’s not going to stay pain-free all year. That’s either going to manifest itself as a decrease in effectiveness or time on the disabled list for the fifth year out of the last six. Just twice since 2007 has Johnson missed fewer than 100 days, and in one of those years, he still missed almost a month of the season. Suffice to say that Johnson has more red flags than Moscow on May Day and that kind of risk I can do without.

Scott Baker

Even though Baker made it through his two bullpen sessions without a recurrence of the elbow tendinitis he was fighting earlier this month, I have serious concerns about the health of his elbow going forward. The best case scenario for the Twins is obviously that this was just a case of pushing a little too hard too early in camp and that Baker will be healthy and ready for 30 starts at the top of the team’s rotation. The worst-case scenario is that Baker tears his UCL in his first start of the season, leaving the team relying on Francisco Liriano to key a rotation that struggled to keep the team in games last season.

Reality, as it so often does, probably lies somewhere in the middle — though I think it is far more likely that Baker’s elbow fails than it is that he would make 30 starts. If Baker doesn’t make at least one trip to the DL this year, I’ll be shocked. Since hitting 200 IP right on the nose in 2009, Baker has seen his innings total dropped in back-to-back seasons and since nothing has changed with respect to his health, I don’t see much of a reason to guess that he’ll suddenly revert to being healthy. In leaner years, Baker’s risk might be general enough to ignore, but I just don’t see him being worth it when guys like Mike Minor and Ricky Nolasco are both going after him in drafts.

* This is only nominally true, as I took Young in a draft last night. In my defense, the categories were Ks, GIDP, CS, and Errors.