Sleepers get a lot of draft-season attention, but equally important is knowing the players to avoid, the players who will be drafted too high for their likely performances. Let's look at some players in Shallow Leagues, Medium Leagues and Deep Leagues who should be avoided and can be labeled "busts" for this season.
C.J. Wilson, P, TEX - Wilson rewarded owners last year after making a successful conversion from a reliever to a starter. He chalked up 15 wins while sporting a tidy 3.35 ERA. However, matching those numbers is an unrealistic expectation this season. Wilson allows too many free passes - 4.10 BB/9 last year - and can't count on stranding those runners again. His 5.3-percent HR/FB rate was a career-low, suggesting that more balls in the air should leave the park, especially in Arlington. Probably the most worrisome stat was his 228.1 innings pitched, more than his previous four seasons combined. Expect Wilson's ERA to rise and don't be surprised if Wilson suffers an injury given the increase in workload.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, WAS - LaRoche is definitely one of the players who seem to always have a significant first half/second half split, though last year was pretty even for him. After signing a two-year deal with the Nationals, it's tough to see him duplicate what he did last season. A seven-year high .330 BABIP led to a mere .261 batting average, which typically doesn't happen. So how did that happen? A five percent increase, to 30.7 percent, in his strikeout rate plus a drop in walks by more than three percent. Given the high strikeout rate and last year's paltry .788 OPS, stay away from LaRoche this year.
Derek Jeter, SS, NYY - Jeter started to show signs of decline last year at the plate, which isn't uncommon for a player on the wrong side of 35. He had a career-low .710 OPS (61 points lower than his previous worst) and saw his home run total drop from 18 to 10. Many will point to his career-low BABIP (.307) and suggest a rebound is in store. However, the BABIP can be explained by a four-percent drop in his line drive rate and a nearly nine-percent increase in his groundball rate to a major-league leading 65.7 percent. And Jeter didn't show the speed to beat out those groundballs - 22 GDP (fifth in AL) and a lowly 7.1-percent infield hit rate. In other words, Jeter didn't just get unlucky at the plate - his skills regressed. It's tough to imagine Jeter hitting more than 15 homers again while keep his batting average in the .320 range. Someone will still pay top dollar with those visions in mind; don't be that someone.
Elvis Andrus, SS, TEX - Shortstop is arguably the shallowest position for fantasy owners to draft. So why put Andrus as a bust? It's quite simple; he'll contribute to stolen bases but that's it. He showed no signs of improving his offensive skills, posting a similar K rate last year to his rookie year (16.3 percent to 16.0). He only hit .265 last year and his power numbers declined, as evidenced by a drop from a .373 to .301 slugging percentage. That lack of power led to zero home runs and only 35 RBI. There is now legitimate talk that he'll be bumped from the leadoff role and be moved to the eighth or ninth spot in the lineup. That will cost him a bunch of at-bats, which obviously in turn will cost him stolen-base opportunities, his one fantasy attribute.
Trevor Cahill, P, OAK - Cahill had one of the bigger breakout seasons in 2010 in only his second year in the league. A sparkling 2.97 ERA led to an 18-8 record despite playing for the offensively challenged Athletics. Unfortunately there are many stats that show regression is in store for Cahill. He only had a 5.4 K/9 rate, a small number for a pitcher with a sub-3.00 ERA. Last year's .236 BABIP led baseball and was almost 40 points lower than his .272 rookie mark. It's highly unlikely he puts up a .236 BABIP two years in a row. Cahill isn't going to completely fall off the map; some of his other stats showed improvement. Just don't rank him solely on what he did last season; there's some regression in his numbers heading his way.
Chone Figgins, 2B, SEA - Figgins stole 42 bases for the second straight season and shows no signs of declining in that area. Past that, there's not a lot to like about his prospects with the Mariners this year. His move to Seattle sapped the little power he has, as his career-low wOBA (.302) displays. Figgins improved in the second half last season, hitting .350/.402/.417 in September, but with the Mariners doing little in the offseason to cure their anemic offense, he has little chance of improving either his runs total (62) or RBI (35). While his second-base eligibility is attractive, he can't be counted on anything outside of steals. The only chance of him getting a fantasy boost would be a trade out of town.
Austin Jackson, DET - Jackson had an excellent rookie campaign in 2010. He boasted a .293 batting average with 27 stolen bases and 103 runs. Not too bad, right? While the sky is the limit for Jackson in the long term, don't expect Jackson to come close to matching last year's stats this season. He sported a career-high (including the minors) and major-league leading .396 BABIP, which is unlikely to be repeated. The fallout from a lower batting average equates to lower run and stolen base totals, which is where his value lies. With small numbers in the power numbers to begin with, there's little hope to even duplicate those stats.
Randy Wolf, P, MIL - Everything in Wolf's advanced stats screams "stay away!" for 2011. Despite last year's 4.17 ERA, both his FIP (4.85) and xFIP (4.90) were much higher, indicating he's due to regress. He's now had four straight seasons with a declining K/9 rate (from 8.24 to 5.93), and his .275 BABIP was his second-best in the last seven years. Expect him to struggle to get to double-digit wins and have an ERA more toward 5.00 than 4.00.
Chris Johnson, 3B, HOU - It's tempting to prorate Johnson's abbreviated stats from a season ago to 500-plus at-bats. That's a huge mistake. The truth is it's something of a fluke for a batter who strikes out 26.7 percent of the time to bat .308. Johnson did make a nice splash for the Astros last year, but don't expect similar results this season. Here are his monthly batting averages starting with June - .414, .359, .306, .267, .182 (11 AB) - showing the league had figured him out by season's end. There's a possibility that he could lose his starting spot as soon as the All-Star break.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, P, BOS - Dice-K will open the season in the Red Sox rotation after being limited in 2010 with back and forearm injuries. This marks the second straight year he missed time due to injury, which could be a result of his unorthodox pitching style. The truth about Matsuzaka is he's only put together one outstanding year in the U.S. In his four years state-side he has yet to have a WHIP less than 1.34 and only once has he had an ERA less than 4.40. While it hasn't been too significant, his K/9 rate has steadily dropped every year since he joined the Red Sox, from 8.84 to 7.79. Remember that he started pitching professionally in Japan in 1999, so there are some miles on his arm. Dice-K will have as many games where he'll blow up as he'll pitch masterfully, so look at his overall stats before he tempts you to take him.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, SD - There's two ways to look at Ludwick's 2010 season: his disappointing stats were a result of injuries or his move to Petco Park was the culprit. The answer likely lies somewhere between the two, though more toward the latter. Ludwick hit only .200 at Petco last year in 100 at-bats with four home runs and 11 RBI. Both his average and slugging percentage dropped for the second straight season, and now he'll be hitting in one of the weaker lineups in baseball. Throw in a checkered injury past, and that should be enough to avoid Ludwick on draft day.
Johan Santana, P, NYM - Let's start with the fact that Santana has totaled 122 innings over the second half of the last two seasons due to injury. A closer look at the rest of his numbers suggests that a decline is on the horizon for the former Cy Young winner. Over the last four seasons Santana's K/9 rate has steadily dropped (9.66 to 6.51). Not surprisingly, his fastball has also steadily dropped during that span from 91.8 mph to 89.6 mph. Last year's 2.98 ERA was helped out greatly by an eight-year low 6.0 HR/FB rate. A rise in ERA will occur when this stat normalizes toward the previous two seasons' average of 9.0 percent. His offseason surgery to repair a tear in the anterior capsule of his pitching arm will keep him shelved the first couple of months. But even when he returns, his stats from the last few seasons show a decline is coming.
Miguel Olivo, C, SEA - Olivo moved from the best hitter's park in baseball to one of the worst in Safeco Field this offseason. How much did Olivo enjoy the friendly confines of Coors Field? At home he batted .318 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI while on the road it was the opposite as he hit .211 with four home runs and 16 RBI. He's in line to get playing time, but his offensive stats are going to take a hit in that park. Don't forget that he has a career .246 batting average and struck out 29.7 percent of the time last year. That average will be detrimental to someone's team; don't let that be you.
Casey Blake, 3B, LAD - Blake has steadily shown signs of decline the last three years. His home runs have fallen during that time (1/28.6 ABs, 1/31.3, 1/33.5). The strikeout rate has steadily increased from 20.9 percent to 27.9 percent the last four seasons, which is partially to blame for last year's .248 batting average (his lowest since 2005). Given the steady decline, a repeat in the batting average with another drop in power should be expected from the 37-year-old this year.
Brennan Boesch, OF, DET - It's probably safe to say that Boesch was not on the radar for most owners at the beginning of last season. He started the season with a bang, posting a .342/.397/.593 line in the first half. The second half was a different story. Boesch hit .163/.237/.222 with only two home runs. Oddly, manager Jim Leyland has not made a big deal about the second-half falloff, instead criticizing Boesch for his sloppy defensive play. Boesch made 10 errors in the outfield and had the lowest fielding percentage (.957) of any player with at least 100 starts. The acquisition of Victor Martinez (who is expected to DH) will squeeze playing time from Boesch as well. There's a good chance he starts the year on the bench, hurting his fantasy prospects.
Cody Ross, OF, SF - Ross was a playoff hero for the Giants who rewarded him with a one-year deal this offseason. As a result, he'll be the everyday right fielder for the defending champs and see plenty of at-bats. The problem with Ross is his home ballpark. At AT&T Park, he hit .291 but had 17 strikeouts to only one walk and hit only one home run in 55 at-bats. Is this a small sample size? Absolutely. However, his home-run rate per at-bat declined for the third straight season, which doesn't inspire a lot of optimism.
Armando Galarraga, P, ARI - Many will take a chance on Galarraga, remembering the no-hitter that almost was. His peripheral numbers show he is headed in the wrong direction. Theoretically a move to the National League should improve any fantasy value, but he'll be a fly ball (48.9% last year) pitcher in one of the league's better hitter's parks. Last year his K/9 rate (4.61) dropped for the third consecutive year, and a career-low 8.9-percent HR/FB ratio limited the damage to his ERA. Don't count on him to succeed in Arizona by relying on smoke and mirrors.