Once upon a time, slugging outfielder Adam Dunn was as reliable as you could get. If you could stomach the low average and historic strikeout totals, he was a near lock for 40 home runs, 100 RBIs, 100 runs, a huge OPS and, if your league included them as a category, a crazy amount of walks. Now, after an unmitigated disaster of a 2011, his fantasy value can best be described as radioactive. One must beg the question, though...given his track record, is Dunn a potential buy-low steal come draft day?
Before last season, Dunn signed a four-year deal with the White Sox, having come off two typically mash-tastic seasons in relative obscurity in Washington . Despite moving to the more difficult league, he was a slugger still in his prime, he was moving to a home run-friendly ballpark, and he was projected to have better lineup protection. What could possibly go wrong?
Answer: everything. Dunn put up an unfathomably bad line of .159/.292/.277 on the season. Yes, that's a .277 slugging percentage. I can't believe I'm even typing that. Couple that with his usual lofty strikeout totals and his lowest walk total in eight years, and Dunn's season was completely irredeemable.
The question now is, could Dunn bounce back, and in turn provide incredible value for any potential drafter? I see Dunn's fantasy value as directly analogous to Netflix stock. It's at an all-time low, and there are red flags everywhere, but the history of excellence is undeniable and so is the potential for a massive return. So is Dunn a shrewd draft day bargain, or a broken stock?
One point in his favor is that players like him, Three True Outcomes guys, tend to have random seasons like these where they just flat out can't get it going. Nick Swisher had his 2008. Pat Burrell had his 2003. Mark McGwire had his 1991. Jim Wynn had his 1971 if you really want to go retro. All of these players rebounded nicely the following season. Heck, even Adam Dunn had a season like this in 2003, and he came back to put up a monster '04.
Secondly, if you look at Baseball Reference's list of Dunn's comparable players up to this point, all of them retained some value after they turned 31, with several of them lasting well into their late-30's. So there's that. Maybe Dunn just had a bum year.
The only problem is, typically when one of these TTO guys has a down season, they continue to display at least one skill, like walks or power. Not Dunn, though. Oh, no. Dunn was a complete waste in every category, and seeing his power completely wash up has me terrified. Unless there was some injury we're not hearing about, it just appeared as though Dunn forgot how to play baseball. I've never seen anything like it. At his relatively young age, this kind of sudden, unexplained ineptness is pretty much unprecedented.
Dunn presents quite a quandary. He will likely go for a measly $1 in many auction drafts, and there's always the siren song of his past power numbers just waiting to pull a value hunter in. If he suddenly wakes up and blasts 40 home run again, he'll be an incredible bargain. However, and this is coming from a huge Adam Dunn fan, the complete and utter erosion of his hitting skill, which borders on historic, should pretty much tell you to make him someone else's problem to worry about.