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Fantasy Baseball: 10 Players To Avoid in 2012

Mar. 7, 2012; Scottsdale, AZ, USA;  San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) during the first inning during a spring training game against Colorado Rockies at  Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE
Mar. 7, 2012; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) during the first inning during a spring training game against Colorado Rockies at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE

Every year, there are players that I tell myself to stay far away from on draft day, whether due to the possibility for regession, or returning from offseason surgery, or due to a current injury. Some have hitting or pitching trends that are not favorable for fantasy owners, and I try to highlight them here as much as I can. Not every trend continues in the same direction, but if it does, fantasy owners should be aware, and should consider on draft day. Every year there are players who underperform their draft slot, while others outperform. Some times I am right, sometimes I am wrong.

Here are the 10 players I am avoiding on draft day in 2012:

1. Tim Lincecum, SFG - Lincecum is not far removed from two Cy Young awards, but I am staying away from him due to the drop in his strikeout rate and increase in walk rate the last few seasons. His K rate has dropped from 10.51 in 2008 to 9.12, while his walk rate has increased from 2.72 in 2009 to 3.57 last season. Sure, the K rate is still solid, but it is going in the wrong direction. His FIP and xFIP is going in the wrong direction as well over the last two years. Yes, he is still an aoe, but some aces become just good as they age and throw more and more pitches. I will draft guys like Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke before I draft Lincecum.

2. Hanley Ramirez, MIA - I think everyone knows by now that I am not high on Hanley this season. I get asked in every chat who I would rather have - "Reyes or Hanley?". I mean EVERY chat. The answer hasn't changed. I still go with Reyes. Hanley's is hitting well this spring, and apparently is quite happy playing third base. We will see how long that lasts. He now calls Marlins Park home, and some have compared the size of the park to Petco Park in San Diego. Time will tell if that comparison holds true. But, the fact that Hanley is coming off shoulder surgery, and his power has dropped in each of the last three years, gives me pause heading into my drafts.

More players to avoid after the jump:

3. Josh Johnson, MIA - another Marlin makes the list. Johnson has actually looked good this spring, but he is very good when healthy. Here are a few numbers that tell the story about JJ over the last few seasons:

2008 - 87.1

2009 - 209.0

2010 - 183.2

2011 - 60.1

Those numbers are Johnson's innings pitched over the last 4 seasons. First off, how did the Marlins allow him to throw 209 innings after having thrown just 87 the year before, and two years after having Tommy John surgery in 2007? He was shut down in September 2010 due to a shoulder injury. Last year, he missed 135 games due to a shoulder inflammation. He still has not had surgery, and I worry that surgery is inevitable as rehab has only been a short term cure.

4. Tommy Hanson, ATL - Hanson missed 68 games last season due to right shoulder temdinitis, a year after throwing 200 innings for the first time. This spring, he has changed his pitching mechanics to reduce the stress on his shoulder, but I wonder how this will affect his performance this season. Could the change make him more hittable? Not sure, but he has thrown just 7 innings this spring, giving up 6 hits. a walk and 5 strikeouts. I don't want to take the risk of drafting Hanson and him getting injured again. I prefer starters like Mat Latos and Daniel Hudson instead.

5. David Wright, NYM - Wright missed 67 games due to a lower back stress fracture last season, and just started his first spring training game on Monday. He missed time this spring due to an abdomenal strain. He also missed time in 2009 due to a concussion. The concussion was a freak injury as he was hit in the helmet with a pitch. But the lower back fracture and abdominal strain seem to be correlated, and could impact his power in 2012. You see, you need strong legs, strong arms, and a strong core to hit for power in the big leagues, and Wright's core seems to be pretty beaten up right now. He is healthy enough to play, but I worry that his injuries could sap his power in Citi Field this season, even though they moved the fences in and lowered the walls. Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman missed 65 days due to a left abdominal strain which required surgery, and his power, as measured by ISO, was down to .154 from .200 in 2011.

6. Yoenis Cespedes, OAK - Cespedes hasn't played one big league game yet and I am writing him off. The main reason is we don't know too much about the guy, other than he hit a HR this spring, but has struggled otherwise. He is hitting just .200-.286-.360 in 25 spring at bats, with one home run and a 7-3 K/BB rate. The last hyped Cuban player to make it to the majors is Aroldis Chapman and he hasn't actually set the world on fire. Another reason for staying away from Cespedes is that I think he should spend some time in the minors, gaining some confidence before getting the call up to the bigs. Plus, he doesn't exactly call home a hitters park. The Stadium is a very good pitchers park, and Cespedes will play 81 games there this season.

7. Hunter Pence, PHI - boy, the Phillies have been cursed this offseason, huh? First, it was Ryan Howard tearing his achilles tendon on the last play of the 2011 season for the Phillies. Then his setback in his rehab. Finally, the news that Chase Utley will miss Opening Day and possibly much more, has certainly contained the expectations for another playoff run in 2012. Without Utley and Howard, the Phillies are going to struggle to score runs, and who in their right mind will pitch to Hunter Pence with the likes of Ty Wigginton and John Mayberry on deck? Pence had his best year at the plate last season, hitting .314-.370-.502 with 22 home runs and 97 RBI. His triple slash line benefitted from a career high BABIP of .361 in 2011, so I expect the BA to decline back to his career average of .285 or so, and the runs scored should drop as well.

8. Emilio Bonafacio, MIA - Bonafacio is a big regression candidate for me in 2012. Last year was his best year as a major leaguer, as he triple slashed .296-.360-.393 with 78 runs scored and 40 stolen bases. The reason for his big season? How about a career high BABIP of .372. Prior to 2011, his best BABIP was .333 in 2010 when he hit .261-.320-.328 with 12 steals. I see Emilio's BA regressing to around .260, which will limit the number of times he is on base, and limit the number of stolen base attempts, which is exactly what fantasy owners are drafting him for.

9. Jeremy Hellickson, TB - Hellickson won the AL Rookie of the Year award last year, as he won 13 games vs 10 losses, with an ERA of 2.95 and a WHIP of 1.15. But, if you look closer at his 2011 stats, you see that Hellickson might have been the luckiest pitcher in baseball in 2011. His BABIP allowed was an extremely low .223, and his strand rate was an extremely high 82%. League average BABIP is around .300 and league average strand rate is around 70%, so there could be plenty of regression in 2012 for Hellickson. Factor in his low K rate of 5.57 and a BB rate of 3.43, and you can see why his FIP and xFIP were above 4.40 last season. I guess the ROY voters didn't factor that into their voting last season.

10. Alex Rodriguez, NYY - I read somewhere over the past few days that ARod is primed to rebound from his down season in 2011, but I am not buying it. Last season was his worst season as a major leaguer, as he hit just .278-.362-.461 with 16 HRs and 62 RBI in 373 at bats. His SLG trend tells me that we may have seen the best of ARod already:

2007 - .645

2008 - .573

2009 - .532

2010 - .506

2011 - .461

He hits in one of the best lineups in baseball, in a very good hitters park, but age has caught up with him and fantasy owners should stay away from the aging star on draft day. I project he will hit less than 25 home runs, assuming good health, but he is a health risk. His current ADP of 59.16 seems a bit too high for the risk involved. Wait for Aramis Ramirez about a round later.