I'm sure I've addressed this at some point, but coming up with busts is much harder than finding sleepers and breakouts in Fantasy Baseball. Undoubtedly, looking for reasons why a player could exceed expectations is much more fun than finding players who could disappoint. And yet, we play a game rooted in objectivity and the numbers don't lie. Below you'll find way too many numbers explaining why these six players are overvalued in Fantasy Baseball this season.
Alek Manoah SP
TOR Toronto • #6 • Age: 25
I'm sure I'm going to lose some people right off the top here. Let me first provide a reminder that I like the pitcher Alek Manoah, the energy he brings to the mound and his fiery competitiveness. What I don't like are the numbers I see under the hood. Of the top-27 starting pitchers being drafted on average, Manoah had the lowest strikeout percentage last season at 22.9%. His swinging strike rate went from 12.6% as a rookie to 11.2% in his sophomore season. On top of the strikeouts, Manoah is a fly-ball pitcher and the Blue Jays made significant changes to Rogers Centre.
Blue Jays announce new dimensions for Rogers Centre OF. "Where the walls come in, heights go up to offset significant changes," Marnie Starkman, EVP biz ops, says in statement.— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) January 27, 2023
Based on modelling team anticipates changes "will create a similar neutral environment" for offence. pic.twitter.com/OISVrg9Nf0
The Blue Jays are pulling the right-center field wall in from 375 feet to 359 feet. While they did raise the wall four feet, that's a pretty drastic change for a right-handed pitcher who relies on fly-ball outs. Opposing left-handed batters will likely pop more home runs to the pull side in 2023. Lastly, Manoah pitched to a 2.24 ERA last season but that came with a 3.35 FIP and 3.31 xERA. I'm expecting his ERA to be closer to those peripheral numbers with less than a strikeout per inning. While that is a very good pitcher, it's not worthy of being drafted as the SP17 off the board.
CHC Chi. Cubs • #7 • Age: 29
I don't believe Dansby Swanson will bottom out but I do think he's overvalued for multiple reasons. Let's start with the performance. Swanson was a true five-category contributor last year, posting career-highs in runs (99), RBI (96) and stolen bases (18). I have to imagine the counting stats will come down going from the Braves stacked lineup to the Cubs not-so-stacked lineup. Swanson also came back down to earth in the second half, hitting .254 with a .702 OPS. His line drive rate and hard contact went down while his ground ball rate went up.
The next reason I'm avoiding Swanson is I generally try to avoid players who signed a big contract to a new team directly after having a career year. It's more anecdotal than anything but there are tons of examples throughout baseball history of players much better than Swanson struggling after changing teams. Lastly is the cost. Swanson's ADP is not egregious but he's being drafted ahead of other talented shortstops like Tim Anderson and Wander Franco. I'd rather wait a couple of rounds and even take Willy Adames or Corey Seager.
Jake McCarthy is a name I keep passing over this draft season. It's true that he was amazing last year and one of the true league winners in Fantasy Baseball. Once he returned to the Diamondbacks in July, McCarthy hit .302 with five homers and 22 steals over 68 games. The problem is that I'm typically skeptical of the 25-year old who breaks out in the PCL, a very hitter-friendly environment. With that being said, it's not power you're drafting him for, it's speed… and lots of it.
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But what does McCarthy provide other than speed? He hit .283 overall but his expected batting average was .247, according to Statcast. He only hit eight home runs, doesn't impact the ball that well and hits lots of ground balls. So, there's a cap on the power output and there's some batting average risk. I also think there's a playing time risk. McCarthy grades out as a below-average fielder and Arizona has lots of options they can go with. We know Corbin Carroll has an everyday job but they also have Lourdes Gurriel, Alek Thomas, Kyle Lewis, Pavin Smith and Evan Longoria on the 40-man roster. No, Longoria will not play the outfield but they can play him at DH, which moves somebody like Gurriel to the outfield. I just think there's a chance that if McCarthy gets off to a slow start, he'll lose playing time and wind up taking a back seat.
Camilo Doval RP
SF San Francisco • #75 • Age: 25
I have a long, complicated history with Gabe Kapler going back to his days with the Phillies, mostly because of his bullpen usage. Last year Kapler did a radio interview a few weeks before the season and told us that Jake McGee was the Giants' closer. McGee finished the season with three saves while Camilo Doval picked up 27 of them. Doval was actually very solid in his first full season but there are a few things I'm worried about with him. First up has to be the control or lack thereof. Doval's strikeouts and walks both went in opposite directions last season, posting an unsteady 3.99 BB/9. As a result, Doval finished the season with a 1.24 WHIP, much higher than a typical closer.
Doval also started working in a sinker last year, which helped him induce ground balls at an elite 56% rate. Now we have shift restrictions to worry about and the Giants defense is considered lackluster by many. Doval already had a 1.24 WHIP and will likely give up even more hits? Woof. Lastly, the Giants signed a very talented reliever in Taylor Rogers to a hefty three-year, $33 million deal. Rogers has closing experience and could push Doval should he struggle. Drafting closers is already a headache. I'd rather not start with one by taking Doval.
CIN Cincinnati • #21 • Age: 23
Fading a starting pitcher who averages 99 MPH on his fastball certainly is not fun but when it comes to Hunter Greene and his draft cost, I think it makes sense. While the strikeout upside is immense, Greene's skillset is not suited for a venue like Great American Ballpark. Greene does not give up much contact but when he does, it is often in the air. His 48.5% fly ball rate ranked sixth among pitchers with at least 120 innings pitched. That ballpark ranks first in home run park factors, by far. As a result, Greene allowed 1.72 HR/9, which ranked second behind only Josiah Gray. Greene struggles with control and gives up a lot of home runs. That's a really bad combination.
Now Greene did finish the season really strong, posting a 1.02 ERA with 51 strikeouts over his final 35.1 innings but I'd argue those were some really strong matchups. During those six starts, Greene faced the Marlins twice, Pirates, Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals. Unless Greene fundamentally changes something about the way he pitches, he will likely continue to struggle with control and home runs. The strikeout upside is fun but the ratios and lack of wins are not. I'll pass on Greene and take other strikeout upside in Nick Lodolo or Chris Sale instead.
PHI Philadelphia • #8 • Age: 31
As somebody who's been a fan of Nick Castellanos in the past, this one pains me to write. I just can't find anything in the 2022 numbers that suggest a bounce-back season is coming. After finishing as a top-80 player in five straight seasons, Castellanos dropped to 177th last year. He hit just .263 with 13 home runs and pedestrian counting stats. So much changed for Castellanos but I think the most disappointing was his quality of contact. His 87.5 MPH average exit velocity and 6.6% barrel rate ranked in the 22nd and 39th percentiles respectively, both huge drops from his massive 2021.
There were a bunch of other little things, too. He's always been an aggressive hitter but his chase rate jumped to a career-high 43.6%, which ranked in the sixth percentile. Also, Castellanos' strikeout rate went up while his line drive rate went down. Everything just snowballed out of control last season. Maybe he was playing through an injury? Castellanos was hit by a pitch on his wrist in early May but that never really came up as an excuse. It was a very weird season and I'm just not willing to use a top-150 pick betting on the bounce-back.