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A Surprising Trio of 2018 Fantasy Baseball Bust Candidates


We’re now less than a week away from actual, physical players reporting to camp, which means your Fantasy Baseball draft can’t be too far behind. Still, for as long as you’ve waited to painstakingly construct your championship caliber squad, there’s nothing that will derail those big dreams faster than missing on one of your first few picks by drafting 2018 Fantasy Baseball bust candidates.

Here are a trio of players I’m avoiding at all costs on Draft Day!

2018 Fantasy Baseball Bust Candidates

The players below are considered possible bust candidates in mixed Fantasy Baseball leagues, which means they’ll produce value that’s much less than their current Average Draft Position in NFBC leagues.

Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Baltimore Orioles (NFBC ADP: 62.9)

Here’s the thing with drafting Jonathan Schoop in 2018: You have to be aware of what game you’re playing. More specifically, you have to know what you’re playing that game with. Are we talking standard six-sided dice or some Dungeons and Dragons polyhedral shenanigans? Sadly, its the latter with Schoop as he seemingly has limitless possible outcomes for the fast-approaching season — it’s the type of variance that defines his free-swinging archetype.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look at Schoop’s plate discipline numbers from just 2017, a generous distinction considering no player with 800+ plate appearances from 2015 and 2016 had a lower BB% than the Orioles hitter. Schoop swung at pitches outside the zone 37.1% of the time. His overall swing rate was 52.4%. His swinging strike figure sat at 13.8%.

Rougned Odor, right now going nearly a full 50 picks after Schoop, had similar numbers at 38.3/52.8/12.9, yet, instead of a breakout season, Odor posted the lowest qualified batting average and OBP in baseball.

Now, I’m not saying that Schoop is destined to suffer the fate of 2017 Odor, but I am saying that’s in the range of outcomes for his 2018 campaign. Odor still hit 30 home runs. He still stole 15 bases — something very much not in the tarot cards for Schoop. The only real difference in their results last year appears to be luck on balls in play. Schoop’s BABIP registered in at .330 while Odor had the lowest mark in the league at .224. Its a dichotomy that seems more random than anything when taking into account eerily similar hard contact numbers and an almost indiscernible gap between their barrel per plate appearance rates.

This is all a long-winded way of saying I’d rather have Odor at pick 110 than Schoop, however, not liking Schoop doesn’t automatically mean you have to like Odor. The two ideas aren’t codependent. Both are extremely volatile players with perilously low floors. Avoiding both on draft day is the safest play.

Domingo Santana, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (NFBC ADP: 74.9)

I won’t dwell too much on plate-appearance scarcity when it comes to Domingo Santana because it’s devastatingly clear that, following the Brewers’ acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, we are in “something’s gotta give” territory. But that second piece of uncertainty is not one I can let slide.
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You know what home field is awesome for hitting home runs? Miller Park. Milwaukee’s home has ranked in the upper half for home runs on ESPN Park Factors every season since 2010, generally sitting well inside the top 10, and even being the best-ranked home run park in both 2012 and 2015. Park factors are obviously something that can be blown out of proportion. Unless we’re dealing with Coors Field or AT&T Park, everything else kind of clumps in the middle. Yet, Miller Park specifically has housed some interesting narratives in recent years.

In 2017, 41 different players clubbed at least 30 home runs. That was up three players from 2016. Of those 79 outcomes, only twice did a player break the 30-long-ball plateau with a fly-ball rate below 30%: Ryan Braun in 2016 and Santana last year. Huge home-run seasons with the wrong batted ball profile are big warning signs for normalization. There’s not a ton of statistical quirks that don’t mean much more than eliciting an “Oh, that’s cool” reaction, but when a player’s HR/FB ratio is higher than his fly-ball rate — I start to take notice, and that was the case for Santana last season, actually finishing with the league’s third-highest mark at 30.9%.

This worry of HR/FB sustainability is also backed up by Statcast. Santana, among the 296 players with 190+ batted-ball events, finished in the lower-third of baseball in average home run distance (394 ft) — validating that queasy feeling of very few of his 30 long-balls being no-doubters. Now, it might just be happenstance that both players to outperform their batted-ball profile the past two years played in Milwaukee, yet listen to anyone try and elevate the power potential of Yelich in 2018 and tell me Miller Park being the connecting factor is just a coincidence.

Sure, Santana hasn’t been traded as of writing this, but it’s not as if the fly-ball rate is the only concern to have for his 2018 potential. Santana had the sixth-highest BABIP in baseball (.363). He struck out in 29.3% of his plate appearances — the ninth-worst mark among qualified players, and the 25 year-old stole 15 bases despite never having stolen more than 12 at any level in his professional career.

Add all this together and you’ve got one of the 2018 Fantasy Baseball bust candidates I’m avoiding at their current ADP.

Alex Wood, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (NFBC ADP: 103.2)

There are two areas people generally hit on when trying to explain their tepidness for wanting to have anything to do with pitcher Alex Wood in 2018, yet I feel like we’ve all been modest — there are way more than two reasons to worry! To be fair, those main two fears: Wood’s second-half struggles and his underwhelming innings projection, are generally valid enough on their own.

A pristine showing before All-Star break had the Fantasy Baseball world drooling over the stat lines of the left-hander. However, those numbers quickly soured in the season’s second-half. Wood posted a 4.76 FIP and allowed 1.63 home runs per nine over 71.2 innings, but most concerning of all was just how far his strikeout numbers dipped. Wood had been one of only six starting pitchers to throw 80+ innings in the first-half and have a strikeout rate above 30%. He was joined by consensus Top-50 picks Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and Robbie Ray. Wood had far different company with his 18.0% strikeout rate following All-Star names like R.A. Dickey, Jason Vargas, and Mike Leake.

Velocity might have been the biggest reason for the harsh mid-season splits. Whether brought on by injury or fatigue, Wood’s sinker, which he was pumping in at 93.5 mph on average in April, wasn’t even breaking 91 mph by September. If it was fatigue doing the damage, that wouldn’t surprise most. Beyond the Dodgers’ predilection for utilizing the new 10-day DL and limiting the innings on their starters in any way possible, Wood’s body has had a hard time with the demands of a full season in the past. He has never thrown 200 innings. In fact, his 25 starts last year were only the second time in his career he has even hit that threshold.

Plus, when looking deeper into Wood’s numbers, Los Angeles is very warranted in their approach. Like most pitchers, Wood’s ERA spiked from 2.26 his first two trips through the order to 4.67 on his third. The quick hook is more than justified.

[bctt tweet=”SP Alex Wood’s ERA spiked from 2.26 his 1st two trips through the order to 4.67 on his 3rd. The Dodgers’ quick hook is more than justified.”]

Again, though, those aren’t the only red flags. How about Wood’s insane numbers with runners in scoring position? The southpaw surrendered just a .167 average and .190 BABIP in these clutch situations, despite the fact he was allowing more opposing contact during these times. Heck, even something as seemingly surface as solo home runs accounting for 80% of the long balls Wood gave up in 2017 screams regression. There’s just way too much working against the 27 year-old left-hander with not nearly enough volume to satisfy taking the risk.

If you end up drafting any of these 2018 Fantasy Baseball bust candidates, we hope they join your team later than their current NFBC Average Draft Position! In a similar vein, SCFE’s Dennis Sosic also points out five regression candidates for the 2018 Fantasy season.

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