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2018 Outfielder Busts: Injury Risks And Wannabe Power Hitters

Outfielder Busts
Photo Credit: Bart Hanlon

Similar to the term “sleeper,” Fantasy “busts” have taken on a new meaning as well. These outfielder busts are simply players that I feel are being over-valued in redraft formats.

Fantasy Baseball busts are vastly different than the same type of players in Fantasy Football. If a player busts in Fantasy Baseball, if it is not injury-related then you are still getting something from him. It might not be something great, but he will contribute to your counting stats.

In Fantasy Football, a bust can literally deliver you nothing. Think of Jay Ajayi or Terrelle Pryor last season. Both were picked in the first four rounds. Neither dealt with a major injury. Yet, you got basically nothing worth writing home about from either one of them.

This makes identifying our outfielder busts a little harder to do. All of the players I name will contribute. It is more that they will not contribute value equal to the cost that it is taking to select them. Hence, they are simply over-valued.

As we get to these outfielder busts, let’s just hope I do better than last year. WHOOF. It’s never good to have both of the top two players at the position by year’s end in your pre-season outfielder busts column. Like I said, finding busts is tough. I will only highlight guys being taken in the Top 30 at the position, or starters in a 10-team league.

2018 Outfielder Busts

Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

This is not just because he has started the Spring with an 0-7 as of this writing. Although, it does have something to do with it. Honestly, I just do not like the trajectory Betts’ career is on.

2016 was one of the better Fantasy Baseball seasons in recent memory. He had 122 runs, 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 26 stolen bases with a .318 average. You couldn’t really ask for more, and there were even some arguing whether he should be the top outfielder over Mike Trout.

2017 was not as great, but still reallllly good: 101-24-102-26-.264 in the same categories, respectively. The alarming part was the decrease in his overall triple slash numbers. His average went down 54 points, OBP down 19 points and his slugging was down 75 points. Those were basically his lowest numbers across the board for any professional season.

So what could be the cause? My theory is he is trying to be more of a power hitter. Betts never hit more than 15 home runs in the minor leagues, then he bursts out with 31 in 2016. He was a .346 hitter in 2014 with just 11 bombs and only 50 strikeouts.

My biggest reasoning is his fly ball stats. In 2016 he put up a solid 13.2% on his Home Run/Fly Ball ratio. That means 13.2% of his fly balls hit were home runs (thank you Green Monster). He had not had anything higher than 9.1% since his rookie season. What this led to was a career-high 42.8% fly ball rate for a full season in 2017 with a near career-low 16.8 line drive percentage. Everything points to a guy trying too hard to hit home runs. I mean, he already has three strikeouts in his first seven at-bats in Spring Training. I just do not want to spend my highest value on a non-home run hitter who is trying to hit too many home runs.

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Hear me out, because I truly think Harper might be the most talented hitter of this era. I just can’t trust him to stay on the field. He has yet to play in 155 games in a season. He has missed at least 44 games in three of the past five years.

As I always say, you cannot win your league in the first round but you can lose it. You have to use a Round One pick to get Harper, and if he missed a third of the season then you are already behind the 8-ball.

He has also been a little too sporadic for my liking. It is hard to compare his counting stats since he misses so much time. However, his batting average looks like a cosine wave. He has hit .273, .330, .243, and .319 over the past four years. It is not like he is just unlucky either. His BABIP has been .352, .369, .264 and .356 over those same years respectively.

He really is just an inconsistent player in both health and production. Harper could be the best player in the league. He could miss 100 games. He could play the whole year but only hit .250. No one really knows, so I am staying away.

Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates

Marte missed exactly half of the season last year with a PED suspension. Now the Pirate is not exactly the first player you think of when you are worried someone is juicing. However, I think that Marte had a similar feeling to Betts in that he wanted to be someone he was not.

Marte had a steady increase in power over his first four seasons with his home runs, runs batted in and slugging percentage all seeing massive increases. Then in 2016, he had just nine homers and 46 RBI. Who could ever know why he used, but I would bet that it was to get back to his surging power numbers. This is where he missed the boat: in 2016, he hit a career-high .311 with 47 stolen bases. That is what you are wanting from Marte. Whether he hits 10 or 20 home runs is really just icing on the cake.

So he got busted for doping. In his second half of the season, it showed. His hard-hit percentage was a paltry 26.2%. His fly ball percentage was a career-high 29.8 percent and he had the lowest line-drive percentage since his rookie year.

I think Marte is young enough to come back from it, but it will take some time. He will have to regain the mentality that he is a “get-on” type of player and not a “power hitter.”

A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks

He literally cannot stay healthy for a full season.  If he does, you get his phenomenal 2015. Besides that year, he has never played more than 137 games, with most seasons below 100 total. He has missed TWO HUNDRED games over the past two seasons. I will pass on spending a fifth or sixth round pick on a guy this fragile.

Domingo Santana, Milwaukee Brewers

Garion Thorne broke down Santana’s bust case extremely well already. My biggest concern he already highlighted: a .363 BABIP that was sixth highest in baseball. My concern that he did not mention as much: overcrowded outfield.

With the additions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, the Brewers now have four quality outfielders with Ryan Braun. They are experimenting with Braun at first base but then that leaves Eric Thames on the bench. I think Santana is the odd man out, and most easily tradeable of the quintet. I think he is the safest bet of the outfielder busts.

Michael Tomlin
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Michael Tomlin

Michael Tomlin is an ESPY-nominated, former college football player who stays associated with the game through Fantasy Sports. He has been writing his personal blog, Dirkland.blogspot.com, for three years and it focuses on Fantasy Sports, as well as handicapping. He was born and raised in the DFW Metroplex, and he follows all of the Dallas teams, along with Texas Tech athletics and Manchester City F.C.
Michael Tomlin
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