Like “sleeper”, “bust” is a nebulous term in which one size doesn’t fit all, but in general, the following infielders have been deemed overvalued by the Yahoo fantasy crew entering 2018 drafts, so buyer beware.
• If you’re simply looking for, say, 25 steals and a batting average that won’t sink your fantasy team, then Whit Merrifield is your guy. I’m on board. However, if you target Merrifield believing last year’s numbers are repeatable, then you’re almost certain to overpay. He took full advantage of MLB’s favorable home run environment last season, clearing the fence 19 times for Kansas City (and another three times at Omaha). But prior to last year’s binge, Merrifield had never reached double-digits in home runs in any of his previous seven minor league seasons. We’re not talking about a player with an all-category fantasy profile.
Additionally, we can’t expect Merrifield to be any sort of significant asset in batting average, despite the fact that he hit .288 for the Royals last season. He was a .274/.334/.403 hitter over his long minor league career; please don’t be shocked if the average slips to the .260s this season. Stolen bases are the one category in which Merrifield has consistently produced at every level, so you can reasonably expect 20-plus bags. He’s not a lock to help us anywhere else, not in Kansas City’s unimpressive lineup. — Andy Behrens
• The price on Marwin Gonzalez varies greatly from room-to-room — his NFBC ADP is 114 at the moment, while he trades 49 picks later in Yahoo. Those playing at the Y also get the maximum versatility, as Gonzalez qualifies at every position but pitcher and catcher. The ultimate Swiss-Army Knife.
But how real was Gonzalez’s breakout? His numbers didn’t collapse in the second half, but he did lose 119 OPS points, while his homers dropped from 16 to seven (despite more 2H at-bats). His hard-contact rate didn’t justify his BABIP (and there’s a solid case that hit rate declines notably). To be fair, Gonzalez did make signifiant strides in plate discipline (especially a hearty jump in his walk rate). I could spin his defensive versatility one of two ways — it offers him more ways into the lineup, but it also could stop the Astros from seeing him as a true every-day player.
The NFBC audience seems to be paying full freight for Gonzo’s career year, and maybe those guys are right — a lot of smart players over there. I see Gonzalez more as a player with some pop and a tiny bit of speed, but not dynamic in either; a versatile guy, but no guarantee to start every day; and a dead-nut lock to lose batting-average points, maybe a significant drop. He was a .254/.293/.401 man just two years ago. Unless I get my pet price on Gonzalez, I’ll let someone else write the ticket. I see a pumpkin season far more likely than him keeping most of his 2017 gains. — Scott Pianowski
• Wil Myers hit .243 last year and hasn’t posted an .800 OPS since his rookie season in 2013 (when he had a modest .831 over 335 ABs), and yet he’s being drafted in the fifth round despite qualifying at the deepest position in the game. Moreover, Myers will be moved away from first base and to the more taxing outfield position (he’s had past injury issues), and he’s still stuck hitting in Petco Park, which decreased run scoring by 17 percent last season, tied for the lowest in MLB (while crushing righty power). Of course, Myers’ HR/SB contributions are what fantasy owners pay for, and the Padres’ improved lineup should help his counting stats. But Myers is a career .254 hitter who struck out more than ever last year, could start running less and has never had 100 runs scored or RBI. He’s not a top-10 first baseman on my board. — Dalton Del Don
• OK, maybe it’s a bit reckless to call out Mike Moustakas as a bust candidate, because, as of this writing, we don’t even know his 2018 employer. If Moose somehow lands with the Yankees on a short-term deal, I’ll be plenty interested. But if he signs just about anywhere else? Meh. I won’t fight you for him. His home runs spiked to a career-high 38 last year, after never topping 22 in any professional season. Moose’s hard-contact percentage (31.9) barely ranked inside the top-100 among qualified hitters, and it was perfectly in line with prior seasons. His HR/FB rate obviously made a big leap, as he essentially exchanged doubles for homers. I’ll be surprised if he approaches 30 bombs in 2018, assuming a neutral hitting environment. — Behrens
• Yadier Molina is one of my favorite players and he’s built an interesting Hall of Fame case. It’s also not that surprising when catchers have occasional spikes in their 30s. But consider what Molina accomplished in 2017 — a jump to 18 homers, after hitting a modest 19 the previous three years combined; and a bump to nine steals, after just 10 the previous four years. It’s tricky to bank on most of those 2017 stats hanging around.
Molina turns 36 in mid-July, catcher is an attrition position, and the Cardinals have an understudy — Carson Kelly — probably ready for an uptick in playing time. Molina is the sixth or seventh backstop off the board in most ADPs, and that’s a pocket I’m unlikely to shop in. If you want to go for a name brand, especially in two-catcher leagues, fine. If you want to shop in the bargain bin later, that works for me, too. Molina’s age, mileage, and price make me a little nervous. I’d love to be wrong on this one, but I’ll bet with my head and not with my heart. — Pianowski