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2023 Fantasy Baseball: Beware of these bust-candidate hitters in drafts

2023 Fantasy Baseball: Beware of these bust-candidate hitters in drafts

The term “bust” might be harsh for some, but the following hitters are being overvalued in fantasy baseball drafts.

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Arizona Diamondbacks: Jake McCarthy

McCarthy has clear fantasy appeal with stolen base upside, but realize he has a .235 career expected batting average with an ice-cold Statcast batted ball profile. He’s also not a great defensive outfielder (unlike Corbin Carroll and Alek Thomas), and there’s a chance Kyle Lewis becomes the superior option at the plate.

Atlanta Braves: Vaughn Grissom

Grissom has fewer than 100 plate appearances above Single-A and is being asked to play a new position and move to shortstop in Atlanta this season. There’s power/speed potential here, but Grissom would likely hit at the bottom of the Braves’ lineup and has a floor that includes a trip back to the minors — which just happened recently.

Baltimore Orioles: Adley Rutschman

Rutschman is going to be incredibly valuable to the Orioles, with a high walk rate and outstanding defense, but he’s overvalued while being drafted as a top-five catcher (and in the seventh/eighth round). Among catchers, THE BAT X projects Rutschman to finish top-three in WAR but not top-10 in homers or batting average — and not top-five in runs scored, RBIs or stolen bases. His home park does him no favors, either.

Cleveland Guardians: Oscar Gonzalez

Gonzalez posted underwhelming numbers in Triple-A to go with walk and chase rates both in the bottom 1% of the league last season. A poor defender who doesn’t get on base (or steal), Gonzalez’s .345 BABIP in 2022 would’ve been top-12 had he qualified despite a Hard Hit% in the 51st percentile.

Detroit Tigers: Riley Greene

This is more of an indictment of Detroit and the team’s lack of alternatives than Greene himself. But while the outfielder has shown signs of a possible breakout, he’s still stuck in a pitcher’s park that has decreased HR for LHB an MLB-high 39% the past three seasons. He's also in a bad lineup projected to score the second-fewest runs in baseball. Greene’s K% was in the bottom 10% of the league last year, when he also benefitted greatly from a .429 BABIP against lefties.

Houston Astros: Yordan Álvarez

Álvarez has a strong argument as the best hitter in baseball when healthy, but injuries make him a risky first-round pick. He has a hand injury that has lingered from last season and prevented him from swinging throughout most of spring after he dealt for years with a chronic knee issue. Álvarez is expected to be ready Opening Day, but there’s health risk to go with a hitter whose fantasy upside doesn’t include stolen bases.

Kansas City Royals: Vinnie Pasquantino

“My Cousin” Vinnie is going to be a really good hitter for the Royals (and will benefit from the no-shifting rules), but he’s also going a bit too early in fantasy drafts as a top-100 pick. Pasquantino will be hurt by a shaky Kansas City lineup and a home park that destroys lefty power. THE BAT X projects Pasquantino for a modest 16 homers and 71 RBIs; Rowdy Tellez is projected for 29 homers and 83 RBIs and is available 100 picks later in Yahoo drafts.

Los Angeles Angels: Brandon Drury

Drury’s multi-eligibility is helpful, but he’s coming off by far the best season of his career. He saw his OPS drop 131 points after being traded out of Cincinnati (a hitter’s paradise) to San Diego last year and will likely hit toward the bottom of L.A.’s lineup. Drury is 30 years old with a 93 wRC+ over 2,276 career plate appearances, so regression could hit hard in 2023.

Minnesota Twins: Jose Miranda

Miranda is being drafted as a top-12 fantasy 3B and multiple rounds ahead of others such as Alec Bohm, Anthony Rendon, Justin Turner, Josh Jung and Yoán Moncada — all of whom project for higher wRC+ and better fantasy production.

New York Mets: Brandon Nimmo

Volume was a big reason for Nimmo’s fantasy production last year; he finished with fewer than 20 combined homers/steals despite 673 plate appearances. His walks are super helpful to the Mets and managers in OBP formats, but Nimmo’s game doesn’t translate great to traditional fantasy leagues. He also has a long injury history (Nimmo had never played in more than 140 games in any season of his career before 2022) and hits in one of baseball’s best pitcher’s parks.

Oakland A’s: Esteury Ruiz

A player with 60-plus SB upside who’s available around pick 250 is a fantasy dream, but Ruiz’s inability to hit the ball hard might be too much to overcome. The projections aren’t pretty for Ruiz, who didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball in Winter League. It doesn’t help that Oakland has decreased homers for righties an MLB-high 28% the past three seasons and is also among the leaders in suppressing BA for RHB.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Bryan Reynolds

Reynolds is a very good hitter, but he’s being drafted as a top-20 fantasy outfielder despite still playing for the Pirates; he didn’t reach 75 runs scored or 65 RBIs in 600-plus plate appearances last year, thanks to a weak Pittsburgh lineup. He could be traded midseason, but Reynolds is being drafted aggressively for a 28-year-old who is in a bad situation (PNC Park also kills power) and has never hit 30 homers or stolen 10 bases in a season in his career.

San Diego Padres: Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts is still being drafted as a top-10 SS and a top-75 pick despite suffering a major downgrade in parks, moving from Fenway (which leads the AL in boosting BA and runs scored the past three seasons by wide margins) to Petco (which leads the NL in decreasing BA and runs scored over that span) after signing a $280 million contract as a 30-year-old.

Moving to an extreme pitcher’s park and without a ton of power/speed upside (23 HR/SB combined over 630+ PAs last year in a much better hitting environment), Bogaerts is being overvalued in 2023 fantasy drafts.

San Francisco Giants: Joey Bart

Many are hoping for a Bart breakout in 2023, but the former No. 2 pick is a major BA risk with such an extreme strikeout rate. Bart’s abysmal defense also puts him at risk of losing playing time to the emerging Blake Sabol and/or Roberto Pérez. Even if the playing time is there along with improvement at the plate, Bart will be hitting toward the bottom of S.F.’s lineup in a park that has suppressed HR for RHB by 23% the past three seasons.

Seattle Mariners: Teoscar Hernández

Hernández almost certainly would’ve put up bigger numbers in Toronto’s new confines if he hadn't been traded to Seattle in the offseason. He gets a real fantasy downgrade with the move. The Mariners played in the game’s toughest pitcher’s park last year, according to Statcast. Hernández has a top-65 ADP in Yahoo leagues, but I’d prefer both Byron Buxton (92 ADP) and Taylor Ward (138 ADP) straight-up in fantasy leagues this season.

St. Louis Cardinals: Jordan Walker

Walker has seen the most “helium” among fantasy players the past couple of months, as the rookie was raking in spring training before suffering a minor shoulder injury. Walker has a bright future, but he’s not guaranteed to open the season as an every-day player in St. Louis. He’s also projected for modest production (93 wRC+) after posting good but not amazing Triple-A numbers last season (128 wRC+, .898 OPS). Be careful of the hype.

Tampa Bay Rays: Yandy Díaz

Díaz has seen his ADP jump more than 150 spots compared to last season after he (checks notes) hit nine homers with three steals over 550-plus PAs in 2022. Unless wRC+ is a category in your league, Díaz’s high ground-ball rate and lack of counting stats will continue to limit his fantasy upside.

Washington Nationals: Joey Meneses

Meneses is a career minor-leaguer who broke out last season at age 30. He benefitted from a .371 BABIP that would’ve been the highest in MLB had he qualified and hits in one of the toughest parks for righties. Meneses has a Yahoo ADP 50-plus spots higher than Triston Casas, whom I prefer straight-up.