This truism is worth repeating: Fantasy titles are not won on draft day, but they can be lost. Did you win? Pat yourself on the back for your smart in-season moves. Your quick trigger finger on the free agent wire made the difference. Cliff Lee? Got him. Aubrey Huff? Him too. Good job.
What if your season didn't work out as you hoped? Injuries are a handy (and often factual) excuse. Injuries to high draft picks can ruin a fantasy season. There are plenty of examples of under-performing/often-injured stars. Let's give them the Dolly Parton Award for biggest busts.
Erik Bedard, SP, Mariners: Expectations were high for the 29-year-old lefty in 2008. Bedard's trade to the Mariners meant that he was exchanging hitter-friendly Oriole Park for pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. Fantasy owners endorsed the deal, taking Bedard as an early fourth-round pick. Too bad a sore pitching shoulder put Bedard on the DL in July. Bedard and the Mariners tried to rehab the arm, without success. He finally had surgery last week, meaning his status next season is a question mark. Bedard finishes with a 6-4 record, a 3.67 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP and 72 strikeouts in 81 innings.
Chad Codero, RP, Nationals: Selecting the biggest bust among relievers is very difficult -- there are so many to choose from. Eric Gagne, the $10 million man, was a disaster. However, fantasy owners were a lot smarter than the Brewers. In general they waited until the middle to late rounds to take a flier on Gagne. Seattle's J.J. Putz was the first or second reliever drafted and he has only 13 saves due to injuries. The Dodgers' Takashi Saito was also curtailed by injury. Saito has only 17 saves. Oakland's Huston Street was inconsistent and saved only 18 before losing his job. The Cardinals' Jason Isringhausen pitched ineffectively (5.70 ERA, 12 saves) before being shut down with elbow tendonitis in August. Rafael Soriano? We hardly knew you. Soriano was supposed to be the Braves' closer, but spent nearly the whole season on the disabled list. His third trip to the DL ended his season in early August after only 14 innings of work. Washington's Cordero edges out Soriano for complete worthlessness, however. He went from 37 saves in 2007 to zero in '08. Cordero's season was over on April 29. Remember these horror stories when you draft next year.
Victor Martinez, C/1B, Indians: Martinez was the first catcher taken on draft day, generally as a late-second round pick in 12-team drafts. Martinez's season immediately went sour with an injury on Opening Day. A long stint on the disabled list gave Kelly Shoppach an opportunity to shine, so hopefully you grabbed him and his 21 HR off the waiver wire. Martinez didn't even hit a home run until Sept. 2. Martinez gave you virtually nothing (.278 2 HR, 33 RBIs 28 runs scored) for your investment.
David Ortiz, 1B, Red Sox: Ortiz was a mid-second round pick this spring and immediately gave his fantasy owners grief. Ortiz got off to a terrible start, hitting below the Mendoza line in April. He got his bat going in May, however. What was the turning point? Maybe it was excavating a buried Ortiz jersey under the concrete of the new Yankee Stadium. The curse was not completely reversed -- A trip to the DL in June short-circuited Ortiz's comeback. Ortiz will finish with rather pedestrian numbers. Currently he is hitting .265 with 23 HR, 72 runs scored, 88 RBIs and an .882 OPS. The 33-year-old slugger carries a lot of risk into next season's fantasy drafts.
Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees: Yankees fans thought they had a slugging second baseman in the mold of Tony Lazzeri. Too bad Cano's '08 looked more like a moldy Horace Clarke. Cano did a lot of fantasy damage with his .264 average, 64 RBIs, 64 runs scored, .702 OPS and 1 steal. Cano had a history of slow starts and torrid second halves. Many fantasy owners held onto Cano far too long waiting for that second half surge which never came.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals: Zimmerman was expected to thrive in '08, escaping the cavernous dimensions of RFK Stadium. The Nationals Park bump didn't help Zimmerman, and he is still a much better hitter on the road. Also, a shoulder injury has bothered Zimmerman all season, draining his power. Zimmerman has only 13 HR and 49 RBI in 418 at bats.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies: Tulowitzki was an early fourth-round pick in many drafts. He was part of the second tier of fantasy shortstops after the Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins upper echelon. Tulowitzki started the season with an ice-cold bat, and was hitting an unsightly .152 when he went down with a torn quadriceps tendon at the end of April. The time on the DL gave Tulowitzki a chance to restart his season and he has hit .294 since returning. The power has not been there, however. He has only seven homers on the season and 41 RBIs. That's well behind expectations set from last season's 24 HR and 99 RBIs.
B.J. Upton, OF/2B, Rays: Upton has played exclusively in the outfield this season, but carries a legacy second base rating in most leagues. The second base eligibility vaulted him into the second round of fantasy drafts. Owners thought they were drafting a middle infielder that would hit like an outfielder. Instead they got an outfielder that hit like a middle infielder. A shoulder injury sapped Upton's power -- his home runs declined from 24 last season to 8 in '08, OPS from .894 to .781 and RBIs from 82 to 64. Upton's saving grace was his 42 steals. In '09 he will lose the 2B rating and should slide down in drafts accordingly.
Carl Crawford, OF, Rays: Crawford had the highest draft rank of all our busts. He was a late first round/early second round pick in 12-team leagues. In the three years prior to '08, Crawford averaged .307 with 14 HR, 94 runs scored, 80 RBIs and 51 steals. This year he was down across the board before his season ended prematurely in the middle of August. Crawford finished with a sub-par .273, 8 HR, 69 runs scored, 57 RBIs and only 25 steals.
Eric Byrnes, OF, Diamondbacks: Byrnes' '07 season smelled like a career-year, especially the 50 steals. Most fantasy fans expected a drop-off in '08, but Byrnes' total melt-down was surprising. Hamstrung by hamstring injuries, Byrnes played in only 52 games. He hit only .209 with just four steals and six homeruns.