A big part of winning in fantasy sports is knowing who to avoid during drafts. This critical ability comes from an intimate feel for the player pool while keeping a close ear to the injury news. It's hard enough building a healthy roster to compete for a league title. When excepting weaker pieces to the puzzle with underlying injury risk or injury news, a fantasy owner is setting himself up to fail more often than not.
The temptation to draft a sliding player with injuries news tends to be a trap. The easiest way to avoid these decisions in baseball is to game plan and anticipate which players will slide in drafts.
Over the first four rounds of 12-team leagues in 2020, there are three players (Aaron Judge, Blake Snell, and Chris Sale) with glaring injury risks. Each of these players lines up to be a bust this season.
Avoiding Blake Snell should be relatively straightforward as a fantasy owner will have seven to eight viable starters drafted after him based on his current ADP (36). At some point, a fantasy owner will take him as a value play, which could be the case if his left elbow injury ends up being minor.
In the case of Snell, a fantasy owner can draft an ace with one of his first two picks to take him out of consideration or select the next best arm after him to build the front of their pitching staff. The key to Snell's value or draftability will be understanding his injury downside.
Chris Sale looks to be a complete avoid, and a player I’ll let beat me in 2020. Build your pitching staff before his ADP and stay clear of him no matter how far he falls.
The recent news on Judge’s right shoulder changed to a pectoral issue over the last couple of days. I understand his upside in power, but he is going to miss time for sure while still being overpriced. Power is plentiful in drafts in 2020, so chasing Judge should be left to those fantasy owners wearing pinstripes.
A Look Back at 2019 Busts
Now back to the order of business. I’m looking to identify a player over the first 75 draft picks in 2020 that will severely underperform his draft value. Here’s a look at the biggest failures of the top 75 players drafted in 2019:
Over half of the players (39) drafted over the first 75 picks in 2019 failed to live up to expectations. About one-quarter of those players underperformed by a wide margin due to injuries. Eugenio Suarez looks to be the only player that had growth in his stats with regression in his 2020 draft value, which is due to offseason shoulder surgery.
2020 Top Bust Candidates
Ketel Marte (ADP 42)
Marte had an explosive push in power and a massive jump in his contact batting average (.387 – .306 in 2018 and .312 in 2017). He continues to get stronger while ending last year with a stress reaction in his back. His batting average doesn’t look repeatable.
Liam Hendriks (ADP 89)
Hendriks ranks outside of the top 75 ADP range, which makes him a player I won’t use as the top bust in 2020. I wanted to point out a couple of negative for me with him. Hendriks made a career-high 75 appearances last year, leading to 85 innings. The high level of work will take a toll this year, while also only posting a 3.76, 4.22, and 4.13 ERA over his previous three years. You can call him Blake Treinen 2.0 in 2020.
Rafael Devers (ADP 23)
Devers was a beast last year, and his swing looks to have 40-plus home run upside. The loss of Mookie Betts hurts the Red Sox scoring ability in 2020. After reviewing this year’s projections for Sports Illustrated, Devers ranked 35th in SIscore while being drafted as the 17th hitter.
Austin Meadows (ADP 34)
Meadows was a top breakout player last year, but he still finished 31st in SIscore. This draft season, he comes off the board as the 24th hitter. I get the attraction, but Tampa won't be a top team in the majors in run scored in 2020. Meadows played well against lefties (.275 with nine HRs and 32 RBI over 167 at-bats), but he'll still sit at times this year.
Bust of the Year
Keston Hiura (ADP 44)
Hiura hit .313 with 95 runs, 38 home runs, 95 RBI, and 16 steals over 527 at-bats between AAA and the majors. He comes to Milwaukee plenty of pedigree with all scouting reports pointing to an impact bat.
This season Hiura looks to be lined up as the cleanup hitter for the Brewers, which helps drive his 2020 ADP.
In 2018 between High A and AA, he hit .293 with 13 home runs, 43 RBI, and 15 stolen bases over 485 at-bats. Last year Hiura almost tripled his home run output while more than doubling his RBI production from the previous year.
His strikeout rate (30.8) was extremely high in his rookie season, with a much better foundation in the minors (21.1 percent).
Also, Hiura has an underlying right elbow injury that may lead to TJ surgery in the near future.
His Early Projections at Sports Illustrated
Based on his success last year, Hiura is projected to hit .295 over 560 at-bats with 84 runs, 30 home runs, 86 RBI, and nine steals. He ranks as the 50th ranked hitter by SIscore while being drafted as the 31st hitter.
When developing projections for all baseball players, it is essential to remove personal bias from the thought process. Projections are built on foundation skill sets, slot in the batting order or opportunity, and injury implications.
Hiura has the tools to be an impact player with power and speed, but there are signs that he won’t push higher off his 2019 success. I’m fading him even with the second base position lacking elite depth. If he didn’t have an underlying elbow issue, I’d have more confidence in him playing a full season.
For more game-breaking advice from Shawn Childs, a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ, subscribe to FullTime Fantasy. Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription & gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.