I love keeper leagues for a reason. Developing a player from a small cost to a huge gain is one of the most rewarding things possible in fantasy sports. Because of that huge possible benefit, though, many players with upside end up getting over-hyped and over-drafted. Here are a few guys with a lot of hype surrounding them that I would shy away from in any keeper snake or auction draft (compared to the price an owner should be paying for them.)
Alex Avila, C, Detroit Tigers
Avila broke out in 2011, moving from a middling prospect to the #3 catcher in the league (according to ESPN’s player rater). As a 25 year old, he is being looked at as one of the best catchers around in a keeper format; I’m more hesitant for a few reasons. While he will be in an explosive offense in Detroit, I doubt he’ll hit close .295 ever again. His .366 BABIP is completely unsustainable, and points to a return towards his original value as a .270-type hitter. Until he learns to limit his strikeouts, I look at Avila as a second or even third tier catcher, leaving him near the back-end of my top 10. Don’t get sucked in by the young age and the fluky 2011 early in your draft and expect him to improve, or even repeat his performance last season.
Danny Espinosa, 2B, Washington Nationals
Espinosa is a pretty unique player, providing huge power and speed for his position but holding any team back with his average. His rookie season was definitely impressive, but in my opinion, the skills are just not there to propel him to be a top 2B. He will always strike out at a monumental rate, killing both his average and his on base percentage. In turn, this will limit his run scoring ability and his ability to improve off of his 2011 numbers. The power and speed will definitely be there with Espinosa, but in a draft be sure to balance it with the help at other categories you will need.
David Freese, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
After his World Series performance, Freese arrived on a lot more people’s radar for fantasy drafts. He has always been a quiet talent and has an opportunity to be a major run producer for the Cardinals following Albert Pujols’ departure. What I fail to see is the upside for a guy who will soon turn 28, and has never hit for power. While his average should be one of the best among third basemen, his lack of speed or power makes him a bench option at a pretty deep position. In deeper leagues, he will have value towards the end of a lineup. Just don’t expect any huge strides forward.
Cameron Maybin, OF, San Diego Padres
Maybin was one of a few bit-time post-hype sleepers to break out in 2011. Looking towards the advanced stats, however, it’s pretty clear that he didn’t progress in anything but his baserunning ability at the major league level. His steals are clearly valuable in any rotisserie format, but also cloud his true self, as a slightly better Emilio Bonifacio (another guy not to target!). His average of .264 was the best he has posted in the majors yet. Playing in Petco will keep his home run total below 15, and make him an overvalued player, particularly in keeper leagues where owners may reach for his potential tools. Get a guy like Angel Pagan 5 rounds later with a similar skill set, and the potential to even outplay Maybin in 2012.
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Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
While on first glance a 2.95 ERA by a rookie may make that player look like one of the top keeper options among pitchers, with Hellickson there is much more to the story. The issues begin with his strikeout rate. At only 5.57 K/9, Hellickson’s rate puts him surrounded by guys like R.A. Dickey, Jeremy Guthrie, the great Paul Maholm, and John Lannan. To add insult to injury, his walk rate is actually higher than any of those guys surrounding him, at 3.43 BB/9. While he will develop, and has great fielders behind him, Hellickson’s rookie season brought down his ceiling significantly, and simply doesn’t offer the top potential that owners will be drafting him for.
Ricky Romero, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Another AL East pitcher getting a lot of hype has been the 27-year-old Romero, who emerged as a top 25 SP on the player rater in 2011. While I do like his stuff, he got a little lucky in 2011 with his balls on play, posting a .242 BABIP against him. Things should return to normal in 2012, making him a fringe top 30 pitcher, even in keeper formats.
Relief Pitchers as a Whole
In a keeper league, relief pitchers are simply a waste of resources. There is so much potential and interest at other positions for a reason. Relievers’ success varies the most of any position from year to year, and unless you can get a closer reserved with a late, late round pick, or have Craig Kimbrel, it’s a relatively useless keeper strategy.
By Matt Cott, exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com. Read more of Matt's excellent fantasy insight over at RotoAnalysis.com. Have a fantasy related question? You can follow the site on Twitter @RotoAnalysis or Matt on twitter @KidCotti21.