Don’t believe the hype. Well, at least don’t believe all of it.
Every season there are players who go far beyond the expectations. Career numbers. Breakout seasons. They go from an afterthought at your fantasy draft in the spring to an All-Star by July.
You didn’t see it coming. Nobody saw it coming. And then the following spring, with those gaudy breakout numbers all over your cheatsheet, you overpay for that one breakout season convinced that it will happen again.
Don’t make that mistake this year.
Here are the five players you might be better off ignoring what they did in 2010. We’re not saying don’t draft them. Just keep in mind what you thought of them before 2010. Your budget will thank me by this July . . .
5. John Buck, Florida Marlins
Buck erupted last season in Toronto after six disappointing years in Kansas City. He even found himself in the All-Star game last July for the first time in his career. Buck hit 20 homers for the Jays, drove in 66 runs and hit .281. He has power (he hit 18 homers with the Royals in 2007). We’re not questioning his power. But those 66 RBI were 16 more than he’s ever had before and that .281 average, well, he’s never going to see that again. The highest he ever hit in Kansas City was .247. He’ll be back down in that neighborhood this year. The Florida Marlins, who normally don’t spend a nickel, overpaid for Buck’s .281 average and 20 homers this off-season. Don’t make the same mistake this spring in your fantasy draft.
4. Andres Torres, San Francisco Giants
Sorry, Giants fans, you didn’t stumble onto the next Candy Maldonado. Torres, a journeyman outfielder before last year with Detroit, Texas and the Giants, came out of nowhere a year ago. He finished with 16 homers, 63 RBI, 26 stolen bases and 43 doubles. Those numbers were all more than he had in his previous five seasons combined in the big leagues (63 runs, 12 doubles, 7 homers, 36 RBI). Can he do it again? Doubtful. Torres will be 33-years-old this season. It is likely that last year will never happen again. After August 1, after pitchers finally figured him out, Torres was back to his journeyman numbers. The last two-plus months he hit .248 with 10 doubles, six homers, 21 RBI and seven steals. Double those post July numbers (around 12 bombs, 45-50 RBI, 12-15 steals) when figuring out how much Torres will be worth in 2011.
3. Angel Pagan, New York Mets
Pagan was the Mets’ Andres Torres last year. With Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran out with injuries much of the year, the Mets needed somebody, anybody to play the outfield. Heck, they were even playing Jeff Francouer. Pagan, the ultimate backup outfielder, was sensational in 2010, hitting .290 with 31 doubles, seven triples, 11 homers, 80 runs scored, 69 RBI and 37 stolen bases. He’s always been an underrated hitter (he hit .306 in 343 ABs in 2009) but his career highs before 2010 were six homers, 32 RBI, 14 steals. We’re not saying Pagan can’t duplicate his 2010 numbers. We’re saying he probably won’t get the chance. If he gets 579 at-bats again, the Mets might be looking for another manager and general manager in 2012. But if Pagan is in the outfield everyday, he’d be worth a late-round pick. Just don’t think he’ll improve on what he did in 2010.
2. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
If it’s a contract year, Beltre will be an All-Star. If not, well, go somewhere else for your third baseman. Beltre, in his one and only season with the Red Sox in 2010, was Butch Hobson, Rico Petrocelli and Joe Foy all rolled into one. He hit 28 homers, drove in 102 runs and hit .321. That was after years of 44 and 77 RBI with the Seattle Mariners the previous two years. And, oh yeah, he only hit .265 with the Mariners those two years. Beltre, though, was playing for what is likely his last big free agent contract last year. He battled injuries in his final two years with the Mariners and never could kick in his salary drive mode. We’ve seen this before with Beltre. The last time he was playing for big bucks was in 2004 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit 48 homers and drove in 121 runs on a .334 average that year. Seattle fell for it, gave him a huge deal and he proceeded to never hit more than 26 homers, drive in 99 runs or hit .276 in five years with the Mariners. Texas, which doesn’t have a Beltre-friendly left field wall like Fenway, will likely get the Mariners’ Beltre (20-25 homers, 80-85 RBI, .275 average). They hope. So go into your draft with those numbers in mind. And hope he stays healthy.
1. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Did Jose Canseco make a visit to the Blue Jays locker room last year? Just kidding. We think. Bautista in 2010 was the second coming of Brady Anderson (50 homers, 110 RBI) in 1996 with Baltimore. Bautista, who bounced around with five teams before 2010, erupted last year to hit 54 homers with 124 RBI. This is the same guy who never hit more than 16 homers (2006 with Pittsburgh) or drive in more than 63 runs (2007 with Pittsburgh). Is Bautista now one of the greatest sluggers in big league baseball? If you think so, I hope you are in my fantasy draft. Last year is a once-a-career year for Bautista. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Hey, Mickey Mantle only hit 54 homers in a season once. Bautista, though, is the type of guy that can kill your draft. You go into the draft and pay for 50 homers and 100-plus RBI and that 15-homer, 50-RBI backup guy returns. The Orioles’ Anderson, by the way, never hit more than 24 homers or drove in more than 81 runs after his unbelievable 1996 season. He was out of baseball seven years later. Expect similar results for Bautista.