Wander Franco
Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco throws to first after fielding a ground ball against the Houston Astros during the ninth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

FANTASY BASEBALL – FIVE PLAYERS BEING DRAFTED TOO EARLY

Mike Shara

I’ve done a number of drafts so far this spring – some of which happened before we were even sure there would be a season and a few since the labor agreement was ratified. I have noticed some emerging trends so far in the last few weeks and a few of them are…just dumb. There is a perceived scarcity in a few categories and that perception causes people to overreact in their fantasy drafts, making panicky picks that they will regret by the middle of May. This article is a way for me to try to keep you from throwing picks away by reaching for players too soon. In my view, the players listed below are being over-valued. Let me try to explain why…

CORBIN BURNES, SP, Milwaukee 
I know, I know – starting things off by saying that the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner is being drafted too early – but hear me out. I’m not saying he’s not a great pitcher – he obviously is. It’s just that he’s being drafted mid-to-late first round a lot this year and I have a hard time with it. Remember that before the 2022 season Burnes had made exactly 13 MLB starts in his career and that last season he threw 173 innings (playoffs included), which is over 110 innings more than he’d ever thrown in a season in his career. He has had shoulder troubles as recently as 2019 and very rarely do young(ish) pitchers increase their workload that much from one year to the next and not suffer some setbacks the following year. I’m not saying I wouldn’t want him because his ratios are crazy good, but if your first or second pick misses significant time you can’t recover. I need more of a sure thing with my first pick of the draft.

STARLING MARTE, OF, NY Mets
Steals are at a premium if you’re playing in a 2022 rotisserie league, there’s no question about it. It’s difficult to find players who seem likely to get you 30+ steals without them being serious liabilities in the other categories (hello Adalberto Mondesi and Myles Straw!). This shortage is leading folks to reach for Marte way too soon. Last season he had a fantastic season, hitting .310/.389/.458 with 47 steals but remember that whoever had him probably took him midway through the draft, not remotely expecting that level of production. Also keep in mind that he only had 42 extra-base hits last year even though that was one of the best slugging seasons of his career and the steals were a career high, too. He’s also 33 years old this year so it’s hard to see him getting near 50 steals again. Plus he’s hurt already this spring. If someone wants to take him in the second or third round, let them do it. He’s not a value play unless he falls a few rounds further than that – like he did just a year ago. 

SALVADOR PEREZ, C, Kansas City
I hate doing articles like this because it feels like I’m somehow trying to say bad things about a great player when actually what I’m doing is saying bad things about people in a fantasy draft. What’s not to like about Perez? He plays most days, he’s a terrific defensive player and a great guy and he has terrific power. Anyone who hits 48 home runs in a season playing home games at Kauffman Stadium deserves their flowers. Just remember that the most home runs he’d hit in a season previously was 27. He’s not Mike Piazza, who was a consistently elite hitter who happened to play catcher. He’s closer to Javy Lopez – an above average player who had one incredible season. He’s probably still the best catcher in fantasy, but you can’t remotely guarantee he gets close to last year’s numbers again in 2022 because he’d never done anything close to that before, so let someone else reach for him in the third or fourth round and be happy to end up with Mitch Garver (who has a much higher career slugging percentage and is healthy again) in the 18th round. 

WILL SMITH, C, LA Dodgers
Smith’s expected .259 average with 24 home runs and 75 RBI is better than most others at his position will reach, but remember – those numbers don’t count more just because they came from an otherwise weak position. It’s still just .259/24/75. In order to get him in the fifth or sixth round you have to also not take an SP2 or an outfielder with 40 home run power. That’s not getting value. Value is derived from getting higher results than you paid for. Smith is 27 years old and has less than 700 career MLB at-bats. He’s a nice player and could have another decent year but there is no way to be certain he’ll even reach those modest numbers – and nothing about those numbers will help win your league. There is as good a chance that a less-hyped catcher hits .250 with 20 home runs and 65 RBI that you selected twelve rounds later – and you’ll have that elite SP2 Smith’s owner wishes he had. That’s value. 

WANDER FRANCO, SS/3B, Tampa Bay
There’s a strange psychology that grips hold of poolies where hot prospects are involved. It’s not enough for them just to win – a lot of fantasy players need to feel like they’re smarter than everyone else, too. Winning a league while also drafting a really young player who has his first good MLB season seems to be a big part of that particular psychosis. Try to avoid falling into that trap with Franco this year. Everyone agrees that he’s going to be a great player, but remember he’s just 21 and is currently forecast to hit .286 with 20 home runs. He doesn’t run much (and he gets caught a lot when he does) and the Rays’ lineup is not going to knock anyone’s socks off. Shortstop is a very deep position this year. Unless you’re in a keeper league where he’s somehow not taken yet, taking him in the fourth round ahead of more established players in their primes like Corey Seager, Carlos Correa or Jorge Polanco or is just outsmarting yourself.

Latest Team / Player News