2022 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Busts 3.0 for Scott White adds Cody Bellinger, removes Kris Bryant

I’ll admit that this final version of my Busts is more about eliminating candidates than uncovering more. Some of the arguments I made against certain players in previous versions have already collapsed just by virtue of free agency coming to completion.

Kris Bryant’s subpar exit velocities seemed worrisome in a post-juiced ball world, but the point is moot now that he’ll playing half his games at Coors Field. Nick Castellanos seemed like a player whose numbers could suffer in a bigger ballpark than the one he’s called home the past two years, which was especially concerning amid rumors of him coming to Miami. He wound up in Philadelphia instead, which is on the same end of the pitcher/hitter spectrum as Cincinnati.

So they’re out, but one other big name is in. Before we get to him, though, let me remind you that my goal here isn’t just to highlight ADP inefficiencies. For that, you can check out my 11 overrated players by ADP. No, my goal here is to identify players with true bottom-out potential so that you can avoid a potential land mine on Draft Day.

A land mine such as this one …

The Newcomer

FantasyPros ADP: 91.4

What a mess. That’s the simplest way to sum up Bellinger’s past two seasons. From the unconscionable decision to remake his swing coming off an MVP campaign to the shoulder dislocation suffered celebrating a playoff home run, it’s like he can’t get out of his own way. Now, he seems to have sunk even deeper into a mechanical quagmire, striking out 17 times in his first 25 plate appearances this spring.

Yes, it’s only spring training, and yes, the sample is teeny tiny, but plate discipline tends to normalize quicker than other things. An inflated strikeout rate can be an early indication that a hitter has lost his way, as happened with Keston Hiura and Travis Shaw in previous springs. For now anyway, Bellinger, along with manager Dave Roberts, is putting on a brave face, but even as a former MVP, he no longer gets the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to see some evidence that things had clicked into place for him before I rolled the dice on a bounce-back season, but I’m seeing the exact opposite. Leave that headache for someone else.

The Holdovers

FantasyPros ADP: 31.4

The chances of Semien living up to a season that saw him set a record for home runs by (primarily) a second baseman were always slim. Statcast marked him as one of the biggest overachievers, his .244 xBA and .453 xSLG paling in comparison to his actual .265 and .538 marks. And then there’s the matter of track record. Two of the past three years have been good enough to earn him a top-three finish in AL MVP voting, his .892 OPS in 2019 outshining even last year’s .873 mark. But in between was a .679 OPS, and for every season before 2019, he had no better than a .735 OPS.

What really clinches his place here, though, is his decision to sign with the Rangers. It’s hard to overstate how much batting in the heart of a lineup that included Vladimir Guerrero, Bo Bichette, George Springer and Teoscar Hernandez bolstered his numbers. Going from the third highest-scoring team to the third-lowest could cost him a combined 20-40 runs and RBI — and that’s presuming his other numbers remain the same. To make matters worse, he’s also going from a division full of hitter’s parks to one full of pitcher’s parks, with the Rangers’ own leaning that way so far in its history.

It’s just too many risk factors stacked on top of each other, particularly for the cost of a third-round pick.

FantasyPros ADP: 64

I already mentioned Marcus Semien as one of the biggest overachievers via Statcast. The single biggest was probably Arozarena, whose expected batting average was only .220 and expected slugging percentage was only .366. You don’t need me to tell you those are some awful numbers, and while it’s possible he’s one of those rare exceptions who breaks the formula, I’m not ready to declare it after just one season.

Truth is the more I look into him, the more warning signs I see. His 28.1 percent strikeout rate was 14th-highest among qualifiers, and the combined batting average for the 13 ahead of him was .235. The only one to deliver better than his .274 mark (Tyler O’Neill) had the benefit of 14 more home runs. Homers are generally the best way to overcome a high strikeout rate, seeing as they produce a batting average of 1.000, but with the 19th-highest ground-ball rate among qualifiers, Arozarena’s swing isn’t exactly geared for them.

And then there’s the stolen bases. So much of his appeal is tied to the fact he reached the magical 20 threshold, but seeing as it was with only a 66.7 percent success rate, can we be sure the forward-thinking Rays will continue to give him the green light? And for that matter, can we be sure they’ll stick with him every day if his production begins to slip? It’s not exactly their MO.

FantasyPros ADP: 68.2

By now, Baez has a dedicated booth on my bust list. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it hasn’t yet. But it will, by golly. It must.

My concern for him has always been his plate discipline. Generally, players who strike out as frequently and walk as infrequently as he does don’t make for the most reliable Fantasy assets. He’s managed to get away with it, at least so far, by consistently delivering some of the highest BABIPs and home run-to-fly ball ratios in all the game. We’re talking outliers of a level that few players would be able to repeat year after year after year. Clearly, he has a propensity for them, but that sort of strain on the natural mathematics of the game leaves a narrow margin for error. There’s no opportunity to correct up, only down.

Or so I thought. What’s crazy, though, is that Baez struck out more than ever last year, 33.6 percent of the time, and still managed to deliver a quality stat line. How? By becoming even more of an outlier in BABIP and home run-to-fly ball rate, setting a career-high in each. The dam has to break at some point, right? Maybe his move to Comerica Park will precipitate it. We saw what the reverse move (from Comerica to Wrigley Field, I mean) did for Nick Castellanos a couple of years ago, and Baez similarly likes to drive the ball to right-center. That on its own could present a problem for him.

FantasyPros ADP: 87.2

I’ll admit I was impressed when Chisholm hit .311 with four homers, nine steals and a .969 OPS in April. As a prospect, he flashed tools but was extremely rough around the edges. I expected him to get buried alive by major-league pitchers, striking out too often to make a worthwhile contribution. Oh well, guess I was wrong.

Wait a second. He played another five months. And how did those go? Well, um, he hit .236 with a .681 OPS, sealing just 14 bases in 22 attempts. So he was buried alive for five-sixths of the season, but his hot start made the final numbers appear not as bad (not that they were great).

What are we doing here? Yeah, it’s possible it all clicks for Chisholm this year, making for yet another stud at a position already full of them, but is that a reasonable assumption given what we saw from him last year and throughout his minor-league career? I mean, he’s going ahead of Bryan Reynolds, whose hitting profile is near unimpeachable. I think the fervor for stolen bases is so out of control right now that any player with an expectation of 20 is being pushed way up draft boards. People, you only need so many.

FantasyPros ADP: 103.6

I’m going to catch some flack for this one. After all, look at what Rogers did as a rookie last year. Just because he was a rookie, though, doesn’t mean we have no frame of reference. He was only a fringy prospect coming up through the minors and got knocked around pretty good in his seven-start debut two years ago.

So how did he unlock this new potential? His velocity went up a tick, and he gained more confidence in his breaking ball. The buzz began to build in spring training, and then he made good on it … at first, anyway. But I don’t like the way things played out for him down the stretch. His numbers over his final nine starts were, frankly, nothing special: a 3.76 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. His swinging-strike rate dropped to 11 percent during that stretch compared to 16 percent before it, and he averaged just 4.5 innings per start.

Maybe the Marlins were just playing it cautiously with him. Maybe his second-half bout with back spasms was more serious than his minimal IL stay would have us believe. Or maybe we have no clue how his new and improved arsenal will play over the long haul, or if it’ll even hold up. He’s reportedly still tinkering with his slider grip, so maybe he doesn’t have as much confidence in that breaking ball as we were led to believe. If skepticism abounded, I’d play the optimist, but Rogers’ current ADP suggests we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

FantasyPros ADP: 103.8

Muncy was in the MVP discussion for the first two-thirds of 2021, and as a Fantasy analyst who came to maturity at the peak of the Moneyball era, I’ll always have an affinity for his combination of power and plate discipline. So while I can understand the inclination to seize upon what appears to be a discount, I don’t want to understate the risk here.

His elbow, which he injured in the final week of the season, is in worse shape than we were led to believe when the Dodgers initially left the door open for a postseason return. Reported at the time to be a dislocation, Muncy revealed in the offseason that he actually has UCL damage. There hasn’t been much talk of him needing Tommy John surgery, but that’s so often the conclusion whenever you hear the letters U-C-L.

Because it’s in his non-throwing arm and because the DH spot is now available in the NL, there’s a chance of him playing through it. His spring has gone smoothly enough so far. But if he scuffles at the start of the year, it could necessitate a longer look at the elbow. I’m not sure the extent of the discount is enough to risk the alternative of his season coming to a sudden end.

FantasyPros ADP: 104.4

Winker had previously shown us flashes of what he finally delivered on last year, sustaining near-elite production for a solid 4 1/2 months before an intercostal strain more or less ended his season. A disciplined hitter with line-drive tendencies, he’s a good bet for batting average and a better bet for OBP. His 3.70 Head-to-Head points per game last year ranked behind only Fernando Tatis, Juan Soto and Bryce Harper among outfielders with as many at-bats as him. And yet …

There are some warts that have me thinking it’s a trap to buy into everything he did last year. The most obvious is his propensity for injury. He has yet to play even 115 games in a season, with last year’s 423 at-bats representing a career high. But it happens, right? He owes his absences to one big injury every year rather than a series of nagging ones, so maybe that particular concern is overblown.

But it’s not even the biggest, as far as I’m concerned. No, the real problem for Winker is he can’t hit left-handed pitchers — like, at all. For as good as he was last year, he batted .177 with a .572 OPS against them as compared to .188 with a .600 OPS for his career. Does it really make sense for a contender like the Mariners to run him out there every day? Winker is already 28, so it wouldn’t be for developmental reasons.

Oh, that’s right, he’s with the Mariners now. I was making this same case back in Busts 2.0, when Winker was still with the Reds, but it’s even stronger now. Cincinnati is one of the most favorable places to hit, so it’s no surprise that Winker’s career OPS is about 100 points lower on the road. And guess what? A lot of those road parks weren’t as big as the one he now calls home.

FantasyPros ADP: 112

The hitters who saw the biggest decline in home runs with the introduction of the deadened baseball last year were ones with middling exit velocities. Walsh fits squarely in that category, placing in the 55th percentile for average exit velocity last year. He managed to break out in spite of it, but it was a bumpy breakout that saw his strikeout rates and power output fluctuate wildly from month to month. In the end, he hit only seven of his 29 home runs in the second half.

Big deal? Well, it is when his entire profile is dependent on home runs. He isn’t a disciplined hitter. He doesn’t steal bases. He has nothing to fall back on if he’s not homering at a prolific rate. And perhaps even more concerning than his quality of contact is that he doesn’t elevate like a home run hitter, his fly-ball rate last year placing in the bottom 20 percent of qualifiers. So what should you make of a ground-ball hitter with suspect exit velocities playing in the most pitcher-friendly division in baseball? The safe bet is he’s not a great bet for home runs.

Not surprisingly, Walsh’s .257 xBA and .436 xSLG were both well below his actual .277 and .509 marks. To make matters worse, the Angels are talking about finding a platoon partner for him because his splits against lefties were so bad. I don’t understand the justification for taking Walsh ahead of Rhys Hoskins, Josh Bell, C.J. Cron and Joey Votto at first base. For that matter, give me Luke Voit instead.

FantasyPros ADP: 112.8

My concerns for Gallegos have nothing to do with ability. He’s the Cardinals’ best reliever and has been for each of the past three years … which is why I feel like I’ve seen this movie before.

They’ve had every excuse to elevate him to the closer role during that time. In 2019, their intended closer, Jordan Hicks, fell victim to Tommy John surgery. Move the setup man into the role, right? No. Instead, they opted for converted starter Carlos Martinez.

In 2020, the pandemic-shortened season, Gallegos was sidelined early for pandemic-related reasons. Nobody secured the closer role in his absence, but when he returned, he wasn’t given regular save chances either, instead being flexed between the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

In 2021, the Cardinals didn’t bring in anyone new to close but instead gambled on former prospect Alex Reyes, whose lack of durability is exceeded only by his lack of control. When it inevitably fell apart, only then did the Cardinals resort to Gallegos, who recorded 11 of his 14 saves in September alone.

When backed into a corner, they’ve shown they’ll use the right-hander in the closer role, but it’s obvious they prefer him bridging the gap between the starter and the closer, sometimes even over multiple innings. I don’t know exactly who the Cardinals will turn to in the ninth inning instead — new manager Oliver Marmol has paid lip service to a by-committee approach — but if anyone gives them an excuse, I suspect they’ll take it.

FantasyPros ADP: 115.6

I was prepared to call Mountcastle a bust based solely on where he’s being drafted. I can’t even begin to understand it. Yeah, he hit 33 home runs last year, but that’s only one thing. Adam Duvall hit 38 and is going 110 picks later. Plus, Mountcastle is in a terrible lineup, has no on-base skills and saw his strikeout rate swell to 27.5 percent last year. There’s no indication he’ll be of any help in anything other than home runs. 

And who’s to say he’ll hit 33 of those again? He’s below average in both exit velocity and hard-hit rate. His xSLG was only .458 compared to his actual .487 mark. Last year may just be the high-water mark for him in terms of power, which is particularly troubling since power is all he has right now.

That’s the argument I was prepared to make, anyway, before the Orioles decided to do this:

Just like that, Camden Yards goes from being one of the most favorable venues for right-handed power hitters to maybe the single least favorable. Mountcastle hit 22 of those 33 home runs last year at home, so now the case against him is easy. What do the rest of his numbers look like if he makes it to only 20 homers, presuming no improvement in walks or strikeouts? Shoot, Jesus Aguilar’s might be better.

FantasyPros ADP: 125.6

I realize his 2021 was already bad and 2020 even worse, but I fear now that at 26, Meadows may be on a path to total irrelevance. He made a name for himself with a 33-homer 2019, batting .291 with a .922 OPS, but of course, 2019 was the year that the juiced ball was at its juiciest.

His exit velocities are middling — only the 48th percentile last year — and those types of players seem to be the ones most impacted by the introduction of the new ball last year. It may not manifest so much in Meadows’ home run total because he puts the ball in the air a ridiculous 53 percent of the time, but so many of those fly balls are going to fall short of the fence that he might not be able to muster more than a .234 batting average without a radical change in approach.

He may not get that chance. The Rays don’t abide fools. They already don’t trust him against left-handed pitchers, and they don’t trust him much in the outfield either. As they break in new talent like Joshua Lowe and Vidal Brujan, Meadows could become just another cog in the machine.

FantasyPros ADP: 140.2

You know those concerns I expressed about Max Muncy’s elbow? They go double for a pitcher, whose job requires him to put maximum strain on the ligament over and over again, 100 times in a night.

True, Gallen already made it back from the discomfort he was feeling beginning around May, but the cause was a sprain of his UCL. And he didn’t look right after returning. From June 17 through the end of the season, a total of 18 starts, he had a 4.66 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. In the five starts prior to the injury, he had a 3.04 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, which is much more in line with what we were used to seeing from him. Most alarming, though, was the swinging-strike rate, which cratered to 8.4 percent in those 18 starts following the injury. It was at 12.1 percent in 2020.

That’s always a red flag for me. Too often we’ve seen pitchers in his situation receive an all-clear only to limp along for months before finally resigning to surgery. Whenever such a pitcher experiences a sudden loss of effectiveness and there doesn’t seem to be any other reason for it, you can feel confident that’s the reason for it.

FantasyPros ADP: 146

I’ve been harping on exit velocity quite a bit here in Version 3.0, and in the case of Jared Walsh, I’ll admit that my concerns are mostly theoretical. But we’ve already seen the devastation wrought by Grisham’s 38th percentile average exit velocity, and it’s hardly deterred anyone from drafting him. I suspect most view it as just a blip. After all, he was on more like a 25-homer pace during the pandemic-shortened 2020, his first extended look in the majors, and his batted-ball profile was largely unchanged last year. He has a good eye at the plate and elevates the ball well enough, so why can’t he hit more home runs?

But that’s an outdated way of thinking. A player’s batted-ball profile doesn’t have to change to suffer from the new ball. The ones most at risk are the ones who don’t impact it as hard. What may have been enough to send it over the fence before is now likely to fall short and into a fielder’s glove. As such, Grisham’s ability to elevate may only be serving to suppress his batting average.

His xSLG last year was a pitiful .368 compared to .484 in 2020, so the Statcast readings only validate my concerns. And what’s worse is his shortcomings only became more pronounced as the season dragged on. Over the final four months, Grisham hit .218 with a .675 OPS. By the end, he wasn’t even an everyday player anymore. I think people are willing to see the glass half full because of his speed and plate discipline, but he looks totally spent to me.

FantasyPros ADP: 172.8

American Family Field in Milwaukee has been making kings out of princes for years now, and the latest coronation was Garcia, who predictably delivered a career-high 29 homers in what turned out to be his only full season with the Brewers. LoanDepot Park, which is where he’s going now, is on the opposite end of the pitcher/hitter spectrum. You saw the way Christian Yelich’s career took off when he made the opposite journey a few years back. Miami is where home runs die.

That’s especially true for a player whose home run production relies on a superlative home run-to-fly ball rate. Garcia simply doesn’t put the ball in the air enough otherwise. His home run-to-fly ball rate ranked 12th among qualifiers last year. It was yet another career high.

The second-most home runs Garcia has ever hit in a season was 20 with the Rays in 2019. Their venue tends to favor pitchers as well (though not to the degree the Marlins’ does), so that may be a more realistic outcome for Garcia — who’s expected to be the focal point of the lineup, by the way. With the lack of quality bats around him, Garcia’s other counting stats could suffer along with the home runs.

FantasyPros ADP: 233.2

Quantrill’s going rate isn’t so bad, really. Particularly in points leagues, where you can take advantage of his relief pitcher eligibility, I might take a flier on him myself just to see if he can continue to defy the odds.

But the point is he really defied the odds last year. He had a 2.89 ERA despite a 4.43 xFIP. Among pitchers with at least 125 innings, there was no bigger gap than that. And lest you think it was more a quality-of-contact thing than a matter of his strikeout rate (not good), walk rate (meh) or fly ball rate (also meh), note that his 3.92 xERA wasn’t much better.

So how did he come about these numbers? Well, he stopped throwing his fastball so straight, instead relying on more of a cutter. The change came right around the All-Star break and led to a 1.94 ERA over his final 14 starts. Still, he had less than a strikeout per inning during that stretch. He also had a substandard swinging-strike rate and a 4.19 xFIP. The new look may have thrown hitters for a bit of a loop, but there’s nothing here to suggest it’s sustainable. The hope of him being one of those weird and wacky exceptions justifies only a late-round look.

Leave a Comment