Our annual series identifying popular fantasy baseball players expected to be overvalued in drafts is nearing its end, as this is the fifth of six articles to be published. The breakdown for these articles is by division. We've already hit the National League East, the National League Central, the American League West and, most recently, the American League East.
Now it's time to tackle the National League West...
Keep it locked on Rotoworld’s constantly-updated player news page as spring training approaches. And you can order our fantasy baseball draft magazine right now through Lindy’s Sports. Rotoworld’s online 2016 Baseball Draft Guide will launch Tuesday, February 9.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies
The 2015 season was an unquestionable success for CarGo. The 30-year-old mashed 40 homers, knocked in 97 RBI and scored 87 runs while playing 153 games. The home run output was the highest of his career, an impressive feat for a guy who has spent most of his career playing half his home games at Coors Field. It was a reminder of what Gonzalez is capable when healthy.
The issues, then, are numerous. For one, the "when healthy" caveat is necessary, given that he'd played just 180 games the previous two seasons. The Rockies, perennial doormats in the NL West, could also end up being sellers at the trade deadline, stripping CarGo of any added Coors benefits. And after his monster 2015 season, owners are likely to pay sticker price this spring for production that almost certainly can't go anywhere but down. Too many variables exist to make him a bad buy on draft day.
Shelby Miller, SP, Diamondbacks
Miller is widely viewed as one of the game's best young starters, a distinction that has contributed to his being traded not once, but twice over the past two offseasons. An ugly 6-17 record for lowly Braves marred an otherwise stellar 3.02 ERA over 33 starts this past season. Still just 25 years old and under team control through 2018, it's no wonder the Diamondbacks pursued him so aggressively this winter. It was still a bit shocking when they gave up a good young outfielder (Ender Inciarte), a top pitching prospect (Aaron Blair) and the No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 MLB Draft (Dansby Swanson) to get him.
It's fair to assume that MLB executives are smarter than we are and have more information than we do, so it's natural to see that trade and think Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart knows something we don't. Perhaps he does, but Miller's numbers in 2016 will need to be pristine to match the expectations that come with being the centerpiece of such a deal. Given that Miller doesn't produce strikeouts at the level of an ace and he's moving to a home ballpark that is less friendly to pitchers than either of the other parks he's called home in his career, it's hard to see his numbers moving in the right direction. Just because Stewart paid a hefty price doesn't mean you should.
Jose Reyes, SS, Rockies
When things are going well, Reyes is a guy who steals a ton of bases, hits for a high average, scores runs and plays a premium position. Alas, things aren't expected to go well in 2016. Reyes is presently waiting to stand trial on domestic abuse charges in Hawaii after a Halloween incident in which he allegedly grabbed his wife by the throat and shoved her into a sliding glass door. The trial is expected to begin on April 4, and even if he avoids punishment from the criminal justice system, Major League Baseball will surely suspend Reyes for some period of time this season.
And that's just the off-the-field stuff. On the field, Reyes batted .274 this past season, his lowest mark since the 2005 season. Reyes is also set to turn 33 years old this summer, and speed doesn't age well as other offensive skills. He still gets by on name recognition, but at this point Reyes is an aging speedster with an uncertain outlook for the start of the season. Is that something you want to buy into?
Matt Kemp, OF, Padres
Matt Kemp apparently heard the fantasy experts telling people to fade Matt Kemp heading into 2015. The veteran outfielder shook off the constraints of Petco Park and posted a strong offensive year last season, knocking 23 home runs with 100 RBI, 80 runs scored and 12 stolen bases to boot. His rate stats left something to be desired, but all in all it was a successful San Diego debut for the 31-year-old.
Enjoying his 2015 season for what it was is one thing; expecting an encore is another. Gone are Justin Upton, Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alonso, replaced by less exciting offensive alternatives. And while you can't take anything away from Kemp's first 100-RBI season since 2011, the numbers say it was unlikely -- only Kemp and Kendrys Morales had fewer than 30 home runs among guys with 100 RBI last season. Assuming dropoffs in every offensive category, including stolen bases, Kemp is an above average option but nothing special. And he should be drafted as such.
Jean Segura, SS, Diamondbacks
Segura had a bit of a rejuvenation last year, stealing 25 bases and swatting six homers with the Brewers. Both numbers were downgrades from his breakout 2013 season, but both were also improvements on a down 2014. This offseason, his situation drastically improved when the rebuilding Brew Crew dealt him to the Diamondbacks. He's expected to enter the season as the team's starting shortstop.
Many will see Segura's new digs and buy on the promise of a new, improved lineup and a hitter-friendly ballpark, but the need for caution exists. The 25-year-old has posted lines of .246/.289/.326 and .257/.281/.336 over the past two years, respectively, and he routinely has one of the lowest walk rates among everyday players. He also manages to post unimpressive BABIP numbers despite speed that would suggest otherwise. Will his new surroundings pay off? Maybe. But I'm not willing to pay to find out.
Brett Anderson, SP, Dodgers
"The definition of insanity is..." etc., etc., but Anderson paid off faithful owners in a big way last season. The southpaw finally made a full slate of starts and performed well, finishing 10-9 with a 3.69 ERA over 180 1/3 innings. Seeing his value, the Dodgers extended Anderson a $15.8 million qualifying offer this winter and the free agent-to-be accepted, keeping him in southern California for at least one more season. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
But Anderson, unfortunately, rarely ain't broke, and expecting him to put forth another full season, while maybe not the definition of insanity, isn't a great practice. And even if we allow for another injury-free year, the 28-year-old has never been a terribly sexy fantasy option -- he's fanned 6.7 batters per nine innings and owns a 1.30 WHIP for his career. The Dodgers can afford the risk because pitching in the real game is hard to come by and the Dodgers have seemingly unlimited financial resources. Fantasy owners need to be more cautious, and when other, similarly priced options offer more safety, higher upside or both, why take the risk?
Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants
Crawford entered the 2015 season with 26 career home runs over three full seasons and part of a fourth. He left 2015 with 47 career home runs thanks to a power surge that saw him belt 21 dingers in 561 plate appearances. It was a career year for Crawford on nearly every offensive front, as he set highs in RBI (84), runs scored (65), batting average (.256) and even steals (6). It was a breakout in the truest sense of the word.
Now that we've acknowledged his impressive 2015 season, we must also acknowledge that this wasn't the emergence of an offensive star. Rather, it was a year in which a lot of things went really well for the 29-year-old. Of his 21 home runs, 11 were deemed "just enough" or "lucky" by ESPN's Home Run Tracker, and even with those leaving the park he couldn't keep his batting average above .260. A regression to the mean in homers in 2016 will hurt all his numbers. Everybody is looking for the next big thing, but don't get it confused -- Crawford isn't it, despite what 2015 suggests.