Earlier this offseason, we identified a group of fantasy risers from each division -- players whose fantasy stock is heading upward with the arrival of the 2015 season. Check out the NL East, NL Central, NL West, AL East, AL Central, and AL West at those bolded links.
Then we turned our attention to players on the opposite end of the spectrum, what we call Players to Avoid. It's important to note that we don't mean "avoid" in the literal sense -- all of these players will likely be drafted in standard fantasy leagues for the 2015 season, and rightly so. Rather, we mean that the fantasy output from these players will probably fall short of their individual cost on draft day. The NL East, NL Central, NL West, AL East, and AL Central have all been covered.
Now we finish up in the American League West …
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Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics
Crisp stole 49 bases in 2011, finishing first in the American League, but that number dropped to 39 in 2012, then 21 in 2013, and he finished with only 19 stolen bases for Oakland in 2014. So it goes for aging speedsters.
Crisp turned 35 years old in November and can’t realistically be expected to do major damage on the basepaths this coming season. Also of concern for potential fantasy owners is that the other parts of his game have shown significant decline. Crisp launched a career-high 22 homers for the Athletics in 2013, but he answered that in 2014 with a home run total of just nine and a career-worst slugging percentage of .363. The veteran outfielder should score a good amount of runs this year as the primary leadoff man in a retooled Oakland lineup, but he probably won’t do enough overall to justify a starting job in a standard fantasy league. There are better sources if what you’re looking for is empty speed.
Dallas Keuchel, SP, Astros
Keuchel went 12-9 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 146/48 K/BB ratio in 200 innings last year on an Astros team that finished with a record of 70-92. It was a quiet breakout season for the 27-year-old left-hander, who will be looking to take another step forward in 2015. We’re thinking a step backward is more likely.
Keuchel induces groundballs at a tremendous clip -- in fact he led the majors in groundball rate last season -- but he simply doesn’t have the kind of dominant arsenal you’d want in a top-tier fantasy starter. Keuchel is a fastball-changeup pitcher and his fastball has averaged just 89.3 mph over the course of his three-year major league career. He makes up for the low velocity by keeping his pitches low in the zone, but the 6-foot-3 southpaw is susceptible to big blowups when he has a lapse in control. Before his strong 2014 season, Keuchel owned a 5.20 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, and 161/91 K/BB ratio in 239 major league innings.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Angels
Hamilton would have made this list even before Tuesday’s announcement that he needs surgery to repair the AC joint in his right shoulder. That was just the icing on the do-not-draft cake.
Hamilton is expected to be sidelined for the next 6-8 weeks, meaning he’ll miss at least the first month of spring training and will probably open his 2015 regular season on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues. The 33-year-old outfielder initially injured the shoulder in late 2014, missing most of September, and he then began experiencing renewed discomfort during an offseason workout last week. It’s yet another Hamilton headache for the Angels, who signed the guy to a five-year, $125 million free agent contract prior to the 2013 season and have watched him hit just .255/.316/.426 with 31 home runs and 123 RBI in 240 games. Hamilton batted .285/.354/.577 with 43 homers and 128 RBI in 148 games for the Rangers during the 2012 season.
Fernando Rodney, RP, Mariners
Rodney finished first in the majors last season in saves, recording 48 in 51 attempts. That came with a cool 2.85 ERA, and he also struck out 76 batters in 66 1/3 frames. So why is he included in this column? Ageism, mostly.
Rodney turns 38 years old on March 18 and his fastball velocity dropped from 96.5 mph in 2013 to 94.9 mph in 2014. He’s running out of gas, and it showed at the end of last season when he surrendered seven runs in 11 innings during the month of September. To be fair, Rodney converted all nine of his save opportunities over those shaky final four weeks. The veteran right-hander is probably going to be a fine second closer this season in standard mixed fantasy formats, but he’ll be drafted like a first closer in many leagues. It’s anti-nature -- or something like that -- to expect that he’ll produce a repeat of his exceptional 2014.
Yovani Gallardo, SP, Rangers
Gallardo was a hugely valuable fantasy starter in his early-to-mid 20s, compiling a 3.68 ERA and 815 strikeouts in 782 innings between 2009-2012. He has since become much more mediocre and he’s now going to get his first full-season taste of the less-pitcher-friendly American League.
Since the beginning of the 2013 season, Gallardo owns a 3.84 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, and he has struck out only 290 batters in 373 innings. He isn’t yet 30 years old, though it feels like his career decline is already in full swing. Maybe the Mexican right-hander can pull it together before he reaches free agency after the 2015 season, but we’re betting against that happening. There are better back-end fantasy starters on the board.
Austin Jackson, OF, Mariners
Jackson was a really good fantasy outfielder in his four-plus seasons with the Tigers, batting .277/.342/.413 in 670 games while averaging double-digit homers and close to 20 stolen bases per year. But he was traded to the Mariners last July and his poor offensive showing down the stretch for Seattle provided a glimpse of what’s probably coming in 2015.
Jackson batted just .229/.267/.260 with zero home runs in 54 games for the M’s following the July 31 three-team swap. Safeco Field is a stifling environment for power and it’s not like Jackson has ever been an imposing slugger. He should again provide some fantasy value with his legs in 2015, but the 28-year-old center fielder can no longer be treated like a category-filler.
Garrett Richards, SP, Angels
Richards posted a sensational 2.61 ERA and 1.038 WHIP in 26 starts last season for the Angels, striking out 164 batters in 168 2/3 innings. He looked like a budding ace for Anaheim -- and he still does -- but the 26-year-old right-hander tore the patellar tendon in his left knee during a late-August start at Fenway Park and underwent surgery to repair the injury a few days later.
Initial reports suggested that he might be ready for the beginning of spring training as long as he could avoid setbacks, but that was never realistic. At last check, Richards was jogging on a special treadmill at just 75 percent of his body weight and long-tossing from 120 feet. Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Angels camp in two weeks. He might be there on time, but Richards is obviously going to be pretty far behind Anaheim’s other starters. And we really can’t see the club rushing him into action before he’s fully ready. A little patience might pay off for those who want to take the risk on draft day, but definitely don’t reach for him.