Now we turn 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. Rather, we mean that these players’ fantasy output will likely fall short of their cost on draft day. The NL East and NL Central been covered. Now it’s time to move on to the National League West …
Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies
Rosario has good power and he plays in the most hitter-friendly home park in the majors, but his career has been on a steep downward trend since he exploded onto the scene with a 28-homer, 71-RBI rookie season in 2012. He slugged just 21 home runs in 2013 and then finished with only 13 jacks in 2014. And his OPS has fallen from .843 in 2012, to .801 to 2013, to the .739 mark where it cratered last year.
There’s been talk this winter of the Rockies trying to trade Rosario, but it doesn’t appear any team is going to bite on this depreciating asset. He is a horrible defensive catcher with a big body and he’s made only seven career starts at first base. Plus, he’s now entering his arbitration years. Rosario’s best position is probably designated hitter, but the Rockies obviously can’t offer that. Colorado signed catcher Nick Hundley to a two-year, $6.25 million free agent contract at the end of December and he’s likely to take a large share of the playing time behind the plate in 2015. Rosario should still run into some balls and send them out of Coors Field -- we’re projecting another double-digit home run total -- but he’s basically an empty-power fantasy commodity. Let another owner dream about a big bounceback season.
Justin Upton, OF, Padres
Upton is an MVP-caliber player when he’s at his best. He finished fourth in that award’s balloting in 2011 when he batted .289/.369/.529 with 31 home runs and 21 stolen bases in 159 games with the Diamondbacks and he again received votes in 2014 after hitting .270/.342/.491 with 29 home runs and 102 RBI in 154 games with the Braves. But he was sent out to San Diego this winter in a six-player trade and will now be making half of his plate appearances in a home stadium -- Petco Park -- that has sapped the power of many a great slugger.
Upton is no longer a 20-steals threat now that he has moved into his late-20s and he is doubtful to flirt with 30 dingers in his new cavernous home. Maybe he can surprise us -- the fences have been altered at Petco and Upton will be playing with big dollar signs in his eyes in his contract year -- but don’t take him in the early rounds of fantasy drafts this spring expecting to see the kind of numbers he put up in the past. Arizona’s Chase Field is the direct opposite of Petco Park in terms of encouraging power production and Atlanta’s Turner Field tends to play pretty fair.
Jake Peavy, SP, Giants
Peavy got off to a dreadful start in 2014 with the Red Sox, posting a 4.72 ERA over 124 innings. But the veteran right-hander was traded to the Giants on July 26 for a pair of minor league pitchers and everything turned around for him in a flash. Peavy registered a 2.17 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 58/17 K/BB ratio across 78 2/3 regular-season innings for San Francisco and then went on to win his second World Series ring in as many years despite a so-so showing in October.
That three-month stretch earned him a two-year, $24 million free agent contract from the Giants this winter and he’s now locked into their 2015 rotation with Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson, Matt Cain, and Tim Lincecum. Peavy has had great success in the National League West over the course of his 13-year major league career and maybe he’ll be able to keep it rolling over the next two seasons. But we prefer to look at the larger sample size, which shows that the 33-year-old (34 in May) owns a 4.00 ERA in his last 785 innings, including his nice finish to 2014.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Dodgers
Rollins, the Phillies’ all-time hits leader, went out with a bang in his final season in the City of Brotherly Love, tallying 17 home runs and 28 stolen bases in 138 games. That attracted the attention of the Dodgers, who were looking for a veteran presence at shortstop after losing Hanley Ramirez to free agency. Los Angeles officially traded right-hander Zach Eflin and left-hander Tom Windle for Rollins on December 19.
Those counting stats from 2014, the shiny new Dodger Blue jersey, and the name recognition are going to make Rollins a highly attractive fantasy target this spring in casual fantasy baseball leagues. And maybe he can live up to the price if he stays healthy and regularly hits atop the talented Los Angeles lineup. But please don’t overpay. Rollins turned 36 years old in November and his combined batting line over the last six seasons is .252/.318/.397. It was .286/.342/.468 in the five seasons before that -- Rollins’ peak. The change of home venue also plays a part in this. Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park is mostly hitter-friendly, with short walls down the foul lines and big gaps in center. Dodger Stadium is much more kind to pitchers.
Matt Kemp, OF, Padres
Kemp was tremendous down the stretch last year for the Dodgers, batting .315/.368/.616 with 17 home runs and 54 RBI over the final 62 games of the regular season. That resurgence is a large part of the reason the Padres made him one of their primary trade targets this winter, acquiring the 30-year-old outfielder from Los Angeles on December 18 as part of a five-player swap.
But let’s not forget how badly Kemp struggled in the first half of the 2014 season and how awful he looked in 2013, hitting just .270/.328/.395 with six home runs and 33 RBI in 73 games while missing large swaths of time due to ankle, shoulder, and hamstring injuries. Even after he turned his 2014 season around, he still hobbled badly on defense and around the bases. The Padres diagnosed Kemp with arthritis in both of his hips during their pre-trade physical yet still went forward with the deal. We’re backing away.
Josh Collmenter, SP, Diamondbacks
Collmenter served as a full-time starter for pretty much the entire 2014 season and did really well in that role, posting 11 wins, a 3.46 ERA, and a 1.126 WHIP across 179-plus innings for a Diamondbacks team that finished at the very bottom of the National League West standings with a record of 64-98. Arizona general manager Dave Stewart announced in December that Collmenter will start for the club on Opening Day 2015. A trade or free agent signing could of course change that, but you get the idea: the D’Backs like Collmenter a whole lot.
But there’s a vast difference between being named a No. 1 starter on a bad pitching staff and being an actual ace. Collmenter does have a cool 3.42 career ERA in 516 major league innings, but that has come with a 6.6 career K/9, which is well below the typical strikeout rate of a front-line fantasy starter. Collmenter fanned just 115 batters last year in his 179 1/3 frames for a K/9 of 5.8. Another full season of starts at power-friendly Chase Field should muddy his attractive-looking career earned run rate. The investment might not be too bad for Collmenter on draft day, but let another owner make it.
Casey McGehee, 3B, Giants
McGehee tallied 177 hits and 76 RBI in 160 games last season for the Marlins and he joined the defending World Series-champion Giants on December 20 in a three-player trade. He’s going to be taking over the starting third base job in San Francisco this season with Pablo Sandoval departing for Boston as a free agent on November 25. McGehee’s arrow should be pointing up, right? We’re not buying.
The 32-year-old McGehee spent the 2013 season playing in Japan’s Pacific League after batting just .217/.284/.358 in 352 plate appearances between the Pirates and Yankees in 2012. In 2011, he hit .223/.280/.346 in 600 plate appearances with the Brewers. There have been flashes of great promise from McGehee in the past, but the follow-up usually brings disappointment. McGehee slugged just four home runs last season with Miami and he finished with a .357 slugging percentage, which ranked second-to-the-bottom among qualified major league third basemen.