Just as important as finding that player ready to break out is identifying guys who probably aren’t going to be worth their price tags on draft day this spring. For a variety of reasons, the following 15 players fit into that category.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins
Look, we all love Stanton. From a pure power standpoint, no one is more fun to watch. It’s actually probably for that reason that he’s just a tad overrated for fantasy purposes, as we might be more apt to overlook deficiencies with players we love. Stanton has missed significant time three out of the last four seasons due to injury, including being limited to just 74 games last season. He wound up missing more than three months of action following hamate bone surgery, a procedure that generally requires about a six-week absence. The slugger has resumed a hitting program and is expected to be fine for spring training, but hamate bone injuries have been known to sap power. The fences coming in next year at Marlins Park will help, sure, and Stanton obviously has power to spare. But we also need to consider that he’s not a lock for a good batting average and will have a less-than-imposing supporting cast around him in Miami. We all know that a 50-homer season for Stanton is coming at some point, but I’m not willing to spend a draft pick in the first half of the first round to find out if 2016 is that year.
A.J. Pollock, OF, Diamondbacks
Pollock was one of fantasy baseball’s breakout stars last season, putting together an elite five-category performance that no doubt won a lot of leagues for people. I’m by no means predicting him to fall flat in 2016, but I’d be very surprised if he repeated his power outbreak, in particular. Pollock entered 2015 having never hit more than eight home runs in any season in the majors or minors, but he busted out with 20 longballs last year. He was able to accomplish that feat despite a 50.2 percent ground ball rate, which was higher than his already-high career rate. Yes, the balls Pollock did hit in the air went farther than they ever have (292.58 feet), but it’s hard to see him sustaining the big jump given his past. It also seems unlikely that Pollock is going to steal nearly 40 bases again, as he swiped 12 more in 2015 than he had in his career to that point, despite nearly 200 fewer plate appearances. And, while he makes a ton of contact, the odds of another .315 average simply aren’t very good. I certainly don’t anticipate Pollock being a bust in the traditional sense, but I’m guessing he won’t live up to his lofty draft status.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Blue Jays
Tulowitzki played in 128 games last season, which was his highest total in four years and a welcomed development after he was limited to fewer than 100 contests in two of the previous three campaigns. He was also very productive in the first half with the Rockies, sporting a .300/.348/.471 batting line with 17 homers and 70 RBI to earn a trip to the All-Star Game. Things didn’t go as smoothly for Tulo after a trade sent him to the Blue Jays, as he hit only .239/.317/.380 down the stretch and missed three weeks of action with a small crack in his shoulder blade. The obvious reason for lowering expectations for the 31-year-old is a move to Rogers Centre, which, as much of a hitter’s park as it is, isn’t Coors Field. What also needs to be noted is Tulo’s strikeouts were way up, and his walks were way down last season. Perhaps it’s a one-year fluke, but it shouldn’t be dismissed. Finally, there’s clearly a major injury risk with the shortstop, especially as he’ll now be playing on artificial turf. I doubt I’ll own Tulowitzki on any of my teams.
John Lackey, SP, Cubs
Lackey was fantastic for the Cardinals last season, putting up a career-best 2.77 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 175/53 K/BB ratio over 218 innings. He finished the year as the No. 1 option in a historically-good Cards rotation, with the club feeling so confident in the grisly veteran that they went to him on short rest in an NLDS game. Lackey netted a two-year deal from the Cubs over the winter for his efforts, and he’ll certainly benefit in being backed by their dynamic young offense. However, it’s simply hard to imagine Lackey coming close to repeating his 2015 campaign. One reason is simply his age, as the right-hander turned 37 shortly after St. Louis was bounced from the playoffs. Another reason is that Lackey had an unsustainable 82.6 percent strand rate, which trailed only Zack Greinke. Finally, Lackey will go from Busch Stadium, where he holds a microscopic 1.91 ERA over 24 starts (including the postseason), to the more hitter-friendly Wrigley Field.
Francisco Cervelli, C, Pirates
Pirates fans were understandably worried about the catching position after Russell Martin departed last winter, but Cervelli made the transition a smooth one. The former Yankee sported a .295/.370/.401 batting line with seven homers and 43 RBI for Pittsburgh, as his average and on-base percentage easily topped all catchers not named Buster Posey. Cervelli had a solid .278/.348/.381 career batting line going into 2015, so it’s not a surprise that he was productive at the plate. However, we can point to a .359 BABIP as a reason to expect a downturn for Cervelli in the average department, which is a major issue since that’s really the only category where he helps fantasy owners. There’s also the fact that Cervelli was able to stay relatively healthy in 2015 after multiple injury issues in his time in New York. Can he avoid the injury bug again?
Jhonny Peralta, SS, Cardinals
Peralta has been a fine free agent signing for Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, providing an above-average bat at shortstop and a steady glove. He was terrific in the first half in 2015 in earning his third trip to the All-Star Game, hitting .298/.355/.473 with 13 longballs and 46 RBI. That’s when things turned sour. Peralta was horrible for the Cards down the stretch with the stick, batting only .235/.299/.299 over his final 63 contests before picking up just two hits in 14 postseason at-bats. The club has indicated that Peralta probably wore down, which isn’t a surprise since he’ll turn 34 in May and has played at least 155 games in two straight seasons. The Cardinals brought in Jedd Gyorko over the winter in part so they can give Peralta more rest. That might ultimately benefit him in the long run, but it doesn’t hide the fact that we’re talking about a guy who is entering his mid-30s and who is in line to see more days off.
Jose Reyes, SS, Rockies
After playing 143 games in 2014, Reyes dropped to 116 contests last season when he missed a month of action with a fractured rib. When healthy, we saw Reyes continue a decline at the plate, as he posted numbers across the board that were either career worsts or close to it. Not even a midseason trade to the Rockies could rejuvenate him, as the shortstop hit an awful .259/.291/.368 in his 47 games with Colorado. Things got even murkier for Reyes over the offseason when he was charged with domestic abuse. A suspension is likely coming, and it’s possible it could be pretty lengthy. Many will be intrigued by the possibility of Reyes at the most hitter-friendly venue in the game, but I’m going to pass. The pending suspension, the downturn at the plate and the always-dangerous prospect of trusting a speed guy as he nears his mid-30s are my reasons to avoid Reyes this season.
Jordan Zimmermann SP, Tigers
It was not an ideal walk year for Zimmermann, as he watched his ERA jump up a full run from the previous season to a career-high 3.66 and his WHIP rise to a career-high 1.21. Not coincidentally, we saw his velocity drop nearly a full mile per hour, which certainly isn’t a good sign for a guy nearing his 30th birthday. That didn’t stop the Tigers from giving the right-hander a five-year, $110 million contract over the offseason. It’s certainly possible that Zimmermann’s velocity rebounds in 2016, but I’m not counting on it. Plus, a move to the American League, where he has to face a designated hitter instead of a pitcher, is not the best avenue toward a bounce-back season. I expect Zimmermann to be solid this season, but there are superior options I prefer around where he’s likely to be drafted.
Alex Rodriguez, DH, Yankees
It was quite a bounce-back season for A-Rod in 2015. The 40-year-old slugged 33 home runs for the Bronx Bombers, which was his highest total since 2008. Perhaps even more surprising was that Rodriguez played in 151 games, a nearly inconceivable number after he had sat out 2014 due to a suspension and averaged just 88 games played over the previous three campaigns. While A-Rod’s resurgence last season was cool to see, it’s a virtual lock that he won’t be able to repeat his efforts in 2016. We saw the three-time MVP’s production begin to dip late last season, as he batted only .191/.300/.377 over the final two months. Obviously I’m not predicting a recession to that degree, but expecting A-Rod to hit 30 homers again or stay healthy for a full season in a year when he’s turning 41 just isn’t practical. To top it all off, he will also lose his third base eligibility in 2016, as he’ll be only DH-eligible. Let someone else take the plunge.
Justin Turner, 3B, Dodgers
The Mets non-tendered Turner two offseasons ago, not believing he would be worth the roughly $800,000 he was set to earn in arbitration. Whoops. The 31-year-old has blossomed in his two seasons with the Dodgers, hitting .314/.384/.492 across 761 plate appearances. That includes an .861 OPS, 16 homers and 60 RBI last season as he settled in as the club’s regular third baseman. I’m past the point of doubting whether Turner is a good hitter, although elevated BABIPs (.404 in 2014 and .321 in 2015) suggest his average could regress to the mean. My bigger worry is the microfracture procedure he had on his left knee last October. The Dodgers seem confident that Turner will be ready to go for spring training and the start of the season, but that’s a surgery that has wrecked careers before. I’m just not confident that he’ll be operating at 100 percent. Even if Turner manages to stay healthy in 2016, how likely is it that he repeats a power outburst which saw him more than double his career total in home runs? The infielder is an easy pass for me.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
Lindor was summoned to the majors in mid-June last season and was simply fantastic for the Indians, sporting a .313/.353/.482 batting line with 12 home runs, 51 RBI and 12 stolen bases across 99 games. There’s little doubting that he’s going to be a very good all-around player for a very long time, but I could definitely see him being overvalued for fantasy purposes this season. While Lindor has been viewed as one of the top prospects in the game for a while, he offered no hints in the minors at the kind of offensive production that we saw him put up with the Tribe. The 22-year-old was a .279/.354/.384 hitter on the farm, and the 12 longballs he had in just 438 plate appearances with Cleveland was higher than any total he had in the minors. Lindor also had an awful 68 percent stolen base success rate in the minors but managed to swipe 12 bases in 14 attempts with the big club. Again, I’m certainly a Lindor believer and would gladly take him in a dynasty league, but he’s probably going to be chosen too soon in redraft leagues.
Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals
The Cardinals understandably weren’t counting on Garcia going into last season. He had dealt with shoulder issues for three years and had thoracic outlet surgery in July of 2014, an operation that has signaled the end of a few careers. To everyone’s surprise, the left-hander had no problems with his pitching arm after completing his rehab last May, putting up a 2.43 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 97/30 K/BB ratio over 129 2/3 innings in his 20 starts. Garcia did miss a month of action with a groin injury, but it was a minor miracle that his shoulder never presented an issue. That said, betting on a clean bill of health again in 2016 would be a fool’s errand. Plus, while Garcia has always pitched well when healthy, he experienced plenty of good fortune in 2015 with a .270 BABIP and 78.1 percent strand rate. Some regression to the mean and a major injury red flag makes the southpaw a dicey proposition.
You’ve got to give Duffy credit for his progression as a hitter. He batted .253 with zero home runs in his entire college career at Long Beach State and then .247 with one home run in his first season in pro ball. Since then he’s hit .317 in the minors and .292 in the majors and surprised everyone by smacking 12 balls over the fence with the big club in 2015. I’m certainly buying Duffy’s ability to hit for average, as he makes up for a relative lack of patience by making a lot of contact. His exit velocity numbers also show a guy who makes a lot of hard contact. That said, we could see a minor regression to the mean given his elevated .336 BABIP. What I’m not buying is another double-digit home run season from a guy who entered 2015 with 13 dingers over 1,151 plate appearances in his pro career. After finishing as a top-10 fantasy third baseman in 2015, I’m not sure I see much mixed-league value here for 2016.
Steve Cishek, RP, Mariners
Cishek was one of the better relievers in the National League from 2011-14, but he lost his closer job with the Marlins last season after a rotten start that saw him post a 10.32 ERA while blowing four of his first seven save chances. The reliever put up a 1.85 ERA the rest of the way, which on the surface makes it seem like he rebounded nicely. However, he had an underwhelming 35/19 K/BB ratio across 44 frames during that stretch and continued to show a decline in velocity. The 29-year-old’s fastball in 2015 was down two mph from a few years ago and one mph from 2014. Cishek’s decline in velocity and control is obviously an awful combination, but that didn’t stop the Mariners from handing him a two-year contract and naming him their closer over the offseason. I just can’t see this ending well, and with a dynamite setup man in Joaquin Benoit waiting in the wings, we could see Seattle make a change in the ninth inning sooner rather than later.
Evan Gattis, DH, Astros
One thing Gattis is certainly known for is his big raw power. He’s smacked over 20 home runs in each of his three big league seasons, including a career-high 27 bombs in 2015 in his first season with the Astros. The hulking slugger is also known for his awful plate discipline, as he’s posted a 297/73 K/BB ratio over his 366 career contests. There was a bunch of fantasy value to be had here when Gattis qualified at catcher, but being only DH-eligible for 2016 results in a precipitous drop in fantasy appeal for El Oso Blanco. What also needs to be considered is the potential for injury, as Gattis missed chunks of time in 2013 and 2014 with back and oblique issues. He stayed healthy in 2015 and a move to the DH spot surely helped with that, but the 29-year-old definitely can’t be locked in for over 600 plate appearances again. You can put Gattis down for 20-plus dingers if he avoids the disabled list, but the lack of positional flexibility and an average that will be lucky to reach .250 means there’s significant downside here.
(Editor's Note: Gattis had hernia surgery in February and is a question mark for Opening Day.)