Michael Pineda helped carry many owners to fantasy titles last season, including yours truly, but the minute he was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees, I was off the proverbial bandwagon. Everything changed with that deal. The move to a hitter-friendly ballpark, especially for lefty hitters, is the obvious one, but Pineda also slowed down as the season wore on in 2011, and let's face it, not everyone thrives in New York. I could have written this months ago, but now after seeing that Pineda's velocity is way down so far this spring, it has become even clearer to me that I won't be targeting Pineda this season.
My intentions in most fantasy baseball drafts are pretty clear. I write about them, discuss them, tweet them ... you name it. But the main one -- other than having fun -- is to look for value. I'll draft a player earlier than normal if I really want certain statistics, but most of the time if I don't like the player's value, I'll simply ignore him. Pineda doesn't make my top 25 starting pitchers. He's obviously talented, and maybe there's a dominant full season in his future at some point, but he's too risky for my taste, and when I get around to selecting starting pitchers, Pineda will be gone.
Pineda's name is the first one that comes to mind if you ask me who I'm avoiding in 2012 drafts. We call this annual blog entry my "Do Not Draft" list, though I will admit that if everyone in a certain draft believes a player is overrated and he slips far enough, I'm interested. It's all about the value, even with Pineda. I do have him ranked, after all, just not nearly as high as everyone else. Here are some other players I won't be targeting:
Michael Bourn, OF, Atlanta Braves: I really don't understand our No. 35 rank on him. What's really changed from a year ago, when he was pick No. 97 in ESPN average live drafts? Does being on a better team really matter? This is still a one-category guy. Granted, he's really, really good at it, likely the best in the league at stealing bases, but he has never scored 100 runs and doesn't have a lick of power, and he remains a career .271 hitter. There are plenty of stolen bases available late. I want power, power and more power when others would be ready to pick Bourn in the fourth round of a mixed-league draft.
Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: He's being drafted as the 31st overall pick, as if he's a safe 30-homer, 100-RBI guy who steals bases. Now 32, I don't see more power, better health or more steals coming from him. He's a good fantasy option, a solid second outfielder, and I won't blame the loss of Albert Pujols as a factor in my opinion to leave him for anyone else, because I don't believe that. I just find myself ignoring Holliday every time I have a third-round pick, choosing instead to take, say, a middle infielder with pop, speed and more upside. Outfield is deep. Pass on Holliday that early and give me Shin-Soo Choo five rounds later.
Mike Napoli, C, Texas Rangers: I'm avoiding the catcher position early in ESPN standard (10-team) leagues to begin with, so I suppose Napoli bears the brunt of that for the purpose of this blog entry. I don't dislike Napoli, I just wouldn't choose him in the fifth round. I've been waiting until the very end to grab a catcher; in one mock draft, Alex Avila fell. A year ago, Joe Mauer was on my "Do Not Draft" list; in retrospect avoiding him was wise, and now he's a bargain. Catchers are just riskier than other hitters in terms of health and performance, they make for bad keepers, and there are just too many safe hitters out there in Round 5, when you'd have to take Napoli.
Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta Braves: This is the same premise as Napoli, and to some degree Bourn. I'm waiting on my closers, and I need a more balanced pick this early. I'm not sure I've ever drafted Mariano Rivera, for example. I admire his work, of course, but to me, closers -- even the top ones -- are better left for the middle rounds. It's still all about the saves. If I knew for sure Kimbrel would save 46 games and fan 127 hitters, I'd take him where he's going, but over the past five seasons, the likes of Jonathan Broxton, Brad Lidge and Brian Wilson were judged as eminently safe in March as well. Give me Brandon League and his 35 saves in Round 19.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers: Now 33, Ramirez's otherwise stellar statistics the past few seasons for the Chicago Cubs featured extreme home/road splits, and he no longer calls Wrigley Field home. Also, he has averaged a mere 118 games played over the past three seasons. I generally don't believe in contract year wonderment, but Ramirez recently signed a three-year deal, and I think the Brewers will regret it. I think those selecting Ramirez in the seventh round of standard drafts will regret grabbing him, too. I've ranked Ramirez a few rounds later at what I feel is a deep third-base spot.
Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers: I'm not really ganging up on one team. I like Ryan Braun, obviously, since I rank him No. 1. Zack Greinke is pretty good, too. I keep drafting Mat Gamel. But Weeks has played in 130 games once in his career. He doesn't steal bases anymore. Even at a scarce position, he's not in my top 100.
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Baltimore Orioles: A few years ago, I didn't avoid batting average killers the way I do today, but we used to be able to count on certain players to always hit for average to balance things out. You know, if you draft Reynolds, Adam Dunn or Carlos Pena, make sure you get Joe Mauer or Ichiro Suzuki. That doesn't work so well anymore when those guys get old or hit only .272. Still, Reynolds hit .221 last season and .198 the year before. In 2009, he was a terrific fantasy option, hitting 44 home runs and stealing 24 bases, but his .260 batting average didn't hurt as much. Hitting .221 does, and he doesn't run anymore. With Reynolds, even if he slips five rounds from his current 15th-round spot, I'm avoiding him. I'd call teammate Chris Davis undraftable as well.
Carl Crawford, OF, Boston Red Sox: Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? I'm not giving up on Crawford's career getting back to his ol' Tampa Bay level, but he still has a wrist problem, and he still needs his wrist to be a relevant player. Last time I ranked players, Crawford was at No. 100 -- he's 69th in ESPN leagues -- and nothing good has happened for him in the past few weeks. I won't call it another truly lost season, but I'll let him be someone else's problem in 2012.