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Guide to the 2013 Fantasy Landmines

With the 2012 MLB season finally wrapped up, let’s congratulate the San Francisco Giants on their second champion in three years. A combination of timely hitting and unexpectedly strong pitching performances from some a few baseball zombies was enough to carry these underdogs to victory again. Marred by a few fervent fans who wanted to “Fuck Detroit!” so badly they decided to total their own city’s million dollar metro bus, sports fans continue to make you question whether how much you should care about that snazzy hometown logo, and the destructive nature of athletic tribalism. But enough with the philosophizing, let’s move on to a realm where fandom can be a clear liability with what I like to call my Guide to the Fantasy Baseball Landmines of 2013.


I figure with the season recently completed, this is the best time to take one last look at the 2012 numbers in fantasy baseball before we get all rosy eyed and dangerously optimistic come next March. My Guide to Fantasy Landmines is just a little word of caution to help people be a little more rational about next year’s fantasy draft.


There are landmines hidden throughout the best players, players that you just can’t draft. You can talk all day about upside and potential, but certain players are just a dice roll away from blowing up your fantasy season. Keep in mind there are still things to be sorted like where Josh Hamilton ends up signing, or continuing insanity by the Dodgers to push the limits of luxury tax induced revenue sharing. Landmines will mostly be players ranked in the top 75, because while a late round pick of Adam Dunn this year turned out to be quite valuable, he also didn’t bust you if he continued his slump from 2011. So without further ado, let’s kick the list off with Mr. Landmine himself.


Troy Tulowitzki SS


This guy was a consensus first round pick coming into 2012 at a shallow position and likely punished a lot of owners for taking him in the first round. This guy has the potential to be the best shortstop in the league, but his inability to stay healthy puts a lot of risk on owners who choose to play with his kind of fire. Not counting his rookie season of 2006, he has only managed to play over 125 games in three out of six seasons since. Even when missing significant portions of a season he can still put up solid numbers, but in the end his unpredictable availability really hurts him especially in head to head formats.


Evan Longoria 3B


Here we have another guy in the Tulowitzki class, this time coming into 2012 as a high second round pick. A guy who has prodigious offensive talent but has also missed significant time due to injury in three out of his five baseball seasons. While his OBP is relatively consistent, his average is a bit all over the place. While average isn’t the best judge of batting prowess, it still counts heavily in most fantasy leagues. Also, any promise of speed is long gone, and his 15 SB in 2010 should be considered an outlier.


Edwin Encarnacion 1B


E5 is hot off a career year, and that should be the first warning sign.  He finished 2012 inside the top 15 according to ESPN’s Player Rater, thanks in part to a staggering 42 home runs.  But one rule that every fantasy owner should be aware of is to never pay for a career year. E5 is another player who often has a hard time getting through an entire season. Combine that with a loss of third base eligibility means that there is a lot of competition at the first base position, often with the same or upside and a lot lower risk.


Aaron Hill 2B


This guy finished at 21 on the Player Rater, and despite averaging only 133 games per season over the last 8 seasons, it is his lack of consistency at the plate that is much more alarming. While the more friendly confines in Arizona have treated him well in a little over one season’s worth of time, his numbers are so on again off again that he should be avoided if possible. He has been an every other year type of player throughout his career for whatever reason, and after the big numbers this season, next year is falls as another off year, just stay away.


Dustion Pedroia 2B


Here is another second basemen generally regarded to be one of the leagues top 5 second basemen. While he missed some time this year due to injury, the larger concern is the Red Sox as a whole. While the Yankees fan in me normally prevents me from drafting Red Sox anways, this will serve as a message to other less ridiculous fantasy owners. Pedroia suffered lows in all the major counting categories this season, and while it pleases me to say the Red Sox are in rebuilding mode, this also means that his future statistics will also likely stay depressed.


Matt Kemp OF


Matt Kemp has his own special category of fantasy landmine. After a raging start to the 2012 season he was sidelined by injury and ended up playing less than half a season. Also, despite playing in over 155 games over that last four season, he lost major time to injury in 2007. Even so, it’s hard to really tag him as injury prone yet. What is more worrying are his 2010 stats, a clear outlier season statistically with lows across the board, a phenomena which I have termed getting “Rihanna’d,” or in other words, what happens when you date a pop superstar for a whole season. The guy clearly has talent, but I’m staying away.


Other Landmines to avoid include:


Jim Johnson RP – While still a very serviceable closer, this is another case of stay away from career years. This isn’t to say not to draft him, but his 2013 rankings will be very inflated.


Ian Desmond SS – Hit more HRs in 130 games (25) than he did in his previous 329 (22) while also hitting 30 points above his avg (.292) than he did in during the previous 2 seasons.


Kyle Lohse SP – Career year. Don’t do it.


Josh Hamilton OF – I’ve had a lot of arguments about this guy going both ways, but in the end even he doesn’t know how long his body is going to hold up after years of drug and alcohol abuse.


Ryan Zimmerman – Another guy who misses a lot of time to injury, and if it weren’t for some miracle cortisone to spark a sensational second half, his 2012 numbers would have looked pretty bad.


This list is constantly subject to change and is bound to be revisited closer to next year’s draft and/or spring training. The lesson here is to avoid these players if possible; the risk simply isn’t worth the reward. And if I have to tell you not to draft A-Rod in the first 15 rounds then you are in a whole different world of hurt. And as an aside, if he really wants to prove he is still the best, then he should restructure his deal until he proves it. Otherwise all his grandstanding is just empty peanut shells left under the seats waiting to be swept away. 

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