Hitting on the right fantasy baseball sleepers or breakout players in your draft is a big thrill, but avoiding a bust is an equally satisfying feeling. Everyone loves smirking at their their fellow leaguemates' rankings and watching someone else get stuck with a disappointment, whether it's an over-hyped prospect, injury-prone veteran, or a guy coming off an unrepeatable career year.
There are different ways to define a "bust", from total duds to guys who simply disappointrelative to their respective draft positions. The following list is mostly comprised of the latter since complete busts usually suffer some sort of injury, which we can't predict.
As such, it's important to note that we're not saying you should stay away from these players at all costs; rather, you should approach them with caution during your draft and apply some healthy skepticism to their lofty preseason rankings on many sites.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Busts
Catcher: Brian McCann, Astros.McCann has been as safe a bet as any catcher to hit 20 HRs, but now in Houston, playing time could be an issue, and Yankee Stadium's short right field porch won't be there to help his numbers. In his three years in New York, McCann hit .246/.327/.476 at home and just .235/.313/.418 on the road. Minute Maid Park is still a good one for lefties, but it's reasonable to expect some regressionfrom the 33-year-old backstop, especially since it's unlikely McCann will play 135 games, which he averaged with the Yankees.
First base: Brandon Belt, Giants.Belt is almost 29, and his career high in homers for a season is 18 (and that includes three seasons with at least 145 games). He stole zero bases last year (four attempts) and has a .272 career average. Help me figure out a reason to be excited here? To be fair, Belt's sky-high BB-rate makes him more valuable in OBP leagues and should help him post a good amount of runs, but there are a bunch of first basemen who can give you more.
Second base: Daniel Murphy, Nationals.To be clear, Murphy should still be a worthwhile starter, but at almost 32 and coming off a season that is the definition of "career year", the potential for overdrafting is high. If his homers fall to 17 (which would still be the second most of his career)and his average falls to .300 (slightly above his career mark), he's suddenly "good" but not "great." With second base so loaded at the topwith five-category/speed guys (Jose Altuve, Trea Turner, Jonathan Villar, Dee Gordon) or big power guys (Robinson Cano, Brian Dozier, Rougned Odor) -- plus solid all-around players who could hit as many homers and will steal more bases (Ian Kinsler, Jason Kipnis, maybe Devon Travis and Javier Baez) --you don't need to reach for Murphy.
Third base: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals.Carpenter is mash-up of Murphy and Belt, only he's eligible at three positions (1B, 2B, 3B). He's a moderate average (.272, .272, .271 the past three years, respectively), high-OBP guy who scores a good amount of runs. He came out of nowhere to hit 28 homers in 2015 and more or less kept his power up in '16, clubbing 21 in 129 games. However, he steals zero bases and his RBIs are spotty. It's foolish to still doubt whether he has 25-HR power, but at 31, he probably isn't going to suddenly see a big improvement in that area. He's a good player whose versatility gives him extra value, but he's not a needle-mover in any one category, with the possible exception of runs.
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Blue Jays.It wouldn't be shocking if Tulowitzki had one more big season in him, but it's tough to find many positives when looking at his numbers from the past couple years. First, there are the injury worries, which at 32 aren't suddenly going to vanish; next, there is the plummeting BB-rate, which hurts his average and ability to score runs. Tulohit 24 homers in just 131 games last year, so there's still power potential, but at this point, he's more name value than anything.
Outfield:Adam Eaton, Nationals.In a good year, Eaton could challenge 20-20 while scoring 100-plus runs and hitting close to .300. That would make him a big-time fantasy asset. Unfortunately, he's never hit more than 14 homers, stolen more than 18 bases, or scored more than 98 runs. Now in a worse hitters park (but a better lineup), Eaton is looking at around 10-12 homers, 15-20 SBs, and a bunch of runs with a good average. Again, solid numbers, but resist the urge to overdraft. Eaton is best suited for a team that drafted low-average sluggers early.
Outfield: Kole Calhoun, Angels.There are about 30 guys who will be available after Calhoun is drafted who have the same upside as him. This isn't necessarily a knock on Calhoun, but it shows how relatively easy it is to find an outfielder who can hit for a moderate average, 20-30 HRs, and steal no bases. Calhoun might have a little more value because he upped his BB-rate last year, resulting in more runs, but there's really nothing here to get excited about.
Outfield: Ender Inciarte, Braves.Inciarteisn't exactly rocketing up fantasy draft boards, but he's the No. 57 OF in Fantasy Pros consensus rankings, which still seems high. His age (26) and the uncertainty of how Atlanta's new park will play are reasons for optimism, but with very limited power and RBI upside, plus only moderate speed, Inciarte seems like a "lite" version of Eaton. If you're willing to sacrifice some average, you can find other fourth or fifth outfielders who can steal 20 bases and have more power upside.
Starting Pitcher: Rick Porcello, Red Sox.Too easy, right? We wouldn't project any pitcher to win 22 games, let alone one with only average strikeout numbers. Porcellodoesn't walk people, which should help him keep his WHIP fairly low, but his advanced stats -- along with common sense -- suggest a big drop-off is coming this year.
Starting Pitcher: Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays.We were all aboard the Stroman hype train last year, but an up-and-down season ended with a 4.37 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 7.2 K/9 ratio. Stroman did improve in the second half, though, so there are plenty of people who thinkthiswill be his breakout season. Maybe, but we're not going to bet on it. At 25, Stroman still has room for improvement, but his mediocre K-rate in the majors ultimately hurts his fantasy value, especially pitching in Toronto. Again, his strikeout numbers saw a jump in the second half, so perhaps we're not projecting enough, but we still want to see more from Stroman before we risk being burned by him again.
Starting Pitcher: Jeff Samardzija, Giants.Samardzija is durable, making at least 32 starts in four straight seasons, but it's tough to find any other major positives about him. That's not to say it's all negative, but what exactly stands out? His K-rate was steadily declining before a slight uptick last year (7.4), his ground-ball rate is all over the place (50.2 in 2014, 39 in '15, 46.5 in '16), and his BB-rate has been creeping back up over the past couple years. Samardzija is a decent pitcher, who, for some reason, hasn't been able to get wins and is wildly inconsistent. That's not a great fantasy asset unless it comes very cheaply.
Starting Pitcher: Michael Fulmer, Tigers.Fulmer has a bright future, but last year's sterling numbers aren't necessarily his floor. His BABIP (.268) and FIP (3.76) suggest he wasn't quite as good as he looked, and we all know tales of "sophomore slumps." It's also worth noting that Fulmerlogged 174.1 innings last year, up from 134.2 the year before. Overall, Fulmer has plenty of upside, but his K/9 ratio (7.5) isn't that of an elite fantasy hurler, and a little worse luck this year could go a long way in diminishing his overall value.
Starting Pitcher: Kevin Gausman, Orioles.Gausman is another good young pitcher who won't be a "bust" because he totally flops; rather, he'll be a "bust" because he'll likely be overdrafted. Gausman had a good K-rate last year (8.7), but his home run problem can't be ignored. Perhaps this is the year the 26-year-old rightyputs it all together -- it's encouraging that he pitches much better at home than on the road, after all -- but we have a tough time getting too excited about an inconsistent, homer-happy pitcher in the AL East.
Relief Pitcher: Edwin Diaz, Mariners/Seung Hwan Oh, Cardinals.This isa copout because we actually think both Diaz and Oh are excellent relievers and have a lot of upside, but both are in the top five of Fantasy Pros consensus RP rankings. That's a lot to ask from two guys who have 37 saves between them. All the peripherals and advanced stats are those of stud closers, but here are reasons to worry about each: Oh is 34, and Diaz's K-rate is tough to project since he only recently became a full-time reliever. One of these two will likely be a star, while the other will at least somewhat disappoint. That just seems to be how these things work out. There's nothing wrong with drafting one, but do yourself a favor and don't count on both.