Fantasy baseball busts in 2016 you should draft in 2017

Here we are. Another six-month cycle has come and almost gone. It’s been quite the grind, hasn’t it?

Funny how truly humbling fantasy baseball is. This time last season, I was king of the world of roto, or at least I felt like it. I had won five of seven leagues and made a solid run at two overall championships at NFBC. I began my 2016 prep last winter with the realization that last season’s successes had no bearing on this season’s outcomes. I still had to research just as much, grind on FAAB ever more so and attempt to outthink my competition every step of the way.

I also knew that after last season’s near-sweep that this season was going to naturally be a letdown. Those are just the normal ebbs and flows of fantasy sports. I made a good run in a few spots this season and should still win some leagues, but nothing closely resembling last season. Regardless of my results, I hope somewhere along the way, this Barometer helped you stay competitive and win some of your leagues.

When preparing for 2017, the most important thing I can do is to not overreact based on this season’s trends. I’m not going to go into draft season avoiding aces in the early rounds outright just because Matt Harvey and Gerrit Cole burned me. Although I’m fond of Gary Sanchez, I’m not going to automatically target him in the second round because it may appear that he is the second coming of Babe Ruth (didn’t we say the same of Kyle Schwarber just 12 months ago?). Finally, I’m also not going to overlook the players who disappointed us this season, because quite often, that’s the group where some of the best value is unearthed.

To conclude my 26 weeks of presenting risers and fallers, I wanted to look at some of the biggest disappointments at each position. These are players who either missed time with injury, played injured or simply failed to reach value altogether. Because of this, almost all of them will fall in 2016 ADP lists. Of course, I’m not saying that every single one of these guys with subpar season is going to bounce back. Although as often is the case, the general public doesn’t go so far as to dig into the reason for a down year. They just look at the year-end stats and make judgements simply based on that.

Without further ado.

Catchers

Welington Castillo (ARI), Travis d’Arnaud (NYM), Yan Gomes (CLE), James McCann (DET)

None of these guys will be world beaters in 2017, but they are all going to fall below expected value. All but McCann were among the top 15 catchers taken on draft day. Castillo is probably the one in the group that looks like he doesn’t belong since he didn’t have that bad of a season, though he definitely fell short of expectations. Mostly because he nearly cracked 20 homers in 2015 and was beginning this season in hitter-friendly Chase Field. He got off to a blistering start, hitting six home runs in April, but has only hit eight since. Injury was not an issue with Castillo this season. He struck out and walked at nearly the same rates as last season, but saw a big 50-point drop in isolated power. And he rested quite often, so if you look at the fact that Castillo played in nearly the same games as last year (110), you’ll notice that other than a few homers, his numbers are nearly the same. He won’t fall as much as the other guys, but will definitely be available after pick 250 overall compared to his 202 ADP prior to this season. He’s someone I’d consider as my C2.

D’Arnaud always finds a way to get injured doesn’t he? He missed another month-and-a-half in 2016 and has to be flat-out the biggest bust among catchers this season with his four HR and 15 RBI in 269 PA. Although it’s difficult to explain the big fall, I’d have to imagine that there is nowhere to go but up for the former first-round prospect. He will be heading into his age-28 season, possibly with a new team, and might have to compete for a starting job. D’Arnaud could even go undrafted in fantasy leagues next season. I’m not ready to fully give up on him, and will have to see how he looks in spring and where he plays before deciding.

McCann was available later in drafts and had some promise going into the season, but hit the DL for the first time in his career with an ankle injury in early April and missed three weeks. He has 12 home runs on the season, but the 28 runs scored is painful for those who have run with him as their C2. Not to mention a low batting average (.220) derived from a career-high 29.5 strikeout-rate. McCann will never break out to be a top five or even top 10 catcher, but should be the Tigers’ guy for the next couple seasons. I do think he bounces back in the BA category next season since he was always more of a contact hitter in the minors. If we’re looking for a catcher with a decent floor as my No. 2 next season, we could do much worse than McCann.

Gomes was hitting an abominable .165 through 2.5 months before going down with a separated shoulder right after the All-Star break. He was recently shut down in the minor leagues after injuring his wrist. Gomes turns 30 next year and has a long, difficult road ahead of him. I would write him off for now, but would certainly keep tabs on.

Corner Infielders

Eric Hosmer (KC), Lucas Duda (NYM), Nick Castellanos (DET)

Eric Hosmer has driven in 100 runs, why in the world is he on this list? It’s because Hosmer is hitting .268 instead of in his customary .290s range. Also, because Hosmer was the ninth first baseman off draft boards this year but ranks as the 15th based on production and is buried in a position that annually offers a lot of pop. Well, Hosmer has finally flashed some of that power he’d always been lacking. The 24 home runs with a week to go are his career high. That .268 is fluky too. The difference between that and a .293 average for Hosmer is just 15 hits. He may go undervalued next season, but there’s something to be said about this unsexy fantasy players who exceed 600 PA every season. He turns 27 next season, and it’s possibly we have yet to see his best fantasy season. A Lorenzo Cain bounce back would help him get to the next level as well.

Duda is back in the lineup after missing nearly four months with an injured back. Duda was a top-200 pick who could fall beyond pick 300 for those with short memories. If the back is intact, Duda could be that late-round Chris Carter/Mark Teixeira who provides you with pop from the bench when you need it. After all, Duda average nearly 29 home runs over the previous two seasons. He is more than likely to stifle a healthy fantasy team batting average, but is someone worth keeping on the radar next season.

Castellanos was in the midst of his breakout season before breaking his hand in early August. He got off to a blistering start in April (.363/.376/.563), then popped seven dingers in May. He cooled off a bit prior to the injury, but was still hitting right behind Miggy and VMart (sometimes ahead of VMart) while J.D. Martinez was on the shelf. Castellanos’ ADP next spring may not end up much higher than this season’s 249 overall. I do not believe Castellanos is a future perennial All-Star, but I expect him to exceed the value of a 17th-round pick in 12-teamers next season.

Middle Infielders

Javier Baez (CHC), Joe Panik (SF), Tim Anderson (CHW)

Make no mistake, Javier Baez is going to be really good. Just 23, Baez has made tremendous strides as a hitter, taking his awful strikeout rate down to 24 percent at the expense of some power. He has also fallen victim to the lineup shuffle far too often as one of many good players among the Cubbies’ infield. Baez should be a multi-position (2B, 3B, SS) eligible gem next season given a full-time role. The former ninth overall real-life pick is a five-tool stud who should join the 20-20 club as soon as next season. I can’t say for sure that he’ll fly under the radar, but he might be an easy pass for those who didn’t notice his improvement as a hitter or if he begins the season without a full-time position.

Joe Panik missed 23 games in June, but it’s still no excuse for an underwhelming season. After hitting .312 in 2015, mostly from the two-spot ahead of Buster Posey, Panik is at .240 this season and hitting in the bottom-third of the lineup most days. He will be overlooked next season, but we should all notice that his 10 HR this year are a career high and that he’s one of the most disciplined hitters (9.7 percent walk rate, 9.1 percent K rate) in the National League. He has been a good contact hitter his entire career (as well as in the minors) and we absolutely must chalk up a subpar batting average to an incredibly unlucky .241 BABIP. Panik could fall even further beyond last year’s 17th-round ADP in 12-teamers. A draft position I expect him to easily exceed.

Tim Anderson is a first-round real life draft pick who was promoted to the big leagues without much fanfare. The concern with Anderson in the minors (his low walk rate) has rung true in the majors, as he’s hovered around 3 percent since he was called up. He has hit big league southpaws well (.341/.349/.488) but has struggled against right-handers (.255/.288/.382), which is something for him to work on. Anderson has a bit of pop that will continue to mature and has been solid on the base paths, stealing 10 bases and only being caught twice. He could certainly fly under the radar because of a lack of appeal (similar Nick Castellanos this year), which could put him in a nice position to surprise us and put up a decent season hitting first or second in the White Sox lineup.

There were a couple more guys who were close to fitting the bill here, so I wanted to give them a quick shout out. That would be Devon Travis (2B, TOR), Orlando Arcia (SS, MLW) and Alemdys Diaz (SS, STL). Alhough none will fall under the radar of experienced fantasy players, they all have reasons that could make falling possible. For Travis and Diaz, it was injuries at extreme opposite times. Travis likely lost at least eight rounds off his ADP since he was not ready for training camp, but has played well, often leading off for a beastly lineup of sluggers. Diaz was baseball’s best hitter for the first two months, virtually out of nowhere, but fell to injury before only recently getting back into the fold. Arcia struggled upon promotion (.189 in 95 August at-bats), but is hitting .247 in September and has flashed a bit of pop and speed. Because we are all a bit cynical on automatic prospect production these days, it’s possible for Arcia to fall to a reasonable ADP spot before we witness him blow up next season a la Francisco Lindor or Xander Bogaerts. He’s someone I’ll target this season.

Outfielders

Justin Upton (DET), Miguel Sano (MIN), Domingo Santana (MLW), David Peralta (ARI), Yasiel Puig (LAD)

Sorry folks, but Justin Upton is not toast yet. He’s still got incredible power, cranking out 28 homers -– right along his season average the last four years. His exit velocity on line drives and fly balls have both slightly increased from last year (from 95 to the 96 mph range), which is also a good sign. The problem is Upton has no shame at the plate, much more of a free swinger these days as his 29 percent strikeout rate can attest. In fact, that’s his highest rate since his first full season in the big leagues. Upton has certainly taken the notion of "adjusting to the new league" to another level this year. Although his run and RBI numbers are down this season, at least the runs can be attributed to a huge drop in OBP (down to .303) and the RBI drop because he’s not hitting as high in the lineup as he used to. Because of so many of the younger, more reliable studs that will pass him on the 2017 ADP, Upton will go from a fourth-rounder to possibly a seventh- or eighth-rounder. It’s the perfect spot to pounce if you believe there will be some correction in his BA. Even if not, he could make it up by producing his second 30 HR season.

Miguel Sano has been one of my biggest personal disappointments. He was not one a target for me this season because I felt that the fourth- to fifth-round ADP for someone who could damage the batting average and was so raw was not worth it a high pick with other good values in the range. Of course, I ended up with a Sano share when he fell to the sixth round of a 15-teamer (NFBC Main Event) as I figured it was too good of a value to pass up. Sano is almost certain to fall closer to 100 overall than head back to the 50-ish overall pick he was this spring, primarily because of a dismal (and that’s putting it kindly) 35 percent strikeout rate. He has missed some time with injury and has hit only 24 homers this season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 35-homer season as soon as 2017 if he can stay healthy. But the primary thing to watch would be to see if he made any offseason or spring adjustments to that swing and careless batting eye.

Domingo Santana will go undervalued simply because he missed half the season with injury. Santana is another free swinger with a high strikeout rate (30 percent), so we’ll have to take note of any adjustments in his swing through winter ball. He does have 10 homers in 70 games and is capable of a 30-HR season as early as next year as long as he has a spot in the Brewers’ outfield. Miller Park should certainly help. He likely won’t get drafted much higher than his current 275 ADP (22nd round), which could provide us a great opportunity at some late-round value in terms of pop and some light speed.

It may be hard to peg David Peralta next season because we’d have to see him at full strength heading into spring training. He suffered a bruised forearm and a wrist injury in May, then again with a tight back that was worse than originally, though. All in all, just 40 games played this season. All of these injuries should definitely push him down ADP-wise from 100 overall last season down beyond the 250 overall range. Peralta is a great hitter and fantasy asset when healthy, so it will all come down to how healthy he is in spring training. Moreover, the Diamondbacks have an embarrassment of riches in the outfield if everyone is healthy. But if he’s the Peralta of old, the 29-year-old can regain his starting spot with the team and as a valuable fantasy asset on draft day.

Last but not least, the epuigma. Yasiel Puig the enigma, you know what I mean. Puig has been trolling fantasy owners since his rookie year — production he has never even come close to duplicating. Puig struggled mightily earlier in the year and went on to pay his dues in the minors. He was recalled a few weeks ago as an every-other-day starter. A role he seems to have accepted. My issue with Puig has always been his discipline and how he falls into distractions with ease, like the immature kid that he is.

Something looks different with Puig since he was promoted, though. Best of all, he is blending in and providing another level of inspiration to a team that hopes to makes a big run toward the World Series. The man I despise more than anyone in baseball could possibly win me back over if he has indeed begun maturing and just concentrates on baseball. Also, you heard it here first — Puig is going to launch a game-winning homer off some great reliever this postseason. Perhaps off Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of the NLCS? If you think the Cubs are unbeatable, Puig might have a surprise in store for you. Speaking of, if that matchup comes to fruition, it’ll be the most exciting playoff series in recent history. #PuigYourFriend

There are many other examples not covered here, but I think you got the point. Last season’s trash doesn’t become this season’s treasure in every case, but there are enough examples of this over the years that it becomes a notion worth monitoring. Many of those who actually become bounce-back players have either spent a chunk of the season on the disabled list, were hiding an injury (like perhaps Andrew McCutchen) or were just nicked and dinged up for most of the season, never able to hit their usual stride or get into a rhythm. For those not injured, there is always the possibility of off-field or family stuff being a big distraction.

When looking for the ones who can actually bounce back, we want to look at the key metrics like BB%, K%, ISO, wOBA, BABIP from the past few seasons and see where and by how much they varied from their underperforming season. Often, when you piece the puzzle together, you get the full story and can then draft or not draft accordingly.

It’s been an incredibly fun season. For all of you still in the hunt, I wish you a week filled with grand slams, three-steal nights and 12-strikeout shutouts. Please let me know how your teams did in the comments below.

So enjoy a month or two off and get right back to your research, because you know your competition is. ‘Til next year, best wishes.

Sedler is a veteran NFBC player and CDM Hall of Famer.

Follow @rotogut on Twitter.

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