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Outfielder Busts Who’ll Keep Junking It Up In 2020

The term “bust” in fantasy baseball has a number of different incarnations. In some instances, a bust is someone who adds no value to a roster whatsoever. He does nothing more than take up a roster spot, adds little-to-no counting stats, and hurts ratios such as batting average and on-base percentage. He is a net-negative to rosters and cannot be trusted in daily or (even more so) weekly formats.

In other instances, a bust can actually be a somewhat productive player, but who fails to provide value relative to his ADP. It can be a player coming off a career year and falls back to Earth, or someone two years removed from a career season but fails to bounce back. The player still a good player, but he simply doesn’t live up to lofty draft expectations or match his numbers from his prior years’ work.

Finally, there is the bust player who doesn’t stay on the field due to injury, an unforeseen platoon situation, or a mid-year benching due to a slow start. Proudly drafted by you as a full-time player, by mid-season you have a part-time, un-tradeable disaster on your hands. Below, we will examine four outfield busts from 2019 who will likely continue to bust in 2020.

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Mallex Smith, Seattle Mariners – 177 ADP

Seattle Mariners outfielder Mallex Smith put together a very poor 2019 season following a 2018 breakout. In 2018, with the Tampa Bay Rays, Smith posted a solid .296 batting average, a .367 on-base percentage to go with ten triples and 40 stolen bases in 544 plate appearances. Heading into 2019, after an off-season trade to the Mariners which appeared to guarantee Smith a full-time role, he was a pre-season fantasy darling. Many felt Smith could single-handedly help an owner win the stolen base category while also bolstering offense ratios. He was foreseen as someone unlike other “one-trick stolen base ponies” such as Billy Hamilton and Delino DeShields.

Unfortunately, after an elbow injury in spring training and a brief performance-related demotion to the minor leagues, Smith posted a horrible .227/.300/.335 line in 2019. He added just six home runs and a very poor 37 RBI in 566 PA. While Smith did steal a league-leading 46 bases, his regression as a hitter undermined any value he provided owners who expended top draft capital on him.

Heading into 2020, there is a strong chance Smith winds up in a platoon role (or worse) for the Mariners if he gets off to another slow start. The Mariners have a number of players all vying for playing time in the outfield. These options include Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, Shed Long, and Mitch Haniger, once Haniger returns from a back/core injury. Top prospect Jared Kelenic is also knocking on the door and is guaranteed a starting role once he is promoted. Smith, who is a poor defender, cannot even fall back on that aspect of his game to keep his bat in the lineup if his hitting woes resurface.

When Smith does play, his low overall exit velocity (bottom four percent in all of MLB the last two seasons) absolutely requires that he keep the ball on the ground in order to reach base. Looking at his 2019 metrics, Smith did post a solid 51.9% ground-ball rate. That said, his line drive rate cratered to 21.6%, a drop of almost seven percent from 2018, and his pop-up rate went from 3.6% in 2018 to 7.0% in 2019. While that pop-up rate was league average, it is not good for someone who relies on weak contact and speed to reach first.

In addition, Smith was unable to hit anything other than fastballs in 2019. Smith batted just .185 and .172 against offspeed pitches and breaking balls (curveballs and sliders), respectively. This resulted in a wretched overall xBA of .219 for Smith in 2019, good enough for the bottom two percent in all of baseball.

While Smith offers elite stolen base potential for owners, there are too many red flags that point toward another bust season in 2020. Turning 27 in May, Smith’s metrics do not suggest a bounceback unless he can lower his pop-up rate, increase his line drive capabilities, as well as perform better against breaking balls and offspeed pitches. Smith will have a short window within which to address all of these deficiencies given the Mariners' depth in the outfield. As they say, you cannot steal first. If Smith gets off to a slow start, he may be looking at a platoon role or strictly pinch-running duties. This would make Smith as valuable as someone like Myles Straw who is going undrafted or being selected almost 500 picks later in deep league drafts.


Wil Myers, San Diego Padres – 280 ADP

San Diego Padres outfielder Wil Myers is also coming off a horrible 2019 campaign. In 2019, Wil Myers managed just 18 home runs, 53 RBI and 16 steals to go with a .239 batting average and .321 OBP in 435 at-bats. In fact, Myers’ offense plummeted so sharply last season, he was relegated to the Padres bench for a large chunk of July and August.

Looking at Myers' metrics, the numbers certainly justified his poor 2019 output. His strikeout rate was in the bottom ten percent of all of MLB. Specifically, he posted an abysmal career-worst 34.2% strikeout rate, up from 27.4% in 2018. Myers also registered a noticeable decrease in his zone contact rate dropping to 74.9% in 2019, down from 80.4% in 2018. Sadly, Myers wasn’t much better outside of the zone, posting a chase contact rate of 52.2%, which was almost 13% worse than the chase contact rate he registered in 2018.

In addition, Myers posted just a .164 and .194 xBA against breaking balls and offspeed pitches, respectively. His pop up rate also increased by almost four percent to go with a corresponding decrease in his line drive rate.

Looking ahead to 2020, nothing would indicate positive regression is forthcoming. Similar to Mallex Smith, there are way too many variables that need to go right for Myers to have a bounceback season. Myers would need to lower his pop-up rate, increase his line drive capabilities, perform better against breaking balls and offspeed pitches, and cut down on the strikeouts by making better contact. With so many outfield options available in San Diego, including Trent Grisham, Tommy Pham, Josh Naylor, and Franchy Cordero, a slow start by Myers could certainly send him to the bench or into a platoon role.

Furthermore, even if Myers is traded to a team with less of crowded outfield situation (and willing to take on his very cost-prohibitive contract), Myers may still not be worth rostering other than as a fourth or fifth outfielder in deeper leagues. His recent counting stat trends and metrics suggest more of the same poor results in 2020. There are far better outfield options around the 280 ADP mark, including Austin Hays, Jon Berti, and Nick Solak, that owners should focus and expend their draft capital on.


David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks – 248 ADP

Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta broke out in 2018 to the tune of a .293 average, 30 HR, 87 RBI in 560 at-bats, and 146 games. Coming off of his impressive 2018, Peralta didn’t quite live up to owners’ lofty expectations in 2019. This was largely due to a shoulder injury that limited him to just 99 games and low power generating metrics. In those 99 games, Peralta posted a .275/.343/.461 line with 12 home runs and 57 RBI in 382 AB. While these numbers don’t scream “bust”, they were merely serviceable for a player who was being taken early in drafts by owners expecting 30 HR and a .290 average.

Notwithstanding the shoulder injury which could have a lasting impact on Peralta’s power, looking at his numbers and metrics, it appears that his 2018 30 HR campaign was an outlier. In 2019, although Peralta posted a .806 OPS, his xOPS was .699 suggesting further regression in on-base and slugging percentages. In addition, while Peralta posted an impressive exit velocity on FB/LD of 94.5 mph in 2019, his launch angle of 6.4 degrees was well below the league average of 11.2 degrees. This, combined with a 51.4% ground ball rate in 2019, suggests more hard ground balls and low line drives than home runs. Additionally, Peralta’s poor barrel rate of 5.4% in 2019, down from his career-high of 7.8% in 2018, further suggests the likelihood of continued low power totals in 2020. Looking at Peralta’s 2019 splits, it is also important to note that he struggled against lefties to the tune of just a .248/.323/.381 line. Such struggles further suggest that a bounce back to his .293 2018 average is unlikely.

Peralta’s metrics, combined with the fact that he is coming off of shoulder surgery in late 2019 to address A/C joint issues, does dampen his 2020 outlook. While it is hard to classify Peralta as a true “bust” given his run and RBI potential in a stacked Diamondback’s lineup, he is unlikely to bounceback in 2020.

As a result, owners drafting Peralta in the middle-to-late rounds should temper expectations that he will return to his 2018 form. Although Peralta will remain useful in most mixed leagues, provided he remains on the field, we should expect a repeat of his 2019 season (assuming a full slate of games is played). Namely, a .275 average, 15-18 HR, and 70-80 RBI.


Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals – 505 ADP

In 2018, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader posted a .264/.334/.422 line with 12 HR, 37 RBI, and 15 SB in 379 AB. Many considered Bader a strong 2019 sleeper candidate. Bader had 20-20 potential to go with a .260 average in a solid Cardinals lineup, making him a viable fantasy asset. Unfortunately, Bader failed to meet expectations. He posted a miserable .205/.314/.366 line to go with 12 HR, 39 RBI, and 11 SB in 347 ABs.

While Bader’s HR and SB production were similar to his 2018 totals, his brutal hitting struggles resulted in a mid-season demotion to Triple-A. After he returned to the majors, he showed some positive results in August before falling back to his poor hitting ways in September.

As we look at his numbers more closely, we see that the main cause of Bader’s struggles was his ability to hit (or, in his case, not hit) breaking balls and offspeed offerings. Bader batted just .141 with a .164 wOBA against breaking balls last season. He batted just .178 with a .204 wOBA against offspeed pitches. In addition, Bader posted an abysmal whiff rate of 37% and 39% against breaking balls and offspeed pitches, respectively. This translated to an overall strikeout rate of 29% which was in the bottom nine percent in all of MLB. Furthermore, looking at his splits, Bader massively struggled against lefties posting a miserable .177/.255/.385 line against them in 96 AB.

Heading into 2020, a number of issues are working against Bader fulfilling his 20-20 potential. Bader will first need to address his hitting deficiencies against breaking balls and offspeed pitches. If he can do so, to the point where he is serviceable against such pitches, we could see his average approach the .264 mark he hit in 2018. Since he managed a .297 xBA against fastballs in 2019, mere decent production against other pitches could bolster his ratios. That said, Bader also must correct his poor 2019 lefty/righty splits, and somehow cut down on his career strikeout rates.

There are many red flags here. An inability to correct any of these numerous issues will likely lead to a platoon role, permanent bench spot, or, another demotion to Triple-A. Though his defense is solid, because of the Cardinals' current outfield depth, Bader’s playing time is already questionable. With Dylan Carlson knocking on the door to the majors, Bader's playing time risk would only be exasperated by a slow start in 2020. As a result, Bader’s current ADP of 505 appears justified. It is unlikely he will be fantasy relevant other than in the deepest of NL-only leagues this season.

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