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ADP Busts - 2017 Infield Breakouts to Avoid in 2018

Earlier this week, I took a look at four outfielders whose disappointing 2017 performances made them potential draft bargains for the 2018 fantasy baseball season. Today, we’re taking the opposite tack.

Overpaying for last year’s breakout is one of the easiest – and costliest – mistakes a fantasy owner can make, and we’ve all fallen victim to the siren song of the post-breakout player a few times over the years.

Here, then, are four infielders who emerged as fantasy assets in 2017 but are best avoided this time around.

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Don't Believe the Hype

Tim Beckham, Baltimore Orioles

While Beckham is a former first overall pick, he’d shown approximately nothing before last summer. He pretty much had one insane month, which just happened to be the only month where he didn’t strike out at least 30 percent of the time. He does have some pop in his bat, and enough speed to rank among the league leaders in infield hits. The latter, along with a high rate of hard contact, helped him run a .365 BABIP last year. It’s hard to see him maintain a .278 average with so many swings and misses, though, and he hits so many balls on the ground that any pullback on last season’s 20.6 HR/FB% will make it tough for him to clear 20 bombs.

Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

The Cubs’ slick-fielding second baseman hit .273 with 23 homers, 10 steals, and both scored and drove in 75 runs last season. That performance and his brand recognition have his ADP just outside the top 100 players, but there are some concerning numbers when you look under the hood. In 2017, Baez lost all the gains he’d made in contact rate the prior year, and posted a higher SwStr% than any player in baseball who qualified for the batting title. He also benefited from a sharp uptick in HR/FB% despite pulling the ball less and putting it on the ground more often than in previous years.

Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics

Olson hit a whopping 24 homers in just 59 games as a rookie (against only two doubles, which might be my favorite weird stat of 2017). The 41.4 HR/FB% is clearly due for some negative regression, though you can likely still expect at least 30 bombs. He managed to hit .259 despite a .238 BABIP, but it’s hard to see much upside beyond that given his propensity for whiffs and pop-ups and extreme pull tendencies. Projections have him dipping below .240. As enticing as the power is, the lack of contributions elsewhere means Olson carries fairly significant downside risk.

Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners

Zunino finally stuck at the major-league level for a full season, and finished third among catchers with 25 home runs. He also ranked in the top seven at the position in runs scored and RBI. That’s the good news. The bad news is that even with a .355 BABIP, he hit just .251 thanks to an absurd 36.8% strikeout rate. Only three hitters with at least 400 plate appearances made less contact than Zunino did. Despite that, he’s the eighth catcher off the board on average in early drafts. The power is enough to make him interesting, but you’d better have a few high-average hitters on the roster to absorb his negative impact in that category.


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