Get ready for your season with theScore's 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit.
In a little over two weeks, Opening Day will be here. That means the world of fantasy baseball is in full swing as owners get set for another campaign chock-full of Giancarlo Stanton home runs, Billy Hamilton steals, and Jose Altuve chasing Mike Trout to become the league's best fantasy player.
While a number of things appear certain (Stanton is strong, Hamilton is fast, Altuve is good at everything), there is nothing more frustrating for a fantasy owner than selecting a player in an early round of the draft and watching them sink your team.
Here are 10 players (five hitters, five pitchers) whose bust potential should concern fantasy owners.
Pollock put together an impressive All-Star campaign in 2015 that had fantasy owners moving him up their 2016 draft boards. Of course, plans of taking him early were derailed when the Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder fractured his elbow early in spring training, an injury that required surgery. He returned to play in 112 games last season (where he drove in 49 and stole 20 bags), but groin and quad injuries kept him from completing a full campaign once again. When healthy, he's a fantasy dream (20 HR, 76 RBI, 39 SB in 2015), but averaging 87 games a season for his career could make him a bust for owners who select him in early rounds (Pollock went in the fourth round, 47th overall, of theScore staff's 12-team mock draft).
Following the best season of his career, Andrus has flown up draft boards, but he's a risky selection in the early rounds. The 29-year-old just surpassed his career high in home runs by 12 (he'd never hit more than eight in a season) and RBIs by 19. He's always been good for steals (266 in his career) and average (career .277 hitter), but those power numbers don't appear to be repeatable. Andrus is going as high as 31st on some draft boards, ahead of other shortstop-eligible players like Jean Segura, Didi Gregorius, and Javier Baez. Taking him that high might come back to haunt you.
The new face of baseball in San Diego is Eric Hosmer after he signed an eight-year, $144-million contract with the Padres in February. Being a high-paid player doesn't always equal high fantasy value, however. Hosmer is coming off back-to-back 25-homer seasons and three consecutive campaigns of 90-plus RBIs, but he's moving to a pitcher's park at Petco and may not have many opportunities to drive in runs (San Diego finished last in runs scored and on-base percentage in 2017). He's been successful in limited appearances at Petco (3 HR, 14 RBIs in 34 AB), but he must now play 81 games a year at a facility known for killing fantasy stat lines (teammate Wil Myers only hit eight of his 30 dingers in 2017 at home). Fantasy owners who took Hosmer among the top 10 first basemen should prepare for potential disappointment.
Much like the Twins of the past two seasons, who knows what you're going to get with Rosario. When Minnesota finished last in baseball in 2016, he was optioned to Triple-A in favor of Robbie Grossman. Last year, during the Twins' run to the postseason, Rosario hit .290 with 27 homers and 78 RBIs and raised his OPS by 120. His ADP has him going ahead of Ian Happ, Adam Jones, Nomar Mazara, and Jay Bruce. If the 26-year-old's upward trajectory continues, that may look right, but which Rosario is going to turn up this season? If it's the wrong one, fantasy owners could get burned.
It's hard to imagine one of last season's hottest hitters being a fantasy bust, but owners can look at Bellinger's playoff performance with the Dodgers for some help picturing it. The 22-year-old NL Rookie of the Year set a postseason strikeout record by whiffing 29 times. Bellinger's aggressiveness at the dish was exposed by the Houston Astros, who sat him down 17 times in the World Series. To be fair, Bellinger struck out 146 times in 132 games during the regular season and still powered the Dodgers with 39 home runs and 97 RBIs. But if he doesn't figure out a way to fix this apparent problem of expanding the zone, his sophomore campaign could wind up like his 2017 postseason. For fantasy owners - who are, on average, drafting him in the top 25 - that would be a major disappointment, especially with Anthony Rizzo, Josh Donaldson, and J.D. Martinez regularly being selected below him.
The most talked-about player in baseball is also a fantasy anomaly. Fantasy leagues debated what kind of eligibility Ohtani - a two-way player who is expected to hit and pitch - would receive, and different leagues made different decisions. While predicting the number of at-bats he'll receive is tricky, Ohtani will pitch as part of a six-man rotation for the Angels, and that in itself should make fantasy owners wary. Even if Ohtani is dominant (which may be difficult in his first season stateside) and healthy (he's reportedly experienced ligament issues with his throwing elbow, and he underwent ankle surgery last year), he's not expected to receive a full slate of starts. Meanwhile, proven arms Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka, as well as Cy Young winners Dallas Keuchel and the unsigned Jake Arrieta, are being selected after him on average.
Castillo's rookie debut for the Cincinnati Reds last season was impressive, as he struck out 98 in 89 1/3 innings and was good for a 3.12 ERA. But small sample sizes are usually not a good thing to bank on in fantasy, and if you're looking for pitcher wins, the Reds won't help (Castillo was 3-7 in 2017). He's generating plenty of fantasy interest much earlier in drafts than expected - getting selected ahead of David Price, Jon Lester, Jose Berrios, and Marcus Stroman, on average. That's shocking, and owners who roll the dice on the 25-year-old's sophomore campaign will likely get hurt.
Mariners fans got an extra-special glimpse into the ace potential of Paxton when the Canadian looked like one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball to begin last season. But, similar to years past, he just couldn't stay healthy. Though Paxton's 24 starts and 136 innings were both a career high, seeing him drafted around the same time as Jose Quintana (who threw at least 200 innings a year from 2013-16) is a head-scratching move by any owner trying to acquire a proven starter for the long haul. When he's pitching, Paxton is incredible, but to reach his fantasy peak, he actually needs to play a full season. The 29-year-old hasn't proven he can do that yet.
Since joining the bullpen full time in 2014, Davis has been one of baseball's best relievers. He became a closer in 2015, the same year he finished sixth in Cy Young voting, and has been to the All-Star Game three straight times. The Colorado Rockies signed him in December for the highest annual salary an MLB reliever's ever gotten. But that means Davis will now pitch most of his games in Coors Field, where fantasy dreams are born for hitters but crushed for hurlers. Davis has next to no experience (one game, three at-bats) at Coors, but taking him early (he's gone as high as 64th overall in some drafts) is risky - especially considering his ERA, WHIP, and BB/9 have been rising.
New York Yankees closer and noted fireballer Aroldis Chapman can do one thing very well: He strikes people out. But he's not doing it as frequently as some may think (69 over 50 1/3 in 2017). While strikeouts are tempting, Chapman didn't actually save (22) or win (four) many games in 2017, although things are expected to change now that the Yankees look capable of 100 wins. But is Chapman really the fourth-most valuable relief pitcher in fantasy behind Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, and Corey Knebel (based on ADP)? It depends on what version of Chapman an owner gets - remember, he was temporarily removed as closer in August - and whether the Yankees can win as many games as they're projected to. All these uncertainties make Chapman a perfect candidate to become a fantasy bust.
(ADP courtesy: National Fantasy Baseball Championship)
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)