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Not With a Ten-Foot Pole: 2012 Edition
Dan Port | Wednesday March 7th, 2012
Lance Berkman's 2011 stats inflated his fantasy value. (Icon SMI)
Lance Berkman's 2011 stats inflated his fantasy value. (Icon SMI)
Fantasy owners make player selections based on a variety of reasons, including everything from statistical projections to awesome facial hair.  Owners also utilize the infamous "do not draft" list and load it with players who, for whatever reason, they refuse to add to their fantasy rosters.  We at Baseball Press are no different, so based on our own thoughts and expectations for 2012, we've each selected a big leaguer who we wouldn't draft and, as the classic phrase goes, we wouldn't touch "with a ten foot pole" in our fantasy leagues.

ADP values from Mock Draft Central.  Triple-slash line is average/on-base/slugging.

Dan's Pick: 
Lance Berkman - OF, St. Louis Cardinals (2011 Totals: 587 PA, .301/.412/.547, 31 HR, 94 RBI, 90 R)
ADP: 95
Everyone loves a comeback story, and Lance Berkman's unexpected turn from a player on the brink of retirement to an All-Star slugger was one of last season's better comeback tales.  After a 2010 season in which he suffered injuries and struggled to a .248 average and just 14 home runs, Lance was dealt from his home state Houston Astros to the New York Yankees.  The then 34 year-old outfielder/first baseman appeared destined for a fade into retirement last off-season, but an unlikely return to everyday outfield duties with the St. Louis Cardinals revived him, leading to an All Star Game appearance, a World Series title, the 2011 Comeback Player of the Year Award, and a seventh place finish for the National League MVP.

But despite his return to form last season, Lance Berkman is still a 36 year-old with his best seasons well behind him.  While he managed to stay healthy for the Cards last season, his bulky frame will not likely endure another full season of service time, even if he is leaving the outfield and returning to the first base position.  Berkman's 2011 season is a nice footnote at the end of his career, but with both Albert Pujols and manager Tony LaRussa gone from the team, even a mostly healthy season may not be worth much to fantasy owners.  Last season's numbers inflated Berkman's 2012 fantasy value, and any owner who takes him is probably due for a big letdown this year.  It would be very surprising if he came anywhere close to his 2011 stats.

Reggie's Pick:
Asdrubal Cabrera - SS, Cleveland Indians (2011 Totals: 667 PA, .273/.332/.460, 25 HR, 92 RBI, 87 R, 17 SB)
ADP: 74
With shortstop being a tough position to fill in fantasy leagues, Asdrubal Cabrera was a huge success at a cheap value for owners in 2011.  The then 25-year-old shortstop hit a career-high 25 homers and 92 RBI in 2011, and even managed to steal 17 bases.  Previously, Asdrubal's career high in home runs was 6 (2009) and between the 2007-2010 seasons, Cabrera had a combined total of 18 home runs.  Finding a shortstop with 25 home runs is rare in this day and age, with the exceptions of Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez, so Cabrera's season was a gem compared to their standards.

However, expecting Cabrera to repeat his performance in 2012 will be a difficult task.  The biggest factor that should stand out to potential buyers is Cabrera's HR/FB (home run-to-fly ball) ratio.  In 2011, he posted a 10.5% HR/FB ratio, and prior to 2011, his highest mark was a 4.6% HR/FB ratio which he set in 2008 (source: Baseball-Reference).  His career HR/FB ratio including the outbreak 2011 season is 5.5%, making 2011's number (10.5%) double his career HR/FB rate.  His HR/FB rate won't completely regress in 2012, but fantasy owners should expect a regression to under 10% HR/FB ratio this season.  The 25 home run season in 2011 excited a lot of fantasy owners for 2012, but any owner who drafts Cabrera expecting anything more than 15 home runs will be disappointed by season's end.

Nate's Pick:
Matt Holliday - OF, St. Louis Cardinals (2011 Totals: 516 PA, .296/.388/.525, 22 HR, 75 RBI, 83 R)
ADP: 38
Despite playing in only 124 games last season, outfielder Matt Holliday still produced respectable numbers while hitting cleanup for the St. Louis Cardinals.  While getting most of his at-bats between Albert Pujols and the surprisingly productive Lance Berkman in 2011, Holliday earned the right to be considered as a top-ten outfielder heading into the 2012 season.

Unfortunately for Holliday and his fantasy owners, he won't be hitting between Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman this season, and his 2012 supporting cast is a big reason why he is not worthy of a top-40 fantasy pick on draft day.  Without even considering the unlikelihood of Lance Berkman having another season like last year (and pitchers pitching around him more) the departure of Pujols is what hurts Holliday the most.  When Pujols was on the disabled list with a fractured forearm last season, the right fielder became the center of attention in the St. Louis batting order and, during those games, the then-31 year-old carried a .231 average with just seven extra base hits in 52 at-bats.  It is a small sample size, but the big gap in batting average indicates that Albert's absence had a significant effect on how Holliday was approached by pitchers.  Another aspect of Holliday's fantasy value in previous years was his ability to steal bases, but he has not reached double-digit stolen bases since 2009, and 11 of his 14 steals that season came when he was with the Oakland Athletics.  Holliday still has the ability to produce as a top-ten fantasy outfielder, but given the lack of protection he has in front and behind him in the Cardinals lineup this season, it would be wise to spend that high draft pick on someone else.
Dan PortDan Port has been a writer and article editor for Baseball Press since the fall of 2009. He's a Wisconsin native and Los Angeles resident, as well as an aspiring novelist, moderately successful gambler, and avid craft beer aficionado. You can reach him at dan@baseballpress.com or check him out on Twitter @danport and at DanielPort.com.