Drew Silva

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Players To Avoid: NL East

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

We gave you fantasy risers for each division.


Now it’s time to identify some players to shy away from on draft day, starting in the National League East ...

Justin Ruggiano, OF, Marlins

Ruggiano posted a superb .313/.374/.535 batting line with 13 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 91 games last season, staking a claim on the Marlins’ starting center field job for the foreseeable future. And while he’s in line for a significant bump in plate appearances in 2013, it’s hard to believe that the 30-year-old former 25th-round pick is going to be able to maintain the kind of production he flashed in 2012 over the course of a full everyday player’s schedule. Ruggiano was a .226/.262/.359 career hitter in the major leagues before the start of last season and owns a decent but hardly promising .844 career OPS at the Triple-A level. He’s also not a particularly efficient base stealer, owning a rough 61 percent career success rate in MLB. Outfield is deep enough in standard fantasy formats. Don’t get suckered in.

Frank Francisco, RP, Mets

The primary reason that Francisco hasn’t been unseated yet as the Mets’ closer is because he signed a two-year, $12 million free agent contract before the start of the 2012 season and is still owed a $6.5 million salary in 2013. If money were no issue, Bobby Parnell would already be saving games in New York. And our guess is that Mets management will be forced into making that exact change at some point this summer. Francisco, who turns 34 years old this season, posted a brutal 5.53 ERA and 1.61 WHIP across 42 1/3 innings in 2012. He dealt with on-and-off oblique, knee and elbow issues, and finished with only 23 saves. Parnell, meanwhile, had a 2.49 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 68 2/3 frames. Let another owner take Francisco in fantasy drafts this spring and go snag Parnell a few rounds later.

Michael Young, 3B, Phillies

The Phillies acquired Young from the Rangers in early December for right-handed pitchers Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla, and are hoping that the veteran can serve as a stable presence at third base -- which Placido Polanco was unable to do over his final two seasons in the City of Brotherly Love. But we can’t see this thing ending well for Young or the Phils. The 36-year-old hit just .277/.312/.370 with eight home runs in 156 games last summer for Texas and he’s never been a particularly competent defender at the hot corner. His power has been fading fast since the 2009 campaign and his RBI totals were inflated over the past couple of years by an explosive Rangers offense. Young is not surrounded by as much offensive talent in Philadelphia and his own abilities are deteriorating. The multi-position eligibility is nice, but ignore him in most mixed fantasy formats this season. Name-recognition may get him drafted by a competing owner.

Brian McCann, C, Braves

McCann typically rakes when he’s healthy and he’s entering a contract year, but catcher is deeper this season than ever before so the injury risk probably isn’t worth it. McCann underwent surgery in mid-October to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. That’s a fairly major procedure, and the Braves are prepared for him to open the 2013 season on the disabled list. Even when he does finally return from his rehab, who knows how long it will take for him to get back to full strength? McCann batted just .230/.300/.399 in 487 plate appearances last summer for Atlanta while fighting worsening shoulder woes and wound up with his lowest home run total (20) since the 2007 campaign. We’re ranking Buster Posey, Victor Martinez, Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, Matt Wieters, Yadier Molina, Jesus Montero, Salvador Perez, Miguel Montero and Wilin Rosario ahead of him for 2013.

Logan Morrison, 1B, Marlins

Morrison drew quite a bit of fantasy attention in 2011 when he slugged 23 home runs and tallied 72 RBI in 123 games for the Marlins. But he couldn’t build off that success in 2012, batting just .230/.308/.399 with 11 homers and 36 RBI in 93 games while fighting right knee issues. He needed surgery for his knee discomfort by early September and might not be ready for the start of the 2013 regular season if he experiences any sort of setback this spring. “LoMo” has a big personality that makes him very likable and he is still young enough at the age of 25 to get his career back on the right track. But we wouldn’t want to own him in a fantasy league while he tries to figure it all out. Morrison -- if healthy -- will start at first base this summer for the Fish and bat third in one of Major League Baseball’s shallowest starting lineups.

Jonny Venters, RP, Braves

Here’s a sad case of overuse potentially ruining a young pitcher’s career. Venters was a force in 2010 and 2011, posting a 1.89 ERA (205 ERA+) and 189 strikeouts across 171 innings of relief for the Braves. But that came in a total of 164 separate appearances, which is more than any guy can handle no matter how rubber-armed. Venters regressed, predictably, in 2012, turning in a career-worst 1.52 WHIP after 66 relief outings while serving up 61 hits and 28 walks in just over 58 innings. Venters was worth owning even in non-holds leagues when he was going good, but the 27-year-old left-hander just seems like a big risk now. Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball, and Atlanta acquired right-hander Jordan Walden from the Angels to back him up. Venters can be left alone in normal drafts.

Rob Brantly, C, Marlins

Brantly has earned his status as a top prospect and should eventually be a guy worth owning in fantasy leagues, but don’t get swept up by his 2012 numbers when you’re putting together your roster this spring. The 23-year-old catcher registered a cool .290/.372/.460 batting line with three home runs in 31 games for the Marlins last season after being acquired from the Tigers in the Anibal Sanchez trade and will start behind the plate for Miami on Opening Day. But let’s dig a little deeper into his profile. Brantly had never played above High-A ball heading into the 2012 campaign and posted an underwhelming .298/.340/.412 slash line last summer in the minors before getting the call-up with Miami. He’s a guy worth stashing in dynasty formats. But standard mixed leaguers can do much better.

Drew Silva is a baseball editor for Rotoworld and also contributes on NBC Sports' Hardball Talk. He can be found on Twitter.
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