Last week my colleague Drew Silva identified several players from the National League East to avoid in fantasy drafts. This week, it’s time to move on to the NL Central...
Michael Fiers, SP, Brewers
Fiers burst onto the fantasy scene in the first half last season, as he joined the Brewers’ rotation in late May and went on to post an unfathomable 1.80 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 80/16 K/BB ratio over his first 13 appearances (12 starts). Of course, we all know what happened after that. The wheels came off for the right-hander down the stretch, when he put up a 6.99 ERA, 1.68 WHIP and 55/20 K/BB ratio over his final 10 outings. Fiers’ proponents will note his career 2.80 minor league ERA and claim that he probably just tired down the stretch after throwing a career-high 182 2/3 innings. Those are valid points, but we have a hunch that the league was catching up to a guy with an unorthodox delivery that relies on less than stellar stuff. Let someone else take the plunge.
Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals
The Cardinals shrewdly inked Beltran to a two-year, $26 million deal last winter and watched him go on to make the All-Star team while batting .269/.346/.495 with 32 home runs, 97 RBI and 13 stolen bases. But, while Beltran should remain relatively productive in 2013, there’s reason to believe his numbers will take a bit of a downturn. The veteran outfielder managed to stay off the disabled list in 2012, which is pretty remarkable since he hadn’t accomplished that feat since 2008 and was limited to just 81 and 64 games in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Beltran also had most of his production in the first three months last season (he sported an ugly .228/.295/.417 batting line from July on), and he’ll turn 36 in April. He’ll probably make a trip or two to the DL in 2013, making another run at 30 homers an unlikely proposition.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Cardinals
Furcal joined Beltran on last year’s NL All-Star team on the strength of a fantastic first two months, when he batted a robust .333/.391/.460 with eight steals. However, as good as those first two months were, the last three months were a complete disaster, as the veteran shortstop stumbled to a hideous .215/.278/.265 batting line before his season ended in late August with partially torn UCL in his right elbow. It’s the poor finish and the elbow injury that have us worried about Furcal heading into 2013. The 35-year-old rehabbed his elbow injury rather than undergo surgery, and although the Cardinals are optimistic that he’ll be OK, the reality is that the ligament could snap at any moment. Even if Furcal manages to stay healthy, he’s not a very enticing fantasy option these days with his stolen base ability waning.
Carlos Marmol, RP, Cubs
Marmol was one of the better closers in the game in 2010, when he posted a 2.55 ERA while recording 38 saves and an astounding 138 strikeouts over 77 2/3 frames. Things have gone south in a hurry since then, though, as he’s held a 3.76 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 6.5 BB/9 rate while being bumped from the ninth inning on multiple occasions. The Cubs tried to trade him for Dan Haren over the winter, but they’ve since re-committed to him as their closer after that deal fell through. However, when you’re populating a list of closers likely to lose their job in 2013, Marmol should be at or near the top. The Cubs over the winter brought in Kyuji Fujikawa, who posted a 1.36 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and absurd 510/94 K/BB ratio over 369 2/3 frames across the last six seasons in Japan, where he was viewed as the best closer in Nippon Professional Baseball. It will only take a couple hiccups from Marmol for a change to be made.
Garrett Jones, 1B/OF, Pirates
Jones was one of fantasy baseball’s biggest surprises back in 2009, when he batted .293 while slugging 21 homers and stealing 10 bases over just 82 contests. Reality set in over the next two seasons, when he hit only .245/.312/.422 while averaging a pedestrian 18.5 longballs. However, Jones appeared to re-capture some magic last season, slugging .516 while sending 27 over the boards and driving in 86 runs. The 31-year-old returns as the Pirates’ regular first baseman against right-handed pitching in 2013, with Gaby Sanchez getting the starts against left-handers. Jones is woeful against southpaws (.189/.235/.297 last year, .198/.237/.353 during his career), and while he’s always fared well against righties, it’s just hard to see him hitting a home run every 17.4 plate appearances against them again as he did in 2012. A poor average and middling power just isn’t very desirable.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, Reds
Like Jones, Ludwick experienced a bit of a re-birth in 2012 after a couple down seasons. Also like Jones, Ludwick isn’t likely to repeat his performance. The 34-year-old last year had easily his best season since his breakout showing in 2008, as he batted .275/.346/.531 with 26 dingers and 80 RBI. Ludwick was the beneficiary of an 18.4% HR/FB rate, which was well above his career 13.2% mark, and his numbers were buoyed by an insane hot streak in July and August that saw him bat .329/.389/.642 with 14 homers and 38 RBI. We can’t count on his HR/FB rate repeating, nor can we count on another mid-season rampage where Ludwick turns into Miguel Cabrera. There’s also the possibility of the Reds abandoning the Shin-Soo Choo center field experiment, which would put Choo at a corner spot and Ludwick on the bench. There’s just not much mixed league appeal here.
Jonathan Broxton, RP, Reds
Broxton pitched well for the Reds down the stretch last year after they acquired him from the Royals, posting a 2.82 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 20/3 K/BB ratio over 22 1/3 innings. That was apparently enough for Cincy to give the hulking right-hander a three-year deal over the winter, handing him the closer job while sending Aroldis Chapman to the rotation. There are certainly warning flags attached to Broxton in 2013, though. The 28-year-old had just a 7.0 K/9 rate in 2012, which is disturbing since his previous low-water mark for a full season was 10.5. The drop in strikeout rate no doubt was a result of his declining fastball, which sits in the mid-90s now after occasionally reaching triple digits. Also of concern is the fact that Broxton will be pitching in a hitter-friendly home park over a full season for the first time in his career. If Broxton’s improved walk rate (2.6 BB/9 in 2012, 3.6 BB/9 in his career) sticks and the late-season development of a cutter continues to work for him, it’s possible the righty can get by with diminished stuff. We can’t count on either happening, though.