We’ve rolled through the National League East, West and Central divisions, identifying players to shy away from in fantasy baseball drafts for the 2013 season. Now it’s on to the American League. Let’s get started in the East ...
Nate McLouth, OF, Orioles
McLouth finished strong with the Orioles last season, batting .268/.342/.435 with seven home runs, 18 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 55 games after being released by the lowly Pirates in late May. It was a glimpse of the old McLouth, and the fact that he’s only 31 years old certainly works in the favor of this being a legitimate comeback tale. But we’ll wait for the paperback edition. McLouth had a .210/.322/.328 batting line between the start of 2010 and end of 2011 with the Braves. He homered just 10 times in 609 plate appearances over that span and stole only 11 bases in 15 attempts. McLouth was given a one-year, $2 million free agent contract by the Baltimore front office this winter and is expected to serve as the Orioles’ primary leadoff man in 2013. But you can find a much safer bet for production at fantasy baseball’s deepest position.
Adam Lind, DH, Blue Jays
Lind told reporters last week that his struggles in 2012 can be attributed to a miscommunication between (former) Blue Jays manager John Farrell -- who was preaching patience -- and (former) Blue Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy -- who was asking Lind to be aggressive at the plate. But that sounds more like a convenient excuse than anything. Lind has posted a .246 batting average and .296 on-base percentage in 1,508 plate appearances dating back to the start of the 2010 season. Which leaves his breakout 2009 campaign as a serious outlier in what has been a disappointing overall major league career. Lind continues to get chances with the Jays, but they have their sights set firmly on the playoffs this year and are likely to make a quick change at designated hitter if Lind can’t get it together. J.P. Arencibia is the better option at DH.
Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox
Buchholz was a force in 2010 when he posted a 17-7 record, a 2.33 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP over 173 2/3 innings for the Red Sox. But he was limited to 82 2/3 frames in 2011 because of a structural issue with his lower back and posted an underwhelming 4.56 ERA and 1.33 WHIP across 189 1/3 innings in 2012. That one successful season has kept him in high regard and he’s sure to be selected at some point in most standard mixed fantasy leagues this spring, but we would let another owner take that plunge. Buchholz struck out just 6.1 batters per nine innings last season -- a lower rate than guys like Jason Marquis and Jerome Williams -- and his career K/9 in the major leagues is just 6.7. If a pitcher’s ERA and WHIP aren’t exceptional and he can’t provide value in strikeouts, that pitcher is going to carry little worth in leagues with normal fantasy scoring. And it’s too difficult to predict win totals right now in Boston.
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Luke Scott, DH, Rays
Scott slugged 14 home runs and tallied 55 RBI in just 96 games last season for Tampa Bay. Extrapolate that out to a normal full-season workload and you have an impressive set of counting stats. But let’s dig a bit deeper. Scott owns a paltry .226 batting average and .291 on-base percentage in 580 plate appearances since the start of the 2011 campaign and has totaled 134 strikeouts in that span. He does not possess good plate discipline and he’s not a great contact hitter, which leaves him exposed to pitchers that have enough control to take advantage of his cold zones and keep him off balance in the box. Scott will catch a few and send them flying, but his power comes in inconsistent stretches and he doesn’t carry enough position flexibility in standards fantasy formats to make that inconsistency palatable. The Rays gave him a one-year, $2.75 million free agent contract this winter and are going to start him at DH this season. We wouldn’t do the same in a mixed fantasy league.
John Lackey, SP, Red Sox
Lackey is fully recovered from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery and ready to return to the Red Sox starting rotation after missing the entire 2012 campaign But it’s hard to be all that excited for what’s ahead. Lackey registered a brutal 6.41 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 160 innings for Boston in 2011 and a 4.40 ERA and 1.42 WHIP across 215 innings in 2010. In all, he has a 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in 375 innings since leaving Anaheim for a five-year, $82.5 million free agent contract following the 2009 season. Lackey has been a bona fide fantasy ace in the past, but he’s not even worth drafting in mixed fantasy leagues this spring. The 34-year-old right-hander will have to string together several productive starts to warrant a waiver wire pickup.
James Loney, 1B, Rays
This one is pretty obvious, but Loney carries a good deal of name recognition and that can sometimes lead to a late-round pick in casual fantasy drafts. Don’t be that guy. Mock that guy. Loney lucked into a couple of high-RBI seasons during his time with Los Angeles, but he’s a .269/.322/.386 hitter since the beginning of the 2010 season and he has reached the 15-homer plateau just once in his seven-year major league career. The 28-year-old first baseman tallied just six homers and 41 RBI in 144 games between the Dodgers and Red Sox last year. Loney scored a one-year, $2 million contract from the Rays this winter and is going to have an everyday job when the season opens. But we’re betting it doesn’t last long.
Ricky Romero, SP, Blue Jays
Romero boasts a nice arsenal of pitches and has been dominant at times over the course of his young four-year career. But he’s a wild pitcher with a run of recent injuries and we don’t love that combo. Romero walked 105 batters in just 181 innings last year for Toronto and owns a troubling 3.9 BB/9 since breaking into the majors during the 2009 season. He also had arthroscopic elbow surgery on his left (throwing) elbow in late October and received platelet-rich plasma injections in both of his knees last summer. The 28-year-old southpaw has ample talent and many believers, which is why he’s being hailed as a potential fantasy sleeper in certain circles. But it’s not necessary to take such risks when putting together a strong 2013 fantasy rotation. The position is strong enough this year and you’re better off spending late-round picks on younger, healthier fliers.