D.J. Short

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Players to Avoid: AL East

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Now that we're done with fantasy risers for each division, it's time to move on to some players to avoid for the 2014 season. Of course, "avoid" is a relative term, as all players listed below have the ability and potential to provide value in fantasy leagues this year, but I'm making the case that they might not be worth their price tag on draft day. This is a huge and important caveat. I'm not going to tell you to avoid players like Ichiro Suzuki, Ryan Goins or Brian Roberts because that should be obvious already and it would be a tremendous waste of time for everyone involved. Let's try to think more critically here. Got it? Good. Let's get started.

With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training this week, be sure to keep it locked to Rotoworld's player news page and follow @Rotoworld_BB and @djshort on Twitter. Like what you see here? You can find a lot more in the 2014 Rotoworld Draft Guide. It's jam-packed with all sorts of helpful stuff for fantasy owners, including projections, tiers, cheat sheets, ADP data, and much, much more.

Matt Moore SP, Rays

Moore went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA over 27 starts last season, which might make it look like the young southpaw has taken the next step, but it hasn't happened yet. In fact, there might be some reason for concern at this point. Moore saw sizable decreases in velocity and swinging strike rate last season and led the majors in wild pitches. On a related note, little progress has been made with his control, as only Edinson Volquez has a higher walk percentage among qualified starters over the past two seasons. The good news is that Moore's elbow issues during the second half turned out to be a minor concern, but he still has a lot of work to do to emerge as a frontline starting pitcher. He doesn't turn 25 until June, so there's still time for that to happen, but don't let his win-loss record and ERA from last year fool you.

Dioner Navarro C, Blue Jays

Navarro came out of nowhere last season to hit .300 with 13 home runs and an .856 OPS over 89 games with the Cubs. After parlaying his surprising success into a two-year, $8 million contract with the Blue Jays over the winter, the veteran backstop is slated to begin 2014 with a starting job. While Navarro will be in a favorable hitting environment, the odds of a repeat appear slim, as he entered last season with a modest .245/.306/.357 career batting line and had never hit more than nine home runs in a season before. In addition, his HR/FB rate (home run-to-fly ball rate) last year was 10 percent higher than in any of his previous seasons in the majors. He's fine as long as you keep expectations in check (in other words, deep two-catcher mixed leagues and AL-only formats), but those expecting some crossover from 2013 will probably be disappointed.

Masahiro Tanaka SP, Yankees

Go bold or go home, right? Tanaka has been the focus of the baseball world of late, recently landing a record seven-year, $155 million contract from the Yankees, so my fear right now is that the massive hype will inflate his draft position. The 25-year-old was the best pitcher in Japan, but don't expect him to have the same impact as Yu Darvish in fantasy leagues. They are different guys. Tanaka has excellent control and a full arsenal of pitches -- including an excellent splitter -- but he simply doesn't have the same raw stuff or strikeout potential. Think more like Hiroki Kuroda, which would still be a pretty good outcome, but not elite. While Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last season, his strikeout rate dipped to 7.8 K/9. Just to put things in perspective, 31 qualified starters had a higher strikeout rate in MLB last year. Maybe we'll see an increase in strikeouts since MLB hitters will be seeing him for the first time, but don't pay the ace price tag in fantasy leagues just because the Yankees did. Pitching in the American League East while making half of his starts in Yankee Stadium are two more reasons to be conservative with bids.

Nick Markakis OF, Orioles

Maybe it's time we stop letting Markakis get by on reputation. The 30-year-old outfielder hit just .271/.329/.356 with 10 home runs over 160 games last season and hasn't reached the 20-homer mark since 2008. With his ground ball rate on the rise, there's little hope for a resurgence. As if the missing power isn't discouraging enough, he has just two stolen bases combined over the past two seasons. Markakis might be the best choice to hit leadoff for the Orioles as things stand right now, so he's still relevant in mixed leagues, but stop paying for him based on past performance. Those days are likely over.  

Clay Buchholz SP, Red Sox

This isn't a question of talent, but Buchholz's health provides reason for pause. At least for now. The 29-year-old was brilliant when on the mound last season, posting a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts while increasing his strikeout percentage by seven percent, but he missed most of the second half with a shoulder strain and pitched with a lat strain during the postseason. I'd want to see how he looks in the spring before making a serious bid, but keep in mind that this is a guy who has made more than 20 starts just twice and has never thrown more than 189 1/3 innings in a season. Pitching is a risky profession by default, but there are safer options available and plenty of depth in the middle rounds of mixed fantasy leagues. Buchholz's upside is obviously considerable, so I hope I'm wrong about him.

Mark Teixeira 1B, Yankees

Teixeira was limited to just 15 games with the Yankees last season prior to undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist. The veteran first baseman has begun swinging a bat, but he recently told Daniel Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal that he expects to feel some tightness in his wrist until at least June and perhaps for the entire season. It's worth noting that Toronto's Jose Bautista returned from the very same surgery last year and regained his power for the most part, but any wrist issue raises a red flag for a hitter, especially for someone who has seen their production slide considerably in recent years. Even if Teixeira is able to begin game action in early March, my hunch is he'll be overdrafted based on name value when similar power potential can be found later or for cheaper.

Manny Machado 3B, Orioles

It isn't easy for me to include Machado here, but I feel I have no other choice. This is a guy who was being mentioned in the same breath as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper early last year and he's simply not on their level yet from an offensive perspective, as we're still waiting on the power to arrive and he hasn't shown much patience at all in the early part of his career. Sure, Machado is an elite defender at third base, but that doesn't matter in fantasy leagues. The good news is that at 21 years old, age is definitely on his side, and he's said to be ahead of schedule in his recovery from knee surgery. Surely some of those doubles will turn into home runs eventually, so I'm not writing him off or saying he won't progress in time, but the hype could lead to him being drafted higher than he deserves to be right now. Given how deep third base is this year, I just don't see the need to do that. 



D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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