D.J. Short got you started earlier this week with some Players to Avoid from the American League East, and I’m now here to give you some guys from the AL Central. Remember, just because we’re using the word “avoid” doesn’t necessarily mean these players are undraftable. It just means that they might not wind up being worth the price they’re currently going for.
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Ian Kinsler, 2B, Tigers
One thing Kinsler has going for him is that he’s managed to stay mostly healthy over the last three seasons, making just one trip to the disabled list. That’s an accomplishment for a guy that landed on the DL six times in his first five campaigns. Unfortunately, Kinsler doesn’t have much else trending up for him heading into 2014. The 31-year-old is a two-time 30/30 man but has seen his homers and steals totals drop each of the last three seasons all the way down to 13 and 15, respectively, last year. The power isn’t a great bet to bounce back with a move from Texas to Detroit, as Kinsler is a career .304/.387/.511 hitter in Arlington and a .242/.312/.399 batter everywhere else. Kinsler has said he wants to run more in 2014, but he’s been a very inefficient base stealer the last two years (64 percent success rate), so I have my doubts it will come to fruition.
John Axford, RP, Indians
It isn’t often that a guy begins a season as a closer but finishes the year with exactly zero saves. That’s what happened with Axford last year, though, as the Brewers stripped him of the ninth inning gig a week into the season following a handful of rough outings. He wound up posting a 4.45 ERA over 62 games for the Brew Crew before being shipped to the Cardinals in a post-deadline move. Axford reportedly fixed a mechanical flaw and looked to rebound with St. Louis, holding a 1.74 mark across 13 games. However, I watched all of Axford’s appearances down the stretch and he still looked like to me a guy searching for his fastball command and a feel for his breaking ball. Not only am I not an Axford believer, but I’m a big fan of Cody Allen, the guy that will be breathing down his neck in the Indians’ bullpen. I’d put money on Axford being one of the first closers to lose his job this season.
Alexei Ramirez, SS, White Sox
It’s not often when a player begins to develop stolen base chops on the wrong side of 30. That’s what’s happened with Ramirez, though, as he’s set career highs each of the last two years with 20 and 30 pilfers, respectively. The bad news is that what Ramirez has gained in steals, he’s lost in power, seeing his home run total drop from 18 to 15 to nine to six over the last four seasons. The shortstop’s fly ball rate has also been on the decline, so a rebound in power is unlikely unless he can reverse that trend. And, while the rise in steals is nice, would anyone be surprised if Ramirez falls back to, say, 15 thefts in 2014? There’s just not much upside here anymore.
Anibal Sanchez, SP, Tigers
Sanchez made the Tigers look wise in year one of his $88 million contract, leading the American League with a 2.57 ERA while recording 202 strikeouts. However, the smart money would be on the right-hander not coming close to repeating the effort in 2014. Sanchez’s ERA in 2013 was nearly a full run lower than his previous career-best over a full season, and he accomplished it even though he had to face a DH instead of a pitcher and was in more of a hitter-friendly park than the ones he pitched in while with the Marlins. While the home run ball has never been a major issue for Sanchez, he was only taken deep nine times over 182 frames last year, a figure that will surely rise this season. His 10.0 K/9 rate also will likely drop closer to his career 8.0 mark. Finally, Sanchez dealt with some shoulder issues in 2013, which can’t be ignored given that his shoulder has been an issue in the past. Let someone else overpay for the righty.
Ricky Nolasco, SP, Twins
Nolasco picked a good time to put together one of the best seasons of his career, posting a 3.70 ERA and 1.21 WHIP across 199 1/3 frames in his walk year. It resulted in a $49 million contract this winter from the Twins, but don’t bet on the right-hander repeating his 2013 numbers this season. Last year was just the second time in his career that Nolasco yielded fewer hits than innings pitched, and it came after he allowed 214 base knocks in 2012 and a league-high 244 hits in 2011. It’s a safe bet to assume that hit total will go back up as the righty transitions to the American League. Also a concern is Nolasco’s strikeout rate, which, while improved in 2013, has been mostly going in the wrong direction in recent seasons. The 31-year-old should be a league-average innings-eater in Minnesota, but he’s not someone who’s going to really help your fantasy squad.
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians
A former top prospect, Chisenhall generated some buzz last spring training by hitting .400 with four home runs in Cactus League action to earn the Opening Day third baseman gig for the Tribe. However, it was essentially all downhill from there, as Chisenhall wound up batting just .225/.270/.398 for the Indians while spending a month in the minors. Cleveland has been frustrated with Chisenhall’s lack of progress to the point that they are expected to give Carlos Santana a long look at the hot corner this spring. Even if Santana winds up not being able to hack it at third base, fantasy owners can do better than Chisenhall with one of their late-round picks.
Dayan Viciedo, OF, White Sox
After slugging 25 homers and driving in 78 runs in his first full season for the White Sox in 2012, Viciedo looked to be poised for a potential breakout campaign in 2013. Instead, he managed a paltry five bombs over his first 63 games, needing a “surge” of nine dingers over his final 61 contests to reach 14 for the season. His plate discipline also remained a problem, as the Cuban defector sported an unsightly 98/24 K/BB ratio. The disappointing showing has led to Viciedo entering the 2014 season on the short side of a platoon in left field with Alejandro De Aza. Viciedo will turn just 25 next month, so there’s still plenty of time for him to turn things around. However, the progress hasn’t been there, and now the opportunity doesn’t look to be, either.