We’re now just beyond the midway point of a late-winter series of articles identifying popular fantasy baseball players who will likely be overvalued or selected too highly come draft season. The breakdown for these articles is by division. Nate Grimm took the National League East, Ryan Boyer grabbed the National League Central, and D.J. Short handled the American League West.
Now we roll out the Overvalued Players of the American League East …
Keep it locked on Rotoworld’s constantly-updated player news page as spring training approaches. And you can order our fantasy baseball draft magazine right now through Lindy’s Sports. Rotoworld’s online 2016 Baseball Draft Guide will launch Tuesday, February 9.
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
Jones has been a treated as a first-round fantasy star at various points in his major league career and that kind of attention has at various points been justified. Like in 2013, when the center fielder rattled off 33 home runs, 108 RBI, 100 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 160 games. Or in 2012, when he tallied 32 homers, 103 runs, and 16 steals in 162 games. But the peripherals have never been as inspiring. This is a guy with a career .781 OPS (109 OPS+), and his on-base percentage over the last two seasons is a paltry .310.
Jones does play half his games in a very power-happy ballpark -- Camden Yards saw the second-most homers in the majors in 2015 -- and his durability over the last several seasons has truly been impressive for such an active player at such a demanding defensive position. But you can find 25-homer outfielders in the middle rounds of most drafts and Jones no longer serves stolen bases as a side dish. He swiped just seven bags in 2014 and that number fell to three in 2015. Don’t expect a major bounceback in that department in 2016; he turns 31 years old in August.
Alex Rodriguez, DH, Yankees
Whether you’re appalled by the use of performance-enhancing drugs or could not care less, you’ll probably agree that A-Rod’s redemption was one of the most compelling storylines of the 2015 season. He sat out the entire 2014 campaign on suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis saga and there some well-placed newspapermen in New York predicting that he would never again suit up in a Yankees uniform. But the veteran slugger was an early-arriver to spring training in Tampa, Florida and he behaved like a model citizen throughout camp before turning in an .842 OPS, 33 home runs, and 86 RBI in 151 regular-season games. The boos in the Bronx quickly turned to enthusiastic cheers as Rodriguez helped lead the Yankees to the American League Wild Card Game.
But can he do it again in 2016 -- what will be his age-41 season? We’re guessing not. A-Rod showed serious signs of fatigue down the stretch last year, batting just .191 with a .678 OPS over his final 56 games, and Greg Bird’s sudden 2016-ending shoulder surgery is going to make it difficult for Yankees manager Joe Girardi to find Rodriguez the kind of rest he needs. Mark Teixeira, who turns 36 years old in April, will need to sit some too. Power is at a premium and Yankee Stadium is a power haven, but don’t count on A-Rod climbing back above the 30-homer plateau.
Corey Dickerson, OF, Rays
Dickerson had a highly enticing three-year run with the Rockies, batting .299/.345/.534 across 925 total plate appearances and averaging 24 home runs, 76 RBI, and 84 runs scored for every 162 games played. But the 26-year-old outfielder was traded to the Rays last week in exchange for two pitchers (Jake McGee, German Marquez) and he is probably going to be a much different player in Tampa Bay than he was in Colorado.
Dickerson took great advantage of the thin air and spacious outfield gaps at Coors Field, slashing .355/.410/.675 in 122 home games while wearing the black and purple. In his 143 games on the road with the Rockies, he slashed .249/.286/.410. Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field plays much more pitcher-friendly and while the Rays will actually make a rare visit to Denver in 2016, it will only be for three games. Dickerson is going to have to get used to a vastly different home hitting environment. The elevation at Coors Field is 5,206 ft. The elevation at the The Trop is 38 ft. Then there’s the plantar fasciitis issue that limited to Dickerson to 65 games last season. He’s probably a guy to altogether avoid.
Marco Estrada, SP, Blue Jays
Estrada was the Blue Jays’ most reliable starter throughout the 2015 regular season and into the playoffs, and he parlayed that success into a fresh two-year, $26 million pact with Toronto in mid-November. Estrada probably could have done a little better for himself on the free agent market, but he decided not to take that chance after the Jays made him a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer on November 6. Rejecting the qualifying offer and the two-year extension would have tied his open-market free agency to draft pick compensation, and that has significantly damaged the sticker price for starters of his ilk in the recent past.
Estrada will instead try to prove his 2016 was no fluke as the Blue Jays look to defend their 2015 American League East title. The offense should remain lethal enough for the latter part of that goal, but on his own end Estrada could very well be in for a flop. The right-hander had an underwhelming 4.23 ERA (93 ERA+) in his first seven major league seasons, from 2008-2014, and he will turn 33 years old before the 2016 All-Star break. Toronto’s Rogers Centre plays power-friendly, and Estrada isn’t known for his ability to miss bats. He struck out just 131 hitters in 181 innings last season for a K/9 of 6.5.
Jackie Bradley, OF, Red Sox
Bradley had a wonderful finish to the 2015 regular season, registering a .980 OPS, nine home runs, 39 RBI, and 37 runs scored over his final 50 games. That big late-summer, early-autumn outburst offers some hope that JBJ might finally be ready to pair his already stellar defense with a dynamic -- or at least reliable -- brand of offense. But how much can we really trust a two-month stretch of production? And it was really more like a five-week stretch anyway -- Bradley slashed .138/.247/.263 over his final 94 plate appearances.
Bradley received a whopping 423 plate appearances in 2014, spread across 127 games, and finished with a dreadful .531 OPS. He homered just once. And in 2013, his first taste of major league life, he had a .617 OPS in 107 plate appearances. The 25-year-old center fielder does have some intriguing minor league numbers, but they’re not nearly intriguing enough to back the idea that he is cruising toward a full-on breakout. And while Bradley shows great range in the outfield, that speed has not translated into significant stolen bases. Look for him to return to the mold of a defense-driven commodity in 2016.
Brad Boxberger, RP, Rays
Boxberger led all American League closers in saves last season with 41 and his career ERA sits below 3.00 -- at 2.94 -- but there are some good reasons to let another team owner hop on the train instead. Boxberger has walked 83 batters in 177 1/3 major league innings for an ugly 4.2 BB/9. And in 2015, his BB/9 was an even-more-hideous 4.6. That lack of control can lead to major damage in a flash for a pitcher of any kind, but it’s especially dangerous for an inning-at-a-time reliever.
The late-January trade of Jake McGee to Colorado does afford Boxberger some additional leash on the Rays’ ninth-inning job, but who’s to say Boxberger won’t be shipped out next? When a Rays pitcher reaches salary arbitration, that pitcher almost immediately becomes potential trade bait. That is the simple nature of operating one of the least profitable clubs in Major League Baseball. Tampa Bay can’t afford to spend a large chunk of its budget on the bullpen, especially with so many good young starters populating its system. Boxberger will become eligible for salary arbitration for the first time next winter. If things go south quickly for the Rays this summer in the American League East race, watch out for rapid turnover.
Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox
Has any modern established starting pitcher experienced peaks and valleys like Buchholz? One month he looks like an ace, and the next month he looks like a guy who would rather be anywhere but a professional pitching mound. That unpredictability is what makes him a player to avoid for the 2016 season. His fantasy ceiling is high, but he has only touched it a couple of times in his nine-year major league career and his floor is much too muddy. Let another draft participant take the chance this spring.
Buchholz finished sixth in the American League Cy Young Award voting in 2010 when he registered a sparkling 2.33 ERA across 173 2/3 innings. The next season, 2011, he posted a mediocre 3.48 ERA in 82 2/3 frames before getting shut down in June with a stress fracture in his lower back. Buchholz rallied from that back injury to throw a career-high 189 1/3 innings in 2012, but it came with a 4.56 ERA. Then in 2013 he flashed a 1.74 ERA in 108 1/3 frames. 2014: a 5.34 ERA. 2015: a 3.26 ERA and another major midsummer injury. The beat goes on and on, and Buchholz remains a source of perplexity leading into the 2016 campaign.