2023 Top 10 Fantasy Baseball Busts: Xander Bogaerts and Alex Bregman Should Be Avoided at ADP
Published: Feb 05, 2023
Updated: Mar 23, 2023
It’s always fun to pick out and target your favorite fantasy baseball breakout players and fantasy baseball sleepers, but knowing the potential landmines in your drafts that could tank your fantasy baseball team should warrant the same amount of your attention. Can your 18th-round pick destroy your fantasy baseball season? No. You may not win your fantasy baseball leagues with your earlier-round picks, but you certainly can lose them by taking someone who ends up disappointing in 2022. When we talk about fantasy baseball busts for the 2023 season, it’s important to note that it’s not as if the guys below are just going to fall off a cliff and be out of the league by the season’s end. Whether it be regression, skills, volume, etc., there are reasons that these guys seem overvalued in 2023 fantasy baseball rankings, and therefore will not live up to their current draft price. The return on investment from the players below can severely impact your fantasy team for the 2023 season, so proceed with caution when drafting these players at or above ADP. Without further ado, let’s take a look at this year’s fantasy baseball busts for the 2023 fantasy baseball season.
Dylan Cease, SP Chicago White Sox
What Cease did last year was amazing, posting a 2.20 ERA and 11.1 K/9 across 184 innings of work. He’s routinely being drafted inside the top 10 starters, and regression in 2023 seems inevitable. You meant to tell me that we have to pay at or near the ceiling for Cease in 2023 when he’s an obvious candidate for regression? No thank you. His xERA, FIP, and xFIP indicate he’s not likely to repeat a sub-2.25 ERA, and he posted a double-digit walk rate. If he’s going to continue to put himself in harm’s way, he’s playing with fire, and unless you’re confident that he matches last year’s .260 BABIP and 82.3 percent strand rate, we have to plan for regression. His strand rate last year was the fourth-highest among qualified starters, while his BABIP was the 11th-lowest! With his current draft price, there’s not much wiggle room for regression, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s coming. Enjoy the strikeouts, because they are great, but his 2023 ERA won’t be as shiny as it was last season, making it hard to live up to his current draft price.
Michael Harris II, OF Atlanta Braves
Harris had a phenomenal rookie season, hitting .297 with 19 home runs, 20 stolen bases and a 136 wRC+ over 114 games. I’m not discrediting that at all, nor do I want to. He’s just 22 years young, and big league pitchers will adjust to him with more tape out there on him, but it’s hard to ignore last year’s .361 BABIP, .268 xBA, and a 41.7 percent O-Swing%. He’s a free swinger at heart, and it’s incredibly fun to watch, but if things don’t bounce his way as much in 2023, what are we looking at? A .270 hitter with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases with a late second or early third-round pick? It’s still valuable, but he isn’t going to pay off that price tag. I’m not saying Atlanta would do this, but if there are some early season struggles and they move him to the bottom third of the order, or even worse, what if they protect him a bit more against left-handers, seeing as he hit just .238 with a 30.4 percent strikeout rate and .285 wOBA last season? I don’t like platoon possibilities or even remote questions about a potential platoon in the early rounds of my drafts.
Rafael Devers, 3B Boston Red Sox
Devers is incredibly talented, but his current draft price is just too high. He’s in the first year of a massive deal, and the fact that he’s being drafted, on average, ahead of Austin Riley is insane! Devers didn’t replicate his power from 2021, though he did hit for a far better average, and he now has two straight seasons with a strong xBA mark. However, he doesn’t run, his supporting cast is going to stink this year, and his price is pushed up due to a lack of high-end depth at the third base position. We all know at this point his massive struggles in the second half of 2022, so we don’t need to go into too much detail there. If it weren’t for his exceptional performance through the first half of the season, his numbers last year would be vastly different for the season as a whole. You should be drafting Riley ahead of Devers anyway, and if you want similar production, grab Arenado nearly 20 picks later. Devers is going to be a solid player yet again in 2023, but his numbers are going to take a hit with that supporting cast around him, or lack thereof, leading to Devers being a bust at this price.
Wander Franco, SS Tampa Bay Rays
We won’t call someone a bust because they get injured, but Franco’s durability should be brought into question, seeing as he’s gone on the IL for hamstring, quad, and wrist-related issues over the last two seasons. Across 153 games at the big league level for his career, he’s hit .282 with 13 home runs, 10 stolen bases, 99 runs scored, and 72 RBI. His plate discipline and feel of the batter’s box are elite, and we’ve seen the top-end max exit velocity that he has. However, on average, his exit velocity is below average if we’re being honest, and Franco’s biggest boosts to those who draft him will be in the batting average, runs scored, and stolen base departments. However, if he gets hurt again and is limited to just 104 games, his .280 batting average carries a bit less weight, not to mention fewer games to tally up the runs scored, and if he does get hurt again with a soft tissue ailment, they could give him the Carlos Correa treatment and say “don’t run so that you can stay healthy.” I’m not saying that will happen, but pushing up Franco due to his name and hype will only leave you disappointed.
Marcus Semien, 2B Texas Rangers
Per NFBC ADP, Semien is the top-ranked second baseman off the board, and the lack of high-end talent at second base is a bit alarming. Making Semien the first second baseman off the board means that you emphatically believe he is going to replicate or come very close to matching last year’s 25 stolen bases on 33 total attempts. Prior to last season, his most stolen bases in his career was 15, which happened in 2021, and in terms of attempts, it was 20 back in 2018 when he was in Oakland. As expected, his home run total took a hit, but that was to be expected with a new park in 2022 and posting career highs in most batted ball metrics the year prior. When looking at Steamer Projections, there are seven second baseman projected to hit 20 or more home runs, and five of them are projected with double-digit stolen bases. Of those four, excluding Semien, since he is the fifth, all but one are projected with a higher batting average than the Texas second baseman. Semien isn’t getting any younger and has remained exceptionally durable through the years, and he needs that volume to accumulate his stats. He may be the best statistical accumulator at the second base position, but also one of the top-bust candidates.
Kenley Jansen, RP Boston Red Sox
I’m not averse to closers on bad teams, in fact, it can be profitable a lot of the time. However, he’s going to have to slip in drafts. I know he did a great job of limited hard contact last year and he put up another solid season in terms of his strikeout rate, but he was only in the 62nd percentile for whiff rate, and 48th percentile in chase rate. He seems fortunate to have had the strikeout rate that he did last year, and now he and his fly ball inducing repertoire will go to Fenway Park, which is quite friendly to hitters (3rd-highest Park Factor over the last three years). His ERA is going to hover in the mid-3s, his strikeout rate is going to drop compared to last year, and I’m not confident that he’ll have enough volume of save opportunities to return a quality return on investment. If you draft closers earlier on, you better get it right, and Jansen isn’t it.
Alex Bregman, 3B Houston Astros
What am I missing here with Bregman? I know he’s in the middle of a great lineup to boost his counting stats, but ever since that insane 2019 season, he’s slashed .260/.360/.443 with a 162-game pace that sees him hitting 23 home runs with one stolen base, alongside 93 runs and 96 RBI. The runs and RBI he’ll provide to your fantasy team are nice, but he’s not an overly high batting average guy, his power production is maybe a hair above average for the position, and he doesn’t run. Bregman falls in a tier I consider “no man’s land” at third base, and if you miss out on one of the premier five or six at the position, wait a round and chase upside with Gunnar Henderson, or multiple rounds with Ke’Bryan Hayes. Interestingly enough, you could wait even further, because outside of runs and RBI, Bregman (25 HR, .262 AVG) and Anthony Rendon (18 HR, .257 AVG) aren’t all that different from Steamer projections, and the latter is going nearly 200 picks later. I don’t see a path to Bregman paying off his draft price without a big jump in his power numbers, batting average, or stolen bases, which is something I don’t envision occurring.
Salvador Perez, C Kansas City Royals
The price tag on Salvador Perez this year is far more palatable, but for only four other catches to be going ahead of him in ADP is crazy! He provides decent power without being a total drain on your batting average, I get it, but he’s not getting any younger and if we throw 2020 out of the equation, the guy plays the toughest position in baseball and has played in 120+ games in seven of the last eight years! He had some thumb issues last year that likely sapped some power from him, but we can’t keep holding onto that magical 48-home run season because that just isn’t Perez. His strikeout rate keeps creeping up, he’s a free swinger at heart, and plus power from the catcher spot isn’t as much of a premium as it used to be. Six catchers hit 20+ home runs last year, and his dearth of walks makes him one of the more obvious bust candidates at his price in leagues that value OBP. He’s a more expensive Sean Murphy in 2023.
Xander Bogaerts, SS San Diego Padres
Yes, fresh off a massive $280M deal this offseason, Bogaerts is a bust candidate for me in 2023. He posted a .307 average last season, the third-highest of his career, and hit 15 home runs and eight stolen bases. The batting average was nice for fantasy baseball managers, but you know what, 46 other players did that last year! Bogaerts enjoyed a .362 BABIP last year, the second-highest of his entire career, and he actually saw a reduction in his average exit velocity, barrel rate, and hard-hit rate from his averages from 2019-2021. His .259 xBA last year is rather alarming, and while he’s going to a more loaded lineup in San Diego than what he would have had around him in Boston, over a three-year rolling average per Baseball Savant, he’s going from the 3rd-best park for right-handed hitters to the fourth worst! Bogaerts is routinely being drafted inside the top 100, sometimes as early as the top 75, and that’s just setting the stage for disappointment in 2023.
Starling Marte, OF New York Mets
The new rules and regulations in the game could help Marte a bit in terms of helping offset his reduction in stolen bases, but we have to talk about it. Marte isn’t getting any younger, and his 27 total stolen bases were his fewest since 2017 (sans the shortened 2020 season), and his nine caught stealing attempts were his most since 2018. Per Statcast, his 68th percentile sprint speed last season was the first time he’s dropped below the 80th percentile, and his rate of stolen base attempts dropped a bit in the second half of the season. Marte isn’t getting any younger, and unless he runs as he did in 2021 or back in his 20s, he’s going to have a tough time living up to his current ADP. His xBA has hovered in the .265-.275 range for the last three years, and I’m banking on his stolen base total being far lower than what many expect it to be. He’s in a good lineup, sure, but Buck Showalter’s Mets had the eighth-fewest stolen bases last season, and generally speaking, his teams haven’t run a ton. His offseason involved recovering from core muscle surgery, and while he’s expected to be healthy for spring training, I’m lower than most on Marte for 2023, and when you expect him to steal fewer bases and regress a bit in batting average, you won’t see the path to a top 20 finish at the position, which is right around where he’s being drafted. You can replicate this version of Marte’s production rounds, and rounds later.