FROM A TO ZINKIE: Looking for commonalities among 2018 busts

I have said for many years that fantasy baseball is an annual ritual of making the perfect plan and then watching that plan slowly fall apart. And 2018 gave me no reason to change my outlook on this challenging and fascinating game, as even winning fantasy teams likely had multiple busts on their roster.

Although easier said than done, avoiding early-round busts is one of the biggest keys to a successful season. But owners may be able to maximize their chances of early-round success by looking back at the commonalities among busts from the previous year. In an effort to help 2019 owners, I have compiled a list of this season’s biggest busts. My criteria was simple: to count as a bust, a player had to be a Top 50 overall pick who currently holds an overall production ranking that is at least 50 points worse than his draft slot. Without further ado, here is the full list an analysis on their similarities and differences:
 

BUSTS

        Age on  Previous       Team
        Opening $20 $ in DL in Pre-2018 change in
  Name ADP POS Day Seasons 2017 2017? DL stints offseason
  Clayton Kershaw 5 SP 30 8 34 Yes 3 No
  Carlos Correa 14 SS 23 2 21 Yes 1 No
  Kris Bryant 15 3B/OF 26 3 26 No 0 No
  Gary Sanchez 17 C 25 0 19 Yes 1 No
  Joey Votto 18 1B 34 7 33 No 4 No
  Aaron Judge 19 OF 25 1 32 No 1 No
  Stephen Strasburg 24 SP 29 2 29 Yes 8 No
  Cody Bellinger 26 1B/OF 22 1 24 Yes 1 No
  Noah Syndergaard 27 SP 25 1 0 Yes 1 No
  Dee Gordon 28 2B/OF 29 3 39 No 2 Yes
  George Springer 29 OF 28 4 23 Yes 4 No
  Josh Donaldson 31 3B 32 4 16 Yes 1 No
  Brian Dozier 36 2B/OF 30 3 25 No 0 No
  Corey Seager 40 SS 23 2 21 No 0 No
  Madison Bumgarner 43 SP 28 4 9 Yes 1 No
  Robbie Ray 44 SP 26 1 23 Yes 1 No
  Marcell Ozuna 45 OF 27 1 32 No 1 Yes
  Yu Darvish 46 SP 31 1 16 Yes 7 Yes
  Byron Buxton 48 OF 24 0 18 Yes 2 No

 

NON-BUSTS

        Age on  Previous       Team
        Opening $20 $ in DL in Pre-2018 change in
  Name ADP POS Day Seasons 2017 2017? DL stints offseason
  Mike Trout 1 OF 26 6 29 Yes 1 No
  Jose Altuve 2 2B 27 4 42 No 0 No
  Nolan Arenado 3 3B 26 3 33 No 1 No
  Trea Turner 4 SS/OF 24 2 30 Yes 2 No
  Paul Goldschmidt 6 1B 30 6 37 No 1 No
  Mookie Betts 7 OF 25 3 26 No 1 No
  Giancarlo Stanton 8 OF 28 3 32 No 4 Yes
  Charlie Blackmon 9 OF 31 4 43 No 3 No
  Bryce Harper 10 OF 25 4 27 Yes 3 No
  Max Scherzer 11 SP 33 5 38 Yes 2 No
  Chris Sale 12 SP 28 6 41 No 2 No
  Corey Kluber 13 SP 31 4 46 Yes 2 No
  Manny Machado 16 SS/3B 25 2 19 No 3 No
  Jose Ramirez 20 2B/3B 25 2 32 No 0 No
  Francisco Lindor 21 SS 24 2 25 No 0 No
  Freddie Freeman 22 1B 28 4 24 Yes 4 No
  J.D. Martinez 23 OF 30 3 29 Yes 4 Yes
  Anthony Rizzo 25 1B 28 4 26 No 0 No
  Luis Severino 30 SP 24 1 30 No 1 No
  Alex Bregman 32 SS/3B 23 1 22 No 0 No
  Jaco deGrom 33 SP 29 2 21 No 1 No
  Carlos Carrasco 34 SP 31 1 29 No 5 No
  Kenley Jansen 35 RP 30 4 34 No 3 No
  Justin Verlander 37 SP 35 6 24 No 1 No
  Andrew Benintendi 38 OF 23 1 22 No 1 No
  Jose Abreu 39 1B 31 4 26 No 1 No
  Christian Yelich 41 OF 26 3 25 No 3 Yes
  Craig Kimbrel 42 RP 29 5 32 No 1 No
  Starling Marte 47 OF 29 4 14 No 4 No
  Zack Greinke 49 SP 34 4 27 No 4 No
  Justin Upton 50 OF 30 6 26 No 2 No

 

TAKEAWAYS

Positions: Six of the 19 players (31.6%) on the bust list were pitchers. In comparison, 10 of the 31 players on the success list (32.2%) were pitchers. No major difference from that perspective. To spin the data another way, six of the 16 pitchers selected in the Top 50 (37.5%) were busts, while 13 of the 34 hitters selected in the Top 50 (38.2%) were hitters. Again, no major discrepancy. From this vantage point, those who question stability of early-round starters likely aren’t basing their opinion on recent results.

Age: This variable was not predictive. The average age on the bust list was 27 and the average on the success list was 28. Although I didn’t go so far as to include decimals in the player’s actual ages as of Opening Day, we can conclude that the average age on the two lists was so similar that it was not a contributing factor.

Career success: The success list has a slight advantage here, with an average of 3.5 previous $20 seasons in comparison to 2.5 as the average on the bust list. The takeaway here is for owners to pick their spots with players who have only a limited amount of past success. However, I must acknowledge that there are many players on the success list who previous had two or fewer $20 seasons.

2017 success: The success group had a major edge here, holding an average dollar value of $6.23 better than the bust list in 2017. But much of this discrepancy can be explained by the fact that 12 of the Top 13 from the ADP list wound up on the success list. These players were typically the biggest 2017 earners.

DL in 2017: Seven of the 31 players (22.6%) on the success list spent time on the DL in 2017, in comparison to 12 of the 19 players (63.2%) on the bust list. Overall, this is the biggest variable between the two lists, and a strong motivator for owners to use caution when using premium picks next spring on those who spent time on the DL this year.

Past DL stints: This variable was not predictive, with both lists finishing with an average of two previous DL stints per player.

Offseason team changes: This variable was not predictive. There were three players on each list who changed teams in the offseason, which puts the bust list at 16% and the success list at 10%.

Conclusion: Selecting busts is virtually inevitable, but owners could minimize their risk by fading those who recently dealt with injuries. Additionally, safe drafters will avoid getting carried away with players who have performed at an elite level for a short amount of time. However, owners seem to already do a good job of dealing with variables such as age.


Click here to subscribe

  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.