I was looking for a quote as a poetic way to introduce this list of overrated fantasy baseball players when I stumbled over the above quote from the great Chili Davis. It’s not a clean segue to my thesis statement that age matters in fantasy, but how could I pass up the opportunity to quote the great Chili Davis? Hey, if age didn’t matter in fantasy, Chili would be my first round pick every year. You my boy Chili.
#1: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
It’s hard for me to knock Yadier Molina, the most valuable player on the St. Louis Cardinals roster, but his real life value does not translate to fantasy. Molina had his best fantasy season two years ago in 2012 where he hit 22 HRs with an impressive slash line of .315/.373/.501, a fantasy stud at his position. In 2013, even though his slash line was a solid .319/.359/.477, he hit only 12 HRs, almost half his total from the previous year, and an amount that made his owners say “meh”.
Molina turns 32 this July, which is about 107 in catcher years. Ok, maybe that’s not fair for one of the best in the game, but I think it is fair to say that his best offensive production is behind him. Also, Molina was banged up a lot last year leading Manager Mike Matheny to announce he was going to give his leader more rest in the tail end of the 2013 season. A strategy that likely will carry over to 2014.
Molina’s value in real life to the Cardinals is immeasurable. However, in fantasy, his value puts him in a tier of catchers that you probably could flip a coin between him and half a dozen other guys in a 12-team, one catcher league. Let someone else reach on him and you can find a comparable backstop in the later rounds of the draft.
#2: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
Brandon Phillips has been a steady fantasy contributor at 2B for the better part of the last decade. He has hit 18 HRs in each of the past 4 seasons, not bad at a position that is traditionally thin in talent.
This June Phillips turns 33, and like Molina his best offensive years are behind him. And even though Phillips’ HR total stayed steady in 2012, he experienced regression in other key areas. His SB’s dropped from 15 in 2012 to 5 in 2013. His average dropped as well from .281 to .261.
Beyond the regression, another thing you have to worry about his lineup slot. Phillips batted 4th for the Reds last year which served as a catalyst for Phillips to post a career high in RBI’s of 103, and probably was a contributing factor of why he was able to hit another 18 HR’s. Phillips, as his stats would suggest, is not your typical clean-up guy.
There are many trade rumors surrounding Phillips not only because of his contract but his critical comments towards the front office as well. If Phillips does get traded, he probably will never bat in the 4th spot ever again; there are no guarantees he stays in that slot even if he remains with the Reds with a new skip on board.
Between his age and the uncertainty with Phillips, I see his HR and RBI totals dropping in 2014, dropping Phillips towards the back end of 2B you should target in a 12-team league.
#3: Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals
You can find Allen Craig in a lot of top 10 lists for first basemen as well as some top 20 lists in the outfield coming into 2014. Craig is a great hitter, especially with with runners in scoring position where he hit .454, third highest mark in the last 40 years. His slash line was fairly impressive too at .315/.373/.457.
So why would Craig be overrated with those numbers? Two reasons. First he has an inability to stay healthy. Assuming players will get hurt is a slippery slope in fantasy, but it has to be considered in Craig’s case. Craig has spent significant time on the DL in each of the last three seasons. Craig, who turns 30 this season, posted a career high with a meager 134 games played in 2013.
Secondly, the Cardinals have great depth and Matheny uses it to keep his players fresh. With Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras deserving of playing time, Matheny has options to keep Craig fresh and healthy for any stretch run the Cardinals may make in 2014.
By doing so, the Cards skipper will frustrate a lot of fantasy owners. You do not want to be in your stretch run in fantasy counting on a guy that could be injured or only playing four out of six games in a week.