- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Every fantasy baseball owner who fails to win his or her league can point to a player or two they feel doomed their chances. We've all done it. What's interesting is the disparity of those players. To some owners, choosing Matt Kemp third overall and getting a borderline top-100 player in return was the killer. Others might point to a starting pitcher or two who did irreversible damage, such as top-10 starter Tim Lincecum, who begins Thursday at spot No. 493 on ESPN's Player Rater. Still others might point to a closer that didn't close, a prospect who was never promoted or a 30-homer guy like Lance Berkman who barely played. Frankly, we could name a lot of players who haven't helped fantasy owners in relation to their draft spot.
My vote for the most devastating fantasy performance this season, while taking into important account how high of a draft pick you needed to spend to secure him is ... drum roll, please ... Toronto Blue Jays lefty Ricky Romero. He ranks dead last among 94 qualified hurlers with a 5.87 ERA, and Romero was a ninth-round pick in ESPN average live drafts, expected to be a top-20 starting pitcher. Instead, he has been awful, ranked an incredible 1,223rd out of 1,260 overall players on the ESPN Player Rater, and he remains owned in more than 42 percent of ESPN leagues.
Regardless, beauty and, in this case, nominal hatred is in the eye of the beholder. Here are many other players who tortured fantasy owners this season in relation to their draft cost. Yuniesky Betancourt need not apply. He wasn't in demand on draft day. These players, to differing degrees, were. Let's go in order of current Player Rater score for effect.
Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (preseason ADP: 3; current Player Rater rank: 98): Look, you don't get a fancy asterisk absolving you of a ninth-place finish just because your top players were injured. Most of us deal with injuries. At least Kemp played well when he played, right? 2013 expectations: First-rounder, 30/30 capability again.
Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (ADP: 13; Rater: 105): Like Kemp, at least you got something. This list gets worse! 2013 expectations: When we said he'd win the MVP, we meant in 2013. Or something like that. I'm thinking third round for Upton; I'm not giving up.
Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (ADP: 22; Rater: 130): He has won five games, and that includes wins in three of his past four games. His other numbers are fine. 2013 expectations: Most pitchers with his peripherals would have many wins. I have no worries about Lee. He won't be a top-10 starting pitcher on draft day, but he could perform like it.
Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays (ADP: 5; Rater: 161): It was clearly a messy first round. Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun are the lone top-10 players performing at that level. 2013 expectations: Should flirt with 40 home runs again.
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays (ADP: 48; Rater: 195): His stardom is apparently on hold. Hit nine home runs in 43 games as a rookie, and has nine home runs in 104 games this year. 2013 expectations: Still bound for stardom, but will come at cheaper price now.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals (ADP: 47; Rater: 199): I don't know of anyone who thought he would be a bust. He's hitting .244. At least he has 14 home runs and 14 stolen bases. 2013 expectations: Still going to be awesome, and better than Teixeira.
Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies (ADP: 11; Rater: 201): He was the first pitcher chosen in average live drafts. He's currently 54th among starting pitchers on the Rater. 2013 expectations: Probably not a top-10 pitcher anymore. Still should be good, though.
Carlos Santana, C/1B, Cleveland Indians (ADP: 54; Rater: 254): At least he has outperformed the No. 1 catcher on draft day (a guy named Napoli, who is addressed below). Santana was second. 2013 expectations: Still a top-5 catcher, but clearly the batting average is a concern.
Michael Young, 1B/2B/3B, Texas Rangers (ADP: 76; Rater: 261): He's down more than 70 batting average points, and he wasn't a home run hitter to start with. 2013 expectations: Needs five more games for second base eligibility in 2013. If he doesn't get it, he's not worth much.
Dan Uggla, 2B, Atlanta Braves (ADP: 40; Rater: 289): The .214 batting average hurts, but at least you got 18 home runs from a middle infielder. 2013 expectations: Might need a change of scenery, but the power remains. Good sleeper for 30 home runs again.
Mike Napoli, C/1B, Rangers (ADP: 45; Rater: 436): Hit .320 last year and earned top catcher status. Is currently hitting .223 and is 19th among catchers. 2013 expectations: Could bounce back to being a top-5 catcher, but has to stay healthy.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies (ADP: 6; Rater: 446): I sense a first-round health-related theme here. 2013 expectations: First-round talent at a scarce position. In fact, I'll rank him near the first round again.
Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox (ADP: 51; Rater: 464): I promise he won't be a sixth-rounder next year. His current ERA is 4.99. Can't blame injury here. 2013 expectations: Tempered. Let's just leave it at that.
Heath Bell, RP, Miami Marlins (ADP: 128; Rater: 487): Didn't see quite this much regression coming. 2013 expectations: Will likely close again, but there's no need to draft him in first 15 (20?) rounds.
Tim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco Giants (ADP: 29; Rater: 493): Has actually been fine over the past two months. 2013 expectations: Nice bounce-back possibilities.
Mariano Rivera, RP, Yankees (ADP: 70; Rater: 530): Did save five more games than you and I. 2013 expectations: 40 saves. Again. Don't doubt him.
Carl Crawford, OF, Red Sox to Dodgers (ADP: 69; Rater: 580): I sense a Red Sox theme here as well. 2013 expectations: Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. This is getting ridiculous. I'll say 100 games, .260 and 20 steals. Yawn.
Brian Wilson, RP, Giants (ADP: 91; Rater: 821): Not sure if you've heard, but wait on your closers. They get hurt, and more than half of the Opening Day closers have changed. 2013 expectations: Not the worst sleeper, but after the top 20 closers on draft day, for sure.
Lance Berkman, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals (ADP: 64; Rater: 908): He got 80 at-bats and hit two home runs, and that was coming off a magical 2011 campaign. We expected regression, but not this much. 2013 expectations: Lots of golf as he enjoys retirement.
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Indians (ADP: 105; Rater: 925): The awful gift that keeps on giving. He has made 29 starts and ranks 92nd out of 94 qualified hurlers in ERA. 2013 expectations: I beg you to avoid him.
Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees (ADP: 94; Rater: 1,008): He was expected to steal another 49 bases, and he ended up with two. And steals weren't so easy to replace this season. 2013 expectations: There's no reason he can' t return to what we all expected.
Daniel Hudson, SP, Diamondbacks (ADP: 90; Rater: 1,088): Made nine starts before Tommy John surgery got him. 2013 expectations: Second-half sleeper for 10 or so starts.
Ricky Romero, SP, Blue Jays (ADP: 84; Rater: 1,223): Tough to explain this one. He's dead last in ERA at 5.87. 2013 expectations: Would like to be positive, but make him show you he can be effective first.
Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves (ADP: 219; Rater: 1,260): Had a 2.96 ERA in 23 starts in 2011, and a 6.89 ERA in 10 starts this year. But I think it's interesting that he's actually in the bottom five for all big league players on our Rater as of today. The worst player, No. 1,260, is former Royals and current Rockies lefty Jonathan Sanchez, then Nick Blackburn, Jason Bartlett, Ryan Raburn and Jurrjens. Hope you didn't have to deal with any of these guys this season! 2013 expectations: Um, avoid them all. Really.