- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey is the consensus top guy at his position this season, a point I have no intention of arguing. Posey has proven himself to be a terrific, accomplished hitter -- and healer of injury -- and his performance in the second half last season was incredible, even somewhat historic. At a challenging defensive position in which the norm seems to be late-summer fatigue, Posey hit .385 after the All-Star break, with 14 home runs and 60 RBIs. It had been more than a decade since any catcher finished with at least 20 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .330 batting average.
However, being the top guy at what many perceive to be a weak fantasy position -- I disagree with that assertion in standard leagues -- does not warrant exalting said player to the second round of drafts, which is why Posey highlights my "Do Not Draft" list.
Let's be clear: Of course I would draft him if the value was right, ahead of Yadier Molina and every other backstop. But this is a player who finished the 2012 season 27th on the ESPN Player Rater, and with a truly unsustainable second half, so I can't possibly justify reaching for him in the top 20, ahead of the likes of Justin Upton, Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre and other reliable hitters who are being taken later than him in ESPN average live drafts.
This annual blog entry of mine is simply about perceiving value and why certain players will not be ending up on my teams. While a catcher does occasionally show up in the first three rounds of drafts, such as Joe Mauer in the past, it's never me pulling that trigger on him. Ever. Even Mauer, a top-10 pick to many after his similarly ridiculous 2009 campaign -- he bashed 28 home runs and won his third batting title and AL MVP honors -- was overrated in fantasy and proved to be, while valuable in fantasy thereafter, not quite that valuable.
I have Posey ranked firmly in my fourth round, where I have little chance of acquiring him, but that's just fine with me because I view his 2012 first-half performance (.289, 10 HRs, 43 RBIs) as far more repeatable than his closing run (.423 BABIP!). Plus, nobody consistently hits .433 for the season against left-handed pitching, and even if he's totally healthy today, expecting any catcher to annually see 500-plus at-bats is also dangerous. In fact, no current catcher has accomplished even this seemingly reachable feat in each of the past three seasons, including the ones who see action at other positions. Catchers tend to suffer all kinds of nicks and injuries, even if they play through it, and it absolutely affects offensive performance.
So go ahead and take Posey in Round 2; what could possibly go wrong? Here are other players that, like Posey, are in some cases awesome in their own right and certainly players I would take later, but I wouldn't take them anywhere near where they're going in ESPN live drafts. Under the circumstances, they get the dubious distinction of making my "Do Not Draft" list.
Michael Bourn, OF, Cleveland Indians: Bourn is one of those names you'll see here annually. Simply put, he's overrated in fantasy. Last season he stole 42 bases, which is still nice, but a far cry from the 58 bases he averaged per year from 2009-11. He's a two-category guy (steals, runs) and that's it, but at least he's not going 33rd overall, as he did in 2012. If you don't get power in the first 10 rounds, you're chasing it the rest of the draft and season. I'll take any number of 30-plus steal guys who lack power at least 10 rounds later, such as Ben Revere, Juan Pierre, Coco Crisp, Emilio Bonifacio and Everth Cabrera.
Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta Braves: Again, I appreciate all he does; he's the best closer in baseball. But I just cannot fathom taking a closer over a potential top-10 starting pitcher such as Yu Darvish or annual, consistent offensive stalwarts such as Matt Holliday and Brandon Phillips, which is happening in ESPN live drafts (Kimbrel is going 41st). I'll take reputable save options such as Addison Reed and Greg Holland 10 rounds later and do just fine. By the way, I might as well add Jonathan Papelbon, Mariano Rivera and any other top-five closer going in the top 100 to this section, because I'm still drafting more versatile fantasy options then.
Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Angels: Sometimes a fantasy owner is so desperate for power that he'll take it no matter the cost. Even I will eventually. Just not in the first 10 rounds. When I see Trumbo, I see tremendous downside in batting average, as his barely-.200 mark the final two months of last season proved. Why do I buy Trumbo's second half but not Posey's, you may ask? They couldn't be more different circumstances. Posey has to regress in batting average, just as many expect Mike Trout to. With Trumbo, his first half was the anomaly, and unsustainable based on his skill set and complete avoidance of drawing walks. In the second half he walked less, whiffed a lot more and had eight extra-base hits total from Aug. 1 on. Trumbo isn't even Josh Willingham to me, though he's going earlier in drafts, in the top 100. I'd gladly wait nine rounds for Nick Swisher instead.
Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, 1B/OF, New York Yankees: I liked Teixeira's value before his latest wrist injury cropped up, but no longer. With Granderson, I'd need much convincing to select a guy we know isn't likely to hit as high as .250 in the first five rounds. Today, I wouldn't take either in the first 12 rounds. I keep hearing how they'll just automatically hit once they return from wrist/arm woes in May, but I question that, and even with the overall bar lowered on what it takes to contend in a normal fantasy league in batting average, I avoid batting average-killers.
Others I do not figure to be drafting, based on ADP:
Tune in Monday as I begin my sleeper tour in this space!