There are certain types of fantasy baseball players that are better left untouched; guys you should avoid like the plague. Here are four types of fantasy players you won't find on my roster, and what you need to know to keep your fantasy team safe from them.
What's a Vampire? Vampires will suck the life out of your team. They come in both batter and pitcher forms. A Vampire batter is a guy who lures you in with something shiny, usually a decent number of homeruns, RBI, and/or stolen bases, but sucks the life out of your team's batting average.
A Vampire pitcher will try to charm you using a high strikeout total or a lot of wins, but slowly drains your WHIP, and in severe cases, your ERA too.
Why do I want to avoid them? They are rarely worth the harm they do. Too many fantasy owners are enticed by guys who will slug 25 or so homers or strikeout 170 plus batters, without consideration to what type of impact the player's average, ERA, and WHIP have on their team.
For example, the negative impact of Jack Cust's .240 batting average is about the same as the positive impact of the 25 homeruns he hit last season.
Furthermore, it is far easier to make up ground in categories like homeruns and strikeouts during the season than it is in batting average, WHIP, and ERA. The “average” categories are harder to move up the ladder in, and a guy like Cust will start you off in a pretty deep whole.
Is... is it ever okay to grab a Vampire? On rare occasions, yes. It is okay to draft a Vampire if you are sorely lacking in a category like homeruns or strikeouts and can grab one to fill that need late in your draft.
Another time it is okay to draft a Vampire is when you have someone like Joe Mauer, Ichiro, or Albert Pujols, whose high average can help offset the negative impact the Vampire has. Just make sure to have plenty of garlic around.
How can I identify them? Vampires aren't very difficult to spot. Some known Vampires are Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jack Cust, Doug Davis, Chris Young, Brandon Inge, Luke Scott, Oliver Perez, Dan Uggla, Ian Snell, Russell Branyan, Jeff Suppan, Nick Swisher, A.J. Burnett, Carlos Pena, Pat Burrell, Mike Cameron, Carlos Zambrano, Andruw Jones, Derek Lowe, Jon Garland, and Dave Bush.
What's an Invisible Man? The Invisible Man is a player who provides a year full of empty at bats or innings. He is a veteran who isn't terrible, but just lacks upside of any kind.
He doesn't have any chance of really helping you, and therefore is more of a drain to your team than he is an asset. He is that last player you can't think of when someone asks you who is on your fantasy team.
Why do I want to avoid them? The lack of upside is the biggest reason to avoid the Invisible Man. You're better off taking a young player with more upside that will at the very least match the production of the vet.
Let's say you have the choice between Invisible Man Jack Wilson, and Nats rookie Ian Desmond. Their projected stat lines for 2010 look pretty similar, but which would you rather have? It's a no brainer, Desmond.
You know what a guy like Wilson is going to give you—not much. On the other hand, Desmond has the potential to give you a lot more.
Is... is it ever okay to grab an Invisible Man? As long as you've done your homework and know your Michael Brantley's from your Aaron Rowand's, there is little reason to draft an Invisible Man.
Perhaps if you have a young team with a lot of question marks, drafting an Invisible Man or two is not a bad way to add some stability. Perhaps.
How can I identify them? Invisible Men aren't always easy to see...haha. There are a lot of them, but some known Invisible Men are Mark Ellis, Aaron Cook, Alex Gonzalez, Brendan Harris, Jack Wilson, Aaron Rowand, Edgar Renteria, Vicente Padilla, Paul Maholm, Jason Marquis, Casey Kotchman, Pedro Feliz, David Eckstein, Jose Contreras, and Nick Blackburn.
What's a Slot Machine? When you put your money into a Slot Machine, also known as A Box of Chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. They're guys that are consistently inconsistent. They have two good years, then a bad year, then another good year, followed by two bad ones.
Why do I want to avoid them? In fantasy, it's extremely important to draft players you can rely on, especially early in the draft. Slot Machines are extremely unreliable.
Another reason to avoid them is because too often fantasy owners chase after their career years, as in the case of Adrian Beltre. In 2004, the Dodgers hit the jackpot when he hit .334 with 48 homeruns and 121 RBI. Fantasy owners spent the next couple seasons chasing those stats, but he never came close to repeating them.
Things reached their low in 2009, when Beltre hit only .265 with eight homeruns.
Is... is it ever okay to grab a Slot Machine? Yes. Gambles are best made at the end of the draft, and you can do a lot worse than spend a 23rd round pick or a couple bucks of your auction fund on a Slot Machine.
The key is to target Slot Machines that are coming off of poor seasons, and to hope for a bounce back. Their down season will allow you to limit risk, because you will be able to acquire them at a discounted value. However, avoid Slot Machines coming off of good seasons.
How can I identify them? Slot Machines are fickle creatures. Here are some Slot Machines coming off of good seasons that you should avoid, Derrek Lee, Randy Wolf, Bengie Molina, Adam Kennedy, Jonny Gomes, and Bronson Arroyo.
Here are some Slot Machines coming off of poor seasons that you may want to target if they come cheap, Adrian Beltre, Vernon Wells, Lance Berkman, Jhonny Peralta, Rich Harden, Aaron Harang, Carlos Guillen, and Gil Meche.
What's a Life Alert? A Life Alert is like the old lady in the commercial, they're always falling and can't get up. They're players so brittle you hold you breath every time they dive for a ground ball.
Life Alerts are not players who make the occasional trip to the disabled list, or even guys who have missed a year due to a major injury. They're the guys you know are going to spend some time on the shelf. It's not a matter of if, with Life Alerts, it's a matter of when and how long.
Why do I want to avoid them? Logic tells us that the less time our players spend on the field, the less value they provide to our team. One of the most ridiculous phrases you'll hear fantasy owners make is, “He was great when he was healthy last year.”
Well, that is fine when you're talking about a guy who spent time on the shelf for the first or second time of his career. However, when it's every year, I'm looking at you Chipper Jones, it's time to start calling that guy a Life Alert and to avoid him like you avoid your ex-girlfriend.
Is... is it ever okay to grab a Life Alert? There is nothing wrong with employing the occasional Life Alert, but you should always go after a similar player with a better health record first. Also, make sure your fantasy team has full health insurance.
If you go after someone with an extensive injury history, do your homework first. If they are entering the season with any kind of lingering injury, I don't care if it's only jock itch, avoid them completely.
Also check out their previous injuries. Some injuries, such as hamstrings and shoulders, seems to make annual appearances. Others, such as sprains and strains, usually don't return.
How can I identify them? Some known Life Alert customers include Troy Glaus, Rickie Weeks, Kerry Wood, Mike Gonzalez, Scott Rolen, Jorge Posada, Jeremy Bonderman, Kelvim Escobar, Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, and the president and CEO of Life Alert Emergency Response, Inc., Larry “Chipper” Jones.