Throughout our lives, lists are surprisingly important. People in school strive to become a member of the Dean’s List. We all can remember times when we would be super excited to be on a friend’s guest list for a big party. There are also some lists we want no part of. No one wants to land on America’s Most Wanted list or the “no-fly” list. For the record, I am not on either of those lists.
What is one list that Major League Baseball players do not want to land on? Well, they don’t want to land on the previously mentioned lists either. But the Kiwoom do NOT draft list is another. Let’s dive into some of the names on that list.
2B/SS Marcus Semien (TEX)
Marcus Semien has catapulted himself up the middle infield ranks over the past three years. Even finishing as the SS/2B 1 in 2021. After a season where Semien swatted 45 homers, piled up 217 runs plus RBIs, and stole 15 bags, it is a no-brainer to take Semien heading into the ‘22 season right? Wrong.
The second baseman is number one on the Kiwoom do not draft list.
This off-season Semien signed a lucrative deal with the Texas Rangers. As it stands today, Texas’ lineup is a major downgrade from the squad he played with last year in Toronto. Semien finished the season with over 200 runs and RBIs. A total that will be hard for him to reach in ‘22 without the added pop of the Toronto lineup. The Blue Jays ranked 4th in team OBP and 2nd in team RBIs. The Rangers ranked 30th in team OBP and 28th in RBI total. A massive drop-off year to year. And to top it off, not a single projection system projects Marcus Semien to reach even 200, let alone surpass it.
I mentioned the transition to Texas. According to baseballsavant.com, Semien’s home run total would have been reduced by 29% had he played his games in Globe Life Stadium. If you do not feel like doing the math that brings his 45 homers to 32. It should be noted that he obviously will not play all his games in Texas but three of the five teams in the AL West also display lower expected HR totals. It is fair to expect fewer home runs for Semien in ‘22.
Semien’s xStats were all lower than his actual production stats per fangraphs.com. Typically, I do not weigh expected stats too heavily. But it is an undeniable indicator that fortune was in favor of said player. Like a statistical cherry on top of the narrative about a player’s profile.
The last reason I am not drafting Semien, and in all honesty the most important – his current draft capital. Many have said and I completely agree, I do not hate on players in draft season…I hate on ADPs. And Marcus Semien’s current NFBC ADP is too rich for my blood. Currently the 31st player off the board. I’m looking elsewhere in that portion of the draft and that is why I am NOT drafting Marcus Semien.
SP Justin Verlander (HOU)
Justin Verlander is one of the best starting pitchers of this era. The righty was routinely selected in the first couple of rounds with good reason. But heading into the 2022 fantasy baseball season. Mr. Verlander lands on the Kiwoom do NOT draft list.
Allow me to state this again, I do not hate on players…I hate on ADPs. Yes, that was for Kate Upton (she is obviously reading this) because I certainly do not want her to be angry with me. Justin Verlander is simply getting drafted too early.
Verlander’s current NFBC ADP 111. I can understand team builders believing that his price is beaming with value. Justin Verlander still carries a ton of name value. But when I take a peek at who is selected shortly after JV comes off the board, the veteran becomes an easy fade. I would rather have multiple starters around this ADP over Verlander.
The future Hall of Famer hasn’t pitched significant innings since 2019. Verlander missed the shortened 2020 season and the entire 2021 campaign due to Tommy John surgery. Verlander held a showcase and the reports were that JV “sat around 94-to-97 miles per hour with his fastball” per cbssports.com. Certainly encouraging for the Verlander will return to form crowd.
Despite the positive notes from his showcase, I am choosing to stay away. Justin Verlander will be 39 years old when the season kicks off, he is coming back after missing back-to-back seasons, and he may not have his normal ramp up due to labor disputes. So if team builders want to use their pick to select the vet, they will get zero pushback from many. Verlander currently resides on the Kiwoom do NOT draft list.
SS Bobby Witt (KC)
Please allow me to state something before I dive in. I love Bobby Witt’s profile. His ceiling is tremendously high and seems like he will be a great big-league ballplayer. BUT (capitalized for emphasis) Witt joins Verlander and Semien on the Kiwoom do NOT draft list.
In 285 AAA plate appearances, Witt performed admirably. He slashed .285/.352/.581, hit 17 homers, and stole 15 bags. He wasn’t overwhelmed. Witt finished with a 22.5% K rate, and a .314 BABIP indicates he wasn’t a product of good fortune. The shortstop ended his season with a 142 wRC+ in AAA. The kid is a future star.
Bobby Witt’s projections are also enticing. They tempt every team builder to use high-end draft capital to bring Witt aboard. He is currently being selected within the first 100 picks. Number 91 to be exact according to the NFBC ADP data. The most prominent projection systems are deeming Witt a near 20/20 guy. So what is not to like about the Royals’ top prospect?
I guess now is as good a time as any to repeat the mantra. I do not hate on players, I hate on ADPs. And Bobby Witt’s top 100 ADP is too high for my liking. There have yet to be reports even hinting at Witt breaking camp with the big league club. Selecting a player that early (even if he is super talented) without any guarantee when he will contribute to your roster is simply too risky.
Rookies, even the elite ones, have such a wide range of outcomes. Investing that heavily into an asset with such volatile returns is not a good process. And on top of it all, the dumb labor disputes could create additional issues for a player with Witt’s professional status. I fully expect to be high on Bobby Witt heading into ‘23 and beyond. But this season he will be on the Kiwoom do NOT draft list.
SP Robbie Ray (SEA)
Robbie Ray is coming off of a Cy Young season with the Toronto Blue Jays. The lefty finished 2021 with 193.1 IP, 2.84 ERA, 32.1 K%, and maybe most importantly a 6.7% BB rate. His success seemingly came due to improvements in control and slight tweaking of his pitch mix. Ray threw his fastball and change-up more while throwing his curveball less. Despite the strides with his arsenal, Robbie Ray is on the Kiwoom do NOT draft list.
Unlike the others on the list, the Seattle Mariners’ ace didn’t make the list due to an inflated ADP. He currently goes around 44 according to NFBC ADP data. Robbie Ray got on the list because of his resume. The 2021 campaign seems like a potential outlier to the rest of his career.
Whenever the name Robbie Ray is spoken, the first stat everyone looks at is his walk metrics. Before 2021, his career BB% was 11.3%. With his highest rate coming in 2020 (17.9%). In 2021, that rate fell almost 5% (to 6.7%). I have questions about his ability to sustain that improvement.
Diving deeper into Robbie Ray’s swing metrics. Two pop off the FanGraphs screen – O-Swing% and Z-Swing%. From 2014-2020, the lefty’s O-Swing% average was 28.8% and last year that number went up to 34.1%. This metric along with his BB rate tells the story that hitters were chasing pitches outside the zone more often because Ray was walking less batters.
Additionally, Ray’s Z-Swing% shot up nearly 10% in 2021 from his career average. (65.1% to 74.5%). Again if Ray is walking fewer batters then those hitters will be more inclined to swing. Given Ray’s plus stuff, that will lead to more swing and misses inside and outside the zone.
I am skeptical that Ray will continue to have such an improvement in pitch control. If his BB metrics regress to career norms, the plate discipline stats will suffer as well.
The last statistic under the hood that suggests potential negative regression is Ray’s LOB%. In 2021, he finished with a 90.1% strand rate. That led all qualified starting pitchers by nearly 6%. He also has never exceeded 85% in a single season throughout his career. Regression to the mean is almost a certainty for 2022.
In the mid 40’s there are other players I will be selecting. Ray’s red flags seem brighter than most SP in this range. If for any reason, Robbie Ray’s control regresses negatively then he will not come close to returning value. Since his control has been an issue for most of his career, it is certainly possible to be an issue again in 2022. It is a prove-it season for Mr. Ray but he will have to do that on someone else’s team. Because Robbie Ray is on the Kiwoom do NOT draft list.
Whether it be ADP concern, past performance, injury history, or a combination of the three, these players landed on the Kiwoom do NOT draft list.
Part of me is beyond excited to relay this to the world but the other part of me just realized I gave away some crucial information for potential league mates. Now people that I draft with going forward know who I will not select this season. What did I just do? Oh, well.