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Tristan H. Cockcroft's 'Not on my team!' list for 2016

I've never been much of a condiment fan.

Mustard, mayonnaise, relish, you can have 'em.

Me? I'll take some fresh-made salsa, perhaps some guacamole if the meal is right, or just some oil and vinegar on my roast beef sandwich, thank you very much. But when it comes to those others, bleagh, I'll pass.

It also made barbecues oh so fun, particularly as a kid (when politely eating what you're served isn't your first instinct): Hot dogs -- which longtime readers are already aware reside on my "dislike" list -- mustard, mayonnaise-laden pasta salad, potato salad. ... Could I beg for a burger and some baked beans, perhaps? I'll even cook them for you!

Strange as these distastes might sound, let's be honest, we all have them. Maybe it's burgers and guacamole for you. When granted the choice, we know what we'd say: "Not on my plate!"

Just the same, we all have our personal preferences in terms of fantasy baseball draft targets. Oh, there are situations in which I'll eat the hot dog -- politeness is a virtue -- just as there's a scenario in which I'd draft most any baseball player; every player has a specific value. I'm not afraid to have a strong, seemingly negative opinion on a player, just as you shouldn't.

But if it's the seventh round, Francisco Lindor is still out there and I'm staring at my roster thinking about whom to take, I know my response: "Not on my team!"

Lindor is one of nine such picks I'll avoid in 2016, players for whom I won't be drafting at the value indicated by their current average draft position, or ADP:


Travis d'Arnaud, C, New York Mets

Tristan: 209th overall, No. 10 C; ESPN ADP: 170th (172.0)

D'Arnaud's power potential is tantalizing, but his injury history is petrifying. Did you know that he has yet to play more than 126 games in a single professional year, and that during the past three seasons, he has averaged only 89 games played due to foot, concussion, elbow and wrist injuries? He is the ultimate risk/reward catcher pick, but his ADP also places him in a precarious valuation spot; he's seemingly the catcher you're leaping to pick to avoid settling for the final scraps in a standard ESPN league (10-teamer), or he's one you're firmly calling a C1 in a two-catcher league. I'm not so sure he's either; I think every game you presume beyond 100 makes him overvalued, and in our game, I'm just as happy to take my chances on Matt Wieters, or J.T. Realmuto, or perhaps even Wilson Ramos.


Sean Doolittle, RP, Oakland Athletics

Tristan: 211th overall, No. 25 RP; ESPN ADP: 178th (178.5)

Maybe it's hesitation influenced by my $8 buy of him in last season's League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) auction, resulting in a minus-$14 profit, but Doolittle is one of my least targeted closers in drafts this season. With all the turnover at the position -- not to mention two pitchers with "closer experience," Ryan Madson and John Axford, and another with the skills to handle it, Liam Hendriks, on the Oakland roster -- I simply do not want to take chances on injury-risk saves. Doolittle was limited to only 40 Athletics games on their active roster in 2015 due to shoulder issues, twice spending time on the DL, and he has battled a triceps injury during Cactus League play this spring. Remember, these A's aren't afraid to have their closer job change hands. During the "Billy Beane era" (1998-2015), Huston Street is their leading save-getter (94); but that save total is actually the lowest by the leader of any team during that 18-year span, despite the fact that only eight other teams have had more 30-save seasons during that time (7).


Evan Gattis, DH, Houston Astros

Tristan: 183rd, No. 6 DH; ESPN ADP: 124th (125.6)

I've been a Gattis fan for nearly the entirety of his big league career, but this season, it's time to fade him at the draft table. In a season rife with DH-only candidates, there's no reason to risk a player who might not be 100 percent come Opening Day; he is recovering from February hernia surgery and has only begun getting at-bats in minor league games. Plus, let's not overlook what Gattis did last season. He was a 27-homer, 88-RBI performer who also set personal bests in plate appearances (604) and total bases (262). Those stats, which were entirely within range of most preseason projections, resulted in a final No. 181 ranking on our Player Rater. Maybe the six-rounds-earlier ADP is a sign that some fantasy owners believe he'll recapture catcher eligibility at some point? Don't count on it.


Carlos Gomez, OF, Houston Astros

Tristan: 53rd overall, No. 19 OF; ESPN ADP: 37th (39.1)

I've improved my Gomez ranking as the winter has progressed, forgiving him somewhat for his down 2015 due to hip and intercostal injuries. But I'm still highly unlikely to get Gomez in my drafts, because others are much more optimistic about his rebound prospects. He shouldn't be given a free pass, since his well-hit average, walk rate and ground-ball rate all regressed significantly in 2015, and his performance against right-handed pitching declined as well. More importantly, though, Gomez's performance on the first pitch of an at-bat tumbled steeply, an issue considering how much of a strength it was during his best years: He had a .487 weighted on-base average on first pitches from 2012-14 combined, but only .254 in 2015. I'm not willing to assume a full rebound to 2013-14 is in order.


Jung Ho Kang, 3B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates

Tristan: 217th overall, No. 18 3B and No. 13 SS; ESPN ADP: 160th (164.8)

Kang's 2015 debut showed that his power could absolutely play in the States, but the unfortunate reality is that's his primary skill in fantasy terms. His .344 BABIP suggests that his .287 batting average might regress by as many as 20 points, and then there's the issue of when he'll be ready to rejoin the Pirates. Kang is recovering from a fractured left tibia as well as a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, both the result of a nasty collision at second base, and by all accounts he's likely to miss most, if not all, of April. The David Freese signing hinted that the Pirates intend to play it conservatively with Kang's return. I'd rather fill more of my other spots in the middle rounds first.


Brett Lawrie, 3B/2B, Chicago White Sox

Tristan: 204th overall, No. 17 3B and No. 19 2B; ESPN ADP: 155th (156.8)

Fact: Lawrie's ADP is 155th. The highest he ever finished on our Player Rater in any of his five big league seasons was 192nd (2012). Last season, when he played 149 games, easily the most in any of his four full years, he placed 228th. Why is it, then, that fantasy owners are so convinced Lawrie will make a significant leap in value in 2016? Is it the ballpark alone? Yes, the move from O.co Coliseum to U.S. Cellular Field represents a substantial gain in the power department, but the ballpark-factor narrative tends to annually exceed the actual impact upon projections. Besides, Lawrie no longer steals bases like he did in the minors and early in his big league career. And he's an injury risk; Lawrie has missed 29 percent of his team's scheduled games in his career, and at least eight percent of them in every one of his five individual years.


Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

Tristan: 100th overall, No. 5 SS; ESPN ADP: 72nd (73.6)

To be clear upfront, I'm not anti-Lindor in the slightest in dynasty/keeper leagues, and I'd be happy to have him on any redraft rosters as well. The problem, however, is that he's being drafted far sooner than is fair for his skill set, which will inevitably regress somewhat to the mean during his sophomore/first full big league season. Estimating his Player Rater worth from his June 14 debut date forward, yes, Lindor would've probably been a top-40 overall player. But that ignores the fact that he's too ground ball-oriented -- he had a 51 percent rate -- and was too fortunate on fly balls to be termed a clear double-digit power source even granted a full season. His .348 batting average on ground balls will prove difficult to sustain and therefore might put him at risk of an overall average closer to .283 than .313. I think he's a .280 average, 9-homer, 50-RBI, 20-steal player in 2016, which puts a lot of his valuation on his lineup spot (think the weight of his batting average and the greater odds of more runs scored). It doesn't mean to flat-out avoid him if he lingers close to the 100th overall pick; it means that I think you can get better from your sixth- to eighth-round picks.


David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox

Tristan: 86th overall, No. 3 DH; ESPN ADP: 53rd (54.7)

In his final season, Ortiz might go out with a bang, producing a fourth consecutive 30-homer, 100-RBI campaign, and 10th in a storied 20-year career. He has shown no signs of slowing down, and there's no reason for him to ease up during his last lap. Still, asking Ortiz to keep up that level of production is asking for a historic event: No player aged 40 or older has ever reached those 30-100 plateaus in a single year -- not Barry Bonds, not Ted Williams, not Hank Aaron. Steep career declines increase in probability as a player ages, and this is one hot potato I won't be left holding when the music stops. After all, let's not gloss over the fact that Ortiz is actually being drafted sooner in ESPN leagues than his Player Rater number in either of the past two seasons -- 69th in 2013 and 60th in 2012 -- so while I'd certainly bite if he's there around my ranking number, I'll let you have him sooner.


Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Chicago Cubs

Tristan: 168th overall, No. 15 2B and No. 47 OF; ESPN ADP: 118th (121.0)

Never pay a premium for position flexibility. Oh, it has its value, and in non-standard fantasy formats -- think on-base percentage-oriented or points-based scoring -- Zobrist has much more value than he does in traditional Rotisserie. But Zobrist is annually overrated at Roto draft tables because he qualifies at multiple positions and, yes, perhaps this season all the Cubs' buzz is only accentuating that problem. A crowded Cubs roster could threaten his chances at breezing past 600 plate appearances, a problem for a counting numbers-angled pick, and Zobrist's declining speed has also eroded some of his value. To that point, he has finished lower on our Player Rater in each of the past three seasons than the number indicated by his ADP: Zobrist finished 124th, 146th and 197th, working forward from 2013-15.

Others I find myself rarely (if ever) drafting: Chris Davis, Adam Eaton, Joey Gallo, Josh Harrison, DJ LeMahieu, Scott Kazmir, Miguel Sano, Justin Turner, David Wright.