Fantasy baseball: Here’s who will boom, bust during the 2023 baseball season

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In sports and gambling there, there is a (mistaken) belief that a player who is performing better than normal will continue to play well.

We humans sometimes fail to appreciate statistical independence — i.e. two events are independent when the occurrence of one doesn’t change the probability of the other.

There have been several scientific experiments to document the “hot-hand” fallacy in basketball. A player could make several shots in a row, but their shooting percentage will eventually return to their long-term average. In finance, it’s called mean reversion.

Similarly, when gamblers are winning, they tend to keep betting, ignoring probability while mistakenly believing they are more likely to win a future wager because they have won previous ones.

Also in gambling, we call the inversion of the “hot-hand” fallacy the “Monte Carlo” fallacy. It’s named after a 1913 incident during a game of roulette in a Monte Carlo casino where black came up 26 straight times. Gamblers lost millions of francs that night, reasoning incorrectly that the inconceivable streak was causing an imbalance in the randomness of the wheel, and that it had to be followed by a long stretch of red.

Assuming everything was on the up-and-up, the odds of that streak were around 1 in 66.6 million.

Simply put: most of us aren’t fond of math, which causes us to develop a reliance upon estimation, guessing and assumptions when numbers are present. This isn’t conducive to developing a reliable strategy for something as data-driven as fantasy baseball.

So I’ve developed a number of rules over the years to keep me from “over-thinking” things come draft time. One that has never failed me: Never pay for a career year.

Before every season, I create a list of players I can draft during later rounds and still reap a solid value (sleepers) and a list of players I shouldn’t draft at all (busts).

Distinguishing the two will make all the difference in establishing a foundation for your fantasy squad.

At the top of my “do-not-draft” list are players who I consider to be coming off their best season, one I don’t believe they will ever top.

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is at the top of this year’s list after leading the majors (and establishing career highs) in home runs (an American League-record 62), RBIs (131), runs scored (133), OBP (.425), slugging percentage (.686), OPS (1.111) and total bases (391), while also hitting .311 and stealing 16 bases — his previous highs were .287 and nine.

Judge is currently the first player being drafted on average, according to FantasyPros.

I can’t imagine him falling outside of the top three in a vast majority of leagues, so you need to ask yourself if you’d be fine with drafting him at that premium and him producing his previous high marks of the past five seasons: 39 homers, 98 RBIs, 89 runs, a sub-.300 average and six steals. Those numbers certainly aren’t terrible, but when you factor in Judge has played in fewer than 120 games in three of the past five seasons, I’d rather focus on another player’s upside early in my draft.

Here are my sleepers and busts for the 2023 fantasy baseball season:


— Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves: Albies’ injuries from a year ago reeks of a fluke. He broke his left foot when he tripped while exiting the batter’s box in June and lost 81 games. Then, he fractured his left pinky finger while sliding into second base in only his second game back. With MLB incentivizing players to steal more bases, I expect Albies to shatter his career high of 20, making a 30-30 campaign well within reach. If he’s living his best life … UP: 40-40. Average Draft Position (According to FantasyPros): No. 48

— Hunter Greene, SP, Reds: There were certainly growing pains in year one for Greene, but I’m buying the electric heat of his fastball, a potentially dominant slider and the way he adapted his approach as the year went on. He had a 0.78 ERA and 14.5 K/9 innings in his final four starts of 2022. There’s top-20 potential right around the corner — he’s currently being drafted as SP32 — and if he pitches at least 160 innings … UP: 230 strikeouts. ADP: 106

— Andres Munoz, RP, Mariners: I know Padres fans appreciate Austin Nola, but seller’s remorse might eventually settle in. Munoz was part of the deal executed at the trade deadline of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season that helped them fill a massive hole at catcher and reach the postseason. He is on the verge of becoming one of the most dominant relievers in baseball and should be targeted after the elite traditional closers have been drafted. ADP: 168

— Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers: Jung is a top prospect who had a cup of coffee last year after recovering from injury and now faces regular playing time with little depth at third base in Texas’ system. He’s looked really good this spring with a 1.023 OPS and two home runs in just 29 at-bats. There’s 25 HR, 80 RBI upside here. ADP: 219

— Garrett Whitlock, SP, Red Sox: Whitlock is capable of being a dominant starter or closer this season. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how much Kenley Jansen has left in the tank to decide which one. ADP: 283


— Yordan Alvarez, OF, Astros: Alvarez is among a small group of players I’d consider in the conversation for best hitter in baseball … when healthy. This makes him a risky first-round pick, especially when you factor in MLB could triple the size of the bases and his over/under for steals would still be 1.5. A hand injury that suppressed a potential MVP season in 2022 is lingering this spring and he’s managed a chronic knee issue the bulk of his career. This is a tough one, because the upside is 50 HR, 125 RBIs, 110 runs and an average north of .300. ADP: 10

— Dylan Cease, SP, White Sox: Cease has been drafted as a borderline top-10 fantasy starter, but I’m more comfortable with him in the next tier. It’s likely his 2.20 ERA from a year ago jumps back into the 3s. I expect his elite strikeout production to continue, but he’s far from a guarantee to pitch 200-plus innings. ADP: 41

— Byron Buxton, OF, Twins: Friends don’t let friends draft Buxton. He’s surpassed 92 games played once (in 2017) in eight seasons. ADP: 86

— Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, Royals: Outlawing the shift will benefit Pasquantino and I like the skill set/upside, but he isn’t a top-100 player yet. You can throw a rock and hit someone who will give you 20-plus homers and 70 RBIs much later in the draft. ADP: 93

— Tony Gonsolin, SP, Dodgers: It appears some apprehension is already baked into the price here — SP41 based on where’s being drafted on average — but he finished with the fifth-most wins (16) in baseball last year despite only pitching 130 1/3 innings with a K-rate outside of the top-25. Regression is inevitable (like Marvel’s Thanos). ADP: 137