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Who'll be this year's big-name flops?
03/20/2008 12:00 AM ET
There are a number of ways to lose a league on draft day.

One is to lose on purpose, drafting all the worst players in baseball -- your favorite utilitymen, backup catchers and mopup relievers -- all while aggravating your fellow owners by going to town on the food and beverages.

Another way is by picking all your favorite retired players from the 1980s -- Carney Lansford, Kevin McReynolds and Vince Coleman.

Beyond taking a fantasy dive, which we at MLB.com certainly don't endorse, there are few ways to spend your draft dollars any more poorly than by putting together a team full of household names.

From Barry Zito to Tom Glavine to Scott Rolen, there's a long list of players making a living off the back of their baseball cards.

Normally, the average big-name players are:

1) On the wrong side of 30
2) Trying to regain their career-year form
3) Enjoying a cushy free-agent contract

That doesn't mean younger players are somehow impervious to the big-name syndrome. There are countless youngsters whose reputations precede them.

However, it's hard to ignore the fact that stars on the wrong side of 30 are more susceptible to disappointment than those in their 20s.

Let's take a closer look at some big-name players who are primed to disappoint in 2008.

Ivan Rodriguez, C, DET: With 14 All-Star Game appearances to his name and a frightening lineup surrounding him, Pudge has everything a catcher can ask for, right? Wrong. It's hard to imagine another respectable season from Rodriguez after he drew nine measly walks last season over 515 plate appearances. His 36-year-old wrists aren't fast enough to sustain this level for much longer. Don't buy into his Supermanish Spring Training.

Carlos Zambrano, SP, CHC: Considering how heavy workloads nearly decimated Mark Prior and Kerry Wood under former manager Dusty Baker, the fact that Zambrano made it through in one piece is nothing short of remarkable. Still, arms aren't made out of plastic, and workloads takes their toll on everyone sooner or later. Only 26, Big Z has thrown more pitches than anyone over the past four seasons, making him a risk to wear down.

Aaron Rowand, OF, SF: Sure, inking a five-year, $60 million deal with the Giants gave Rowand security, but the move won't help his numbers. Leaving behind cozy Citizens Bank Park for the pitchers' sanctuary known as AT&T Park will put the kibosh on his power. And instead of having protection from big boppers like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, now he's got Randy Winn and several other powerless bats to back him up. Everything points to a big-time dropoff from his 2007 levels.

Jose Valverde, RP, HOU: It all came together for Valverde last year. His 47 saves were tops in the bigs, and if that wasn't enough to earn him elite status, he even screamed more after recording big outs for good measure. Still, all the screaming in the world doesn't eliminate the considerable risk here given his checkered injury history and volatile delivery. Throw in the likelihood that save opportunities won't come nearly as often in Houston as they did in Arizona, and it's plain to see that you're better off letting someone else pay for last season.

Joe Mauer, C, MIN: Having Mauer behind the plate is both a curse and a blessing. Clearly, he's one of the best all-around backstops in baseball. However, the physical demands of the position have already taken a toll on the 24-year-old, who has averaged just 127 games played over the last three seasons. The truth is, at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Mauer would probably be better off playing third or first base than continuing down a path where his tremendous talent will be compromised by injuries.

Brad Penny, SP, LAD: The golden 16-4 record and 3.03 ERA Penny posted last season can be attributed to him keeping the ball in the park -- and nothing else. His strikeouts were down, his walks were up and his fastball still lacks movement. Does that sound like a breakthrough pitcher to you, or someone who's likely to return to earth this season?

Travis Hafner, DH, CLE: Anyone expecting some big, MVP-caliber comeback from Travis Hafner is likely in for a rude awakening. Pronk produced an alarmingly high 48 percent ground-ball rate last season, which makes a return to 40 homers unlikely. Sure, he brings some value to the table, but not at the going rate.

Juan Pierre, OF, LAD: With Andruw Jones taking over in center field, playing time is no longer a lock for Pierre. Granted, left field is his territory for now, but if the Dodgers were unhappy with his contributions in center, moving him over to left will only make his glaring lack of power stand out even more. There's also the matter of talented youngsters Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier both nipping at his heels, all but erasing his hopes of another 60-steal season until he lands with another team.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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