What's in a name? When it comes to a player's perceived fantasy value, more than you might think.
Be honest. Haven't you ever picked a guy just because you love the sound of his name? And haven't you ever shied away from a player only because you hate the sound of his name?
Whether subtle or overt, name bias -- or
"namism" -- impacts how we feel about players. It skews our decision-making on draft day, even for the least biased among us -- the Red Sox fan who'll gladly draft Derek Jeter, the Dodgers fan who has no qualms taking Barry Bonds.
Naturally, a player with a positive name bias will see his fantasy value disproportionately inflated, whereas a player with a negative name bias will be disproportionately undervalued when it comes time to draft.
And don't think for a second that you're immune to it. Sure, maybe you won't go so far as to cross a player whose name you can't stand off your list, but you'll at least undervalue him slightly more than you should. That's namism, like it or not.
So in the spirit of fairness and objectivity, let's take a look at 10 players -- five overrated, five underrated -- who are sure to be misjudged on draft day as a result of namism.
1. Nomar Garciaparra, 1B, LAD: His dad, Ramon Garciaparra, had the strange intuition that good things would happen if he reversed the spelling of his first name, and he was right. Like Fernando Valenzuela before him, Nomar continues to be overvalued long after his heyday because of his really, really ridiculously good-sounding name. Call it "Fernandomaniacism." And don't call it a comeback -- at least not a memorable one -- when a guy plays only 122 games, as the reigning National League Comeback Player of the Year did a season ago.
2. Huston Street, RP, OAK: From Houston to New York City, this guy is a landmark ... of hype. How many other closers can blow 11 saves in one season and still be considered among the game's elite? Just make sure that you don't end up on the wrong side of the hoopla -- "SoHo," to be exact -- on draft day.
3. Milton Bradley, OF, OAK: Faster than you can say "Yahtzee," everyone's favorite breakout pick will be snatched up on draft day. Why? Because we all like a familiar name (look who's in the Oval Office), especially one that reminds us of fun and games. Sure, this Milton Bradley is volatile and fragile, but owners will keep glossing over those red flags in deference to his six-category appeal (runs, RBIs, homers, steals, average and name).
4. Rocco Baldelli, OF, TB: Most injury-prone players are undervalued on draft day, but not Rocco Baldelli, whose popularity seems to gain momentum with every game -- and season -- he sits out. Maybe it's because his name sounds so much like another overrated underdog, Rocky Balboa, but people just love this guy. So what if he's played only 92 games since 2005 and has about as much patience as a Costanza?
5. Nick Swisher, OF/1B, OAK: What kind of a name is Swisher? Swiss? Swedish? German? Who knows? Better yet, who cares? Because one thing's for sure: It sounds smooth. Silky smooth. Like a swish. But beware on draft day: If you pull the trigger on this overhyped name in the early going, you might be laying a fat brick.
1. Bill Hall, OF, MIL: The poster child for namism victims, Bill Hall sounds more like a generic college lecture facility than a Major League ballplayer. Unlike his name, though, his production is anything but nondescript (55 homers, 26 steals from 2005-06) -- especially for a guy who qualifies at shortstop.
2. Dave Bush, SP, MIL: Some fantasy experts are touting Bush as the year's top sleeper pick after he quietly ranked among the NL leaders in WHIP and K/BB ratio last year with only 12 wins and an inflated ERA to show for it. The rest of the world, meanwhile, is hailing Bush as a sleeper because his name is boring enough to put you in a coma.
3. Dan Uggla, 2B, FLA: There's a lot more to the negative bias surrounding Uggla's name than its phonetic similarity to "ugly." Namely, the fact that he sounds like he belongs to another team of nine, one that has never even seen a baseball diamond: The Fellowship of the Ring. Picture it: You've got Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir and last but not least, Uggla -- a perfect 10.
4. Jhonny Peralta, SS, CLE: According to the linguistic community, the only thing more unsettling than the missing "h" in Jonny Gomes is the misplaced "h" in Jhonny Peralta. Why can't it just go back where it belongs, between the "o" and the first "n"? And how can I get a hold of a linguist?
5. Mark Grudzielanek, 2B, KC: Nobody likes a player who makes you feel illiterate, and Grudzielanek is no exception. Reading his name is troubling enough, but writing it? We're talking about a linguistic nightmare of Kruegeresque proportions. But unlike Freddy, Grudzielanek is a guy everyone wants to sleep on come draft day.
Of course, not all forms of namism are so extreme. It's subtle prejudice that most impairs our ability to fairly evaluate players, the silent killer threatening the very integrity of the draft.
But who knows? If word gets around, there might be hope yet. And a draft without namism might be more than just a fantasy fantasy.
So if you must, hate the player -- not the name.
Think anyone got snubbed? E-mail Dean Chiungos your thoughts, and your nominee(s) could be included in next week's follow-up column.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.