Draft list: 15 overvalued hitters
Injuries, age catching up to veterans Soriano, Beltran
1. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs
'09 stats: .241 AVG, 20 HR, 64 R, 55 RBIs, 9 SB
'10 prediction: .258 AVG, 19 HR, 67 R, 62 RBIs, 8 SB
Injuries cost Soriano over 50 games in 2008, but he still managed to come through for fantasy owners with 29 homers, 19 steals and a .280 average. Unfortunately, the 33-year-old wasn't able to duplicate that effort while dealing with a brittle left knee in '09, finishing with 20 jacks, 11 steals and a .241 average. A healthy Soriano can still be counted on for around 20 homers and 70 runs, but an always suspect batting eye and a history of leg problems have decimated his speed game, perhaps permanently. Let others gamble on a rebound that could very well not be coming.
2. Carlos Beltran, Mets
'09 stats: .325 AVG, 10 HR, 50 R, 48 RBIs, 11 SB
'10 prediction: .280 AVG, 16 HR, 68 R, 71 RBIs, 10 SB
Beltran was headed toward an easy "undervalued" designation at the start of the offseason, but his value has taken a serious hit after he underwent a surprise January operation to correct the lingering knee issues that knocked him out of action for much of '09. Expected to miss at least the first month of '10, the 32-year-old outfielder represents the quintessential high-risk/high-reward gamble for those willing to overlook his recent injury history. Be sure not to be seduced by his name value or past accomplishments when making a bid for him on draft day.
3. Johnny Damon, Free Agent
'09 stats: .282 AVG, 24 HR, 107 R, 82 RBIs, 12 SB
'10 prediction: .268 AVG, 15 HR, 82 R, 61 RBIs, 11 SB
Damon's performance in recent years has kept him among the upper echelon of outfielders, but after 12 straight seasons of more than 600 plate appearances, the 36-year-old could be headed for a decline. A dip in his production seems all but guaranteed by his move away from the stomping grounds of Yankee Stadium, where he exploited the park's cozy dimensions for 17 of his 24 home runs and a .915 OPS. Thanks to years of playing in the baseball hotbeds of New York and Boston, Damon will likely command an amount that exceeds his actual value. Don't go overboard to rein him in.
4. Andre Ethier, Dodgers
'09 stats: .272 AVG, 31 HR, 106 RBIs, 92 R, 6 SB
'10 prediction: .281 AVG, 22 HR, 71 R, 78 RBIs, 4 SB
Those expecting the Dodgers right fielder to carry them in the power department might be getting a little ahead of themselves. Ethier rode a massive spike in his fly-ball percentage to finish with 31 homers last year, 11 more than his total from '08. But keeping up that pace will not be easy for the 27-year-old, who was more of a ground-ball/line-drive hitter in previous seasons. Ethier also must work on his dismal showing vs. southpaws (.194/.283/.345 in '09) if he hopes to sustain any sort of consistency. A fallback to the form he showed in his 20-homer campaign of '08 seems likely.
5. Raul Ibanez, Phillies
'09 stats: .272 AVG, 34 HR, 93 R, 93 RBIs, 4 SB
'10 prediction: .267 AVG, 23 HR, 71 R, 80 RBIs, 2 SB
Lost in the shuffle of the 14-year veteran's first All-Star season were the pronounced splits between his performance in the first half (.309-22-60) and after the break (.232-12-33). In fact, after hitting well over .300 over the course of the season's first two months, Ibanez never came close to reaching that level again, topping out with a .254 average in June and bottoming out to a .193 mark in August. To be fair, the 37-year-old was slowed by the lingering effects of a groin injury, but such nagging ailments will only become more common without the benefit of the DH spot to help rest his legs. Don't expect a repeat of last year's overall numbers.
6. Rafael Furcal, Dodgers
'09 stats: .269 AVG, 9 HR, 92 R, 47 RBIs, 12 SB
'10 prediction: .266 AVG, 7 HR, 70 R, 42 RBIs, 12 SB
Furcal once was considered a top-flight source of stolen bases and runs at a position traditionally light on difference makers. However, the 32-year-old has been limited by back and ankle problems in recent seasons, compiling just 20 steals while getting thrown out on nearly half of his attempts since the start of '08. Without his ability to pilfer bags at will, Furcal loses a lot of his perceived luster. The 10-year veteran hasn't provided a ton of help in other departments, either, as he last notched double-digit homers and 100 runs back in '06. Save your cash for an emerging fleet-footed shortstop such as Elvis Andrus or Alcides Escobar.
7. Jason Bartlett, Rays
'09 stats: .320 AVG, 14 HR, 90 R, 66 RBIs, 30 SB
'10 prediction: .286 AVG, 6 HR, 72 R, 50 RBIs, 17 SB
Bartlett blew away his previous career bests in every meaningful category last season, making the leap from solid speedster to quality all-around offensive threat. A huge swing in his GB/FB percentage -- obviously in the direction of fly balls -- goes a long way toward explaining his huge uptick in power. But while Bartlett should continue to provide a boost on the basepaths, not many players improve to such a dramatic degree during their age-29 season. Owners should temper their expectations and resist the urge to splurge on the sure-to-be overvalued shortstop.
8. Russell Branyan, Free Agent
'09 stats: .251 AVG, 31 HR, 64 R, 76 RBIs, 2 SB
'10 prediction: .249 AVG, 18 HR, 47 R, 56 RBIs, 1 SB
The late-blooming veteran posted one of '09's most surprising stat lines, setting career marks in home runs (31), runs (64) and RBIs (76) at the age of 33. However, the feel-good nature of Branyan's career performance masked some troubling late-year developments, as the big guy battled through back pain to hit just .193 with a 13/54 BB/K ratio in 164 second-half plate appearances. If Branyan can't better his aggressive hack-and-slash approach, he'll have a hard time keeping his batting average over .250 and sticking as an everyday player.
9. Garrett Jones, Pirates
'09 stats: .293 AVG, 21 HR, 45 R, 44 RBIs, 10 SB
'10 prediction: .272 AVG, 16 HR, 53 R, 61 RBIs, 8 SB
After 11 Minor League seasons spent mostly in the Twins organization, Jones made the most of his big break with the Pirates last year, turning a scorching July (.310 AVG, 10 HR, 17 RBIs) into an everyday job. The glowing memories of his late-season power barrage could cause the 28-year-old to be overvalued on draft day, but keep in mind that the monstrous numbers that he posted in Pittsburgh (.293/.351/.567) were significantly better than those from his Minor League career (.258/.312/.450). Beware of doling out the big bucks for an unlikely encore performance.
10. Nyjer Morgan, Nationals
'09 stats: .307 AVG, 3 HR, 74 R, 39 RBIs, 42 SB
'10 prediction: .280 AVG, 3 HR, 70 R, 39 RBIs, 26 SB
Last year's midsummer trade to the Nationals brought out the beast in Morgan, who went off to the tune of a .351 average with 24 steals in 49 games before breaking his hand toward the end of August. So what's he doing on the overvalued list? For starters, Morgan was caught stealing a National League-high 17 times last season, suggesting he isn't as strong a baserunner as his steal total would suggest. His breakout campaign also came at the relatively advanced age of 29. Morgan certainly will be active on the basepaths in '10, but it remains to be seen whether he can churn out numbers like he did in his brief time in D.C. over the course of a full season.
11. Alberto Callaspo, Royals
'09 stats: .300 AVG, 11 HR, 79 R, 73 RBIs, 2 SB
'10 prediction: .284 AVG, 6 HR, 57 R, 50 RBIs, 2 SB
The 26-year-old second baseman was one of the game's best kept secrets last year, as he quietly finished among the Top 10 American League second basemen in doubles (41), runs (79), RBIs (73), and batting average (.300). But while he thrived at the plate, his uneven performance in the field prompted the Royals to acquire the slick-fielding Chris Getz in the offseason. Those bidding on Callaspo's services with the assumption he'll retain his everyday job could be left out in the cold if he doesn't show some improvement with the glove.
12. Martin Prado, Braves
'09 stats: .307 AVG, 11 HR, 64 R, 49 RBIs, 1 SB
'10 prediction: .289 AVG, 8 HR, 60 R, 49 RBIs, 2 SB
Prado's stellar play in place of an injured and ineffective Kelly Johnson last season won him the starting second-base job in Atlanta and made him a viable mixed-league option. His end-of-the-year flourish will also raise his draft stock to a higher level than it deserves to be, if his prior career numbers are to be believed. The burgeoning infielder bopped 12 long balls in over 1,300 Minor League at-bats from 2005-07, which was one more than his total with the Braves last season. Prado may be a legitimate .300 hitter, but he's no lock to put up double-digit homers again, even with the expected uptick in at-bats that should come with a full season's worth of everyday playing time.
13. Bengie Molina, Giants
'09 stats: .265 AVG, 20 HR, 52 R, 80 RBIs, 0 SB
'10 prediction: .256 AVG, 11 HR, 38 R, 52 RBIs, 0 SB
Molina surprised many onlookers by re-signing with the Giants this offseason, a development that effectively put the kibosh on the start of the Buster Posey Era behind the plate in San Francisco. Molina's value is almost exclusively tied to his above-average homer and RBI totals, but a dwindling BB/K percentage strongly hints at a '10 regression. The 35-year-old backstop is not the Gold Glove defensive catcher of yore, either, which could further hasten the team's promotion of Posey. Don't be surprised if Molina winds up in a backup role in the latter stages of the season.
14. Nate McLouth, Braves
'09 stats: .256 AVG, 20 HR, 86 R, 70 RBIs, 19 SB
'10 prediction: .260 AVG, 17 HR, 80 R, 63 RBIs, 16 SB
After emerging as an All-Star for the Pirates in '08, McLouth stumbled after getting dealt to the Braves last season. Highlighting the 28-year-old's post-trade struggles was a lack of effectiveness at his offense-stifling home park of Turner Field, where he hit just .208 with a meager .346 slugging percentage. McLouth might not be the 20/20 lock many believed him to be, so scale back your expectations before committing top dollar.
15. Scott Podsednik, Royals
'09 stats: .304 AVG, 7 HR, 75 R, 48 RBIs, 30 SB
'10 prediction: .274 AVG, 4 HR, 60 R, 33 RBIs, 18 SB
After two straight injury-plagued seasons, the 33-year-old burner reasserted himself in mixed-league formats with a .304 average and 30 steals in '09. However, his solid .353 on-base percentage was aided by an inflated .342 BABIP, which helped obscure a mediocre 6.6 percent walk rate. And although he finished with plenty of steals, it's worth noting that he was gunned down 30 percent of the time. Hitting at the top of what looks to be a light-hitting Royals lineup, Podsednik will be hard-pressed to match last year's numbers.
Chris Stryshak is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.