Everyone knows that sometimes the hype about a player can overtake his actual abilities, and many people know to steer clear of that latest overhyped rookie or prospect. But less people seem to be able to avoid falling for the negative hype associated with certain players, so these players can fall much further in fantasy baseball drafts than their performance of health risk warrants. Two great examples of that this year are Mark Prior and Brad Lidge.
When healthy, pretty much everyone agrees that Mark Prior is one of the ten best starting pitchers in baseball, and has the potential to be one of the two best. But because of a series of injuries over the years, he hasn't done much pitching, and last year his performance in the majors was poor. Because of this, he's been falling VERY far in mock drafts that have been conducted so far. Rather than weight the pros and cons of picking him and making an objective decision, people are acting like there's no chance at all that he'll be healthy and effective. In one recent mock draft at Rotojunkie, he was picked with the 237th pick. That means he would have gone undrafted in a standard CBS Sportsline draft! That's insane! Among starting pitchers, he was picked right after John Maine and right before Tom Glavine. I'm a big Mets fan, but that just makes no sense. Prior is reported to be healthy and throwing hard in Spring Training. If there's even a 30-40% chance that I'll get more than half a season of the 'real' Mark Prior, he's worth more than those guys. I'm not saying you should go out there and draft him in the 5th round, but I certainly think he should be picked by around the 150th pick in most drafts.
Another player where negative hype has overtaken reality is Brad Lidge. People are asking what is wrong with him, and comparisions have been made to the loss of control that Mark Wohlers went through. What's overlooked is that Lidge had 104 strikeouts and only 35 walks in 75 innings last year. That's a dominant performance...almost as good as his previous two years. The only thing wrong with him was that he allowed more home runs than the previous two years and had worse luck on balls in play (over which the pitcher has very little control), leading to an ERA that was far worse than his actual performance. His ground ball rate was about the same as in 2005 (and better than 2004), so there's no reason to think the home runs were anything other than a fluke. I predict Lidge will go back to being a top tier closer this year, and there won't be any more talk about slider flattening out. Lidge fell to pick #132 in the same Rotojunkie mock draft mentioned above...I think he should be picked in the top 100 picks, and if I believe in using high picks on closers, I'd certainly go for him in the top 70 or so.