MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

Fantasy advice: Don't pick these 10 too early

Schwarber, Buxton may underwhelm vs. draft-day expectations

Fantasy advice: Don't pick these 10 too early

Ah, fantasy baseball -- the annual ritual of watching a perfectly laid plan slowly fall apart.

The reality of this challenging game is that a substantial percentage of draft-day selections are not going to meet expectations. Although some 2017 busts will seemingly come out of nowhere, the following 10 players are especially unlikely to produce statistics that match their typical draft-day price tags.

2017 Fantasy Player Preview: Full rankings

Salvador Perez, catcher (Royals): With a .201/.248/.357 slash line after the '16 All-Star break, Perez experienced a second-half performance dip for the third consecutive season. The fact that Perez leads the Majors by a wide margin with 550 appearances behind the dish since the outset of '13 should indicate to fantasy owners that those late-season fades are more than mere coincidences. Years of heavy workloads could add up eventually, leading to a disabled-list stint or a production decline that isn't confined to the season's latter months.

Edwin Encarnacion, first baseman (Indians): If Encarnacion struggles in '17, his undoing will likely be a rising strikeout rate -- which soared to 19.7 percent last season, by far his highest mark since his breakout year in '12 -- rather than his move from offense-inducing Rogers Centre to pitcher-friendly Progressive Field. Likely to fall short of a .270 average for the second straight year, the 34-year-old should drop out of the initial three rounds of mixed-league drafts.

Jonathan Schoop, second baseman (Orioles): On the surface, Schoop has arrived as a slugger (25 homers in '16) who can make a mixed-league impact in spite of poor plate discipline (lifetime 0.1 BB/K ratio). But owners who take a closer look will notice that the 25-year-old's power skills may not be rock solid. Even with the benefit of a hitter-friendly home park, Schoop may struggle to exceed the 20-homer mark if he does not raise his fly-ball (34.9 percent in '16) and hard-hit (26.6 percent in '16) rates.

Zinkie on O's, Blue Jays

Javier Baez, 2B/3B/SS (Cubs): Many fantasy owners seem to be overvaluing Baez in '17 drafts after watching him have some memorable moments in the '16 postseason. True, the 24-year-old has 20-20 potential. But he is unlikely to reach his ceiling until he makes major improvements on the 0.1 BB/K ratio and 29.1 percent hard-hit rate he logged last season. And despite his defensive prowess, Baez will be hard-pressed to hold a substantial role on a deep Cubs roster that includes many players with the ability to play multiple positions.

Dansby Swanson, shortstop (Braves): Although Swanson is a terrific keeper-league asset, he may not be ready to make a major fantasy impact in '17. The shortstop acquitted himself well last season (.302 average), but he failed to make a memorable mixed-league contribution when he compiled three homers and a trio of steals across 38 games. Wise owners will keep their expectations in check and project Swanson to fall short of the 15-mark in round-trippers and stolen bases this season.

Zinkie on top prospects for 2017

Kyle Schwarber, outfielder (Cubs): Despite playing just two regular season games in '16, Schwarber is being selected during the initial 80 picks in most drafts. To produce numbers that warrant such a major investment, the top-of-the-order candidate will need to either gain catcher eligibility early in the season or record at least 30 home runs and 85 runs scored. But opportunities behind the dish could be scarce on a club that includes talented youngster Willson Contreras and veteran Miguel Montero. Furthermore, the necessary workload to compile lofty counting-stat totals may not be available for a player who is a platoon candidate (lifetime .481 OPS vs. lefties) on a roster with a wealth of outfield options.

Byron Buxton, outfielder (Twins): Once the consensus top prospect in baseball, Buxton finally turned promise into production when he hit .287 with nine homers and 22 RBIs after being recalled from the Minors on Sept. 1 last season. But before owners get carried away with lofty full-season projections for the speedy youngster, they should note that his late-season stretch included 38 whiffs across 113 plate appearances and was partially fueled by a .370 BABIP. Owners who select Buxton in the middle rounds of drafts may be left with a disappointing asset who cannot yet be trusted as a mixed-league lineup regular.

Top fantasy outfielders for 2017

Felix Hernandez, starter (Mariners): Hernandez was one of baseball's premier aces from '09-15 -- a span in which he averaged 228 innings per season. But he tossed just 153 1/3 frames in '16 and posted his highest ERA (3.82) since '07. Dealing with diminished velocity, the right-hander also finished with a career-low 1.9 K/BB ratio. Having logged a 4.63 FIP in '16, Hernandez could be on course for further regression if he cannot make the necessary adjustments to keep hitters off balance.

Tanner Roark, starter (Nationals): Roark delivered a strong bounceback campaign in '16, posting an ERA below 3.60 in each month en route to the sixth-lowest mark (2.83) in the Majors. However, he also registered a 3.79 FIP on the year thanks to his mediocre 2.4 K/BB ratio -- which he recorded in spite of a career-high 7.4 K/9 rate. While the 30-year-old is unlikely to revert to his '15 form (4.38 ERA), he may struggle to produce a sub-3.50 ERA or a sub-1.25 WHIP.

Zinkie's bold predictions 2017

A.J. Ramos, reliever (Marlins): Although he owns a solid lifetime 2.66 ERA and 10.4 K/9 rate, Ramos has consistently struggled with his control (career 4.7 BB/9 rate). Marlins management may be tiring of Ramos' inability to keep the bases clean (1.36 WHIP in '16), as the club added experienced stopper Brad Ziegler (85 career saves) to a bullpen that already included Kyle Barraclough (lifetime 13.3 K/9 rate) and David Phelps (2.28 ERA in '16). Owners who project 40 saves for Ramos may be disappointed when they realize that he is on a shorter leash than many of his peers.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.