The following players are ranked and viewed relatively highly in the fantasy baseball community, but drafting them comes along with a substantial amount of risk — risk that must be addressed.
C: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
His performance in the World Baseball Classic aside, Perez is in my "Do-Not-Draft" list of 2023. He'll turn 33 years old during the second month of the season, which isn't exactly the end of the line but it's not prime real estate for a catcher either. Speaking of which, Perez being ranked so highly strikes me a bit as more of a name-recognition/how-weak-the-catcher-position-is deal. His numbers plummeted last season after what was probably back-to-back above-average campaigns for him. I don't expect another leap with him a year older and as part of a weak Royals lineup. I'd rather take my chances with a younger catcher on a better team.
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
Similar to Salvy (although I don't have Goldy on my Do-Not-Draft list), I'm worried Goldschmidt's age is going to catch up this season. That worry is intensified by the fact that he outperformed all of his expected numbers in his NL-MVP-winning season last year; his .368 BABIP was the highest it'd been since 2014. I understand why he's an easy top-five-ranked first baseman, even at 35 years old, but as Scott Pianowski puts it: "Goldschmidt was one of baseball's luckiest hitters last year ... I suspect Goldschmidt has a modest regression year and doesn't earn enough to justify his top-20 Yahoo ADP."
2B: Whit Merrifield, Toronto Blue Jays
Merrifield's numbers plummeted across the board last season and he turned 34 in January. Sure, his BABIP was low by his standards and he's on a MUCH better team this season than the majority of his career, and he's expected to start at second for Toronto. But the Jays are loaded and deep. If Merrifield struggles, be it due to natural regression or some other reason, I'll be surprised if Toronto hesitates in moving him down the lineup. And I can't help but think his 40 stolen bags in 2021 were a last hurrah of sorts.
It's risky to call Merrifield risky, who not-so-long-ago was one of the safest options in fantasy. Nevertheless, I'll go younger at 2B this season over Merrifield.
SS: Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
I am firmly of the belief that Fernando Tatis Jr.'s ceiling is the best player in MLB. But I can't ignore his injury and off-the-field issues. I'm officially in stay-away mode unless he plummets in drafts.
3B: Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles
This is an easy one for me: I'd rather see Henderson deliver a top-10 fantasy season before I draft him as such (and that's knowing how weak the third base position is this year).
OF: Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros
The risk with Alvarez goes hand-in-hand with Tatis Jr.'s. Will injury derail what could be a future Hall-of-Fame career? He's missed games in every season of his young tenure, and I fear what that could mean. He's already dealing with a hand injury, though Alvarez himself expects to be ready by Opening Day.
SP: Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves
It's no surprise that the naysayers on Strider are pointing to the fact he only throws two pitches. And while those two pitches proved to be uber-elite in his first full season as a starter in the majors, how far will they take him? Strider's being drafted in the early second round; a high price for a pitcher who, no matter how talented he is and proves to be, has played just one real Major League season.
RP: Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers
Williams is being drafted as a top-10 reliever, and I believe that's right for him. His advanced numbers are *chef's kiss* but I can't help but look at his walk rate from last season. It was his second season with a BB/9 above 4.00, which begs the question: If he loses further control of that Airbender — which already puts him at risk of injury — what will happen? I'd rather let other drafters find out.