Cold fantasy hitters should be benched
It is not too late to turn things around (just ask Albert Pujols), but nearly a fifth of the season is already in the books. Here are 10 players who have already done enough damage to endanger their everyday roles, or at least their role on your fantasy squad.
In no particular order:
Brent Morel, 3B, CHI-A
It is never a good sign when you have twice as many strikeouts (32) as hits (16). Morel has slowly slid from second in the White Sox's order to eighth to being frequently replaced by Eduardo Escobar and Brent Lillibridge. The power he boasted last September has yet to manifest itself in 2012 (two doubles, no home runs in 85 at-bats). His defense at third may endear him to third baseman-turned-manager Robin Ventura, but the bat (or lack thereof) may doom Morel. Escobar and Lillibridge could platoon at third if Ventura decides Morel needs a breather at Triple-A Charlotte.
Chris Nelson, 3B, COL
Jordan Pacheco's call-up Saturday may only last as long as Eric Young Jr.'s stay on the bereavement list, but his .433/.479/.627 slash line at Triple-A Colorado Springs is a reminder that the Rockies might have better offensive options at the hot corner than Nelson. Nelson already has a trio of errors at third base despite splitting time with Jon Herrera, and he offers zero of the power you would expect from a corner infielder at Coors. Nolan Arenado, who is at Double-A Tulsa, could be a factor later in the season.
Heath Bell, P, MIA
There have been plenty of closer meltdowns thus far in this young season, but Bell's might be the most noteworthy given the cash the Marlins handed him in the offseason. It is worth comparing Bell's situation to how manager Ozzie Guillen handled a struggling closer in Bobby Jenks in 2010. Jenks' case was slightly different in that he was injured, but Guillen was not afraid to offend his closer in 2010 by throwing J.J. Putz and Matt Thornton into the mix. Steve Cishek and Edward Mujica can play similar roles, but it is worth noting that Jenks won back his job in the end (before the season ending in injury). Ergo, Bell owners should not completely lose hope. Especially with the money Bell is earning.
Danny Espinosa, 2B, WAS
Espinosa is tied with Kelly Johnson for the second-most strikeouts in the majors at 34, but while Johnson can justify his high K totals with six home runs, Espinosa only boasts one. In addition, an 0-fer performance Sunday pushed Espinosa's average back below .200, and he has gone eight games without an extra-base hit. Steve Lombardozzi has already displaced Espinosa as the club's No. 2 hitter and could replace the Espinosa more often at second once Ryan Zimmerman returns from the disabled list.
Chone Figgins, 3B, SEA
In an earlier column, a few commenters asked: "Who will lose his starting spot when Mike Carp comes back? Michael Saunders or Kyle Seager?" It turns out the correct answer to that question would have been Chone Figgins, who sat out the club's entire series against Minnesota. Figgins, who has a cool .591 OPS over his three seasons in Seattle, will serve in a reserve role until the team trades or cuts him.
Nick Hundley, C, SD
It looked like Hundley had finally put his slow start behind him when he logged four RBI against the Giants on April 22. Instead, he has gone 6-for-38 with nine strikeouts in the subsequent 10 games, and the Padres might be feeling some buyer's remorse over the three-year extension they handed him in the offseason. Yasmani Grandal is tearing things up at Triple-A Tucson in his first season in the Padres organization. The Padres likely won't rush Grandal, but the club could make a move if it decides it needs a jolt in the lineup.
Clint Barmes, SS, PIT
Barmes' .520 OPS through Sunday ranked him in the bottom-10 for qualified batters, and he has walked just once in 91 plate appearances this season. However, the Pirates have few, if any, options to man short on an everyday basis. Josh Harrison can play there occasionally, but he might not be much of an upgrade anyway. An alternative would be Chase d'Arnaud, but he is hurting at Triple-A Indianapolis. Enjoy your $10.5 million investment Pirates fans!
Casey Kotchman, 1B, CLE
Kotchman has never been known for his bat, but it has been especially limp this year. His 11:9 K:BB is not all that bad, but his .506 OPS is worse than Clint Barmes' (mentioned above). Jose Lopez, now at Triple-A, and a resting Carlos Santana have occasionally spelled Kotchman at first, and Shelley Duncan/Johnny Damon could sojourn to the infield, especially when (if) Grady Sizemore returns to the outfield. Kotchman's biggest threat may be Matt LaPorta, who has been raking at Triple-A Columbus. The Indians have a 1.5-game lead in the AL Central entering Monday, and it would be hard to imagine them accepting this hole in their lineup if they wish to contend with the likes of the Tigers.
Peter Bourjos, OF, ANA
A year after leading the AL in triples and promising 20-20 potential in his second full-year in the league, Bourjos has wound up on the wrong side of the Mendoza line and the wrong side of a timeshare. Many assumed Mike Trout would displace Vernon Wells or Torii Hunter. Instead, Trout has taken Bourjos' normal center spot, and Bourjos has only made one start since Trout came up a week ago. A measly .238 BABIP suggests Bourjos can rebound, but it is unclear if/when he will receive the plate appearances to redeem himself.
Ike Davis, 1B, NY-N
His .499 OPS is fifth-lowest among qualified batters, and all three of his home runs came in a four-game stretch in mid April. You have to wonder if he has completely recovered from the ankle injury that ended his 2011 season, or if he would have benefited from more rehab during the offeseason. Justin Turner could poach some starts at first as the Mets wait for Davis' bat to turn around, and Lucas Duda could move from the outfield when Jason Bay returns from the disabled list. As in Kotchman's situation above, the Mets may feel more pressure to get production from this slot if they remain competitive into the summer.
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