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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