Baseball is a cruel, unforgiving game, and there are few players who are safe from losing their jobs if they find themselves mired in an ugly streak.
But these players, they're testing how long their rope is a fifth of the way through the year. How long can they stay out there before they get pulled?
For some, there's a young player clipping at their heels. For others, a contract that won't protect them from a demotion. Some have neither an immediate, obvious replacement or a short-term deal — they're just playing so poorly their teams have to consider a relegation.
No matter the circumstances, these 10 players are on the hot seat, and if they don't turn it around in short order, they might find themselves taking a seat in the coming weeks and months. (All stats through Thursday's games.)
Adam HungerUSA TODAY Sports
Mike Napoli - DH - Rangers
This one has a long ways to go because the Rangers don't have a ready-made replacement for Napoli, who is slashing .172/.237/.375 this season even after a two-homer effort Thursday. If that doesn't spark a hot stretch, Rangers manager Jeff Bannister will have to look at other options at DH and first base, though. Napoli is on a one-year deal — there's no reason to keep him in the lineup if he isn't producing. While Adrian Beltre is out and Joey Gallo struggles to get over .200, Napoli is safe.
Replacement: Joey Gallo/Ryan Rua
Jerome MironUSA TODAY Sports
Kyle Schwarber - LF - Cubs
Schwarber is the Cubs' everyday left fielder now, but he's been one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball and his bat isn't making up for that, either — he's slashing .195/.322/.374. The Cubs need to start slugging and their defense needs to be significantly better if the team is to break out of its World Series hangover. If Schwarber is providing value in neither area, Joe Maddon might have no choice but to take him out of the everyday lineup.
Replacement: Ben Zobrist or Jon Jay
David KohlUSA TODAY Sports
Alex Gordon - LF - Royals
Gordon is clearly on the hot seat in Kansas City — he's started in right field and now center. His glove will keep him in the lineup, but his bat is doing his best to give him the boot — after posting a .692 OPS last season, Gordon is slashing a paltry .158/.263/.200. Jorge Soler and Jorge Bonifacio are flanking him during his stint in center field — will either replace him in the outfield once Lorenzo Cain is deemed healthy, or will his new contract, which still has $56 million on it, win out?
Gonzalez's first trip to the disabled list in his career was setting up to create a Wally Pipp situation — stud rookie Cody Bellinger has been raking since being called up and it would have been difficult to send him back down or relegate his bat to the bench. Gonzalez was saved, though, by Andrew Toles' unfortunate ACL tear — Bellinger is now poised to feature predominantly in the outfield, leaving first base as Gonzalez's territory — for now. Gonzalez is due $21.5 million this year and next, but he's slugged only .309 in 29 games this season. That has to improve or the Dodgers will move Bellinger to first and play another outfielder.
Replacement: Cody Bellinger
Caylor ArnoldUSA TODAY Sports
Hunter Renfroe - OF - Padres
Renfroe was supposed to be an exciting power hitter for the Padres this year, his first full one in the major leagues. That has not been the case — he's posted an OPS of .592 in 35 games. The Padres are invested in Renfroe reaching his potential, but a demotion could be in the cards if he doesn't start showing some spark aside from the occasional bomb.
Replacement: Travis Jankowski
Brett DavisUSA TODAY Sports
Brandon Phillips - 2B - Braves
Phillips had a strong April, slashing .355/.388/.500, but his May has been poor — a slash line of .115/.115/.115, which is as incredible as it is poor. Add in nagging injuries and the fact that he's in the last year of his contract on a team that's rebuilding, and you can see Phillips being pushed aside to try other options.
Replacement: Johan Camargo
Jason GetzUSA TODAY Sports
Mike Fiers - SP - Astros
The formula is simple — Fiers has been arguably the worst starting pitcher in baseball in 2017 and Collin McHugh is nearing a return to the Astros' rotation. Unless Fiers can find a way to dramatically lower his 8.60 FIP, he's going to find himself back in the bullpen.
Replacement: Collin McHugh — if he's not ready, Brad Peacock or Francis Martes.
Thomas SheaUSA TODAY Sports
Adam Wainwright - SP - Cardinals
Wainwright is clearly on the downslope of his underrated career, but the slope might be a bit steeper than originally imagined. Coming off a 4.62 ERA season in 2016, this year he's posted a 6.37 ERA. While his FIP in both years has been sub-4, the results are concerning. The change won't come soon — the Cardinals don't have many options to replace Wainwright at the moment, but if Luke Weaver starts pitching well at Triple-A and Wainwright cannot rectify his control issues (that's what's at the core of his high ERA), it'll be hard for the contending Cardinals to stick with their ace.
Replacement: Luke Weaver, Tyler Lyons, John Gant
Scott KaneUSA TODAY Sports
Jose Bautista - OF - Blue Jays
Toronto has no allegiance to Bautista, who is on a one-year deal. It doesn't need to recoup any value on the 36-year-old outfielder, who signed for $18 million this past offseason. So his terrible start to the season — .173/.305/.276 — isn't a burden the team will have to bear. (The struggles are only highlighted by other slow starts in the lineup.) If Toronto wants to relegate him to the bench or just release him altogether, it can do it. And if Bautista doesn't turn it around soon, the Blue Jays just might.
Replacement: Harold Ramirez, Dalton Pompey, Chris Coghlan, Anthony Alford
Kim KlementUSA TODAY Sports
Curtis Granderson - OF - Mets
Granderson might be the worst everyday player in baseball right now. His .139/.200/.270 slash line is all sorts of bad, his defense has been a negative this season, and the Mets' depth chart could start to get crowded as Brandon Nimmo and Yoenis Cespedes come back from injury. Granderson is a notoriously streaky player, but he'll need to find a hot one if he's to keep starting in center field every day for the Mets.
Replacements: Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares