Matt Kemp highlights this list of highly drafted, unproductive hitters
Although the weather has definitely had an impact on the MLB schedule, most teams have played around 50 games by now, meaning we are roughly a third of the way through the 2013 regular season. As we prepare to enter the dog days of summer what better time than now to evaluate which expected fantasy studs at the plate have turned out to be nothing but highly drafted duds.
To be fair, several hitters have been given a free pass because of injury which has either kept them out of action for an extended period of time, such as Curtis Granderson, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Giancarlo Stanton, or out of the lineup altogether, like Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.
No, for the most part, the hitters listed below (in no particular order of how poorly they have performed) have had their share of opportunities and chances to produce in accordance with where they were drafted. They just haven’t gotten the job done with the bat thus far.
Note: Statistics referenced are through games of Wednesday, May 29.
1. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
From a near 40/40 season in 2011 to just 23 home runs and nine stolen bases in ‘12 is one thing, especially considering Kemp played in only 106 games last season. The shoulder injury was a big reason why fantasy GMs gave Kemp a pass headed into this season, drafting him like a top-five overall player.
Things have not worked out so far, however, as the outfielder has just two home runs and 17 RBIs in his first 51 games. He also left Wednesday night's game against the Angels with a strained right hamstring, so he may be headed for a DL stint soon. Put it all together and that first-round pick spent on Kemp has resulted in fantasy production in Yahoo! leagues that lags behind the likes of David DeJesus, Justin Ruggiano and Chris Carter, who is batting a robust .216.
2. Josh Hamilton, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Kemp is not the only high-priced Los Angeles-based outfielder struggling at the plate. Hamilton has fared even worse in the batting average category (.219 to Kemp’s .251), although he does have eight home runs. The good news for Angels fans and Hamilton owners is that six of those round-trippers have come this month, but the overall batting average and .393 slugging percentage is not what either were expecting from the $125 million slugger who was drafted as a top-20 player.
3. B.J. Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves
The Upton brothers reunion in Atlanta has been enjoyed more by younger sibling Justin rather than B.J., especially at the plate. Never really one to hit for a high batting average, B.J. has sunk to new lows so far in 2013. Try a .146 average with four home runs, eight RBIs and three stolen bases. The appealing part of Upton’s game has always been the power-speed combo, but if he doesn’t get on base (.232 on-base percentage) he can’t do much of anything. A top-50 player in Yahoo! drafts, Upton is nearing waiver wire territory, especially as he’s seen his playing time decrease (67 at-bats in May).
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals
No one should really be surprised that Zimmerman has already spent time on the DL this season for a hamstring injury, right? Even with his documented injury history, the Nationals’ third baseman maintained his top-five draft status at the hot corner entering this season. Up until Wednesday night's three-home run outburst against the Orioles, however, Zimmerman was on the lower end of being a top-20 third baseman. Maybe this will finally get his bat (.298-6-28 on the season) going. It doesn't help Zimmerman's case that Manny Machado, the Beltway's other third sacker has gotten off to a .332-5-29 (with 36 R) start in just his first full season in the majors.
5. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
The top fantasy shortstop in Yahoo! leagues last season, Rollins was drafted among the top 75 players overall entering this season. Unfortunately, it appears that age may finally be catching up to the 34-year-old veteran, as he’s hitting just .255 with three home runs, four stolen bases and only 19 runs scored. Colorado’s Josh Rutledge, who got demoted to Triple-A last week, is still ranked higher in Yahoo! leagues at shortstop than Rollins.
6. Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
Not much was expected of Howard last season as he missed more than half of the season recovering from a torn Achilles sustained in the 2011 NDLS. Expectations for 2013, however, went up after he hit 14 home runs in just 260 at-bats following his return last July. The reality is that the left-handed slugger’s 30-100 seasons may well be past him as he’s hit just six home runs and is batting .258 this season. Certainly not helping his production is a 60:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio, putting his on-base percentage, which was .425 during his 2006 NL MVP campaign, at just .289. Drafted as a top-100 overall player, Howard is barely a top-40 first baseman right now.
7. Danny Espinosa 2B/SS, Washington Nationals
When you can get near 20/20 numbers from a middle infielder you’re willing to forgive a sub-.250 batting average, which is what Espinosa did in 2012. Even with the obvious warts (46 BB, 189 SO in 594 at-bats), Espinosa was still drafted among the top-15 second basemen and shortstop. To this point, he’s not even a top 1,000 player in Yahoo! leagues as he’s hitting only .166 with three home runs and an ugly 43:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It has been revealed that he’s playing with a fracture in his right wrist, an injury sustained back in April, but it didn’t cause him to miss too much time until recently. I imagine his owners would have appreciated him not trying to play through the injury.
8. Martin Prado, 2B/3B/SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
If for no other reason, Prado was targeted in drafts because of his versatility – carrying eligibility at three infield spots and in the outfield for Yahoo! leagues. Of course his numbers from last season (.301-10-70, 81 R, 17 SB) certainly didn’t hurt either. Even with the trade from Atlanta to Arizona, it was little surprise that Prado was drafted as a top-10 second baseman and top-15 at shortstop. Unfortunately, he’s currently performing nowhere near those rankings, as his .257 average is nearly 40 points lower than his career mark (.295) entering this season. One of the biggest culprits so far? He’s batting just .133 (6-for-45) with runners in scoring position.
9. Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets
Following a horrendous start last season (.170 with five home runs through May) that could be attributed to his recovery from valley fever, Davis rebounded to slug 27 home runs and bat a more respectable .253 the rest of the way. Fantasy GMs were obviously encouraged and optimistic as Davis was drafted among the top 120 players overall and along the lines of a top-20 first baseman. At this point, however, only the hardiest of Davis supporters remain as the lefty is batting just .160 with four home runs and 60 strikeouts in 163 at-bats. The Mets have reportedly put Davis on notice that he could be sent to the minors if he doesn't improve at the plate and he certainly shouldn’t be on your fantasy roster.
10. Rickie Weeks, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
By now everyone is fully aware of what to expect from Weeks – 20-plus home runs and double-digit steals with a low batting average – in a typical season. Still, the power and speed potential has been more than enough to maintain his status as a top-10 fantasy second sacker and top 125 overall player, at least in drafts. So far this season the batting average has plummeted (from .230 last season to .181 thus far) and he has more stolen bases (four) than home runs (three), which isn’t saying much.
Just missed… (alphabetical order)
Billy Butler, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Butler’s numbers (.263-5-31) aren’t horrible, they just aren’t worthy of his top-50 overall draft status. Considered a top-10 first baseman entering the season, the hitter known as “Country Breakfast” is currently behind the likes of James Loney, Mitch Moreland, Eric Chavez and Brandon Belt in Yahoo!’s fantasy rankings.
Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals
Not surprisingly, 25 home runs and 21 stolen bases with a .292 average as a shortstop get you top-five treatment at the position in fantasy drafts. Too bad those who afforded that to Desmond are still waiting for his end of the deal (.260-6-20, 5 SB so far).
Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves
Heyward is a hard one to judge by his body of work to this point (99 at-bats) considering he missed nearly a month after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. That excuse will only cover him for so long, as much more was expected out of the Braves outfielder who was drafted as a top-30 overall player and is currently hitting .152 with two home runs, eight RBIs and has one stolen base.
Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox
It has been a long, highly productive career for the potential future Hall of Famer. And based on his current output (.235-5-19), it looks like it may be near the end of the road for the veteran who was drafted among the top 110 players.
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
The only thing that saved Lawrie from inclusion in the above list is injury, as he’s had less than 100 at-bats so far. On the other hand, the injury risk alone (back on the DL after spraining his ankle stealing second Monday night) will start to impact his draft status, especially if his production (.209-5-14, 2 SB) continues to disappoint.