Athlon Sports gets you ready for the return of fantasy baseball action
Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.
First-Half Fantasy Duds
The National League All-Stars vanquished their American League brethren 8-0 in Kansas City on Tuesday. This means two things: 1) the NL champion will have home field advantage in the World Series and 2) all teams will return to game action on Friday. Is there any doubt as to which of these is more important?
That said, in conjunction with our Fantasy All-Stars that we unveiled last week, here are Athlon Sports’ first-half Fantasy Duds. These are the guys who were drafted high, but have yet to produce in accordance with where they were taken.
Remember, for the purposes of this exercise, it’s all about production, value and ADP (Average Draft Position). This also is not meant to serve as any prediction on whether he or not we think they will produce more along the lines of their high ADP in the second half. This is merely an informed opinion based on what these players have already done.
Note: ADP values listed are according to Yahoo!
UD = Undrafted
Catcher: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (ADP 44.2)
Simply in terms of catcher-eligible players, Santana (.221-5-30) has been awful. But when you add his lack of production to the fact that on average he went in the middle of the fourth round, he’s been atrocious. Twenty-one other catcher-eligible players have more home runs than Santana’s five, including the likes of A.J. Ellis and Michael McKenry. Notorious strikeout-machine J.P. Arencibia (76 K in 249 at-bats so far) has a higher batting average than Santana right now (.225 to .221), not to mention eight more home runs and 11 RBIs.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers; Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox (9.6)
While Albert Pujols may have not played up to his top-five overall status in the first half, he has been swinging the bat considerably better lately. After starting off with a .217-0-4 April, The Machine put together a .326-4-19 June. The power’s still not what we are used to seeing from Pujols (eight in May, only six since), but his 14 home runs on the season are still eight more than Gonzalez has hit. A top-10 overall player in his own right, Boston’s first baseman hasn’t hit for power, which has hampered his run production (45 RBI). On top of that, his average (.283) is currently 55 points lower than what he managed last season. Put it all together and you get a first-round pick that’s been out-performed by the likes of Allen Craig, Adam LaRoche, Chris Davis and Tyler Colvin, to name a few. And all have done so with considerably fewer at-bats.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Santana, Cleveland Indians; Napoli, Texas Rangers; Michael Young, Texas Rangers; Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
Second Base: Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers (89.7)
Dustin Pedroia (.266-6-33) has certainly been a disappointment, but he’s been dealing with a thumb injury that finally put him on the disabled list right before the All-Star break. Dustin Ackely (.233-5-24) has yet to live up to the hype, but he’s also in his first full season in the majors. Weeks has no one but himself and his free-swinging (100 Ks so far, 107 all of 2011) ways to blame. Weeks enters the second half with a batting average (.199) under the Mendoza line and he hasn’t put up the power (8 HR, 29 RBI) or provided the speed (8 SB) to offset what has always been a weakness in his game. Weeks was 10th in ADP at his position and was taken on average in the middle of the eighth round, but at this point he’s probably nothing more than waiver wire fodder.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Young, Texas Rangers; Pedroia, Boston Red Sox; Howie Kendrick, Los Angels Angels; Ackley, Seattle Mariners
Third Base: Michael Young, Texas Rangers (57.3)
Evan Longoria gets a pass here because he’s been injured most of the season. Even though his owners have undoubtedly paid a price due to his extended absence, which has now reached who-knows-when-he-will-be-back territory, they can’t say he didn’t produce (.329-4-19, 15 R in 82 at-bats) when he was in the lineup. Instead, we have to head to the end of the alphabet to find the most disappointing third baseman to this point with Young edging out Ryan Zimmerman (ADP 36.2) for this “honor.” Neither has done all that much at the plate, but in Zimmerman’s case, he can at least lay some of the blame to the fact he has, yet again, been slowed by injuries. Still with nearly 60 fewer at-bats than Young, Zimmerman has out-performed his hot corner counterpart across the board, with the exception of average (.243 compared to Young’s .270). Sadly, it appears that age may finally be catching up to the 35-year-old versatile Ranger.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Zimmerman, Washington Nationals; Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Shortstop: Jose Reyes, Miami Marlins (20.6)
Similar to Longoria at third, Troy Tulowitzki avoids the LVP tag at shortstop because of his extended stint on the DL. Reyes, on the other hand, isn’t as lucky. It’s not that Reyes has been horrible in his first season in a Marlins’ uniform, it’s just that he has come nowhere near to producing along the lines of his ADP. The second shortstop to go off of the board after Tulowitzki, Reyes is currently hitting .264, which is more than 70 points lower than he did last season when won the NL batting title with the Mets. And when it comes to Reyes, if he doesn’t get on base, he can’t do what he does best — steal bases (20 so far) and score runs (41). While he is currently tied for sixth in the majors in stolen bases, it should be pointed out that Zack Cozart is among those shortstop-eligible players who have scored more runs than Reyes to this point.
Dis-Honorable Mention: J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles; Erick Aybar, Los Angels Angels; Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
Outfield: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks (12.5)
Identifying the LVP outfielders is no easy task as injuries have certainly impacted the position (Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, etc.), not to mention there are some, like the aforementioned Gonzalez, who also have outfield eligibility that have severely under-performed. In the end, however, there is little question that Upton has been the biggest disappointment in the outfield thus far. Big things were expected of the Diamondbacks slugger, who after finishing fourth in the NL MVP last season was fourth among OFs in terms of ADP. Going in the middle of the second round on average, Upton has been hampered by a thumb injury and just hasn’t produced (.273-7-37) like an MVP candidate. He’s certainly capable of a monster second half, but the whispers that the Diamondbacks may be looking to trade the 24-year-old can’t help his confidence right now.
Outfield: Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays (48.5)
Jennings suffered a sprained knee in May, which sidelined him for more than three weeks, and the speedy Ray has struggled to get it going at the plate since his return. Much was expected of the 25-year-old, who was drafted along the lines of a top-15 outfielder after a promising 63-game sample the end of last season. In fact, Jennings has played the same number of games (63) this season as he did following his call up last July 23, but hasn’t been able to match last season’s production. Jennings posted a .259-10-25 line with 20 stolen bases and 44 runs scored in 2011, compared to the .231-5-23 line with 15 stolen bases and 32 runs scored he has so far in 2012.
Outfield: Michael Morse, Washington Nationals (69.1)
Morse, like Jennings, has spent a fair amount of time on the DL already as he didn’t even make his 2012 debut until June 2. However, Morse grabs the final outfield spot here because he was the No. 18 overall outfielder in terms of ADP, and to this point he has managed a grand total of four home runs and 16 RBIs. No question Morse was one of last season’s breakout fantasy stars after he posted a .303-31-95 campaign, but I also think owners were a little too eager in expecting an encore. At this point, owners will gladly welcome Morse finishing the season with totals that are similar to his second-half production (.299-16-46) in 2011.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox; B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays; Kendrick, Los Angels Angels; Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners; Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks; Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres
For both SP and RP we will pick one fantasy dud from each league.
AL SP: Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels (49.9)
Neither league is devoid of candidates for first-half LVP at SP, although injuries do have quite a bit to do with that. In the AL, the race comes down to Haren and Jon Lester, both of which were top-15 starting pitchers in terms of ADP, have ERAs above 4.40, WHIPs above 1.30, and to this point have combined for the same number of wins (11) that Texas’ Matt Harrison has. Even though Haren has apparently been bothered by back stiffness for most, if not all, of the first half, it didn’t shelve him until his last start before the All-Star break. So whether he was just trying to be a gamer and pitch through the pain or not, he’s the first-half AL Cy Yuk winner, if you will. Haren was the fifth AL SP to come off of the board on average, meaning he was being taken around the fifth round. In 17 stars so far this season, he has a grand total of six quality starts, while he’s given up five or more earned runs in six other starts. Yes, he’s been the victim of some poor run support a few times, but of his six wins, two of them came when he gave up six and five earned runs, respectively. He’s also given up 122 hits in 103 2/3 innings. Haren owners can only hope that his back issues are the source of all that ails him and that he can return pain-free and look more like his old self in the second half.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Lester, Boston Red Sox; Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays; Ricky Romero, Toronto Blue Jays; Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels
NL SP: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco (27.8)
As bad as Haren, Lester and some other SPs in the AL have performed, there are no Cy Young Award winners among them. That’s not the case in the NL where two-time recipients Lincecum and Roy Halladay, along with Cliff Lee, all have failed to pitch according to their top-five SP ADP. Halladay can lay some of the blame to a lat injury, while Lee has a grand total of one win – that’s right one – in 14 starts. But then there’s Lincecum. If he’s hurt, neither he nor the Giants are telling, and at this point there’s not even a reason for them to try and hide it. In 18 starts, Lincecum has twice as many starts in which he’s given up five earned runs or more (8) than he does quality starts. The strikeouts are still there (104 in 96 2/3 innings), but he’s already walked nearly half as many (50) as he’s struck out and he’s surrendered 103 hits. His ERA currently stands at 6.42, which is nearly two and a half runs higher than the 4.00 ERA he posted as a rookie in 2007, and nearly three and a half runs higher than his 2.74 ERA from last season. It’s not like Lincecum has a hit a speed bump, it’s more like he’s fallen off of a cliff.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Lee, Philadelphia Phillies; Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies; Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks; Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs
AL RP: Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers (109.4)
Even more so than with starting pitchers, injuries have completely devastated the RP ranks. In the AL alone Joakim Soria was lost for the season before it even started, while Andrew Bailey has yet to throw a pitch for the Red Sox. Then you had future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera and Sergio Santos go down after that. So while Valverde hasn’t been horrible (3 W, 16 SV), his inclusion here is related to the fact he was the second AL closer in terms of ADP, behind only Rivera. Valverde was taken on average in the middle of the 10th round and while that may not seem all that high, there’s a saying in fantasy baseball that goes “don’t chase saves.” Valverde was a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities last season. He’a already blown three this season and his 16 ER in 35 innings (4.11 ERA) is just two less than he gave up all of last season in 72 1/3 innings.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels; Brandon League, Seattle Mariners; Francisco Cordero, Toronto Blue Jays
NL RP: Heath Bell, Miami Marlins (100.1)
The NL RP ranks were not immune to the injury bug either as Ryan Madson was lost before the season, Drew Storen has yet to throw a pitch this season, and Brian Wilson had to have Tommy John surgery in late April. Several other closers either lost their jobs, temporarily or permanently, and/or have spent time on the DL themselves. Bell gets the nod here because he hasn’t been hurt and even though he was removed as the Marlins’ closer at one point, he got his job back. However, it looks as if that will change as soon as the Marlins get back on the field Friday with manager Ozzie Guillen saying he will employ the closer-by-committee approach. Then again that’s what happens when you blow six of 25 save opportunities, while giving up nearly twice as many walks and hits combined (63) as innings pitched (34 2/3). That’s bad for any closer, but Bell was the sixth closer in terms of ADP, meaning he was picked, on average, even earlier than his AL LVP counterpart Jose Valverde.
Dis-Honorable Mention: Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs; John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers; Jonny Venters, Atlanta Braves
DL Watch and Other Injury News
*Roy Halladay is scheduled to make a rehab start on Thursday and could be back in the Phillies’ rotation as early as next week. Halladay went on the DL in late May with a right latissimus dorsi strain. Halladay (4-5, 3.98 ERA) hasn’t pitched like his usual self, so it will be interesting to see if he returns to his Cy Young form or not.
*Matt Kemp (hamstring) is expected to return to the Dodgers’ lineup soon, perhaps as early as Friday. Kemp has been on the DL since May 31 with the hamstring issue and the Dodgers have sorely missed his bat. Although he didn’t play in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, Kemp did captain the NL team in the Home Run Derby on Monday. He only hit one home run in the first round, but some questioned him even participating in the first place. If his expected return ends up getting delayed, Kemp will have some explaining to do. The Dodgers also hope to get Andre Ethier back soon as well. Ethier went on the DL effective June 28 with a left oblique injury, but has played in a couple of minor league games recently and said he hopes to be activated on Friday too.
*Atlanta sustained a big blow on Sunday when rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons broke his right little finger sliding into second base in the game against the Phillies. Simmons is expected to be out at least a month. Besides fielding everything in sight, the 22-year-old was hitting a respectable .296 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 115 at-bats since making his major-league debut on June 2.
*Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton had surgery on Sunday to remove some “loose bodies” from his right knee. He is expected to be out anywhere between four to six weeks. Justin Ruggiano will probably get the bulk of the playing time in Stanton’s place and could be worth a look if you have room on your roster. Ruggiano is batting .390 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in only 82 at-bats.
*The Braves also placed set-up man Jonny Venters on the DL last Thursday with a left-elbow impingement. Venters, who was so important to the Braves’ success in 2011 prior to the team’s late-season collapse, hadn’t pitched nearly as well (3-3, 4.45 ERA) prior to him going on the DL.
— By Mark Ross, published on June 12, 2012