Fantasy Baseball: 10 Brutal Performers You Should Stick by Long Term

Tim Karan@timkaranContributor IIApril 10, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: 10 Brutal Performers You Should Stick by Long Term

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    The second week of the MLB season is typically the fantasy baseball equivalent of the hot-stove league for two distinct reasons: Most casual owners haven't forgotten they have a team yet (like they will in July), and the small sample size of games can cause some scary stats. Both of those factors lead to an influx of irrational add/drops and lopsided long-term trades. 

    But Carlos Gonzalez isn't going to hit .176 all year. Just like Omar Infante won't keep up his 97-homer pace.

    Still, there are probably players on your team who you weren't entirely sure about before who are struggling so far.

    It's a long season. Giving up on a player now would be like dropping a wide receiver after five minutes of play—not even a full quarter. No matter how much you may or may not currently want to kick Yu Darvish to the proverbial curb, you'll want to kick yourself if he ends up with 200 K's.

    Here are 10 players who deserve a little breathing room for at least a few more weeks.

Joe Mauer (C)

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    Due to the fact that Joe Mauer's homepage is probably WebMD, he fell further in fantasy drafts this season than a catcher with a career .323 average probably should have.

    But through one week, everyone who ignored him probably feels justified.

    Mauer has just two hits, one RBI and one run after four games, and the next two weeks don't exactly look to be a breeze: the Twins take on the Angels, Rangers, Yankees, Rays and Red Sox.

    But Mauer batted at least .286 against all those teams (except the Rays who blanked him) in limited action last year, and he also tends to heat up with the weather.

    As long as he's on the field (and preserving his knees at first base), there are maybe only three or four other catcher-eligible players who can even come close to Mauer's value—and two of them (Brian McCann and Matt Wieters) are below the Mendoza line right now, too.

Mark Teixeira (1B)

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    Stop me if you've heard this one before. Actually, don't, because you've definitely heard this one before.

    Mark Teixeira is the poster boy for slow starters thanks to a career .236 average in March and April—30 points lower than any other month.

    And just like clockwork, Teixeira was 1-for-9 during the Yankees' opening series versus the Rays with two K's and a noticeable lack of any run production.

    Sure, doubters will point to his .248 average last season (his worst ever). But much of that was due to the extreme infield shift he's started to face when he bats lefty, and Teixeira still finished with 39 home runs and 111 RBI—just like you can always count on him for.

    Besides, his performance so far puts him right on pace with his preseason goal: one hit per week

Dan Uggla (2B)

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    His .233 average last year was downright Uggla.

    But that number only tells half the story. Dan Uggla didn't hit better than .200 until July when he embarked upon a historic 33-game hitting streak during which he hit .377 with 15 homers.

    He's already just 1-for-13 with five K's this season, and that places him among the worst of all second basemen—but Uggla is no ordinary second baseman. He's more Adam Dunn than Adam Kennedy, and with Uggla, it's typically a homer or a fly ball to a fielder.

    The streakiness can be frustrating (almost as bad as owning Adam Dunn), but you'll be glad you kept Uggla around the first time he smacks two dingers in a game—which is bound to happen sooner rather than later.  

Elvis Andrus (SS)

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    Except for the Twins' Jamey Carroll and the Pirates' Clint Barmes, Elvis Andrus is off to the worst start at the plate of any shortstop.

    He's 1-for-14 (that's .071) with three K's and a .167 OPS, and those aren't exactly inspiring on the surface. However, just like last year, Andrus has shown an impressive ability to put the ball in play—he's just been hitting it straight at guys up the middle or in right.

    Andrus is coming off a .380 spring training average, and his struggle to get on base so far has kept him from contributing in the steals department, so it's far too early to give up on him now.

    Guys like Ian Desmond and Ruben Tejada might look good at the moment, but Andrus will look great and probably soon.

Kevin Youkilis (3B)

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    If you ended up with Kevin Youkilis on your team, you probably missed out on all the upper-echelon third basemen, saw Youk's name halfway through your draft and figured you were getting a steal.

    Either that, or you missed out on all the upper-echelon third basemen and considered Youkilis the lesser evil of guys like Mark Reynolds and Aramis Ramirez.

    How has he repaid you? By going 0-for-12 with five K's and getting benched in favor of Nick freaking Punto. But there's little reason to believe that move would ever become permanent—not even Bobby Valentine is that nuts.

    Youkilis had an injury-plagued 2011 and a rough spring training, so he's just getting his legs under him. Odds are he's going to wind up with nothing less than a .285 average by season's end, and for where you got him, that's not all that bad a value.

Michael Bourn (OF)

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    That's the thing about one-category contributors...

    This year, Michael Bourn took over Carl Crawford's position as the draft's second-round steals guy. Sure, Bourn will also give you runs, but he's gotta get on base to get you either—and a .188 OBP won't do it.

    So not only has he not helped you in the categories you already knew he wouldn't help you with, but he hasn't even stolen a base.

    Even Michael Cuddyer has a steal.

    Still, Bourn is better than this, and he's been good for at least 50 bags per year for three years even when his average dropped to .265 in 2010.

    You're not going to get those steals back no matter who you trade for and you wouldn't get full-market value anyway. But Bourn is a great example of why a 20-20 player can be less stress than a 60-steal one.  

Alex Gordon (OF)

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    You've got to wonder if Keith Olbermann regrets spending all that cash on Alex Gordon rookie cards six years ago.

    Things haven't gone exactly as planned for the second pick of the 2005 amateur draft. Although Gordon shot out of the gate last year hitting .339 with 19 RBI in April and March, he's back to his uninspiring ways so far this year. 

    Although he's 0-for-13, Gordon is a key cog in the Royals present and future. He won't be going anywhere, and he tends to do his best work in the thick of summer—certainly better than a .071 OBP and .000 SLG.

    At this point, you can safely stash Gordon on your bench—but don't give him away. One of these years, he might live up to Olbermann's expectations.

Jacoby Ellsbury (OF)

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    Hey, somebody had to be the biggest first-week first-round flop (and although Joey Votto is also struggling, at least one of his two hits was a homer).

    Jacoby Ellsbury—like the Red Sox in general—hasn't made a great impression thus far. He's 2-for-17 with five K's and clearly, that isn't going to give him many opportunities to run.

    But there's just about a zero-percent chance Ellsbury doesn't ignite any instant now. Maybe two percent.

    Okay, last year's 32 home runs still looks suspect. This is a guy who never even cracked double digits before that. When he's healthy, however, he's a potential batting champ with 70-steal speed. Maybe the real Ellsbury lies somewhere in between, and that would still be someone you'd want on your team.

Yu Darvish (SP)

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    Well, at least that's over with.

    Yu Darvish made his globally anticipated debut Monday night against the Mariners, and wasn't the dominant force you might have been expecting. Although he got the win thanks to the Rangers' ridiculous offense, Darvish gave up five earned runs on eight hits with four walks (one with the bases loaded) over 5.2 innings.

    But there's plenty of reason to believe he'll work things out. He still struck out five and, once he settled in, Darvish retired 10 straight.

    True, there are big differences between playing in Japan and in the majors. But Darvish has earned at least a little bit of a learning curve before anyone should freak.

    In fact, a ton of stud pitchers had scary starts last week, but you'd be crazy to let go of Yovani Gallardo (six runs in 3.2 innings), Josh Beckett (seven runs in 4.2), Tim Lincecum (five in 5.1) or Dan Haren (five in 5.1) just to name a few. 

Heath Bell (RP)

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    Even Mariano Rivera blew his first save opportunity this year.

    Of course, you're probably a little less attached to Heath Bell, who already seemed iffy after leaving San Diego's spacious PETCO Park (before anyone realized just how spacious Miami's park is, too). 

    But the wheels came off of Bell's Marlins debut at Cincinnati's Great American launching pad, thanks mostly to a Jay Bruce homer that only barely cleared the fence.

    If Leo Nunez can manage 36 saves for the Marlins while living a lie, Bell should have little problem with his legally documented track record.

    Everything's new at the moment in Miami (and stupidly distracting). Give it a minute.