It’s still too early to point fingers at slumping players, but this quintet of under-performers provokes at least a little worry.
Freddy Garcia, New York Yankees RHP
Part of Garcia’s unexpected success last season was that despite pitching in the very generous Yankee Stadium III, he allowed home runs at a lower rate than he had in any full season since 2005. There was no good reason for this to happen, and after he missed almost three weeks with a finger laceration, it began to change.
He allowed nine home runs in 122.1 innings before the injury, seven home runs in 24.1 innings after. In two starts this season, he has allowed two home runs in 10.1 innings, not to mention nine runs.
Phil Hughes has pitched poorly, and it is easy to assume that he will be the odd man out once Andy Pettitte is ready, but the 35-year-old Garcia is just as likely to go, if not more so.
Nick Johnson, Baltimore Orioles DH
As a 20-year-old playing for Double-A Norwich in the Yankees system in 1999, Johnson hit .345/.525/.548, and it seemed as if a special career was in the offing. Then he missed all of 2000 with a hand injury.
That was a sign; man has not yet devised a number capable of depicting how many days he has since spent on the disabled list. In a major-league career going back to 2001, he has played even 120 games just four times and has twice missed entire seasons, including all of 2011 (wrist surgery).
Though the 33-year-old possesses a .400 on-base percentage, the Orioles almost certainly represent his last-chance saloon. After taking an 0-for-4 on Monday, he’s now 0-for-16 on the season. Chris Davis has blocked him off from regular playing time with a hot start, which doesn’t make things any easier.
Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox 2B
The eighth overall pick of the 2008 draft, Beckham had a strong rookie season, but it has been almost all downhill since then, including .230/.296/.337 last year.
Longtime hitting coach Greg Walker fell out of favor in part because of Beckham’s struggles, but his replacement, Jeff Manto, hasn’t made much of a difference so far—after Monday’s 0-fer against the Orioles, Beckham is hitting .115/.207/.192.
Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals LF:
Gordon struck out looking with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday, sending the Royals to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.
Normally, you might say, “Hey, it’s the Cy Young/MVP. Just tip your cap and move on.” However, Gordon is hitting .128/.227/.231 after signing a new four-year contract on March 30.
Gordon was one of the best players in baseball last year, and he had always had the physical baseball talent to perform at that level. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t the possibility of regression, however.
Coco Crisp, Oakland A’s LF
The veteran is hitting just .146/.205/.146 and has been pushed out of center field by Yoenis Cespedes. Crisp is a good enough fielder and base-runner that if he hits as he did last year (.264/.314/.379), he has a good deal of value.
Unfortunately, with a minimum of $14 million remaining on his contract, he’s paid appropriately. With a shortage of quality outfielders around the game, Crisp would have value to any of a number of clubs—once he gets hot.