Every MLB Team's Hitter on the Chopping Block Early in the Season
Complacency and baseball don't mix.
MLB managers and GMs understand the adapt-or-die nature of their positions.
Every team has a hitter on the chopping block, somebody in danger of losing playing time or even a roster spot.
Patience is running thin with these individuals, many of whom have been liabilities since day one of 2012.
Though their departures aren't necessarily inevitable, their fates will be sealed if the slumping persists.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Cody Ransom
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Cody Ransom's surprising stats won't spare him from a demotion to the minor leagues.
His fielding is average at best. His offensive value is limited by a lack of plate discipline.
The 36-year-old infielder strikes out constantly, and his inflated on-base percentage is a result of inexplicably being hit by three pitches through barely a dozen games.
Stephen Drew is progressing in his rehab from last year's ankle injury. He's eyeing June for his 2012 debut.
Ransom has taken a backseat to Ryan Roberts. He'll forfeit his spot on the 25-man roster once Drew is ready to be activated.
Atlanta Braves: Jack Wilson
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Jack Wilson still has value as a shortstop.
He's certainly a defensive upgrade over Atlanta Braves rookie Tyler Pastornicky.
But his deficiency with the bat is becoming too much to ignore (.146/.163/.146 entering May 15).
There are surely glove men out there with a shred of offensive ability. Right now, Wilson doesn't appear to be one of them.
Baltimore Orioles: Mark Reynolds
Mark Reynolds' oblique injury didn't land him on the chopping block. He's been there since Opening Day.
His $5.33 million salary was tolerable in 2011. At least he was hitting bombs (37 home runs).
However, his play at third base in 2012 is as putrid as ever. Meanwhile, the enviable power has vanished and his dues have risen to $7.5 million.
The Baltimore Orioles are contending in spite of him.
They have viable options at first base, third base and designated hitter, so the front office isn't opposed to parting with him. Especially if another team shows interest in taking on a few of the dollars he's owed.
Boston Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis
David Banks/Getty Images
Again, I'm not being mean to a player just because he's currently sidelined.
Kevin Youkilis has been struggling for the past 10 months and the Boston Red Sox finally discovered an heir apparent in Will Middlebrooks.
Youk retains usefulness as a positive clubhouse presence and patient hitter.
Still, regardless of what Ben Cherington said publicly, he will undoubtedly return to active duty in a reduced role.
Chicago Cubs: Geovany Soto
Nam Y. Huh/AP
The Geovany Soto of 2012 bears little—if any—resemblance to the catcher of same name who was National League Rookie of the Year in 2008.
His batting average and OPS are merely fractions of what was projected for him a few seasons ago. And opposing baserunners frequently take advantage of his elongated throwing motion.
In these situations, all that matters is who's next in the pecking order.
Unfortunately for Soto, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum is committed to finding more starts for talented backup Welington Castillo.
Chicago White Sox: Dayan Viciedo
Nam Y. Huh/AP
The Chicago White Sox have interleague matchups approaching.
Skipper Robin Ventura is committed to keeping Adam Dunn's hot bat in the lineup at National League venues. He said the slugger will likely play left field in those scenarios.
Such a lineup adjustment would take plate appearances away from 23-year-old Dayan Viciedo, who isn't producing as hoped despite daily opportunities.
With minor league options remaining, Viciedo is possibly headed towards a stint at Triple-A Charlotte.
Dunn and Kosuke Fukudome are candidates to start in place of him if this slump continues.
Cincinnati Reds: Scott Rolen
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Pictured here is Scott Rolen on April 26, circling the bases after hitting a home run.
Perhaps it was the last round-tripper of his MLB career.
Rolen was recently placed on the disabled list to find a remedy for his ailing shoulder. There's no guarantee that he will, though, considering that it's a chronic condition.
From his underwhelming numbers this season, it's obvious that he cannot start regularly unless he gets healthier.
Cleveland Indians: Casey Kotchman
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
The Cleveland Indians have left-handed batters galore. And that's not even including Lonnie Chisenhall and Grady Sizemore who will eventually be activated by the club.
Mired in a season-long slump, first baseman Casey Kotchman is extraneous.
Southpaws and righties alike are having their way with the former .300 hitter.
His deportation via trade or release is inevitable, particularly if Matt LaPorta keeps raking on the farm.
Colorado Rockies: Chris Nelson
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Speedster Eric Young Jr. is set to rejoin the Colorado Rockies after an extended stay on the bereavement list.
Management must make a corresponding roster move and Jordan Pacheco won't necessarily be the odd man out.
Rather, third baseman Chris Nelson is susceptible to demotion.
His bat is good for nothing outside of hitter-friendly Coors Field.
Detroit Tigers: Delmon Young
The Associated Press
Since his embarrassing hate crime incident, Delmon Young has started every game.
Strangely, he's being used exclusively as a designated hitter.
It's no secret that the Detroit Tigers will dismiss him if there is another indiscretion.
But because they no longer value his defense, a couple cold series at the plate could similarly be the final straw.
Houston Astros: Chris Snyder
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Whatever benefits Chris Snyder gives the Houston Astros with his big-league experience and backstop abilities is negated by his ongoing offensive struggles.
His high ground-ball rate is to blame.
Though he has a good eye for balls and strikes, the second-string catcher hardly ever knocks pitches out of the infield.
The Astros lose a lot of close contests when Snyder starts. In several cases, one more extra-base hit could have swung the score in their favor.
Kansas City Royals: Yuniesky Betancourt
Tim Umphrey/Getty Images
Behind closed doors, the Kansas City Royals don't want Yuniesky Betancourt to bat .280.
They would be happier if Johnny Giavotella produced at or above that level so that Betancourt could be removed from the club.
Yuni is a major liability in the field.
No transaction is imminent, but the organization is clearly rooting for Giavotella to earn everyday responsibilities at second base.
Expect Chris Getz to be retained over Betancourt—if it comes down to that—for his baserunning.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Peter Bourjos
Harry How/Getty Images
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are unofficially sticking with Vernon Wells (ESPN Insider access required).
He and Mike Trout are regulars in the outfield, and Peter Bourjos is stuck in a limited role.
He participated in only five games during the first two weeks of May.
Though trade rumors involving Bourjos are being denied by the front office, they don't seem all that preposterous.
If Mike Scioscia isn't going to utilize him, then a deal swapping him for bullpen reinforcements makes sense.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Juan Rivera
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Juan Rivera might be out until midseason with a torn hamstring. Injuries happen, you know.
However, he won't be very important to the Los Angeles Dodgers upon returning.
His positions are left field and first base, but Bobby Abreu and James Loney are suddenly catching fire.
Going forward, Rivera will be a staple on the bench unless the opponents send a southpaw to the mound.
Miami Marlins: Donnie Murphy
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Superstars Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes have underachieved for the Miami Marlins in 2012.
Often times, players are motivated to improve if there are adequate fill-ins lurking further down the depth chart.
Reserve Donnie Murphy—.120/.207/.400 this season—isn't exactly a threat.
I don't doubt that the Marlins would acquire somebody more reputable in order to light a fire beneath the left side of their infield.
Milwaukee Brewers: Nyjer Morgan
Christian Peterson/Getty Images
For all the popularity Nyjer Morgan discovered last season as "Tony Plush," he is still a volatile character.
And through six weeks of the regular season, he's performing below replacement level.
The Milwaukee Brewers like platooning a left-handed bat with Carlos Gomez in center field. The offseason signing of Norichika Aoki gave them an inexpensive alternative to Morgan.
Gomez (hamstring) will soon be activated from the 15-day DL.
Based on recent plate appearances, Aoki deserves to complete the pairing.
Minnesota Twins: Alexi Casilla
The Minnesota Twins infield is in flux. Every few days, a different one of their mediocre hitters faces potential demotion.
Currently, Alexi Casilla can't get starts.
The middle infielder is blocked by a veteran at second base (Jamey Carroll) and a novice at shortstop (Brian Dozier).
He could rejoin the lineup if Dozier falters...or potentially drop off the 25-man roster when Danny Valencia gets another opportunity.
New York Mets: Jordany Valdespin
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
A healthy Ronny Cedeno pushes Justin Turner and Jordany Valdespin to the bench. Eventually, Ruben Tejada will get better and force one of them to the minors.
Turner's experience will trump Valdespin's versatility.
But nobody can take away the rookie's game-winner off Jonathan Papelbon.
New York Yankees: Eduardo Nunez
J. Meric/Getty Images
Eduardo Nunez has already been sent down to Scranton.
As a New York Yankees fan, I celebrated the move. It was a real party with cake, booze and everything!
His days with the organization are numbered.
As a bat-only player, he'll never stick on an aging team that circulates its DH spot among Raul Ibanez, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, etc.
The Bombers need infield defense out of their 25th man. Jayson Nix and Ramiro Pena satisfy that desire better than Nunez.
Showcasing his talents at Triple-A will hopefully entice another club to consummate a trade.
Oakland Athletics: Daric Barton
J. Meric/Getty Images
Daric Barton is in a timeshare with Kila Ka'aihue at first base. The competition is heated.
Alas, on a healthy hamstring, Ka'aihue will break away. His spring training dominance is at last translating to the summer months.
Barton has turned drawing walks into an art form, but his bat is powerless at a position—and in a lineup—that demands more oomph.
Philadelphia Phillies: Pete Orr
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The recent uptick in Freddy Galvis' production at the plate comes as a letdown to Pete Orr, who was planning to seize the second base job in the absence of Chase Utley.
But the 22-year-old Galvis has made dramatic adjustments since May began.
Orr's pipe dream is a platoon, which won't come to fruition because his junior rival is a switch-hitter.
He cannot compete with the rookie's defensive prowess, so don't count on him lasting the entire summer.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Alex Presley
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Alex Presley is in a rough situation.
Manager Clint Hurdle has used him sparingly of late because of his disappointing on-base percentage.
Each time up is a chance for him to rise in the pecking order, and Presley is clearly pressing. His impatience has culminated in a grand total of four walks this season.
Stud prospect Starling Marte—who was outstanding in spring training—could be recalled from Triple-A prematurely if Presley is deemed unfit for the active roster.
San Diego Padres: Jason Bartlett
Chris Pondy/Getty Images
Though Jason Bartlett has slumped for prolonged stretches in the past, his play this season is hard to explain and impossible to excuse.
He isn't stealing bases because he can't get on in the first place. He's failing to get on because he's constantly striking out.
Bartlett's defense has been questionable, too.
His fielding percentage is an uncharacteristic .950, and his range is visibly diminished.
Hot-hitting Everth Cabrera is being held back by a domestic violence charge stemming from an incident last March.
If all goes well during his pre-trial conference this week, he won't be on the farm much longer.
San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt
Christian Peterson/Getty Images
Actions speak louder than words, right?
Manager Bruce Bochy has not directly disrespected Brandon Belt through quotes.
But by playing the talented first baseman sporadically—even when Aubrey Huff was away—he has been reiterating a message: the San Francisco Giants aren't interested in you.
Belt isn't in an environment where he can succeed and I suspect he won't be in the Bay Area much longer.
Seattle Mariners: Chone Figgins
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Chone Figgins doesn't play anymore. He has managed one, lone at-bat since switching to a "utility role" at Eric Wedge's request.
The Seattle Mariners admired his base-stealing when he competed against them. They overpaid for his services in free agency under the assumption that he would bring his special skills to the Pacific Northwest.
So far, Figgins has shown his appreciation with two-plus years of futility.
The front office isn't eager to eat the $15 million that he's guaranteed from mid-May 2012 through the 2013 World Series.
Don't be shocked if he's released, anyway.
St. Louis Cardinals: Daniel Descalso
David Welker/Getty Images
Daniel Descalso lost his value when Skip Schumaker returned from the disabled list last month.
Both players are infielders who bat left-handed. They are of the same 5'10" build and Californian origin.
Only problem is Schumaker is better.
Tyler Greene has adapted to a reserve role, while Descalso is essential a non-contributor.
Tampa Bay Rays: Chris Gimenez
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Jose Molina is handling catching duties precisely as the Tampa Bay Rays hoped he would.
With Jose Lobaton (shoulder) a fortnight away from finishing his rehab assignment, former Cleveland Indians prospect Chris Gimenez is as good as gone.
Opposing baserunners don't respect him and he hasn't been slugging anything besides singles.
The Rays are searching for offense sans Evan Longoria and they were encouraged by Lobaton's success on the farm in 2011.
Texas Rangers: Alberto Gonzalez
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Honestly, the Texas Rangers aren't making any changes. In fact, general manager Jon Daniels hasn't tampered with the 25-man roster since Opening Day!
And why should he lift a finger?
The Rangers are head and shoulders above all other MLB clubs.
But you have to think that Alberto Gonzalez—the only position player with an ineffective bat—is most expendable.
Defensive-minded players abound across the league.
Toronto Blue Jays: Adam Lind
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Toronto Blue Jays will not condone Adam Lind's sluggish start just because he's locked into a team-friendly contract.
J.P. Arencibia, Edwin Encarnacion and up-and-coming prospect Travis d'Arnaud are even cheaper. And Lind needs to leave if that trio is going to produce in tandem this season and beyond.
So long as one of the catchers remains behind the plate, the other and Edwin Encarnacion can occupy first base and designated hitter, respectively.
Lind must adjust his approach versus left-handed pitching to earn his keep. Whatever philosophy he's subscribed to is failing him.
Washington Nationals: Xavier Nady
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
If it appears that Xavier Nady has an insignificant role on the Washington Nationals, wait a few weeks until Michael Morse gets back.
He could lose his job entirely once the 30-year-old power-hitter is recalled.
Nady's splits serve as evidence of his decline.
Whether day or night, home or away, against left-handers and right-handers, he is over-matched.
Though he has been useless with the Nats, a change of scenery could revitalize his decade-long career.