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20 Players Who Could Be Goats in MLB's Final Week

Doug MeadCorrespondent IJune 30, 2016

20 Players Who Could Be Goats in MLB's Final Week

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    As the MLB regular season reaches its final week, the pressure is on to deliver in the clutch.

    Pressure can be a funny thing—not everyone responds to it the same way. Several teams will be approaching the final week with a do-or-die attitude. As such, they will be relying on several key contributors to step it up as well.

    Unfortunately, not everyone will deliver. Here is a list of 20 MLB players who could fail miserably down the stretch.

    Note: All players' statistics are current as of Monday afternoon, Sept. 24.

1. Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Over the past two weeks, the Dodgers have won only five of 12 games and remain three games behind the Cardinals in the race for the final wild-card slot in the National League.

    One of the veterans brought in by GM Ned Colletti before the non-waiver trade deadline, infielder Hanley Ramirez, has been largely unproductive. He hit just .213 with no homers during the most recent two-week time span.

    The Dodgers need all hands on deck if they have any hope of catching the Cardinals. Ramirez hasn't yet shown he's up to the task.

2. Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    On Wednesday night, Dodgers starting pitcher Chris Capuano will be called upon to keep his team in playoff contention in a start against the San Diego Padres.

    Capuano has not won since Aug. 12, and in his last seven starts has gone 0-3 with a 6.13 ERA. In only two of the seven starts was Capuano able to work past the sixth inning.

    While Capuano was easily one of the Dodgers' best starters in the first half of the season, he has been the exact opposite after the All-Star break.

    Look for that trend to continue.

3. Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics

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    The Oakland Athletics began a four-game series on the road against the Texas Rangers on Monday night. The A's have won only four of their last 10 games and have fallen behind the Baltimore Orioles at the top of the wild-card standings in the American League.

    The A's have relied on their young pitching staff and their power bats to keep them in contention. However, one of those power bats—Josh Reddick—has fizzled in recent weeks.

    Reddick is hitting just .138 far in September with only one home run. A's manager Bob Melvin said on Saturday that his young slugger has simply been trying too hard.

    He's been so good for us all year offensively and defensively. Now you get down to where you're semi-close to the season's end, and I think he's maybe trying to do a little bit too much. It certainly isn't for lack of confidence. He's trying too hard. Sometimes, you've got to step back.

    Reddick's bat will be needed in the final 10 games for the A's to stay in the hunt. With just two hits in his last 27 at-bats, Reddick certainly hasn't delivered thus far in the clutch.

4. Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Over the past two months, the Diamondbacks have struggled to remain viable in the National League playoff hunt. Entering Monday night's game with the Colorado Rockies, their chances were slim at best.

    While Arizona has struggled to play .500 ball, left fielder Jason Kubel has struggled mightily as well. Since Aug. 1, Kubel has hit just .165 with seven homers and 16 RBI in 40 games. That's a far cry from the first four months of the season when Kubel hit .290 with 22 home runs and 72 RBI.

    The Diamondbacks will have to win out and hope for a lot of help over the final 10 days to have a chance at reaching the postseason for the second consecutive year. If Kubel continues to falter at the plate, the D-Backs could be golfing sooner than they would prefer.

5. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels

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    The Angels have an uphill battle over the final nine games. Left fielder Mark Trumbo has been fighting an uphill battle in terms of his swing over the past several weeks.

    Trumbo has been mired in an awful slump, hitting just .135 with one home run in the month of September. Recently, Trumbo has lost playing time to veteran Vernon Wells.

    Mike Trout stated on Sunday that he believes the Angels need to win their remaining games to have a chance at a postseason berth. If Trumbo continues his recent swoon, it's going to make that challenge that much more difficult to meet.

6. Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels

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    With regular left fielder Mark Trumbo mired in an awful slump, veteran Vernon Wells has received much more playing time over the past several weeks for the Angels.

    However, in his last 10 games, Wells has contributed just one run batted in with no homers.

    It's bad enough that Trumbo is slumping at the plate. His replacement needs to pick up the slack.

7. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp has been forced to endure a miserable 2012 season mainly because of injuries.

    After getting off to a blistering start, Kemp suffered a hamstring strain in mid-May that snapped his consecutive-games-played streak at 393 and put him on the disabled list twice.

    Kemp was injured again when he slammed into the center-field wall at Coors Field attempting to make a catch on Aug. 28. Kemp hurt his right knee on the play and also injured his shoulder attempting a sliding catch later in the inning.

    Since that time, Kemp is hitting just .167 with two homers in 19 games entering play on Tuesday.

    Kemp is gamely trying to play through the pain, but his struggles have a lot to do with the Dodgers' inability to gain ground in their chase for a postseason berth.

8. Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers

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    The Tigers were expected to run away with the AL Central Division title this year. Now, they find themselves in a do-or-die battle with 10 games remaining.

    Starter Anibal Sanchez is due to start two of those games, first at Comerica Park against the visiting Kansas City Royals and on the road against the Minnesota Twins.

    Sanchez hasn't exactly been on fire since joining the Tigers in late July. At home, Sanchez is 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA in five starts. Sanchez also didn't experience success in his lone start at Target Field. He was  shelled for five runs on 12 hits in 5.1 innings of work against the Twins on Aug. 13.

    The Tigers can ill afford to give away any more games. They'll be hard-pressed to do that with Sanchez's ineffective body of work.

9. Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers

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    Tigers catcher Alex Avila recently returned to his position behind the plate after suffering from the effects of a mild concussion.

    Avila collided with first baseman Prince Fielder in an attempt to catch a foul pop-up on Sept. 16, missing four games in the process.

    Offensively, Avila has slumped this year after a career season in 2011.

    With the Tigers battling for the AL Central crown, Avila will be called upon to step up. Whether he'll be able to answer the call is in question.

10. Kevin Youkilis, Chicago White Sox

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    The White Sox suffered a power outage last week, scoring only eight runs during their current five-game losing streak.

    Third baseman Kevin Youkilis has been slumping as well, hitting just .175  in the month of September and just 3-for-26 in his past seven games.

    Youkilis was acquired by the White Sox because of what was thought to be a productive bat. His lack of production in the No. 2 hole of late could help to sustain the current power outage and hurt the White Sox's chances for a postseason berth.

    If the White Sox falter in the final 10 days, Youkilis will be looked upon as one of the goats.

11. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

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    With a nine-year, $214 million contract, Prince Fielder is expected to help the Tigers earn a postseason berth. His acquisition gave rise to the belief that the Tigers would coast to their second consecutive AL Central title.

    That, of course, hasn't happened, and while Fielder hasn't been the reason why, he will not escape criticism if the Tigers fall short of their goal.

    After a sizzling month of August, Fielder has cooled somewhat in September, with a .260 average, four homers and nine RBI in 21 games.

    If the Tigers fail to overtake the White Sox,  several factors that will cited by critics. But Fielder will have one of the biggest targets on his back, despite his numbers.

12. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels

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    Like Prince Fielder in Detroit, Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols will be another marked man if the Halos fall short of the playoffs.

    When Pujols signed his mega-deal in December, Angels GM Jerry DiPoto said, "This is obviously the moment where we have thrown our hat in the ring."

    Unfortunately, that hat didn't make it all the way into the ring.

13. C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels

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    Along with acquiring Albert Pujols for $240 million, the Angels spent another $77.5 million for starting pitcher C.J. Wilson.

    Between June 26 and August 29, Wilson went through a stretch of 11 straight starts without a win, and the Angels won only three of those starts.

    Wilson wasn't able to pitch out of the third inning in his most recent start against the Texas Rangers, giving up three runs, four hits and three walks in just 2.2 innings.

    Wilson's effort earned him a sit-down with manager Mike Scioscia the day after.

    "We want him to get comfortable with some things and get back out there. I can't overstate how much we need our starters to do what they're capable of." Scioscia said of his meeting.

    Wilson will likely have two more starts in the regular season. With the Angels facing a 2.5-game deficit with nine games remaining, he'll need to do exactly what Scioscia and the Angels expected when they signed him in December.

14. Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees

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    With two hits in his last 19 at-bats over the past week, New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson has extended a slump that has frustrated him over the past two months.

    As the Yankees prepare for their final 10 games, their veterans will be called upon to help in hanging on to their slim lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.

    Granderson's failure to produce could not only label him a pennant-race goat, it could hurt his chances of the Yankees picking up his 2013 option as well.

15. Nick Swisher, New York Yankees

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    Much like teammate Curtis Granderson, Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher has a lot to play for over the final 10 days of the regular season.

    Swisher has been solid the past week, hitting .409 with two homers and seven RBI. That raised his September average to .208 in 21 games.

    It's been the month of September and early October that have always been the bane of Swisher's existence in the majors. Swisher has a career .230 average during that time of year, far below any other time.

    Swisher's inability to close strong certainly doesn't help his cause over the remainder of this season. He'll need to reverse history in order to help the Yankees hold off the Orioles.

    Otherwise, Swisher may be looking for a new home this offseason as well.

16. Mike Fiers, Milwaukee Brewers

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    The Brewers have the best chance of anyone in the National League to catch the Cardinals for the final wild-card slot. Their loss to the Nationals on Monday afternoon didn't help their cause.

    On Tuesday, the Brewers will turn to Mike Fiers to get them back on track. Unfortunately, the Brewers are facing the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

    Fiers has pitched admirably in his first season, posting a 9-8 record and 3.38 ERA in 20 starts. However, he has averaged only slightly more than four innings per start in September, putting tremendous pressure on his bullpen.

    Fiers will need to give his Brewers a boost in his two remaining starts if they're to have any hope of catching the Cardinals. Every game is a must at this point, and Fiers absolutely needs to dig deep.

17. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles

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    During the middle of last season, the Orioles were impressed with the play of shortstop J.J. Hardy. They were so impressed they signed him to a three-year, $22 million extension in late July.

    Hardy, who hit a career-high 30 home runs last season with a .269 average and .801 OPS, is far below that this year. Entering play on Monday night, Hardy was hitting .232 with a .662 OPS. In his last six games, Hardy was just 5-for-32.

    The Orioles have had a memorable season. If they want to continue creating memories, Hardy needs to start creating offense. Otherwise, fans will be decrying the decision to extend his contract.

18. Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran is hitting just .236 in the second half with 10 HR and 26 RBI. Beltran has hit somewhat better in the month of September after hitting just .211 in the month of August.

    The Cardinals will need Beltran to help lead the charge as the Cardinals look to remain in position for a postseason berth over the final 10 days of the regular season.

    If Beltran and the Cardinals falter, it will be a long winter of finger-pointing.

19. Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Since a 2-for-4 performance on Sept. 1 against the Toronto Blue Jays that included a home run and three runs batted in, Rays right fielder Matt Joyce has struggled, hitting .167 with no homers and five RBI.

    With the Rays riding a five-game winning streak but still 3.5 games out of a playoff spot, Joyce will need to find a way out of his slump to help lift the Rays into postseason play.

20. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Considering his recovery from Tommy John surgery, St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright has been a stalwart. He's on his way to pitching 200 innings while compiling a 13-13 record and 4.04 ERA.

    However, the month of September has seen Wainwright falter. He's winless in four starts with a 4.88 ERA.

    With two starts left, Wainwright will be asked to help the Cardinals retain their wild-card lead over the Brewers, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Phillies.

    Despite his efforts following surgery, putting up stinkers at the end of the season won't be looked upon favorably in St. Louis.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.

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