8 Ice-Cold MLB Starts That Won't Last
Just because a player has yet to get hot doesn’t mean he’ll have a poor season.
The 2013 Major League Baseball season is just over a week old, and it’s much too early to be making concrete conclusions for the remainder of the year. It is interesting, however, to make predictions on what will or won’t happen.
On Monday, I examined the players who have started the year on fire but will cool by the time the season ends. Now, it’s time to analyze the players who have been non-factors since the 2013 season began but will figure it out relatively soon.
Although there are sure to be several more who break out of their early-season slumps, here are eight players who are cold as ice now that I believe will rebound soon.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout was inevitably going to suffer at least a slight drop in production in 2013 after a historic MVP-caliber rookie season in 2012.
That said, Trout hitting .281 and producing just one RBI and zero stolen bases through seven games is a complete shock. The good news for Angels fans is this will not continue for much longer, and the young stud will be tearing up the base paths again in no time.
There is simply too much talent in the Angels lineup, and within Trout himself, to continue at this frigid pace.
Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies are already having pitching problems, but while some players were expected to struggle to open the year, Cole Hamels wasn’t one of them. Hamels, arguably the ace of the staff, has fallen on his face to begin 2013.
Through a pair of starts, Hamels is 0-2 with a 10.97 ERA after allowing 13 earned runs on 16 hits through 10.2 innings of work. He’s struck out seven batters while walking four, and it’s also worth noting that he’s served up four home runs thus far. His command has been extremely concerning considering he usually strikes out a bunch of batters and isn’t one to walk many.
But this season, Hamels is averaging 5.91 K/9 and 4.22 BB/9, figures that are much different than his career averages of 8.52 K/9 and 2.26 BB/9. It’s only been two starts, though, which isn’t enough to begin panicking. What Hamels needs is a start against a poor team to get his confidence back up.
Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels
When the Los Angeles Angels doled out $125 million to Josh Hamilton this offseason, they were expecting to create the most lethal heart of the order in baseball.
Teaming Mike Trout and Albert Pujols with Hamilton has not quite worked out early on, however, as he is hitting just .138 with no home runs, three RBI, 11 strikeouts and has an anemic .172 slugging percentage over his first 34 plate appearances.
While it is not out of the question that Hamilton will struggle a bit in his first year with the Angels (somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 home runs and an .825-.850 OPS), there is no chance that he will remain in such an ice cold slump all season long.
Barring injury, Hamilton will undoubtedly witness a market correction on his stat line sooner rather than later.
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
Anthony Rizzo is one of the more promising young players in the game, and it seems that he’s finally getting a hold of what it’s like to hit in the big leagues. Last season, he hit .285/.342/.463 with 15 home runs and 48 RBI in 87 games.
Expected to play the entire year for the first time ever, it’s a little difficult to project how Rizzo will fare. Through the first eight games of the season, he hasn’t looked good at the plate whatsoever. In 27 at-bats, he’s hitting .185/.313/.444 with a pair of home runs and seven RBI. He’s striking out 21.9 percent of the time and walking 12.5 percent.
While Rizzo hasn’t been hitting up to par lately, the upside is that he has been walking. He’s been smart at the plate, taking pitches outside the zone and making the pitcher work. All he needs to do is focus on making solid contact more often. If he’s seeing the ball well, which it appears he is, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers
All things aside, it’s never good to be a pitcher who takes a loss against the Houston Astros. Unfortunately for Matt Harrison, he’s one of two pitchers to do so this year, losing on Opening Night on the road.
In that start, Harrison gave up five earned runs (six total) on six hits through 5.2 innings of work. He did strike out nine batters, but that’s not very surprising since Houston has the highest strikeout rate in baseball at 31.5 percent. In his most recent start against the Los Angeles Angels, Harrison wasn’t much better.
Against L.A., Harrison allowed another five runners to cross the plate, serving up five hits through five innings. Judging a pitcher based on 10.2 innings is a little harsh, especially for a starter, but command has really been an issue for him. He needs to work on hitting his spots or else he’s going to get hit hard all season long.
UPDATE: Wednesday, April 10 at 3:25 p.m. ET
Todd Willis of ESPNDallas.com has reported that Harrison is heading to the 15-day disabled list due to a lower back injury.
It's possible that two weeks of rest is just what Harrison needs to get back on track.
---End of Update---
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
If we knew one thing coming into the 2013 season, it was that the Miami Marlins were not going to be playing good baseball. But what we didn’t know, or really expect, was that Giancarlo Stanton would get off to a terrible offensive start.
Through eight games, Stanton is hitting .154/.353/.231 without a home run or an RBI. That’s probably one of the craziest batting lines you’re going to find. It looks that way because he hasn’t hit with much consistency and hasn’t hit for any power, but he’s gotten on base frequently. This is mainly because he has no protection behind him, so pitchers are just walking him. He has the fourth-highest walk rate at 23.5 percent.
Here’s one good reason why it’s too early to worry about Stanton’s power: He started last year the same way. In 2012, Stanton didn’t hit his first home run until April 29 and still finished the year with 37 long balls. If he did it last year, there’s no reason why he couldn’t do it again this year.
B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves
Over the winter, the Atlanta Braves landed two of the best outfielders in baseball. Oh, and they just so happen to be brothers. But while Justin Upton has gotten off to a great start with his new team, his brother, B.J., has been a disaster at the plate.
Through eight games and 29 at-bats, B.J. has just three hits. He’s hitting at a .103/.212/.207 clip and really isn’t doing much of anything offensively. He’s walked just 9.1 percent of the time he comes up to bat and has struck out 36.4 percent, which is one of the highest in the league and, coincidentally, identical to his brother’s rate.
This B.J. Upton isn't the player the Braves thought they were getting when they signed him in the offseason, but there’s still plenty of time for him to rebound. He’s never been one to hit with much consistency, but it’s hard to imagine he won't at least crack .225 by season’s end. His home run total has increased in each of the last four seasons, so there’s also reason to believe his power will soon return.
Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays
One of the reasons the Tampa Bay Rays felt good about trading away some pitching over the offseason was because of the young talent still in the rotation, including Jeremy Hellickson. But through a pair of starts, the Rays may already be concerned they made the wrong moves.
Hellickson allowed five earned runs in 6.1 innings of work against the Baltimore Orioles, striking out two and walking one. Five days later, he allowed three earned runs in five innings while striking out just one and walking three. Overall, he has a 6.35 ERA through 11.1 innings.
This isn’t the Hellickson the Rays know, though. Although he’s only won a combined 23 games the last two seasons, he’s been a good pitcher for them. This year, he’s barely striking anyone out and is having trouble with his command. Hellickson has pitched against two of the better teams in the AL, so maybe it’s just that he needs to face a struggling opponent to get back on track.