Ranking Each MLB Team's Most Surprising, Disappointing Player in April

Jenn ZambriCorrespondent IMay 3, 2011

Ranking Each MLB Team's Most Surprising, Disappointing Player in April

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    April is the month that baseball fans and players look forward to each offseason.  It signals a new beginning where anything is possible.

    But some players are wishing they had a do-over in April 2011 as things have not gone as initially planned.

    Some players having issues are rookies mired in a sophomore slump, some seasoned and normally dependable veterans and all those in between as well.

    The following is a look at each team's most surprising and disappointing player in the month of April.

Derrek Lee, 1B, Baltimore Orioles

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    First baseman Derrek Lee signed a one-year, $7.25 million deal with the Orioles this offseason after spending nearly seven seasons with the Cubs.

    A seasoned veteran, Lee has a lifetime .282 batting average with 1019 RBI through the 2010 season.  The Orioles were expecting much of the same type of performance from him in 2011.

    But through April, Lee has struggled at the plate, hitting only .237 with four RBI.  Hopefully, May will be a better month for Lee.

Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox

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    Pitcher Clay Buchholz had a breakout year in 2010.  He ended with a 17-7 record, 2.33 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.

    That performance prompted the Red Sox to sign Buchholz to a contract extension worth just under $30 million over the next four years.

    The Red Sox may not be questioning the move just yet, but Buchholz is certainly not living up to the hype so far.

    In his first five starts of 2011, Buchholz has yet to record a quality start.  His ERA sits at 5.33, and he has gone though at least six innings in a game only twice.  On April 26, Buchholz allowed a career-high 12 hits in a game against the Baltimore Orioles.

Phil Hughes, SP, New York Yankees

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    Phil Hughes pitched a career-high 176.1 innings in 2010 while maintaining a descent, 4.19 ERA for the season.  It appeared that the Yankees had a solid starter for 2011.

    But in his first three starts this year, Hughes has given up no less than five runs a game and did not make it out of the fourth inning in any of those game.  His ERA has soared to 13.94.

    On April 15th, the Yankees were forced to place Hughes on the 15-day DL, citing a "dead arm" as the issue.

    Doctors have yet to pinpoint any specific medical issue with Hughes after multiple exams and tests.  Their latest theory is "thoracic outlet syndrome" which would require a very complicated surgery, although no solid evidence has been revealed yet.

    With the three bad starts and then missing half the month, Hughes has been a big disappointment for the Yankees.

Jeff Niemann, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Last season, Jeff Niemann was doing well until a shoulder strain slowed him down in August.  Since that time, the pitcher has struggled.

    In his first four starts of 2011, Niemann looked very shaky, especially on April 10th against the White Sox where he did not make it out of the third inning.

    Niemann's fifth start was much better as he went seven innings and allowed just two runs.  Hopefully, this is a sign that May will be a better month for the righty.

Travis Snider, LF, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Entering his fourth year in the majors, the Blue Jays expected Travis Snider to produce for them.  Instead, the lefty slugger has struggled at the plate.

    Snider hit only .184 in his first 25 starts this year and his on-base percentage was only .276. 

    The 23-year-old outfielder is still young, so there is time for him to adjust.  But right now, the Blue Jays feel it is better to let him work out his swing in the minors.  He was sent down on April 28.

    While that has to be a huge disappointment for both Snider and the team, hopefully, it will get him back on track.

Adam Dunn, DH, Chicago White Sox

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    The White Sox have had a historically bad month of April in 2011.  The 18 losses they suffered marked a club worst for the month.

    Not helping the situation is designated hitter, Adam Dunn.  Known for his power, Dunn recorded four consecutive season from 2007 to 2010 where he collected at least 100 RBI each year.

    But so far in 2011, Dunn is hitting only .160 with 10 total RBI and does not show signs of breaking the slump anytime soon.

    Dunn did miss about a week due to an emergency appendectomy on April 5th.  But although his body recovered, his swing still has not.

Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians

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    The Indians catcher, Carlos Santana, is not off to a good start in 2011.  At one point, he was mired in an 0-23 slump that seemed like it would never end.

    At the month's end, Santana posted an average below the Mendoza line at .198.  And despite a few homers recently, his last multi-hit game was April 8. 

    The Indians are hoping that Santana will emerge from this sophomore slump very soon.

Magglio Ordonez, DH, Detroit Tigers

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    Into his 15th major league season, Magglio Ordonez has a lifetime batting average of .310 and over 1200 RBI.  He has been a rock for the Tigers to lean on for six seasons.

    But his seventh season in Detroit has been very uncharacteristic for Ordonez.  In 18 games, Ordonez batted only .159 with just one RBI and a lowly on-base percentage of .227.

    At age 37 and coming off ankle surgery last August, questions are lingering as to whether or not Ordonez can regain his former swing.  But manager Jim Leyland still believes  that Ordonez will overcome.

Kyle Davies, SP, Kansas City Royals

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    When pitcher Zach Greinke departed for the Brewers, the Royals were counting on Kyle Davies to pick up the lack as he did in 2010 after a rash of injuries.  So far in 2011, Davies has not been very consistent.

    In his first six starts of the season, Davies has posted a 7.98 ERA and gone at least six innings only twice.  His last start may have been the worst.  Davies gave up eight runs in only 3.1 innings against the Indians, including four home runs.

    None of the top four starters for the Royals have an ERA under 4.00 this April, which puts even more pressure on Davies who is at the bottom of the heap.

Francisco Liriano, SP, Minnesota Twins

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    After a very solid season in 2010, the Twins expected more of the same from pitcher Francisco Liriano.  But all they have gotten so far is a bunch of bad games from the lefty.

    In five starts in April, Liriano has only one quality start.  In the other games, he has allowed seven runs twice and four runs in the other two games, never going past five innings.

    The Twins are trying to keep a positive attitude about the Liriano's 9.13 ERA, which is the league's worst ERA in April among pitchers with at least four starts.  It also makes the Twins the team with the worst pitching staff in the American League.

    Positive thoughts are nice, but things had better start to improve for Liriano in May.

Vernon Wells, CF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    This past January, the Angels acquired All-Star center fielder Vernon Wells from the Blue Jays at a very, very steep price.  Wells has four years and $86 million left on his seven-year deal from the Jays.

    Many questioned the move, saying the Angels overpaid.  If one was to judge that move based on Wells' April numbers, they would be correct.

    A lifetime .277 hitter, Wells has posted a .174 average in April with one homer and an on-base percentage of only .216.

    If Wells does not find his swing soon, this could spell trouble for the Angels offense.

Mark Ellis,2B, Oakland Athletics

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    After batting .291 in 2010, Mark Ellis has shaved exactly 100 points off that average in the first month of 2011.  The .191 average plus an on-base percentage of only .232 is not typical Ellis baseball.

    In his ninth season in the majors, all with the A's, Ellis is a lifetime .246 hitter in the month of April.  So while he is normally a bit of a slow starter, this year is the worst start of his career.

    As a team, the A's hit just .237 in April.  Ellis is not alone in his struggles, but he did end the month with the worst numbers of all A's offensive players.

Jack Cust, DH, Seattle Mariners

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    After Jack Cust put up good number in 2010 with the A's where he batted .272 with an on-base percentage of .395, the Mariners were confident in signing him for 2011.

    But in April, Cust has been a big disappointment.  Batting only .193 with 30 strikeouts puts him on pace to get fanned nearly 180 times this year.  And that number would not necessarily be out of character as Cust has exceeded the 180 strikeout mark twice in his career.

    But Cust also hit 33 and 25 homers in each of those years as well, which is at least a good trade off.  This April, Cust's power numbers are basically non-existent.

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers

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    On a Rangers offense that averaged .270 as a team in April, Ian Kinsler stands out as a guy who is pulling their average down.

    Kinsler batted only .233 in April, which is not what the Rangers usually expect from their second baseman. 

    The good news is that Kinsler's power numbers are up.  He has hit five homers and has 12 RBI in April.  With that in mind, it should be only a matter of time before Kinsler gets his average up and finds his way on base a little more.

Dan Uggla, 2B, Atlanta Braves

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    A common issue with power hitters is that they sometimes will not for average.  And although Dan Uggla had five home runs in April, he is batting only .194 with a .250 on-base percentage.

    Last season, Uggla hit .295 with the same number of homers in April.  That is a statistic that may have the Braves a little bit worried.

    After the Marlins refused to pay him, Uggla got a very nice five-year, $62 million contract from the Braves, keeping him in the same division where he could do serious damage to his former team.  But so far, Uggla has struggled in his new city.

    The Braves are hoping that May will wipe the slate clean and be a fresh start for the slugger.

Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins

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    Despite a number of issues with his manager and in the clubhouse, Hanley Ramirez has always produced at the plate.  A lifetime .310 hitter and three-time All-Star, Ramirez has been a huge part of the Marlins offense for just over five years now.

    But this April, Ramirez just barely squeezed out a .200 average and had not hit a home run since Sept. 6, 2010.

    There have been more rumors about trouble with his teammates as well.  Near the end of the month, Ramirez allegedly refused to sign Logan Morrison’s team-autographed cast which was to be auctioned for charity, supposedly because he worried about "germs."

    Ramirez's  performance combined with his inability to play well with others look like a recipe for disaster.

Mike Pelfrey, SP, New York Mets

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    The 15-9 record Mike Pelfrey posted in 2010 gave the Mets reason to hope he could carry some of the load left behind by an injured Johan Santana.  But so far, Pelfrey has been a disappointment.

    In six starts in April, Pelfrey recorded only one quality start and allowed opponents 23 runs, inflating his ERA to 7.39.  Opponents are batting .341 against him.

    Considering the Mets are paying him $4 million this year after avoiding arbitration, Pelfrey has not lived up to the Mets' vote of confidence in him.  In April, Pelfrey is statistically the worst starter in the rotation.

Raul Ibanez, LF, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Despite fans chants of "Rauuuuuuul!" echoing through the ballpark, the elder left fielder Raul Ibanez has not found any inspiration yet.

    In his last 30 at-bats in the month of April, Ibanez is hitless.  Not only that, but Ibanez is swinging like he is wearing a blindfold, showing no signs of busting this slump anytime soon.

    After Jayson Werth left for the Nationals in the offseason, Ibanez was expected to help score some extra runs for the Phillies.  But so far, Ibanez is batting only .161 with one home runs and just 10 RBI.

    Ibanez had a strong spring, so the lack of production seems to be a real surprise.  If he does not break out soon, he may find a lot of time spent warming the bench.

Jayson Werth, RF, Washington Nationals

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    Jayson Werth is great right fielder and an above average batter, but not a superstar by any means.  Yet, the Nationals decided to pay him superstar money this offseason with a seven-year deal worth $126 million.

    But money cannot buy hits, and so far, that has been the case.  Werth is hitting just .221 with seven RBI in the month of April.

    Werth is notoriously a streaky hitter so it is reasonable to think that he will find his rhythm in May.  If not, the Nationals will have a lot of fans wondering if he was "Werth" the money.

Ryan Dempster, SP, Chicago Cubs

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    Of six starts in April, Ryan Dempster has yet to toss a quality start.  In fact, he has allowed no less than four runs a game in each start and his ERA has soared to 9.58.

    In his eighth year with the Cubs, Dempster has never had a worse start to a season than this April.  His last start on April 28th against Arizona was so bad, he allowed seven runs and recorded only one out before being pulled from the game.

    Dempster  is normally a very dependable starter so this trend has been a shock for the Cubs.  All they can do now is hope he snaps out of it quickly.

Edinson Volquez, SP, Cincinnati Reds

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    While Edinson Volquez has not been horrible by any means, his slower than usual start this April was a bit surprising.

    In six starts, Volquez has recorded only one quality start and has pitched at least six innings only twice.  He is getting a good number of strikeouts, but overall, the results are lacking.

    Certainly a 5.67 ERA is not what most teams expect out of their Opening Day starter.  So April has not been kind to Volquez.  Maybe May will be better.

J.A. Happ, SP, Houston Astros

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    Once a top prospect with the Phillies, J.A. Happ has had a difficult time during his transition to a new team.  Traded to the Astros part way through last season, Happ has not looked the same since he left Philadelphia.

    By the end of April, Happ had a 1-4 record with a 6.35 ERA, well above his 3.11 average ERA over the past five seasons.

    And although pitcher Nelson Figueroa has been much, much worse, Happ's decline is a bit more shocking.  The Astros hope Happ can get his command in order and have a better month in May.

Yovani Gallardo, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

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    As the Brewers Opening Day starter, Yovani Gallardo looked really good in his first two starts of the season.  But since that time, it has been mostly downhill for the 25-year-old righty.

    Gallardo has allowed 21 earned runs in his last four starts, and he ended the month with a 5.70 ERA.

    After new aquisition Zack Greinke started the season on the DL with a cracked rib, Gallardo was to be the guy the Brewers could lean on until Greinke was healthy.  But so far, that has not been the case.

    Perhaps Greinke's return will lift some of the pressure off Gallardo and allow him to bounce back to form.

Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    As one of the worst teams in the majors for many year, the Pirates have little to get excited about.  But 24-year-old Andrew McCutchen has been a bright spot during the dark days for the Bucos.

    But in his third season in the majors, McCutchen is having trouble finding his swing.  His power numbers are good, but McCutchen is averaging just .219.  He even went through an 0-13 hitless streak in mid-April.

    If McCutchen  can overcome some of these inconsistencies, Pirates fans may have something to cheer about again in May.

Ryan Franklin, RP, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Few pitchers have had a worse April than Ryan Franklin.  He has been so bad, that the Cards decided to take the closer role away from Franklin and go with a closer-by-committee approach.

    In five save opportunities in April, Franklin blew four of them.   He had allowed nine earned runs in only eight innings and has an ERA for the month of 10.13.

    Last season, Franklin  blew only two saves in 29 chances.  What the future now has in store for Franklin is a mystery. 

Kelly Johnson, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    The Diamondbacks 29-year-old second baseman Kelly Johnson had a nice 2010 season.  He batted .284, which led the team, and hit 26 home runs as well.

    But 2011 is off to a surprisingly slow start for Johnson.  He ended the month hitting .180 with only six RBI.

    Despite being benched in the final game of the month, Johnson still did not hit in the first game of May.  The D-Backs better cross their collective fingers that he snaps out of it soon.

Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Colorado Rockies

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    After a career year in 2010 with a 19-8 record and 2.88 ERA, the start that pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez is off to this April is shocking.

    With a collective 7.20 ERA in four starts, Jimenez has yet to record a quality start and went at least six innings just once.

    Early in April, the Rockies placed Jimenez on the DL with what was termed a "cuticle cut on his right thumb."  While this seems like the eqivalent of saying he broke a nail, apparently the cut was really bothering Jimenez.

    But since the injury has healed, Jimenez's pitching has not recovered.  It looks like this problem may require a little more than a manicure.

James Loney, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Sitting near the bottom of the Dodgers players batting averages with .210 in April must be a lonely place for James Loney.

    Previously touted as a clutch hitter, Loney has yet to live up to that reputation this year.  He had not hit a home run in April since the sixth, and his on-base percentage ended at just .241 for the month.

    Formerly a target of trade rumors, could Loney's spot with the Dodgers be in jeopardy?  Jerry Sands is starting to find playing time filling in for Loney at first base.  And with Casey Blake now on the DL, the Dodgers need Loney to hurry up and step up.

Jorge Cantu, 1B, San Diego Padres

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    Last April, Jorge Cantu started the year with a 10-game hitting streak that also included at least one RBI per game in that stretch as well.

    This April has been a whole other story for Cantu.  He has batted a measly .176 with only two extra base hits since starting for San Diego.

    Cantu's has been through some career ups and downs in just over seven seasons in the bigs, but aside from 2007 when he was hurt, this is by far his worst start to a season.

Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants

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    After helping the Giants win a World Championship in 2010, rookie Madison Bumgarner was one of the players that fans looked forward to seeing make additional progress this year.

    In his first four starts of April, Bumgarner seemed to be regressing instead of progressing.

    Without a quality start until April 27th and going three innings or less twice, Bumgarner has some work to do in order to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.

    Bumgarner is young and should bounce back.  But so far this year, he has been a disappointment.