Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton and Every MLB Team's Biggest Offensive Concern
Almost two months into the 2011 season, every team has at least one player who is still trying to figure things out.
Some teams have concerns about their big stars, like Alex Rodriguez for the Yankees and Josh Hamilton of the Rangers. Both have suffered injuries over the years, and their futures may be uncertain.
While injuries play a big part in offensive woes, so do hitting funks, power droughts, sophomore slumps and players simply not meeting expectations.
The following is an account of each team's biggest offensive concern.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles
In his 11th season with the Baltimore Orioles, Brian Roberts has been the one player the team could count on year after year to perform on an otherwise mediocre club.
But Roberts has not been the same player in 2011. He is batting only .221 through his first 39 games.
Worse than that, Roberts was recently sidelined after a headfirst slide in which his head banged into his helmet. Roberts began having headaches and concussion-like symptoms.
Since being placed on the 7-day DL, Roberts has seen a number of specialists, none of whom can say for sure when he will be ready to play again.
This is disturbing news for both Roberts and the Orioles.
Carl Crawford, LF, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox put a lot of money into Carl Crawford this offseason to help jump-start their offense. The seven-year, $142 million deal, however, does not guarantee success.
Through the first 43 games of the season, Crawford is hitting only .213 with one home run and an on-base percentage of only .247.
Although he is hitting much better in May, the Sox still have concerns with his power numbers declining.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees
In 2009, Alex Rodriguez had hip surgery due to emerging arthritis and the potential for chronic groin and back pain.
Rodriguez was set to meet with his physician earlier this week to check on the hip, but the appointment was cancelled. The Yankees say Rodriguez feels fine.
However, this type of procedure will require long-term maintenance and check-ups. Seeing that the Yankees signed him to a 10-year, $275 million deal before the 2008 season, this will continue to be a concern.
Right now, Rodriguez seems fine and is hitting well. But with A-Rod at 35 years old, the Yankees have to wonder how long he will continue to produce with a dodgy hip as his joints endure constant pressure.
Reid Brignac, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
Reid Brignac is having a very bad year on a number of levels. To start with, he is averaging only .170 over the first 35 games of the season.
To make matters worse, Brignac recently lost his grandfather and was put on the bereavement list this past Sunday.
With his both professional and personal life in a state of chaos, Brignac's troubles could potentially worsen.
For the Rays, Felipe Lopez was called-up from Triple-A Durham to take Brignac's place. When Brignac returns, the Rays hope he can turn around his season.
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Veteran third baseman Edwin Encarnacion has had a disappointing season so far. While he was never a stellar defensive player, Encarnacion usually had a solid bat. That has not been the case in 2011.
Encarnacion has recently gone 127 straight at-bats without hitting a home run. It is the longest homerless stretch of his career.
The Jays have taken Encarnacion out of the line-up a few times to see if he can work on his swing. But for now, all they can do is wait.
Adam Dunn, DH, Chicago White Sox
The White Sox signed slugger Adam Dunn to a four-year, $56 million contract this off-season. But they have yet to get what they paid for.
Having hit no fewer than 38 home runs a year for the last seven years, Dunn has gone deep only four times so far in 2011. He is not even hitting for average, batting only .194 in his first 41 games.
The Sox have recently given Dunn a few starts at first base as a break from the DH role to see if it jump-starts his hitting.
Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians
Catcher Carlos Santana seems to be experiencing a bit of a sophomore slump at the plate. While his catching has been good, his hitting has seriously cooled off.
Batting only .208 through his first 41 games, Santana is one of the only Indians players having offensive issues.
While this is good news for the Indians, who own first place in the AL Central, Santana continues to be a concern.
Magglio Ordonez, RF, Detroit Tigers
In his first 14 years in the majors, Magglio Ordonez hit at least .300 in all but three of those years. He has been the most consistent hitter in the Tigers line-up for a long time.
But 2011 has been an odyssey for Ordonez. In 26 games, he hit just .172 with one homer and five RBI.
Struggling with right-ankle weakness, Ordonez was placed on the 15-day DL in mid-May. And though he is eligible to return this week, the Tigers are still not sure he will be ready.
Matt Treanor / Jason Kendall, C, Kansas City Royals
The Royals picked up Matt Treanor to replace the injured Jason Kendall, who had right shoulder surgery in September. On the 60-day DL, Kendall cannot return until at least May 30.
Treanor has not had a very impressive bat for many years now. So the odds are good that the Royals are not shocked by his .225 average.
However, Treanor is certainly a downgrade from Kendall, who the Royals hope will be back in action very soon.
Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins
Twins star first baseman Justin Morneau has been battling at the plate all year as minor injuries keep creeping up on him.
On April 27, Morneau was drilled in the elbow with a pitch, which has caused some pain and swelling. Right before than happened, Morneau had a cortisone injection for a chronic neck issue.
While Morneau's body seems to be falling apart, so is his performance at the plate. Through 39 games, Morneau is hitting .243 with only two homers.
Vernon Wells, CF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
This past January, the Angels traded with the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells and agreed to pay his huge contract. Wells will make $23 million this season and $21 million in each of the final three seasons of his contract. This makes Wells the highest-paid player in Angels history.
The trade was a huge shock on a number of levels, but mostly because Wells was overpaid to begin with.
Once he arrived in Anaheim, Wells struggled and hit only .183 in his first 35 games with an on-base percentage of .224.
Then on May 10, Wells had to placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right groin. As of May 21, the Angels reported that Wells is still two to three weeks away from a return.
Mark Ellis, 2B, Oakland Athletics
The A's have a plethora of offensive issues this year, not the least of which is second baseman Mark Ellis.
In 2010, Ellis hit .291 with a .358 on-base percentage. 2011 has been a stark contrast, where Ellis is hitting only .210 with a .238 on-base percentage. He also has yet to hit a home run.
With the rest of the offense also struggling, the unexpected performance from Ellis is that much more disturbing.
Chone Figgins, 3B, Seattle Mariners
When the Mariners picked up Chone Figgins in 2010, they were expecting the same guy who averaged .301 the previous three seasons combined. However, Figgins has been seriously underachieving.
2010 was bad and now, 2011 is off to an even worse start. Figgins is hitting just .212 and has a .250 on-base percentage.
Figgins has had knee issues as well, after fouled a ball off his right knee early in May. But Figgins still shows no signs of life in recent days as the Mariners wait for him to break out.
Josh Hamilton, LF, Texas Rangers
The reigning 2010 American League MVP, Josh Hamilton, was off to a solid start in 2011, hitting .333 in his first 11 games. But soon after, disaster struck.
On April 12, Hamilton suffered a broken right arm bone after sliding head first into home plate. Adding insult to injury, Hamilton publicly blamed his third-base coach for sending him home on the play.
Although Hamilton later apologized for the comments, one has to wonder what damage has been done that cannot be undone.
Hamilton should be ready to return to the Rangers this week after his rehab assignment. But the Rangers have several things to be worried about.
Will Hamilton be the same player after the broken arm and will there be any attitude issues in the clubhouse?
Dan Uggla, 2B, Atlanta Braves
When the Braves signed former Marlin Dan Uggla to a five-year, $62 million contract, they were hoping for more bang for their buck. But so far, the bangs have been few and far between.
In his first 49 games, Uggla has hit only .185 with seven homers and 17 RBI. His on-base percentage is an awful .256.
And while the homers are starting to come quicker, Uggla is still having major issues getting on base. The two-time All-Star has even bungled a number of plays in the field as well.
The Braves are hoping Uggla can break out of the funk very soon.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins
Three-time All-Star Hanley Ramirez has hit at least .300 in each of his last four seasons. And although the Marlins have had to deal with some attitude issues with the young player, it was not a major deal while he was hitting well.
In 43 games in 2011, Ramirez has batted only .219. While Ramirez has shown short bursts of life in the form of small hit streaks, he simply cannot seem to maintain the level of performance that is expected of him.
The Marlins seem to be at a loss of what to do to get their star player back on track. The good news for Ramirez is that it is only May.
David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
Considered by most to be the face of the franchise, David Wright has been a rock for the Mets going on eight season now. With five All-Star nods, two Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves, Wright is the go-to guy for the Mets.
But his performance in 2011 has many wondering of the good ol' days are gone for good. In 39 games, Wright hit only .226.
Even worse, Wright was recently placed on the DL with a stress fracture in his lower back. There is no cure for such injury, only rest. However, if it worsens, surgery is an option.
The back issue is now the great unknown for Wright and the Mets. How he will recover remains to be seen, but it is certainly worrisome.
Raul Ibanez, LF, Philadelphia Phillies
Right field was an issue for the Phillies entering the season. They expected to have issues there. But in left field, the Phillies hoped that veteran Raul Ibanez would still produce, despite being almost 39 years old.
But this season, Ibanez experienced the worst slump of his career, going 0-for-35 until the streak ended on May 3.
Still, Ibanez is hitting only .232 and routinely hitting in double plays at highly inopportune moments.
With the boat-load of injuries the Phillies have endured this season, one more slumping bat is not what they need.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Washington Nationals
The Nationals have a bunch of offensive woes, but one of the worst offenders has been veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche.
In the first 43 games of the season, LaRoche is hitting .172 with only 3 homers and 15 RBI.
LaRoche was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his shoulder during spring training, but expected to be able to play through it. But this week, LaRoche will seek a second opinion, as the shoulder seems to be affecting his swing.
On an already weak Nats offense, the lack of production from LaRoche is concerning.
Marlon Byrd, CF, Chicago Cubs
The past two seasons, Marlon Byrd has been an important piece of the Cubs offense. Batting .308 with 12 extra-base hits so far, Byrd brings both energy and a positive personality to this club.
But Byrd's career was placed in jeopardy on Saturday when a ball thrown from Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves drilled him directly in the face.
After a visit to the hospital, Byrd is said to have multiple facial fractures. But there is no word yet on how serious the injury is and if it will affect his vision or result in any long-term issues.
This leaves the Cubs very worried both about Byrd's overall health and when and if he will return to the line-up.
Jonny Gomes, LF, Cincinnati Reds
After two fairly productive seasons with the Reds in 2009 and 2010, Jonny Gomes is having a disastrous 2011 season so far.
In 41 games, Gomes is hitting only .171 and as a result, has seen a lot of time on the bench this year.
The situation became even more dubious this week as rumors surfaced that rookie Todd Frazier would be called up this week. Many see this as a sign that Gomes' days as a Red may be dwindling.
Chris Johnson, 3B, Houston Astros
In his second year in the majors, 26-year-old Chris Johnson appears to be suffering from the dreaded sophomore slump.
After he hit .308 in his 2010 rookie campaign, the Astros had high hopes for this young player. But in 2011, Johnson is hitting only .226 with a .269 on-base percentage.
In recent days, Johnson has found himself out of the starting line-up in favor of utility infielder Matt Downs. This trend could continue if Johnson's bat does not speed up.
Carlos Gomez, CF, Milwaukee Brewers
In his fifth major league season, Carlos Gomez is having difficulty getting on base. He is also striking out at a near-record pace.
With 41 strikeouts in 48 games and batting only .231, Gomez has been moved further down in the Brewers line-up, landing in the eight-hole most recently.
Odds are good that when Nyjer Morgan returns from the DL, Gomes will be spending a lot more time on the bench.
Lyle Overbay, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
First baseman Lyle Overbay had a good spring training and started the year with the Pirates as their clean-up hitter. But just a short two weeks later, Overbay was bumped down in the batting order.
Struggling with his timing, Overbay is hitting only .226 with a .288 on-base percentage. Overbay is simply not living up to his $5 million contract.
Already struggling on offense, the Pirates can only hope that Overbay finds his spring swing again.
Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Here is a name no one expected to be on a list of offensive concerns. For almost a decade, Albert Pujols has out-hit nearly every major league player in baseball.
But in 2011, a contract year, Pujols is currently experiencing the longest home run drought of his career. His last bomb was on April 23.
In addition, Pujols is batting just .269, far below his lifetime average of .329. This slump has prompted all sorts of speculation.
Is Pujols' hamstring still bothering him? Is he getting old at just 31 years of age? Or is the pressure of a contract year weighing on him?
But only Pujols can answer those questions and right now, he is a little busy trying to get out of this slump.
Kelly Johnson, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
After a solid 2010 where he hit .284 with 26 homers, Kelly Johnson seems to have lost his swing in 2011.
Johnson has been hitting under the Mendoza line nearly the entire season. His batting average stands at .191 through the first 44 games.
Recently, Johnson has shown signs of life, hitting his third career grand slam on May 21. For the D-Backs, this is a very good sign. They just hope the trend continues.
Dexter Fowler, CF, Colorado Rockies
In his fourth year with the Rockies, Dexter Fowler appears to be in a terrible mix-up. He is striking out at a torrid pace and making a ton of base-running errors.
Batting just .241, Fowler has already struck out 54 times in 45 games and been caught stealing six times. If Fowler plays 155 games this year, he is on pace to strike out 186 times.
With other team stars like Troy Tulowitzki also struggling offensively, guys like Fowler will have even more pressure to step up.
James Loney, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
In years past, James Loney could be counted on for double-digits in home runs and big RBI totals. In 2011, he has hit only one homer, collected 14 RBI and is hitting just .240.
In addition, Loney's on-base percentage has declined to .283 in 48 games. But Loney's issues go back all the way to the second half of last season.
As a result, he has been hitting lower in the line-up and was benched against left-handed pitching a few times.
Jorge Cantu, 1B, San Diego Padres
As the third-worst hitting team in all of baseball, the Padres have a lot to be worried about. When they picked up Jorge Cantu this offseason, the Padres were hoping for improvement.
A career.274 hitter with 101 home runs and 460 RBI, the Padres expected a good bat from Cantu. But in 2011, he is barely hitting .200 and has only 13 RBI in 41 games.
Regular first baseman Brad Hawpe has also struggled, which is why Cantu has gotten more playing time. But even with the opportunity to steal the starting job, Cantu is still uninspired.
Aubrey Huff, 1B, San Francisco Giants
Aubrey Huff was a great addition to the Giants last year. He batted .290 with 26 home runs and 86 RBI. He even batted .294 in the World Series.
But this 34-year-old player is finally starting to show his age.
In 45 games this season, Huff is hitting only .228 and has just four home runs. His .286 on-base percentage is troubling as well.
With many starters in the Giants line-up not hitting well, Huff remains a concern.
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