Fantasy Baseball 2011: The 10 Biggest Busts of the Season so Far
If a player has a bad April, only the dumb fantasy owners panic. One four-week slump or bad patch does not ruin a season. Just ask owners who have ever had Mark Teixeira on their teams.
But a bad April AND May gets fantasy owners more worried than Billy Beane at a Moises Alou swing-at-the-first-pitch hitting seminar. Two bad months is not a fluke; it is a possible trend. If a player is terrible for eight straight weeks, the chances go up that his awfulness can last throughout the entire season.
There have been plenty of big-time busts in fantasy baseball this year, and here are the top 10. You probably have one or more of them on your fantasy roster, and you can share your pain with millions of other fantasy owners going through the same grief.
Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
Fantasy owners were happier than Hines Ward at a dance recital that Morneau was ready by Opening Day after returning from his career-threatening concussion. Now they wish he spent a few weeks at extended spring training instead of rushing to be right for the start of the season.
Morneau has flashed as much power as a light-hitting catcher. He has four homers, 20 RBI and a .659 OPS that makes you wonder if Livan Hernandez would be a better offensive option.
Granted, Morneau has stayed somewhat healthy compared to other high-profile Twins, but he is dealing with neck and shoulder problems that seem to be sapping his power and could linger throughout the season.
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins
You know you are having a rough season when you throw a no-hitter and you have still been one of the most disappointing starting pitchers in fantasy baseball. Even Liriano’s no-hitter was tainted because his six walks during the outing made his WHIP nothing better than if he had tossed a six-hit shutout.
Not only does Liriano have a 5.73 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, he also missed a start early in the season and is now missing additional turns with a sore shoulder. Between Liriano, Morneau, Joe Nathan, Jim Thome and Joe Mauer, this has not been the season to stock up on Twins.
John Danks, Chicago White Sox
I once named a fantasy team Thanks Danks after Danks won me a couple extra hundred dollars because of his play-in game performance against Minnesota two years ago when he tossed eight shutout innings. This year “Thanks Danks” is taking on a whole new meaning.
Danks is the only pitcher currently 0-8. If that isn’t impressive enough, he has done it with a 5.25 ERA. Liriano, John Lackey and Bronson Arroyo have won multiple games and have higher ERAs.
Danks has had some tough luck, but he has not pitched like the Danks of past years. He has always thrown better after the All-Star break, though, so expect a turnaround sooner or later.
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Every year fantasy owners get their hearts broken and their seasons ruined by a catcher who gets steamrolled at home plate. Last season it was Cleveland’s Carlos Santana having his promising rookie campaign abruptly ended, and this season it is San Fran’s Posey.
It is difficult for me to put a player on my bust list due to injury unless it is because of his own incompetence (see Kendrys Morales), but Posey’s season-ending injury destroys so many fantasy owners because they will never be able to replace him and his stats because there are no power-hitting catchers who hit .290 available on fantasy waiver wires.
Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Fantasy owners would have been better off drafting Wilson Alvarez than this Alvarez. Pittsburgh’s phenom has been far from phenomenal thanks to a .208 batting average, two home runs and 10 RBI.
Many experts projected Alvarez would have a 25-HR, 90-RBI breakout season after showing flashes of his prodigious power at the tail end of 2010, but he has swung more like a minor leaguer than a major leaguer this year.
Now Alvarez is saving his fantasy owners’ team batting averages by vacationing on the disabled list for a couple weeks due to a quad injury. We can only hope he cuts down on the 0-for-4 nights and starts turning in more multi-RBI performances when he returns.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies
The thin air at Coors Field was never a problem for Jimenez before because no hitter could put a bat on Jimenez’s nasty pitches. But Jimenez’s fastballs have gotten fatter and flatter this season, and his breaking stuff has found its way around the plate instead of over it. Half of his 10 starts have been horrible, as evidenced by his 1-5 record and 4.98 ERA.
The good news is that Jimenez might have snapped out of his funk in his last start. He threw a shutout against the light-hitting Los Angeles Dodgers in which he was his overpowering self from a year ago. Jimenez might be a player to trade for immediately while his value is still on the low end before he turns into a Cy Young candidate again.
Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals
Something is rotten in Royals Land. Soria has been one of the most dominant closers in baseball the past couple years, but his velocity is down, and his location is spotty. You can watch him and tell right away that something is not right.
Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the Royals allowed Soria the opportunity to work through his problems. Five blown saves and a 6.55 ERA later, Soria has lost his closer role, and his fantasy owners have lost a lot of ground in the saves department.
Hopefully you own Soria in a league where holds is a category, because Soria should get some setting up for promoted closer Aaron Crow in the coming weeks. If Soria can prove he is injury-free and get back to being the super stopper he has been in the past, he could be saving games—and his season—by the All-Star break.
Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels
After a couple so-so seasons that had fantasy owners thinking he had peaked at age 28, Wells blasted 31 home runs in 2010 and put himself back on the fantasy map. So when he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in the offseason, there was a thought that the change of scenery could help elevate the resurgent veteran into being a top-10 AL outfielder in fantasy again.
Instead, Wells started off hitting like the love child of Mario Mendoza and Buddy Biancalana, compiling a .183 batting average and .224 on-base percentage in his first 35 games. His three doubles and one stolen base were no great shakes either.
Before he could turn things around, he strained his groin, and he has been sidelined for several weeks. Thanks for the help, Vernon!
Jorge Posada, New York Yankees
Father Time has cracked Posada on the knees with an aluminum bat. The Yankees’ designated hitter still qualifies as a catcher in most fantasy leagues, but even his position eligibility cannot save his roster spot on many squads when he is hitting .169.
Posada is on the verge of retirement with the way things are going. The Yankees will probably allow him to bow out gracefully, but Posada is such an intense competitor that he might need to be shoved out of the dugout.
Trust me—the Yanks, and especially A.J. Burnett, will bounce him right off the roster late in the season if he stands in the way of them making the playoffs.
Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox
That theory about how switching leagues can do damage to a player’s fantasy value seems to be holding true with Dunn, who has had about as much success in the American League as Nicolas Cage has with money management.
After hitting at least 38 home runs in seven consecutive seasons, Dunn has five homers and a .180 average in 50 games with the White Sox. In fact, he has just six hits in his last 17 games. Not six homers, mind you. SIX HITS.
Dunn’s drastic drop-off has at least deflected some of Ozzie Guillen’s evil glares away from similarly slumping Alex Rios.
Dunn dealt with a hernia early in the season and is obviously having a hard time adjusting to a new set of pitchers he has rarely seen. Hopefully he stops grabbing the bat too tight and starts hitting the homers fantasy owners drafted him so highly to hit.
One bright spot is that changing leagues has not hurt his eye. Dunn ranks fifth in the AL with 36 walks.