Fantasy Baseball: Top 30 1st-Half Busts in 2011
Injuries, busts, suspensions and slumps are inevitable each season when managing your fantasy team.
The best advice I can give on draft day: Do your homework, cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Now that we’ve arrived to the All-Star break, let’s take a look back on the season’s first half and reflect on the players who drove us up the wall from a fantasy perspective.
Before I begin, I’d like to honor those who didn’t quite make the list, but are worthy enough for honorable mention:
Adam LaRoche, Nationals; Grady Sizemore, Indians; John Danks, White Sox; Mat Latos, Padres; Magglio Ordonez, Tigers; Ryan Dempster, Cubs; Javier Vazquez, Marlins; Mike Aviles, Royals; Rafael Furcal, Dodgers; John Danks, White Sox; Francisco Liriano, Twins; Andres Torres, Giants.
30. Derek Lee, Orioles
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Lee has been one of the more consistent fantasy options at first base over the last decade.
Any given season, you could expect a line of around .275-20-90-90, at worst.
After satisfying owners in 2009 with 35 home runs and a career-high 111 RBI, Lee suffered through a poor first half in 2010 before bouncing back with a strong summer.
In his first season with Baltimore, Lee is hitting just .235 with nine home runs and 28 RBI, almost identical to his first-half numbers in 2010.
The Gold Glove first baseman is getting up there in age, as he turns 36 in September.
There may not be another second-half turnaround in the cards for Lee.
29. Ian Desmond, Nationals
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Like all hitters at some point early on in their careers, Desmond is mired in a slump.
It just so happens he’s been caught up in a season-long slump, as the 25-year-old shortstop hasn’t been able to raise his average above .245 since May.
If it wasn’t for his 20 stolen bases, he’d be completely useless for fantasy owners.
Desmond is hitting just .222 with 22 RBI, 33 runs and carries a lowly .263 on-base percentage and .571 OPS.
Nationals interim manager Davey Johnson immediately started working with Desmond on his approach at the plate, and he’s hit safely in his last five games—providing a glimmer of hope for his owners.
28. Ian Stewart, Rockies
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The once-promising heralded prospect is struggling to stick with the big league club this season.
In 63 at-bats, Stewart is hitting a microscopic .079 with one RBI.
He was recently promoted after Tulowitzki strained his quad, but it appears this may be his last chance in a Rockies uniform.
The Denver Post reported that several teams are interested in Stewart as the trade deadline approaches.
If he can display the power he did in the minors over the last month or so, he’ll boost his trade value.
27. Geovany Soto, Cubs
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Soto’s rookie season in 2008 was his best as a professional player, hitting .285-23-86-66 in 494 at-bats.
He followed it up in 2009 by hitting just .218 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI.
In 2010, he bounced back to the tune of .280 with 17 home runs and 53 RBI in only 322 at-bats.
And now in 2011, Soto continues of the trend of "good year, bad year."
In 222 at-bats, the 27-year-old is hitting just .230 with eight home runs and 23 RBI for the Cubs, leaving fans and fantasy owners scratching their heads.
26. Delmon Young, Twins
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Young finally reached his potential last season, producing an impressive .298-21-112-77-5 line for the Twins.
It was a long-awaited season for fantasy analysts, as Young has always carried high expectations after being selected first overall by Tampa Bay back in 2003.
He came into camp last season in the best shape of his life, which helped him double his home run total and surpassed the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career.
So far in 2011, Young has dealt with a few nagging injuries. And when he's been on the field, it hasn’t been pretty.
In 207 at-bats, he’s hitting just .256 with two home runs and 20 RBI.
25. Jayson Werth, Nationals
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Werth isn’t quite living up to expectations with his .217-10-31-40-11 line considering the Nationals went out and signed the ex-Philadelphia outfielder to a seven-year, $126 million contract in the offseason.
And for fantasy owners, he’s been absolutely Werth-less of late, going 11 for his last 77 since he hit his last home run on June 16.
It’s a wonder how the Nats are still in the wild-card picture given Werth’s mediocre production, Ryan Zimmerman’s prior absence, LaRoche’s torn labrum and with Strasburg expected to miss most of the season rehabbing back from Tommy John surgery.
24. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
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Jimenez set the bar high for himself after posting 19 wins with a sparkling 2.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP last season.
After going 0-5 with a 5.86 ERA in April and May, Jimenez had held the opposition to three earned runs or less in each of his past seven starts.
I think it’s safe to say that the 6’4” power right-hander is in store for a monster second half considering how the Rockies save their best baseball for the summer.
23. Jason Heyward, Braves
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Heyward's production at the plate has rapidly declined from where it was last season.
According to bravesblast.com, Heyward's infield fly-ball percentage at the beginning of July was 20.5 percent compared to last year's 8.4 percent. Nearly one-fifth of the balls he puts into play are fly balls in the infield.
The Braves’ prized 21-year-old right fielder seems to be mired in a sophomore slump, hitting .226 with nine home runs and 22 RBI.
On July 8, Heyward finished a triple away from the cycle—a much-needed game for his confidence after entering the contest with just one hit in his previous 14 at-bats.
22. Dexter Fowler, Rockies
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The 25-year-old, switch-hitting, speedy, Gold Glove-caliber outfielder appeared on his way to becoming a fixture in the Rockies outfield for years to come after his first two seasons.
But in 2011, Fowler was hitting .238-0-18-33-2 before being demoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs in early June.
Last season in 2010, Fowler was demoted on May 30 to Triple-A, and eventually regained his stroke at both sides of the plate before being recalled.
During his 2011 stint for Colorado Springs, he struggled through most of June, but is hitting .385 in his last 10 games.
21. John Lackey, Red Sox
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Did you take a chance on Lackey in the late rounds after reading how he was in the best shape of his life and had developed a changeup this spring?
It’s been either hit or miss for the 32-year-old veteran right-hander, who seems to either throw a gem or get absolutely shelled.
At least he's been able to rack up six wins pitching for that stacked lineup.
Lackey's midseason fantasy line: six wins, 6.84 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 52 K’s in 79 innings of work.
20. Matt Thornton, White Sox
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One of the stud setup men over the last few years, Thornton was named closer out of spring training just weeks after he had signed a contract extension.
Unable to make a successful transition, the left-hander proved to be a wasted draft pick for mixed-leaguers depending on him for saves.
Hopefully those who drafted Thornton had a quick trigger on Sergio Santos.
Opponents are currently hitting to the tune of .292 off Thornton and he’s already allowed 15 free passes in 30 innings, raising his WHIP to 1.69.
Unless you’re in a league that scores holds, he's really of no value right now.
19. Phil Hughes, Yankees
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In April, Hughes lost significant life on his fastball and in return, paid the price with hitters.
Turns out he was dealing with a case of dead arm and subsequently landed on the disabled list after a few rough starts.
Now he’s back and so is his velocity.
Hughes lowered his ERA from 13.94 to 10.57 after his first start back on July 6, tossing five innings of two-run baseball.
Although his first half can be considered a bust, look for Hughes to prove his worth the rest of the way for his owners.
18. Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers
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It didn’t take long for “Donnie Baseball” to start pulling out his hair as manager of the Dodgers.
Mattingly got a quick taste of bullpen turmoil, running through a countless number of potential closers after Broxton hit the disabled list with a sore elbow in early May.
The bone spur in his right elbow led to a decrease in velocity and command issues, as the 27-year-old closer sported a 9:10 BB:SO ratio and 5.68 ERA.
Broxton was supposed to be back this past weekend, but now appears he’ll have to refrain from throwing for another three weeks, according to the Los Angeles Times.
17. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
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After flying the yard 16 times and driving home 64 runs in 347 at-bats during his rookie campaign, the former No. 2 overall pick out of Vanderbilt set the bar high for 2011.
Alvarez apparently has a case of the sophomore slumps, hitting just .208 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 125 at-bats before landing on the disabled list late in May with a strained right quad.
He’s set to return after the All-Star break and will try to resurrect his season along with giving the Pirates a boost in the NL Central race.
16. Brandon Lyon, Astros
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If you made the unfortunate mistake of drafting Lyon this season in the mid-to-late rounds, hopefully you were able to snag Mark Melancon off the waiver-wire (despite his limited save opportunites).
Melancon owners’ hearts skipped a beat last month when Astros manager Brad Mills told the media that Lyon would resume closing duties upon return from the disabled list, despite Melancon’s immediate success filling in.
I’d be willing to guess it had a little to do with the three-year, $15 million contract Lyon signed before the 2010 season.
But upon return, he got knocked around, suffering a damaged right labrum and detached right biceps.
Lyon’s final fantasy line for 2011: three wins, 11.48 ERA, 2.40 WHIP, six K’s, four saves in 13.1 innings of work.
15. Ryan Franklin, Cardinals
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Franklin’s inability to close the door (four blown saves in the first half of April) for the Cardinals prompted LaRussa to play musical chairs in handling the closer role before finding his guy, Fernando Salas.
Nicknamed the “king of contact," Franklin’s contact rate soared (lots of line drives) and was unable to induce groundballs and fly balls at the clip he did in past seasons.
In 27.2 innings of work, the right-handed veteran allowed 44 hits, nine home runs and carries an inflated 8.46 ERA and 1.84 WHIP.
Unable to turn his season around, Franklin was cut by the Cardinals at the end of June.
14. Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo, Travis Wood and Aroldis Chapman, Reds
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It’s hard to win games when half your starting pitching staff struggles to put together quality starts.
Volquez couldn’t get out of the first inning, Arroyo went from battling mononucleosis to a case of gopheritis and Wood couldn’t command the zone like he did last season.
Flame-throwing reliever Chapman couldn't throw strikes, and was demoted to Louisville to work through his mental block before being recalled at the end of June.
If you drafted a fantasy team, chances are, one of them has burned you in some fashion.
Volquez and Wood are currently pitching for Triple-A Louisville and the Reds have recently called upon Dontrelle Willis to fill in the rotation.
13. Dan Uggla, Braves
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Uggla put together a monster season before being traded away from Florida to Atlanta for Omar Infante and Mike Dunn.
Known to be a slow starter during his days with the Marlins, Uggla has endured one of the worst slumps of his career, currently hitting just .185 at the midseason point.
Maybe the pressure following the five-year, $62 million contract he signed with the Braves is getting to him a bit?
Despite not being able to crack the Mendoza line, Uggla has left the yard 15 times—at least providing a source of power for the owners that overpaid for him.
He also carries a six-game hit streak into the All-Star break, a good sign for what's to come in the second half.
12. Aaron Hill, Blue Jays; Brian Roberts, Orioles; Gordon Beckham, White Sox
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You can pick your poison with these three American League second basemen.
Hill: .238-4-33-27-11 (286 at-bats).
Roberts: .221-3-19-18-6 (163 at-bats).
Beckham: .241-7-24-34-2 (278 at-bats).
11. Derek Jeter, Yankees
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The Captain put together a ridiculous line of .334-18-66-107-30 just back in 2009, and now in 2011, he’s struggling in just about all facets of the game.
Now that No. 3,000 is out of the way, maybe we’ll start seeing the consistent Jeter we’ve grown accustomed to over the years.
Or maybe at the age of 37, the guy really is human.
Just as it appeared the days of Jeter being a fantasy-impact shortstop were nearing an end, he finished the first half 10-for-his-last-23 at the plate after returning from a short stint on the disabled list.
Jeter's fantasy line: .270-3-24-42-8 (289 at-bats).
10. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
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The 26-year-old third baseman appeared to have shaken off his nagging abdominal injury in spring training, and based on his average draft position, his owners thought he had too.
According to cbssports.com, Zimmerman's average draft position was 25.14.
Unfortunately for his owners, Zimmerman re-aggravated the abdominal injury sliding into second base in early April.
The injury never improved and after seeking a second opinion, it turned out he had torn his abdominal muscle and required surgery.
Washington's best all-around player underwent successful surgery and would eventually make a full recovery, returning to action on June 14.
In 130 at-bats this season, Zimmerman is hitting.254 with four home runs and 15 RBI—not quite the production his owners had envisioned at the midseason mark.
9. Casey McGehee, Brewers
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Over the last couple seasons, McGehee was one of the most consistent run-producing hitters behind Braun and Fielder in the Milwaukee lineup.
So far in 2011, he’s been unable to find himself at the plate, indicated in his .225-5-36-26-0 line.
Considering the potent hitters he bats behind, it’s disappointing to see the Brewers third baseman with such a low RBI total.
McGehee was recently bumped down in the order from fifth to seventh by manager Ron Roenicke.
On July 7, he hit his first home run since May 20.
8. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians
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For Choo and fantasy owners, the season went from bad to worse in a blink of an eye.
After struggling to get things going at the plate, Choo was hit by a Jonathan Sanchez fastball in the left thumb, ultimately breaking it as well as the hearts of his owners.
Prior to landing on the disabled list, the 29-year-old South Korean was never quite the same after his arrest for DIU at the beginning of May.
In 266 at-bats, Choo batted .244 with five home runs, 28 RBI and swiped 11 bags.
Choo was often drafted in the top 30 of fantasy leagues, but his numbers clearly didn’t reflect the production of an early third-round pick.
The five-tool outfielder has a chance to return just in time for the postseason, should the Indians earn a bid.
7. Chone Figgins, Mariners
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Figgins has played so poorly in the first half that he’s been recently stripped of his starting job at the hot corner.
On July 6, the Mariners promoted minor league prospect Kyle Seager to be the new starting third baseman.
Figgins can’t get on base to do what he does best—steal bases.
The 31-year-old is barely hitting his weight at .183, carries a dreadful .231 on-base percentage and has only scored 21 runs and swiped nine bases.
After struggling in the first half last season, Figgins turned it on to raise his average to a more respectable .260 by season's end, but may not receive that opportunity in the second half of 2011.
6. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
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When Hanley struggles, so do the Marlins.
Since Opening Day, the 27-year-old shortstop has never seen his batting average above .250.
The Marlins fell all the way to last place in the NL East Division after dropping 17 of their first 20 games in June, prompting the front office to make a managerial change.
On June 20 during his first day as interim manager, Jack McKeon benched the three-time All-Star for arriving late to the team’s clubhouse, which allowed him (Ramirez) to reflect on things.
Since June 29, the career .308 hitter has raised his average from .216 to .242 and the Marlins have won seven of their last 10 and five straight.
Overall, Ramirez is hitting .242-8-37-46-15.
Those numbers aren't awful by any means (especially for his position), but considering he was a consensus top-five pick, owners aren't quite satisfied with his first-half production.
The law of averages suggests a big second half in store for Ramirez.
5. Carl Crawford, Red Sox
After signing a seven-year, $142 million contract, Crawford batted just .155 in April, adding to Boston’s miserable start.
He’s shown some signs of life here and there, winning AL Player of the Week honors back in May.
But just as Crawford steadily raised his average to .243, he strained his left hamstring on June 17 and won’t return to the lineup until after the All-Star break.
Prior to landing on the disabled list, the 29-year-old left fielder was carrying an on-base percentage of .275 and only had eight stolen bases to his name.
Owners who drafted Crawford in the mid-second round are hoping he'll be able to turn things around in the second half.
4. Alex Rios, White Sox
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After having a bounce-back 2010 (.284-21-88-89-34) and giving fans and potential owners high hope for 2011, Rios reverted back to his inconsistent ways.
The 6’5” center fielder is carrying a miserable .211 average, .260 on-base percentage, .569 OPS and has only stolen six bases.
He’s fallen to the No. 8 spot in the order and continues to frustrate White Sox fans and his owners who expected him to be a five category producer again this season.
If you drafted Rios as your No. 2 or 3 outfielder, it's time to jump ship, if you haven't already.
3. David Wright, Mets
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Despite regaining his power stroke and increasing his run production last season, Wright had a forgettable April and May at the plate in 2011, hitting just .226 with six home runs and 18 RBI in 146 at-bats.
He did, however, manage to provide a nice boost of speed with nine stolen bases.
Adding insult to injury to his fantasy owners, the 28-year-old third baseman has been out of action for almost two months with a lower back stress fracture.
According to cbssports.com, Wright's average draft position was 26.82 overall—not the ideal production you'd want from an early third-round pick.
The Mets are hopeful that he’ll return soon after the All-Star break.
2. Joe Mauer, Twins
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After hitting .365 with 28 home runs in 2009, Mauer was God’s gift to fantasy baseball at the catcher position.
In 2010, his home run total dipped all the way to nine, but maintained a .327 average.
This season, Mauer has missed 54 games with “bilateral leg weakness” after playing the first two weeks in April and is having to deal with questions surrounding his toughness.
He returned to action June 17 and is hitting .243 with zero home runs and nine RBI in 111 at-bats on the season.
With Morneau out until mid-August, the Twins finally convinced Mauer to try out first base, where he started on July 7.
Mauer owners are hoping he'll live up to his early third-round value during the second half of 2011.
1. Adam Dunn, White Sox
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The "Big Donkey" has been one of the most consistent power hitters of the last decade, averaging 40 home runs over his last seven seasons.
But the whole “I don’t ever pick up a bat in the offseason” thing didn’t really work out too well this time around as the slugger is hitting just .163 with nine home runs for Ozzie Guillen.
After signing a four-year, $56 million contract, Dunn has been nothing but a waste of money considering he belted 38 home runs and hit at least .260 in each of the last two seasons for Washington.
At the age of 31, Dunn is on pace for just 18 home runs, 68 RBI and the lowest batting average of his career.
It’s amazing how the White Sox have been able to survive their near-disastrous second half with the struggles of Dunn, Rios and Beckham.