7 MLB Hitters Who Need to Step Up or Risk Losing Their Starting Spot

Jason Martinez@@mlbdepthchartsContributor IJune 11, 2013

7 MLB Hitters Who Need to Step Up or Risk Losing Their Starting Spot

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    The Mets finally demoted Ike Davis to the minors after his 0-for-3 performance on June 9 dropped his batting average to .161 with five homers, 16 walks and 66 strikeouts in 186 at-bats. If this sounds familiar, there's a good reason for that.

    Interestingly, he was hitting .158 with five homers, 18 walks and 59 strikeouts in 183 at-bats on June 8 of last season. They stuck with him, and he hit .265 with 27 homers and 69 runs batted in over his final 100 games. Apparently, they didn't think lightning would strike twice. Or maybe they wanted to find out if June 9 would be the magical day when he turned it around once again.

    It wasn't, and they'd seen enough. 

    Here are eight other struggling hitters who could join Davis in Triple-A, or at least find themselves on the bench, if they can't turn things around in the near future. 

Darwin Barney, 2B, Chicago Cubs

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    The 27 year-old certainly isn't an everyday second baseman in the majors for his bat. Barney is a superb defender, but he's not good enough that he can hit .211 with a sub-.300 on-base percentage and very little power and remain in the lineup for long.

    A few options to keep an eye on with Triple-A Iowa are third baseman Junior Lake, who is 10-for-23 with five doubles since returning from an injury, and Logan Watkins, a left-handed-hitting second baseman with a .745 OPS in 59 games.

    The Cubs could eventually make room for Lake, who has an intriguing combination of speed and power, by shifting Luis Valbuena (.792 OPS) from third to second base. If they were to bring Watkins into the mix, a platoon with Barney would make sense (Barney has an .845 OPS against LHP).   

Andy Dirks, OF, Detroit Tigers

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    Dirks' early-season struggles went unnoticed for the most part because of the lack of options that could push him for playing time. Outfield prospects Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos could've been options, but Garcia was injured and Castellanos wasn't putting up huge numbers in Triple-A.

    Fast forward about six weeks, and Dirks still isn't lighting the world on fire (.659 OPS in 54 games), but Garcia is in the big leagues—and hitting (.786 OPS)—with Austin Jackson on the disabled list. At Triple-A Toledo, Castellanos has caught fire (17-for-40, 4 HR, 6 BB, 3 K in last 10 games).

    Jackson could return as early as Friday, meaning Garcia won't be needed much in center field anymore. There's a strong chance Garcia remains in the majors and takes at-bats away from Dirks, while a midseason arrival by Castellanos to take away a majority of Dirks' at-bats wouldn't be a huge surprise.  

Andre Ethier, OF , Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Ethier's time as a starting outfielder with the Dodgers will very likely come to an end once Carl Crawford returns from a strained hamstring, which could keep him out for the majority of June.

    Matt Kemp, also on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, should be back sooner to man center field, and rookie sensation Yasiel Puig looks like the real deal and is probably in the majors to stay.

    But as unlikely as it may seem given the lack of options, Ethier could play his way out of the starting lineup before then if he doesn't turn things around soon. The 31-year-old has seven hits in his last 53 at-bats with no homers and was indirectly called out by manager Don Mattingly earlier in the season when Mattingly said he wanted his team to be tougher (and then benched Ethier).

    Given Ethier's lack of production, Mattingly could give the red-hot Skip Schumaker (19 for last 45) more time in his place. One reason to keep Ethier in the lineup, though, is that they'll need him to show something at the plate if there's any chance they can trade him.  

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals

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    As a 23-year-old in 2012, Moustakas had an impressive first half of the season (.817 OPS, 15 HR) that had the Royals expecting big things for the future.

    They're still waiting, though. 

    Since September 5 of last season, Moustakas is hitting .176 (46-for-262) with five homers, 21 walks and 50 strikeouts. 

    Options are limited—Miguel Tejada is 11-for-33 when playing third base, but he's probably no longer an everyday option at 39 years old—so the Royals will stick with Moustakas as long as possible.

    But as is the case with Ike Davis and the Mets, getting the struggling player to Triple-A to figure things out is the priority, and not having a viable replacement won't stand in the way.  

Ben Revere, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

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    After a terrible April, Revere was able to ease any worries the Phillies might've had from their offseason acquisition by hitting .312 in May. But the 25-year-old is now six for his last 37 to drop his season average to .244. 

    For a guy who doesn't walk very much and doesn't have any power whatsoever, he has very little value at the plate. He's capable of putting up big stolen base numbers, but that's pointless because "you can't steal first base."

    John Mayberry Jr. doesn't cover nearly as much ground as Revere in center field and isn't as good against right-handed pitching (.723 OPS vs RHP, .905 OPS vs LHP), but he's already getting more time in center field and could keep Revere out of the mix if he keeps hitting.  

Luke Scott, DH, Tampa Bay Rays

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    The Rays will have a decision to make in the near future with top prospect Wil Myers pushing for a big league promotion. Whenever they decide he's ready, possibly later this month, the odd man out could be the coldest batter at the plate over the next few weeks.

    Kelly Johnson (three for last 34) has cooled off considerably after hitting seven homers in May, but designated hitter Luke Scott is doing his best to keep pace (four for last 29) after he also had a strong May (.829 OPS).

    Once Myers takes on the regular right-field job, Rays manager Joe Maddon could go with the hot hand in the designated hitter spot or utilize it to give his regulars a day off from the field.    

Vernon Wells, OF, New York Yankees

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    The 34-year-old has already exceeded any expectations the Yankees or any team would've had for him after a couple of miserable seasons with the Angels. He had an .895 OPS with 10 homers in mid-May as he led a makeshift Yankees lineup to a strong start.

    In his past 22 games, though, the 2011-2012 version of Wells has reappeared. He has 10 hits in his last 80 at-bats with no homers, two walks and 14 strikeouts. There really aren't any options on the major league roster or the minors to take Wells' starting job until Curtis Granderson returns from the disabled list in a few weeks.

    But general manager Brian Cashman could be scouring the waiver wire for an upgrade if Wells can't bounce back very soon.