Biggest MLB Duds of April, Position by Position
For baseball's biggest duds in 2015, the good news is that April is over, a new month has begun and things couldn't possibly get any worse. The bad news is that, for most of the players who failed to impress over the regular season's first month, we've yet to see even a shimmer of hope that they're close to breaking out of their slumping ways.
Some will point to a player's career numbers and claim that better days lie ahead, and that may very well be the case. But when you ask those folks what "Player X" has done for his team lately, the only realistic answer is "not much."
In order to qualify for our "All Dud" team, a player must have enough plate appearances on the season to qualify for the league leaders at his respective position. Additionally, players who are currently on the disabled list or sidelined with injury were not eligible for inclusion—you can't blame a player for an injury.
For those who met the above criteria, we looked at their entire body of work. For position players, their offensive contributions (or lack thereof) were the most important factor, though defense certainly played a part in separating the starters from the dishonorable mentions around the diamond.
On the mound, we looked at a pitcher's entire body of work. Are his ugly statistics a result of one or two bad outings, or has he been ineffective nearly every time he toes the rubber?
Let's take a look at who made the cut.
Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Miami Marlins
33 PA, .069/.182/.207, 2 XBH (2B, HR), RBI, 13 wRC+
Professionally, the 2015 season couldn't have started out much worse for Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Not long after losing his starting job to 24-year-old J.T. Realmuto, the veteran catcher left Miami on paternity leave—only to be designated for assignment on the day he returned. So much for any warm wishes and congratulations on his new addition from the Marlins brass.
Of course, Salty didn't do much to make this a tough decision for the team. He mustered only two hits in 29 April at-bats (both went for extra bases, for what it's worth) and wasn't much better defensively, throwing out only two of nine would-be base stealers and allowing four wild pitches.
Tuffy Gosewisch, Arizona Diamondbacks
Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners
First Base: Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox
78 PA, .162/.269/.250, 3 XBH (1 HR), 4 RBI, 49 wRC+
Mike Napoli looked poised to put a forgettable 2014 season behind him with a torrid showing this spring, one that saw him hit .400 with a 1.342 OPS and six home runs, including one that left the park despite a shattered bat against Minnesota.
Nobody expected him to tie his personal record for most regular-season games without a home run once the regular season began, even with Napoli getting the start in only one of Boston's first three contests in Philadelphia to start the year.
Among qualified first basemen, only Houston's Chris Carter (.160) had a lower April batting average, while Seattle's Logan Morrison (.519) is the only first baseman with a lower OPS (.488).
Things aren't much better defensively, where his minus-10.4 UZR/150 is ahead of only Atlanta's Freddie Freeman (minus-10.8) and Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez (minus-26.8). Remember—this is a player who many, including manager John Farrell, were flabbergasted wasn't a finalist for a Gold Glove only two years ago.
Logan Morrison, Seattle Mariners
Michael Morse, Miami Marlins
Second Base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
81 PA, .114/.198/.200, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 1 wRC+
Chase Utley has always been a man of few words, so it wasn't all that surprising to see him give a one-sentence answer when asked about his performance over the season's opening month. "Obviously," Utley told The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jake Kaplan, "it's a month that could've gone a lot better."
As Kaplan writes, that might be one of the biggest understatements of the season thus far:
Utley is in a 3-for-45 slump since his two-homer performance against the Mets (with both coming off Matt Harvey on April 14, after which his batting average sat at a season-high .200). His month went into the books with a woeful .114 batting average. That ranks dead last among 182 qualified major-league hitters. His .398 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) ranks next to last.
While some of Utley's struggles can be attributed to a .102 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) that sits 200 points below his career mark, you couldn't blame some for wondering whether, after 13 major league seasons, Utley no longer had anything left in the tank.
Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
Third Base: Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates
84 PA, .213/.250/.363, 8 XBH (2 HR), 5 RBI, 69 wRC+
After a breakout campaign in 2014 that saw him solidify the hot corner in Pittsburgh while making the first All-Star appearance of his career, the Pirates rewarded Josh Harrison with a four-year, $27.3 million contract extension (a deal that could reach $50 million if options are picked up) shortly after Opening Day.
It's fair to say that the Pirates were expecting a bit more from the versatile 27-year-old over the season's opening month.
Harrison has struggled to adjust to the adjustments that opposing pitchers have made when he steps to the plate, as one American League scout explained to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel:
“Some of that, I think, is because they're pitching him differently. Last year, pitchers threw him inside fastballs. They thought, ‘He's a little guy. I'll go inside to him.' What did he do? He hit the ball out to left. Now they're pitching him away, and they're throwing more junk.”
While Harrison isn't chasing substantially more pitches out of the strike zone than he did last year, he's not forcing the opposition to come back to the inside half of the plate by laying off the outside stuff, either.
He hasn't been nearly as sharp in the field, either, with a minus-14.8 UZR/150 that ranks 21st out of 26 qualified third basemen.
Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers
Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
101 PA, .217/.287/.326, 8 XBH (1 HR), 7 RBI, 77 wRC+
After committing eight errors in his first 15 games, the case of the yips that plagued Ian Desmond seems to have subsided, with the 29-year-old committing only one error over his last seven games. But that doesn't make his MLB-leading nine errors, regardless of position, look any better.
As you'd expect, advanced defensive metrics haven't been kind to him either, as he's one of only eight everyday players to post a UZR/150 of minus-30 or worse, and his minus-30.3 mark is ahead of only Oakland's Marcus Semien (minus-40) at the position.
“It sucks,” Desmond told The Washington Post's Barry Svrlgua after a mid-April contest that saw him flub another defensive play. “I don’t know what to do. I’m doing everything I can. Sitting here answering questions after every game is brutal. But, I mean, what am I gonna do?”
If Desmond were producing at the plate as he has in the past, his defensive issues, while still a major problem, might not have gotten as much attention as they have. But he's scuffled offensively as well, tied with Los Angeles' Jimmy Rollins for 18th among shortstops with 77 wRC+.
Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees
Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
Left Field: Marlon Byrd, Cincinnati Reds
80 PA, .169/.188/.273, 4 XBH (2 HR), 8 RBI, 23 wRC+
Marlon Byrd has a lengthy track record of success, one that Cincinnati manager Bryan Price leaned upon in defense of his struggling left fielder during a mid-April conversation with MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. While Price might be correct when he says that Byrd is "going to have a real nice year," the early results have been less than reassuring.
Byrd didn't hit his first home run of the year until April 23 and didn't draw his first walk of the season until April 30. He's swinging at a MLB-high 65 percent of pitches, and he's chased the third-highest percentage of offerings outside the strike zone (46.6 percent), regardless of position.
He hasn't been much better defensively, with only Boston's Hanley Ramirez having fewer defensive runs saved (DRS) and a lower UZR/150 than Byrd's minus-three and minus-35.5, respectively. But Han-Ram has been crushing the ball at the plate, while Byrd's bat has shown only brief flashes of life.
Matt Joyce, Los Angeles Angels
Ben Revere, Philadelphia Phillies
Center Field: Adam Eaton, Chicago White Sox
78 PA, .192/.241/.256, 4 XBH (0 HR), 36 wRC+
When nothing else works, blame the facial hair and change your appearance.
“That guy sucks,” a clean-shaven Adam Eaton told CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes after his final April contest. “I've got to get rid of him.”
Among leadoff hitters with at least 70 plate appearances on the year, Eaton ranks last in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and is tied for last in batting average with Los Angeles' Jimmy Rollins.
His struggles at the plate have carried over into the field, where he's provided below-average defense at a premium position.
“I want to make plays for them. I want to make plays for every pitcher out there and I want to get on base and I want to start this offense," Eaton told Hayes. "I take it very personal when the offense isn't really up and going like it should be.”
Michael Bourn, Cleveland Indians
Leonys Martin, Texas Rangers
Right Field: Carlos Beltran, New York Yankees
74 PA, .162/.216/.265, 6 XBH (0 HR), 7 RBI, 26 wRC+
Somehow, Carlos Beltran has managed to look worse, both at the plate and in the field, than he did during his injury-filled debut season with the New York Yankees in 2014, one that saw him set new career lows in nearly every statistical category during a season in which he appeared in at least 100 games.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has been trying to put a positive spin on things, but even he acknowledges that things haven't gone according to plan.
“If you want to look at the negative, you can speculate about his age and how he’s done the last two years. But there are a lot of high-end players who are doing unexpected things in April—some good and some not great—and you wait for the market correction," he told Dan Martin of the New York Post. "Until he performs, there’s going to be speculation.”
Beltran's 26 wRC+ ranks last among all qualified right fielders, and he's striking out nearly 30 percent of the time. He's clearly pressing at the plate, evidenced by his career-high 32.8 percent chase rate, the fourth consecutive season that he's swung at more than 30 percent of the pitches he sees out of the strike zone.
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
Torii Hunter, Minnesota Twins
Designated Hitter: Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
79 PA, .231/.342/.246, 1 XBH (0 HR), 9 RBI, 52 wRC+
Don't bother asking Victor Martinez about his surgically repaired left knee, for as Jamie Samuelsen, co-host of the Jamie and Wojo show on WXYT-FM (97.1), recently wrote for the Detroit Free Press, he's just going to lie to you about it anyway:
I asked Victor last week if the knee was affecting his play or if the recent cold weather in Detroit was making it more difficult to get loose. He just smiled and said it felt fine, which apparently is his response whenever he's asked about it. That would be a suitable answer if it were true. It would be a suitable answer if he were producing. Unfortunately, it's not. And he isn't.
A switch-hitter, Martinez is struggling to push off his left leg—his load leg when batting left-handed—resulting in a .152/.281/.152 triple-slash line against right-handed pitching, which he sees far more often than southpaws. When batting from the right side of the plate, he's hitting .421/.500/.474.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus believes that V-Mart's knee is improving with each passing day and that some of his struggles can be chalked up to bad luck. "Just by watching him, I can tell (he's getting better)," Ausmus told MLive.com's James Schmehl earlier this week.
"I told him (Wednesday) after the game, he's really close to being where he was. But whenever he seems to square a ball up, it seems to get caught."
None of this makes V-Mart's April numbers any less disappointing, however, and his insistence that he's healthy leaves us with no choice but to make him the starting designated hitter on our "All Dud" squad.
Evan Gattis, Houston Astros
Kennys Vargas, Minnesota Twins
Starting Pitcher: Kyle Kendrick, Colorado Rockies
5 GS, 1-3, 8.36 ERA (7.01 FIP), 1.79 WHIP, 28 IP, 39 H, 11 BB, 18 K
Kyle Kendrick's career as a member of the Colorado Rockies got off to a great start, with the 30-year-old tossing seven scoreless innings against Milwaukee on Opening Day, issuing no walks and striking out six.
It's been a disaster ever since. Over his last four starts, spanning 21 innings, Kendrick has pitched to a 11.14 ERA and 2.05 WHIP.
He leads all starting pitchers in earned runs (26) and hits allowed, and his eight home runs allowed puts him in a second-place tie with Milwaukee's Kyle Lohse, one behind Los Angeles' Brandon McCarthy, who is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays
Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee Brewers
Relief Pitcher: Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
8 G, 0-2, 11.57 ERA, 2.86 WHIP, 7 IP, 13 H, 7 BB, 11 K, 4-of-5 SV
Cody Allen's numbers on the year are far worse than his actual performance has been. That said, the 26-year-old's performance has been anything but solid thus far.
Allen has allowed at least one batter to reach base in six of his eight relief outings. Opposing batters are hitting a robust .406/.512/.531 against him, and while he's been tougher on left-handed bats, it really hasn't mattered which side of the plate the opposition stands on.
Among relievers with at least five appearances under their belt in 2015, only two—Cincinnati's Burke Badenhop (12) and Philadelphia's Jake Diekman (10)—have allowed more earned runs than Allen, who is tied for third with four other relievers with nine.
Al Alburquerque, Detroit Tigers
Tim Stauffer, Minnesota Twins
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