Struggling MLB Players Already in Danger of Getting Benched
With just three weeks in the books, we're still in the early stages of the 2018 MLB season.
However, it's already worth considering making a change to replace a player who is struggling mightily.
Whether it's a young player who looks like he might need more time in the minors, an offseason acquisition not playing up to his potential or a veteran coming to the end of the line, a handful of players could soon find themselves benched or demoted.
Ahead is a look at seven such players and some potential in-house replacements.
Lewis Brinson, Miami Marlins
Stats: 69 PA, .156/.206/.250, 2 XBH, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 21 K
Potential Replacement: JB Shuck
The Miami Marlins are in full rebuilding mode after an offseason fire sale that saw the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon all shipped out for prospects.
The highest-profile prospect the team acquired in those deals was outfielder Lewis Brinson. MLB.com ranks the 23-year-old as the No. 27 prospect in baseball, while Baseball America pegs him as the No. 17 prospect leaguewide.
In other words, the future is bright for the former Milwaukee Brewers farmhand.
However, things have not gone well in his brief time in the majors.
The center fielder has compiled a .135/.220/.261 line in 124 career plate appearances in the big leagues, and a bit more time in the minors might become a necessity if he continues to struggle.
Magneuris Sierra and Braxton Lee are options on the 40-man roster to replace him, while JB Shuck is already on the MLB bench and could be asked to step into a bigger role, at least temporarily.
Miguel Gonzalez, Chicago White Sox
Stats: 3 GS, 0-3, 12.41 ERA, 12.1 IP, 24 H, 17 ER, 6 BB, 5 K
Potential Replacement: Donn Roach
Miguel Gonzalez emerged as a surprise trade chip in a thin market for starting pitching last year.
The 33-year-old went 7-10 with a 4.31 ERA in 133.2 innings over 22 starts with the Chicago White Sox before he was traded to the Texas Rangers in an August waiver deal.
The rebuilding White Sox brought him back on a one-year, $4.75 million deal during the offseason in hopes that he could eat innings and provide some veteran leadership to a young starting staff.
Three rough starts into his second go-around with the team and it might be time to pull the plug.
- @ TOR: L, 5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
- vs. TB: L, 4.1 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K
- @ OAK: L, 3.0 IP, 8 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
Top prospect Michael Kopech is one option to replace him, and he's off to a strong start in Triple-A.
If the team prefers to give Kopech more time in the minors, veteran Donn Roach could be a candidate to be added to the 40-man roster after joining the team on a minor league deal during the offseason.
Randal Grichuk, Toronto Blue Jays
Stats: 65 PA, .088/.185/.228, 4 XBH, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 22 K
Potential Replacement: Teoscar Hernandez
Randal Grichuk looked like a prime candidate to benefit from a change of scenery when he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Toronto Blue Jays during the offseason.
The 26-year-old has always shown plus power, slugging 63 home runs over the past three seasons.
However, he's also hit just .249/.298/.496 with a 30.2 percent strikeout rate during that span and found himself demoted to the bench and even to the minors as a result.
A strained rib cage slowed him during spring training, which could certainly be a contributing factor in his slow start.
That said, the Blue Jays have other options they could explore if he continues to struggle, starting with Teoscar Hernandez.
Top prospect Anthony Alford is also currently on a rehab assignment from a strained hamstring and could push his way into the playing-time mix once healthy as well.
Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants
Stats: 61 PA, .172/.197/.190, 1 XBH, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 22 K
Potential Replacement: Steven Duggar
The days of Hunter Pence playing up to his $18.5 million salary are a thing of the past.
As recently 2016, he posted a 118 OPS+ and 2.1 WAR, albeit in a season where injuries limited him to just 106 games.
However, that dipped to an 85 OPS+ last season as he hit a pedestrian .260/.315/.385 over 539 plate appearances for a 0.2 WAR.
The San Francisco Giants would no doubt love to get their money's worth in the final year of his five-year, $90 million deal, but it's looking more and more like it's time for the 35-year-old to be transitioned into a reserve role.
Calling up prospect Steven Duggar could be one potential roster move.
MLB.com ranked the 24-year-old as the No. 3 prospect in a relatively thin Giants system, and he has the tools to hit for a solid average, steal some bases and provide above-average defense in center field.
Luis Perdomo, San Diego Padres
Stats: 4 GS, 1-2, 8.36 ERA, 14.0 IP, 26 H, 13 ER, 9 BB, 17 K
Potential Replacement: Eric Lauer
Luis Perdomo was a pleasant surprise as a Rule 5 pick in 2015 and he took some positive steps forward last season, going 8-11 with a 4.67 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 163.2 innings.
A 61.8 percent groundball rate that ranked second among qualified starters was a big part of that modest success. This season has been a struggle, though, and a dip in his groundball rate to 42.9 percent is a big reason why.
The 24-year-old was absolutely shelled in his most recent start on Wednesday, allowing 10 hits and nine runs (seven earned) while recording just nine outs against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With three minor league options remaining, it might be time to consider a change.
Meanwhile, left-hander Eric Lauer is knocking on the door.
The No. 25 pick in the 2016 draft was viewed as one of the most polished arms in his draft class after a stellar junior season at Kent State and he's delivered on those expectations with a rapid ascent through the minors.
After posting a 3.30 ERA with 132 strikeouts in 122.2 innings between High-A and Double-A last year, he's off to a strong start in his first taste of Triple-A with a 3.00 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 18 innings over three starts.
The 22-year-old is more floor than ceiling, but he could be ready to make the jump.
Martin Perez, Texas Rangers
Stats: 3 GS, 1-2, 13.14 ERA, 12.1 IP, 29 H, 18 ER, 7 BB, 7 K
Potential Replacement: Matt Bush
The Texas Rangers starting rotation has been a complete disaster this season.
A combined 5.33 ERA from the team's starters ranks 29th in the majors, and they've recorded just nine quality starts in 20 games—two of which have come from 44-year-old Bartolo Colon who has made good on a minor league deal.
The biggest culprit has been Martin Perez, who has been rocked in his first three starts.
- @ OAK: W, 5.1 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
- vs. LAA: L, 3.0 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 2 K
- @ TB: L, 4.0 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
That adds up to an unsightly 13.14 ERA and 2.92 WHIP, and opponents are hitting a ridiculous .453 against him.
The 27-year-old has averaged 192 innings over the past two seasons, going a combined 23-23 with a 4.60 ERA in the process, so it's unlikely the Rangers would ever consider a full-time relegation to the bullpen.
However, a little time in a relief role to sort things out might be in his best interest.
There were talks of stretching out reliever Matt Bush for a starting gig this spring before he returned to a bullpen role. Now might be the time to give that experiment a test run.
Michael Taylor, Washington Nationals
Stats: 71 PA, .182/.239/.227, 3 XBH, 3 RBI, 5 BB, 25 K
Potential Replacement: Andrew Stevenson
Michel Taylor has long tantalized with his power/speed potential.
The 27-year-old was the No. 32 prospect in baseball heading into the 2015 season, according to Baseball America. The previous season, he hit .304/.390/.526 with 46 extra-base hits and 37 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A.
A strong final month last year (103 PA, .898 OPS, 7 HR, 15 RBI) and a stellar showing in the postseason (5-for-15, 2 HR, 8 RBI) had him looking like a breakout candidate heading into 2018.
Instead, he's hitting .182 and striking out at a 35.2 percent rate.
The Nationals outfield is already stretched thin with injuries to Adam Eaton (ankle) and Brian Goodwin (wrist), and top prospect Victor Robles is expected to miss significant time with an elbow injury of his own.
However, the team could still give more playing time to recently promoted prospect Andrew Stevenson—a standout defensive outfielder who has shown a solid hit tool and plus speed in the minors.
Utility man Wilmer Difo could also see an expanded role in the outfield, though he's currently filling in at third base for Anthony Rendon.
Point being, the team has other options if Taylor continues to struggle.