These Guys Have Been Just Plain Stone Cold
April is behind us, Spring is here, even though it might not feel like spring where you live. The 2014 baseball season is in full swing and some well known fantasy baseball players that you drafted and had lofty expectations for are still as cold as ice and dragging your fantasy team down. If you are lucky, you have enough depth on your team and can stash your slumping superstar and wait until they start performing like well….fantasy superstars. My question to you is when is enough, enough? How long should you wait and which of these players won’t break out of their month long slump? I’ve picked five perennial all stars who have gotten off to horrible starts. Let’s take an in depth look at these players, separate the boys from the men, and try to figure out who is most likely to “snap out of it” and make positive contributions to your fantasy baseball team.
Prince Fielder (1B, TEX)
After a 2013 season that saw Prince Fielder set career-lows in homers, slugging percentage, and OPS many Fantasy Baseball Owners were expecting that the trade that sent him to the Texas Rangers would help Fielder get back his mojo and show the baseball world that he should still be considered one of the most feared sluggers in baseball. As we move into May, Fielder’s average sits just above the Mendoza line and he is on pace to hit a measly 12 HR and drive in just 54 runs. Although Fielder’s run, home run and RBI totals have decreased in each of his last three seasons, it is highly unlikely that the career .284 hitter who has averaged 34 home runs per season, won’t eventually rebound and put together some more respectable “Fielderesque” numbers. That being said, his days of hitting 50 home runs are probably long gone and If he is in your starting lineup and you can work out a trade with someone who values Fielder as if he was the 25 year old who hit 46 home runs and drove in 141 RBI, I would jump at the chance.
Verdict: Sell Him!
Matt Kemp (OF, LAD)
Matt Kemp scored 115 runs, drove in 126, slammed 39 HR and stole 40 bases in 2011 and his career has been spiraling downward ever since. Finally healthy, Kemp is currently playing like a shell of his former self. He is on pace to hit 24 homeruns and drive in a putrid 48 runs. Things have been so bad for Kemp that the most notoriety he has gotten as of late is due to his being featured in a photo with Donald Sterling’s “girlfriend”. To be fair Kemp has had his shoulder surgically repaired and has dealt with various other injuries that have caused him to miss 145 games during the past two seasons. Those injuries seem to have acted like kryptonite and sapped him of his above average power. Can Kemp bounce back and become the player who was the NL MVP runner up just three short seasons ago? I don’t think so. Although he is relatively young at 29 years of age, I cannot foresee him becoming that elite type of player ever again. I do believe he still has the potential to be a 20/20 guy who can hit over .280 and drive in over 80 runs ( not too shabby if you ask me ) but he is going to need a prolonged period of time in which he is injury free for him to even approach those numbers.
Verdict: Sell him!
Carlos Santana (C/1B/3B, CLE)
Since his debut in 2010 Carlos Santana has been a pretty consistent fantasy player, averaging 23 HR, 80 RBI, 80 R and he seemed to be a lock to bat somewhere in the .250 range. Those are pretty good numbers for the average fantasy catcher but when you consider that Santana is eligible at first base and third base in most leagues it makes him more valuable to your fantasy team. Unfortunately Santana has gotten off to a horrible start and he has been struggling to push his batting average above the .160 mark. Why is Santana slumping so badly? Is it the stress of his having to learn to play third base or has his strained groin muscle affected his swing? Some point to the fact that he has been having trouble with his wisdom teeth and will need to have them extracted at the end of the season as the reason for his hitting woes. Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo is using the age old excuse that Santana is pressing too much. Too his credit Santana refuses to make excuses and lucky for him, his manager Terry Francona is standing behind Santana and leaving him firmly entrenched in the cleanup spot. He is popping up a lot, and not making great contact, but that should even out as Santana settles in. If you used one of your middle rounds picks to get Santana on your fantasy team I believe you should stand behind him as well. If you didn't draft him, he is a great buy low opportunity at catcher. His batting average is still pretty anemic but he has shown signs that he may be snapping out of his month long slump. After all it’s not every day that you can have a player on your fantasy team who is eligible at three different positions. (1B, 3B, C).
Verdict: Buy him!
Allen Craig (OF, STL)
A year after Allen Craig posted career highs in RBI (97)and batting average (.315) he finds himself struggling to push his batting average over .200. Craig was considered a valuable fantasy player entering the 2014 season who was drafted in the middle rounds and is eligible at the first base and outfield position in most leagues. Some point to his ankle injury from last season as well as his uncharacteristically low slugging percentage (.298) and feel that the lingering effects from that injury may have caused Craig to subconsciously alter his swing. Others try to explain Craig’s slump by pointing to the fact that between the 2011 and 2013 seasons, Craig’s ground ball rate was in the mid 40 percent range and this season he has his GB% is in the high 60s. With the proliferation of sabermetrics we can go on and on in trying to come up with a reason as to why Craig can’t hit his way out of a paper bag so far this season, but never fear fellow Fantasy Baseball Owners, Craig will find his swing. His multi-position eligibility and historical success make it tough to give up on him. Stash him on your bench for now and watch his progress, and if you don't own him he makes a great buy low candidate.
Verdict: Buy him!
CC Sabathia (SP, NYY)
CC Sabathia has been the quintessential workhorse over his career having pitched over 2800 innings since his major league debut in 2001. He has started at least 30 games in 11 of his 13 major league seasons and it appears that his arm is starting to show the effects of the wear and tear associated with his heavy workload. Sabathia has gone through some major changes in the past couple of years. Much has been made about his weight loss and the loss of velocity off of his fastball, which caused some speculation that the two things were somehow connected. Sabathia responded by coming into camp even skinnier than the year before. Sabathia admitted that he had difficulty dealing with the loss of velocity last season as he pitched to a 4.78 ERA. In order to deal with his slower fastball Sabathia is learning to become more of a pitcher as opposed to just a hard thrower. He worked with former Yankee great Andy Petitte this spring so that he could learn to throw a cutter and add a pitch with some movement to his repertoire. Although he has an ERA over five this season he has had quality starts against division rivals Tampa Bay and Boston and has also had games that turned ugly after one bad inning or a few bad pitches. His K and BB rates are very nice, indicating he's getting very unlucky. Sabathia is working through his pitching woes and his fastball will most likely never reach the upper 90s again but I believe that as the warmer weather approaches he will start to see better results with a string of quality starts. He may not be the dominant pitcher that he once was but there are too many starting pitchers currently on the disabled list getting Tommy John surgery for you to give up on CC Sabathia.
Verdict: Buy him!