Players to Avoid in the Second Half

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Like any other season, 2017 has seen its fair share of players who have failed to meet preseason expectations. Many proven players find themselves able to break out of slumps, but even talented athletes can endure extended struggles, whether it be just a down season or a sign of things to come.

These six players appear unlikely to fully bounce back — in 2017, that is — from their slow starts given recent patterns and advanced statistics.

Let's get to it.

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Avoids

Addison Russell (SS, CHC)

Russell had a breakout 2016 campaign in the power department, but has managed just nine long balls and 31 RBI across his first 81 games played in 2017. His rate stats (.234/.305/.411 slash line, .280 BABIP, 22.9 percent strikeout rate) and batted ball numbers (1.18 ground ball to fly ball rate, 29.3 percent hard hit rate) are almost identical to those of last season, but he is walking less and not clearing the fences. Russell needed to improve upon his on-base percentage in order to make the leap fantasy owners had hoped for, and he simply has not done that. There are plenty of shortstops across the league who produce at least as much as Russell, so the 23-year-old can safely be cut in 10- and even 12-team leagues.

Maikel Franco (3B, PHI)

Simply put, Franco has not lived up to the hype in 2017 (ADP of 123, according to NFBC). He’s slashing .223/.278/.391 through his first 356 plate appearances, including a .223 BABIP that is not guaranteed to balance out back towards .300. Franco is hitting home runs at the same rate, but many expected the 24-year-old slugger to take it up a notch, at least reaching the 30-homer mark. Instead, he is hitting more ground balls and making weaker contact. Despite slightly improved numbers to begin July — including a four-hit showing in the second-half opener — Franco remains firmly outside the top 18 third basemen. Unless he erupts over the next couple of weeks, the guy manning the hot corner for the Phillies can be avoided in most mixed leagues.

John Lackey (SP, CHC)

Now in its 16th year, Lackey’s career appears to have finally fallen off the cliff. The 38-year-old pulls a meager 5.20 ERA (5.65 FIP) into the second half, and is currently allowing far more hard contact (37.0 percent) than he ever has. While the 21.2 percent home run per fly ball rate will likely drop, he is still allowing far too many fly balls (38.0 percent) to stop baseball from flying out of the park. Only deep-league owners desperate for some wins and strikeouts should consider holding onto Lackey to see if he can turn it around down the stretch. Even with three quality starts in his last four outings, the grizzled veteran is nothing more than a streamer at this point in the season.

 

Near Avoids

Adam Jones (OF, BAL)

Jones is still owned in 89 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and while he shouldn’t necessarily be dropped in most formats, the 12-year veteran in entirely replaceable. He owns just a .260/.299/.425 slash line and is producing at a slower pace than last season, with 15 HR, 42 R and 40 RBI through 83 games. Once a decent stolen base threat, the 31-year-old no longer contributes in that category. Jones has a history of chasing bad pitches, and while he is swinging less (57.7 percent) than he has in the past, he is still striking out at a 19.3 percent clip. He is also making weaker contact (29.0 percent hard hit rate), and his .285 BABIP is no higher than in past years. Consider Jones to be on a short leash in most mixed leagues.

Carlos Gonzalez (OF, COL)

Gonzalez is enduring what is by far the worst season of his otherwise successful career, with just six homers and 22 RBI to accompany a .215/.294/.330 line through 76 games played. His hard hit rate has dropped from 37.1 percent last year to just 28.0 percent, mostly due to a spike in ground balls (50.2 percent). Gonzalez’s .259 BABIP is down from past years, but even if that number returns back to where it was in 2014 and ’15 (.280 range), that won’t necessarily indicate a huge improvement across the board. Regardless, the 31-year-old has limped out of the gate in the second half, going 0-for-7 with three strikeouts in his first two games. Like Jones, Gonzalez is not necessarily worth cutting yet, but all owners should look for better options to start in the outfield.

Julio Teheran (SP, ATL)

Having widely been drafted as a high-end SP3, Teheran is in the midst of his second disappointing season in three years, so it might be time to accept that he cannot be relied on consistently. He takes a 4.79 ERA (5.49 FIP) into the second half of the season, and currently owns the lowest strike rate (16.7 percent) and highest walk rate (8.9 percent) of his career. He is one of eight qualified pitchers with a BABIP below .270 and a hard hit rate above 30.0 percent, and of those eight, only Jeremy Hellickson also has an ERA north of 4.00. Teheran’s 7.58 ERA at the hitter’s paradise that is SunTrust Park has rendered the 26-year-old virtually unstartable at home. He closed out the first half on a strong note with two quality starts on the road, so he shouldn’t necessarily be relegated to the waiver wire, but mixed league owners would be wise to leave the two-time all-star on the bench for all foreseeable home games— and especially his matchup with the Cubs on July 17.

 

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