by Eddie Mayrose

Some Projected Stars Continue to Disappoint

Every Fantasy Baseball season introduces us to player performances that we never could have anticipated, and 2011 has not disappointed.  There has been the incredible rebirth of Lance Berkman in St. Louis and the jaw dropping performance of Jose Bautista in Toronto, where the Jays’ star has actually followed a breakout season with another.  We’ve had the surprise performances of Dillon Gee and Alexi Ogando, two hurlers that certainly went undrafted in all but the deepest leagues, each now sitting at 6-0.  Not many of us had heard the names of Darwin Barney or Justin Turner before the season started, but the two middle infielders have delivered more than 20 RBI apiece, giving a huge boost to owners, especially in NL only formats.  In Detroit, Alex Avila has burst on the scene with 8 HR and 31 RBI, while Asdrubal Cabrera has become the best shortstop in the majors.

While these and quite a few other success stories will no doubt be the ones recounted by league champions as the acquisitions that put them over the top, they are not the season’s most remarkable.  That title belongs to the surprisingly large number of stars that have broken from the gate in disastrous fashion.  We’re not talking about Joe Mauer or David Wright, disabled studs taken in the first or second round, as injuries are the obstacles that Fantasy Owners must, annually, overcome.

We’re referring, instead to the alarmingly large contingent of once reliable players whose production has been spectacularly disappointing.  Those guys that you sneer at every morning when you look at the box scores, usually to the tune of something like, “I wasted a fifth rounder on you, you stiff!”   For some reason, 2011 has given birth to more than its share of these season-killers, and we’d like to take a look at a few while offering an opinion on whether a turnaround is likely.

Catcher- Carlos Santana, Cleveland’s young stud returning from knee surgery, is limping along with a .226 BA .  However, we’re still confident that the Tribe’s switch-hitting backstop will rebound, as the knee may be more of a factor than a simple sophomore jinx.

First Base- None other than Moonlight, himself, expected a career year from Adam Dunn after his acquisition by the White Sox.  An annual 40 HR guy, he’s now in a great hitters’ park surrounded by a great lineup.  Patience is running thin for the ChiSox first sacker, as he’s been completely unable to raise his BA above the Mendoza line.  Things have been so bad for Dunn that an infield single the other night was his first base knock against a lefty all season.  If you can’t  trade Dunn, it’s time to cut ties.

Second Base- Show me a guy with 30-30 potential and I’ll show you a player that Fantasy owners can’t resist. That temptation has bit many on the backside this year, as Ian Kinsler muddles along with a .  Part of the reason may be that, with Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz out, Kinsler has been bounced around the lineup. Now that they’ve both returned, Kinsler is back in his customary leadoff spot.  Keep a wary eye on Kinsler, never a high BA guy, as it’s uncertain how much last year’s injury has impacted his performance.  At a thin position, you’re probably forced to keep him in the lineup, but a trade would probably help you more than keeping him. There isn’t much Moonlight love for Kinsler.

Third Base-  We know what you were thinking.  “It’s late, I need a 3B and Reynolds was a 40-20 guy just two years ago.  Let me take a shot”.  How’s that working out, so far?  Here’s the deal: Mark Reynolds does NOT belong on a Fantasy roster.  No matter how many HR he gives you, his peripherals will absolutely kill you; especially in a points league where K’s cost you.  Drop him now and don’t look back.

Shortstop- You bought into the Jeter propaganda, didn’t you?  Coming off the worst season of his career at age 37, Derek Jeter was something of a wild card in most drafts.  Shortstop is a thin spot and he does have an impressive resume an d maybe 2010 was an anomaly.  So, after grabbing him and crossing your fingers, you’ve spent the last two months watchin Asdrubal Cabrera light it up while Jeterv looks overmatched.  His .261 BA is bad enough and his .329 OBP is worse.  But, the true indication of how far he’s fallen is the measly 10 extra base hits he’s produced so far.  Jeter’s through. Move him or dump him.

Outfield- Maybe Freddi Gonzalez knew what he was doing early on when we were all killing him for batting Jason Heyward so low in the Braves’ order.  Much has gone wrong for Atlanta’s highly touted prospect, but not enough to change our opinion.  He’s a great buy low candidate, especially in keeper leagues.

Starting Pitcher- Maybe Ubaldo Jimenez has spent too much time trying to find his name on a gift shop license plate.  The Rockies’ ace has struggled since laast year’s All Star break and, only this week, registered his first win.  It was a four hit shutout, however, possibly a sign of good things to come.  We have no explanation for why he’s had such a tough time, but remain cautiuosly optimistic that he can turn things around.

Relief Pitcher- Getting burned by a reliever is an annual rite of passage for Fantasy owners and this year, Joakim Soria is the culprit.  He’s temporarily lost the closer’s role in Kansas City, but we expect he’ll eventually reclaim it.  He’s worth a stash on your roster, but monitor his K total if and when he returns.

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