Sometimes, people get lucky in their drafts. If you were one of the people who thought Jose Bautista and Paul Konerko would repeat their improbably great 2010 seasons, life's looking pretty good. Or maybe you took a chance on a previously unknown player like Matt Joyce, or even a fading superstar like Lance Berkman. If you did, you're feeling pretty smart right about now. But for every positive success story, there's an equal number of disappointments causing misery to millions of fantasy owners.
These nightmarishly bad situations are running rampant throughout Major League Baseball, and they're posing quite the dilemma to fake teams. Yes, it'd be easy to waive Dan Uggla or Alex Rios, but it was hard enough just to get those guys on your team in the first place. You have pride. You're not going to give up on your prized investment. Plus, the last thing you want to do is release them, only for them to find new life on another team. After all, if you discarded Corey Hart or Carl Crawford or Andrew McCutchen within the past couple weeks, it probably isn't one of your proudest moments.
At the same time, you're desperate for some production. Hell, you'll take just about anything for Adam Dunn. But he's so undervalued at this point that you're almost forced to keep him on your roster. You want him gone, but you're not just going to give him away. And so you play the waiting game, hoping that your own little nightmare magically has a second-half turn-around and proves that you weren't a dunce to draft him in the first place.
Here are some of the biggest nightmares of the fantasy baseball season thus far (not including players who are already done for the year, like Adam Wainwright and Buster Posey):
- Hanley Ramirez: It's one thing for Matt Thornton or Justin Morneau to blow up in your face. But when Hanley Ramirez has a lower batting average than Aubrey Huff (who's only hitting .223), it's time to worry. Han-Ram has been nothing short of a disaster this season, posting a .210 average with only 4 home runs and 11 stolen bases. He's been out-paced on the Player Rater by Maicer Izturis, didn't hit a home run for the entire month of April, and has dealt with leg and back issues that've put him on the DL. It's possible that he'll be his old superstar self once he returns healthy, and if there's anything to be taken from his dismal start, it's that his stolen base total is pretty remarkable for someone with an average near the Mendoza Line. Still, he was supposed to be one of the best players in the game, and there's no doubt that many fantasy owners built their teams specifically around him. Which is why, thus far, he's been a more significant disappointment than either Dunn or Uggla.
- Adam Dunn: Which is not to say that either has anything positive going for them at all. Dunn has certainly given Han-Ram a run for his money: 6 home runs, 25 RBI and a .178 batting average, all of which is made more painful because his numbers were supposed to go up now that he's in the American League. Now batting seventh in the order, and on pace to break the single-season strikeout record, Dunn is still capable of hitting plenty of dingers the rest of the way. But he's never been a good hitter for average anyway, and with his BA cemented below the Mendoza Line, moving him will be almost impossible. He'll hit home runs, but for all the damage he'll do to your batting average (particularly if you're in a points league, where strikeouts matter), it'll be a tough pill to swallow.
- Dan Uggla: Although Hanley has been the biggest bust because of his pre-evaluation rankings, there's no question who has been the worst batter of the season thus far. Dan Uggla has a pitiful .170 batting average, dead last among Major League Baseball qualifiers. He has 7 home runs and 16 RBI, but most of those came in April. In his last 26 games, Uggla is batting .105 with 1 home run and 2 RBI. Even in a shallow position like second base, Uggla has been a train wreck. Whether he returns to form or not is anyone's guess, though there's no question that he should be benched until further noticed.
- Jayson Werth: Replacing Josh Willingham with Jayson Werth seemed like a good idea at the time. But so far, Werth has been... get ready for it... worth-less (buh-zing!) to fantasy owners, especially when Willingham has 16 more RBI and 2 more homers than Werth, and is practically free. Werth still might get to 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases if he can avoid any further injuries to his ankle (another reason why he's been a bust). But make no mistake: for a $20-million-a-year outfielder, those numbers ain't getting it done. For the year, he's been the third best outfielder the Nats have behind Laynce Nix and Michael Morse, both of whom have more home runs, more RBI and a higher batting average.
- Shin Soo-Choo: It's been a rough year for Mr. DUI, on and off the field. Choo's vapid numbers hardly reflect the talent he has: 5 home runs, 7 stolen bases and a .240 batting average. His ineffectiveness rivals even Dan Uggla, as he hasn't picked up an RBI since May 22 -- 15 games ago. Unlike Uggla and Dunn though, Choo is a solid hitter for average, having hit over .290 the last five seasons. However, it'll be quite the up-hill climb for him to get his average back where it should be. It'll make him a nice sleeper candidate for 2012, but his 2011 owners can hardly take solace in that.
- Carlos Gonzalez: He was the best player in baseball a year ago, but has been anything but since the turn of the calendar. Batting .257 with 8 homers and 35 RBI, CarGo's bounced around the Rockies lineup from third to fifth to first in an effort to get him going, not to mention a switch to playing center field. His performance last year was widely analyzed, and those who predicted he'd suffer a substantial drop-off appear to be right -- even though Gonzalez stated that he was gunning for a 40-40 2011 campaign. He's still an excellent player to have, but with no home runs since May 24th, it's obvious that he'll fall very short of the 34 home runs, 117 RBI and .336 average from a year ago.
- David Wright: In spite of an atrocious .226 average, Wright was doing a lot while he was still healthy: 6 home runs, 18 RBI and 9 stolen bases. That's pretty good for someone who's missed half the year with a back injury. About that: Wright has been ruled out until at least July, putting his owners in a terrible bind to cover the narrow third base position for another month -- hardly what they expected when they drafted him. Thank God for Mike Moustakas' call-up.
- Ubaldo Jimenez: Someone forgot to tell Jimenez that pitchers are supposed to be great again now that the steroid era is, presumably, over. Thus far, he's been unable to repeat his magic of last year, when it looked like he could threaten 25 wins at one point. On the year, Jimenez is only 1-6 with a 4.73 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. He's looked substantially better in his last two starts, giving up just 2 runs and 10 hits over the course of 16 innings. But he hasn't been nearly as good as teammate Jhoulys Chacin, or even Jorge De La Rosa before his season ended.
- Joe Mauer: Much like David Wright, Mauer's been resting for most of the season with an injury, and has given his owners only 4 RBI and no home runs thus far. But what's really concerning is that he's missed time with "bilateral leak weakness," an unfortunate injury to have when you spend most of the day crouching. It certainly sounds like the sort of malady that could rear its ugly head in the future. Mauer's value lies in his batting average, and even at his best, his home run and RBI outputs are pedestrian at best. He's certain to raise his .235 average when he comes back in the next week, but if he can't get it to his previous heights, he's hardly more valuable than the A.J. Pierzynski's and Chris Iannetta's of the world.
- Ichiro Suzuki: What in the world happened to Mr. Consistency? Age. Once a stone cold lock to produce a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, an All-Star selection, 200 hits, 25 stolen bases and a .300 average -- all of which he did in his first ten seasons -- the 37-year-old Suzuki is at last slowing down, batting a horrifying .256 with 30 runs, 14 stolen bases and zero home runs. Like Mauer, his strength lies mainly in his average, and with his crumbling below the .300 line, Ichiro is hardly more valuable than Jose Tabata or Rajai Davis. Unlike all the aforementioned players, Ichiro doesn't have youth on his side, making his decline in numbers consistent rather than shocking.
Other players that have reeked havoc on fantasy teams:
- Carl Crawford: Had a terrible .155 April, but has been terrific since -- hence why he wasn't featured above.
- Andrew McCutchen: Ditto.
- Joakim Soria: Was terrible, lost his job, and now has it back. But 5 blown saves is nothing to brush off.
- Chris Carpenter: The once-ace looks inferior now to Garcia and Lohse, as well as Wainwright when healthy.
- Justin Morneau: Still widely owned, but his legion of health issues and terrible average are begging a drop.
- Alex Rios: And just when it looked like he was living up to that contract...
- Francisco Liriano: Answering the question: "Is it possible to throw a no-hitter and suck in the same season?"
- Ryan Zimmerman: Has been out for most of the year, but was doing good when healthy.
- Evan Longoria: Second verse, same as the first.
- Matt Garza: Between him and Pena, maybe the Cubs should stop getting their roster from the Rays.
- Jason Heyward: Can't stay healthy, and still hasn't justified his super-prospect stature of last year.
- Jason Bay: Just two years removed from 36 homers and 119 RBI. But 2009 is looking a long, long time ago.
- Gordon Beckham: A disappointing White Sox batter. Yawn. Been there before.
- Matt Holliday: Deserving of his All-Star votes, but desperately needs his quad to get healthy.
- Zack Greinke: Has a 4.83 ERA, but is at last showing why the Brewers sought after him.
- And an honorary, commemorative shout-out to Albert Pujols: Yep, for most of the year, people would've landed him in the "bust" category after he went more than 100 at-bats without a home run, and struggled to get out of the .260's. Funny how things can change in only a few short weeks.