Every year, we see the same thing happen. Hitters we drafted early in drafts, or for a high auction price, are performing well below our expectations, because, heck, all of our hitters should be outperforming expectations, right? Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and almost every team in your league will own at least one, or more, hitters who are hitting well below expectations. Today, I am here to help walk you away from that ledge, and decide what you should do with said player.
I will take a look at one disappointing hitter at each position and help determine whether you should buy/sell said player based on his April performance. All stats are through April 29, 2014 via FanGraphs.
C - Joe Mauer, Twins
Mauer moved off of catcher and over to first base this season, and his April results have been mixed thus far. He is hitting .276-.388-.337 with one home run, 19 runs scored and six RBI in 116 plate appearances. He is still walking at a an excellent 15% clip, but he is striking out more than ever - 24%. His .377 batting average of balls in play have not resulted in a high batting average. His batted ball profile indicates that he is hitting more line drives this season - 29% vs a 23% career rate, but is hitting more ground balls than ever as well - 55% vs 47% in 2013. His batting average on his line drives in .737, which is expected; but his batting average on his ground balls is just .216 vs .256 last season.
Mauer is a career .322 hitter and he should return to the .300 hitter he has always been once the weather starts to warm up.
Buy/Sell Decision: Buy or hold if you already own him. He will be back in the .300 range real soon.
1B - Prince Fielder, Rangers
I have to say I didn't see this one coming at all. I wrote in the offseason that Fielder's 2013 struggles were due to some off-field issues in his personal life (divorce). I felt that the move to Texas would result in a boost in his power to career norms. Well. we have yet to see him hit for power, or hit at all yet.
Fielder is struggling in a big way. According to FanGraphs, he is the 35th ranked first baseman through April 29th with a -0.5 WAR. He is hitting just .206-.331-.314 with two home runs, 12 runs scored and 9 RBI hitting in the middle of the Rangers lineup.
He is swinging at more pitches outside the zone than last season, which may be the reason for the drop in line drive rate and increase in ground balls hit thus far. His .217 batting average of balls in play shows he has been unlucky at the plate. His plate discipline is still around his career norms, so I expect him to bust out of this slump real soon.
Buy/Sell Decision: Buy now before he gets hot. We may just have to adjust our power expectations downward a bit. The heat in Texas should provide a boost to his power come June, though.
2B - Jedd Gyorko, Padres
Gyorko entered 2014 coming off a terrific rookie campaign where he hit .249 with 23 home runs, 62 runs and 63 RBI in 125 games. The batting average was acceptable, but his power was a little unexpected since he calls Petco Park home 81 games per year. He hit for power in the minors so the 23 home runs weren't totally unexpected.
This season, Gyorko has struggled out of the gate, hitting just .151-.221-.215 with just one home run, 6 runs, 9 RBI and 2 stolen bases. He is striking out almost 29% of his plate appearances, and is walking at a 9% rate, both are up from 2013. His batting average has suffered due to his .203 BABIP, so once more of his batted balls land safely, his batting average will follow.
Buy/Sell Decision: I recommend selling Gyorko if you can get a decent return for him. He could be the next Dan Uggla, but not the Uggla from three seasons ago.
SS - Jean Segura, Brewers
I think some of us saw this coming back in March. Segura had an excellent 2013 season, hitting .294 with 12 home runs, 74 runs, 49 RBI and 44 stolen bases. But, his season long stats masked a hitter who was in decline in the second half of the season, and actually his slash line fell in every month of the 2013 season.
Segura has always had speed, but the power he put up in 2013 was not repeatable, and now, it appears, neither was the batting average. Segura is hitting .236-.269-.326 with one home run, 11 runs scored, 5 RBI and 5 stolen bases in 9 attempts in April. Add in the fact that he rarely takes a walk (2.1% walk rate), he might just end up being a Dee Gordon type at second base. Going back to the second half of 2013 where he hit just .241 in the second half, Segura's fantasy value has taken a big hit.
Buy/Sell Decision: I would try to deal Segura if you don't need the speed. He is a polarizing hitter and some still think he can duplicate what he did at the plate last season.
3B - Chase Headley, Padres
Yes, another San Diego Padre on this list, and, no, I am not letting my Dodgers fandom get in the way of my analysis here. Headley has disappointed at the plate this year, even before his calf injury cropped up again. In 76 plate appearances, Headley is hitting .186-.250-.314 with two home runs, five runs, seven RBI and a stolen base.
It's a given that he isn't the hitter we saw two years ago, but he is better than he has shown in the early going of the 2014 season. Even with that said, he isn't a very valuable fantasy third baseman, as he has little power, and hits in the middle of one of the worst run-scoring lineups in baseball.
Buy/Sell Decision - I am not sure if you can get anything in a trade for Headley with him on the disabled list at the moment. You might be better off holding him if in a deeper mixed league, but if you are in a 12 team mixed league, I imagine there are better options on the waiver wire.
OF - Allen Craig
Cardinals outfielder Allen Craig has struggled at the plate in April, the first time he has failed to hit .263 or higher since becoming a regular at the big league level. Through 28 games, he is hitting just .220-.277-.367 with three home runs, 11 runs and 11 RBI.
Part of the reason for his early season struggles is that he is hitting 59% of his balls in play on the ground, and his line drive rate and BABIP has suffered as a result. Craig had a nice night at the plate on Wednesday night, going 4-5, and this could be the start of a hot streak for Craig.
Buy/Sell Decision: I think Craig is a solid buy low, or at value buy, at this point. He hits in a solid lineup in St. Louis and the hits will begin to fall for him in May.
OF - Curtis Granderson
Back in the offseason, there was lots of talk about how all, or almost all of Curtis Granderson's home runs he hit as a Yankee would have been home runs in Citi Field as well. That's all well and good, but thus far in 2014, small sample size and all, Granderson has done nothing but struggle at the plate. The 33 year old outfielder is hitting just .136-.252-.216 with one home run, eight runs, seven RBI and two stolen bases in 103 plate appearances as a Met.
I wasn't buying Granderson this season, and I ranked him accordingly in our consensus outfielder rankings in the offseason. He is hitting more ground balls than in the past, and his BABIP is well below his career levels, so his average should rise as the season goes along, but I am not buying low on him.
Buy/Sell Decision: I am of the belief that the Grandyman will hit his 25 home runs, but that will come with a low .220-.230 batting average and lots of strikeouts and walks.
OF - Carlos Gonzalez
Through 26 games this season, Cargo is hitting "just" .240-.288-.433 with four home runs, 16 runs, 16 RBI and just two stolen bases in two attempts. Gonzalez is coming off four straight 20 home run, 20 stolen base seasons where he has hit no lower than .295. I have to say that I am a little surprised that Gonzalez is hitting so low right now, but if we dig a little deeper into his batted ball profile and plate discipline statistics, we see he is seeing more pitches in the zone, and making more contact on those pitches, which is a good sign.
One could say he has been unlucky as his batted ball profile indicates he has seen a sharp increase in the number of balls hit on the ground, and a decrease in line drives and fly balls thus far in 2014. Here is a quick look at his batted ball data, courtesy of FanGraphs:
2013: 21.6% LD/ 37.9% GB/ 40.5% FB
2014: 13.9% LD/ 55.7% GB/ 30.4% FB
I see his batted ball data regressing back to the mean as we enter May, and think he will be the Cargo we drafted in the first round in March for the rest of the season. One concern I have is that he is having trouble hitting lefties thus far in 2014, but am curious if it is just a small sample size of data.
Buy/Sell Decision: Buy, or hold if you already own him
After writing this, I realized Carlos Santana should have been my choice at catcher, as he has disappointed his owners this season as well, but figured he would be mentioned in the comments section.
What other players have been a disappointment on your fantasy teams this season. I am sure there are many others. Who are you concerned about going forward? Let me know in the comments section below.