Passing Judgment: Fantasy Baseball – 2013 First Half Underachievers

Think back just a few months ago about how much time you spent preparing for your fantasy baseball drafts.  Whether you relied on the Internet, magazines, podcasts or any other resource, you likely had some expectations coming into the season about various players based on what the experts said.  But as we learn every year, predicting both real and fantasy baseball is an art, not a science.  Players that are deemed to be “locks” or “can’t miss” somehow find a way to evade expectations.  With the All Star game just days away, I thought we should honor those players who have dreadfully failed to meet expectations during the first half of the 2013 season.

Catcher – Miguel Montero (ARZ)

In 2012, Miguel Montero batted .286 with 15 homeruns and 88 RBI.  Those were quite impressive numbers for a catcher, so it went without saying that Montero was viewed as one of the top options behind the likes of Buster Posey, Joe Mauer and Yadier Molina.  However, 2013 has been a disaster for Montero despite showing some signs of life lately.  He had to get hot to bring his batting average up to .220 to go along with six homeruns and 31 RBI.  There is still time for him to turn things around and have an overall productive season.  But in terms of his performance thus far compared to the expectations coming into the season, Montero has been a huge disappointment.

Honorable Mentions: Carlos Ruiz (PHI), Jesus Montero (SEA)

*Jun 24 - 00:05*First Base – Ike Davis (NYM)

After an historic slump to begin the 2012 season, Ike Davis finished last year with 32 homeruns and 90 RBI.  Coming into 2013, there was reason to believe Davis would continue that momentum and solidify himself as a viable fantasy option at first base.  After all, he was a year removed from valley fever and had shown flashed of brilliance before his fateful injury in Denver in 2011.  However, Davis managed to get off to an even worse start this year than he did in 2012.  His batting average was in the .160’s when the Mets finally did the only sensible thing and demoted him to Triple-A.  He has since come back and now finds himself in a straight platoon with Josh Satin at first base.  If a .166 batting average with five homeruns, 18 RBI, and 73 strikeouts in 211 at bats over 62 games doesn’t get you on this list, then I don’t know what would.

Honorable Mention: Paul Konerko (CHW)

Second Base – Ian Kinsler (TEX)

After Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler is generally regarded as the next best fantasy second baseman thanks to his usual contributions in both power and speed categories.  However, he is injury prone and missed several games again this year on the disabled list.  Kinsler finished the first half with an unimpressive batting average of .281 along with nine homeruns, 36 RBI, and only five stolen bases.  That is not enough production compared to the value Kinsler had coming into the season when he was expected to become a more integral part of the Rangers’ offense after Josh Hamilton departed via free agency.

Honorable Mention: Dustin Ackley (SEA), Rickie Weeks (MIL)

Third Base – Aramis Ramirez (MIL)

This has been a lost season for the Brewers, but none more so than Aramis Ramirez.  He has been battling injuries all season and finished the first half on the disabled list again after re-aggravating a knee injury.  Ramirez perennially can be expected to hit close to .300 with 30 homeruns and 100 RBI.  However, he has only managed a .271 batting average with five homeruns and 26 RBI.

Honorable Mention: Pablo Sandoval (SF), Chase Headley (SD)

Shortstop – Starlin Castro (CHC)

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was an emerging star and one of the better fantasy shortstops available thanks to solid contributions in all five roto categories.  But he has regressed mightily this year and finished the first half with a paltry .243 batting average along with six homeruns, 29 RBI, and only seven stolen bases.  That is not the production expected out of Castro who likely cost an early round draft pick or significant auction dollars before the season.

Honorable Mention: Jimmy Rollins (PHI), Alcides Escobar (KC)

Outfield – Matt Kemp (LAD), Josh Hamilton (LAA), Jason Heyward (ATL)

This collection of talent has failed miserably to deliver on expectations and predictions made before the season.  Matt Kemp has been on and off the disabled list seemingly all season, including through the All Star break.  He only managed to hit .254 with four homeruns and 24 RBI in 224 at bats during the first half.  He is expected to return this weekend, so it will be interesting to see how he meshes full-time with Yasiel Puig in the same lineup.  Even with Kemp’s injuries in 2012, he was still drafted with lofty expectations of a possible 40/40 season.  Now, 20/20 would be a miracle.

Josh Hamilton left the “non-baseball” city of Arlington, Texas for the AL West rival Angels after signing a huge free agent contract.  Much like Albert Pujols did last year, Hamilton has really struggled in his inaugural season in Anaheim.  He has been relatively healthy, so his .224 batting average with only 14 homeruns and 39 RBI is even more alarming.  Hamilton was expected to thrive hitting in the same lineup as Pujols and Mike Trout.  He still may turn things around in the second half, but his first half numbers are not pretty.

Coming into the 2013 season, fantasy experts and pundits were raving about Braves outfielder Jason Heyward being primed for a breakout season.  He showed flashes of greatness in 2012 despite still having trouble against left-handed pitching.  But 2013 has been an absolute disaster for Heyward who needed to get red hot to bring his average up to .227.  He missed several weeks in April due to an appendectomy and then finished the first half sidelined with a hamstring injury.  His seven homeruns and 21 RBI are hardly indicative of a breakout season.  Unless he has a monster second half, there will be serious questions about whether Heyward is destined to become a solid major league outfielder.

Honorable Mention: Bryce Harper (WAS), Yoenis Cespedes (OAK), Giancarlo Stanton (MIA)

SP – David Price (TB), Cole Hamels (PHI), R.A. Dickey (TOR)

David Price has pitched much better since returning from an injury that kept him sidelined for a month, but overall he has been a complete bust thus far.  The 2012 Cy Young award winner finished the first half at 3-4 with a 3.94 ERA.  But it took a couple dominating starts to get his ERA under 4.00.  Coming into the season, he was one of the elite fantasy pitchers.  But a dreadful April and an arm injury have diminished his value.

After signing a lucrative contract extension to remain in Philadelphia, Cole Hamels has rewarded the Phillies with a league-leading 11 losses.  Granted, he has been the victim of some bad luck and terrible run support.  But at 4-11 with a 4.05 ERA, Hamels has failed to deliver for fantasy owners who expected an ace.

Much like David Price, the reigning N.L. Cy Young award winner has also failed to meet expectations.  R.A. Dickey is coming off an historic season after which he was traded to Toronto for an impressive group of prospects.  Unfortunately, Dickey has been unable to replicate the magic that he had in 2012.  He finished the first half at 8-10 with 4.69 ERA and almost as many walks as he had all of last year.

Honorable Mention: Yovani Gallardo (MIL), Matt Cain (SF)

RP – Joel Hanrahan (BOS), John Axford (MIL)

Many eyebrows were raised after the Pirates traded closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox last winter.  Hanrahan had been an effective closer for Pittsburgh over the past two seasons earning All Star selections, but he was dealt away leaving the Pirates with a vacancy at closer.  That vacancy has turned into Jason Grilli leading the National League in saves.  On the other hand, Hanrahan was an unmitigated disaster for Boston accumulating a 9.82 ERA and only saving four games.  Then he sustained an arm injury requiring Tommy John surgery which ended his season.

It didn’t take long for John Axford to lose his closing job in 2013 as he was displaced within the first two weeks of the season.  Axford had been an effective closer the past couple seasons, but he blew several games early on and was battered on a nightly basis.  He has turned things around after being relegated to middle relief, but his value as a closer is all but shot unless Francisco Rodriguez is traded and the Brewers don’t go back to Jim Henderson.

Honorable Mention: J.J. Putz (ARZ), Brandon League (LAD)

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