- James Quintong, Fantasy
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So the All-Star teams are announced, and yes, there were a handful of snubs, but that always comes with the territory. But what about those guys who were potential All-Stars heading into the season and now have a permanent spot on your fantasy bench, or worse, are languishing on the waiver wire?
Let's look at the biggest fantasy disappointments this season, with a tie-in to their average draft position at the start of the year, and see where you should go from here if you've been stuck with one of these players on your roster. I touched on a number of these guys a couple of months ago, and unfortunately, many of them are still stuck in a deep funk.
Catcher: Victor Martinez, Indians (ADP: 35.2): His elbow injury actually made it much easier for fantasy owners to bench him or drop him outright. Martinez is usually among the first catchers taken because of his power and run production, but he failed to hit a homer in 57 games before getting hurt, and his average has been well off his career norms. He is expected to return sometime next month, so he might be worth stashing away if you're desperate for help at the position.
First Base: Paul Konerko, White Sox (ADP: 86.7): He's due to come off the disabled list soon, and the time off might actually be good for him. His swing had been off so far this season (.215 average and eight homers). That was far off his usual pace of about 30-35 homers. But in recent years, his average and OPS have been better after the All-Star break, so there's plenty of hope. He's available in about 50 percent of ESPN leagues, so if you've got room on your bench, he'd be worth picking up in anticipation of better things to come.
Second Base: Robinson Cano, Yankees (ADP 50.4): He's playing better lately, as he's ready to wield that .334 career average after the All-Star break. But that still doesn't mean he hasn't been a major disappointment across the board to begin the season. The current numbers are disappointing, but just remember they looked worse earlier on. While Cano has never been known for drawing too many walks, he has been chasing after too many pitches early in the count, making it difficult for him to see enough pitches to find the right one to hit.
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (ADP: 45.8): Yes, there are a lot injured players on here, but isn't that the primary reason why your top players aren't producing (or at least the one fantasy owners can live with). Tulowitzki got off to yet another slow start (.152 average in April) before missing a month and a half with a quad injury. He did come back quicker than most people expected, which is good, but he didn't hit a whole lot better in his return, which is bad. And now he's back on the DL with a hand laceration suffered in a freak injury after he was taken out of Friday's slugfest with the Marlins. Obviously, playing at Coors Field can help his game, and he had a huge second half last year. Can he do it again? Given the array of injuries, I'm not sold he'll turn it around enough to make fantasy owners happy this season.
Third Base: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (ADP: 7.4): As my colleague Jason Grey said about the fantasy all-stars, it's all about value. In the case of Cabrera, he's put up OK numbers, but not the type on which you spent a first-round pick. In fact, Jorge Cantu, who in effect replaced Cabrera in Florida, has just about as good numbers as Cabrera and came at a much cheaper price at the draft. Manager Jim Leyland did mention this week that Cabrera has been bothered by a hip flexor, so maybe the upcoming All-Star break could clear his head. At this point, though, I'd just be accepting of similar stats to what he's put up so far. You probably can't get full value for him now, and he's not really a buy-low guy either.
Outfield: Eric Byrnes, Diamondbacks (ADP: 38.3): Last season's 21-homer, 50-steal performance did seem like a fluke, but fantasy owners were still hoping for another 20-20 season at the very least. Instead, Byrnes struggled at the plate, only picking up a handful of homers and steals before going down with two torn hamstrings. He returned briefly last month only to head back to the DL and possibly season-ending surgery. At this point, it's probably best to drop him. The D-backs can fill the gap by getting Conor Jackson, Chad Tracy and Mark Reynolds in the lineup at the same time, so they're best served to give Byrnes as long as he needs to heal.
Outfield: Jeff Francoeur, Braves (ADP: 102.1): No, he wasn't flashing the 30-homer potential he was bragging about in the spring, but he was still driving in runs (thanks in large part to guys like Chipper Jones and Brian McCann getting on base), but his average had sunk to the .230 range. The Braves took some drastic measures by sending him to Double-A Mississippi last week to help work out some of his issues at the plate, which is definitely rare for a guy who's been pretty established for a few years. Francoeur was expected to be in the minors for a few weeks, but he was back in the bigs Monday after just three games at Double-A, thanks to a bunch of injuries on the Braves roster. He went 7-for-13 in three games in the minors, so there's hope that the brief time back in the minors will turn around Francoeur's season, somewhat like Cliff Lee finding himself this year after a demotion in 2007.
Outfield: Andruw Jones, Dodgers (ADP: 110.7): The ADP looked a tad high at the start of the season, but that had a lot to do with name recognition. Jones looked to be on the downside of his career as it was, despite the big contract this offseason, and boy, were we right. He was already looking terrible before a knee injury put him on the shelf for a month and a half. And since returning from the DL this week, he's picked up where he's left off, which is not a good thing. However, with Juan Pierre on the DL, it looks like he's got a starting job, slump or not.
Designated Hitter: Travis Hafner, Indians (ADP: 46.1): He's still on the DL with a shoulder injury, and I think plenty of his fantasy owners would be happy with him there until they're very sure that he could perform at anywhere near his 2006 level. That season is looking more and more like a career year now, and the question now becomes how long do we keep on overpaying or overdrafting him based on that season? I won't be doing so in 2009.
Starting pitcher: Justin Verlander, Tigers (ADP: 55.3): He got off to a miserable start, sporting a 2-9 record with a 5.05 ERA through June 6. Since then, though, he's won three straight decisions with a 2.53 ERA in his past five starts. His strikeout-per-nine and strikeout-to-walk rates are way down from last year, which is troubling. However, his OPS against (.687) is only slightly worse than last year when he went 18-6. Let's hope his current win streak continues to hold up.
Starting pitcher: Aaron Harang, Reds (ADP: 66.9): For a while, poor run support (2.96, among the league's worst) was a major reason for his lack of wins. Then he just became a lot more hittable, which has led to an ERA about 5.50 since the beginning of May. The good news is that strikeouts are still coming, but the wins and ERA aren't. His next start has been pushed back to Tuesday because of a tight forearm, and maybe some extra rest will help. He's a buy-low candidate.
Starting pitcher: Rich Hill, Cubs (ADP: 131.3): Heading into this season, Hill had a chance to be almost as good as Carlos Zambrano. Instead, he struggled with his control and was sent to the minors. And now he hasn't really turned things around in the minors, so there's a chance he could be shut down for a while. He's still owned in about 13 percent of ESPN leagues. That's still 13 points too high in my opinion.
Starting pitcher: Brett Myers, Phillies (ADP: 131.4): The move back to the starting rotation apparently didn't agree with him as he's been truly dreadful all season. He even agreed to work out some of his issues in the minors. Like Harang and Verlander, the strikeouts are still coming, just not at the same rate in years past. And unlike Harang or Verlander, it's hard to find a glimmer of hope or a hot streak to get him going again. While Myers should be back from the minors soon, unlike Hill, it's best to wait some time before taking a chance on him again this year. In fact, Myers might be better off in the bullpen, but the closer's job just isn't in the cards now that Brad Lidge has signed an extension.
Closer: J.J. Putz, Mariners (ADP: 49.1): Entering the season, he was in the conversation for the top fantasy closer with the likes of Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez and Joe Nathan. But while those three have had solid-to-spectacular seasons so far, Putz has struggled with both injury and ineffectiveness and is currently on the DL with an elbow injury. With the Mariners already looking toward next year, they aren't really in a hurry to get Putz back in there. Brandon Morrow has been fine in the role for now, anyway. Putz is still owned in more than 94 percent of ESPN leagues, most likely sitting on the DL or bench. He might be a guy to drop if you need to make a move.
James Quintong is an editor for ESPN Fantasy.
5hDianna Russini and Adam Schefter
2dESPN Fantasy staff
4dFantasy Football Insiders
5dDavid M. Hale