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Disappointingly Slow Starters

Apr 19, 2016

Is it time for Ian Desmond's fantasy owners to cut bait?

Is it time for Ian Desmond’s fantasy owners to cut bait?

We all know the scenario. You deliberate over who to take with early draft picks and then with the season less than two weeks old; your player is struggling to hit the ball out of the infield while the guy you passed on is hitting like an All-Star.

Is it too early to react to these slow starts? Maybe, but it is not too early to at least consider your options.

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Catcher: Russell Martin (C – TOR) – ADP 123
The sixth catcher off the board was projected to hit 18 home runs with 63 RBI and .243 AVG from the heart of a stacked Blue Jays’ lineup. Martin has yet to record an extra-base hit and had only one RBI to his credit before Monday’s game. The 33-year-old has gone 6-for-41 with a slash line of .146/.200/.146.

In deep leagues, there is no need to react. Martin will likely turn it around to end with stats similar to the projections. In shallow leagues, you could look to pick up the hot hand off the waiver wire.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the primary catcher in Detroit with James McCann on the DL, is slugging .808 and Miguel Montero, hitting .276 with one home run and four doubles, will see greater playing time with Kyle Schwarber on the 60-day DL.

First Base: Jose Abreu (1B – CWS) – ADP 18
It would have been easy to choose Freddie Freeman and his .167 AVG as the most disappointingly slow starter at first base, but Abreu was a second round pick. Despite the White Sox starting the season 8-4, six of their lineup, including Abreu, are hitting below .220. In fact, you could have got better production over these first two weeks from Mike Napoli at pick 370, and that is with the Indians having had three games postponed.

Obviously, it is far too early to panic. Jose Abreu has hit 68 home runs in 311 games for the White Sox. There is still a lot of swing and miss in his game, but the outlook remains positive, especially when Todd Frazier and Avisail Garcia, who have combined for 15-for-87 (.172 AVG), start to hit.

Second Base: Kolten Wong (2B – STL) – ADP 134
No stolen bases or extra-base hits from a player you drafted in the top 140, way ahead of Starlin Castro, Jean Segura and Daniel Murphy, is a disappointing start to your fantasy season. Wong’s .211/.256/.211 slash is a world apart from his projection of .263/.307/.396 with 12 home runs and 16 stolen bases. Despite the Cardinals losing infielder Jhonny Peralta to the DL, Wong has not been able to secure a guaranteed spot in the lineup, having been sat twice.

It is difficult to see how the 25-year-old is doing anything but hurting your fantasy team. Bench him if possible and look at Enrique Hernandez (1.138 OPS) or Jose Ramirez (.300/.323/.467) or even the recently activated Javier Baez. All three are owned in less than 20% of leagues.

Third Base: Todd Frazier (3B – CWS) – ADP 40
It hurts to look at a .163/.196/.327 slash line from a top-40 pick, especially when third basemen like Eugenio Suarez and Tyler White went undrafted in most leagues and already have four home runs each with a batting average above .300. There were pre-season concerns that Frazier might struggle away from Cincinnati, but the projections of 28 home runs, 89 RBI and 12 stolen bases are as legitimate now as they were 12 games ago. Even if you think that the projections are ambitious, this slow start gives a genuine opportunity to obtain a proven hitter at a discount.

Shortstop: Ian Desmond (SS/OF – TEX) – ADP 118
Teams that drafted Desmond this season can be classed into two categories. Those that speculated in early drafts and were excited when he was picked up by Texas and those that took him in later drafts knowing that he would be a high producer in the weak shortstop position. Unfortunately, Ian Desmond failed to read the script and is slashing an embarrassing .109/.180/.109 through his first 12 games in Rangers’ colors.

He also started last year slowly with a .589 OPS in the first half. An improvement in the second half could not prevent the 30-year-old’s stats from slipping for the fourth straight year. There is an evident decline, but surely it is too early to panic although you should probably be benching Ian Desmond before he causes too much damage.

The Cardinals’ Aledmys Diaz is slashing .406/.441/.813, and both Nick Ahmed and J.J. Hardy have flashed early season pop. All three are owned in fewer than two-thirds of all leagues.

Outfield: Carlos Gomez (OF – HOU) – ADP 55
For three years, Gomez flirted with 20-40 production, achieving it once in 2013 and narrowly missing it in the other two years. Last season he regressed to 12 home runs and 17 stolen bases but ended the year hitting .325 in September despite battling injuries that impacted his playoff performances. He has yet to be credited with an RBI in 2016 and has one stolen base and no home runs while hitting just .190 with 11 strikeouts in 42 at-bats.

The Astros are contenders, and they have shown no concern about benching Carlos Gomez for hotter bats. If you drafted Gomez, then you are stuck with him.

He has little trade value so you will likely only get lowball offers. Hopefully, he turns the season around and as A.J. Hinch suggests, “he just needs to stop trying to do too much.”

Designated Hitter: Miguel Sano (DH/OF – MIN) – ADP 58
Remember those projections of 40 home runs that saw Sano being drafted 30 spots ahead of fellow DH-only slugger David Ortiz? It has been a terrible start to the season for the 22-year-old who is hitting .190 with .051 ISO. Sano cracked his first home run of the season on Monday but is still striking out 36% of the time, which is in line with his career rate.

He remains one of the most exciting young hitters in the game and despite the rough start, he is one of the centerpieces around which the Twins will be building their future. He has gained outfield eligibility on most leagues, and there will inevitably be a learning curve as he transitions to right field. If ever there was an opportunity to get a discount on a player drafted in the top-60, then this is it.

Starting Pitcher: Adam Wainwright (SP – STL) – ADP 70
The Cardinals’ ace missed most of 2015 with a torn Achilles, but there were high expectations for this season following six impressive bullpen appearances. With fixtures vs. Atlanta and Cincinnati in two of his first three outings, Wainwright would have expected a more successful start to the season. Instead, he is 0-2 with an 8.27 ERA over 16 1/3 innings.

Of course three games is a very small sample, but seven strikeouts (3.86 K/9) is worryingly low. His walk rate of 11.5% is nearly double his career mark of 6.1% and 22 hits (12.1 H/9) is way above his career average of 8.2 H/9. The 34-year-old has faced nearly 6,500 batters and since 2011, he has lost almost the entirety of two years through injury.

There is a legitimate reason to monitor the situation, but it is far too soon to panic. Optimistically Wainwright tweeted, “Remain calm please. I will right the ship.” If he does, expect him to re-establishing himself as a top-20 pitcher.

Relief pitcher: Ken Giles (RP – HOU) – ADP 105
After pitching 70 innings in 2015 with a 1.80 ERA and 87 strikeouts (11.2 SO/9), Giles was traded for an attractive haul including Vincent Velasquez and Mark Appel. So confident were fantasy players that, now on a contender Giles would be a top closer, he was drafted as the 10th relief pitcher off the board. It is likely that he would have gone even higher had he been officially appointed as the Astros’ closer.

Instead, Luke Gregerson was handed the job and has converted all four save opportunities while Giles has spluttered with a 7.92 ERA over his six appearances. We all know that the closer role has the least job security of any in baseball, and it is inevitable that Giles will get a shot sometime this season.

Whether you hang on to the 25-year-old is dependent upon your league and roster size. He is still probably the best reliever outside of New York and his 14.29 SO/9 this season (11.87 SO/9 career) suggests that he will be an excellent closer in Houston when he gets the opportunity.

Gavin Tramps is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Gavin, check out his archive or find him @_tramps.

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