Matt Kemp, your 2013 Most Valueless Dog
Beef, pork, mechanically separated turkey, water, corn syrup cubes, hydrolyzed beef stock, sodium phosphates, questionable "flavorings," bat shards, broken dreams and extractives of suck — these are ingredients that comprise baseball's biggest wieners. Just ask the poor sap who's choked on Matt Kemp.
Coming off stellar 2012 campaigns, this year's saured class of tubed meats were expected to exceed or at least meet last year's totals. Acquire them, experts and seasoned owners professed in March, and investors were sure to relish consistent production. As the old saying goes, players, in terms of statistical contribution, are supposed to get plumper when you draft 'em.
However, these Lil Smokies haven't even lived up to shrunken expectations.
Swollen strikeout rates, dramatic GB/FB shifts and pedestrian stolen base paces have charred their reputations. No amount of mustard or, for the evildoers in attendance, ketchup (Smothering a hot dog in communist sauce should be a capital offense. Ask Brandon Funston.), have masked the bitter taste. Suffice it to say, for the millions who sank their teeth into the once bun-length commodities, persistent heartburn, and 0-fers, have followed.
In honor of holiday barbecues and Joey Chestnuts everywhere, here is the Eighth Annual All-Wiener Team:
Catcher (Biggest bust thus far with quick second-half prediction/expectations)
Brad – MIGUEL MONTERO. Once one of the rare catchers who didn't destroy your team's BA, Montero officially joined the rest of the light-hitting flock, batting .226 over the first half. With his OBP a dreadful .306 and power trending downward (.096 ISO), he's become the chain restaurant of backstops -- terribly boring. Owners will be lucky to squeak out a final line in range of .240-11-55-55.
Scott – JESUS MONTERO opened the year as a Top 12 catcher, but even the Mariners couldn't stomach a .208/.264/.327 start over 101 at-bats. He's now in the minors, trying to make things work as a DH-only. The other wieners on this board can still take a sad song and make it better. That's not happing for Seattle's Montero.
Dalton – VICTOR MARTINEZ - Drafted as a top-five catcher, Martinez currently ranks as the 423rd player in Yahoo! leagues, as he's batting .232 with just six homers over 306 at-bats. There's some hope, as he has four homers over his past 109 ABs compared to two over his first 197. He should continue to improve as he gets further removed from last season's knee surgery that knocked him out of 2012.
Dalton – IKE DAVIS - Last year's slow start (and subsequent strong finish) could easily be explained by him contracting Valley Fever. So what's the excuse this year? His current line of .161/.242/.258 has him rightfully in the minors, and after a brief hot stretch early on, he's slumping there of late. There's clearly something broken with Davis' swing. He's making Eric Hosmer look like someone reaching expectations.
Brad – IKE DAVIS. After ripping the cover off the ball post-break last year, many fantasy pundits expected a more consistent 30-100 season from Ike. However, he waded in a pool of suck the entire first-half, blowing over trees, trimming team batting averages and attracting a chorus of fan boos with every whiff. Still, there's a modicum of hope for a rest of season renewal. He's seeing the ball better at Triple-A (62-.268-6-12-20, 17:18 K:BB) and could be recalled imminently. If available, grab and stash. Davis could safe some face.
Scott – In the interest of different mustard (I've bashed Ike plenty during the CT cycle), I'll go with PAUL KONERKO, who posted 10 crummy weeks (.249/.314/.368), then landed on the DL with a back problem. Maybe a cliff season has finally arrived at age 37.
Dalton – MARTIN PRADO - Aaron Hill is probably the obvious pick here, but I don't like to base busts off injuries, which leaves us with Prado, who was drafted aggressively thanks to being eligible in multiple positions and joining an Arizona team that plays in one of the best hitter's parks in all of baseball. Prado was drafted as a top-100 player but currently ranks 369 thanks to an ugly .252/.301/.365 line. He also has just one steal while being caught four times after going 17-for-21 on the base paths last season. I do think he's a buy-low candidate, however.
Scott – JOSH RUTLEDGE has kicked us in the gut twice - first during a mediocre start and ultimate demotion, and then during his subsequent recall (he hasn't done a thing since the Troy Tulowitzki injury). Maybe your Triple-A roto squad appreciates the work Rutledge did in the minors, but he's been an out-machine for Colorado.
Brad – DANNY ESPINOSA. Widely projected to be a back-end 2B1 in 12-team mixers, Espinosa was the Garbage Goose, laying multiple eggs on a near daily basis. His patience decline combined with a sharp rise in swinging strikes suppressed his BA (.158) and eventually banished him to the minor leagues. Batting a wretched .095 over 64 at-bats with Syracuse, his odds of returning to the bigs are deteriorating with every donut.
Brad – STARLIN CASTRO. Like a hot dog drenched in ketchup, the once revered shortstop has been hard to swallow. Many expected the 23-year-old to take a quantum leap, but instead, he's stepped backward, adding over four-percent to his K-rate, shaving 50 points off last year's batting average, providing below average returns in the power cats and only modest production in steals. Dismayed and distracted possibly by off-the-field events, Castro may continue to wallow in misery. It would be no shock if he finishes the season well-outside the SS top-15 in mixers.
Scott – STARLIN CASTRO is the only answer here. Is it a focus issue? Does he really want to be great?
Dalton – STARLIN CASTRO - He was a common third/fourth round pick - and rightfully so as a 23-year-old shortstop with a career .297 batting average coming off a season in which he had 14 homers and 25 steals. In 2013, he has a .232/.265/.326 line despite playing in what has been MLB's best hitter's park. I remain a believer despite the frustration, so I'll predict Castro is a top-five fantasy SS from here on out.
Brad – CHASE HEADLEY. The cool corner is the classic case of a letdown after a career year. An increase in swinging strikes combined with HR/FB rates near career norms spell doom. Because of PetCo's suppressing nature and his lowly contact rates, he'll likely only contribute bland production rest of season. Many 'experts' will suggest he's strong buy-low material, but his underlying stats clearly resemble the mediocre player from 2010-2011. Count your lucky stars if he reaches 15-15 territory.
Scott – BRETT LAWRIE was a nuclear waste dump for 37 games (.209/.268/.374), and now he's on the shelf with a left ankle sprain. In shallow mixers, he's not even worth a DL speculation slot. Go back to all the Lawrie hype in the spring of 2012, kindly burn all of it.
Dalton – CHASE HEADLEY - His ADP dropped some thanks to injury, but Headley has more ABs this season than Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo Sandoval, Aramis Ramirez and Brett Lawrie, so this isn't a durability issue. He currently ranks outside the top-600 players. Headley also got off to an extremely (and similar) slow start last season, so I'm buying him moving forward (the Padres actually have a pretty good lineup to help his counting stats too).
Cold 'Lanta (USAT)
Brad – MATT KEMP. Josh Hamilton is a close second, but the Dodger was far more disastrous over the first-half. When a popular top-five pick, who most believed was destined for at least a 30-30 season, registers the same number of long-balls (2) as slappers Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Keppinger and Emilio Bonifacio in nearly equal at-bats, he's reached a new level of awful. The former All-Star claims Yasiel Puig's infectious energy will rub off, but his owners will be lucky to net another 10-12 homers rest of season.
Scott – Even the worst B.J. UPTON critic couldn't have expected his awful first half (.176, eight homers, seven steals). And just to add insult to injury, his brother Justin has been in a monster funk for about six weeks. Atlanta's chap in right field hasn't been any treat either, as you'll read below.
Dalton – JASON HEYWARD - Matt Kemp and B.J. Upton are two worthy alternatives, but Heyward had a Y! O-Rank of 30 and currently ranks 735. As in, 734 players have been more valuable than him. Still, he's 23 years old, currently sports a BABIP (.259) that's 43 points below his career mark and has a GB/FB ratio going in the right direction since entering the league (2.03, 1.63, 1.20, 1.08). So while frustrating, I remain a believer in Heyward's upside. Go get him.
Scott – Memories of that one magical ZACK GREINKE season keep getting hazier and hazier. After Wednesday's rocky mess in Coors Field - where he amazingly scored a victory - Greinke now sports a 4.30 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. He's been the most overrated name pitcher in baseball for several years now. Except for the 2009 trophy season, he's never had an ERA of 3.43 or lower. Maybe $147 million doesn't go as far as it used to.
Dalton – DAVID PRICE - I tried to avoid health here, but Price has posted a 4.32 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP with just two wins over 10 starts this season. Last year's Cy Young award winner ranks 674th on the Yahoo player rater, and that's after he dominated during his return to action Tuesday (albeit against the Astros). With a 59:14 K:BB ratio over 62.0 innings, Price should be plenty valuable moving forward, although with a career-low average fastball velocity (93.4 mph) and an 8.1 SwStr%, a return to elite levels may not be imminent.
Brad – COLE HAMELS. 'The Cooler' possesses amazing runs-sapping powers. Every time he toes the rubber, Ryan Howard and company swing icicles. His 3.16 RS/9 is the seventh-worst among qualified starters. No wonder he's a ghastly 2-11. Perusing the peripherals, Hamels is all good under the hood. His K/9, BB/9 and GB/FB rates are all consistent with career averages. Considering his near 0.75 difference between ERA-xFIP and general case of plain old bad luck, the advantageous need to seek out his services. The wins will come.
Dalton – HUSTON STREET - To put it lightly, he's been a mess. Of course, at least he's maintained the role as closer.
Brad – JOHN AXFORD. Positively yack-worthy out of the gate, Axford surrendered five homers, posted an 8.44 ERA and promptly lost the closer's job over the season's first month. Though still locked in set-up duty, he's quietly turned a corner, not surrendering an earned run in 21 straight appearances. Drawing serious interest on the trade market, he could regain value if thrust into the right situation. His 21:8 K:BB split since May 10 is encouraging. Watch the rumor mill.
Scott – J.J. PUTZ commanded a Top 10 closer ticket at the front of the year, but all he's returned is five piddly saves and some toxic ratios (4.50/1.71). A DL stint to rest his elbow didn't magically cure everything - Putz blew a save this week and quickly handed the baton back to Heath Bell. The ninth inning shouldn't be televised in Arizona.
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