Around grills this holiday weekend the Trevor Plouffe's of processed meats, the hot dog, will be devoured in mass quantities.
Frankly speaking, these versatile mystery meats are formed from unknown ingredients no human wants to know the true origin of — mechanically separated "beef," sodium erythorbate, unknown "flavorings." In a phrase, they are unsettlingly fantastic.
Coming off solid 2011 campaigns, this year's saured class of tubed meats, if consumed, were also expected to satisfy the stomach. Acquire them, fanalysts and seasoned owners reasoned in March, and investors were sure to relish consistent production. After all, fantasy commodities, in terms of statistical contribution, are supposed to get plumper when you draft 'em.
However, these Lil Smokies have delivered only shriveled results.
Swelled strikeout rates, dramatic GB/FB shifts and pedestrian SB paces have charred their reputations, leaving many owners queasy. No amount of mustard or, for the evildoers in attendance, ketchup (Anyone who drenches their dog in communist sauce is a hammer and sickle-wielding Bolshevik), have masked the bitter taste. Suffice it to say, for the millions who sank their teeth into the once desired 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 (fantasy underachievers least impacted by injury):
C: Carlos Santana, Cle
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, Current): 44, 697
The tribal drum has rarely thumped for Santana this season. Widely considered the No. 1 backstop in the virtual game by fanalysts and casual gamers alike preseason, he's failed miserably to meet that expectation. Once again despite a healthy BB/K (0.72), his contact rates and, subsequently, his BA have sagged (.220). Worst yet, bleacher shots, what historically has separated him from other catchers, have been few and far between. He's currently on pace to finish with a disappointing 10 homers and 62 RBIs, a far cry from last year's 27-84 output. Now bothered by a balky back, he's quickly becoming a liability. Mike Piazza revisited he is not. The switch-hitter clubbed 14 bombs after the break last year, but his shrinking ISO ('11: .217, '12: .117) and fly-ball rates combined with his questionable health suggest his value will continue to wallow in the muck. Santana is a prime example why you never sink an early round pick into a catcher.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 264 at-bats, .242 BA, 9 HR, 37 RBI, 38 R, 2 SB
Dishonorable Mentions: Alex Avila, Det, Brian McCann, Atl
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Bos
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, Current): 9, 189
Consumed often in Round 1 of most drafts, this year's Most Valueless Dog has owners chugging the Pepto-Bismol. Shifted around the order and on-the-diamond by Bobby Valentine, Gonzalez has looked lost at times yielding only modest results. Though he's on pace for 80-plus runs and 90 RBI, his absent pop hasn't sat well with the fantasy masses. The sudden power outage is puzzling. Before the season most argued the lefty, in his second year with the SAWKS, would finally take advantage of Fenway's short porch in right. Unpredictably, the opposite has occurred. He's experienced a near 10-percent decline in his HR/FB rate and his .135 ISO is a career-worst. Essentially he's become Billy Butler pre-2012, a "power" hitter with doubles distance. Because few signs of a HR turnaround exist in his underlying profile, don't expect a sudden resurgence. However, plus returns in BA, RBIs and runs are a near certainty. Sadly, though, that won't be enough to keep investors out of the red.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 319 at-bats, .292 BA, 10 HR, 49 RBI, 44 R, 0 SB
Dishonorable Mentions: Eric Hosmer, KC, Ike Davis, NYM
2B: Michael Young, Tex
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, Current): 64, 297
It's not often a proven commodity in a spectacular hitting environment earns Wiener-status, but Young is 100-percent Oscar Meyer. Father Time hasn't been kind to the 35-year-old. His power totals, which sank dramatically a year ago, have eroded further, evidenced in his .083 ISO and GB/FB jump ('11: 1.79, '12: 2.20). His contact rate is still outstanding, but his deteriorating success against fastballs and fading eye are major red flags. If not for his versatility (1B/2B/3B) , he would be free agent fodder in most 12-team mixers. Because of Young's advanced age and declining peripherals, don't expect "Magic Mike" to suddenly take center stage again. At this point, he's nothing more than a MI or UTIL option in deeper mixers. Salvage what you can. This week in one-for-one industry deals Young was swapped for Chase Utley, Corey Hart, Joe Nathan and Ryan Vogelsong.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 311 at-bats, .283 BA, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 36 R, 3 SB
Dishonorable Mentions: Rickie Weeks, Mil, Howie Kendrick, LAA
SS: Alexei Ramirez, ChW
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, Current): 126, 309
Alexei has been everything but sexy thus far. A sluggish first half is what the White Sox have become accustomed to with their shortstop. At his current RBI pace (77) he would match a personal best in the category and his 10 steals are nothing to scoff at, but with the same number of homers as "powerhouse" Nyjer Morgan he's disappointed. Suffice it to say, the Cuban Missile has yet to launch. Though Alexei's sharp ISO decline and increase in groundball percentage don't lend hope for a power surge, history suggests otherwise. Typically, his play elevates alongside the mercury. His career OPS is 30 points higher post-break. An additional 8-10 homers are likely. Advantageous owners should see if the discount still applies.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 320 at-bats, .270 BA, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 35 R, 8 SB
Dishonorable Mentions: Erick Aybar, LAA, J.J. Hardy, Bal
3B: Ryan Zimmerman, Was
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, Current): 30, 287
With Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper on roster, the Nats have become baseball's newest darling. They are arguably the most exciting team in the game. However, hampered by a nagging shoulder injury, Zimmerman has dampened the enthusiasm somewhat. What else is new? Every year the expert community rates the hot corner highly. Every year it seems he fails to measure up. On pace to finish well outside the 3B top-12, Zim's power outlook looks dim. With only six homers on the season, and given the injury worry, most would agree he would be lucky to reach double-digits. But tearing the cover off the ball recently and "feeling better" physically, a standout second-half isn't out of the question. Over the past week, he's 14-for-39 with four doubles, three homers and 13 RBI. Provided his wing doesn't completely disintegrate he's in great shape to plate a top-10 output moving forward. Hitting behind Harper would do wonders for most veterans. The buy low window is closing rapidly.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 309 at-bats, .286 BA, 11 HR, 46 RBI, 44 R, 2 SB
Dishonorable Mention: Kevin Youkilis, Bos/ChW
OF: Chris Young, Ari
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, Current): 118, 884
Snakebitten by a separated shoulder in May, part of Young's underwhelming production can be pinned on the injury, but even when healthy he's not exactly stirred the blood. Prior to the setback, the center-fielder was well on his way to a benchmark year. His .410-5-13-8-2 April line was positively dreamy. Unfortunately, he's churned out just the 259th-best output on a per game basis, ranking behind such megastars as Austin Kearns and Elian Herrara. After his dreadful June (.143-2-3-8-0), owner patience is wearing thin. Given his boom/bust nature, he will likely show signs of life in the very near future, however, another drought or three are possible. His improvements in swinging strike and contact percentage are encouraging, but his general inconsistency will continue to frustrate many, particularly those in shallow formats. If you're power-strapped, stomach the downtimes.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 318 at-bats, .239 BA, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 41 R, 9 SB
Dishonorable Mentions: Ben Zobrist, TB, Cameron Maybin, SD, Peter Bourjos, LAA, Justin Upton, Ari
SP: Tim Lincecum
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, Current): 28, 910
"Twilight" Tim (Look at him, he must moonlight as a vampire) has sucked the life out of his owners. For the former Cy Young winner, sorrowful performances have become the norm, not the exception. A downturn in velocity early in the season combined with spotty command ballooned his ERA/WHIP. From May 4-June 22, a 10-start string, he turned in just two quality starts and failed to record a win. However, there's light at the end of the tunnel. His fastball is again in the 92-94 mph range, which has helped him miss more bats and coax more grounders. If he can continue to hit his spots, additional ERA trimming is in the forecast. His 1.89 ERA-xFIP differential is a powerful indicator. Dominant in his last appearance versus rival LA (7 IP, 0 ER, 8:2 K:BB, W), his rise from the grave is nearly complete. Count on a banner second half.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 110.1 IP, 8 W, 3.29 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 115 K
Dishonorable Mentions: Dan Haren, LAA, Jon Lester, Bos, Ian Kennedy, Ari, Ricky Romero, Tor, Cliff Lee, Phi
RP: Heath Bell, Mia
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, Current): 110, 349
Looking at Bell's headshot one could easily guess he's a jovial free spirit who happens to be down on his luck. Or maybe he just accidentally sat on a stick of dynamite. Whatever the motivation for the goofy snap, one thing is for certain: Bell owners have smiled little this season. A horrific April followed by an uninspiring May nearly fed the closer to the fishes. During that stretch, he surrendered 16 runs over 20 innings, blowing four saves. He was much improved in June converting on all five save chances, but his four-run smack-down in St. Louis June 25th, again raised concern. Despite the uneasiness, his grip on the end-game gig appears strong. Control remains an issue (5.04 BB/9), but with his velocity and K/9 rate in line with career norms, he should offer more reliability down the stretch, as his .344 BABIP and 4.62xFIP indicate. Expect top-10 closer numbers moving forward.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 33.0 IP, 19 S, 2 W, 3.31 ERA, 34 K
Dishonorable Mentions: Brandon League, Sea, J.J. Putz, Ari, Johnny Venters, Atl
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