Thu Jun 30 12:57pm EDT
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.
Coming off stellar 2010 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), 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, and not including a certain disgraced former Congressman, here is the Sixth Annual All-Wiener Team (fantasy underachievers least impacted by injury):
C: Joe Mauer(notes), Min
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, current): 50, 1107
Among the virtual game's elite catching tier, Mauer has arguably been the most affected by injury. Bothered by a setback many experience when in the presence of Megan Fox (bilateral leg weakness), the $184 million man has played in a mere 21 games. Even when wearing the mask, he's greatly underperformed evident in his .214-0-7-4-0 line. Yes, the sample size is tiny (75 at-bats), but a sharp GB/FB increase ('10: 1.61, '11: 3.42) and absent power suggests 2009's 28 homer campaign was a complete anomaly. Because of the usual thin options behind the dish, he'll likely finish inside the backstop top-10 from July on. However, for those who "peeled off those dollar bills" to acquire his services on draft day, breaking even is a long shot. Now an All-Wiener selection in consecutive years, Mauer is the most overrated player in fantasy.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 234 at-bats, .282 BA, 3 HR, 30 RBI, 31 R, 1 SB
1B: Adam Dunn(notes), ChW
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, current): 30, 955
Gale-force winds generated by Dunn's prodigious whiffs have caused irreparable damage to buildings on Chicago's South Side, and owner batting averages. His sudden transformation from consistent 40-HR slugger to criminal value mugger is baffling. In the midst of his prime (31) and playing half his games in a hitter's haven, most projected a career year for the first baseman. However, on pace to shatter MLB's single season strikeout record (43.4 K%), he has failed to grasp the concept of contact. Fastballs, pitches historically he's mashed, have completely overpowered him. Benchings, lineup demotions, film studies, mechanical tweaks — nothing has worked. GM Kenny Williams' latest ploy for solving this great mystery: Live BP against minor league punching bags. If it works, Dunn has excellent odds of 15-20 HRs over the second half. If it doesn't, the endless onslaught of Ks will continue. Because Ozzie Guillen is convinced he "has to play him" in the hopes of conquering the slump, he reamins an excellent buy low target. With every 0-fer the odds of a turnaround may decrease, but, inevitably, Donut Dunn will shake-off the sprinkles.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 252 at-bats, .219 BA, 17 HR, 41 RBI, 34 R, 0 SB
2B: Dan Uggla(notes), Atl
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, current): 34, 702
For owners who dropped a heavy coin on the downtrodden second baseman, the Uggla truth has been difficult to swallow. A severe case of the dips, a mechanical flaw where hitters consistently get too under the ball, has plagued the two-time All-Star. Showcasing less patience while hitting fewer line-drives and more weak pop-outs (12.5 IFFB%), the veteran is on pace for his worst season since breaking out in 2006 (.178-24-56-70-2). Though the overall picture appears bleak, Bravos manager Fredi Gonzalez is confident "Danny's coming along." With five homers, 12 RBI, a .200 ISO and 17.5 HR/FB% in June, he is indeed slowly salvaging his wayward season. Due to his poor contact totals he'll never contribute soundly in BA, but for owners with a power need up-the-middle, Uggla is still worth a pretty penny. Swapped this week for Chad Billingsley(notes) and young guns Mike Moustakas(notes) and Jemile Weeks(notes) in one-for-one deals, now is the time to pounce.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 284 at-bats, .241 BA, 16 HR, 38 RBI, 43 R, 3 SB
SS: Hanley Ramirez(notes), Fla
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, current): 2, 250
HanRam's personal struggles are exemplary of the Marlins' team-wide plight. Hampered by a bad back and blemished mechanics, his strikeout and groundball rates have inflated, causing more balls to find gloves instead of empty Sun Life Stadium seats. On pace for a very bland .215-10-47-73-28 campaign, the popular top-three pick is the indisputable MVD (Most Vienna Dog). Though his substantial dip in HR/FB rate, contact percentage and fastball success are major concerns, he is a discounted commodity that should be pursued. New hitting coach Eduardo Perez recently retooled the shortstop's swing, designed to improve his timing and balance. Since the alteration the revitalized Ramirez, batting exclusively in the cleanup spot, has made tremendous strides going 9-for-28 with a homer, six RBIs, four runs and two steals. Thoughts of him surpassing 20 homers are delusional, but he will produce steadily across all categories moving forward. The former batting champ is simply too talented to wade in mediocrity the entire season. Consider this your last chance to buy low.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 288 at-bats, .284 BA, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 42 R, 15 SB
3B: Pedro Alvarez(notes), Pit
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, current): 83, 1020
Glancing at Alvarez's stats, it appears the former Vandy Dandy is in desperate need of a full-body transplant. A horrific strikeout-to-walk disparty (0.29 BB/K) and dramatic power outage (7.1 HR/FB%) kept his value under wraps through the first two months of the season. Most impatient owners, already fed up with his abysmal efforts, willingly tossed the cool corner into the free agent pool weeks ago when he succumbed to a quad injury. What a difference one prolonged slump can make. Preseason, most expected Pedro to take a major developmental step forward, transforming into a 30-100 player. Though his stock has plummeted, he is a commodity worth reacquiring, particularly in challenging formats. The former No. 2 overall pick clearly possesses star-level qualities. Clint Hurdle recently remarked the league adjusted to him, now he needs to throw a mean counterpunch. If the 24-year-old can tap into his inner prizefighter, he will quickly regain owner confidence. Look for him to return to the Steel City in the next week or two.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 260 at-bats, .251 BA, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 36 R, 1 SB
OF: Carl Crawford(notes), Bos
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, current): 11, 228
No early season dry spell was dissected more by baseball pundits than Crawford's. The treasured offseason acquisition kept his bat encased in ice throughout April, eventually forcing Terry Francona to move him from leadoff to the bottom third of the order. An uncharacteristic bout of overaggressiveness (39:8 K:BB split in Apr/May) was to blame. But after catching fire in early May, most believed his worst days were behind him. Unfortunately, a hammy pull on June 17, temporarily stalled his statistical recovery. On track to return July 3, don't expect fireworks over the second half. Crawford, one of baseball's most prolific base stealers, hasn't burned the basepaths this year. His injury setback may only enhance timidity. Combine that with his continued at-bats in the 7-8 spots, and his value will finish a far cry from where he was originally drafted. By year's end the difference between him and Shane Victorino(notes) will likely be negligible. Because he still boasts a hefty price tag — he was dealt for Robinson Cano(notes), James Shields(notes) and Lance Berkman(notes) in one-for-one trades — the savvy should shop him.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 292 at-bats, .288 BA, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 42 R, 16 SB
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez(notes), Col
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, current): 49, 739
After a painful start spurred by various physical and mechanical ailments, the Rogaine of the Rockies has shown signs of regrowth. In nine winless turns from Opening Day through Memorial Day, he sported a ghastly 5.86 ERA and 45:30 K:BB split over 75 innings. His vanished command and decrease in velocity compounded problems that started after the break last year. However, again touching the mid-90s with regularity, Ubaldo has quietly rediscovered his killer instinct. Since June 1, he's totaled a 2.45 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 7.41 K/9 and 2.01 BB/9. Yes, his strikeout totals could be more desirable, but it appears he's smoothed the rough edges. Finally, "comfortable" and "confident" toeing the rubber every fifth day, Colorado's ace is on the verge of permanently shedding his wiener image. Grab him now before his value soars. His second-half could be spectacular.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 104.1 IP, 8 W, 3.38 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 97 K
RP: Jonathan Broxton(notes), LAD
Overall Y! Rank (Preseason, current): 131, 480
Chavez Ravine might as well be dubbed the new "dysfunction junction." The ugly ongoing McCourt saga off the field and the Dodgers' poor execution on it has greatly tarnished one of baseball's iconic franchises. Broxton's rapid deterioration is a prime example of the latter. Even when healthy no amount of Charlie Sheen "medicine" could boost the once untouchable closer's performance. Two years ago, the flamethrower routinely made radar guns malfunction with a 97.8 mph average fastball speed. Though he lost some zip after the break last year, many believed a bounce back campaign was in the cards. Sadly, the troubled reliever became more hittable. His unhinged command led to a sharp walks rise (6.39 BB/9) and strikeouts decline (7.11 K/9). Shutdown, restarted then shutdown again, it appears the 27-year-old has flamed out. Currently resting his ailing elbow, LA skipper Don Mattingly remains pessimistic about Broxton's chances of pitching again this year. In what seems inevitable, an appointment with Dr. Death, James Andrews, awaits.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): Cooked, season-ending surgery
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Image courtesy of the AP