Some people believe failure is a detour, not a dead-end street.
Entering the season, the former elite Mariners prospect was expected to meet the mammoth expectations once placed upon him in the Starbucks City. Though he stumbled down the stretch in '09, his banner April/May (.344-11-36) exhibited great vibrancy. The explosive opening was good enough to earn him an All-Star nomination. It also launched him into fantasy stardom – at least temporarily.
During draft season, most owners gave him a pass for his second-half slide. His sterling pedigree, entrenched role and RBI-friendly position in an acceptable lineup made him a mid-round asset. For the 24-year-old, the immediate future, it seemed, would be filled with Cristal baths, luxury yachts and scantily clad supermodels.
But the S.S. Pacman has remained docked along the shores of the Chesapeake.
The outfielder, similar to the Orioles as a whole, is off to a detestable start. Over 143 at-bats, he's collected just 35 hits (nine for extra bases), with three homers, eight RBIs and 13 runs, an output which ranks 92nd among outfielders in Y! leagues. When the mighty Jody Gerut(notes) has driven in the same number of runs as a commodity that was drafted well within the top 100 there's something inherently wrong. Based on last year's Y! mugshot (see right), we can only assume narcolepsy is to blame.
Shoveling underneath the superficial, Jones' statistical regression is revealed to be the byproduct of a change in mental approach. Last season, he worked counts deeper and slapped pitches often to the opposite field. This year, he's completely reversed course. Echoing the patience of Pablo Sandoval(notes) without the contact success, he's posted an abhorrent 2.7 walks percentage. That, combined with a dramatic decrease in HR/FB percentage and continued groundball-heavy splits, makes it clear why the tainted asset has struggled. According to Jones only the man in the mirror is responsible. From the Baltimore Sun:
"It's me. I'm the one that has to go up there and hit," said Jones, refusing to blame his struggles on where he has hit in the lineup. "No one is going to go up there and hit for me. I'm not really seeing good pitches to hit, but I'm still swinging at them. I'm getting myself out, really. It's been a lack of patience. I have to be more patient, take what they give me, and if they give me nothing, go to first base instead of trying to force the issue, which I feel I've been trying to do all year. I'm trying to pick up slack with Roberts not here instead of playing my role like everybody else."
The pressure to perform without table-setting sparkplug Brian Roberts(notes) is undeniably weighing on Jones. When slotted into the leadoff spot he's batted just .188 and notched a wretched .224 OBP (15:3 K:BB split). Sadly, Juan Pierre(notes) could accomplish more dressed from head-to-toe in medieval armor. Steve Melewski of MASN certainly agrees.
Hitting safely in five straight games, including a 3-for-4 outburst Wednesday against his original club, lends hope for a turnaround. Still, until diligence becomes a priority, he will continue to suck the life out of his owners. Roberts, who was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 12, isn't expected back until at least mid-June.
Jones is quickly becoming expendable in shallow leagues (8-12 teams). Due to the limited roster space, widely available outfielders J.D. Drew(notes) (46-percent owned), Cody Ross(notes) (29-percent) and Drew Stubbs(notes) (12-percent) are more short-term employable. Because of his deflated price tag, deep leaguers should stay the course.
Once Roberts returns Jones should undergo a major makeover. Including this year's slow start, he's compiled a .295 BA hitting in the two-hole. He's far too talented to remain dead weight forever.
However, until Dave Trembley regains his offensive igniter, expect Jones' residence to remain on Elm Street.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 408 at-bats, .276 BA, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 63 R, 6 SB
Vampiristic commodity sucking the life out of your team owned in more than 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Ben Zobrist(notes), TB, 2B/SS/OF (96-percent owned): Zorilla's fiery bat has, for now, extinguished. Though he's stealing bases at a more prolific rate, last season's surprise sensation has failed to find the bleachers. Over 127 at-bats he's smacked just 11 extra-base hits. His 71-RBI and 66-run pace is also a concern. Maybe the life-setting contract he signed in April has sapped his internal drive. Under the microscope, Zobrist is walking less, struggling more with fastballs and flailing weakly and more often at outside pitches. Until his discipline returns, the popular early-round choice will continue to underachieve. Eventually the power stroke will return, but 20 homers, not 30, is probably his true '10 ceiling.
Widely owned starter who will soon maim an innocent Gatorade cooler
Ricky Romero(notes), Tor (5/15 vs. Tex, 79-percent owned): The unnatural feelings the Noise houses for Ricky Romero are disturbing. His filthy change-up definitely moves the meter. But despite his sharp K/9 rise (8.94) and continued soft contact success (2.25 GB/FB), he's a pitcher on the brink of a one-game implosion. When he spanked the Rangers in early April, the opponent was searching for its offensive identity. However, the AL West pacesetters have regained their pitcher-destroying pride. Six times this month Texas has scored at least six runs. And that was without Nelson Cruz(notes), who returns Friday. The southpaw has surrendered 11 runs in his past two starts. Another ERA-inflating performance appears likely.
Uncovering fantasy's lucky bastards one decimal place at a time
Livan Hernandez(notes), Was, SP (56-percent owned): Most owners would rather attempt to corral a 5,000-pound rhino than hire Hernandez, but the veteran's sparkling start (4 W, 43.1 IP, 1.04 ERA, 0.99 WHIP) has been difficult to ignore for deep leaguers. Well … sort of. Among qualifying starters, Livan has been the luckiest pitcher in the bigs. His .188 BABIP, 4.61 FIP and horrific 1.00 K/BB support the claim. The former World Series MVP is an innings eater who has won at least 10 games 10 times in his 15-year career, but his inability to miss bats and unsustainable 14.1 line-drive rate suggest a major ERA correction is on the horizon. Only NL-only and very deep mixed leaguers should continue to play with fire.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire