I often rail against fantasy managers who blame their poor season on one player. It’s never just one player, even if it’s your first round pick. I especially get annoyed when these jokers blame guys who most certainly did not kill their season even if one player could make that big of an impact. Adam Jones hasn’t performed like the 15th-best player this year. In fact, he hasn’t even been the 15th-best outfielder, but there is no way that he is why you’re mired in ninth place.
Jones is falling short of his 2014 production in all five key fantasy categories, but we’re talking 14 runs and RBIs, two home runs, four stolen bases, and 12 points of batting average in 23 fewer games (13 of which he can make up if he plays every one of the remaining games for Baltimore). Those deficits aren’t meaningless, but they aren’t season-ending, either, especially since you can’t just expect a player to repeat his previous year’s line. That said, some guys do fall well short of expectations and play a big role in the collapse of a fantasy team.
Often these are injury-related situations where the player simply doesn’t play enough to return even his cost let alone add in a profit. We’re not interested in those guys today. Every team gets hit with some injuries and that’s just part of sports and by extension, fantasy sports. We’re looking for the guys who have played a lot while delivering well under expectations.
Today we’re looking at guys drafted in the top 100 this spring who have been the biggest disappointments to fantasy managers this season. The player must have at least 450 PA which means injury can still be a factor, but that’s enough playing time to outrun or at least offset an injury. Adam Wainwright lasted 25 innings. Corey Dickerson has played 54 games. They have been disappointments, but it’s entirely injury-related. These four guys have been there virtually all year and just haven’t performed well enough to justify their spring cost:
Ian Desmond [SS, 28th ADP, .231 AVG-67 R-18 HR-60 RBI-12 SB in 598 PA]
Desmond entered the season with three straight 20 HR-20 SB under his belt ranking second to only Dee Gordon in value at the position in 2014. He did that with a .255 AVG, too, after hitting .286 in the previous two 20-20 seasons combined. His 244 RBI and 222 R were first and fourth at the position, respectively, in the 2012-14 timeframe and the high-octane offense in Washington was expected to be even better in 2015.
It just hasn’t happened for Desmond or the Nationals this year. Even a second-half rebound couldn’t erase the early damage for Desmond. He has three months of sub-.200 AVG including both June and July when dropped a .174 AVG in 187 PA on us. The sharp rise in K% from 2013 to 2014 has proven prophetic as his 28% mark from last year has actually jumped a tick to 29% this year sending his triple slash to the disastrous levels of 2011. His .231/.285/.385 line this year has netted him an 82 wRC+, not far from the 79 he had in 2011 thanks to a .253/.298/.358 line.
He has likely helped cost you some entry fees if you weren’t able to overcome his godawful season, but he has also likely cost himself a couple million bucks on the free agent market as he enters on a very sour note as a 30-year old. Desmond ranks 15th among shortstops this year.
Jeff Samardzija [SP, 64th ADP, 5.04 ERA-1.30 WHIP-160 K-10 W in 207 IP]
This one might be even worse than Desmond. As bad as Desmond has been, four of the five offensive categories are counting so while he’s not helping as much as we all planned, he’s still adding to the bottom line (assuming you’re even still playing him at this point). With Samardzija, the two key categories are ratios which means his 207 innings might actually be worse than getting the 25 great innings from Wainwright and then trolling the wire for a replacement all year.
Of course, as I was his section in this piece, Samardzija was busy dismantling a group of Erie Seawolves dressed in Detroit Tigers uniforms with an 88-pitch one-hitter in the frontend of a doubleheader. Too little, too freakin’ late, buddy. It’s actually a perfect encapsulation of Samardzija’s season when paired with the start before Monday during which he allowed 10 ER in 3 IP against Oakland.
Samardzija has 14 quality starts this year, 11 of which I’d call super-quality (7+ IP/0-2 ER). That total ties him for eighth-most this year. There are a lot of ties so there are 18 players ahead of him ranging from Zack Greinke’s 18 (he stands alone) to Matt Harvey and Chris Archer tied at 12 just ahead of Shark. Garrett Richards, Shelby Miller, and Corey Kluber are the guys tied with him at 11. Unfortunately, Samardzija also has 11 outings of 5+ ER, tied with Alfredo Simon for the most in baseball.
The other six guys I mentioned in that last paragraph (not counting Simon, obviously) have 19 such starts combined. You simply can’t be good with that kind of volatility. Also, where are the strikeouts? After living in the 23-25% range for four seasons, including his first three as a starter, Samardzija has dropped to a meager 18% mark. Walks, hits, home runs, and your blood pressure when watching him are all up; strikeouts, groundballs, LOB%, and confidence that he’ll get some scrub eighth-hitter out are all down.
It’s likely just am anomaly of the ugly season, but #8 hitters have a .947 OPS against Samardzija this year, seventh-worst among starters. Rusney Castillo and Salvador Perez are probably the two best batters he’s faced in the eight spot this year, otherwise it’s lower end players getting theirs against him.
Carlos Gomez [OF, 8th ADP, .253-59-12-56-14 in 472 PA]
Injury has definitely been an issue here, but we’re still looking at 472 PA of a .721 OPS, easily his worst in the last four seasons and as a first round pick, his bar is higher. It’s tough with Gomez because it’s not unreasonable to suggest the whole season is a washout from the hamstring injury that sent him to the DL eight games into the season.
He looked good immediately upon return with a .310/.355/.535 line that included 3 HR, 12 RBI, 14 R, and 5 SB in 76 PA. It was a small sample, but this was also the expectation so it started to look like things might be OK. The five steals did come with three caught stealing efforts, though. Unfortunately, a leg injury popped up in mid-June causing him to miss three separate multi-game stretches totaling nine games throughout the month.
He hasn’t been the same for the three months since the flare up of the leg, adding hip, rib, and wrist injuries to the mix in the meantime while posting just a .238/.310/.383 line with 7 HR, 32 RBI, 34 R, and 8 SB (in 13 attempts) over 292 PA. He clearly wasn’t playing at 100%. Of course now he’s dealing with the intercostal strain and there isn’t a timetable for his return.
At least with Gomez there is an obvious “why” behind his poor season. Even still, that doesn’t do anything to improve your fantasy team so it still stings to have him labor through 472 PA playing like an OF4/5 when he was drafted not only as an OF1, but as a #1 overall player for teams.
Julio Teheran [SP, 68th ADP, 4.20-1.30-162-10 in 188.7 IP]
Teheran was the 68th player off the board this season which made him a top-20 starting pitcher, 17th to be exact. It was easy to understand the excitement after his 2013-14 seasons that saw him post a 3.03 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 406.7 IP with 21% K and 6% BB rates. The season started well with a pair of 6 IP/1 ER outings, but his third start was a trip to Toronto and they weren’t very nice. They lit him up for 5 ER including four home runs and from there he struggled to find any measure of consistency until August.
He had a 5.07 ERA through 14 starts and while his struggles were mostly confined to the road, they were so bad that they overshadowed his passable home starts. For some reason, he became fastball-dependent in his first half, throwing his four-seamer and sinker 62% of the time with catastrophic results, especially with the sinker. Batters enjoyed a .400/.455/.725 line in 44 PA off of the sinker in the first half.
He has still been fastball-dependent in the second half (62%), but he’s shifted the mix back to his four-seamer while also getting much better results when he does use the sinker. In the second half, the sinker is allowing a .111/.200/.444 line, though in just 11 PA. He’s working it out of the zone much more (47% to 33%) when he does use it. Additionally, his breaking balls have both been much better in the second half.
His results haven’t been perfect since the break with a couple of Shellackings on his record including an 8 ER meltdown against the Yankees back on August 30th, but he has been a lot more consistent. He has a 3.22 ERA over his last 10 starts even with that Yankee outing included. Unfortunately, the season is going to run out before he can fully reverse the damage from his first half so he had to make the list. I think there is hope for a 2016 rebound, but I realize some of you may have been too burned to go back to the well next year.