2011 MLB Fantasy Fever From WhatIfSports.com image

Fantasy Fever: Struggling Stars

Fantasy Fever Week 8

By Joel Beall - WhatIfSports.com
May 24, 2011

Hanley Ramirez is the definition of a fantasy cornerstone. Since his rookie season in 2006, Ramirez has averaged 25 homers, 78 RBI, 112 runs, 39 stolen bases and a batting mark of .313. At first glance, these numbers are fairly outstanding; however, Ramirez mans a position (shortstop) absent of viable hitting options, augmenting the Marlin's fantasy worth.

Yet something has been amiss in South Florida this spring, as Ramirez is hitting .219 with just four bombs. El Nino is walking with regularity (18 BBs) and has nine swipes, but has also been thrown out five times. Keeping in mind that Ramirez was a consensus top-5 draft pick, it's not hard to make the case that the former Rookie of the Year is the biggest fantasy disappointment in 2011.

But should you throw in the towel with Han-Ram? At this interval, one would likely get nowhere near the value that a player of his stature commands. Moreover, Ramirez has slowly begun to revert back to his former self.

However, there are a plethora of players underperforming around the league, some whose future prospects may not be as bright. Here are a few notable struggling stars, and what actions should be taken:

Carl Crawford - His average on the season (.215) is distorted from his atrocious April, which saw him hit .155. May has been a new chapter as Crawford has been respectable with a .286 average. Crawford's OBP isn't stunning, but that's historically been the case. Stay with Crawford as a) it appears he has settled into the friendly confines of Fenway and b) his stumble out of the gate has scarred his image for the foreseeable future, deflating his trade value.

Ubaldo Jimenez - Ubaldo owners may wonder what's up with the erratic pitching of Jimenez. The truth of the matter is this: aside from his spectacular start in 2010, Jimenez has been, well, prosaic. Through his first 11 starts last season, the Colorado ace had a 0.78 ERA in 80.1 innings, correlating to a 10-1 record. However, Jimenez went 8-7 with a 4.08 ERA for the rest of the year and has appeared to carry that pedestrian performance into 2011. Jimenez owners may be encouraged by his recent outing against Milwaukee (eight innings, two earned runs) but Jimenez remains a wild card. Hope that another owner in your league remembers the Jimenez hype from 2010 and unload him as soon as possible.

Adam Dunn - It seemed like the perfect match: a homer-happy hitter in a homer-happy park. Yet the Adam Dunn Era in Chicago has been anything but exultant. An appendectomy hasn't helped matters; however, by all accounts Dunn has recovered from the surgery. He's a notorious streaky-hitter, but four home runs and a .189 average are simply inexcusable. The problem could be as simple as failing to assimilate to the pitching on the Junior Circuit. Then again, that issue doesn't seem to be ending soon. Deal Dunn for anything you can get.

Joe Mauer - Yes, he's on the DL, but many fantasy owners would jump at the chance to obtain Mauer's services. Assuming he returns to full health, Mauer will continue to be a fantasy force for average and OBP. However, his power numbers took a beating with the move to Target Field last season, and evidence suggests the same sentiment will apply upon his return. Decent options like Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy remain available in many leagues.

Justin Morneau Morneau is starting to heat up.

Chris Carpenter - The 2005 Cy Young winner has been battered this season to the tune of a 4.88 ERA. While he's shown little indication that he's on the cusp of turning his season around, keep Carpenter on your team. The NL Central is filled with relatively weak lineups, giving Carpenter the platform to revert to a top-of-the-line arm. However, there is another Cardinal that deserves to be jettisoned -

Albert Pujols - It might sound sacrilegious, but Pujols may have simply lost a step. He might only be 31, but the three-time MVP has played in over 1,607 games in his storied career. Almost everyone in the game believes Pujols will eventually revert to his Hall-of-Fame form, which is exactly WHY you should put him on the trade market. If Pujols fails to improve as the season progresses, you will surely lose your leverage and will have to settle for 75 cents on the dollar. Additionally, Pujols plays a position where adequate replacements can be found. The rest of your league may think you're crazy, but it's a safer trade than it appears on paper.

Start 'em:

C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals. A career .268 hitter heading into the season, Molina is leading all catchers with a .333 average in 2011. Molina has been especially magnificent in May, raking at a .349 mark.

1B: Justin Morneau, Twins. After going hitless against Detroit on May 10, Morneau's average dropped to .204 on the season. Since that juncture, the former MVP has hit .318 in 44 at-bats. His power is still absent (just two homers in 40 games) but the bump in batting average is an encouraging sign that Morneau is close to recovering his All-Star form.

2B: Freddy Sanchez, Giants. Sanchez is hitting .407 in the past seven games, raising his season average to .281. Owned in just 22 percent of leagues, Sanchez has been trenched in the two spot in San Fran's lineup. Although that placement hasn't produced run dividends (two runs in May) Sanchez's numbers should improve with the return of Pablo Sandoval in a few weeks, as well as Buster Posey's emergence from a mid-spring lull.

3B: Michael Cuddyer, Twins. Cuddyer maintains 3B eligibility in most leagues thanks to 14 appearances at the position in 2010. A brutal April (.226 average, four RBI) led a multitude of owners to drop the reliable Cuddyer, who knocked in 80 RBI or more in four of the past five seasons. May has been much kinder to Minnesota's multipurpose slugger, as Cuddyer is batting .308 during the month.

SS: Derek Jeter, Yankees. Perhaps the cries of "washed-up" were premature. The Yankee shortstop is hitting .286 in May with 14 runs scored.

OF: Vladimir Guerrero, Orioles. Despite having a solid campaign in Arlington in 2010, Guerrero garnered little attention on the market this offseason due to his age (36) and a belief that he faded in the second half of last season (.339 batting average from April to June, .265 from July to September). Vlad the Impaler has made his detractors pay, hitting .309 with 19 RBI and 20 runs.

SP: Shaun Marcum, Brewers. Zack Greinke dominated Milwaukee's offseason headlines, but Marcum has been the most valuable addition for the Brew Crew, going 6-1 with a 2.37 ERA and 62 strikeouts. Marcum has been efficient as well, walking just 15 batters contributing to a 1.02 WHIP.

RP: J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks. After spending two seasons as a setup man with the Mets and White Sox, Putz has returned to the closing role with Arizona. The former All-Star has excelled in the desert, recording 12 saves with a 0.95 WHIP.

Sit 'em:

C: Carlos Santana, Indians. The Indians are off to a surprisingly hot start, surmounting a seven game lead in the AL Central thanks to a 30-15 record. Even more astonishing is the Tribe compiling this mark without any contribution at the plate from Santana. The Cleveland catcher hit .260 with a .401 OBP in his rookie season, one that was cut short by a LCL strain. Santana has been unable to regain last year's form, hitting a trivial .207.

1B: Billy Butler, Royals. Although the Royals lineup is littered with surprises (Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur), Kansas City's slugging stalwart DH has been mildly disappointing. Despite owning a .284 average and .391 OBP on the season, Butler has compiled just 17 RBI and three home runs. May hasn't helped his cause, as Butler is homerless on the month, as well as hitting just .242.

2B: Ben Zobrist, Rays. Zorilla made waves with his 10 RBI performance on April 28. In 80 at-bats since his run explosion, Zobrist has compiled a meager three ribbies. To his credit, Tampa's second baseman has upped his OBP in May (.382), but Zobrist has just one homer on the month compared to the seven dingers he blasted in April.

Brandon Morrow Morrow's Ks are negated by his rising ERA.

3B: Casey McGehee, Brewers. Much was expected from McGehee after hitting 23 long balls and 104 RBI in 2010. Due to a few bumps and bruises, McGehee has four home runs on the season and is hitting a mundane .256. Don't drop him just yet, but try and find a more suitable everyday third baseman until McGehee arises from his spring slumber.

SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies. Rollins, as well as the rest of the Philly lineup, has been mirrored in a May funk. The 2007 MVP has a .323 OBP and a .247 average in May, not exactly numbers that are apropos for a leadoff hitter.

OF: Andre Ethier, Dodgers. Ethier has just two hits in his last 10 games, dropping his average from .355 to .311. On the month, Ethier has knocked in a feeble six RBI and is hitting .208.

SP: Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays. On one hand, Morrow is submitting fantastic strikeout totals with 43 Ks in 32 innings of work. But the Toronto fireballer has been a detriment to fantasy owners' ERA and WHIP, with marks of 5.06 and 1.44. Use Morrow with caution.

RP: Kevin Gregg, Orioles. Gregg hasn't been the Rock of Gibraltar as of late, surrendering four earned runs in his last 3.1 innings. There are no immediate plans to replace Gregg in the Baltimore bullpen, but monitor the situation closely.

Waiver Wire: Jason Vargas, Mariners. In his last three starts Vargas is 2-0 with 16 strikeouts, conceding one run in 23.2 innings. Granted, two of starts came at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, and his opposing lineups (Orioles, Angels, Rangers) weren't the reincarnation of the '27 Yankees. But in deeper or AL-only leagues, Vargas can provide some relief for those in dire straits of ERA. On the season, Vargas is 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA.

Rookie Review: Mark Trumbo, Angels. With Kendrys Morales out for the season, Trumbo will get a chance to showcase his talents at first for the Angels. After a slow start, Trumbo has come on in May, hitting .270 on the month to raise his average to .252 on the season. Also encouraging for Los Angeles has been Trumbo's patience at the plate, as his .360 OBP is nearly 90 points higher than the figure he posted in April.

Big League Chew Player of the Week: Jason Giambi, Rockies. Filling in for Todd Helton, Giambi turned back the clock to smack three homers and seven RBI in a 7-1 victory over the Phillies.

Spit Your Tobacco At: Edinson Volquez, Reds. Volquez was demoted to Triple-A Louisville after another subpar outing on Sunday, bringing his ERA to 6.35 on the season. Worse, Volquez took some shots at the Cincinnati offense on the way out, odd considering the Reds are second in the league in runs.

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Joel Beall is the Assistant Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

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