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The Strike Zone

Curtis Granderson, Pablo Sandoval among April's least valuable players

It's been that kind of year for Curtis Granderson, who's hitting .136/.252/.216 so far. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) It's been that kind of year for Curtis Granderson, who's hitting .136/.252/.216 so far. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

With the first full month of the season almost in the books, we've gone around the diamond to highlight the best and worst performances of the young 2014 season at every position. Jay Jaffe tackled April's All-Stars; here, then is the list of the players who have fallen flat on their faces in the season's first month. As always, small-sample caveats apply to all these stats.

C: Brian McCann, Yankees

.224/.267/.353, 3 HR, 71 OPS+

Of the Yankees' four major free agent additions this winter, McCann is the only one not living up to the back of his baseball card. He was hitting just .162/.184/.162 through April 11, but starting the next day, when he hit his first two home runs of the season, he posted a .351/.400/.649 line in his next 10 games. He enters  play on Wednesday 0-for-his-last-13.

Honorable mention here goes to the Dodgers' catchers as a group -- sophomore Tim Federowicz, the injured A.J. Ellis and backup Drew Butera -- who have hit .143/.228/.165 on the season with no home runs and just one RBI in 102 plate appearances.

1B: Yonder Alonso, Padres

.172/.204/.237, 0 HR, 29 OPS+

Alonso was on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list every year from 2009 to 2012, but as the Padres' first baseman over the last two years, he has shown an alarming lack of power, slugging a mere .384 with 15 home runs in 994 plate appearances. Some of that could have been blamed on hand and wrist injuries suffered last year, offering some hope for an improvement in this, his age-27 season. But rather than adding power, he has just stopped hitting altogether. Heading into Wednesday's action, Alonso has gone hitless in his last 23 at-bats, and while he did reach base twice during that span via a walk and an error, he was also caught stealing on one of those two occasions.

2B: Jedd Gyorko, Padres

.144/.218/.211, 1 HR, 27 OPS+

It's quite possible that Gyorko has had trouble clearing his mind at the plate this month. He signed a six-year, $35 million extension on April 14, and his wife gave birth to twins on Monday. That's two major life-changing events in the span of two weeks, and it seems telling that Gyorko, who hit 23 home runs as a rookie last year, batted a mere .128 without an extra-base hit in his 53 plate appearances between the signing of his contract and his departure for paternity leave after Sunday's game.

SS: Zack Cozart, Reds

.165/.202/.271, 1 HR, 31 OPS+

It took 23 at-bats for Cozart to collect his first hit of the 2014 season, but he has slowly been picking up steam since then. His .232/.283/.393 line over his last 16 games is a good match for his 250/.286/.390 performance over the last two seasons. As underwhelming as that level of production may be, Cozart's glove and the bit of pop in his bat have made him a two-win player, on average, over the last two years, which is the approximate level of a major league starter.

3B: Pablo Sandoval, Giants

.177/.262/.302, 2 HR, 67 OPS+

With the Angels' David Freese (.118/.239/.275) having lost significant playing time to somewhat the rejuvenated Ian Stewart, this spot goes to Sandoval. Kung-Fu Panda, who lost nearly 50 pounds over the winter, is proving again this April that you don't hit a baseball with your abs.

RF: Curtis Granderson, Mets

.136/.252/.216, 1 HR, 38 OPS+

Granderson signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Mets in December but has had multiple hits in just one of his first 25 games with his new team. Since hitting what remains his only home run with the Mets on April 5 he has batted just .118 with one extra-base hit in 82 plate appearances. Given that Granderson hit just .231 over the last two seasons combined, the Mets have to be alarmed.

CF: Abraham Almonte, Mariners

.204/.248/.301, 1 HR, 39 K, 57 OPS+

Almonte is in a dead-heat with the Padres' Will Venable for this spot, a tie broken by the fact that Venable has been pushed to rightfield by the return of Cameron Maybin from the disabled list. Almonte defaulted into the Mariners' centerfield job in camp despite hitting .178/.256/.301 and has now replicated those numbers over 109 major league plate appearances, in which he has struck out 39 times, the most in MLB. Almonte has started 24 of Seattle's 25 games in center because the Mariners have no one else who can play the position who is swinging the bat significantly better. That, in a nutshell, is the problem with the team's habit of loading up on the left side of the defensive spectrum.

LF: Alejandro De Aza, White Sox

.191/.255/.371, 4 HR, 69 OPS+

De Aza has hit four home runs, but three of them came in the first three games of the season. He has hit .167/.241/.256 since and has been successful in just three of his five stolen base attempts. Heading into the season, the White Sox had an excess of outfielders that would have allowed them to bench De Aza for such a performance, but Avisail Garcia's season-ending labrum tear and the early-season struggles of fourth outfielder Jordan Danks have forced the White Sox to stick with De Aza.

DH: Billy Butler, Royals

.221/.283/.253, 0 HR, 49 OPS+

Here are Billy Butler's groundball-to-flyball ratios over the last four seasons:

2011: 0.84

2012: 0.92

2013: 1.14

2014: 1.79

In 2012, Butler hit .313/.373/.510 with 29 home runs, made the All-Star team and won the Silver Slugger. In 2013, he hit for a solid average (.289) and actually improved his on-base percentage by one point, but hit half as many home runs (15) and saw his slugging percentage drop by nearly 100 points. This year, his biggest contribution has been preventing Mike Moustakas from being the most disappointing home grown player on the Royals.

SP: Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Orioles

0-4, 6.49 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 1.24 K/BB, 66 ERA+

After just one month of the 2014 season, there are plenty of starting pitchers with inflated ERAs and WHIPs and lousy won-loss records, but Jimenez stands out from the pack for two reasons. The first is that rather than having had his ERA ruined by one or two disaster starts with a random quality start or two sandwiched in between, he has been consistently poor. While Jimenez hasn't allowed more than five runs or thrown fewer than 4 2/3 innings in any of his five outings, his next quality start for Baltimore will be his first. Second, Jimenez's peripherals are among the worst in baseball. Among qualified pitchers, only the White Sox' John Danks (2-1, 3.48 ERA) has a lower strikeout-to-walk ratio, only the Cardinals' Shelby Miller (2-2, 2.86 ERA) has walked more men per nine innings than Jimenez (5.6), and only the A's Dan Strailey (1-1, 5.14 ERA) has allowed more home runs per nine innings in the American League than Jimenez (1.7). Those are the early rewards for the Orioles, who lost a league-wide game of chicken when they signed Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract days after camps opened in February, sacrificing their top draft pick in the process. Now they have to figure out how to prevent this turkey from becoming an albatross.

RP: J.J. Hoover, RHP, Reds

1-3, 12.79 ERA, 2.68 WHIP, 0.88 K/BB, 2 BS

Hoover has thrown just 6 1/3 innings this season, yet in just nine appearances, he has managed to blow two saves and incur three losses despite not allowing his lone inherited runner to score. Not counting the one error committed behind him, 17 of the 38 batters Hoover has faced this season have reached base (45 percent), and more than half of those men have scored.

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