May 06, 2009

With the season's first month in the books, it's time to celebrate the achievements of those who managed to make it through an entire page of the calendar without hitting a homer, getting a win, or providing any value. On behalf of disgruntled fantasy owners, I will be mailing a picture of my middle finger to deserving players across the nation.

All statistics through May 2.

Kelly Johnson (2B, ATL): After starting the year as a popular sleeper pick, Johnson recently found himself riding the pine in favor of Omar Infante (2B/3B/SS/OF, ATL). It would appear the weight of being the second-best guy named Kelly to play baseball is really wearing on him. As if you didn't know, Kelly Leek from the Bad News Bears is the best Kelly to play the game, based largely on the fact that he could smoke and hit at the same time. Anyway, Johnson's struggles are puzzling when taking a closer look at his numbers. His strikeout percentage is more than five percent lower than his career mark, and he's chasing fewer pitches outside the zone. While his overall contact rate is up, his groundball-to-fly ball (GB/FB) rate has slipped under 1.00, which doesn't bode well for a guy who has never hit more than 16 homers. Johnson is also hitting fewer line drives, which isn't helping his .228 Batting Average On Balls in Play (BABIP). I like his chances to turn things around, but Bobby Cox dropped him from the leadoff spot on Saturday, which hurts his value. If Infante starts to see regular playing time in Johnson's place, it's going to be tough for owners to hang on to him until he heats up.

Derrek Lee (1B, CHC): Lee returned to the field this week after missing a couple games with neck spasms. The spasms are believed to be brought on by Lee hamging his head in shame when looking at his stats. Sure, his BABIP is 100 points lower than his career average, but he's also hitting more fly balls than someone with diminishing power should. Opposing pitchers continue to challenge "D-Lee" with fastballs, and he continues to struggle to deliver extra-base hits, evidenced by his .329 slugging percentage. Replacement Micah Hoffpauir (1B/OF, CHC) has looked decent, with two homers in 34 at-bats, while it has taken Lee 82 at-bats to amass the same total. While Lee shouldn;t be released, I am amazed that he's owned in significantly more leagues than Kendry Morales (1B/OF, LAA) and Mike Jacobs (1B, KAN).

Jhonny Peralta (SS, CLE): In light of his 32.6 K percentage, it seems that Jhonny is about as good at avoiding strikeouts as his parents are at spelling. Even with a respectable BABIP, Peralta is hitting .209 and ended April homer-less. Despite averaging 20 bombs and 89 RBIs over the past four years, Peralta is clearly nowhere near that pace in 2009. That could be related to being dropped out of the cleanup spot, but his swing rate is down on pitches in the strike zone. With Travis Hafner (DH, CLE) on the shelf, it would seem logical to try Peralta in the four hole, which is exactly why Eric Wedge has gone in a different direction by putting Shin-Soo Choo (OF, CLE) there. Regardless, Peralta's consistency in recent years makes a rebound likely and also makes him a good guy to target in trade discussions.

Geovany Soto (C, CHC): I've been trying to give Soto the benefit of the doubt after hurting his shoulder in the first week of the season, but enough is enough. Last year's Rookie of the Year is looking more like Sal Fasano these days. His GB/FB rate is up over 1.00, and given the fact that he can't run. it would seem to be contributing to an ugly .200 BABIP. Soto's walk rate is actually up, though, and he's chasing fewer pitches outside the zone. The problem is that pitchers aren't challenging him, as evidenced by the fact that he's seeing strikes just 41 percent of the time. You can't give up on him yet if he's on your squad, but if he's not, see if his owner is ready to bail.

Chris Young (OF, ARI): I am astonished by many things, like the fact that people have actually purchased the album Mojo Priest by Steven Seagal or that others bet on pre-season NFL games. I am similarly amazed that Young is owned in so many leagues. In 2007 he had 32 homers and 27 steals, but despite playing more games last season, he posted just 22 round-trippers and 14 stolen bases while continuing to hit under .250. In 2009, Young can't even get above .200 and has just two steals, both of which came in the same game. He strikes out over 30 percent of the time and walks as often as Travis Henry uses a condom. He's also hit 13 pop-ups, which contributes to a 0.44 GB/FB rate, a number that is absurd for someone with his speed. Young's poor performance has gotten him dropped to the sixth spot in the order, which doesn't bode well for an improvement. I'm begging you to drop him in favor of Kendry Morales, Ryan Spilborghs (OF, COL), or Chris Duncan (1B/OF, STL), all of whom are owned in significantly fewer leagues.

Ryan Dempster (SP, CHC): You had to see this coming. Dempster pitched out of his mind last season, posting a walk per nine innings (BB/9) more than one walk lower than his career numbers, which contributed to a 1.21 WHIP. a far cry from his 1.49 career mark. He also decreased his homers allowed and stranded more runners than usual in 2008. So what you are seeing from Dempster this year is the real thing, a guy with a decent strikeout rate but poor WHIP and ERA who will pick up wins based on the success of his offense. If you drafted Dempsterr expecting a repeat of last year or believe he still can, help yourself to a heap of disappointment and wash it down with a glass of failure.

Gavin Floyd (SP, CHW): After posting 17 wins a year ago, Floyd is off to a tough start, with a 5.53 ERA and 16 walks in 29.1 innings. His strikeouts per nine innings are actually up from last year, but so are his walks, which sit at 4.91 per nine innings, compared to 3.05 in 2008. The .375 BABIP is going to come down, but not to the .268 mark he benefited from a year ago. His home run rate which is currently less than half of his career numbers, will also normalize. Floyd surrendered 30 homers last year and trends toward a fly balls. That's what you get for trusting someone with two first names.

Brian Fuentes (RP, LAA): While no Angel fan was expecting Fuentes to repeat K-Rod's success, my guess is they were hoping for a little more than they've seen so far. Last season es like watching The Who in concert, but this year is more like Richard Marx. Fuentes does have five saves and a 13.5 K/9, which is the highest of his career, so all is not lost. However, he's blown a pair of saves and has an ERA close to 8.00. Fuentes also has a WHIP over 2.00, thanks in part to four walks in eight innings and an astounding .532 BABIP. Given his control problems, hitters are swinging at fewer of his offerings, but making contact at a high rate when they do. He's not in jeopardy of losing the gig yet, but keep an eye on youngster Jose Arredondo (RP, LAA).

Chris Young (SP, SD): Young just hasn't been the same after being drilled in the face with a line drive last year, but who could blame him? I mean, I once burned myself while ironing a shirt and missed two weeks of work. Oh wait, that was John Smoltz (SP, BOS). Anyway, Young's K/9 has dipped to 6.68 in 2009 after eclipsing 8.00 in each of the last three seasons. While that has declined, his BB/9 has steadily increased since posting a 2.46 mark with Texas in 2005. Part of his control issues can be attributed to the fact that he's using his fastball much less than in the past and is getting ahead of fewer hitters. Luckily, his home run rate is abnormally low so far. His numbers could be worse. There's been no in between for Young this season. as he's allowed two or fewer runs in four starts while surrendering seven or more in his other two outings. It's also imperative that Young keep people off the basepaths, since he is historically terrible at holding runners. The Rockies stole eight bags off him in just three innings this week, and starting with the 2007 season, base runners are 73-for-75 against him. Fantasy owners better buckle up and get ready for a roller coaster ride.

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