Struggling Stars: Votto, Bruce, Hosmer, Kemp and Santana
This week I will take a look at some good hitters who were highly drafted in your league but are killing their owners. Putting one of your star hitters on the bench is a hard decision to make and it is too important to get it wrong. We don’t want to let emotions and sentiment steer us off track. Don’t allow anger over a player’s slump to trick you into benching a good performer, and don’t let fondness for a favorite player trick you into keeping him in your lineup long after he should have been sacked. Halfway through the season the sample sizes have now grown plenty large enough for us to evaluate our rosters with a discerning eye.
Joey Votto — 1B Reds
The Canadian’s 2014 slash line of .259/.396/.417 pales in comparison to his career .311/.418/.533 record. Votto won’t admit he is playing hurt, but the grimaces and limps during his plate appearances prove otherwise. He missed nearly a month on the disabled list in an effort to allow the muscle strain in his knee to heal. It clearly didn’t work. He is playing in pain and it has severely sapped his power. His OBP is holding steady but his overall performance is drastically degraded. This is not a short term problem and it is going to dog him for the rest of the season. The only way to heal is extended rest and the Reds have said that Votto will continue to play through the injury. The good news is that this type of injury will probably heal itself over the long winter and he will be back to normal in time for the 2015 campaign. Verdict: Damaged Goods. If you are in contention to win your league this year you might want to trade him now. If you are rebuilding you might want to trade for him while his price is depressed.
Jay Bruce — OF Reds
Sticking with the Cincinnati club, their slugging right fielder is also having a subpar season by his standards. Bruce has hit 30+ home runs the last three years in a row, but he only has 7 at the halfway point this year. He did miss about 3 weeks on the DL a while back, and then came back too fast and didn’t even take a rehab assignment. He struggled for a week after coming off the DL but since then has hit the ball quite well. Bruce has always been a streaky hitter throughout his career. Now healthy, I am confident he will perform at his career rates over the rest of the season. Expect a .250 AVG with lots of homers. Bruce has picked up the pace in the stolen base department, having already matched his career high in SBs with 9. The Reds’ new manager Bryan Price has urged the team to be more aggressive on the basepaths this year so I believe Bruce will continue to run and that is a big boost to his fantasy value in roto leagues. Be aware of Bruce’s splits. He hits a lot more homers at home than on the road. You might consider benching him when he is playing in a large stadium against a good pitcher, especially a good lefty. Verdict: The Real Deal. Top 30 fantasy hitter.
Eric Hosmer — 1B Royals
Hosmer has been considered a future star for a long time and has certainly shown brief periods of star level performance, but there have also been extended periods of plain old poor hitting. He is one of the most frustrating players to own in all of fantasy baseball. Chances are you paid a lot to get this guy and he is simply not meeting expectations. I am not bullish on his future. He doesn’t hit for enough power nor enough batting average to justify his reputation. I know he is still young, in fact he is younger than hot shot rookie George Springer. I see Hosmer developing into a James Loney type of hitter. He will do enough to tantalize us and will be considered a perennial sleeper breakout candidate but will ultimately fail to become a consistent fantasy stud. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put up one monster season sometime in his career, but most years will yield approximately 65 Runs, 15-20 Home Runs, 70 RBI, 10 Steals and a .275 AVG. That is not bad but it makes him merely a borderline starter as a guy who only plays first base. Verdict: Unlikely to reach his potential. Wait for a hot streak then trade him off.
Matt Kemp — OF Dodgers
This guy was the best player in baseball in 2011. He did it all: 115 Runs, 126 RBI, 39 Home Runs, 40 Stolen Bases and a .324 Batting Average. Fantasy Platinum! Last year he didn’t reach even one third of those totals. Fantasy Kryptonite! Once again Kemp has been a big disappointment thus far in 2014. He used to be an elite 5-category stud. Now he is below average in every single category. Much of Kemp’s decline can be blamed on injuries, all of which seem to be healed right now. He has also missed time due to disciplinary and attitude problems, as well as defensive deficiencies that have seen him lose his role as the Dodgers’ centerfielder and get bumped over to left field. Kemp has played better of late but we need to adjust our expectations. He is no longer a fantasy 1st round draft pick, nor even a 5th round pick. But this guy still has all the talent and tools in the world. He can still pile up the fantasy stats in a hurry for extended periods when he is healthy and playing every day, like he is now. He is a very strong fantasy asset and he is a bit undervalued right now. I think he will have a strong second half. Verdict: Trade Target. Try to snare him but don’t pay anywhere near his 2011 price.
Carlos Santana – C, 1B, 3B Indians
Santana was simply horrible for the first two full months of the season. Then he took a knock to the noggin’ and suffered a concussion that put him out of action for a couple weeks. Ever since then he has been excellent with a 1.015 OPS in the month of June. Santana’s fantasy value depends on what kind of league you play in. He is much more valuable in a points league or an OBP league than he is in a standard 5×5 roto. He will always be a liability in AVG and Steals, but he doesn’t strike out a ton and takes a lot of walks that boost his OBP. He has more value in two catcher leagues and leagues with extra corner infield slots. His newfound multi-position eligibility can be a real boon in some league formats. If the Indians decide to move him permanently off the catcher position his fantasy value will take a dive because his stats won’t look too sweet if he is limited to first base. Verdict: Stud in some formats, Dud in others.
If you have any questions about any other hor or cold players ask them in the comments below. I will reply ASAP! Also, if you make any trades involving the players above make sure to tell me about them in the comments.
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