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We all have players in our fantasy leagues who are driving us crazy with their early season struggles. Some speedsters haven’t swiped a bag, a few sluggers have yet to go deep and several high-end starters have already endured disastrous outings.
But even among the worst April performers, a few stand out as especially bad. So far, 10 qualified position players have a sub-.410 OPS. These players are the worst of the worst thus far, and surprisingly there are some notable names on the list. Let’s figure out who among this group deserves the most consternation from fantasy managers.
Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies (2B/SS, .289 OPS)
This one is especially frustrating, as the Rockies have played 10 of their 12 games at Coors Field. Rodgers also struggled at his hitter-friendly home park last season, but I can’t accept that Coors plays poorly for any hitter. The advanced data shows a high strikeout rate (34 percent), a low average exit velocity (87.0 mph) and a .147 xBA. Rodgers has earned his spot on this list, and I don’t have a problem with managers in shallow leagues who are exploring waiver wire replacements.
Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals (3B/SS, .341 OPS)
We were so busy during draft season talking about the likelihood of a Mondesi injury that we forgot to mention that he also isn’t a good hitter. That being said, his biggest problem thus far has been a .227 BABIP, and his .243 xBA and .277 xwOBA are in line with his career marks. Mondesi should turn things around at the plate and is already making a steals impact, but he has been relegated to lower lineup spots and is someone I would look to trade once he gets on a roll.
Carlos Santana, Kansas City Royals (1B, .341 OPS)
Santana has a career-low strikeout rate (9.7 percent), but he can’t buy a hit right now (.087 BABIP). Still, this is his third year in a row with an extremely low batting average, and I don’t see a major turnaround coming anytime soon. Those in AL-only leagues should attempt to trade for Santana at a major discount, but managers in mixed formats can move along.
Franmil Reyes, Cleveland Guardians (OF, .355 OPS)
Reyes is striking out too often (34.8 percent), rarely drawing a walk (4.3 percent) and has yet to barrel a ball this season. In short, he’s a mess at the plate. In fact, Statcast suggests that the slugger’s .159 average is mostly a deserved mark. I expect that Reyes will eventually find his groove, and I would bench (but not drop) him for now.
Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals (2B/OF, .365 OPS)
Merrifield is rarely striking out, but the plentiful contact he has produced thus far has been poor (zero barrels, 84.4 mph average exit velocity). The speedster continues to run the bases aggressively, and I see him as a buy-low option who should produce a solid average from this point forward.
Joey Gallo, New York Yankees (OF, .377 OPS)
Statcast says that Gallo should be hitting .205 instead of .121, which means that not much has changed other than some poor batted-ball luck. Still, the slugger’s constantly bloated strikeout rate makes him a batting average drain even when things are going well, and he isn’t someone who you want to roster.
Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals, (3B/SS, .381 OPS)
Did the hype machine lead us astray? Witt has been a mess so far, producing a 32.5 percent strikeout rate, a 2.5 percent walk rate and zero barrels.
Baseball is hard. The kid will figure out it. I’m not cutting him, and I would hold him over taking a heavily discounted offer. And maybe you can acquire Witt at a massive discount from a disillusioned manager.
Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox (C/1B, .383 OPS)
Grandal has produced a respectable 20.0 percent strikeout rate, and the fact that he isn’t drawing his usual volume of walks (5.7 percent) is likely a sign that he is trying to hit his way out of a slump that has been entirely caused by bad luck (.121 BABIP). His average exit velocity has been down a small amount (87.6 mph), but his xBA (.232) and xwOBA (.323) are in line with expectations. This is someone to hold.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (1B, .406 OPS)
We’ve been here before, wondering if an aging Votto is done, and in the past, he has always bounced back from these slumps. But I’m not excited to buy low on the 38-year-old, who has a bloated 38.5 percent strikeout rate and a dismal .134 xBA. Part of my pessimism stems from Votto being part of a Reds lineup that is among the worst in baseball. In fact, I would drop the future Hall of Famer in some shallow leagues.
Robbie Grossman, Detroit Tigers (OF, .408 OPS)
Grossman’s spot on this list especially hurts for this writer, as I heartily recommended him for a potential repeat of his 20-20 season from a year ago. The power-speed threat has seen his strikeout rate jump (32.4 percent) while also producing poor contact (82.6 mph average exit velocity) when he finally gets his bat on the ball. Grossman has too much upside to be cut this early in the season, but he is at risk of losing playing time if he doesn’t improve by the end of April.