Welcome back to another edition of Fantasy in Five! In this column, I’ll go over five players you should or shouldn’t be concerned about. Although we’ve finally hit the first full month of baseball, some early slumps could conclude in season-long droughts. Let’s take a look.
1. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim- Pujols had a very slow start last year, but ended strong with 37 home runs and 99 RBI’s, the first time he’s never hit 100 RBI’s in a season his whole career. The cause of this was most likely the wrist injury he suffered within the first month of the baseball season last year. It still might be affecting him to this day.
What I’ve seen from Pujols when he swings is different from last year. By watching him bat, his left leg kicks out on a 90 degree angle to the left side of the field. According to baseball mechanics, that’s not the right thing to do. Another reason to this slow start could be adjusting to better pitching in the American League.
At this point in the season, Pujols has hit no home runs with four RBI’s and is currently batting .217. These numbers coming from one of the most consistent fantasy baseball players in the game might put an alarm off in your head, but don’t worry. We’ve seen him start off slow last year and end out just fine. He is 32-years-old though, so expect more of this for the next nine years as well.
2. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins- Stanton’s situation can be applied to Pujols as well. He had a slow start last year, but around mid-May, his power numbers exploded. Stanton hit 34 home runs in 2011 to go with 87 RBI’s.
There is one thing fantasy owners of Stanton should be concerned about, and that would be his knees. Stanton has reported knee soreness since the start of spring training, and will occasionally get a random day off during the week. This means Stanton isn’t slated to play a full week.
While at first the knee soreness problem sounds drastic, it’s not. Stanton has played through the soreness since last year, according to him. Plus the man is only 22-years-old, so he’s still got time to expand his game as well. There should be no concern for his slow start, but concern for the teams facing him within the next few months, as his power numbers will climb very soon.
3. Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox- After never hitting lower than .276 in his first seven years as a Red Sox, Youk hit .258 last season. This doesn’t have just fantasy owners concerned, but as well as his manager Bobby Valentine, who questioned his work ethic and commitment.
What could be the cause of the quick regression is the move to third base. I know Youk played third when he came out of Cincinnati, but now that he’s 33-years-old and very injury prone, that position demands a lot of physical and mental play.
His days of being an option for a .300 average, 20 home runs, and 90 RBI’s are long gone behind him. My concern for him is very high, so watch him like a hawk throughout the season. If this regression continues, you’d might have to consider trading him for the best value now.
4. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants- It’s been an overall rough 2012 for “The Freak.” Following a rough spring training in which he posted an ERA of 5.70, Lincecum’s regular season has been worse, going 2-2 with an ERA of 5.74 and striking out 29.
I’m very concerned about Lincecum for two reasons. The first one is his awkward delivery. Lincecum’s wind-up has had many scouts since his days in Washington concerned. The second reason is the pitchers around him. The Giants recently signed Matt Cain to a lucrative contract, and have young ones like Madison Bumgarner on the rise. They don’t seem to be committing to him.
You don’t have to take my word for it, but I think that delivery is taking a toll on him. When he first came up into the majors, Lincecum would average a 95 mph fastball. Now, he’s averaging around 92 mph. The velocity is down, as well as his stock.
5. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals- One of the most consistent pitchers in the Cardinals starting rotation, Wainwright has been the opposite up to this point. He’s posted an 0-3 record with a 7.32 ERA in 20 innings pitched.
Luckily for the team and Wainwright, Lance Lynn has been dominant transitioning from a reliever to starter to overshadow Wainwright’s struggles. His velocity is just as good, even better, than it was before his Tommy John surgery last year. Hitters have been taking advantage of his bad pitch placement though.
For anyone who owns Wainwright, don’t let this concern you. It’s just him getting off that rust from surgery that sidelined him last year. The ace will come back eventually, so just be patient with him.