Bloomberg Sports Anchors Rob Shaw and Julie Alexandria break down four players who have struggled mightily over the first quarter of the season:
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals
Last year a 1-4 performance was ho-hum for Royal phenom Eric Hosmer. These days it’s cause for celebration as it lifts his batting average further above the Mendoza line. The 6 home runs and 25 RBI aren’t all that bad for Hosmer, but with an average of .204, the former top three pick has been a major bust. Also, his power and patience have declined this month, as he boasts just one home run and six walks in May. I still do not suggest dropping Hosmer, because his struggles are not isolated. The entire Royals roster has pretty much struggled, and once guys like Alex Gordon, Jeff Francouer, and other start hitting, there will be more runners on base and more fastballs in the middle of the plate. I am buying low on Hosmer, and have confidence that he will turn this season around.
Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers
Similar to former Rangers prospect Julio Borbon a few years ago, Dee Gordon gained some fantasy interest with a strong finish to the season, most notably 24 steals in 56 games. However the scouting report is now out on Gordon and you can’t steal bases if you can’t reach base. With a .225 average and .269 on base percentage, Gordon is not getting on base nearly enough. As a result, he is not scoring runs and not getting enough steals to warrant fantasy value. I’m not buying on Gordon in fear that he is a bit more one dimensional than people thought.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
Billed as the next prolific power hitter to thrive in the desert, Paul Goldschmidt was predicted to blast as many as 30 home runs this season Instead, he has just three round-trippers a quarter of the way through the season. The lack of homers as well as the 19 RBI will be enough for some fantasy managers to drop the bopper. Instead, they should focus on the 12 doubles, which projects to more than 40. Again, you can’t blame Goldschmidt for the fact that his teammates are struggling to reach base. Once those doubles turn to home runs, all will be forgiven.
Ike Davis, 1B, Mets
Finally, Ike Davis makes the list for all the wrong reasons. To his credit, Davis has driven in six RBI over the last six games, but his average is well below the Mendoza line and it will take a heck of a hot streak to return to respectability. The problem for Davis is that he is returning from nearly a full year off from baseball and his timing isn’t where it should be. Furthermore, the opposition is exploiting Davis with junk, throwing him more off-speed itches than anyone else in baseball. The Mets have decided to keep Davis at the Big League level, and this is largely because he remains a better threat than anyone else that they can put in the lineup. I don’t know when, but I do think that Davis will eventually bounce back and end up with a batting average closer to .240 by season’s end.
The Dodgers are thriving this season, sitting alone in first place in the National League West. A great deal of credit is certainly owed to Andre Ethier and NL MVP favorite Matt Kemp. The two outfielders have been prolific run producers and Kemp is fresh off one of the most dominant months in recent history.
While offense is certainly important, it has been the team’s pitching that has let the leads stand. While Chad Billingsley has returned to form this season and Chris Capuano has been a pleasant surprise, the key arms in the rotation have been southpaws Clayton Kershaw and Ted Lilly.
Kershaw and Lilly could not be more different. Kershaw is a phenom, who at not even 25 years old is already a Cy Young winner and on the fast track to Cooperstown. Lilly is a 36-year-old veteran hurling on his sixth Major League team. While both left-handers have very different pasts, they are both a part of an important present for the Dodgers.
Kershaw was as good as it gets last season with 21 wins, 248 K’s, and a 2.23 ERA. What’s even more promising is that he is on a better track this season. Though six starts, Kershaw was just 2-3 with a 3.52 ERA and 15 walks a season ago. This season, Kershaw remains a perfect 2-0, while his walks have been nearly cut in half and his ERA is just 2.63.
Aside from comparing Kershaw to his own personal milestones there are few other peers who have enjoyed his level of excellence. Of course, his dominant stuff coming from a left-handed arm slot may remind some of Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. Truth is, Kershaw is very different than Koufax. Kershaw could end up having a far greater impact than Koufax.
Koufax was a late bloomer who did not hone his control until he was 25 years old. He then went on to have six of the most impressive seasons in baseball history before an arm injury prematurely ended his career. Kershaw has been pitching at a high level since he broke into the league in 2008. Here’s a comparison of both Dodgers aces through 24 years old.
To put Kershaw’s early performance in even greater perspective, consider that while the 24-year old southpaw’s next win will be his 50th of his career, Ted Lilly, a two-time All-Star, had just five wins at the age of 25. In many ways, Lilly is more similar to Koufax based on his late bloomer status. Of course, Lilly never quite had the glory days of Koufax, but when you look at his career trends he does resemble a fine wine that gets better over time.
The Dodgers have a nice blend of young talent and proven veterans. While the hope is that Kershaw will remain effective far longer than Koufax did and perhaps remain as relevant in his mid-30s as Lilly, what matters most for Dodgers fans is the present. Right now, the two southpaws are as good as any tandem in baseball.