It happens every year. There are players I count on to either anchor my fantasy team or bolster my roster.
And then they lay an egg.
I look for proven track records when I make my team selections. At times it isn't possible. In an "only" league, what's left is what's left and I have to take what's left. Sometimes there is little choice at 1 in the morning.
I don't call underachievers who flame out during the season "bums." That distinction goes to a specific class of people.
A bum is a guy that doesn't pay his child support. A bum is a lazy guy unwilling to work. A bum is a guy that picks on the little guy or beats his wife. Of course, there are some of those in baseball. They may be bums.
Ryan Braun is not a bum. A cheat, yes. A liar, yes. But not a bum.
This is a list of underachievers.
Of course, not all of these players are on my fantasy teams. But we all have a variety of these guys somewhere in our inventory.
I won't include guys like Aaron Hicks or Phil Hughes on my list. I would never have selected either of them in the first place. The guys I'm listing are legitimate guys that have good track records. I have divided the group.
My Top 10 Underachievers (American League)
10. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Most pitchers would like his year, but when a fantasy player invests the type of salary dollars in an auction league or draft choice in Verlander, results are expected. Not a 10-8 record with a 3.99 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. I expected more from him. So did you. And frankly, so did the Tigers.
9. Michael Saunders, Seattle Mariners
I bought in. I thought this guy had turned the corner. I thought I'd be getting power, stolen bases and even some degree of an acceptable batting average. I traded him very early and cut my losses. So far, Saunders has not lived up to his one good year. He's hitting .229 with only seven homers and 29 RBI – it's not enough.
8. Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays
I was worried about this. I was concerned that the fantasy world was too excited about him. His inconsistency kept me away during draft week. I'm glad. So far he's hitting .207 with eight homers and only 22 RBI. Say no more. Lawrie begins a long list of under achieving third basemen.
7. Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox
Middlebrooks was demoted to the minor leagues after hitting .192 with nine homers and 25 RBI. I don't know what went wrong, and I don't know that he can right the ship. If I had to guess, I would say Xander Bogaerts is the third baseman of the future in Boston. Middlebrooks' batting average ruined many a fantasy team early.
6. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
Several experts had pegged Konerko for a huge decline. They were right. Other people felt he was Paul Konerko hitting in U.S. Cellular Field and he'd still smack his share of home runs again. He's been a mess, and his batting average is now .244 with only seven homers and 35 RBI. He has a weak back and a weaker bat.
5. Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals
Yet another third baseman has made my list. And Moustakas may be the worst among them. He was supposed to be a game changer in Kansas City. So far this season we're looking at .220 with seven homers and 20 RBI. I don't know about you, but I don't want that dragging down my team. The only game he's changing is in fantasy leagues - for the worse.
4. Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels
If he were any other player, it might be likely that his 15 homers and 45 RBI might be acceptable, but not where he was drafted. Not for the amount of money people paid for him at auction. Please. A batting average of .223 at this time of year? He's a huge disappointment.
3. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics
Where did it all go? Why did it happen so quickly? Last year, Cespedes made adjustments. This year he's just striking out and not driving in runs. For a middle of the order hitter, Cespedes has a batting average of .232. Amazing. His 17 homers are one fewer than Marlon Byrd at this point. There are other big sluggers with that amount as well. Cespedes isn't alone, but I expected more. Much more. Thankfully, he's beginning to come around a bit, but it may be too little, too late.
2. R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays
The knuckleball isn't the same in Toronto. The speed isn't there on the fastball. I've heard it all. Losing 11 games so far while winning only eight, Dickey has some splainin' to do. How about those 50 walks? And an ERA of 4.86 with a WHIP that isn't that bad at 1.30. It doesn't make sense.
1. Josh Johnson, Toronto Blue Jays
I stayed away from him like I stay away from green vegetables. But I thought his arm would fall off. I didn't think he'd be so hittable. How about 90 hits in 74 innings and a 6.08 ERA? Did I read that wrong? Opponents have a .289 batting average against him, and he's carrying a WHIP of 1.57. If you have him, my sympathy. He killed every category for you.
Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics
He didn't make my list because I expected a complete meltdown. He obliged.
Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles
He was supposed to be a bit behind Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, etc. etc. He finds himself more than a bit behind.
Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers
I think his bat is beginning to come around more now, but he sure hurt a whole bunch of fantasy players who expected more. Especially in one of baseball's best lineups.
David Murphy, Texas Rangers
His struggles have led to a loss of playing time. I don't see him working himself back in to the Rangers' mix anytime soon.
Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox
He brought a bat to the White Sox during the offseason. Now he is part of the problem as opposed to the solution.
Joe Saunders, Seattle Mariners
Well, I had high hopes. I just don't know which Joe Saunders will show up on any given day. A good start. Two bad starts. A good start. A good start. Three bad starts. You get the point, right?
Of course, there are more. There are always more.
Then there are the guys that made us smile. They outperformed the price we paid or they helped our team more than we could have expected.
As I said before, in general players perform to expectations. Sometimes they fool us.
So far this first half I have been pleasantly surprised by quite a few players.
My Top 10 Overachievers (American League)
10. Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
I have seen the guy pitch a ton of times. I saw him when he was drafted by the Indians and flamed out. Then after he was traded. Then again in the minor leagues with Tampa Bay. I still think he'll wash out, and he throws too many high fastballs. So far, his 6-3 record, 2.39 ERA and 1.05 WHIP is looking pretty nice for fantasy owners.
9. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners
I actually didn't think Seager could sustain what I had seen last season. But his average this year is a lofty .304 at a position that has some good, but not great players. He also has hit 16 homers and has 48 RBI. I remain impressed.
8. Jason Castro, Houston Astros
I thought he'd lose his job by May and be replaced by Carlos Corporan. Man, was I wrong. Castro has had a very nice season. He's hitting .261 with 12 homers. I like what I've seen.
7. Raul Ibanez, Seattle Mariners
While I think the party's over for good ol' Raul, he sure had fun until he turned into a pumpkin. Imagine. He gave my fantasy team 24 homers and 56 RBI. I expected five. No batting average to speak of at .252 and on the down elevator, but I can't be greedy.
6. Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians
I saw it in spring training and purchased accordingly. The man can hit. I'd like to see the Indians ship Carlos Santana off and give the everyday job to Gomes while getting another bat or a starter in return. Gomes is a solid ballplayer, and a good defender too. His .283 mark with seven homers and 23 RBI are all acceptable to me for the first guy off my bench.
5. James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays
How can I be anything but thrilled by what he has done for us lately? A National League reject, Loney has found his stroke with the Rays, and I think they may renew him as well. New team. New Life. I'll take .317 with 10 homers and 50 RBI for the last player I bought at auction.
4. Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
Don't believe anyone who told you they saw this coming. Bob Melvin didn't see it coming. That's why he said he was looking for a third baseman in training camp. Donaldson may have been the biggest All Star snub in my book. His .295 with 16 homers and 61 RBI plays very well in any league.
3. Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland Indians
I can't write about it. I can't say it. I still don't believe it. He's so much better this year. Still not totally fixed, but he's given his fantasy team some big returns. I credit the pitching coach as well as Jimenez for helping him throw strikes. But watch out - we still have two months to play.
2. Bartolo Colon, Oakland Athletics
At 73-years-old and 455 pounds, Colon is amazing. Other than the chemical help, how does this guy do it? And the chemicals aren't helping him anymore. He's just a damn good pitcher. Frankly, I'd like to see more teams bunt on him and get him off the mound, but he's actually a good athlete. I don't like anything about the back-story, but I tip my cap to Bartolo. I've watched him since his days in Montreal. He's never looked better. Or bigger.
1. The Hardest One For Me To Write.
Let's see how many of you know me.
Who is my #1 biggest Over Achiever in the first half? List your answer below. I'll wait a couple days until my article leaves the home page. Then I'll confirm the answer.
Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff. And on MLBPipeline.com.
I'm waiting for your answers. Who is my No. 1 overachiever so far?