When does a harmless early-season slump turn into a reason to start being acutely worried about a hitter? If the player you drafted with high expectations back in March is currently batting below .200, the dreaded Mendoza Line, just about now probably isn’t a bad time to start doing some serious fretting. But if you have any of the members of our All-Mendoza squad on your fantasy roster, you’re probably way ahead of us in the worry department…
Catcher: JD Closser – Colorado (.185)
A .319 average in 36 games as a rookie last season coupled with home games at Coors Field seemed like a surefire recipe for success, prompting many NL-only owners to dip deep into their auction budgets to acquire the promising backstop. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out as planned: in 18 games, Closser has an OPS of just .474 with a mere four runs batted in. Not even the thin air of Denver seems to help; Closser is hitting 29 points higher on the road than at home.
Honorable Mention: Jason LaRue (.169), John Buck (.163), Miguel Olivo (.127)
First Base: Jason Giambi – New York Yankees (.195)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. From six consecutive 100-RBI campaigns to just six runs batted in this season, Giambi’s stock has dropped faster than you can say “federal grand jury testimony.” The Yankees have showed remarkable patience throughout his extended drought, but just how long that will last is anybody’s guess. Giambi hasn’t had a hit since April 28.
Honorable Mention: Adrian Gonzalez (.194)
Second Base: Keith Ginter – Oakland (.163)
Second base can be an extremely difficult position to fill on a fantasy team, so it might come as a surprise that this is the sole position where no regular has fallen below .200. Keith Ginter, who gets about a third of the playing time at second in Oakland, is the closest thing to a Mendoza qualifier here, although several others such as Kazuo Matsui (.231), Mark Bellhorn (.216) and D’Angelo Jimenez (.212) aren’t that far away.
Third Base: Eric Chavez – Oakland (.195)
What on earth is eating Eric Chavez? For the past five seasons, the slugging third sacker has been a fantasy blue-chipper who could be counted on for solid power numbers coupled with an average of .275 or higher. Now, he looks like a rookie trying to adjust to big league pitching, flailing at pitches he once would have sent into the gaps. Sending his frustrated owner a buy-low offer might not be a bad idea; Chavez is simply too good not to break out of this slump soon.
Honorable Mention: Mike Lowell (.191), Aaron Boone (.128)
Shortstop: Jack Wilson – Pittsburgh (.174)
Wilson was the fantasy community’s darling in 2004 when he hit .308, 52 points above his previous high, and many owners drafted him this year expecting more of the same. Sadly, it looks like we may have to replace the word ‘breakout’ with ‘fluke,’ as Wilson’s average is well below the Mendoza Line. He has, however, shown some improvement recently, raising his average by 40 points since April 23. Don’t give up on him just yet.
Honorable Mention: Rich Aurilia (.198), Nomar Garciaparra (.157)
Left Field: Terrence Long – Kansas City (.198)
After joining the Padres last season, Long looked like he had recaptured the form that made him such a valuable cog in Oakland’s offense in 2000 and 2001. With San Diego, the former first-rounder hit a career-high .295; this year, he has just two multi-hit games to date.
Honorable Mention: Quinton McCracken (.198)
Center Field: Tike Redman – Pittsburgh (.129)
Not long ago, Redman was being hyped as an inexpensive source of speed, a poor man’s Juan Pierre, as it were. Today, Redman is hitting .129 with one stolen base.
Honorable Mention: Steve Finley (.198)
Right Field: Richard Hidalgo – Texas (.168)
Since hitting .309 in 2003, Hidalgo’s average has gone steadily downhill. Last year, playing in Shea Stadium seemed like a convenient explanation for his decreased production, but a move to hitter-friendly Arlington hasn’t translated into success at the plate. The 2000 season, when he posted an OPS over 1.000 and smashed 44 home runs, seems a long, long time ago.
Honorable Mention: Jermaine Dye (.195), Jay Payton (.194), Casey Blake (.190)
Arlo Vander’s fantasy catching platoon of Victor Martinez (.216) and Jason Kendall (.210) is awfully close to qualifying for All-Mendoza honors.
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