With nearly two months of the 2013 MLB season having been played, several teams are beginning to make tough decisions on young players that haven't performed to expectations.
This has been especially apparent in Seattle, where the Mariners recently demoted catcher Jesus Montero (batting .208) and second baseman Dustin Ackley (.205 average) to Triple-A Tacoma. Both players have been disappointing, but the Mariners also need more offensive production.
On the pitching side, the Minnesota Twins sent pitcher Vance Worley — part of the Ben Revere trade — and his 7.21 ERA to Triple-A Rochester.
But elsewhere in MLB, there are several other players who were projected to be potential stars, yet have been major disappointments thus far. Some, if not all of them could be looking at demotions to the minor leagues in the days and weeks to come if they don't improve significantly soon.
Here are six presumed young hopefuls who have been anything but stars for their respective clubs this year. Can these players still salvage respectable numbers with four months left in the season?
Time is running out for them to make a strong impression, as managers and front offices have to decide which players give them the best chance to win ballgames.
Ike Davis, New York Mets: The Mets first baseman might be demoted by the time you read this. If not that soon, then the end of this week is certainly a strong possibility.
After going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts on Monday, Davis is batting .155 with a .487 OPS. Only B.J. Upton of the Atlanta Braves and Aaron Hicks of the Minnesota Twins have a worse batting average in MLB among players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Jeff Keppinger is the one major-league regular with a worse OPS.
Even more of a concern should be Davis' .245 slugging percentage. He was expected to be a middle-of-the-order run producer for the Mets, yet is so ineffective with so little power that manager Terry Collins is batting him seventh.
The Mets have no viable replacement at first base for Davis. But with the way he's hitting, would anybody else at that position be worse?
Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals: The Royals were expected to be a sleeper contender in the AL Central this season. One big reason that the team currently holds fourth place in the division, seven games behind the Detroit Tigers with a 21-27 record, is lack of production from prospective stars like Moustakas.
Eric Hosmer has also been disappointing for Kansas City, with one home run and a .339 slugging percentage. But at least he's batting .268 and getting on-base. Moustakas looks completely lost at the plate, batting .178 with a .560 OPS. Among the 92 players who qualify for the AL batting title, he ranks No. 90.
Batting eighth in the lineup is not what manager Ned Yost nor Royals fans had envisioned for their young third baseman. Yost is publicly sticking with Moustakas, saying there's no "third base tree" from which to pluck another player. But an actual tree at third base wouldn't be hitting much worse at this point.
Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers: Detroit appeared to have its catcher for years to come when Avila had a breakout, All-Star season in 2011. He batted .295 with an .895 OPS, 19 home runs and 82 RBI. That seems like a long time ago, based on what Avila is doing for the Tigers now.
Avila is batting .171 with a .533 OPS. More troubling for the Tigers should be his .248 on-base percentage. Avila showed an excellent batting eye and ability to get on base when he was playing well. His struggles now (underlined by a team-leading 43 strikeouts) indicate that he's not seeing the ball well and being far less selective in swinging at pitches.
The Tigers seem to be a better team with backup catcher Brayan Pena in the lineup right now. In 72 plate appearances, he's batting .313 with a .786 OPS. Bryan Holaday is also playing well for Triple-A Toledo, batting .283 with a .768 OPS, giving Detroit a viable replacement for Avila.
Manager Jim Leyland may have run Avila into the ground in 2011, playing him in 141 games with 133 of those appearances at catcher. Avila developed tendinitis in his knees by the end of the season and really has never been the same player since.
Wily Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers: For the Brewers to compete in the NL Central, the team's young pitching had to be effective behind veterans Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse in the starting rotation. Yet Peralta (along with Mike Fiers) hasn't progressed as Milwaukee hoped he would.
Peralta had a promising 2012, finishing with a 2.48 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 29 innings. But he's been a huge disappointment in his 11 starts this season.
His 40 earned runs allowed lead the National League, resulting in a 6.35 ERA. His strikeouts per nine innings are down, while his walk and hit totals have both increased. With 74 hits and 24 walks allowed, Peralta is tops among Brewers pitchers in both categories.
Peralta gave up three runs over five innings in his most recent start, which appeared encouraging. Yet he issued five walks and threw 108 pitches, indicating that his control problems may be getting worse.
Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals: To be fair, the Nats second baseman has been playing with a fractured right wrist and a bone chip floating in his hand. Espinosa has also been dealing with a torn left rotator cuff.
So perhaps it's understandable that he's been hitting .163 with a .487 OPS. But 40 strikeouts in 149 plate appearances and a .196 on-base percentage show that Espinosa isn't merely dealing with physical issues when batting.
If Espinosa ends up on the disabled list because of his wrist injury, the Nationals won't have to confront the possibility of demoting him in the near future.
But with the way he's hitting (and the Nats needing some offensive consistency), it's becoming an easier decision for manager Davey Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo to consider playing Steve Lombardozzi at second base or calling up top prospect Anthony Rendon for that position. Other short-term options include Jeff Kobernus and Will Rhymes.
Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays: This one might be a tougher call. Lawrie batted 6-for-17 (.353) in his past five games, boosting his season average to .209 and his OPS to .642. However, those numbers are far below the production expected by the Blue Jays from their third baseman.
Lawrie did begin the season on the DL with a rib cage injury suffered in the World Baseball Classic. That could certainly be a factor in his slow start and lack of power (five homers, .374 slugging) thus far.
But Lawrie's attitude and lack of composure could be a more immediate concern to the Blue Jays. In Sunday's 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles, Lawrie irritated teammates and manager John Gibbons by getting angry over being deprived of what he felt was an RBI opportunity.
As described by the Toronto Star's Richard Griffin, Lawrie felt that Adam Lind should have come in to score on a fly ball to right field in the ninth inning. Lind was held by third-base coach Luis Rivera, however. Lawrie went back to the dugout and yelled at Lind and Rivera. He continued to rant until Jose Bautista came over to confront his teammate and Gibbons shouted Lawrie down.
Demoting Lawrie for his display would be extreme and perhaps he should be given the opportunity to learn from his mistakes. But his performance arguably warrants being sent down as well.