The MLB All-Star Break is a time to celebrate the league’s best players and best stories through the first half of the season. However, it’s also a time to look at players that simply did not live up to expectations during the first three and a half months of the season.
As usual, I’m not including players who suffered long-term injuries (Corey Seager) or were handed suspensions (Robinson Cano), and players can be on this list when they’re still having pretty decent seasons (most specifically, this team’s shortstop). But these are the players that disappointed their teams in the first half, either by not living up to high expectations or by living down to expectations that were in the gutter to begin with.
Catcher: Salvador Perez
Perez is starting the All-Star Game on Tuesday night (thanks to Wilson Ramos’ injury), which is wild given how terrible he’s been this season. Sure, the Royals’ backstop has 13 homers this year, but he’s slashing just .221/.259/.394 over 73 games, giving him a pitiful 0.3 fWAR on the season. Perez had a ton of value on his old contract with the Royals, but is still owed roughly $36 million over the next three seasons on his new contract…and that’s not great, given that he has the fourth-lowest OBP among all qualified players in baseball, the third-lowest walk rate, and a wOBA that is outside the top 150 (of 164 qualified players) in MLB.
First Base: Chris Davis
Any talk about bad contracts begins and ends with Davis, with all due respect to everyone else in baseball. Davis is owed $92 million over the next four seasons, and has a limited no-trade clause. He’s homered nine times this season, which is not what the Orioles expected, given his 53 in 2013 and 47 in 2015. He’s been the worst hitter in baseball this year by both wOBA (.225) and wRC+ (35, with 100 being considered league average). He’s already accrued -2.4 fWAR, a full win worse than any player in baseball not named Victor Martinez (who only isn’t on this list because I didn’t include a DH, and because he was pretty bad last season too). Davis wasn’t “good” last season (.215/.309/.423), but his dropoff this year has been absolutely abysmal (.158/.232/.274), and the fall couldn’t have been expected to be this steep.
Second Base: Jonathan Schoop
Jonathan Schoop was an All-Star last season, and finished 12th in AL MVP voting. This year, he is slashing .229/.263/.389 with ten homers, and all positive gains from last year have seemingly been erased. Many people, including myself, expected him to take another step forward and carry the Orioles into the post-Manny Machado era. Instead, he’s someone that has minimal trade value and might actually be non-tendered this winter thanks to the expected raise through arbitration (merit aside) on his $8.5 million salary (not to mention all of Baltimore’s sunk costs in payroll for 2019).
Shortstop: Carlos Correa
Unlike everyone else on this list so far, Carlos Correa isn’t having a bad year. The 23-year old is slashing .268/.352/.480 with 13 homers in 73 games, which most teams across MLB would take from their shortstop. But those numbers more resemble Correa in 2016, his first full year in the majors, than Correa in 2017, when he was an All-Star and a World Series hero for the Astros. Correa is still a star and one of the best shortstops in baseball, but for those expecting another step forward this year (like myself), this season hasn’t lived up to the expectations, especially with someone like Francisco Lindor in the AL having such a monster year.
Third Base: Kyle Seager
If Seager starts hitting in the second half, the Mariners could be even more dangerous. Seattle’s long-time third baseman hasn’t been the offensive catalyst he’s been every year of his career, hitting .233/.282/.424 with 16 homers, a career-low walk rate, and a career-high strikeout rate. Seager is 30 now, so some sort of decline was expected. But a step back like this is disappointing, especially for a Mariners team that has dealt with the Robinson Cano PED suspension as well as possible.
Left Field: Marcell Ozuna
The return the Marlins got for Ozuna was arguably the best of the four major trades they made this offseason, but the Cardinals haven’t gotten what they expected out of Ozuna after the deal. He’s hit just ten homers in 90 games after launching 37 a year ago, and is slashing .268/.309/.385. Given what they gave up, St. Louis clearly expected more out of Ozuna, and he’ll be a free agent after the 2019 season as well. Maybe Mike Matheny’s firing will turn his season around.
Center Field: Ender Inciarte
Inciarte was remarkably consistent over the last three seasons, hitting in the .290s-.300s with double digit steals and OBPs in the high .330s to low .350s. Then this year came along and screwed everything up. To his credit, Inciarte has stolen a career-best 23 bases already and is walking at a career-high 8.1%, but his batting average has plummeted to .241 (taking his OBP down to .312 with it), making him a much less effective leadoff hitter. If there’s a positive, it’s this – outside of his batting average on balls in play, all of Inciarte’s peripherals look fine, so he easily could finish with stats similar to the ones he’s posted over the last three seasons when all is said and done.
Right Fielder: Dexter Fowler
In year two of a five year, $82.5 million contract with the Cardinals, it just hasn’t worked for Fowler. He’s hitting .176/.270/.297 with seven homers and just three steals, walking at an acceptable but still career-low 10.6% clip as well. He also got called out by Cardinals GM John Mozeliak for his lack of effort (while on paternity leave, none the less). Matheny’s ouster could help him like it could help Ozuna, or it could simply be a lost season that spurs the Cardinals to try to move his contract his winter.
Starting Pitcher: Tyler Chatwood
Chatwood’s three-year, $38 million deal with the Cubs this past winter was considered a coup for the team. Then the season started, and Chatwood just couldn’t get out of first gear. In 17 starts, he’s pitched to a 5.04 ERA, which maybe you could write up to bad luck. But Chatwood has walked 73 hitters already this season in 84 innings (after walking a career-high 77 in 147 2/3 innings last season), and has only struck out 76. His ballyhooed ground ball rate is still north of 55%, and his homer rate has declined after leaving Coors Field, but walking nearly as many hitters as you strike out is a good way to negate any possible gains from strong batted ball statistics.
Relief Pitcher: Wade Davis
From a Rockie that went to the Cubs, we go to a Cub that went to the Rockies. Davis got a three-year, $52 million deal from Colorado last winter and was expected to stabilize their bullpen. That really hasn’t happened, as his ERA has gone from 2.30 to 3.72, his strikeout rate has decreased from 12.12 per nine innings to 9.78, and his walk and home run rates have slightly increased (4.30 walks per nine to 4.42, and 0.92 homers per nine to 0.93). Sure, his season hasn’t been the biggest disappointment compared to some of these other players, but when you consider Davis’ reputation and the sheer size of the contract given to him to throw maybe 60 innings a season, it could have gone a lot better for the Rockies.