Yesterday, as we wrapped up the first half, I profiled the 10 best surprises in MLB in 2015. Because there must be balance in the force, today we're going to do the opposite of that, and highlight the 10 biggest disappointments. Strap in.
C Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners
Zunino was drafted with the 3rd overall pick in 2012, and while he was billed as a fast mover, the Mariners rushed him through the minors in less than a full season. So it's no surprise he never had a clue how to control the strike zone. Still, you can only blame the Mariners for so much, and Zunino is hitting .160/.223/292 while starting 74 games behind the plate. Incredible defensive catcher or not, he's putting up one of the worst offensive performances of the past 30 years. He has struck out 36 percent of his plate appearances, and has almost six strikeouts for every walk.
The future: I don't have a lot of hope of Zunino pulling out of his nosedive, at least not with the Mariners, and not without a demotion to the upper minors. The Mariners are said to be set to acquire a new catcher. It won't help them win a playoff spot, but God do they need one.
1B Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
As a Twins fan, this pains me a lot. Mauer was so great for so long, but his last two seasons have shown that, after concussions and a myriad of other injuries over his career, not much is left of the hitter who used to regularly win batting titles and post .400 OBPs. Now, he hits like a middle infielder, but plays first base. The Twins' return to relevance is a huge surprise made even more shocking by how little their former superstar is contributing to it.
The future: Well, we know Mauer isn't going anywhere; not with three yearas and $69 million remaining on his contract. Hell, he won't even be replaced at this point, because $23 million players don't get benched. Over the last month he's hit .319/.382/.495, so here's hoping he's turned a corner.
2B Stephen Drew, New York Yankees
It's hard to believe that Stephen Drew is only 32 years old. He looks a million. Since sitting out half of 2014, he's hit .172/.247/.334 in 163 games. The Yankees' search for the replacement for Robinson Cano continues.
The future: In spite of Drew's performance, he Yankees are still leading the AL East and will undoubtedly be looking to upgrade the position at the trade deadline. That's assuming, of course, that Rob Refsnyder doesn't go all Shane Spencer in the second half. They have pieces to make moves, and would definitely love to get ahold of Ben Zobrist, or maybe even reunite with Martin Prado.
3B Pablo Sandoval, Boston Red Sox
Really, this entire list could be Red Sox. Rick Porcello has an ERA of about 6.00. Jackie Bradley has never developed. Mike Napoli has hit a wall. But Sandoval is perhaps a bigger problem because of where he is in his career and how long he'll be in Boston. Porcello's young and his struggles will probably clear up. Prospects fail. Mike Napoli will be gone next year. Sandoval is hitting .265/.307/.384. Those would all be career lows. He is sticking around for at least another four years, has a body that screams "WON'T AGE WELL," and his once-vaunted defense has taken a huge hit. We knew his decline would come eventually, but nobody knew it would be this soon.
The future: What else are the Red Sox going to do? They have to play him. And maybe hire a cook for him, if they haven't already.
SS Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
Possibly the most frustrating player ever, Starlin Castro has repeatedly demonstrated that he has the talent to be a player you can build a team around, but he's constantly falling short. He's durable, has speed, and has shown a good bat. His refusal to control the strikezone, however, means that he will always be dependent on balls in play falling in, and in two of the last three seasons, that hasn't happened. His power has disappeared in 2015. Indeed, aside from last year's rebound, Castro has gotten worse offensively every year since 2011. With the Cubs jumping into playoff contention in 2015, Castro's poor production is intolerable.
The future: The Cubs have Addison Russell and Javier Baez, both of whom can play shortstop. What they haven't been able to find is someone dumb enough to take this maddening player, and the $40 million he is still owed, off their hands. Nor, likely, with they.
LF Melky Cabrera, Chicago White Sox
Another busted free agent signing by a team that thought they would be in contention, at least Melky's deal is neither as expensive, nor as long as Sandoval's. But his performance has been a huge disappointment. In truth, Cabrera has always kind of been the Starlin Castro of the outfield. His performace is heavily driven by batting average, and his usefulness dries up when his BABIP falls like it has this year.
The future: Cabrera is not going to be part of the White Sox's deadline plans in 2015. He's too expensive and too ineffective to bring a return. So the South Siders will keep throwing him out there, and hoping he turns it around.
CF Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
Thankfully, the Reds are not letting Hamilton and his .269 OBP lead off anymore. Though if they did, Hamilton might set the all time record for most outs made in a season. And that would be something. On the bright side, Hamilton's baserunning and defense have both improved, and he's fulfilling his considerable promise there. However, his offensive game has atrophied alarmingly, to the point where a demotion might be a good idea.
The future: Hamilton doesn't have an immediate challenger to his job, but it wouldn't take much to outperform him. It might help the Reds in the long run to give Hamilton some exposure to Triple-A pitching and hope he can develop some semblance of strike zone control.
RF Matt Kemp, San Diego Padres
The poster child for everything that's gone wrong for the Padres this season, Kemp is hitting just .250/.291/.382. His power has disappeared and his defense is awfu. Worse, his plate discipline has completely dried up. But he has stayed on the field, leading the National League in games played. With the Padres eight games under .500 and in fourth place in the NL West, maybe it's time for him to take a break.
The future: Thanks to A.J. Preller's infinite wisdom, the Padres still owe Kemp for four years and $73 million. They just have to hope that Kemp's got some dead cat bounce in him, but his plummeting walk rate and sudden inability to hit the ball in the air are extremely troubling.
SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Strasburg is now on the shelf, leading everyone to hope that some rest will set him right. Formerly one of the most exciting pitchers in baseball, Strasburg has not actually pitched that much worse than usual. He's stuck out more than a batter per inning and his walk rate is at his career norms. Perhaps it's just a bad defense behind him that has led to him allowing almost six runs per nine innings.
The future: On a personal level, Strasburg picked a bad time to get hurt and pitch poorly, as his downturn in performance won't help him earn a giant free agent contract at the end of 2016. And the Nats are comfortable enough in their division that his struggles haven't held them back. At this point, Washington will wait for Strasburg to get back from his oblique strain and see if he can recover his form.
RP Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks
Acquired two years ago for Matt Davidson, Reed has been a disaster for the Diamondbacks. Frankly, despite the hype he came up with, Reed has never been a particularly good pitcher, allowing too many homers and walking too many batters out of the bullpen. His 5.92 ERA was enough to bump him first out of the closer role and then down to Triple-A Reno. If he can't right himself, he'll be a serious non-tender candidate this winter.
The future: The Diamondbacks have moved on, installing 35 year old Brad Ziegler as the closer for the third stretch of his career. He's saved 14 of 16 chances. Maybe Reed will eventually get the job back, but Ziegler's success is a great reminder that closing out games is something that a lot of guys can do effectively, and that giving up actual prospects for marginal closer-label guys like Reed is always a bad decision.