5 MLB stars off to poor starts
Every season, a few big-name Major League Baseball players find themselves scuffling out of the gate. Some guys are prone to bad months of April and need time to re-acclimate themselves to big league hitting or pitching, some are just going through a slump, while others find that the skills that once made them so great are starting to erode.
Here is a look at five MLB stars who have gotten off to very poor starts in 2017.
5) Alex Gordon, OF, Royals
The Kansas City Royals’ offense has struggled so much this season that even Eric Hosmer could have found himself on this list. But based on the way he’s played in April, Gordon secures the spot instead.
Gordon is batting just .188 with just three extra-base hits this season — all doubles. His OBP (.270) and slugging percentage (.225) yield an OPS below .500. That’s well below what he would like to do and what the Royals need out of him.
Between 2011-2015, Gordon batted anywhere from .265-.301, posting an OPS over .800 three times. That helped him become a three-time All-Star and earn a four-year, $72 million contract extension from Kansas City prior to last season. But the 33-year-old slipped to hitting .220 last season, though he did have 17 home runs.
Is this the start of a decline for the former No. 2 overall pick? Gordon’s prime may have spanned his age 27-31 seasons, which is fairly typical of an MLB player, and this could be a sign of his aging.
The Royals better hope Gordon bounces back enough to give them some quality production over the remainder of his contract.
4) Victor Martinez, DH, Tigers
Long one of the league’s elite hitters, there is a fear that age is beginning to catch up to Martinez.
The 38-year-old Detroit Tigers designated hitter has performed poorly so far in 2017, with just two extra base hits in 68 at-bats. His glacial speed has something to do with that, as well as the four double plays he’s hit into already, but it doesn’t explain everything. Once one of the toughest players in the league to strike out, Martinez’s strikeout percentage has gone from 6.6 percent in 2014 to 14.8 percent in 2016 to 17.1 percent in 2017, which would be a career-worst mark.
The total and complete lack of power is concerning, but his age is even more of a concern. Martinez seemed to be losing his touch before — he hit .245/.301/.366 in an injury-plagued 2015, but he recovered to hit .289 with 27 home runs a year later. Now he’s at .221/.280/.250, and as far as anyone knows, there’s no injury this time. The bat that has served Martinez so well for the last decade and a half may be slowing down for good.
3) Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox
The Chicago White Sox first baseman entered the league in 2014, and has averaged 30 home runs per year since making his big league debut. Though his power numbers have dropped each season, he was still a 25 homer guy in 2016, and a feared part of the middle of Chicago’s lineup.
In 2017, all of Abreu’s numbers have crashed. He has yet to homer this season, though he did double twice on Wednesday to give him five for the year. His slugging percentage sits at a weak .320. The power drop is bad enough, but Abreu has a reputation for being a good hitter for average as well, and that has been absent thus far too. Perhaps a part of it is the fact that the first baseman is now the biggest hitter in a weak lineup and is thus getting less to hit, but others in the same situation have managed to put up numbers. Abreu is just cold so far in 2017.
2) Carlos Correa, SS, Astros
The dynamic Houston Astros shortstop can’t use age as an excuse like some of the other entrants on this list, as he’s still just 22. Part of it may well be injury — he got hit in the hand with a pitch on Apr. 15 and missed several games. He hasn’t really hit since he returned, though, and he wasn’t exactly lighting it up before then, either.
Correa has flashed his power, homering twice this season, but the average is not there. He’s hitting .217, and those two home runs represent two-thirds of his extra base hits, as he’s slugging a weak .319. Correa is still walking a fair amount, which is something of a saving grace, but the Astros will want much more from him.
Correa is in his third MLB season and hit .274/.361/.451 in 2016. Houston wants to see him progressively improving, not going in the other direction. The odds are he still will, but this slow start is not what the team wanted or expected.
1) Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays
Major League Baseball teams may well have seen this coming from Bautista. The slugger did not draw a ton of interest in free agency, or at least not the type he was looking for. After a 2016 season plagued by injury in which he hit just .234 with 22 home runs, Joey Bats had to settle for an incentive-laden deal to return to the Toronto Blue Jays with just one guaranteed year. Bautista didn’t have many other options, and Toronto was driven partly by sentiment and partly by the fact that they couldn’t bear to lose both Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the same offseason.
Perhaps Toronto should have left things alone, because Bautista’s 2016 season is looking less like a fluke and more like the beginning of a rather dramatic decline phase.
The 36-year-old is hitting an atrocious .145/.275/.211 through 76 at-bats, with just one home run — a three run shot last Friday that accounts for three of Bautista’s five RBIs on the year. He has 28 strikeouts in those 76 at-bats, meaning he has nearly three times as many Ks as he has hits. Any way you look at it, Bautista’s numbers are awful across the board.
The days in which Joey Bats is an MVP candidate are almost certainly over. Unfortunately for him and the Blue Jays, the days in which he is a productive everyday player may be as well.