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How long can you let valuable fantasy roster spots be taken up by players who are vastly underperforming?
The answer, of course, can depend on who they are, when you drafted them, how strongly you believe that they will eventually play up to their traditional fantasy output, and perhaps a number of other criteria. The hardest ones to part with are those who had been awarded pre-season rankings in the top 40 or so. No one wants to believe that anyone among their first three or four draft picks turned out to be a dud.
Yet, unless you're in first place despite your underperformer - or in a keeper league - you will probably have to let go at some point. June 1 seems like a good date. The first two months of the season gone, weather warm enough that cold bats or arms should no longer be an issue, and also roughly when we see a big batch of prized prospects making their first big-league appearances (trading in something worn for something shiny and new is at least a defensible position).
Here are a few guys I would definitely cut on June 1, barring any sort of phenomenal rebound in the next week or so - a couple of poor performers I would hang on to:
Dallas Keuchel, SP, HOU: Last year's AL Cy Young winner has been mostly terrible right from the start, despite the Astros' willingness to leave him in games even when he's getting shelled (which from a fantasy point of view is a big part of how much he's truly lacking in value). His 5.92 ERA and whopping 1.59 WHIP have destroyed a lot of fantasy match-ups this season, and with just two wins and 53 strikeouts in 62 IP, he has offered almost nothing. HOU is having a bad season as a team, but Keuchel's troubles seem all his own, and don't seem to be getting better.
Matt Harvey, SP, NYM: I admit having Harvey on my list of Cy Young candidates for this year, and was expecting a huge season after being further distant from an injury at that cost him more than a year. Yet, Harvey has been conspicuously, yet mysteriously, bad. There have been rumors that he's out of shape or has lost something on his pitches after a long post-season trip last fall, and in the last week those rumors have expanded to include a possible DL stint. His numbers are even worse than Keuchel's - 6.08 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and just 44 strikeouts in 53 IP. The difference between the two is that Harvey had a sparkling 10-strikeout game this month, and the otherwise winning Mets have managed to get him three wins. He may yet come back, but let someone else take a flyer on him.
Joey Votto, 1B, CIN: True to form, he has walked a bunch this year, but with 28, he's still not on pace for last year's incredible 143. He also is hitting .216, nowhere near last season's .314, which had us talking about a career rebound. He has six HRs, 25 RBI, 20 runs and one SB, which leaves him more than 200 spots down the list from his top 25 pre-season fantasy ranking.
So, those are the guys I'd cut, but here's two I wouldn't cut just yet:
Jason Heyward, OF, CUBS: The Cubs started fast and may be settling down. Heyward, despite being in a prime No. 2 spot in an offense that leads MLB in a scoring, has been pretty bad: one HR, 14 RBI, six SBs, 20 runs .596 OPS. Still, his SBs have given him some fantasy value, and I believe his lineup protection eventually will help his OPS, which will boost his RBI and runs. Not so sure about those HRs, though.
Jose Abreu, 1B, WHITE SOX: Have been on the fence with him more than with Heyward, and have to admit his first three-hit game of the season this week calmed me down a bit. His .247 BA (vastly improved this week), six HRs, 27 RBI, 18 runs and .794 OPS put him very far down the list at a position rich in fantasy production, and he will never help with SBs, but I have an inkling he will have a big breakout in June. We can only hope.
Disco Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.