The first half of the 2018 MLB season has been fantastic. We’ve seen a few no-hitters, some amazing stretches of baseball by teams and some insane first-half performances.
Of course, there’s the other side of the coin — players who entered the season with high expectations and thus far have vastly disappointed even the most pessimistic projections.
What started as a bad week turned into a bad month, and before long, these 10 players found themselves mired in misery. Fortunately, there is still time for them to turn their seasons around.
Here are the 10 players who failed to reach expectations in the first half.
Chris Davis, first base, Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore is paying Davis more than $21 million this season, which right now works out to $3 million for each home run the slugger has hit so far. Needless to say, it’s the worst contract in baseball and it isn’t about to end any time soon.
The 32-year-old is under contract control for the next four and a half seasons and will receive $21 million in each of them. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s first baseman has provided them with a .497 OPS.
At the same time, Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar has a .518 OPS this season. Keep in mind, Davis and Escobar have each played 1,000-plus games and Escobar still has 234 fewer home runs. Simply put, Davis is the worst player in all of baseball and he’s paid to be one of the best.
Jonathan Schoop, second base, Baltimore Orioles
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to see two of Baltimore’s players on this list. One of the reasons the Orioles boast one of the worst records in baseball is because of the steep regression from Schoop.
After a breakout season last year in which he slashed .293/.338/.503 with a .841 OPS and 32 home runs, the 26-year-old has come crashing back to earth this season. His batting average (.197) is down nearly 100 points and his OPS (.587) this season barely surpasses his slugging percentage in 2017.
At some point, Schoop should turn it around. Unfortunately, his numbers are only getting worse as the season progresses. From a .676 OPS in April to .649 in May and finally .516 this month, the projection for the second baseman’s second half is ugly.
Scott Kingery, shortstop, Philadelphia Phillies
There is always hype around top prospects and that was especially true with Kingery. When Philadelphia took the big step to sign him to a six-year contract worth $65 million, it created a plethora of excitement among baseball fans and represented a big investment.
Needless to say, the results thus far have been extremely underwhelming. The 24-year-old has a .284 batting average through 256 at-bats this season. A young infielder who some projected to be part of the 20-20 club as a rookie instead will be fortunate to reach double-digit home runs and steals.
There’s still plenty of time for Kingery to turn his season around. But the first half for him shows very few rookies experience immediate success as rookies and at times, these contracts can backfire.
Miguel Sano, third base, Minnesota Twins
This time last year, Sano was just a few weeks away from appearing in his first MLB All-Star Game. Now fast forward to now and he is currently in High-A Fort Myers trying to make his way back to the majors.
After the 25-year-old slashed .203/.270/.405 in 37 games with Minnesota, the team finally opted to send him down. The team is hopeful the young third baseman will greatly improve his conditioning and swing there after what has been a disastrous year.
So far, the results are okay. In seven games in A-ball, Sano walked five walks times with just seven strikeouts and has a .793 OPS. It will likely be awhile before we see him again, but the talent is still there to be an All-Star third baseman again.
Dexter Fowler, outfielder, St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis added Marcell Ozuna this offseason to complete its outfield. The team’s hope was that Ozuna, Tommy Pham and Fowler would combine to give the team one of the best outfields in baseball.
Instead, Fowler has been one of the worst players in all of baseball. In his second season under a five-year, $80 million deal signed before the 2017 season, Fowler is performing like an overmatched minor-league outfielder.
The 32-year-old’s .171 batting average is a dramatic drop from last season’s .264 BA and he has more strikeouts (54) than hits (37). After he finished June with a .412 OPS, St. Louis must now consider trading for an outfielder to take his place.
Robinson Cano, second base, Seattle Mariners
This is a unique situation. Seattle is experiencing its best season in over a decade, yet Cano has become an afterthought in the minds of everyone. It didn’t start that way, his .826 OPS and 23 RBIs in 39 games helped make him an impact player.
Then everything changed. Cano received an 80-game PED suspension and Seattle quickly moved on without him. Seattle’s record sat at 24-17 before his suspension and it is now 54-31 and just 1/2 a game back of the Houston Astros in the A.L. West.
Cano can return in August, but the Mariners frankly don’t need him. When he returns in August, he’ll be a part-time player and likely watch his teammates compete in the postseason without him. An incredible career is forever stained by this suspension.
Jon Gray, starting pitcher, Colorado Rockies
Ultimately, Colorado decided it couldn’t wait any longer for Gray to turn things around. As a result, the Rockies sent down their Opening Day starter on June 30.
In a way, the date was fitting. After the 26-year-old’s season started with three runs allowed in four innings, he was sent down nearly three months to the day after another poor start.
Another opportunity will come for Gray. He struck out 119 batters in 92 innings and experienced some bad fortune with base runners. While we can’t write off his entire season, the first half was certainly a massive disappoint for Colorado’s ace.
Felix Hernandez, starting pitcher, Seattle Mariners
King Felix is no more. Once the face of Seattle’s franchise and the beacon of potential playoff hopes, now instead he would find himself out of the rotation if the Mariners make the playoffs.
The 32-year-old, who holds a 3.27 ERA in nearly 14 seasons, is the owner of a 5.11 ERA in 18 starts this season. While health has been on his side this season and should allow him to surpass 160-plus innings this season, the six-time All-Star pitcher is now a back-end starter.
If Mariners fans want a sliver of hope, it exists. Hernandez owns a 3.71 ERA in his last six starts and remains sharp at Safeco Field with a 3.81 ERA. His rotation spot will be safe if Seattle acquires a Cole Hamels or J.A. Happ, but he might find himself in the bullpen when he gets his first taste of the postseason.
Wade Davis, closer, Colorado Rockies
Colorado focused its efforts this offseason on overhauling its bullpen. The result, the league’s costliest bullpen has entered the week with the worst ERA (5.52) in the majors.
Davis isn’t the primary player to blame, but Colorado’s closer plays a major role in this team’s struggles. He signed a three-year, $52 million deal this offseason, it was the biggest contract for a receiver in MLB history.
Things actually started really well for him with a 2.35 ERA when he entered June. He then allowed 11 runs, 10 earned, in 11 appearances last month. Now with four blown saves on the year and a 4.41 ERA, his control in the ninth should be slim.
In fact, the only thing keeping him from losing the closer’s job to Adam Ottavino’s 1.88 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, is Davis’ record-setting contract. One thing is for certain, the Rockies deeply regret what they did this offseason.
Bryce Harper, outfielder, Washington Nationals
This was going to be Harper’s season. An impending free agent, he was expected to lead the Nationals deep into the postseason and take home the National League’s MVP honors. After it all, he would cash in with the richest contract in baseball history.
Now with the first half of the season in the books, it feels like most of that won’t happen. Washington is four games back for first place in the N.L. East and Harper’s .841 OPS is far from being MVP-caliber.
The 25-year-old is still driving in runs and on pace for 40-plus home runs, but the .216 batting average is hard to look at. As of right now, Harper either needs a turnaround in the second half or a one-year contract to hopefully land the historic contract in the future.