I love using the term "bust," especially because so many people misconstrue it. A player can't be a bust if he was expected by the entire nation to suck. A player can be a really good player and still be considered a "bust" at the time being. It's all relative to expectations and who is vastly underperforming those expecations, fair or not. I fully expect several to come around with a big second half (especially my preseason NL MVP pick ... who you'll find in the right field slot here).
Anyway, here they are, the top "busts" of the National League for the first half of the 2012 season ...
Catcher - Geovany Soto, Cubs. That 2008 season is a distant memory. Soto was Rookie of the Year, an All-Star and finished 13th in NL MVP voting. He was forgettable in 2009, pretty good in 2010 and mediocre last season. Now he's awful. He's hitting .168/.257/.328 and is being outplayed by Steve Clevenger.
First base - Gaby Sanchez, Marlins. An All-Star in 2011, Sanchez was demoted to Triple-A earlier this season. He's back, but still sitting below the Mendoza line, at .194/.241/.286. That's the same slugging percentage of Jamey Carroll, and it's worse than the number being posted by the likes of Brandon Crawford, Jose Tabata, Placido Polanco and Darwin Barney. And this from a first baseman. Ike Davis was also a consideration here, but we'll give him a pass due to the mysterious illness in the spring. Sanchez has no such excuse.
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Second base - Rickie Weeks, Brewers. Easy choice here, with Weeks' putrid .187/.309/.315 line. He's coming off an All-Star season and three consecutive campaigns of having an OPS-plus over 120. This season, it's 68.
Shortstop - Jose Reyes, Marlins. Dee Gordon and Clint Barmes have been significantly worse, but with the term "bust," you have to weigh expectations. Reyes was the key signing of the Marlins' spending splurge this past offseason. After hitting .337 with an .877 OPS last season, Reyes sits at .268 and .722 right now.
Third base - Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals. Zimmerman is now locked up for nine figures through the year 2019. He's been really hot of late (hitting .378 with a 1.140 OPS in the last eight games), but still is overall having a really rough season. He's hitting .241/.302/.366 with six homers.
Right field - Justin Upton, Diamondbacks. One season removed from finishing fourth in NL MVP voting, Upton isn't even on pace to do half of what he did last year in the following categories: Runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs and RBI.
Center field - Shane Victorino, Phillies. With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley out for a significant amount of time, the Phillies needed their remaining offensive centerpieces to step up. Victorino did not. He's hitting .254/.322/.386, good for a lackluster OPS-plus of 91 (his figure last season was 130). Cameron Maybin has been far worse, but, again, figure expectations.
Left field - Logan Morrison, Marlins. He's only 24, and he's had a few stretches of really solid play, but overall Morrison is far too talented to be struggling like this. He enters Tuesday with a .235/.313/.402 line and is on pace to have a much worse season than 2011 -- which included an allegedly-Twitter-induced demotion to the minors.
Starting pitcher - Tim Lincecum, Giants. I do think he's headed in the right direction, but what we've seen so far on the whole makes him an easy selection. We're talking about a four-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young winner with this line: 3-8, 5.60 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and an MLB-high nine wild pitches.
Starting pitcher - Cliff Lee, Phillies. The concentrated discussion on his lack of wins makes him more of a fantasy bust because wins and losses are team stats. Still, take those out of the equation. Lee has a 4.13 ERA. His collective ERA from 2008-2011 was 2.83. You can talk about FIP all you want, but Lee's (lack of) run prevention so far this season has made him a bust to this point.
Setup - Chad Qualls, Phillies. He's now with the Yankees, but Qualls' work (if we can call it that) with the Phillies was brutal. He blew five leads while posting a 4.60 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 31 1/3 innings.
Closer - Heath Bell, Marlins. A 5.93 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, four blown saves and a few Ozzie Guillen rescues were hardly what the Marlins had in mind when signing Bell to a three-year, $27 million contract this past offseason.