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Fantasy Baseball Today

Production of some stars don't match reputations

By Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com

There are great players and there are untouchables. Sometimes those in one category float into the other, whether temporarily or permanently.

Some who have been at least virtually untouchable at some point in their careers as Fantasy assets are no longer. Their reputations, however, follow them and owners are unwilling to trade them. But those same reputations might allow those same owners to get more for those players than they are worth in wise dickering.

The following list does not include players simply having one poor start to one potentially poor season. It also does not include players clearly on the last legs of a brilliant career. It does include those whose reputations currently outweigh their production and, therefore, should be considered trade bait.

Someone might be willing to provide a Fantasy deal based on past statistics or the hope of a return to the numbers that made these players great. Don't misinterpret - these players are still some of the best in the game at their positions. They're just overrated at this point or not untouchable from a Fantasy perspective.

Matt Cain (1-3, 3.66, 39 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings): This guy had one great season in 2012 and a lot of good ones. His consistency and WHIP had always been standout traits, but they're starting to wane. One win in eight starts does not a Fantasy ace make. Neither does a career record of 94-91.

Carlos Gonzalez (.276/.321/.477): Gonzalez hasn't followed the beat of the drum for the Rockies, who have been tearing the cover off the ball all year. His on-base percentage is his lowest since 2008, his batting average is his lowest since 2009 and he has neither scored nor driven in 100 runs since 2010. His numbers are still quite impressive, but the reputation of CarGo as one of the premier hitters in baseball has exceeded his production.

Gio Gonzalez (3-4, 4.62, 53 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings): This left-hander has been going in the wrong directions since nearly winning the Cy Young Award in 2012. Again, a very good pitcher for several years before that and even in 2013, but he's heading in the wrong direction. Something is missing. He's given up 12 runs in his last 7 1/3 innings, including five in three innings against the offensively challenged New York Mets.

Cole Hamels (1-2, 4.40, 34 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings): Here's one guy whose talent has far exceeded his numbers. Hamels has the ability to approach 20 wins every season, but has won more than 15 just once and finished 8-14 in 2013, albeit for a poor-hitting Phillies team. His WHIP and strikeouts make him an attractive Fantasy asset, but he might be hard-pressed to better his win total of a year ago.

Felix Hernandez (5-1, 2.94, 65 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings): OK, let's take this thing to a higher level. King Felix is a great pitcher - but he's not as great as one expected after he burst onto the scene as just a kid in 2005. His 3.19 career ERA indicates a problem for a guy with lights-out stuff. He has won more than 14 games just once in the last eight seasons, which is not only a indictment of the Seattle offense, but his inability to maximize his talent.

Eric Hosmer (.285/.330/.392): One wonders how a 220-pound guy as strong as Hosmer has just one home run in 186 at-bats. He came up as a can't miss - and he hasn't missed - but this is another player whose reputation is far superior to his output. Hosmer has not hit more than 19 home runs nor driven in more than 79 in any season. And a side note - he has no stolen bases this year after snagging at least 11 in each of his first three.

Matt Kemp (.273/.338/.469): Kemp is among the most overrated players in baseball at this point of his career despite sensational all-around offensive talent. He is living off his incredible 2009 and 2011 seasons. He is on pace this year for 160-plus strikeouts and barely over 50 RBI. Fantasy owners could cash in on peers who believe he can recapture the form he exhibited in his pre-injury years. The bet here is that those numbers are nothing more than a fading memory.

Evan Longoria (.253/.322/.371): Maybe it was Gillette commercials that made Longoria a pop culture icon. He had earned that status with successive 100-RBI seasons in 2009 and 2010, but his injuries and declining productions now place him only in the "fine player" category. His strikeouts have increased over the last two seasons and he's currently on pace to hit a mere 13 home runs in 2014. His slugging percentage is embarrassing for a player with his pedigree.

Joe Mauer (.283/.373/.349): His numbers are impressive for a catcher. But they are weak for a first baseman given the richest contract in the history of the Minnesota Twins. It's not all his fault - his position was switched due to physical problems that precluded him from squatting behind the plate every night. But he is barely usable as a first baseman in Fantasy points leagues, which are so dependant on run production. He has neither scored nor driven in boatloads of runs since 2012.

David Price (4-4, 4.28 ERA, 77 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings): Price is a Cy Young Award winner, but he has also compiled more mediocre seasons than great ones and his Fantasy numbers have only been saved by his strikeouts this year. This left-hander has given up more hits than innings pitched in 2013 and 2014 combined. He has walked 33 batters in his last 256 innings, but some have suggested he would be more effective if he nibbled a bit more and attacked a bit less.

Stephen Strasburg (3-3, 3.38, 74 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings): Perhaps some might consider this sacriligious given his outrageous talent. But the fact is that Strasburg has yet to compile an under-3.00 ERA in any full season and has surrendered more hits than innings pitched in 2014. He has also yet to pitch more than seven innings in any start. Perhaps he will put it all together down the road, but something is missing and he has even regressed a bit. He's 11-12 since 2013. Case closed.

Justin Verlander (5-3, 3.55, 49 strikeouts in 66 innings): His falling strikeout rate is indicative of falling production that has been falling since 2013. Verlander has yielded a hit per inning with a 3.49 ERA since last year. Those who still refer to Verlander as the ace of the Detroit staff haven't been paying attention or are still viewing him in the same light as they did when he was the best pitcher in baseball from 2009 to 2012.

Joey Votto (.257/.410/.449): That on-base percentage and his lack of run production have been sources of debate in Cincinnati and around baseball since last season. Votto has become a glorified table-setter who has placed patience at the plate above a more aggressive approach that would justify the 10-year, $225 million contract extension he signed before the 2012 season. Twelve RBI in 136 at-bats for a guy with his power playing in a hitter-friendly park. Really?

David Wright (.293/.335/.382): Wright hasn't hit for much power since the team moved in to Citi Field in 2009, but he's on a pace for a ridiculously low seven home runs this season. He's a pure hitter with a .301 career average, but his walks and stolen bases are down and his strikeouts are up. He remains a Top 5 player at his position, but not a Fantasy stud.

 
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