While Andrew Benintendi still hasn’t homered, Eric Karabell explains why Benintendi is still a valuable asset for fantasy purposes. (0:55) Perhaps the Chicago White Sox knew what they were doing and the World Series champion Houston Astros, surprisingly, did not. Beloved first baseman Jose Abreu hit .292 and slugged .506 over nine seasons with the White Sox, earning three All-Star berths, a Rookie of the Year award and, remember, the American League MVP award in the shortened 2020 season. The White Sox showed little interest in keeping Abreu, and the Astros gladly gave him a three-year deal. Despite some power concerns late last season, many thought — me included — Abreu would be a solid fantasy option for a stacked Houston offense. However, the Abreu who hit .304 with strong results in exit velocity and hard-hit percentage last season looks awful this season, hitting .215 with nary a home run. A top-100 overall selection in early ESPN fantasy drafts, Abreu is among the most dropped first basemen in ESPN standard leagues, though he still is rostered in 62%. Abreu is slugging .256 — .190 against left-handed pitching (.531 career). His 24.1% strikeout rate has never been greater, nor has his 48% ground ball rate. Abreu is 36. Unfortunately, he looks done. This blog entry could now go in several directions, really. This could be about longtime, reliable veteran hitters to give up on. I could name more than a few. Constantly injured Los Angeles Angels 3B Anthony Rendon comes to immediate mind, too. First base might not be terribly deep, but it is deep enough for shallow ESPN leagues, in which we need only one first baseman. I think the giant zero in the home run column is interesting, too. In fact, Abreu’s giant zero is hardly the only one standing out in fantasy baseball today, more than a quarter into the season. The 2023 fantasy baseball season is here! It’s not too late to get your group back together, or to start a brand new tradition.
Join or start a league >> Curiously enough, and it’s not an even swap, of course, but the White Sox gave free agent OF Andrew Benintendi the largest contract in team history (five years, $75 million) to essentially replace Abreu (so Andrew Vaughn could move to first base), and he hasn’t homered either. Benintendi hit 17 home runs for the 2021 Kansas City Royals but only five blasts last season for the Royals/New York Yankees, so perhaps we should not be too surprised. Unlike Abreu, Benintendi is making good contact and is getting on base, but still, this is not a valuable player for the White Sox or fantasy managers. He ranks 61st among outfielders on the Player Rater. There are other hitters who have yet to circle the bases with a home run, including Milwaukee Brewers OF Jesse Winker, Arizona Diamondbacks 3B/2B Josh Rojas and White Sox SS Tim Anderson, and they all have their own reasons and level of value. Winker hit 24 home runs for the 2021 Cincinnati Reds, and he used to pound right-handed pitching. Not anymore. Seattle Mariners 2B Kolten Wong is hardly a prime Jeff Kent, but he hit 29 home runs over the past two seasons for the Brewers. Miami Marlins 2B/3B Jean Segura has reached double-digit home runs the past six full MLB seasons. Perhaps he will again. Anyway, while it seems a bit negative (I am a positive person!), let’s focus on the zeros today. I don’t know when Abreu, who hit only one home run in his final 55 games last season, will hit another one. We had a hint something was amiss and the Astros — and many fantasy baseball managers — simply ignored the signs. Here are some other notable zeros I see. You can ignore them too, if you desire. Mike Trout, OF, Angels — 0 stolen base attempts: Trout, now 31, stole 24 bases in 2018. The next season, he stole 11, and many a fantasy baseball manager overlooked this important change to his game. Trout struggles to stay healthy, and stealing bases puts incredible strain on the body. From 2020 to 2022, Trout stole four bases in five chances over 218 games, missing 176 games with injuries. When I ranked Trout outside the top 20 for fantasy (roto) last season, there was incredible, and quite incorrect, blowback. Trout had become a brittle, four-category fantasy option. He remains a big power threat, but he is the No. 44 hitter on the Player Rater and 75th overall. The big zero in steals — and he hasn’t even tried once — matters, albeit more for roto leagues. Other hitters with nary a stolen base attempt include Minnesota Twins SS Carlos Correa and Colorado Rockies OF Kris Bryant. Hunter Greene, SP, Reds — 0 wins: I think we knew it was going to be tough for Greene, or anyone on the terrible Cincinnati ballclub, to pile on the wins this season. Last year’s Reds won 62 games (losing 100), and their only pitcher to win more than five games was closer Alexis Diaz with seven. Greene went 5-13 (with a 4.44 ERA and loads of Ks) in 24 starts. This season, including Sunday when Greene struck out 10 Yankees over seven quality innings, he is 0-4 in 10 starts, despite a 4.68 ERA (which really isn’t so bad, with context). Yeah, Greene is a bit unlucky and wins are hardly a good gauge of performance, but they matter in roto leagues. Yankees LHP Nestor Cortes is 4-2 with a 5.21 ERA. They score runs for him and they protect leads. Reds starters have six wins all season. I think Greene can still win double-digit games, but it will be a challenge. Reid Detmers, SP, Angels — 0 wins: This young lefty threw a no-hitter last season (among his seven wins) and went in the first 20 rounds of most ESPN average live drafts. He boasts one quality start out of his eight chances, with pitch inefficiency a big problem. Detmers fanned 12 Twins in his most recent outing, taking a shutout into the sixth inning, and then things went awry. Detmers could highlight another blog entry on pitchers dealing with bad luck. A .366 BABIP isn’t all his fault, and his FIP is 3.43, looking nothing like his 4.87 ERA. Invest in Greene first, but Detmers will improve, too. Other pitchers with more than a few starts and the big zero in the win column are not nearly as good as Greene/Detmers: Royals RHP Jordan Lyles, St. Louis Cardinals LHP Steven Matz and Oakland Athletics LHP JP Sears. Seranthony Dominguez, RP, Philadelphia Phillies — 0 saves: Dominguez saved nine wins for last season’s team, which barely qualified for the postseason, then he held a key playoff role, earning two wins and a save over 10⅔ innings, striking out 18 hitters. The Phillies added future Hall of Famer Craig Kimbrel and Detroit Tigers closer Gregory Soto to the club this offseason, signaling a giant four-pitcher timeshare (with LHP Jose Alvarado, too), but the other three hurlers have saves. Dominguez, who went first among Philadelphia relievers in most leagues because of his late 2022 performance, hasn’t permitted an earned run in five weeks, but there is little evidence he will earn a save chance anytime soon. There really aren’t that many relief pitchers who were expected to save games and haven’t yet. New York Mets RP Edwin Diaz is injured and belongs in his own category, as does Chicago White Sox RHP Liam Hendriks, who is healthy and likely to start closing soon. Colorado Rockies RHP Daniel Bard has missed time and ceded the role to RHP Pierce Johnson, but that hierarchy seems likely to alter soon. I think we expected at least some saves for Marlins RHP Matt Barnes, Cleveland Guardians RHP James Karinchak, Athletics RHP Trevor May and one of the Atlanta Braves’ RHPs: Joe Jimenez, Collin McHugh and Kirby Yates. Time will tell.