Some MLB teams employ below replacement level players at a starting position. These players are unable to bring enough to the table with either their glove or their bat to make an impact, but for some reason they have been handed everyday roles at the start of this 2016 MLB season. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk, because if a player is truly terrible enough, he should lose that playing time as the season progresses and eventually be benched entirely. But somehow, the following 10 players are poised to receive significant playing time throughout the season despite their lack of productivity.
10. Omar Infante (2B, Kansas City Royals)
Omar Infante is the black hole in the amazing Kansas City lineup. If he didn’t happen to play for the defending champion Royals, he would receive far more national attention for his overall ineptitude. Infante is a very poor defender, often providing negative value in the field. Throughout his previous tenures with the Braves and Tigers, Infante was an offensive force for a middle infield bat, making a lot of contact and popping around 10 home runs per year. However, he has been a complete bust since signing with the Royals in 2014. Over the span of 1,030 plate appearances for the Royals, Infante has hit .238 with eight home runs. He doesn’t see a lot of pitches and swings early in the count. With his bat speed slowed, his limited batting eye is exposed. At this point, it would be more beneficial to start a capable defender such as Christian Colon and admit the overpaid Infante should be riding the bench.
9. Johnny Giavotella (2B, Los Angeles Angels)
Johnny Giavotella, a former second round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals, continued to show some flashes of power and speed in the minor leagues after being acquired by the Angels. With solid tools and a nice pedigree to boot, it seemed the Angels had struck a nice post-hype bargain with Giavotella. Unfortunately, after 1,000 plate appearances in the Majors, it’s clear that Giavotella is who he is and that’s a liability both at the plate and in the field. Giavotella is a very poor defender for the middle infield and is known as an offensive second baseman. This is a farce because there are plenty of utility players who can actually play defense that muster more than Giavotella’s sub-.300 OBP and .100 ISO. Some would call him boring, but that would be a compliment; Giavotella is flat-out unproductive and a major blemish on a team that believes it can contend this year. With nothing particularly intriguing in the pipeline and only Cliff Pennington backing him up, Giavotella is set to accumulate over 500 uninspiring plate appearances during 2016.
8. Ian Desmond (OF, Texas Rangers)
Likely the most interesting inclusion on this list is Ian Desmond, a widely-owned fantasy baseball player. Desmond is rostered in roughly 80 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues, an absurd percentage considering how increasingly awful Desmond appears to be. The rate at which Desmond’s skills have deteriorated is nearly unprecedented, but upon digging into the numbers more closely, it’s evident that Desmond was never all that good to begin with. He’s an abysmal defensive shortstop who consistently botched routine plays. Washington coped with his atrocious fielding when he was doing something offensively, but those days are gone. Desmond strikes out at an absurd rate and never walks. His combination of power and speed is intriguing in fantasy, but in reality he is not worthy of starting on an MLB team. The Rangers signed him to play the outfield, where he has never played before. This has 2015 Hanley Ramirez vibes all over it, as a player attempting to learn the outfield during a league-switch is devastating. The American League won’t be kind to Desmond, who is set to be a liability both in the outfield and at the plate.
7. Danny Espinosa (SS, Washington Nationals)
Top positional prospect Trea Turner should be the future at shortstop for the Washington Nationals, but for 2016, things appear rather ominous. Turner is only 22 and the Nationals seem content to allow him to languish in the minor leagues. Hopefully he will be called up immediately after his “Super Two” status has expired, allowing the Nationals to capitalize on an extra year of his service time. However, all indications from Nationals camp are that they intend to keep Turner down for much longer than that, making the wretched Danny Espinosa the everyday shortstop. Espinosa has likely already lost the Nationals several wins with his dreadful play at the plate and his fieldwork is not much better. The longer the Nationals continue to play Espinosa, the bigger a hole they dig for themselves.
6. Billy Butler (DH, Oakland Athletics)
Billy Butler is such a poor defender that when he visits the National League under interleague rules, he is incapable of starting at first base. He is a designated hitter that can’t play the field, therefore his bat better be able to carry him. Unfortunately for the Oakland Athletics, Butler is the worst DH in the Majors and lowers the quality of the team’s lineup tremendously. Butler once showed relative promise in Kansas City, but during his later years as a Royal he showed definite decline and that has carried over to Oakland. Butler can draw the occasional walk but there should be no shortage of superior options in the minor leagues to plug in at designated hitter knowing they don’t have to field a position. Butler’s bat simply isn’t nearly potent enough to carry as an everyday designated hitter.
5. Logan Morrison (1B, Tampa Bay Rays)
Despite approaching 20 home runs on the rare occasions that Logan Morrison is healthy, he’s at best described as a placeholder for a rebuilding team. Unfortunately for the Rays, they don’t have anybody set to take over for the man nicknamed “LoMo” and are poised to trot him out on the field as often as his body cooperates. LoMo has proven absolutely incapable in the outfield and has settled at 1st base. He remains a poor defender there and better-suited for the designated hitter role, but the Rays have opted to keep the far superior Corey Dickerson locked into the DH spot and able to focus on his offense. LoMo strikes out a ton without providing nearly enough power to compensate. He really doesn’t do much and at his very best is a replacement level player. Oddly enough, LoMo always seems to find some playing time; poor offenses seem suckered in by his veteran experience. This year’s victim is the Rays, who are quickly realizing the limited value that Morrison provides.
4. Aaron Hill (3B, Milwaukee Brewers)
Aaron Hill was once a bright offensive star in the middle infield. He was generally an underrated fantasy asset as he provided nearly elite power numbers from the second base position. However, much has changed since Hill’s last productive season in 2012. Hill’s poor batting eye and contact rate have overtaken his power stroke, which has completely evaporated. Hill only hit six home runs last season playing for Arizona and their hitter-friendly ballpark. Milwaukee picked him up this offseason and admitted his defensive deficiencies by instantly moving him to third base. He does have a strong arm, but his footwork will remain a work in progress for the majority of this campaign. While learning a new position, Hill is certain to provide poor defensive value. And his offense is as poor as ever, with early signs showing that it has cratered to all-time lows. When top prospect Orlando Arcia arrives, the plan should be to kick speedy Jonathan Villar to third base and bench the abysmal Hill, but right now he is set to start for the majority of the campaign and be one of the worst regulars in baseball.
3. Yonder Alonso (1B, Oakland Athletics)
The biggest problem with the light-hitting Oakland Athletics is clearly a lack of production from traditional power positions. The aforementioned Billy Butler clogs the designated hitter spot, and here is Yonder Alonso, who is likely the weakest first baseman in the league. Alonso can usually get on base around a league-average clip and can nearly reach double-digit home runs, but there’s nothing exciting about that. Alonso provides middle infield production in a first baseman’s body. First base is traditionally a run-producing position and Alonso fails to provide adequate production. The Athletics would be better off going with Mark Canha in this spot as he at least has some upside, but the direction they seem content to proceed with is continuing to plug the underwhelming Alonso into the lineup every day.
2. Freddy Galvis (SS, Philadelphia Phillies)
The bar for offense that a shortstop should provide is mighty low, and yet Freddy Galvis remains underwhelming. Galvis is approximately average on defense, which is better than the vast majority of players on this list. However, that mediocre defense is not enough to excuse the complete impotency of his bat, which is one of the absolute worst in the league. Galvis is a slap-hitter who never gets on-base and has very little power. He’s a modest base-runner, but even that skill lags far behind his peers at the position. Galvis is a liability in a team’s lineup and possesses almost no upside. Fortunately for Phillies fans, the team’s top prospect plays SS, meaning Galvis is not part of the future plans. Unfortunately, that prospect is 21-year-old J.P. Crawford, who remains a little too raw to make the leap to the Majors anytime soon. He is likely looking at a September call-up, giving Galvis the opportunity to start for nearly the entirety of the season.
1. Cedric Hunter (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
Yes that’s right, the two worst starting positional players in the Majors both play on the Phillies. There’s a reason the Phillies were projected to lose 100 games prior to the season’s commencement, and it’s certainly not because of their starting pitching. That rotation is already above-average, as the young staff, which includes Vincent Velasquez, Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff, is incredibly exciting and will keep the Phillies much more competitive than expected. However, their offense is absolutely dreadful, pacing as easily the league’s worst, and they have several holes in the lineup that don’t even contribute much on defense. The biggest offender is Cedric Hunter, a 28-year-old journeyman already on his fifth career team. He only reached the Majors once, back in 2011 with the Padres, and even then only received four at-bats. Hunter never posted strong numbers in the minor leagues and doesn’t do anything particularly well. He’s currently filling in for the injured Cody Asche, but with Aaron Altherr now out for the majority of the season, the Phillies’ lack of depth is exposed further and Cedric Hunter is poised to remain in the lineup.