It’s still early in the 2023 Major League Baseball, but not so early that slow starters around the league shouldn’t be worried about their jobs.
Yes, this even goes for players with big names.
We’ve highlighted nine players whose early struggles could potentially put their starting roles in jeopardy. The list is a mix of established veterans and up-and-coming youngsters, and it covers what’s going wrong for them and how their teams might fix the problems their struggles have created.
Could we have included guys like José Abreu and Jean Segura? Sure, but to think their jobs are on thin ice would be a leap too far. Both are on freshly signed multi-year deals and it’s not like the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins have better options at their positions.
We have six hitters and three starting pitchers, who we’ll cover in alphabetical order.
1B/DH Brandon Belt, Toronto Blue Jays
Started: 18 of 31 G
Stats: 18 G, 68 PA, 1 HR, 0 SB, .161 AVG. .235 OBP, .274 SLG
What’s the Problem?
Power from the left side was hard to come by for the Blue Jays in 2022, so signing Brandon Belt to a one-year, $9.3 million deal made sense as a low-risk, high-reward maneuver.
Even though Oracle Park never did his power any favors, the 35-year-old had some good years with the San Francisco Giants as he racked up a 123 OPS+ from 2011 to 2022. He even dabbled in elite hitting in 2020 and 2021, across which he had a 165 OPS+.
But to say that Belt has been a disaster in Toronto would be understating it. Of particular concern is his 44.1 strikeout percentage. A mark like that is hideous under any circumstances, and that much more so when the player in question has taken 60 of his 68 plate appearances with the platoon advantage.
What’s the Solution?
The Jays don’t necessarily have to cut Belt, but they have the depth to basically knock him down to pinch-hitting duty.
George Springer, who’s also started slow, might benefit from more at-bats at designated hitter, with Whit Merrifield covering in right field and Santiago Espinal and Cavan Biggio platooning at second base.