Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
For major league baseball players, each spring has sort of a cathartic feel to it. After a long, cold winter, it's time to swap those snow shovels for Louisville sluggers as all 30 teams are in Florida and Arizona in search of a fresh start.
The St. Louis Cardinals' World Series victory parade is long past and everybody is on even footing again. For those who struggled in 2011, "next year" is finally here.
Inevitably, year after year, many of our favorite players do not live up to expectations. While sluggers like Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury were busy dominating their respective leagues last season, dozens of past fantasy studs scuffled to mediocre years. Many of these stars will rebound, but others will sink further into fantasy irrelevance in 2012.
Here are five once-dominant fantasy players who will continue their downward spirals this season:
Jason Bay, OF, New York Mets - We knew Citi Field's impossibly large dimensions would hurt Bay's home run totals, but we didn't know his batting average would dip this badly, too. Bay is only hitting .250 in his two seasons in New York and after a .245 campaign in 2011, things don't seem to be getting better for the former Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox star. He has always had a problem with strikeouts (109 in just 444 at-bats last year) and suddenly he's become about as fragile as Greg Oden (missed 106 games the past two seasons). If you draft Bay this season, you're living in 2009, my friend.
Adam Dunn, 1B/DH, Chicago White Sox - They should start spelling his last name D-O-N-E. There's always going to be some intrigue with Dunn because of his prolific home run hitting (five seasons of 40-plus homers between 2004 and 2008). But the fact is Dunn has always been a strikeout machine (1,809 career whiffs going into the 2012 season) and he is coming off an historically awful season. Hitting .230 or .240 is one thing, but .159 (not to mention that he only hit .064 against lefties)? There's no coming back from that. At age 32, Dunn's confidence looks shattered. Don't let this guy anywhere near your fantasy team this year.
Rafael Furcal, SS, St. Louis Cardinals - Here's another aging star with rapidly fading fantasy potential. After a.300 season for Los Angeles in 2010, his batting average plummeted to just .231 last season. That's not good for a guy who has never had any power and doesn't steal bases anymore. And if that doesn't scare you off, keep in mind that Furcal has played only 100 games once since 2008. Shortstop isn't a deep position this year, but come on. You have to have better options than this.
Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians - Remember 2008 when Sizemore hit 33 homers and stole 38 bases? Me neither. Sizemore has been an injury-riddled fantasy mess the past three seasons, posting terrible batting averages and pedestrian stolen base numbers. The sad thing is, Sizemore's .224 average and 10 homers in 2011 were actually an improvement from the year before. Sizemore had a decent run in the mid-2000s, but his days of being useful in fantasy are long past. Even if he's healthy, Sizemore won't give you much in 2012.
Vernon Wells, OF, Los Angeles Angels - With the exception of his oddly productive 2010 season, Wells has been a fantasy bust for five years now. He still showed a hint of power last year (25 homers), but his average jumped off a cliff (from .273 in 2010 to .218 in 2011). His horrible numbers against righties (.187 batting average) and the fact that he hit even worse after the All-Star break than before it (.222 before and .214 after) shouldn't give fantasy owners much reason for optimism. With young stud Mike Trout waiting in the wings, it looks like Wells' days in left field are numbered.