Post All-Star break, who needs to step up?Date: July 11, 2019
By Ben Harris
The All-Star break has come and gone, and baseball's second half has begun. We are going to see teams we thought were contenders fall apart, and teams who have been hovering at .500 take the step forward they have been needing for months. Stars and role players alike will be on the move in late July as clubs decode their destiny with October's playoff action looming. But many teams have players who are way too valuable to their roster to trade away, yet they significantly underperformed the first four months of the season.
Bryce Harper- Philadelphia Phillies
After signing the largest contract in professional baseball history this offseason, Harper has played well below his salary. His batting average currently sits at a mediocre .253, which is 106th in the MLB. Surely, Philly was expecting more out of their $330 million. The former NL MVP needs to reflect on himself and use missing the All-Star Game for the first time since 2014 as motivation to turn things around. The Phillies' current positioning in a Wild Card spot is the only thing keeping Philly fans from voicing all of their frustrations with the superstar. Hopefully, he is able to get back to his old ways and keep Philadelphia in playoff contention.
José Ramirez- Cleveland Indians
Coming off back-to-back seasons of finishing in third for AL MVP, Ramirez has been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. With a .218 AVG and a .308 OBP, Ramirez has held the Indians back with his lack of production. The 26-year-old infielder needs to get back to his old self, and fast. His consistency in both the batter's box and the field have all but disappeared this season. No one knows what has changed in his game, but Cleveland needs him to step up and be the man he once was so that this talented young roster can fulfill their playoff potential.
Aaron Judge- New York Yankees
After being on the injured list for most of the season with a left oblique strain, Judge looks to make his return to dominance. In his limited 33 games this season, Judge has been decent, knocking out nine home runs and 20 RBI. There is a lot of pressure on Judge to be the leader of this championship-caliber Yankee squad, especially with his star counterpart Giancarlo Stanton missing the majority of the season as well. With Stanton back on the IL, along with Luke Voit missing some time, Judge needs to join the cast of other young Yankee stars such as Gleyber Torres to lead this club into late October.
Yan Gomes- Washington Nationals
Gomes, who was once a coveted trade piece and an All-Star in Cleveland just last year, has been absolutely awful since he joined his new team in the nation's capital. Gomes has started only fivr more games than backup catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was originally signed to be nothing more than an insurance piece. Gomes's playing time has been incredibly limited due to poor performance, as he is putting up a dismal .211 AVG and a career-low slugging percentage at .303. Gomes does not even need to return to All-Star levels of play, he just needs to be consistent enough at the plate to give the Nats one more guy who can just put the ball in play, as they continue their hunt for a playoff spot after their 18-8 month of June.
Yu Darvish- Chicago Cubs
Darvish has not lived up to the hype since joining Chicago. His past two seasons have been mediocre at best, and he is likely only still a Cub due to his contract and his old reputation as an ace. The Cubs are currently leading the NL Central, but the entire division is within 4.5 games of each other. Darvish is one of many veteran Cubs underperforming, posting a miserable 5.01 ERA and walking 49 batters. He puts too many men on base, and on most nights has left with an early exit. The Cubs have a lot they need to fix if they want to keep the Central out of the Brewers’ grasp, and Darvish could be the start of that, at least for the pitching staff.
Ben Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org