Several players at the hot corner are enduring painfully slow starts to their 2013 campaigns. While their weaknesses may vary, they all share one thing in common.
Will Middlebrooks: He leads all AL 3rd baseman with 5 long balls. This doesn't come without glaring weaknesses in his game, though. His inability to draw a walk (4% of plate appearances) and his swing and miss free swinging approach caps his potential in the short term. He needs more experience, so expect plenty of bumps along the road as he develops.
Fantasy Analysis: He has 30 home run potential, but he's striking out in nearly 1/3 of his at bats thus far. This makes him much more valuable in roto formats where the strikeouts don't harm him.
Mike Moustakas: "Moose" is off to a dreadful start with a .158-226-193 line. His batting average could spike once he reverts to hitting more line drives and mixing in a few more ground balls.
If he keeps his current approach we should begin to see some of those fly balls leave the yard. His walk rate has spiked this year which is encouraging.(From 6.4% of at bats to 8.1%) His strike out rate plummeting from 20 % of at bats to only 12 % is something worth keeping an eye one.
Fantasy Analysis: I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't one of the many that jumped on his bandwagon as a fantasy break out this year. He's a couple years away from his peak where he should hit 25 + home runs annually with a respectable average. Until he turns it around you should only consider keeping him active in AL only leagues. For the time being he's a better baseball player than fantasy performer with a lot of his value hinging on his plus glove.
Adrian Beltre: He's been known as a better 2nd half performer in his career. (.293-340-537 compared to .273-321-450 1st half numbers.) His best seasons may be behind him, but it's reasonable to believe he has plenty left in the tank. His .224 batting average could spike in a hurry due to such a small sample size. Even with his struggles he's on pace for a 27 home run season. All the trends look fine, so don't expect a lot of regression from him this year. His glove could be a different story. He's already complied 3 errors, when he only committed 8 in all of last season.
Fantasy Analysis: Ignore his sluggish start. He's a must start in all formats moving forward.
Trevor Plouffe: A less than impressive start with a .196-288-412 slash line. While his name lacks the luster of most at the position, he is someone I've been keeping a watchful eye on since his breakout 19 home runs in the 1st half of last season. He's still on pace for 21 home runs, and expect to see him slug closer to 25 if his Hr/FB % regresses upwards closer to his career norm.
Fantasy Analysis: I proclaimed he was someone that would be undervalued come draft day, but is your late round flier worth holding onto? A .229 career average in a healthy sample size of 889 plate appearances has curbed my enthusiasm. Continue to start him in AL only formats and play matchups in deeper mixed leagues. He struggles mightily against right handed pitching, but possesses an encouraging line against southpaws in his career. (.267-335-521) His future lies in a platoon role.
All of these players have been riding an unlucky stretch with ridiculously low BABIP's. Expect a healthy spike to their batting averages as their at bats continue to pile up. Thank goodness for the law of averages.