PHILADELPHIA -- Everybody made their projections and predictions before the season. Almost everybody felt pretty good about them, too. Then the games began. Then things happened.Some players got off to scintillating starts. Some players surprised. Others did the opposite and disappointed.Every team in baseball has players who have gotten off
PHILADELPHIA -- Everybody made their projections and predictions before the season. Almost everybody felt pretty good about them, too. Then the games began. Then things happened.
Some players got off to scintillating starts. Some players surprised. Others did the opposite and disappointed.
Every team in baseball has players who have gotten off to slow starts, but some stand out more than others, because they have a track record of success. Here are five players in the National League East who had slower starts than expected, but who should be expected to turn things around.
Braves: Ender Inciarte
Inciarte, 27, had 201 hits last season and posted career highs in runs (93), home runs (11), RBIs (57), batting average (.304) and OPS (.759). But the two-time Gold Glove Award-winning center fielder is struggling, hitting just .245 with a .642 OPS through 65 games. Both would be the lowest marks of his career.
But Inciarte has been here before. He hit .227 with a .599 OPS through the 2016 All-Star break, then batted .341 with an .836 OPS the rest of the way. Inciarte improved in the second half of '16 in part because he enjoyed more success against left-handed pitching. There is no reason to think Inciarte, who is batting just .205 against lefties this season, cannot experience a similar turnaround this year.
Marlins: Justin Bour
Bour, 30, hit .231 with a .756 OPS through May 7, but he is adjusting to life without Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich in the Marlins' lineup. Bour has shown a tremendous amount of patience at the plate over the past month, walking 31 times and striking out 33 times since May 8. If he continues to do that and waits for his pitch to hit, there seems little doubt that Bour's numbers at the end of the season will be in line at least with his career averages, if not better.
Mets: Michael Conforto
Conforto, 25, offered a silver lining to Mets fans last season, when he made the NL All-Star team and hit .279 with 27 home runs, 68 RBIs and a .939 OPS in 440 plate appearances. But then he suffered a left shoulder injury, which required surgery in September.
Conforto had not been scheduled to return until May 1, but he rejoined the lineup on April 5, and it has been a struggle. He is hitting just .214 with seven home runs, 16 RBIs and a .689 OPS in 55 games. He has not been hitting the ball hard. His average exit velocity of 86.5 mph ranks in the bottom 20 percent of all hitters who have put the ball in play at least 100 times. That figure was 89.1 mph last season. His hard-hit rate of 31.3 percent ranks among the lowest in baseball, too. It is difficult to know how much of a role the shoulder recovery might be playing a role in Conforto's slow start, but one must think his talent eventually will take over and help him emerge from his season-long funk.
Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman
Zimmerman, 33, hit .217 with five home runs, 16 RBIs and a .689 OPS before landing on the 10-day disabled list early last month with a strained right oblique. There is no question that Zimmerman is better than that. He hit .303 with 36 home runs, 108 RBIs and a .930 OPS just last season. When he returns from the DL, he might share time at first base with Matt Adams, but if he even comes remotely close to his career slash line of .279/.343/.475, it will be a boost to the Nationals' lineup.
Phillies: Aaron Altherr
Altherr, 27, put together an encouraging 2017, hitting .272 with 19 home runs, 65 RBIs and an .856 OPS in 412 plate appearances. It was the Phillies' highest OPS (minimum 400 plate appearances) since Carlos Ruiz (.935 OPS) in 2012. But Altherr is hitting .183 with six home runs, 29 RBIs and a .635 OPS in 60 games this season. Nobody can really put a finger on the reason why he's struggled, but the Phillies believe in Altherr's talent. He will have to prove himself, however, while sharing the playing time in right field with Nick Williams.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.