One month into the Major League Baseball season and Fantasy Baseball owners are starting to formulate a concrete opinion about the state of their teams, with trade options being considered and panic buttons being pressed.
So, where’s the first place that most owners search for relief? The bargain bin, of course, especially if playing in a 12-team league where free agency is as thin as a Victoria Secret model.
Which talented stars are underperforming and could be solid buy-low options, likely pushing managers closer and closer to Fantasy insanity?
Here are some potential candidates, one for every team in the American League. Keep in mind that for a few teams, the options are limited (or a stretch). The best bets are highlighted in GREEN.
Go and get ‘em if you can, but don’t give up too much!
Fantasy Baseball: Buy-Low Options – Part 1: The American League
Note: Stats via MLB.com or ESPN Fantasy, and as of Saturday, May 3, 2014
Baltimore Orioles – Adam Jones (OF)
It depends on the owner in your league, considering Jones’ offensive consistency over the last few seasons. This year’s start (.261/.283/.357, 1 HR, 14 RBI) may be wearing thin on a lot of Fantasy owners. He’s still a free swinger (4 BB in 115 AB’s), and that doesn’t help his stats, either. Still, his 90 total HR’s over the previous three seasons cannot be ignored.
Boston Red Sox – Xander Bogaerts (3B, SS)
The one home run and five RBI are underwhelming, but his .280 average and .390 OBP are very promising. This is a young and talented player that will get plenty of opportunities in a solid lineup. He also qualifies at multiple positions, including a weak one in shortstop. Heck, he’s not even owned in 100% of ESPN leagues, so there’s a slight chance that you may be able to pick him up without a trade. Buy low, and he’d be a good option to try to acquire in a 2-for-2 package deal. If you’re in a keeper league, it may be tougher (and more expensive) to deal for him.
New York Yankees – Brian McCann (C)
Guys like C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda are underachieving, but I wouldn’t touch either with a ten-foot pole. McCann (.228 average, 4 HR, 12 RBI) is the best option, considering that he’s one of the most talented offensive catchers, and by the time summer rolls around, he’ll likely be hitting a lot more home runs with that short porch at Yankee Stadium.
Tampa Bay Rays – Wil Myers (OF)
He’s just 23 years old and still figuring things out. The power and the talent are there, and it’s hard to imagine that he’ll continue to post such lackluster numbers (.241 average, 3 HR’s in 116 AB’s). Fantasy owners still believe, as he’s owned in 100% of ESPN leagues, but there has to be a bunch of managers that are more than willing to move him.
Toronto Blue Jays – Edwin Encarnacion (1B)
The Jays come down to either Jose Reyes or Edwin Encarnacion, and I chose the latter. Why? Reyes has become an injury prone player, while Encarnacion’s bat appears to be heating up a bit. His numbers (.252 average, 2 HR, 17 RBI) are still underwhelming, but Encarnacion is on a six-game hitting streak, with five extra base hits during that stretch.
Chicago White Sox – Dayan Viciedo (OF)
There isn’t a great buy-low option with the White Sox. The closest option is Viciedo, the Cuban in Chicago that no one is talking about, and his .337 average is currently fifth in the American League. However, he’s available in 50% of ESPN leagues, so it’s a good bet that you can sign him without a trade.
Cleveland Indians – Justin Masterson (SP)
Masterson has posted 180 innings or more in every season dating back to 2010. He also posted an ERA below 3.50 during the 2011 and 2013 seasons. His 4.84 ERA and zero wins after six starts is likely frustrating to his current owners, so it’s a good bet that he could be had in a deal.
Detroit Tigers – Ian Kinsler (2B)
The closest thing to a buy low option in Detroit is Kinsler, especially considering that he plays second base, arguably the weakest position in Fantasy Baseball. Miguel Cabrera is underperforming, but owners would have to be nuts to move him. The rotation has been solid. That leaves Kinsler, whose two home runs and three steals are nothing to do backflips over. Kinsler does have 20-20 potential, however, and maybe owners would consider moving him.
Kansas City Royals – Billy Butler (DH)
I’m not a fan of Butler being limited to the DH role, but I am a fan of his bat. Butler is currently 61 points below his .297 career average and it also must be noted that he’s had 90 or more RBI in three of his last five seasons. This slump likely won’t last much longer, so go out and get him, as long as you have a need for improvement in the utility or DH spot.
Minnesota Twins – Joe Mauer (C, 1B)
Mauer doesn’t really count as a buy low option, especially if in a league where he has catcher eligibility. Still, while Minnesota’s rotation has an inflated ERA, most of the staff is available in free agency. On offense, players like Brian Dozier and Chris Colabello would count as sell high candidates, while guys like Josh Willingham are available in almost all leagues. That leaves Mauer, who is 25 points below his career average.
Houston Astros – Jose Altuve (2B)
Altuve is right around his career numbers. He doesn’t blow the doors off Fantasy with a ton of power. He gives you solid average and speed. The problem is, who else could fit the buy low description in Houston? The rest of the offense is likely available in free agency and the majority of the rotation is, too. Altuve is the only option… but the only way he would be a buy low candidate, is if his owners didn’t realize that he is mainly a singles, stolen base kinda guy.
Los Angeles Angels – Jered Weaver (SP)
Weaver’s 4.00 ERA is well above his 3.25 career average. He’s also hit 100 pitches just twice on the season, and not gone seven-plus innings in any starts. Over the last three, he’s allowed two runs or less, and appears to be slowly moving in the right direction. Being injury prone in recent seasons, it’s possible the Angels are taking it slow, and as a result, his numbers are not blowing the doors off of the Fantasy world. Therefore, some managers may be willing to move him for less.
Oakland Athletics – Yoenis Cespedes (OF)
Cespedes is already a third of the way to last year’s walk total, which is a good sign that he’s showing more patience at the plate. This should lead to more pitches to hit, which therefore could lead to better stats across the board. At this point, his .261 average and 4 HR’s aren’t bad, but he’s also had a few minor injuries, and it’s possible that many owners would consider dealing him.
Seattle Mariners – Robinson Cano (2B)
Let’s call it “buy low-ish”, because it’s unlikely that you can get Cano – the best second basemen in baseball – at a discount. But consider this: Cano’s one home run in 111 AB’s and .288 average are not deserving of a $250 million dollar man. Many owners will be questioning Seattle’s lineup and pitcher friendly ballpark, too. Therefore, before you come down on me for listing Cano, keep in mind that it is possible that you can trade for him, which during any other season would be highly unlikely.
Texas Rangers – Prince Fielder (1B)
This one is a no-brainer. Many expected a major bounceback season from Fielder, after joining a hitter friendly park and a potent lineup. Prince – along with his two homers and .208 average – has been one of the bigger disappointments in Fantasy this season. But it’s still very early, and as it gets warmer, baseballs will start carrying out of that ballpark in Arlington. Expect Fielder’s numbers to rise, and therefore, see if you can acquire him before the spark happens.
What about National League Buy-Low Options for Fantasy Baseball?