Struggling players is nothing new to baseball. As long as teams have been going out on a diamond and competing – whether it be professionally or at an amateur level – there have been players on those teams who go through slumps. Players go through slumps all the time during the season and it’s always what it is – just a slump. But the funny thing about baseball is when a slump occurs at the beginning of the season, it’s not a slump. Rather, it’s called a bad, or slow, start.
Never mind the vernacular – it’s still a slump and that’s what fantasy players have to get into their heads. That being said, there are still slumps that I want a part of and slumps that I don’t. The ones I don’t are those I think will last most, if not all, of the season with little hope of improving. Those players I do want a part of are those I feel are most likely to turn something sour into something very sweet. These are also called buy low candidates and are the kind of players many of us are trying to acquire at this point.
So who are my buy low candidates? Funny you should ask…
One guy I would love to have on more teams is Pedro Alvarez. Now things haven’t been totally bad for the Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman as he does have eight home runs and four stolen bases at this point. But this is where the art of creative trade talk comes in. Point out things like his ISO is down 80 points from last year; batting average is down three years in a row; slugging percentage is over 100 points below last year. Steer clear of the fact his OBP is over .300 or that his BB% and K% are 52% and 29% improved, respectively. Granted, it still might be a hard sell, but someone’s bound to get him for less than full value.
The next player may come as a surprise since he was listed first in my NL Un-Picks (pans) write-up back in March. He is none other than Yonder Alonso of the San Diego Padres. Alonso has a rather ugly .193 batting average but a BABIP of .214 is rather unlucky also and better days are ahead. He has struck out slightly less than last year and already has the same number of doubles and half as many stolen bases. I’m still sticking to my “I want power at the corners” mantra, but the 27-year-old first baseman should help in the batting average department going forward and could be gotten for pennies on the dollar or as a toss in as part of a trade. Either way, I feel he’ll make a good replacement for an injured first baseman or as a corner man in an NL-only league.
Just to Alonso’s right on the infield is second baseman Jedd Gyorko. The second-year player is experiencing a sophomore slump so far. On the good side of things, he does have five home runs, although they’re coming at a pace a little more than half as good as 2013. The 25-year-old is seeing slightly more fastballs than last year but a good deal fewer curveballs and changeups, giving way to more sliders. The pitchers have obviously adjusted and Gyorko is having pitch recognition problems and now he needs to adjust. With a BB% identical to 2013 and K% just slightly higher, the issue is a BABIP of .186, which is driving his .163 batting average. A correction should be on the way. I was a believer coming into the season and still am.
Every team needs a jack of all trades and Martin Prado has been the darling to fill the bill the past few years for fantasy owners. However, the Arizona Diamondback has fallen on tough times this year. After averaging 12 home runs the past three seasons, the 30-year-old Prado has yet to hit his first in 2014. Pitchers are throwing him virtually the same kind of pitches but Martin is striking out at almost double the rate of 2013. BABIP is not an issue – he’s just not making contact at the same percentage. Maybe playing on an abysmal team is taking its toll (Arizona has the second-worst record in the NL and has only won six games at home – the lowest in the Majors). The Diamondbacks have shown the willingness to part with players such as Justin Upton, Adam Eaton, Ian Kennedy and Trevor Bauer and with new Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa in the fold, look for more of the same as he tries to re-stock the minor league system. Prado’s contract has him earning $11M/year through 2016 and he could be a prime candidate to be moved. A change of scenery could help and eligibility at second, third and the outfield in many leagues makes me a buyer. As far as I’m concerned, there are still plenty of miles in the tank and the cost per gallon should be attractive.
There were more than a few people touting Homer Bailey as a possible Cy Young candidate coming into 2014 after he showed some improvement in 2013. But a 1.58 WHIP and 5.44 ERA have tempered that talk quite a bit. Still, Bailey is worth targeting. While striking out slightly fewer batters and walking a bit more, the 28-year-old right-hander’s bugaboo has been a .348 BABIP and 1.58 HR/9 mainly pitching in the Great American Small park. Homer’s velocity is still there and he can’t continue being this unlucky with balls in play. Out of all the players listed, Bailey will certainly command the most in return, but he should still be gotten at a discount in many places.
While these players might not have been targets entering the season, the fact that they are playing poorly makes them attractive targets now as their prices certainly are better than they were during draft time.