This appeared as a two-part piece on Owner’s Edge at fanball.com –
Bengie Molina, San Francisco Giants – Molina started the 2009 season on fire with a .329 average, four home runs and 18 RBI, but he has since fallen on hard times with a .194 average in May with another four home runs and still three days left in the month. Molina has been a viable hitter at the catcher position since 2003, averaging 16 home runs, 71 RBI and a .284 batting average. In virtually all six of those seasons, he has had at least one flameout month. Last year he had an awful July. Two years ago, it was also July. He just so happened to have his bad month early on this year, but that creates a potential buying opportunity with his average down to .253. Now with the eight home runs and 30 RBI, which pace out to 29 and 107, respectively, he won’t be free, but it is definitely worth looking into his cost from your league’s Molina owner. Just don’t accidentally email the owner that has Jose Molina.
Also look into: Joe Mauer – I realize he’s the world’s hottest hitter right now, but he’s not a fluke. I know he won’t continue to hit .425, but he can hit .350 as he did in 2006 and that alone is worth investing in even if you don’t think the power is legit. Assuming he gets about 360 more at-bats, hitting .350 for the season would leave him hitting .333 the rest of the year. Hitting .324 for the year, so a 100-point drop from where he is, would still leave him as a .300 hitter from here on out. If the price isn’t obscene, get him.
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies – With his batting average at .263, there is little risk at him hurting you there. He’s likely to stay steady there and in a dream scenario, he could improve. Regardless, you’re getting Howard for the power. His 12 home runs is a fine number, but at a pace of 43, it’s well off of his three-year average of 51. That number is inflated by the 58 from his MVP season, but he has averaged 48 the last two years, so any way you slice it he is a bit off of his usual home run pace. There are 32-35 home runs coming from Howard over the remainder of the season and there are few players offering that kind of production two months into the season. Howard is the Carl Crawford or Jacoby Ellsbury of home runs. Generally one guy can’t carry you through the home run leaderboard, but Howard is capable of it.
Also look into: Lance Berkman – His run production paces are strong at 37 home runs and 104 RBI, but the .229 batting average should offer a discount.
Placido Polanco, Detroit Tigers – He has been a batting average machine throughout his career, but especially so in Detroit. He came over from Philadelphia in the middle of 2005 and hit .338 in 86 games. From there he hit .295, .341 and .307 in his three full seasons with the Tigers. He is currently at just .269, but he’s been 22 points better from April to May and he improved his average 10 points in the three-game set with Kansas City. He reminds me of Freddy Sanchez last year. It just didn’t make sense for Sanchez to be struggling so much, so I targeted him in the 2nd half and he went on to .346 after the All-Star break.
Also look into: Jose Lopez – He’s like a penny stock at this point. He can’t get much worse, so if you have a reserve roster, you might as well scoop him up for a song and stash until to see if he gets right over the next 5-7 weeks. I recommend him primarily for AL-only leagues and mixed leagues with more than 12 teams.
Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox – The 4-for-7 showing in Chicago’s thrashing of the Angels on Monday might’ve caught his owner’s attention and given him hope of a turnaround, but he is still definitely not going for full price. Remember folks, he did this last year, as he was hitting .244 through May. From June on he hit .303 with 19 home runs and 70 RBI. He hit .355, .341 and .308 during the summer months before again falling on hard times in September with a .211 average, but he still hit six home runs and stole three bases that month. He is a streaky player. We have seen this type of player before and we will see it again, yet for some reason the fantasy baseball community still falls for it and counts the player out when they are down and then puts them in the Hall of Fame when they’re at their peak. These guys are nauseating in head-to-head leagues, but roto owners just need to display patience and they will be rewarded. Take advantage of the fact that so many fantasy owners can’t practice that
Also look into: Troy Tulowitzki – He is also very streaky and it is hard to believe he could suck this bad all year long. The only way to go is up for him.
David Wright, New York Mets – There is so little star power at the hot corner that I considered just putting “The Stars” despite the fact that they are all performing remarkably well. Wright is hitting .345 with 11 stolen bases, so he is offering big value despite just three home runs and he won’t come cheaply, but given the dearth of bankable talent at third right now, it’s worth looking into his price tag. With Aramis Ramirez on the shelf and Alex Rodriguez fresh off of it, Wright is in slim company with Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Young and Chipper Jones standing as the stars of the position. Other contributors have stepped up, but it’s uncertain how they will hold up: Casey Blake (nine homers), Pedro Feliz (.307 average), Brandon Inge (12 homers) and Mark Reynolds (13 homers/10 steals). I’d prefer the star power at position where it is thin.
Also look into: Alex Gordon – He is still out until late June/early July and it’s always risky acquiring players that are on the disabled list, but his price could be rock bottom and he could deliver a nice boost in the second half of the season.
Carlos Lee, Houston Astros – Lee is the model of consistency, an undervalued skill in the fantasy landscape. He is a bankable .300-30-100 line the only deviations being a .265 average in 2005 and 28 home runs last year, but that came in just 115 games, so he’d have easily smashed the 30-homer mark had he met his five-year average games played figure of 159. As it is, he has averaged 151 games over the past six seasons with a line of .295, 32 HR, 110 RBI, 90 runs and 12 steals. He’s just a tick off the power numbers at a pace of 29-99 and the speed is way down with just one stolen base, but his remarkably steady history suggests he will get back on track. There is no discount to be had, but if you’re looking to implant a star into your lineup, go for Lee.
B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays – A cursory look at Upton suggests he has been awful this season with a .212 average, two home runs and a worthless nine RBI. It’s been awful, there is no denying that, but the speed has kept him fantasy-relevant. His 16 steals put him on pace for 54 this season and there is nothing to suggest he won’t continue to run. If he gets everything else back on track, the OBP will shoot up and increase his stolen base opportunities, giving him a legitimate shot to top 60 bags. He has also scored 32 runs putting him on pace to net 107. Runs are often overlooked and a 100+ pace for someone doing this horribly is pretty good. Like the stolen bases, imagine the potential for runs scored as he improves and begins to get on pace more often. The ugly .212-2-9 line leads to a discount on the appetizing 32 runs and 16 steals.
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers – Like Lee, Braun isn’t struggling and definitely doesn’t qualify as a buy-low candidate, but his career to date would suggest that a huge four months is on the horizon. He has “just” nine home runs so far with months of five and four to start the season, respectively. It isn’t unreasonable to believe he has 24+ home runs in the bank, as seven of his 10 months prior to 2009 saw Braun hit six or more home runs. That baseline alone would be good 24, but within those 10 months are four with 9+ homers, meaning he could have as many as 30 on deck without it being a huge stretch. Like Lee, Braun also runs a good bit and he’s on pace for 10 right now after seasons of 15 and 14 in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Essentially, Braun shapes up as a younger Lee, meaning the ceiling could even be a tick or two higher. Buy!
Also Look Into:
— Matt Holliday, Oakland A’s – The naysayers couldn’t WAIT to pump their chest about Holliday after a horrid April that saw him hit .240 with just one home run, but that shortsighted foolishness was obliterated in May as he put up a .291/.416/.456 line with five homers. He’s NOT going to put up Colorado numbers, but he’s not just going to become Endy Chavez, either. He might still carry a discount.
— Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers – Still in the throes of a power outage, Maggs hit .315 in May after a .241 April. He has averaged 24 homers per year for the past three seasons and there doesn’t appear to be any discernible injuries that would lead me to believe he won’t display 20-homer power this season. He should also end the season at or above .300, leaving some nice growth there, too. Play up the seven-homer, 66-RBI pace to depress his cost.
— Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers – By now most realize the impact that Manny Ramirez has on Ethier and the proof is in the pudding, as Ethier dropped from a .976 OPS in April to .601 in May. You could probably parlay Ethier’s struggles into a discount and ride it out for the next month until Ramirez comes back in early July.