As we hit the quarter-post of the Fantasy season, it gets more and more difficult to dismiss a Fantasy team's struggles by saying, "it's still early." Though the luster of the opening month has worn off, it's not too late to salvage your season. If you drafted well, you just may need to wait for your underproducing and injured players to start contributing, but there is also a more proactive way to jump-start your team.
Just as there are Draft Day sleepers, there are players who are underappreciated once the season settles into its middle portion. The hitter who is striking out too much or the pitcher who has developed control issues is a headache for his current owners, but he could be a potential bargain for you. Just as there were values to be had in the draft room, now there are players who can be had for cheap in trades or even waiting to be plucked from the waiver wire. While many of the players who have been discarded or benched are not worth another look, others could play a role in your midseason surge.
Here are eight players whom you could get at a discount. They may seem like too much of a gamble to use -- which, after all, is why they could be easily acquired -- but there are strong hints of their potential for improvement. Because each of these players is currently undervalued, you shouldn't have to risk much in order to get them on your roster, and each could provide a sizable return on that modest investment.
Note: All year-to-date stats are for games played through Monday, May 13.
Salvador Perez, C, Royals: Perez needs only five more strikeouts to equal his total from last season, even though he has played in 43 fewer games so far, so he's probably lucky to be hitting .298. His contact skills have been superb throughout his career, so Perez should be able to cut back on the Ks and maintain, if not improve, his batting average. Meanwhile, a 15-homer season is not out of reach, even though he has left the yard only once so far. Perez's potential for a combination of a high average and decent power make him a good option as a No. 1 catcher in Rotisserie leagues, yet he is starting in only 66 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com. In any format, it's worth talking up a deal with an owner who has Perez benched.
Martin Prado, 2B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks: Prado has never hit more than 15 home runs in a season, but he has been a solid Fantasy option due to his ability to hit for average, provide doubles and produce runs. His contact skills are still intact, but a .162 batting average on grounders is destroying his value. Given that he has hit no lower than .257 on ground balls in any of the previous four seasons, that sounds like a lot of bad luck. Look for Prado to get back to being a .300 hitter overall going forward, and better yet, now you can use him at second base, where his relative lack of home run clout is even less relevant.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox: Middlebrooks currently ranks behind Luis Valbuena and Matt Dominguez in both Rotisserie and Head-to-Head value, and this is clearly not what his owners expected to happen. Frustration is an understandable response, but benching him in 37 percent of his leagues is an overreaction. With six home runs and nine doubles through 36 games, there's no reason to complain about Middlebrooks' power. He is striking out far too often, but his rookie and minor league numbers suggest that he is capable of improvement. Middlebrooks is also hitting just .250 on balls in play, and that is almost certain to increase. Get Middlebrooks now, and you'll enjoy the power he's already producing and take advantage of the batting average spike to come.
Zack Cozart, SS, Reds: You can't sugar-coat a .207 batting average. Cozart has been painful to own so far, at least for the owners who have continued to start him, but then again, there aren't many of those owners left. He's unowned in more than half of our leagues and starting in only 30 percent, so plenty of owners have just given up on him. He is making contact more often and has already hit five homers, so it's not as if Cozart has been a completely lost cause. The problem is that he is just 1 for 39 on the flyballs that have stayed in the park, so he has likely been cheated out of a few base hits. He may only hit .250 the rest of the way, but along with his power, that's enough to make Cozart useful in deeper mixed leagues, where he should still come at a very low cost.
Alejandro De Aza, OF, White Sox: This is not a case of a player underperforming who is due to surge, but rather a player who is already producing but still not being appreciated. De Aza is a top 25 outfielder in Rotisserie and a top 40 outfielder in points leagues, yet he is starting in only 63 percent of our leagues. Owners should be suspicious of his early-season home run burst, as he may not even double his current total of seven over the rest of the season. However, we should expect De Aza to improve his batting average, as he can be better at making contact and getting hits on balls in play than he has been. With a decent average and a shot at 90-plus runs and 25-plus steals, De Aza could be starting for you in most formats, and too many of his current owners aren't valuing him.
Brandon McCarthy, SP, Diamondbacks: After failing to deliver a quality start in his first six outings with Arizona, McCarthy has notched one in each of his last two starts. His ERA is still bloated at 5.63, and he's allowing too many line drives, but his control is as sharp as ever. According to xFIP, McCarthy's ERA should be 3.97, but his real value lies in providing a low WHIP, and he can do that as long as his liner rate moves back towards his norms. Given that McCarthy will have value in standard mixed leagues in certain weeks, it's an understatement to say that he's underowned with a 28 percent ownership rate.
Edwin Jackson, SP, Cubs: I've been as quick as anyone to write Jackson off after years of inconsistency. He's had his share of ups-and-downs and changes of scenery over the last four-plus seasons, but the one constant is that he's had pretty decent control. So far this year, he has thrown only 60 percent of his pitches for strikes and has already walked 20 batters in 43 1/3 innings. However, he has already issued three free passes, and his career high is five. While he could still stand to throw more strikes, Jackson is getting strikeouts and grounders at good rates. I won't argue that Jackson has improved or that he needs to be started in standard mixed leagues, but he's only starting in nine percent of our leagues, and that's far too few. Ignore the 6.02 ERA and trust him in your deeper mixed leagues.
Glen Perkins, RP, Twins: Perkins is currently outside the top 15 closers in Fantasy value, and part of his problem is that he is tied for 13th in saves with eight. A 3.55 ERA is further sinking Perkins' value, but an increase in save opportunities and a lower ERA could both be in his future. The Twins have gone 9-7 over their last 16 games, but Perkins has had only two save chances over that span, as most of the team's wins have been blowouts. He did miss one opportunity last Saturday due to a sore oblique, but Perkins is ready to resume his normal role. With strikeout-per-inning-plus stuff and pitcher-friendly Target Field as his home park, Perkins could wind up being your team's best closer, yet he is being started in only 68 percent of our leagues.
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