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By the Numbers: Time to shop the bargain bin

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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.

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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.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Cubs' Justin Grimm ready to rehab with Triple-A Iowa
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:05 pm ET) Cubs pitcher Justin Grimm is set to join Triple-A Iowa for a rehab assignment, MLB.com reports. Grimm is on the disabled list due to forearm inflammation and hasn't pitched this season.

Padres' Wil Myers hasn't changed approach despite walking more
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:52 am ET) Padres center fielder Wil Myers drew a pair of walks Saturday for the second straight game, but he indicated that he hasn't changed his aggressive approach at the plate, MLB.com reports.

"Just the at-bats [in which] I've walked ... they haven't really thrown anything over the plate to hit," Myers said. "It's always been a 3-1 walk. I'm not really getting my pitch right now. I'd rather swing the bat than walk because I'd like to take my chances."

Myers managed only two walks in all of April before racking up four walks in his first two games of May. The Padres are just fine with their leadoff hitter's aggressiveness.

"You don't want to ever take the aggressiveness out of a young hitter, because that's what makes them … and in his mind, he can hit," manager Bud Black said Saturday. "And hitters swing. They have confidence, especially young hitters, that they can hit anything. It's going to take time for him to understand that at the big leagues pitchers can throw the ball where they want it, they can expand the zone, they can keep it out of the strike zone. He's got to learn to lay off of that. I think in time, you'll see more games like tonight, where he will not expand the zone."

Myers has hit .279/.324/.462 with four home runs, 17 RBI, three stolen bases and a league-leading 25 runs scored.


White Sox rest Tyler Flowers, Conor Gillaspie, Jose Abreu
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:46 am ET) The White Sox left two regulars out of the lineup on Sunday and moved another to DH to give him a day's rest from playing the field. 

Catcher Tyler Flowers is out of the lineup. For the third time in five games, he'll be replaced by Geovany Soto, who will bat eighth in the order. 

Third baseman Conor Gillaspie is also out of the starting lineup, for just the fifth time this year. He's replaced by Gordon Beckham, who'll bat seventh. 

Jose Abreu moves from first base to DH, swapping positions with Adam LaRoche, who gets his third start of the year at first base. 


Cardinals' Kolten Wong out of lineup Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:44 am ET) Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong is not in the starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Pirates.

Wong is getting his first break from the starting lineup in more than two weeks Sunday, with Pete Kozma filling in and batting eighth. Wong has hit .272/.322/.383 with one home run, seven RBI and two stolen bases in 81 at-bats.

The Cardinals are favorites (-142) against the Pirates Sunday, per VegasInsider.com.


Adam Eaton misses third straight for White Sox
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:43 am ET) White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton is out of the starting lineup for the third straight game on Sunday. 

Eaton is battling an illness. For the third straight day, he'll be replaced by J.B. Shuck

Shuck will bat leadoff. 


Royals' Lorenzo Cain drops appeal, begins serving suspension
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:38 am ET) Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain dropped the appeal of his two-game suspension on Sunday, the team announced. He will miss Sunday and Monday's game and be eligible to return on Tuesday. 

Jarrod Dyson gets his second start of the season in center field on Sunday. He'll bat eighth in the lineup.


Kurt Suzuki, Eduardo Escobar, Jordan Schafer out of Twins' lineup
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:34 am ET) The Twins left three starters out of Sunday's starting lineup. 

Catcher Kurt Suzuki goes to the bench, with Chris Herrmann getting his second start in five games. Herrmann is batting eighth in the lineup. 

Left fielder Eduardo Escobar is out of the lineup after four straight starts. Oswaldo Arcia returns to left, batting sixth. 

Center fielder Jordan Schafer also gets a rest, with Shane Robinson making his tenth start in center and batting seventh. 


Pirates' Neil Walker not in lineup Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:33 am ET) Pirates second baseman Neil Walker is not in the starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Cardinals.

It's Walker's first break from starting in more than two weeks. He has hit .270/.320/.393 with one home run, nine RBI and one stolen base in 89 at-bats but is just 3 for 19 over the last five games. With Walker on the bench, Josh Harrison will shift from third base to second, while Jung Ho Kang will make the start at the hot corner.

The Pirates are underdogs (+132) in St. Louis Sunday, per VegasInsider.com.


Joe Mauer, Kennys Vargas switch positions for Twins
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:28 am ET) For the fourth time this season, Joe Mauer and Kennys Vargas will switch positions to give Mauer a day off from the field. 

Mauer will play designated hitter for the Twins in Sunday's game, while Vargas will play first base. It's the second time in five games and third in the last nine that the two players have flip-flopped positions. 


Marlins' Mat Latos (hamstring) to start Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:25 am ET) Marlins pitcher Mat Latos will make his scheduled start Tuesday against the Nationals, FOX Sports Florida reports.

Latos suffered a left hamstring strain in his previous start Wednesday but had been optimistic he'd be able to make his regular turn in the rotation. An MRI on the injured hamstring showed inflammation and swelling but no structural damage.

Latos is 0-3 with a 6.86 ERA and 17:9 K:BB ratio in 21 innings over five starts.


 
 
 
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