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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
White Sox OF Avisail Garcia dropped weight during offseason
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia dropped roughly 15 pounds during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

"I've been eating healthy, working real hard at the gym, Garcia said. "I have to be ready for spring training. I can't go there and be fat." With the weight loss, Garcia is hoping to keep his power potential. "I don't want to lose speed, I don't want to lose power," Garcia said. "I want to be in the middle. I know I can do a little bit of everything, so that's why I've been working really hard on speed, power, hitting and defense, so I can help my team win."

Garcia hit .244/.305/.413 over 172 at-bats last year.


Athletics' Billy Butler would welcome return to Royals
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:35 am ET) Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler said he would love to return to the Royals later in his career, according to the Kansas City Star.

After spending the first eight seasons of his career in Kansas City, Butler signed a three-year deal with Oakland during the offseason. Though he left the Royals, Butler said there is no hard feelings. "It’s disappointing, but you understand that the game’s a business and I didn’t leave on bad terms," Butler said. "I’d be more than happy to come back. That’s home for me. I’ll always be forever tied to the Royals organization and the community there."

The 28-year-old hit .271/.323/.379 over 549 at-bats last year.


Indians to consider multi-year extension for Corey Kluber
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) The Indians will consider a multi-year extension for pitcher Corey Kluber, according to MLB.com.

General manager Mark Shapiro didn't indicate that the two sides were close to a deal, but said Kluber has all the aspects the team looks for when considering a long-term deal. "Corey represents all of the things we look for in players: dependable, reliable person, committed to his work ethic, talented." Shapiro added, "it's something we'll probably look at over the next couple of months. He has all the precursors that we would look for to enter into a multiyear agreement."

The 28-year-old Kluber is set to make the league-minimum next season, and won't be available for arbitration until 2016. He's under team control through 2018, so there's no hurry for either side to agree to a new deal. 

Kluber posted a 2.44 ERA over 235 2/3 innings last year.


Twins' Glen Perkins says he's 100 percent
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Twins reliever Glen Perkins said he's 100 percent heading into the season, according to MLB.com.

Perkins missed the last two weeks of the regular season due to a forearm injury, but said that's no longer a problem. He took two weeks off once the season concluded, and went for a precautionary MRI just to make sure the injury wasn't serious. "I took two weeks off and started doing shoulder stuff as part of the rehab to strengthen it and everything went well," Perkins said. "I started throwing again in mid-December. The way I've been able to ramp up throwing, everything has been good."

The 31-year-old Perkins posted a 3.65 ERA over 61 2/3 innings last season.


Tigers' Miguel Cabrera not expected to miss much time with injury
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera is not expected to miss much time with his ankle injury, according to the Detroit Free Press

Cabrera had ankle surgery to remove bone spurs shortly after the season, and has been recovering during the offseason. He was recently cleared to ditch his walking boot, and will be re-evaluated by team doctors on Feb. 15. General manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters Cabrera shouldn't miss much time due to the injury. "We're hopeful at that point he gets turned loose," Dombrowski said. "If he's not ready for Opening Day, it's going to be very, very close."

The 31-year-old Cabrera hit .313/.371/.524 over 611 at-bats last year. 


Twins' Joe Mauer says his legs feel strong heading into 2015
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Twins first baseman Joe Mauer said his legs feel strong heading into 2015, according to the Star Tribune.

Mauer was able to fully participate in an offseason training program after injuries prevented him from doing so last year. Mauer said his left knee, which has given him trouble in the past, feels strong now. :It’s tough to hit when the knee I’ve had problems with isn’t right," Mauer said. "That’s where you get your power from and the ball jumps. I feel good. I’m excited to get out there."

The 31-year-old Mauer is coming off a season in which he hit .277/.361/.371 over 455 at-bats.


Report: Yankees looking to void milestone bonuses for A-Rod
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) The Yankees are looking to void milestone bonuses in Alex Rodriguez 's contract, according to the New York Daily News.

When Rodriguez signed his deal with the club in 2007, it contained bonuses as Rodriguez tied or passed the top home run hitters. Rodriguez, who has 654 career home runs, is just six away from tying Willie Mays, which would trigger a $6 million bonus. He is also set to receive an additional $6 million once he ties Babe Ruth, and another $6 milliion if he ties Hank Aaron.

The team, however, now views those bonuses as worthless due to his 2014 suspension. The team will argue that these bonuses were signed under false pretenses. The club is apparently willing to fight the player's union over the decision should Rodriguez file a grievance. 

Rodriguez, who hasn't played since 2013, has already found it difficult to mend the fences with his team. Rodriguez proposed a meeting with the club where he would publicly apologize for his actions last season, but the team declined the offer. "This is a relationship that is never going to be repaired," one source told the Daily News.


Orioles, Ryan Flaherty avoid arbitration
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) The Orioles have avoided arbitration with infielder Ryan Flaherty, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. 

Flaherty will make $1.075 million next season. He can make an additional $25,000 if he receives 400 plate appearances. The 28-year-old Flaherty hit .221/.288/.356 over 281 at-bats last year.


Angels' Josh Hamilton setting lofty goals for 2015
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton is ready to set some lofty goals for 2015, according to MLB.com.

Hamilton said he's aiming to hit .300, with 30 home runs and 100 RBI this year. After struggling through injuries in 2014, Hamilton said his offseason has been mostly normal. The 33-year-old hit .263/.331/.414 over 338 at-bats last year. 


Angels' Jered Weaver bulked up during offseason
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Angels pitcher Jered Weaver decided to bulk up during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

Weaver went from 199 pounds to 224 pounds during the offseason. He said the goal was to get bigger and stronger so that he can pitch deeper into games next year. The 32-year-old Weaver posted a 3.59 ERA over 213 1/3 innings. 


 
 
 
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