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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
Lisalverto Bonilla shows control issues Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) Rangers pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla had some control issues Friday against the Angels.

Bonilla allowed two runs on two hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked four during the outing. Bonilla was strong to start things off, going four scoreless frames to open the game. He gave up his only runs in the fifth inning. After a leadoff double, Bonilla allowed a two-run shot to Brennan Boesch. He was able to get out of the inning, but was pulled prior to the start of the sixth.

With the win, Bonilla improved to 2-0. He’ll take on the Astros if he gets another start.


Hector Santiago has disastrous outing vs. Rangers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) Angels pitcher Hector Santiago turned in a disaster start Friday against the Rangers.

Santiago allowed seven runs, six earned, on seven hits over one inning. He did not record any walks or strikeouts during the contest. Leonys Martin singled to lead off the contest, and was driven in a single later in the inning. Jake Smolinski then belted a two-run shot, giving the Rangers a three-run lead. Things didn’t get any easier in the second inning. Santiago gave up four straight singles, plating two more runs. Santiago was pulled at that point, but was charged with two more runs.

With the loss, Santiago dropped to 5-9. He’ll take on the Athletics in his next start.


Domonic Brown dealing with sprained hand
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:22 am ET) Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown was scratched Friday night against the A's because of a right hand sprain, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. Brown landed awkwardly on his wrist making a leaping catch the previous day against the Padres. He is hitting .237 with 10 homers and 61 RBI over 452 at-bats.

The struggles continue for Tim Hudson on Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:06 am ET) The struggles continued for Giants starter Tim Hudson in a loss to the Padres in San Diego on Friday, dropping to 9-12 on the year.

Hudson, who is working past a hip issue, allowed a two-run double to Alexi Amarista and a run-scoring single to Cameron Maybin in the opening frame. He also allowed a run-scoring double to Seth Smith in the third inning. The right-hander permitted five runs -- four earned -- on seven hits and two walks while striking out two over 4 1/3 innings of a 5-0 defeat. Of his 76 pitches, 47 were strikes.

Hudson owns a 3.52 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP over 30 starts (184 innings). His final start of the regular season will come Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.


Odrisamer Despaigne spins seven scoreless innings vs. Giants
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:05 am ET) Padres pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne bounced back with a gem Friday night at home against the Giants, improving to 4-7 on the year. The right-hander allowed only two hits and one walk while striking out six over seven innings of a 5-0 victory.

Despaigne picked up his first win since Aug. 12. Over his last three starts covering 17 innings, Despaigne has allowed nine earned runs. He owns a 3.36 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP over 16 starts (96 1/3 innings). He will make his final start of the season at home on Wednesday against Colorado.


Sean Doolittle picks up save No. 22
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:49 am ET) Athletics closer Sean Doolittle picked up his 22nd save Friday against the Phillies.

Doolittle entered with a two-run lead and slammed the door. He tossed a perfect inning during the appearance, facing just three batters. Doolittle did not record any strikeouts. 


Jon Lester turns in fantastic start Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:39 am ET) Athletics pitcher Jon Lester turned in a great start Friday against the Phillies. 

Lester allowed one run on five hits over seven innings. He struck out seven and walked two during the outing. Lester gave up his only run in the fourth inning. With one out in the inning, Lester allowed a solo home run against Ryan Howard. The run didn’t impact him too much, as Lester tossed three more scoreless innings before being pulled. 

With the win, Lester improved to 16-10. He’ll take on the Angels in his next start. 


Edwin Encarnacion belts 33rd home run Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:36 am ET) Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion clubbed his 33rd home run Friday against the Yankees. 

Encarnacion struck in the first inning. With a man on, Encarnacion belted an 81 mph slider out to left for the two run shot. He finished 1 for 4, with one run scored and two RBI.


David Buchanan posts quality start in losing effort
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:35 am ET) Phillies pitcher David Buchanan posted another quality start in a losing effort Friday night in Oakland, dropping to 6-8 on the year. The right-hander permitted three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out six over 6 2/3 innings of a 3-1 defeat.

Over his last four starts covering 23 innings, Buchanan has allowed 11 earned runs. He owns a 3.77 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP over 19 starts (112 1/3 innings). His final start of the season will come Thursday in Miami.


Yoenis Cespedes belts home run Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes belted his 22nd home run Friday against the Orioles. 

Cespedes struck in the fourth inning. With the bases empty, Cespedes belted an 80 mph slider out to center for a solo shot. He finished 1 for 5, with one run scored and one RBI. 


 
 
 
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