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We're starting to get to the point where even the most patient, cerebral, Spock-like player in your Fantasy baseball league might be starting to get impatient. That team that looked like a world beater before the season is sitting in last place after the first month of the season, and its owner may be about to blow it up.
And that's where you come swooping in like a vulture, buying their under-performing stars for pennies on the dollar. It's not a foolproof plan -- sometimes a bad month is just a bad month, but sometimes it's the start of a trend. Still, if you want to get undervalued assets, buying low on stars is the best way to do it.
Here are my favorite buy-low candidates at each offensive position:
Yan Gomes, C, Indians
Gomes struggled through last season, with injuries and inconsistency hampering his quest to follow up on his breakout 2014 campaign. Because he's a hacker at the plate, Gomes is always going to be pretty hit-or-miss, but it's hard to find 20-homer potential at the catcher position. He hasn't been great this season, and it's not just bad luck; a .208 BABIP is only bad luck if you're hitting screaming liners all over the field. Gomes has already hit five infield flyballs and has just a 17.6 percent hard-hit average, well below his career rate. I think he's more talented than that, however, and am willing to bet on him figuring it out and providing me with that rare power from the catcher position.
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
I've recently taken to saying that I'll be worried about Joey Votto as soon as he hits his first infield fly ball. Things are obviously a lot more complicated than that, but not that much more complicated. The things that define Votto are his impeccable eye and patience at the plate and nearly peerless bat control, best exemplified by the fact that he has just one season with more than two infield flyballs. He's walking a bit less and striking out a bit more this season than years past, but neither has moved in a particularly alarming direction for the first month of the season. Votto is still displaying his characteristic sharp eye at the plate, and his swinging strike rate of 7.9 percent is right in line with recent seasons. He's also sporting a 43.9 percent hard-hit average, along with the second-lowest soft-hit average. Votto is hitting the ball well, and it shouldn't be long before we start to see results from that.
Anthony Rendon, 2B, Nationals
Rendon is kind of a tough player to trust, because he's really only had one great season. He was really, really great in 2014, but has been merely average otherwise. However, there wasn't exactly much about that 2014 season he can't reasonably replicate, and to an extent, he is this season. He has cut back on the strikeouts that plagued him last season, and has seen his hard-hit average rebound to 37.8 percent, identical to what he managed in 2014. Despite this, he has yet to hit a homer on 29 flyballs -- he averaged one every 12 or so in 2014. Rendon is showing a lot of the skills that made him so valuable two years ago, and the talent is still evident. Bet on him figuring it out.
Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners
As Heath Cummings showed last week, Seager is a solid bet to rebound, mostly because he is one player whose slow start seems to be almost exclusively the result of bad luck. His walk rate is above his career norm and his strikeout rate is down; his ISO is up, and he is producing more hard contact than ever before; and he's hitting the ball to all fields. And yet Seager, who has been one of the most consistent producers in baseball over the last five years, is hitting just .163 overall. You can thank his .138 BABIP for that and, unlike Gomes, Seager is just getting the short end of the luck stick here. An always underrated option at the hot corner, see if you can steal Seager from his owner.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Blue Jays
I don't believe we're ever going to see peak Tulo again. That isn't exactly a hot take, given that he's 31 and playing away from Coors, but we're now into his second straight year of decline, and his skill set appears to be atrophying. He is striking out and whiffing more than ever, and just isn't driving the ball like he used to. Still, if we're talking about buying low, I'm going to go for the guy with the most upside, and that seems to clearly be Tulowitzki, even with his decline. With apologies to Corey Seager, Brandon Crawford and Addison Russell (buy-low candidates I also like at the position), if everything clicks for Tulo, he's still the second- or third-best shortstop in Fantasy.
Jason Heyward, OF, Cubs
Heading into play on May 2, here are Jason Heyward's numbers over the last two seasons:
2015: .212/.272/.341; .129 ISO, 19.6 K%, 7.6 BB%
2016: .211/.317/.256; .045 ISO, 19.2 K%, 12.5 BB%
So, he's hitting for less power and walking more, which isn't necessarily a tradeoff you'd be happy to make as a Fantasy owner. But it is proof that a slow start won't necessarily doom Heyward, who hit .307/.374/.457 from May 2 on last season. Hayward's hard-hit average is way down to open the season and he's hitting infield flies at an alarming rate, which isn't a great sign, but it's still not a stretch to expect him to turn things around just like he did a year ago.
Justin Upton, OF, Tigers
You should know going into the experience of owning Justin Upton that it's going to be a roller coaster. He goes through stretches where he can totally carry your team, as he did last April and May, when he hit 12 homers and drove in 37 runs in his first 49 games. And then he'll go through stretches where he seems totally lost, as he did from June through the end of July a year ago, when he hit just .182 with six homers in 46 games. He is striking out at an alarming rate right now, but Upton's career has been defined a lot more by the peaks than the valleys, and you don't want to overreact to either.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Astros
As with Tulowitzki, it's sort of hard to make the case for Gomez bouncing back. His skills appear to have truly declined, and it's a decline that appeared to begin last season, when he hit just .255/.314/.409. At least last season we could write that off as injury-related; it's a lot harder to come up with a good excuse for Gomez, who just doesn't look right. He isn't hitting the ball well, and has seen his already shaky plate discipline fall off entirely. Still, as with Tulo, if the price is low enough, it is worth betting on Gomez figuring it out, given how useful we've seen him be in the past. Of course, at this point, the price needs to be really low.