Now that we're a month and a half into the fantasy baseball calendar, the "newness" of 2016 is wearing off a little.
This is your weekly reminder, then, to do something about it, because there's still about three-quarters of the season left. That's a looooong time either to try to remain in first place by staving off the competition ... or do your darnedest to catch the teams higher in the standings.
No matter your position, acquiring one (or more) of these underperforming players on the cheap should help.
Carlos Carrasco, SP: This is a pretty classic case of buying low on a player whose owner might have forgotten how great he is simply because he's missed time with injury.
In Carrasco's case, that injury was to his left hamstring on April 24, which has limited him merely to four starts and just 22 innings so far. While nobody likes to acquire an injured pitcher, we're not talking about an arm- or shoulder-related ailment here, so the 29-year-old righty should be ready to rock -- just as soon as he's ready to roll.
That could be very soon, considering Carrasco "looked really good" in Monday's bullpen session, according to Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. Owners? They should feel even better about targeting him but in a trade -- but need to do so now.
Dallas Keuchel, SP: This year has been anything but an encore for the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner. After another bummer outing May 12, Keuchel is the not-so-proud owner of a 5.58 ERA and 1.60 WHIP.
What, exactly, is going on? Well, some regression was to be expected, but certainly not like this. Sporting a .349 BABIP and 67.1 left on-base percentage, Keuchel's luck should improve. Just be wary that his elevated walk rate (4.0 BB/9) needs to dip closer to where it was across 2014-15 (2.1 BB/9). Until that happens, new owners might be better off deploying him only at home (career: 2.95 ERA, 1.17 WHIP).
As it stands, it's pretty clear the 28-year-old left-hander won't cost anywhere near his draft-day value. Keuchel, though,should have it in him to perform like a capable No. 3 fantasy starter going forward -- at a severely discounted price.
Miguel Sano, OF:
Few youngsters had more hype coming into this season than this Twins slugger, who racked up 18 homers and 52 RBIs in all of 80 games last season. So far, Sano hasn't lived up to that billing -- or his lofty average draft position -- with a .235 average and just six homers and 17 RBIs.
Despite the buzz, perhaps it was smart to be skeptical of Sano, who just turned 23 and had all of 335 plate appearances in the big leagues coming into 2016. And he swung and missed -- a lot. In fact, his 35.5 percent strikeout rate in 2015 was the highest in baseball (among players with at least 300 trips to the plate). At 34.4 percent this season, it's better, but not much.
Sano undoubtedly has disappointed, which is why power-deprived owners should pounce. The biggest signs that things should turn around for him, at least in the home run department? When he does make contact, Sano is hitting the ball in the air (28.9 percent liners, 43.4 percent fly balls) and with serious authority, as his medium- (49.4 percent) and hard-contact (41 percent) rates indicate. If that continues, the homers should follow, and they could come in bunches.
Albert Pujols, 1B: The easy narrative surrounding Pujols is that he's injury-prone and aging at 36 years old. Couple that with an Angels lineup that ranks among the 10 worst in runs scored, and well, it's easy to see why owners are giving up on this former No. 1 overall fantasy pick.
True, Pujols' bat may have slowed some from his heyday as a perennial MVP Award candidate, and he no longer can be counted on to hit north of .260. But Pujols did knock 40 homers a year ago to go with 95 RBIs, and he has a respectable eight and 23 through 37 games this season. His plate discipline (9.3 percent walk rate) and contact ability (11.7 percent strikeout rate) remain in good shape.
As for that unsightly .212 average? It's bound to climb some as his .192 BABIP -- fourth-lowest mark in the bigs -- does the same. Just don't expect it to get that much better, since he posted a BABIP of .217 in 2015 and .265 in '14. Pujols may not be the hottest buy-low candidate, but he's nonetheless a useful one.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF: Hey, remember this guy? If not, you're excused, seeing how Choo played in all of five games before sustaining a strained right calf and then seemingly falling out of a starting job when rookie phenom Nomar Mazara burst onto the scene.
Well, Choo currently is on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Round Rock, so his return is imminent. And his role as a starter should be, too, after the Rangers demoted starting center fielder Delino DeShields. The plan, presumably, is to keep Mazara in right, shift Ian Desmond to center and let Choo play in left.
While his tenure in Texas since 2014 hasn't been all that remarkable, Choo did have a dynamite finish to last season. He hit a robust .343 with 11 homers, 44 RBIs and a whopping 56 runs over 69 second-half games. Even if he leads off only some of the time in this dynamic Rangers lineup, Choo could perform like a No. 3 fantasy outfielder once he's transitioned back to everyday play.