The season still feels young, but it is already more than 25 percent over. Fantasy owners should be proactive in trying to improve their rosters, especially when opportunities arise to add talented players at a discount. With that in mind, here are this week's five buy-low candidates:Adam Wainwright, SP: The
The season still feels young, but it is already more than 25 percent over. Fantasy owners should be proactive in trying to improve their rosters, especially when opportunities arise to add talented players at a discount. With that in mind, here are this week's five buy-low candidates:
Adam Wainwright, SP: The Cardinals' pitching stalwart has never struggled like this, which leads to the inevitable debate -- is he done, or is this a short-term blemish on his stellar career? The latter may be more likely, given he owns a 4.00 FIP that is well below his 5.92 ERA.
The problem has been his left-on-base rate (61.6 percent), which is by far the lowest mark of his career. Some might point to this as an indicator that a pitcher can't make quality pitches in a game's key moments. But even if Wainwright no longer has the stuff to get out of jams as well as he once did, his left-on-base rate will undoubtedly rise. After all, the league average for starters is 72.4 percent and Wainwright is doing a solid job keeping the ball in the park. While the 34-year-old is unlikely to return to his peak level of performance, his early-season showing isn't going to be the norm either.
Justin Upton, OF: Unlike Wainwright, Upton should be in his prime at 28. But the Tigers have gotten far less production than expected out of the outfielder, who has hit .223 with two homers and 10 RBIs after signing with the club as a free agent in the offseason.
Upton's early-season struggles can be ascribed to his glaring 37.1 percent strikeout rate, a big jump from his career mark. This may be the result of an adjustment to the American League, where he's playing for the first time in his career. Upton also has hit a homer on just 4.3 percent of his fly balls this season. He has too much power to sport a mark that low and too much talent overall to continue along at this pace all season.
Matt Moore, SP: Moore currently owns the best strikeout and walk rates of his career, but he also has recorded one of his highest ERAs (5.09). The main reason behind his difficulty preventing runs is his lofty 1.6 HR/9 rate, though that mark should improve over time. After all, the left-hander has a 16.7 percent HR/FB rate that is well above both his career mark (9.7 percent) and the league average (12.2 percent).
Moore also has received little run support from his team -- the Rays have averaged 2.9 runs per game in his starts, compared to 4.6 in all other games -- which is why he has only one win this season. Going after starters who have underperformed in wins but shown encouraging signs in other areas is often a good strategy.
Yasiel Puig, OF: Forget the Puig of 2013; expecting him to return to that level isn't reasonable at this point. But he does figure to be better than what he's shown thus far in 2016, given his BABIP (.285) is the lowest of his career and well below his lifetime mark (.342).
The important thing is that Puig is healthy, having played in 44 of a possible 45 games after logging just 79 games a year ago. He also appears to have the confidence of new Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who has re-established the Cuban outfielder as a no-questions-asked regular after former skipper Don Mattingly started him in just one of the club's five postseason games in 2015. Never underestimate the importance of guaranteed playing time when projecting season-long fantasy numbers.
Michael Pineda, SP: No one has ever questioned Pineda's talent. Even as he's struggled this season, he has the 13th best K/9 rate (10.2) in baseball among qualified starters.
The righty simply needs to make the necessary adjustments to limit homers more effectively, as he owns a 1.8 HR/9 rate on the year. He took a step in the right direction on Sunday, allowing no homers across six innings in a win over the A's. If he can continue on this path, Pineda could start providing helpful ratios and a lofty win total -- especially because the Yankees' "super bullpen" of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman can take over after six innings, as was the case on Sunday.
Jeff Gold is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com.