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Fantasy 411: 5 buy-low candidates

Trading for Rizzo, Russell, Rodon could be wise
May 30, 2016

Memorial Day has come to signify not only the unofficial start of summer but also the point in the fantasy baseball season when even the most patient owners need to start getting in on the transaction action.You know what your roster needs by now, so go ahead and make a

Memorial Day has come to signify not only the unofficial start of summer but also the point in the fantasy baseball season when even the most patient owners need to start getting in on the transaction action.
You know what your roster needs by now, so go ahead and make a move. You can start by going after these buy-low options who are primed to get cookin', kinda like the barbecue you enjoyed this weekend.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B: Yes, a player who was an early-round draft pick, plays on the team with the best record in baseball and has 11 homers and 37 RBIs can be a buy-low candidate.
The 26-year-old qualifies primarily because he hasn't been as elite as many expected, what with a .239 batting average and a mere two stolen bases (after he swiped 17 a year ago).
But just about every underlying metric indicates that the slugging lefty is due for a major boost with the bat, including his unsustainably low .219 BABIP (sixth-lowest in MLB), his career-high 15.0 percent walk rate and his career-best 12.2 percent strikeout rate. That's a combination that simply screams for a massive breakout any day now.
Because of Rizzo's reputation -- and to some extent, the team on which he plays -- you'll have to pony up a pretty penny to trade for him, even with the deflated average. But now is the time to do it, because you won't have a chance once he starts bashing baseballs.
Prince Fielder, DH: This not without risk, as Fielder entered Monday hitting .197 and has managed all of three home runs. But his 2016 performance also makes the acquisition cost tremendously low for a player with his track record.
True, Fielder has been trending downward and no longer is the fantasy stud he once was. But at 32, he shouldn't be at the point in his career where he falls off this dramatically out of the blue. Recognize he has a .226 BABIP and a ludicrously low .087 average on grounders (league average: .231), as well as a 6.4 percent home run-to-fly ball rate, compared to 17.8 percent for his career.
Is Fielder going to be a definite starter for your fantasy club, especially if he's eligible only at utility? Maybe not. But is he better than this and worth taking a chance on in deeper leagues, where his current owner already is more than fed up? Almost certainly.
Addison Russell, SS: Russell has been safe but not at all exciting from a fantasy perspective in 2016, hitting .250 with four homers, 30 RBIs and two steals. Given the youngster's standing as a consensus top-10 prospect in the sport this time a year ago, fantasy owners who drafted Russell this season were likely expecting more.
The big thing to note, however, is that Russell is showing strong plate discipline (11.9 percent walk rate) and improved contact-making ability (24.9 percent strikeout rate) in 2016. As a rookie, he walked in just 8.0 percent of his plate appearances and fanned 28.5 percent of the time.
Oh, and he's playing this entire season at the tender age of 22, when most players are fighting their way through Double-A. Russell has now logged slightly more than a full season in the Major Leagues, and he's been staying afloat. Seeing him start coming into his own soon would not be surprising, especially as part of the deep, dynamic Cubs lineup.
Carlos Rodon, SP: Something of an under-the-radar breakout candidate during draft season, Rodon has been difficult to own -- and even harder to trust -- in 2016 (4.24 ERA, 1.48 WHIP). Case in point: The left-hander allowed five runs on six hits and two walks while getting just one out on April 18, after having recorded a 1.38 ERA over his first two starts of the year.
Rodon remains enigmatic, inconsistent and prone to blowups because he's still all of 23 years old with fewer than 200 career innings in the Majors. Don't forget that he flew through the Minors, making just eight starts before reaching the bigs. In other words, the southpaw has been learning to adjust and hone his stuff while pitching at baseball's highest level.
But the young White Sox starter also has, on occasion, flashed the talent that made him the No. 3 overall Draft pick in 2014. A pitcher with Rodon's stuff (54 whiffs in 57 1/3 innings) shouldn't be getting hit this much (64 hits) and this hard (eight homers). Granted, his control and command are works in progress that aren't going to solve themselves overnight. But his BB/9 rate has dipped from 4.6 as a rookie to a more palatable 3.3 in 2016.
Rodon sports a 3.86 xFIP -- a metric which normalizes a pitcher's home run rate to league average -- meaning there's room for his ERA to drop. Not to mention, removing that April 18 dud puts Rodon's ERA at 3.47 and his WHIP at 1.35. Add in the pedigree and promise, and there's enough to take a low-risk, high-reward gamble because of the cheap cost.
Alex Wood, SP: Just when Wood seemed like he was going to become something of a fantasy darling, he went through a so-so 2015 (3.84 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 6.6 K/9). Then he got off to a bad start this year, recording a 6.00 ERA through his first four starts.
That, combined with a recent bout of left triceps tightness that caused him to have his Friday start pushed to Monday, has masked what the 25-year-old has done recently and should make the cost of acquisition next to nil.
Over his previous five turns before Monday's start, Wood allowed just nine earned runs on 22 hits with a whopping 43 whiffs in 30 1/3 frames. He allowed two runs and struck out seven in five innings on Monday. As for that injury? It doesn't seem to be serious, considering it happened while he was batting in his last start and caused his next turn to be moved back only three days.
Although Wood surely won't be as great as he has been lately, he has shown the goods to pitch like a strong No. 4 fantasy starter. Right now, he's probably an afterthought for his current owner.

Jason Catania is a fantasy baseball writer for