Yep, a quarter of the season is in the books already. Believe it.Now is the time to take a good, long look at your fantasy roster to see where you can make improvements and which categories need to be addressed. There's still three-quarters of 2018 left, but you should have
Yep, a quarter of the season is in the books already. Believe it.
Now is the time to take a good, long look at your fantasy roster to see where you can make improvements and which categories need to be addressed. There's still three-quarters of 2018 left, but you should have a sense by now of your team's strengths and weaknesses.
If you're at or near the top of your league's standings, that's great -- but you can always get better as you try to sustain a solid start. Not in such good shape? Well, what are you waiting for? Go and shake things up a bit. Either way, if you're seeking some buy-low options to boost your squad, these five players might be about ready to get hot.
Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals
After a loud 2017 that seemingly put Ozuna on the map as an OF1 in fantasy, he's been quiet so far in his first year with the Cardinals. In fact, his .265/.293/.348 slash line is reminiscent of that from 2015, when the Marlins surprisingly sent him to Triple-A in the middle of the season.
While there's no risk of that happening, it has been a struggle to date for the 27-year-old slugger. But what if Ozuna instead were hitting .281/.341/.477? That'd be much closer to expectations. And indeed, those are his "expected" slash stats based on his batted-ball profile in 2018, according to Statcast™.
Ozuna's average exit velocity (92.7 mph), launch angle (10.7 degrees) and hard-hit rate (50.8 percent) are right in line with -- and actually higher than -- his 2017 measures. While it would be nice to see a return to last year's improved plate discipline (0.44 BB/K ratio vs. 0.21 this season), the underlying contact numbers suggest Ozuna is due for a turnaround.
Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Orioles
Sometimes it's difficult to remember all the promise surrounding a player just two months ago when he's sitting here in mid-May with a .250 batting average, 13 runs, three homers and 12 RBIs. Yes, those are Schoop's stats so far, and it's likely that his owner has taken notice.
Of course, a big reason why those numbers are so underwhelming is that Schoop missed more than three weeks with a right oblique strain. Since returning on May 8, he's hit .290 with a pair of homers and nine driven in over seven games.
This is a 26-year-old coming off a 2017 in which he set career highs in average (.293), runs (93), home runs (32) and RBIs (105). Those counting numbers are likely out of reach simply because Schoop already has lost 20 games, but he should remain one of the sport's premier power-hitting second basemen.
Robbie Ray, SP, Diamondbacks
Ray's follow-up campaign to his breakout 2017 hasn't lived up to expectations on two fronts. For one, he currently has a 4.88 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP due to a 5.5 BB/9 rate. For another, he's been out since April 29 with a strained right oblique and isn't expected back until later this month at the earliest.
The 26-year-old has made some recent progress in his recovery, saying he felt "very good" after throwing from 90 feet. It's baby steps right now because obliques can be tricky, and we're talking about the southpaw's front side in his delivery.
Given Ray's health status and inconsistent control (3.8 BB/9 in his career), there's a hefty risk in play. That drives down the cost of acquisition, though, making the potential reward that much sweeter once Ray -- whose 12.1 K/9 mark led the NL in 2017, when he performed like a fantasy SP1 -- gets healthy and back on track. Remember, for all of his shaky stats so far, he was whiffing a whopping 14.6 batters per nine through his first six starts. The upside is enormous.
Matt Olson, 1B, A's
A popular preseason "sleeper," Olson never was going to sustain his pace from an outrageous 2017 rookie season, when he hit 24 homers with 45 RBIs in a mere 59 games and 216 plate appearances -- nor should fantasy owners have expected him to. But, hey, people tend to get overly excited about initial bursts of success, no matter how small the sample or ridiculous the rate of production.
Safe to say, Olson owners are looking at the first baseman's five long balls, 15 RBIs and .150 ISO through his first 41 games and thinking, "Uh, where did all the power go?"
Despite what Olson's five homers suggest, the pop is still there. The 24-year-old has an average exit velocity of 93.4 mph and launch angle of 16.4 degrees -- both above last year's marks of 90.8 and 15.7, respectively -- and his .543 expected slugging percentage paints a promising picture of where his actual .386 slugging percentage should start heading if he keeps making hard contact.
Keep your expectations at a reasonable level (say, 25-30 homers over the rest of the season), and you'll wind up getting the best of Olson's 2018 without having to give up too much.
Corey Knebel, RP, Brewers
A lot has changed in the short time since Knebel was a consensus top 10 fantasy closer in March, coming off a fantastic 1.78 ERA, 126 strikeouts and 39 saves a year ago.
A left hamstring injury in early April cost him not just a month of games but also, ostensibly, the closer's role. That job has become the dual responsibility of Josh Hader (6 SV, 1.44 ERA, 57.5 K%) and Jeremy Jeffress (3 SV, 0.40 ERA, 0.72 WHIP), at least in recent weeks, and they both have pitched extremely well.
While that has left Knebel facing a lot of uncertainty -- and, not to mention, competition -- in Milwaukee's bullpen, the 26-year-old is a worthwhile buy-low option. Jeffress doesn't have much history of handling the ninth inning and Hader, a funky left-hander who has thrown more than an inning in 11 of his 15 outings, might be best utilized in a "relief ace" role, a la Andrew Miller.
If you need saves and feel like taking a bit of a chance, Knebel has the stuff -- and now his health -- to return value in that category. If you're not comfortable targeting him as the central piece in a trade, consider making him a secondary player in a package deal.
Jason Catania is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com.