Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Fantasy411: 4 buy-low options for Week 5

Upton, Edwin among stars who could be acquired at discount
MLB.com

Hey, May! Here's to the new month, already the third this year in which baseball has been played. Remember: The season started on March 29.

If that realization has you a tad bit shaken as a patient fantasy owner, that's not such a bad thing if it motivates you to get movin' on a trade or two. At the same time, though, let's not lose all perspective. After all, MLB's on-base percentage leader at April's end was Daniel Robertson -- that's the 24-year-old utility infielder for the Rays, not the veteran outfielder currently in the D-backs organization (because, admit it, you were wondering). In other words, the season is still young.

Hey, May! Here's to the new month, already the third this year in which baseball has been played. Remember: The season started on March 29.

If that realization has you a tad bit shaken as a patient fantasy owner, that's not such a bad thing if it motivates you to get movin' on a trade or two. At the same time, though, let's not lose all perspective. After all, MLB's on-base percentage leader at April's end was Daniel Robertson -- that's the 24-year-old utility infielder for the Rays, not the veteran outfielder currently in the D-backs organization (because, admit it, you were wondering). In other words, the season is still young.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider making a play for one of the following buy-low options who could turn their -- and your -- season around soon.

Justin Upton, OF, Angels

Meh. That's probably a fair word to use to describe Upton's season through April. The outfielder entered May hitting .229/.293/.376. His 15 runs, four homers and 13 RBIs are fine enough, but anyone who drafted him was looking for more than a .669 OPS.

So let's diagnose, shall we? Upton's .273 BABIP might not jump out as egregiously low compared to the league average (.294 so far). But a quick peek at Upton's .326 career mark indicates a sizable gap that should close as the season progresses.

Upton also currently sports an 11.8 percent HR/FB rate. Again, that doesn't jump out as below average. In fact, it's not: the sport's rate is 11.9 percent to date in 2018. It is, however, noticeably below his 15.9 percent career rate, not to mention the 18.1 percent mark Upton carried over the past five years. In other words, expect a few more fly balls to carry over fences soon.

Upton has been around forever, but he's still just 30 and too good not to get going, especially when he's hitting behind Mike Trout every game.

Video: LAA@HOU: Upton belts an RBI double to left-center

Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Indians

Think that .160 batting average has gotten to Encarnacion's owners yet? Probably, considering it's the fifth-lowest mark among qualifiers. Yes, there are a few causes for concern and some signs of skill deterioration here. That's what happens when players hit their mid-30s -- Encarnacion is 35 -- and start striking out more (29.5 percent) and walking less (7.1 percent). So there is some caveat emptor in this case.

But Encarnacion historically has taken a month or two to get his bat going. Through his first 27 games a year ago -- the same number of contests he's played in 2018 -- he was hitting .198/.333/.333 with a 33.1 percent strikeout rate. His career OPS across March/April is .742, far and away below May's .818 for his worst monthly split.

Tack onto that a .164 BABIP that is the lowest in baseball, plus the fact that a large chunk of the Indians' lineup has been in a funk -- perhaps related to the cold weather that's swallowed Cleveland -- and well, it's easy to see how Encarnacion has nowhere to go but up. Don't forget: This is the only player to hit 30-plus home runs in each of the past six seasons (nobody else has an active streak of more than four). Encarnacion may not quite reach his averages over that stretch -- 38.5 homers, 109.5 RBIs -- but if you want to pick up a big bat at a greatly reduced rate, you should be proposing an offer before reading the end of this article.

Zack Greinke, SP, D-backs

Greinke's velocity decline has been a topic of conversation since Spring Training, and the righty is currently averaging 89.1 mph on fastballs -- this after he posted a 90.8 mark (his lowest mark since 2008, the first year data is available) last season. Furthermore, his ERA is currently 1.3 runs higher than it was in 2017 (3.20), and he has a somewhat troubling 1.5 HR/9 rate.

While those facts could do the trick in terms of convincing Greinke's owners to cave on a deal, you should note it hasn't mattered. Even operating just barely above 90 mph, Greinke was great in 2017 with 17 wins, a 3.20 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 9.6 K/9. This year? His 42-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio is elite, and his 28.8 percent strikeout rate would be a career high.

That level of swing-and-miss may not continue, but Greinke should keep on keepin' on as a steady, durable and productive fantasy SP2. It's possible that floating a younger, harder-throwing starter (think: James Paxton or Jose Berrios) could entice a deal. And hey, if the new Chase Field humidor provides even a little boost, all the better.

Video: LAD@ARI: Greinke strikes out 10, collects 2 hits

Michael Conforto, OF, Mets

A month ago, there was a palpable excitement over Conforto, who was making impressive progress in his pursuit of returning to action ahead of schedule following a left shoulder injury that occurred during a swing late last season and required surgery. Then he went and made it back on April 5, homering in that very first game -- off Stephen Strasburg, no less.

Fast forward four weeks, and that remains the only long ball for Conforto, who is hitting .222 and slugging .317. Between that and the depth the Mets have in their mix-and-match outfield -- in which Conforto, a natural corner outfielder, has been playing primarily center -- the playing time and production have left something to be desired.

Look, with the freakish nature of Conforto's left shoulder injury -- he tore the posterior capsule and dislocated his shoulder -- there's a possibility he won't regain the same burgeoning power he showed in 2017 (.276 ISO), at least not for a while.

Conforto, however, is a 25-year-old with top-of-the-line plate discipline (20.7 percent walk rate) whose hard-hit rate (34.1 percent compared to 43.5 in 2017) could get back on track as he regains strength in his shoulder and becomes more comfortable.

Jason Catania is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com.