It's a new month. April? Over. Whether your fantasy team has performed up to your expectations so far or not, it's time to focus on what comes next. How can you make up ground or make your roster even better in May … and beyond?Over the course of this six-month
It's a new month. April? Over. Whether your fantasy team has performed up to your expectations so far or not, it's time to focus on what comes next. How can you make up ground or make your roster even better in May … and beyond?
Over the course of this six-month season, success simply does not come from standing still. Hot streaks turn cold. Injuries and ailments arise. The grind gets to just about every player -- and fantasy owner -- at some point along the way.
Stay ahead of the game by making smart trades, targeting players who should be better than they have been to date. Like these five. After all, there's still as many months left to go.
Edwin Encarnacion, Indians, 1B
For one of the most productive sluggers in the sport over the past half-decade, Encarnacion has made something of a habit of starting slowly. Across Aprils from 2012-17, he slashed .246/.324/.457 for a .781 OPS and 60-to-137 walk-to-strikeout ratio that is by far his worst of any month in that span.
Things tend to turn around quickly for the 13-year veteran, though, as May was Encarnacion's best month in terms of both homers (46) and RBIs (127) from 2012-16, while June has brought a ridiculous 1.006 OPS.
Edwin's current owners spent an early-round pick to land him and cannot be thrilled with a meager .200 average, nine runs, four homers and nine RBIs. Convince said owner that it may not be such a bad idea to get, say, 75 cents on the dollar for a 34-year-old who left the cozy confines of Rogers Centre for the less hitter-friendly Progressive Field and has struck out an AL-high 35 times already.
You? Well, you'll get to enjoy the inevitable hot streaks that come from the only player to hit at least 30 homers each of the past five seasons -- while averaging 39 to go with 110 RBIs -- as Encarnacion's bat warms along with the weather in Cleveland.
Alex Bregman, Astros, 3B
Bregman was a popular breakout candidate back in March. It hasn't happened yet, as he's hitting just .250 with six runs, as many RBIs and exactly zero homers. For a player with as little big league experience as the 23-year-old has -- barely 300 plate appearances since his July 2016 debut -- that can be scary for an owner who bought into the hype.
Play that angle up in trade talks, while you swoop in to acquire a youngster with some serious pedigree (No. 2 overall Draft pick in 2015) who gets to hit in one of baseball's deeper lineups and has shown the ability to make adjustments at this level already.
Bregman, you'll recall, struggled mightily upon being promoted last year, going just 1-for-32 in his first eight games. He then caught fire and hit .308/.355/.562 with 31 runs, eight homers and 34 RBIs over his final 41 contests, leading to all the 2017-breakout-year buzz mentioned above. Go ahead and buy into Bregman and his strong plate discipline numbers (9.2 percent walk rate, 18.4 percent strikeout rate) as that type of player. Better yet? Because of his shaky start, you won't have to do so at his preseason price.
Jonathan Lucroy, Rangers, C
Lucroy was a consensus top-three fantasy catcher just two months ago. He likely cost his owner a draft pick somewhere between Rounds 5 and 8 with the expectation of all-around production after a career year in 2016 in which he hit .292 with 67 runs, 24 homers and 81 RBIs.
With the 30-year-old currently hitting .206 with just six runs, one homer and four RBIs, safe to say the draft-day value and season-to-date expectations haven't been met. This presents a buying opportunity, especially given how difficult it can be to wait for -- and miss out on -- numbers at the shallow, often-fluid catcher position, particularly in formats that require only one backstop.
Lucroy is one of the very few who is worth waiting for, however, which is why you'll want to act now. Based on all the contact he's making -- just five strikeouts in 66 plate appearances -- the veteran certainly has been more than a little unlucky, as his .211 BABIP shows (compared to a .309 career mark).
Also worth remembering? Lucroy plays in a park that is among the most favorable for hitters, and he should be motivated to pick it up in his contract year. There's still plenty of time for one of the steadier performers at the position to approach the .291/.353/.465 line he posted from 2012-16.
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, SP
The trade proposal for Wainwright is pretty simple. He's 35. He's coming off a disappointing 2016 (4.62 ERA, 1.40 WHIP). And he's currently sporting a 6.12 ERA and 1.84 WHIP -- both bottom-10 marks for qualifying starters.
So why, exactly, should you be looking to acquire him? Because the cost should be next-to-nothing.
Don't mistake this suggestion to mean that Wainwright is going to return to his former perennial Cy Young-contender ways. That's asking too much of an aging player too far removed from pitching at that level.
But can Wainwright pitch better than this -- and good enough to be a capable SP4/5 in fantasy -- the rest of the way? There are encouraging signs, including his 26-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 innings, as well as a 3.34 FIP. You won't have to do much to persuade Wainwright's owner to make a deal, and while the upside isn't all that high, there's value to be had.
Nicholas Castellanos, Tigers, 3B
Castellanos fits the post-hype sleeper mold as a former high-end prospect who has been around seemingly forever but has yet to fully realize his potential. Still only 25, he was on his way last season, hitting .286 with 18 homers and 58 RBIs in his first 105 games, only to suffer a fractured left hand after being hit by a pitch in early August.
That injury more or less ended Castellanos' 2016 and suppressed what would have been much nicer final stats, masking what was in effect an actual breakout.
Thing is, Castellanos has followed up by flying under the radar to start 2017 with decent numbers in runs (15) and RBIs (14) but only a .245 average and three homers.
Castellanos, though, does have 12 extra-base hits overall and is showing a tendency to hit the ball hard. In fact, he has registered 13 barrels so far, according to Statcast™, putting him among the league leaders in that category, along with the likes of Aaron Judge, Ryan Zimmerman, Freddie Freeman, Miguel Sano and Khris Davis. In other words, hitters who are off to incredibly hot starts. Castellanos is not -- but he might be on the verge of getting there.
Jason Catania is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com.