As much as fantasy owners try to ignore Spring Training results, many players experience changes in their values due to strong or weak performances in exhibition action. Owners with more guts than the average league member can sometimes get a steal on the early-season trade market by buying low on
As much as fantasy owners try to ignore Spring Training results, many players experience changes in their values due to strong or weak performances in exhibition action. Owners with more guts than the average league member can sometimes get a steal on the early-season trade market by buying low on a player that fell short of expectations in March. While not for the faint of heart, the following five players are terrific trade targets.
Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
Struggles to note in a trade offer: Encarnacion has not done anything wrong in Spring Training. The problem is that he has barely done anything at all. The slugger missed the early portion of Grapefruit League action after having an abscessed tooth removed and then went back on the shelf with a minor oblique injury once he had moved past the dental issue. The lack of spring at-bats is a concern for a streaky slugger who has hit .234 with six homers across 210 plate appearances during the month of April in the past two seasons.
Reasons to trade for Encarnacion: Owners who can pick up Encarnacion at a discount should make the trade. He may get off to a slow start, but he will also likely have some scorching stretches during the season. Likely to hit the free-agent market after the campaign, Encarnacion will be highly motivated to display his power on a regular basis.
David Ortiz, Red Sox
Struggles to note in a trade offer: Big Papi has hit .163 with one homer across 43 at-bats this spring. As much as we are all excited to celebrate his farewell tour, the veteran slugger may hit the wall in his age-40 season. A slow start is a definite possibility for an aging player who batted .224 with six homers prior to June 1 last year.
Reasons to trade for Ortiz: Ortiz has compiled at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of the past three seasons. Even with a substantial decline from his 37-homer, 108-RBI campaign of '15, he would still rank among baseball's premier sluggers. Wise fantasy owners will assume that Ortiz is disinterested in Spring Training results rather than believe he has lost his form after hitting .325 with 22 homers in the second half of '15.
Christian Yelich, Marlins
Struggles to note in a trade offer: Yelich has hit .174 in Grapefruit League action, and he has yet record a homer or a stolen base. If he replicates his slow start to '15 (.220 average, two homers, four steals across 134 plate appearances in April and May), the 24-year-old will be unlikely to experience a breakout season.
Reasons to trade for Yelich: Yelich's poor spring results will likely have little impact on his April performance. Expected to bat out of the three-hole (directly ahead of superstar Giancarlo Stanton), the outfielder could hit .300, score 90 runs and swipe more than 20 bases.
Johnny Cueto, Giants
Struggles to note in a trade offer: Cueto has posted a 9.58 ERA and a 1.84 WHIP this spring, causing fantasy owners to worry that he will not bounce back from the form he showed when posting a 4.76 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP across 13 stretch-run starts with the Royals last season. Beyond his statistical struggles, Cueto was taken to the hospital after being hit in the head with a comebacker on March 14.
Reasons to trade for Cueto: Owners who can obtain Cueto for less than the going rate for a top-20 starter should make the trade. With the help of a pitcher-friendly home park, strong supporting cast and excellent defensive catcher (Buster Posey), the right-hander -- who posted a 2.51 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP as a member of the Reds from 2011-15 -- could be a fine No. 2 mixed-league starter.
Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees
Struggles to note in a trade offer: Fantasy owners were already concerned that Tanaka -- who has not thrown 155 innings in either of his first two big leagues seasons -- would land on the disabled list during '16. And after he posted a 7.36 ERA with a 1.64 WHIP in Spring Training, they have a second concern about his ability to be effective when on the field.
Reasons to trade for Tanaka: The righty owns an ace-like 3.16 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP across his two years in the Majors, so wise fantasy owners will understand that his 290 1/3 regular-season frames outweigh the 11 innings he tossed in March. Although he remains an injury risk, Tanaka is a solid No. 3 or No. 4 mixed-league starter, with the potential to be a No. 2 arm if he logs 190 innings.
All statistics are accurate through the completion of Thursday's games.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB