Fantasy Baseball: Tim Lincecum, Albert Pujols and Top 10 Buy-Low Targets
Fantasy baseball owners were always a panicky bunch. It was always tempting to jump ship when your first-round pick was batting .220 in mid-May and someone was willing to buy.
Then 2011 happened and many owners "bought low" on Adam Dunn, the safest 40-HR bet in baseball. And then he just got worse. I wasn't the only fantasy analyst saying he HAD to get better and people should "get on board for pennies on the dollar while you still can."
This year, no one wants to be the 2011 Adam Dunn owner who held out hope (though you wouldn't mind owning 2012 Adam Dunn). The market is ripe with owners trying to avoid that fate. In fact, it's not a bad negotiating point with slow-starting stars to say "Hey! I'm taking some real risk here. We think so-and-so MUST turn it around, but Adam Dunn never did."
Just planting the seed of that fear may earn a bargain.
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels
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Albert Pujols, from his rookie year in 2001 through 2011 averaged .328, 40 HR, 121 RBI, 117 R and an OPS of 1.037. Despite a .197 average and just one home run through 35 games, Pujols is a solid bet to turn things around, and to rake when he does.
Between 2002 and 2010, Pujols was in the top three of MVP voting all but one time. He hasn't struck out more than he has walked in a season since his rookie year (when he won the Rookie of the Year). In his 12-year career he has NEVER had less than a .299 average, 99 runs, 99 RBI or 32 HR.
And don't forget, Pujols is 32, not 38. If you can get him for 80-85 cents on the dollar, you do it and don't look back.
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
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Tim Lincecum has a 10.1 K/9 through 36.2 innings over seven starts. Still concerned? Lincecum had a 4.84 ERA in six starts in June of 2011 and he had a 1.80 and 1.90 ERA in each of the next two months over five and six starts, respectively.
Still not convinced? Lincecum had a 7.82 ERA (and 0-5 record) in five starts in August of 2010, and was 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA over six starts in September. STILL not convinced? Lincecum had a 4.09 ERA in five starts of July 2008, and a 1.27 ERA over six starts in August.
So he has bad stretches, and he has ever since he was a Cy Young Award winner. He's a dominant pitcher the other five months or so of each year.
Mark Reynolds, Baltimore Orioles
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Those who read my blog know this is one of "my guys." Four straight years of 28-plus home runs, 85-plus RBI, and 79-plus runs scored.
Never fear, the strikeouts are still there. He has 36 Ks in 27 games. And he will always strikeout, which will limit the batting average. But the power is also bankable and proven over the years. Concern for Reynolds has been compounded by his injury. He has played in 145-plus games in each of the last four seasons as well.
Now, buyer beware, he will torpedo your batting average, but points league owners should move him up their rankings and roto leaguers who have guys like Miguel Cabrera or other .330-type guys, then he's even more attractive.
Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels
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Between 2007-2011, Dan Haren has an ERA of 3.33, 1.127 WHIP, 8.1 K/9 and a K/BB of 4.68 (a category he led the league in three times). Thus far in 2012, he is 1-4, has a 4.41 ERA with a 3.08 K/BB.
The walks are a concern as it may indicate some injury issue. And it wouldn't be shocking to see him spend a little time on the DL if his control doesn't return to its usual form.
But Haren will return to form, and if you can get him for 75-80 cents on the dollar, you'll be happy you did.
Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
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The only thing that could have made Matt Kemp even available in most leagues is him getting hurt, and there it is. He is hurt and, from the sound of things, the window won't be open long.
Now, there is legitimate concern, even if Kemp comes back quickly that he won't be stealing bases like he did last year, so consider that in your calculations. But the power will still be there and the speed should return in time. He may not steal more than 20 for the rest of the season, but add another 25 home runs and it looks like excellent value.
The best time to buy might even be yet to come. Wait until he struggles, as many hamstring injuries do to get back to full strength. Then buy at 80 cents on the dollar.
Josh Johnson, Miami Marlins
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Between 2005-2011, Josh Johnson had a 2.98 ERA and 8.3 K/9. The knock has always been his health. Everyone seems to agree he is an elite starter when he is healthy. Seven healthy starts into 2012 and he is 0-3 with a 5.87 ERA.
His 7.5 K/9 shows there is still movement on his pitches enough to get swings and misses. His 3.3 BB/9 is higher than his career 3.0 mark, but not on a worrisome level. It might simply be an issue of missing the amount of time he did last year, getting his "groove" back.
I know people will hate that explanation because it's relative. But Johnson has always been great when he is on the mound, so this slow start might be just long enough to buy low before he hits his stride.
Ike Davis, New York Mets
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In his rookie year, Ike Davis batted .264 with 19 HR and 71 RBI. In 2011, he had a .925 OPS through 36 games before an injury prematurely ended the year. Now he's batting .168.
If Davis' first two years were any indication, Davis could settle in nicely as a 20-25 HR, 80-90 RBI producer. That's not to say he will reach those numbers this season, but he was batting .302 with that .925 OPS when he got hurt. He was a career .288 hitter in the minors with a .298, 20-HR season in his last full year in the minors.
Don't pay for .290 and 25. That's not buying low. But if you can get him for the approximate value of a borderline ownable standard league player, he may pay out nicely.
Brian Matusz, Baltimore Orioles
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Brian Matusz was bad last year. I could recount the abominable stats or just tell you what you already know. He was atrocious all year, all 12 starts he managed. And he wasn't much better in his first three starts of this year, 13 earned runs in 14.2 innings.
Remember, at 22 years old in 2009, Matusz was 5-2, with 7.7 K/9. Then in 2010, while he had his ups and downs, over the last 11 starts, Matusz was 7-1 and only allowed 15 earned runs in 62 innings. I know, 2011 was bad...
But there is hope. On April 26, Matusz pitched six innings without allowing an earned run to the vaunted Toronto Blue Jays. On May 1, he beat the New York Yankees, allowing one earned run in 6.1 innings. After getting beat up by the Rangers team that is beating everyone up, he held the Tampa Bay Rays to two runs in 5.2 innings, and added five strikeouts.
Considering he is probably unowned in your league, you've got nothing to lose by adding him.
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
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He won't play everyday, but he also won't cost you what he would if he was going to. The thing about Chase Utley is his production compared with his position. For years, Utley was just about the only second-bagger in baseball doing what he did.
Between 2005-2011, including two injury-shortened years, Utley averaged .293, 25 HR, 88 RBI, 15 SB and 97 runs scored—averaged. Considering he is either unowned or casually hanging out on someone's DL slot, even if Utley plays 100 games, he's a bargain.
Utley played 103 games in 2011 and the career .290 hitter hit 11 HR and stole 14 bases. He knocked in 44 and scored 54 runs. It's worth it.
Addison Reed, Chicago White sox
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Through 18.2 major league innings, he has a 13.5 K/9. His 108.1 minor league innings resulted in a 1.41 ERA, 0.738 WHIP and 12.9 K/9. No, I'm not talking about Craig Kimbrel. In fact, Kimbrel had a 1.119 WHIP in the minors.
The White Sox were always planning to install Reed as the closer at some point. This season, Matt Thornton struggled early, and while Hector Santiago showed potential, the Sox didn't wait long to get Reed into the ninth inning role.
While he just got blasted in a non-save situation, Reed will help roto owners across the board with basement level WHIP and ERA, as well as extraordinary K/9 and 30-plus saves.