Fantasy Baseball: Eric Hosmer and the Top 10 Buy Low Targets for June
Fantasy baseball leagues are not won on draft day. Granted, some of them can be lost, but in general, a league is won by the shrewd roster moves made by the owner who is furthest ahead of the curve. If you added Chris Sale or Jeff Samardzija in recent weeks, you know the feeling.
The trick to buying low on a player is two-fold. 1) The player you buy low on has to then perform to your expectations, thereby returning more value than you gave up. And 2) you have to pay current market value (which is below where you expect him to end up) without letting the current owner know that you expect him to end up there.
One notable omission from this list is Tim Lincecum. I didn't forget about the Giants' former ace (Matt Cain is now clearly their best starter). But I am no longer convinced the ERA or WHIP will correct themselves, at least not this year. I traded Lincecum in an 18-team keeper league for Curtis Granderson straight up, in case you doubt me.
Brian Matusz, Baltimore Orioles
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Over the last 30 days, Brian Matusz is 4-1 with a 2.87 ERA, 1.085 WHIP and 8.0 K/9. Those numbers over a month would normally make it impossible to buy such a player "low." However, owners aren't sold on Matusz yet.
Granted, after being hyped as a future ace, Matusz' 2011 was one for the record books, in a "no way can it get it any worse...and then it does" kind of way. In 12 starts, his 10.69 ERA was unthinkable, and the 1-9 record didn't help matters.
Matusz is being added and dropped like a mere spot-start player in fantasy leagues, and the time has come to start him on every outing. Since May 1, he has beaten the Yankees, Red Sox, Royals and twice has topped the Rays.
Side note: Matusz has made six consecutive starts against teams whose name starts with "R."
Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red sox
Kevin Youkilis batted .313 with an OPS over .900 in nine May games since coming off the disabled list. Before injuries hampered his 2011, Youkilis batted .303 between 2007 and 2010, with a .931 OPS.
The Red Sox have a bit of a dilemma with Adrian Gonzalez, Will Middlebrooks and Youkilis all capable middle-infielders, but they have found creative ways to keep them all in the lineup. With Jacoby Ellsbury due back soon and Carl Crawford not far behind, this lineup is about to get even more potent.
Youkilis has been an on-base and RBI machine since earning a full-time job in Boston, and it may not be long before his value is back among the top ten at third base where it belongs.
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
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Chase Utley will be back on the field by the All Star Break. With extended spring training ending in mid-June and MLB's restriction on minor league rehab assignments, Utley is nearing a 2012 debut, and anyone who had room to stash him will be relieved.
While he has suffered his injury problems in recent history, Utley has performed whenever he has been on the field. In 2011, he had 11 HR, 14 SB, and 54 runs scored in 103 games. In 2010, he posted 16, 13 and 75 in 115 games. Before that, he was the best second baseman in baseball, so there has never been a season in which he did nothing on the field.
It should not come as a shock to anyone if, from the day he debuts to the end of the season, he is among the ten best fantasy second basemen.
Howard Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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Speaking of proven second basemen, Howard Kendrick, in the last three years, has had at least 10 HR, 11 SB, 60 RBI, 60 R and an average of .279 or better. He is a career .289 hitter who happens to be batting .251 at the moment.
Albert Pujols has awoken. Mike Trout has arrived and Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales are finding ways to play every day. There are enough run producers to make this one of the scariest offenses in baseball, which also makes it a haven for Kendrick's high average and run-scoring ability.
Kendrick scored 86 runs last season, with 18 HR and 14 SB. With Pujols, Morales and Trout all added to the Angels since 2011, Kendrick's imminent batting average correction will likely bring bountiful runs scored with it.
Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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Since April 26, a blown save/loss in Tampa Bay, Walden has a 1.35 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 13.1 innings and is 2-0 with five holds. At 23 years old in 2011, Walden posted a 2.98 ERA and 32 saves with a 10.0 K/9.
There is no doubt in Anaheim who their closer is going forward. Walden showed in 2011 his ability to get the job done and strike out a lot of people in the process. No fantasy owner who drafted Walden this season knew how short his leash was, but any day now, he will be reinserted into the ninth-inning role, and he has the stuff to perform among the 15 best relief pitchers in the game.
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
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Max Scherzer has an ERA of 5.55 and a league-leading 11.7 K/9. As the saying goes, "somethin's gotta give." And owners would be wise to bet on the former correcting itself.
In his last three starts, Scherzer is 3-0 with 30 strikeouts in 18.1 innings. He went 4-0 in May, including 15 strikeouts against Pittsburgh, and if Scherzer continues pitching this way, there is no reason the Tigers cannot run-support him to 15-18 wins, which looks just fine along with 200 strikeouts.
Scherzer has struggled with command at times, never more obviously than when he walked seven Yankees on April 29. He may be a WHIP risk, but the strikeouts, wins and a pretty good ERA make him more valuable than the 5.55 ERA looks.
Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds
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Devin Mesoraco has been playing roughly 40 percent of the starts for the Reds this season, which is Dusty Baker's way of toying with fantasy owners.
In 113 minor league games in 2010, Mesoraco batted .302 with 26 HR and a .964 OPS. He was batting .289 in 2011, with 15 HR and .855 OPS before being called up for his cup of coffee in the majors.
Mesoraco has upside to be a top 5 fantasy catcher in a couple years, but even for 2012, Mesoraco could hit another 10-13 home runs, with an average around .280 if Baker would unleash him.
Mesoraco is batting .200. But his .200 BABIP indicates he has gotten unlucky, and even more indicative of underperformance is his part-time role. Turning the switch on and off hinders a hitter from finding a rhythm.
Expect Mesoraco to play more and more as the season progresses, and if he ever becomes the full-time starter for Cincinnati, power-starved fantasy teams would do well to plug him in.
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Bautista is coming off of two seasons in which he totaled 97 home runs, 227 RBI, 214 R, and he put up OPS of .995 and 1.056 in those seasons. How can someone buy low on that? He's batting .226.
Now, for the record, Bautista was always unlikely to repeat his .302 average from 2011. The .260 average from his breakout 2010 season was the previous career high, and he is now a career .252 hitter. But that's not .226. This is a man with a career .272 BABIP and his 2012 BABIP is a miserably unlucky .208.
Through 54 games (exactly one-third of a season) Bautista has 14 home runs, 37 RBI and 34 runs scored which are all consistent with his recent production. If Bautista's owner in your league is hurting for batting average, feel free to take him off their hands.
Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
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.289, 31 HR, 21 SB, 88 RBI, 105 R, 23 years old...those are the numbers from Justin Upton's 2011. Through one-third of the 2012 season, he is on pace for .243, 15 HR, 24 SB, and 60 RBI. His OPS is 194 points below his 2011 final number.
Is it incredible that Upton is only 24 years old considering this is his sixth major league season, Upton is expected to be consistently dominant, but 24-year-olds are known for their streakiness. Even in his almost-MVP caliber 2011, Upton batted .259 in May and .260 in August.
If an Upton owner is growing restless, as owners tend to do in early June, there's no reason you shouldn't try to convince him Chris Sale isn't on an innings limit, or Josh Hamilton will stay healthy all season. And yes, I would trade either of those players for Upton in a heartbeat.
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
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At 21 years old, Eric Hosmer batted .293 with 19 HR and 11 SB, plus 78 RBI and 66 R in his 128 games. But after one of the most miserable starts in the league, some were doubting Hosmer's "next Joey Votto" title.
It should be pointed out, Hosmer has batted .366 with a .996 OPS in the last 11 games. He is up to seven homers and three steals through 51 games, and the average is "up" to .216. That batting average, along with his .653 OPS for the season may leave the window for buying low cracked slightly longer.
Thou shalt jump through the window before his owners turn around in another two weeks and realize his average has climbed 50 points in the past month.