Cliff Lee leads the list of the latest "buy low" fantasy baseball trade options.
Lee's "struggles" have been a hot topic around baseball, but his lack of wins (although detrimental to his fantasy value) should not be taken as a true reflection of his ability.
At this point in the season, that sort of thing isn't uncommon. While it's still early enough for random variation to play a major role in every player's stat line, it feels like we've passed the point where just about every statistic has stabilized.
Most of your leaguemates think the players on this list are doomed to continue as disappointments.
Lucky for you.
The pitcher win is an absolutely worthless statistic.
Its formula assigns a pitcher with objective credit for an outcome that he can't completely control. Unless a pitcher wins 1-0 in a game in which he hits a home run and strikes out 27, there's no reason to credit him with a win.
With that in mind, let's dissect Cliff Lee's season, in which he's been worth nearly two wins above replacement but has yet to record a win.
He's struck out nearly a batter per inning and owns the sixth-best walk rate in baseball. His 2.89 xFIP ranks fifth among qualified starting pitchers.
Yet, with all of that working in his favor, Lee languishes at 55th among starting pitchers on ESPN's fantasy player rater, well behind such reliable stalwarts as Wade Miley, Robbie Ross and Jason Vargas.
The Philadelphia Phillies will win a lot of games over the rest of the season, and Lee will get credit for more than a few of them. If his owner in your league is dense enough to think that his current won-lost record has any influence whatsoever on his future value, take advantage and make a deal.
After a scalding May in which he scored 22 runs in only 27 games, Elvis Andrus has scuffled recently, hitting just .254 in June.
His struggles in batting average can be mostly attributed to bad luck (his June BABIP is 32 points below his career average), but that bad luck undercuts Andrus' fantasy value more than most players.
Andrus has excellent plate discipline, but he doesn't walk a ton, which means his on-base percentage will always be prone to luck-fueled fluctuations. With no power to speak of, his value is completely dependent on his ability to get on base. Without a strong OBP, he won't have chances to steal bases or score runs.
Essentially, this is all an overly complicated way of saying that Andrus' fantasy contributions can be a bit streaky. Don't let his recent cold spell impact your confidence in his ability.
Andrus is still on pace to score over 100 runs for the first time in his career, and he's been successful on 85 percent of his steal attempts, his best rate since his rookie season.
If you can grab him for 80 cents on the dollar, make the move.
Perhaps the pressure of being ranked as the top fantasy catcher coming into this season was too much for Mike Napoli.
It's a lot to put on a man's shoulders; I can't imagine it's easy to handle the weight of thousands of people counting on you to make them feel smart in front of their buddies.
Whatever the reason, Napoli seemed a bit overanxious through the first two months of the year.
He continued to hit home runs but struggled to make contact otherwise with a career-worst strikeout rate hovering over 30 percent on Memorial Day.
Since then, Napoli's plate discipline has miraculously improved. In the month of June, he's cut his strikeout rate in half and boosted his walk rate to just shy of 20 percent.
His full-season numbers still look rather ugly, and he's only hit two home runs in June, but his batted-ball profile portends good fortune in his future.
Napoli has hit a fly ball or line drive on nearly 75 percent of his balls in play. With incoming warm weather poised the shrink the dimensions of his home ballpark even further, he's a great "buy low" pickup.
Mike Trout and Bryce Harper would never find themselves within a thousand miles of a list like this. It's easy to forget, but that's who Jason Heyward was just two short years ago.
Heyward had the world at his feet after a stellar rookie season, but unfortunately, a debilitating shoulder injury prevented him from picking it up and running with it.
He's been better this year, but much of his early-season value came from a surprising increase in speed. Now that that's gone (Heyward has stolen one base since May 5), his value is once again dependent on his power production, which to this point has been less than impressive.
A quick look at his batted-ball results puts that worry to rest.
Heyward's shoulder seems to be healthy. He has finally been able to consistently drive the ball, hitting more line drives and more fly balls than ever before and cutting his ground-ball rate by nearly 30 percent.
While it's produced just eight home runs on the season, his .088 BABIP on fly balls ranks among the worst in baseball. A home run/fly ball rate that sits nearly three points below his career average will certainly improve as the year goes along.
As the weather heats up and Heyward's luck turns, he'll deliver top-30 value at his position, even if his speed continues to dissipate.
Alex Gordon has rebounded from his disastrous start, but coming off of last year's breakout, his paltry home run total (just five in nearly 300 plate appearances) has crippled his fantasy value. He ranks just 69th among outfielders on ESPN's player rater.
His BABIP woes are behind him, but that doesn't mean he's escaped the luck dragons.
Gordon's home run/fly ball rate has dropped nearly five points from last year's career high, but he's still driving the ball consistently, as evidenced by his 20 doubles, which ranks him eighth in all of baseball.
Gordon has always had gap power, but there's no reason to think his home run pop has suddenly disappeared after last season's power explosion.
His early struggles have ensured that he won't reach last year's total of 23, but 15 homers the rest of the way is absolutely attainable.