Maybe it was his poor first half or maybe it's because he's overshadowed by rotation mate Justin Verlander, but Max Scherzer looks like a fantasy bargain.
Auction money may not be actual money, but just like the real green stuff, fantasy dollars don't grow on trees.
That's why owners participating in an auction draft need to be able to find good values whenever possible, particularly as the auction wears on and the top-dollar picks are off the board. Sure, you'll want to break out the Benjamins to land a few big guns, but finding bargains is just as—if not more—important to having a successful auction.
Here, then, are 15 players whose average projected auction prices make them good bargain-bin candidates.
To make this endeavor more auction appropriate, only players who cost $15 or less or are priced at $2 at least are eligible for consideration.
All average projected auction prices come from FantasyPros.com.
It seems at least some of the hype that arrived along with Japanese phenom Yu Darvish in his first season in Major League Baseball has died down as he enters his second year with the Texas Rangers.
The price he's going for—$15—isn't bargain bin, per se, but it is a bargain, considering he's capable of being a true fantasy No. 1.
His 10.4 K/9 was second best in all of baseball as a rookie, and the right-hander got better as the season progressed in many peripheral statistics, like K/9 (10.6 vs. 10.3), BB/9 (3.7 vs. 4.7) and (1.18 vs. 1.36 WHIP), that indicate he's only going to get better overall.
Shin-Soo Choo probably won't be a fantasy star, but he's as solid as they come.
Now that the 30-year-old outfielder, who has averaged 19 homers and 21 steals over his past three full seasons, has left behind the Indians' Progressive Field for the more hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park—not to mention, he'll hit leadoff for a more prolific Reds offense—Choo could have a career year.
A 20-20 season with a near-.300 average and 100-plus runs is well within Choo's potential.
If you want 200 strikeouts, Yovani Gallardo is your man. In fact, he's notched 204, 207, 200 and 204 whiffs over the past five seasons. How's that for consistency?
The ERA (3.63 career) and WHIP (1.29 career) aren't elite, so Gallardo's not a fantasy ace, but he's a solid No. 2 or 3, and at 27 years old, there's a small chance he takes another step.
Eric Hosmer was one of the most frustrating and disappointing players to own for fantasy in 2012.
Expectations were sky-high following a strong rookie campaign, and then as the narrative would have you believe, Hosmer succumbed to the dreaded sophomore slump, underscored by a nasty .232 average.
What actually happened is Hosmer was more than a little unlucky, as his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was a mere .255—bad enough for seventh lowest in baseball.
The upside, namely becoming a near-top-tier starting fantasy first baseman, is still there.
Max Scherzer is the American League's version of Yovani Gallardo (previous page).
Like Gallardo, Scherzer's ERA (3.88 career) and WHIP (1.30 career) are below that of a true stud, but the righty's strikeout potential is enormous. In fact, last year, Scherzer's 11.1 K/9 was literally second to none, as he led the majors in the category.
Scherzer, in case you didn't notice after his rough start (4.72 ERA, 1.39 WHIP), was also one of the best all-around pitchers over the second half in 2012, when he sported a 2.69 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
Raise your hand if you knew Josh Willingham hit 35 homers (ninth most in MLB) and drove in 110 (fifth most) in 2012.
Now raise your hand if you think that's worth more than $11.
The man just chillin' in the photo over there? Yeah, he's a batting average risk, and yes, he's injury-prone.
But Mr. Rickie Weeks also is an annual threat to go 20-20 and hits in Miller Park half the time, the ballpark that was the best in baseball for home runs, according to ESPN.com's Park Factors.
If you like to gamble every once in a while, Weeks is a worthwhile—and relatively cheap—roll of the dice at second base.
Now 34 and more than a year removed from last playing in a regular-season game, Victor Martinez may no longer be an elite fantasy catcher, but that doesn't mean he should be going so cheap in most auctions.
A switch-hitter who makes hard contact and hits in the middle of the Tigers impressive lineup, Martinez might again wind up being a top-five backstop when all's said and done, even though the full-time designated hitter—who's still eligible at C because of his 2011 season—might not get more than a handful of games behind the dish.
At this price, it's clear fantasy owners are focusing too much on Chase Utley's long, troubling and recent injury history.
While it's wise to be cautious—you wouldn't want him to be your only second baseman if you can help it—the good news is Utley's healthy at the start of a season for the first time in three years. And even while missing basically half of each of 2011 and 2012, the veteran still managed to crack double digits in homers and steals both years.
If Utley can make it through even 130 games in 2013, he'll pay off handsomely at the going rate.
Always seemingly teetering on the cliff, Dan Uggla's batting average finally fell off last year when he hit a career-worst .220.
With a career-low 19 homers, he also fell way shy of what would have been his sixth straight 30-homer season.
So why is this guy a bargain? Because as bad as things got—and they clearly were bad—Uggla still managed 78 RBI and 86 runs.
The risk is very real and Uggla's already on the down side at age 33, which is why his price is so low, but if he can bounce back a bit, he could once again lead all second-sackers in four-baggers.
Fantasy owners who land Salvador Perez at any price around $7 should be thankful the third-year backstop underwent knee surgery last March that cost him the first chunk of 2012. Because of that missed time, Perez is entering a second go-round on the sleeper wagon.
Otherwise, though, there's not much not to like about a 22-year-old catcher who owns a .311 average to go with 14 homers and 60 RBI in a career that's not even 450 at-bats old.
While Salvador Perez (previous page) remains a bargain entering the season because of a 2012 injury, fellow catcher Brian McCann is in the same boat because he's not yet healthy heading into 2013.
McCann is expected to miss the first few weeks as he finishes his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.
The 29-year-old lefty slugger had a career-worst campaign a year ago and his stats have been trending downward since 2009, but there's still more home-run power here than your average catcher, and it's unlikely McCann—a career .279 hitter—will hit .230 again. For those who believe in the contract-year bump, McCann is a free agent at season's end.
At 29, Jon Lester may have missed the window to develop into that full-blown ace he seemed to be on track to become just a couple of years ago, but that doesn't mean he can't earn at least twice the $5 he's going for in an average auction.
The southpaw had a nasty 4.82 ERA, a not-so-good 1.38 WHIP and a just-okay 7.3 K/9 in 2012, but his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)—a metric scaled to ERA and derived from a pitcher's strikeouts, walks and home runs—was a nicer-looking 4.11.
Lester was a little unlucky, considering his 68 percent left on base percentage was well below his career norm (75 percent)—more runners who reached base against him wound up scoring—and his home run-to-fly ball ratio of 13.9 percent was north of his 10.1 percent career rate.
If those even out some, Lester will be better in the stats that actually matter in fantasy.
Jayson is Werth a heckuva lot more than this.
(Okay, c'mon, you knew that joke was coming.)
Owners are down on The Bearded One because he missed three months of 2012 with a wrist injury that may have sapped some of his power (just five homers in 300 at-bats).
But his triple-slash line of .300/.387/.440 was still great, and Werth did hit 21 doubles and steal eight bases—again in half of a season.
What is hitting near the top of a loaded Nationals lineup Werth to you?
Owners see 2012's ghastly .204 batting average on the heels of that all-time awful 2011 and think Adam Dunn didn't make a comeback last year. They're wrong.
The Big Donkey mashed 41 long balls and added 96 RBI and 87 runs scored.
Look, Dunn ownership is not for the faint of heart, but if you are struggling to come up with some power near the end of your auction and don't have much money to spend, an extra buck could be all it takes to buy 30 to 40 homers.