Fantasy Baseball: 4 Buy-Low Hitting Targets
This Sunday marks the third week of the 2016 MLB season. I repeat -- three weeks. We haven't even seen one-tenth of the season yet.
For those of you who are ready to dump your struggling second round pick for a hot starter like Trevor Story, please pump the brakes (Unless you're in my league). If your player experienced a rough three week stretch later in the season, you would just call it a cold streak. So, why are we frantically looking for someone to take these slow-starters off of our hands right now? It makes no sense to trade or drop a proven player just because they have started slow.
With that being said, not everyone is as rational as you and I. Some will be ready to give up on a slow starter. So, here are the four best buy-low trade targets to help you benefit from their panic.
If you are the owner of one of thest players, hopefully you will realize what a small sample size three weeks is relative to their career numbers and exercise some patience.
If you are not the owner of one of these players, I'd suggest contacting their owners and seeing if they're ready to sell them cheap.
Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle Mariners
He's not flashy, but Kyle Seager has been a top-10 fantasy third baseman for four straight seasons now. Last season, he hit .266 with a career-high 26 home runs and 85 runs. He also set a career best strikeout rate at 14.3 percent. His hard-hit rate was above 30 percent for the second straight season, and he posted a career high line-drive rate of 24 percent.
Entering his age-28 season, and coming off of his best two seasons as a pro, Seager appeared to be in store for another year of solid production. Many expected him to post 30 homers after raising his home run total each year as a professional.
Three weeks in, though, Seager has just two homers and sports a league-low .136 batting average. Over his last eight games, his average is down to .088. Not great, Bob!
I'm here to tell you that there's light at the end of the tunnel, though.
First, let's address the batting average. His .136 mark is supported by a .136 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Considering Seager has a career .285 BABIP and .260 batting average, it's a safe assumption that he's had some extraordinary bad luck thus far.
That theory is backed by the fact that Seager is hitting the ball close to as well as he has over the past four years. So far, Seager's average exit velocity on batted balls is 90.7 miles per hour (MPH), which is above the MLB average of 89 MPH. His hard-hit rate is 28.3 percent, which is under his career average, but is still a respectable number.
His strikeout rate (19.4 percent) and swinging strike rate (9.2 percent) are both up from his career numbers, but his walk rate is also up, and he's swung at just 22.1 percent of the pitches he has seen outside the zone, which is a career low.
It doesn't appear much has changed at the plate for Seager, and it is likely just a matter of time until he returns to form.
Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Mets
Last season, Curtis Granderson looked somewhat like the 40-homer, 20-steal monster we saw during his time in Pinstripes. His 25 home runs, 98 runs, 70 RBI, and .259 batting average were the best marks he'd put up since 2012, and his 11 steals were the most since 2011. Hitting atop a stacked Mets lineup, most expected another strong season from Granderson entering 2016.
Three weeks in, Granderson has a .210 batting average and is down to just 69 percent ownership in ESPN fantasy baseball leagues.
The Grandy Man hasn't experienced quite the bad luck that Seager has, but his low batting average is almost certainly due to some bad luck on balls in play, as evidenced by his .205 BABIP, which is well below his career .300 BABIP. A look past his batting average shows that Granderson has actually been hitting the ball quite well, though.
His hard-hit rate on the season sits at 37.5 percent, which would be a career-high. He has made contact on 78.4 percent of the pitches he has swung at, which is above his career average, and his fly-ball rate is up to 50 percent, which will certainly help his power stroke.
His plate discipline appears to be at a career-best, too. His strikeout rate is the lowest it has been since 2008, and his walk rate is above his career average. He's swung at pitches outside the zone just 16.3 percent of the time, which is a career best, and his 7.8 percent swinging strike rate is well below his career average.
All in all, it appears that Granderson is locked in at the plate, he has just experienced some bad luck. If he maintains his 50 percent fly-ball rate, his average likely won't be .259 again, but he could certainly post 30-plus homers.
He has already shown signs of a resurgance at the plate, hitting .316 over his past nine games, with a .763 slugging percentage. His recent hot streak peaked last night with his three-for-five, two homer, five RBI performance. Your window to buy-low is closing quickly.
Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals
Following a 2014 season that saw Anthony Rendon win the Silver Slugger award and finish fifth in MVP voting, Rendon played just 80 games in 2015 and saw his peripherals drop across the board. So, when he starts 2016 by hitting just .254 with zero home runs and one RBI, it's not surprising that fantasy owners are alarmed.
A look at BABIP doesn't offer an easy explanation, as his .308 mark, while still below his career average, is far from unlucky. While his batting average hasn't been unlucky, his .317 slugging percentage surely has. That would be easily his career-low, and his career .420 slugging percentage suggests positive regression is coming.
A look at his batted-ball stats also suggests that some more extra base hits are coming.
Rendon's average exit velocity on batted balls sits at 93.7 MPH, which is much higher than the MLB average of 89 MPH. He also has posted a 40.4 percent hard-hit rate, which would undoubtedly be his career-high. His ground-ball rate is a career-low 38.5 percent, and he is hitting line-drive and fly-balls far more frequently, as 61.5 percent of his batted balls have been hit in the air. It simply doesn't make sense for him to continue to hit for no power when he is hitting the ball that hard and lofting it more frequently.
A look at his plate discipline offers reason for optimism, too, as his strikeout rate is down from his career average, and his walk rate is up.
Rendon is crushing the ball right now, and it is only a matter of time until he makes significant improvement to his .317 slugging percentage and .063 ISO. Once that happens, he will be a very valuable commodity in fantasy, hitting near the top of one of the best lineups in the National League.
Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
His batting average now sits at .192, thanks to a .182 BABIP. Considering his career .314 BABIP, there is likely some positive regression coming, especially since he is hitting the ball harder this season.
His average exit velocity currently sits at 96.5 MPH, the highest mark in the Majors. That's right -- Ryan Howard is hitting the ball harder than anyone in the Majors!
His hard-hit rate sits at 54.1 percent, which is also the highest mark in the Majors and would be a new career-high for the hard-hitting slugger. His ground-ball rate is a career-low 18.9 percent, as he currently has a career-high 32.4 percent line-drive rate and 48.6 percent fly-ball rate.
Howard is going to strikeout, but if he keeps hitting the ball this hard when he makes contact, he is guaranteed to improve on his .192 batting average and could easily eclipse 30 homers for the first time since 2011.