Friday, August 31, 2012

Fantasy Friday: Reachable Stars

    The goal of this week is to discuss several players that are having solid seasons but surprisingly not owned in as many leagues as one would think. This obviously does not mean these players will be available in your specific league, but it does show that a lot of owners are undervaluing these players. Even if they aren't on the waiver wire, consider trading cheap and getting the better end of the deal. The percent owned will be using Yahoo! Leagues stats. After the jump, a collection of solid, yet less-than-reasonably appreciated players.

1. Danny Espinosa, Nationals-- 63%. Yes, he has been on a slide recently, but overall he has remained one of the under-appreciated players in the National League. His contributions at the top of the order has been an integral part of the surprisingly-still-in-first-place Nats. His strikeout rate (27.9%!) is still a huge concern, but if he can stop swinging at bad pitches out of the zone (O-Swing % of 39.5% in 2012) he should get better contact and raise his average. He definitely adds speed (17 SBs in 2012) and has reasonable power for a second baseman (0.154 ISO and 14 HRs). A 20-20 2B is a good value add, especially for a Utility-type role. If you are in the 37% of leagues that have him as a free agent, grab him quick.

2. Chris Young, Diamondbacks-- 48%. His injury problems have kept him out of regular playing time, so that scares off a lot of owners. Usually a dependable player, the injuries appear to be random, non-reoccurring problems. His power has returned of late and is quickly up to 14 HRs. Not bad considering he has only had 337 plate appearances. His health problems has limited his massive upside on the base paths, so do not expect his usual 20-15 season. All the same, he figures to contribute for the rest of the year and could be a cheap pick-up with good potential in a keeper league.

3. Justin Morneau, Twins-- 55%. The Twins season never got off the ground, so I can understand how he has gotten passed on by so many owners. Also, he is Josh Johnson-esque in always getting hurt. That being said, Morneau has been consistent in playing this year and almost has more plate appearances than the last two years combined. He is far from the 34 HR guy he was in 2006, but with a 0.274/0.329/0.466 line in 2012, and a 0.337 wOBA, he is definitely better than league-average. His BABIP is only slightly higher than his career average, so he should continue this trend for the rest of the year. (Disclaimer, BABIP is definitely a hot-button issue re: how much is luck versus skill, so tread on that idea lightly).

4. Mark Buehrle, Marlins-- 58%. I was really surprised how low that percentage was. I know 'Wins' isn't a strong metric, but he has 12 already this year and should get a handful more. His ERA of 3.62 is probably a tad lucky (4.14 FIP and 4.23 xFIP). He continues to not be a strike out pitcher (5.35 K/9) but if in a league where WHIP or BBs count, he is well below league-average. In fact, his BB/9 is only 1.84. Buehrle is far from a monster ace, but he should add value in a deep league.

    Keep in mind, you probably only have two or three more weeks. If you are in the playoff hunt, don't take huge risks. Trades sent to you right now are probably not going to be good. Overall, keep doing what you are doing unless you see 'cold' players getting cut and put on the waiver wire. Always keep in mind, 'cold' is generally considered a statistical regression, so don't go crazy if a few players are struggling in small sample sizes. And as usual, continue to dominate!

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