May 20, 2010

Every week from now until September, you can come here to find an in-depth look at fantasy baseball's buy-low and sell-high candidates. Because there's nothing more boring than a trade-less fantasy season ...

Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs

Panic and irrationality are a way of life for the Cubs. So when a guy like Ramirez is putting up a .167 average with four homers in mid-May, the negativity snowballs faster than it would with a player on any other team.

His peripherals are definitely down so far. Not .167 down, but he's striking out more and he's not making great contact so far (15.3 percent line drive rate, down from 21.3 percent last year and 20.4 percent in 2008). But he's getting the ball out of the infield (his 11.3 percent infield flyout rate is right at his career average). The problem has been a lot of outfield flyouts. That, plus the strikeouts, indicates more of a timing issue rather than a bat speed problem.

And it's important to remember that it only feels like Ramirez is 53 years old. He broke into the bigs when he was 19, and he's still a month shy of his 32nd birthday. This should pretty much be the prime of his career. It'll click in for him at some point, and probably soon. Now's the perfect time to get him on the cheap.

Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners

He's been sucked into some sort of Twilight Zone in Seattle, where no one can hit (how bad is it? Mike Sweeney is batting cleanup for the M's these days). Lopez is hitting .215 and OPSing .511 through 40 games.

But all indicators point to a turnaround. His line drive rate (21.1 percent) is actually a career high thus far, and his K rate (13.5 percent) is only slightly higher than his career average. His 25 home runs of a year ago were a bit fluky, but 12-to-15 from here on in is within reach, to go along with an average in the .270 range. That would make him one of the more productive second basemen in fantasy baseball, and in many leagues he could be had for very little at this point.

Jon Garland, SP, Padres

I already picked on Garland earlier this year, but it's time for another go-around. Strikeout-to-walk ratio should be the first thing you look at when evaluating a pitcher, and Garland's is not good at 1.15, the lowest it's been since '01 (including a career worst 4.58 BB per 9 innings). Yet, his ERA sits at a career-best 2.38. How? Because every break is going his way.

His opponents batting average on balls in play sits at .262 -- lucky, but nothing absurd. What is absurd is the .200 BABIP opponents are hitting with runners in scoring position. Add that to the seven unearned runs he's given up (only three pitchers have given up more), and you're looking at a guy whose ERA should be hovering in the low-to-mid 4's, with his usually weak strikeout rate.

Garland is a fringe roster guy, even in NL-only leagues. If you can get value for him, now's the best time you'll ever have to swing a deal.

David Freese, 3B, Cardinals

Freese seems to have cult following, a group of owners who have been waiting for him to get his shot. And his hot start seems to have them giddy.

Of course, there's little reason for excitement around a 27-year-old third baseman with little power and no speed. He's sporting a .304 average right now, but considering his mediocre line drive (17.1 percent) and strikeout (9.6 percent) rates and unusually high BABIP (.373), you can expect that to be about 15-to-20 points lower from here on out.

Freese really is a fringe player in mixed leagues, and really is a guy you kind of settle for in NL-only leagues. If you have him, make a move now while he's still got some buzz.

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)