Bargain Targets: Finding Value in the Scrapheap

Bargain Targets: Finding Value in the Scrapheap

This article is part of our Baseball Draft Kit series.

Fantasy baseball, despite its popular "boring" reputation, is anything but. A primary contributor to this is the fact that unlike fantasy football, there are few casual fantasy baseball players. Everyone plays fantasy football and thinks they can wake up and roll into a draft with their mad skills to pick a daily or season-long winner. That is not the case with baseball. There is luck in baseball, but luck is minimized over a 26-week season and a 162-game schedule. Those that play it are immersed in it. They are looking at the RotoWire news updates multiple times a day, tracking information as it breaks on Twitter, and listening to radio shows and podcasts trying to catch tips before their competition does.

When you spend so much time monitoring the players on your teams, it is only natural to get frustrated with them when they do not perform. We get angry with players when they do not perform at the level of their preseason projections for a few weeks, or in some cases, an entire season. Yes, Brandon Moss, I am looking at you. When someone like Moss has that kind of season, fantasy players tend to shift from a pragmatic approach toward that player to a dogmatic one. DTM = "Dead to me," is the popular acronym for such an approach within the industry.

While that approach may offer some momentary relief from the frustration of previous relationships with a player, it backfires against you as a fantasy owner.

Fantasy baseball, despite its popular "boring" reputation, is anything but. A primary contributor to this is the fact that unlike fantasy football, there are few casual fantasy baseball players. Everyone plays fantasy football and thinks they can wake up and roll into a draft with their mad skills to pick a daily or season-long winner. That is not the case with baseball. There is luck in baseball, but luck is minimized over a 26-week season and a 162-game schedule. Those that play it are immersed in it. They are looking at the RotoWire news updates multiple times a day, tracking information as it breaks on Twitter, and listening to radio shows and podcasts trying to catch tips before their competition does.

When you spend so much time monitoring the players on your teams, it is only natural to get frustrated with them when they do not perform. We get angry with players when they do not perform at the level of their preseason projections for a few weeks, or in some cases, an entire season. Yes, Brandon Moss, I am looking at you. When someone like Moss has that kind of season, fantasy players tend to shift from a pragmatic approach toward that player to a dogmatic one. DTM = "Dead to me," is the popular acronym for such an approach within the industry.

While that approach may offer some momentary relief from the frustration of previous relationships with a player, it backfires against you as a fantasy owner. You may end up missing out on players that come back with successful seasons following disastrous ones because you assumed that the player would just continue to underperform. Many analysts refer to "last year's trash as this year's treasure" across their various platforms. If you had filled out your 2015 roster with the 2014 "trash" or the disappointing "flukes", you could have constructed a 23-man roster such as this ($=2015 Tout Wars Mixed Auction Cost):

CFrancisco Cervelli$2
CStephen Vogt$3
1BKendrys Morales$3
3BMike Moustakas$0
CIAlex Rodriguez$4
2BLogan Forsythe$0
SSEduardo Escobar$0
MIBrandon Phillips$1
OFLorenzo Cain$3
OFDavid Peralta$0
OFJosh Reddick$1
OFKevin Pillar$0
OFGerardo Parra$0
UCurtis Granderson$3
PDallas Keuchel$1
PDanny Salazar$3
PCarlos Martinez$1
PShelby Miller$2
PJason Hammel$3
PKyle Hendricks$1
PAndrew Miller$2
PWade Davis$2
PJoakim Soria$1

The total salary of that 23-man roster is just $36, yet that roster delivered $362 worth of production by season's end as 17 players from that group ended the season with double-digit values. The Tampa Bay Rays were once the kings of taking advantage of market inefficiencies, but the Kansas City Royals are the most recent example of a team eschewing power hitters for the sake of contact hitters while the rest of the league competed with one another for power. Look at how the Royals ended up in 2015.

There are a variety of reasons that these players are available at little or no cost on draft day. Some are recovering from injuries, some are coming off perceived fluke years or realistically awful years, others have landed in an unfortunate playing time situation. In some cases, these are players just trying to hang on and prolong their playing career. Some players are reinventing themselves after recognizing that their previous approach was not working. Using those filters, let's seek out potential values for 2016 that should be cheap options to fill out your roster with the hope of earning a significant profit.

Rebound from Injuries

A lot of eyes will be focused on the return of Yu Darvish and Zack Wheeler to the mound, but one of the more intriguing injury rebounds will be that of Hyun-Jin Ryu. He missed all of 2015 after early shoulder soreness led to surgery in late May. Shoulder issues are troublesome for pitchers because a healthy shoulder is key to velocity, but Ryu was a four-category starter when healthy in 2013 and 2014.

Michael Saunders was a double-double player for homers and steals in 2012 and 2013, but injuries held him back in 2014 and rendered him useless in 2015. He will be available in the endgame of 15-team mixed leagues, and a healthy Saunders is still young enough to get back to his double-double days with enough playing time.

Desmond Jennings is a perfect example of last year's trash because that's exactly what his season was. A balky knee that ended his 2014 season flared up again in 2015 and he rarely played. He is still under 30 and while the power may never come, he can still run when healthy, making him a source of cheap steals and runs.

Hanging On

Players do funny things in the late stages of their careers when they see the light at the end of the tunnel. A few years ago, Marlon Byrd ceased being a contact hitter and started swinging for the fences. He ended up parlaying that approach into one more nice contract. Last season, Brandon Phillips swiped 23 bases after stealing 23 bases in the three-year span of 2012-2014.

Franklin Gutierrez has undergone his own transformation as he's battled just about every injury and intestinal issue known to man. Over the past two seasons when he has been on the field, he's stealing a page from Byrd's playbook as he is giving up quite a bit of contact to hit for power, but it's working for him. He has 25 homers in his last 350 plate appearances and he'll be there in the very late rounds of your draft assuming he doesn't break down in spring training.

Stephen Drew came into 2015 having reached double-digit totals in home runs just once in the previous four seasons, but he hit 17 on the strong side of the platoon while actually improving his contact rate. His batting average is still laughably low because he can't beat a shift, but he provided very cheap power up the middle.

We will see pitchers doing different things as spring training begins. Many will tell reporters about new pitches they are considering to improve their overall game. Nathan Eovaldi used a new splitter to become fantasy relevant, and even old hoss Justin Verlander did new things to turn around a disastrous season. New pitches, especially off-speed ones, can lead to more swinging strikes and strikeouts.

Other Names To Watch

Brandon Guyer has not hit righties well in his career, but Tampa Bay has a shortage of lefty bats in the outfield so the 30-year-old may see more playing time coming his way. The extra time will pull down his average, but he has the pop and legs to pull off a 15-15 season while scoring 70 runs.

Michael Taylor oozes talent for the Nationals, but he was rushed through the system and saw only a handful of games in Triple-A before sticking at the big league level all season. When he wasn't striking out in bunches, he was flashing power and speed. Some will see the stats and say he is overhyped, while you should grab him while he is this cheap because that won't be the case in 2017, when he should have an everyday role following the likely departure of Ben Revere.

Rick Porcello was worth $0 in 15-team mixed leagues in 2015, but he also had a 20 percent strikeout rate and started to find success later in the season using his fastball more often and getting weak contact off it.

Taijuan Walker posted a 4.56 ERA and allowed 25 homers in 170 innings. This is the time when even his biggest fans are throwing up their arms in frustration, making it the perfect time for you to buy him. He looked better down the stretch in 2015 and is starting to show the command of his pitches that has often eluded him in the past.

Leonys Martin received a change of scenery when Texas shipped him to Seattle after the season. When a team trades a player to a division rival, that is a good sign of how fed up they are with said player. Nevertheless, Martin still has speed to burn and perhaps the change of scenery and Edgar Martinez in his ear on a daily basis will get him back to the slash and dash asset we saw in 2013 and 2014 instead of the lost cause that was most of 2015.

Matt Adams was supposed to have a big 2015 season, but he started off very poorly and then missed nearly four months when he blew out a tire running to first base in late May. He looked even worse coming off the injury, so he's an ideal guy to pick up off the 2015 trash heap in the endgame as long as the Cardinals don't go out and block him at first base with a free agent acquisition. He doesn't hit lefties, but he can mash righties when he is healthy and on his game.

This article appears in the 2016 RotoWire Fantasy Baseball Guide. Order the magazine here!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999, and here at Rotowire since 2011. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls,and was the 2023 AL LABR champion. Jason manages his social media presence at https://linktr.ee/jasoncollette
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