Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Art of Buying Low

"Some of the prettiest flowers bloom late". My mother used to tell me that in High School because my balls didn't drop until I turned 16. Little did mother know that not only was she giving me false self-confidence, but also valuable fantasy advice. Mark Teixeira, Ichiro Suzuki and Johan Santana are all players who usually wait until the second half of the season to have their balls drop...I mean start getting hot. With that being said, for every Ryan Howard who can slug .611 in the Second half, there is a Travis Hafner, who has apparently received a shipment of anti-steroids from Andruw Jones. In my opinion, leagues are won and lost on people who buy low on proven players. For whatever reason, it's relatively easy to find a panicking fantasy owner who loses all rational thinking simply because he can't stand to see his star player go into a slump. Here at Who Are You Karim Garcia, we feast on weak managers who can't wait a couple months for their flowers to bloom. Here are 4 prime targets that I believe will get things going very soon.

Prince Fielder

Somebody get that man a chicken wing! After trying out a new Vegan Diet, the Prince has started suddenly swinging the bat more like a Princess (Corny I know). His K/BB numbers are comparable to last years epic season coupled with a respectable .201 LD% and its tough to explain his early season struggles. His FB% of .399 is a little lower than anticipated, but is nothing to worry about and it doesn't seem as though Prince has been pressing at the plate throughout this slump. He is batting .338 in his past 17 games which bodes well for getting that average up to last years .288 but as his meager 18 XBH show, the power has yet to come out. However, Fielder frequently displayed a tendency to be a streaky hitter. In 2007, the Prince had two months of batting .321 or higher, yet also had four that were .277 or lower. Additionally, 24 of his 50 HR last season were hit in May and September alone. Trust me, you do not want to be the owner who traded Fielder before he breaks out because it is only a matter of time. With a solid #5 hitter in Corey Hart protecting him, and Ryan Braun's latest hot streak, Fielder should also supply very enticing RBI and Run totals throughout the season. Buy while you can because the window is quickly closing.

Projection- .280 43 HR 115 RBI 100 Runs

Justin Verlander

After posting an ERA on the wrong side of 6 in April, Verlander has actually had a decent May by posting a sub 4 ERA. His peripheral stats such as his K/9 are still not at the level they should be for this 100 MPH throwing youngster, but more recently Verlander has started to regain his 2007 form. Four of his last five starts have been quality and the other would have been had the bullpen not allowed its inherited runner. The soon to be additions of Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney also bode well for his future win and ERA totals seeing as how dreadful this Detroit bullpen has been. While I actually believed that Verlander was over-hyped before the season, he has actually become underrated because of his total statistics. Pitching statistics are much more difficult than hitting to alter throughout the season because one bad start can seriously damage the totals. Verlander's recent success has done little to disguise his ugly start because it will take time for those totals to drop. To put this into perspective, Verlander could throw consecutive perfect games and still have a mediocre ERA of 4.16 and a WHIP over 1.00, although at that time it would be tough to buy low. In other words, don't let Verlander's statistics deceive you because they are representative of a few very poor starts. Find the disgruntled Verlander owner in your league and pry him from him immediately, because like Fielder, the window is quickly closing.

Projection- 15 W 3.90 ERA 150 K's

Nick Markakis

Nick the Stick hasn't looked anything like the potential superstar he was labeled to be before the season started. Don't hop off the bandwagon so fast people, this Greek is fo' real. To start, his 7 SB so far indicate that maybe his surprising total of 18 last year were not as fluky as once thought. Furthermore, his 9 HR show that he is developing the pop that many believed he soon would. His .258 average is embarking on Julio Lugo territory, but rest assured, Markakis is too talented to continue this. His K rate for the season has dramatically increased to almost a strikeout per game, which seems to be the culprit for his slumping. Keep in mind however that Markakis has 11 TOTAL first half home runs in his first 2 full seasons and it seems that he will surpass that total this year alone. He managed a .279 BA in the 2007 first half and still pulled off a .300 average for the season due to a .325 second half. In 2006, Markakis held true to his slow start form as well, hitting just .268 at the dish in the first half compared to a .311 second half. The Golden Greek has hit as high as .339 in the minor leagues and is capable of churning out a 30/20 season this year. I believe that he is the best buy low of this group because he has not yet had an exceptionally strong season before that would leave his owners with a lot of confidence. Buy now because he is certainly going to be on sale.

Projection- .300 BA 30 HR 105 RBI 90 Runs 19 SB

Vladimir Guerrero

Quick question. Who is the only active Major League player to hit .300 or higher in 11 straight seasons. The answer-Vlad. Another quick question. Why would any Vlad owner actually believe that a guy who has produced so well for so long and is still in his prime at 31 actually would regress this considerably? The answer- I'm still searching. Vlad will hit .300 this year, I'm sure of it. While his body has worn down a good amount for a player of his age, it does not change the fact that he is still one of the most feared hitters in the game. He is sporting a healthy .201 LD% on top of a strong .466 GB% which indicates that he should be batting well above .300. And while we know Vlad's speed isn't what is used to be, his .279 BABIP is astonishingly low for a hitter who consistently sees that figure well above .310. And while I am strongly advising a buy low here, keep in mind that Vlad's power may not be what it used to be. Gone are the days of 45 HR's for Guerrero, so temper your expectations in that department. With that being said, a baseline of 25 HR's seems reasonable, maxing at around 35. His FB% of .331 is very low for a typical power hitter, but fantasy owners will not be disapointed in his overall numbers come the end of the season. Owners of Vlad may be hesistant to deal him so quickly because he has made a name for himself over the years. However, should they lose sight on this fact, capitalize quickly.

Projection- .307 BA 28 HR 100 RBI 90 Runs 2 SB

Do not hesitate to by on these or any other potential buy low candidates in your league. As aforementioned, leagues are won and lost from buying low and it truly is a science. It's important to distinguish a slump from simply a weak player and this can be helped by looking at prior year statistics as well as some deeper and more specific stats such as BABIP and LD% which can help to see if the slump is legit, or just a case of bad luck. Act swift and fast, but more importantly rationally and keep in mind that a buy low stays low for only so long.

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