In the immortal words of Agent Smith in a decidedly horrible second sequel to a classic sci-fi movie...it is inevitable. Last week, I presented you with five hitters that could prove to be smart sell-high options. So of course this week, in following with the order of the universe, I'm offering five players who I think are great buy-low options heading into next season and beyond. Smith would be so pleased.
Just as a good manager must figure out which players might regress, a manager must also determine which players are playing below their talents and are primed to bust out. It's a lot trickier than it seems, as even some of the most talent-ridden players never live up to their supposed fantasy potential. B.J. Upton has been a perpetual buy-low candidate for about four years, and many of us have been victims of his strange refusal to repeat his magical 2007 season. For some players, it never clicks, no matter how much we wish for it to happen.
However, there are a handful of players with star potential who are bound to live up to expectations and become stars. We just need to become adept at recognizing the signs. That might mean unearthing a crystal ball, or simply being extremely prescient. Sometimes it takes young players a bit of time to develop. We can't all go bonkers on the league from day one like Albert Pujols.
After the jump, my top five buy-low candidates for keeper league managers for the offseason and beyond.
The easy winner of the keeper league buy-low guys, Hosmer's down sophomore year has been well-documented both in these pages and all over the 'net. He's far too young to give up on, yet it's very possible that there are owners out there who have grown so frustrated that they've thrown up their hands and are ready to deal him. If there is a manager in your league who owns Hosmer and is prone to ridiculous overreaction, now is the time to channel the used car salesman within you and try to nab Hosmer for a bunch of nothing.
The first part of Hosmer's season was characterized by horrible luck, as he entered June hitting .204 despite home run, strikeout, and walk rates that had all improved. Then suddenly the power dried up, and it was clear that something truly was rotten in Denmark. He slugged .305 in June and put up a big, fat goose egg in the home run column, and there were some whispers that he'd be shuttled back to AAA. Luckily, he's started hitting again in August, with a .297/.361/.446 line. His overall numbers are still ugly enough, though, that you might be able to nab him for a severe discount before the true breakout begins.
Another player who has turned it on a bit in August (.277/.348/.494, by far his most productive month), Jennings is simply too talented to be the sub-.300 OBP sinkhole we saw in the first half. While it's likely he won't become the 25-homer, 50-steal monster some of his more insane fans (i.e. yours truly) had predicted, he's still a solid source of steals, and his history of good plate patience means he's bound to improve on the moribund walk rate he's shown this season. He's a good five-category producer with an outside shot at fantasy stardom, so nab him cheap this offseason if you can.
Many have soured on Upton, including supposedly his own team (rumors have been abuzz that the Dbacks are offering him up in trade talks. I understand that he's been a colossal disappointment this season, but have we all forgotten that he's still just 24 and just one year removed from an MVP-level year? Remember when Matt Kemp was awful in his age-25 season? Those who gave up on him then are making some cozy head space in their ovens right about now.
Upton would have been high on my list of top keeper league draft picks before the season, and I'm not sure one poor year is enough to move him too far down. His strikeout rate is far from bad, and I'm confident the power will return at some point soon, especially if he stays in Arizona and homer-friendly Chase Field. There's still the potential here for Upton to morph into the best fantasy player in the league, so if there's ever a guy to nab while he's down, it's him.
I talked about Montero a bit a couple of weeks ago, highlighting his success against left-handed pitchers thus far. Montero got off to a horrid start, helped in part by his not being able to figure out Safeco Field at all (he's hitting .196/.248/.317 at home, as opposed to a blistering .322/.354/.488 on the road). Hopefully those struggles were simply rookie jitters, as Montero is one of the most talented pure hitting prospects in the game. He's shown more of that potential in the second half of the season, hitting .294/.345/.463, including one impressive game where he hit two home runs off of Jered Weaver. He's a bit like Hosmer in that his disappointing year may have some managers irrationally losing faith in him, but he's far too young to turn your back on just yet. Expect big things as he continues to adjust to major league hitting. He's a legit Billy Butler-type, only with catcher eligibility.
I'm including Santana here because his shocking power drought has not been accompanied by a subsequent rise in strikeouts or drop in walks. In fact, his walk and strikeout rates have actually improved from last season. It's just his home run power that has gone in the tank. Given his 27 bombs in 2011 and his .500 career slugging percentage in the minor leagues, count me as a believer that his home run output will bounce back in 2013. In fact, he might just be the victim of a couple of bad months, as he's back to slugging .514 in the second half. A terrific (and somewhat under-the-radar) buy low pick for next season.