Buy-low articles are tough. A big problem I have with buy-low articles sometimes is that the writer treats buy-lows as overly simplistic. Nobody is going to sell Chris Sale because he had a bad start. This article is going to look at some players that you can legitimately buy extremely cheaply on and can hopefully help carry your fantasy teams in the second half of the season.
OF Khris Davis, Athletics
To me this one is a bit on the line of obvious and not obvious, but based on the interactions I have had some people are really worried about Khris Davis. I am not. His home run pace isn’t what it normally is, but Davis is someone who generally plays in streaks. I vaguely remembered a time last season that people were worrying about Davis, so I looked back. On June 28th last year Davis had a .225/.313/.487 slash line with 20 home runs and a 27% strikeout rate in 313 plate appearances. He then followed that with a 46-game stretch in which he had a .316/.373/.718 slash line with 19 home runs and a 23% strikeout rate. In 2017 there’s a similar trend. In his first 280 plate appearances, Davis had a .236/.318/.480 slash line with 17 home runs and a 32% strikeout rate. He then followed that up with his last 372 plate appearances of a .256/.349/.566 slash line with 26 home runs and a 28% strikeout rate. It’s a bit simplistic to just say this is who Davis is, but that’s sorta the case here. He’s going to have a stretch where he hits 13 home runs in 28 games and that’s just who he is. In this environment where everyone has more power, Davis probably isn’t as valuable as what was expected on draft day, but I am still expecting a huge second half for the slugger.
2B/OF Cavan Biggio, Blue Jays
Despite his numbers since his call-up being a bit underwhelming, I am still all in on Cavan Biggio. His plate discipline at such a young age is amazing. Since June 1st, his 18.1% walk rate ranks fifth in baseball. Meanwhile, he’s still shown very good batted ball data, ranking 30th in hard hit rate and having the 10th-lowest soft hit rate in that time frame. Biggio’s XWOBA of .351 is a good amount higher than his actual WOBA of .329. His biggest issue is his 27.6% strikeout rate, but there’s been some bad luck in that as well, as Biggio has had the most pitches outside of the strike zone called strikes. Basically, I view Cavan Biggio as somebody who could help you in every category in the second half. If he’s available anywhere I would be doing what I could to get him now.
1B Daniel Vogelbach, Mariners
After a huge start to the season, fantasy owners have understandably cooled down on Daniel Vogelbach. Vogelbach was a career Quad-A player who had shown his first stint of being an above-average MLB player. He has cooled down ever since, with a .721 OPS over his last 186 plate appearances. However, I still believe in Vogelbach being a legitimate fantasy breakout. He’s continued to show great plate discipline with a 31:47 BB:K ratio in his cold stretch and his batted ball data still shows a great power option despite just seven home runs in his last 45 games. There’s a chance the Vogelbach owner in your league still values him more than what I’d be willing to move for him, as I view him as a top 12-ish option with huge power upside, but there’s still obvious flaws in his profile. His lineup is going to be one of the worst in baseball post-trade deadline, and as I mentioned before, this is still the first time Vogelbach has shown anything at the major league level. But there’s a chance Vogelbach goes on a huge power tear soon, and if he’s available cheap I’m happy to take a chance on him in the second half.
OF Aaron Hicks, Yankees
Fantasy owners were super impatient with Aaron Hicks in 2019. After being stashed almost everywhere, Hicks has been benched and dropped in tons of leagues since coming back from the injured list. He’s clearly needed a second to adjust back to major league pitching, but his OPS by month tells a clear story...May: .610, June: .760, July: 1.075. There still may be a little while where you can still have owners look at the full season stats for Hicks and be able to get him on the cheap. Hicks has a chance to hit in the middle of the best lineup in baseball while being an every category contributor, and the chance to acquire players like that cheaply does not come often.
1B Justin Smoak, Blue Jays
In his 2017 breakout season, Justin Smoak combined great plate discipline with huge power to be one of the best first basemen in baseball. Last season the strikeout rate spiked back up to where it was pre-breakout and he was fairly mediocre. He’s shown a lot of the signs that the 2017 Smoak is the one that’s the real him, and with some improved luck he’ll be in for a huge second half. For a player that’s always had above-average plate discipline, his 15.8% walk rate is a career high, and he’s completely cut his strikeout rate to a career low 19.7%. He’s hitting the ball well, currently sitting at a career high 44.3% hard hit rate and he’s hitting a ton of fly balls, which would normally equate to big power numbers. His 16.5% HR/FB rate doesn’t standout as hugely unlucky, but considering the batted ball data it should probably be higher. The fly ball heavy profile translates to a lower than expected BABIP, but he’s probably due 50-60 points of regression in his favor with it currently sitting at a .226 mark. It’s entirely possible that Smoak regresses to his strikeout-heavy past, but if he can sustain his improvements in the aforementioned departments he should be in for a huge second half.
1B/2B Robinson Cano, Mets
Robinson Cano has probably been one of the bigger busts in fantasy so far in 2019. His .245/.293/.383 slash line has been by far the worst of his career and he has career-worst marks in strikeout rate, ISO, and swinging strike rate. In fact, the batted ball data looks pretty bad to be honest. This is more of a play on the fact that Cano is just normally a super consistent option and he’s been open about the fact that he’s been dealing with a nagging hand injury all season. After back-to-back solid games last weekend, Cano talked about how it’s been bothering him all season, but he was finally starting to feel better. This is one of the easier buy-lows to make because it should be very easy to tell if Cano is performing better—it should start in the very near future if his struggles were actually caused by the injury. If Cano can get back to normal Cano then he’s one of the better second base options in fantasy, and at his current price that’s a bet I’m okay with making.
OF Avisail Garcia, Rays
Avisail Garcia checks my personal boxes of the very definition of a buy-low. Above average exit velocity and hard hit rate, check. XWOBA higher than actual WOBA, check. Middling results despite improvements across the board in skill-based statistics, check. Garcia still has plate discipline that leaves something to be desired, but he’s become a more selective hitter and has improved his plate approach to a point where he’s clearly a better hitter than he’s ever been. He’s cut his 48.3% ground ball rate from a year ago to a below average (but manageable) 44.5% rate. Meanwhile, Garcia has improved his line drive rate from 17.4% to 22.3%. He’s also increased his launch angle. All of these signs point to somebody who should have better results than Garcia’s so far in 2019.
SPs Andrew Heaney/Griffin Canning, Angels
I couldn’t decide which Angels starting pitcher to write about for this, but I view both as great buy-low opportunities. Since coming back from the IL, Andrew Heaney has shown the huge upside he showed in 2018, but hasn’t been able to put it all the way together. He’s continued to show huge strikeout upside based on his swinging strike totals, and if he can just be more efficient and shake off some of his rust on his changeup—that has been useless this season despite being his best pitch last season—there’s a chance Heaney is a top-30 arm for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Canning had a solid start to his major league career, but has gone through a recent disaster stretch. The things he’s struggled with in the majors (control and home runs) are very different than what he showed signs of struggling with in the minors, and he has two very good pitches. With the plus control he showed in the minors and some home run regression in his favor, Canning has a chance to be German Marquez-ish in the second half.
SP Tyler Beede, Giants
Tyler Beede is interesting as a buy-low for one big reason. He’s had two starts where he’s thrown his slider at least 10% of the time. Those starts have been his last two, in which he’s faced off against two very good offenses in the Padres and Brewers, with both being away from his pitcher-friendly home park. In those two starts he’s thrown 13 ⅔ innings with 11 strikeouts, zero walks, four earned runs, and an 11% swinging strike rate. In this landscape, that is enough to make me say he’s worth acquiring anywhere. With legitimate prospect pedigree combined with the best home park in baseball for pitchers, Beede has a chance to make a huge jump if he continues to feature his slider.
OF Tim Locastro, Diamondbacks
This one is super deep, but Tim Locastro is quietly very interesting. Based on sprint speed data, Locastro is the fastest player in all of baseball. That has translated to nine steals in 142 plate appearances in 2019, but his bat has come alive a bit in 2019. In 114 minor-league plate appearances Locastro had a 1.126 OPS and he has been competent at the plate in the majors with a .373 OBP in 2019. He’s hit leadoff in three of the last five games and could be getting close to everyday at-bats, which would force him to being close to must own. This is one you can probably keep an eye on before having to make a move for him, but with Jarrod Dyson’s major struggles and Adam Jones likely to be moved at the trade deadline, there’s a chance Locastro has a huge second half.
Honorable Mentions and things to look for:
If the Houston Astros have any interest in realizing their best starting rotation, Josh James would be a part of it. If the Astros start expanding his pitch count then he is a must add, as there’s legitimate top-30 upside. The same goes for Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias, and to a lesser extent Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb.
You know your league better than I do, so if it seems like somebody doesn’t believe the Hunter Pence resurgence is legitimate, I would be in on trying to make a move for him.
Some prospects worth stashing that realistically could be called up with team-carrying potential are Kyle Tucker, Jesus Luzardo, Mitch Keller, Luis Urias, Carter Kieboom, and Ian Anderson.
If you need saves go acquire Joe Jimenez, Hunter Strickland, Daniel Hudson, Yoan Lopez, and for the super-desperate Paul Fry now before they become closers post-trade deadline.
If you notice somebody has an IL crunch and feel like you can get Max Fried or Brad Peacock cheaply, that would be a move I would be looking at.
Paul Goldschmidt and Jack Flaherty both also qualify for the “I think it’s too obvious and you’re not getting them at a discount, but if you can I would be buying them” part of this list.
This one was also on the line of being too obvious for me, but Edwin Diaz is a great buy-low if somebody is looking to move him. Zack Wheeler would have been on the list if not for his recent placement on the injured list due to shoulder fatigue.
For deeper leagues if you’re desperate for power, Randal Grichuk is going to have one of his five home runs in seven game stretches that makes his season long numbers look acceptable. Lorenzo Cain’s batted ball data is a bit too concerning for me to feel confident he can turn it around, but there’s a chance he’s similar to Cano in which they just perform better despite their batted ball data.
I would only be doing it if it was for close to nothing, but German Marquez isn’t performing that much worse than he was in his breakout 2018, but it legitimately seems like with the new baseball Coors may be completely untouchable from a pitcher’s perspective.
Jose Leclerc doesn’t have carry-your-team upside, but he has to be close to finally regaining the Rangers closer role with his performance combined with the regression bug finally biting Shawn Kelley.
You can find me on Twitter at @_jameskohout_ .