By Fred Zinkie
Special to Yahoo Sports
With Memorial Day just a couple weeks away, some impatient owners are already in the midst of deciding whether or not their teams have a realistic chance to contend this year. This is the perfect time for owners to pounce on their panicked league mates by making deals that look better now than they will by the summer.
Carlos Carrasco, SP, Indians
Although Carrasco has turned things around of late, he still owns an ugly 4.91 ERA that could facilitate a buy-low offer. The righty’s 3.51 FIP gives a better indication of his strong skills this season, which include a spectacular 8.0 K:BB ratio. Carrasco has been held back by a .354 BABIP and a 72.2 percent strand rate, but those numbers should normalize as his ERA trends towards the mid-3.00’s.
Max Scherzer, SP, Nationals
The buy-low window on Scherzer is likely closed in some leagues, but many owners may look at his pedestrian 3.64 ERA and not realize that he remains the No. 1 overall fantasy starter. The right-hander not only owns the lowest FIP (2.24) of any healthy starter but his 7.9 K:BB ratio is an eye-popping mark that ranks third among qualified hurlers. With skills that are as strong as ever, Scherzer is still a top-3 overall fantasy asset and could turn around any squad’s rotation.
Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers
After surging early, Pederson has tailed off and now owns a dismal .219 average. He has been held back by one of baseball’s lowest BABIPs (.176) despite producing oodles of hard contact (48.8 percent). His batting average should climb close to his .248 mark from a year ago once Pederson enjoys something similar to his lifetime .258 BABIP.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Braves
Although his 2019 fantasy stats have been respectable, Donaldson has not really popped yet and also recently dealt with calf problems. Some of his owners may be willing to sell him at a discount while failing to notice that he owns a 57.3 percent hard contact rate that is among the best in baseball. If he continues to crush the ball this often, Donaldson is going to enjoy a torrid stretch at some point.
Justin Smoak, 1B, Blue Jays
Batting .224 with five homers, Smoak has fallen to waivers in shallow leagues and is available for a steep discount in deeper formats. Owners who take a closer look at his advanced stats will notice that he is showing career-best plate control (0.81 BB:K ratio) while also absolutely crushing the baseball (53.2 percent hard contact rate, 43.6 percent fly ball rate, 24.5 percent line drive rate). He deserves much better than his 12.2 percent HR/FB rate and .258 BABIP.
Willson Contreras, C, Cubs
To the naked eye, Contreras is all the way back to being a top-3 catcher. After all, he has already matched his 2018 homer total (10) and has made a year-over-year batting average jump of more than 50 points. But beneath the surface, we see exceptional batted ball luck (.368 BABIP, 30.3 percent HR/FB rate) and a concerning jump in whiffs (27.3 percent strikeout rate). Once his luck evens out, the 27 year old could return to being someone who does not make a major impact in any category.
Javier Baez, 2B/3B/SS, Cubs
Now in the midst of a second straight memorable season (.323 average, 11 homers), Baez has cemented his status as a top-20 player who can bring in a massive trade return. And I may be in the minority, but I still have concerns about someone who has awful plate discipline (0.20 BB:K ratio) and has enjoyed great fortune (.402 BABIP) this year. Baez has also been running the bases less often this season (two steals), meaning that his fantasy value is more dependent on having good fortune with base knocks and homers.
Jeff McNeil, 2B/3B/OF, Mets
Although McNeil doesn’t have a lot of trade currency in 10-team leagues, he could fetch a decent return in deeper formats on the strength of his lofty .360 average that is aided by his strong contact skills but also heavily inflated by a .397 BABIP. With two homers and zero steals, he profiles as someone without the necessary power and speed to be more than a one-category asset at the best of times.
Brandon Lowe, 2B/OF, Rays
Lowe finds his way into this space for a second straight week, as the buzz continues to linger for a rookie who is having an impressive season (.288 average, eight homers, three steals). Major regression still looms for a youngster who has enjoyed a .405 BABIP and a 26.7 percent HR/FB rate while showing the type of plate discipline (0.20 BB:K ratio) that could eventually leave him vulnerable to crafty hurlers.
Jake Arrieta, SP, Phillies
Regression has already started to take place for Arrieta, but there is still time to sell high on someone who owns a 3.78 ERA but a 4.77 FIP. With a lowly 2.2 K:BB ratio, the veteran simply does not dominate the strike zone well enough to be more than a spot starter in 10-team leagues. This is a good time to pick up value by talking to a team who is struggling in the pitching categories and selling the notion of Arrieta as a reliable innings eater.