In the world of fantasy baseball, it pays to keep an eye on the players who are mired in serious slumps. The frustrated owners of these struggling superstars may be getting desperate, and some simple statistical analysis and historical data can help you take advantage of these situations if these owners are willing to trade. Here are ten players poised for big turnarounds during the remainder of 2011. None of these guys will be available on the waiver wire, but if you package an overachieving pitcher and a breakout guy hanging on the edge of a major regression, you might land one of these studs just in time for their statistical spin-o-rama.
Albert Pujols, STL – It’s fascinating that the Cards are atop the NL Central without ace Adam Wainwright or a significant contribution from Pujols – one of the best hitters the game’s ever seen. Perhaps Pujols has lost a bit of confidence, or he’s showing signs of age, but there’s almost no way he doesn’t turn around this slow start into solid numbers by the All-Star Break. With just 12 extra base hits so far this year, Pujols is mired in both an extended power outage and relative slump (his .269 AVG is 60 points below his career mark) that’s quite peculiar. He’s hitting ground balls at a career high rate (50.6%) and walking only 9.5% of the time (his career rate is 13.4%). Pujols may not be poised to smack another 40-plus HRs and reach the 1.000 OPS mark he’s made a habit of doing perennially (his .997 mark in 2007 was his worst since 2002), but he’s definitely the buy-low candidate to end all buy-low candidates. As it stands, Pujols is the team’s fifth or sixth-best hitter, and by year’s end, he’ll undoubtedly be among the top three with Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday.
Hanley Ramirez, FLA – One thing many fantasy owners probably didn’t notice heading into 2011: Ramirez’s ISO has consistently dropped since his high water mark in 2008 (.239 in 2008. .201 in 2009, .175 in 2010), but the .107 mark he’s got so far is a bad joke. His slash line is mired in a weak-hitting middle infielder no man’s land (.219/.294/.325), and he’s only got 10 extra base hits. His ground ball rate so far this season has been downright Jeterian at 56.9%. He’s shown some signs of power improvement after moving to second in the lineup (two HR in six games), and if he can get the ball airborne a little more often, he should be fine.
Carlos Gonzalez, COL – This is another obvious one, because Gonzalez is already starting to turn things around. Last year’s breakout (.336, 34 HR, 111 R, 117 RBI, 26 SB) will be a tough act to follow, but I’m counting on CarGon to blow up after the All-Star break in July and August. Last year, he hit .364, cranked 17 HRs and drove in 40 runs during the 49 games in those two months. Giddyup.
Evan Longoria, TB – Oblique strains are tough to shake off, and Longoria clearly needs time to get comfortable at the plate again. Still – fantasy GMs are fickle creatures, so it could be time to propose a trade to your resident Longoria owner. Along with the injury implications, Longoria’s numbers have been negatively affected by a .258 BABIP. Once that ISO goes north of .200 and the HRs start coming, he’ll be a Top 25 contributor.
Carl Crawford, BOS – We’ve come to expect a lot of Carl Crawford, especially since he set the bar so high in 2010. Realistically, Crawford isn’t a 90-RBI guy – though a solid case can be made that he should have been on pace for 100 runs in the Red Sox lineup. After 44 games, he’s hit one HR, scored just 16 times, racked up 13 RBI and stolen just six bases. As you might expect, the .342 BABIP he posted in 2009 and 2010 (which translated into AVGs of .305 and .307) is a distant memory; he’s currently sporting a .254 BABIP and .209 AVG. He’s walking less and striking out more, a bad combination that he’ll work to correct as the season progresses.
Dan Uggla, ATL – Uggla’s numbers (.185/.256/.344) are pretty ugly, but there’s plenty of room for improvement once his peripheral batting metrics get to where they should be. His ISO is at .159, and the last full season where he finished under .200 was 2006 (.198). I’m no longer expecting a campaign like he had in 2010 (.287/.369/.508, 33 HRs, 100 R, 105 RBI), but it’s reasonable to think he can get his slash up to .240/.320/.425 if he starts walking more and his .197 BABIP trends back up toward his career rate of .295.
Shin-Soo Choo, CLE – Despite a great start for the Indians, Choo hasn’t been the sturdy offensive force that many banked on during the early rounds of fantasy drafts. Hitting just .250/.332/.393, Choo has nowhere to go but up. His walk rate, BABIP and HR/FB rate are historically low, so I still expect him to hit around 20 HRs by year’s end and get his slash above .280/.360/.425. He’s still got a good shot at 80 runs and 80 RBI as well.
Casey McGehee, MIL – The Brewers are a powerful offensive team, but not slugger in this potent lineup has been pulling his weight. McGehee is sporting a less-than-impressive .257/.325/.389 slash line, and he’s only jacked four homers this season. Strangely, his walk rate has increased and his K% rate has gone down, though his swing % is about the same as last season – which could mean he’s actually being too selective, especially earlier in counts.
I wouldn’t count on his OPS cracking the .800 mark this season, but his current approach should yield better results as his LF% and HR/FB rate increase.
Corey Hart, MIL – Like McGehee, Hart is struggling to provide the kind of numbers Brewers fans have become acclimated to. We can probably chalk it up to a slow start after the early spring oblique injury. His .092 ISO must be a product of a small sample and rust, judging by his career .204 ISO. If somebody’s selling Hart cheap because he’s yet to hit a homer and has just one RBI in 21 games, I’d buy low and wait patiently for the dividends.
Kelly Johnson, ARI – Johnson’s batting average is at a menial .191 – over 70 points below his career mark of .264. While he’s slammed a few homers and swiped a few bases, he’s absolutely killing his owners with that AVG. The main culprit is not even his .246 BABIP, though that doesn’t help, but a 31.2 K% and walk rate (6.3%) that’s about half his 2010 rate. While he’s probably not going to get his average up above .250 for the season, expect a modest resurgence and respectable HR and SB totals by year’s end.
Antonio D’Arcangelis is a fantasy baseball and football writer from Upstate New York. He’s written for Fanhouse.com and Rotoexperts.com, among several other sites, with columns syndicated on SI.com and Yahoo.com. Antonio has 10 years experience as a fantasy writer and currently provides content for DraftBuddy.com, FFToday.com and FanDuel.com.