The first month of the baseball season has come and gone, so now is your opportunity hit the trade trail. Here is the Fix’s first round table discussion of the 2013 fantasy baseball season: Buy Low Targets. Read it, then go convince your rivals to cough up their underachievers. Enjoy!

David Price | Rays | SP by Brett Talley (@TheRealTAL)

Any buy low discussion of Price has to start with the obvious, which is his .343 BABIP, 68.8% strand rate, and 18.8% HR/FB. Those numbers are out of line both with both league average and Price’s career average. Assuming his skills are the same, we should expect him to bounceback.

And his skills appear to be largely the same. Well, they seem to be as they were in 2010 and 2011. He peaked last season in a lot of ways. His groundball rate spiked to 53% but is about 49% this year. His average fastball velocity was 96.55, but it’s 94.67 this year. In turn, his K% is the same as it was over 2010-2011. But his skills in 2010 and 2011 were good enough for ERAs of 2.72 and 3.49, respectively. So he may not be able to repeat as a Cy Young winner, but he’s still the same top 10-15 pitcher he’s been for several years.

Josh Beckett | Dodgers | SP by John Hoey (@JohnnyCrashMLB)

Sporting a fat 4.75 ERA to go with an 0 – 3 record, Josh Beckett now sits in the buy-low bargain bin. Frustrated owners may already be prepared to deal him. Prey on that vulnerability and make an offer, what can you lose? Look at his 2012 after returning to the NL with the Dodgers. In 43 innings with LA last year, Beckett went 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA and 38 strikeouts, 8 SOs/9 IP, his best since 2011 when he finished 9th in Cy Young voting.

Beckett’s numbers should improve as the season progresses. First, his SO/BB ratio is 3.13, his highest since 2011 which means his control is good and he is missing a respectable amount of bats. Secondly, his HR/Fly Ball ratio is very high at a startling 15.4%. His HR/fly ball ratio last year was only 8.9%. If this levels off, which it should, he will see a significant drop in his ERA. His velocity isn’t what it was, but the guy knows how to pitch. I see Beckett definitely improving on that hefty 4.75 ERA and grabbing a decent amount of strikeouts and wins. Throw a low-ball offer at his owner in your league and see if they bite, their frustrations may get the best of them.

Ike Davis | Mets | 1B by Andrew Miller (@44AMiller)

As of Tuesday afternoon Ike Davis is owned in 70 percent of ESPN leagues, a number that’s fallen from 81 percent last week. That owners are giving up on Davis only four weeks into the season is baffling. They should’ve known what they were getting when they drafted him: a slow-starter who’ll eventually hit a lot of home runs.

Well, Davis has only hit four home runs, but on April 30 last year he only had three and didn’t hit his fourth until May 9. After May 8 last year Davis hit 29 homers with an .838 OPS, and after June 8 Davis hit 27 homers in 100 games with a .265/.347/.565 line. All this is to say that Davis should easily pick up his performance in the coming month.

Even though Davis is striking out more than he did last year, he’s walking just as much and hitting roughly the same amount of line drives. The rest of his plate discipline and batted-ball profile indicate not much has changed from last year’s 32-homer season. So buy real low, or better yet pick him up off the waiver wire in the coming days.

Matt Cain | Giants | SP by Chris Garosi (@ChrisGarosi)

Matt Cain was the ninth pitcher (eighth starting pitcher) off the board this year based on ADP. He was chosen at the tail end of the fourth round in 10 team mixed leagues. He was an anchor for your staff.

In 34 2/3 IP he’s given up 35 hits, walked 10 and struck out 32 earning himself a 6.49 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. I’ve already had one dynasty league owner offering him around. I’d invest and here is why. As we look around Fangraphs there is nothing in his peripherals that shows a drop in skills indicating he’s become a AAA pitcher.

Career K% 20.2, 2013 K% 21.2%
Career BB% 8.2, 2013 BB% 6.6%
Career BABIP .265, 2013 BABIP .264

The only potential cause for concern is a 0.5 mph drop in fastball velocity from 2012 to 2013. That said, he’s got an inflated 2.34 HR/9 rate against a career rate of 0.79 (2012 league leader Ervin Santana had a 1.97 rate) and that’s his main issue. Compare his ERA (6.49) to his xFIP (4.06) and SIERA (3.85) and you see a great buy low candidate who still has near-ace ability.

Victor Martinez | Tigers | C by Scott Barzilla (@SBarzilla)

Victor Martinez has gotten off to a slow start, but that is to be expected for someone recovering from an ACL tear. While Martinez is not currently catching, we can classify him as one because he is eligible there and has the same body type of prototypical catchers. Buster Posey and Jason Castro came back last year following ACL surgery and both experienced more success in the second half. Posey had a fairly solid .820 OPS in the first half last season, but that ballooned to a Hereculean 1.120 in the second half. Castro’s splits were not as extreme (.709 vs. .787) but it was still noticeable. Martinez will be owned in most leagues, but you could probably get him for a song at this point. You probably would want to keep him on your bench and monitor his performance for now, but he has too much of a pedigree not to bounce back eventually.

Cole Hamels | Phillies | SP by Gerard Martin (@gerardowrites)

Cole Hamels’ changeup is great because he can throw it in any count against any hitter.

So far this season, the whiff rate on Hamels’ changeup has been right in line with his staggering career average of 27%, but his called strike rate has dropped from 14% to 8%. Unsurprisingly, his walk rate on at-bats ending in a changeup has doubled, driving his overall walk rate to a career-worst 10.6%.

Hamels is struggling to throw his best pitch for strikes, and he’s throwing fewer changeups in hitter’s counts. Without the changeup to worry about, hitters are either taking more walks and having more success against his other pitches.

Hamels’ 4.78 ERA and 4.29 FIP aren’t encouraging, but I don’t see much reason to think that his skills have diminished; he still ranks ninth among qualified starters in swinging strike rate.

Let’s cut the guy a break. It’s early in the season and he’s still working to get a feel for his pitches. Trade for him with the confidence that he’ll be exactly what we expect him to be: a great source of ERA, WHIP, and Ks for the rest of the season.

Kris Medlen | Braves | SP by Josh Kay (@JoshKay_Fantasy)

Once you display a skill, you own it. Medlen’s struggles this year have been walks. His ERA has been kept low by his elevated strand rate, thus giving you a good point to drive home when trying to buy low on him. His command has and always will be excellent, he’s just going through a rough patch right now. When a pitcher goes thirteen starts with an ERA under 1.50, there’s going to be some regression. It’s just coming now. Maybe the strikeouts won’t be there like last year, but at worst, he’s a poor mans Jordan Zimmerman, and at best, he will be as good as Jordan Zimmerman. Jordan Zimmerman was my #7 SP in my preseason rankings. There’s your upside to chase.

Jason Heyward | Braves | OF by Alan Harrison (@TheFantasyFix)

The extent at which you can “buy-low” on Jason Heyward  ultimately depends on the seriousness of his abdominal injury. Heyward recently had an emergency appendectomy, landing him on the DL – speculation is that he will be out until late May, but he’s eligible to come off the DL in a week or so. The good news is the injury is not as serious as the one that plagued Adam Dunn in 2011. Matt Holliday suffered the same injury (non-burst appendix), also in 2011, and triple slashed .296/.388/.525 with 22 homers and 75 RBI that season.

Heyward’s triples slash sits at .121/.261/.259 with just two long balls and five runs batted in through 17 games. Makes your eyes hurt looking at that line, doesn’t it? But maybe it’s the .114 average on balls in plays (career .301) that’s contributing to that — or, maybe it’s the spike in FB% to 52% (career ~33%) that’s keeping the BABIP down.

Whatever it may or may not be, Heyward is on the DL and is having some issues at the plate. His stock can only go up from here. Buy.

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