Late April is a terrific time for fantasy owners to plunge into trade talks. League mates are likely frustrated by players experiencing early-season struggles, and they could also be enamored by the productive players on opposing rosters. With acknowledgement that fantasy baseball is a marathon and not a sprint, here are fantasy trade rankings to use as a guide for discussions.
OF Mookie Betts
The preseason hype surrounding Betts was plentiful, but an early-season .189 batting average may have some owners wondering if they got carried away with expectations. However, the center fielder's current .218 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is unsustainably low for a speedy player who hits plenty of ground balls and line drives. When Betts begins seeing a few more balls drop in for hits, his stolen-base opportunities will increase, and he will be involved in more run scoring from his perch atop Boston's talented lineup.
1B Chris Carter
Power is a precious commodity in fantasy baseball, and Carter's slow start may give shrewd owners a chance to secure some summer homers at a discounted price. The 28-year-old has been a disappointment (one homer, .150 batting average), but his strikeout and walk rates are similar to career norms. The main culprit of his slow start is a 7.7 home-run-to-fly-ball (HR/FB) percentage, which is far below his career 17.5 mark.
RP Steve Cishek
The Marlins closer picked up his first save on April 24. A combination of a lack of save chances and a poor performance on April 7 (four runs in one-third of an inning) has made Cishek bench fodder. This is the perfect time to nab this skilled, stable reliever.
1B Albert Pujols
Despite slugging three homers, Pujols has frustrated owners due to a .200 batting average. But the 35-year-old traditionally starts slow and heats up with the weather, as his career .297 batting average in March-April is his lowest of any month. Owners who buy low on Pujols now will likely enjoy a summer surge.
DH Evan Gattis
Gattis has recorded one homer, five RBIs and a .156 batting average, and many of his owners may be happy to get away from this draft-day mistake. But despite an offseason move out of pitcher-friendly Turner Field, Gattis has produced a .194 BABIP that is far below his career .271 mark, and a 7.1 HR/FB percentage that is well short of his lifetime 15.3 mark. Both figures are likely to increase substantially.
1B Joey Votto
Hitting .328 with six homers and 15 RBIs after 18 games, Votto has re-established himself as an elite player in the minds of many owners. The 31-year-old is unlikely to keep up his power pace, however, as his current 35.3 HR/FB percentage exceeds his 11.1 career mark. Furthermore, Votto has topped 111 games played just once in the past three seasons, so his ability to stay healthy for six months should not be assumed.
3B Matt Carpenter
Despite having slugged three April homers, the 29-year-old Carpenter is unlikely to deliver a major power surge after never before exceeding 11 homers in a season. And even though he can be a trusted source of batting average, he is unlikely to remain near his current .366 mark, as his .411 BABIP greatly exceeds his career mark of .341.
SP Trevor Bauer
Bauer appears primed to take a step forward, but likely not as large of a step as his surface stats indicate. The right-hander has allowed eight hits in 19 innings, which is likely an unsustainable pace. In addition, he has been fortunate to keep the ball in the yard during each of his three starts, and his control is still a concern, as he has walked 11 batters. With his current walk rate, Bauer may have difficulty maintaining a sub-1.20 WHIP.
OF Nelson Cruz
Many observers predicted that an offseason relocation to Seattle would sap the 34-year-old's power. So far quite the opposite has happened, as Cruz has ripped nine round-trippers in 71 at-bats. At the same time, the slugger has produced an unsustainable 28.1 HR/FB percentage, which greatly exceeds his career 14.9 mark. This is the time to convince another owner that he can maintain that power pace and trade Cruz for an elite hitter.
RP Jason Grilli
Owners should note that early-season save chances rarely portend full-season opportunities. Grilli has already compiled seven saves, but he is unlikely to finish the season as an elite closer due to the combination of an inconsistent recent track record and a mediocre Braves offense. The 38-year-old's trade value will likely never be higher than it is right now.
Fred Zinkie is a senior fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.