Tomas, Desmond, E-Rod could be had for dimes on dollar
By Jason Catania
After an offseason and Spring Training spent staying up on news, injuries and all the transaction action, we finally get to enjoy baseball games that actually matter. More importantly in this arena, that means players are producing fantasy stats that count.
Here we are, fresh off Opening Night. You've done all the prep work, drafted your squad and spent hours on end since going over your roster.
There's always room for improvement, though, as well as opportunities for sneaky value to be had and unexpected production to be uncovered.
So let's get to it. Each week, we'll run down a batch of underperforming players. Maybe they're showing signs of breaking out, ready to take on a new role or returning from injury. That makes them intriguing trade targets with upside -- at prices you won't mind paying.
1. Yasmany Tomas, D-backs, OF
Did anyone have a worse statistical performance this Spring Training than Tomas? The 26-year-old outfielder managed a .115/.194/.192 line and (ahem) three hits. From an owner's perspective, that had to raise questions and lower expectations about his production.
It might seem early, but now is a good time to swoop in with a below-market offer to see if you can snag a player smack dab in his prime coming off a breakout 2016 in which he hit .272 with 31 homers and 83 RBIs. And Tomas got better as last season progressed: .294 BA, 18 HR, 49 RBIs after the All-Star break.
Because of that -- not to mention the fact that the D-backs are heavily invested in him -- Tomas will have a long leash. Let his current owner overreact to a super small sample of 26 spring at-bats, while you confidently acquire a slugger with 30-homer capability in a great hitter's park.
2. Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals, OF
Remember when we asked if any player had a worse statistical showing than Tomas? Piscotty sure came close, as evidenced by his 10-for-53 (.151) effort and zero homers.
Point that out to Piscotty's owners, along with a reminder that he struggled over the second half of his first full big league campaign last year (.247/.310/.430).
If you play your Cards right (pun intended), you may provide just the pause needed to pounce on a 26-year-old Piscotty who just inked an extension and should benefit from hitting behind on-base fiends Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter in a solid St. Louis lineup.
3. Ian Desmond, Rockies, OF
There was a lot to like about Desmond's fantasy potential at the outset of Spring Training, considering he was joining an absolutely loaded Rockies lineup as the new first baseman and getting to play half his games at the hitter haven that is Coors Field.
That changed abruptly when the 31-year-old suffered a broken left hand aftering being hit by a pitch in mid-March, putting him out of commission likely until at least early May. Most owners simply want production at the very start of the season, and Desmond won't be supplying any for a few more weeks.
Offer up a healthy body with any sort of name recognition, and there's a chance that will suffice to steal away a player who has pulled off four 20-20 seasons in the past five. Aggressive hitters like Desmond tend to fare well in Denver (see: Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story). Plus, it doesn't hurt that he will gain first-base eligibility soon after returning.
While Sale looks like his usual dominant self, the latter two southpaws have been making headlines for their injuries and ineffectiveness. Enter Rodriguez, the overlooked lefty on a club suddenly counting on him with Price and Pomeranz on the DL.
Just 23, Rodriguez has yet to put everything together -- notice that 4.25 ERA and 1.29 WHIP for his career -- but he has shown flashes the past two seasons with the Red Sox. To wit, following a late start to last year after a right knee injury in Spring Training, the former top prospect bounced back to post a 3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 79 strikeouts over 77 2/3 innings after the break.
There's bound to be some volatility with a young pitcher like this, but Rodriguez has the stuff, enough experience and the opportunity to break out in 2017.
5. Jurickson Profar, Rangers, 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF
It appears on the surface that Delino DeShields did enough this spring to win the starting job in left field for the Rangers. After all, the speedster tore it up with a .323 average, 14 walks and as many stolen bases (without being caught), giving him a ton of buzz.
As such, Profar's buy-low case may be better suited for deep mixed formats (12- or 14-team leagues) or AL-only, but he bears watching as someone to make a low-cost play for while DeShields is getting the hype. Manager Jeff Banister says the left-field gig remains something of an open competition, and Profar is in line to play multiple positions, much like he did last year in his first season after missing most of 2014 and '15 with right shoulder problems that eventually required surgery.
Prior to all that, Profar -- a versatile, athletic switch-hitting player with tools and baseball savvy -- was MLBPipeline.com's No. 1 overall prospect in baseball in 2013. There's talent here, as Profar showed during an impressive World Baseball Classic (13-for-28, five doubles) while helping the Netherlands reach the semifinals. And he's only 24 years old.
Don't forget that DeShields held a starting role this time last year and flopped; he isn't exactly a sure thing himself. Add in Adrian Beltre starting on the DL with a calf injury, and Profar should see playing time around the diamond. That makes the eligible-everywhere youngster a fantasy roster-filler with upside, and if Profar finally can make good on his massive potential, you'll be glad you bought low.
Jason Catania is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.