As the calendar turns to May, differentiating extended slumps from skill deterioration becomes an integral part of fantasy baseball.
In daily fantasy, price tags often move with performance. Players off to difficult starts will see their prices decline steadily and public interest wane as frustration mounts.
This creates a unique combination of value in both projection and ownership if you can identify those players most likely to rebound.
One method to identify hitters likely to rebound is to look beyond their base statistics. Low batting averages can be the product of too many strikeouts, lots of weak contact, or both. They can also be the result of poor luck.
The first place to investigate extended slumps for hitters is looking at their "BABIP," which stands for Batting Average On Balls In Play. Typically around 30 percent of balls in play fall for hits. Players who deviate substantially from a range of .280-.320 on balls in play are likely to move toward that range over time.
The second place to look is for hitters with low BABIPs that are also making lots of hard contact. The harder a player hits the ball, the less impacted he is by the defense, as they have less time to react. Below are two examples of players likely to rebound who may be undervalued in both price and ownership.
CARLOS SANTANA (Philadelphia) — Santana's resurgence has already started in May with a .289/.333/.778 line in 11 games but the indicators suggest good things are still likely to come. Santana has a 38.5 percent hard hit rate (top 65 in the league) according to FanGraphs.com, along with a .183 BABIP (second lowest in the league).
MATT CARPENTER (St. Louis) — Carpenter also has a .183 BABIP but an even more impressive 40.5 percent hard hit rate. Only 8 percent of the balls in play from Carpenter have been classified as "soft" contact this season.
The PGA Tour heads to Dallas, where Trinity Forest will host the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic. The course will play as a Par 71 at 7,380 yards but it is the style of course, not the length, that will likely steal the show. With fairways as wide as 100 yards, limited rough, and a links-style layout, the course may play more similar to an Open Championship than it will a typical tour event. All of that said, there is so much unknown that fantasy gamers should lean more on a blend of long-term and short-term form than they should on course fit or course history.
Jordan Spieth is the deserving favorite and has more than a 33 percent chance to finish inside of the top 5. If the course does play similar to The Open Championship, Spieth has that in his bag of tricks as well, having won last year at Royal Birkdale. Throw in some course familiarity as a native of Dallas and there are plenty of reasons to support Spieth capturing his first win of the year.
Frankly, even without any of those, Spieth's adjusted scoring average is dominant in this field, and he has won at last three times on tour over the past three seasons. Spieth is worth paying for despite the expensive price tag in fantasy formats.
If Spieth stands out as your anchor golfer, both Kevin Na and Bill Haas offer value for your lineups. Despite fairly mediocre starts to their seasons, Haas and Na stand out as value selections with 70 percent odds to make the cut. Haas and Na have previously been ranked inside of the top 30 in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) and are too cheap in one of the weaker fields the tour has seen all year. Kevin Na is inside the top 20 in Vegas odds to win, but priced as just the 60th most expensive player. While many fantasy competitors will search for trendy picks in the value range, to trust Na and Haas to free up salary to let you play Jordan Spieth.