Rebounding from a rough week, the six Value Pick Outfielders hit a combined .299/.358/.557 this past week, led by Eric Thames at .389/.450/.944, and just-removed Nolan Reimold reminded fantasy owners why he was a Value Pick in the first place, hitting .286/.348/.571 for the week. Meanwhile, outfields all around the majors have been shaken up this week. Delmon Young switched allegiances in the AL Central, changing lineups in Detroit and Minnesota. Logan Morrison will be Tweeting from the minors, and two-thirds of the Giants starting outfield (Andres Torres and Carlos Beltran) head to the disabled list, as does Rajai Davis of the Blue Jays. Shin-Soo Choo and Jose Tabata returned to action, and former Value Picks Wily Mo Pena, Brandon Allen, and Brandon Belt all seem to be in line for more playing time. All these changes have created opportunities for shrewd fantasy owners.
J.D. Martinez, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 15%, CBS 26%)
Tommy Bennett recently discussed the Anonymastros, with some notes on J.D. Martinez. Kevin Goldstein reviewed him in his Astros Top 11:
The Good: As surprising as Martinez's numbers are, scouts don't think he's a fluke. He has a good approach to go with outstanding hands and a quick, quiet swing that leads to hard contact to all fields and gap power. He's a good defensive outfielder with an average arm.
The Bad: For many, Martinez profiles as no more than a tweener. He's a below-average runner who is limited to a corner, and he lacks the power to project as an everyday player there.
Fantasy Impact: He won't provide much power for his position and little speed, but he should hit for average.
Yours truly recently participated in the final Scoresheet draft of the season and troubled Kevin for some updated thoughts on Martinez in light of his .338/.414/.546 line in his second stint at Corpus Christi (Double-A). Kevin's review was something to the effect of “no tools” when asked why he didn't get more attention.
Still, Martinez has some markers that this author values more than most, potentially as fatal flaws sometimes, but in light of these markers, he appears to be an exciting prospect, assuming that the lack of tools doesn't prove fatal.
– The first marker is a high extra-base-hit to strikeout ratio. For his career in the minors, Martinez has whacked 140 extra-base hits: 89 doubles, eight triples, and 43 home runs. He's struck out 196 times. Some examples of players who have done this is a bit of a mixed bag over the years, but often looking at these stats can help find players who don't hit a lot of singles (which are even more highly luck-dependent in the minors) or walk as much as many would prefer. Both of these numbers are in the context of ratios, and 140 extra-base hits in 1261 minor-league plate appearances is a great ratio.
– The second marker is years of full-season baseball. While a big believer in age-related-to-league adjustments, there's really no substitute for full-season professional experience. Nothing is really like it. Short-season ball is good preparation, and before that, school programs and clubs give players a taste of it. But it's not the same. Obviously, not everyone can be expected to explode like Alex Avila, but he's a recent example of a player this author thought much more highly of than any of the prospect experts, based largely on this marker… he made it to the majors very quickly after his first year of full-season pro baseball. Likewise, Martinez's full-season debut was in 2010.
This guy is going to be a great test of stats vs. scouts, to be honest. He has tuned up minor-league hurlers at a .342/.407/.551 rate, and watching him the other day against Rodrigo Lopez, it doesn't appear he's going to have trouble against sub-standard pitching. The question will be how much offense he can generate against the good pitchers. This is the sort of thing on which scouting clearly has the edge over analysis, since it's a rare skill set that allows a batter to succeed against above-average competition (as opposed to just beating up on the weaklings).
And, as a side note, it's all about the bat with Martinez. He's not in the lineup for his glove or his speed. If he's not able to hit like Magglio Ordonez did (for example), he won't end up contributing much to the the Astros, or any team for that matter—real or fantasy.
Trayvon Robinson, Seattle Mariners (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 9%)
With Mike Carp exceeding expectations, the Mariners have been challenged trying to find time for both super-talented Trayvon Robinson and Casper Wells, who sports a career .298/.358/.518 batting line—though he's only had 269 plate appearances so far between Detroit and Seattle—and nothing about his minor-league track record indicates that he'll be an impact hitter (he has hit 23 home runs in 460 Triple-A plate appearances, so there is at least a reasonable expectation of power).
Things won't be easy for Robinson. And, as noted last week, the Mariners have a tough schedule the rest of the way, with good-pitching teams and 20 home dates remaining. Still, Trayvon is making a strong case for playing every day. In addition to a .417/.417/.667 week, he added a 2-for-5 game Tuesday with a fourth double and two more RBI. While the doubles may not help much for fantasy purposes, if they keep him in the lineup, that's good news for his owners. He remains high-risk, but the upside is clearly there.
Kyle Blanks, San Diego Padres (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 4%, CBS 19%)
Kyle Blanks added a 2-for-4 day to a .250/.348/.450 week and shows no signs of slowing down. While Petco doesn't kill his right-handed power, 20 home games the rest of the season will be sub-optimal. And he's unlikely to hit for much batting average anywhere, though he should walk enough to be an asset in OBP leagues.
Jason Bourgeois, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 28%, CBS 32%)
At some point, Jason Bourgeois is going to realize that the starter's pistol has gone off already. Already, his ownership percentage in ESPN leagues has market-adjusted down from a shocking 52% to a more reasonable 28%. He could still be a front-line stolen base source in the NL, but he's missing opportunities while the team plays Geovany Soto and the Cubs. Upcoming games against the Giants and Rockies should allow him to run free, assuming he can start getting on base.
Josh Reddick, Boston Red Sox (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 20%, CBS 37%)
Josh Reddick went 1-for-10 on the rain-shortened week and added a 1-for-3 Tuesday. The cautionary note last week was that it remains to be seen how he'll rebound from the inevitable struggles that players have at times, so keep an eye on him. The talent is there for him to become a full-time regular. With four games against the Royals followed by four games in Texas coming up, the deck is stacked in his favor for a quick rebound.
Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies (Yahoo! 27%, ESPN 37%, CBS 36%)
Dexter Fowler seemed to be settling into the #2 slot in the Rockies lineup, having a .375-OBP week until batting leadoff Tuesday and going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. He's still been providing good offense and defense since his recall and has little reason to worry about job security.
Eric Thames, Toronto Blue Jays (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 6%, CBS 20%)
Talk about great timing. Eric Thames was approaching a full month of slumping, and it was more and more difficult to remain bullish about him as a Value Pick. Last week's advice was that he might be running out of leash in Toronto and that “he may have to do something this week or risk losing MLB playing time.” Well, “something” he did, finally showing the power his minor-league stats suggested with three home runs on the week, scoring five runs and also driving in five. He followed it up with a 2-for-6 game Tuesday, scoring two more runs. He is almost certainly the best hitter who is as lightly-owned as he is, though other players may have more fantasy value based on positional eligibility and stolen-base potential.
Jose Constanza, Atlanta Braves (Yahoo! 22%, ESPN 34%, CBS 32%)
Not that he's still available in many leagues, as he's hitting .400 and stole 49 bases in a season as recently as 2009, but Jose Constanza is a fringy major-league talent and is very likely to Sam Fuld his way to a fifth-outfielder role just as quickly as Fuld did, so it seemed logical to put in a few words about him. His rest-of-season PECOTA projects a .284 batting average despite a .251 TAv, so it's possible that he'll maintain playing time longer than he should. With Jason Heyward's struggles and Chipper Jones' frequent injuries, keep Constanza in mind if he gets cut, as he could chip in a few steals while not hurting your batting average.
Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 2%)
Trevor Plouffe is a shortstop still. Sometimes. But Tuesday, he started in left field after Delmon Young's departure. Between the majors and minor this year, he's played every position that doesn't have a “P” or “C” in it, and he's posted a somewhat amazing .313/.384/.635 stat line in 220 Triple-A plate appearances. Plouffe was formerly a decent shortstop prospect, most recently rated eighth on the Twins Top 11 list before the 2008 season:
The Good: Plouffe's greatest strength is his lack of weaknesses. He tends to make good contact and features gap power at the plate. Defensively, he's a fundamentally sound player who makes the plays he gets to, and has a very strong arm. He's a good baserunner whose speed grades out a tick above average once he gets going.
As with another former shortstop prospect, Brent Lillibridge, Plouffe seems to have found some power in 2011 and is worth a flier in AL leagues to see how much of that .635 Triple-A slugging is a real improvement. Obviously, it's likely that very little of it is real, but it beats taking a chance on Rene Tosoni, who hit .226/.283/.343 in Triple-A and won't get multi-positional flexibility.