About a month into the 2014 season, I was focused a lot on targeting Tigers hitters who had been underperforming, and finding ways to get Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson, among others, into my lineups in potentially advantageous matchups.
Jackson, Hunter and Victor Martinez were already producing, and Cabrera was doing pretty well, if he wasn't the best hitter on earth toiling to meet value for his still lofty salary. But I hadn't thought much about J.D. Martinez, who had come over from Houston after he was passed over in the Rule 5 draft and was released outright by the Astros toward the end of spring training. Before the breakout, he radically changed his swing and plate approach, including his hand placement, footwork, leg kick, stride and load. Basically, everything he could alter, he did.
Now, it's hard not to notice what Martinez is doing, as he's belted 10 home runs since the start of June and raised his batting line to .323/.360/.640 in 49 games and 178 plate appearances. A reverse-platoon player, the 611th overall pick from the June 2009 draft (and a recent castoff from a team in need of offense) is absolutely killing righthanded pitching this season with a .481 wOBA. From looking at his improved demeanor and the lineup protection offered in Detroit, he could remain a productive hitter as long as his line drive rates and HR/FB rate don’t diminish too greatly. He's not the best play against lefties, but he's certainly on my radar against weaker right-handed pitching and in stacks of Tiger hitters.
|INJURED PLAYERS TO WATCH/AVOID|
|Chris Owings, ARI (shoulder, DL: mid-July return)
Eric Chavez, ARI (knee, DL: out indefinitely)
Cliff Pennington, ARI (thumb, DL: possible August return)
A.J. Pollock, ARI (hand, DL: possible mid-August return)
Mark Trumbo, ARI (foot, DL: possible mid-July return)
Evan Gattis, ATL (back, DL: out indefinitely)
Matt Wieters, BAL (elbow, DL: 2015)
Mike Carp, BOS (foot, DL: out indefinitely)
Shane Victorino, BOS (hamstring, DL: out indefinitely)
Will Middlebrooks, BOS (finger, DL: out indefinitely)
Emilio Bonifacio, CHC (ribs, DL: out indefinitely)
Conor Gillaspie, CWS (knee, DTD)
Joey Votto, CIN (quad, status uncertain)
Michael Bourn, CLE (hamstring, DL: out indefinitely)
Jason Giambi, CLE (knee, DL: possible late-June return)
Nyjer Morgan, CLE (knee, DL: out indefinitely)
Michael Cuddyer, COL (shoulder, DL: possible August return)
Carlos Gonzalez, COL (finger, DL: possible mid-July return)
Victor Martinez, DET (ribs, DTD)
Dexter Fowler, HOU (ribs, DL: possible mid-July return)
Norichika Aoki, KAN (groin, DL: possible mid-July return)
David Freese, LAA (leg, DTD)
Chone Figgins, LAD (quad, DL: out indefinitely)
Justin Turner, LAD (hamstring, DL: out indefinitely)
Carl Crawford, LAD (ankle, DL: possible July return)
Derek Dietrich, MIA (wrist, DL: out indefinitely)
Rafael Furcal, MIA (hamstring, DL: out indefinitely)
Ryan Braun, MIL (back, DTD)
Joe Mauer, MIN (ribs, DL: possible mid-July return)
Danny Santana, MIN (knee, DL: possible early July return)
Brandon Moss, OAK (ankle, DTD)
Josh Reddick, OAK (knee, DL: out indefinitely)
Kyle Blanks, OAK (calf, DL: possible mid-July return)
Carlos Ruiz, PHI (concussion, DL: out indefinitely)
Wil Nieves, PHI (quad, DL: possible mid-July return)
Reid Brignac, PHI (ankle, DL: out indefinitely)
Clint Barmes, PIT (groin, DL: possible mid-August return
Everth Cabrera, SD (hamstring, DL: out indefinitely)
Yonder Alonso, SD (wrist, DL: early-July return)
Jedd Gyorko, SD (foot, DL: out indefinitely)
Pablo Sandoval, SF (elbow, DTD)
Angel Pagan, SF (back, DL: out indefinitely)
Marco Scutaro, SF (back, DL: out indefinitely
Yunel Escobar, TAM (shoulder, DL: possible early-July return)
David DeJesus, TAM (hand, DL: possible mid-August return)
Wil Myers, TAM (wrist, DL: possible early August return)
Prince Fielder, TEX (neck, DL: 2015)
Mitch Moreland, TEX (ankle, DL: 2015)
Kevin Kouzmanoff, TEX (back, DL: possible July return)
Jurickson Profar, TEX (shoulder, DL: possible September return)
Edwin Encarnacion, TOR (quad, status uncertain)
Brett Lawrie, TOR (finger, DL: out indefinitely)
Maicer Izturis, TOR (knee, DL: possible September return)
Last week's Tuesday/Wednesday starter review
James Shields, KC (@MIN)—Shields has been roughed up over his past three starts, and he gave up nine hits and four earned runs against the Twins at Target Field on Tuesday. Still, he's a relatively inexpensive option and there's still plenty of upside when he's missing bats.
David Price, TAM (@NYY)—Price didn't rack up double-digit strikeouts against the Yankees (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 SO) on July 1—or against the Tigers on July 6, when he went 8 2/3 innings and gave up a couple homers—but he earned wins in both starts. His next start is scheduled for Saturday at home versus the Blue Jays.
Johnny Cueto, CIN (@SD)—It's unfair that a guy with a 1.99 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 131 1/3 innings is just 8-6, but such is the tale of Cueto, who lost his last start in San Diego on Wednesday (7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO). Eventually, the Reds bats will come around and give him some of the run support he needs to notch some more wins and realize his upside.
Julio Teheran, ATL (vs. NYM)—Teheran has pitched quite well against NL East opponents this season, sporting a 1.79 ERA in those nine starts. He earned another victory (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO) on Wednesday. The Colombian hurler also has two complete game shutouts this season, showing he can go deep into games and offer the kind of upside you're looking for in a daily fantasy starter.
This week's Tuesday-Wednesday Pitcher Spotlight
Masahiro Tanaka, NYY (@CLE)—While the Indians have some powerful bats, Tanaka should get the requisite run support from the Yankees bats as they face the pedestrian Trevor Bauer. Bank on a return to dominance for Ma-Kun as he rebounds from his first non-quality start in 17 career outings.
Julio Teheran, ATL (@NYM)—I hope I'm not going to the well too often with Teheran, who's facing the Mets for the second time in less than a week and sports a .242 BABIP, 3.22 FIP and 3.64 xFIP this season but maintains a 2.29 ERA in 18 starts. It's encouraging, at least, to see that last season he also outpitched his FIP (largely due to a solid strand rate and relatively low BABIP (.288). He's also walking fewer batters this season and has greatly improved the effectiveness of both his fastball and changeup despite a downtick in velocity.
(Day) Zack Greinke, LAD (@DET)—Greinke is 11-4 with a 2.66 ERA in 18 starts this season. More importantly, he's sporting a 9.59 K/9 rate, a 5.41 K/BB ratio, and is frequently getting batters to chase pitches outside the zone (38.3 O-Swing%).He's the best pitching option among the early contests.
(Night) Yu Darvish, TEX (vs. HOU)—Darvish starts have been hit or miss lately, but he always strikes out batters—and the Astros, his next opponent, strike out quite a bit and are among the least productive lineups in baseball. Start Darvish with confidence this week unless you're looking to save a few bucks on one of the guys below.
(Night) Chris Sale, CWS (@BOS)—The lanky lefty was dominant in his last outing, striking out 12 and giving up just six hits and one earned run in a complete game win over the Mariners. He'll be pitching in Fenway this week but there's still way too much upside for me to pass him up at any price.
NOTE: Make sure you check the weather forecast and any changes in probable starters from the revised schedule. There's not much worse than a zero from one of your starters—and it's usually avoidable if you're prudent about the risks you're willing to take.
Hitters to watch/target this week
Yankees hitters: Despite a lineup filled with lefties, the Bronx Bombers haven't done a lot of mashing at home this season, but they have done a much better job on the road. This week, they play a series with the Indians before heading to a notorious hitter's haven—Camden Yards. I'm bullish on all the Yankees sluggers piling up numbers this week, including Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Brett Gardner, who is in the Top 30 in WAR through 85 games this season and boasts an impressive .284/.359/.431 line with eight homers and 15 SB.
Angels hitters: While it's not hard to recommend a freak such as Mike Trout, the Angels lineup is filled with plenty of other important cogs, including Howie Kendrick, the hot-hitting Kole Calhoun, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Erick Aybar and even deeper options like C.J. Cron and David Freese. Both of the Angels catchers (the switch-hitting Hank Conger and right-handed power hitter Chris Iannetta) are capable of big offensive numbers, and the .333 team wOBA is third in the league behind the Rockies (.340) and Tigers (.337). They have a series at home versus Toronto before heading to Arlington for a series with Texas and its weak pitching staff.
Nationals hitters: With Bryce Harper back in the fold and infielders Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond coming alive offensively, the Nationals lineup looks pretty good for stacking right now in what could be a high-scoring week. Consider Adam LaRoche as well as outfielders Denard Span and Jayson Werth when you're looking for cheaper options wrapped up in a whole lot of upside.
Marlins hitters: Giancarlo Stanton seems poised for a monster week in Chase Field against the D-Backs, and Christian Yelich has four straight multi-hit games entering Monday. Garrett Jones, Casey McGehee, Marcell Ozuna and Jarrod Saltalamacchia aren't the most consistent options, but they and infielder Donovan Solano could provide some inexpensive value this week in some excellent matchups.
Twins hitters: I won't be plugging these guys in until Friday, when they start a weekend series in Colorado, but it's worth using Josh Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia and Brian Dozier when they take their offensive abilities to Coors Field.
Other hitters to watch/target this week: Adam Jones/Steve Pearce, BAL; Kyle Seager/Robinson Cano, SEA; Thomas La Stella/Andrelton Simmons, ATL; Adrian Beltre/Leonys Martin, TEX; Ian Kinsler/J.D. Martinez, DET; Ben Zobrist/Desmond Jennings, TAM; Todd Frazier/Devin Mesoraco, CIN; Matt Adams/Jhonny Peralta, STL; Miguel Montero/Paul Goldschmidt, ARI, Andrew McCutcheon/Gregory Polanco, PIT