Daniel Nava has a pretty awesome story.
Shunned by high school, college, and professional teams, he has had to prove himself constantly at every level. He entered high school under 100 pounds. He was forced to a junior college when he couldn't get a college scholarship. He played in the Independent Leagues when MLB clubs passed. And he learned to bide his time in the minors until it was time for his call-up.
In his first go-round, in 2010, Nava smacked a grand slam on the first pitch he saw. This time, he's hitting above .500, and has already shown an impressive amount of patience at the plate.
Nava may not last forever with the Red Sox -- they already have an overflow of outfielders, especially if you subscribe to the Will Middlebrooks-to-the-outfield theories -- but he is definitely hot right now, and there is something to be said for the mindset of a perennially pushed-aside underdog who left a ticket for for ESPN's Erin Andrews every night in Pawtucket.
On to the Roster Trends!
Most added highlights
Andy Dirks, OF, Tigers
Jump in ownership: 35 percent (from four percent to 39)
Reason for the jump: Dirks is batting .361 with three home runs and 14 runs scored in 72 at-bats.
Why you should join the crowd: Dirks has taken advantage of some dysfunction in Detroit's lineup and managed to not only find playing time, but to perform admirably in that time. He has two home runs and five multi-hit games in his last nine. He's not going to hit for a lot of power -- his ceiling is likely 15-20 home runs, but he did carry a .292 batting average in the minors and has 219 major league at-bats under his belt from a 2011 stint with the Tigers.
Devil's Advocate: If and when Dirks cools off (don't think it will happen? Remember J.D. Martinez three weeks ago?), he'll be cast into Jim Leyland's toy box of rotating outfielders, which, so far this season, has included Ryan Raburn, Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch, Don Kelly, Clete Thomas, and Austin Jackson.
|1.||Josh Reddick, OF, Athletics||39|
|2.||Andy Dirks, OF, Tigers||36|
|3.||Christian Friedrich, SP, Rockies||34|
|4.||Brian Fuentes, RP, Athletics||32|
|5.||Allen Craig, 1B, Cardinals||29|
|6.||Dale Thayer, RP, Padres||23|
|7.||Casey Janssen, RP, Blue Jays||22|
|8.||Rafael Soriano, RP, Yankees||21|
|9.||Raul Ibanez, OF, Yankees||21|
|10.||A.J. Ellis, C, Dodgers||20|
Casey Janssen, RP, Blue Jays
Jump in ownership: 33 percent (from one percent to 34)
Reason for the jump: He is the newest closer for the Blue Jays. Huzzah!
Why you should join the crowd: Janssen is in line for saves. That's essentially the long and short of it. If he excels, he will help you in that category. If he fails miserably, it will probably occur over 14 or 15 innings, which is, essentially, the same thing as two bad starts from a starter.
Devil's Advocate: This is all likely a short-term game. Sergio Santos is expected to return at some point and re-claim the closer's role. So even if Janssen, who has 11 career saves and a 3.83 ERA, turns out to be a great closer, it may turn out to be an ephemeral turn as closer for him.
Christian Friedrich, SP, Rockies
Jump in ownership: 28 percent (from four percent to 32)
Reason for the jump: Friedrich has 17 strikeouts in two starts for the Rockies so far this year.
Why you should join the crowd: Friedrich, a first-round pick in 2008, averaged almost a strikeout per inning over five seasons in the minor leagues. The Denver Post's Troy Renck called Friedrich's 10- strikeout performance against the Giants on Monday, "arguably the most impressive performance by a Rockie this season," adding that he was, "efficient, effective, and dominant." Parades will be thrown in his honor; Friedrich Day will be celebrated every July 8 in Denver. He is the future.
Devil's Advocate: ... but then you look at his minor league numbers. While Friedrich had impressive strikeout totals, he managed to compile a 5.05 ERA in 2010 at Double-A Tulsa and a 5.00 ERA the following season with the same team. His WHIPs didn't look much better: 1.55 in 2010 and 1.49 in 2011. Although his ERA did go down by 0.05, it's not exactly what one would term, "growth." But Friedrich was limited in 2010 with a sore elbow and was out of shape in 2011. He drastically changed his offseason routine before the 2012 season, including workouts with Cliff Lee in Arkansas. The numbers looked totally different for his short pre-promotion stint this year. Still, in total, Friedrich's minor league ERA was a robust 4.04 and his two starts for the Rockies have come away from Coors Field.
|1.||Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Orioles||43|
|2.||Geovany Soto, C, Cubs||41|
|3.||Brian Fuentes, RP, Athletics||38|
|4.||Travis Hafner, DH, Indians||31|
|5.||Eric Thames, OF, Blue Jays||25|
Dale Thayer, RP, Padres
Jump in ownership: 25 percent (from three percent to 28)
Reason for the jump: Replacing an injured Huston Street, Thayer has saved three games for the Pads.
Why you should join the crowd: Argue all you want that Andrew Cashner and his triple-digit fastball should be closing games, but Thayer is the pitcher who has actually gotten the opportunities. And saving games is nothing new to him; over 10 minor league seasons, Thayer saved 173 games. He has a minor league career ERA of 2.45 and averaged about a strikeout per inning. Interestingly, the only minor league season in which Thayer has pitched and not gotten a save was this year -- in 8 1/3 innings pitched, Thayer had yet to save a game for Tucson. He's a great story of resiliency in the minors -- at 31, Thayer had pitched a total of 26 major league innings and had been a member of the Padres, Rays, and Mets organizations. He has the distinct honor of being a "player to be named later" in a trade (for Russell Branyan, in 2006).
Devil's Advocate: Thayer has shown he can be an effective reliever in the minors and has proven, so far, that he can handle MLB hitters, as well. But Street's injury isn't as serious as it could have been (although the team hasn't set a timetable for a return, his injury is centered in his lat, not his shoulder, making it less of a long-term worry), so Thayer will likely be out of a job when Street returns in a month or so.
Still ...: It's a month of saves from a position that made Heath Bell -- a former middling Mets reliever, just like Thayer -- a three-time, 40-save closer. So he will get chances as long as Street is out.
Raul Ibanez, OF, Yankees
Jump in ownership: 22 percent (from 28 percent to 50)
Reason for the jump: Ibanez has seven home runs on the season, with four coming in the last week.
Why you should join the crowd: Thanks to Brett Gardner's injury and the demotion of Eduardo Nunez, Ibanez has gone from a DH-who-plays-most-of-the-time to a valuable piece of New York's OF-DH rotation. He began May with a .241 average and raised it to .261 by Tuesday. Ibanez has a career batting average of .280 and has hit 20 or more home runs seven times in his career. Although it's a small sample size (74 at-bats), Ibanez's 1.009 career OPS at the new Yankee Stadium is the highest for him at any MLB park. Furthermore, Ibanez has over 800 career at-bats as a designated hitter, meaning he didn't need time to adjust to the sometimes off-setting rhythm of the position. As a DH this year, Ibanez has a 1.068 OPS in 29 at-bats.
Devil's Advocate: Ibanez, who turns 40 in June, hasn't hit over.275 since 2008. And last year with the Phillies, Ibanez managed just a .245 average in 535 at-bats. When Gardner comes back, he may fall back into a platoon split with Andruw Jones.
|1.||Brandon Guyer, OF, Rays|
|2.||Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres|
|3.||Hideki Matsui, DH, Rays|
|4.||Brandon Lyon, RP, Astros|
|5.||Tony Gwynn, OF, Dodgers|
Brandon Inge, 3B, Athletics
Jump in ownership: 17 percent (from three percent to 20)
Reason for the jump: Despite a groin injury that has kept him out of the lineup since Sunday, Inge has torn up pitching since joining the A's, hitting four home runs and driving in 17 runs in just 44 at-bats.
Why you should join the crowd: Inge excels -- to a degree -- when getting full-time at-bats. In the five seasons where he had 500 at-bats or more, Inge has averaged 19.4 home runs.
Devil's Advocate: Inge also carries a .234 career batting average, and hasn't hit over .250 since 2006. He does have the ability to steal some bases, but he hasn't broken double-digits once in his career.
Daniel Nava, OF, Red Sox
Jump in ownership: Five percent (from zero percent to five)
Reason for the jump: Nava is batting .583 with six RBI, six runs, four doubles, a homer, six walks, and a steal in just 12 at-bats.
Why you should join the crowd: This joke will eventually get old, but in 12 at-bats, Nava has as many home runs as Albert Pujols has managed in 142. His OPS, as of Tuesday, sat at 1.917. Nava also has a career .307 batting average in the minor leagues and has four seasons of double-digit home runs across five campaigns. He has started all five games since being called up, and is batting sixth in the Boston lineup. And his defense is sound: He gunned down Jack Hannahan at home plate Friday night and has earned faint praise from Bobby Valentine for his defense in left, which is a challenge thanks to the Green Monster. And Valentine is not afraid to start the Daniel Navas of the world, having given extended at-bats to Benny Agbayani and Timo Perez while managing the Mets. If you want even more reasons to love him, read this interview from 2009 -- Nava has been repeatedly dismissed and ignored by all kinds of teams at every level, but he has a really smart approach to hitting; or, perhaps more appropriately, walking.
Devil's Advocate: The Red Sox simply have too many outfielders. On top of that, Nava's best minor league season might have been 2011, when he had 10 home runs and 10 steals, while hitting .268 (although his OBP was .372). So his value -- if he manages to keep playing -- may be limited to deeper points leagues.
Daniel Nava's Advocate: Just keep doubting him. You'll see.
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