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Di Fino: Four players in search of a team

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Sometimes, there just isn't a way to thematically pull together a group of baseball players that deserve a little more recognition in a Fantasy column.

Sure, we could loosely throw a movie reference in here, or make some punny titles for categories they fall under, but it would just seem forced. So, instead, we're just going to strip it down to the bones -- what follows are a bunch of dudes you should be looking at in deeper leagues. We call it ...

Four players in search of a team

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J.D. Martinez, OF, Astros: For Fantasy Weeks 3-5, Fantasy owners couldn't get enough of Martinez, driving his ownership up to a peak of 93 percent. Nothing could go wrong for the Houston rookie -- he was featured prominently on Roster Trends and he was hitting .385 with three home runs in mid-April. Then things took a rather ugly turn.

On May 21, Martinez saw his average bottom out at .216. He hadn't hit a home run in over a month. It wasn't uncommon for him to strike out multiple times in a game. His Fantasy owners abandoned him as quickly as they picked him up, dropping from 86 percent to 70 percent, to his current level of 52 percent. But if there's one thing about Martinez that we knew coming into this season, it's that he could hit. Over three seasons in the minors, across 1,118 at-bats, Martinez compiled a .342 batting average. The power was developing, and he managed a steal here and there, but his average was eye-popping. He hit .348 in his first full professional season, across two levels. Even in limited action last year, with 208 at-bats, he hit .274. But, with his ups and downs in 2012 so far, he's batting .240.

Interestingly, his OBP has jumped from .319 in 2011 to .341 in 2012. And over his last eight games, he's hitting .313. His five home runs and six doubles aren't the most reassuring of power statistics, but he seems to have his bat going, with the hopes that the power will follow. It's not out of the question to think Martinez could get hot and finish the season with 17 home runs, but it's far more realistic to aim for 12, with a batting average that could hover around .310.

Brandon League, RP, Mariners: We've seen League hit a rough patch like this before. It was actually a year ago, almost exactly to the date. Currently, the former Seattle closer (and there's no indication on how temporary that "former" title may last), is sporting a 3.76 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. He's 0-4 and is currently racking up holds out of middle relief. After three blown saves in a row last year, League saw, on May 13, his ERA jump to 7.31. He then went over a month without allowing an earned run. On July 5, the day he gave up that earned run, his ERA was down to 3.44. By the end of the season, he had a 2.79 ERA with 37 saves.

As of his last two appearances, in which he struck out a combined three batters over 2 1/3 innings pitched, allowing no earned runs, League's ERA is down to 3.76. Already with nine saves, League is on pace for a smaller number than last year, as he had 15 saves by the end of May. There's no guarantee that League will snatch the job back from Tom Wilhelmsen (especially with Stephen Pryor possibly inching his way up the Closer Pecking Order), but if history has taught us anything, it's that League tends to struggle in late spring, then reclaims his swagger and holds on to the role the rest of the year.

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Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals: There's not a ton we know about Lorenzo Cain right now. He made a huge splash in spring training this year (.371 average, five home runs, five steals), only to play just five games in the regular season before being put on the shelf with a groin injury.

Fast forward to June, and Cain seems almost ready to come off the DL. But what can we expect from an outfielder with just 184 major league at-bats? If we look at his minor league numbers, Cain managed a .294 average over 2,755 at-bats. He has four seasons of 20 or more steals, and twice hit double-digits with home runs. He's one of Kansas City's top prospects, the presumed "centerfielder of the future," and should start most games upon activation.

The interesting thing about Cain, though, is how quickly he has been forgotten by Fantasy owners. Granted, there are roster restrictions that made it tough for a lot of teams to hold on to him, but Cain, in Week 2, was owned in 77 percent of leagues. He has tumbled all the way down to 29 percent ownership. During draft season, he was drafted, on average, at the 270th spot, ahead of Alex Rios, Zack Cozart, Colby Rasmus, and Mike Aviles. Smart Fantasy owners, who have been hoarding closers- in-waiting or seventh outfielders on their bench, might want to consider making a sneaky scoop-up of Cain in the next couple of weeks, before everyone else catches wind of his activation. He likely won't be on the same level as someone like Carlos Quentin, but he could be more valuable to a Fantasy team than a Dayan Viciedo or David DeJesus.

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Daniel Nava, OF, Red Sox: Not sure if anyone's noticed this, but Daniel Nava has been batting leadoff for the Red Sox, the team that currently ranks third in the major leagues in runs scored. Nava has played in six of the last seven games for Boston and has batted first three times, eighth once, and second twice. Among all players with 75 or more at-bats, Nava (.445) ranks fourth, in all of baseball, in on-base percentage, behind Joey Votto (.477), David Wright (.464), and Paul Konerko (.451). Just for fun, looking at Nava's situational stats, we see that, batting first, he has a .458 OBP. He's scored 19 runs on the season, and driven in 18. While his power numbers weren't overwhelmingly impressive in the minors -- Nava's career-high in homers is 12 -- he had a .317 average and .414 OBP over 444 games played. His career minor league OPS is .911.

More importantly, for Nava, it seems like he's earned Bobby Valentine's trust playing the Green Monster in left field. He practices caroms off the wall before the games and has three assists and 30 put-outs in just 26 games so far.

Which, of course, brings up a dilemma: when Carl Crawford shows up in about a month, needing a position, the Sox are going to have to do something with Nava. Perhaps, by that point, the Will Middlebrooks-Adrian Gonzalez-Kevin Youkilis rotation will have figured itself out, leaving right field somewhat open (Ryan Sweeney and Scott Podsdnik also stand in the way of Nava and every day playing time). But the day of Crawford's return still seems distant, and opinions on when it will occur change every day. For now, Nava is a very sneaky and underrated play, especially in points leagues, where Nava, who is owned in just 26 percent of leagues, has scored the 24th-most points among outfielders over the past two weeks. And he jumps up to the sixth-best outfielder in points leagues in the last seven days, despite having fewer at-bats than the top five.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Marlins announce signing of Ichiro Suzuki
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:18 pm ET) The Marlins announced Tuesday they signed outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract.

The deal was expected to be announced once Suzuki passed his physical. He is expected to be the Marlins fourth outfielder as well as a left-handed bat off the bench.


Rays pitcher Matt Moore begins throwing off mound
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:40 pm ET) Rays pitcher Matt Moore took a significant step forward in his receovery from Tommy John surgery when he threw off a mound Tuesday, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

"It felt pretty good," Moore said.

Moore had the surgery in April and said he is pleased with the progress he has made.

"I would have thought a while ago I would have been nervous, but I was looking forward to it," Moore said. "And I felt like I had a lot more that could have come out. That's a feeling I've had the last month or so, and that's a feeling I like to have. I think we're in a good spot right now."


Angels' Garrett Richards to begin throwing off mound in February
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:33 pm ET) Angels pitcher Garrett Richards is ahead of schedule in his return from left-knee surgery and will begin throwing off a mound in the second week of February, reports the Los Angeles Times.

General manager Jerry Dipoto said they have been pleased with the progress Richards has made from the surgery.

"Ordinarily, he'd have thrown off a mound a couple times at this point in January, so he's not too far behind where he'd be in his normal throwing preparation," Dipoto said. "It's a matter of making sure the knee is stable and his lower body is in good shape. We're very optimistic, as we have been throughout."

In 2014, Richards went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA.


Orioles finalize trade with Pirates for Travis Snider
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(8:40 pm ET) As part of the trade sending outfielder Travis Snider to the Orioles, the Pirates will receive prospect Stephen Tarpley and a player to be named later, the team announced.

The left-handed Tarpley pitched at Class A in 2014 and went 3-5 with a 3.68 ERA.

Snider hit .264 with 13 home runs and 38 RBI in 2014 and will be a free agent after the 2016 season. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said Snider fits in well with the team, reports MASNsports.com. 

"Snider is a solid dependable power-hitting outfielder and is an excellent fit for Camden Yards," Duquette said.

To make room for Snider, the Orioles designated Michael Ohlman for assignment


Rangers plan to stretch out Ross Detwiler's starts in spring training
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:40 pm ET) Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday the team plans to stretch out pitcher Ross Detwiler's starts to open spring training, reports foxsportssouthwest.com

Detwiler did not start a game in 2014, making 47 relief appearances with a 4.00 ERA. In 2013, he started 13 games for the Nationals and went 2-7 with a 4.04 ERA.


Red Sox trade Anthony Ranaudo to Rangers for Robbie Ross
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:40 pm ET) The Red Sox and Rangers announced a two player trade Tuesday where Boston sent Anthony Ranaudo to Texas and the Rangers sent Robbie Ross to the Red Sox, both teams announced.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday Ranaudo is in play to become the No. 5 starter in the rotation, but if he doesn't win the job, he will likely start in the minors.

Ranaudo posted a 4-3 record with a 4.81 ERA in 2014 for Boston in 39 1/3 innings pitched. Ross went 3-6 with a 6.20 ERA in 78 1/3 innings for the Rangers.


Report: Blue Jays also interested in Jonathan Papelbon trade
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:20 pm ET) Along with the Brewers, the Phillies have also discussed trading closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Blue Jays, soruces told MLB.com.

Papelbon is due $13 million next season, which is believed to be one of the sticking points in negotiations. In 2014, Papelbon had 39 saves with a 2.04 ERA.


Report: Orioles, Pirates rekindle Travis Snider trade talks
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:50 pm ET) The Orioles and Pirates have revived trade talks regarding Pittsburgh outfielder Travis Snider, a source told The Baltimore Sun. The Orioles are closing in on a framework for a deal for Snider and are encouraged a trade will happen in exchange for one or two minor-league players.

The 26-year-old Snider is in his second year of arbitration and will be a free agent after the 2016 season. He will make $2.1 million in 2015.


Report: Angels, Garrett Richards set arbitration date
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:50 pm ET) The Angels and pitcher Garrett Richards have reportedly set an arbitration date for Feb. 11, according to the L.A. Times.

Talks for the new contract have been moving slowly with no discussion of a multi-year deal coming, according to the report. Richards asked for $3.8 million, but the team only offered $2.4 million.

Richards went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 2014, amassing 164 strikeouts in 168 2/3 innings.


Giants SS Brandon Crawford agrees to $3.175M salary for 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:34 pm ET) The Giants and shortstop Brandon Crawford avoided arbitration Tuesday, agreeing to a $3.175 million salary for 2015, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Crawford, who is in his first year of arbitration, made $560,000 in 2014.

Crawford just finished his fourth season in the majors and third full season in 2014. He had career highs in triples (10), home runs (10), runs (54), RBI (69), walks (59) and games played (153).


 
 
 
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