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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
Mariners' Mike Zunino homers to extend hitting streak on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:56 am ET) Mariners catcher Mike Zunino connected on his 10th home run of the season in Tuesday's 8-4 loss to the Diamondbacks. Zunino's third-inning solo shot cut Arizona's lead to one, but it would the D-Backs would tack on more insurance run to take the victory.

The 2015 season has been mainly a struggle for Zunino so far. But Tuesday's home run did extend his current hitting streak to eight games. During that stretch, he's hitting .393 with a home run and six RBI.


Mariners DH Nelson Cruz blasts 26th home run in loss Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:53 am ET) Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz went deep for his 26th home run on Tuesday, but it would be for naught as the Mariners lost the game 8-4 to the Diamondbacks. It was Cruz's only hit of the game, as the solo shot cut the D-Backs' lead to 6-2 in the sixth inning. 

Cruz has been smoking at the plate recently, batting .333 (15 for 45) with four home runs and eight RBI over his past 10 games.


D-Backs' Ender Inciarte chips in solo home run in win Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:50 am ET) Diamondbacks right fielder Ender Inciarte powered up for his third home run of the season in the 8-4 win over the Mariners on Tuesday. Inciarte went 2 for 5 from the lead-off spot in the order. He drove in two runs, one on his solo homer in the fifth inning. 

Since returning from the disabled list earlier this month, Inciarte is batting .348 (16 for 46) with a home run and five RBI in 11 games (10 starts).


Diamondbacks' David Peralta does it all in victory on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:47 am ET) Diamondbacks left fielder David Peralta filled up the score sheet in Tuesday's 8-4 win over the Giants. Peralta went 3 for 4 with a double, two RBI, a walk, a stolen base and a run scored. 

The double was Peralta's 18th of the season, and the steal was his fifth. While getting partial playing time, Peralta is batting .363 with a home run and six RBI over his past 10 games (eight starts).


Cubs RP Neil Ramirez was not available to pitch Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:42 am ET) Cubs reliever Neil Ramirez was unavailable out of the bullpen in Tuesday's game against the Rockies. It is not exactly known what has Ramirez ailing, with manager Joe Maddon telling ESPN.com "He was not OK tonight. That's why I could not use him. I have to find out more about that."

Ramirez returned from the disabled list on June 28 after dealing with a shoulder injury. It is not known if his current issue is related to that injury, or if it's something new. 


Yankees' Adam Warren picks up save in rout of Rangers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:33 am ET) Despite the lop-sided score, Yankees pitcher Adam Warren recorded his first save of the season in Tuesday's 21-5 thrashing of the Rangers. Warren pitched the final three innings of the game, which credits him with the save regardless of the score.

Warren, who was ousted from the rotation in late June, pitched three perfect innings on Tuesday. He now has five saves in his four-year career with the Yankees.


Diamondbacks summon RP Addison Reed from Triple-A
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:30 am ET) Diamondbacks reliever Addison Reed was recalled from Triple-A Reno following Tuesday's game. Reed struggled this year with Arizona, as he lost his closer's job prior to being sent down to the minors on June 22.

In 25 relief appearances with the D-Backs in 2015, Reed owns an unsightly 5.92 ERA. He's been better with the Reno Aces however, as he has a 1.74 in 11 games at Triple-A.

He will take the roster spot of Randall Delgado, who was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday.


D-Backs RP Randall Delgado sent to DL with ankle sprain
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:27 am ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Randall Delgado has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with an ankle sprain. Delgado apparently suffered the injury during warm-ups on Tuesday, and the injury was significant enough to warrant a stay on the DL. 

Reliever Addison Reed was recalled from Triple-A Reno to take Delgado's spot on the roster.


Mariners SP Hisashi Iwakuma takes loss on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:24 am ET) Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma regressed in his latest start on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. Hisashi allowed six runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out five, but needed 96 pitches without getting through the sixth. The Mariners wound up losing the game 8-4.

Iwakuma (2-2, 5.10 ERA) came into the game on a bit of a roll, having allowed a total of four runs over his previous three starts. But on Tuesday he gave up individual runs in the first, third and fifth innings, culminating with a three-run sixth inning.


Giants 2B Joe Panik (back) out Tuesday, likely out Wednesday too
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:19 am ET) Giants second baseman Joe Panik was held out of Tuesday's game against the Brewers due to back stiffness, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bochy also said Panik will likely miss Wednesday's game, which would give him three days off with Thursday's scheduled off-day. 

Panik has been hitting decently over the last several games, as he is batting .281 over his last 10 contests.


 
 
 
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