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Waiver Wire: The Butler did it

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
  •  

Coming into the season, I was definitely in the camp that Royals DH Billy Butler was an overlooked option in Fantasy leagues.

I understand the main arguments on why he fell in drafts. He was coming off a down season power-wise in 2013 and could also only be used in the utility spot in standard formats, which limited the roster flexibility Fantasy owners had with the 28-year-old DH nicknamed Country Breakfast. But I had a difficult time overlooking Butler's past success.

Despite his absence of power last year, he still finished as a top 60 bat in Head-to-Head formats. In 2012, he was a top 20 bat in points formats, as well as a top 20 bat in Rotisserie leagues. In 2011, Butler was a top 35 bat in Head-to-Head leagues and top 60 in Rotisserie.

When Butler isn't hitting for power, he loses more value in Rotisserie leagues, but you can see he's proven to be a startable Fantasy option. Sadly, it was tough to call Butler that through the first two months this season. In fact, a lot of Fantasy owners weren't sure Butler would ever bounce back, as his ownership dropped from 97 percent in Week 1 to 61 percent in Week 12.

Well, the past is the past and now is the time to start adding Butler back to Fantasy rosters. I drafted Butler in an 8-team AL-only, as well as 12-team and 16-team Head-to-Head leagues this spring. The only format I dropped him in was the 12-team league, but he was one of my waiver claims over the weekend, so I didn't hesitate adding him back to my roster.

Most added players on CBSSports.com
Player Own %
1. Danny Santana, SS, MIN 54 (+28)
2. Eugenio Suarez, SS, DET 35 (+24)
3. Andrew Heaney, SP, MIA 70 (+22)
4. Wei-Yin Chen, SP, BAL 60 (+22)
5. Tommy Milone, SP, OAK 58 (+18)
6. Jake Arrieta, SP, CHC 33 (+18)
7. Corey Dickerson, OF, COL 67 (+17)
8. Jake Odorizzi, SP, TB 46 (+17)
9. Russell Martin, C, PIT 45 (+17)
10. Tyler Matzek, SP, COL 20 (+17)

Butler is showing signs of turning the corner. He is batting .367 with a .409 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage and .909 OPS in his last 17 games. He has one home run, five doubles and 11 RBI in that stretch.

Butler's surge happens to coincide with the firing of hitting coach Pedro Grifol in late May, but that's not the reason why he's beginning to turn it around. It just seems the hits are starting to fall and Butler is brimming with confidence.

In fact, before Grifol was fired, he actually helped fix a mechanical flaw in Butler's approach. Butler was batting just .224 after the first month of the season, but he is batting .330 since May 18. Royals manager Ned Yost said Butler's mechanical flaw was his back elbow was "flying out," which is why he was hitting a lot of ground balls early in the season.

The numbers support Yost's claims. Butler's groundball rate (per FanGraphs.com) in April was 60 percent, but it lowered to 48.3 percent in May and is at 47.6 percent in June. Butler's career rate is 48.4 percent, so it seems he's getting back on track.

He hasn't instilled much confidence in Fantasy owners since he has just two home runs in 69 games. However, after hitting an opposite-field homer Saturday against the White Sox, Butler feels a power surge could be on the horizon.

"I knew one was coming soon," Butler said Saturday, per The Kansas City Star. "Because I was driving balls. I was hitting balls well. It’s good to get one out of the park. They come in bunches. Hopefully that’s a sign of more to come."

Eugenio Suarez, SS, Tigers

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 35 percent (up 24 percent)
I posted analysis on Suarez's player page last week touting him as a sleeper at the shortstop position, and I haven't changed my stance about a week later. I know the track record doesn't speak to Suarez keeping up his current pace and I'm not buying his home run outburst, but there is talent here and Suarez will be able to help Fantasy owners. Suarez has been a decent contact hitter in the minors, but he really broke out this season at Double-A and Triple-A prior to his promotion -- and he hasn't slowed down. Suarez had a .288/.360/.510/.870 slash line in 54 games prior to his callup. Tigers first base coach Omar Vizquel attributes Suarez's sudden offensive outburst to the fact he listened to the coaches in spring training and put the lessons he learned into practice. Vizquel added Suarez shortened his swing and is laying off breaking pitches. It's not like Suarez has been toiling in the minors for a decade. He's just 22 years old, so it's possible he's finally coming into his own. He's due for a regression at some point, but in the long run I could see Suarez as a top 20 Fantasy shortstop.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Rotisserie, 16-team Head-to-Head

Josh Rutledge, 2B/SS, Rockies

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 21 percent (up 16 percent)
The Rockies have found regular playing time for Rutledge because of Nolan Arenado's hand injury. Charlie Culberson couldn't handle a full-time role at third base, so manager Walt Weiss was forced to move second baseman DJ LeMahieu to the hot corner, opening regular at-bats for Rutledge at second base. Rutledge has responded by producing a .429/.484/.571/1.055 slash line in his last nine games. Rutledge kind of fell off the map after a disastrous 2013, but try to recall his rookie performance in 2012. Rutledge is starting to look a lot more like that player in 2014, as he has a .339/.409/.508/.918 slash line through 23 games. Rutledge has played his way into regular at-bats and could get a good run of playing time since Arenado is likely still several weeks away from returning. When he gets back, then the playing time situation might not look as good for Rutledge, but for now he has value in deep formats.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Russell Martin, C, Pirates

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 45 percent (up 17 percent)
Martin opened the season with two home runs and 11 RBI in 16 games before landing on the disabled list in late April due to a hamstring injury. Martin missed about a month, but while the power hasn't been there since he returned in late May, he's showing more offensive consistency after batting just .242 in his first 16 games. He is batting .310 with a .474 on-base percentage and .922 OPS in 18 games since coming off the DL. He has just one home run, but he has five doubles and seven RBI, as well as nearly as many walks (12) as strikeouts (13). Early in Martin's career, he was a pretty good Fantasy option, but for the most part since 2009 he's been an inconsistent option. He still proving to have decent pop for a catcher, but he is just a career .256 hitter. The strong on-base percentage isn't surprising, but don't count on Martin to emerge as a top 12 Fantasy catcher.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, deep Head-to-Head formats

Taijuan Walker, SP, Mariners

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 75 percent (up 1 percent)
Fantasy owners were greatly disappointed when Walker was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma following his activation off the disabled list June 10. But the fact of the matter was Walker wasn't ready to get major-league hitters out, and the Mariners didn't need to mess with his confidence or potentially have him suffer a setback with his shoulder because he was rushing back. Walker had a strong start Saturday, tossing 6 1/3 hitless innings before finishing with one run allowed in 6 2/3 innings. He also had seven strikeouts. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he wasn't too concerned about the results, but more worried about Walker's physical capabilities. He stretched out to 94 pitches, and perhaps with another good start or two the right-hander might be ready for a recall. Walker is a special talent. He just needs to build up stamina after being sidelined most of the season. It's highly recommended you continue to stash Walker on your bench.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

Chase Whitley, SP, Yankees

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 32 percent (up 15 percent)
The Yankees aren't really known for developing players. With obviously a big budget, they usually buy their starting lineup. But kudos to New York for drafting (2010 15th-round pick) and developing Whitley, who produced a 2.64 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 306 2/3 innings in the minors before his promotion to the majors in mid-May. The 25-year-old rookie has done a pretty good job handling the pressure of pitching in New York. Though, he's made only one of six starts at home and will get a pretty good test Wednesday (at home) against the Blue Jays. Also, Whitley has faced the Mets, Cubs, Cardinals, Twins, Royals and Mariners. The only team averaging more runs than the league average (4.15) is the Twins, so Whitley has faced some weak lineups. Even though he didn't have the pedigree of an elite prospect, I do feel Whitley could survive in the Yankees' rotation because he throws strikes and doesn't walk a lot of batters. But it's still too early to pass final judgment because he hasn’t faced a lot of top run-scoring lineups.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 48 percent (up 13 percent)
Count me among the people very surprised by Crawford's sustained early season success. Giants veteran pitcher Tim Hudson said recently he's been enamored with how well Crawford has performed defensively. I'm more impressed with his offensive numbers, especially in June (.341 average, one HR, two 3B, four 2B, 11 RBI in 13 games). There's even talk Crawford might make the All-Star team. His Fantasy production has been surprising as well. He's had three weeks with 20 or more Fantasy points and has at least 14 Fantasy points in six of the last seven scoring periods. If you can believe it, he's the 13th-highest scoring shortstop in Head-to-Head and Rotisserie formats. Even though Crawford is having a nice start to the season, I still can't buy his prolonged success. He just didn't have the track record in the minors and hasn't had it in the majors. Even when he hit five homers last month, he hit just .216. Crawford has his place in deep formats, but he's not going to win you a Fantasy championship.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Jake Arrieta, SP, Cubs

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 33 percent (up 18 percent)
I wrote in a previous Waiver Wire column that I didn't think Arrieta was worth picking up after a strong season debut May 3. But maybe it's time to start giving him credit for his success, much like fellow Cubs hurler Jason Hammel has earned recognition for his surprising performance thus far. The keys to success for Arrieta has been an improved walk rate and not getting burned by the long ball. Arrieta has improved in those two areas because he's getting batters to miss more. He has a career high strikeout rate (9.2 K/9) and a career high swinging strike rate (9.0 percent, per FanGraphs.com). Arrieta has particularly been relying more on his slider, curveball and changeup. Right-handed batters are hitting just .136 against Arrieta's slider and .118 against his curveball, while lefties are batting just .174 against his slider and .125 against his changeup, per BrooksBaseball.net. Up through 2013, righties were batting .216 against the slider and .234 against the curve, and lefties were hitting .232 against the slider and .288 against the changeup. Arrieta's improved repertoire could put him on track for a career season. A few more good starts and Arrieta could break away from being a deep-league option.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Charlie Morton, SP, Pirates

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 44 percent (up 10 percent)
Morton has been locked in lately, going 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his last five starts. It's been a nice turnaround after going 0-6 through his first nine starts. Though, Morton had just a 3.45 ERA in his first nine starts, and he was a victim of poor run support in that span. Pirates' starting pitchers have compiled a 2.49 ERA in June after compiling a major-league worst 4.92 ERA in May. Manager Clint Hurdle has contributed the turnaround to inducing more groundballs, but that's not out of the norm for a sinkerballer like Morton. His ERA has been a little better lately and he is getting better run support, but Morton is still giving up hits and walks at the same rate. Though, a major improvement has been his strikeout rate in June, as he has 22 strikeouts in 19 innings after totaling just 45 strikeouts in his first 68 1/3 innings through May. Morton is coming off a 50-point performance in Fantasy Week 11, but he had just one prior week of 20-plus points, so he's not an overly reliable option.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Scooter Gennett, 2B, Brewers

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 30 percent (up 10 percent)
The Brewers have bumped Gennett to the leadoff spot, and he seems to be responding positively. He's produced a .423/.444/.692/1.137 slash line in six games since moving to the leadoff spot. He also has one home run, five RBI, four doubles, four runs and one stolen base. Manager Ron Roenicke attributes Gennett's success not to changing positions in the lineup, but because he's becoming a more patient hitter. Gennett is now seeing close to five pitches per at-bat in the leadoff spot and being more selective. He's still sitting against lefties in favor of Rickie Weeks, but he's the primary starter at second base and considered the Brewers' second baseman of the future, so the team's invested in his success. You're not going to get a lot of home run or RBI production out of Gennett, but he's a good contact hitter and it appears his plate discipline is improving. Second base has become a deep position, so Gennett might not make a lot of noise at the position, but he's useful in deep formats.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Alex Wood, SP, Braves

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 61 percent (up 1 percent)
We got the news last week the Braves were sending Wood down to the minors to stretch out as a starter, which means they are preparing to make him part of the major-league rotation again. The reports are already surfacing the Braves are receiving interest from teams about their starting pitchers, so Atlanta could act aggressively and move players like Gavin Floyd and Aaron Harang well before the July 31 trade deadline to clear a rotation spot for Wood. The left-handed hurler was much better as a starter this year for Atlanta, posting a 3.00 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in seven starts, as opposed to 4.70 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in 11 relief outings. Wood made his first start Friday for Triple-A Gwinnett, but he stretched out to only 58 pitches. Unless an injury befalls a starter or a trade goes down soon, we might not see Wood back in the majors until a doubleheader June 28 at Philadelphia. Even then, he might be returned to the minors after the start. Still, Wood is much like Taijuan Walker and could make an impact down the stretch, especially in Head-to-Head leagues because of his relief-pitcher eligibility. Therefore, Wood certainly warrants a roster spot in the majority of Fantasy leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

American League options

Brandon Workman, SP, Red Sox

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 13 percent (up 6 percent)
Workman has been pretty solid since joining the rotation in late May. He is 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in five starts. About the only negative is that the Red Sox have been closely monitoring Workman's pitch count, and he didn't surpass 100 pitches until his last start. In fact, he only averaged 83 pitches in his first four starts, which included an ejection after 92 pitches May 30 against the Rays for throwing at Evan Longoria's head. Manager John Farrell has lauded Workman for throwing strikes and keeping a good tempo during his starts. Similar to Kevin Gausman's situation in Baltimore, it seems the Red Sox are toying with the idea of keeping Workman in the rotation, but are having a hard time figuring out who gets the boot. Right now, it's not difficult with Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront on the disabled list, but it will be a much tougher decision once both players are ready to return, which is why Workman remains just a deep-league option. However, if he remains in the Boston rotation, then his value will increase, especially in Head-to-Head formats because of his relief-pitcher eligibility.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats
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National League options

Jeff Locke, SP, Pirates

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 16 percent (up 11 percent)
Locke has pitched particularly well since rejoining the rotation, posting a 1.80 ERA and .185 opponents' batting average in two June starts. What's been most impressive, however, is that he's issued just one walk in his last 15 innings and has allowed just one walk in three MLB starts this season. It's been a pretty big turnaround after Locke walked 4.5 batters per nine innings last season. If you recall, Locke was a breakout player in the first half last year, going 8-2 with a 2.15 ERA, before tiring in the second half, going 2-5 with a 6.12 ERA. Locke still had success in the first half last season even with a high walk rate, so if it rises again it might not be too concerning. Though, Locke was walking 4.0 batters per nine innings in nine starts for Triple-A Indianapolis this season, with a 4.14 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. Locke has a .220 BABIP in June, so he appears to have been a bit lucky. Though, he did have a .228 BABIP in the first half last season. Still, I'm not ready to buy into Locke rediscovering his 2013 first-half form.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Player you might reconsider dropping

Jed Lowrie, SS/2B, Athletics

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 79 percent (down 5 percent)
Lowrie has been mired in a slump for about a month. He is batting .145 in his last 25 games, so I get why owners are frustrated, especially with the depth middle infield is providing in Fantasy. With players like Danny Santana and Eugenio Suarez emerging at shortstop, and Gordon Beckham, Scooter Gennett and Tommy La Stella at second base, waiting on Lowrie to bounce back could be costly. But to me, you've stuck out it this long with Lowrie and it seems he's reached the floor. It's probably going to get a lot better than a lot worse. Honestly, it just looks like the hits aren't falling for Lowrie. He's making contact at a career-high 89.5 percent (per FanGraphs.com), but he has just a .243 BABIP, which is well below his career average (.289). Lowrie was averaging 21 Fantasy points per week over the first four scoring periods. I feel Lowrie can definitely get back to that level as long as he stays the course and doesn't get frustrated. He just needs the hits to start falling.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

Q &A

Who is the best player to stash on my bench: Danny Salazar, Aaron Sanchez or Dylan Bundy? --@ritzi24

MH: This is a tough one. I think Sanchez has the best chance to be the first player recalled, but I'm very leery of him making a Fantasy impact. First, he walks too many batters and I feel major-league hitters will make him pay for his mistakes. Second, he's never pitched more than 90 1/3 innings in the minors and is already at 70 innings, so it wouldn't surprise me if Sanchez gets shut down early because of a low innings limit.

As for Bundy, while he is making good progress coming off Tommy John surgery, I don't think the Orioles intend to rush him back. They are currently having trouble getting down to a five-man rotation, so it's not like they don't have a plethora of starters.

Therefore, even though Salazar isn't having a strong season, I still think he's the best player to stash of the three because of the potential impact he could make later this season.

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Player News
Twins' Jose Berrios strikes out four on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:22 pm ET) Twins starter Jose Berrios struck out four during his first spring appearance on Wednesday.

Berrios took on the University of Minnesota, and turned in a good showing. While Berrios is a minor-leaguer, he's only 20, and was taking on players his age. Berrios allowed one hit and one unearned run over two innings of work. He struck out four batters.

Berrios is the team's third-best prospect according to Baseball America. He's expected to begin the year in the minors, but could move quickly based on how well he performs. 


Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley makes debut Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:36 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley pitched two innings in his spring training debut Wednesday, allowing just one baserunner and recording one strikeout. Shipley admitted he was a bit worried in his first appearance, reports AZCentral.com.

"I was a little nervous going in, but that was expected," Shipley said. "I think it was more excitement for me. That was really fun."

Manager Chip Hale said he expects Shipley to make starts in his next few appearances this spring.


Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson faces batters for first time this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:30 pm ET) Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson was able to face live batters for the first time this spring since recovering from back surgery, the 27-year-old tweeted Wednesday.

Anderson was only able to pitch 43 1/3 innings in 2014 with a 1-3 record and 2.91 ERA after suffering the back injury that cut his season short. 


White Sox SS Tim Anderson looking to become long-term solution
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:55 pm ET) White Sox prospect Tim Anderson is on a mission in spring training this year. He wants to prove that he belongs in the majors with the big boys.

"Just show them I can stay at short and my defense has come a long way and it's going to get better," Anderson said. "I want to be a shortstop for a long time. I'm going to be a shortstop. I'm going to work hard to stay there."

Anderson is currently considered Chicago's No. 2 prospect and could be just the prospect the White Sox are looking for. In his 2015 debut, Anderson smacked a two-run single.

"I'm just staying calm and trying not to do too much and just doing what I've been doing to be here," Anderson said. "It has been exciting to get in here and work with all the big leaguers and get my reps in and see how they go in the daily routine."


Reds' Kevin Gregg hoping to win a spot in the bullpen
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:52 pm ET) Reds pitcher Kevin Gregg is hoping to win a spot in the team's bullpen, according to MLB.com.

Gregg may be 36-years-old, but understands he still needs to prove himself.  "I don't mind coming in and earning a spot," he said. "I'm coming off elbow surgery. At this point in my career, it's something I need to do."

Gregg had bone chips removed from his elbow in August, but was able to hit 92 mph in a showcase in February. He believes his velocity has improved since then.

Manager Bryan Price had good things to say about Gregg thus far. "He looks great. He looks durable," Price said. "He's got hand speed. He's crisp with his location. I've been extremely impressed with Kevin to this point."

The 36-year-old tossed just nine innings in the majors last year.


Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds sidelined with oblique injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:26 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds was scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday, but was unable to do so while dealing with a sore right oblique, reports MLB.com.

"I'm like, 'I'm in here again, I can't get out of this darn room,'" Reynolds said.

Reynolds missed all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he isn't having any issues with the elbow.

"My elbow feels real good," he said. "It feels strong."


Report: MLB split on whether Josh Hamilton should go to rehab
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:24 pm ET) Major League Baseball is split over whether Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton should go to rehab, according to the Los Angeles Times

The four person panel assigned to Hamilton's case are deadlocked, and the group will have to bring in an arbitrator in order to break the tie. The panel first must decide whether Hamilton violated any rules, and then must agree on a course of treatment. The panel has not been able to agree on the latter of those conditions, which is why an arbitrator is necessary. 

If Hamilton is sent to rehab, he would receive his full salary for 30 days, and then half his salary over the next 30 days. If he's suspended, but does not have to attend rehab, Hamilton would not be paid during the suspension. 

MLB is also trying to determine whether Hamilton should be charged as a fourth-time offender of the drug policy. If that's the case, Hamilton could be suspended for the entire season.

Hamilton, 33, admitted to MLB that he experienced a relapse a few months ago, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Hamilton has dealt with drug and alcohol issues throughout his career, and was suspended for three seasons after failing drug tests as a minor-leaguer. He met with officials in New York in February regarding the incident. 


Mets' Curtis Granderson re-working his swing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:06 pm ET) Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson is re-working his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long, according to the New York Post

Granderson and Long have a history. The two worked together with the Yankees. Long rebuilt Granderson's swing, turning him into a massive home run hitter from 2011 to 2012. Now, they are looking to repeat the process.

"This is actually very similar to the first time we started making adjustments," Granderson said. "The idea is we want to get to the strongest position as consistently as possible with as little movement as possible."

Long went into detail, saying he's trying to get Granderson to "preset" his hands. "Get him in the perfect hitting position so the hands are ready to fire and he can go as efficiently as possible from point A to point B," Long said.

Granderson said everything is "still a work in progress," but he feels like Long's drills are getting through to him.

The 33-year-old Granderson hit .227/.326/.388 over 564 at-bats last season. 


Nationals' Yunel Escobar ahead of schedule in position transition
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:02 pm ET) Nationals infielder Yunel Escobar was informed when he was traded from the Athletics he was switching from shortstop to second base for this season. Escobar has put in extra work to get himself ready for live action this spring at second, the position he's played since 2007, reports MLB.com.

"He is a big man and has real light feet. He is very bouncy, live body," defensive coordinator and advance coach Mark Weidemaier said. "He has taken to the footwork well, as far as turning double plays. There are things we have to polish a little bit, but he is way ahead of the game for me. He has taken to it like a duck to water. It's very natural to him."

Manager Matt Williams is planning to start Escobar at second Thursday.

"He is going to play. He needs to play games and get game experience and get back in the flow of [being on] the other side of the diamond," Williams said. "He is ready to go, I know that."


Athletics' Marcus Semien stays hot on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:54 pm ET) Athletics infielder Marcus Semien cannot be stopped this spring.

After going 3 for 3 with two home runs on Tuesday, Semien again reached in all his plate appearances on Wednesday. He wasted no time getting to work, singling in two runs in the first inning. Semien would walk in his next appearance before driving in another run on a single in his final at-bat. 

Semien, who has yet to make an out this spring, downplayed his success, saying "I'm just getting good pitches to hit right now." The 24-year-old hit .234/.300/.372 over 231 at-bats last season. 


 
 
 
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