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Waiver Wire: Time to believe in J.D.?

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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People go through changes all the time. You change your hairstyle, you change your car, you change your job, etc. You always hope change is for the positive, but the results don't always turn out that way.

Maybe the hairstyle you envisioned looked better in your mind. Maybe you aren't as comfortable in your new car as you thought you would be during the test drive. Or maybe the new job isn't working out the way you hoped.

Point is that you don't know what's going to happen until you try something new. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez took that approach when he wanted to overhaul his batting stance.

It seemed like a lost cause after Martinez hit just .251 with a .387 slugging percentage in three seasons with the Astros, but a complete overhaul of his approach is what he felt could turn around his career, and now the spotlight is beaming down on the 26-year-old outfielder in the midst of his first legit breakout run.

Martinez said he decided to make the career-altering decision late last season while watching video one day with former teammate Jason Castro.

"I thought, 'Dang! His swing is so much different than mine.' I watched his swing a lot on video and then started watching the swings of great hitters," Martinez said, per FOX Sports. "The one I watched the most was Miguel Cabrera because his has a commonality to all great swings. And I decided to change my swing -- completely."

Most added players on CBSSports.com
Player Own %
1. J.D. Martinez, OF, DET 57 (+54)
2. Jake Arrieta, SP, CHC 76 (+41)
3. Kyle Gibson, SP, MIN 57 (+36)
4. Mark Melancon, RP, PIT 69 (+31)
5. Jeff Locke, SP, PIT 42 (+25)
6. Jesse Hahn, SP, SD 30 (+25)
7. Alex Wood, RP, ATL 85 (+24)
8. Matt Shoemaker, SP, LAA 33 (+24)
9. Scooter Gennett, 2B, MIL 55 (+23)
10. Josh Harrison, OF, PIT 52 (+22)

Martinez added his previous hitting stance featured him holding his hands high, which was coupled with an early foot stride and wide stance. The changes to his approach included dropping his hands, introducing a smoother stride and straightening out his stance. It's hard to argue against the results.

Martinez first started implanting his changes in the Venezuelan Winter League. The results were a .312 average, six home runs and 18 RBI in 24 games. Martinez didn't have as good of success during spring training, batting .167 in 14 games, which led to his eventual release by Houston. But Martinez quickly found a home with the Tigers, kept working at the changes and the rest is now becoming history.

Martinez was nothing short of outstanding for the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate at Toledo. He hit .308 with an .846 slugging percentage, 1.212 OPS, 10 home runs and 22 RBI in 17 games. Detroit brought him to the majors in late April, but after batting just .200 in his first 13 games, it was looking like Martinez's fast start at Triple-A was an aberration. Not so fast.

As his playing time has increased, so has his batting average. He is hitting .359 in his last 23 games, which have included a .731 slugging percentage, 1.116 OPS, seven home runs, eight doubles and 21 RBI.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has hinted he intends to leave Martinez in the lineup as long as he stays hot at the plate. But the most encouraging tidbit in my opinion is that Ausmus said last week Martinez profiles as a No. 5 hitter because of his power. That's a good place to be in the Tigers' lineup, hitting behind the likes of Cabrera and Victor Martinez. You know he's going to see good pitches hitting behind those two sluggers.

It definitely could be difficult to trust a player like Martinez given his track record, but that was the old Martinez. His surge is directly related to a change he made in his approach, so it's not even fair to bring in his past history. It's time for Fantasy owners to start changing our perception of Martinez. He's developed into a whole different player.

Kyle Gibson, SP, Twins

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 57 percent (up 36 percent)
This is a big week for Gibson. He has two starts against the Angels and Rangers -- both on the road. That's significant because Gibson has been a far better pitcher at home this season. However, he has pitched better on the road recently, tossing 14 scoreless innings over his last two away starts. Gibson said his recent success, which has included 22 straight scoreless innings, has come down to executing his pitches. Manager Ron Gardenhire seems to agree, saying the right-hander has been attacking the strike zone and keeping hitters off balance. The numbers on BrooksBaseball.net indicate Gibson has been getting better whiff rates lately on his changeup and slider, so the numbers back up the claims. Gibson was a pretty good pitching prospect in the minors before his career was set back for a period because of Tommy John surgery, so the talent is obviously there. If he performs well this week, then Fantasy owners can start trusting Gibson as more than a guy to start at home or in two-start weeks.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Steve Pearce, 1B, Orioles

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 17 percent (up 15 percent)
Pearce has been red hot lately, batting .413 with two home runs, five doubles and seven RBI in his last 13 games. In fact, he's been pretty good since the beginning of May, batting .348 with a .409 on-base percentage, .583 slugging percentage, .992 OPS, six home runs, nine doubles and 19 RBI in his last 36 games. Yes, we are talking about the same Pearce that was released by the Orioles in late April only to be re-signed a few days later. So what changed? Well, much like J.D. Martinez, Pearce attributes his recent surge to a change in his batting stance. He said he's worked with hitting coach Jim Presley on closing off his stance, which he feels gives him "more pop" and helps him "see the ball longer," per MLB.com. Like Martinez, Pearce had some good numbers in the minors, producing a slash line of .294/.522/.893, but he developed a reputation for being a Quad-A player -- too good for the minors, not good enough for the majors. Well, Pearce is starting to distance himself from that reputation and manager Buck Showalter is beginning to reward him with regular playing time. Pearce's numbers look awfully good over a long stretch, and he's beginning to develop sleeper potential in Fantasy.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Matt Shoemaker, SP, Angels

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 33 percent (up 24 percent)
Shoemaker is 5-0 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 43 strikeouts and eight walks in seven starts (42 innings). He's gotten that impressive line squaring off against the likes of Cliff Lee, David Price, James Shields, Chris Sale and Yu Darvish. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Shoemaker has "the mentality of a gunslinger," per the Los Angeles Times. You have to when facing off against the likes of those aces. Shoemaker commands five pitches but relies on his four-seamer and sinker, which set up his average secondary offerings (changeup, slider, curveball). But the fact of the matter is Shoemaker isn't afraid to attack the strike zone, and how can you not be impressed with his command? Just take another look at his strikeout-to-walk ratio. The undrafted hurler wasn't a standout down on the farm, but Scioscia contributes his success to cutting his teeth in the minors, and that's helped him handle the rigors of being a 27-year-old rookie. I'm still not completely sold on the right-hander just yet, but I'm warming up.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Brad Miller, SS, Mariners

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 38 percent (up 10 percent)
I know it's going to be difficult for Fantasy owners to trust Miller after the performance he turned through the first two months, but it's time to put those hard feelings in the past. At this point, if you are courageous enough to act, Miller could end up being a steal off waivers. Miller has been on a nice run offensively since being benched for three games in late May. Since returning to the lineup May 25, he is batting .291 with a .360 on-base percentage, .443 slugging percentage and .803 OPS in 25 games. Not quite the slash line he had in the minors (.334/.409/.516/.925), but at least way better than what he did leading up to the three-game benching (.156/.227/.255/.483). Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon talked about Miller having kind of a Murphy's Law start to the season -- everything that could go wrong did. But Miller said that rough stretch gave him time to regroup and slowly rebuild his confidence. He said he's feeling more comfortable at the plate, and it's definitely beginning to show in his numbers. Many Fantasy owners pegged Miller as a either a sleeper or breakout during the preseason. Heck, we even had him ranked in the top 10 among shortstops, so if that player is finally emerging, now is the time to add him off waivers before it's too late.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, deep Head-to-Head

Jesse Hahn, SP, Padres

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 30 percent (up 25 percent)
Hahn has been a player that has been flying under the radar for most of his career, but that can be expected when you don't begin your pro career until two years after you're drafted because of Tommy John surgery. The 2010 sixth-round pick didn't make his first minor-league start until 2012 and hasn't logged a lot of innings as a pro (176 innings), but he's been pretty impressive nonetheless. He had a 2.32 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 45 minor-league outings (42 starts), and he's 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in three starts since joining the San Diego rotation in early June. Hahn, who was acquired in a January trade with Tampa Bay, is an extreme ground-ball pitcher, but he's good at missing bats and has pretty decent command. Though he's allowed two home runs through three MLB starts, he allowed a total of three homers in 159 1/3 innings in the minors, so he usually doesn't get burned by the long ball. My biggest concern with Hahn is that he might get shut down early because the most innings he's logged in a season is 69. But he's worth a flier in deep formats and might just pitch his way into shallow mixed-league relevancy at some point, even if it's for a brief period.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Bartolo Colon, SP, Mets

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 74 percent (up 14 percent)
Colon has totaled at least 28 Fantasy points in five of the last six scoring periods. I repeat -- he's totaled at least 28 Fantasy points in five of the last six scoring periods. Yet, he's still unowned in a quarter of CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues. Colon might have gotten off to a shaky start, going 2-5 with a 5.84 ERA in his first eight starts, but his ERA was really inflated during that stretch because of three bad starts against the Angels, Rockies and Yankees. Colon is 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA in his last six starts. He was hurt by the long ball early in the season and was hit hard on a few occasions, but he's been much better lately at avoiding giving up the big hit and improving on his strand rate. Colon's numbers are beginning to return to the norm, and he's starting to look like the pitcher he was in the previous two seasons with Oakland; a pitcher that was a top 15 Fantasy starting pitcher in Head-to-Head leagues and a top 20 pitcher in Rotisserie formats last season. Even if the Mets aren't contenders, Colon has proven recently he can pitch well enough to be a regular candidate for wins.
Leagues worth owning him: All formats

Jordy Mercer, SS, Pirates

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 17 percent (up 7 percent)
Much like Miller, it took a minor benching for Mercer to jumpstart his game. Mercer's benching also came at the end of May, but his was only two games. Since returning to the lineup May 31, he's batting .298 with a .512 slugging percentage, .838 OPS, three doubles, five home runs, 14 RBI and 16 runs in 21 games. It's arguably the best stretch of his MLB career. Mercer attributes his turnaround to being able to hit the ball the other way. It has increased his confidence and as Mercer said himself, he now "lets it fly" at the plate, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Mercer didn't have terrible pop in the minors, belting 19 home runs and 30 doubles in 2011. However, he definitely profiled as more of a gap hitter and it's not like he was an offensive standout. He hit just .268 with a .404 slugging percentage down on the farm. Maybe Mercer is in the midst of a career epiphany like Martinez and Pearce, but I'm not buying it just yet. He's definitely a player more for the watch list in standard and shallow mixed leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 26 percent (up 5 percent)
d'Arnaud has been a bust in his young major-league career, but I'm confident he might start living up to his potential once he returns to the Mets' roster Tuesday. d'Arnaud has posted pretty ridiculous numbers since being demoted to the minors in early June to work on his swing. He's done just that, batting .436 with a .909 slugging percentage, 1.384 OPS, six home runs, eight doubles and 16 RBI in 15 games with Triple-A Las Vegas. You only see those types of numbers in video games. The Mets wanted d'Arnaud to build up his confidence, and he seems to have done that, but in the process he's also built up the team's confidence. Manager Terry Collins hinted d'Arnaud's return could provide the boost the Mets' lineup needs. General manager Sandy Alderson called d'Arnaud's progress "encouraging" (per ESPN) and said his numbers aren't just inflated because of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. d'Arnaud is making a believer out of the Mets, and he's beginning to make me a believer as well. I even dropped Mike Zunino to pick him up in a 16-team league this week. d'Arnaud was a fringe starter to begin the year and might finally be ready for his breakout run.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 45 percent (up 6 percent)
Buchholz was pretty much a disaster through his first 10 starts, but it seems the time on the disabled list has allowed him to step back and asses what was wrong. Buchholz said it was mostly a mechanical issue that hindered his command. His leg kick caused him to over-rotate and he said he was also "falling off really bad to the first-base side," per The Boston Herald. Buchholz isn't just talking either. He tossed six scoreless innings his last rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket and totaled 10 strikeouts while walking just two batters in 10 2/3 innings during his rehab assignment. Buchholz has had a lot of success in his career with his changeup, which wasn't working for him early in the season, but he said he felt good throwing it Thursday for Pawtucket. Buchholz is talking like a confident pitcher again and could be in for a big second half. If you lost a pitcher like Jaime Garcia or Michael Wacha recently, Buchholz could be a very suitable replacement.
Leagues worth owning him: 12-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

C.J. Cron, 1B, Angels

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 31 percent (up 11 percent)
The Angels parted ways with veteran slugger Raul Ibanez over the weekend, which has opened up regular at-bats for Cron. The rookie celebrated by homering Friday, Saturday and Sunday against the Rangers. Through 37 games, Cron has a .286 average, .536 slugging percentage and .846 OPS, so you see why the Angels wanted to free up at-bats for the 24-year-old DH/first baseman. Cron hit .289 with a .501 slugging percentage and .833 OPS in the minors, so his major-league numbers are pretty much on par. Cron might not draw a lot of walks, but he doesn't have a terribly high strikeout rate either. Cron is hitting sixth and seventh right now, but it's not hard to envision him moving into the fifth spot in the lineup on a regular basis behind Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Perhaps another encouraging sign is that the right-handed hitter is thriving against righties (.322/.627/.960) as opposed to lefties (.245/434/.720), which is a trend you don't often see. Cron has very good offensive potential, so it might be worth clearing a roster spot for him.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

American League options

Stephen Vogt, C, A's

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 7 percent (up 3 percent)
The A's made the tough decision of demoting Vogt to the minors following a pretty strong spring, when he hit .364 with a .659 slugging percentage and 1.088 OPS in 20 games. Vogt was crushed by the news, but he kept grinding away at Triple-A Sacramento before finally earning his recall in early June when Josh Reddick landed on the disabled list. Vogt hit .364 with a .602 slugging percentage and 1.1015 OPS in 21 games for Sacramento and has continued to post favorable numbers since joining the A's roster. He is batting .346 with a .519 slugging percentage and .883 OPS in 17 games. Vogt has been a career minor leaguer despite showing some promise offensively. He's hit .305 with a .467 slugging percentage and .833 OPS in his minor-league career, but the 29-year-old has had trouble breaking in at the major league level. He only got his chance this season when Reddick got hurt and could face a playing time crunch once Reddick returns. However, Vogt's versatility (C, OF, 1B) could keep him on the roster, even if he doesn't play every day. Vogt could develop into a Fantasy sleeper, but only if he sticks around and earns fairly regular playing time.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

National League options

Mike Bolsinger, SP, Diamondbacks

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 2 percent (up 2 percent)
Bolsinger has pitched considerably better in his second stint with the Diamondbacks. He was demoted to the minors after going 1-2 with a 6.08 ERA in his first five starts, but since rejoining the rotation in mid-June, he is 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA. Manager Kirk Gibson said Bolsinger "matured a bit" following his early May demotion back to the minors (per The Arizona Republic). He doesn't overpower hitters with a fastball that sits in the high 80s, but Gibson said he's been more effective the second time around because he's improved the deception in his delivery and the movement on his pitches. Bolsinger attributes his success to the opportunity to work with catcher Miguel Montero, who said Montero has made him a better pitcher. Bolsinger has had a pretty good run this season in the hitter-friendly PCL, going 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in nine starts. However, it is interesting that Bolsinger has been burned by the long ball in the majors, but it hasn't been a major issue in his career (0.5 HR/9 in minors). My biggest concern with Bolsinger is wins could be at a premium, and he's still not dominating enough to overcome that on a last place team.
Leagues worth owning him: NL-only

Player you might reconsider dropping

Jonathon Niese, SP, Mets

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 80 percent (down 3 percent)
Niese might not be one of the more popular names in Fantasy but that shouldn't be a reason he gets overlooked, because this guy simply produces for owners. He's totaled at least 20 Fantasy points in seven of the last nine scoring periods. He's among the top 40 highest-scoring starting pitchers in Head-to-Head leagues, right behind Michael Wacha and in front of the likes of Jeff Samardzija, Jordan Zimmermann and Tyson Ross, who are all owned in at least 90 percent of Fantasy leagues and highly regarded. He's not a terrible option in Rotisserie leagues either, thanks to a 2.78 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. The wins have been a little disappointing and he's not a great strikeout pitcher, so I understand he doesn't have great upside. But Niese is reliable, and that's a huge plus in Fantasy. If anything, just put Niese on your bench the weeks you don't want to start him, but he doesn't deserve to be on waivers in 20 percent of leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Head-to-Head and Rotisserie

Q &A

If you had a chance to add Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, would you and drop Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman? --@Sick_Nascar_Fan

MH: I wouldn't make this move, but this is a good time to address Machado since we've gotten a lot of questions about him.

There's no denying Machado has been pretty disappointing since coming off knee surgery. His contact rate is slightly down and his swinging strike rate is slightly up this season from last, but it's not like it's a major difference. His BABIP is also lower than expected, so maybe his numbers wouldn't look as bad if a few more hits were to fall. Still, I'm with a good number of Fantasy owners and not convinced Machado will turn it around.

I dropped him to No. 20 in my third-base rankings behind the likes of Pablo Sandoval, Brett Lawrie, Lonnie Chisenhall and Aramis Ramirez. But the only problem is that third base is such a weak position, in deeper formats you can't really afford to drop him. In shallow formats, however, you do have options, so I wouldn't be afraid to drop Machado in those leagues.

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Player News
Darin Downs outrighted to Triple-A Fresno
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:41 am ET) The Astros sent left-handed reliever Darin Downs outright to Triple-A Fresno. Downs made 45 appearances with the Astros last season. He posted a 5.45 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and 27:19 K:BB ratio over 34 2/3 innings.

Report: Diamondbacks sign Jordan Pacheco to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) The Diamondbacks will re-sign infielder Jordan Pacheco to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, MLBDailyDish.com reports.

Pacheco hit .255/.299/.333 in 153 at-bats between Colorado and Arizona in 2014. He made appearances at catcher, first base, second base and third base last season.


Indians sign Jeff Manship to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Indians have signed pitcher Jeff Manship to a minor-league deal. Manship posted a 6.65 ERA and 16:14 K:BB ratio in 23 innings with the Phillies in 2014.

Rockies sign Roger Bernadina to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Rockies have signed outfielder Roger Bernadina to a minor-league deal. He hit .167/.304/.258 in 66 at-bats with the Reds and Dodgers in 2014.

Rockies OF Carlos Gonzalez resumes hitting
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Rockies outfieler Carlos Gonzalez revealed this week that he has been cleared to practice hitting for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in August, MLB.com reports.

Gonzalez had been having issues with the troublesome knee for more than a year before undergoing a procedure to repair a patella tendon on Aug. 18. He also dealt with appendicitis in January and a persistent finger injury throughout the season. The issues led to a down year for the outfielder, as Gonzalez hit just .238/.292/.431 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI in 260 at-bats.


Reds sign Michael Bowden to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Reds have signed pitcher Michael Bowden to a minor-league deal, MLBDailyDish.com reports.

Bowden, who has 133 2/3 innings of experience in the majors, spent the 2014 season with the Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball, where he delivered a 4.50 ERA and 30:24 K:BB ratio in 40 innings.


Cardinals release Robert Stock
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Cardinals have released pitcher Robert Stock. A converted catcher, Stock posted a 4.12 ERA and 43:46 K:BB ratio in 63 1/3 innings between Class A Peoria and high Class A Palm Beach last season.

Report: Orioles interested in Padres' Will Venable, Seth Smith
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Orioles have continued dialogue with the Padres regarding trading for an outfielder, with Padres outfielders Will Venable and Seth Smith drawing the most interest from the team, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Either player would address the team's need for lefthanded hitters who fare well against righthanded pitching. While neither figures to receive significant playing time in San Diego after the Padres imported three outfielders via trade this offseason, either Smith or Venable would be expected to assume a platoon role with Baltimore at the outset of the season with the potential to earn a full-time starting position.


Rays outright Brandon Gomes to Triple-A
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Rays have sent pitcher Brandon Gomes outright to Triple-A Durham. He delivered a 3.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 24:11 K:BB ratio in 34 innings in 2014.

Cubs announce David Ross signing
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Cubs finalized a deal with catcher David Ross Tuesday. The two sides came to terms on a two-year deal worth $5 million, per a previous report.

Ross hit just .184/.260/.368 in 152 at-bats with the Red Sox in 2014.


 
 
 
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