Roster Trending 6/30/14: Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

I’m back with the third edition of roster trending, checking out some of the players who have experienced the biggest ownership spikes in CBS leagues over the last week. These lists are always interesting and offer an insightful glimpse into the mind of the average fantasy owner. So let’s take a gander at who is being added in leagues and determine whether fantasy owners have the right idea.

J.D. Martinez – 37% owned last week, 79% this week

Martinez worked on his swing over the offseason, and those efforts are perhaps behind his offensive surge. He’s swinging and missing far too often and showing little plate patience, so his performance is entirely buoyed by his power. The thing is, he was doing the same thing during his short time at Triple-A this year. He hit a whopping 10 homers in just 65 at-bats there for an insane .538 ISO. Obviously, he’s not going to keep his ISO near .300 with the Tigers and that 20%+ HR/FB rate is probably going to decline. Compounding the risk is the fact that the Tigers had been trotting out Rajai Davis pretty much every day before Martinez got hot. So there’s always the chance that a slump pushes him back into a playing time split.

I think Martinez’s power is mostly for real. He’s certainly a more powerful force now than he had been, as there is an explanation that is enough to convince me. I think his ownership rate should be closer to 79% than 37%, but a cold week or two is going to likely drop that rate back into the high 60% range, which is where I think he should settle for the time being.

Jesse Hahn – 18%, 58%

It’s not every day a starting pitcher posts a strikeout rate of just about 21% at Double-A, skips Triple-A, then posts a strikeout rate of 29% over four starts in the Majors. Aside from punching out a high rate of batters, Hahn has thrown more strikes than the average pitcher and inducing tons of ground balls. He’s essentially been a dream pitcher so far. But where is this coming from? He’s basically a two-pitch pitcher, complementing a fastball with mediocre velocity (just 91.1 mph) with a curve ball that he throws nearly 30% of the time.

The fastball has been blah in generating whiffs, but has induced lots of grounders. The curve ball, though, has been the opposite and pretty darn effective, generating lots of whiffs, though few grounders. But what’s really behind Hahn’s strikeout rate surge is a huge rate of looking strikes. If he qualified, he would rank fourth in looking strike rate. That’s probably due to the curve ball and if so, daaaaamn. A better than average rate of swinging strikes and presumably called strikes? Still, it’s hard to ignore his High-A and Double-A skills rates, which were only just solid, and the fact that he skipped Triple-A. That said, I think 58% is a reasonable ownership rate.

Mookie Betts – 15%, 45%

I’m surprised his ownership rate hasn’t jumped higher, but it will probably continue to climb. The second baseman blocked by Dustin Pedroia was tearing it up in the minors and was just called up to presumably play right field until Shane Victorino returns. Betts makes fantastic contact and has posted strong walk rates throughout his career. He also has good speed and stole 29 bases, while getting caught just five times. However, he doesn’t appear to be a prototypical speedster, but rather a good base runner. So it will be interesting to see how often he attempts to run with the Sox. He has some power as well, so he won’t be a complete zero in homers. From an offensive perspective, he’s an exciting fantasy prospect. Unfortunately, his playing time situation is up in the air as Victorino will eventually come back, so where is Betts going to play?

C.J. Cron – 20%, 48%

The Angels finally rid themselves of Raul Ibanez, which made Cron a full-timer. He has shown fantastic power throughout his career, though curiously that power went missing in Double-A last year. It reappeared at Triple-A this season, and has carried over to the Majors, so it doesn’t seem like it is a question any longer. For a power hitter, he makes pretty good contact, but surprisingly lacks any semblance of patience at the plate, with poor walk rates throughout his minor league career. That doesn’t matter to you though unless you play in an OBP league. His ownership rate should continue to creep up.

Josh Harrison – 38%, 61%

With the Pirates back to full health and both Starling Marte and Neil Walker in the lineup, Harrison should find himself back on the bench as a utility player. Oddly, Clint Hurdle mentioned two weeks ago that he wanted Harrison to remain a full-timer even after Walker returns. I guess they could make that happen by playing him at third against lefties to replace Pedro Alvarez and perhaps rotating him between second base, shortstop, left field and right field, all positions he has played for the Bucs this year. But, he doesn’t walk much and has just mediocre power, so the team is relying on him sustaining an inflated BABIP to continue providing strong offensive value. It’s unlikely that he’s actually better than any of the hitters he’d be replacing in the lineup, so it would be silly for the team to continue trying to find him at-bats. I think a 61% ownership rate is much too high.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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8 years ago

It’s worth noting that Martinez’s 2014 ISO greatly exceeds anything he has ever done, even in the minors. I’m not entirely discounting the notion that mechanical adjustments can improve performance, but not by this much, and how often do we hear exactly this kind of reasoning anyway? I passed on him in my A.L. league because I saw nothing in his peripherals to indicate a change in approach. That said, even in 2013 he wasn’t awful from a fantasy perspective, just a real baseball one. As long as you’re expecting those ’13 numbers the rest of the way, you probably won’t be disappointed.

As for Betts and where he plays, hopefully the answer is everywhere. Utility man is generally the province of players too old to hold down one position, but wouldn’t there be value to major league teams from a sparkplug player if shuttling between different positions didn’t suppress his ability at the plate? I understand not wanting to add to a young player’s burden of adjusting to the major leagues, but it’s beneficial to both the team and the player if it works out. Mookie’s ability seems legitimate to me.