Tigers' Martinez, owners need few weeks off

The decision-makers for the Detroit Tigers are keenly aware that the balky left knee for first baseman/designated hitter Victor Martinez isn’t quite right and hasn’t been for months. A year ago, Martinez finished second in the AL MVP voting behind the awesome Mike Trout, and he was right with Trout on the final ESPN Player Rater as well, each securely in the top 10. This season has been different. Martinez tore the medial meniscus in his left knee in February and needed surgery, and while he was able to avoid the disabled list to start the season, perhaps that wasn’t such a good thing. His owners would have preferred some missed time if it came with strong post-DL statistics.
The switch-hitting Martinez was hitless in four at-bats Monday -- and looked uncomfortable in doing so -- and his batting average fell to .216. Against right-handed pitching he’s amassed a .141 batting average with one extra-base hit in 85 at-bats. After hitting 32 home runs last year, Martinez has hit one in 2015. The excellent plate discipline remains, as he’s still walked more than striking out, but he can’t drive the ball, can’t run, can’t play the field and can’t really help the Tigers or fantasy owners this way. There’s been recent talk about the Tigers considering a DL stint, as well as him hitting solely from the right side, where the knee weakness is not as much of a factor since it’s his front leg there. Martinez is hitting .462 in 26 at-bats against lefties.
Perhaps news will be forthcoming soon, after Martinez said he felt a pinch in the knee running out a ninth-inning double-play ground ball Monday. One would think the organization would want to sit him for a few weeks and then get three or four awesome months from him, like it did in 2014. As a fantasy owner, that’s what I want. The fifth-rounder in ESPN ADP is down to 92 percent owned in standard leagues and dropping, and it’s easy to understand why, though the logic is flawed. This just has to get better. Fantasy owners aren’t a patient lot. They want immediate results and Martinez, a year after finishing as the No. 1 first baseman, ranks 52nd among first base-eligible options on the Rater today, worse than Cincinnati Reds backup catcher Brayan Pena. That’s not good.
Whenever someone asks on Twitter, or anywhere else, whether they should give up on a player, context is always needed, and in the case of Martinez I find it hard to believe a better player with more upside is simply sitting there on free agency. We saw Martinez’s immense upside last year. A few weeks ago I opined on the Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast that I could see Martinez duplicating his still-terrific 2013 campaign, when he hit .301 with 14 home runs and 83 RBIs. Well, I can’t see that in his current state. It’s a far cry from .335 with 32 and 103, but still valuable. Now? Well, that’s still not unreasonable, so don’t go cutting Martinez for this week’s hot, but unsustainable, pickup, like Delino DeShields Jr., Andre Ethier or yes, Jimmy Paredes. I’ve got Martinez in several leagues and I’m waiting. I’m hoping he gets the oh-so-important asterisk next to his name this week and we can all take a month to recover. Martinez will hit. We just need to wait.
AL report: The much-anticipated Corey Kluber-Chris Sale matchup on Monday did not disappoint. The Nos. 1 and 3 finishers in last season’s AL Cy Young race combined to throw 17 innings and strike out 19 hitters, each allowing one run and leaving sans a victory. Kluber has whiffed 30 hitters in his past two outings. Check their respective ERAs and see if you can still get them for reasonable prices. Good luck with that. … Perhaps Houston Astros right-hander Lance McCullers is a future ace, and his debut Monday went reasonably well. McCullers was pulled at 93 pitches after 4 2/3 innings, but permitted only one run. As expected, command was an issue, but all in all, if you used McCullers, it wasn’t so bad. He’s next scheduled to face the Tigers in Detroit. I wouldn’t use him there. … Nice sign that Astros outfielder George Springer walked three times. The batting average is going to rise at least 50 points, so try to invest early.
NL report: Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has been dropped in many leagues, but as expected the hits have started falling, with four in three games. The BABIP is up to .146. There’s another 100 points of batting average to be corrected here. … The Colorado Rockies welcomed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki back to the lineup, but he didn’t do much at the plate. The .283 batting average looks fine, but not next to the .290 OBP. I’m still selling. … Meanwhile, ailing outfielder Corey Dickerson pinch hit Monday, so it seems a DL stint for him isn’t happening. Look for him in Tuesday’s lineup, playing through painful plantar fasciitis. Selling here is wise as well. … Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman/outfielder Yasmany Tomas had three hits Monday, his third consecutive multi-hit affair. It’s worth noting he’s struck out only once in that span. This doesn’t look like Dayan Viciedo at the plate. The power has yet to arrive, but Tomas does seem more of a contact guy. While he’s not Gold Glove-caliber at the hot corner, after seeing him extensively this weekend, he could stick there.
Closer report: Didn’t take long for Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Kenley Jansen to earn the closer role back. Jansen’s fanned four hitters in an inning his season debut Friday night, and by Sunday, he was closing again. In his case, being “eased back” was one outing. He should be a top-5 closer the rest of the season. … Diamondbacks right-hander Addison Reed won Monday’s game, though Brad Ziegler likely gets the next save chance. I’d try to hold on to Reed in deeper formats. I don’t think he’s a great pitcher, but should get more opportunities to close games. … Rangers right-hander Neftali Feliz was pretty bad in blowing Saturday’s game, and right-hander Shawn Tolleson was used to finish Sunday’s 5-1 win. It wasn’t a save chance, so we don’t know for sure if Feliz or Tolleson will get the next one. If you look for every last save, I’d still add Ziegler before Tolleson, and Miami Marlins right-hander A.J. Ramos before each. And I’d keep Feliz for another week and see what happens with him. He could end up like Steve Cishek and Reed in middle relief, or keep the role. … Finally, I’m not saying I’d move Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland today for A.J. Pierzynski, because I wouldn’t, but I think something’s amiss. Holland isn’t throwing nearly as hard as last season, opposing hitters aren’t chasing his non-strikes and as a result, he’s not getting the strikeouts. Holland has walked multiple hitters in two of his past three outings. Perhaps he’s hurt, or will fix whatever’s wrong, but add Wade Davis just in case.
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