Into a third full week of play we go, with some teams making moves to replace the injured and underperforming, while other teams have under-the-radar players we should give a hard look at now.
Like Houston outfielder J.D. Martinez, a 20th-round selection of the Astros in 2009 out Nova Southwestern University in Florida, of all places (think he was the star of the league that school?). Over three minor league seasons Martinez assembled excellent .342-43-217 totals over 298 games, with 89 doubles and an excellent 110 walks to 196 strikeouts. Last year Martinez was promoted to the bigs and responded as the new left fielder with .274-6-35 totals over 208 at-bats. In the majors Martinez logged 13 walks to 48 strikes, good for a .319 OBP. This year Martinez is hot out of the blocks, hitting .330-3-14 over the first two weeks, but the real stat of note is the 11 walks to 13 strikeouts the outfielder has culled over 50 2012 at-bats. Martinez should be active on all rosters, and looks like a real future bright spot on the Astros path.
An American League counterpart to Martinez might be Oakland's right fielder Josh Reddick. A 17th round pick of the Red Sox in 2006, Reddick had .278-86-295 totals in the Boston system over 466 games and five years, debuting as an extra outfielder less than modest totals in 2009 (.169-2-4) and 2010 (.194-1-5), hitting a stride last year with .280-7-28 totals over 254 at-bats. In the 2011 off-season, Oakland then swapped for Reddick as part of the Andrew Bailey deal, and the Athletics installed him as their everyday right fielder. Reddick has responded with .283-2-3 numbers so far, playing a terrific right field (Strat-O-Matic players should note that Reddick has a terrific arm). Again, Reddick should be on your radar.
Continuing with the outfield, Arizona advanced their first round pick (and #17 overall) in 2009, A.J. Pollock. Pollock went .277-3-22 over 63 rookie games after being drafted, but in 2010 injured the growing plate on his throwing arm and missed the entire year. In 2011 returned to play at AA Mobile, hitting .307-8-73, with a terrific 41 doubles and 36 swipes, and the outfielder had a hot start to this season .340-0-5--following Chris Young's injury, the Dbacks promoted the 24-year old. Pollock's stay in the bigs will be probably be short-lived, with Young, Justin Upton, and Jason Kubel as the regulars, but Pollock will likely be a starter for the team in a couple of years.
One more outfielder who might raise an eyebrow, especially in an American League format, is now former Cub Marlon Byrd. A tenth round pick in 1999 by the Phillies, Byrd played in Philly (.271-13-79), then Washington (.245-7-44), followed by Texas (.295-40-212), and then the Cubs (.271-21-103) putting together .278-81-438 totals over 1069 games. Byrd was really a solid mid-range starter until a beaning last year reduce his playing time and numbers to .276-9-35 over 119 games. Boston needs outfield help with Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Kalish all presently injured, but Byrd is really one of many at this juncture. Still, in a deep AL format he could indeed be of some help, at least until the Boston regulars all return.
I have always been a fan of Nick Johnson (maybe because I spent a year in Sacramento at the same High School where Johnson graduated) who was selected out of C.K. McClatchy High in 1996 by the Yankees. Always loaded with a great eye, serious talent, and as brittle a body as the majors have known, Johnson has had mixed success. As a full timer in Washington over 2005-06, then in his late 20's, Johnson looked to be reaching stride with .289-15-74 and then .290-23-77 numbers that featured 190 walks to 124 strikeouts. Injured for all of 2007, Johnson struggled in 2008 with limited play (.220-5-20), but he returned to form in 2009 with the Nationals hitting .295-6-44 over 98 games before being swapped to the Marlins where he finished with .279-2-18 numbers. Johnson then signed with the Yankees to DH, but was injured after 24 games (.167-2-8) and then spent 55 games in the minors in 2011 (.201-6-13) and presuably his career was over. Well, the now 34-year old is now an Oriole, and though he has 23 at-bats to his credit this year, Johnson still is searching for his first hit. I still think Johnson could be a valuable bench player in the majors with 512 walks to 552 strikeouts, and an ability to get on base, but that is it. I will let him go elsewhere if you will.
Shifting to some arms, Drew Hutchison was a 15th round pick of the Blue Jays in 2009, and he has put together very nice totals of 18-9, 2.46 over 45 starts and 234.2 innings. Hutchison whiffed 246 over that span, with just 55 walks to 187 hits, and best of all a spectacularly few seven homers allowed. Hutchison was promoted and given his first start and though the lefty did earn his first win, he also allowed eight hits, five runs, and three walks to four whiffs over his first 5.1 innings. Still the 21-year old has numbers that could point to dominance, so Hutchison is worth a risk if you need a starter in a deep format, and at worst is worth tracking in a mixed league.
Baltimare signed Japanese import Wei-Yin Chen to a deal this off-season, and the 25-year old, who logged 36-30 numbers with Chunichi between 2008-11 struck out 500 over 631.1 innings, allowing 518 hits while walking 153 (1.08 walks) though 47 homers (compare that to Hutchison). Chen has two Orioles starts under his belt now, with a 1-0, 3.27 mark over 11 innings (13 hits, 10 whiffs, 3 walks and a homer) and the southpaw is certainly worth a gamble in most formats where owners are pitching starved. And, while Hutchison might have more talent, Chen has more experience at this juncture.
Marco Estrada was a sixth round pick of the Nationals in 2005, out of Cal-State Long Beach, although Estrada is a native of Sonora, Mexico. Plucked off waivers from Washington after marginal (0-1, 7.20) and minimal (20 innings) major league experience by the Brewers. Over seven starts last year, Estrada was 4-8, 4.08, with 88 strikeouts over 92 innings. Estrada looks pretty good so far this year as a member of the rotation, however, with 0-0, 2.45 numbers over 11 innings and now one start. With 16 strikeouts to just seven hits and three walks, the 28-year old certainly looks like he could be an NL sleeper.
Finally, I worked the Oakland game last Friday where Graham Godfrey and his mates walked nine Indians, and this week Godfrey was sent down and will be replaced with Jarrod Parker. Parker, acquired as part of the Trevor Cahill swap and the former first rounder by Arizona in 2007 looks like the real deal. At 29-19, 3.45 in the minors, Parker has 345 strikeouts over 366.1 innings, with 341 hits and 132 walks (1.29 WHIP). In the spring Parker looked great and he is 1-0, 2.18 over four starts and 20.2 innings at Triple-A Sacramento this year. Parker is more than worth a flier, especially in pitcher friendly Oakland.