J.D. Martinez- It is always tough to change our perception of a player in-season. Bias from past seasons always seems to seep in no matter how large a sample size we are given to review, and we are almost always left thinking, "I won't let that player screw it up for me again." The problem with this mentality is that it leads to never adjusting our expectations as athletes change and grow. I'm guilty of this with J.D. Martinez. Over the last several years, I had owned Martinez, hung on to long and been negatively affected by his eventual regression. In 2014, it made sense to ignore that instinct initially and own him during his streak. Those owners, who managed to ignore past performance, were rewarded handsomely during the first half of the season. The key though is to learn from your past mistakes. Ignoring my initial bias and picking up Martinez made sense, but it is also good to remember not to hang on too long. It seems the regression discussed above is in full swing. Over Martinez's last 23 games, he is managing just a .203/.267/.342 slash line with an ever increasing K Rate. His 2nd half K Rate of 27.9% is significantly higher than his first half rate. His dip in batting average was to be expected as his .359 BABIP begins to normalize. His .303 average will continue to drop, and while we will still see solid year end numbers, his next several weeks may be less than stellar. As concerning is his sudden inconsistency in power. Martinez went from a 22.8% HR/FB Rate in his first 205 Plate Appearances to a 11.8% HR/FB Rate in his last 86. While we all know that 86 Plate Appearances isn't exactly a large sample size, the overall picture painted is a familiar one for Martinez. It is time to cut bait on Martinez in my opinion. If your league's trade deadline hasn't passed, you might be able to shop his first half numbers for a player coming on late. Otherwise, just let it go. If the regression continues, it could (and I believe it will) it could carry your playoff hopes down with Martinez's batting average.
Drew Smyly- Drew Smyly's arrival in Tampa seems to have re-invigorated the 25 year old left hander. After a slow June and July for strikeouts by Smyly, his two Tampa starts have shown flashes of real strikeout power. He has accumulated 15 K's in 13 innings while improving his K Rate to 20.9%. While this is a far cry from his 26.7% rate in 2013, it is a step in the right direction for an intriguing player. Smyly tends towards being a fly ball dominate pitcher, but he has managed to generate poor contact allowing a 12.3% IFFB Rate. This makes up for his fly ball tendencies. Overall, Smyly is a huge watch player in my book. He is still a back end of the fantasy rotation pitcher with no one truly dominating skill, but his upside is truly special. If we continue to see his K Rate increase over the next several starts, he will be a target to help owners in the fantasy playoffs as he is owned in only 26% of leagues as of the writing of this piece. Given his age, he is also an interesting keeper option if those strikeouts keep coming.
J.P. Arencibia- The question on most fantasy owners minds that own J.P. Arencibia: how long should I hold onto Arencibia? In the current climate of fantasy catchers, I say he is as fine a player as any in deep league formats. Over the course of the last 87 plate appearances, Arencibia has put 7 balls over the wall. This is almost double the next highest player at the position over that same 5 or so week span. Is he going to hit for average? No. His 29.9% K Rate over that time span and 26.8% over the course of the season tell us that he won't hit for average especially when paired with a .187 BABIP. What we do know is that he is a 48.5% fly ball hitter this season, which is in line with his MLB averages, and his 16.7% HR/FB is very much legitimate. All of that together tells us that you will trade in your batting average for another 5-7 home runs over the next seven (7) weeks. I'm not sure there is a catcher in the game that is as likely to hit that many home runs in that same time span. Additionally, thanks to the travesty that is the Texas Rangers season there is legitimately no threat to his playing time as he is appearing as a first baseman and a designated hitter. Overall, his catcher eligibility makes him relevant and his power makes him someone that should be owned in far more than the 21% of leagues where he currently has a home.
Drew Hutchison- If you want to know about how big of a roller coaster Drew Hutchison's fantasy season has been, just head on over to the Fantistics player pages and check out his last three blurbs before this one. On July 2, 2014, I wrote that Hutchison's value was on the rise citing his solid K Rate, on July 22, 2014, Neil Parker wrote that Hutch's value was on the down turn citing his weak ground ball rate and "one trick pony" fastball pitching style, and on August 7, 2014, Michael Waldo wrote that Hutch's value was back on the up-swing echoing my sentiments about the player's K Rate. None of us was wrong. Hutchison has shown a solid K Rate, he has shown a solid BB Rate, he has been wildly inconsistent, massively fly ball prone and is essentially a one pitch pitcher as he throws his fastball almost two-thirds of the time (66.2%). I'm still in on Hutchison despite his inconsistency for one reason: he is striking out more batters each month since May. His K Rate continues to improve month to month as we move through the season. He had a terrible July (6.53 ERA), but his FIP of 3.79 and xFIP of 4.33 indicate that number is inflated. Would I feel better if his fly ball tendencies played on the West Coast as opposed to Toronto? Absolutely. Would I feel better if we weren't in completely uncharted territory as far as innings pitched and games started in his professional career? Absolutely. In the end, if you get people to swing and miss, I'm going to be interested. Strikeouts matter in our game, and Hutch has shown an innate ability to get K's. So we ride the roller coaster and see where it takes us.
Josh Donaldson- It has been a strange second full season for Josh Donaldson. Donaldson has seen a large regression in his .333 BABIP from 2013, which might have been expected, but the 50 point drop in batting average has middle his fantasy value quite a bit. The strangest part of the batting average reduction might not have been in the BABIP regression, but in the sudden drop in Donaldson's Line Drive Rate. Donaldson has dropped 7.3% in his Line Drive Rate while increasing his Fly Ball Rate 5.2%. This increase has been a nice boost to Donaldson's power as he will flirt with 30 home runs for the first time, but it is a large reason for his massive batting average drop-off. In the end, it will be interesting to see whether the 5-6 home run spike is worth the 50 points in average on the season (I'd say it probably won't be, but it ultimately depends on team need). While there has been clearly a transition in skill set for Donaldson, he remains one of the elite fantasy third baseman if only for different reasons in 2014. He will likely end up leading all third baseman in home runs for 2014 (if you count those batters assured of maintaining hot corner eligibility into 2015). This new fly ball dominate style has value, but it would be better suited to a different home ball park.