August 10, 2011
The pop culture almanac has plenty of entries for the initials JD. James Dean, gone in a flash. The reclusive J.D. Salinger, creator of Holden Caulfield and bananafish days. Goaltender John Davidson was a New York Ranger hero in the late 1970s, serenaded by the Madison Square Garden zealots. Christian Slater's character in Heathers had the JD tag (put down that mineral water, this is Ohio). Jesse Day might ascend to the Scrabble Pantheon by the end of Wednesday.
And maybe someday we'll be waxing poetic about the time we went to the ballpark and saw J.D. Martinez(notes) do something of note for the Astros. The team is a wreck in Houston right now, sure, but he's a young player worth a spot on most fake baseball teams.
The Astros are on a 2-5 skid right now (the rest of their season could easily play out at that pace), but Martinez can't be faulted. He's homered four times in his last six games, including a solo shot in Tuesday's loss at Arizona. The Diamondbacks haven't figured out how to pitch to Martinez: he's collected two homers, four hits and two walks thus far in the series. Martinez has a snappy .306/.359/.722 slash for his 10-game audition in the majors.
You're excused if you don't know too much about the 23-year-old outfielder — he hasn't been given a big prospect push. Martinez joined the Astros as a 20th round pick the 2009 draft and hasn't been ballyhooed on any of the future star listings. That said, all he's done in the minors leagues is hit; his career line in 298 bush-league games jumps off the page: .342/.407/.551. He's ripped 43 homers over that span.
Martinez joined the Astros as a double-jumper, skipping Triple-A entirely. No one was getting him out at Double-A Corpus Christi (.338/.414/.546) and the Astros have gutted their major-league roster, making this season an open audition of sorts for the final two months. Might as well throw the kid into the pool and see if he can swim. Brad Mills(notes) is using Martinez in the middle of the lineup, usually slotting him third or fifth. If you want to take a spin here, Martinez is unowned in 96 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• For most of the season Huston Street(notes) has been dealing with a recurring gopher problem (call Carl Spackler on that one), but physical issues were at play Tuesday. Street is dealing with soreness below his arm and was considered unavailable to pitch at Cincinnati. The effective but maddening Rafael Betancourt took the ball in the ninth and retired the Reds on three batted ball outs, prompting the handshake line. Betancourt makes sense as a Street hedge; we'll see what the Rockies have to offer on their closer Wednesday. My hunch is that Street will be back shortly, but it's not my body and it's not my franchise.
• Get out your balloons and party favors, Jason Isringhausen(notes) is near a milestone. The veteran righty put the Padres down in order Tuesday for the save, his sixth of the season and the 299th of his career. Izzy needed to steady the ship after a few rocky outings, so it's encouraging to see him have his good stuff in this appearance. He only needed 10 pitches, with eight of them strikes.
• I'd prefer to hold the Jesus Guzman(notes) propaganda back for our JG issue, but his hot bat won't let that happen (sorry, Jim Geary). Guzman rapped out two hits Tuesday, his ninth multiple-hit game in the last two weeks. He's a bit of a hacker at the dish — just seven walks in 119 at-bats — but a .345/.381/.588 line is going to play in anyone's format. And yes, that .381 BABIP sticks out like a sore thumb, but Guzman is making a lot of his own luck with that a zesty 22.2 line-drive rate. If you need a corner, you'll find Guzman available in 76 percent of Yahoo! pools.
• The next Stephen Strasburg(notes) rehab start comes Friday at High-A Potomac. He'll be around for about 50 pitches, and everything is in line for the phenom to pitch for the Nationals in September. Modern medicine, it's a wonderful thing. Even with all the buzz tied to Strasburg, he's still out there for a speculation grab in 65 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Roll the dice, this guy could carry you to a title down the stretch.
• A couple of so-so starts had Brandon Beachy(notes) teetering on the edge of the circle of trust, but he jumped back in with a pretty 10-strikeout performance at Florida on Tuesday. Here's your scouting video, have a look. Beachy is recommended for his weekend start against the Cubs. Beachy didn't get the win against the Marlins, but his mates took care of that, and everything else went according to plan. Dan Uggla(notes) got his hit, Craig Kimbrel(notes) got his save. Assuming Tommy Hanson's(notes) shoulder checks out okay (he's been pushed back and will get his wing examined in a few days), this team is going to be a very difficult out in the playoffs.
• With Scott Baker(notes) (elbow) on the shelf, Kevin Slowey(notes) reenters our lives. Slowey was doing his normal thing at Triple-A, throwing a lot of strikes (38 whiffs against just eight walks over 50 innings) and having moderate success when the batters make the inevitable contact against those strikes (3.55 ERA). Let's monitor Slowey's turn at Cleveland on Sunday and then reevaluate the position. We probably don't want to dial him up next week against the Yankees, even in Target Field.
• Yuniesky Betancourt(notes) is one of the easiest punchlines going when it comes to snarky internet baseball columnists, but let's stop for a second and see if he can do anything for our numbers racket. The indiscriminate hacker is on a .369 binge in the second half with strong production numbers (11 runs, three homers, 19 RBIs, two steals). Let's keep in mind that Betancourt collected 10 homers and 42 RBIs after the break last year in Kansas City. Stats are stats, it doesn't matter where we get them. Consider a short-term look-and-see addition.
• If you're looking for some streaming goodness for the Thursday slate (players you have to pick up today), here are some options: Jeff Niemann(notes) (44 percent) at Kansas City, Mark Buehrle(notes) (38 percent) at hapless Baltimore, Joe Saunders(notes) (14 percent) against Houston, Cory Luebke(notes) (33 percent) at New York. If you think I missed a good option, make your case in the comments.
Speed Round: Thanks for the memories, Lyle Overbay(notes) (do we have any Overbay memories?). The Pirates gave him the inevitable pink slip Tuesday. … Justin Smoak(notes) (thumb) could be back on the weekend, a wrench in our Carp plans. … Adam Dunn(notes) might do more hitting over the winter, fine with me because he hasn't hit all summer. … Edwin Encarnacion(notes) clubbed another homer and is at .363 since the break, with four round-trippers. … A cranky back kept Aramis Ramirez(notes) out Tuesday. … Coco Crisp(notes) (calf) is still day-to-day, which we had to expect eventually. A shame it came so soon after his four-game steal party last week. … The terrific John Axford(notes) keeps rolling along, saving his 33rd game in 35 attempts.
Image courtesy Associated Press