Norichika Aoki (ESPN: 3 percent owned; Yahoo!: 6 percent owned)
The posting process for Norichika Aoki was not as well publicized as Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s or Hisashi Iwakuma’s, but given the choice between the three, the number of teams that would still take either of the more heralded pair over Aoki has to be pretty small. The 30-year-old former Yakult Swallow hasn’t set the world alight with his play in the Brewers’ outfield, but he’s already been worth about a win and is on pace to be worth a bit more than two wins as he’s getting consistent playing time now that he didn’t really get in April.
June has been an interesting month for Aoki’s fantasy value. Prior to June 1, his value was almost solely built on his batting average or OBP for those so inclined. He was hitting .302/.362/.448 over his first 110 PAs, but had added just a single home run, a pair of stolen bases and neither a remarkable amount of RBI nor runs scored. With that profile, he might fit a need on certain teams, but isn’t going to be broadly usable. Given that profile, the fact that Aoki has hit a mere .266/.343/.436 this month ought to more or less render him unusable, but instead, he’s been arguably more valuable than ever.
Over his 106 PAs so far this month, Aoki has hit three home runs, stolen eight bases, and been driven in at a solid rate, which we might expect given that his OBP is still above average even after his slight decline this month. The move to a more rounded value is good for Aoki, since he’s not doing the things that would make me believe that he was capable of a .300+ batting average over the course of a full season. Yes, four of his eight stolen bases this month came in one game, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s clearly running more and he should be able to continue running more since the Brewers have moved him into the leadoff spot.
I don’t think speed is the only part of Aoki’s game that will be fantasy useful, but it certainly makes him a more appealing pick up. He’s extra valuable in OBP-based leagues, but will carry a decent batting average as well, and he’ll hit a home run from time to time. He’s flown mostly under the radar, but he could be poised for a solid second half than owners will want to get in on.
J.D. Martinez (ESPN: 23 percent owned; Yahoo!: 17 percent owned)
Martinez showed up on a number of rosters after an April in which he hit .282/.411/.449 with three home runs and nearly 20 RBI, and there were a number of jilted owners when Martinez went on a 35-game skid in which he hit a foul .186/.248/.310. The four home runs he hit over that stretch were little more than a consolation prize for those who continued to start him, but it would take a few more dingers than that to make up for a .558 OPS.
Thankfully, over the last 10 games, Martinez looks to have righted the ship at least a little. He’s hitting .324/.378/.647 with three home runs, bringing his monthly line up to something approaching respectability…or at least something that doesn’t induce rage vomiting in owners. .235/.293/.447 isn’t good, but it’s a far sight better than his .192/.256/.308 month of May. Still, Martinez is a playable option in deep leagues, but I’m not sure he really fits anywhere else right now. A solid 10 game run is good, but I’ll be less skeptical that it’s a mirage if he can finish out the first half without reverting into the slumpmonster.
The updated ZiPS projections have Martinez down for 18 home runs this season, or about eight more over the course of the season. Provided he actually has broken out of his rut, I think that’s conservative. Martinez has good power and could easily exceed 20 home runs over the rest of the season with a modicum of consistency, I’m just not positive he’ll get it. Without a doubt, Martinez is a speculative grab at this point, but for those in dire need of power, he could be a good wire pick or trade target.