Closing Time: Leonys Martin's breakout season

Leonys Martin (left) and Nick Castellanos are both having excellent seasons (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

No one is planning a parade over the 2018 Tigers offense, but it’s been better than I expected. I thought this would be a black hole, a team we could stream against with joy. Instead, Detroit stands 19th in runs, 20th in OPS. I suppose it’s merely a mediocre lineup, not a horrendous one. (Go look at Miami’s offense sometime.)

Sometimes life is about managing lowered expectations, I suppose.

But let’s hear it for Leonys Martin, who’s having a quiet, screened career year. He’s working on a .260/.331/.455 slash, with nine home runs and six steals. The 111 OPS+ (100 is average) stands as the highest of his career, and the first time he’s been better than a league-average hitter. He’s scored 42 runs, knocked in 28.

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There are some key stat trends backing up the Martin breakthrough. He’s trimmed his strikeout rate and bounced his walk rate. His line-drive rate is up 13.3 percent. This is a man controlling more at-bats and making his own luck.

If you can swap Martin in daily-transaction formats, you’ll get an even more effective player. He’s a .290/.364/.586 man against right-handed pitching (and it’s a right-handed world). His OPS crashes to .578 against lefties.

Martin’s been a Top 50 outfielder (5×5 scoring) to this point, but is owned in a modest 26 percent of Yahoo leagues. He’s currently outearned several bigger names — Kyle Schwarber, Brett Gardner, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig, to name a few. I’m not saying you cut those guys for Martin, but there’s probably a good cut lingering at the back of your roster. The Tigers aren’t going anywhere in 2018, but Martin is doing some nifty things at the top of the lineup.

• If you can stomach one more Tigers recommendation, we should probably acknowledge Jose Iglesias. The Detroit shortstop has almost zero pop, but he’s hiked his average up to .273, and he’s stolen 12 bases in 15 attempts. Manager Ron Gardenhire is a hands-off guy, he’s going to let his men run.

Iglesias is a reasonable middle infielder or first guy off the bench in deeper formats, and can be added in 90 percent of Yahoo leagues. In several of my leagues, the stolen-base category is densely packed. Iglesias might have more category juice than you realized. 

• Is the light bulb starting to go on for Jesse Winker? The 24-year-old outfielder was stuck on one home run before June started, but he’s been terrific for the last three weeks (.288/.403/.481, three homers). His ownership tag is stuck at four percent in Yahoo leagues. 

The overall numbers don’t look so hot, that’s fair. He’s hitting .256. A .367 OBP is terrific for real baseball, but most fantasy leagues aren’t OBP leagues. We like seeing it, even if it’s not a direct help to us. The .365 slugging is mediocre, but again, that’s on the way up. 

The fascinating thing about Winker is the 34 walks against 34 strikeouts. Almost anyone with that ratio is going to be a strong real-life and fantasy asset, unless they’re a punch-and-judy stick with no pop at all. Winker had a .298/.398/.449 slash in his minor-league career. He could be an above-average player someday. 

My podcast pal Mike Salfino compares Winker to his Cincinnati teammate, Joey Votto. Another amigo, Ray Murphy, says a Kevin Youkilis comp makes more sense. Share your own slant in the comments. 

• Make it three days and three different closers for the San Francisco Giants. That Hunter Strickland punch launched a thousand ships. 

Sam Dyson recorded Tuesday’s save, then picked up the Bruce Bochy endorsement afterward. But when Dyson didn’t have it Wednesday, Reyes Moronta cleaned up the final out. Mark Melancon was a smooth stopper Thursday, retiring three of four men and throwing 12-of-14 pitches for strikes. 

Most managers don’t want to live the committee life. Dyson needed a day off Thursday, so he wasn’t an option. Tony Watson is probably the best reliever in this group, which, ironically, might keep him from the ninth. Melancon has history of a closer, and he’s been effective in his return, even on reduced velocity. Dyson was an effective closer for the 2016 Rangers, though he’s a pitch-to-contact guy. 

I wouldn’t blame you if you preferred to ignore the situation completely. Or maybe Watson is your speed, opting for quality innings and any saves serve as a bonus. Dyson and Melancon both have points in their favor. There might not be a right answer here, but you do have options. 

Follow the Yahoo fantasy baseball crew on Twitter: Andy Behrens, Dalton Del Don, and Scott Pianowski