This is our weekly look at the free agents in each league. We have two goals for this article:
- Identify likely free agents and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.
- Try to estimate how much of your free agent budget you should bid on them.
One size doesn't fit all, and we could never hope to encompass all league structures, so we have to have a set of base assumptions. Those assumptions are:
- League size of 12 players (either NL or Mixed, we'll specify)
- 5x5 categories
- Each team has a $100 FAAB budget
Madison Bumgarner – Bumgarner, who had a cup of coffee with the Giants last season and is their top pitching prospect, will likely be called up in the near future. Bumgarner was in line for a promotion with Todd Wellemeyer landing on the DL, but he was ejected from his last start, fined, and handed a 3-game suspension for an excessive on-field outburst, which cost him the call up. On the field, after giving up 11 runs and 21 hits over seven innings in his first two starts, Bumgarner made a mechanical adjustment that has added velocity and also started throwing a cutter. His overall numbers – a 3.13 ERA, 47 strikeouts and 20 walks in 69 innings – for Triple-A Fresno show how far he has come since then. It looks like it’s only a matter of time before he is on the major league roster. Mixed: $5; NL: $16.
R.A. Dickey – We profiled Dickey when he was first promoted three weeks ago, but his recent performance clearly deserves another mention. Dickey held the Orioles to just one run on seven hits while striking out a career-high eight over seven innings to improve his record to 4-0 in the Mets’ 5-1 win. Dickey has proven to be a godsend for a struggling back-end of the New York rotation, pitching at least six innings in all five of his starts while posting a 2.78 ERA. This success comes off a similar performance at Triple-A Buffalo, where he went 4-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 1.038 WHIP. Given Dickey’s history, one would expect the bubble to burst, but Dickey has the knuckler working and has shown no signs of slowing down. Knuckleballers can struggle at a moment’s notice, but for now, Dickey has earned a modicum of confidence. Just don’t overbid. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Blake Hawksworth – Hawksworth moved into the rotation in place of P.J. Walters and made his first major league start Monday against the Dodgers. Hawksworth lasted only four innings and surrendered seven hits, three walks, and six runs. He may not get another start, as there are rumblings that the Cardinals will pick up a free agent starting pitcher off the scrap heap. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Jeffrey Karstens – Karstens, who moved back into the Pirates’ rotation in late May, will stay in the starting rotation. The Pirates decided to bump Dana Eveland to the bullpen instead of Karstens. "I think Jeff's deserved the right to stay in the rotation," manager John Russell said. "He's pitched in some big games for us and done well." Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Kenshin Kawakami – Kawakami posted his fourth quality start in his last five outings Wednesday against the Diamondbacks. He threw six scoreless innings, giving up four hits, and striking out eight, which tied his career-high. Kawakami has had some tough luck this season and is pitching better than his 0-8 record indicates. His performance of late has been encouraging and he could be a nice buy-low candidate. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Joseph Martinez – Martinez was recalled from Triple-A Fresno and is expected to take Todd Wellemeyer's spot in the Giants' rotation beginning next week. Martinez missed most of last season after taking a line drive off his head in April, and he didn’t fare very well when on the mound, either, recording a 7.50 ERA and 1.933 WHIP. This year, Martinez has turned it around, posting a 52:22 K:BB ratio in 67.1 innings over 11 starts. In addition, he has done an excellent job recording outs on the ground (2.48 GO/AO) and keeping the ball in the park (four homers allowed), which should help him pitching at AT&T Park. However, he may only last in the rotation until Madison Bumgarner is promoted. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Chris Resop – Resop threw a one-hit shutout on Thursday for Triple-A Gwinnett to improve to 5-1 with a 2.15 ERA and 62:18 K:BB ratio in 58.2 innings. He can become a free agent on June 15 if he's not called up to the majors, but teams have expressed only mild interest in signing him. It's likely the Braves will recall Resop on Tuesday given his success in the minors. He's amazingly rebuilt his career as a starter after originally struggling in the majors and then lasting only a short time in Japan before elbow trouble forced him back to the U.S. He could have some sleeper fantasy value if he's traded to another major league team who would give him a chance in a rotation. Mixed: No; NL: $2
Edinson Volquez – Volquez threw three scoreless innings in his first minor league rehab start Saturday for High-A Lynchburg. Volquez underwent Tommy John surgery last August and is nearly through serving his 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. He'll likely need a full 30-day rehab assignment, so Volquez is on a track to return after the All-Star break barring a setback. If you're looking at potential difference-makers on your waiver wire, Volquez is worth considering if you have a roster spot to spare. Keep in mind, however, that control is often the final element to return for a pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery. Mixed: $7; NL: $22.
Mitch Atkins/Blaine Boyer/David Riske/Fernando Salas/Santiago Casilla/Elmer Dessens/Brendan Donnelly/Bobby Howry/Cristhian Martinez/Luis Perdomo/Adam Russell/Jeff Stevens/Tim Wood - This week’s cast of middle reliever/end of bullpen fillers are in player alpha order: Chicago, Arizona, Milwaukee and St. Louis. All - Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Chris Smith – The Brewers recalled Smith from Triple-A Nashville on Monday to replace Jeff Suppan on the roster. Smith went 2-1 with a 1.71 ERA and 16 saves for Nashville. He will likely be used in middle relief initially with the Brewers, though he could see the occasional save opportunity. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Koyie Hill – Hill started Friday’s game against the White Sox, which was his fourth start since June 5. The Cubs appear to be giving him more playing time at the expense of Geovany Soto, so he's a guy to think about in deep leagues that use multiple catchers. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Ronny Paulino – John Baker, who has been out for a month with a forearm injury, is slated to visit Dr. James Andrews. Andrews isn't the guy you go to see for a minor issue, so this doesn't sound great. Baker had a setback in his rehab efforts last Monday and the report ominously states that manager Fredi Gonzalez is not optimistic. The beneficiary of this setback is Paulino, who will continue to start while Baker is out. Paulino is hitting .300 with three homers and 25 RBI. Mixed: $4; NL: $11.
Ivan Rodriguez - Rodriguez, who was on the disabled list with a lower-back strain, was activated and caught Steven Strasburg’s debut last Tuesday. Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said that he will try to avoid using Rodriguez in more than three straight games until after the All-Star break, but that should have little effect on his value. Pudge has turned back the clock at the plate; just don’t expect too much power from him. Right now he is mainly a decent source of batting average along with a smidge of runs and RBI. Mixed: $5; (should be owned in all NL-only formats).
Chad Tracy - The Cubs recalled Tracy on Wednesday. Tracy, who had been tearing it up at Triple-A with five homers, 18 RBI and a 1.075 OPS in 91 at-bats, got the call to bolster the Cubs infield with Aramis Ramirez going on the DL. Look for him to see most of his action at third base with Jeff Baker seeing the occasional start while Ramirez is out. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Melvin Mora – Mora has been bouncing around the infield since the beginning of June, collecting 27 plate appearances over seven games. The home run threat is almost nonexistent at this point. However, he's held a .944 OPS since the beginning of the month, which could be helpful to owners in deep leagues, especially if he continues to receive at-bats. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Brandon Hicks – Hicks was recalled for the second time this year from Triple-A Gwinnett Saturday. He was promoted to take the roster spot of Nate McLouth (head), but he'll serve a utility role while Omar Infante is out a few days with a foot injury. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Pedro Alvarez – Alvarez exceeded expectations in his first professional season last summer, smacking 27 homers and driving in 95 runs while compiling a .913 OPS in 465 at-bats split between High-A and Double-A. This year, he is off to another strong start, hitting .290 with 13 HR and 52 RBI through 63 games for Triple-A Indianapolis, including an 18-for-44 start in June. Alvarez has made strides against left-handed pitching – one of the areas that needed improvement – and it may only be a matter of days before he is promoted now that Super-Two arbitration status has passed. He is expected to hit for power and has shown a good eye at the plate; the only question may be will he remain at third or continue to fill out and move to first? Either way, Pittsburgh will get a bona fide masher in their lineup when he is called up. Mixed: $22; NL: $65.
Emilio Bonifacio – Bonifacio was recalled last Sunday by the Marlins. He will assume a backup role with the big league club. He hit an empty .253 in full time duty in 2009 with Florida, and spent the first two months of 2010 posting a slightly-better .278 batting average for Triple-A New Orleans. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Carlos Beltran – Beltran, working his way back from multiple knee surgeries, played in an extended spring training game and saw his first action in center field - going three innings - on Friday. That news prompted manager Jerry Manuel to believe that Beltran may be able to DH against the Yankees next weekend. We wouldn't bet on it, as prior to Friday Beltran had been limited to DH duties during his rehab and had not really run at full speed, but it's an interesting possibility if Beltran is comfortable enough to return to the outfield once interleague play wraps up. The more likely scenario has Beltran starting a 20-day minor-league rehab assignment, and if all goes well, he would return after the All-Star break. Just keep in mind that the specter of microfracture surgery still looms. Mixed: $11; NL: $28 (go higher if you believe he is fully healthy).
Chris Coghlan – We profiled Coghlan a month ago when it looked like he had saved his job with a mini hot streak, but his recent performance deserves another mention. Coghlan had a massive day in the leadoff spot Friday, going 4-for-4 with two walks, two doubles, four runs scored and an RBI. He followed that up with two more hits Saturday, extending his hitting streak to 12. Remember when Coghlan couldn't buy a base hit, and was in danger of getting demoted when Mike Stanton got called up? He's now hitting .282 on the season thanks to a 31-for-71 run over his last 17 games. Mixed: $8; NL: $20.
Aaron Cunningham – Cunningham was called up from Triple-A Portland Friday. The Padres' outfield situation is very crowded, so it's unclear if he'll get a chance to start much while Matt Stairs is on the DL. Cunningham got off to a slow start with the Beavers, but he has gone 11-for-33 (.333) with a homer, five doubles, five RBI and a 6:5 BB:K ratio (.436 OBP) in his last 10 games there. Mixed: No; NL: $0
Jesus Feliciano – The Mets purchased Feliciano's contract from Triple-A Buffalo on Monday. Feliciano was hitting .385 with a homer and 21 RBI in 53 games for Buffalo and will back up Angel Pagan in center field. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Jordan Schafer – Atlanta changed plans and did not call up Schafer from Triple-A Gwinnett with Omar Infante suffering a foot injury. This was a lost opportunity for Schafer, who would have a chance to win back the starting center field job if given a chance. Schafer is hitting just .211/.250/.267 at Triple-A, but he finally looks healthy after September wrist surgery. He could still get called up soon with Nate McLouth on the DL and Melky Cabrera under performing (.634 OPS) in center. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Jose Tabata – In 2009, after recovering from personal issues in spring training and an early-season hamstring problem that saw him miss six weeks, Tabata lit up Double-A and was hitting .302/.370/.404 before being promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. He cooled off with Indy, putting up a line of .276/.333/.410, but rebounded to hit .392 in the Arizona Fall League. This season, Tabata posted a line of .308/.373/.424 with 25 stolen bases as the leadoff hitter for Triple-A Indianapolis to earn a call-up Wednesday. He was moved into the leadoff spot and was given starting left field role for the Pirates. Tabata, despite dealing with a hamstring cramp (he has a history of hamstring injuries in his career), is 4-for-12 with two doubles and two stolen bases since the promotion. The Pirates believe Tabata will hit for more power as he matures and fills out, but for now, he will be a typical leadoff hitter who derives much of his value from his speed. Mixed: $9: NL: $25.