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
*Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there, including my dad, father-in-law and brothers-in-law.
Jorge De La Rosa – De La Rosa, who suffered a torn flexor band in his fourth start of the season and has been on the DL since, is slated to re-join the Rockies' rotation on July 7. The team wants him to make three starts for Triple-A Colorado Springs before returning to the major league roster. He secured 16 wins, tossed 193 strikeouts, and posted an acceptable 4.38 ERA last season. It was the third straight season he improved his ERA, and his peripherals indicate his budding success is no fluke, so jump on him if he is for some reason available in your league. Mixed: $8; NL: $22.
Jason Hammel – We profiled Hammel when he returned from his groin injury in mid-May but his recent performance warrants another mention. Hammel tossed 7.1 scoreless innings Friday – the third start in a row in which he has worked at least seven innings and did not allow any runs – and has lowered his ERA from 6.09 to 4.02 in the process. He has allowed just three runs in his last 34.2 innings, striking out 26 and walking just eight in that span. Another positive is that Hammel’s FIP is 3.60, which indicates that he has pitched even better than his stats reflect and bodes well for continued success. Mixed: $6; NL: $17.
Jair Jurrjens – Jurrjens, out since early May with a strained left hamstring, gave up two runs in 4.1 innings in his second rehab start Saturday and was pain-free afterwards. Jurrjens gave up two earned runs over 2.2 innings with four strikeouts and four walks in Monday's rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett and will make one more rehab start. If everything goes as planned, the Braves will activate Jurrjens from the DL in a little over a week and slot him back into the rotation. Jurrjens struggled before he was sidelined, but the time off likely gave the shoulder that bothered him during spring training time to heal. He should get back to the form he showed in 2009. Mixed: $6; NL: $17.
Bud Norris – Norris, out since late-May with biceps tendinitis, threw a 50-60 pitch bullpen session Saturday. The team reported that Norris' velocity and command were both good in his rehab starts, though he was bombed in his second outing Thursday. He could be in line to replace Brian Moehler in the rotation the next time that spot comes up Friday, as manager Brad Mills said the team wants to keep Norris a starter. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Vicente Padilla – Padilla, out since mid-April with irritated nerve in his right forearm, was activated for Saturday’s start against the Red Sox. Padilla finished 12-6 with a 4.46 ERA and 97:54 K:BB in 147.1 innings last season. However, he experienced a mini-renaissance after coming to the Dodgers in August, going 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA and an impressive 38:12 K:BB ratio in 39.1 innings before two excellent playoff starts and one clunker. He got off to a slow start this season, but with LA desperate for pitching, expect him to have a long leash out in Hollywood. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Tim Stauffer – Stauffer, who had an emergency appendectomy in mid-May, allowed two unearned runs over five innings in his second minor league rehab start with Triple-A Portland on Friday after getting rocked in his first outing. So far, Stauffer has had no physical issues as he rebuilds his strength and stamina. Stauffer should be up to around 80 pitches in his next start and be activated shortly thereafter to return to the Padres rotation, where he could replace the struggling Kevin Correia. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Jesse Chavez/Todd Coffey/John Grabow/Juan Rincon/Travis Schlichting/Jordan Smith/Scott Strickland/Tim Wood - This week’s cast of middle reliever/end of bullpen fillers are in player alpha order: Atlanta, Milwaukee, Chicago, Colorado, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Florida. All - Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Santiago Casilla – Casilla recorded his second save of the season during the Giants' win last Sunday. Casilla threw another scoreless inning Wednesday, lowering his ERA to 0.87 and WHIP to 1.160 in the process. Brian Wilson had pitched back-to-back days, and it wasn't even a save opportunity entering the ninth, so while Casilla is unlikely to see many save opportunities, he has pitched quite well this season (18:6 K:BB ratio over 10.2 innings). Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Sam Demel – Demel, acquired from the A’s for Conor Jackson, was called up last week by the D-Backs. He replaces Cesar Valdez on the roster. Demel, who throws a hard sinker/slider, could ascend quickly in the D-Backs' bullpen after Aaron Heilman recently took control of the closer's role from Chad Qualls. Prior to the trade, Demel had been working at Triple-A Sacramento, racking up six saves along with a 28:9 K:BB ratio in 28.2 innings. He tossed a scoreless inning in his Arizona debut. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Aaron Heilman – We profiled Heilman a month ago when it looked like he might replace Chad Qualls as the Arizona closer, but Qualls was able to right the right the ship and held onto the job. However, Qualls’ recent ineffectiveness finally led to a change, with Heilman stepping in as the D-Backs closer. Heilman isn't overpowering, but he does have a 25:10 K:BB ratio. He has allowed three runs in his last two outings but still managed to record the save on Saturday. Historically, Heilman doesn’t have a closer’s resume (he has 24 blown saves in his career) and is probably on a short leash as the Diamondbacks’ closer. Mixed: $5; NL: $16.
Scott Mathieson – Mathieson recorded 12 saves in 25 appearances with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He posted a 2.43 ERA and 1.08 WHIP along with 34 K in 29.2 IP before being promoted Friday to help bolster the Phillies bullpen. That stint was brief as Philadelphia designated Mathieson for assignment Saturday after he allowed two runs in 0.2 innings on Friday. He still had minor league options remaining, but the Phillies needed to clear room on the 40-man roster. With several teams looking for relief help; look for Mathieson to be claimed on waivers. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Jason Motte – Motte, who we profiled two weeks ago, relieved a struggling Ryan Franklin on Saturday and picked up the save against Oakland, retiring three of the four batters he faced. It's far too early to put Franklin on the shaky-closer list – he has converted 13-of-14 save chances this year and has strong numbers everywhere but the strikeout column - but Motte's been just about untouchable over the last six weeks and is one of the more intriguing non-closing relievers in the National League right now. Mixed: $4; NL: $13.
Huston Street – We profiled Street a month ago when he looked to be on the verge of rejoining the Rockies, but he suffered a mild groin injury pushing back his return. He has made several rehab appearances and hit 91-92 on the speed gun on Monday. Barring a setback, Street will rejoin the Rockies on Tuesday for the 2007 World Series rematch against the Red Sox. The team will ease him back into the closer role, initially bringing him back as a setup man. Eventually, Street, who is an upper-echelon closer when healthy, will move to the top of the heap. Mixed: $8; NL: $25.
Jonathan Lucroy – We profiled Lucroy when the Brewers called him from Triple-A Nashville to replace an injured Greg Zaun, but Lucroy deserves another mention as he has surpassed George Kottaras as the team’s top catcher. He'll still need to perform well enough to keep that spot. Lucroy doesn't have much power but may hit for a high enough average to stick as a starting catcher, and he has been solid behind the plate. Prior to Saturday’s game, in which he had three hits and his first extra-base hit, Lucroy had the same BA/OBA/SLG due to no extra-base hits or walks. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Dane Sardinha - The Phillies recalled Sardinha from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Saturday. Sardinha gives the Phillies some catching depth after Carlos Ruiz left Friday's game with an injury. The 31-year-old Sardinha was hitting .254 with four homers in 38 Triple-A games. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Tony Abreu – Abreu, out since late-May with a sprained left wrist, was activated from the DL and went 1-for-4 as the DH against Boston on Tuesday night. He saw increased action this week with the D-Backs in the American League for interleague play and should see some action with another three-game set on tap for June 25-27 at Tampa Bay. Beyond that, he'll collect the majority of his at-bats as a utility player, but Abreu should get a good chunk of the starts at shortstop when the D-Backs face a left-handed starting pitcher. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Mike Fontenot – With Ryan Theriot slumping, manager Lou Piniella has decided to give Fontenot more playing time at second base. Fontenot had a chance to claim more playing time against right-handed starters a few weeks ago but failed to capitalize on the opportunity. We will have to see if he makes the most of this chance. Fontenot went 1-for-3 in his start Saturday. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Jon Herrera - Herrera went 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in the Rockies' win over the Brewers Saturday. Herrera made his second straight start at second base with Clint Barmes shifting over to shortstop to cover for the injured Troy Tulowitzki. Herrera could get a bit more playing time in the Tulowitzki fallout, but Saturday's four hits exceeded his season total to this point. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Everth Cabrera – We profiled Cabrera back in mid-May, when after being sidelined by a strained right hamstring he was activated off the DL. At the time, Cabrera believed he was 100 percent and that much of his poor start (.209 BA) could be explained by playing with the sore hamstring. He lasted just two weeks before being sidelined again with another hamstring injury, though it was in a different area of the leg and not the one that forced him to miss 15 games earlier in the month. Cabrera began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Portland on Monday and looks like he is fully recovered from the leg woes that have cost him more than 40 games. He is expected to be activated within the next week or so; and if truly healthy, look for Cabrera to run at will and justify the high price his owners likely paid for him based on his stolen base potential. Mixed: $8; NL: $22.
Chin-Lung Hu - The Dodgers recalled Hu from Triple-A Albuquerque on Thursday. Hu, who was batting .298/.321/.392 with three homers and 23 RBI for the Isotopes this season, took the roster spot of Rafael Furcal, who was placed on the bereavement list. It's not clear how long Furcal will be out, but Hu will likely be returned to the minors when Furcal returns to the team. Hu is backing up Jamey Carroll at short in Furcal's absence. Mixed and NL: No
Chris Nelson – The Rockies recalled Nelson on Friday to take the roster spot of Troy Tulowitzki, who was placed on the disabled list with a broken wrist. Clint Barmes will likely take over as the primary shortstop, but Nelson should see some action at both short and second base. Nelson is seen as an offensive middle infielder by the Rockies, bringing the potential for stolen bases and power, but his status as an elite prospect has waned. His 2009 season ended with a torn wrist ligament in June and he missed the start of this year with an oblique injury, but he hit .311/.384/.508 with five homers and 20 RBI in 37 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Edgar Renteria – We profiled Renteria when he was activated off the DL in late May after being sidelined by a strained groin. Prior to the injury, Renteria was off to a hot start at the plate. He lasted just a few days before injuring his right hamstring and landed back on the DL. The Giants activated Renteria from the disabled list Wednesday but aren't planning to remove Juan Uribe from the starting lineup, so Renteria will not be an everyday starter. Mixed: $4 (likely owned in NL-only leagues).
Jimmy Rollins – We profiled Rollins back in mid-May when he returned from a Grade 1 and 2 tear in his right calf muscle. Prior to that injury, Rollins was off to a blazing start. He lasted just a few days before straining his right calf and landing back on the DL. Rollins is close to returning and barring any setbacks, is expected to be activated Tuesday. He struggled with his batting average and on-base percentage last season but still posted 21 HR, 77 RBI and 31 SB, largely driven by a big second half. Once he returns to action, look for him to once again be a catalyst in the Phillies’ lineup. Mixed: $20; NL: $65 (likely owned in all formats, but bid if he was dropped while injured).
Brendan Ryan – After struggling for much of the year, Ryan has gotten hot the past several weeks and has worked his way back into the middle-infield rotation. After bottoming out at .162 on May 17, Ryan has upped his average to .221 and forced his way into more playing time at shortstop. He will need to stay hot to fend out Felipe Lopez, who is in the midst of his own slump. Mixed: $2; NL: $9.
Mike Lamb – Lamb was called up from Triple-A following Thursday's game. He is taking Cameron Maybin's spot on the bench and will see very little action. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Aramis Ramirez – Ramirez, on the 15-day DL with a left thumb contusion, played the first of two rehab games for Low-A Peoria Saturday and went 0-for-3. He believes that he has found relief for the bruised area near the base of his thumb by dropping the bottom-hand thumb down along his middle-finger knuckle to keep the top hand from rotating over the tender area. Ramirez believes he won’t be 100 percent for a while but hopes that the new grip will allow him to function better. Ramirez's floundering contact rate was probably a strong hint that he hasn't been playing at 100 percent all season. He's had a strikeout percentage around 15 percent for his career, yet he has whiffed in more than a quarter of his at-bats in 2010. Hopefully the time off will allow him to get closer to full health and start rectifying his .168 batting average. Mixed: $18; NL: $50 (in case waived due to his struggles, but we are not sure that he won’t be shut down again).
Rogearvin Bernadina – We profiled Bernadina when was called up in late-April from Triple-A Syracuse and it looked like he would platoon in right field with Justin Maxwell. Bernadina has played his way into the starting job and manager Jim Riggleman said that he plans to give him 400-500 at-bats this season. Bernadina is batting .274/.340/.439 with four homers, 19 RBI and five stolen bases in 135 at-bats and should help your stats across the board though he only has moderate power. Mixed: $5; NL: $16.
Pat Burrell – We profiled Burrell when he was called up by the Giants two weeks ago, but he’s back on the list this week. While reluctant to do so, San Francisco has clearly shown a willingness to sacrifice defense for offense (playing Burrell in LF and moving Aubrey Huff to RF), but Aaron Rowand remains in the mix. Still, the Giants are likely to ride the hot bat given their need for power, but you should be ready to bail if the wheels fall off. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Tyler Colvin – Colvin, who had a brilliant spring, has really impressed this season and is seeing more playing time. Colvin batted leadoff on Friday for the first time and got on base three times. Manager Lou Piniella has already stated that he'd like to get Colvin more playing time; and Colvin certainly helped his cause by hitting home runs in his past two starts. His home run Friday was his eighth of the season, good for third on the team. Rumors have it that the team is shopping Kosuke Fukudome, and Colvin would likely receive the largest fantasy boost should Fukudome be moved. Mixed: $5; NL: $16 (in case he is not owned in NL-only leagues, even though it’s unlikely).
Gerardo Parra – This is the third mention in a month for Parra, who likely will get more playing time in left field following the trade of Conor Jackson to Oakland. He didn't take well to part-time duty earlier this season, but Parra has heated up recently and should benefit from consistent playing time. Parra is still just 23, but his lack of a power limits his fantasy value to NL-only and deeper mixed leagues even with the likelihood of an expanded role going forward. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Ryan Spilborghs – Spilborghs, who entered the season as the Rockies’ fourth or fifth outfielder, has moved essentially into a full-time starter role. Dexter Fowler's demotion, Eric Young's injury, and Seth Smith’s and Jon Herrera's ineffectiveness have helped move Spilborghs up the ladder. Spilborghs has a nice blend or power and speed and has shown a solid eye at the plate. In the past he has been mainly a platoon outfielder, but a confluence of situations may result in Spilborghs remaining in the starting lineup. Mixed: $6.
Andres Torres – Torres appears to have wrestled away a starting spot, with most of his action coming in center field at the expense of Aaron Rowand. Despite the recent mild slump, Torres is hitting .287, displaying more power and better patience than usual, and his 11 stolen bases make him the Giants’ main speed threat. Torres is playing possibly the best defense of any outfielder in baseball, making him one of the biggest surprises of the 2010 season. Mixed: $7.