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FAAB Factor - NL: Injuries Open Up Spots in St. Louis

Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.

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

Starting Pitchers:

Barry Enright - Enright made the jump from Double-A look fairly easy, giving up one run in five innings to get the win in his debut. His four walks were uncharacteristic based on his minor league numbers (83:15 K:BB in 93.2 IP at Double-A this year), but it's his propensity for fly balls that will likely get him in trouble in the desert. His upside is limited, but if you need pitching he's worth taking a chance on. Mixed: $1; NL: $3

Craig Stammen - Stammen came back from the minors and picked up the win over the Braves, but he's still a guy with marginal stuff and no future in a Nationals rotation that's going to be filling up with young power arms very soon. He's purely a place-holder for Washington until someone better comes along, and that's exactly how you should view him too. Mixed: No; NL: $0

Travis Wood - Wood was striking out nearly a batter an inning when he got called up and he more than held his own in his major league debut; but in the short term he's just keeping a seat warm for Edinson Volquez. Down the road he's someone the Reds are going to have to find room for alongside Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman, but he might not have a full-time spot until next season. Mixed: $0; NL: $2 ($2/$6 in keeper leagues)

Jordan Zimmermann - The guy who was the Nationals' future ace before that Strasburg kid arrived on the scene is ahead of schedule in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Zimmerman pitched two innings at High-A on Saturday. The club won't rush him, but he should be back in the major league rotation by the beginning of August and could provide two months of strong numbers at the end of the year. If you've got a spot available to stash him and your league allows it, jump on him now rather than waiting until his return is imminent and his price has gone up. Mixed: $1; NL: $4

Relief Pitchers:

Casey Daigle/Chris Ray/James Russell/Travis Schlichting/Jeff Stevens/Jose Veras - This week's episode of the Young and the Fungible features pitchers from the Astros, Giants, Cubs, Dodgers, Cubs (again) and Marlins respectively, and includes one hidden movie reference. Daigle's been effective at Triple-A this season but has been much too hittable throughout his career to be trustworthy. Ray's strikeouts disappeared in Texas, but the switch in home parks can't hurt. Russell's just a LOOGY in training, and Stevens hasn't quite pitched well enough to lock down a regular gig in the Cubs' bullpen, instead bouncing back and forth between Chicago and Iowa. Schlichting, who's mostly been flirting with disaster since being converted from third base, has actually started to figure out how to pitch this season. And Veras has looked great in his second stint this season in teal (9:2 K:BB in seven shutout innings over five appearances), but he's still Jose Veras. All - Mixed: No; NL: $0

Catchers:

Brett Hayes - John Baker isn't close to a return and the Marlins are worried about burning out Ronny Paulino, which means Hayes should get some more work in the short term. Don't expect him to do much with the playing time though. Mixed: No; NL : $0

First Basemen:

Travis Ishikawa - With Bengie Molina in Texas, Buster Posey will take over behind the plate and open up some at-bats at first base for the Giants. Ishikawa's grand slam on Saturday could buy him some extra playing time. His numbers in limited action this season look good, but he's still little more than a defensive replacement at first and there's nothing to indicate that he's turned a corner at the plate. Mixed: $0; NL: $1

Second Basemen:

Jeff Baker - Baker heated up a bit in June, hitting .289 in 45 at-bats, and with Ryan Theriot once again falling out of favor in Lou Piniella's eyes there could be some extra at-bats at second base for Baker. He is streaky, but there's an opportunity here for some short-term value if the dominoes fall the right way. Mixed: $1; NL: $3

Adam Kennedy - Nats manager Jim Riggleman doesn't like to see Kennedy pining away on the bench and says he's going to get him more playing time, even though he's been greatly outplayed this season by Cristian Guzman. Last season's surprise offense isn't coming back, though. Mixed: No; NL: $0

Felipe Lopez - With David Freese on the DL, Lopez has taken over as the starter at third base and gone an impressive 12-for-27, albeit with no power and little speed. With Brendan Ryan struggling both at the plate and in the field the Cardinals' middle infield could be reshuffled, so if Lopez stays hot he might just stay in the lineup at second base even when Freese returns. Mixed: $3; NL: $11

Shortstops:

Alberto Gonzalez - Gonzalez has seen a little work at shortstop with Ian Desmond struggling, and with Nationals manager Jim Riggleman wanting to get his bench guys more playing time Gonzalez might not entirely fade into obscurity. He's got no upside, but he plays multiple positions and could be useful in a very deep league. Mixed: No; NL: $0

Tyler Greene - He’s started two straight games at second base since being called up and collected three hits – including a triple and a home run – and with Brendan Ryan struggling Tony LaRussa could elect to give Greene a longer look at short. Greene’s got a little bit of power/speed upside (seven HR, 10 SB in 62 games at Triple-A this season) and is worth taking a chance on. Mixed: $2; NL: $7

Donnie Murphy - He replaces Brian Barden on the Marlins' bench and should see just a little playing time behind a very stable starting infield. Mixed: No; NL: $0

Angel Sanchez - Traded to the Astros due to the Red Sox's desperation at catcher, Sanchez is a glove-first guy with a tiny bit of speed who could see semi-regular action in Houston; and it's not like Tommy Manzella is a fixture when he's healthy. Mixed: $0; NL: $1

Wilson Valdez - Valdez has never hit more than six home runs in a season at any level, so don't expect his recent mini power surge to last. He had been effective filling in for Placido Polanco at third base before shifting to second when Chase Utley went down and should keep his spot for at least another couple of weeks until his bat cools down. Mixed: $1; NL: $3

Third Basemen:

Greg Dobbs - Dobbs will probably see the majority of the at-bats at third base for the next couple of weeks until Placido Polanco is healthy, but there's no reason to think he'll do much with the opportunity given this year's numbers. Mixed: $0; NL: $1

Cody Ransom - Ransom could see starts at third base against left-handers while Polanco is out. He might provide a bit of power, but that's about it. Mixed: No; NL: $0

Outfielders:

Garret Anderson - Anderson got a couple of starts this week when Manny Ramirez got hurt, but Xavier Paul figures to see the bulk of the action while Manny is on the shelf. Even Joe Torre can't justify giving at-bats to a 38-year-old with a sub-.500 OPS, can he? Mixed: No; NL: No.

Gregor Blanco - Blanco got hot at the right time, and seems close to earning a regular starting spot in center field while Jason Heyward is on the DL. He doesn't have much upside, but he gets on base, hits for a decent average and might steal a base or two. You could do worse. Mixed: $1; NL: $3

Aaron Cunningham - He got sent down this week but then was called right back up when Will Venable's back landed him on the DL. He'll be fighting with Chris Denorfia and Matt Stairs for those open at-bats though, and there’s no guarantee he'll emerge as the winner. Mixed: $0; NL: $1

Chris Denorfia - Denorfia has been getting regular work with Venable hurt and his bat has started showing slight signs of life with four hits in his last 10 at-bats. He doesn't have Cunningham's slight power potential, but he's still worth taking a look at. Mixed: $1; NL: $2

Matt Diaz - Diaz, just off the DL himself, should see a few at-bats with Jason Heyward down, but Gregor Blanco is getting most of the available action at the moment. Diaz will need to wait for Blanco to cool down before getting his chance. Mixed: $0; NL: $1

Dexter Fowler - Fowler returned from Triple-A with a vengeance and will be given another chance to establish himself as a full-timer. Remember all the accolades and hype he got in the offseason? They still apply. If his previous owner foolishly cut him loose, Fowler's stolen base upside alone makes him worth a big bid. Mixed: $16; NL: $36

Jon Jay - Jay hits wherever he plays, but hasn't yet gotten a chance to earn regular at-bats with the Cardinals. Ryan Ludwick's injury could give him that shot, but Tony LaRussa will give Nick Stavinoha a long look first. Mixed: $0; NL: $1

Reed Johnson - Manny Ramirez's hamstring injury gave Johnson some starts this week, but now that Manny has been placed on the DL and Xavier Paul has been recalled from Triple-A, Johnson has some competition for those at-bats. Paul's much younger and has real upside, but Joe Torre may decide the mediocre veteran is the safer bet. Mixed: $0; NL: $1

Xavier Paul - Paul got called up to replace Manny Ramirez and immediately collected two hits and two RBI in his first game back in the majors. He's been putting up huge numbers in the thin air at Albuquerque, but his .295/.348/.410 line in 61 at-bats this season in LA isn't much different from his sea level numbers at Double-A a few years ago, and is probably a better reflection of what he's capable of. Paul should see plenty of starts in Manny's absence, but you never know when Joe Torre might decide that a veteran like Reed Johnson or (shudder) Garret Anderson is his guy instead. Mixed: $8; NL: $21

Matt Stairs - Stairs could see a bit of action now that he’s off the DL, but more likely he’ll be used for occasional pop off the bench while Chris Denorfia and Aaron Cunningham get the starts. Mixed: No; NL: $0

Nick Stavinoha - Injuries have pushed Stavinoha into the starting lineup, but he'll have competition from Randy Winn and Jon Jay and doesn't figure to do much more than hit for a decent batting average anyway. Mixed: $1; NL: $3

Randy Winn - Winn has been a little better in St. Louis than he was with the Yankees, but even with Ryan Ludwick on the DL he doesn't figure to be used as much more than a fourth outfielder. Tony LaRussa uses his bench often enough for that role to have a bit of value, but don't expect him to see regular starts. Mixed: $0; NL: $1

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