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
Ross Detwiler – Detwiler made his first start of the season on Sunday against the Brewers. Detwiler spent most of the season on the 60-day disabled list after undergoing hip surgery to repair a labral tear, but he pitched the last couple weeks pitching with Double-A Harrisburg. Detwiler posted a 31:7 K:BB ratio in 32.2 innings at Harrisburg, so it's clear he's not having issues with his control. Those K:BB and K:IP ratios are the best of Detwiler’s career and did come at Double-A, so view them with a grain of salt. That said, there is a good chance Detwiler, who went 1-6 with a 5.00 ERA last year in the majors but had a 1.90 ERA in September, remains in the Nationals' rotation for the rest of the season, so he is worth a flier, especially in NL-only leagues. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Nelson Figueroa – The Astros claimed Figueroa off waivers this past week from the Phillies. Figueroa pitched fairly well in 26 innings with Philadelphia earlier this year, posting a 3.46 ERA. He is expected to pitch in relief for Houston, but he could wind up in the rotation until Brian Moehler is ready to return or if either Roy Oswalt or Brett Myers is traded. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
J.A. Happ – Happ, who has not made an MLB start since April 15 because of a forearm injury, returned to the Phillies’ rotation on Sunday. Happ was sent down to the minors on July 6 after his initial 30-day rehab period ended due to concerns over his lack of velocity, but the extra two weeks paid big dividends as Happ’s velocity is back in the 92-93 mph range. Happ put up 22 K's in 22.1 innings for Triple-A Lehigh Valley and his return will help the Phillies fill one of two holes in their rotation following Kyle Kendrick's demotion and Jamie Moyer's elbow injury. Happ should remain a part of the Phillies' rotation unless they make a move for a starter from outside of the organization (i.e. Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt), but there is a chance he could be included in said trade. If Happ is dealt elsewhere, his role should not change. If he is truly healthy, Happ has the ability to post above-average numbers like he did as a rookie last season. Mixed: $16; NL: $40.
Mat Latos – Latos returned from the disabled list on Saturday and held the Pirates to two runs on seven hits in six innings to pick up his 11th win of the year. The Padres are trying to hold back Latos’ workload so he only ends up between 150-180 innings, so his stint on the DL actually helped limit his innings. While Latos may have some starts skipped or pushed back later in the season, you don't need us to tell you this: get him active. (just an FYI as he should already be owned in all formats).
Jason Marquis – Marquis, who has been out since April and had surgery in May to remove bone chips from his elbow, threw 3.1 innings Friday in his second rehab start at Double-A Harrisburg, allowing three runs on five hits and a walk with five K's. He threw 65 pitches, 38 of them for strikes, and at least health-wise was happy with the outing. "Physically, I feel fine," Marquis said. "I was trying to build up my pitch count. I could have gone a lot longer, which was a good sign. Everything feels pretty good." He's looking at returning to the Nationals rotation in August, but space may be limited as Ross Detwiler has he has already beaten him back to the majors by and Jordan Zimmermann will likely return soon. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Carlos Monasterios – Monasterios has officially taken the rotation spot vacated by the unimpressive James McDonald. Monasterios pitched five shutout innings Saturday, allowing six hits and a walk while striking out three in 81 pitches. Monasterios had a decent 3.61 ERA out of the bullpen this season, but his low strikeout rate and average control make him somewhat of a risky bet. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Oliver Perez – Perez, who was pulled from the rotation due to poor performance in mid-May, then landed on the DL with tendinitis in his right knee, was activated this past week. Perez is pitching out of the bullpen and is still struggling with his velocity - his fastball is sitting in the 87-88 mph range. He was forced into action in several extra-inning games this past week but is still way down in the bullpen pecking order and likely will not be receiving any chance to start in the near future. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Chris Volstad –The Marlins recalled Volstad from Triple-A New Orleans after Saturday's game. Volstad disappointed in his earlier stay with the Marlins, posting a 4.78 ERA in 17 starts, but he's back in the rotation after Nate Robertson proved to be less useful and was DFA'd earlier in the week. Volstad held Triple-A batters to a .217 average in his 17 innings, but he also posted a 13:9 K:BB ratio. Florida is close to being out of the pennant race and could be sellers; so if they do drop out of contention, Volstad has a better shot of remaining in the rotation the remainder of the season. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Carlos Zambrano – Manager Lou Piniella expects Zambrano (suspension) to rejoin the team near the end of the Cubs' next road trip, which begins on Monday and ends August 1. The Cubs have stated that Zambrano will pitch out of the bullpen when he returns to the majors, but the club may put him back in the rotation later in the season to showcase him for a potential, though unlikely, trade. As a reliever, Zambrano's fantasy value will be limited; so don't expect him to add much to your fantasy team in the coming weeks. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Fernando Abad/Manny Acosta/Collin Balester/Kenley Jansen/Joseph Martinez/Fernando Salas/Brian Schlitter/Jorge Sosa/Jack Taschner - This week’s cast of middle reliever/end of bullpen fillers are in player alpha order: Houston, New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, St. Louis, Chicago, Florida and Los Angeles. The only ones with some potential value are Jansen and Martinez. Jansen was recalled Friday after striking out 78 in 45 innings between High-A Inland Empire and Double-A Chattanooga this season. Jansen, who struck out two in a scoreless inning in his major-league debut Saturday, sat consistently in the 96-98 mph range and could quickly find himself right behind Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo in the LA bullpen hierarchy. Martinez will pitch in long relief for the Giants and could rack up some strikeouts in that role. All except Jansen and Martinez - Mixed: No; NL: $0. Jansen – Mixed: $1; NL: $4. Martinez - Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Taylor Buchholz – Buchholz returned to the majors on Friday for the first time since 2008 after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He pitched one inning and gave up two runs in his season debut Saturday. Buchholz will likely help setup closer Huston Street and was very successful in that role two years ago. However, keep in mind he is probably a bit rusty after missing a season and a half. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Juan Gutierrez – D-Backs interim manager Kirk Gibson refused to name a closer after Gutierrez picked up a save on Tuesday night. For now, a committee may be the D-Backs' preferred approach, but we'd prefer Gutierrez or Chad Qualls to Aaron Heilman right now. The risk with Qualls is that he could be traded between now and the July 31 deadline, so Gutierrez may be the primary ninth-inning option for Gibson in August and September. When Chad Qualls went down with a knee injury in late August last season, Gutierrez moved into the ninth-inning role and secured all seven of his save opportunities, so he does have some history and success in that role. Gutierrez has given up runs in three of his eight July appearances, so be aware that you may risk your ratios for a couple saves if you sign him. Mixed: $8; NL: $22.
Sean Marshall - Marshall worked two more scoreless innings Friday and has held opponents scoreless in his last nine outings and in 16 of his last 17. Marshall has 59 strikeouts in just 50.2 innings this season, and his ERA is 1.32 since April 24. He has 13 holds and is quickly becoming a top setup man in the NL. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Jose Veras – According to Marlins interim manager Edwin Rodriguez, Veras may take over as the team's setup man. Prior to Friday, when he surrendered two runs, Veras had not allowed an earned run in 11 appearances since returning to the major leagues. Regular setup man Clay Hensley had allowed four runs over his last two appearances and is not striking guys out at the same rate he was earlier this season, so Veras could get a chance to setup closer Leo Nunez. Hensley righted the ship a bit Friday with 1.1 scoreless innings, but Veras looks to be next in line to pick up the save if Nunez is unavailable, which slightly enhances his fantasy value. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Brad Ausmus – The Dodgers activated Ausmus from the 60-day DL Tuesday. Ausmus had been out since April after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back. It looks like the team will roll with three catchers for the time being, with both Ausmus - who will retire at the end of the season - and A.J. Ellis serving as Russell Martin's backups. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Brad Davis – Davis was called up from Triple-A New Orleans to get his first stint in the majors. He takes Brett Hayes' spot backing up Ronny Paulino while Hayes is on the DL. Davis was hitting .289/.350/.463 with eight home runs and 28 RBI at New Orleans, but he likely won't see many at-bats with the Marlins. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Ramon Hernandez – Hernandez, who had been on the disabled list since July 5 due to left knee inflammation, was activated Thursday. He was having a decent season before the injury, batting .287/.365/.403 with three home run and 23 RBI. Hernandez will have a roughly even timeshare with Ryan Hanigan behind the plate going forward and will see the occasional start at first base. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Jason Jaramillo/Erik Kratz – Jaramillo, who was just sent down to Triple-A Indianapolis last Sunday, was recalled on Thursday. With Ryan Doumit having landed on the DL, Jaramillo will now team up with Kratz to handle the Bucs' catching duties. Jaramillo could see most of the starts against right-handers due to his ability to bat from both sides of the plate, which would give him the edge in the time-share. Kratz, who was just promoted last week for Jaramillo, also gets a bump, as he too will see some extra action. Jaramillo - Mixed: $1; NL: $5. Kratz – Mixed: $0; NL: $4.
Brandon Allen – Allen is hitting .281 with 10 homers and 39 RBI over his last 45 games and is 14-52-.255 overall at Triple-A Reno. He's bounced back nicely from a shoulder injury that slowed him in April and May. Allen, who struggled in a late-season call-up last year with Arizona, is intriguing in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues for the final two months of the season because of the likelihood that current D-Backs starter Adam LaRoche will be traded. If you're looking to sew up a cheap keeper for the 2011 campaign, you'll want to be ready to bid accordingly upon Allen's promotion in the coming weeks. Mixed: $4; NL: $14 (purely speculative on LaRoche being traded).
Rusty Ryal – Ryal is hitting .327/.352/.481 with a homer and three RBI and 21 games - including 11 starts - since June 15. He's been getting occasional time at first base when Adam LaRoche needs a day off. Ryal hasn't been able to provide enough power to be considered a long-term option at a corner-infield spot, but he's versatile defensively and can at least serve as a warm body for those in deeper NL-only leagues. If LaRoche is traded before the July 31 deadline, Brandon Allen would likely leapfrog Ryal as the D-Backs' primary first baseman during the final two-plus months of the season. Mixed: $0; NL: $4. (qualifies at second based on prior year eligibility).
Jamey Carroll – Carroll played outfield on Monday for the first time all season and saw two more games out there last week with Manny Ramirez (calf) and Reed Johnson (back) both on the disabled list. The Dodgers are mixing and matching in left field, prompting the use of Carroll out there. Carroll has played four different positions this year and has posted a .285 BA and .385 OBP. He should continue to be used more than originally expected. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Anderson Hernandez – The Astros claimed Hernandez off waivers from the Indians this past week. He'll give Houston some infield flexibility, but Hernandez is a .245 career hitter with no power and little fantasy value. Mixed: No; NL: $0
Troy Tulowitzki – Tulowitzki, who has been out since June 17 with a broken left wrist, may rejoin the Rockies for Tuesday's game against the Pirates. Tulowitzki will played nine innings with Double-A Tulsa on Saturday and will again on Sunday, at which point a decision will be made on his availability for Tuesday. Tulo started his rehab Wednesday and also played Thursday with Triple-A Colorado Springs and so far all signs have been positive in his return from the injury. Tulowitzki has missed 29 games, and although the Rockies won 16 of the first 25 without him, they have lost four in a row and clearly need him down the stretch. Before getting injured, Tulowitzki hit .306 with nine home runs and 34 RBI; and he will be counted on as Colorado battles to make the post-season. Mixed and NL: Max (if for some reason he was waived in your league after the injury).
Emilio Bonifacio - Bonifacio saw some additional action this past week in left field while Chris Coghlan was sidelined with a sore back. Coghlan returned to action Wednesday, relegating Bonifacio back to the bench. For those of you basing your moves on what happened earlier in the week, be advised that Coghlan is back, which makes Bonifacio a bench player again with minimal value. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Ben Francisco – Manager Charlie Manuel said he is not platooning Francisco and Raul Ibanez despite the fact that Francisco has started the last three games and eight of the last nine when the Phillies faced a left-handed pitcher, "It's still not a platoon, but I want to get Ben in the game," Manuel said. "Ben needs to play some, too. I wanted to put as many righties on their lefty as I could." Ibanez is hitting just .212 with a .272 OBP and .341 SLG (.613 OPS) against lefties this season. Francisco, who went 0-for-4 Wednesday, is hitting .250 with a .745 OPS against lefties. Ibanez has been hot since the All-Star Game, going 11-for-31 with seven runs and seven RBI, and he hit his first home run since July 1 on Saturday, so don’t overvalue Francisco. Ibanez could start seeing more time against lefties in an effort to see if that hot streak will carry over when he faces southpaws. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Ryan Ludwick – Ludwick, who had been out since June 25 with a strained left calf, was activated off the DL Saturday. Ludwick looked sharp in his three-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis, hitting .333 with two homers and five RBI. He went 1-for-3 with two runs scored and a walk in his return to the majors. As long as he is healthy, look for Ludwick to start nearly every game in right field. Mixed and NL: $75 (if some reason he was waived in your league while he was out for a month).
Nate McLouth – McLouth, who struggled at the plate earlier this season then missed the past six weeks with a concussion, was activated from the DL Tuesday. McLouth hit .258 with one home run in seven games for Triple-A Gwinnett during a rehab stint, but more importantly, showed he was fully healthy. McLouth started three of the Braves’ four games since his activation, but he went just 1-for-13 in that span and will lose a couple starts to Melky Cabrera. With Jason Heyward entrenched in right field and Cabrera, Matt Diaz, and Eric Hinske vying for playing time in left, McLouth has to get hot quickly or he will end up on the bench like he was earlier in the year. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Xavier Paul – Paul was called up in early July when Manny Ramirez landed on the DL with a calf injury and saw semi-regular playing time in left field. Paul stuck around when Ramirez came off the DL after the All-Star break, and now with Ramirez back on the DL for an expected three weeks, Paul is once again in line to see extended playing time. That said, Jamey Carroll and Garret Anderson are also in the mix, so factor that in if you are considering submitting a bid on Paul. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Bryan Peterson – Petersen was recalled by the Marlins from Triple-A New Orleans. The move was made to give the Marlins some added outfield depth while Chris Coghlan was dealing with a back issue. With Coghlan seemingly healthy again, Peterson could be sent down any day. Mixed and NL: No.
Seth Smith - Smith has actually started more games in left field than any other Rockie this year, and he continues to find at-bats here and there despite the return of Dexter Fowler. Since the start of July, Smith is batting .293/356/.463 in 41 plate appearances. Fowler has seen most of his action in center field, but has been bothered of late by a hand/wrist injury, which has limited his playing time. This has allowed Carlos Gonzalez to play center and Smith to take his place in left. Smith also sees action in right field with Brad Hawpe having a down season. Hawpe is a trade option for the Rockies; and even if he isn’t dealt, look for Smith to continue seeing plenty of action against right-handed pitching as long as he remains hot. Mixed: $8 (likely owned in all NL-only formats).