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
Brian Burres – Burres was recalled by the Pirates Wednesday to replace Ross Ohlendorf on the roster. Since Burres has been working as a starter at Triple-A Indianapolis, there's reason to believe that he could slot into the rotation, possibly replacing Jeffrey Karstens. In 10 games (seven starts) earlier this season, Burres posted a 5.62 ERA and 1.70 WHIP. While he was better in the minors, don’t expect much from him. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Chris Capuano – Capuano replaced the struggling Manny Parra in the Brewers' rotation and started Saturday against the Pirates. Capuano started two games earlier this season, but he has pitched primarily out of the bullpen. His start Saturday was less than impressive - he allowed six runs on six hits and three walks while striking out five in only three innings – but joining the rotation increases Capuano's fantasy value for the rest of this year. If he finds a way to pitch well over the season's final weeks, it could give him a leg up on a rotation spot next season. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Aaron Cook – Cook, who has been out since early August with a sprained toe, will join the Rockies sometime this week. There was some speculation that Cook was going to have his Saturday rehab outing skipped so that he could be promoted Sunday, but he made that scheduled start and surrendered two runs in 5.2 innings. With the Colorado bullpen losing arms right and left, Cook will either return as a reliever or slide into the rotation with Esmil Rogers moving to the bullpen. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Sam Deduno – The Rockies recalled Deduno from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Friday. Deduno had a strong spring, but a stress fracture in his elbow cost him a chunk of time in the middle of the season. When Deduno returned to Triple-A, he posted a 2.93 ERA with 29 strikeouts and 18 walks in 30.2 innings. Deduno has outstanding movement on a 95 mph fastball and a wicked curveball (his out pitch), and his command of both pitches is the key to his success. Deduno will pitch out of the bullpen for Colorado but is stretched out enough to throw 80-plus pitches if necessary. He is a name to keep in mind for 2011. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Dillon Gee – Gee pitched six-plus innings Monday to become the first Triple-A Buffalo pitcher to win 13 games in a season since 1998. He struck out six in the game and also added 11 punch-outs in his last start on Saturday to extend his franchise-record total to 161, which also tied Durham's Richard De Los Santos for the IL lead. Gee, who made nine starts at Triple-A last year before missing the last three-plus months with a labrum tear, remains in line for a September call-up. While he's not an overpowering guy, Gee has figured out a way to trick Triple-A batters all season using a fastball that tops out around 92, a changeup (his best pitch), and both a slider and a curveball. Gee could fool major league hitters for a couple starts if he gets promoted, which could happen with the Mets all but out of playoff contention. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Aaron Harang – Harang, out since early July due to lower back spasms, could start on Tuesday against the Brewers. It's no guarantee that he'll actually make the start (Homer Bailey is currently scheduled to make that start with Johnny Cueto slated to go Wednesday), and the Reds could decide to put him into the long relief role. Mike Leake, who has been working out of the bullpen recently, was placed on the DL Friday so Harang, who was just 6-7 with a 5.02 ERA when he was sidelined, may ultimately take over his place in relief. However, Edinson Volquez’s move to the pen seems to point to Harang slotting back into the rotation. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Kenshin Kawakami – Manager Bobby Cox said Kawakami would return to the Braves in September. This serves as confirmation of what the team said last week. He will probably pitch out of the bullpen initially, but he could move to the rotation if needed. Kawakami made just one appearance from June 26 through August 5 - when he was sent down - and saw his rotation slot go first to Kris Medlen and then Mike Minor. Kawakami has done alright with Triple-A Gwinnett, but unless he makes his way back to the rotation, he will have minimal value. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Cory Luebke – Luebke has continued his rapid rise up the ladder, going 5-0 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.031 WHIP in nine starts for Triple-A Portland. This performance comes on the heels of a 5-1, 2.40 ERA, 0.931 WHIP line for Double-A San Antonio. Luebke broke out last season with a 2.78 ERA and a 112:32 K:BB ratio, and based on his continued progress, he will likely be a September call-up. While there really is not any room in the Padres’ rotation, Luebke could slot in as a solid lefty arm out of the bullpen. He should contend for a rotation spot in 2011. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Jordan Lyles - Lyles, who was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock in early August, tossed a gem on Thursday, hurling six scoreless innings. Lyles had a superb campaign at Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.12 ERA and 115:35 K:BB in 127 innings. Lyles mixes a low-90s fastball that has late life with a solid curveball and developing changeup. He also possesses good control and command. Astros GM Ed Wade previously said that Lyles would not reach the majors this year, but he appeared to open the door ever so slightly towards that option by promoting Lyles to Triple-A. While Lyles had struggled with Round Rock before his most recent outing, he projects to be a Number 3 starter. He may get a jump on filling that role this season, though the Astros may elect to be cautious and shut him down after the minor-league season ends. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Sean Marshall – Marshall, who has pitched out of the bullpen all year, has said he would be open to moving to the starting rotation next season. Marshall has been excellent in relief this season, posting a 2.81 ERA, 75:24 K:BB ratio and 1.19 WHIP in 64 innings. He was mainly a starter in 2006 and 2007 before moving to the pen beginning in 2008, and whoever is the Cubs’ manager in 2011 will have to consider moving him back into the rotation. Mixed: $3; NL: $11 (spec bid for 2011).
Jenrry Mejia – Mejia was promoted this weekend to Triple-A Buffalo and will start there on Monday. Mejia's last two starts with Double-A Binghamton were both seven-inning shutouts, and he surrendered just four hits between both games. His stay in Triple-A will be short with the minor league season coming to a close, and there is a definite possibility he joins the Mets’ rotation in September. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (spec bid for 2011).
Charlie Morton – Morton was called up to take Ross Ohlendorf's place in the rotation Sunday. Morton had an elbow discomfort scare earlier this month, but after missing a start, he returned to throw six scoreless innings on August 23 with Triple-A Indianapolis. He appeared in 10 games earlier this season with the Pirates and went 1-9 with a 9.35 ERA and 1.892 WHIP, numbers that were inflated by 12 long balls allowed. However, Morton pitched better in the minors, posting a 3.83 ERA and 1.413 WHIP in 14 starts. He has the ability to generate ground balls and notch some strikeouts, but wait to see him string together a few quality starts before jumping on him. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Brandon Webb – Webb, who has vacillated between shutting it down for the year and coming back for the last part of the season, threw a 52-pitch bullpen session Saturday. He was able to throw both fastballs and changeups and he said he was able to locate both well. Webb hopes to make at least one appearance in the Diamondbacks' bullpen in September, and if he can prove he is healthy, it might have a positive impact on his 2011 value. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (if willing to speculate on him for 2011).
Jordan Zimmerman – Zimmermann, who made 16 starts for the Nationals last season before being shut down in July and undergoing Tommy John surgery, is back in the big leagues. Zimmerman was dominant during his rehab, posting a 1.59 ERA in 39.2 innings over 10 starts. He gave up five runs on seven hits and a walk over four innings in his first start back against the Cardinals but showed no ill effects after the outing. Zimmermann’s velocity topped out around 94 mph in the start, and as the case with pitchers coming off TJ surgery, his command was a bit off. If you were able to grab him last week, you’re much better off because his price will now likely be much higher. Mixed: $12; NL: $35.
Jeremy Affeldt/Antonio Bastardo/Collin Balester/Sean Green/Sam LeCure/Scott Maine/Franklin Morales/Luis Perdomo/Fernando Salas - This week’s cast of middle reliever/end of bullpen fillers are in player alpha order: San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Colorado, San Diego and St. Louis. The only one with some possible value is Morales. With Manny Corpas heading to the disabled list and Rafael Betancourt battling a lower abdominal injury, Colorado needed some bullpen reinforcements. Morales struggled with the Rockies earlier this year, but had a 2.67 ERA and 10.1 K/9IP ratio in Triple-A, albeit with a 5.6 BB/9IP ratio, so he still hasn’t ironed out his control issues. He could be a source of strikeouts in middle relief. All except Morales - Mixed: No; NL: $0. Morales – Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Craig Kimbrel – Kimbrel was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett and will likely be in the Atlanta bullpen the rest of the season. Kimbrel had a 1.74 ERA and 22 saves at Triple-A with a 76:34 K:BB ratio in 51.2 innings and was impressive in his brief stint in the majors. It wouldn't be surprising if he found his way into high-leverage situations for Atlanta in September and could close for the Braves next season with Billy Wagner retiring. Mixed: $4; NL: $14 (2011 bid).
Jason Motte – Motte, out with shoulder irritation since early August, began a rehab assignment this week. He struggled in his first outing but threw two perfect innings for Triple-A Memphis Friday; and assuming he has no setbacks, look for him back in St. Louis shortly. Prior to the injury, Motte posted a 2.70 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 42 Ks in 43.1 innings. He should resume his role as Ryan Franklin’s setup man. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Bobby Parnell/Hisanori Takahashi – Takahashi notched the save Friday and appears to be the Mets’ ninth-inning reliever of choice now that Francisco Rodriguez is on the disqualified list for the rest of the season. It's interesting to note that Bobby Parnell was brought in to start the inning and gave up a pair of hits before Takahashi replaced him, so he could be a factor for saves down the stretch as well, though his occasional wildness hurts him in that role. In addition, Pedro Feliciano was also viewed as a possible factor, but he has struggled of late and has troubles retiring righties. For now, look for Takahashi to get the majority of save chances; but once the Mets officially pull the plug on 2010, Parnell should move into that role as the team looks towards 2011. Parnell – Mixed: $2; NL: $7. Takahashi – Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Rod Barajas – Barajas was claimed off waivers by and subsequently joined the Dodgers this past week. Barajas isn't a great hitter by any means - he held a .225 batting average when he was claimed - but he does have a little bit of power. In Los Angeles, he has very weak competition for time behind the plate, so he should get plenty of it. Barajas has made a good first impression with LA, going 6-for-13 with two home runs and five RBI, and should continue to see most of the catching action. Mixed: $6; NL: $19 (due to scarcity of available catchers).
Wilson Ramos – Ramos, who had a cup of coffee while Wil Nieves was with his wife for the birth of their child, should be called back up this week with the rosters expanding. Ramos is the Nationals’ catcher of the future and should see some action in September even though Ivan Rodriguez is still around. Ramos struggled this year at Triple-A Rochester, batting .241 with five homers and 30 runs batted in, but he did a good job in a brief stint with the Twins earlier in the season. In the past, Ramos showed a good eye at the plate and strong throwing arm while also displaying decent power, which he has shown at Syracuse, where he is batting .319/.347/.514 with three homers and eight RBI in 18 games. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Josh Thole – Rod Barajas' departure further opened the door for Thole to start behind the plate for the Mets. Thole had been starting more recently anyhow, but this gives the Mets less temptation to start a veteran over him. Thole won’t give you much in terms of power or RBI but should post a decent average. Mixed: $4; NL: $14 (though likely already owned in NL-only leagues).
Brandon Allen – We profiled Allen at the end of July when there were rumors that Adam LaRoche would be traded. LaRoche stayed in Arizona but Allen still looks to be a lock for a September call-up. After LaRoche wasn’t dealt, Allen was moved to left field, and he has held his own there defensively. The Diamondbacks are reportedly talking extension with LaRoche, and while the organization believes Allen is their long-term future at first, all signs point to him being the team’s left fielder for now. Allen has a .940 OPS at Triple-A Reno this season, including a 1.030 mark in the second half, along with 25 HR and 83 RBI. Mixed: $7; NL: $22 (spec he plays left field daily after he is promoted).
Yonder Alonso – Alonso is blocked at first base by Joey Votto, but he has adapted well to left field. Alonso started the year at Double-A Carolina and was called up to Triple-A Louisville in May. After struggling there initially, due to the positional switch, the lingering effects of a shoulder injury and the tougher pitching at a higher level, Alonso has been raking. He has hit .351/.430/.576 since the All-Star break and is up to .298/.355/.469 with 11 HR and 54 RBI, numbers that put him in line for a September call-up. Alonso could get a shot at earning the starting job in left field for 2011 during Spring Training. Mixed: $3; NL: $11 (keeper league spec).
Freddie Freeman – We profiled Freeman three weeks ago when it looked like he might be promoted with Troy Glaus in the midst of a horrific slump. The Braves opted to keep Freeman down, and once the team acquired Derrick Lee last week, it was clear that Freeman wouldn’t be called up until September 1. Freeman is hitting .324/.383/.529 with 18 home runs and 88 RBI at Triple-A Gwinnett. He is solid defensively and has shown a better eye at the plate, one of the last pieces he needs to be a consistent hitter at the next level. Glaus' struggles and the fact that Lee is a free agent after the season make it seem more likely that Freeman will take over the first base job for the Braves next season. However, keep in mind that Freeman is not on the 40-man roster and Atlanta could elect not to promote him. Mixed: $3; NL: $11 (pure speculation bid and higher in keeper leagues).
Troy Glaus – Glaus, on the DL with a sore knee, began a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett Monday. With Derrek Lee now the everyday first baseman, Glaus is playing third base in the minors. Glaus’ bat, which had been nearly none non-existent since mid-June, has woken up in the minors, but not surprisingly he has struggled defensively. With Martin Prado entrenched in the lineup and the Braves looking to play Omar Infante daily, look for Glaus to fill in at both corner spots when he returns. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Micah Hoffpauir/Xavier Nady – With Derrek Lee now in Atlanta, Hoffpauir could be given a look at first base. Hoffpauir is in the first base mix with Xavier Nady since it appears Tyler Colvin, who was rumored to be moving to first base, will remain in the outfield, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. First base still could develop into a platoon between Hoffpauir and Colvin if Nady is shipped to a contending team before August 31. For now, however, Lee's trade to Atlanta seems to have opened up regular at-bats for Nady at first base, so he'll likely collect the majority of the playing time there between now and the end of the season if he is not dealt. Hoffpauir - Mixed: $1; NL: $5. Nady – Mixed: $4; NL: $14.
Luis Castillo – Jose Reyes’ oblique injury has opened the door for Castillo to be a full-time player again. That status will likely last only until Reyes returns, which given how uncertain oblique injuries are could be in a day or in a couple weeks, at which point Castillo will go back into the lesser end of a platoon with Ruben Tejada. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Matt Downs – Downs may be called up by the Astros if Geoff Blum (neck) is placed on the disabled list. Downs was added to the 40-man roster this past week when he was claimed off waivers from San Francisco. Blum’s neck still hasn’t gotten better but the team has not made a decision on whether to place him on the DL or not. Even if Blum does not land on the DL, look for Downs to be called up Wednesday when the rosters expand and see some time at second base. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Ryan Roberts – Arizona recalled Roberts from Triple-A Reno in the wake of Bobby Crosby's release. Roberts hit .265 with 11 homers and 55 RBI over 347 at-bats in the minors this season, but he held just a .176 mark in 12 games with the big club. Roberts will serve as a utility infielder for the Diamondbacks over the season's final weeks. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Emmanuel Burriss – Burriss, who was sent down earlier in the month to make room for Jose Guillen to take over in right field, should be back up when the rosters expand Wednesday. Burris went 2-for-4 in this short stint with the Giants and will serve as a utility infielder. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Everth Cabrera – Cabrera was called up from Triple-A Portland and will assume the backup shortstop role with Jerry Hairston on the disabled list, which means he will play about 2-to-3 times a week. Cabrera hit just .205 with 10 extra base hits and eight stolen bases with the Padres earlier this season, a far cry from the numbers he posted last year and what was expected of him in 2010. With the possibility of Miguel Tejada re-signing in San Diego, Cabrera could be on the outside looking in for 2011 as well. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Danny Espinosa - Espinosa was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse in August then was moved to second base in the middle of the month. With Ian Desmond entrenched at short, Espinosa would need to move to second base anyway, so this allowed him to get some exposure there should he get the call to Washington in September. Espinosa began the season with a .262/.334/.464 batting line and 18 homers in 386 at-bats for Double-A Harrisburg before earning the promotion to Triple-A. He has shown no signs of slowing down, batting .263/.326/.474 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 19 games for Syracuse. Espinosa has shown good power and speed but still needs to do a better job at making contact and being patient at the plate to succeed at the next level. He has good range and a solid arm, which should aid his transition to second base. Mixed: $4 NL: $14.
Rafael Furcal – Furcal, out since early August with a lower back strain, may begin his rehab assignment as early as Tuesday. Furcal received a cortisone shot on Saturday and has been feeling better since. It isn't certain how long Furcal's rehab assignment would be, but just the idea of him getting back on the field means he's inching closer to a major league return. Furcal was in the midst of a solid rebound campaign when he was hurt; so if he is able to return shortly and at 100 percent, he could be a difference maker down the stretch. Mixed: $22; NL: $65 (if for some reason he was made available during his absence).
Luis Hernandez – Hernandez was called up to the Majors on Friday. Hernandez will add depth to the Mets infield with Jose Reyes nursing his re-aggravated strained oblique. Hernandez isn't expected to see much time even while Reyes is out. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Chris Valaika - The Reds recalled Valaika from Triple-A Louisville on Tuesday. Valaika can play all over the infield, but that defensive versatility will help the Reds more than it will benefit fantasy owners. He was hitting .304 at Triple-A,but had just four homers and an uninspiring 19:72 BB:K ratio. Valaika will see some with Brandon Phillips out, but once Phillips returns to action, Valaika will more be coming off the bench as a pinch hitter. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Juan Francisco – Francisco, who was optioned to Triple-A Louisville on August 15, will likely be called up when the rosters expand. Francisco hadn't started since August 8, so the Reds probably decided that it was better for the young infielder to get regular at-bats for the rest of the month before bringing him back. Francisco was 7-for-22 with five RBI, but he had a 1:8 BB:K after 30 plate appearances. He could be a nice weapon off of Cincinnati's bench in September. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Mat Gamel – Gamel, who missed most of the first two months of the year with a shoulder injury, has been on a absolute tear recently and is hitting .370/.434/.662 in his last 38 games. He will almost certainly get called up in September, but there may not be a place for him to play. Gamel has been seeing most of his action at first base and right field to expand his versatility and potentially replace Corey Hart or Prince Fielder if either is traded during the offseason. Despite Gamel’s big season, he will not have a guaranteed spot in next year’s lineup barring a trade. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Brian Bogusevic – Bogusevic is hitting .283/.371/.425 with 13 homers, 57 RBI, 66 walks, and 23 steals in 24 attempts for Triple-A Round Rock. The former pitcher has turned into a decent outfield prospect with fair power, good on-base skills, and excellent speed on the bases. At age 26 he projects as more of a bench player than a full-term regular, but he could end up being a solid contributor in the right role. If Houston is somehow able to move Carlos Lee this offseason, Bogusevic could get a shot in left field next spring. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Jesus Feliciano – Feliciano was back on the Buffalo-New York shuttle this past week as he was promoted and demoted for the fourth time this season. Feliciano was hitting .342 in Triple-A Buffalo, but he notched just one home run. Feliciano batted .275 for the Mets but hit for no power, totaling only two RBI and no homers in 69 AB. Still, he will likely be called up again when the rosters expand Wednesday. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Sam Fuld – The Cubs optioned Fuld to Triple-A Iowa on Monday. Fuld only received two at-bats after being recalled last Thursday. There is a decent chance he heads back to Chicago when rosters expand and see some occasional starts down the stretch. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Carlos Gomez – Gomez, who had been out with a concussion since August 3, passed all his tests and was activated by the Brewers Monday. He was supposed to be activated last weekend, but Milwaukee decided to wait a few more days. In Gomez’s absence, the starting center field gig has been passed to Lorenzo Cain. Cain has out-hit Gomez, who was batting just .228 when he was sidelined, but the latter appears determined to regain his job. At best, Gomez will be in a time-share with Cain and Chris Dickerson, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Gomez was solely a spot starter the rest of the season. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Cameron Maybin – Maybin was recalled by the Marlins on Tuesday. Maybin took over as the Marlins' everyday center fielder after Cody Ross was awarded to the Giants last Sunday via waivers. Maybin hit just .225 in 51 games with the Marlins earlier this year and struggled last season after a strong start, but he did hit five home runs and steal six bases as well. He was hitting a strong .338 with a .915 OPS in 33 games with Triple-A New Orleans following his June demotion, so hopefully the adjustments he made in the minors will carry over to the big club. Maybin has been moved to the leadoff spot; and while he has hit safely in all five games since his promotion, he does have nine strikeouts and no walks in 23 plate appearances. Those numbers do not bode well for sustained success. Mixed: $4 NL: $11 (tentative bid given past struggles).
Nyjer Morgan – Morgan, who missed the minimum 15 days with a strained hip flexor, was activated off the DL last week. Morgan was hitting just .261 before the injury, but he should play nearly every day and can provide decent contributions in both steals and runs. Keep in mind he is appealing a seven-game suspension (a hearing is set for September 7), so he will miss at least a couple consecutive days even if the suspension is reduced. Mixed: $5; NL: $17 (if available and believe his wheels are healthy).