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
Jeff Francis – Francis, who was placed on the 15-day DL August 14 because of left shoulder tendinitis, is scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Colorado Springs. Francis was cleared for live action after a successful bullpen session Thursday; and the hope is that Francis will be ready to return to the majors after one or two rehab starts. He missed the first six weeks of the season while recovering from 2009 surgery and made just 16 starts before he was sidelined again, so tread carefully. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Jeremy Jeffress – Jeffress, who missed the first two months of the season while serving the remainder his 100-game suspension, was promoted to Milwaukee this past week. After returning to the mound, Jeffress was moved to the bullpen and advanced up to Double-A Huntsville, where he posted a 1.26 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, and 15:2 K:BB ratio in 11 relief appearances. He mixes a high-90s fastball with a big-breaking curveball and his long-term future could be in the bullpen. Jeffress is auditioning for a job in Milwaukee next season and could develop into a valuable bullpen arm if he does not stick as a starter. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Mike Hampton – Hampton, who signed two weeks ago and made four relief appearances for Triple-A Reno, was called up by the D-Backs on Friday. He will work out of the bullpen during the final four-plus weeks of the season in hopes of getting an audition with another club during spring training next season. Hampton underwent surgery in September 2009 to repair a full tear of his rotator cuff as well as some partial damage to his labrum and had not pitched this year until he was signed with Arizona. This could be his last shot to prove that he can be a starter in 2011. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Yunesky Maya – Maya, who defected from Cuba last September and signed with the Nationals in July, is close to making his major league debut. Maya made his second start with Triple-A Syracuse and could be promoted to start in the majors on Tuesday. He has made a combined five starts in the minors at three levels, posting a combined a 3.38 ERA and 1.32 WHIP with a 7.6 K/9 ratio and 4.2 BB/9 ratio. Maya has a decent fastball and slow curveball but has struggled with his command, as evidence by his walk rate. Given the injuries that have devastated the Washington rotation, Scott Olsen’s move to the bullpen, and the likelihood that Jordan Zimmerman will be shut down at some point, Maya should get a chance to start for the Nationals over the final few weeks. Mixed: $1; NL: $6.
Adalberto Mendez – Mendez will make his first major league start, at age 28, for the Marlins on Monday after spending most of 2010 with Triple-A New Orleans. He struck out over a batter per inning in the minors and had acceptable control. Mendez also has a track record of keeping the ball in the park, so he has some upside and could have a chance at a starting role in 2011. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Andrew Miller – Miller gave up one run over five innings to pick up his first win of the season on Friday. He allowed seven hits and posted a 6:3 K:BB ratio in the game. Miller worked in and out of trouble and needed 104 pitches to pick up the win - his first since July 4 of last year. Miller has struggled with his command, walking 5.13 batters per nine innings in his career, but he still averaged 7.2 K/9 and has the upside now and in the future to make him an intriguing add. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Vicente Padilla – Padilla, out since mid-August with a bulging disk in his neck, was activated off the 15-day disabled list Friday and will start Monday against the Padres. For the most part, Padilla pitched well after coming off the disabled list in June, but he failed to pitch more than five innings in three of his last four starts and allowed 12 runs in his last 9.1 innings, part of which could be attributed to his injury. If the injury was the cause and Padilla is indeed healthy, he is worth adding in most formats given the park he pitches in and the way he pitched before the injury. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Jeff Suppan – Suppan, who had been out since August 11 with a strained groin, was activated and started last Wednesday against Houston. He gave up four runs on three hits over five innings and was saddled with his seventh loss of the season (against just one win). Although Suppan has consistently struggled with both the Brewers and Cards this season, he will remain a part of the St. Louis rotation for the time being as they try to stay in the pennant race. However, just because St. Louis doesn’t appear to have any better options available doesn’t mean that you have to follow the same route. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Taylor Buccholz/Manny Delcarmen/Mike Dunn/Carlos Fisher/Zach Kroenke/Chris Leroux/Matt Maloney/Scott Proctor/Chris Ray/Dennys Reyes/Carlos Rosa/Leo Rosales/Dan Runzler/Jordan Smith/Jorge Sosa/Raul Valdes/Carlos Villanueva/Henry Villar/Ryan Webb - This week’s cast of middle reliever/end of bullpen fillers are in player alpha order: Colorado (2x), Atlanta, Cincinnati, Arizona, Florida, Cincinnati, Atlanta, San Francisco, St. Louis, Arizona (2x), San Francisco, Cincinnati, Florida, New York, Milwaukee, Houston and San Diego. The only ones with some possible value are Kroenke, Maloney and Villar. Kroenke struggled with his control at Triple-A Reno this season but was still effective with a 3.51 ERA in 40 appearances. It's worth noting, however, that Kroenke's control was actually better as a starter (34:15 K:BB in 44 innings) than as a reliever (35:24 K:BB in 53.1 innings). Despite that, the D-Backs may consider giving him a look as a back-end option next season depending on the other personnel changes they make. Maloney, who was a starter in the minors, will pitch out of the bullpen for Cincinnati but could get a start of two if the Reds clinch a playoff spot before the end of the season. Villar, a strike-thrower, has three plus pitches in his arsenal: a fastball, a changeup and a slider. He was used in late inning situations in the minors, so he could be someone to watch this September. All except Kroenke, Maloney and Villar - Mixed: No; NL: $0. Kroenke, Maloney and Villar– Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati recalled Chapman from Triple-A Louisville on Tuesday, making him eligible for the playoffs. Chapman’s keeper value is very high, but is being used out of the bullpen during Cincinnati's playoff push, which limits his 2010 fantasy value. His blazing fastball has been a nice addition to the Reds' relief corps and he was lights-out at Triple-A prior to his promotion, posting a 1.74 ERA and a 19:3 K:BB ratio in his last 10 relief appearances. Chapman has hit 104 mph on the gun during his three relief appearances and is already drawing comparisons to Randy Johnson with his wicked slider that breaks in on right-handers. Mixed: $4; NL: $14 (bid higher in keeper leagues).
Clay Hensley – Hensley has been promoted to closer, replacing the ineffective Leo Nunez. Hensley had a fantastic August, giving up just two earned runs over 13 innings, while Nunez blew three of six save opportunities while posting a 9.31 ERA for the month. For the year, Hensley has posted a 2.67 ERA, 1.140 WHIP, and .212 BAA while striking out 66 and walking 26 in 60.1 innings. He will look to carry his August momentum into the closer role, but be aware that the Marlins could elect to go back to Nunez if he begins throwing well again. Mixed: $8; NL: $22.
Matt Lindstrom – Lindstrom, who was battling back spasms before landing on the DL in mid-August, was activated Wednesday. Lindstrom will not immediately be thrust back into the closer's role given Brandon Lyon’s performance in the role. For now, Lindstrom will set up Lyon and could remain in that role for the balance of the year. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Brad Davis – John Baker underwent Tommy John surgery on Friday, Ronny Paulino is serving a 50-game suspension for PED use, and Brett Hayes is likely out for the rest of the year with a separated left shoulder, so Davis should get a chance to play nearly every day the rest of the season. Davis, selected in the fifth round in 2004, flashed some power at Double-A in 2009 and took another step forward this year. Davis hit nine homers and posted a .287/.324/.455 line at Triple-A New Orleans, so he could conceivably pop a couple more the rest of the way. He has a decent walk rate but needs to limit his strikeouts, so he may leave a little bit to be desired in terms of batting average. Mixed: $3; NL: $11 (starting catchers are hard to find now).
Jean Boscan/Wellington Castillo/A.J. Ellis/Brian Esposito/Chris Hatcher/Paul Hoover/Michael Nickeas/Matt Pagnozzi/Mike Rivera/Chris Stewart – With the rosters expanding, we now have a slew of call-ups who will fill this role of third catcher. This week’s case, in player alpha order: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Florida, Philadelphia, New York, St. Louis, Florida and San Diego. All - Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Nick Evans – Evans is expected to join the Mets on Monday in Washington. He hit .294 with 17 homers and 55 RBI in 88 games with Double-A Binghamton this season and earned a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo on July 30. Evans then hit .314 with six homers and 25 RBI in 140 at-bats with Buffalo. This is Evans' final year with a minor league option, so if he fails to make the team out of spring training and is not traded, he would need to clear waivers to again be sent to the minors next season. Evans should see the occasional start at first base and in the outfield in September. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Ross Gload – Gload, who went on the disabled list on August 21 due a strained right groin, was activated Friday. Gload played in two rehab games for High-A Clearwater and went 1-for-8. He will see limited playing time over the rest of the season provided Ryan Howard stays healthy. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Tony Abreu – The Diamondbacks called up Abreu from Triple-A Reno Wednesday to serve in a utility infielder role. In 60 games earlier this season he hit .237 with seven RBI. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Joaquin Arias – The Mets acquired Arias from the Rangers for Jeff Francouer. Arias will slide into the utility infielder role first filled by Alex Cora, who has ironically taken over Arias’ old role in Texas. Once a top prospect with the Rangers, Arias hit .276 in 98 at-bats for Texas this season, most of them before the All-Star break. His hallmarks are athleticism and versatility - two skills the Mets desperately need. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Orlando Cabrera - Cabrera played on Saturday for the first time since August 2. He missed the last month with an oblique injury but was able to play the entire game. Cabrera's return means Paul Janish will return to a bench role for the Reds. Batting between Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto gives Cabrera a prime opportunity to provide solid run and RBI numbers, but his lack of production over the first four months of the season provides little hope for solid numbers over the last month. Cabrera has hit just .260 with a .302 on-base percentage this season but his runs and RBI potential give him some value for the last month of the year. Mixed: $11; NL: $35 (if for some reason he was waived while sidelined).
Jeff Keppinger – Keppinger, who had been out with a fractured left toe since mid-August, was activated off the disabled list on Wednesday. He completed a two-game rehab assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi this week, finishing 2-for-5 with a walk and an RBI. Keppinger was hitting .285/.348/.395 with five home runs and 46 RBI when he was sidelined and will slide back into the starting second base role. Mixed: $7.
Chris Nelson – Nelson, who was up twice earlier in the year, was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs when the rosters expanded. Nelson revived his prospect status, batting .317/.379/.498 with 12 home runs and 55 RBI in 319 at-bats in the minors. For now, he'll add infield depth in September, which could come in handy with Troy Tulowitzki's sore groin. Nelson could get a shot at handling the second base job in Colorado in 2011. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Edgar Renteria – Renteria, who had been out for about three weeks with a left biceps strain, was activated from the 15-day DL on Wednesday. Renteria has played in only 61 games this season and has received 209 at-bats due to an assortment of injuries and ineffective play. With the Giants battling for a playoff spot and Juan Uribe all but locked in at shortstop, don’t look for Renteria to see a lot of playing time. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Greg Dobbs – The Phillies purchased Dobbs' contract from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Friday. Dobbs, who was designated for assignment twice this season, will serve as a pinch hitter over the rest of the season. He will be a free agent this winter. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Wladimir Balentien – Despite not being on the 40-man roster, Balentien may find his way up to Cincinnati this month. The Reds are desperate for outfielders, especially with Jay Bruce a bit banged up. Balentien has been playing well in Triple-A, batting .282/.337/.460 with 25 home runs and 78 RBI, but the Reds will have to make room on the 40-man first. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
John Bowker – The Pirates recalled Bowker - acquired from the Giants as part of the Javier Lopez trade last month - from Triple-A on Wednesday. Bowker batted .313/.382/.587 with 18 home runs and 46 RBI between Triple-A Fresno and Indianapolis this season. With Indianpaolis, he batted.319 with four homers and 10 RBI in 25 games. Bowker will see occasional starts in the outfield and serve as a pinch hitter as he attempts to prove he is more than a 4-A player. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Chris Carter – Following the trade of Jeff Francoeur to Texas, Carter will see extra at-bats for the Mets. When Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan are in the lineup, either Carter or Lucas Duda will play, with Duda likely seeing more action. When Carter is in the lineup, manager Jerry Manuel likes to pencil him in as the clean-up hitter, so there's some added value here for owners in need of an outfielder in deeper formats. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Scott Cousins – Cousins was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans on Friday and will serve as the Marlins' fourth outfielder for the rest of the year. Cousins batted .285 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI in 118 games with New Orleans this season. He is a solid defender with some power and speed and will see some playing time during September. Cousins is a candidate to make the roster out of spring training as a fourth outfielder next season. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Aaron Cunningham – The Padres recalled Cunningham from Triple-A Portland on Monday. Cunningham hit .312 in a 30-game stint with the Padres earlier this year, but he posted just a .251/.333/.413 line in 80 games with Portland. The Padres will deploy him as a reserve outfielder. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Lucas Duda – The Mets rewarded Duda for his fine season by calling him up last week from Triple-A Buffalo. Duda, a seventh round pick in 2007, had a breakout year, hitting .304 while blasting a career-high 23 home runs and driving in 87 runs between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo, including a .314 batting average and .988 OPS in 260 at-bats for the latter affiliate. Duda played a lot of first base his first three years in the system but made the full-time transition to left field this season. Duda worked hard to become passable in the outfield and his hard work was evident his first week in the majors as he played a better than expected left field. Duda has always had solid plate discipline, but he dropped his strikeout rate over the last two years and had a better approach. Duda will get a chance to impress the Mets and possibly put himself in line for a 2011 roster spot with a solid September. Mixed: $4; NL: $14.
Darren Ford – Ford was recalled from Double-A Richmond, where he hit .251 with 37 steals, on Wednesday. The Giants will likely use the speedy outfielder in pinch-running situations. He should get a shot at Triple-A next season. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Kosuke Fukudome – After struggling in June and July, Fukudome had an excellent August, upping his batting average 25 points while posting a 1.117 OPS with four home runs and 12 RBI. Part of that rise in batting average was sparked by a .373 BABIP, but his ability to draw a walk and solid eye at the plate helps put him in hitter-friendly counts. Ride the hot hand down the stretch. Mixed: $9.
Nate McLouth – McLouth, who has been a major disappointment this year, was recalled last week from Triple-A Gwinnett. He was hitting .234 with six home runs at Triple-A in 34 games after batting just .165 with three home runs in 64 games for Atlanta. The batting average struggles that have plagued him in the past really came to the forefront this year and he may have played his way out of a starting job for the foreseeable future, McLouth will be used in a reserve role in September. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Oscar Salazar – Salazar, out since August 1 with a strained Achilles' tendon, was activated from the 15-day DL on Wednesday. Salazar was buried on the San Diego bench in July and will likely be in a reserve role. However, with injuries to Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jerry Hairston Jr., he could see some action. Mixed: No NL: $2.