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
Trevor Bell – Bell earned his first win as a starter this season with a six-inning, two-run performance last week against the Mariners. He walked none, struck out six, and now carries a 23:12 K:BB ratio as a starter. Bell has been far too hittable in his starts and probably shouldn't be trusted. On the season, he carries a 4.85 ERA in 55.2 innings. Mixed: $No; AL: $0.
Carlos Carrasco – Carrasco pitched 7.1 innings against the White Sox and allowed 3 earned runs in his 2010 debut for the Indians. He struck out four, walked one, and gave up two homers. In 150.1 innings this year at Triple-A he had a 3.65 ERA and a 2.89 K:BB ratio. Carrasco was once the top pitching prospect in the Phillies system, so he comes with a bit of a pedigree. He should stick in the rotation for the remainder of the season, so he's worth a look, especially in AL-only leagues. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Matt Fox – The Twins burnt through two starters in an extra innings game on Thursday, so Fox was called up to make an emergency start on Friday. On three days rest, he pitched 5.2 innings and allowed only two earned runs against the Rangers. Fox walked one and struck out none, but he got the job done. In 123 innings at Triple-A, he had a 3.95 ERA and a 2.04 K/BB rate. He was designated for assignment on Sunday, so he won’t be a fantasy option until he is back in the bigs, either with the Twins or another team. Mixed & AL: No.
Derek Holland – Holland is back with the Rangers and was expected to pitch out of the bullpen, but that was before the team decided to pull Rich Harden from the rotation. Holland started against Minnesota on Friday and gave up four earned runs over 6.1 innings with five strikeouts and one walk. This is Holland's job to lose right now, but most owners will want to take a wait-and-see approach before adding him. He has a 4.93 ERA with a 2.21 K/BB rate in 34.2 innings this season with the Rangers. Mixed: $No; AL: $1.
Chris Tillman – Tillman is scheduled to start Sunday for the Orioles and will be the sixth pitcher in a temporary six-man rotation. Tillman posted a 3.34 ERA with a 3.13 K:BB rate in 121.1 innings at Triple-A this season. Long term, Tillman has considerable upside since he is viewed as one of the team's best pitching prospects, but for now most owners should hold off before adding him to their roster. Tillman is definitely worth a bid if you're in a keeper league. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Jeremy Hellickson – Hellickson is back with the Rays, but he won't start many, or any, games for them and will pitch out of the bullpen down the stretch. It's conceivable that he could make a spot start or two, considering how great he looked his first time up this season, so he's worth a bid on that alone. On the season Hellickson has a 2.45 ERA and 3.51 K:BB rate in 117.1 innings at Triple-A. If you're in a keeper league and he's available, do whatever it takes to get him on your team. Mixed: $3; AL: $5.
Jensen Lewis – Lewis was recalled this week to add depth to the Indians bullpen. While in Triple-A he amassed a 2.67 ERA with a 30:8 K:BB ratio in 30.1 innings. He is only two seasons removed from earning 13 saves for the club, but it's doubtful he gets any opportunities like that this time around. Mixed & AL: No.
Gil Meche – Meche was activated from the 60-day DL this week and moved to the Royals bullpen. Injuries have plagued him for some time now, but hopefully he can finish the season pain free. In 50.2 innings this season, Meche has a 6.39 ERA and an ugly 32:35 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Mixed & AL: No.
Matt Thornton/Chris Sale – Sale picked up his first major league save this week after injuries left the bullpen short on options. He was selected in this year's draft and spent only 10.1 innings in the minors before joining the White Sox. On the season he has a 16:9 K:BB ratio and a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings out of the bullpen. He's unlikely to see many more save opportunities because Thornton came off the DL last week and got the save on Sunday. Bobby Jenks continues to be the team's closer, but he's prone to blow-ups and stretches where he's in manager Ozzie Guillen's dog house. Expect Thornton to serve primarily as a setup man and vulture the occasional save. Thornton - Mixed: $0; AL: $2. Sale - Mixed: $No; AL: $0.
Koji Uehara – Uehara picked up two saves in the last week of August and another on Sunday. Jim Johnson and Mike Gonzalez have been setting up, so it seems that new manager Buck Showalter has found his closer for now. With experience closing in Japan, it wouldn't be surprising to see Uehara take this role and run with it. On the season, he has a 2.32 ERA and 32:5 K:BB ratio over 31 innings. Mixed & AL: $15 - More if you need the saves.
J.P. Arencibia – John Buck is still blocking Arencibia from significant playing time, but he could see some time at DH, as he did last week. However, but there's already a log-jam there with Jose Bautista, Vernon Wells, Adam Lind, and Travis Snider all taking turns as the DH. There's upside here due to Arencibia’s power (32 HR with a .301/.359/.626 line at Triple-A), but unless an injury occurs, you're probably better off looking for a catcher who gets more at-bats. Arencibia is worth a bid if you're in a keeper league. Mixed: $No; AL: $1.
Tyler Flowers – The White Sox are fighting to make the playoffs right now, so Flowers is unlikely to see much playing time down the stretch. He hit .220/.334/.434 with 16 HR and 121 strikeouts in 346 at-bats at Triple-A this season, so it’s probably best to stay away even if he does get some playing time. Flowers is worth a bid if you're in a keeper league. Mixed: $No; AL: $No.
Jose Morales – Initially the defensive chops of Drew Butera had Morales running as the third-string catcher for the Twins, but with the injuries to Jim Thome and Jason Kubel, he's seen a few at-bats at DH. Despite his 3-for-6 performance last week with 2 RBI, he's not exactly an offensive weapon. In 258 at-bats at Triple-A this season, Morales had three HR with a .264/.350/.380 batting line. Mixed: $No; AL: $1.
Dioner Navarro – Recalled when rosters expanded, Navarro will have a tough time getting many at-bats as John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach have the Rays catcher situation on lockdown. While he hit .284/.387/.390 in 141 at-bats at Triple-A this season, his 33 HR and .253/.313/.364 batting line over six seasons don’t inspire much confidence in his bat. Mixed & AL: No.
Brayan Pena/Lucas May – Pena was already starting to see more playing time before Jason Kendall suffered a rotator cuff injury. Now that Kendall is gone for the season, Pena and May will split the catching duties. Pena has shown an ability to hit for average in the minors and last season in 165 at-bats with the Royals he hit .273/.318/.534. May offers decent power, as evidenced by his 16 HR and .283/.349/.483 batting line between Double-A and Triple-A this year. Kendall could miss anywhere from 8-to-12 months, so this is a situation to monitor going into next season. Pena - Mixed: $1; AL: $3. May - Mixed: $No; AL: $1.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Salty had been on the DL with a left leg infection before being activated last week. He should see some at-bats on days when Victor Martinez plays first base. Saltalamacchia had a .244/.326/.445 batting line in 238 at-bats for Triple-A Oklahoma City before his trade to the Red Sox. Mixed: $No; AL: $1.
Taylor Teagarden – There's some pop in Teagarden’s bat, but with Bengie Molina and Matt Treanor entrenched as the catchers for the Rangers, Tegarden is unlikely to see many at-bats. In 56 major league at-bats this season he has a .143/.250/.375 batting line with four homers. Mixed: $No; AL: $No.
Lance Berkman – Berkman had been on the DL with an ankle injury before being activated last week. He comes back to a situation in which manager Joe Girardi may want to platoon him with Marcus Thames. This is not that unusual, seeing as Berkman has struggled this entire season offensively, especially in New York. He is hitting just .240/.309/.340 since joining the Yankees. Mixed & AL: Owned.
Jordan Brown – Matt LaPorta’s left hip strain opened up playing time for Brown, a former Triple-A batting title champ, this week. In 326 at-bats this season at Triple-A, he had a .298/.341/.463 batting line with eight HR. At 26 years old, Brown is a little too old to be considered a legit prospect. Unless LaPorta's injury flares up again or something else happens to him, expect Brown to be a good contact hitter who sees most his action off the bench. Mixed & AL: No.
Josh Fields – Fields came off the 60-day DL this week after having hip surgery back in April. In 11 rehab games at Double-A he hit .436/.439/.641. The Royals are obviously out of the playoff race this season and have shifted to evaluating their players for next season, which has opened the door to everyday playing time for Fields. He's currently hitting fifth in the lineup and playing third base. Fields is only a few seasons removed from hitting 23 HR in 373 at-bats for the White Sox back in 2007. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Brent Morel – Called up last week, Morel is an interesting third base prospect for the White Sox. At 23 years old, he hit .320/.348/.503 at Triple-A this season with eight HR. He doesn't take many walks (13 in 306 at-bats), so plate discipline is really something he will need to work on. With the team in the midst of a playoff run, Morel is not likely to see much playing time over Omar Vizquel and Mark Teahen; but if he does, he's someone to keep an eye on. Morel is worth a bid if you're in a keeper league. Mixed: $No; AL: $0.
Brandon Snyder – In 339 at-bats at Triple-A this season, Snyder hit .257/.324/.407 with nine HR. That's not exactly the power numbers you want to see out of your first baseman at that level. He did well last season at Double-A (.337/.417/.597 with 10 HR in 196 at-bats) and in the Arizona Fall League. Ty Wigginton is currently starting at first for the Orioles, but don't surprised to see Snyder get some at-bats as the season winds down. Mixed: $No; AL: $0.
Cristian Guzman – Guzman was activated from the DL this week after dealing with a quad injury. Guzman will return to a bench role with Ian Kinsler also returning from the disabled list. Guzman was batting .282/.327/.361 in 319 at-bats for the Nationals prior to being traded, but he has not done much as a Ranger. Elvis Andrus had to come out of Saturday's game with tightness in his hamstring, so Guzman might see an increase in his at-bats early this week as the Rangers give their starting shortstop a rest. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Ian Kinsler – Kinsler came off the DL last week after dealing with a sore groin. The ankle he injured earlier this season had even more time to heal while he was on the shelf. It probably won't translate into the steals that Kinsler owners have been accustomed to in the past, but it can't hurt either. On the season he's hitting .300/.387/.427 with seven HR and 10 SB. Mixed & AL: Owned - A reminder to get him back in your lineup.
Trevor Plouffe – Plouffe was recalled last week. In 402 at-bats in Triple-A this season, he batted .244/.300/.430 with 15 HR. With Nick Punto on the DL, Plouffe will probably serve as middle infield depth for the Twins behind Alexi Casilla. Mixed & AL: No.
Alejandro De Aza – De Aza is really nothing more than outfield depth for the White Sox. He hit .302/.366/.404 in 318 at-bats at Triple-A and stole 16 bases, so he could be a useful speed source if he were to get real playing time. Mixed & AL: No.
Rocco Baldelli – A name you probably recognize from the past, Baldelli is unlikely to get much playing time due to the deep, talented Tampa outfield However, he could see serve as the DH on occasion after hitting .273/.292/.477 at Triple-A this season in 44 at-bats. Don’t expect much production. Mixed & AL: No.
Jeff Francoeur – Frenchy was traded from the Mets to the Rangers this week. He is expected to see some at-bats against lefties and serve mostly as a fourth OF for the team, which isn't the worst situation considering the health issues that Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz have battled this season and in the past. In 401 at-bats this season for the Mets, Francoeur hit .237/.293/.369 with 11 HR. Mixed: $No; AL: $2.
Brad Hawpe – Hawpe was waived by the Rockies in August and signed with the Rays. He was added to the roster last week so he could be eligible for the playoffs, a signal that the Rays will give him a chance to get back in a groove. Hawpe saw his production decline dramatically this season in Colorado and hit just .255/.343/.432 with 7 HR. Tampa plans to use him as a DH against righties, so his value could be decent if he sees enough playing time. Hawpe went –for-4 with four strikeouts in his Tampa debut, but he recovered on Saturday by launching a home run. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Desmond Jennings – Jennings is an elite prospect, but with the Rays in the throes of a playoff hunt, he's unlikely to see much playing time right away. Jennings hit .278/362/.393 in 399 at-bats at Triple-A this season and also stole 37 bases, so if you're desperate for speed, you might want to take a flier on him. If you are in a keeper league and can add him to your roster for next season, you will want to bid highly. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Eric Patterson – Patterson was activated from the DL last week after dealing with a strained neck. He hit .254/.315/.478 in 67 at-bats with the Red Sox earlier this season. Patterson has good speed (43 stolen bases in Triple-A last season) and will most likely provide depth in the outfield and at second base. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Manny Ramirez – The White Sox claimed Ramirez off waivers last week from the Dodgers. He joins the team with a .311/.405/.510 batting line and eight HR for the season. Manager Ozzie Guillen currently has Ramirez batting fifth and playing DH. The upside is considerable because he is leaving a poor hitting park in Dodger Stadium and going to a great one at US Cellular Field - and he will no longer have to play defense. Ramirez left a team that barely had a chance at the playoffs for one in the middle of a division title hunt, so that should add some motivation as well. Ramirez is the last big name to come over to the AL, so spend whatever is left of your FAAB budget. Mixed: Owned; AL: Max.
Nolan Reimold – The former ROY candidate was recalled last week by the Orioles. He flirted with the Mendoza line in April and into early May before being sent down, and it is possible his Achilles tendon was still bothering him after undergoing surgery late last year. In Triple-A this season Reimold hit .249/.364/.374 with 10 HR in 337 at-bats. With Adam Jones banged up and Baltimore's season pretty much over, he should see a fair amount of at-bats. Mixed: $No; AL: $2.
Ben Revere - One of the Twins’ top prospects, Revere was called up on Saturday night. He will provide some extra depth and is an option in pinch-running situations, but don't expect many starts or at-bats. In 361 at-bats this season at Double-A Revere had a .305/.371/.363 batting line with 36 steals. He's worth a bid in keeper leagues. Mixed: $No; AL: $1.
*Note: There were many September call-ups this week. If there's a player you want to know about specifically that I didn't discuss, just drop a line in the comments. Thanks!