Article first appeared 4/20/08
This is our weekly look at the free agents in each league. We have two goals with this article:
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:
Armando Galarraga - Galarraga dazzled in his Tigers debut against the slumping Indians, allowing only two runs on a hit and two hit-batters, striking out six batters with no walks over 6.2 innings. This comes on the heels of a nice debut with Triple-A Toledo as well. This still might not be an extended trial in the rotation, but given all the Tigers' pitching woes, it's hard to envision him not getting some sort of role even after Dontrelle Willis returns. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Luke Hochevar - Hochevar is filling in for the injured John Bale and has a great pedigree as a former number one overall draft pick, but arguably isn't ready. He struck out only 44 batters in 58 innings last year for Triple-A Omaha, and was on a similar pace this year. For a prospect of his stature, you'd like to see a little more ability to miss bats before investing too much confidence in him. Look for this to be a shorter trial. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
R.A. Dickey - Dickey started on Friday night in place of the injured Erik Bedard, and is only guaranteed that one start, pending how quickly Bedard can come back. He's tentatively scheduled to start Thursday against the Orioles as well. Dickey has transformed himself into a knuckleball pitcher, though he got into trouble on Friday against the Angels when he tried to sneak in a fastball here-and-there. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Adam Miller - This idea applies only if you're allowed to speculate on minor leaguers, and this is a particularly long reach. Miller is still recovering from the blisters that waylaid him in spring training, so he hasn't even pitched an inning yet for Triple-A Buffalo this year. Still, he remains the Tribe's best pitching prospect and could get a look later this summer, perhaps starting off in the bullpen. Mixed and AL: $0.
Rafael Betancourt - Joe Borowski is on the DL, perhaps for an extended absence, and Betancourt has been tabbed as the man to close. Now if only the Tribe would cooperate and provide a save opportunity, Betancourt could start to earn for those who paid for him in the auction. Betancourt has already given up a couple of homers, and that's been his one vulnerability over the last couple of years. Ignore the 4.50 ERA heading into Sunday, though. He's earned enough credibility over the years to invest some faith, and even this year, he has an 8:1 K:BB over eight innings. Mixed: $10; AL: $39.
Rafael Perez - Perez picked up the loss on Sunday against the Twins in what might have been a good demonstration on the follies of managing by the save rule. Perez has had problems with endurance in the past, so asking him to go much longer than an inning is often asking for trouble. Sure enough, he had already pitch 1.1 innings on Sunday when asked to go one more inning against the Twins, and ended up allowing the winning run. It's not as if the Indians' bullpen was running on fumes - all three games were low scoring, and Betancourt hadn't pitched since Thursday. Perez is starting to come around after a couple of bad outings earlier this season, and has struck out more batters than innings pitched. If he's been dropped in your league after his poor start, he's a reasonably good speculative pickup. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Jensen Lewis - Lewis is nominally the backup to Betancourt when he's unavailable to pitch, but Lewis' first chance against the Red Sox on Tuesday won't exactly imbue manager Eric Wedge with confidence in him. Lewis proved to be pretty reliable last year, however, so he's a useful part in deeper leagues. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Masahide Kobayashi - Kobayashi was picked up in a flurry of moves in Yahoo leagues that allowed for daily pickups once Borowski went on the DL, before the Indians announced that Betancourt would get the nod. He's had plenty of closer experience in Japan, but Indians manager Eric Wedge didn't seem particularly inclined to consider Kobayashi as an option anytime soon. If Betancourt flops, an unlikely possibility, maybe Kobayashi will get a look down the road. Don't hold your breath. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Denny Bautista - Bautista has settled into the Tigers' eighth-inning set-up role, without too many sources of competition, save maybe Aquilino Lopez. Bautista still has his control problems - witness the five walks in eight innings so far. But Todd Jones remains one of the shakier closers out there - if you're looking to speculate on a potential future closer, you could do worse. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Jeff Mathis - Sometimes it's hard to remember that Mathis was once an elite catcher prospect, after seeing what he's done at the plate the last couple of years, both at the major league level and also at Triple-A Salt Lake. Catchers don't always produce at the plate right away, but the extent of Mathis' struggles the last two years make this current hot streak a little hard to buy into. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Rod Barajas - The Jays used Barajas at DH and Marco Scutaro in left field on Sunday, with them facing lefty Nate Robertson on the mound. Frank Thomas was struggling, sure, but it strains credulity to think that Barajas is somehow an improvement. Still, it looks like Barajas will get a short-term boost in playing time. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
German Duran - Duran originally was called up in reaction to Hank Blalock's back injury, but with Marlon Byrd going on the DL and Milton Bradley unavailable to play in the outfield, Duran got action in left field on Saturday. While he's up he's going to play all over the field. He's been a second baseman in the minors, but Ian Kinsler isn't going anywhere. If Duran's power spike in 2007 is for real, then the Rangers will have to find a way to work Duran into the lineup on a more regular basis. Mixed: $1; AL: $6.
Jason Botts - We've long wanted to see Botts get an extended shot at playing time with the Rangers, if for no other reason than to see how well his power translates in the majors. He's starting to get more of a chance now, cutting into Ben Broussard's time at first base. Botts is a switch-hitter, but unfortunately for him, most of his power comes from the left side, the same side that Broussard hits from. So even if this evolves into a platoon, it's not one that necessarily puts Botts into a position to succeed. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Dan Johnson - Johnson gets a new lease on his professional life with the Rays, though it's questionable how much of a chance he'll really get. Johnson will serve as the backup first baseman and lefty DH in Tampa. He'll need to avoid the early season swoon he's had the last two years if he wants to stick around past the time Cliff Floyd comes off the DL. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Brian Buscher - Buscher got called up by the Twins when Adam Everett went on the DL. He's been raking in the minors this season, hitting .345 with four homers and 11 RBI. Buscher won't see any time at short, but with Mike Lamb struggling, he could get some time at the hot corner in the coming weeks. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Scott Moore - This is another speculative pickup idea. Moore has been sent down for now by the O's, but they're having him try to work in a few games per week at shortstop, where he played in high school. Meanwhile, the bloom is already starting to come off of Luis Hernandez's rose at the plate, and neither he nor Brandon Fahey are remotely considered as long-term solutions. Moore is not a threat to win a Silver Slugger, but if he can provide passable defense, he's a decent "Three True Outcomes" (homer/walk/strikeout) hitter who could provide some extra pop and on-base skills to the O's lineup. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Erick Aybar - Aybar has taken over the everyday shortstop duties for the Angels, getting the nod ahead of Maicer Izturis. Superficially, Aybar has gotten off to a pretty good start at the plate, hitting .333 with three stolen bases. A closer look at the numbers reveals that it's a pretty empty .333 - Aybar has just two extra-base hits and just one walk. He's also hitting down in the bottom of the order. So yes, he's getting the playing time and hitting for average, but he's getting fewer counting stats than you might think, and he's even getting fewer stolen base chances that one would hope. He rates a decent steals play and clearly is more valuable the deeper the league, but otherwise keep your expectations in check. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.
Matt Tolbert - Adam Everett is on the DL, creating a playing time opportunity for Tolbert, who will split the at-bats with Nick Punto while Everett is out. We covered Tolbert a couple of weeks ago, but the Twins are trying to catch lightning in a bottle with Tolbert, hoping that they might end up with a decent offense/defense platoon between Tolbert and Everett. Mixed; $1; AL: $5.
Elliott Johnson - Johnson picked up a start in place of a banged up Jason Bartlett at shortstop on Sunday, and if Bartlett's shoulder woes continue, Johnson would keep playing. The Rays' top minor league alternative (at least in terms of who is higher in the organization, but not the top prospect), Ben Zobrist, is still hurt. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Maicer Izturis - Erick Aybar took over the starting duties at shortstop over Izturis largely because of the horrific start at the plate for Izturis. Entering play on Sunday, Izturis was hitting .140/.189/.140 with steals. Now that Howie Kendrick is hurt again, Izturis is getting a run at some playing time at second base, but look for that to be short-lived for now. Aybar will go through a slump at the plate eventually, and when that happens Izturis will get another opportunity at short, but his short-term outlook after Kendrick comes back is pretty pessimistic. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Sean Rodriguez - Rodriguez stagnated a little as a prospect last year at Double-A Arkansas, losing some of the power he exhibited at lower levels while striking out 132 times. He's gotten off to a big start this year at the friendly environs of Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting .333 while slugging four homers. He turns 23 in April, so while this is probably a short-term callup while Kendrick is on the DL, Rodriguez could be an eventual solution at shortstop if the Angels find Aybar and Izturis lacking. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Jamey Carroll - Asdrubal Cabrera is off to a slow start at the plate, and Carroll is starting to eat into his playing time. This is pretty much Carroll's M.O. - vulture away playing time when a younger player with greater upside struggles. He'll take a walk and occasionally swipe a bag, but there's just nothing special he'll do for a roto team. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Adam Lind - The Jays aren't going to call up Lind immediately to replace Frank Thomas, whom they waived on Sunday. That's not because Lind isn't ready to hit major league pitching, but rather because he fighting a sore neck. From a skills perspective, Lind is ready now. If you can make a speculative bid, do so. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.
Joe Thurston - Remember when Thurston was a trendy R.O.Y. candidate? Instead, that campaign never got out of the muck. He didn't hit, but he also never really got an extended trial. It's too easy to say that his prospect status derived from playing in a very nice hitters ballpark, but that played a sizeable part. Anyway, it doesn't really matter too much - with the Red Sox, he's the replacement for Alex Cora, and won't get much playing time nor too many service days as a major leaguer. Mixed: No; AL: $0.