Article first appeared 5/11/08
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:
Jeremy Bonderman - Bonderman is looking more like the pitcher that really struggled over the second half last season than the one over the first half and for most of 2006, when all of his trends were good. Granted, he's faced a healthy dose of the Yankees and Red Sox this year, but he's walked more batters (29) than he's struck out (25) over 45 innings. He's surfacing on the waiver wire in 12-team mixed leagues right now, and maybe that's appropriate. It's not just the walks - his strikeout rate has dropped nearly 2.5 strikeouts per nine innings from last year. He's having a lot of troubles with his slider, which is his money maker. Mixed: $1.
Dana Eveland - We've covered Eveland in the past, but he's still available in some mixed leagues, so we'll take a look at him from that standpoint. The A's decision to move Chad Gaudin to the bullpen, creating spots in the rotation for both Eveland and Greg Smith, even with Rich Harden back. The same concerns that we had for Eveland in the past - control and health - remain now. Though we're working with a really small sample right now, if you're in a mixed league, you're advised to use him as a spot starter, for home starts (0.92 ERA in three home starts, 4.88 ERA on the road in five starts) and lesser opponents. Mixed: $4.
Scott Feldman - Feldman is currently holding the fifth starter's job for the Rangers while Luis Mendoza is on the DL, and is coming off six shutout innings against the A's on Friday. There's some talk that Feldman could hold that job - Mendoza wasn't doing well before his injury, and Kason Gabbard has had a hard time staying healthy. Kevin Millwood's injury on Saturday might also create an opening. Looking at Feldman's numbers so far, we're less than enthused. He's struck out only 13 batters while walking 10 over 24.1 innings, and has already served up three homers. There's a good chance that he won't be able to repeat Friday's success. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Rich Harden - The story with Harden is the same as it always is - great talent, but can he stay on the mound? He'll give you a nice boost in strikeouts, but it's questionable how deep into the game he can last, or how long he can avoid the DL. The A's took the extra bit of precaution with his latest injury, apparently keeping him on the DL for one more rehab start than might have been necessary, so that might bode well for his staying power this time. Enjoy the run while you can if you have him, but don't go out of your way to trade for him. Mixed: $7; AL: $18.
Kei Igawa - Igawa was hit hard in his 2008 debut by the Tigers on Friday, leading to speculation that this current opportunity in the Yankees' rotation could be short-lived. Ian Kennedy was awesome in his first Triple-A start, leading to calls to bring him back quickly. Frankly, Kennedy needs a few more starts under his belt at that level for his long-term development. We'll see if the Yankees opt to go with the short or long-term approach. Sunday's rainout might also threaten Igawa's next start. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
John Lackey - Lackey is set to return from the DL and make his 2008 debut on either Wednesday or Thursday against the White Sox. This isn't a great matchup but not the worst either; it helps that it's at home, though it would be nicer if a number of Angels regulars weren't hurt. Often a pitcher coming back from an arm injury will have his workload limited in his first start back, so there's a risk that Lackey won't stick around long enough to pick up the win. Nonetheless, there's few pitchers that have yet to pitch this year that might have a bigger impact. We'll assume for the purposes of this article that he's taken in every single AL-only league. If he's not, spend what it takes to get him. Mixed: $15.
Mike Mussina - Don't be fooled by Mussina's five wins to begin the season. His strikeouts are down to a career-low 4.15 per nine innings and his BABIP-against is below his career norms (.281), suggesting that he's been a little lucky. "A little lucky" has translated to a 4.36 ERA - if that's as good as it gets, imagine what the downside is. If you own him, now is a pretty nice time to trade him. If he's on your waiver wire, don't be so eager to grab him. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Vicente Padilla - Padilla is on a nice little run right now, having won three in a row while lowering his ERA to 3.02 over 50.2 innings. His peripherals are just OK, though - 33:18 K:BB and six homers allowed. Take a quick look at his game log - he's faced the Mariners and Jays twice, the A's, the Twins, the Angels, and the Tigers, who torched him. Take advantage of your opportunities to spot-start Padilla, but if the Tigers, Yankees or Red Sox come calling, head for the hills and find a better option. Mixed: $1; AL: $7.
Glen Perkins - Perkins pitched reasonably well in his 2008 debut, holding the Red Sox to three runs over six innings. Given the strength of the Red Sox lineup, the minimum definition of a quality start for once isn't a misnomer. Perkins probably loses his rotation slot once Scott Baker comes off the DL, but he might stick in the pen, especially with the news of Pat Neshek's season-ending injury. The one big concern with his minor league numbers is his walk-rate: 19 walks in 33.1 innings. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Sidney Ponson - Every year there seems to be some pitcher that gets off to a start that far outpaces his career body of work, at least in terms of ERA and hits allowed. Almost always that pitcher comes back down to earth. Last year it was Ramon Ortiz with the Twins, and this year it's Livan Hernandez (also with the Twins) and now Sidney Ponson. Ponson isn't striking that many hitters out, and his ERA is artificially low thanks to four unearned runs. With Kevin Millwood going on the DL, he's going to stick in the rotation for a while, but if you start to count on him helping you, you will get burned. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Tim Wakefield - We had a request to address Wakefield from a mixed league perspective, where he's still available in many leagues. The trouble with analyzing knuckleball pitchers is that they often defy traditional metrics. He's almost certainly going to have a lower BABIP-against than most because of the knuckleball (and his career rate against him is .283), so his .240 against this year isn't really that big of a sign of a forthcoming comeuppance. The flip side is that he'll usually walk more hitters, and give up more stolen bases. The one trend worth paying attention to and worrying about is his declining strikeout rate - it's dropped steadily the last four years to a current low of 4.89 per nine. That's going to limit his viability in 5x5 leagues. Mixed: $3.
Armando Benitez - Desperate times call for desperate measures? Saturday's torching of Dustin McGowan notwithstanding, the Jays have been getting great work out of their starters, leaving the back end of their bullpen (Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp and Brian Tallet) wanting for work. Jeremy Accardo's trip to the DL created room for Benitez, who spent most of his time at High-A Dunedin before pitching one game for Triple-A Syracuse. Look for him to be used sparingly initially. Mixed and AL: No.
Santiago Casilla - It's been widely speculated that the A's will trade Huston Street later this season, and Casilla has stepped forward as the most likely candidate to replace him if there's a trade or injury. He picked up the save on Tuesday when Street was unavailable, and finally allowed his first run of the year on Saturday. He's otherwise been lights-out, posting a 0.50 ERA and 21:4 K:BB over 18 innings. Just be aware that he was similarly awesome after his callup last season only to fade down the stretch. Still, he's ahead of Alan Embree, Andrew Brown and Joey Devine in the potential pecking order. Mixed: $1; AL: $7.
Joey Devine - Since getting called up in the middle of April, Devine has been fantastic in middle relief, posting a 0.68 ERA, 0.975 WHIP and 15:3 K:BB in 13.1 innings. It's the three walks that stand out to us - in previous major league trials, Devine's command has been off. He seems to have conquered that problem so far during this go-around. Before you get too excited about his potential as a closer in the short-term, realize that he's been getting used as early as the sixth inning, and that the A's are getting superb work out of Santiago Casilla, Andrew Brown and Alan Embree, all of whom have been used in later innings more often than Devine. His pedigree as a college closer and first-round pick may make it seem like he's closer to being the man than he is. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Franklyn German - German has had a nice week and superficially looks to be having a good season, posting a 0.56 ERA and striking out 14 batters in 16 innings. Alas, he's also walked 11, has a .224 BABIP against, and has a .950 strand rate. Bet on a regression to the mean. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Miguel Cairo - Cairo started in place of the suspended Richie Sexson on Saturday and could get most of those remaining starts over the next four games. That's not exactly the cure to an offense getting suffocated right now, particularly for power. Cairo might be good for a stolen base or two, but that's the extent of his value. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Joe Inglett - What a wild week for Inglett. He's been called up, sent back down, and then called up again in the space of three days. We wouldn't think that Inglett would get much playing time, but he's listed in the starting lineup in left field for Sunday's game (currently rain delayed at the time of this writing). The Jays are having all sorts of problems scoring runs, and have made a number of changes and then had a rash of injuries. Chances are that Inglett will get washed out in the shuffle when David Eckstein and John McDonald get back, but until then he'll pick up a spare start or two. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Kendry Morales - Morales is back for another stint for the Angels, following their move to put Chone Figgins on the DL. The story with Morales is the same as it was last time he was up - where is he going to get the playing time? His lack of positional flexibility hurts him. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Freddie Bynum - Bynum is the new starting shortstop for the Orioles, a move that might last for quite awhile, given the O's alternatives. Bynum could give you a nice boost in stolen bases, but beware his poor strike zone judgment (2:30 BB:K ratio last year) and his lack of power. Mixed: $2; AL: $15.
Alberto Gonzalez - The Yankees recalled Rodriguez when Wilson Betemit went back on the DL. Gonzalez could figure a little in the third base picture for the Yankees while Alex Rodriguez is on the DL, though as a right-handed hitter he doesn't have a platoon advantage with Morgan Ensberg. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Sean Rodriguez - With the Angels going through so many second basemen, they had to recall Rodriguez and essentially hand over the second base duties to him for the short-term. Howie Kendrick's rehab is going slowly, but it looks like Maicer Izturis could be back within a week. Rodriguez got off to a good start at Triple-A Salt Lake (but then again, who didn't?) this year, but his performance so far with the Angels reveals why he was viewed as a flawed prospect heading into this season. He struck out 132 times in 508 Double-A at-bats last season, which is fine when you're a power hitter, but not so much when you're only slugging at a .423 clip. Rodriguez is young enough to have a growth curve still, but there's reasonable cause to worry about what his upside really is. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Marco Scutaro - The Jays lost two shortstops within two innings this week when both David Eckstein and John McDonald got hurt and eventually went on the DL. They didn't lose a whole lot offensively, if at all, by having Scutaro step in. That's not necessarily a ringing endorsement of Scutaro, but more a reflection on how Eckstein has been hitting so far. Scutaro can get on-base a little, and maybe steal a bag or two, but he's not going to hit for power. His hot streak since stepping in has been a nice bonus, but don't expect it to last. Mixed: $1; AL: $8.
Jorge Velandia - The Jays added Velandia as part of their middle infield shuffle, but don't look for him to play much or stick around for long. He'll be the first to go whenever Eckstein or McDonald returns. Mixed and AL: No.
Brian N. Anderson - Anderson has been squeezing his way into the lineup a little more often, in the case on Friday at the expense of giving Nick Swisher a day off. He's no threat to take over a starting role from any of Swisher, Carlos Quentin, Jermaine Dye or Jim Thome, but he's becoming more of a true fourth-outfielder. His solid play is probably keeping Jerry Owens buried at Triple-A Charlotte. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Garret Anderson - Anderson has done this act before - show all the signs of hitting the cliff, only to catch fire and carry the team for an extended period. Is this one of those times? Perhaps - the only downside is that with so many other regulars hurting, there's fewer guys on-base for him to knock in. Again, we'll presume he's gone in all AL leagues, so think of him as your fourth or fifth outfielder in a mixed league. Mixed: $5.
Cliff Floyd - Floyd came off the DL after Friday's game and was inserted into the lineup on Sunday. Floyd will be limited to DH duty, probably only starting against right-handers. The Rays' acquisition of Gabe Gross to play right field will cut into both Jonny Gomes and Floyd's playing time. That said, Floyd is stepping into a pretty good lineup and is on the good side of a platoon, so he'll have value. Mixed: $2; AL: $10.
Ben Francisco - Francisco is finally getting a real chance to wrest away playing time in the corner outfield slots, with the Indians parting ways with Jason Michaels. While he's not going to hit many homers, he still can hold his own against both lefties and righties, get on-base at a reasonable clip, and steal a few bases. Mixed: $2; AL: $10.
Matthew Joyce - First it was Clete Thomas, and now it's Joyce that's getting a chance seemingly out of the blue for the Tigers. Joyce replaces Jacque Jones on the roster, and has leapt ahead of Ryan Raburn for playing time. He gives the Tigers someone that can play either corner, and while he's done nicely this year in the transition to Double-A this year, his high strikeout rate is a pretty big red flag. While he might have a nice little honeymoon period, look for this to be a short-term trial. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Kevin Mench - Mench is limited pretty much to left field defensively, as is teammate Shannon Stewart, so the Jays have created a bit of a redundancy in signing Mench. Mench has started the last two games in left, with the Jays facing a left-hander on the mound, so this might signal the obsolescence of Stewart. Mench doesn't take that many walks or run, but can hit for power when he squares on a ball. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Jason Tyner - What's the motivation here for the Tribe to call up Tyner? It's not as if there's anything in his track record that indicates he'll provide the instant offense that this team needs. Perhaps they're going to use him for mix-and-match purposes in interleague play, but the only thing he can provide for his fantasy owners is stolen bases, and that presumes he gets the opportunity to do so. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Brad Wilkerson - When the Jays signed Wilkerson, it was just to add an extra left-handed bat in anticipation of interleague play. One Vernon Wells injury later and voila', here's your starting right fielder, with Alexis Rios moving over to center. Wilkerson was slumping badly when the Mariners parted ways with him, but there's a possibility that he could still be useful. He took a decent number of walks and hit for power with Texas last year, whenever he could stay healthy. Mixed: $2; AL: $11.