Article first appeared 5/18/08
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:
Bartolo Colon - Colon will get the call from the Red Sox on Wednesday to start in place of the injured Clay Buchholz, and if all goes well, he could fill that slot even after Buchholz gets healthy. There's a train of thought that Buchholz needs some time in Triple-A, and that might very well be true. Consider me a skeptic that Colon can have any sort of sustained success. Right now his velocity in the mid-90's, but he was able to reach that level a few times last year, only to see his velocity fade and force him back on the DL. Look for a couple of decent early outings before he fades. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Jose Contreras - Contreras is 4-3 with a 3.35 ERA so far, making him one of the pleasant surprises of the year. Don't be fooled that he's finding a new level, though. He's been lucky on balls in play (.272 BABIP), uncharacteristically kept the ball in the park (two homers allowed so far), and has benefited from a nice schedule and weather so far. His strikeout rate is now down to 4.7K/9, and maintaining a low ERA with that strikeout rate is highly unlikely. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Justin Duchscherer - Duchscherer is a skillful pitcher, so his good ERA to start the season isn't really a fluke, but there's a couple of problems here. One, having converted back to starting, he's not able to work as deep into games as other starters might, cutting down on his chances to hang around long enough to pick up wins. Two, he's had a really hard time staying healthy, including one DL stint already this year. As with others on this list, we'll presume that he's taken in AL leagues. Mixed: $10.
Andy Sonnanstine - Sonnanstine once was at-risk of losing his spot in the starting rotation, when Matt Garza came off the DL, but he came up big in a start against the Orioles while Jason Hammel flopped. He's still available in a few mixed leagues, and his results so far (win-loss record notwithstanding) have been pretty mixed. His strikeout rate is down, but he's also walking fewer batters and allowing fewer homers than he did last year. His next start is at Oakland, which might not be that bad of a spot. We'll assume that he's taken in all AL leagues. Mixed: $7.
Francisco Cruceta - Aquilino Lopez continues to cook with gas, but Cruceta is throwing pretty well right now too, working his way into the late innings picture. It's really remarkable to see how much has changed in the Tigers' bullpen from the start of the season. Both Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya have been out with injuries all year, but Jason Grilli is now a Rockie and Denny Bautista is on the DL, after displaying his usual command problems. Cruceta also has walked a little too many, but not to the same degree as Bautista and those walks at least have come with strikeouts. Lopez is a better closer-in-waiting candidate, but Cruceta is working his way into a valuable role. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Scott Downs - Downs has two saves this week, once getting the nod after B.J. Ryan pitched in the ninth inning of an extra-inning game, and then picking up another on Wednesday because Ryan had pitched on two consecutive days. The Jays figure to continue to be careful with Ryan, meaning that it's possible Downs could pick up another handful of save chances. If you're in a league with holds, all the better. Meanwhile, he'll give you about a strikeout per inning with a good likelihood of a low ERA. Even without Jeremy Accardo healthy, the Jays quietly have cobbled together a pretty decent bullpen. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Eddie Guardado - Guardado picked up a save earlier in the week, but it's not a changing of the guard, but rather a case that incumbent closer C.J. Wilson wasn't available after pitching the previous night. It might underscore that Guardado has moved into the second chair for the job, though, thanks to the implosion of the Rangers' other options. Don't be too encouraged, though - he's struck out only five in 10.1 innings, and is an extreme fly ball pitcher in a park that doesn't take too kindly to fly ball pitchers. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Masahide Kobayashi - Kobayashi has taken over the save opportunities from Rafael Betancourt, after two more bad outings by Betancourt this week. Alas, Kobayashi blew his first opportunity after Betancourt's removal as the closer, giving up a three-run walk-off homer to Adam Dunn on Saturday. Kobayashi has closing experience in Japan, and while his component stats are pretty good, thanks to his low walk rate, he also hasn't been dominant. Almost everything points to Joe Borowski taking back his role as the closer once he returns from the DL. Don't bid too much here - you'll probably only get a few more save opportunities. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Jensen Lewis - As soon as we touted Lewis, he picked up the loss against the Reds on Friday night, walking three in the process - one of which was intentional. He also was a little unlucky in the outing, giving up a bloop double just over the outstretched gloves of Jhonny Peralta and Casey Blake down the left field line. Prior to that outing, Lewis had really started to pick up the pace, after a tough start to the season. He's not the first or even second option to close, but he can still give you a lot of quality innings in relief, perhaps picking up a few wins and holds in the process. Mixed and AL: $0.
Rafael Perez - Perez hasn't allowed a run since April 24, a span covering 8.2 innings, striking out eight in the process. Perez won't repeat last year's sublime numbers, but he appears to at least be back in the form that made him such a dominant presence out of the bullpen in 2007. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Michael Aubrey - Aubrey has been on the prospect radar for a while now, but injuries have consistently derailed his progress. He's finally healthy now, and got off to a good start this year between Double- and Triple-A before his promotion. Besides staying healthy, the other question mark with Aubrey is whether he'll ever hit for power. Chances are this is a short-term promotion for Aubrey, but if Ryan Garko continues to struggle, there's a small chance that Aubrey would get another chance as part of a first base platoon. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Matthew Brown - Since replacing Brandon Wood on the Angels' roster on Monday, Brown has gone 0-for-8 with six strikeouts. Brown isn't going to play that often and isn't really a prospect, even factoring in his Salt Lake-inflated PCL stats to start the season. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Howie Clark - Clark is just a depth guy for the Twins, getting a shot on the major league roster while Nick Punto is on the DL. He's a minor league journeyman, best known for having rabbit ears when missing a pop-up while A-Rod was yelling at him. Mixed and AL: No.
Alexi Casilla - Casilla was a hotly contested pickup last season when he was given an extended shot at starting at second base, and while he didn't hit for average and defend well, eventually losing his job, he still gave his fantasy owners 11 stolen bases in 56 games. The bidding on him this time around won't be so intense - he's not getting much playing time, and it's known that manager Ron Gardenhire isn't really enthralled with his game. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Alex Cora - Cora is back from the DL and is getting a little more play than what might have been anticipated, thanks to the defensive woes and injuries to Julio Lugo. Don't be fooled his hot week - Cora essentially is a replacement level infielder. His value lies only in that he'll get a few counting stats for you if you're stuck with an injured middle infielder. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Bobby Crosby - Crosby has stayed healthy this year, but the power he displayed in his rookie year (22 homers) back in 2004 seemingly is gone. Crosby's .308 BABIP is well-ahead of his career norms, if not for the average player. He's available in some mixed leagues, and he's passable as an injury replacement, though if I had my druthers, I'd rather gamble on getting some stolen bases by Maicer Izturis instead. Mixed: $4.
Maicer Izturis - Izturis is back from the DL, and not a moment too soon for the Angels, given all their injury woes in the infield. His slow start at the plate is at least partially attributable to being unlucky with balls-in-play. Even with that slow start, he's stolen six bases, one short of what he did all of last season. Look for him to turn his season around in terms of hitting for average. Mixed: $5; AL: $15.
Gregorio Petit - Like Hector Luna and Howie Clark, Petit is with his club as an extra infielder for this weekend's interleague play. He'll probably get sent back down next week. Long-term, there's some decent on-base skills here, but zero power, and little likelihood of him playing often. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Alexei Ramirez - If Ramirez had gotten off to any sort of decent start at the plate, he could have displaced the slumping Juan Uribe earlier. As it stands, he had a big homer starting in place of the injured Uribe on Friday and has started all three games at second base over the weekend against the Giants. He's not going to knock Carlos Quentin or Nick Swisher out of the outfield, but Uribe isn't such a high bar to clear. It would be nicer if Ramirez took more than the paltry two walks in 50 at-bats so far. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Ben Zobrist - Jason Bartlett hasn't hit all that well, but for now still has job stability. If that changes, Zobrist, who just came off the DL from a broken thumb, would be the first to get a chance to fill-in. Reid Brignac isn't exactly tearing it up at Durham (.271/.301/.431, with a 8:33 BB:K ratio), so Zobrist has a window of opportunity here. He's not going to hit for all that much power, but in his best minor league seasons he's controlled the strike zone well with the ability to steal a handful of bases. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Marlon Byrd - Byrd is back from the DL and has come back to find Brandon Boggs taking his left field job. Josh Hamilton's injury on Friday has created a small opportunity for Byrd to start the last two days, but barring a trip to the DL for Hamilton, Byrd is now the fourth outfielder. His struggles this year are a good demonstration why when a player of his caliber has an outlier season like he did in 2007, he's not necessarily a good keeper the next year, even at the league minimum contract. Mixed: $0; AL: $5.
Matt Stairs - This is another one for mixed leagues - Stairs remains available in my 15-team NFBC league. Stairs will sit against an occasional tough left-hander, but he's a lineup regular either in the outfield or, increasingly, as the DH now that Frank Thomas is gone. While he's not matching last year's slugging percentage, he's still getting it done in the power department, hitting six homers so far. Check the Jays' schedule from week-to-week to see if they're facing a high number of lefties, but he makes for a good fifth outfielder or injury fill-in, and qualifies at first base in most leagues thanks to his work there last year. Mixed: $5.