Article first appeared 6/29/08
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:
John Parrish - Parrish's first major league start of the season went awfully well on Saturday against the Braves. He allowed just one run over six innings, giving up four hits and two walks while striking out four. This comes on the heels of a superb half-season at Triple-A Syracuse, where he was 10-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 90:35 K:BB over 82 innings. Parrish is no prospect, however - he's 30 years old, with 229.1 major league innings under his belt. Over his career, it's been his lack of control that's held him back - he's walked 6.64 batters per nine innings, a rate that's well beyond acceptable. He'll get at least one more start with Shaun Marcum on the DL, but Marcum could be back right after the All-Star break. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Sidney Ponson - Ponson pitched well in his Yankees' debut, but this is not a stock worth buying into. Yes, he had a sub-4.00 ERA with the Rangers before he got waived, but it came along with a woeful 4.04 K/9 over 55.2 innings. Sustaining that sort of low ERA with his strikeout rate is extremely unlikely. He might be able to out-pitch Dan Giese, but that's a fairly low bar to clear. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Fernando Cabrera - With Matt Albers out for the season, the O's had a spot open in their bullpen for Cabrera, who was finally ready to return from his elbow injury. In 13 innings on his minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A New Orleans, Cabrera had a 0.69 ERA and 13 strikeouts, but also walked seven. It's that walk rate that concerns us about him regaining a vital role in the O's bullpen. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Warner Madrigal - Madrigal is a sleeper for the Rangers' closer's job. C.J. Wilson got one of the more lukewarm votes of confidence that you'll see, with manager Ron Washington saying that Wilson "... still has the job ... for now." If you look at the other alternatives currently in the Rangers bullpen, most have one sort of flaw or another. Joaquin Benoit's shoulder has been hurt, and it's affected his command. Eddie Guardado is a flyball pitcher in a ballpark that punishes such hitters, and his strikeout rate is awfully low. Frank Francisco has a very nice strikeout rate, but that also comes with a pretty high walk rate. Madrigal, a converted position player snagged from the Angels' system in the offseason, has been closing in the minors and also has a great strikeout rate accompanied by a higher-than-comfortable walk rate. See how well he performs in his first few outings - if he can keep his head above water, he might be worth a long-term investment. Mixed: Not Right Now; AL: $0.
Dan Wheeler - Troy Percival still has some lingering soreness from the hamstring injury that put him on the DL earlier this season, and Al Reyes is on the DL, so if you invested in Wheeler as a potential closer, hang onto him now. He's still Percival's primary set-up man, and that itself usually has some value. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Dane Sardinha - Sardinha once was a prospect whose development was hampered by his contract - he signed a major league deal after getting drafted in 2000, pushing the Reds to burn up his option years well before he was ready. He's never been much of a hitter, nor was he at Triple-A Toledo before he got called up to replace the injured Brandon Inge, hitting .206/.246/.364 there. Mixed and AL: No.
Billy Butler - Alberto Callaspo's DUI opened the door for the Royals to call up Butler, but for whatever reason, it doesn't seem as if the team is particularly enthused about bringing him back. Earlier in the week, general manager Dayton Moore was non-committal about when he'd bring Butler back up, and Butler wasn't in the starting lineup on Sunday. The team has been playing well and Ross Gload has risen to the level of mediocrity, but those aren't good enough reasons to bury Butler, who was hitting .337/.417/.564 at Triple-A Omaha. If his original owner dropped him in your league, you'll want to pick him up, but I don't think this is similar to the Jay Bruce callup or even the Adam Lind callup (part 2). The Royals haven't made the commitment to play Butler every day yet, and might not until Jose Guillen can play the outfield again. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Chris Davis - I spent a decent amount of time discussing Davis in this week's Rounding Third, and then went out and spent a good portion of my FAAB budget on him in the AL version of Tout Wars. His game on Friday represents the good and bad of Davis - he hit a homer, but he also struck out three times. He's a gamble, but in that league, it was one I had to take. If you need power, go out and grab him and hope that the Rangers roll with him the rest of the season, even after Hank Blalock returns. Besides Blalock's status being fairly iffy, there's also a reasonable chance that the Rangers will part ways with Frank Catalanotto rather than send Davis back down. Mixed: $9; AL: $25.
Jack Hannahan - Eric Chavez's shoulder problems have lingered, if not worsened, and Hannahan has gotten more time at third base as a result. Unfortunately, Hannahan hasn't been able to cash in on the playing time, hitting just .224/.324/.368 in 219 at-bats this year. His walk rate is nice, but he's just not driving the ball when he his making contact, and his contact rate has dropped to a dangerous .71 level - if you're going to miss that often, you need to hit for more power when you do hit it. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Carlos Pena - Pena is back from his broken finger, just in case his previous owner got impatient while Pena was on the DL. There's always a concern that a player coming back from a finger injury will struggle to hit for power, so be aware that Pena might not hit the ground running. Otherwise, what he brings to the table is pretty standard - good power, good on-base skills, and a low batting average. Mixed: $15.
Brandon Fahey - The list of players that the O's have run through at shortstop is pretty ugly, and Fahey fits in nicely with that grouping. What's frightening for the O's is that they don't have anyone in the minors particularly close to filling that void. Bill Rowell might be their shortstop of the future, but many scouts have him ultimately pegged to play third base instead. It's going to get really ugly up the middle once the Orioles trade Brian Roberts. It's an absolute must for them to go get middle infield help with that trade, and perhaps any other dump deals that they make prior to the deadline. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Michael Hollimon - Hollimon picked up starts in place of the slumping Edgar Renteria on Thursday and Friday, but this isn't a changing of the guard at shortstop. Hollimon, like a number of Tiger callups this season, is more of a fill-in and less of a prospect. He was hitting for power at Triple-A Toledo (in fact, we've seen a number of guys hit for power there this year), but not for average and hasn't really demonstrated that he's mastered the level. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Joe Inglett - One of the big changes since Cito Gaston took over as the Jays' manager is that Inglett is playing nearly every day at second base and Marco Scutaro is starting at shortstop, leaving David Eckstein on the outside looking in. Even with the Jays facing a lefty on Sunday, it was John McDonald starting at shortstop and Scutaro at second base. Inglett is the big short-term beneficiary. Once Aaron Hill returns, Inglett will lose quite a bit of playing time, but for now, Hill's return doesn't seem particularly close. The fantasy upside for Inglett is pretty limited - he can hit for average, but he doesn't run frequently and he won't hit for a lot of power. The playing time is his currency. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Shin-Soo Choo - We're revisiting Choo real quick because the Indians have been playing him pretty frequently, and because Travis Hafner doesn't appear to be too close to coming back from the DL. Choo isn't fully healed from the elbow surgery that sidelined him last year and the start of this season, but he's been able to grind through it so far. He's one of those "better in real life than roto" hitters, unless your league rewards on-base percentage. He'll be more likely to hit doubles than homers, at least at this point in his career. But he's got some upside, similar to fellow corner outfielder Ben Francisco. With the Tribe sliding into last place in the AL Central, it's time for them to evaluate what they have in those two outfielders, perhaps more in Franklin Gutierrez as well, and Andy Marte at third base. Scoring runs has been a big problem for them, and they should spend the rest of this season figuring out who is going to help them down the road in that capacity, and who is going to need an improvement. That means that they should be benching Casey Blake and David Dellucci regularly, even if they might be able to outplay the young guys for the short-term. Mixed: $3; AL: $11.
Justin Christian - Christian got the call by the Yankees at the beginning of the week because of the injuries to Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon, and now that Matsui is on the DL, he might stick around for a while. That's more of a reflection of the lack of ready-to-go outfielders than of Christian's merits, however. He's a 28 year-old Triple-A repeater with little-to-no power, though he might pick up a handful of stolen bases if given the opportunity. Brett Gardner is probably a better bet for success in the short-term, and if Matsui's stay on the DL is a lengthy one, you might see the Yankees turn to Austin Jackson, if they don't trade for a veteran instead. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Matt Joyce - With Magglio Ordonez going on the DL on Sunday, the Tigers called up Joyce. This is his second trip to the big league club, and in his last trip, whenever he hit the ball, it went far, but he just didn't make a whole lot of good contact. Don't be surprised if he, Clete Thomas and Ryan Raburn end up in a timeshare in right field while Ordonez is out. Joyce - Mixed: $0; AL: $1; Thomas - Mixed: $0; AL: $1; Raburn - Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Jason Kubel - How are the Twins getting it done this year? Somehow, they're seventh in major league baseball in runs scored heading into Sunday's games, despite the perception (held here and elsewhere) that their offense was going to hold them back. Mike Lamb was awful at third base, Joe Mauer hasn't hit for power, and Delmon Young has been a massive disappointment. Kubel was on the disappointment side of the ledger the first two months of the season, posting a .615 OPS in April and .706 OPS in May. But he's caught fire in June along with the Twins (and maybe the Twins have caught fire in part because of Kubel), hitting .329/.424/.686 this month with six homers, 14 RBI and 20 runs scored. Jumping aboard Kubel's train isn't necessarily a case of timing the market - his second half performance last year teased us with the potential that he displayed before his injuries in 2004. He's still just 26 years old - this could be a case of him finally fulfilling his potential. He's gone in all but the thinnest of AL leagues, so consider this for mixed league purposes only. Mixed: $12.
Gary Sheffield - Sheffield is back and claims that his shoulder is at full strength; we'll only be able to tell by the results if that's true. Check your league's requirements to see if he qualifies at outfield - he's played only six games there this year. Mixed: $8; AL: $17.
Denard Span - As part of the fallout from Michael Cuddyer's injury, the Twins called up Span from Triple-A Rochester. Arguably he earned the call anyhow, hitting .344/.441/.490 in 38 games there, with 15 stolen bases. He returned about two weeks ago from a broken finger and looks no worse for the ware. Span's walk rate at Rochester is way up from his career rates, so I'd like to see him repeat that with the Twins before buying into the notion that he's picked up a new skill. He might end up getting a decent amount of playing time - manager Ron Gardenhire has soured on Mike Lamb, who was the DH on Sunday, so don't surprised if Span plays in right field with Jason Kubel seeing DH duty. Span might be a decent cheap stolen base option if he can just get on-base. Mixed: $0; AL: $5.
PROSPECT WATCH - Next week I intend to cover a number of speculative prospects, and would love any suggestions of players you'd like me to discuss. I mentioned Bill Rowell and Austin Jackson in passing this week, but will give them a little deeper treatment. Beau Mills was suggested in the blog this week, and I'll hit him as well.