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
Kyle Drabek – Drabek carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning Saturday and finished with seven strikeouts in seven innings while giving up just one hit and three walks. Drabek came to the Blue Jays as the key piece in the Roy Halladay trade. The expectations are so high for the 23-year-old that the Jays opted to bring him from Double-A to the majors without spending any time in Triple-A. Pitching in the AL East will be no easy task, but he’s likely in the rotation to stay. The strikeouts may not always be there every start, but that’s also a skill he could improve upon over time. In 162 innings at Double-A New Hampshire last season, Drabek had 132 strikeouts, 68 walks, and a 2.94 ERA. He won’t be a top-flight pitcher until he ups his K-rate and decreases his walks, but he has the talent to get there. Mixed: $1; AL: $6.
John Lackey – Lackey was owned in a majority of leagues as of Saturday morning, but he was already dropped by several impatient owners who overreacted to his implosion on the mound against the Rangers Saturday afternoon. If someone made the silly decision to drop Lackey after one bad start, capitalize on their worry and put in a bid for the high-potential 32-year-old Red Sox hurler. Mixed: $8; AL: $10.
Zach Britton – With Brian Matusz out with an intercostal strain and projected to miss the next 3-to-6 weeks, the Orioles bit the bullet and called up the promising 23-year-old Britton on Friday. He’s taking the mound Sunday, so feel free to wait and see how he does before putting in a bid on him. If you’re getting your bids in earlier, we recommend making a play for him based on the idea that he’s a temporary option as a starter with the potential to carve out a permanent role in the rotation. Britton had a great spring, posting a 1.35 ERA over 20 innings, but the Orioles sent him down to start the season in an effort to keep his arbitration clock from starting. He struck out 56 over 66.1 innings in Triple-A last season – strikeout numbers that can be of use in most leagues. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Michael Pineda – After putting together a terrific spring, in which he posted a 2.12 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 15 strikeouts in 17 innings, Pineda was awarded the fifth spot in the Mariners’ rotation. Pineda is a flame throwing right-handed monstrosity, standing 6’7’’ and weighing in at 260 lbs. Using his gargantuan frame to his advantage, Pineda posted 76 strikeouts in 62.1 innings at Triple-A Tacoma last season. Though he gave up a career-high 10 home runs last season, he gave up just 22 total in 404.1 minor league innings. Besides, playing in the Mariners’ comfy ballpark should limit the number of bombs hit off of him. If you’re looking to take a flier on Drabek, Britton, or Pineda, go with Pineda because - the exceptional K-rate gives him the best strikeout potential. Mixed: $5; AL: $10.
Brian Fuentes – Andrew Bailey has made good progress in his recovery from a scary forearm injury this spring. However, with Bailey still expected to miss about another two weeks, Fuentes is the man to own in Oakland for short-term save chances. Even with his blunder Saturday, I’m still picking up Fuentes. He came on in a non-save situation (a death knell for pitchers with a closer’s mentality) and gave up three runs to lose the game in the ninth. Mixed: $1; AL: $2.
Brandon League – League is in the same situation as Fuentes. He’s carrying the closing load as an injury replacement for David Aardsma, who is still rehabbing the hip injury that kept him out all spring. Recent progress has the Mariners believing Aardsma will return at the end of April instead of the start of May; but until Aardsma returns, League is the guy to own in Seattle. League got off to a good start by pitching a perfect ninth Saturday to grab his first save of the season. Mixed: $4; AL: 7.
Jon Rauch – Continuing our trend of fill-in closers, Rauch has been handed that role in Toronto while Frank Francisco and Octavio Dotel are out of commission. Francisco is expected back within the next two weeks, but Rauch will be the guy closing out games until then. Grab him for some cheap saves if you need them. Mixed: $1; AL: $1.
J.P. Arencibia – He slugged two home runs in the first game of the season and was then benched Saturday so Jose Molina could catch rookie Kyle Drabek. Arencibia will be on the bench more often than he probably should because the team wants Molina’s calming, veteran presence behind the plate for pitchers like Drabek and Brandon Morrow. With that said, Arencibia’s playing time may be more dependent upon his ability to hit for average. In Triple-A last season, he posted a .301 average with 32 home runs and 85 RBI in 412 at-bats. The power is legit, but whether or not he can hit for average at the big league level is something that will be revealed over time. The strong likelihood of him sitting twice weekly makes Arencibia a somewhat scary option to count on, especially in mixed leagues, but he is still a good guy to own in AL-only leagues. For this season, consider him a 25-year-old Mike Napoli. Mixed: $2; AL: $10.
Russell Martin – Martin is owned in fewer leagues than Arencibia, and he already has five major league seasons on his resume at only 28 years old. His stock dropped after he had two relatively disappointing (read: typical catcher-esque) seasons at the plate in 2009-10. The Dodgers cut him loose, and the Yankees gladly moved in to sign him on the cheap. The stars are aligning for Martin to have an immense comeback season. He has recovered from the hip and knee issues that plagued him in the past, and he’s going to spend half of his games swinging away in the Yankees’ homer-friendly ballpark. Even though he’ll hit ninth most of the season, ninth in the Yankees’ All-Star laden lineup is like fifth or sixth on most teams. Martin started the Yankees’ first two games behind the plate and already has a home run, a steal, three RBI, and three runs scored. Mixed: $12; AL: $18.
Kila Ka’aihue – Ka’aihue did some personal PR Friday night with his walk-off jack against the Angels. He has traditionally been a slow starter when getting moved up a level, but he has usually put everything together and hit for power and average his second time through the league. In Triple-A last season, Ka’aihue slugged 24 home runs and 78 RBI with a .322 average in only 323 at-bats. He then struggled in 180 at-bats in the majors with eight home runs and an anemic .217 average. The Royals have installed him as their starting first baseman to open the season and will give him a good amount of time to try and establish himself there. If you have an open spot that you’re looking to fill with hopes of high rewards, take a flier on Ka’aihue. Mixed: $1; AL: $2.
Brent Morel – The White Sox named Morel their starting third baseman near the end of spring training, and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity. If his first three games, Morel hit 3-for-9 (.333) with three runs scored, two RBI, and a stolen base. He has hit out of the nine hole every game so far, but that’s still not a bad spot to be in the White Sox’ potent lineup. Don’t expect him to put up great power or speed numbers, but he should be good for a high average and decent runs and RBI. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Erick Aybar – Aybar hit just .253 last season as he tried to step into the leadoff role vacated by the departure of Chone Figgins. Aybar tried to take more pitches instead of being a free swinger and got into a lot of unfavorable counts. This year, in an effort to get his bat going again, the Angels have dropped Aybar into the bottom half of the lineup and will only ask him to hit leadoff when Maicer Izturis is on the bench. Aybar is the Angels’ everyday shortstop. He’s only 27 years old and swiped 22 bags last season. If he can get his batting average back up near the .312 mark he posted in 2009, Aybar could be a nice addition at a weak position. Mixed: $1; AL: 3.
Sean Rodriguez – With Evan Longoria suffering an oblique injury that will likely put him on the shelf for a few weeks, Rodriguez should get a lot of time at third base. Both he and Dan Johnson played third Saturday after Longoria left the game – and Felipe Lopez could see some time at third too – but Rodriguez is getting the start Sunday and should get the majority of them in Longoria’s absence. Depending on your league settings and how long Longoria is out, S-Rod could get enough starts at third to earn eligibility there. Ultimately, the hope for anyone that loves Rodriguez’ speed/power combo is that he produces enough in extended action to force the Rays’ hand and make him their everyday second baseman. Mixed: $1; AL: $2.
Alex Gordon – After a torrid spring, in which he posted a .343 average, six home runs, 23 RBI, and four stolen bases, Gordon has struggled out of the gate. He has just two hits in his first 13 at-bats, but I’m still bullish on him based on his potential and hot spring. Patience is often the best thing a fantasy manager can have. If someone in your league drafted Gordon late and already dropped him due to the seemingly been-there-watched-that-train-wreck path Gordon appears to be on again, I’d suggest picking him up for the next week just to see what he can do. The Royals are hitting him in the three hole, so he should see some pitches ahead of Billy Butler and at least is batting in a favorable spot. If Gordon can pull everything together, he could have a huge breakout (top 30?) this season. Couple that with the fact that he still has eligibility at third base in many leagues this season and you’ve got a low-risk/high-reward option sitting in most free agent pools. Mixed: $1; AL: $2.
Felix Pie – Luke Scott will miss the next few days with a groin strain he suffered in Saturday’s game against the Rays. Pie replaced him in the field and could provide some decent short-term value. Scott is hoping to return as early as Wednesday, but groin injuries can sometimes linger. Mixed: $0, AL: $1.