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
Freddy Garcia/Bartolo Colon - Garcia made his first start of the season Saturday and blanked the Rangers for six innings to collect the win. He only struck out one batter, and it’s only one start, but I’m big on anyone that pitches for the Yankees. With that lineup backing any pitcher, there is always the potential for their starters to pick up the win. For that reason alone, Garcia and Colon deserve to be owned in most AL-only leagues. Colon will be making starts in place of Phil Hughes (dead arm) for the immediate future. Garcia - Mixed: $7; AL: $11, Colon – Mixed: $3; AL: $5.
Sean O’Sullivan – This note is more of a warning and dose of reality than anything else. O’Sullivan outdueled reigning Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez on Saturday to pick up his first win of the season. That sounds impressive, but the reality of pitching a good game against the Mariners is that the Mariners do a good job of getting themselves out regardless of who is throwing against them. Not a single player in the Mariners’ lineup Saturday was hitting over .283 on the season, and five of their batters were either at or below the Mendoza line. If you’re in a league so deep that all starting pitchers are deserving of ownership, O’Sullivan might have some value, but don’t expect him to do much more than eat up some innings. Mixed: $0; AL: $0.
Josh Tomlin – Tomlin has not piled up many strikeouts, but he has been effective and has earned the win in all three of his starts this season. After his first stint in rookie ball, Tomlin never posted higher than a 1.24 WHIP at any minor league stop. This year, he has posted a 2.75 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 11:6 K:BB ratio in 19.2 innings. He showed the ability to strikeout batters in the minors, averaging 7.8 K/9 over his career there, but you can't count on the Ks when they haven't been there yet in the majors. Still, there is chance he could pick up the pace a bit after striking out nine batters in 10.2 innings this spring. Buy him if you need help in ERA and WHIP. Mixed: $5; AL: $11.
Tyler Chatwood – Chatwood was called up to take Scott Kazmir’s (back) spot in the rotation. He’s just 21 years old and has a lot of things to work on, but the Angels are letting him get his feet wet with the big league club. We’re not biting on him in anything but the absolute deepest of leagues right now. Mixed: $0; AL: $0.
Tony Sipp – Sipp has worked his way into the setup role for the Indians this season. Through seven appearances he has posted a 0.00 ERA, 0.52 WHIP, and 6:2 K:BB ratio. He has five holds on the season already, making him a great add in leagues that count that stat. Sipp won’t muscle Chris Perez out of the closer role, but he’s in line to take over if Perez were to go down with an injury. In each of the last two seasons, Sipp has finished with a K rate of over 9.9. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Drew Butera – Butera is filling in as the Twins’ starting catcher with Joe Mauer (viral infection), but his career batting average of .191 means he probably won’t make much fantasy impact. If you’re playing in one of those ridiculously deep leagues that makes anyone getting playing time worth rostering, Butera should continue to start most of the Twins’ games as long as Mauer is out. However, he will likely lose at-bats since his terrible hitting means he could be replaced by a pinch-hitter late in games. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Hank Conger – Conger has caught four of the Angels’ last five games as manager Mike Scioscia has decided Conger’s bat is more important than Jeff Mathis’ glove for the time being. This development is a bit ironic considering the team traded Mike Napoli’s big bat in the offseason with an eye towards giving the defensive-minded Mathis most of the playing behind the plate. Mathis had a meeting with Scioscia on Saturday to discuss his increased bench time, and the writing is on the dugout wall. Conger is the catcher to own in Anaheim right now. Through 21 at-bats this season, the 23-year-old rookie has hit .286 with two home runs, five RBI, and a 2:4 BB:K ratio. Don’t get too excited by his two home runs. Realistically, with 400 at-bats this season, we could expect Conger to send about 11 balls over the fence and hit around .300. He hit a lot of doubles in the minors, and that power could develop and extend over the fence in time, but it’s unlikely to happen this season. Grab him for his potential, but know that any defensive struggles could get him yanked out of games late if the team opts to go with the better defensive option in Mathis. Mixed: $5; AL: $9.
Jayson Nix – Nix has started nine games at third for the Blue Jays, and he’s taken advantage of the playing time to post a career-high .842 OPS over 34 at-bats so far this season. Nix has batted up and down the lineup as needed, versatility that could keep him in a utility role all season. Plus, he did hit a career-high 13 home runs in 282 at-bats with Cleveland last season. If the Blue Jays can help him capitalize on his power potential similar to the way Jose Bautista did last season (not to the same extent, however) Nix could become a welcome surprise on fantasy teams this season. Mixed: $9; AL: $15.
Justin Smoak – Smoak has posted an .870 OPS through his first 46 at-bats this season. He’s roped five doubles and a home run while working 11 walks. He leads the Mariners with a team-high .283 average and is hitting out of the five hole daily. Manager Eric Wedge has Smoak in position to rack up good RBI totals, but he’s only plated five so far this season due to the poor hitting of the players batting ahead of him. Smoak is still just 24 years old, but some people soured on him after he struggled with the Rangers and Mariners last season. He’s capable of hitting for good power and average, but he is still young and needs to prove he can do so over an extended period. The patience Smoak is showing at the plate this season is a good indicator that he’s getting comfortable with his role on the Mariners. He’s worth grabbing on the chance that he’ll continue to develop at the plate as the season wears on. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Jack Hannahan – Hannahan has held onto the starting third base gig for the Indians. He started off swinging a hot bat but has struggled of late, which has dropped his average to .237 on the season. It’s still early, and a few hits could return his average to a respectable level. Hannahan is worth picking up in deep leagues based solely on the fact that he’s played in 11 of the Indians’ 14 games this season, but he does not have much power and strikes out too much. Realistically, he’s a short-term option with the team likely to give Adam Everett, Jason Donald, and Lonnie Chisenhall action at third at various times this season. Chisenhall is the Indians’ future at third, but the earliest we’d probably see him is June 1. Mixed: $0; AL: 3$
Mike Aviles/Wilson Betemit – Betemit has been left out of the lineup the last two games as manager Ned Yost has opted to stick with his usual lineup despite Kila Ka’aihue’s struggles (.568 OPS in 43 at-bats). Aviles’ early issues with the bat prompted Yost to start getting Betemit in the lineup, and he responded by posting a .387 average to go with a home run, seven RBI, and a 6:9 BB:K ratio over 31 at-bats. Yet Betemit was rewarded with a spot on the bench the past two games. To be fair, Aviles has started to hit better over the last few games – a three-game hitting streak has helped bring his average even with the Mendoza Line (.200). It’s hard to know who is going to come out on top in this time-share at the end of the season, but the Royals have more invested in Aviles. Ultimately, they’re both just holding down the job until Mike Moustakas proves he’s ready to come up to the majors. Both - Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Luis Rodriguez – Rodriguez has played in seven of the Mariners’ last eight games as manager Eric Wedge continues to search for offense. He’s started games at third, second, and shortstop as Wedge has worked to keep him in the lineup. Rodriguez doesn’t have a track record of power, but he came out of nowhere and slugged 16 homers in 345 at-bats at Triple-A last season. Managers in deep leagues could grab him on a speculative basis, but there’s little to hope for in terms of overall production for anyone batting in the Mariners’ lineup. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Ramon Santiago – Will Rhymes’ struggles at the dish have opened playing time for Santiago at second base. He’s started four of the last five games (three at second base, one at shortstop) and has modest offensive potential similar to Rhymes. Though Santiago struggled mightily at the plate early in his career, he’s hit better than .260 each of the last four seasons. If you need someone to fill a middle infield spot in a deep league, Santiago is getting the opportunity to play right now. Carlos Guillen is expected to return at some point and take over second base for the Tigers, but anyone that is filling in there right now has the potential to put up decent runs with manager Jim Leyland often using his second baseman in the two hole. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Jed Lowrie – We don’t want to overreact to one good game, but Lowrie did several good things for the Red Sox in Saturday’s win over the Blue Jays. He gave them offensive production, and he did it batting out of the leadoff spot. Lowrie went 3-for-5 with a home run, two RBI, and two runs scored. In 22 at-bats this season, Lowrie has hit .500. His best chance at regular playing time would be to usurp the starting shortstop job from Marco Scutaro, who is hitting just .188 in 32 at-bats this season. If the Red Sox turn to Lowrie, he’d be a great add in most leagues. Because he struggled in his first two seasons, Lowrie’s work at the plate last season went largely unnoticed. In 171 at-bats last season, Lowrie posted a .287 average to go with nine home runs, 14 doubles, and a 25:25 BB:K ratio. If you’re picking him up now, it’s based on the hope that he stays in the lineup most days going forward. Mixed: $3; AL: $5.
Johnny Damon – Damon may have gone undrafted in some mixed leagues after his struggles last season, but he has been batting out of the two hole for the Rays and putting up fantasy-worthy numbers lately. Over his last eight games, Damon has three homers and 12 RBI. Just make sure in case he is still available in your league’s free agent pool. Mixed: $15; AL: $24.
Matt Joyce – Joyce struggled out of the gate, but he has started to swing a hot bat since Manny Ramirez retired. He’s been used in the three hole the last two games, and the Rays have won four of five games during his current five-game hitting streak. Joyce has yet to hit a home run this season, but he’s doubled in four of the last five games and is finding his power stroke. He has started 12 of the Rays’ 14 games in right field – a role that should be solidified as long as he continues swinging a hot bat. Mixed: $9; AL: $14.
Grady Sizemore – Sizemore was activated from the DL and immediately put into the leadoff spot for Sunday’s game against the Orioles. It did not take him long to make an impact – Sizemore homered in just his second at-bat of the season. With Sizemore back, Michael Brantley was on the bench for Sunday’s game. If Sizemore is truly healthy and ready to play every day, it would be surprising if the Indians did not start playing Brantley in left over Austin Kearns. That’s pure speculation on my part, but Kearns has hit just .136 this season, while Brantley has hit .302 and been a big part of the Indians’ early success. Sizemore was likely drafted in most leagues, but on the off chance that he was dropped or went undrafted in your league, you should use a max bid to try and acquire him based on his 30-30 potential. Mixed: $40; AL: Max.
Andruw Jones – Brett Gardner’s continued struggles have opened the door for Jones to get some time out in left field. Jones has started the last two games there and has gone 4-for-11 at the dish so far this season. Two of his hits have gone for extra bases – a home run and a double – and he could surprise with a big offensive season as long as he’s getting regular playing time (remember, Yankee lineup). There’s no guarantee that Jones will continue to get the call over Gardner, but managers in deep leagues may want to consider making an early speculative grab of Jones in the hope that he steals more playing time. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
David Murphy – Murphy will handle the starting left field gig for the Rangers over the next 6-to-8 weeks while Josh Hamilton (shoulder) is out. Anyone playing half their games in Rangers Ballpark has the potential to put up gaudy offensive numbers. Murphy has hit in six hole the last four games, directly behind Nelson Cruz. With so many tough outs in front of him, Murphy should get plenty of hittable pitches while Hamilton is out. Murphy is already owned in most leagues, but it’s worth checking to see if he is still available. We don’t really consider Murphy a typical speed option, but after swiping 14 bags last season – and four in eight games this year – it’s reasonable to expect that he could help a little bit in the stolen base category. Mixed: $14; AL: $22.
Travis Snider – Snider’s big-bat potential got him drafted in plenty of leagues, but it’s the surprising development of his aggression on the basepaths this season that has captured our attention. In just 53 plate appearances, Snider has swiped five bags; and because he’s hitting a putrid .170 so far this season, there’s a good chance he’s available in some leagues. Grab him if you’re looking to get some steals. Snider is a nice upside pick-up because the potential is still there for him to hit for power and average, and for now at least he should give you a boost in steals. Mixed: $4; AL: $9.