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
Brandon McCarthy – McCarthy has been terrifically mediocre for the better part of his major league career, and his inability to stay healthy often derailed any progress he would start to make. He was named the Athletics’ fifth starter in spring training and has taken full advantage of the opportunity so far this season. Through 30 innings over his first four starts, McCarthy has posted a 2.10 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 20:3 K:BB ratio. Those numbers beg for ownership in most leagues. While he’s averaged just 6.1 K/9 in the majors, McCarthy averaged 8.9 K/9 in the minors. There’s some room there for growth in the future. McCarthy previously pitched for the White Sox and Rangers, two teams with ballparks that are built for hitters. The Athletics’ spacious outfield and foul area will no doubt help him keep his ERA and WHIP down this season. Mixed: $7; AL: $13.
Rick Porcello – Porcello struggled and gave up five runs in each of his first two outings this season, but he rebounded in his last two starts. Over his last 12.2 innings of work, Porcello has only given up two runs and posted a 10:2 K:BB ratio. Some people wrote Porcello off after he struggled in the first half of his sophomore season, but we’re still optimistic that he could develop into a dominant pitcher. He’s averaging 6.9 K/9 through his first 22.2 innings this season, which is a big improvement on the 4.6 K/9 he posted last season. Porcello had 14 wins with a 3.96 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and 89:52 K:BB ratio in 170.2 innings in his rookie campaign when he was just 20-years-old. At only 22-years-old now, the potential is there for him to continue to improve. If you’re looking to grab a high-risk/-reward pitcher on the cheap right now, Porcello could be the guy you’re looking for. Mixed: $7; AL: $13.
Alexi Ogando – When Ogando was asked to start the year in Texas’ rotation it was with the expectation that he would move back into the bullpen when Tommy Hunter or Brandon Webb were healthy enough to return. However, after three wins in his first four starts this season, and only giving up one total run in his three wins, the Rangers are no longer planning on moving him back to the bullpen. His K rate has dropped dramatically with his move to the rotation this season, but Ogando’s stellar 2.13 ERA and 0.79 WHIP have made up for the drop in his K rate. Knowing that he’s going to stay in the rotation significantly improves Ogando’s value in fantasy. While we don’t expect his ERA and WHIP to stay at their current Cy Young levels, the 27-year-old sophomore is an interesting add. Mixed: $7; AL: $13.
Daisuke Matsuzaka – Matsuzaka has pitched 15 scoreless innings over his last two starts after giving up 10 runs over seven innings in his first two starts. He’s a high-risk/-reward buy right now, but you have to love his upside. The Red Sox have won seven of their last eight games, proving that their slow start to the season was a titanic fluke. Matsuzaka has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency the past three seasons, but he also struck out 355 batters over his first two seasons (372.1 innings). I didn’t draft him in any leagues, but I’m willing to take a chance on him for a couple starts if he’s available for the right price. Mixed: $7; AL: $13.
Darren Oliver/Arthur Rhodes/Darren O’Day – Oliver was brought in to get the save Saturday night and got the job done. A successful save conversion theoretically puts him in position to get the next save opportunity, but the Rangers said they are going to use a committee approach until Neftali Feliz (shoulder stiffness) returns from the 15-day DL. Rhodes was brought up by manager Ron Washington in post game comments Saturday as possibly being the next guy to get a save opportunity. Unless the Rangers announce that Feliz will be out for a prolonged period of time, it’s not worth spending much money grabbing any of these guys. I’d try and grab Oliver or Rhodes with an expectation that I’ll get about a weeks worth of closer production out of them. Mixed: $4; AL: $9.
There weren’t any big changes in the AL catcher market this week, but we mentioned a couple guys the last few weeks that have continued to put up good numbers and are begging to be owned.
Alex Avila – Avila is hitting .327 (1.012 OPS) with three home runs, 13 RBI, nine runs, a steal, a triple, and four doubles in 52 at-bats. Victor Martinez is the Tigers’ DH and backup at catcher. Martinez went on the 15-day DL with a groin injury last week that prompted the team to bring in Omir Santos to backup Avila. Santos won’t play much, but it’s worth knowing he’s in position to grab some playing time if Avila were to get injured. If Avila still isn’t owned for some reason, you can probably get him cheaper than my recommended bid, but he’s worth paying the following prices. Mixed: $15; AL: $22.
Yorvit Torrealba – Torrealba has started 16 of the Rangers’ 20 games at catcher. He’s on pace to play in a career-high 130 games, and half of those starts should come in hitter-friendly Rangers Park. Torrealba is only owned in 3 percent of Yahoo! leagues right now. If you’re desperate for a quality catcher with upside, Torrealba is in a good situation this season to put up career numbers. He’s currently hitting .241 with two home runs and four doubles in 58 at-bats. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Wilson Betemit – The Royals have finally started giving Betemit more playing time than Mike Aviles. Betemit has hit .353 with one home run, 11 RBI, nine runs, three steals, and four doubles in 51 at-bats this season. He’s started 13 games at third base, and the Royals appear ready to ride out his hot hitting for as long as Betemit can keep it up. Mike Moustakas should is expected to come up and claim the third base job at some point this season, but Betemit could keep Moustakas in the minors a little longer if he continues to produce all season. Mixed: $6; AL: $9.
Kila Ka’aihue – Ka’aihue has a four-game hitting streak going into Sunday. During that streak, he’s hit .357 (5-for-14) with a home run, two doubles, and two walks. Ka’aihue is still striking out too much, but his ability to draw walks offsets the injury of his high number of strikeouts. The Royals are committed to him until June 1 when they’ll consider bringing up their top first base prospect Eric Hosmer. Ka’aihue knows he’ll have to start hitting if he wants to keep his spot for the remainder of the season. If you’re looking for a corner infielder with good upside for a deep league, Ka’aihue is worth taking a flier on now before he gets so hot that you’d have to break the bank to grab him. Mixed: $4; AL: $9.
Mitch Moreland – Moreland has started 16 of the Rangers’ 20 games (10 at first, 5 in right field, and one at DH). With Josh Hamilton (shoulder) out and Julio Borbon struggling at the dish, David Murphy has moved over to center to help shuffle up the outfield (Nelson Cruz has started four games in left.) and open up a place for Moreland in right field. Moreland has hit .315 with two home runs, nine RBI, eight doubles, a triple, and a 7:7 BB:K ratio through 54 at-bats this season. Some of those doubles he’s been hitting will extend and turn into home runs later this season. Realistically, he should be owned in most deep leagues, but if he’s sitting in your free-agent pool for any reason, consider adding him. Mixed: $9; AL: $15.
Chris Davis – Davis saw action in two games this week as the Rangers have grown tired of Julio Borbon’s struggles at the plate this season. He failed to record a hit in either start, but if he’s able to get the motor on his bat kick started, Davis could play his way into a semi-regular role as long as Josh Hamilton (shoulder) is out. Mixed: $0; AL: $0.
John McDonald – He’s a super-sub, and he should see action at third pretty much every day for the next couple weeks while Jayson Nix (knee) is on the 15-day DL. At 36-years-old, there’s always the chance that his kids could put him in a home, but as long as he’s getting daily at-bats, McDonald can provide a little pop with a sub-par average. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Ryan Raburn – Rayburn has been getting starts at second this last week as the team is looking to get some offensive production out of their second baseman. Will Rhymes simply wasn’t getting the job done. He’s only started four games at second so far, including Sunday, but this is more a preemptive move for leagues in which Rayburn doesn’t already have second base eligibility. Rayburn hit 31 home runs in 632 at-bats over the last two seasons. With a full-time gig this season, he’s a threat to hit 25-30 homers with an average north of .280. Mixed: $14; AL: $19.
Jed Lowrie – We said you should consider Lowrie last week, but after his torrid work at the plate over the last nine days, we’re telling you to get him at any cost. Manager Terry Francona talked to Marco Scutaro and told the incumbent shortstop that he wouldn’t be doing his job as the manager if he weren’t putting Lowrie in the lineup daily right now. They’ve played Lowrie at all four infield positions this season. He’ll start at shortstop as long as he continues to produce and move over to third or second whenever the team wants to give Kevin Youkilis or Dustin Pedroia a day off. Lowrie is hitting .431 with three home runs, 12 RBI, four doubles, and 13 runs in 51 at-bats. Make sure he isn’t sitting in the free-agent pool of your league. Mixed: $14; AL: $19.
Erick Aybar – Aybar returned from the 15-day DL Wednesday and got right back to slapping singles. He’s gone 5-for-16 (.313) in the four games since his return. If Aybar was dropped by someone in your league while he was out with the rib cage strain, consider grabbing him. He doesn’t have any power, but he should hit for a high average and steal about 20 bags over the course of the season. Mixed: $6; AL: $11.
Adam Kennedy – Kennedy has been filling in at first base with Justin Smoak (personal) away from the team and has a five-game hitting streak going into Sunday. He could lose most of his playing time when Smoak returns to the team Tuesday, but we’d bet on Eric Wedge finding a way to keep Kennedy’s bat in the lineup as long as he’s hitting well. No one else on their team, besides Ichiro Suzuki, is hitting above .300, so we’re confident in recommending Kennedy as a great buy in deep leagues this week. With a full-time job, Kennedy could steal upwards of 20 bases and knock more than 10 balls over the wall. He should have position eligibility at second and third in most leagues. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Mike McCoy – McCoy was brought up to fill-in at second, while Aaron Hill (hamstring) is on the DL. He’s got decent wheels but struggled in 82 at-bats with the Blue Jays last season and hit just .195. Grab him if you’re desperate for a fill-in at middle infield, but don’t expect a whole lot of production. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Michael Cuddyer – Cuddyer has played his way into being the Twins’ primary second baseman as long as Tsuyoshi Nishioka (broken leg) is out. He’s got above-average power and decent speed. Grab him if you need middle infield help. Mixed: $6; AL: $11.
Jeff Francoeur – Francoeur came out of the gates swinging a hot bat this season. Through 80 at-bats, he’s hit .325 with three home runs, 17 RBI, 13 runs, six doubles, a triple, and three steals. The Royals are running this season, and Francoeur has joined in on the fun. It’s hard to believe, but Francoeur is only 27-years-old and just now entering the years that are traditionally considered the peak production years for hitters. Grab him if you’re looking for an outfielder with high upside, but don’t be surprised if he finds a way to be mediocre later this season. For now, cash in on his 13-game hitting streak. Mixed: $8; AL: $14.
Peter Bourjos – Bourjos has a six-game hitting streak going into Sunday, and he’s finally started earning his at-bats. The Angels are playing him primarily for his defense, so this offensive production is a welcome, though not unexpected, development. At Triple-A Salt Lake last season, Bourjos hit .314 with 13 bombs, 27 steals, 12 triples, and 13 doubles in 414 at-bats. His speed is legit, but his .204 average in 181 at-bats with the Angels last season scared a lot of people away at draft time. In 70 at-bats this season, he’s hit .286 with two home runs, two triples, five doubles, and eight RBI. If you’re looking for a hitter with good potential speed and average, Bourjos could probably be had relatively cheap right now. Mixed: $3; AL: $11.
Casper Wells – Wells has been getting consistent at-bats recently thanks to Ryan Rayburn getting playing time at second base and Victor Martinez (groin) going on the DL. He’s hit .269 with a home run, two doubles, three RBI, and a 3:5 BB:K ratio in 26 at-bats this season. During a late season call up last year, Wells posted a .323 average with four home runs, 17 RBI, six doubles, and a triple over 93 at-bats. When Martinez returns, Wells will lose time, but he’s worth rostering for the time being. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Hideki Matsui – Matsui has started 17 of the Athletics’ 20 games at designated hitter and will continue to get plenty of playing time as he’s one of the only players on their roster with any pop in his bat. Through 72 at-bats, he’s hit .236 with two home runs, 11 RBI, and five doubles. If you’re looking for some cheap power, Matsui should send about 20 balls over the fence when the season’s said and done. Mixed: $0; AL: $5.
Coco Crisp – Crisp’s hair is a good enough argument to have him on your roster, but it’s his potential to put up a career-high in steals this season that should have you buying him. He’s already swiped seven bags and scored 13 runs in 80 at-bats. If you need steals and have an open spot in your outfield, put in a bid on him. Mixed: $9; AL: $13.