The FAAB Factor-NL is our weekly look at the National League free agents you should be targeting with your acquisition budget. 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 free agent acquisition budget.
Casey Coleman - After his strong start Thursday, Coleman could remain in the rotation even after Randy Wells returns as Andrew Cashner suffered a setback in his rehab and will be sidelined a bit longer and Matt Garza has an elbow injury. The alternative is Doug Davis, who got shelled in Boston on Friday, but at least Coleman has some upside, though his numbers to date prior to Thursday's start did not reflect that. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Josh Collmenter - I profiled Collmenter two weeks ago when he moved into the rotation to replace Barry Enright, but his recent success warrants another mention. Collmenter has been nothing short of phenomenal, giving up just four hits and no runs with four strikeouts over 12 innings in his two starts. He now has a sterling 15:1 K:BB ratio in 26 innings since his recall in mid-April. Collmenter has been aided by an unsustainable .092 BABIP, but through his minor-league career, he has posted a solid 3.0 BB/9 ratio while also generating lots of groundballs. His quirky delivery/release are keeping hitters off-balance, but the lack of strikeouts will probably catch up with him along with hitters getting a second look at him. For now, roll with him but be prepared to jump at the first signs of trouble. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Zach Duke - Duke, on the disabled list since spring training with a broken pitching (left) hand, struck out four and did not walk a batter while giving up just one run on five hits over five innings at High-A Visalia on Wednesday. He is slated to pitch Monday at Triple-A Reno, and if all goes well, he should be activated to start for Arizona next Saturday. Duke put together the worst season of his five-year major league career in 2010, compiling a 5.72 ERA, 1.654 WHIP and .321 BAA. Trouble with the long ball (25 in 159 innings) and an inability to throw strikes -- his 2.89 BB/9IP was a full-season worst -- doomed the pitcher with too few weapons in his arsenal. Duke went from Pittsburgh to Arizona this past offseason, so he gets no benefit from a change in parks, but maybe a shift in scenery will bring him back to his All-Star form of 2009. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Brad Lincoln - Lincoln won his fourth straight start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday, throwing seven shutout innings against Buffalo by allowing just four hits and a walk while striking out seven. He has turned around his year after starting the year on the DL with a forearm injury and then began the season, 0-3. Pirates GM Neal Huntington spoke glowingly of Lincoln last weekend. It appears he will get a second chance sometime soon to improve upon a disappointing 2010 MLB debut that included a devilish 6.66 ERA and 1.538 WHIP in 52.2 innings. The key for him is the development of his change-up as a consistent pitch to go along with his fastball/curveball combination. Mixed: $1; NL: $4. (speculative bid)
Charlie Morton - Morton continued his surprising season by shutting the Reds down Wednesday with a complete-game, five-hit shutout, snapping a six-game Pirates' losing streak. He walked two and struck out five to improve his record to 5-1, lower his ERA to 2.62 and WHIP to 1.18. The key to his surprising turnaround is a 3.50 GB/FB ratio, but there are some warnings signs. Morton is striking out just 4.75 hitters per nine innings, has a weak 29:26 K:BB ratio in 55 innings and is benefitting from a .259 BABIP. His FIP is almost a-run-and-a-half higher than his ERA, so if jumping on the bandwagon late, be ready to jump if it goes south quickly. Mixed: $5.
Micah Owings - Owings was called up Saturday by Arizona to start against the Twins and allowed four runs - three earned - on seven hits and a walk while striking out three in 5.2 innings. In seven starts with Triple-A Reno, Owings went 3-1 with a 4.85 ERA and showed better control while limiting home runs; two areas that have hurt him in the past. His stint in the majors may only last one start, as Zach Duke likely will be activated following what should be his final rehab start Monday. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Mike Pelfrey - Pelfrey, after a horrific start to the year, has righted the ship a bit, posting quality starts in four of his last five starts. That stretch has enabled him to lower his ERA from 9.72 to 5.11 on the year. Much of this upswing has come with Ronny Paulino behind the plate along with improved command and control of his fastball and use of his splitter. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Vance Worley - With Joe Blanton expected to land back on the DL due to right elbow soreness, the Phillies will once again recall Worley from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Worley pitched well in his two starts earlier in the month while Blanton was out, posting a 0.75 ERA and 12:4 K:BB ratio over 12 innings. He made two relief appearances once Blanton returned, but should slide right back into the rotation. Worley, who works in the low-90s with his fastball, also has a solid curveball and a decent changeup. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Mike Dunn - Dunn had an excellent season last year and hasn't slowed down since coming to Atlanta in the Dan Uggla trade. After a mild slump, during which he had been scored upon in four of six appearances, Dunn has righted the ship with three scoreless outings. He has just a 1.80 ERA on the season to go along with a 27:11 K:BB ratio and just eight hits allowed in 20 innings. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Matt Guerrier/Kenley Jansen - The roller coaster known as the Dodgers' closer situation has taken another twist and turn with Vicente Padilla landing on the DL with forearm soreness. While Padilla hopes to only miss the minimum and Jonathan Broxton may be back June 15, someone has to serve as the closer. Guerrier got the call Tuesday, and he converted the save, but he faltered on Friday and doesn't project or have the peripherals to be a closer. Jansen, who was so good in 2010, got off to a horrific start and was sent down to the minors only to be recalled when Broxton landed on the DL. Since coming back, Jansen is unscored on in six innings over seven outings, giving up three hits and three walks while striking out nine in earning a win and save. Others that could be in the mix are Mike MacDougal and Ramon Troncoso, but for now, Guerrier and Jansen will share the role, though only the latter has the stuff to be a closer. Guerrier - Mixed: $2; NL: $7; Jansen - Mixed: $4; NL: $11.
Jonathan Lucroy - Lucroy went 1-for-3 with a solo home run Saturday against the Rockies, and is 12-for-33 in his last 10 games as he continues to swing the bat well. His batting average on the season currently stands at .320 to go along with four home runs and 18 RBI. The power and RBI are more than was expected from him, so if you already own Lucroy, enjoy the extra benefits he is providing. Mixed: $10.
Nick Evans - The Mets recalled Evans from Triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday. He provides the Mets with a bit more infield depth after David Wright (back) hit the disabled list. Most of Evans' at-bats should come against left-handed pitching from the corner infield spots and he could see occasional action in left field. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Juan Miranda - Miranda should see the bulk of the starts at first base against right-handed pitching following the D-Backs' decision to release Russell Branyan on Saturday. Very quietly, Miranda has posted a .278/.395/.472 line over 14 games in May (through Friday) and while that's been in a limited number of at-bats with Branyan and Xavier Nady eating into his playing time, it appears as though he'll get a more ample workload each week. That is, at least until the D-Backs deem Paul Goldschmidt, currently tearing up Double-A Mobile, ready for a big league call-up. Mixed: $5; NL: $14.
Steven Pearce - Pearce will start at third base against Detroit on Sunday, which will be his fifth career appearance at third base -- he hadn't played the position since college prior to 2011. Pearce is batting .286 in 42 at-bats, but has only two extra-base hits (both doubles) and five RB. Despite those numbers, he was kept on the major-league roster over John Bowker a few weeks ago; a move that may pay dividends now for him and the Pirates. If he can get his bat going, then he could see three or four starts per week with Pedro Alvarez (quad) sidelined. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Jose Lopez - Lopez, who has started in six straight games, playing both second and third base, has raised his average from .141 to .205 since May 3. After a career year in 2009, Lopez regressed across the board in 2010. No player in the majors with at least 500 at-bats posted a lower OPS than Lopez's .609. The Mariners soured on his inconsistency, inability to draw walks and mediocre fielding, but a vastly better hitter's park in Colorado was expected to help him produce more consistently. However, that has not happened to date. With Ian Stewart down in the minors, Lopez should still see time at second and third when either Jonathan Herrera or Ty Wigginton sit, but he will need to produce to avoid being relegated back to the bench. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Skip Schumaker - Schumaker, out since mid-April with a hyperextended elbow, began a rehab assignment Wednesday, reporting to extended spring training in Florida. He hopes to return to the roster after just a few days, but that will depend on how he is feeling and whether or not the Cardinals want him to get some minor league at-bats in before being activated. Prior to getting injured, Schumaker was off to a decent start, hitting .241/.305/.370 with a homer and eight RBI in 14 games after having a disappointing 2010. The Cardinals have used several players to fill in for Schumaker at second, with none standing out, so he should slide back into his starting role when he returns. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Ruben Tejada - The Mets recalled Tejada from Triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday. With both Ike Davis and David Wright on the DL, the Mets have shifted Daniel Murphy from second to first base and Justin Tuner from second to third, opening the door for Tejada to see most of the time at second base. Tejada, who had been playing shortstop for the Bisons as he viewed as Jose Reyes' potential replacement, did see some time at second base last season. Tejada struggled at the plate last year, but was hitting .267 with a .303 average with RISP for Buffalo. Mixed: No, NL: $3.
Chase Utley - I profiled Utley last week, but with the news that activation is imminent, I added him again this week. Utley, who did not play this spring and has been out with patella tendinitis in his right knee, played in a nine-game rehab assignment with High-A Clearwater, including four straight games through Saturday. Utley's playing time will be managed carefully in the early going but he's probably safe to have active for the upcoming week, though he may be a bit rusty having missed all spring. In addition, keep in mind his OPS and overall production has fallen the past three years. That said, if he truly is healthy, and once he scrapes off the rust, Utley should be a top-five second baseman. (Go the max if available).
Emmanuel Burriss - Burriss, who was sent down May 10 to make room for Mark DeRosa, was called back up Thursday with DeRosa landing back on the disabled list. Burriss will likely will assume a backup/utility role with the team, and was destroying Triple-A pitching with a .361 batting average and 16 steals, so maybe he can keep up the hot bat during his limited major league starts. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Pedro Ciriaco - The Pirates recalled Ciriaco from Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday. Ciriaco hit just .190 and posted a 1:22 BB:K ratio with Indianapolis, so don't expect him to be an impact fantasy player right away. However, with Pedro Alvarez (quad) on the disabled list, and only Brandon Wood and Steve Pearce available as infielders off the bench, Ciriaco could see a few starts over the next couple weeks. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Dee Gordon - If either Aaron Miles' or Juan Uribe's injuries land them on the disabled list, the Dodgers could elect to call up Gordon. Gordon is off to a strong start, batting .319/.368/.377 with 13 RBI and 15 stolen bases through 36 games for Triple-A Albuquerque. His 5-foot-11 frame leads to little in the way of power projection, so Gordon is a lot like Juan Pierre, as his value is derived mainly from his speed. Gordon still needs to make progress in his plate discipline; but if he does, he could be in the mix to replace Rafael Furcal (free agent) at shortstop in 2012. For now, Furcal is expected back shortly, but Gordon might get a promotion to serve as a utility player. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (speculative bid in keeper leagues).
Pete Kozma - The Cardinals promoted Kozma to the major league roster Wednesday. Kozma, the Cardinals' first-round pick 2007, takes the roster spot of Nick Punto, who was placed on the disabled list with a strained elbow. Kozma hit just .220 in 38 games with Memphis this season, but he did go 10-for-33 (.303) with 10 RBI over his last 10 games. Kozma, who is more known for his glove, figures to take over a utility role for the Cardinals. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Casey Blake - Blake, out since April 25 with an infected left elbow that required surgery, may be able to begin a rehab assignment Friday. Blake was expected to be out up to six weeks, so his possible return with 7-10 days would be close to that estimate. This is the second time this year Blake has been on the DL, as he missed the first week of the season with back/ribs injuries. Prior to being sidelined again, Blake had a .321/.446/.509 line with two homers and six RBI in 53 at-bats. When he does return, Blake will resume his role as the Dodgers' starting third baseman. Despite the hot start, keep in mind that Blake, who is 37, will be given more off-days this year in attempt to keep his body healthy and his bat productive. That decision was made in reaction to his walk rate dropping from 11 to nine percent and his contact rate dropping from 76 to 73 percent, resulting in a subpar .248/.320/.407 batting line last year. Mixed: $8, NL: $22.
Sean Burroughs - Burroughs was added to the D-Backs' 40-man roster and called up Wednesday to take the roster spot of Armando Galarraga. The real story here is that Burroughs is back in the big leagues for the first time since 2006, so congratulations to him for the perseverance to earn his way back up. Look for Burroughs to provide a left-handed bat off of manager Kirk Gibson's bench following a .386/.434/.571 line at Triple-A Reno to open the season (76 plate appearances). Mixed: No, NL: $0.
Chris Johnson - Johnson has hit safely in seven of his last eight starts, raising his average from .185 to .225. While that average is nothing special, considering where he was, it's a major move, plus Johnson has driven in nine of his 22 RBI for the year in that stretch. Johnson still has a horrific 38:5 K:BB ratio in 142 at-bats, but he has been hurt by a low .273 BABIP, and now that his wrist, which bothered him earlier in the May appears healthy, he could continue the tear he has been on. Mixed: $6, NL: $16.
Justin Turner - I profiled Turner last week when the injury to Ike Davis (bone bruise, ankle) resulted in the Mets shifting Daniel Murphy back to first base, opening up second. The plan was platoon Turner, who already was seeing time against lefties, and Willie Harris, who got off to a hot start filling in for Jason Bay but had plummeted back to earth. However, Turner, through his fine play, had taken ownership of that position. Early in the week, David Wright was placed on the DL due to a stress fracture in his lower back, resulting in another position shift with Ruben Tejada called up to play second, moving Turner to third. Regardless of where Turner has been playing, he continues to rake, with 12 RBI in his last seven games and is now hitting .356 for the year. Davis and Wright will be sidelined a while more, meaning that Turner should continue to start daily. Mixed: $5; NL: $14.
Willie Bloomquist - I profiled Bloomquist two weeks ago, but now that he finally came off the disabled list, I am running it again. Bloomquist, who was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring retroactive to April 22, saw solid playing time earlier in the year but with Ryan Roberts playing third, Geraldo Parra in left, and Stephen Drew seemingly healthy he may not see as much action when he returns. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Domonic Brown - Brown, who broke the hook of the hamate bone in his right hand on March 5, was optioned down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on May 1 after he completed a short rehab stint. He hit .341 with two home runs for Lehigh Valley but had only played in 11 games due to hand injuries, which seemed to rule him out as a call-up for the injured Shane Victorino. Surprisingly, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. changed his mind and did call Brown up with Victorino landing on the DL due his hamstring injury. Manager Charlie Manuel said he won't use Brown often against lefties early on, but said Brown will get a lot of playing time. That likely means a reduction in Ben Francisco and Raul Ibanez while Brown is up with the Phillies as Brown is more of a corner outfielder rather than a center fielder. Keep in mind that Brown blew through Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year, earning a shot with the big club when Victorino was sidelined but he failed to capitalize on that opportunity, struggling in his 62 at-bat audition as major league pitchers exploited his long swing. Mixed: $11; NL: $35 (go much higher if you believe Brown takes advantage of opportunity and stays up for rest of year).
Tony Campana - A speedy, left-handed, contact hitting outfielder with little pop, Campana was promoted to replace Tyler Colvin on the Cubs' roster. At the time of his call up, Campana was hitting .342/.483/.442 with nine RBI and eight steals in attempts for Triple-A Iowa. He will be used as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement during his stint with Chicago. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Allen Craig/John Jay - With all of the injuries suffered by the Cardinals over the last few weeks, especially Matt Holiday's quad and Lance Berkman's jammed right wrist, Craig has found himself playing every day. In addition, Craig has played three games at second, but with Skip Schumaker back in a few weeks, he may not see much more time there. Craig is hitting a respectable .286/.370/.429 this season with two home runs and 12 RBI in 63 at-bats. Jay continued his strong May with two more hits and a stolen base Friday. Like Craig, Jay has benefited from all of the injuries to the St. Louis outfield (not to mention the infield); starting the last six games for the Cardinals. He's making the most of the opportunity as well: since May 11, he's hitting .406 with nine RBI and two stolen bases in 32 at-bats. For the year, he's hitting .302/.367/.429 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 67 at-bats. Not bad for someone that came into the season as a fifth outfielder, and if Lance Berkman's jammed right wrist lands him on the DL, Jay should continue to see solid playing time. Craig - Mixed: $3; NL: $9; Jay - Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Chris Heisey/Fred Lewis - Before last Sunday's game, Reds manager Dusty Baker said that Jonny Gomes was no longer the regular starter in left field. Instead, he would mix-and-match with Gomes, Heisey and Lewis. Obviously, the big loser here is Gomes, while Heisey and Lewis get an uptick in value. Lewis would seem to have a chance at most of the action in left since he hits lefty, while Gomes and Heisey are righties. Heisey - Mixed: No; NL: $3; Lewis - Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Eric Hinske - Hinske has been seeing additional time with Jason Heyward battling a right shoulder injury. Heyward's MRI revealed only inflammation in his injured shoulder, no structural damage and he returned to action a few days after receiving a cortisone shot. However, Heyward's shoulder had a setback as he became sore after taking batting practice Friday and the possibility exists that he will need to go on the DL. If that happens, Hinske would be the primary beneficiary, as he would see most of the action in right field. Mixed: $3, NL: $9.
Ryan Ludwick - After going hitless in five straight games, Ludwick has put together a nice 10-game hit streak to help raise his average to .241 and has hit four home runs over that stretch. Ludwick has a monstrous 2009 season, but slumped last year with St. Louis before getting dealt to San Diego at the trading deadline. That slump carried forward for the balance of 2010 and into 2011. His free-swinging ways coupled with playing at Petco Park won't help his numbers, but he seems to have righted the ship and should be used while he stays hot. Mixed: $4; NL: $11.
Joe Mather - Mather went 4-for-6 with a home run and four RBI Saturday against the Angels. Mather could get some extra playing time if Jason Heyward is out for an extended period of time with a shoulder injury, but he's the fifth outfielder behind Eric Hinske. Still, more games like Saturday could get him more at-bats, though in the past, he has done little with that playing time. Mixed: No; NL: $2
John Mayberry/Michael Martinez - Martinez started several games in a row while Shane Victorino was out before he landed on the DL, and he now could end up in a platoon with Mayberry in Victorino's absence. Martinez has filled in well, but while he has outfield experience, he may be better suited to the infield. That could open the door for Mayberry, who has shown some power in his limited playing time, though his long swing makes him susceptible to strikeouts. Mayberry does have 11K in 56AB but does have nine walks as well. Martinez, who is a switch-hitter, may play against righties, while Mayberry could see time against lefties since he bats right-handed. Mayberry - Mixed: $2; NL: $7; Martinez - Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Angel Pagan - Pagan, out since April 22 with a strained oblique, is nearing a return from the disabled list, but manager Terry Collins said he's unsure whether the center fielder will be activated after two more games with High-A St. Lucie. The alternative appears to be having Pagan make an intermediate stop with Triple-A Buffalo to face higher-caliber pitching. When Pagan, who was off to a very slow start before being injured, does return, look for him to play just about every day in center field while batting second behind Jose Reyes. Mixed: $8; NL: $21.