The FAAB Factor-AL is our weekly look at the American 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 AL or Mixed, we'll specify)
- 5x5 categories
- Each team has a $100 free agent acquisition budget.
Danny Duffy, KC - Duffy was called up and made his first start in the majors Wednesday. The 22-year-old, highly touted prospect has been firing on all cylinders in the minors this season. Over 36 innings with Triple-A Omaha, Duffy posted a 3.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 43:10 K:BB ratio. Vin Mazzaro was originally slotted to make a few starts with Bruce Chen on the DL, but Mazzaro was sent back down to the minors after giving up 14 earned runs in relief Monday. That hurt just to type. The Royals should buy Mazzaro some time with a sports psychologist after that experience. Duffy will get at least a few starts, and there's a chance he could stay with the team for the rest of season since he arguably became the Royals' best starter the moment his call-up was announced. Duffy's pedigree makes him worth a speculative addition in any league despite his struggles with control in his first start Wednesday. Mixed: $6; AL: $14.
Mitch Talbot, CLE - Talbot will rejoin the Indians' rotation Wednesday. The 27-year-old righty has been on the DL with a strained right elbow since mid-April. He made two starts before suffering the injury, recording a 1.46 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 11:5 K:BB ratio over 12.1 innings of work. Alex White's (finger) trip to the DL opened a spot in the rotation for Talbot without the team having to make a personnel decision. His K rate was a bit bloated through his first two starts, as Talbot doesn't usually strikeout so many batters. He won 10 games for the tribe last season and will stay in the rotation as long as he's a serviceable option. Bid on him if you need an innings eater, but don't expect the numbers he posted in his first two starts to be anywhere close to what he'll amass by the end of the season. Talbot simply isn't much more than a mediocre starter. Mixed: $0; AL: $5.
Alfredo Aceves, BOS - Aceves claimed Daisuke Matsuzaka's (elbow) place in the rotation and made his first start of the season Saturday against the Cubs. He hadn't started a game in the majors since 2009 prior to Saturday's outing, but Aceves worked as starter in Triple-A and has pitched will out of the pen this season. Including the five innings of one-run, three-hit ball he threw Saturday, Aceves has posted a 2.42 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 11:8 K:BB ratio over 22.1 innings this season. With Matsuzaka possibly needing Tommy John surgery, Aceves could be given the opportunity to stay in the rotation at least until John Lackey is ready to return from the DL. Though he doesn't strikeout many batters, he'll have good value if he's able to keep his ERA and WHIP at the levels he was posting out of the pen. Grab him as a short-term starter option with the possibility to have a long-term role in the rotation. Mixed: $0; AL: $5.
Carlos Villanueva, TOR - Villanueva will move from the bullpen to the rotation for at least one spot start in place of Jess Litsch (shoulder) this week. He'll start against the Yankees on Monday and is a potential two-start pitcher this week. In 24.1 innings out of the bullpen this season, he's posted a 1.48 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 21 strikeouts. If he's able to pitch that well as a starter, he'll be a heck of a pickup. Mixed: $4; AL: $6.
Joey Devine, OAK - Too bad the 17:1 K:BB ratio he posted in 12.1 innings in the minors aren't coming from him working as a starter. Tyson Ross and Brandon McCarthy going down this week crippled the Athletics' starting rotation. Devine was unbelievable in 2008, posting a 0.59 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 49:15 K:BB ratio over 45.2 innings that season, but he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2009 that took him 25 months to return from. Considering Devine's potential, Brian Fuentes' suspect work, and Andrew Bailey's scary injury trend of the last year, I'd be okay grabbing Devine on the cheap this week in AL leagues and stashing him as a potential saves thief later this season. Even if he never does get elevated to the closer, having someone pitching a couple near-perfect innings each week can help any team. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Dusty Hughes, MIN - Hughes was called back up to the big leagues Sunday with Glen Perkins going on the 15-day DL with ever popular oblique injury. During his 12 appearances for the team earlier this season, Hughes struggled and posted a 10.13 ERA, 2.16 WHIP, and mediocre 10:7 K:BB ratio. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Hughes' stats from his last round in the majors were distorted, because the team was forced to use him in an unfamiliar role due to injuries to other bullpen arms. He'll be used in a situational lefty role for the team, limiting his opportunities to put up relevant fantasy stats. Mixed: $0; AL: $0.
Josh Judy, CLE - Judy was called up Saturday to give the Indians' bullpen an extra arm for a few days until they activate Mitch Talbot to make Alex White's (finger) next start. Being that he could get sent back down in a few days, and the fact that he's likely to only be used in a middle relief role makes Judy's fantasy impact limited. Mixed: $0; AL: $0.
Franklin Morales, BOS - Morales was traded to the Red Sox from the Rockies on Thursday. He made his debut with the Red Sox on Saturday and was victimized by poor defense as the Cubs rallied in the eighth. Through 14 innings with the Rockies, Morales posted a 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 11:8 K:BB ratio. Morales' value could increase slightly with the Sox if they opt to use him in a long relief role, but even that won't make him fantasy relevant in most leagues. Daniel Bard has a lock on the setup role. Mixed: $0; AL: $0.
Andrew Bailey, OAK - Bailey (forearm) is lined up to return from the DL late this week. Only activate him this week if your options are limited. Weekly mixed league managers and shallower AL-only leagues could consider Brian Fuentes a drop option if they're looking to make a move and are struggling with who to drop, but Bailey's slow return and talent for getting injured the last two seasons would make us lean toward hanging on to Fuentes until Bailey returns and proves he'll be healthy enough to try and pitch the rest of the season. Bailey is already owned in 82 percent of Yahoo! leagues. If he's available in a mixed or AL-only league for some reason, make a strong play for him. Mixed: $20; AL: $30.
Lance Pendelton, NYY - Pendelton was called up from Triple-A Saturday. He'll serve in a long relief role and have little in the way of fantasy value. Mixed: $0; AL: $0.
Charlie Furbush, DET - Furbush was called up Saturday to work out of the bullpen for the Tigers. As long as he's working out of the bullpen, he won't be of much use in fantasy. However, Furbush worked as a starter in Triple-A this season, posting a 2.91 ERA and 55:14 K:BB ratio, and he could take over a rotation spot at some point if Phil Coke or Brad Penny falter. Mixed: $0; AL: $0.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, BOS - Salty has a four-game hitting streak going that includes two homers and should earn him extra playing time in the coming week. If you're looking for a replacement catcher, he's no worse at the plate than the average catcher and arguably has some upside at only 26-years-old. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Taylor Teagarden, TEX - Teagarden was having a good season with Triple-A Round Rock, prompting the Rangers to give him another shake in the majors. Through 13 games with Round Rock, he hit .341 with seven home runs and 14 RBI. Teagarden struggled in his last two seasons with the Rangers, but he's shown the potential to be an impressive offensive player during stretches in the past. Make sure to get a bid in on him if you need help at catcher. A word of caution: Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba's places on the roster could push Teagarden back to the minors if he struggles at all. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Andy LaRoche, OAK - LaRoche could get a lot of at-bats over the next week as starting third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff is day-to-day with a strained right groin. He's a terribly pedestrian offensive player, but LaRoche should be a live bat for AL-only league players that need at-bats anywhere they can find them. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Juan Rivera, TOR - Rivera has started the Blue Jays' last three games at first base while hitting cleanup. The team appears willing to let him continue to play there at least as long as Adam Lind is on the DL. Rivera is owned in just three percent of Yahoo! leagues. He has 25-homer potential and is worth a roster spot even in mixed leagues when playing every day. Mixed: $5; AL: $7.
Elliot Johnson, TB - Johnson has been on the Rays' roster all season, but it took a lack of consistent production out of Reid Brignac for the team to give him a real look as a potential everyday player. He's started five games in the last eight days and is threatening to take over the starting shortstop job. Showing extended faith in his abilities, the team slotted him into the leadoff spot Sunday. Through 59 at-bats this season, Johnson has hit .271 with two home runs and seven RBI. He's never displayed excessive home run power in the minors, but Johnson has shown the ability to hit for a plus average and collect doubles and triples thanks to his speed. With enough action, he could steal around 30 bags in a season. If you're looking for some help at the middle infield slot, Johnson could probably be had relatively cheap this weekend. He's a less consistent and impressive Brian Roberts type of infielder. Mixed: $4; AL: $7.
Brett Lawrie, TOR - The Jays' top prospect may be making his move to the majors sooner rather than later. He'll play third base for the Jays whenever he gets called up, but he has eligibility at second base in several league management systems due to his status as a second base prospect all of last season. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has stated that Lawrie may force the team's hand if he continues to produce at Triple-A Las Vegas. If you're desperate for help at second or third base, it might be worth making an early buy and stashing Lawrie in case he gets called up. Mixed: $4; AL: $6.
Eric Thames, TOR - Thames is intriguing, but the unexpected power jump he had last season left many believing it was a suspect performance hinged to the park he was playing in at Double-A New Hampshire. His 27 home runs in 496 at-bats last season and the six homers and 17 doubles he has hit in 146 at-bats this season earned him a call-up this week. The Jays are going to let Thames get at-bats as long as he's producing, but he'll need to prove himself quickly if he hopes to continue getting playing time when Adam Lind returns. If you need a potential power bat in the outfield, he's worth taking a flier on for the next week or two. I'm bidding relatively conservatively on him, but if the managers in your league go gaga over prospects, tack on a few more dollars to your bid. Mixed: $6 AL: $10.
Josh Hamilton, TEX - Hamilton (shoulder) is expected to get activated from the DL Monday or Tuesday. He should be universally owned. Make sure you have him active in weekly lineups.
Travis Buck, CLE - Buck was recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Monday and was used in four of the team's six games since his call-up. In those games, Buck has hit .313 with a home run, four RBI, and four runs. He should continue to get plenty of at-bats while Grady Sizemore (knee) is on the DL, but that may only mean he's worth about four starts per week over the next week or two. He's not a strong enough hitter to be of use in most mixed leagues, but AL-only managers looking for bats could give Buck a role off the dice this week. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Nolan Reimold, BAL - Reimold was called up by the Orioles on Friday. He'll need to be productive to stay in the lineup, but he also doesn't have too much competition in left field with Luke Scott getting time at first during Derrek Lee's (hamstring) stint on the DL and Felix "Apple" Pie providing little offensive production. If you want to make a bid for someone that's had their ups and downs in the majors and has the ability to put up numbers worthy of owning in mixed leagues, Reimold might be the guy you want to target this week. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Andruw Jones, NYY - Jones has played in six of the Yankees' last eight games. Since Jorge Posada threw a hissy fit last Saturday, Jones has been getting more consistent playing time. His extended playing time of late may not continue though as he has gone hitless in his last three starts and recorded only two hits in his last 22 at-bats. Jones is worth a speculative pickup for the upcoming week, but Posada's good work at the plate in the games he has played this week should scale back Jones' role again. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Franklin Gutierrez, SEA - Gutierrez returned to the Mariners this week and was immediately slotted into the five hole as manager Eric Wedge is anxious to see his team create offense consistently. He's being eased back into an everyday role, but now's the time to buy him. Gutierrez is owned in only six percent of Yahoo! leagues. He may not be worth owing in all standard mixed leagues, but he should be owned in even the shallowest of AL-only leagues. Mixed: $17; AL: $27.
Ezequiel Carrera, CLE - The fleet footed 23-year-old was called up by the Indians on Friday. If he gets regular at-bats while Grady Sizemore (knee) and Travis Hafner (oblique) are on the DL, Carrera could be a good source of steals in the short-term. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Jim Thome, MIN - Thome (back/oblique) should be activated from the DL before Monday's game. He's been playing in extended spring and hasn't suffered any setbacks. Thome is owned in only five percent of Yahoo! leagues. He hit an unbelievable 25 home runs in 276 at-bats with 60 walks last season to post a 1.039 OPS for the Twins last season. All of the Twins' injury woes should help Thome get lots of at-bats when he returns. Though he'll likely lose bats once the team is healthy, Thome is a good option at the utility spot in deep mixed and all AL-only leagues. Mixed: $6; AL: $12.