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FAAB Factor - AL: Fishing For Trout

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

For more than 25 years, pitching guru Brad "Bogfella" Johnson has provided insightful evaluation and analysis of pitchers to a wide variety of fantasy baseball websites, webcasts and radio broadcasts. He joined RotoWire in 2011 with his popular Bogfella's Notebook.


Bogfella here, filling in for Kyle who is on assignment ... reportedly on a sunny beach in Jamaica??? Okay, not really, he's just on a brief vacation and will be back next week with your AL FAAB picks. Now, before you slap me around for any questionable pricing on the hitters, remember I am a pitching guy, and I never think any hitter is going to be productive. ;) However, if you're looking for insightful coverage on the pitching scene, check out Bogfella's Notebook right here on RotoWire every week, and be sure to follow @bogfella on Twitter.

STARTING PITCHERS

Dustin McGowan, SP, TOR - The Blue Jays have been waiting a long time for one time top pitching prospect Dustin McGowan to recover from a series of elbow and shoulder injuries. McGowan hasn't thrown a pitch in the major leagues since July of 2008, but he appears to be on track for a return to Toronto in the near future. He is currently on a rehab assignment at High-A Dunedin where he pitched two scoreless innings, walking two and striking out two, without allowing a hit in his most recent start. In 2007, his first (and only) full season, McGowan was 12-10 with a 1.22 WHIP and a 4.08 ERA, striking out 144 in 169 innings while displaying a lively 94-97 mph fastball and a wicked slider. He entered the 2008 season with high expectations, but was never quite right before being shut down in July. It has been a long road back, but his velocity has returned, and the Blue Jays are optimistic that he could be back in the rotation by this August. He is certainly a major injury risk, but pitchers with his potential ceiling don't often hit the waiver wires at this point in the season Mixed: $2; AL: $4.

Zach McAllister, SP, CLE - Once considered the top pitching prospect in the Yankees minor league system, McAllister has fallen off the radar the past few seasons. He was acquired by the Indians last August, completing a deal that sent Austin Kearns to New York, and has since taken steps to rejuvenate his once promising career. This season with Triple-A Columbus he was 8-3 with a 2.97 ERA and a solid 71/21 K:BB rate over 15 starts totaling 97 innings, before making his major league debut in a spot start against Toronto on July 7. The results of that start were mixed. He allowed three runs (two earned) in four innings, giving up five hits to go along with three walks and four strikeouts. While he displayed some quality stuff, his command was inconsistent, and a high pitch count led to his early departure. He was filling in for the disabled Fausto Carmona, who should be back shortly after the break, so he was sent back down after the Toronto start. Still, there were some positive signs, and his uncharacteristic command issues could be blamed on first start jitters. With Carmona and Mitch Talbot both struggling, he will likely get at least a couple more chances, and could be worth a flier in deeper leagues if he impresses enough to claim a spot in the Tribe's rotation. Mixed: $1; AL: $2.

Mitch Atkins, SP, BAL - When they sent their struggling young lefthander Brian Matusz to Triple-A to work through his velocity and command issues, the Orioles needed a fill-in starter and they called on Atkins. Originally a member of the Cubs organization, Atkins was signed as a minor league free agent by Baltimore last November. This season with Triple-A Norfolk he was 3-6 with a respectable 3.18 ERA over 14 starts and 82 innings. His first start for Baltimore (July 5 at Texas) resulted in a no decision. He allowed just one earned run on eight hits, walking none and striking out four over six innings. That type of performance, especially against an offense as potent as the Rangers, is certainly encouraging, but Atkins has limited upside and is not likely to be a long term factor in Baltimore's pitching plans. He may get the occasional start while the O's search for solutions to their pitching woes, but he not a particularly good fantasy option. Mixed: $0; AL: $0.

Kyle Weiland, SP, BOS The Red Sox decided to play it safe with ace Josh Beckett, who left his last start early with a sore left knee, opting to call up Weiland to take his spot in his last scheduled start prior to the All-Star break. A reliever in college (he is Notre Dame's career saves leader with 25), he was shifted to the rotation by the Red Sox after they made him their 3rd round pick in the 2008 player draft. He has advanced steadily through the Red Sox system, and earned the call based on his performance at Triple-A Pawtucket. With Pawtucket, he has posted a 3.00 ERA over 17 starts, walking a borderline high 37 while striking out 99 in 93 innings. This is likely to be a one-and-out appearance in Boston as there won't be room in the rotation when Beckett returns so his value is limited right now. However, there is some potential value given the Boston offense, and he could see more innings later in the year if the need arises and he continues to pitch well at Triple-A. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.

RELIEF PITCHERS

Glen Perkins, RP, MIN - The Twins bullpen has been in a constant state of flux most of the season. Joe Nathan returned at the beginning of the year, but it became obvious he wasn't quite ready to step back into the closer's role. Matt Capps, last year's end gamer then stepped back in and was successful early on before running into effectiveness issues recently. Enter Glen Perkins into the mix for saves. A former starter, Perkins has been extremely effective out of the bullpen, logging a 1.72 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP in addition to striking out over a batter per inning. Part of his success is due to a spike in velocity as his fastball was clocked at 97 mph last week. With Nathan still at least temporarily questionable for the closer's gig and given Capps' inconsistency, Perkins may be at least a short-term option for saves. There is little doubt that the Twins hope Nathan can return to his pre-injury form, but Perkins could provide some value for the near future. Mixed: $3; AL: $6.

Grant Balfour, RP, OAK - Balfour returned from the disabled list this past weekend and should soon step back into his late innings set-up role for the A's. Oakland has struggled offensively and plays quite a few close games so holds and even potential saves could be in his future. Andrew Bailey is the clear choice to close, and remains one of the best ninth inning guys in the game ... when he is healthy. That's the window of opportunity for Balfour. Bailey has proven to be pretty fragile during his major league tenure and is an ongoing injury risk. With Brian Fuentes having already displayed an inability to consistently perform the end-game duties in Bailey's absence, Balfour could become a legitimate option for saves at any point. Mixed: $1; AL: $2.

Mark Hendrickson, RP, BAL - Baltimore's 2011 season appears to be spiraling downward these days, and much of the blame can be attributed to a struggling mound corps. Brian Matusz returned from the disabled list with an alarming drop in both velocity and effectiveness, Jake Arrieta has some minor elbow issues that have sapped his endurance, and the rest of the staff has generally been overworked as the Orioles look for ways just to make it through nine innings. Hendrickson was recalled late this past week to provide a fresh arm in the bullpen. The big left-hander has been reasonably effective at Triple-A Norfolk generating a 2.87 ERA over 49 innings, all in relief, but his time in Baltimore could be short with the All-Star break providing the staff with a breather, and as a long man, he is not likely to see many high leverage situations. Mixed: $0; AL: $0.

CATCHERS

Mike Napoli, C-1B, TEX - After missing about three weeks with a strained oblique, Napoli returned to the Rangers last week, and immediately made an impact. He hit two doubles and two home runs, driving in eight in his first four starts back. For the year, he is now batting .237, but he has contributed 12 home runs and 33 runs batted in just 152 at bats. He splits time between catcher, first base, and designated hitter, but his true fantasy value is derived from the catcher eligibility. The fact that he doesn't play every day limits his value somewhat, but Texas is a very good place to hit during the hottest days of summer, and he has the power potential to help most teams even with slightly restricted plate appearances, especially in two catcher leagues. Mixed: $6; AL: $14.

Tyler Flowers, C, CHW - Flowers has been crushing the ball at Triple-A Charlotte, and with Ramon Castro now out long term with a broken throwing hand, he is likely to get his chance with the big club. He has hit .261 with 15 home runs, 32 RBI, and a 39:84 BB:K ratio over 222 at bats at Charlotte and has a couple of brief stints at the major league level (in 2009 and 2010) so it wouldn't be a totally new experience. A.J. Pierzynski will certainly continue to be the primary backstop for the Sox, but if recalled, Flowers could get 2-3 starts per week. His bat fits very well in U.S. Cellular field, and his combination of power and the ability to draw the occasional walk could make him a solid hitting catcher going forward. Mixed: $3; AL: $7.

Ryan Lavarnway, C, BOS - The Red Sox don't have many chinks in their armor these day, but if there is a weakness, it might be behind the plate – at least temporarily. With Jason Varitek on the downside of a very good career, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia so far proving to be little more than a mediocre option, Boston may soon turn to their minor league system for alternatives. Lavarnway has produced a nifty .298/.374/,528 slash line, highlighted by 19 home runs, in 299 at bats at Triple-A Pawtucket this year, and is probably close to getting a look at the major league level. He was initially an outfielder in his college days before shifting to catcher in 2008, so he is still learning the trade from a defensive standpoint. That said, the Red Sox would probably prefer not to rush him, but his bat, coupled with a lack of consistent production at the major league level right now, is likely to earn him a call-up in September, if not before. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.

CORNER INFIELDERS

Kyle Seager, 3B-2B, SEA - Seager was taken as a second baseman in the third round of the 2009 draft, but with Dustin Ackley's arrival, and the continued poor performance of Chone Figgins, he is getting his first major league opportunity at the hot corner. He has moved quickly through the Mariners system, starting at Low-A Clinton in 2009, moving to High-A High Desert in 2010, and then splitting time with Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma this year before being promoted to the big club last week. In 321 combined minor league at bats this year, he posted a .336/.401/.495 line with 29 doubles and six home runs. He has good plate discipline so he is capable of getting on base, and he could swipe 10-12 bags, but he may not yet have the power to produce the kind of numbers you would typically like to see from a corner infielder. It's been a quick trip to the show for him, so some unproductive stretches wouldn't be a surprise. That said his overall value in fantasy circles might be tied to his eligibility (or lack of eligibility) at a middle infield position. Mixed: $4; AL: $10.

Danny Worth, 3B, DET - The Tigers are desperately looking for production at third base with Brandon Inge stuck in a season long slump. Don Kelly has taken some playing time from Inge, and now with the recall of Worth, it's possible he will also get some of the available at bats. Worth was hitting .248 over 165 at bats for Triple-A Toledo, and can provide a little pop (he has five home runs) and a few bags (he has six steals and has been caught just once). He hit .310 in 29 at bats for the big club earlier this year, and also spent some time in Detroit last season. He was a second-round pick in the 2007 draft so he has some upside, but he would have to get off to a hot start to be fantasy relevant, especially with Carlos Guillen hoping to return soon. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Luis Valbuena, 2B-3B-SS, CLE - Now just your basic utility guy, Valbuena has been called up as insurance while Lonnie Chisenhall recovers after being hit in the face by a pitch Thursday night. He has posted very respectable numbers at Triple-A Columbus this season with a .313/.379/.511 batting line including 12 home runs and 56 runs batted in over 77 games, but he has failed to deliver much in several tries at the major league level. He plays all across the infield so he could be marginally useful if he gets enough at bats, however Chisenhall is not expected to be out for an extended period of time, and he is unlikely to get regular playing time, even if he stays in Cleveland, as long as the Tribe infield is healthy. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.

Trevor Plouffe, SS, MIN - Plouffe had a tryout as the Twins regular shortstop earlier this year while Tsuyoshi Nishioka was on the disabled list, but he hit just .200 in 60 at bats, and his defense was found to be lacking. Since returning to Triple-A Rochester, he has been playing multiple positions to expand his versatility, including some innings at first base, specifically at the request of Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. He possesses some offensive skills, posting a .304/.380/.646 slash over 181 at bats with the Red Wings, and could offer fantasy owners a bit of value, based mostly on his middle infield eligibility, if he sticks in a utility role with Minnesota. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.

Omar Quintanilla, 2B-SS, TEX - Quintanilla was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock when the Rangers placed reserve infielder Andres Blanco on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his lower back. He was enjoying a relatively productive minor league season with a .298/.369/.452 slash, but the Texas infield is a bit too crowded for him to see much playing time at the major league level. Barring more injuries he is likely to be a fantasy non-factor. Mixed: $0; AL: $0.

OUTFIELDERS/UTILITY

Mike Trout, OF, LAA - The future is now for the 19 year old Trout. With Peter Bourjos now on the disabled list, the Angels have decided to have a look at their 5-tool young fly-chaser. Trout hit .324 with nine home run, 11 triples, 12 doubles, 27 RBI, 69 runs scored, and 28 steals through 290 at-bats at Double-A Arkansas this season. Be warned though, while he's projected to be an everyday player for the Angels in 2012, this call up could potentially be just an opportunity to measure his MLB readiness. Talented, without question, he is still just 19 so some growing pains are a possibility, even if he stays with the big club all season. MLB.com has him ranked as the top prospect in baseball, but this price is based on his potential for this season alone. If you're trying to buy him in a keeper or dynasty league, start pushing your chips into the pot right now. Mixed: $24; AL: $38.

Travis Snider, OF, TOR - At the end of April, the Blue Jays sent Snider down to Triple-A Las Vegas to work on his swing and plate approach. While it seems like he has been around a long time, Snider is still just 23 years old, and remains a significant piece of the puzzle in Toronto. At Las Vegas, the Jays altered his stance, the positioning of his hands, and his overall approach at the plate, resulting in a .333/.403/.488 slash line in 201 at bats. He hit just two home runs, but chipped in with seven steals (without being caught), and played some center field, which only helps his versatility. Right now he is more of a gap hitter, but the power will certainly come. He has the desirable pedigree and he's not in Toronto to watch from the bench so you can expect regular at bats. They think they have their own shining star back on track now, and the results since his recall suggest they may be right. Snider is definitely one worthy of taking chance on. Mixed: $12; AL: $22.

Desmond Jennings, OF, TB - Continuing our exploration of quality outfield options now up or possibly arriving soon in the big leagues, it's again time to visit Desmond Jennings. There have been rumors swirling around that his arrival in Tampa could be imminent, but he suffered a fractured right index finger that will sideline him – to include missing the Triple-A All-Star game – for at least a couple of weeks. Jennings has produced at Triple-A Durham this season, posting a .275/.370/.457 slash line including 12 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 313 at bats. He will surely make an appearance with the Rays at some point in the second half, and will undoubtedly play regularly once he arrives. His potential value will likely be just fair for 2011, but increases considerably with the length of a fantasy contract available in keeper or dynasty leagues. Mixed: $4; AL: $10.

Nolan Reimold/Felix Pie, OF, BAL - Luke Scott's ailing shoulder has landed him on the disabled list, and while he has avoided season-ending surgery up to this point, the problem is likely to remain an issue all year. With Scott unavailable to play regularly in the outfield, the Orioles have turned to a modified platoon in left with Reimold playing against lefties and some righties while Pie gets the nod in the remaining games against right-handed starters. Further, Pie is the better defender, and often comes into games late as a defensive replacement. Either could be of some value if they could wrest the majority of playing time away from the other, with Reimold offering considerably more fantasy upside. As it stands currently, lack of playing time probably reduces their respective values in all but the deepest leagues. But, if Reimold could produce a timely hot streak, he could be a very useful addition for the second half. Reimold - Mixed: $4; AL: $7, Pie - Mixed: $1; AL: $3

Leonys Martin, OF, TEX - And this is one more name to file away. He's probably not quite ready for primetime just yet, however he is showing his stuff in the minor leagues, and as a legitimate center fielder, he could be closing in on a trial in Arlington. With the recent injury to Julio Borbon, Martin was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock after posting an impressive .348/.435/.571 slash at Double-A Frisco that included 10 steals. He signed with the Rangers last off season after defecting from Cuba, and with Texas preferring to keep Josh Hamilton in a less dangerous corner outfield spot, the door should be open for him to eventually slip past Endy Chavez on the Rangers center field depth chart. This would be a speculative bid focused on keeper/dynasty leagues. Mixed: $2; AL: $4.