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
Randall Delgado - Last week in this space it was expected that Delgado would join the rotation. Now that it's a done deal, we can bid a bit more confidentially on the youngster. That said, Tim Hudson will be back soon, so Delgado's stay could be short. Mixed: $1; NL: $5 (in a keeper league, you'll want to go a bit higher).
Ross Detwiler - One of the biggest surprises of all of the cuts last week was when the Nationals decided to send down John Lannan and go with Detwiler instead. Neither was exactly a hot item in the spring - the winner of this battle was just going to keep the seat warm for Chien-Ming Wang, who could be back by the end of the month - but it appeared that Lannan would get the nod. Washington's Opening Day starter in 2009 and 2010 has asked for a trade, but Washington plans on holding onto him for now. Detwiler started 10 games for the Nats a year ago, and wasn't bad doing it (3.00 ERA, 1.258 WHIP), but some of his peripheral numbers indicated he was a bit lucky. He'll likely get just a few starts before heading back to the bullpen, so don't break the bank. Mixed: $1; NL: $3.
Lucas Harrell - A lesser surprise was the Astros going with Harrell rather than Jordan Lyles in their season-opening rotation. Harrell justified the assignment with seven scoreless innings in Saturday's victory over Colorado. He pitched well in Triple-A for two organizations last season (2.63 ERA, 1.255 WHIP), though he walked 50 in 126.2 innings, and things weren't quite as good when he made it up the majors. Still, he could be a decent back-of-the-rotation starter, and he's off to a good start. Mixed: no; NL: $2.
Brad Brach- Brach may not have even made it to Triple-A Tucson before he was asked to come back when Tim Stauffer went on the DL. Brach had an outstanding K:BB ratio in the minors last year (94:12 in 74.2 innings), but he couldn't even beat out Micah Owings for a spot in the San Diego pen. He's a nice fantasy sleeper, as long as the Padres let him pitch. Mixed: no; NL: $3.
Shawn Camp - The rebuilding Cubs must have seen something in the 36-year-old Camp, but that doesn't mean you have to. He'll work as a garbage-time reliever. Mixed and NL: No.
Lendy Castillo- Castillo also made the Cubs, but at least he's young. The Rule 5 pick pitched well in Low-A Lakewood last year, so it makes sense that the Cubs see something in him. They'll probably protect him as well as they can this year and keep him away from high-leverage situations. Mixed and NL: No.
Rhiner Cruz- Another Rule 5 pick, Cruz is already 25 and has struggled with his control in the minors. Nevertheless, the Astros kept him on the roster at least for the start of the season. Mixed and NL: No.
Chad Durbin- Remember when the Braves used to have all kinds of great home-grown pitching talent? Now they just pick up Washington's scraps. The Braves don't need Durbin, and neither do you. Mixed and NL: No.
Jason Grilli - Grilli was named as the top set-up man for the Pirates, and while he was successful last year, his long-term track record may say otherwise. I'd prefer Chris Leroux or Evan Meek, but for now, Grilli is the one who will rack up the holds and the occasional vultured victory. Mixed: no; NL: $3.
J.J. Hoover - The Reds picked up Hoover in the Juan Francisco deal, and although Hoover is headed for Triple-A Louisville, they probably came ahead in the deal by picking up this former starter. He was outstanding for Double-A Mississippi last year, and held his own when he was promoted. He'll pitch for the Reds this year, and isn't a bad keeper. Mixed: no; NL: $3.
George Kontos -Another pitcher acquired in trade last week who will start the year in Triple-A, Kontos had an excellent 91:26 K:BB ratio in 89.1 innings with Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre last year. The Giants only had to trade catcher Chris Stewart for him. Not a bad deal. Mixed: no; NL: $2.
Brad Lidge/Henry Rodriguez - In my ten-team NL-only keeper league that had its auction last week, no one thought Lidge was worth rostering. Lidge got the save in Washington's opener, so there could be a feeding frenzy in my league tonight. Hold your horses though. Manager Davey Johnson has stressed that Lidge and Rodriguez will just alternate save opportunities while Drew Storen is on the shelf, and true to his word, Rodriguez got the next save opportunity. So think about what half of the save opportunities for an average team for about one month is worth, and bid accordingly. Lidge - Mixed: $3; NL: $10. Rodriguez - Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Josh Lindblom -I seem to highlight Lindblom as someone I want every year, and I never get him. In 27 appearances with the Dodgers last year, he had 28 strikeouts, a 2.73 ERA and a 1.045 WHIP, yet he just barely made the team. Expect him to pitch like he wants to stay in the majors for a while. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Rodrigo Lopez - Seriously, just don't even think about bidding on him. Mixed and NL: No.
Victor Marte - Scott Linebrink signed a contract and then hours later he complained that his shoulder hurt. Hmmm ... The Cardinals called up the vet Marte while Linebrink spends 15 days in the penalty box. Nothing to see here. Mixed and NL: No.
Sean Marshall- There is no doubt about it, the Reds are going with Marshall as their closer this year. Chances are he's already on someone's roster, but in case this is your first week of FAAB'ing for a league in which you drafted a month ago, here's a closer for you. Mixed: $20; NL: $40.
Dan Otero- Otero made the final spot in the San Francisco pen, and although his minor-league numbers have been eye-popping (dig that 76:11 K:BB ratio in two stops last year), he's already 27, so isn't much of a prospect. Watch him, but you don't need to bid right now. Mixed and NL: No.
Alfredo Simon- Although he worked mostly as a starter with Baltimore last season, when the Reds claimed him off waivers last week, they envisioned him as a long reliever. In either role, he's not worth much right now. Mixed and NL: No.
Jeff Baker - Baker filled in at first base while Bryan LaHair's back gave him trouble. He's not a long-term fix at first base - that would be Anthony Rizzo (unless LaHair explodes this year), but Baker is a decent utility man. Mixed: no; NL: $1.
Mark DeRosa - Injuries to Mike Morse and Rick Ankiel opened up a spot on the roster for DeRosa, and while last week we were speculating that he might platoon with Adam LaRoche at first base, it was left field where DeRosa started on Opening Day. He has just one home run in the last two seasons, but once upon a time DeRosa was a valuable infielder with pop. Perhaps with added opportunities he can be that again. Mixed: no; NL: $1.
Daniel Descalso - Descalso has started the first three games of the season for the champs, while his expected competition, Tyler Greene, hasn't gotten off the bench. He's going to play a lot (mostly at second base, but also at short and the hot corner), and his manager loves him, but don't confuse playing time with fantasy productivity. He doesn't have much power or speed, so you'd be paying mostly for his versatility. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Jesus Guzman- With Yonder Alonso at first base, it looks like former odd-man-out Guzman has the inside track for the left field job while Carlos Quentin recovers from his injury. He hit .312/.369/.478 in 76 games with the Padres last season and with the influx of playing time he's about to get, the 27-year-old could deliver.Mixed: $3; NL: $12.
Travis Ishikawa- The Brewers unexpectedly decided to go with the veteran Ishikawa as their backup first baseman. He's a strong defender, but he's not going to play much. Mixed and NL: No.
Brett Pill- Pill could play first base against lefties this year, though Brandon Belt might have something to say about it. Still, Pill is an intriguing prospect, and he has averaged 100 RBI a season over his last three minor-league campaigns. If he gets more playing time - and he hit an impressive home run off Dan Hudson on Saturday - there could be something here. Mixed: no; NL: $6.
Marwin Gonzalez - With Jed Lowrie on the DL, Gonzalez has started both of Houston's games at shortstop. Like we said last week, he's a defense-first shortstop. In other words, even with the extended playing time, he's not going to do a whole lot for you. Mixed: no; NL: $1.
Ryan Theriot- He's been starting at second base so far this year - not Emmanuel Burriss as expected. He still seems like a utility player, and the stolen base well has dried up a bit, but for now he's a starter in the big leagues, and that means something. Mixed: no; NL: $2.
Luis Valbuena- The Cubs claimed him off waivers from Toronto, so now that he's a part of the National League, you need to know about him. He hit .302/.372/.476 with 17 home runs for Triple-A Columbus last year, and he'll be able to repeat the level once again in 2012, as the Cubs outrighted him to make room for Rodrigo Lopez.Mixed: no; NL: no.
Brian Bixler - He'll probably play all over the field while Jed Lowrie is on the DL. The minor league vet can steal a base or two, but he hasn't been able to hit much in the several chances he's had in the bigs. Don't expect that to change this year. Mixed and NL: No.
Gregor Blanco- Blanco stole an astounding 13 bases this spring, which highlights the totality of his fantasy value. He made the team as an extra outfielder, and while things are crowded in San Francisco, he could play enough and steal enough to be worth a bid. Mixed: no; NL: $4.
Carlos Gomez/Nyjer Morgan - The two veteran speedsters are expected to platoon in center field this year. Morgan will be the strong side of the platoon and is a little bit of a better hitter than Gomez, but Gomez has a little bit more pop. Just for fun, let's combine their numbers from 2011: 609 AB, 98 R, 167 H, 12 HR, 61 RBI, 29 SB, .274 AVG. Too bad you can't just bid on Nylos Gomgan. Gomez - Mixed: no; NL: $3. Morgan - Mixed: $1. NL: $6.
Cedric Hunter- Hunter was once a top prospect in the San Diego system, but he's been passed around a bit since then, finally finding his way to the Cardinals this week. He'll start the year with Triple-A Memphis, but the brittle St. Louis outfield suggests there's a call-up in his future. He has below-average power and speed, but a .308/.375/.423 line in Double-A as a 22-year-old suggests there's potential left. Of course, that was in 2010, and he fell back to earth when he hit Triple-A. Mixed: no; NL: $1.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Scott Hairston - Nieuwenhuis got the call when Andres Torres went on the DL, and banged out two hits in his debut Saturday, but he's going to platoon with Hairston while Torres is on the shelf. We talked about Hairston last week, but Nieuwenhuis is rather interesting. He suffered a torn labrum that ended his season prematurely, but he was raking for Triple-A Buffalo last year, hitting .298/.403/.505 in 188 at-bats. The Mets are going nowhere. Let's see how this plays out. Hairston - Mixed: $1; NL: $8. Nieuwenhuis - Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Eric Young Jr.- Young made the Rockies as a super-utility player. Although he hit just .247 for the Rockies last year, his blazing speed helped his fantasy owners immensely - 27 steals in limited action will do that for you. Naturally his only appearance so far this season is as a pinch runner (he stole a base and ultimately scored). Mixed: no; NL: $6.