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)
Each team has a $100 FAAB budget
Trevor Bauer / Patrick Corbin / Tyler Skaggs - We'll begin with a speculative pick-up idea. Josh Collmenter has been torched in both starts after a tough spring, and the Diamondbacks are loaded with starting pitching prospects. He may not get yanked from the rotation this quickly, but he needs a good outing at home this week to stave off the lynch mob. Meanwhile, Bauer has 18 strikeouts and hasn't allowed an earned run in 10.2 innings at Double-A Mobile after turning heads this spring. He only has six Double-A starts to his ledger, but then again he had plenty of experience in college, so he might not need much time at this level and theoretically could skip Triple-A, though I prefer to have my pitching prospects hit each level on the way up. Corbin doesn't have Bauer's ceiling, but he might be a little more polished, having spent all of 2011 in Mobile while opening up there again this season. Skaggs is also at Mobile after breaking out over two levels last season. It's interesting to see that the Diamondbacks have assiduously avoided placing any of their top pitching prospects at Triple-A Reno, instead stocking the roster with the Barry Enright's of the world. I think the pecking order for a promotion in the event of Collmenter getting bounced is roughly in the order listed above. Bauer is the only one that really requires a bid now in a redraft league. As always, check your league's rules to see if he is even eligible for a bid. Mixed: $2; NL: $5.
Charlie Morton - Morton returned Saturday night from his hip injury and threw five innings in his 2012 debut against the Giants, allowing three runs on seven hits and no walks, striking out two. The Pirates limited his workload to 71 pitches, and chances are he'll have pitch-limit of sorts in his next outing. His fastball velocity was down some two miles per hour from last season, but given that he's still working back to full strength I'm not certain that's too probative. He's unusable in innings-cap leagues due to his lack of strikeouts, but if you're in a league that doesn't place a premium upon getting strikeouts, he can be spot-started at home and against weaker opponents. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Drew Pomeranz - Pomeranz will make his 2012 debut Sunday at home against the Diamondbacks after getting in one start at the Double-A level. I don't see the urgency in the Rockies bring him up now, and I certainly didn't see it when he came back from an appendectomy last season. He's a superb prospect and like Trevor Bauer above, he's dominated at each level so far. But pitching at Coors Field is a different animal, and he needs to be able to deal with altitude a little bit at Colorado Springs before jumping back into the fray at Coors Field. He won't be on any of my non-keeper leagues this year - the likelihood of him being successful in his home starts and staying in the game long enough to provide you bankable numbers seems pretty low, given that the team wants to keep him to 160 innings or less. Don't get me wrong - I like that they traded for him in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal last year, and he's got a bright future. But I think that the short-term could be dicey. If you believe differently, your bid is going to have to be somewhere in the $5/10 range, pending your league format. Mixed: No; NL: $1.
Ryan Vogelsong - Vogelsong will make his first start of the 2012 season Sunday after starting the year on the DL with a back injury. Much like Charlie Morton on Saturday, Vogelsong likely won't go deep into the game. Also like Morton (and Josh Collmenter), Vogelsong frequently showed up on offseason "fluke" articles for his 2011 performance. He's unlikely to repeat the high strand rate and relatively low BABIP, but also benefits from making his home starts in one of the better parks in the game, with a still-good to great bullpen (even without Brian Wilson) behind him. Mixed: $2; NL: $12.
Joe Wieland - Wieland had a rough introduction to the major leagues Saturday night, with Matt Kemp getting the best of him twice. But I liked his poise after he got knocked around over the first two innings, rallying to throw three shutout innings after giving up six runs the first two innings. He draws a home start against the Phillies his next time out, and obviously that's not as imposing as it would be with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the lineup. There's at least some non-zero chance that Wieland could stick in the rotation over Anthony Bass once Tim Stauffer comes off the DL. Anytime you can find a prospect that gets half his starts in Petco, it's worth taking a stab at him. He's not the only prospect in this organization that's close, however. Casey Kelly has started strong in Triple-A and Robbie Erlin is a fine prospect too, though he's behind schedule because of a spring training oblique injury. Mixed: $2; NL: $8.
Santiago Casilla / Sergio Romo / Javier Lopez - With Brian Wilson possibly out for the season, it's time to scramble for more save chances. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that he'd use a number of relievers to replace Wilson, and that's consistent with how he acted when Wilson got hurt last season - Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla all got chances last year, with Casilla converting six of seven chances. Sergio Romo was also hurt last season when Wilson was out, and that fragility is why he's not the automatic choice to take over on a full-time basis for Wilson. But he'll likely get the first nod, at least if it happens Sunday, after Casilla threw 1.2 innings Saturday night. Lopez is there more for the token lefty specialist save chances. All three are capable of filling in over the short-term, and Heath Hembree is a threat down the line. Casilla: Mixed: $5; NL: $15. Romo: Mixed: $15; NL: $25. Lopez: Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Steve Cishek / Edward Mujica - Heath Bell suffered his second blown save Saturday night, with a little bit of help from Logan Morrison's error in left field. Given his pedigree and contract, his job security isn't threatened, at least on merit. But don't be surprised if he's given a day of rest Sunday if another save situation comes up, much as how Joe Nathan got a couple of days of rest this week following his grisly blown save Wednesday. The warning signs were already there for Bell heading into the season, given the big drop in strikeouts last year. There's some small chance of injury or just declining abilities. Mujica is currently the top set-up man, having pitched the eighth inning Saturday and for most of last season. But don't forget how Cishek got more opportunities last year after Leo Nunez's issues cropped up. I have a small preference for Cishek if you want to speculate on the Marlins' situation. Cishek: Mixed: $1; NL: $5. Mujica: Mixed: $1; NL: $3.
Heath Hembree - Hembree might get the call in short-order to join the team following Brian Wilson's latest news on his elbow injury. Hembree has been pegged by the Giants to be their closer-of-the-future, but even though Wilson's injury leaves the door ajar, the Giants have so many quality relievers right now that it's unlikely that Hembree will be among the first to get a chance to fill the vacancy. His 2011 minor league strikeout numbers are eye-opening, as he registered 100 K's in 64.1 innings over three levels. Mixed: $0; NL: $1.
Bryan Shaw - If you play in the NFBC or some other format where you run deep into the player pool waters, it's probable you noticed Shaw's save last Sunday when the Diamondbacks wanted to rest both David Hernandez and J.J. Putz after each had worked back-to-back days. There's no change in the bullpen pecking order, but realize that the Snakes trust Shaw and his cutter in the case where they need a big out. It's not as if Putz is an iron man (aside from Mariano Rivera, what reliever truly is?), and Hernandez has had plenty of issues with walking too many batters in the past. If you need to speculate weeks ahead of a closer change (here, more likely by injury than merit) and have a roster spot to use for the long-term, you could do worse than to spend one unit of your FAAB budget on Shaw. Mixed: $0; NL: $1.
Matt Carpenter - Carpenter has started the last three days at first base with Lance Berkman nursing a calf injury, but he should be viewed more as a short-term fill-in and not a guy to target for the long haul in the case of a major injury. Allen Craig will be back in the near future and in that event, he would be chosen over Carpenter, and the Cardinals also are grooming Matt Adams to be their first baseman in 2013 or perhaps at a later point. Speaking to Carpenter's merits, he's got a good batting eye and could hit for average, but at age 26, what you see is what you get - and I see a long-term part-time player, not a future keeper. Mixed: $0; NL: $4.
Todd Frazier - Frazier might get the call despite a terrible Triple-A start due to Miguel Cairo's hamstring injury, although Brandon Phillips is due back in the lineup Sunday and if he holds up, that obviates the immediate need for Frazier. But if he does get the call, it might be worth throwing a one-unit bid on him based on the skills he demonstrated last season at both the major and minor league levels, rather than dwelling on 32 at-bats in April this year. Mixed: $0; NL: $1.
Anthony Rizzo - Rizzo's scorching hot start for Triple-A Iowa (.385/.415/.795 with five homers in 39 at-bats) has him saying hello, I'm here, I'm waiting to Cubs management, but currently there's no place to play him. They want to give Bryan LaHair a decent run at first base, and even if they were to move him to the outfield, they'd first have to get rid of one of their veterans - be it Alfonso Soriano and his untradeable contract, Marlon Byrd, or David DeJesus. But even that might not be enough, because they also have to find room for Brett Jackson in the outfield eventually. Rizzo's 2:8 BB:K to start the season at least gives them some cover to justify waiting. Mixed and NL: $0 speculative bid.
Mike Fontenot - Fontenot agreed to a minor league deal with the Phillies. This doesn't move the needle much, unless Chase Utley is out for longer than a month, Freddy Galvis flops so badly at second base (or, more appropriately, at the plate) and Pete Orr isn't considered a more viable alternative to Fontenot. Could happen, but it's not a great likelihood, and the payoff is pretty small. Mixed and NL: No.
Jed Lowrie - Just a reminder that Lowrie came off the DL on Friday and will play every day at shortstop for the Astros. Moreover, he's batting second - granted, it's the Astros lineup, but batting in front of J.D. Martinez and Carlos Lee is about as good as it's going to get for him there. I'd like to see what Lowrie can do with 500+ plate appearances - though I'm dubious he'll stay healthy enough to get that many. Nonetheless, I like his bat. Mixed: $7; NL: Already owned.
Freddy Sanchez - Sanchez is beginning his Triple-A rehab assignment next week en route to a likely early May return. If you've had to resort to playing his nominal replacement, Ryan Theriot, or someone else of that ilk in a middle infield slot, you'd do well to jump the gun and grab Sanchez now before the cost gets a little higher. At the very least, he's a reasonable bet to provide good batting average and runs scored from the top of the order, at least until he gets hurt again. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Wilson Valdez / Willie Harris - Brandon Phillips is slated to return Sunday -- hopefully for good for Reds fans' sake after watching them get shut down again Sunday. Valdez and Harris still could be part of the third base picture here-and-there even if Phillips gets back on board full-time, given Scott Rolen's need to rest frequently. Neither off much in the way of power, however, so you'll end up chasing stolen bases with these two and the hope that somehow they land in the top half of the order. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Rick Ankiel - Mike Morse's setback and Roger Bernadina's inability to do anything with his first week opportunity has opened the door for Ankiel to get a shot at the full-time center field job for the next six weeks and maybe longer, if the Nats opt not to install Bryce Harper in center when they deem his bat ready for the big leagues. Of course, it's not as if Ankiel's recent resume is sparkling - he's coming off of a career low in many categories. Still, in deeper leagues playing time is king, so: Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Chris Coghlan - It's readily apparent that both Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton will be dealing with their respective knee injuries for the foreseeable future, meaning that plenty of playing time should result in the outfield over the next month, at least. Coghlan will be the primary beneficiary of that playing time opening up, at least if he starts to show something at the plate. He at least has some organizational history, though not with the manager. If Coghlan flops and especially if either Stanton or Morrison needs a DL trip, Bryan Petersen could be part of the picture again. Mixed: $2; NL: $9.
Justin Maxwell - Maxwell has found his way into all five games he's been on the Astros' roster since they claimed him off waivers from the Yankees, but he's not starting, as the Astros already have three young-ish outfielders starting, and Maxwell really isn't all that young (28). He's one of those Four-A outfielders seemingly never good enough to start, but then again, he's never really been given an extended run in the starting lineup to demonstrate his wares. Mixed: No; NL: $1.
Xavier Nady - Much like Rick Ankiel, Nady will get more of a run of playing time early on until the injured and prospect Nats make their way up the chain. The problem is, nothing in Nady's recent past indicates a likelihood of success, and he has his own recent injury woes to account for. Use him as a fill-in, but no more. Mixed: $1; NL: $7.
Shane Robinson / Erik Komatsu - As with Matt Carpenter above, neither Robinson nor Komatsu profile as potential starters down the line in the event of a Carlos Beltran injury, as Allen Craig would likely get dibs over them once he's back. If both Beltran and Lance Berkman go down at the same time, an opportunity could open up. I have a small preference for Komatsu over Robinson based on their age difference, as Komatsu could theoretically scale higher. Both offer speed a little power, but Komatsu has had a better batting eye in the minors. Komatsu - Mixed: No; NL: $1; Robinson - Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Nate Schierholtz - I've gnashed my teeth and howled at the moon as much as any non-Giant fan and non-Brandon Belt owner possibly can over Belt's banishment to the bench after a whopping total of three games, but the fact is that those replacing Belt have actually hit pretty well, including Schierholtz. (And yes, of course, we insert our "small sample size" disclaimer here.) Schierholtz benefits the most from this decision, though Brett Pill will pick up the token first base start when a lefty is on the mound, moving Aubrey Huff back out to the outfield. Schierholtz's outfield defense is superior to that of Huff and Belt, so he'll always be part of the corner outfield picture, especially with the dimensions proving to be fairly tricky in AT&T Park. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.