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Jan Levine

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

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 AL or Mixed, we'll specify)
- 5x5 categories
- Each team has a $100 FAAB budget

Starting Pitching:

Anthony Bass -
Bass allowed six hits, two earned runs, and struck out eight over eight innings Saturday against the Giants. He was extremely efficient, throwing 58 of his 90 pitches for strikes. Walks have been a problem early on, but Bass is not allowing many hits. It is a good sign that he did not walk a batter Saturday night, and he should continue to improve his command as he adjusts to pitching in the rotation. Bass began the year in the bullpen, but the Padres' pitching staff has been depleted by injuries, opening the door for him in the rotation.
As a starter, he should serve as a good source of strikeouts. Mixed: $3; NL: $9

Patrick Corbin -
Corbin is often overlooked as the "other" prospect the D-Backs received in the Dan Haren trade with the Angels in 2010, but he's proven to be a nice young pitcher in his own right. He led the Southern League in innings pitched (160.1) and strikeouts (142) and got off to a strong start this year, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.67 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 25:8 K:BB ratio in 27 innings for Double-A Mobile. Manager Kirk Gibson announced Saturday that Corbin will be recalled to start Monday's game against the Marlins, replacing Josh Collmenter in the Diamondbacks' rotation. Corbin is not the D-Backs top-pitching prospect, but since he is a few years older than Double-A teammates Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer - and was lined up to start Monday anyway - he will get the call first. If Corbin gets off to a good start, there's reason to think that he may be able to stick in the Arizona rotation in Collmenter's place. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.

Nathan Eovaldi -
The Dodgers recalled Eovaldi from Double-A Chattanooga on Friday to take the place of Michael Antonini, who was optioned to Triple-A. Last year, Eovaldi pitched in 10 games for LA, making six starts, posting a 3.63 ERA to go with a below-average 23:20 K:BB in 34.2 innings. He has a mid-90s fastball and developing slider, which is why some believe he profiles better as a reliever than a starter. This season, Eovaldi struck out 14 batters in 13 Double-A innings, but for now, he will pitch in a middle-relief role, which will limit his fantasy value. Mixed: No; NL: $0 (up bid if you think he ends up starting for LA).

Jeff Francis -
Francis pitched eight innings of one-run ball on Friday for Triple-A Louisville, allowing three hits and three walks while striking out nine. Francis refused to use his opt out clause when the Reds demoted him out of spring training and he has chosen to stay in their Triple-A rotation with the possibility of a call-up if the Reds are in need of bullpen help. In the meantime, he has compiled a 2-2 record with a 3.30 ERA and leads the International League with 33 strikeouts. While his velocity has dropped the past few years, Francis has adjusted by displaying better command and control and become even more of a groundball pitcher. If Homer Bailey and Mike Leake aren't careful, Francis could force a call-up if he continues to pitch as well as he has, though pitching in Cincinnati could prove a bit challenging given his stuff. Mixed: $0; NL: $2 (speculative bid)

Tim Hudson -
I posted this last week but with Hudson coming back Sunday, a culled-down version is included in this week's column again. Hudson, who had been sidelined following surgery in November to fix a herniated disc in his back, made his final rehab start Wednesday, giving up one run in 5.2 innings Tuesday. Hudson is coming off back-to-back excellent seasons, and as long as he remains healthy, he should produce similar results as Atlanta's No. 1 or No. 2 starter. Mixed: $8; NL: $25.

Jordan Lyles -
Lyles received on-the-job training in Houston last season, landing in the starting rotation probably a bit before he was ready to do so. He faded in the final two months with a 7.76 ERA after Aug. 1 but overall the results weren't all that terrible: 4.41 ERA, 1.292 WHIP and a 2.72 K/BB. Lyles lost out in his battle with Kyle Weiland and Lucas Harrell for a rotation spot this spring but will get the call-up to start Sunday's game against the Reds as a result of Weiland's trip to the 15-day DL with a shoulder injury. Lyles went 4-0 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.077 WHIP and impressive 24:4 K:BB ratio in 26 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma. With Houston building for the future, they should leave Lyles in the rotation even when Weiland is ready to return. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Guillermo Moscoco
- Moscoso allowed six runs on nine hits against the Mets on Saturday to take the loss in his Rockies debut. Moscoso, who went 8-10 with a 3.38 ERA last season (128 innings) in Oakland, had an unsightly 7.91 ERA and 2.042 WHIP for Triple-A Colorado Springs when he was called into duty on an emergency basis Saturday, so he might have been a bit unprepared heading into the outing. He still posted a strong 5:1 K:BB over his 97 pitches. He could stick in the rotation for another start or two as Jeremy Guthrie recovers from his bicycle accident. If you are planning on using him, make sure it's in a pitchers' park as his flyball tendencies play much better in those stadiums and not in Colorado. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Chris Schwinden -
Schwinden bounced between starting and relieving after being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2008 draft out of Fresno Pacific University, steadily advancing up the ladder year-by-year. He took a major step forward in 2011, going 8-8 with a 3.95 ERA and 134 strikeouts over 145.2 innings in 26 starts for Triple-A Buffalo, though he ran out of gas late in the year. Schwinden is a flyball pitcher who throws a low-90s fastball, cutter/slider and curveball. He got the call this past week to replace the injured Mike Pelfrey after posting a 2.05 ERA, 1.045 WHIP and 13:9 K:BB ratio in 22 innings this season at Buffalo. Schwinden gave up six runs (five earned) off seven hits and a walk through four innings Friday against Colorado, but will get the ball again Wednesday against Houston. If he posts similar results, chances are the Mets will look elsewhere as Pelfrey is expected to need Tommy John surgery. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Relief Pitchers:

Fernando Abad/Vinnie Chulk/Steve Edlefsen/J.J. Hoover/Joseph Martinez/Ryan Perry/Mike Schwimer/Mike Zagurski -
This week's batch of middle relief promotions took place in Houston, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Arizona, Washington, Philadelphia and Arizona. The only one who could have some value is Hoover, who has the stuff to dominate as a reliever with a plus slider that resulted in more than a strikeout per inning overall last year. He benefitted from the move to Cincy from Atlanta and should fill a prominent role for the Reds. Hoover - Mixed: $0; NL: $2. Rest - Mixed: No; NL $0

Mitchell Boggs/Marc Rzepczynski -
Boggs earned his league-leading sixth hold of the season Saturday. Boggs has entered each of his last seven games with the potential of earning a hold, and he converted six of them. With a 0.87 ERA and 0.436 WHIP, not to mention a 10:1 K:BB ratio in 10.1 innings pitched, Boggs should have value in most formats. In addition, if Jason Motte struggles, Boggs could be in line to earn some saves. If Boggs is not next in line, it likely will be Rzepczynski, especially when a lefty is at the plate. Boggs - Mixed: $1; NL: $4; Rzepczynski - Mixed: $0; NL: $2

Andrew Cashner -
Cashner, the Cubs' 2008 first-round pick, won a rotation spot to start the year before a shoulder injury sidelined him for most of the season. He returned at the end of the year, and touched 99 mph on his fastball, showing that he was healthy. The Padres traded for Cashner this off-season and he appears to be the next in line to receive save opportunities behind Huston Street. Cashner has been lighting up the radar guns, hitting triple digits on a consistent basis, and looks to be the Padres' closer of the future. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Kenley Jansen -
Javy Guerra may still be the Dodgers' closer, but Jansen is showing that he still is next in line. Jansen has a 2.63 ERA, 0.805 WHIP and 21:5 ratio in 13.2 innings pitched, and he picked up his first save of the season Friday. Guerra gave up a run in the ninth Saturday, the third straight game he has allowed a run, and now has a 6.10 ERA. Manager Don Mattingly has expressed confidence in Guerra, so he likely will get one more shot to keep his job, but if he struggles, a change could be in the offering in LA. Mixed: $7; NL: $19 (go higher if you think he takes over from Guerra immediately).

Henry Rodriguez -
Heading into Saturday's game, Rodriguez was 5-for-5 in saves with 10K, 0.84 WHIP and no runs allowed. That streak ended Saturday as Rodriguez gave up two runs on three hits to blow the save. Despite that bobble, with Brad Lidge landing on the DL with an abdominal wall strain and Drew Storen out until around the All-Star break following surgery to remove a bone fragment in his elbow, Rodriguez should see all the save chances he can handle. Rodriguez has a fastball that tops around 100 mph along with a swing-and-miss slider and changeup. As long as he is able to limit his walks and wild pitches, Rodriguez should rack up saves for the Nationals. Mixed: $8; NL: $22 (upgrade).

Catchers:

Hector Sanchez -
Manager Bruce Bochy has used Sanchez a bit more than expected, shifting Buster Posey to first base while sitting Brandon Belt. As long as Sanchez keeps hitting, Bochy will continue to run him out behind the plate, allowing Posey's bat to remain in the lineup while getting a brief respite by playing first base. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

First Basemen:

Matt Downs -
Downs gets a bit of an upgrade with Carlos Lee dealing with a sprained ankle. Downs has been playing first base while Lee has been sidelined; if Lee lands on the DL, Downs is in line for a nice spike of playing time. Mixed: $2; NL: $7

Tyler Moore -
Moore was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday with Mark DeRosa landing on the disabled list. Moore, who hit 31 home runs in the minors each of the past two seasons and was off to a strong start this year, has seen time at first base and left field in the minors this year. He could see some time at both positions with the Nationals especially when a tough lefty is on the hill if manager Davey Johnson opts to sit Adam LaRoche, Rick Ankiel or Bryce Harper. Mixed: No; NL: $0

Second Base:

Steve Lombardozzi/Chad Tracy -
Lombardozzi got the start at third base on Friday, hitting second and going 0-for-4. Nationals manager Davey Johnson still hasn't tipped his hand on how he's going to replace Ryan Zimmerman at third while Zimmerman is on the DL, but Lombardozzi potentially gives the team an OBP source and contact hitter they've been lacking at the top of the order. Last season, Lombardozzi posted a .309/.360/.430 line with 30 stolen bases in both Double-A and Triple-A in 2011 while seeing his action at second base. If Johnson does not go with Lombardozzi exclusively at the position, look for him to rotate with Chad Tracy at third while Zimmerman and Mark DeRosa are out. Lombardozzi - Mixed: $1; NL: $4; Tracy - Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Chase Utley -
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said Utley (knee) will return from Arizona at some point within the next week. Utley will go through normal pre-game routines with the Phillies and rehab with team trainer Scott Sheridan. Once Utley feels ready, he'll head to the Phillies' spring training complex in Clearwater, Fla. Amaro said he expects Utley to need more than the nine rehab games that he played in last season when he was sidelined due to his knee condition. Utley's numbers has declined the past several years, but he still is a solid second base option when healthy, albeit no longer an elite one. In addition, if Ryan Howard is still sideline when Utley is ready to return, which may be in late-May or early-June, it's possible that Utley could see some games at first base to reduce the wear-and-tear on his knees. Mixed: $4; NL: $13 (early speculative pick).

Jordany Valdespin -
Valdespin had a breakout season for the Mets in 2011, moving from Double- to Triple-A. He hit .297/.341/.483 with 15 homers, 51 RBI, 62 runs and 33 steals to earn the promotion; the homers and steals were easily career highs. Valdespin opened eyes with a strong spring training and was a late cut. He displayed better control of his emotions, which was a concern in the past, earning manager Terry Collins' trust. Valdespin was off to a good - not great - start at Triple-A Buffalo, but was brought up this week due to all the injuries in New York. With Andres Torres set to rejoin the ten, Valdespin could be in danger of getting sent down, but he is a name to keep in mind for the future. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Shortstops:

Joaquin Arias -
Arias was called up this week to give the Giants some needed middle infield depth with Freddy Sanchez out. The Giants hope that despite his setback, Sanchez will be back from his shoulder injury on May 11, at which time Arias will likely be sent back down. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Brian Bixler -
The Astros recalled Bixler from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday. Bixler gives the Astros another infielder with Marwin Gonzalez away from the team for a few days following the birth of his child. He figures to return to Oklahoma City when Gonzalez rejoins the team. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Third Basemen:

Pedro Alvarez -
Alvarez collected a pair of doubles Saturday, going 2-for-4 while striking out two times. He has three multi-hit games in his last six starts and is batting .333 (7-for-21) over that span. Alvarez also has six extra-base hits in his last eight contests, including three dingers. While he still has a long way to go, his recent hot stretch may have stemmed the tide calling for his demotion to the minors. Mixed: $7 (in case he was dropped by a frustrated owner); NL: Already owned

Zach Lutz -
Lutz was limited to just 63 games last year due to a broken ring finger and concussion, but hit .295/.380/.500 with 11 homers and 31 RBI in just 220 at-bats. He has always shown that he had the ability to hit, but injuries have wrecked almost every season since he was drafted. Lutz was off to a hot start for Triple-A Buffalo, hitting .333 with three homers in his first 19 games to earn the promotion when Jason Bay landed on the disabled list. Playing time will be scarce for Lutz unless he can swipe some starts from Ike Davis at first against left-handed pitching and he could spell David Wright occasionally at third. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Cody Ransom -
With Ryan Roberts struggling, Ransom started four straight games at third base, going 5-for-13. Roberts started the past two games, but the time off did little to spark his bat, so manager Kirk Gibson could turn to Ransom again. If Ransom remains hot, he could earn a larger share of the third base job until Roberts regains his stroke. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Outfielders:

Allen Craig -
Similar to Hudson, I profiled Craig last week, but his seemingly imminent return warrants another mention. Craig started his minor league rehab assignment a bit over a week ago with High-A Palm Beach and will appear on the field for the first time on Sunday, while playing for Triple-A Memphis. If all goes well, he should be activated on Tuesday. Craig put up a .315/.362/.555 slash line with 11 home runs in just 219 plate appearances last season. When he does return, he should see time at first base as well as right and center field. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.

Tony Gwynn Jr./Jerry Hairston Jr. -
Gwynn and Hairston both could be in line for more playing time with Juan Rivera dealing with a hamstring injury. If Rivera lands on the DL, Gwynn will play against righties and Hairston lefties. With Dee Gordon struggling, when Gwynn plays, manager Don Mattingly may insert him in the leadoff spot, though A.J. Ellis and his plus-.400 OBA profiles better in that spot. Hairston, who is dealing with a bruised left hand after getting hit by a Stephen Strasburg fastball that will sideline him for a few days, will also see time at second and third base when he is not playing left. Gwynn - Mixed: No; NL: $3; Hairston - Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Bryce Harper -
The Natural. The Kid. The best hitter scouts have seen since Mickey Mantle. Choose whichever moniker you want as all have been attributed to Harper, who got an earlier than expected promotion to the majors Friday with Ryan Zimmerman landing on the DL and made his debut Saturday. Harper joined the Nationals after hitting just.250/.333/.357 in 72 at-bats through 20 games at Triple-A Syracuse while also struggling against lefties. Harper played left field in his debut, but is expected to end up manning center field. His struggles this year notwithstanding, Harper should hit for power while also blending in some speed and post a good, not great average, with a strong OBA and SLG. Grab him now if he is available in your leagues. Mixed: $55; NL: $75.

Reed Johnson/Joe Mather -
With the trade of Marlon Byrd to Boston, both Johnson and Mather will see time when a lefty is on the hill. In those situations, Tony Campana should sit with Johnson playing center field and Mather seeing time at third base. Johnson - Mixed: No; NL: $3; Mather - Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Angel Pagan -
After a slow start for the Giants, Pagan has really turned it on, extending his hitting streak to 13 games. Pagan homered in three straight games this week and already has four on the year after posting just seven last year. His K and Ct rate are in line with what he posted last year, though the K rate is a bit higher than what he posted in his breakthrough 2010 season. In addition, his K:BB ratio leaves a lot to be desired, but Pagan is locked in as the Giants' center fielder and lead-off hitter. Mixed: $7 (in case an owner dumped him early in the season); NL: Already owned

Nate Schierholtz -
With Aubrey Huff landing on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder, Schierholtz is now the unquestioned starter in right field. Schierholtz is hitting .286 with six multi-hit games and is also already up to three homers on the year. In addition, he is a fantastic defensive right fielder, which also helps him be in the lineup even when his bat struggles. After losing the starting spot in spring training, Schierholtz, even before Huff was sidelined, had nearly secured himself as an everyday player, but with Huff out, that spot is now Schierholtz's to lose. Mixed: $7; NL: Already owned, but value spikes.

Blake Tekotte -
The Padres recalled Tekotte from Triple-A Tucson on Saturday, Tekotte takes the roster spot of Jeremy Hermida (hip), who landed on the disabled list. His overall minor league totals indicate a solid combination of power and speed as well as a knack for getting on base at a rapid rate. Tekotte's power totals have gradually increased each season, culminating with 19 home runs last year, and he posted an ISO just above .200 over his last two full seasons. Last year, he swiped 36 bases with a 75 percent success rate and with a 13.5 percent walk rate, amassed a .393 OBP for Double-A. However, Tekotte hit just .237 with no home runs and two RBI over his last 10 games with Tucson, so it's unlikely that he will jump into a prominent role in San Diego. Expect Tekotte to serve as a reserve outfielder with the big club, and his time with the team could end when Carlos Quentin is readyt o return from his spring training surgery. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Andres Torres -
Torres, who played one game for the Mets before re-injured the left calf he first strained in spring training, is on track to be activated from the disabled list Monday. Torres completed his rehab assignment by playing in games with Triple-A Buffalo on Friday and Saturday and will return to the team the beginning of a series with the Astros. With Jason Bay out, the Mets need healthy outfielders, and when Torres returns, he should be a full-time player in center field with Kirk Nieuwenhuis likely shifting to left field, though Nieuwenhuis could remain in center with Torres manning left. Nieuwenhuis had been leading off with Torres sidelined, so it will be interesting to see where manager bats Torres, as he could hit leadoff, second or possibly seventh. Mixed: $5; NL: $17.




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