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
Tommy Milone, A's - Milone threw a three-hitter against the White Sox this week for his third win of the season. He now has a 2.00 ERA with 13 strikeouts and six walks over 27 innings. While his ERA may sound impressive, those strikeout numbers do not. This is not all that surprising as Milone had trouble missing bats last season with the Nationals, when he pitched 26 innings and had a 3.81 ERA with 15 strikeouts and four walks. If he can keep his excellent control going, he'll continue to find success, but I fear that won't be the case. This week Milone travels to Boston and Tampa Bay, where I'd be hesitant to use him despite his two-start status. If he comes out the other end smelling like roses, we'll have to re-evaluate things. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Jason Hammel, Orioles - Hammel threw seven shutout innings this week with seven strikeouts and just one walk against the Blue Jays. He's now sporting a 1.73 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 25 strikeouts and just eight walks through his first 26 innings. His track record says we shouldn't be buying into the idea that he can continue to repeat these performances, but maybe something has changed. Pitch F/X says his velocity is the highest it's been in the last five years at 93.4 mph on his fastball. He's also throwing his slider much more than he ever has before at 24.6% of the time. To top it all off, his ground ball rate has spiked to 61.8% this season. Given the small sample size, it's too early to say he's turned the corner or should be invested in heavily, especially considering the division he's in, but maybe getting away from Coors did more good that we initially thought. This week he goes to New York and then to Boston, so we'll see what he's made of soon enough, but by then he might be gone in your league. Mixed: $6; AL: $20.
Drew Smyly, Tigers - Smyly shut down the Rangers and Yankees this week, and that is no small feat. On the season he has a 1.23 ERA with 22 strikeouts and eight walks over 22 innings. Last season, he jumped from High-A to Double-A, where he pitched 45.2 innings with a 1.18 ERA, 53 strikeouts, and 15 walks. His fastball sits 91 mph, but it's his slider that helps him miss bats as he goes to it almost a quarter of the time he pitches. If he can keep the control he showed in the minors, Smyly could help owners in both AL only and deeper mixed leagues. Mixed: $4; AL: $12.
Scott Downs, Angels - Jordan Walden was removed from his duties as the Angels closer this week, after he gave up a 2-run homer to lose the game to the Rays. Walden has a nasty 8.31 ERA, but he's only pitched 4.1 innings this season, so it's tough to draw any serious conclusions here. What we do know is that Downs is the new closer for now. For his career, Downs has 18 saves with 3.53 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Saturday night he made good on his first save chance with a clean 9th inning at Cleveland. It's conceivable that Downs takes this opportunity and runs with it all season long as he has a great ground ball rate (career 57.4%) and doesn't walk too many batters. Realistically though, he doesn't miss enough bats (career 6.90 K/9) to hold Walden off forever and when adversity strikes (and it will), Walden will likely be there waiting to get his job back. Mixed: $6; AL: $20.
Pedro Strop, Orioles - Jim Johnson caught a bacterial infection this week and is out temporarily as the O's closer. Until he is well enough to resume active duty, Strop has been handling the closer duties for the team. So far, so good for Strop as he has two saves and a blown save/win to his name this week. It's unlikely that Johnson isn't able to come back sometime this week and pick up where he left off -- 7-for-7 in save chances to start the season. At least we now know that Strop is the likely next man up should Johnson falter down the line. For his career, Strop has a 4.53 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 30 walks over 51.2 innings pitched, which tells you most of what you need to know - he has no problem missing bats and missing the zone, all at the same time. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Matt Thornton & Addison Reed, White Sox - Hector Santiago blew his second save of the season this week as he gave up a 2-run lead and took the loss in a 14 inning game with the A's. Manager Robin Ventura came out said that Santiago was still his man, so no change appears to be imminent. That said, I'd start looking to add Matt Thornton in every league that I could right now. Thornton has a eight strikeouts and no walks with a 0.93 ERA and 0.83 WHIP right now. If Santiago were to be removed, Ventura could also opt to keep Thornton in his setup role and flip-flop Reed with Santiago. Reed has been lights out this season with 10 strikeouts and two walks with a 0.00 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. Thornton Mixed: $2; AL: $7. Reed Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners; Joaquin Benoit, Tigers; Luis Perez, Blue Jays; David Phelps, Yankees, Tim Collins, Royals; Boone Logan, Yankees; Steve Delabar, Mariners; David Robertson, Yankees; Vinnie Pestano, Indians; & Cory Wade, Yankees - These are your top ten strikeout leaders among relief pitchers this season (Pedro Strop also was on this list). Of this bunch, Benoit & Pestano should be owned in AL only leagues. Jose Valverde continues to get the job done in Detroit, but whose heart rate doesn't go up watching him? I'd be hedging with Benoit if I were a Valverde owner. As for Pestano, he's been great so far with 13 strikeouts to just 1 walk with three earned runs allowed over his first 9.3 innings. Meanwhile, Chris Perez has seven saves, but just five strikeouts and four walks to his name -- it's only a matter of time till there's a switching of the guard at The Jake. As for everyone else, it's clear the Yankees have a loaded bullpen, but it'll be a cold day in hell before anyone overtakes Mo as the closer. I find the Wilhelmsen & Delabar duo intriguing pickups if you're looking for strikeouts on the cheap. Benoit - Mixed: $2; AL: $7. Pestano - Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox - Salty hit three home runs this week with seven RBI and four runs. Last season over 386 plate appearances for the team he hit .235/.288/.450 with 16 home runs. There's a chance that he could approach 20 homers if he stays healthy this season, which makes him someone with adding in shallower mixed leagues. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Chris Stewart, Yankees - Stewart got a start this week at Texas and went 1-for-3 with a double, two runs, and walk. He's not going to replace Russell Martin anytime soon, so there's no need to give him much consideration. Last season in 183 plate appearances with the Giants, Stewart hit .204/.283/.309 with three home runs. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Eric Chavez, Yankees - Chavez got to start three games this week, as Alex Rodriguez spent some time at DH. Chavez ended up going 2-for-10 with a RBI and run. Maybe more importantly, he's not hurt yet. Last season over 175 plate appearances, he hit .263/.320/.356 with two homers. The odds are that Chavez won't see enough playing time to be relevant even in deepest leagues.Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Lars Anderson, Red Sox - Anderson was called up last Sunday when the team put Jason Repko (shoulder) on the DL. He has gone 1-for-4 so far with a run and strikeout. It wasn't too long ago that he was a big time prospect within the team's minor league system, but that changed somewhere along the way and now he's a 1B/LF player with modest power. As has been the case, it's doubtful he sees enough playing time to warrant consideration even in AL only leagues. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Alex Liddi, Mariners - Liddi smacked two home runs this week as he started four games at third base for the Mariners. He's wrestling for playing time there with Kyle Seager, who has far less potential to hit for power. Last season at Triple-A Tacoma, Liddi hit 30 homers with .259/.332/.488 batting line. Seager could hit for a better average than Liddi, but that's about all he can do better. There is also talk that Liddi could see time in the outfield, as the team wants to keep his bat in the lineup. He needs to be owned in all AL only leagues and some deep mixed leagues until he stops hitting. Mixed: $3; AL: $12.
Eric Sogard, A's - With Josh Donaldson demoted to Triple-A and Luke Hughes sick this week; Sogard saw some extra playing time at third base this week. For the season he's batting .167/.239/.333 with two homers and a stolen base over 47 plate appearances. Hughes was healthy enough to start at the hot corner on Saturday, so don't expect Sogard's playing time to continue. Mixed: No; AL: $2
Ryan Flaherty, Orioles - Flaherty saw a spike in his playing time this week as he filled in for Robert Andino, who was out on paternity leave. Flaherty went 3-for-15 with a RBI and walk. Andino was back in the lineup today, so there's no reason to think that Flaherty will last as the starter at second base. Last season, Flaherty hit 19 homers over 530 plate appearances between Double and Triple-A. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Ramon Santiago, Tigers - Santiago started a few games for the Tigers this week at second base as they transition away from Brandon Inge being on the roster. Normally Ryan Raburn would handle the position, but he has been starting in left field and dealing with leg cramps. Don't expect Santiago to anything more than an utility infielder for the rest of the season. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Mike Trout, Angels - The crown jewel of players to bid on this week, Trout was recalled this week after hitting .403/.467/.623 at Triple-A Salt Lake. The team released Bobby Abreu to free up a roster spot and every indication has been that Trout will stay up for good as long as he hits. For those unfamiliar with Trout, he's one of, if not the top prospect in the game this season as he offers a unique blend of power and speed at the centerfield position. It's probably too much to ask for Trout to hit for a high batting average and show his power potential now, seeing as how he's just 20 years old, but his speed should translate right away. As tempting as it is to jump on his bandwagon this season, expectations must be tempered, as he is still so young. That said, don't be surprised when someone in your league throws crazy FAAB money at Trout. Mixed: $20; AL: $50 - There will likely be no shallow bidding when it comes to top tier prospects like Trout.
Mitchell Maier & Jarrod Dyson, Royals - Word came down this week that Lorenzo Cain suffered a setback in his rehab from his groin injury and he'll now be out for an additional month. This further opens the door for either Mitchell Maier or Jarrod Dyson to secure more playing time. So far Maier has handled the majority of the starts in centerfield, but the results have been ho-hum as he has hit .222/.349/.389 with one homer and one steal. Dyson isn't likely to do much better with the power or batting average, but he does offer more speed. Last season at Triple-A Omaha, Dyson stole 38 bases in 369 plate appearances. If given the choice between the two, add Dyson to your team first. Maier Mixed: No; AL: $4. Dyson Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Andy Dirks & Don Kelly, Tigers - Delmon Young's recent issues off the field have him on the team's restricted list and have opened up playing time to Dirks and Kelly in left field for the Tigers. Kelly was seeing the lion's share of these at-bats, but that was while Dirks was out with a hamstring issue. Now that Dirks is healthy, it'll likely be sees more playing time than Kelly. This week Dirks went 2-for-8 with a triple, homer, three RBI, and two runs. Kelly is still yet to get an extra base hit this season. It should be noted that Young will likely clear up his legal issues this week, so this is only a temporary fix for both the Tigers and fantasy owners. Dirks - Mixed: No; AL: $4. Kelly - Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Brad Eldred, Tigers - Eldred was called up this week from Triple-Toledo, where he was terrorizing pitchers, hitting an astounding .388/.444/1.013 with 13 homers over just 90 plate appearances. According to the team he'll serve as the team's DH until further notice, which gives him at least some time to prove himself. He's floated around in the majors before and shown great power, but he struck out way too much as he has trouble making contact on a consistent basis. So far in two games he's 2-for-9 with a triple, RBI, and four strikeouts. It's those strikeouts that will likely be the end of him, but for now he could catch lightning in a bottle. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop them in the comments section.
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