National League -- FAAB -- 5/6/12
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
Miguel Batista -- Batista is expected to slide into the rotation and start Tuesday against the Phillies in the injured Mike Pelfrey's spot. The Mets tried Chris Schwinden in that spot twice, and he was bombed each time, so they are turning to Batista. Batista made a spot start against the Giants on April 23, pitching 3.2 innings and allowing six runs (three earned), seven hits and three walks to go along with two strikeouts. The Mets are going with Batista as he was signed as a long reliever and spot starter. He may only keep the job until Chris Young is ready to return, which may be as early as the end of the month. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Erik Bedard -- Bedard earned his second straight win Thursday, striking out 11 batters --including seven in a row -- in five innings of two-run ball. He navigated through 104 pitches, improving as the game went along. Bedard, who allowed five hits and two walks, has now struck out 27 batters in his last three starts. He's made six starts without injuring himself, something Bedard's fantasy owners always consider and are aware of since that has been a major reason for most of his career, but especially the past four seasons. Bedard has benefitted from the move to the NL, as it has resulted in a rise in his K ratio and drop in his ERA. One reason that he may be able to maintain this success, despite his rise in WHIP and high strand rate, is that his BABIP is up substantially to .359, which should drop a bit, though I expect his ERA to be in the low-to-mid 3s. Mixed: $4; NL: $13.
Joe Blanton -- Blanton threw a complete game shutout against the Braves on Thursday, needing just 88 pitches to go the distance. He gave up three hits and no walks while striking out six. Blanton benefited from facing a Braves lineup that was without Brian McCann and Chipper Jones, but that shouldn't take away from a masterful performance. He's not an ace, but he'll have his moments, and there are plenty of offenses in the National League that you can stream him against. Blanton doesn't generate many strikeouts, but he limits his walks and gets plenty of groundballs to offset his lack of strikeouts. Just be aware that he will have the occasional blowup because he relies on contact as opposed to whiffs. Mixed: $4; NL: $13.
Jorge de la Rosa -- De La Rosa, recovering from Tommy John surgery last May, threw three innings in a rehab start with High-A Modesto on Thursday. De La Rosa's outing was cut short after he was hit on his right (non-throwing) wrist by a batted ball, but it looks like his removal was strictly precautionary, considering he was able to throw 20 pitches in the bullpen after being taken out of the game. De La Rosa worked in the mid-90s during his outing and felt good afterward, so it appears all he has left to regain now is his stamina on the mound. De La Rosa is scheduled to make five more rehab starts, and if all goes well, he will be activated from the DL and rejoin the Rockies' rotation in early June. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (early speculative bid).
James McDonald -- McDonald allowed just one run over 6.1 innings and was the winning pitcher Saturday against the Reds. He has allowed just five earned runs over his last three starts (21 innings of work) as he continues to put together strong starts. His record on the season now stands at 2-1 to go along with a 2.70 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 36.2 innings pitched. This stretch continues what he began last May, when he registered a somewhat under the radar, 3.59 ERA in 23 starts and 130.1 innings. Mixed: $8; NL: $22 (on the off chance he is still out there, even though that's highly unlikely in NL-only leagues).
Jeff Samardzija -- Samardzija allowed one run over 7.2 strong innings in the Cubs' 3-1 win over the Reds on Wednesday. Samardzija scattered three hits and struck out seven picking up his third win of the season. Samardzija has now strung together back-to-back solid performances and is making the most of this chance to become a full-time starter after mainly being a reliever since he was drafted in 2006. Wins will continue to be an issue, but Samardzija, who mixes a mid-90s fastball with an improved slider, offers enough to be a viable fourth or fifth starter in deeper leagues. On the season, Samardzija has a 3.41, ERA, 1.23 WHIP and a 32:10 K:BB ratio. Mixed: $7; NL: $19. (on the off chance he is still out there, even though that's highly unlikely in NL-only leagues).
Jeff Suppan -- Suppan, who was called up to fill in for Cory Luebke, who has a sore/tight-pitching elbow, threw five shutout innings and earned the win over Milwaukee on Wednesday. He allowed four hits and two walks while striking out two. Don't expect too much from Suppan, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2010 and has a long track record ranging from mediocre to horrendous. His spot in the rotation may only last until Tim Stauffer is ready to return from his triceps injury. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Carlos Torres/Alex White -- Torres, who was 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Colorado Springs, was called up this week to take Jhoulys Chacin roster spot. Torres was originally slated to serve as a long man out of the bullpen, but he might get the start against the Padres on Tuesday, as Jeremy Guthrie is not ready to return from his shoulder injury. Torres last appeared in the majors for the White Sox, where he posted an ERA of 8.56 and a WHIP of 2.341 in 13.2 innings. If Torres does not get the nod, White likely will. White, who came over to the Rockies with Drew Pomeranz in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal, has pitched fairly well in the minors after struggling last year. Perhaps visions of former prospect Adam Miller led the Indians to include White in the Jimenez deal, but he lost nearly three months to a strained ligament in his right index finger, and there's reason to believe that the injury may have been partially to blame for his disastrous results in August and September. White was supposed to be a reliever this year, but has remained in the rotation and could get the nod Tuesday. Torres - Mixed: $0; NL: $1; White -- Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Chien Ming-Wang -- Wang allowed one earned run on three hits and a walk while striking out seven over six innings at Low-A Hagerstown during his second minor league appearance Friday. Wang may only need one more rehab start before he becomes ready to join the Nationals and finish his recovery from the strained left hamstring he sustained March 15 while covering first base during a spring training. He appears to have regained the velocity and bite on his sinker that helped him win 38 games in 2006-07 for the Yankees. The question though is where to put him? Ross Detwiler was originally supposed to pitch in the bullpen, but he beat out John Lannan to be the fifth starter and all he has done is post a 1.59 ERA and 0.990 WHIP in five starts. The fourth starter, Edwin Jackson has a 3.69 ERA, the highest by far amongst Washington starters, but it's unlikely he will lose his rotation spot. This may mean that Wang will need to make a few more rehab starts before the rotation question settles itself. Mixed: $1; NL: $5
Travis Wood -- Wood will be officially called up to Chicago and start Sunday against LA as Matt Garza will be unable to go due to a virus. Despite a 30:8 K:BB in 28.1 innings with Iowa, Wood has carried a 5.08 ERA thanks in large part to 35 hits allowed (including four homers). He relies on having sharp command of his pitches and tends to get hit hard on days where he misses his spots. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Travis Blackley/Todd Coffey/Enerio Del Rosario/Chris Hatcher/Adam Ottavio/Sandy Rosario/Brian Sanches -- This week's batch of middle relief promotions took place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Florida, Colorado, Florida and Philadelphia. None of them should play prominent roles for their teams. All - Mixed: No; NL: $0
Andrew Cashner/Luke Gregerson -- I profiled Cashner, the Cubs' 2008 first-round pick, last week when his solid numbers warranted a look. Now with Huston Street on the disabled list with posterior straight in his pitching (right) shoulder, Cashner gets a bump up. I wrote last week that Cashner had been lighting up the radar guns, hitting triple digits on a consistent basis, and looked to be the Padres' closer of the future. That future may be now. Padres manager Bud Black hasn't made any official announcement regarding his plans, but considering that Cashner has been used mostly as the team's eighth-inning setup man, there's reason to believe he'll get the first crack at a save chance in Street's absence ahead of seventh-inning man Luke Gregerson. It's worth noting that Gregerson has only made three of his 12 appearances this season in the eighth inning, which has largely belonged to Cashner. In any case, Gregerson's strikeout rate has rebounded a bit this season (8.3 K/9IP) and his experience over Cashner could lead manager Bud Black to carefully weigh his options when considering who he will use to replace Street, though I expect Cashner to get the first call to fill that role. Cashner - Mixed: $7; NL: $18; Gregerson -- Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Rafael Dolis/James Russell/Kerry Wood -- Dolis and James Russell will be used in a closer committee, based on matchups. Dolis should probably be the primary closer most nights since Russell is a lefty and the Cubs will probably want to use him in more situational spots. Dolis shifted from the rotation to the bullpen in 2011 and embraced the change, throwing 72.2 innings with a 3.22 ERA and 17 saves at Double-A, He needs to work on his K:BB and BB/9 ratios, but his power sinker generates a ton of groundballs, which helps him get out of trouble. Russell is not a hard thrower and more of a flyball pitcher, which could be dangerous at Wrigley Field especially as it warms up in Chicago. Russell posted a 33:9 K:BB rate and a 2.19 ERA last season and has gotten off to a strong start again this year to be an important part of Chicago's bullpen. Wood, who missed a few weeks with a shoulder injury, just was activated and will be eased into the Cubs' bullpen picture, pitching in the sixth and seventh innings initially. Wood has closing experience and the skills to fill that role again but his injury history and concerns over his shoulder likely means that he won't fill that role this season, though that could change if Dolis/Russell struggle. Dolis - Mixed: $4; NL: $13; Russell -- Mixed: $1; NL: $4; Wood -- Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Edward Mujica/Steve Cishek -- Heath Bell blew another save Friday and now has an 11.42 ERA. Mujica was used as the closer in Thursday's win over the Giants and converted the save opportunity. After a rough start, Mujica has been solid in four straight appearance and now has a 3.65 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 6:4 K:BB ratio. Last year, Mujica posted nine wins along with a 63:14 K:BB ratio, 2.96 ERA and 1.026 WHIP in 63.1 innings pitched. Cishek was brought in to relieve Heath Bell on Wednesday and Friday, so it's anyone's guess as to who actually holds the closer role in Miami right now. Cishek threw three scoreless innings Friday and now has a 0.63 ERA. 0.907 WHIP, 15:6 K:BB ratio along with four wins in 14.2 innings pitched after posting stellar numbers last year. Manager Ozzie Guillen has expressed confidence in Bell in the past, but it may be time for a change. If so, the pecking order may be Cishek and then Mujica. Cishek - Mixed: $3; NL: $11; Mujica - $2; NL: $7
Brett Hayes -- Hayes earned his second straight start on Friday, but went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts. With John Buck struggling at the plate (hitting .194 after starting Saturday's game), Hayes is getting more chances to play, but if he doesn't hit any better than Buck those chances will evaporate pretty quickly. Mixed: No; NL: $0
Erik Kratz -- The Phillies called up Kratz on Tuesday in response to the injury to Jim Thome. Kratz should serve as left-handed power off the bench. He hit 15 homers in 358 at-bats for Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Brooks Conrad/Taylor Green/Travis Ishikawa -- The season-ending ACL injury to Mat Gamel has opened the door for the first base job in Milwaukee that may be filled by a three-headed monster. Conrad may get the first crack at handling the job, since he is a switch hitter, which will allow him to get at-bats against lefties and righties alike. He had a 1.303 OPS at Triple-A Nashville with five home runs and 13 RBI in 50 at-bats, plus he did show decent power while he was a member of the Braves. In addition, depending on your league rules, he may qualify at second base. Green opened the year at third base for Nashville and just recently switched to first. After a slow start, he has been raking the two weeks while also having the hitting pedigree to possibly earn more playing time if he gets a shot. In addition, depending on your league rules, he either qualifies at second or third base. Ishikawa got the first crack at the job, but did little in the few games he was given to hold on to the position and may now be the third option. Personally, I think Green ends up with the job. Conrad - Mixed: $1; NL: $4; Green -- Mixed: $2; NL: $7; Ishikawa -- Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Aubrey Huff -- Huff (anxiety disorder) could be activated as early as Monday. Manager Bruce Bochy made a point to say that Huff's playing time will come mostly in left field, which serves as an indication that Brandon Belt's role as the first baseman is generally safe at this point. Prior to being sidelined, Huff was batting just .182/.300/.333 after having a poor 2011 campaign following a stellar 2010 one. The question of course has to be how much was Huff's poor start related to the anxiety disorder and how much is just a continuation of his 2011 struggles? I think it's more the latter than the former, but that answer will drive how much you bid. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Brett Pill -- Pill may see action at third base late in games, and could eventually gain eligibility there if he gets enough games played at third. He came into Thursday's game as a pinch-hitter and took over Conor Gillaspie's spot at third to end the game. With Aubrey Huff returning to action, Pill likely won't see many more starts at first base with Brandon Belt getting entrenched there and Huff available to play first as well. Pill did start in left field Saturday and could see the occasional game there. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Logan Forsythe -- Forsythe (foot) has been cleared to play games at extended spring training. He'll likely need a few weeks between extended spring games and a minor league rehab assignment after missing most of spring training, so look for Forsythe to return to the Padres around the end of May or early June if everything goes expected with his recovery. If Orlando Hudson is still struggling then, Forsythe could end up as the starter at second base. Mixed: $1; NL: $4
Cesar Izturis/Edwin Myasonet -- If Alex Gonzalez's knee injury proves to be as serious as it looked when it happened, Milwaukee may need a new starting shortstop, Izturis has that experience and is a switch-hitter, but don't expect much from his bat. Maysonet has a bit more pop in his bat and could get a look-see if Izturis falters. Both - Mixed: $0; NL: $2
Josh Bell -- Bell saw his hitting streak with Triple-A Reno end at 10 games Friday. The Diamondbacks saw Bell's tremendous potential when they acquired him just a couple of weeks ago and he certainly hasn't disappointed. He's now batting .409 for Reno with three doubles, two home runs and 13 RBI. He's also struck out seven times and walked eight, so it appears as if his plate discipline, which has been a major concern in his career is improving. Ryan Roberts is struggling this season and Cody Ransom has been adequate but not overwhelming. If Bell continues at this pace, he could receive a call much sooner than later now. Mixed: $0; NL: $2 (early speculative bid)
Conor Gillaspie -- Gillaspie was promoted this week to take the place of the injured Pablo Sandoval, who will miss 4-to-6 following surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his left hand. Gillaspie saw brief action with the Giants in September last year, his first since 2008 (the same year he was drafted). Gillaspie has shown decent plate discipline but little true power or speed, do don't expect that much from him while he is in the lineup, though he was tearing up the Pacific Coast at the time of his promotion and has improved yearly in the minors. In addition, keep in mind that Brett Pill could spell Gillaspie occasionally at the hot corner. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Jerry Hairston Jr. -- I profiled Hairston last week when it looked like he could be in line for more playing time with Juan Rivera dealing with a hamstring injury. With Bobby Abreu now in LA, left field is no longer an option for Hairston. However, with Juan Uribe still nursing a wrist injury, Hairston has seen most action at the hot corner and could end up starting there if Uribe's injury forces him to the DL. Even if that doesn't happen, Uribe may miss a few more games, enabling Hairston to be in the lineup. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Chris Johnson -- Johnson went 2-for-4 with a grand slam in Saturday's win over the Cardinals. Over his last three games, Johnson has hit three home runs to go along with 10 RBI as the Astros have won each of those games. Saturday's big game raises his season batting average to .306 to go along with three home runs and 18 RBI. Johnson had one of the more disappointing seasons in the majors last season, hitting just .251/.291/.378 with seven home runs as he was plagued once again by strikeouts. He won the third base job with a solid spring and has been fairly consistent so far this year, even though the home run and RBI production had been lacking until this recent stretch. Mixed: $5; NL: $16
Jordan Pacheco -- Pacheco, who opened the year in Colorado only to be sent down on April 15, was recalled by the Rockies on Saturday. He'll likely head back into the third-base mix with Chris Nelson and Jon Herrera after playing the position at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Pacheco hit .433/.479/.627 with three homers and 10 RBI in 17 games after being demoted by the Rockies. Keep in mind that even if he does get the lion's share of playing time, he likely is just holding the spot warn until Nolan Arenado is ready. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Bobby Abreu -- Abreu signed with the Dodgers this week after he cleared waivers following being designated for assignment by the Angels last week. He got his first start Saturday, batting fifth, following Andre Ethier in the lineup while playing left field. Abreu could ultimately work his way into a platoon with Juan Rivera, and stands to see the larger share of the playing time if that shakes out as Rivera hits lefties much better than righties. Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Norichika Aoki -- Aoki will have an expanded role in center field while Carlos Gomez is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. It will be interesting to see how Aoki and Nyjer Morgan split center field as each bat left-handed. Morgan has struggled mightily, so Milwaukee could turn to Aoki and give him a chance to run with the job and help the Brewers' offense with his contact hitting and strong on-base average skills. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Brandon Belt -- Free at last, free at last, thank God, he is free at last. That refrain is what Belt owners may be sitting after manager Bruce Bochy finally appears to be committed to playing Belt daily at first base. Even with the impending return of Aubrey Huff from his anxiety disorder, Bochy has said Huff will play most of his games in left field, meaning that Belt should man first base almost every day, likely only sitting against tough lefties. If you had been waiting to get on the Belt bandwagon, time to cinch it up and go. Mixed: $6; NL: $17.
Gregor Blanco -- Blanco started for three straight games this week in right field, as Nate Schierholtz appears to have lost his hold on the job with a recent slump. Blanco was on the bench Saturday with left-hander Randy Wolf on the mound Saturday. This should have come as little surprise that Blanco was sitting as all six of his starts this season have been against righties. With Aubrey Huff due back this week and expected to see most of his playing time in left field, Blanco will have to see most of his time in right, unless Huff's early-season struggled carry forward, so don't overrate Blanco. Mixed: $0; NL: $3
Justin Maxwell -- Maxwell has started several games this past week with Jordan Schafer out with lower back pain, a strained oblique or both. Houston claimed Maxwell off waivers from the Yankees in early-April, viewing him as a right-handed option off the bench. If Schafer remains out, look for Maxwell to continue to see most of the starts in center field, bat leadoff and be a sneaky source of speed. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Laynce Nix -- Nix homered and had two hits Thursday against the Braves. He has gotten significant playing time in six of the past seven games. Many of those at-bats have come at the expense of John Mayberry. "It's hard for me to take him out, isn't it?" asked manager Charlie Manuel. "He's hitting the ball hard, he's hitting homers, he's hitting doubles, he's hitting .300, and .300 hitters are hard to come by these days. At the same time, that doesn't mean that John Mayberry is not going to be playing." Nix is still splitting time with Pierre, but as long as he continues to hit, Manuel will put his name in the lineup to play left field. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.