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
Dylan Axelrod, White Sox - With Chris Sale moving to the rotation, Axelrod will get his first start of the season on Sunday in Detroit. Last season as a starter in Triple-A Charlotte he posted a 2.27 ERA with 75 strikeouts and 21 walks over 91.1 innings. He has shown good control throughout his career in the minors and will likely need to rely on his ground ball tendencies to make things work at US Cellular. He can miss bats, as evidenced by his 17 strikeouts in 16.2 innings as a starter at the end of last season in the majors. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
David Phelps, Yankees - Phelps made his first start of the season this week and he pitched four innings of 2-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks. He'll likely go back to being in the bullpen once Andy Pettitte joins the team, unless Phil Hughes cannot right the ship. Last season in 107.1 innings as a starter at Triple-A Scranton, Phelps had a 3.19 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 26 walks. He'll probably see one more turn through the rotation this week - against the Rays. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Henderson Alvarez, Blue Jays- Alvarez threw a complete game shutout against the Angels in Anaheim and pitched six innings of 1-run ball against the Mariners this week. He combined to strikeout four batters and walked four batters over these two starts, which concerns me. For him to have any success he will have to strikeout more batters than he walks at minimum. So no, I'm not buying what he did this week, especially considering the offenses he faced. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Jerome Williams, Angels - Williams pitched a three-hit shutout against the Twins this week with six strikeouts and just one walk. The Twins are going to make many pitchers look good this season, but Williams deserves some attention none-the-less. So far this season he has a 3.55 ERA with 19 strikeouts and eight walks over 25.1 innings. His extreme ground ball tendencies have and will continue to serve him well. He gets Texas on the road this week, where I'd be leery to use him. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Felipe Paulino, Royals - Paulino made his season debut this weekend with six shutout innings against the Yankees. He struck out six batters with two walks and only allowed four hits in the win. Paulino has been very frustrating to own in the past as his underlying numbers say he should be much better than he actually is (see his career 4.01 xFIP & 5.19 ERA). He has great stuff and can miss bats, but always has a high BABIP (career .339). He could put it all together this season or give you a 5.00 ERA, neither would surprise me. If he's available in your AL only league, I'd pounce as there are few starters with his potential out there. Mixed: $5; AL: $19.
Chris Sale, White Sox - Sale will move into the closers role starting Monday for the White Sox. This move was abrupt and caught most off-guard as most though Matt Thornton or Addison Reed would get a look, before the team shifted Sale back into the bullpen. Sale has electric stuff and should have no problem putting batters away like he did last season with a 2.79 ERA, 79 strikeouts, and 27 walks over 71 innings. The only concern is that he struggled when given the same role last season, before ultimately being removed and flourishing as a set-up man. It should be noted that this move is being made on the heels of Sale complaining about elbow soreness, so just because he's not logging as many innings doesn't mean this issue will automatically go away. Mixed & AL: Owned
David Robertson & Rafael Soriano, Yankees - With Mariano Rivera done for the season, Robertson and Soriano are the two most likely options for fantasy owners looking for saves in the Yankees bullpen. Robertson has been outstanding for a while now with a 1.08 ERA last season over 66.2 innings and 12 scoreless innings this season. His walk rate is a little high for my taste (career 4.58 BB/9), but he more than makes up for it with his ability to miss bats (career 12.24 K/9). Soriano has allowed only two earned runs this season in his nine innings, but he has also walked nearly as many batters (six) as he has struck out (eight). He doesn't have the ability to miss bats like Robertson does, so his control is more importance. Given the choice, I would clearly take Robertson over Soriano. Robertson Mixed: $15; AL: $35. Soriano Mixed: $5; AL: $12.
Ernesto Frieri, Angels - Frieri got traded to the Angels this week from the Padres to help bolster this weak bullpen. Last season in 63.0 innings he posted a 2.71 ERA with 76 strikeouts and 34 walks. He won't have PETCO backing him up anymore, but he still misses enough bats that the transition shouldn't be a rough one. Should Scott Downs falter and Jordan Walden still not deemed ready to get his job back, Frieri could see some save opportunities. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
John Jaso, Mariners - With Miguel Olivo (groin) officially hitting the DL this week, Jaso and Jesus Montero have been splitting the starts at backstop for the M's. Jaso is the better of the two defensively, so that will help his cause in the battle for playing time. Offensively, there's not much here as hit .224/.298/.354 with five homers last season over 273 plate appearances. If you're looking for someone to just log at-bats in your AL only league, Jaso qualifies. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Anthony Recker, A's - Recker went 3-7 this week with a double and run scored in his two starts. He's only seen playing time this season when Kurt Suzuki needs rest and that's likely to for the foreseeable future. Last season at Triple-A Sacramento he hit .287/.388/.501 with 16 homers and seven steals over 412 plate appearances. While that sounds impressive, it was his third tour of duty at the Triple-A level. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox - Middlebrooks - the Red Sox top offensive prospect - was called up this week after Kevin Youkilis (back) hit the DL. He had been tearing it up at Triple-A Pawtucket with a .333/.380/.677 batting line, nine homers, and three stolen bases over 100 plate appearances. So far he's only played two games, but the results were promising as he went 3-for-9 with two doubles, a steal, walk, and run scored. Youkilis' condition isn't considered too serious, so Middlebrooks’ stay in the bigs might be short lived. If he's available in your keeper league, you'll likely want to up your bid as he has great long-term potential. Mixed: $8; AL: $25.
Brandon Inge, A's - Inge latched on with the A's this week after he was let go by the Tigers. Not much has changed with his new team as he's 3-for-21 with a double, RBI, two walks, and six strikeouts. I'd advise everyone to try to avoid adding him to their roster, unless they absolutely have to because the drain he's going to put on your batting average doesn't outweigh the counting stats he'll contribute to. It's likely only a matter of time till the A's have seen enough. Last season he hit .197/.265/.283 with three homers and a steal over 303 plate appearances for the Tigers. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Kyle Seager, Mariners - Seager has been on a tear this week, hitting three homers and two doubles with nine RBI and five runs scored. His batting line is now up to .297/.312/.516 over 93 plate appearances, which should be enough to signal the end of Chone Figgins seeing any playing time over him at 3B. Figgins, for those wondering, is slugging .305. For Seager, his 16 RBI this season are more than he had all of last season when he had double the plate appearances he has now. I'd ride this hot streak in deeper mixed leagues until he cools and then see what my other options were. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.
Chris Davis, Orioles - Davis has been hot this season hitting .326/.371/.573 with five homers and 14 RBI. His walk rate is up a little bit (7.2%) and his strikeout rate is down (21.6%), which are both good signs. His BABIP is a robust .375, so there has certainly bit a bit of luck at play here to help his numbers. Still, production is production and Davis has shown this sort of power potential before, when he was in the Rangers minor league system. There's no reason he can't hit another 20 homers this season. Mixed: $12; AL: Owned.
Will Rhymes, Jeff Keppinger, & Elliot Johnson, Rays - With Evan Longoria (hamstring) on the DL for what could be the next 6-8 weeks, the Rays are going to look to Will Rhymes and to a lesser extent Jeff Keppinger and Elliot Johnson to help fill that void. So far Rhymes has seen four straight starts and gone 5-for-14 with three runs. He's more of a 2B than a 3B and that's also true of how his bat plays as he has no power and a little bit of speed. Last season at Triple-A Toledo, he hit .306/.377/.390 with three homers and 13 stolen bases over 464 plate appearances. He'll likely only keep the job until his bat runs cold and then Keppinger or Johnson will start to see more at-bats. Keppinger offers a little bit more power with no speed, but he does make good contact. Last season he hit .277/.300/.377 with six homers and no steals over 400 plate appearances. Elliot Johnson has played all but C & 1B for the Rays this season, so he's going to see more at-bats at 3B eventually considering the need. Offensively he struggles to make contact as his .194/.257/.338 batting line over 181 plate appearances last season should show you. Of the three, I'd bet on Rhymes playing the most until his bat goes cold, which could happen pretty quickly, and then Keppinger settling in afterwards as he'll be the most consistent of the bunch at least offensively. Rhymes Mixed: $2; AL: $8. Keppinger Mixed: $4; AL: $10. Johnson Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Chris Getz, Royals - Yuniesky Betancourt (ankle) hit the DL this week, thus opening the door for Getz to see regular at-bats. He's gone 5-for-12 over his last four games with a double, RBI, two stolen bases, and a run. Getz can help owners with his speed as he stole 21 bases last season over 429 plate appearances. His batting average will likely be a drain as he's a career .257/.317/.315 hitter. If you're' looking for cheap speed in a deeper mixed league, I'd take a look. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Brian Dozier, Twins - Dozier was called up Sunday to take over the starting shortstop position as the team struggles to get their offense going. Last season at Double-A New Britain he hit .318/.384/.502 with seven homers and 11 stolen bases over 351 plate appearances. This season at Triple-A Rochester, he's hit .273/.342/.374 with a homer and stolen base. The Twins’ current starting shortstop is Jamey Carroll who has hit .206/.306/.237 this season, so it won't take much for Dozier to make this job his permanently. Mixed: $3; AL: $12.
Gordon Beckham, White Sox - Beckham got hot this week going 8-for-17 with two homers, a double, five RBI, a stolen base, and four runs scored. In the process he raised his batting line from .153/.231/.203 to .224/.289/.355. The only place his fantasy value has to go is up as it'll be tougher to get much lower than it was last season when he hit .230 with 10 homers and five steals over 557 plate appearances. If you're fishing for power middle infielders, remember that Beckham is only a few seasons removed from when he hit 14 homers with a .270 batting average at age 22. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.
Alcides Escobar, Royals - Escobar's seven stolen bases lead all AL middle infielders. Speed is nothing new to Escobar, who stole 42 bases in 2009 at Triple-A Nashville, when he was in the Brewers organization. Only 25 years old, Escobar is still not a disciplined enough hitter to get on base the amount of times needed to be a real stolen base asset to fantasy owners. Last season he hit .254/.290/.343 with 26 stolen bases over 598 plate appearances. If you're in a deeper mixed league, he should be owned. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Josh Reddick, A's - Reddick got a hit almost every game he played this week, going 8-for-26 with two homers, a double, 5 RBI, and a stolen base. For the season he's batting .268/.293/.473 with five homers and three steals over 116 plate appearances. While only in a small sample size to be sure, his contract rate is up to 86.0%, which is an improvement from the 82.7% he had last season over 278 plate appearances. The steals are the most surprising part of his game thus far as he's never stolen more than five bases over the last three seasons. Only 25 years old, I could see him making a push for 20/20 if he starts taking more walks. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Mike Carp, Mariners - Carp (shoulder) came off the DL this week, but hasn't done much as he's 2-for-11 with a double and two RBI. Last season he hit .276/.326/.466 with 12 homers, but that was with a .343 BABIP that is unlikely to repeat itself. He'll strikeout too much and drain your batting average somewhat, but if you're looking for power, Carp will swing for the fences and run into a few of them. Don't worry about Chone Figgins stealing his at-bats in left field, as Figgins is carrying around a .305 slugging percentage right now. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Johnny Damon, Indians - Damon joined the Indians this week and went 2-for-13 with a double and two RBI. He's hit leadoff in three games he's started and pinch hit in the other. Last season he hit .261/.326/.418 with 16 homers and 19 stolen bases. His contact rate has been on the decline, while his swinging-strikeout rate has been on the rise for a few seasons now. At 38 years old, I think it's unrealistic to expect his speed to still be there and to me anything more than 10 stolen bases would be gravy. He still has power, so he still carries value in AL only leagues and deeper mixed. Mixed: $6; AL: $20.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop them in the comments section.
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