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
Josh Tomlin, Indians – Tomlin was activated from the DL this week after dealing with a wrist injury. After two subsequent poor starts, he has a 5.32 ERA on the season with 34 strikeouts and 10 walks over 45.7 innings. If you're looking for a silver lining here, I suppose it's the strikeouts as his swinging strike rate (9.4%) and strikeout rate (6.7 K/9) are both up. Last season he had a 4.25 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 21 walks over 165.1 innings. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Brian Matusz, Orioles – Matusz has pitched well of late, allowing three runs or less in his last five starts. Over that span his K/BB has been 28/9 and he's lowered his ERA from 5.91 to 4.41. Last season he was a complete disaster, setting an MLB record with a 10.69 ERA over 49.2 innings. A key positive for him this season has been his velocity, which is up to 91.0 mph for his fastball, 84.0 mph for his slider, and 83.5 mph for his change-up. In his last start against Tampa Bay, he was throwing the hardest he had all season with a fastball sitting at 92.0 mph. If he can reproduce that velocity in his next start in Boston, he might be ready to help fantasy owners in more than just streaming match-ups. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Roy Oswalt, Rangers – Oswalt finally signed with the Rangers this week and threw two scoreless innings for the team at Triple-A Round Rock on Saturday. The plan is for him to make three or four starts there before joining the major league squad near the end of the month. Before you go blowing all your FAAB money on him, realize that Oswalt was last seen in 2011 with a 3.69 ERA, a strikeout rate that was down to 6.02 K/9, and a fastball that averaged 91.4 mph. I'm not saying he can't be effective or even help your fantasy team, but take this into consideration along with the fact that this will be his first time to pitch for an AL team -- and in Texas no less. I'm expecting an ERA around four and high WHIP (not because of his control, but because of the hits he'll be giving up). Mixed: $6; AL: $20.
Clay Buchholz, Red Sox – In his last two starts Buchholz has pitched a combined 15 innings and allowed four earned runs with 13 strikeouts and just three walks. These are the best two back-to-back starts he's had all season. His control has been a real issue for him this season as he has 30 walks in 64.1 innings with only 40 strikeouts to help balance that out. This week he gets the Orioles at home in a match-up against Matusz that I'll be following closely. Last season Buchholz had a 3.48 ERA with 60 strikeouts and 31 walks over 82.2 innings. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Francisco Liriano, Twins – Liriano threw six shutout innings this week with nine strikeouts, two walks, and three hits allowed. It was against the A's, so one has to temper the enthusiasm these numbers bring, but still, it's much better than the results he was getting before. He'll get the Royals on the road on Tuesday. If he can survive that, you'll likely hear his name start to pop-up more and talk of if he's back or not. His fastball and slider were the same speeds as before and nothing in his approach or delivery seemed different to me, so for now I will chalk this up to the A's sending out a weak lineup. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners – Iwakuma recorded two saves for the Mariners this week leading some to perhaps think that he may be the new closer for the team. That is likely not the case as his first save was of the three-inning variety where he gave up five hits and three runs with no strikeouts. His other save was on Saturday in the 12th inning only after Tom Wilhelmsen threw three shutout innings with only one hit allowed and four strikeouts. Wilhelmsen is likely the team's closer for now until Brandon League can figure things out. For the season Iwakuma has a 5.63 ERA with 14 strikeouts and seven walks over 16 innings pitched. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Stephen Pryor, Mariners – Pryor was called up this week from Triple-A Tacoma, where he had thrown 12 scoreless innings with 15 strikeouts and seven walks. In his debut on Saturday he touched 100 mph on the radar gun, so he can certainly bring it when needed. Considering no one has stepped up and asserted themselves as the team's best relief pitcher this season, it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see Pryor come in and fill that role. Those desperate for saves would be wise to keep tabs on him and how he is used in the coming games. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Travis d'Arnaud, Blue Jays – Yes, the PCL and Triple-A Las Vegas are hitter's havens, but what d'Arnaud is doing down there is down right scary. This week he hit two more homers and five doubles, to bring his season line to .330/.385/.598 with 12 homers and 16 doubles. At 23 years old, he is among the elite prospects still in the minors today. The Blue Jays currently have J.P. Arencibia as their starting backstop, so a promotion may not be on the immediate horizon. Still, he's worth checking in on for those in keeper leagues. Speculative Bid - Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Jose Lobaton, Rays – Lobaton was activated from the DL this week, after he dealt with a sore shoulder. He's currently hitting .250/.368/.313 with just one RBI. He'll back up Jose Molina for now and doesn't have any fantasy value. Last season at Triple-A Durham he hit .293/.410/.489 with eight homers over 224 plate appearances. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox – This is a public service announcement more than anything, as Salty needs to be owned in more mixed leagues. This week he hit two more homers and drove in four runs to help bring his batting line to .273/.307/.576 with 10 homers on the season (most among all catchers this season). One could expect his batting average to dip a bit, but to his credit, Salty has upped his contract rate to 73.0% this season. At 27 years of age, there's no reason to think that he can't keep the power he's flashed and finish as a top-10 catcher. If he's still available in your mixed league for some reason, snap him up on the double. Mixed: $15; AL: Owned.
Salvador Perez, Royals – Word came out Friday that Perez may start a rehab assignment in a week or so, which would put his return date somewhere near the end of this month. He is coming back from a torn meniscus in his left knee that needed surgery to repair. Last season he hit .331/.361/.473 with three homers in 158 plate appearances. This was after he jumped from Double-A Northwest Arkansas to Triple-A Omaha. Before he was sidelined, Perez was viewed as the team's catcher of the future as he received a contract extension with five years guaranteed. Those in deeper mixed leagues will want to stash him away as he can hit for average, which is rare for a catcher. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Adam Lind, Blue Jays – Much like d'Arnaud, Lind has been tearing it up at Triple-A Las Vegas, hitting .404/.483/.660 with three homers in his 12 games there. This is exactly what he should be doing as this is his fourth stint in Triple-A. He was sent there after he struggled mightily in the majors with a .186/.273/.314 batting line and three homers over 132 plate appearances. The team has been unclear as to what their plans are with Lind, but if he keeps this up, he's going to be back sooner rather than later. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians – Chisenhall was recalled this week from Triple-A Columbus and has proceeded to go 5-for-13 with two homers. He's playing everyday right now as the Tribe's third baseman as Jack Hannahan was finally forced to the DL because of a nagging back injury. It's worth noting that Chisenhall himself recently came off the DL after dealing with a calf injury. While in Columbus, he hit .324/.353/.541 with four homers over 119 plate appearances. If he can keep hitting, he'll likely keep the job once Hannahan returns -- at only 23 years old, Chisenhall is the team's third baseman of the future. Last season in the majors he hit .255/.284/.415 with seven homers over 223 plate appearances. Mixed: $4; AL: $16.
Justin Smoak, Mariners – The "Smoakamotive" has been full steam ahead in his last eight games with five homers, a double, and 14 RBI. During this stretch he's pushed his batting line to .243/.292/.418 which should tell you plenty about how the rest of his season has gone. Most of these struggles have come against lefties, whom he's batting .222/.263/.315 against this season. Still, he's made strides overall with an increased contact rate (78.7%) and decreased swinging strike rate (8.6%) this season. Those in mixed leagues should check on his status to see if he could help them as a corner bat. In an ideal world, you'd play him only in road games to avoid Safeco. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.
Mark Reynolds, Orioles – Reynolds was activated from the DL this week, after he dealt with an oblique injury that forced him to miss the minimum amount of games. Since then he has gone 4-for-18 with the usually assortment of swings and misses and now finds himself below the Mendoza Line with a .198/.333/.340 batting line over 129 plate appearances. He has only two home runs to his name, but given his track record of averaging nearly 35 homers a season for the last four seasons, he should be a decent bet to get things going. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Brent Morel, White Sox – Morel is expected back from the DL any day now as he makes his return from a lower back strain. Prior to his injury he was hitting a putrid .177/.225/.195 with four steals over 125 plate appearances. Right now Orlando Hudson is playing the hot corner for the Pale Hose, but that will likely change when Morel returns. Last season the 25-year old hit .245/.287/.366 with 10 homers and five steals over 444 plate appearances for the team. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Matt LaPorta, Indians – LaPorta was recalled from Triple-A Columbus this morning, after Johnny Damon left the team on paternity leave. When Damon gets back in a few days LaPorta may be allowed to hang around as the team searches for ways to get the offense going. Today he played first base for the Tribe, in place of Casey Kotchman, who has hit .210/.283/.309 this season with three homers and three stolen bases. LaPorta to his credit had been doing well in Columbus hitting .307/.399/.608 with 14 homers over 193 plate appearances. The last time we saw LaPorta in the majors he was struggling to make contact, hitting .247/.299/.412 with 11 homers over 385 plate appearances. Still, he's 27 years old and in what should be his prime years. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Mike McCoy, Blue Jays – McCoy was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday, where he was hitting .238/.381/.294 with one homer and 13 stolen bases over 165 plate appearances. If this doesn't inspire much confidence it's because McCoy isn't a very productive hitter. He is, however, adept at playing nearly every position defensively, minus first base and catcher. Still, as of Saturday he was still yet to log an at-bat with the team, which should be a clear indication of his fantasy value. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Yuniesky Betancourt, Royals – Betancourt was activated from the DL on Friday, after he dealt with a right ankle sprain. He has started the two games since at second base and hit second in the lineup, forcing Johnny Giavotella to the bench. He'll most likely split the at-bats there with Giavotella until Chris Getz comes back sometime next week, at which point the Royals will have to make a decision. Betancourt is hitting .281/.323/.421 on the season with one homer over 63 plate appearances. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Ramon Santiago & Danny Worth, Tigers – With Ryan Raburn shipped out to Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday, second base has opened up for the Tigers. So far a mix of Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth have been used with Worth starting the last four in a row. Worth has the higher upside of the two offensively, although that is not saying much. Last season at Triple-A Toledo he hit .256/.338/.421 with eight homer and 13 stolen bases over 357 plate appearances. The best any of his owners can hope for is that he doesn't severely damage their batting average, while stealing the occasional base. Santiago is a career .247/.314/.340 hitter with 26 homers and 27 steals over 711 games, so he's not going to bring you anything but shame in your leagues. Santiago Mixed: No; AL: $2. Worth Mixed: 1; AL: $4.
Gordon Beckham, White Sox – Over the last two weeks Beckham has raised his batting line from .197/.272/.303 to .238/.292/.411. That might now sound like much, but it's the highest its been the entire season. Moreover, in his last two games he's hit three homers with seven RBI. None of his rate stats say he's made a significant adjustment in his approach at the plate, so this could just be an offensive flare up (of sorts). Still, Beckham is un-owned in the vast majority of mixed leagues, so he's worth a look for those in need of a power jolt from their middle infield spot. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Yoenis Cespedes, A's – Just a reminder to get Cespedes (hand) back in your lineups as he came off the DL on Friday. He went 3-for-5 on Saturday, so he looks to be fine. On the season he's batting .252/.320/.435 with five homers and four stolen bases. Mixed & AL: Owned.
Anthony Gose, Blue Jays – Gose has started to play left field down in Triple-A Las Vegas this week leading to speculation that he could be promoted to play that position soon. The team has been playing Rajai Davis there and previously Eric Thames, who was sent down to Las Vegas this week. Should Gose come up, he'd be a very intriguing player for his speed alone. Last season he stole 69 bases at Double-A New Hampshire while batting .253/.349/.415 over 587 plate appearances. Gose is still very raw at only 21 years old and will likely struggle with his approach. Right now he's striking out 22.1% of the time in Las Vegas. Speculative Bid - Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Torii Hunter, Angels – Also a reminder to get Hunter back in your lineups as he has returned from the restricted list, after dealing with legal issues surrounding his son. He's hitting .241/.313/.383 with five homers and a steal this season. Looking at his rate stats, Hunter's contact rate is down (73.6%) & his swinging strike rate is up (24.5%), both not good signs for his future, but at 36 years old, this is what happens. Mixed: $8; AL: Owned.
Endy Chavez, Orioles – Chavez was activated from the DL this week, after dealing with a strained oblique. Since coming back, he has gone 1-for-10 with that one hit being a homer. He is now batting a paltry .129/.164/.200 with three extra base hits in his 75 plate appearances. Chavez's return means Xavier Avery was shipped out to Triple-A Norfolk. With both Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold out, Chavez should be safe in the lineup for a while. Last season he hit .301/.323/.426 with five homers and 10 stolen bases over 274 plate appearances. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Hideki Matsui, Rays – Matsui was brought up from Triple-A Durham this week to play left field and DH. He has started off somewhat slow going 2-for-13 with both of those hits being homers. Last season with the A's he hit .251/.321/.375 with 12 homers over 585 plate appearances. At 38 years old, he doesn't appear to have much left in the tank and will likely be asked to fill in until Desmond Jennings is back and everyone can go back to their somewhat normal positions. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Vladimir Guerrero, Blue Jays – Vladdy was moved up to Triple-A Las Vegas on Saturday, meaning a move to the majors may be on the way fairly soon. He torched High-A Dunedin going 9-for-20 with four homers and a double. Considering how hitter friendly the PCL is, expect those types of numbers to continue. The last time we saw Vlad in the majors was last season with the Orioles, where he hit .290/.317/.416 with 13 homers and two stolen bases over 590 plate appearances. Aside from his age, the only obvious knock against him is his position flexibility as Vlad will likely only be eligible at DH in almost all fantasy leagues. Speculative Bid - Mixed: $4; AL: $12.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop them in the comments section.
You can follow me on Twitter @andtinez.