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 NL or Mixed, we'll specify)
Each team has a $100 FAAB budget
Trevor Bauer – Bauer, who has been excellent in the minors this season, with a combined 1.96 ERA and 11.2 K/9 rate in 12 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, is reportedly going to be called up soon. If he is called up, one would assume that he would be starting, but it's unclear whose spot in the rotation he would take. Trevor Cahill, Joe Saunders, and Wade Miley have all been very good this year and Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy are rotation mainstays. Bauer, who has a five-pitch arsenal, including a plus-plus curveball, was the third overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. If he is available, grab Bauer now and stash him in your reserves as the potential risk far outweighs the risk of owning him. Mixed: $4; NL: $13 (early speculative bid, go higher in keeper leagues and expect call up in near-term)
Jeff Francis – The Reds simply didn't have room for Francis in their rotation, prompting Francis to ask for and be granted his release last weekend after a 65:18 K:BB in 77.1 innings with Triple-A Louisville to begin the season. Francis signed with the Rockies and started Saturday against the Angels, allowing eight runs on 10 hits in only 3.1 innings. Despite he poor start, manager Jim Tracy said after the game that Francis will remain in the Rockies' rotation. After striking out just 4.5 K/9IP with the Royals in 2011, it will be interesting to see how Francis fares going forward that he's another year removed from the shoulder issues that slowed him in his final season with Colorado in 2010. 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, which should help him in Colorado. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Joe Kelly – The Cardinals announced Friday that Kelly will start Sunday's game in place of Jaime Garcia, who could miss two months with a shoulder impingement. Kelly, drafted in the third round by the Cardinals in 2009, will make his major league debut when he takes the mound Sunday. He earned a spot in the Cardinals' rotation by posting a 2.86 ERA in 12 starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but with a 1.33 WHIP and 5.6 K/9 rate this season, it remains to be seen how effective he will be with the big club, though he should benefit from the ground balls his power sinker generates. Mixed: $0; NL: $3
Jason Marquis – Marquis was profiled last week when it was unclear if he would be called up to fill the fifth starter spot in San Diego. He did in fact get the call and start Thursday, allowing four runs -- two earned -- and nine hits over six innings, striking out a season-high six batters. Marquis flamed out in seven starts in Minnesota but could benefit from pitching at Petco Park and a move back to the National League. Mixed: $1; NL: $4
Ross Ohlendorf – Ohlendorf picked up his first win with 4.1 innings and one run allowed in relief of Andrew Cashner Saturday against Milwaukee. Cashner will likely be optioned to the minors in order to stretch out as a starter, meaning Ohlendorf could move into the rotation. He could be useful with the benefit of pitching in PETCO Park; he's managed low-4.00 ERAs as a starter in his career, and could remain in the rotation even when Cashner returns to the majors. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Julio Teheran – Teheran will make a spot start Sunday against the Blue Jays in place of Tim Hudson, who is out with a sore ankle. Hudson's ankle injury doesn't appear to be serious, so Teheran's stint with the big league club may be short-lived. The right-hander has gone 5-2 with a 3.15 ERA and a 7.1 K/9 at Triple-A Gwinnett so far in 2012 following an outstanding season at Gwinnett last year at just 20 years old (15-3 with a 2.55 ERA and 122:48 K:BB ratio in 144.2 innings). Teheran has a mid-90s fastball and plus changeup to go with a baseball IQ rare for his age. His future is extremely bright. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (go much higher in keeper leagues)
Andrew Cashner – Cashner started for the Padres on Saturday and went just 2.1 innings. His max was slated to be just three innings, since this was his first start of the year. Cashner will likely be optioned to Triple-A Tucson after Saturday's start to continue stretching out for a rotation spot. Ross Ohlendorf will likely temporarily replace Cashner as the fifth starter, who would likely be recalled after a couple of starts in the minors where he can increase his stamina without depleting the big league bullpen. Cashner, who was the Cubs’ first round pick in 2008 and was drafted as a starter, has hit 101 mph on his fastball, has the potential to strike out a batter per inning and should benefit from pitching half his home games at Petco Park. Rumblings about making Cashner the closer of the future will probably continue, but it looks like the Padres want to explore all their options. Mixed: $5; NL: $13 (value rises with move to starting despite short-term demotion to minors).
Manuel Corpas/George Kontos/B.J. Rosenberg/Fernando Salas/Shawn Tolleson – This week’s batch of middle relief promotions/activations took place in Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Los Angeles. The only one that could play a prominent role for his teams is Tolleson. Tolleson, the Dodgers' minor league pitcher of the year in 2011, allowed five earned runs in 9.1 innings after reaching Triple-A for the first time in May. However, his 15:1 K:BB ratio - and 34:5 mark in 22.1 total innings this year - earned him a call to Los Angeles. Tolleson will likely open in middle relief, but if he ends up in a more prominent role, his strikeout potential would make him an intriguing fantasy option. All except Tolleson - Mixed: No; NL: $0. Tolleson – Mixed: $0; NL: $3
Huston Street – Street was profiled last week, but now that he has been activated off the disabled list, he gets another mention. Street, who was sidelined since May 4 with a shoulder injury, immediately replaced interim closer Dale Thayer as the Padres' ninth-inning option, picking up a shaky save in his return to action. Street posted a 13:2 K:BB ratio in 9.2 innings earlier this season and picked up four saves in the process, so activate him ASAP. Mixed: $12; NL: $35 (if for some reason not still owned)
Geovany Soto – Soto, out since mid-May after undergoing knee surgery, is close to beginning a rehab assignment. The one thing holding him back from starting rehab is the ability to block balls. Once he able to do so; look for him to only need a week or so to get back with the Cubs. Soto has more strikeouts (19) than hits (15) this year, resulting in a .161 average, but he should be a decent source of power from the catcher spot when he does return. Mixed: $4; NL: $13.
Gaby Sanchez – The Marlins will recall Sanchez from Triple-A New Orleans prior to Sunday's game. Sanchez had a live bat during his brief stay in New Orleans, slashing .310/.494/.483 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 58 at-bats. He will take Donnie Murphy's roster spot, and he will presumably retake the Marlins' first base gig with Logan Morrison struggling. Don’t expect elite stats but Sanchez has shown that he can be a serviceable first baseman. Mixed: $4; NL: $13.
Jim Thome – Thome was profiled last week when he began a rehab assignment after missing a month with the back injury. Thome was activated Wednesday but said he could not play first base during his rehab assignment because bending over to field ground balls sent pain piercing into his back. This further confirms that Thome is going to be limited to DH and pinch-hitting duties for the rest of the season. He should see as much action as his back can handle over the next week as Phillies started a nine-game road trip in AL parks this past Friday. Mixed: No; NL: $3.
Brett Wallace – The Astros recalled Wallace from Triple-A Nashville last Sunday to take the place of the injured Carlos Lee, who landed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. It’s been a nice start for Wallace who struggled to hit for average or power during his previous stints in the majors. He will likely return to Triple-A once Carlos Lee returns from the DL where he was batting .265 with 10 home runs, but at some point the Astros may want to get a prolonged look at Wallace, who has been starting at first base, against big league pitching to see if he has any long-term value. Mixed: $2; NL: $7
Matt Downs – The Astros recalled Downs from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday. Downs hit just .169 with the Astros earlier this season, so there's not too much to get excited about here. He'll take the roster spot of Fernando Martinez, who was placed on the 7-day DL with a concussion. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Mike Fontenot/Hector Luna/Michael Martinez – Fontenot is likely to split second base duties with Luna and Martinez following the placement of Freddy Galvis on the DL with lower back soreness. If Fontenot, who homered Friday, performs well, he may even have the position all for himself for the most part until Galvis or Chase Utley can get back on the field. If Fontenot can’t handle the job, the pecking order likely is Luna, who may have the best bat of the three and homered Saturday while starting at first base, and then Martinez, though none of the three are tremendous options at the position. Fontenot – Mixed: $1; NL: $4; Luna - Mixed: $0; NL: $3; Martinez – Mixed: No; NL: $2
Chase Utley – Utley, sidelined since the beginning of the season due to his knee woes, began playing in simulated spring training games this past week. He will need at least three weeks for his rehabilitation assignment before he returns to the Phillies. Utley has looked good at plate during simulated games at Clearwater. The next step for him will be to see action in the field and test himself against minor league pitching in that rehab assignment. Utley should play in extended spring training from June 12-14, at which point he might begin playing in official games. If he waits until then to start playing in real minor league games, the latest he could return to the Phillies is July 5 as MLB has a 20-day clock on rehab assignment. The key will be how the knees respond to playing the field. His numbers have declined the past several years, but if healthy, he should be a productive second sacker, albeit no longer an elite one. Mixed: $7; NL: $18 (early speculative bid).
Brian Bixler – Bixler was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday. He was called up to replace Marwin Gonzalez who went on the disabled list with a heel injury. Bixler was hitting .302 through 45 games with Oklahoma City and should see the occasional start at shortstop. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Jon Herrera – Herrera, on the disabled list since May 23 with a strained hamstring, began a rehab assignment with Double-A Tulsa on Wednesday. However, he hasn't played at Tulsa since leaving with tightness in his first rehab game. Once healthy, Herrera should progress to play a game or two with Triple-A Colorado Springs and then rejoin the Rockies. He will likely be back in a utility role as the Rockies are giving Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson a look at third base with D.J. LeMahieu temporarily taking over at second while Marco Scutaro plays shortstop in the absence of Troy Tulowitzki. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Kristopher Negron – Negron was recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday. He was having an awful season at the plate in the minors, but had played at every position besides pitcher, catcher, and first base. It probably won't be a long stay for Negron, since his bat does not seem to be major-league ready. His only real value at this point comes from versatility. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Juan Uribe – Uribe, who tried to play through a wrist injury before landing on the disabled list in mid-May, will be activated on Monday. He is on track to return to the team after heading out on a short rehab assignment this past weekend. Despite Elian Herrera's success since being called up - especially of late – and solid play by Jerry Hairston Jr., Uribe is expected to resume his role as the Dodgers' regular third baseman once he is activated. Look for some power albeit with a weak batting average. Mixed: $5; NL: $14.
Norichika Aoki – Aoki, who was hitting .211 on May 7, has upped his average to .297. Aoki had a two-home run game on Thursday, and while he is not a power hitter, he makes solid contact, has good bat speed and eye at the plate. Manager Ron Roenicke acknowledged that Aoki is making a strong case for more playing time -- and may get it in the Brewers' outfield if they continue to use Corey Hart at first base. Mixed: $6; NL: already owned
Jason Bay – Bay was covered the past two weeks but draws what might be the first third straight mention due to his coming off the disabled list Wednesday. Bay, who was out with a non-displaced fracture of a rib on his left side since April 24, did not play his first two games off the disabled list but started Friday. While the Mets are in AL parks, he will see time in LF and DH, but when they come back to games against NL teams, look for him to be in left field nearly every game. Mixed: $7; NL: Likely still owned (bids mirror those of the past two weeks)
Dexter Fowler – I was asked about covering Fowler last week, and while I think he likely is owned in most formats, it’s hard to ignore how he has been.. Fowler is 19-for-47 with three triples, three homers, nine RBI and 15 runs scored during his last 13 games, but that has comes with 16 strikeouts. He has upped his average from .230 to .281 and also walked seven times in those 13 games, which somewhat offset the strikeouts. Fowler has displayed a bit more power than expected, so ride the wave while he is hot, but expect some regression if he doesn’t cut down on his strikeouts. Mixed: 11; NL: Already owned
Mark Kotsay – Kotsay was activated off the disabled list last Sunday and immediately returned to the starting lineup after missing 20 games with a back injury. Kotsay went 10-for-34 with a homer and six RBI in 18 games before the injury, and his return is a welcomed one for a Padres team that had scored just 176 runs (third worst in baseball) as of last Sunday. Kotsay will see time at all three outfield positions, mainly in left and right field especially with Will Venable nursing an oblique injury. Mixed: No; NL:$2
Alex Presley – Presley, who struggled in Pittsburgh and was optioned down to Triple-A Indianapolis in mid-May, made the most of his time in the minors. In 18 games with Indy, Presley compiled a 1.015 OPS, nearly doubling what he did in Pittsburgh (.551). While the Pirates aren't expecting the outfielder to put up a four-digit OPS, they are looking for Presley to become the overall offensive threat he was in 2011. A year ago, the sparkplug stole nine bases and compiled a .804 OPS while batting atop the Pittsburgh lineup for 52 games. Two keys for Presley in the minors were his solid 12:10 BB:K and .85 contact ratios, as opposed to the 4:30 and .76 ones, respectively, he posted before he was sent down. If he can maintain some semblance of the plate discipline and eye he showed in the minors, Presley should have success in his second go-round with the Bucs. Mixed: $7; NL:$22.
Shane Robinson – Robinson, who was called back up on May 15, has split time with Adron Chambers lately, but should see most of the starts in center field until Jon Jay returns. There is a lot of uncertainty regarding Jay's shoulder injury right now so Robinson could hold down the job for longer than originally expected. Robinson mainly bats towards the bottom of the Cardinals’ order but could provide some speed and power. Mixed: $2; NL:$7 (though likely owned)
Justin Ruggiano - Ruggiano went 2-for-3 with a double and a two-run home run in the Marlins' loss to the Rays on Saturday. The home run was Ruggiano's second since he made the major league roster on May 27. Gaby Sanchez's recall pushes Logan Morrison back to left field so Ruggiano's at-bats will have to come from a center field time share with Chris Coghlan, but given that the righty's .389/.476/.889 small sample size line since joining the Marlins dwarfs the anemic .155/.215/.202 Coghlan has slashed this year. Ruggiano could see more playing time than he would in a strict platoon. Be aware that in the past Ruggiano has had a Quad-A label, so temper your expectations. Mixed: $1; NL:$4.