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
Garrett Richards, Angels – Richards was recalled this week from Triple-A Salt Lake to make his fourth career start as he fills in for Jered Weaver (back). Facing Seattle at home, Richards did quite well with eight strikeouts and only two walks as he gave up one earned run over seven innings for a win. It was only the Mariners, but a fine showing none-the-less. At Salt Lake this season, he had a 4.31 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 29 walks over 56.1 innings as his control proved to be an issue for him. He gets two starts this week - Monday he'll get the Dodgers and then next Sunday he'll get the Diamondbacks, so makes for an interesting option in AL only leagues. I wouldn't bet on him finding long-term success. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Alexi Ogando, Rangers – With Derek Holland landing on the DL, Ogando will make a spot start for the team today against the Giants. Last season as a starter he had a 3.56 ERA with 124 strikeouts and 43 walks in 167 innings. This season he's been used solely as a reliever with fantastic results as he has posted a 2.27 ERA with 33 strikeouts and seven walks over 31.2 innings. Ogando has been told he'll return to the bullpen once Holland and Roy Oswalt are ready; so don't expect many more starts from him. Still, he's useful in almost any league as someone to soak up innings and provide strikeouts. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox – Matsuzaka (neck) made his return from the DL this weekend as he pitched five innings and allowed four earned runs to the Nationals. He did manage to strikeout eight batters with only one walk as he replaced Daniel Bard in the Red Sox rotation. Last season Dice-K pitched only 37.1 innings for the team before he had to leave with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery to fix. In 28.1 innings at Triple-A Pawtucket this season he had a 3.49 ERA with 20 strikeouts and seven walks over 28.1 innings. His control has yet to be an issue, which is a good sign as it's often one of the last things to come around for a pitcher working his way back from TJS. With Bard not close to returning, you could do much worse in an AL only league. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Scott Diamond, Twins – Diamond kept the good times rolling this week as he pitched seven innings in Cleveland with no earned runs and then six innings against the Cubs with no earned runs. He now has a 1.61 ERA with 28 strikeouts and four walks over 44.2 innings this season. The walks or his lack there of is one of the main reasons for his success this season. His 61.7% ground ball rate will help him keep the ball in the park, which is nice as well. It would be foolish to expect him to keep this sort of control and luck (82.6% strand rate) going all season long, but he's worth adding to find out when it will run out. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Francisco Liriano, Twins – Another fantastic start for Liriano this week as he struck out eight batters and walked just one over his six innings of 1-run ball. One positive sign from this start is that he averaged 94.4 mph on his fastball and 86.7 mph on his slider, both up considerably from his last start when they were 92.4 mph and 84.6 mph. Those are also the highest average velocities that he has posted in a start since the end of 2010 season. However, I'm still not fully buying it as he faced a Royals lineup that is among the worst in the AL against lefties this season (.242/.297/.355). If he's still available in your mixed league, he might be worth the add. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Phil Hughes, Yankees – Hughes bounced back from his disaster against the Angels with two great starts this week as he allowed one earned run over nine innings to the Tigers and two earned runs to the Mets over 6.1 innings. Combined he struck out 14 batters and walked just five. Of course he also gave up three homers in those two starts. On the season he has now struck out 63 batters and walked 16 giving him a 3.50 K/BB that is the highest of his career. His 1.99 HR/9 home run rate is ugly, no doubt about that, but it's coming off of a 14.3% HR/FB rate that should regress over time. I say should because there are no certainties with someone that has given up at least one homer in every start this season. The HR/FB rate for starters in the AL this season is 12.0% (10.0% in 2011), so if he can just be average there should be hope for his owners. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.
Ryan Cook & Grant Balfour, A's – Brian Fuentes' reign as the A's closer may be coming to a close soon as manager Bob Melvin mentioned this weekend that the team will go closer-by-committee moving forward. This committee is to be comprised of Ryan Cook, Grant Balfour, and Fuentes. Cook made a name for himself earlier this season by pitching 23.1 scoreless innings to start the season. Since then he has allowed two earned runs to give him a 0.69 ERA with 25 strikeouts and 15 walks over 26 innings. Those walks scare me a bit as few pitchers can get away with a walk rate at 5.19 BB/9 over time. It's possible that Cook could stay in the 8th inning and Balfour could start to see more save opportunities as Cook has become comfortable with his role there. Balfour was the team's closer earlier this season, before he was removed from the role after seven saves. For the season he has a 3.34 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 13 walks over 29.2 innings. He certainly has shown better control than Cook, but then again he doesn't the ability to miss bats that Cook does. It's worth noting that Balfour's velocity on his fast ball is down one mph from where it was as a season ago, which may explain his slide from a 8.56 K/9 strikeout rate to 6.98 K/9 this season. If forced to choose, I'd rather have Cook. Cook Mixed: $9; AL: $30. Balfour Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
John Hester & Hank Conger, Angels – Bobby Wilson landed on the 7-Day DL this week with a concussion, thus forcing the team to call-up Hank Conger from Triple-A Salt Lake. Conger started two games when he came up but John Hester has started the two since. If Conger can hit in the time while Wilson is gone, he might be able to stay. If not, he'll go back to the minors, where he can log steady playing time. In Salt Lake Conger hit .338/.372/.500 with two homers over 78 plate appearances this season. Last season for the Angels he hit .209/.282/.356 with six homers. As for Hester, he's not much of a fantasy option, though he has hit .290/.371/.419 this season in his 35 plate appearances. Hester Mixed: No; AL: $1. Conger Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Gerald Laird & Bryan Holaday, Tigers – With Alex Avila ending up on the DL with a right hamstring strain, Laird and Holaday will be sharing catcher duties for the Tigers. Laird will likely get the majority of the playing time, as he has seniority. This season he is hitting .310/.339/.466 with two homers over 63 plate appearances. Holaday will serve as his backup as he was just called up from Triple-A Toledo. There he hit .248/.313/.314 with no homers and a stolen base. Only 24 years old, Holaday is not considered a prospect and can be ignored in all but the deepest of leagues. Laird: $1; AL: $4. Holaday Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Brandon Moss, A's – Kila Ka'aihue was designated for assignment this week, thus opening the door for Moss to be called up from Triple-A Sacramento. The first base job appears to be Moss' for the time being as he has started the last four games there for the A's. So far he's 2-for-12 with a homer batting out of the 7th and then 6th spot in the lineup. This season in Sacramento he hit .286/.371/.582 with 15 homers over 224 plate appearances. Those numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt though as it was his fifth stop in Triple-A for the 28 year old. Moss is a career .235/.300/.383 hitter with 16 homers over 763 plate appearances with four different teams in the majors. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
David Cooper & Yan Gomes, Blue Jays – Cooper has started to heat up this week going 7-for-16 with a homer and double. That brings his batting line to .356/.396/.556 with two homers over 48 plate appearances. Cooper will need to keep this hot streak going as the team recalled Yan Gomes this week from Triple-A Las Vegas and Vladimir Guerrero is there now getting ready to join the team. Gomes shouldn't be viewed as much of a threat though as he has started only one game since coming back up and pinch-hit in the other three. In Las Vegas he hit .349/.379/.590 with seven homers. Cooper will likely get squeezed out of playing time somewhere down the line, but for now could be a helpful corner bat in deeper mixed leagues. Cooper Mixed: $2; AL: $7. Gomes Mixed: $1; AL: $4. +
Mike Olt, Rangers – Olt isn't viewed as much of a prospect, but that may change if his bat stays hot this summer. This week he hit two homers in three straight games down in Double-A Frisco, where he is now hitting .310/.413/.624 with 18 homers and four stolen bases. I highly doubt the Rangers will be calling him up any time soon, considering there'd be no where for him to get the consistent at-bats he needs to continue to grow offensively, but he's worth checking on in AL leagues. I'd certainly throw a small bid on him if I could stash him for later this season and it wouldn't hurt my bottom line in the process. Speculative Bid - Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Clint Robinson, Royals – Robinson was called up this week to provide some extra bench depth as the team travels to NL parks in interleague play. In Triple-A Omaha he hit .314/.418/.500 with eight homers over 261 plate appearances. The 27 year old Robinson certainly has some pop in his bat as he hit 23 homers there last season and 29 the season before at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Don't expect him to get much playing time moving forward. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Chris Parmelee, Twins – Parmelee was recalled from Triple-A Rochester this week to help give extra depth to the Twins as Joe Mauer deals with a sprained thumb. At Rochester Parmelee hit .375/.500/.708 with four homers over 60 plate appearances. Last season he hit .287/.366/.436 there with 13 homers. It's doubtful he sees much playing time this time around as Mauer's thumb issue isn't serious. Earlier this season he batting just .179/.250/.262 with three RBI over 92 plate appearances. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Brian Roberts, Orioles – Roberts is expected to join the team sometime this week as he returns from a concussion. He has spent the last two weeks on a rehab assignment as he regains his strength and batting eye. Roberts has made only 439 plate appearances since 2009 as he has had a very difficult time getting over this concussion, among other injuries. In 2009 he hit .283/.356/.451 with 16 homers and 30 steals, which was the last time he was fully healthy for an entire season. At 34 years old, it's tough not to expect Roberts to struggle. Unless Robert Andino gets hurt, at-bats will be tough for Roberts to come by. Don't go wasting your FAAB here just because of the name -- Roberts has much to prove before he can help your fantasy team. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Chris Getz, Royals – Getz is expected back from the DL this week, after dealing with an injury to his left rib cage. It'll be interesting to see how the Royals handle the playing time as Johnny Giavotella and Yuniesky Betancourt have been sharing time there recently. Of the three options, Getz has provided the most speed, Betancourt the most power, and Giavotella neither of the two. Before he got hurt, Getz was hitting .277/.322/.386 with six stolen bases over 94 plate appearances. Last season he stole 21 bases with a .255/.313/.287 batting line over 429 plate appearances, so those in need of speed should give him a look. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Trevor Plouffe, Twins – Plouffe has been red hot over his last seven games going 10-for-27 with four homers and three doubles. This gives him nine homers on the season and brings his batting line to .208/.293/.472, which is depressed in part because of a .189 BABIP. He offers nice lineup flexibility for those who play in leagues with loose position eligibility rules as he has played at least one game at every position except for catcher this season. Last season he hit .238/.305/.392 with eight homers and three stolen bases over 320 plate appearances for the Twins. At 26 years old, Plouffe should be in his prime years and be able to keep up some of this power production for much of the season. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Johnny Damon, Indians – A reminder to get Damon back in your lineups, after he missed time on paternity leave. He's hitting a meager .182/.277/.283 this season, but did hit his second homer of the season on Friday night. Mixed & AL: Owned
Michael Saunders, Mariners – Saunders has been hot over his last seven games going 13-for-28 with two homers, three doubles, and two stolen bases. He has raised his batting line from .241/.314/.397 to .272/.342/.450 over that time span. Unfortunately Eric Wedge has failed to notice as he continues to bat Saunders in the bottom of the lineup. A .348 BABIP has likely helped Saunders to this point and it's likely that his batting average will fall as the season progresses. Still, he is hot right now and offering owners a bit of everything in the process. Like all Mariners, if you can bench him at home (.180/.292/.213) and start him on the road (.312/.366/.553), you're likely to see better results for your fantasy team. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Darnell McDonald, Red Sox – McDonald came off the DL this week, after dealing with an oblique strain. He figures to share time in center field with Scott Podsednik now that Marlon Byrd has been designated for assignment. So far he is 2-for-8 with two doubles and his batting line is now .188/.293/.375. The 33 year old veteran hit .236/.303/.401 last season with six homers and two stolen bases for the team over 175 plate appearances for the team. If given the option, I'd rather have Podsednik who offers more speed. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Ben Revere, Twins – Revere has stolen four bases over his last six games, five of which he started, to bring his season total to eight. He has also gotten hot at the plate lately and is now hitting .330/.363/.423 over 106 plate appearances. Stealing bases is nothing new for Revere as he swiped 34 bags last season over 481 plate appearances while hitting .267/.310/.309. If he's still available in your mixed league, he's worth a look as there's more stolen bases on the way to those that remain patient and aren't concerned about his power. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Jordan Danks, White Sox – The brother of John, Jordan Danks was called up this week to help fill the void left by Kosuke Fukudome, who landed on the DL with back spasms. At Triple-A Charlotte, a level he was repeating for the second time, Danks hit .302/.419/.516 with eight homers and five stolen bases. He does offer some speed as he stole 18 bases last season in the minors. However, unless an injury occurs it's doubtful that Danks gets much playing time. 25 years old, Danks isn't a prospect and can be ignored in most leagues. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
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.