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FAAB Factor - NL: Chasing Utley's Return

Jan Levine

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the fathers out there, including my dad and father-in-law.

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)
5x5 categories
Each team has a $100 FAAB budget

Starting Pitching:

Marco Estrada
– Estrada, sidelined with a right hip flexor strain, threw a 30-pitch simulated game Tuesday. He should start a rehab assignment in the next few days and will probably need a few starts before returning to the Milwaukee rotation. Estrada went 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts before the injury, but he did fan 34. When healthy, look for Estrada to reclaim his spot at the tail end of the rotation from Michael Fiers. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Relief Pitchers:

Fernando Abad/Chris Hatcher/Kris Medlen/Anthony Varvano
– This week’s batch of middle relief promotions/activations took place in Houston, Florida and Atlanta (2x). The only one that could play a prominent role for his teams is Medlen, who was sent down to be stretched out as a starter but now will pitch again in relief for the Braves. All except Medlen - Mixed: No; NL: $0. Medlen – Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Carlos Marmol
– Marmol has been reinstated as the Cubs' closer after closing out a 3-0 win over the Red Sox on Friday; his first save since May 2. Given Marmol's erratic tendencies, which started last year and got worse this season, he's likely to have a short leash as closer. But saves are saves, so bid wisely. Mixed: $4; NL: $13 (go higher if believe he holds on to the job).

Henry Rodriguez
– Rodriguez, out with a strained right index finger, will begin a rehab assignment this weekend. With Rodriguez set to resume throwing, it would appear he has a good chance to be activated from the DL when first eligible June 21. Rodriguez figures to slot into a middle relief/setup role once he is back in the Nationals' bullpen now that Tyler Clippard has taken over as closer. Drew Storen could be back around the All-Star break as well. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (though likely still owned in NL-only leagues)

Drew Storen
– Storen (elbow) will be evaluated by Nationals manager Davey Johnson and his staff sometime next week, with an eye toward establishing a firm timetable for his return. Storen, who had minor surgery to remove a bone fragment from his elbow in early-April, has been throwing for the past two weeks. He had been looking at a return sometime around the All-Star break, but that could get bumped up. When he does return, look for Storen to assume the closer role from Tyler Clippard. Mixed: $8; NL: $22 (early spec bid)

Catchers:

Welington Castillo
– Castillo, who had been out with a right MCL sprain, was activated from the DL on Thursday. Castillo takes over Koyie Hill's role as backup catcher after Hill was designated for assignment to make room for Castillo. Castillo's stint with the big league club could be short lived, as Geovany Soto is expected to return to the Cubs next week, though Chicago may keep three catches and give Steve Clevenger time at first base. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Ramon Hernandez
– Hernandez, on the disabled list since May 25 with a strained left hand, had a cortisone shot Wednesday and is several days away from starting a rehab assignment. Wilin Rosario will continue to collect the majority of the starts behind the plate for the Rockies in Hernandez's absence. When Hernandez returns, look for him to be a part-time catcher as Rosario has been fairly solid in his absence, providing power, albeit with a low batting average. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.

Brian Schneider
– Schneider will take over starting catching duties for the Phillies if Carlos Ruiz needs to go on the disabled list with an oblique injury. At the very least, Schneider will start for the next few days as Ruiz will need some rest before returning to action, though Ruiz and Phillies may have dodged a bullet as Ruiz says he had a cramp and not a strain. For now, Schneider will be backed up by Erik Kratz; don’t expect much from either player. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Geovany Soto
– I profiled Soto -- out since mid-May after undergoing knee surgery -- last week as he was close to beginning a rehab assignment. He gets a second mention this week as he could be activated Monday. Coming off of a knee injury you can probably expect Soto to see more rest than most starting catchers, but he is the clear starter here despite the minor excitement that Steve Clevenger generated with a strong performance in April. 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.

First Basemen:

Matt Carpenter
– Carpenter, out since May 23 with a strained oblique muscle, could rejoin the Cardinals’ active roster as early as Tuesday. When Skip Schumaker, Lance Berkman, Jon Jay, and Carpenter getting close to returning to the active roster, the Cardinals are going to have to make some decisions about their roster configuration. It's a better problem than having many of their best players on the shelf, but Carpenter - among others - could feel the squeeze despite him playing well when given the chance earlier in the year. Mixed: $3; NL: likely still owned

Travis Ishikawa
– Ishikawa, sidelined with a strained oblique since May 27, began a rehab assignment on Friday at Triple-A Nashville. Ishikawa will likely join the Brewers next week after a few rehab games. The Brewers have been using a number of players at first base, including Corey Hart and Taylor Green. Brooks Conrad is most likely to get sent to the minors when Ishikawa returns. If Norichika Aoki continues to hit, Hart will see most of his time at first base, forcing Ishikawa to the bench. Mixed: $0; NL: $3

Carlos Lee
– Lee, on the disabled list since June 2 with a strained hamstring, appears to be on target to be activated in time for Sunday's series finale against the Rangers. As long as Lee did not have a setback in his rehab game Saturday, look for him to be back in the majors, likely starting at first base, Sunday. (just an FYI as still should be owned in all formats).

Second Base:

Skip Schumaker
– Schumaker, on the 15-day disabled list since June 1 with a strained right hamstring, began his rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday. He could return to the Cardinals on Monday. When Schumaker does return, look for him to see time in center field until Jon Jay returns. After that he's likely to see most of his action at second base. Mixed: $3; NL: likely still owned

Justin Turner
– Turner, who injured his right ankle/foot on May 28, was activated off the disabled list Saturday. He only played in two rehab games at Triple-A Buffalo but was called up to replace the injured Jason Bay on the roster. Turner likely will fill a utility role even after he was used at shortstop during his time with the Bisons on his rehab assignment. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Chase Utley
– Utley, who was profiled last week and has sidelined since the beginning of the season due to his knee woes, gets another mention this week as he began playing for High-A Clearwater this past week. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel expects Utley to return July 2, 3 or 4 as long as he has not setbacks while in the minors, which to date, there have been none. 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).

Wilson Valdez
– With Chris Heisey out Friday and Saturday and Drew Stubbs landing on the disabled list, Valdez started in center field in both games. It's possible that Valdez could get a few more starts there pending Heisey's status with his groin injury. The Reds really don't have another outfielder capable of playing center, so they've had to use Valdez and Kristopher Negron, and have flirted with the idea of moving Jay Bruce over there. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.

Shortstops:

Ronny Cedeno
– Cedeno, on the DL since May 28 with a strained left calf, began his rehab assignment on Friday with Triple-A Buffalo. Cedeno could return early this week, but with Omar Quintanilla playing well at shortstop, it's possible the Mets keep the hot bat in the lineup while Cedeno rounds into form upon his return. In addition Ruben Tejada is getting closer to return, so either Quintanilla or Cedeno will end up in the minors with the other filling a utility middle infield role in New York. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Stephen Drew
– Drew, sidelined following his ankle surgery last July, played in three consecutive games for the first time in his rehab assignment Thursday-Saturday. Getting into a series of games on consecutive days appears to be the final hurdle for Drew in his bid to return to the Arizona lineup. He is expected to play again on Tuesday and could return to the D-Backs in about a week or so. Mixed: $7; NL: $19

Cesar Izturis
– Izturis, out since May 25 with a strained left hamstring, began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Nashville on Friday. Izturis probably won't spend too much time rehabbing and could join the Brewers next week. He could move back into a starting role, though don't expect too much offensive production from him as he s more known for his defense. Mixed: No; NL: $2

Ruben Tejada
– Tejada, on the disabled list with a right quad strain since May 7, could begin his rehab assignment on Monday. His rehab assignment will probably last for at least three or four games. Omar Quintanilla is tearing it up at the plate right now, so the Mets don't have to rush Tejada back before he is ready. Next weekend's series against the Yankees is probably the earliest Tejada could return. However, given that Tejada has already had two setbacks, he will need to show that he is 100 per cent healthy before he returns to the majors. Mixed: $4; NL: $11

Third Basemen:

Joe Mather/Luis Valbuena
– Valbuena will get most of the starts over Mather at third base for now with Ian Stewart (wrist) landing on the DL. Mather is hitting with decent consistency (.264 average) and has hit safely in five straight, but it looks like he'll continue to get occasional starts only. Valbuena is a .225 career hitter at the major league level, so we will have to see how strong his hold is on the third base job, plus even though he is an infielder, Mather has more experience at third base and is a better hitter. Mather - Mixed: $1; NL: $5; Valbuena – Mixed: $0; NL: $2.

Casey McGehee
– McGehee went 2-for-4 with a home run, two runs and four RBI on Saturday against the Indians. He's having a fantastic month and is one of the hotter hitters in baseball right now. Even if you aren't ready to pick up McGehee based on a strong two weeks, during which he has upped his batting average over 50 points, he's certainly a name to keep in mind. There aren't many 29-year-old third basemen with two .800+ OPS seasons to their name on waivers in most leagues. He qualifies at both corner infield spots. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (likely owned but rise in value)

Scott Rolen
– Rolen, who landed on the 15-day DL on May 12 with a strained left shoulder, played in rehab games at Triple-A Louisville on Friday and Saturday and will return to the Reds on Monday. The left shoulder is the one that Rolen had surgery on multiple times over the years, which caused him to miss most of the second half of the 2011 season and sapped much of his power the past two seasons. While Rolen should reclaim the starting job upon his return, Todd Frazier has impressed as third base and could resign Rolen to a bench role by the time the season ends. Mixed: $5; NL: $14.

Outfielders:

Emilio Bonifacio
– Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen is hopeful that Bonifacio, sidelined since May 18 with a torn ligament left thumb that required surgery, will return right after the All-Star break. As a result, look for Bonifacio to miss approximately 10 days more than previously suggested. He recently had his stitches removed and will likely need a significant rehab assignment before getting activated from the DL. Bonifacio led the majors in steals with 20 and was 19-for-63 at the plate in May when he was sidelined. When he does return, look for him to play everyday and be a spark plug for the Marlins. Mixed: $9; NL: $25 (early speculative bid in case he was waived).

Justin Christian
– The Giants recalled Christian from Triple-A Fresno on Friday. Christian, who played 18 games with the parent club last year, posted a .364 batting average, .972 OPS and stole 10 bases in 60 games with Frisco this season. The Giants are fairly set in the outfield for the time being, but as a center fielder, Christian will likely see action off the bench at all three spots. Mixed: No; NL:$0.

Tyler Colvin
- Colvin has pushed for more playing time with four homers in his last four games, earning him additional starts in the outfield and at first base where he now qualifies in many leagues, in the process. Colvin has been extremely productive at Coors Field, which is especially valuable to those in daily leagues. Expect the Rockies to ride out Colvin's hot streak until he cools down, but be aware that he has a 34:6 K:BB ratio in 127 plate appearances. Mixed: $5; NL: already owned

Scott Cousins
– Cousins was officially recalled on Friday by the Marlins. Cousins will probably take over Chris Coghlan's role in a platoon with Justin Ruggiano until Emilio Bonifacio returns from an injury. Bonifacio is expected back shortly after the all-star break, at which point Cousins will probably be the lead candidate for a demotion to Triple-A. Cousins was hitting .292 with seven home runs in 50 games with Triple-A New Orleans this year and had been red-hot recently, hitting .371 over his last 10 games, but struggled mightily when up with the parent club earlier in the year. Mixed: No; NL: $3.

Scott Hairston
– Hairston did not start Friday’s game, but homered after he replaced Jason Bay who departed with what might be a concussion early in the game. Hairston has nine home runs despite sporadic playing time and was likely to see that playing time reduced once interleague play ends, but with another injury to Bay, he should continue to receive at-bats in left field, at least against lefties, with Bay landing on the 7-day DL. Mixed: $2; NL: $7

Willie Harris
– The Reds purchased Harris' contract and called him up from Triple-A Louisville before Friday's game against the Mets. Harris wasn’t really doing much at Louisville, hitting .245/.309/.318 there but the Reds needed an outfielder with Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey injured. Stubbs was placed on the DL to make room for Harris, who will see minimal action in Cincinnati. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Jon Jay
– Jay, on the disabled list with shoulder soreness since May 15, took part in soft toss on Friday and hoped to do so again Saturday. Jay wouldn't rule out taking batting practice this weekend before heading to the minor leagues for a rehab assignment next week. If everything checks out OK, he could conceivably return to the Cardinals by next weekend, which is about three weeks later than what was thought when he was first sidelined. Jay was off to a big start when he was sidelined, so look for him to regain the starting center field job when he is activated. Mixed: $9; NL: $25 (in case he was waived while sidelined).

Justin Maxwell
– With Jordan Schafer battling an array of injuries, Maxwell received more playing time and made the most of it. While he is only batting .241 on the year, Maxwell is 6-for-18 with two home runs and six RBI over his last five games. Schafer returned to action Saturday, with Maxwell DH’ing, but when Houston returns to NL play, Maxwell could land back on the bench, though it would not be surprising to see him start in right over the struggling Brian Bogusevic. Mixed: $3; NL: $9 (spike in value in NL-only leagues)