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FAAB Factor - NL: Howard Nearing His 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.

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

Starting Pitching:

Trevor Bauer/Josh Collmenter/Pat Corbin
– Bauer, Collmenter and Corbin are all candidates to replace the injured Joe Saunders (strained left shoulder) in the Diamondbacks' rotation. Either Bauer or Corbin may be the preferred option if Saunders will be on the shelf for an extended period of time. Bauer has been beyond impressive in his first professional season, and his high strikeout rate has survived the jump from Double-A to Triple-A. He has struggled a bit with walks at both levels but his five-pitch arsenal, including a plus-plus curveball, should help him at the next level. Collmenter, who was moved to the bullpen in late-April, gave up just one run off three hits and three walks with six strikeouts over four innings against the Cubs on Friday in making a spot start for Saunders. It looks like Collmenter will remain in the bullpen despute the solid start. Corbin led the Southern League in innings pitched (160.1) and strikeouts (142) and got off to a strong start this year, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.67 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 25:8 K:BB ratio in 27 innings for Double-A Mobile to earn the promotion at the end of April. He was up-and-down in his five starts in the majors, but has posted a 3.86 ERA, 33:12 K:BB and .289 BAA since getting optioned to Triple-A Reno in late-May. Bauer - Mixed: $5; NL: $14; Collmenter – Mixed: $0; NL: $2; and Corbin - Mixed: $3; NL: $9.

Chris Carpenter
– Carpenter (nerve disorder in right shoulder) has made great strides the past several weeks and threw 34 pitches to seven hitters Friday night. If he felt OK Saturday, he may start a rehab assignment soon. He'd probably make three rehab starts before being activated, so that could have him back on the active roster sometime soon after the All-Star break. If he is 100 percent when he returns, you know what you get out of Carpenter, who is a first or second starter in the majors. Mixed: $4; NL: $11 (early speculative bid)

Marco Estrada
– I profiled Estrada last week but a clearer timeframe for his return warrants another mention. Estrada, sidelined with a right hip flexor strain, threw a 30-pitch simulated game last Tuesday and 75 pitches in a start Thursday for Triple-A Nashville. He is expected to rejoin the Brewers' rotation Tuesday in Cincinnati, providing needed depth in the event Shaun Marcum's right elbow injury requires a stint on the DL. Estrada went 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts before the injury, but he did fan 34. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Jair Jurrjens
– Jurrjens was recalled from Triple-A to take the injured Brandon Beachy's (elbow) spot in the rotation and started Friday. Jurrjens, a former All-Star, was demoted after allowing 17 runs in 16.1 innings, and didn't pitch much better at Triple-A, posting a 5.18 ERA and 1.436 WHIP in 10 starts. Jurrjens allowed just one run on three hits, walking one and striking out four over 7.2 innings of a 4-1 Braves win over Boston on Friday. He gets Arizona in his next start as he tries to build off this start and turnaround what has been a disappointing year to date. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Jeff Karstens
– Karstens, out since April 17 with a shoulder injury, is expected to start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday or Monday. He threw well for Double-A Altoona on Tuesday and is likely one or two good minor-league starts away from rejoining the Pirates rotation. The question is who he will replace -- Brad Lincoln, who is filling the fifth starter spot, was dominant Saturday and could remain in the rotation. The Pirates may also deal Kevin Correia to clear the spot. Mixed: No; NL: $0

Dallas Keuchel
– Keuchel was called up for the injured Bud Norris (sprained knee) last Sunday and allowed just one run on four hits and four walks in five innings during his major league debut. He followed that up by notching a complete game victory Saturday. Keuchel had a 4.26 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with 46 strikeouts over 80.1 innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City this season prior to his promotion. Norris may only miss one more start, giving Keuchel a short-shelf live. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Rick VandenHurk
– VandenHurk could get a start for the Pirates on Saturday if the team removes Brad Lincoln from its rotation. Manager Clint Hurdle said Tuesday that the team is discussing options but has yet to make a decision. VandenHurk has put up an impressive 1.86 Triple-A ERA through 38.2 innings. It's possible the organization views him as more of a spot starter than as a long-term option, but if he gets the chance and succeeds he could change the Bucs' plans. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Randy Wells
– Wells joined the Cubs' rotation in place of the injured Ryan Dempster (lat muscle tightness) this past week. Wells, who had pitched primarily as a reliever this season after starting 82 games over the last three seasons, made his third start of the 2012 season and it wasn’t a memorable one, as he lasted just 3.2 innings, allowing three runs on five hits and four walks without a strikeout. Manager Dale Sveum is considering other options, including Chris Volstad and Chris Rusin, until Dempster returns to action. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Relief Pitchers:

Jonathan Albaladejo/Bill Bray/Mike Dunn/Scott Maine/Guillermo Moscoco/Raul Valdes
– This week’s batch of middle relief promotions/activations took place in Arizona, Cincinnati, Florida and Chicago. All - Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Rex Brothers – In nine games since returning to the Rockies from Triple-A Colorado Springs on June 2, Brothers has allowed one earned run while striking out 16 batters in 10.1 innings. Expected to be key cog in the Rockies' bullpen going into the season, Brothers faltered coming out of the gate, as reflected by the 5.87 ERA and 2.28 WHIP that earned him a demotion May 20. Since his recall, he has resembled the pitcher the team anticipated, and he could soon be deployed in more crucial setup situations rather than primarily lefty-on-lefty matchups. In addition, if Rafael Betancourt somehow loses his grip on the job, Brothers could be next in line to close in Colorado. Mixed: $1; NL: $5

Catchers:

None noted

First Basemen:

Matt Carpenter
– Like several others, Carpenter was profiled last week, but his change of status warrants another mention. Carpenter, out since May 23 with a strained oblique muscle, rejoined the Cardinals’ active roster Friday. Carpenter should see time at first base, though he may have to share the spot with Allen Craig now that St. Louis has almost a full complement of players following the recent returns of Skip Schumaker and Jon Jay, as well as at third base and left field. Mixed: $3; NL: likely still owned

Ryan Howard – Howard (Achilles)
hopes to begin an official rehab assignment in the next week. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said on Howard, “He's starting to move around the bases a little bit better each day. Once we get him to as close to 100 percent on the bases as we can get him, we'll probably start an actual official rehab on him.” He likely will need a full 20 days in rehab games, meaning that Howard could be back shortly after the All-Star break. His numbers declined a bit the past two years from his 2007-2009 peak, but he is still a solid power/RBI threat. Mixed: $9: NL: $25 (bid to rise as he gets closer to returning).

Travis Ishikawa
– Ishikawa, sidelined with a strained oblique since May 27, was activated Saturday following a week-long rehab assignment Triple-A Nashville and therefore earns another mention in the column this week. The Brewers have been using a number of players at first base, including Corey Hart and Taylor Green. If Norichika Aoki continues to hit, Hart will continue to see most of his time at first base, forcing Ishikawa to the bench. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.

Anthony Rizzo
– The Cubs have started Bryan LaHair in right field several times this past week, a move designed to lay the foundation for calling Rizzo up eventually. The Cubs won't commit to a projected call up date, but there is a good indication that it could happen Tuesday. Rizzo is past the window that would make him a free agent a year earlier, since he played 49 games in the majors last year, which is another sign that he likely will be up sooner rather than later. Rizzo has obliterated Triple-A pitching, posting a .355/.416/.722 line with 23 home runs and 62 RBI. He ripped up Triple-A pitching last year, but struggled mightily after his call up last year, which creates some questions as to how high his upside is. Still, expect him to play every day initially when he finally is promoted. Mixed: $5: NL: $14 (speculative bid)

Second Base:

Daniel Descalso
– Descalso has started five of the past six games for St. Louis. He's recorded a hit in each of those six games, going 6-for-19 during that stretch. With Skip Schumaker back, it will be interesting to see how St. Louis uses Descalso, who likely will see time at second and third base as well as the occasional start at shortstop. Mixed: $2; NL: (already owned)

Skip Schumaker
– I profiled Schumaker last week, but his official change of status warrants another mention. Schumaker, on the 15-day disabled list since June 1 with a strained right hamstring, was activated Tuesday after a short rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis. Schumaker was manning center field for the Cardinals, but with Jon Jay (shoulder) now activated, Schumaker will likely be back in a super-utility role in the near future, seeing time in center and second base. Mixed: $3; NL: likely still owned

Chase Utley
– Utley, who was profiled the past two weeks and has been sidelined since the beginning of the season due to his knee woes, gets another mention this week as he played nine innings on consecutive days for High-A Clearwater this weekend. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel expected Utley to return July 2, 3 or 4 as long as he doesn't have any setbacks while in the minors, but there is some speculation that Utley may return Wednesday. 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: $9; NL: $24 (slight rise in bid as he could return this week).

Jordany Valdespin
– Valdespin started at second base Monday, left field on Tuesday and second base Wednesday and Saturday. He has brought the team an energy it has been lacking, so look for manager Terry Collins to find ways to get him in the lineup. Valdespin seems to have gotten past the maturity issues he had in the minors, and while he struggles defensively and has a bit of a long swing, there is no denying the pop in his bat. Mixed: $3; NL: $9

Shortstops:

Ronny Cedeno
– I profiled Cedeno last week but given his status change, I am covering him again. Cedeno, on the DL since May 28 with a strained left calf, was activated off the disabled list Friday following a rehab stint with Triple-A Buffalo. 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, though Cedeno was in the lineup Friday against Andy Pettitte. 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 last week. It was confirmed during the week that Drew will be activated Wednesday and be a part-time player initially, likely playing three times a week, upon his return. Eventually, once he shows that he is fully healthy and can play in consecutive games in the majors, look for him to play about five times a week. Mixed: $7; NL: $19

Jon Herrera
– Herrera, on the disabled list since May 23 with a strained hamstring, finally was activated Friday after a lengthy rehab assignment. Herrera replaces DJ LeMahieu on the Rockies' roster. Herrera owns just a .641 OPS at the big league level, but with Troy Tulowitzki (groin) out several weeks, he should see extended action for the time being as part of a timeshare at the second base and shortstop with Marco Scutaro, who also will see time at second, whole possibly seeing time at third. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.

Cesar Izturis
– Izturis, out since May 25 with a strained left hamstring, was activated off the disabled list on Friday, warranting another mention in this week’s column. He has moved back into a starting role, though don't expect too much offensive production from him as he is more known for his defense. Mixed: No; NL: $2


Third Basemen:

Todd Frazier
– Frazier was not the lineup on Friday as Scott Rolen is back and the Reds were playing in a National League Park. That said, view that as a short-term aberration, as Frazier has been a revelation at the plate this season, and may replace Ryan Ludwick as the Reds' starting left fielder at some point. For now expect Frazier, who started in left field Saturday, to share time with Ludwick in left field, spell Scott Rolen at third base, and serve as the team's top pinch hitter. That additional position flexibility and fact that he should stay in the lineup despite Rolen’s return last week still gives him nice value. Mixed: $4; NL: (should already be owned).

Ian Stewart
– Stewart should return from the disabled list June 29 if the latest cortisone shot on his injured wrist is effective. It does not appear as if there is any nerve damage to the wrist, which would have sidelined him long term. However, the wrist could create some discomfort for Stewart, even if everything goes well with the cortisone shot. If the shot doesn't help, he may decide to have surgery and would probably be forced to miss significant time, if not the entire season. Stay tuned to the latest news on him, and for now, Luis Valbuena will remain the starter. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Outfielders:

Jon Jay
– Jay, on the disabled list with shoulder soreness since May 15, was activated on Friday and receives another mention due to that activation. His return comes 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. I have modified last week’s bid a bit based on the comments in last week’s column. Mixed: $4; NL: $13 (in case he was waived while sidelined).

Fernando Martinez
– Martinez, sidelined since June 9, passed his concussion tests and will begin a rehab assignment. The rehab assignment will likely begin on Friday and last a couple of games. It is reasonable to assume he will be back sometime next week, barring any setbacks. Martinez's numbers improved as expected with the move to the Pacific Coast League this season as he's hit .319/.374/.532 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 188 at-bats at Oklahoma City. He started three of the four games after his call up before he was sidelined and look for him to see consistent action when he is activated. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.