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
Brett Anderson, A's - Anderson is schedule to come off the DL this week, after spending the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery. In his four rehab starts at Triple-A Sacramento he had a 4.42 ERA with 11 strikeouts and five walks over 18.1 innings pitched. I am not confident that he will return with the same stuff right away and would not roster him in mixed leagues. Before he suffered the injury, he had a 3.62 xFIP in 2010 and a 3.66 xFIP in 2011. Anderson simply did not miss enough bats when he was healthy to be a dominant starter. We know that some pitchers come back throwing harder, after the surgery, so it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see Anderson miss more bats this time around, but his surgery was only 13 months ago. It likely won't be until next season that we see what Anderson really has to offer. Roster him in keeper leagues and tread lightly elsewhere. Mixed: $1; AL: $4 - Much more in a keeper league.
Roberto Hernandez, Indians - The pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona is scheduled to start this week for the Indians in a game against the Angels. He missed all of the season up to this point trying to sort out a legal situation that arose from his name being falsified to receive a visa that allowed him to travel to the US to play baseball. All of that aside, Hernandez is unlikely to perform well back in the majors. In his two minor league starts at Triple-A Columbus, he gave up six earned runs over 12 innings with seven strikeouts and three walks. In 2011 he had a 5.25 ERA (4.17 xFIP) with 109 strikeouts and 60 walks over 188.2 innings pitched. I even doubt we would be talking about him if it weren’t for his 2007 season with the Indians, where he posted a 3.06 ERA and won 19 games. Don't expect his new name to fool batters any time soon. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Alex Cobb, Rays - Cobb has started to right the ship as of late, with five earned runs allowed over his last 21 innings and a 16/1 strikeout to walk ratio over that span. For the season, he now has a 4.32 ERA (3.62 xFIP) with 62 strikeouts and 24 walks over 83.1 innings. His last three starts have come against quality competition in the Blue Jays, A's, and Angels, so this doesn't seem like a fluke. Last season with the Rays, Cobb had a 3.42 ERA (3.90 xFIP) with 37 strikeouts and 21 walks over 52.2 innings. His next start should come in Seattle, where he should once again find success. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
David Phelps, Yankees - Phelps is scheduled to start on Monday against the Rangers, in place of CC Sabathia, who was placed on the DL with elbow soreness. Phelps has pitched great for the Yankees this season with a 2.42 ERA (3.59 xFIP), 56 strikeouts, and 19 walks over 52 innings. In his three games as a starter, he allowed 11 earned runs with 40 strikeouts and 12 walks over 39 innings pitched for a 2.54 ERA (3.47 xFIP). One thing Phelps needs to work on is his efficiency as was never able to make it through the fifth inning in any of those three starts. Still, he knows how to miss bats, which is a good place to start from. The Rangers can be a scary offense at times, so I'm hesitant to recommend him in his first start and he's likely to be shifted back to the bullpen once CC comes back, thus limiting his value further. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Derek Lowe, Yankees - The Yankees signed Lowe on Saturday, in the wake of the news that CC Sabathia would be heading to the DL with elbow soreness. Lowe will likely on be asked to pitch out of the bullpen, unless David Phelps implodes or someone else in the rotation gets hurt. This is your first and only warning about Lowe… Avoid him at all costs. He posted a 5.52 ERA (4.75 xFIP) earlier this season with the Indians, before they cut bait. Earlier this season he got off to a hot start with a 2.27 ERA (4.82 xFIP) in the month of April, but that was all smoke and mirrors. I'd rather have Roy Oswalt, who is pitching in a similar role and has more potential to succeed than Lowe, who isn't fooling any batters. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Grant Balfour, A's - With Ryan Cook really struggling lately, A's manager Bob Melvin has elected to have him work in non-save situations, until he can regain his confidence. This move opens the door for Grant Balfour to start getting save opportunities once again in what is likely to be a committee. Earlier this season Balfour was the team's closer, but he got removed from the situation, after two blown saves in April. Looking at their numbers, Balfour (4.19 xFIP) hasn't been that much better than Cook (4.28 xFIP) this season, but he hasn't given up nine earned runs over his last nine appearances, which is the reason for the change. If Balfour can keep pitching like he has since the start of July (only one earned run allowed), he's going to take this job and make it his for the rest of the season. Mixed: $5; AL: $16.
Vinny Pestano, Indians - When Chris Perez blew back-to-back save opportunities this week, there was chatter that he might be on the way out of the closer's job in Cleveland. Since then, he has had two save opportunities and converted them both with only one hit allowed in two innings of work. On the season, Perez is doing pretty good with a 3.47 xFIP and only 11 walks in 42.2 innings pitched. I doubt that the team will make a switch after all the great performances Perez has given them this season, but if they do, Pestano would be the logical choice to replace him. Pestano has a 1.24 ERA (3.46 xFIP), with 58 strikeouts and 18 walks over 51 innings pitched. At this point, adding Pestano will likely help fantasy owners more with their ratio stats, than in the saves category. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Andrew Bailey, Red Sox - Bailey is likely to be activated from the DL in the coming days, after spending much of the season dealing with an injured thumb that required surgery. Alfredo Aceves has done an admirable job in his place with 23 saves and a 4.21 ERA (4.33 xFIP). However his timing has been poor lately as he gave up six earned runs over two appearances this week and also blew two saves. These subpar performances would seem to open the door for Bailey to come in and do what he was brought over from Oakland to do, save games. The last time we actually saw Bailey in a MLB game, he had a 3.24 ERA (3.52 xFIP) with 41 strikeouts, 12 walks, and 24 saves over 41.2 innings for the A's, back in 2011. Expect Bailey to end the season with the closer role and more saves than Aceves from here to the end, if Aceves continues to blow up. Mixed: $4; AL: $13.
Luis Martinez, Rangers - With Mike Napoli hitting the DL this weekend with a left quad strain, Martinez was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to backup Geovany Soto. Martinez hit .270/.350/.386 with two homers over 247 plate appearances in Round Rock. It's doubtful that Martinez gets many at-bats, thus limiting his value, even in AL only leagues. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Adeiny Hechavarria, Blue Jays - When Brett Lawrie hit the DL with tightness in his ribcage, Hechavarria was called up to help man third base for the Blue Jays. So far he has been ice-cold going 1-for-17 in 19 plate appearances. He was once thought of as a prospect, but that was before he stalled out at Double-A. Lawrie will be back before long, so don't waste any FAAB dollars on Hechevarria, who appears to be overmatched at the plate. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Mike McCoy, Blue Jays - McCoy was recalled this weekend to help the Blue Jays at third base, while Brett Lawrie is out. This season as Triple-A Las Vegas he hit .263/.386/.349 with three homers and 21 stolen bases. He has speed, but will likely have a hard time getting on base in the majors to really showcase it. His promotion is more an indictment of how badly Hechavarria has struggled, rather than McCoy being the man for the job at third. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Manny Machado, Orioles - Machado was called up this week to start at third base for the Orioles. This moves comes as somewhat of a surprise as he was hitting just .266/.352/.438 with 11 homers and 13 stolen bases over 459 at-bats at Double-A Bowie. In his first three games in the majors, Machado has impressed going 5-for-12 with a double, triple, and two home runs. He is a highly thought of prospect, showing up in the top 10 of most prospect ranking lists before and during the season. He could be eligible at SS in your league as that's the position he played as he rose through the minors. Expect to have to bid quite a bit of money to acquire Machado, who is an excellent keeper in all leagues. Mixed: $10; AL: $40 - More in a keeper league.
Danny Valencia, Red Sox - With Will Middlebrooks breaking his wrist on Friday, Valencia was called up to help man third base for the Red Sox. Earlier this season, he hit .198/.212/.310 with two homers over 132 plate appearances for the Twins. As far as corner infield bats go, Valencia has little power. In 2011 he hit 15 homers, but it took him 608 plate appearances to do so. He'll likely share time at third with Pedro Ciriaco and Nick Punto, thus depressing his value somewhat. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Tony Abreu, Royals - Abreu was brought up from Triple-A Omaha this week to take the roster spot of Yuniesky Betancourt and play a utility infield role with the Royals. So far he has only appeared in three games and gone 3-for-10 with two doubles. At Omaha he hit .322/.347/.492 with nine homers and seven stolen bases over 453 plate appearances. At 27 years old, he is not a prospect and skill wise you can see why, as he offers little power or speed. Don't expect much from Abreu, even if he gets pressed into more playing time. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Eric Chavez, Yankees - With A-Rod on the DL, Chavez has been seeing playing time at third base for the Yankees. Lately, he has been raking with three home runs and two doubles in his last six games. At 34 years old, it's a bit surprising to see Chavez hitting for this much power, but he has shown it in the past when he was healthy (which is rare). If you're looking for a corner bat in a mixed league, you could do much worse right now. The fact that Chavez is getting sat against lefties helps him to not be over exposed and is something to keep in mind, if you're in a daily league. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.
Cliff Pennington, A's - Pennington was activated from the DL this week, after dealing with an elbow injury. So far he has gone 2-for-7 with a double and triple in his three games back with the team. Pennington offers some speed, but that's about it. On the season, he's batting .199/.266/.292 with three homers and 11 stolen bases over 324 plate appearances. If you're in dire need of some speed, he's worth a flier, but just know that you're likely to take a hit in the batting average department, as Pennington is a career .249 hitter. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Erick Aybar, Angels - Aybar returned from the DL this week, after dealing with a toe injury. He has been hot at the plate in his return, going 9-for-20 with a homer, stolen base, and seven runs scored. Aybar needs to start stealing more bases for him to be a useful to owners. Last season he stole 30 bags and was a helpful middle infield piece. This season he's hitting .268/.306/.383 with five homers and eight stolen bases. His toe appears to be fine, so add him in deeper mixed leagues if you're in need of a middle infield bat with some speed potential. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Jason Donald, Indians - Donald was recalled this week to take Travis Hafner's roster spot and play a utility infield role. In his three games up he has gone 2-for-11 with a homer and stolen base. It's tough to have much faith in Donald as this is already his third stint in the majors this season with the Indians. He doesn't offer much power or speed and he doesn't make much contact, so don't expect much out of him the rest of the way. At Triple-A Columbus, he hit .277/.365/.441 with six homers and five stolen bases over 296 plate appearances. There are better options out there. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
David Murphy, Rangers - Rangers manager Ron Washington came out and said this week that Murphy would be his everyday LF for the foreseeable future. He had been sitting against lefties, prior to this decision. Against lefties he is a career .264/.310/.357 hitter, but he has done well against them this season, albeit in a small sample size, hitting .381/.438/.452 over 48 plate appearances. Consider this a small boost to the value of Murphy, who should now be a more dependable option in daily leagues. Mixed: $8; AL: Owned.
Scott Podsednik, Red Sox - Podsednik signed with the Red Sox this week to help give them depth in their outfield. At 36 years old, he doesn't have much left to offer. He spent all of 2011 in the minors and has slowed down on the base paths. For the season he is now batting .379/.400/.470 with one homer and six stolen bases over 74 plate appearances. Fantasy owners can and should do better when looking for speed from their OF. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Jeff Baker, Tigers - Baker was traded from the Cubs to the Tigers this week to help out in their OF. It's not had to see why he was moved by Chicago as Baker is a career .270/.320/.437 hitter with four homers and four stolen bases over 150 plate appearances this season. He'll likely only be used against lefties, thus limiting what value he does have. His move to the Tigers says more about their OF than the skill set of Baker. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop them in the comments section.
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