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 made his return to the mound this week, as he continues to make his way back from Tommy John surgery. He looked great as he struck out six batters, walked none, and allowed only four hits over seven innings of one-run ball. The velocity on his fastball was about what we saw last time he was healthy (91.1 mph), though he was throwing his slider a bit harder (81.8 mph). I would not expect his future starts to go as smoothly as the first one as he will likely not get to face the Twins again and it's unlikely that he has fully regained all that he lost, while he was out. It takes time for pitchers to come back from Tommy John and I would expect to see the real Brett Anderson until sometime next season. Bid with caution. Mixed: $6; AL: $20.
Steve Johnson, Orioles - Johnson made his second start of the season on Saturday and he pitched well, going six innings and allowing two earned runs with seven strikeouts and two walks. It came against the Blue Jays, who despite injuries are still one of the better offenses in the AL. In his two starts this season he now has a pitched 17 innings with six earned runs allowed, 23 strikeouts, and six walks. If given the chance of pitching in the Orioles rotation, he is someone that owners in AL only leagues will want to pick up. At Triple-A Norfolk this season he had a 2.86 ERA with 86 strikeouts and 31 walks over 91.1 innings pitched. If he does remain in the rotation, his next scheduled start would come at home against the White Sox. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Luke Hochevar, Royals - Out of nowhere, Hochevar made arguably his best start of his career as he struck out 10 batters, walked three, and allowed 1 hit over eight shutout innings at Tampa Bay. The Rays offense has been spotty this season, but still, this was impressive stuff from the former top pick. This season has been a disappointment for Hochevar and his owners as he has a 4.95 ERA with 110 strikeouts and 46 walks over 145.1 innings. It is especially disappointing when you consider how well he pitched in the second half of 2011 (3.52 ERA over 79.1 innings). His next start will come on the road against the Red Sox, who are suddenly fielding a less than stellar lineup. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Drew Smyly, Tigers - Smyly made a spot start on Saturday for the Tigers and looked good, pitching six innings with six strikeouts, two walks, and one earned run allowed to the Angels. Unfortunately, Smyly will not be sticking in the rotation, as he will be moved to the bullpen as a long reliever. But, he will likely be the first man up when the team does need a starter and for that he deserves a look in AL only formats, where starting pitching is tough to come by. Before this, Smyly had a 6.11 ERA with 25 strikeouts and eight walks over 17.2 innings at Triple-A Toledo. On the season he now has a 4.22 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 23 walks over 85.1 innings for the Tigers. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Andrew Bailey, Red Sox - After Alfredo Aceves' epic meltdown, where he gave up five earned runs in a blown save on Thursday night, Bailey got four outs for a save on Friday night. That alone might be enough to consider picking up Bailey, but then Aceves was suspended three games for conduct detrimental to the team after he threw a hissy-fit for not being used in Friday night's game. This outburst makes is seem even more likely that Bailey will keep the closer role for the rest of the season, as long as he performs up to snuff. In his six appearances since coming off the DL, Bailey has allowed one earned run with four strikeouts and one walk over 4.1 innings pitched. In his 6.1 innings of rehab in the minors he allowed one earned run with 10 strikeouts and one walk. And while it's a small sample size, Bailey's velocity is up almost one mph (94.5) from where it was last season with the A's (93.4). If he's still available in your league, grab him. Mixed: $8; AL: $25.
Geovany Soto, Rangers - Soto has been swinging a hot bat as of late, going 9-of-23 with two doubles and a homer. Part of this can be attributed to hitting in a Rangers lineup where he's seeing better pitches and a better park, where the ball carries more often than not. Still, this is progress for a hitter that was in a slump for much of the year partly because of a .244 BABIP. Expect Soto to get regular at-bats through the end of this week, when Mike Napoli will come off the DL and go back to starting. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Brandon Inge, A's - Inge should come off the DL in the next day or two as he makes his way back from a shoulder injury. He comes back to a .216/.274/.379 batting line with 12 homers. At 35 years old his power is quite surprising, but his batting average is not. Inge is a player that swings for the fences and has gone on a couple hot streaks, where every ball he hits seems to go out. If you can stomach the poor batting average (career .234 hitter), the power you'll get in return may be worth it. Josh Donaldson has done fine in his place, but will go back to the bench when Inge returns. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Adam Lind, Blue Jays - Lind came off the DL this weekend, after dealing with back soreness. He comes back to a .227/.298/.394 batting line with eight homers and a .253 BABIP. That batting average on balls in play is really hurting him as it's nearly 40 points below his career .292 mark and masking the fact that he's raised his contact rate to 83.8% from 78.7% the season before. Expect Lind to get regular playing time down the stretch with David Cooper going to the DL and Jose Bautista gone for possibly the rest of the season. Mixed: $7; AL: Owned.
Jeff Keppinger, Rays - Over the last 30 days, Keppinger has hit .319/.326/.484 with three homers and one stolen base. This is about what one would expect from him as he's a career .285/.336/.395 hitter. He has always been great at making contact (career 92.9% contract rate), but provided little power with no real speed. With Evan Longoria back, he's been shifting between 1B & 3B lately. He'll continue to find at-bats against LHP because he is one of the few Rays hitters that crushes lefties (career .334/.378/.492 vs Southpaws). If you're struggling with your batting average, give Keppinger a look. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Pedro Ciriaco, Red Sox - Over the last two weeks, Ciriaco has been one of the Red Sox hottest hitters batting .386/.413/.477 with three stolen bases. Given Will Middlebrooks's injury, Danny Valencia's demotion, and Nick Punto's trade to LA, it now looks like Ciriaco will be getting fairly regular playing time down the stretch at 3B in Boston. For the season he's batting .351/.366/.473 with one homer and nine stolen bases over 136 plate appearances. He has shown good speed in the past, in the minors, stealing 38 bases in 2009 with the D-Backs organization. Give him a look if you need some runs and steals in a deeper league. Mixed: $7; AL: Owned.
James Loney, Red Sox - Loney was traded to Boston this weekend in the massive Red Sox-Dodgers deal. He comes over with little to no power for a 1B as he has four homers on the season and a career .139 for his isolated power. He does make good contact and is a career .284/.341/.423 hitter. This season he is only batting .254 partly because of a .277 BABIP, which is well below his career .307 mark. He'll share the playing time at first with Mauro Gomez for the remainder of the season, which will put a slight damper on his value. He likely won't be back with the team next season, so don't bid more if you're in a keeper league thinking you have found a cheap corner bat. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Stephen Drew, A's - Drew was traded from the D-Backs to the A's this week, as Oakland continues to look to upgrade their middle infield. He comes over with a .193/.290/.311 batting line that is down considerably from where he's been in the past because of a low .242 BABIP and the fact that he's still coming back from an ankle injury that happened almost a year ago. Looking back, before the injury, he was struggling in the first half of 2011 with a .252/.317/.396 batting line, so perhaps this season's stats shouldn't be all that alarming. Still, he's only 29 years old and has shown an ability to hit for power in the past, granted he will no longer be in such a left-handed hitter friendly park as he goes to Oakland. So far with the A's he has gone 4-of-17 with a double and stolen base. He should get regular playing time down the stretch with Cliff Pennington sliding over to 2B. Mixed: $4; AL: $15.
Cliff Pennington & Adam Rosales, A's - With the A's sending Jemile Weeks down to the minors, Pennington and Rosales will now be manning 2B for Oakland. Neither has been all that great this season as Pennington has hit .298/.263/.285 with three homers and 13 stolen bases over 359 plate appearances and Rosales has hit .217/.333/.333 with two homers over 72 plate appearances. The best that could come of this for fantasy owners is that Pennington plays everyday and he continues to steal bases. This platoon however, will go on until one of them asserts themselves as the starter of gets injured and bows out. Pennington - Mixed: $2; AL: $8. Rosales - Mixed: $1; AL: $ 4.
Ryan Roberts, Rays - Over the last two weeks, Roberts has hit .289/.346/.422 with three doubles, one homer and one stolen base. Not exactly a hot streak, but he has been getting steady playing time at 2B for the Rays and that's what counts more than anything for him. Last season we saw great power from him as he hit 19 homers, but that was likely and aberration for a guy who has a career .146 isolated power average. Still, if you're looking for a middle infielder that seems to be trending in the right direction with the potential to give you a few steals, Roberts is worth a look. Mixed: $3; AL: 10.
Trayvon Robinson, Mariners - Robinson has been getting regular playing time in LF for the Mariners the last two weeks, as he has supplanted Casper Wells as the starter. On the season Robinson is batting .239/.308/.366 with one homer and three steals over 80 plate appearances. At Triple-A Tacoma earlier this season he was batting .265/.331/.409 with nine homers and 19 stolen bases. He could be a nice power/speed player down the stretch if he can start to make more contact and walk more. Mixed: $5; AL: $17.
Michael Saunders, Mariners - Few hitters have been as hot as Saunders has been lately as he has gone 7-of-19 with four homers (all at home) and two stolen bases over the last week. For the season he is now batting .246/.300/.414 with 14 homers and 18 stolen bases and has a shot an outside shot at going 20/20, if his power surge continues. Skill wise, his power is back to where it was in 2010 and it helps that his BABIP is a .298, given he has a career .278 mark in that category. He has been forced to miss the last two games with a groin injury and is thought to be day-to-day. Once he gets back on the field, he should be a great option for those in mixed leagues. Mixed: $7; AL: Owned.
Che-Hsuan Lin, Red Sox - Lin was recalled on Saturday from Triple-A Pawtucket to serve as OF depth for the Red Sox. In Pawtucket he hit .247/.325/.314 with two homers and 14 stolen bases over 421 plate appearances. He has shown good speed in the past, stealing 28 bases between Double-A and Triple-A last season. Still, unless he sees regular playing time, which is unlikely, it's doubtful we get to see much of that speed from Lin. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Denard Span, Twins - Span rejoined the Twins starting lineup on Thursday, after being out of action since the 12th of this month due to a shoulder injury. He didn't go on the DL, but likely should have, considering how much time he missed. On the season he's batting .288/.352/.397 with three homers and 14 stolen bases. This is about what can be expected from him as he has always been good at making contact and stealing bases. He doesn't excel at either skill to the point where he can help you win a category all by himself. That said, he could quietly help you in deeper leagues. Get him back in your lineup in AL only leagues. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.
Jordan Danks, White Sox - Danks was recalled this week from Triple-A Charlotte to serve as OF depth for the White Sox. At Charlotte, he hit .317/.428/.514 with eight homers and six stolen bases over 264 plate appearances. Don't expect much from him as he'll be backing up the starting OF for the White Sox. If anything, he'll chip in a few steals. Last season in Charlotte, he stole 18 bases over 535 plate appearances. 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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