This is our year-end look at the free agents in the American League. Specifically, these players should be focused on in leagues going into the 2013 season in keeper formats.
Brett Anderson, A's - Off of Tommy John surgery, Anderson was lights out with a 2.57 ERA (3.08 xFIP) with 25 strikeouts and seven walks over 35 innings in six starts. Unfortunately, he suffered an oblique injury and is done for the rest of the regular season. In 2013, look for him to keep the form he showed after his recovery and be a force in all leagues.
Erasmo Ramirez, Mariners - In only seven starts this season; Ramirez has posted a 3.76 ERA (3.41 xFIP) with 35 strikeouts and four walks over 40.2 innings. It's his control that has really helped him as he has a 0.89 BB/9 walk rate. Next season if he remains in the M's rotation, which seems likely given his late season performance, he could be a sneaky play in all leagues as that home park is very forgiving.
Dylan Bundy, Orioles - Bundy came up this month as a reliever to help the bullpen, when they're in a pinch, but should be a full-time starter when we see him in 2013. As far as his prospect status, none have the pedigree that Bundy does as he ranks tops on all nearly all rankings for pitchers. This season he made it all the way up to Double-A Bowie, where he could start 2013 at, unless he is at Triple-A Norfolk or even with the big league club.
Chris Archer, Rays - In four starts, Archer struck out 31 batters and walked eight over just 23.1 innings with a 3.80 ERA (2.80 xFIP). He has an arsenal of pitches that includes a nasty slider that helps him to miss plenty of bats. Look for him to compete for a position in the Rays rotation next spring. This season at Triple-A Durham he had a 3.66 ERA with 139 strikeouts and 62 walks over 128 innings.
Jeff Niemann, Rays - Niemann only made eight starts this season before being shutdown with shoulder tightness. In those starts he had a 3.08 ERA (3.66 xFIP) with 34 strikeouts and 12 walks over 38 innings. Next season he should be ready to go for Opening Day, where he will likely be a part of the Rays rotation. In his three plus seasons with the team as starter he has a 4.06 ERA (4.17 xFIP) with a 6.70 K/9 strikeout rate and 2.93 BB/9 walk rate over 92 starts. He will likely be undervalued in most leagues going into 2013 and if picked up now, could give owners a nice stash in deep leagues.
Jake Odorizzi, Royals - Odorizzi made a start against the Indians last Sunday, in what is likely his only appearance in the bigs this season. He struck out three batters with a walk and three earned runs over 5.1 innings. The results in that game matter little in comparison to what he did over 107.1 innings at Triple-A Omaha this season, where he posted a 2.93 ERA with 88 strikeouts and 44 walks. Expect to see him either back in Omaha or in KC with the parent club to start 2013.
Sean Doolittle, A's - Doolittle did big things with that left arm of his as he registered at 3.32 ERA (3.04 xFIP) with 56 strikeouts and just 10 walks over 43.1 innings this season. Doolittle is much more than just a left specialist as 29 of his 43.1 innings were against RHB in 2012. One could actually argue that through the ups and downs of Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour, Doolittle was the most consistent all season long. In 2013, he should be a force in their bullpen, whether he's the closer or not.
Sergio Santos, Blue Jays - Out with a frayed labrum that required surgery to correct in July, Santos should be back for spring training in 2013. For those that may have forgotten, he racked up 30 saves in 2011 for the White Sox with a 3.55 ERA (2.69 xFIP) with an amazing 92 strikeouts and 29 walks over 63.1 innings. If his shoulder is back to normal, he could be the closer the Blue Jays were betting on, when they traded for him in the off-season.
Vinnie Pestano, Indians - Chris Perez has wanted out of Cleveland for some time now and his comments about the fan base and organization likely haven't helped. If he is not back with the Tribe in 2013, expect Pestano to be their closer. This season he posted a 2.41 ERA (3.73 xFIP) with 73 strikeouts and 23 walks over 67.1 innings pitched. His strikeout rate is a bit concerning as it was 14.4 K/9 in 2010 and then 12.2 in 2011, but only 9.8 this season. This likely has something to do with his loss of velocity on his fastball, which was 92.7 mph in 2011, but down to 91.8 mph this season. Should he rediscover that speed, look for a lights out 2013 campaign.
Jake McGee & Wade Davis, Rays - Lost in the shock and awe of Fernando Rodney's 2012 season as the Rays closer are the performances Jake McGee and Wade Davis are giving the club. Since the All-Star break McGee has a 2.22 ERA with 38 strikeouts and four walks over 24.1 innings, while Davis has a 1.59 ERA with 44 strikeouts and 11 walks over 28.1 innings. It would not surprise me in the least to see either end up with the most saves on this club in 2013. Both can miss bats and have shown improved control this season. What would surprise me is to see Rodney come close to repeating his 2012 season in 2013.
Kelvin Herrera, Royals - Who throws the hardest fastball among all relievers? Why that would be Kelvin Herrera, the setup man for the Royals. I thought he should've been named the team's closer, after Jonathan Broxton was moved, but instead Greg Holland was given the opportunity, one he has not squandered. Herrera to his credit has a 2.77 ERA (3.04 xFIP) with 75 strikeouts and 20 walks over 82.1 innings this season. He does not miss bats at the rate that Holland does, but he has a higher ground ball rate at 55.8 percent.
Mariano Rivera, Yankees - The ageless wonder suffered a fluke injury this season as he tore up his ACL, while playing catch in the OF before a Yankees game this season. He has rehabbed since then and could appear in the playoffs, but most likely we'll see him in 2013, if we do see him again. Most owners have stashed him away on their DL or reserve list in keeper leagues, so this is really just a reminder that he's on the road to recovery and not to be forgotten going into 2013.
George Kottaras, A's - If Kottaras is used in a strict platoon in 2013, the results could really benefit patient owners. This season he hit .210/.335/.441 with nine homers against lefties. That includes a .228 BABIP against those LHPs, which leads me to think that next season he could help owners in all categories.
Hank Conger, Angels - This season the Angels have had Chris Iannetta, Bobby Wilson, and even John Hester play at catcher for the Halos, all of them turning mixed results. Conger never really got an audition, but could in 2013. This season at Triple-A Salt Lake he his .295/.347/.473 with 10 homers over 288 plate appearances. He'll be 25 years old next season and should be ready for the majors.
Geovany Soto, Rangers - With Mike Napoli potentially leaving via free agency, we could see the Ranges turn to Soto next season as their starting catcher. This season with the team, after he came over from the Cubs, he hit .201/.261/.353 with five homers over 155 plate appearances. He'll be 30 next season and while I think his best days are clearly behind him, the Rangers home ball park is offensively friendly. I would not mind having Soto stashed away as my 2nd catcher going into 2013 if Napoli leaves.
Chris Carter, A's - This season Carter has hit .240/.349/.516 with 16 homers in just 258 plate appearances. The power shouldn't come as a surprise as Carter crushed the ball in all of his stops in the minors. He does have trouble making contact and now has a 65.1% contact rate over 382 major league at-bats. I'm leery about his prospects in 2013, but he should be cheap for those that make the plunge.
Josh Donaldson, A's - Since the All-Star break Donaldson has hit .299/.368/.503 with seven homers over 174 plate appearances. He could be the team's everyday third baseman next season at 27 years old. He's shown decent pop in the minors with 17 homers last season over 503 plate appearances at Triple-A Sacramento. I'd be more than happy with him as my corner infielder in an AL only league.
Justin Smoak, Mariners - This month Smoak has been red hot as he has hit .343/.418/.614 with five homers over 79 plate appearances. It should come as no surprise that all of those homers came on the road as Safeco Field has been particularly tough to hit at this season. Going into 2013, I see him as someone that could be of use in daily leagues where he can be benched in all home starts.
Pedro Ciriaco, Red Sox - Ciriaco has hit .285/.305/.380 this season with two homers and 15 stolen bases over just 254 plate appearances. I think going into 2013 we won't see him at 3B again, as that will be Will Middlebrooks spot, but Ciriaco should still be plenty useful because of his speed. Earlier this season he stole 14 bases at Triple-A Pawtucket. AT 27 years old next season, I think he'll be someone that can really help owners as a utility infielder.
Mauro Gomez, Red Sox - Gomez needs a job in 2013. This season he hit 24 homers with a .310/.371/.589 batting line over 426 plate appearances at Triple-A Pawtucket. He did nearly the same thing in 2011 with the Braves at Triple-A Gwinnett. If the Red Sox don't go after a big name in free agency, keep Gomez in the back of your mind as a possible 1B solution. He'll be 28 years old next season and can really hit.
Stephen Drew, A's - "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" is how one could describe Drew's time with his two different teams, the A's and the Diamondbacks, this season. With the D-Backs he hit just .193/.290/.311 with two homers over 155 plate appearances as he made his way back from a terrible ankle injury. However, since his trade to Oakland he has flourished, hitting .271/.340/.421 with five homers over 150 plate appearances. When people just look at his 2012 numbers as a whole, they'll be disappointed, but when they look at his time with the A's, they'll see a second half turn around to the player he was in the past.
Erick Aybar, Angels - Aybar again stole at least 20 bases this season with at least five homers and 65 runs scored. For the season he hit .290/.324/.417 with his highest contact rate 90.6 percent to date. It's this sort of quiet consistency that leaves him underrated by most owners. He hit 10 homers in 2011 and I think that he has a potential run at a 20/20 season in him, perhaps in 2013. The power will certainly need to come up as it did this season, when he posted his highest ISO power against RHP in his career at .178.
Jurickson Profar, Rangers - Profar has only had 17 plate appearances this season; that said, he should be acknowledged by all fantasy owners going into 2013. His offensive and defensive talents are elite for a SS prospect and could for the Rangers to make a move in the offseason to play Profar everyday at that position. This season at Double-A Frisco he hit .281/.368/.452 with 14 homers and 16 stolen bases.
Gordon Beckham, White Sox - Beckham hit just .237/.298/.377 this season, but did so with a .257 BABIP, which is much lower than his career .279 mark. He also hit 16 homers with a .140 ISO power, which is a big step up from where he was last season at .106. He'll only be 26 years old in 2013, which means there's still time for him to figure things out and put it all together. He also improved against LHP, going from a .541 OPS in 2011 to a .702 OPS in 2012. I think there's hope for him yet to become an asset to fantasy owners, beyond AL only leagues.
Eduardo Nunez, Yankees - A season after seeing 338 plate appearances in 2011 and hitting .265/.313/.385 with 22 steals and five homers, Nunez was noticeably absent from the Yankees lineup for much of the season in 2012. This is due in part to Derek Jeter's health and the Yankees acquisition of Eric Chavez at 3B, to relieve Alex Rodriguez. I wouldn't bet on either playing as much in 2013 as they did this season, thus making Nunez an interesting player to fantasy owners. He'll be 26 years old next season and could steal over 30 bases if forced into an everyday role.
Brandon Moss, A's - Against RHP this season Moss has hit .281/.359/.623 with 18 homers over just 223 plate appearances. If he is used in a strict platoon next season, the results could be fantastic. He'll be 29 years old next season; so don't expect his skills to improve any time soon. That said, Moss will be fun to track in 2013 with all that power.
Craig Gentry, Rangers - This season Gentry quietly went about his business hitting .308/.372/.397 with 13 steals over 266 plate appearances. I'm very tempted to write these numbers off as a fluke as they came with a .369 BABIP, but when one looks at Gentry's career numbers, he now has a .281/.346/.357 batting line with a .345 BABIP over 473 plate appearances. What is clear is that Gentry has speed that can help owners, when he's given playing time. If he were to see everyday at bats, I think we'd see his 82.0 percent contact rate expose his batting average. Keep him in mind in 2013, when looking for cheap speed.
Lorenzo Cain, Royals - When Cain was healthy in 2012 he showed what a nice power/speed skill set he possesses. He hit .266/.316/.419 with seven homers and 10 stolen bases over just 244 plate appearances. I think if he had been healthy the entire season, we would've seen his first 20/20 campaign. In 2013, Cain will likely come on the cheap because of his health, which is justified as he generates much of his value from his legs. Look for a bounce back season in 2013 from Cain.
Wil Myers, Royals - While we never saw him in the majors this season, for reasons we won't get into, Myers should be someone owners are thinking about going into the 2013 season. This season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, he hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 homers and six stolen bases over 522 at-bats. If he does not start 2013 in the majors, he will be among the top, if not the top, hitting prospect still in the minors looking for a call-up.
Darin Mastroianni, Twins - Mastroianni stole 21 bases over just 186 plate appearances this season. He did so as he hit .252/.328/.350 with a .328 BABIP in his rookie campaign. To me he profiles as someone who will continue to struggle to get on base as he strikes out far too much (24.2 percent strikeout rate), but when he does get on, will take bases at a high rate. If he were to land on my AL only team as my fifth OF in 2013, I'd be pretty pleased. It helps that he'll be only 27 next season as speed is a young man's game.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.
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