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
Dylan Axelrod, White Sox - Axelrod won the fifth starter's job when John Danks hit the DL with shoulder troubles, over a week ago. Last season as a starter he pitched 39.1 innings with a 5.03 ERA (4.66 xFIP) as he had trouble missing bats and trouble avoiding the long ball. At the minor league level, he's found success with back-to-back sub 3.00 ERAs at Triple-A Charlotte in 2011 and 2012. However, unless he has found some new pitch to put away major league LHBs (career 5.05 xFIP against), Axelrod's time in the rotation will likely be short-lived. Ownership: CBS 2%, ESPN 0.0%, & Yahoo! 0%. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Scott Kazmir, Indians - Kazmir is back in the majors this season, this time as the Tribe's fifth starter. His presence in their rotation speaks more to their desperate need for someone to eat innings more than it does his talent level. The last time we got a good look at Kazmir, he was sporting a 5.94 ERA (5.42 xFIP) over 150 innings for the Halos back in 2010. He didn't pitch in majors or minors in 2012, so it's tough to say what version of Kazmir we're getting here. Shoulder woes have plagued him throughout his career and it would not be surprising to see them crop up again this season; so don't invest for the long haul here. Moreover, unless he has his slider working, like he did back in Tampa Bay, it's tough to advise investing in him in the short-term either. Ownership: CBS 10%, ESPN 0.3%, & Yahoo! 2%. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Brandon Maurer, Mariners - Maurer won the No. 4 starter's job out of Spring Training this season to the surprise of most as he beat out not only Walker, Hultzen, and Paxton, but also Erasmo Ramirez, who many (including myself) touted as a sleeper to not only win a job, but thrive out of the gate. Maurer posted a 3.20 ERA over 137.2 IP at Double-A Jackson last season as he won Southern League pitcher of the year honors. He struck out 117 batters and walked just 48, showing good command of his pitches. Given his home park, Maurer shouldn't have a terribly rough transition to the majors. Those in mixed leagues should give him a look, especially in home starts, while those in AL only leagues should plug him in right away. Ownership: CBS 23%, ESPN 0.8%, & Yahoo! 0%. Mixed: $3; AL: $12.
David Phelps, Yankees - With Phil Hughes set to make two more minor league starts as he works his way back from a back injury, Phelps should get at least one, if not two starts to show the Yankees that it is he and not Ivan Nova that should be relegated to the bullpen, once Hughes is ready to return. In his last Spring Training start, Phelps struck out nine batters over 5.1 innings against the Orioles this week, while Nova got rocked for seven runs by Toronto's Single-A lineup the same day. One day doesn't and shouldn't change the Yankees plans, but it's certainly food for thought. If Phelps out performs him again this coming week, don't be surprised to see Nova moved to the bullpen and Phelps the fifth starter going forward. Ownership: CBS 22%, ESPN 0.3%, & Yahoo! 6%. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Nick Tepesch, Rangers - Nick Tepesch won the fifth starters job for the Texas Rangers. Wait, who? Exactly. Tepesch pitched 90.1 innings last season at Double-A Frisco with a 4.28 ERA as he had trouble missing bats, an issue that is likely to follow him to the majors. Wins are a stat category that owners chase and when Tepesch is facing some of the weaker offenses in the AL (think the Astros), he'll be worth a look in AL only leagues. By the time Colby Lewis or Martin Perez are ready to rejoin the rotation (sometime in May), Tepesch will either be long gone or thriving with fringe stuff, but asked to step aside either way, so don't invest for the long-haul here. Those in mixed leagues would be wise to take a wait-and-see approach with Tepesch and if anything, start him on the road, so the Texas park doesn't get to him. Ownership: CBS 2%, ESPN 0.0%, & Yahoo! 0%. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Joaquin Benoit, Al Alburquerque, & Phil Coke, Tigers - With Bruce Rondon's exit to the minors, the door is wide open for any Tigers reliever to seize the closer's job in Detroit. So wide-open that manager Jim Leyland has publicly said, "I might call on anybody." (Not that wide-open, Jose Valverde.) Of the candidates, Benoit seems like the most logical choice to me. He is a RHP (managers like that), in 2012 he walked hitters at almost half the rate Alburquerque did (7.6 percent vs 15.1 percent), and struck out more batter than Coke did (29.2 percent vs 20.8 percent). Benoit is not already the clear choice because he has his own issues with the long ball, of which he gave up 14 last season, the most of any Tigers reliever. Alburquerque, also a RHP, is the next best choice to because while he does walk more batters than one would like, he does have a nice 58.3 percent ground ball rate and can miss bats just as well, if not better than Benoit (career 36.2 percent strikeout rate). Coke is a LHP and can't miss bats nearly as well as the other two candidates, so he seems like the likely odd man out. Some will ask about Octavio Dotel, but he seems destined to be a match ups guy as he mows down RHBs and Leyland knows this. My best advice is to bid on Benoit and then Alburquerque and to hold on to which ever pitcher you get, despite the outcome of the first or second save opportunity for the team. Benoit Ownership: CBS 22%, ESPN 10.4%, & Yahoo! 32%. Alburqurque Ownership: CBS 14%, ESPN 0.9%, & Yahoo! 16%. Coke Ownership: CBS 12%, ESPN 5.7%, & Yahoo! 14%. Benoit Mixed: $4; AL: $12. Alburqurque Mixed: $3; AL: 9. Coke Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Jason Castro, Astros - Castro hit .261/.343/.443 in the 2nd half of 2012 with four homers over 100 PA and looks poised to improve on those numbers going into 2013. Changing leagues should in theory hurt him, but he'll be 26 years old this season and is still maturing as a hitter. He's a former 1st Round pick by the Astros, so there's some pedigree here. As a member of the Astros, he's likely to be overlooked in most leagues as most owners and writers have written the team off for the 2013 season. Owned in all AL only leagues, those in deep mixed leagues should consider him because he should not drain your batting average like most catchers and double-digit homers is not out of the question. Ownership: CBS 18%, ESPN 1.1%, Yahoo! 2%. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Tyler Flowers, White Sox - Now that A.J. Pierzynski has left for Texas, Flowers has the White Sox catching position all to himself. Last year as a major leaguer Flowers hit just .213/.296/.412 over over 153 PA. That sounds bad because it was, but he has the power potential to hit 20+ homers. This is evidenced by his 20 homers between Triple-A Charlotte and the White Sox in 2011. His batting average will most likely be a drain to all owners as he has a 65.7 percent contact rate over 317 PA in the majors, but that's the tradeoff that comes with his power. He is Owned in all AL only leagues, which is why only those in deep mixed leagues should consider him for his power. Ownership: CBS 23%, ESPN 0.8%, Yahoo! 3%. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Chris Iannetta, Angels - Iannetta has teased owners for years as power hitting catcher, but that was when he was with the Rockies. Now with the Angels and coming off a broken wrist, the bloom is off the rose. Still, he holds upside because of his power potential and can really help owners in OBP leagues as he holds a career 13.6 career walk rate. (For reference John Jaso led MLB last season with a 15.5 percent walk rate, min. 250 PA.) He is obviously Owned in all AL only leagues, but those in deep mixed OBP leagues should not forget about him as there's no one to fight him for playing time and he's going to be hitting in one of the better lineups in baseball, albeit in one of the more pitcher friendly home parks. To those in deep standard leagues, you've been warned about damage he can do to your batting average. Ownership: CBS 25%, ESPN 0.5%, Yahoo! 3%. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
John Jaso & Derek Norris, A's - While Norris is the future of the A's at the catcher; Jaso was brought in last season to give the team some depth and more than held his own. As things stand going into Opening Day, manager Bob Melvin has stated that he will not employ a strict platoon, but rather ride the hot hand, which helps Norris as he will be allowed to face more than just LHPs to start the season. Norris struggles to make contact and will be a drain to any owner's batting average, but does well to help with a few steals and decent power for a catcher. It should be noted though that he does get on base much better and will not hurt those in OBP leagues nearly as much. Jaso holds the higher upside of the two because he is a LHB and if a platoon does develop he'll get to face the majority of RHPs, which he holds a career .270/.368/.421 split against. Both are worth owning in any AL only league, but Jaso holds the higher upside for this season, despite what the manager is saying now. Jaso Ownership: CBS 21%, ESPN 0.6%, Yahoo! 6%. Norris Ownership: CBS 9%, ESPN 0.1%, Yahoo! 1%. Jaso Mixed: $3; AL: Owned. Norris Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Mike Zunino, Mariners - The top AL catching fantasy prospect ranked by our writers here at RotoWire, Zunino is not all that far off from helping the Mariners organization at the MLB level. He'll be 22 years old this season and is still very raw, but consider what he did last season in the minors as he hit .360/.447/.689 with 13 homers between Rookie Ball, Low-A Everett, and eventually Double-A Jackson. Most have him making noise in 2014, but consider that John Jaso is no longer with the team and defensively challenged Jesus Montero is now the starting catcher. If you're in an AL only league where you can stash players and are low on talent at the catcher spot, it would be wise to find a spot for Zunino on your team. If you don't have a spot for him on your team, at least track his progress once the minor league season starts as he could hit his way into an opportunity for playing time later in the season. Ownership: CBS 18%, ESPN 0.3%, Yahoo! 1%. Mixed: $1; AL: $3... Much more in a keeper league.
Matt Dominguez, Astros - As the Astros starting third baseman, Dominguez has been overlooked by most deep mixed league owners. He hit .269/.299/.430 with four homers over 93 PA last season, which is why we're discussing him. That power has some thinking there more could be on the horizon as he enters his age 23 season. As the bearer of bad news, I'm here to say there will not be an encore; the show is over, head to your exits. Still, he should see enough playing time to help some with their counting stats in a pinch. He is not a refined hitter as his .257/.311/.371 batting line from last season between Triple-A with the Marlins and Astros system over 447 at-bats shows. Owned in most AL only leagues, bid with fear and a good back-up plan. Ownership: CBS 9%, ESPN 1.6%, Yahoo! 2%. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Adam Lind, Blue Jays - Lind has a career .299/.342/.527 batting line against RHP over 971 PA and should be platooned by the Blue Jays to help maximize his value to all those invested. Still, this season he is being given another chance at full time at-bats against all comers as the Jays starting first baseman. The results will likely not be pretty, but that doesn't mean owners should suffer. If you are in a format where you can platoon him correctly and avoid his at-bats against LHP, you can reap the rewards his talents offer. His 2009 season is long gone (.305/.370/.562), so don't go chasing a .323 BABIP that is likely to not repeat itself. Do the right thing and roster him so you can manage his at-bats like the Jays should. Owned in all AL only leagues, mixed leaguers can find value here with a plan and patience. Ownership: CBS 34%, ESPN 2.6%, Yahoo! 11%. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.
Brandon Moss, A's - Moss stands to be the starting first baseman for the A's on Opening Day, which holds value in deep mixed leagues. Last season he quietly hit 21 homers with a .291/.358/.596 over 296 PA to which the Regression Police have already decried as foul because of a .359 BABIP. Their point is well made as he holds a career .306 BABIP over 1,045 PA, showing that last season was largely and aberration, but still, it's hard to overlook a corner-infielder who hit 20+ homers last season. This season he will be hard pressed to repeat his efforts from 2012, but that does not mean that those in deep mixed leagues show overlook him. He holds a career .251/.317/.442 batting line and could hit even more homers this season, albeit with a much worse battling line that than that of 2012. 29 years old, it would not be a major surprise to see him double his PA from 2012 and again deliver on the power from 2012. Owned in all AL only leagues, those in need of power on the cheap in mixed leagues should value him as a source of power that could hurt them in the long run with their batting average, but produce elsewhere. Ownership: CBS 40%, ESPN 49.6%, Yahoo! 20%. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Lyle Overbay, Yankees - Overbay is the Yankees starting first baseman by default, after Mark Teixeira went down. What is to follow, will likely not be pretty for anyone that chooses to roster him. Entering his age 36 season, he offers almost no power, considering the position. He is a career .270/.353/.438 hitter, so there might be some batting average help, but let's not get carried away here. He is an emergency fill-in for the team and likely an emergency-room fill-in for your roster. In his best years he hit double-digit homers, but that isn't here (Toronto) or now (the 2000's). AL only leaguers will need him for counting stats, but I'm not sure what they can count on. All invested should bank on a low batting average and after that everything is gravy... Lumpy, over-salted gravy. Mixed leaguers: hold your nose and bid if you must. Ownership: CBS 1%, ESPN 0.0%, Yahoo! 0%. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Justin Smoak, Mariners - Forget all that you have heard about Smoak this Spring Training, as those stats don't count in any leagues. Instead, focus on what he offers in the way of upside: He is a batter entering his age 26 season with the ability to swat 20+ homers. He is not a disciplined hitter as his career .223/306/.377 batting line over 1,421 PA shows. Yes, he hit .341/.426/.580 last season in September with five homers over 101 PA, but are you going to look at one month last season and value that over his career line? I'm not. He is a corner-bat with power that can drain your batting average. With that known and at the forefront of your decision making, realize that in a mixed league you are bidding asking for just home-run help. Owned in all AL only leagues, deep mixed leaguers should banking the power and nothing more. Ownership: CBS 27%, ESPN 1.7%, Yahoo! 7%. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Brett Wallace, Astros - Wallace is poised to start the season as the Astros starting first baseman, and that's the good news. The bad news is he holds a career .250/.323/.377 batting line over 792 PA with only 16 homers. He does not hit for much power, but will log at-bats this season, so where counting stats matter, check him out. There is nothing to suggest he is a power hitter, but he is entering his age 26 season, so he should give you the best he has to offer. If you're in an AL only league, he's most likely Owned, which should help you if you don't own him. If you're in a very deep mixed league he will hit double-digit homers and that should be enough reason to throw some attention his way, but in reality, this is a parade float no one came to see and no one wants to sponsor. Bid with hopes you get outbid. Ownership: CBS 13%, ESPN 0.2%, Yahoo! 2%. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Jose Iglesias, Red Sox - Stephen Drew will start the season on the 7-day DL as he recovers from a concussion, leaving Iglesias as the Red Sox starting short-stop on Opening Day. Concussions are a tricky injury to read and setbacks are not uncommon, but it appears Drew will start playing in game again this coming week and he clears that hurdle, he should be back starting in the majors shortly after that. As a fill-in Iglesias isn't much offensively as his .266/.318/.306 batting line from last season at Triple-A Pawtucket shows. Entering his age 23 season, he does have enough speed to steal double-digit bases, but any value found there is sure to be offset by his lack of prowess with the bat. Those in deep mixed leagues should be looking to spend their FAAB elsewhere. Ownership: CBS 3%, ESPN 0.2%, Yahoo! 1%. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Eduardo Nunez, Yankees - With Derek Jeter set to start the season on the DL, Nunez is likely the Yankees starting short-stop on Opening Day. He might be eligible at third base in some leagues, so there's some position flexibility added, but the main reason to own Nunez is because of his modest speed. Last season between Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the majors he stole 27 bases over 272 PA. Jeter will miss a decent part of April, but not much more than that at the outset, so don't go thinking Nunez is your answer to any long-term hole you might have on your mixed league team. If you're in an AL only you'll want to keep him as he should see sporadic playing time throughout the season as the team's utility infielder. Ownership: CBS 15%, ESPN 1.9%, Yahoo! 7%. Mixed: $3; AL: $8.
Brian Roberts, Orioles - Often injured, Roberts is poised to start the season as the Orioles starting second baseman. Entering his age 35 season and given fact that we haven't seen much of him lately (98 games played combined over the last three seasons), it's tough to say what Roberts offers owners at this stage in his career. At his best he was an asset to owners because of his speed, but speed is a young man's game and Roberts is not that. Should he find his swing again (career .280 hitter), he'll be of use to owners in deep mixed leagues, but that's likely as far as it goes. One bump or bruise and Mr. Glass could break again. Ownership: CBS 37%, ESPN 5.5%, Yahoo! 10%. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Rick Ankiel, Astros - We're discussing Rick Ankiel because the Astros had to send someone out to play right field and they weren't about to spend any money on the free agency market to find one. As a hitter, Ankiel has hit for power in the past, but not average. Entering his age 33 season, the power will have to resurface if he is to hold any value to owners. Last season with the Nationals he hit .228/.282/.411 with five homers over 171 PA and that was with a .330 BABIP and in a lineup much better than the one he'll find himself in come this Opening Day. I live in Houston and root for the Astros and not even I can find reason to throw more than a minimum bid at this skill set. Ownership: CBS 2%, ESPN 0.2%, Yahoo! 0%. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Jason Bay, Mariners - Bay made the Mariners 25-man roster and is a name most owners will recognize when they see him on their waiver wire. He's a career .269/.363/.485 hitter whose best days have passed him by. Last season for the Mets he hit eight homers over 215 PA with five steals. If Franklin Gutierrez were to get hurt (always a possibility), Bay could see a more steady diet of playing time, but as is, he's a bat off the bench. Double-digit homers and steals is a real possibility, but so is a batting average sure to make you cringe. Ownership: CBS 4%, ESPN 0.4%, Yahoo! 1%. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Peter Bourjos, Angels - As the starting center fielder for the Angels, Bourjos has sneaky value to owners because of his speed and ability to hit double-digit homers. He's likely to be a bit of a drain to your batting average, but that's to be expected with Bourjos. As he enters his age 26 season, he should hit near the bottom of the Halos order, which is not the worst thing in the world as Mike Trout is the team's leadoff hitter. The potential is there for him to hit for more power, but at this point it's just best to count on him for stolen base help. Already rostered in AL only leagues, mixed leaguers should try to find a spot for him. Ownership: CBS 40%, ESPN 2.0%, Yahoo! 8%. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Jackie Bradley, Red Sox - Bradley is set to make the 25-man roster as just a 22-year old, showing what kind of confidence the Red Sox have in him. This confidence has surely overflowed to owners as Bradley is a hot name this Spring and on waiver wires as the season approaches, but there are reasons to be wary of what he can do to help your team. The main issue is that he has only had 271 PA above High-A and the adjustments he will have to make at the plate may take some time, which owners might not have. That said, he offers power and speed, which every owner needs. If he doesn't hit right away, once David Ortiz comes back from the DL, Jonny Gomes may be shifted back to left-field and Bradley may be headed back to the minors, so bid Bradley up thinking you have a long-term solution to a roster hole you might have. Ownership: CBS 43%, ESPN 10.4%, Yahoo! 22%. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Chris Carter, Astros - All he does is hit home runs. Literally. As an everyday first baseman/corner outfielder for the Astros, the only place he will help your fantasy team is in the power categories. Carter bombed 16 homers last season for the A's with a .239/.350/.514 batting line over just 260 PA. He swings for the fences and strikes out all to often, so don't roster him for batting average, steals, or runs, but the power is legit and that's why he's worth rostering. His ISO last season was an absurd .275 (3rd highest in MLB last season for those over 250 PA) and there's more where that came from. As a righty, that short left porch in Minute Maid Park should be a post office box for his Save the Dates on more power to come. He could easily hit 30 homers this season and/or lead the AL in homers; he has that much strength. Those in leagues that use OBP would be wise to pounce now as he gets on base well with a refined eye at the plate. Owned in all AL only leagues, mixed leaguers should find a place for him as a corner-infielder/outfielder where available. He's about to enter his 26 year old season and is poised to show what three true outcomes really looks like. Ownership: CBS 30%, ESPN 2.7%, Yahoo! 11%. Mixed: $7; AL: Owned.
Chris Parmelee, Twins - Parmelee is slated to start the season as the Twins starting right fielder, but qualifies as a first baseman in most leagues, thus the discussion here. Skill wise, there's not much to say, as he doesn't hit for power and the hope he hits for average is left to those who call him a friend or family member. Last season over 210 PA he hit .229/.290/.380 with five homers. The best owners will hit him and quit him or trade him for a more useful part. AL only leaguers will need him as his counting stats will help their bottom line, but those in mixed leagues will be staring at empty box score on many a night. Some will point at his minor league power (17 homers at Triple-A Rochester last season over 282 PA) and think optimistically, but I'm here for real talk and cannot overlook the downside. Bid with caution. Ownership: CBS 14%, ESPN 0.5%, Yahoo! 5%. Mixed: $1; AL: Owned.
Nolan Reimold, Orioles - Reimold has a real opportunity to take the Orioles starting DH job and run with it, now that Wilson Betemit is on the shelf for approximately two months due to a ligament tear in his right knee. Last season he appeared in only 16 games for the O's, before he suffered a neck injury that knocked him out for the rest of the season. As a career .261/.338/.455 hitter over 916 PA, Reimold can hit for modest power and swipe the occasional base. It's not wild to envision him hitting 20 homers this season, if he gets off to a hot start and is able to hold down the job. If you're in an AL only league, Reimold is the type of player you should go the extra buck for as he could help you all season long. Those in deeper mixed leagues should give him a look if you're in need of power. Ownership: CBS 10%, ESPN 0.5%, Yahoo! 3%. Mixed: $5; AL: $15.
Vernon Wells, Yankees - One man's trash, that's another man's come-up; Macklemore taught us that. But no one goes thrift shopping when they're looking to acquire Vernon Wells, unless they're the Yankees. And the Yankees did just that when they bought out part of his contract to help bring him to the Bronx to be their starting left fielder. His skill set is that of an aging corner-outfielder as he occasionally hits for power with limited speed and poor plate discipline. The Yankees have been able to get production out of aging players before (see Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez last season), but just because they've done it before, doesn't mean they'll do it again. Likely owned in all AL only leagues, mixed leaguers should bid lightly on the hand-me-down. Ownership: CBS 30%, ESPN 2.7%, Yahoo! 5%. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Note: If you have anyone else you’d like me to discuss, just drop me a line in the comments section below.
You can follow me on Twitter @andtinez.