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 - As the fifth starter for the White Sox, Axelrod pitched 5.2 innings against the Mariners with no earned runs allowed on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts. In the minors he found success in 2011 and 2012 with back-to-back sub 3.00 ERA season at Triple-A Charlotte. However, as I stated last week when I wrote about him, Axelrod struggles against LHBs (career 5.14 xFIP), so it's best to check the lineup the opposing manager is sending out, before starting him on your squad, if at all possible. This coming week, he'll face the Indians on the road. Mixed: $2; AL: $5.
Alex Cobb, Rays - Cobb got the season started right this week as he threw 7.1 scoreless innings against the Indians with six strikeouts and three walks for the win. Last season he turned in a 4.03 ERA (3.54 xFIP) with 106 strikeouts and 40 walks over 136.1 innings. His change-up is great and he has a career 57.1 percent ground ball rate, both of which should help him as he continues to develop. This coming week he'll take on the Red Sox on the road, so you'll want to give him a look in mixed leagues and perhaps an even longer look, if he excels again. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Bartolo Colon, A's - Colon finished his suspension this week stemming from a positive test for PEDs and make his season debut against the Astros. He pitched six innings with three earned runs on eight hits with no walks, and two strikeouts. We've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly from Colon over the years and at 40 years old, it's tough to think there will be more good than bad or ugly. It's also tough to tell what, if any, effect his PED usage from a season ago had on his 3.43 ERA (4.17 xFIP) and if not being on those substances will effect how he pitches this season. This coming week he faces the Tigers at home, where he'll be a risky start for all. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Kevin Correia, Twins - Correia held the Tigers to two earned runs over seven innings this week, in a no-decision. He walked one batter and struck out two others, which shouldn't surprise owners as he has below-average command of his pitches (career 1.87 K/BB). This coming week, he'll face the Royals on the road, where'll be a spot-start candidate for the desperate. Owners looking for a silver lining will want to overlook the fact that he's spent his entire career in the NL, up to this point. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles - This week Chen threw 5.2 innings against the Rays in which he allowed just two earned runs. He also struck out four batters and walked none. Last season he had a 4.02 ERA (4.34 xFIP) with 154 strikeouts and 57 walks over 192.2 innings, so he knows about the AL East. This week he's likely to face the Red Sox on the road, where I expect I him to pitch more like he has in the past, which is to say, more to a 4.00 ERA. Still, a starter who can throw to a 4.00 ERA is valuable in any AL only league. Those in mixed leagues can likely take a wait and see approach. Mixed: $3; AL: $7.
J.A. Happ, Blue Jays - Happ pitched 5.1 innings of one-hit ball against the Red Sox on Saturday with six strikeouts and three walks, in a win. He has a career 4.16 ERA (4.38 xFIP) over 595.1 innings, so at this point; you pretty much know what you're getting from Happ… A pitcher with fringe command that will likely hurt your fantasy team much more than he helps. Still, pitching on this Blue he's likely to run into more wins than he would on most other teams. This week he gets the Royals on the road, where he'll try to fool hitters and prospective owners yet again. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Phil Hughes, Yankees - Hughes was activated from the DL on Saturday, after dealing with a back injury. In Detroit, he tossed four innings and allowed three earned runs on eight hits with no walks and four strikeouts. Hughes has a career 4.41 ERA (4.29 xFIP) over 639 innings and is nothing more than a streaming option to mixed leaguers and someone owners will have to stomach in AL only formats. This coming week, he's set to take on the Indians on the road, so look for better results there as their offense isn't nearly that of the Tigers. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Phil Humber, Astros - On Wednesday, Humber made his season debut with the Astros as he gave up only one earned run over 5.2 innings against the Rangers, in a loss. His command was mediocre as he struck out two batters and walked two others. His next scheduled start is in Seattle, so he's a spot start candidate in deeper leagues. If you're in an AL-only league, there's more risk than reward here as his career 4.81 ERA (4.34 xFIP) shows. As with any Astros starter, if you're looking for someone who can help your wins total, you've come to the wrong place as their offense is anemic yet again and will not offer much run support. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians - Jimenez struck out six Blue Jays batters this week as he held them to just one earned run over six innings, in a no-decision. Nothing about his velocity or pitch usage suggests he has changed from the pitcher we saw last season, when he posted a robust 5.40 ERA (4.98 xFIP), so its tough to throw much, if any, enthusiasm behind his first start. This coming week he's set to face the Yankees at home, who are a shell of their former selves at the current time, due to injuries. If he can pass that test, it'll be time for deep mixed leaguers to give him a look. As is, he's someone for AL-only leagues to speculation on. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Justin Masterson, Indians - Masterson pitched six innings of one-run ball against the Blue Jays on the road this week in a win, but his command was not sharp as he walked four batters and struck out five others. He did allow just three hits, but he also hit a batter. He has always had trouble with LHBs (.285 batting average against), so if you're in a position to pick and choose his starts for your team, take a look at the roster the opposing manager is sending out there before you sign-off. This week he takes on the White Sox at home, buyer-beware. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Luis Mendoza, Royals - As the fifth starter for the Royals, Mendoza struck out seven Phillies batters this week with three walks as he gave up only two hits with one earned run over six innings, in a no-decision. With a career 5.31 ERA (4.59 xFIP) over 271 innings, this was a rare performance from Mendoza. He does a poor job of missing bats and doesn't limit the walks enough to be effective on a consistent basis. This coming week he'll face the Blue Jays at home, who are a much better offense than the Phillies one he just saw. Don't buy into his debut. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Mike Pelfrey, Twins - In his AL debut, Pelfrey pitched 5.1 innings with no earned runs on five hits with two walks and one strikeout against the Tigers, in a win. The one strikeout should not surprise you as he has never shown an elite or even average ability to miss bats. He tries to get by with average control that sometimes fails him. He holds a career 4.33 ERA (4.50 xFIP) over 901.2 innings, all of which were with the Mets, up until this week. As a pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2012 and making the switch from the NL to the AL, it's easy to say there is much skepticism as to how Pelfrey will fair this season with the Twins. If you're wondering about his velocity since the surgery, his fastball averaged 91.3 MPH, which is down from the 92.0 MPH he threw in 2011, when he last pitched a full season. This week he'll get the Royals on the road. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Joaquin Benoit, Al Alburquerque, & Jose Valverde, Tigers - We learned more about how the Tigers plan to setup their bullpen this week as manager Jim Leyland said, "We will use anybody, but the ideal situation probably -- as we sit right now -- would try to get to Benoit to the ninth inning. I'm not saying that Benoit's the closer. What I'm saying is, we figure the lefty-right combination of him being effective against both guys, if rested and available, we would lean that way probably more often." This comes on the heels of the team signing Jose Valverde to a contract with the hopes that he can pitch his way into a role similar to what he had last season. It's a minor league deal, so Valverde won't be costing the team games in the majors while he tries to get his arm ready. He has an opt-out clause on May 5th, so we should know whether he's ready to go by the end of the month or shortly after. I don't have any faith in him as his strikeout percentage has dropped each of the last four seven seasons to 16.3 percent, where it was last season and this is on top of a 5.01 xFIP from 2012. If Benoit is still available, pounce on him and if not, see if you can get Alburquerque on the cheap, otherwise, avoid this situation. You can throw a few bucks at Valverde, but I just don't see him pitching well, much less pitching well in high leverage situations. Benoit Mixed: $6; AL: $15. Alburquerque Mixed: $3; AL: $7. Valverde Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Carter Capps, Mariners - Capps is currently waiting in the wings, should anything happen to current M's closer Tom Wilhelmsen. He has a fastball that tops out around 100 MPH that helps him to miss bats with frequency. This season he has struck out three of the 12 batters he has faced allowing one earned run on three hits. He has the pedigree (former third-round pick in 2011) and stuff to move into the closer role at some point down the line. Keep an eye on him in all leagues, especially if you own Wilhelmsen. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Kelvin Herrera, Royals - Sunday morning manager Ned Yost gave Royals closer Greg Holland a vote of confidence, after he blew a two-run lead on Saturday night against the Phillies by walking three batters and giving up a hit. To his credit, he did strike out two batters and show good velocity, still it's clear this is a situation that Yost is thinking about. Herrera is the clear option to step in, if Yost does make a change and should be owned in most leagues. Herrera is un-scored upon this season thru three innings of work with six strikeouts and just one walk. He throws a fastball that can touch the upper 90s with a change-up in the high 80s and good command of his pitches. Add him in any league where you're speculating for saves. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Hank Conger, Angels - With Chris Iannetta off to a fast start, Conger should not be overlooked as a he offers a little bit of power. Last season at Triple-A Salt Lake he hit 10 homers with a .295/.347/.473 batting line over 288 PA. Conger has struggled to hit for average or get on base, while up in the majors, but he's only 25 years old and likely has hit best offensive years ahead of him. He isn't likely to get much playing time as long as Iannetta stays hot, but you can certainly do worse for a second catcher in AL only leagues. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Tyler Flowers, White Sox - Flowers has already hit two home runs in his first week as the Pale Hose starting catchers and needs to be owned in more mixed leagues. The power is legit as he hit 16 homers over 412 PA in 2010 and 15 homers over 270 PA in 2011 at Triple-A Charlotte. His batting average will likely hurt you as the season progresses, but for a catcher that could hit 20 home runs, it's a tradeoff certainly worth considering. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Mike Zunino, Mariners - Zunino has started the season at Triple-A Tacoma, leaving him just one step away from the majors. As the top catcher prospect in the AL, we're going to be tracking his progress for a good majority of the season. The clearest path to playing time for him may be in the second half of the season, once the Mariners are out of contention and there's no sense in trying to force Jesus Montero into a defensive position he's ill equipped for. For those new to Zunino, he hit .360/.447/.689 last season between Rookie Ball, Low-A Everett, and Double-A Jackson and is a prospect on the rise. Stash him in your AL-only league if you have the roster spot to spare. Mixed: $0; AL: $3. - Much more in a keeper league.
Mark DeRosa, Blue Jays - DeRosa has been getting some playing time this week as he platoons with Maicer Izturis at third base, in place of the injured Brett Lawrie (ribs). At 38 years old, he offers fantasy owners little in the way of power and/or speed and his batting average is certain to be a drain over time. Still, he's getting playing time now and has already hit one homer in this young season. Lawrie shouldn't be back till the end of the month, so the playing time should continue, thus giving him value in AL only leagues at a minimum. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Shelley Duncan, Rays - With Luke Scott (calf) on the DL likely through the end of the month, Rays manager Joe Maddon has turned to Duncan to help fill-in at DH and first base on occasion. So far, Duncan already has a home run, which is not all that surprising as he has shown an ability to hit for power in the minors and in smaller samples in the majors, while with the Yankees and then Indians. He's a career .229/.305/.427 hitter in the majors, so beware of the batting average downside here, but he's likely to run into a few more homers, before Scott is back and has playing time in his immediate future, so consider him when looking for cheap power. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Nate Freiman, A's - A Rule 5 pick from the Padres that the Astros later waived, Freiman has gotten some playing time this week at first base for the A's, while starter Brandon Moss has been away for the birth of his child. If Freiman can show the team something with this bat against LHPs, he could carve out a platoon role with Moss at first base. Last season at Double-A San Antonio, he hit 24 homers with a .298/.370/.502 batting line as a 25 year old. I mention the age because that's a little old to be seeing Double-A for the first time in your career for most major leaguers. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Conor Gillaspie, White Sox - Jeff Keppinger, the Pale Hose starting third baseman, has gotten off to a 1-for-21 start, which is unlike him as he's a career .285/.335/.393 hitter. Still, this brutal start has likely caused manager Robin Ventura to consider his other options. Gillaspie is the backup and starting this Sunday in place of Keppinger, so give him a look as he could potentially hit himself into more playing time. Skill wise, Gillaspie hit .281/.345/.441 last season with 14 homers at Triple-A Fresno over 465 PA, in the Giants organization. Don't expect much more than the occasional home run with little, if any, speed, if he does start to see more regular at-bats. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Stephen Drew, Red Sox - Drew is expected to rejoin the Red Sox this Wednesday, after playing at Double-A Portland on Sunday and Monday, as he works his way back from a concussion. Assuming there are no setbacks, he'll take over shortstop from Jose Iglesias and should start most games. The last two seasons have been rough for Drew as he suffered a broken ankle in 2011 and the rehab that followed into 2012. He finished last season with the A's, after a trade from the D-Backs, where he hit .250/.326/.382 with five homers over 172 PA. He hit 15 homers and stole 10 bases back in 2010 and could approach those numbers this season, if he stays healthy and the concussion doesn't linger. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Alexi Casilla & Ryan Flaherty, Orioles - With Brian Roberts hurt again and set to miss the next month with a hamstring injury, the Orioles will likely turn to Casilla and Flaherty to help fill the void. Of the two, Casilla offers the much higher upside as he has speed that Flaherty does not. Last season Casilla hit .241/.282/.321 with 21 stolen bases over 326 PA for the Twins, while Flaherty hit .216/.258/.359 with six homers over 167 PA with the Orioles. Flaherty has started the last two games at second, while Casilla started Sunday's game, which might indicate Flaherty will see more plate appearances or that a platoon is starting to develop. Either way, you want Casilla for his speed because between the two, there's nothing else here to help owners. Casilla Mixed: $1; AL: $6. Flaherty Mixed: No; AL: $4.
Maicer Izturis, Blue Jays - Izturis is the other half of what is developing into a platoon with Mark DeRosa at third base, while Brett Lawrie (ribs) remains out. He's listed here as a middle infielder, as that's where he's played for most of his career, but he's certainly eligible in all leagues at third base as well. A career .273/.336/.382 hitter, Izturis offers modest speed, but no power. Give him a look if you're in a pinch or looking to add some speed to your roster. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Eric Sogard, A's - As the LHB in the platoon with Scott Sizemore at second base, Sogard has started the season slow (3-for-16), but does have one stolen base. He stole 11 bases last season at Triple-A Sacramento over just 180 PA, so there more speed coming. He had an excellent spring, which is why he is garnering playing time now, but that was then and this is now, so keep an eye on him to see if he starts to hit again. If he does, owners might be able to squeeze out stolen bases into the high teens, this season. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Rick Ankiel, Astros - Ankiel is only 1-for-11 to start the season, but oh the damage that one hit did as he launched a pinch-hit three-run homer in the Astros season opener against the Rangers. He has seen steady playing time in right field as he and the rest of the Astros hitters continue to strikeout at an alarming pace. And by alarming, I mean nine strikeouts in 11 PA… yeah, it's that bad. Still, Ankiel offers power to those willing to sacrifice the batting average. How much power exactly is tough to tell as Ankiel hasn't seen much steady playing time since 2011, when he hit nine homers over 415 PA. Mixed: No; AL: $5.
Andy Dirks, Tigers - Dirks has played left field for the Tigers with regularity to start the season and still unowned in some AL only leagues. He really isn't much of a hitter for average, despite the .322/.370/.487 batting line he posted last season over 344 PA that was largely fueled by a .365 BABIP. If he can hold down a spot in the order, he should offer owners double-digit homers and stolen bases. Matt Tuiasosopo is behind him on the depth chart and could form a platoon with Dirks, but even then, Dirks is a LHB and is the player to owner, as he'll see the majority of at-bats. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Sam Fuld, Rays - As the Rays backup outfielder, Fuld is likely to see his fair share of playing time this season as manager Joe Maddon moves Ben Zobrist to second base on occasion and tinkers with his lineup in general. Fuld was a fan favorite of many in 2011, when he stole 20 bases for the club. Last season he dealt with rehab from wrist surgery and then a hamstring injury and thus was limited to just 107 PA in the majors. Now presumably healthy again, Fuld should be an asset to owners because of his speed in AL only and deep mixed leagues. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Craig Gentry, Rangers - When manager Ron Washington announced that he was going to go with the hot bat between Gentry and Leonys Martin and Martin drew the Opening Day start, most assumed that he had won the job. However, Gentry has produced in his two starts so far going 3-for-7 with a double, triple, and stolen base. He's a RHB and Martin is a LHB, so naturally, Martin is going to see more playing time than Gentry, but that doesn't mean that Gentry doesn't have value, especially in AL only formats. Last season he stole 13 bases over 269 PA with a .304/.367/.392 batting line, which is pretty typical for Gentry as he can hit for average and steal a base. Pick him up if you need speed as he could swipe close to 20 bags this season with a batting average that won't hurt you. Mixed: $1; AL: $6.
Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners - Gutierrez has started the season hot with two homers and two doubles in his first week of action. He fought a myriad of injuries in 2012 that limited him to just 163 PA, thus depressing his draft day value and leaving him un-owned in most leagues. His hot start however, has owners looking his way again. Between 2009 and 2010 he averaged 15 homers and 20.5 stolen bases, so we know he has the skill set to help owners in multiple categories, if he can stay healthy. A career .257/.309/.388 hitter, there is some batting average downside here, but he's going to start almost everyday because of his outstanding defense. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Chris Young, A's - As the A's backup outfielder at all spots and the backup DH, Young has started to see playing time and remind owners of the 20/20 offensive skill set he has to offer. He's currently 3-for-13 with a double and homer, but he also has two walks to go with two strikeouts. If he can start to show a better eye at the plate, he would really help himself as he's a career .239/.319/.438 undisciplined hitter. If he's un-owned in your AL only league, snap him up immediately. If you're in a deeper mixed league, give him a look as while he won't play everyday, when he does get playing time he can help you in most categories. 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.
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