This is our weekly look at the free agents in the American 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
Chris Archer, Rays - With Roberto Hernandez (aka the ground ball artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona) giving the Rays a 5.79 ERA (3.68 xFIP) through three turns in the rotation, it's safe to start wondering how much more leash he has left. If he is removed from the rotation, the team would likely turn to Archer, who currently has a 4.05 ERA through 20 innings at Triple-A Durham. He's a well-regarded prospect with two plus offerings in his fastball and slider, but his command has been shaky throughout the minors. He knows how to miss bats and for that reason alone, he's someone to consider if you're in an AL only or deep mixed league. Last season with the Rays he posted a 3.80 ERA (2.79 xFIP) with 31 strikeouts and eight walks over 23.2 innings as a starter. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Bartolo Colon, A's - Colon is back at it again this season as he's posted a 3.32 ERA (3.74 xFIP) with 10 strikeouts and no walks over 19 innings in his first three starts. Two of those three starts have been against the Astros, so a fair amount of skepticism is acceptable. Still, at 40 years old he's doing pretty much what he did last season - limiting walks to opposing hitters, while not missing many bats. There's no reason to think he can't stop doing this yet, so snap him up in mixed leagues where he's still available. This coming week he's at Boston and at home against the Orioles. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Kevin Correia, Royals - Through his first three starts with the Twins, Correia has posted a 2.95 ERA (4.20 xFIP) with eight strikeouts and three walks over 21.1 innings. In his last start he struck out five Angels batters, a season high for him. The real question about Correia is can he continue to walk just one batter per start as he has done thus far. The answer is almost certainly no, but even if he does somehow manage to continue to dipslay excellent control, he's going to need to find a way to miss more bats to keep this level of performance up. In 2009 he struck out 142 batters over 198 innings with a 3.91 ERA (4.14 xFIP) and that was with the Padres in their spacious park. This season in the AL, he's going to need a bit of luck to keep his walk rate this low. That or he's going to need to find a new pitch to get hitters out with. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Aaron Harang, Mariners - In his debut with the Mariners, Harang gave up three earned runs over five innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Seeing as how he has spent his last nine seasons in the NL and is making the switch to the AL, it's hard to see him finding immediate success. Still, he has produced a 3.61 (4.95 xFIP) and 3.64 ERA (4.21 xFIP) the last two seasons, so he may be of some use in mixed leagues. For now, he figures to be someone owners in AL only leagues rely on to help fill out their roster or only against the lesser offenses of the league. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Danny Hultzen, Mariners - With Brandon Maurer producing a 7.45 ERA (5.32 xFIP) through his first four starts, one has to wonder how long the team will rely on him, Aaron Harang, and Joe Saunders before turning to Hultzen. To Maurer's credit he has shown improvement in his last two starts, but that does not excuse blowups in his first two starts of the season. As for Hultzen, he has been great this season at Triple-A Tacoma with a 2.78 ERA, 25 strikeouts, and six walks over 22.2 innings. The Pacific Coast League is known as a hitter's league, which makes what Hultzen is doing all the more impressive. We'd likely be discussing Erasmo Ramirez in this spot, but he's on the DL at Triple-A Tacoma with a triceps strain. Monitor the M's rotation because of the Maurer/Harang/Saunders trio doesn't get its act together soon; Hultzen may be primed for a call-up. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Corey Kluber & Trevor Bauer, Indians - With Brett Myers on the DL with a forearm injury, the team is poised to call up Kluber to start in his spot the next time through the rotation. Kluber was up earlier this season, but pitched out of the bullpen with one earned run allowed over 5.0 innings. Now he will be starting, something he did 12 times last season for the club, when he posted a 5.14 ERA (3.99 xFIP) over 63 innings. Should he fail miserably or Myers’ injury prove to be more serious (he's expected to miss three starts), prospect Trevor Bauer may get a call. Earlier this season Bauer made a start with the Indians, before being sent down in which he last five innings and gave up three earned runs with two strikeouts and seven walks… yikes! Since then he has settled down at Triple-A Columbus with a 2.08 ERA over 13 innings with 16 strikeouts and four walks. Bauer will need to display better command in his next trip up to the majors, if he is to help owners or stick around at all. When he does make that next appearance those in AL only leagues will want to take a chance on him, as his upside is immense. Kluber Mixed: $1; AL: $3. Bauer Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Zach McAllister, Indians - Through three starts McAllister has a 3.12 ERA (3.64 xFIP) with 16 strikeouts and three walks over 17.1 innings. A pitcher with good control in the past, McAllister has cut down on the walks even more this season and it's showing in his starts. Another change for him is that he has given up just one home run this season, something that was a big problem for him last season when he gave up 19 homers over 125.1 innings. If this part of his game can continue, he should be able to sustain some of the early season success he's has experienced. This coming week he faces the White Sox on the road. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Jose Quintana, White Sox - Quintana threw 6.2 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays this week with seven strikeouts. On the season he now carries a 2.55 ERA (3.53 xFIP) with 17 strikeouts and four walks over 17.2 innings. Last season Quintana flirted with this sort of success, but was never able to sustain it because he was never able to miss bats like he has this season. One possible change in what he's doing this season is that his fastball velocity has ticked up to 91.2 MPH; last season it sat at 90.1 MPH. Other than that, it's tough to say what if anything has changed for Quintana from last season. If he's able to hold this new velocity, he might be able to miss more bats and be quite useful in AL only and deep mixed leagues. This week he gets the Indians (he's already faced them once) and the Rays at home. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Garrett Richards, Angels - On Saturday Richards mowed down the Tigers lineup as he pitched seven innings and allowed just two hits with eight strikeouts and no walks. It was his second start of the season as one we are not used to seeing from the RHP, as he has never been a strikeout pitcher in the past. What is maybe less surprising is the level of control he's shown thus far as he had excellent control in the minors, up through Double-A. Since then though, he's had trouble commanding his pitches and the results have shown that. Still, what he did against that tough Tigers lineup is impressive and makes him worthy of a start in all leagues this coming week in Seattle. On the season he now has a 2.55 ERA (2.91 xFIP) with 14 strikeouts and four walks over 17.2 innings. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Andrew Bailey, Red Sox - Joel Hanrahan hit the DL this week with a hamstring injury that is still not allowing him to pitch off a mound. Considering that he last pitched on April 13th, his injury seems like a serious one. In his place Andrew Bailey has stepped up with three saves and a 2.16 ERA (3.00 xFIP) on the season. Bailey has shown increased velocity on his fastball this season (averaging 95 MPH) and he's struck out batters at a higher rate than in the past, albeit in a small sample size as he's only pitched 8.1 innings and faced 33 batters. Still, he's looked fairly solid so far (he had a scare on Saturday) and in the one game where he did blow a save opportunity, he team was able to get the win in the bottom of the ninth. Until Hanrahan is able to show he is over his hamstring woes and earns the trust of manager John Farrell again, it's safe to assume Bailey will carry the torch in the Red Sox bullpen. Mixed: $6; AL: $18.
Carter Capps, Mariners - This week Mariners setup man Stephen Pryor hit the DL with a tear in his right latissimus dorsi muscle, thus leaving Capps as the top setup man to closer Tom Wilhelmsen. Capps has an ugly 5.59 ERA (3.23 xFIP) this season because of two back-to-back outings where he got hit hard. Still, he can run his fastball up to high nineties, though he has yet to reach that velocity this season, he knows how to miss bats, and he doesn't have a problem with walking batters, so he should be settle down in time. Give him a look in leagues where you're speculating for saves. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Jose Valverde, Tigers - Valverde made his debut in High-A Lakeland this week as he works his way into shape as he prepares to rejoin the Tigers bullpen. In two appearances thus far he has pitched two innings with no hits allowed, two walks, and one strikeout. The team will have until May 8th, before they must make a decision on whether or not to activate Valverde, so it won't be long before he's either affecting high leverage innings for the Tigers or on another team's roster. He was signed, in part, because the team has had an unstable bullpen and particularly fluid situation in their closer role, which has been somewhat, stabilized by Joaquin Benoit. There has been talk that Valverde has lost considerable weight and talk that his velocity has ticked up since he was last in the majors, but no reports have confirmed any of this. If you're truly desperate for saves, he's worth rostering now, before any hype gets associated with his return. Last season over 69 innings he posted a 3.78 ERA (5.01 xFIP) with 35 saves. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Lou Marson, Indians - Marson should be activated from the 15-day DL this week, after suffering a sprained neck. He'll go back to his normal role of backup, behind starter Carlos Santana, so there's no real spike in his value here. Last season he hit .226/.348/.287 with no homers and four stolen bases over 235 PA. Expect Yan Gomes to be sent back down to the minors, when Marson is activated. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Kelly Shoppach, Mariners - Shoppach has started six of the M's last 10 games and his play has prompted manager Eric Wedge to come out and say that he plans to "mix and match" him and Jesus Montero for awhile. On the season Shoppach is batting .333/.429/.542, while Montero is batting .217/.250/.239. Of the two, Shoppach is a better defender, thus the reasoning to keep him in the lineup more often, if he's hitting. Until he cools or Montero picks up the slack, Shoppach needs to be owned in all AL only leagues and in deep mixed leagues that use two catchers. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Jeff Baker, Rangers - With Mitch Moreland in a 1-for-19 slump and batting just .157/.228/.294 with two homers and a double on the season, Baker has gotten two starts in the last six games. If Moreland continues to slump, the answer is likely not Baker starting on a full-time basis, but rather Ian Kinsler moving over to first and Jurickson Profar getting a call up to The Show. In the meantime, Baker will be asked to spell Moreland, till he gets his bat going. On the season Baker is hitting .308/.438/.615 with one homer and a double over 16 PA. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Luis Jimenez, Angels - With Alberto Callaspo going on the DL this week with a calf injury, Jimenez is now the starting third baseman for the Halos. He has started each of the team's last seven games and has hit .435/.480/.565 with three doubles over that timespan. Jimenez hit for a bit of power and speed in the minors as he batted .309/.334/.495 with 38 doubles, 16 homers, and 17 stolen bases last season at Triple-A Salt Lake. He's 25 years old, but is not considered an elite prospect by any means. Callaspo will most likely get his job back when he's ready to come off the DL, but if Jimenez continues to hit, he may make the team think twice as Callaspo is nothing special offensively or defensively. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Brandon Laird, Astros - Laird was called up this week from Triple-A Oklahoma City, when the team sent the struggling Brett Wallace back down the the minors. In his first game, Laird went 2-for-5 with a homer, which is more than Wallace ever did this season. With Carlos Pena starting most games at first and Chris Carter capable as well, it's unlikely that Laird sees steady playing time moving forward. Still, if he can continue to hit, he'll find his way into the lineup somehow. 25 years old, last year in Triple-A Scranton with the Yankees, Laird hit .254/.307/.414 with 15 homers over 550 PA. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Mike Aviles, Indians - Asdrubal Cabrera slipped on some dugout steps prior to Saturday's game with the Astros and bruised his wrist. The x-rays came back negative, but he may still need some time, before he feels ready for game action. Aviles stepped in for him Saturday and would likely see the majority of the playing time, should Cabrera need a stint on the DL. This season Aviles has hit .286/.323/.429 with a double and homer, over 31 PA. He has modest power (13 homers last season) and speed, but his plate discipline is lacking and prolonged at-bats would expose him, much like what happened when he was with the Royals. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Grant Green, A's - Eric Sogard has been hitting fine since he took over for Scott Sizemore (ACL), batting .298/.365/.383 on the season with two doubles and a triple. His lack of power however is noticeable and it may not be long till the team looks at Grant Green as a possible option to share time with him. Green, a former first round pick, hasn't found a position defensively to stick at yet as he has played at shortstop, third base, and in the outfield. Last season at Triple-A Sacramento he hit .296/.338/.458 with 15 homers and 13 stolen bases. He's no longer the elite prospect some had hoped for when he was drafted, but he can play multiple positions which is something the A's value. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Kelly Johnson, Rays - This week Johnson hit homers in back-to-back games as he continues to play second base, in the outfield, and bat DH. On the season he's batting .190/.333/.405 with three homers and two stolen bases over 51 PA. Considering his batting average has been .225 or below in three of the last four seasons, his slow start should not come as a surprise. Still, he has enough power to hit 20 more homers and enough speed to steal a dozen or so more bases, which is valuable in deep mixed leagues. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Munenori Kawasaki, Blue Jays - Since Jose Reyes hit the DL with an ankle injury; Kawasaki has started every game in his place. He has hit .263/.375/.368 on the season with one triple over 24 PA, but that matters less to the team than does his defense, which has been adequate thus far. As we mentioned last week in this spot, Kawasaki is offensively challenged as he hit just .192/.257/.202 with the Mariners last season with no homers and just two stolen bases over 114 PA. Still, as long as he continues to get the job done with his glove, the team will swallow his poor at-bats. His value is limited to AL only leagues and even that's a stretch, considering he's been batting ninth in the order. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Adam Rosales, A's - Rosales is on a rehab assignment as he works his way back from a strained intercostal muscle. He's expected to be ready to rejoin the team sometime this coming week and assume his previous role of a utility infielder. Last season with the team he hit .222/.297/.333 with two homers over 111 PA. At 30 years old, he's nothing special, but will get some playing time and sprint the bases when he hits a home run, which at least counts for style points. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Oswaldo Arcia, Twins - Arcia was initially called up when Wilkin Ramirez left the team on paternity leave on Monday. After that he was sent back down, but immediately called right back up, after Darin Mastroianni hit the DL with an ankle injury. He's a right fielder, so he figures to eat into Chris Parmelee's playing time, while he's up. At 22 years old, he's a pretty highly thought of prospect within the Twins system. Last season at Double-A New Britain he hit .328/.298/.557 with 10 homers and three stolen bases over 262 PA. There's really no sense in having him up, if he's not going to play as he needs steady at-bats to continue his development. Mastroianni figures to miss three weeks, so expect Arcia to get more playing time soon or get sent down in favor of a veteran. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Brandon Barnes, Astros - Barnes has started in right field in four of the Astros last six games, over Rick Ankiel. The reason for this is likely Ankiel's early season slump that has him batting .194/.194/.613 with four homers and almost nothing else in 31 PA. Barnes this season is batting .333/.429/.500 with one homer over 24 PA and while he might not have the power potential that Ankiel does, he's likely not going to strikeout as much either. At 27 years old, Barnes is not a prospect and offers very limited upside, but he's not Rick Ankiel and that matters. If he were to see regular playing time, Barnes would be exposed at the plate, while offering owners a handful of stolen bases - a tradeoff that hardly seems worth it. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Jordan Danks, White Sox - In a move that will excite few, Danks was called up this week to help serve as defensive depth in the Pale Hose outfield. The brother of John Danks, Jordan was hitting .333/.433/.510 with two homers at Triple-A Charlotte, before getting the call. He has modest power and speed, but lacks plate discipline, so don't expect much, even if he does string together a few starts. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Jarrod Dyson, Royals - Dyson has gotten sporadic playing time this season, but has shown fantasy owners how valuable he can potentially be as he has three stolen bases over just 14 PA. Last season he racked up 30 stole bags as he hit .260/.328/.322 over 330 PA. He has almost no power, so try to find a spot for him in deep mixed leagues if you're only really lacking in the speed department. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Fernando Martinez, Astros - The Astros swapped players named Martinez as J.D. hit the DL with a right knee sprain and Fernando came off the DL, after dealing with an oblique strain. Fernando hit .237/.300/.466 with the team last season with six homers over 130 PA. A former Mets prospect, he has battled injuries for most of his career, so don't grow too attached to him. The power he does have is nothing special and comes at the cost of poor plate discipline, which means he should fit in fine with this current crop of Astros. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Wil Myers, Rays - Rays outfielders are batting a collective .215/.299/.350 this season, leading to questions as to when Myers will be up with the team to give the offense a spark. Of course it would've made more sense to have him up out of Spring Training, but that's a different conversation. At Triple-A Durham this season he's hit .308/.406/.442 with two doubles and a homer over 64 PA. It's not a matter of if, but when Myers makes his debut this season and if the likes of Kelly Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, Matt Joyce, and Sam Fuld continue at this pace, it's going to be sometime very soon. Myers will offer power and the ability to hit for average, so grab him now in any deep league, as his debut is likely on the horizon. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Daniel Nava, Red Sox - With David Ortiz back with the team and Jackie Bradley optioned back to the minors, Nava has found himself starting the team's last four games. He's being rewarded with playing time that might normally go to Jonny Gomes because he continues to hit. On the season he's batting .342/.460/.684 with four homers over 50 PA. His last home run was a big one as it put the Red Sox ahead for good, in their emotional win over the Royals on Saturday. Nava has never really shown this much power before, so there's some reason to be pessimistic it will continue, but he's backing it up with excellent plate discipline as he has seven walks and seven strikeouts on the season. He should be owned in all AL only leagues and deep mixed leagues until his bat cools or Gomes forces his way back into a more regular role. Mixed: $3; AL: $11.
Seth Smith, A's - Since Yoenis Cespedes hit the DL with a hand injury; Smith has seen pretty regular playing time in his left field spot. He has kept that playing time by hitting .391/.462/.587 with one homer and six doubles on the season. Cespedes has recovered from his hand injury quickly and will likely come off the DL in a week, when he's first eligible to return, so don't get too attached to Smith or bid him up thinking he is locked into a role where he'll see everyday at-bats moving forward. Still, he's a decent fill-in for the upcoming week in AL only and deep mixed leagues. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Luke Scott, Rays - Scott ran the bases this weekend as he prepares for a rehab assignment that will likely begin this week, as he works his way back from a calf injury. Once he's playing in minor league games, it should be only a matter of time before the team brings him back up and inserts him into their starting lineup. Last season he hit .229/.285/.439 with 14 homers and five stolen bases over 344 PA, so get him on your radar in AL only and deep mixed leagues as his power potential makes him someone worth rostering, albeit at the expense of your team batting average. It's also worth mentioning that Scott did not play a game in the outfield last season, so he is limited to DH and perhaps first base (he played six games there) eligibility in most leagues. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.