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
Trevor Bauer, Indians - With Brett Myers on the DL and Corey Kluber already making a start on Sunday, the Indians are considering calling up Bauer to make a spot start for them on Wednesday against the Phillies. The move makes sense, as it would allow the pitchers in the rotation to stay on their normal rest. If Bauer is indeed called up, a great showing might be enough to keep him up, what with how Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir are walking around with gas cans, setting fire to every mound they touch. On the season, Bauer has a 2.50 ERA at Triple-A Columbus with 24 strikeouts and six walks over 18 innings in three starts. He is going to need to show much better command than he displayed in his one big league start this season, when he walked seven batters in only five innings against the Rays. For those unaware, Bauer is considered a big time prospect with the potential to be a frontline starter. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Zach Britton, Orioles - Britton is going to be called up to make a start on Monday against the Mariners. It's unknown if he'll be asked to stick around or sent back down, after the start; it will likely depend on how well he performs. At Triple-A Norfolk this season he has a 1.98 ERA with five strikeouts and seven walks over 13.2 innings in three starts. Forget the ERA as those are terrible strikeout and walk numbers. If he continues to pitch like that in the majors, he won't last long Monday. Last season he made 11 starts for the team and carried a 5.16 ERA (4.10 xFIP) as a starter, with 52 strikeouts and 32 walks over 59.1 innings. Those in all leagues should be skeptical and use caution when bidding. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Justin Grimm, Rangers - Through three starts this season, Grimm has been nothing short of amazing as he has pitched 17 innings with three earned runs, 15 strikeouts, four walks, and one home run allowed. The level of competition has been substandard as he's faced the Twins once and the Mariners twice, but still, his start to the season has been impressive. Scouts project him to be a number three starter with a plus fastball, plus curveball, and good change-up, which still needs some work. So far he hasn't shown that plus fastball yet as he's worked in the low 90's. Last season at Triple-A Round Rock he had a 4.59 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 16 walks over 51 innings as mostly a starter. This coming week he'll face the White Sox at home in what should be his most challenging start this season. He should be owned in all AL only leagues until he cools off, while those in mixed leagues can likely wait till he faces another weak offense. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Corey Kluber, Indians - With Brett Myers on the DL with a mild sprain to his UCL in his pitching elbow, Kluber has been asked to step into the Indians rotation. He was a starter for the team last season 12 times and he posted a 5.14 ERA (3.99 xFIP) with 54 strikeouts and 18 walks over 63 innings. UCL sprains aren't something that pitchers just bounce back from, so it wouldn't surprise to see Kluber have to make multiple starts for the team. He is not considered a prospect and in the minors his control has been a bit of a problem for him, so don't expect much from the 27 year old. Last season at Triple-A Columbus he had a 3.59 ERA with 128 strikeouts and 49 walks over 125.1 innings. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
John Lackey, Red Sox - Lackey returned to the Red Sox rotation this weekend, after missing time due to a biceps injury that looked to be much more serious than it proved to be. He was in the middle of his first and only start this season when the injury occurred, so it's tough to tell what Lackey was working with, prior to his injury. He missed all of 2012 with Tommy John surgery, after a disastrous 2011 season, where he produced a 6.41 ERA with 108 strikeouts and 56 walks over 160 innings. This coming week he gets the Rangers on the road, in what should be a baptism by fire, after his start on Sunday against the Astros. Lackey should be owned in all AL only leagues because of his potential to eat innings, while those in mixed leagues will want to wait him out and even then, likely only start him against weaker competition. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
David Phelps, Yankees - Phelps has been inserted into the team's rotation, after Ivan Nova hit the DL with inflammation in his triceps this week. This season Phelps has been pitching out of the bullpen with poor results, as he has pitched 17 innings and allowed 10 earned runs. To his credit he has struck out 22 batters and walked eight. Last season as a starter he posted a 3.77 ERA (4.16 xFIP) over 57.1 innings in 11 starts for the team. If he pitches well, he may keep the job, even once Nova returns. If he can cut down on the walks and show a little bit better command, he should be serviceable in AL only and deeper mixed leagues. This coming week he gets the Astros at home, which should be a great spot to use him as a starter in all leagues. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Michael Roth, Angels - Roth made a spot start for the Angels this week against the Rangers, as starter Tommy Hanson was put on the bereavement list. Hanson came off said list on Sunday, so Roth should not be asked to make another start moving forward. This is for the best as Roth was rocked by the Rangers for five earned runs over just 3.1 innings. He'll now go back to the bullpen, where he has a 3.38 ERA over just 5.1 innings this season. Next time the team needs an emergency start; they will likely turn to Jerome Williams or a starter from the minors. Mixed & AL: No.
Dan Straily, A's - Straily will be called up the majors on Monday to make a start in place of Brett Anderson, who is dealing with an ankle injury. In his lone start this season with the club, Straily struck out 11 Astros batters over 6.2 innings and allowed two earned runs with no walks. Impressive as that may be, it was against the Astros, who have proven to be the gift that keeps on giving to opposing starting pitchers. Straily led the minors in strikeouts last season, prior to his late season call-up and was terrorizing opposing minor league batters again this season prior to this call-up, with 20 strikeouts over 18.2 innings at Triple-A Sacramento. He should face the Angels at home and possibly the Yankees on the road this coming week. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Nick Tepesch, Rangers - Through his first four major league starts Tepesch has been all that the Rangers could've hoped for and more. He's pitched 21.1 innings and allowed six earned runs with 14 strikeouts and three walks. His starts have come against some of the weakest lineups as he's faced the Rays, Mariners (twice), and Twins. Still, like with fellow starter Justin Grimm, it's tough to argue with the results. Tepesch's third start was cut short, after just five outs because of a wrist contusion, but he seemed to be over it in his start against the Twins this week. Unlike Grimm, scouts don't view him as much of a prospect, which means he probably projects to be a back of the rotation arm, without the upside to miss as many bats as someone like Grimm. This coming week he'll face the White Sox at home, in what should be the toughest matchup he's had this season. Like with Grimm, Tepesch should be owned in all AL only leagues till he cools off, while those in mixed leagues can likely wait till he faces another weak offense. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Allen Webster, Red Sox - Webster made a spot start for the Red Sox last Sunday against the Royals and looked good doing it, as he pitched six innings and allowed two earned runs with five strikeouts and a walk. He did however give up two homers, in the no-decision. Afterwards he was sent back down to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he has a 3.21 ERA with 17 strikeouts over 14 innings in three starts. He's considered a pretty good prospect with the potential to be a number three starter. Should Felix Doubront or John Lackey falter, Webster would likely be the next man up, so those in AL only leagues will want to keep his name fresh in their mind. Those in mixed leagues can likely ignore him, until he comes back up. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Joel Hanrahan, Red Sox - Hanrahan is expected to pitch an inning on Sunday at Triple-A Pawtucket, before rejoining the Red Sox as soon as Tuesday, after dealing with a hamstring injury. Apparently he is also supposed to regain his job as the team's closer, upon his return, pushing Andrew Bailey back into a setup role. Before he went on the DL, Hanrahan had pitched 4.2 innings and allowed six earned runs on six hits and five walks, to go with four strikeouts. He's been a pretty effective reliever over the last three seasons with the Pirates, so there's no reason to believe he can't go back to closing out games, if he truly is over his hamstring woes. If he's been dropped in any leagues add him immediately and if you own Andrew Bailey, hold onto him as well, at least until Hanrahan shows he's healthy and back in the closer role full-time. Mixed: $4; AL: $16.
Bruce Rondon, Tigers - Rondon was brought up this week as the Tigers attempt to reconfigure their bullpen. In two appearances already he has faced nine batters and given up three hits with no walks and a strikeout. Letting batters reach base was a problem for Rondon in the spring and is something he figures to battle with early on. Thus it's likely he will be allowed to only work in low leverage situations, until he gains the trust of manager Jim Leyland, who will apparently trust anyone as he just put Jose Valverde back in the closer role. Prior to his promotion Rondon had pitched 7.2 scoreless innings at Triple-A Toledo with nine strikeouts and two walks. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Tanner Scheppers, Rangers - Manager Ron Washington came out this week and said that Scheppers was his top setup man, behind closer Joe Nathan. It's easy to see why Washington has so much confidence in Scheppers as he has pitched 12.2 scoreless innings to start the season. There's a little bit of reason for caution though as Scheppers has only struck out seven of the 49 batters he's faced. He has struck out batters at a much higher rate in the past and his fastball velocity is down a bit from where it was last season. Still, he's stepped up in big situations and that counts for something. If you're a Nathan owner looking to hedge just trying to speculate for saves, give Scheppers a looks. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Jose Valverde, Tigers - It's tough to figure out which one manager Jim Leyland has had a tougher time quitting: smoking or Jose Valverde, as Papa Grande was reunited with his manager this week in Detroit and immediately reinserted back into the closer role. In his two appearances with the team he has faced six batters and allowed none to reach base with two strikeouts and two saves to show for it. PITCHf/x says his velocity is right there where it was last season, hovering around 93 MPH. And while I haven't heard or read about his weight this time around, he looks pretty much the same as last season, except this time he has dyed part of his chin beard. Given his track history with the team, it's understandable why they went back to him and the early returns have to encourage the thinking that they made the right decision. I cannot however endorse him as someone I expect to hold the closer role for long or do so without making you turn to antacids. Everything about his numbers scream danger as his xFIP has risen steadily to the point it reached 5.01 last season. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate has been in steady decline for six consecutive seasons. Unless he has made a deal with the devil similar to that of Fernando Rodney, where he stops walking batters, Valverde's time in Detroit this season will likely end in pain for everyone. But until he blows up, he's the team's closer and possession of the job is what matters in fantasy leagues, so grab him if you're in need of saves or a sadist. Mixed: $6; AL: $21.
Luis Exposito, Orioles - Taylor Teagarden dislocated his thumb over the weekend, after it was struck on a foul tip, and is expected to miss the next three to four weeks. This leaves the backup catching duties to Exposito, who has spent the last seven seasons in the minors, mostly with the Red Sox organization. His playing time should be sparse and his production fleeting as he lacks plate discipline and what power he does have is minimal. Last season at Triple-A Norfolk he hit .268/.326/.420 with six homers over 224 PA. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Ryan Lavarnway, Red Sox - Lavarnway's time in the majors this week was over before it ever started, as he never saw an at-bat, and has already been sent back to the minors. He was up initially to serve as offensive depth, but that changed once John Lackey was deemed ready to make his return to the rotation and someone needed to be sent back down. It's going to be tough for Lavarnway to find value in fantasy leagues this season, so long as he remains in the Red Sox organization. He's already proven he can hit at Triple-A, a level he's repeating this season for the third season in a row, but isn't a good enough defensive player to garner a back-up role on the major league roster, at least not now with David Ross ahead of him. If he resurfaces this season, he'll be of use in AL only leagues because of his power potential. At Triple-A Pawtucket he's hitting .310/.423/.452 with one homer over 52 PA this season. Mixed & AL: No.
Austin Romine & Chris Stewart, Yankees - Francisco Cervelli broke his hand Friday night and will be on the shelf for the next six weeks as he recovers. In his absence Austin Romine was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to share the catching duties with Chris Stewart. Romine was once a rising prospect that many thought would one day be the starting backstop in the Bronx, but his bat has since sputtered in the minors and he's been unable to stay healthy. For now it's unclear how the playing time will be split between him and the veteran Chris Stewart. One would assume the majority, at least initially, would go to Stewart who is more familiar with the current pitching staff. Of the two, neither is expected to provide all that much offense. Last season over multiple minor league levels, Romine hit .243/.333/.408 with four homers in 103 at-bats, while Stewart hit .241/.292/.319 with one homer over 157 PA with the Yankees. Still, it's in the Yankees best interest to see if Romine can cut in the majors, so they'd be best served eventually trying to give him the lion's share of the at-bats. Romine Mixed: $2; AL: $8. Stewart Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
David Ross, Red Sox - Ross went 4-for-4 on Friday night against the Astros with two homers and three runs, prompting some owners to sit up and take notice. He hasn't hit double-digit homers in a season since he was with the Reds back in 2006 and at age 36 now, he's not likely to repeat that effort because he lacks the playing time. He's a much better real life catcher because of his defensive skills. If he were pressed into a starting role, he probably wouldn't sink offensively because he knows the strike zone, but that's not saying much. Last season with the Braves he hit .256/.321/.449 with nine homers over 196 PA. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Mike Zunino, Mariners - Justin Smoak is in over his head as a hitter at the major league level and it's only a matter of time till the M's front office sends him back to the minors or trades him. Once that's done, the team could try Jesus Montero at first base (defensively he's not a catcher) and bring up Zunino, who is their best hitting prospect in the minors. He has fallen into a bit of a slump lately, but even so he still managed to hit a double and homer this week and take a few walks. On the season he's hitting .230/.347/.574 with five homers over 61 PA. It's likely the team will want him banging down the door offensively, before they promote him, which means he likely still has work to do, but he's not all that far off given his start. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Brandon Laird, Astros - Laird has started five of the Astros last eight games at first base, as incumbent Carlos Pena is mired in a slump that has him hitting .188/.301/.325 over 93 PA this season. Laird has not hit all that much better with a .217/.280/.565 batting line over 25 PA, albeit in a much smaller sample size. Neither player is in the team's long-term plans, as Jonathan Singleton should be up later in the season, after his suspension is up and he shows he's earned a promotion. Considering Pena has hit below .200 in two of the last three seasons, it's in the team's best interest to platoon the two hitters, until the bottom falls out for one or both of them offensively. Last season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with the Yankees, Laird hit .254/.307/.414 with 15 homers over 550 PA. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
James Loney, Rays - Loney is hitting .379/.446/.552 on the season with seven doubles and one homer over 65 PA. He's being sat against most LHPs and offers very little power for a first baseman, but his ability to hit RHPs can be of some use in deep mixed leagues. For his career he hits RHPs to the tune of .294/.352/.441, so this is not a new skill or one born out of a small sample size. Owned in all AL only leagues, Loney can help owners most as a corner infielder to help balance out the likes of a Chris Carter or any other hitter on your roster that might produce a weak batting average. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Jayson Nix, Yankees - Nix has started 10 of the Yankees last 11 games at third base as Kevin Youkilis has dealt with tightness in his lower back. Youkilis returned to the lineup on Saturday, but at first base over Lyle Overbay. He'll likely continue to spend time there, until his back woes have subsided and in the meantime Nix should continue to start everyday at third base. On the season Nix is hitting .245/.293/.302 with no doubles and only one homer over 58 PA, so it's not like he's setting the world on fire and deserves more playing time. Still, playing time matters in only leagues and until Youkilis is ready to go back to third base, Nix should be of some value to owners. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Sean Rodriguez, Rays - Rodriguez has started five of the Rays last nine games at first base as James Loney continues to hit for a high, but hollow average. Loney is currently being sat against LHPs and for good reason as he has hit .252/.307/.360 against them in his career. As a RHB, Rodriguez hits them a bit better with a career .256/365/.400 batting line against. It seems at minimum that manager Joe Maddon is looking for a way to find Rodriguez steady at-bats and possibly a platoon role with Loney as the team's lineup needs any sort of spark it can get. Rodriguez is a career .227/.303/.360 hitter who has modest power and speed for a utility infielder, which is what he has been for much of his career. Unfortunately there's not much upside here. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Robert Andino, Mariners - Mariners manager Eric Wedge has started to find Andino more at-bats between second base and shortstop lately. At first Andino was announced as the new starter as shortstop, but Wedge has since back tracked on those comments and started Brendan Ryan there in the last two games. Defensively, Ryan is a much better option for the team at shortstop and is really no better or worse than Andino offensively, so a switch makes little sense. Dustin Ackley has struggled mightily this season, but has started to come around as of late with a hit in eight straight games. Andino is a career .234/.295/.322 hitter with little power and speed, so it makes no sense for him to start seeing an expanded role. This just seems like Wedge is shuffling the chairs on the deck of a sinking offensive ship, which is of little help to fantasy owners. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Erick Aybar, Angels - Aybar is expected to be activated from the DL in the coming days as he makes his way back from a heel injury. Brendan Harris has been filling in for him with little fanfare. Owned in all AL only leagues, if Aybar is still available in mixed leagues he should be added with haste as he has stolen at least 20 bases in each of the last three seasons and can hit for average. Last season with the Angels Aybar hit .290/.324/.416 with eight homers and 20 stolen bases over 554 PA. Mixed: $8; AL: Owned.
Brian Dozier, Twins - Dozier has been the Twins leadoff hitter in seven of their last eight games as Aaron Hicks struggles have gotten him sent to the bottom of the lineup. In those seven games Dozier has been 10-for-29 at the plate with a double, triple, and two walks. A career .235/.276/.331 hitter over 411 PA, Dozier will not last as the team's leadoff hitter, but should receive a little boost in his run production while atop the lineup for now. In deep mixed leagues, give him a look if you're low on runs. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Nick Franklin, Mariners - The Mariners have been getting little to no offensive production out of their middle infield positions this season, prompting some to begin wondering if Franklin should be called up and given a look. At Triple-A Tacoma this season he has been tearing it up with a .385/.508/.577 batting line, two homers, four stolen bases, seven strikeouts, and 12 walks over 66 PA. Scouts think he fits better at second base defensively and expect him to hit for average at the big league level. If you're a Dustin Ackley owner looking to hedge or just someone looking for help up the middle, it would be wise to stash Franklin now as a promotion seems likely sooner rather than later. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Tyler Greene, White Sox - Jeff Keppinger has been out of the lineup for three straight games now with back spasms and in his place Greene has started and hit second in the lineup. Greene is a career .228/.294/.361 hitter with a little bit of power and speed. Keppinger's injury isn't considered serious, but he could still land on the DL and if that happens Greene would be looking at about two more weeks of increased playing time. Until that happens, Greene is a placeholder and someone only those in AL only leagues should consider for his pop. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Ryan Roberts, Rays - Up until Saturday, Roberts had started eight straight games at second base for the Rays as Ben Zobrist has been shifted to the outfield. Roberts is hitting .241/.293/.389 with two homers over 58 PA as he continues to struggle like much of the Rays offense has this season. Still, he's getting steady playing time for now and can reach double digit homers and stolen bases from here to the end of the season, which helps in AL only and deep mixed leagues. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Adam Rosales, A's - Rosales was activated this week off the DL, after dealing with a rib injury. He has already started at shortstop once as he resumes his role as a utility infielder. For his career he's a .225/.293/.335 hitter with little to no power or speed. Unless you're in dire need of a stopgap in your lineup, Rosales is best left on the waiver wire in most AL only formats. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Oswaldo Arcia, Twins - Arcia has started seven straight games for the Twins, between left field, right field, and DH. So far he's 5-for-27, but two of those hits have left the park. For now the team seems committed to getting him the everyday at-bats he needs to continue his development. This should continue until he stops hitting or until Darin Mastroianni is ready to come back, which should be in the middle of May. As I mentioned last week, at 22 years old, Arcia is a 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. Mixed: $2; AL: $10.
Jackie Bradley, Red Sox - There have been rumblings that Shane Victorino may need a trip to the DL as he has been dealing with lower back tightness. He hasn't played in a game since Wednesday, so if he doesn't feel better soon, a move may have to be made. In preparation for a possible move, the organization has had Bradley playing in right field, Victorino's spot, over the last few games at Triple-A Pawtucket. Bradley flamed out earlier this season going 3-for-31 with one extra base hit with the team. Since then he's gone 7-for-31 with one extra base hit at Pawtucket, in what seems to be a rough start to his season. If Bradley were to be called back up, it's likely that he'd see some at-bats, but more likely that Daniel Nava would continue to play in right, while Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp split left field. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Endy Chavez, Mariners - Chavez has started the last five games in centerfield for the M's as Franklin Gutierrez has hit the DL with a hamstring injury. At 35 years old, Chavez offers little speed and even less power, but the Mariners really don't have many other options at the time. On the season he's batting .320/.327/.360 with two doubles over 52 PA. Last season with the Orioles he hit .203/.236/.278 with two homers and three stolen bases over 169 PA, which is low for him considering he's a career .270 hitter. With not much upside, it's tough to recommend Chavez to those outside of AL only leagues. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Robbie Grossman, Astros - With Justin Maxwell out for the next four-to-six weeks with a broken hand, Grossman was called up this week to take his spot. So far Grossman has hit leadoff in three games and ninth in the other going 2-for-17 with both of his hits going for doubles. Last season at Double-A between the Astros and Pirates organizations he hit .266/.376/.410 with 10 homers and 13 stolen bases over 485 AB as he showed a good eye at the plate. There doesn't seem to be anyone else the team can turn to right now on the major league roster to play centerfield should Grossman struggle, so he should garner a fair amount of playing time moving forward. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.
Wil Myers, Rays - I'll continue to bang the drum for Myers until he gets called up because the Rays need his bat in their lineup as soon as possible. Right now Myers is hitting .316/.413/.474 with four doubles, a triple, and two homers over 92 PA at Triple-A Durham. Once he does come up, the team will then be able to move Ben Zobrist back to second base and have a lineup that hopefully starts to produce. For those that haven't heard of Myers yet, he's an elite prospect that figures to hit for power and average in the majors. Last season in the minors he hit .314/.387/.600 with 26 doubles, six triples, and 37 homers. It's a matter of when, not if he comes up and the longer the Rays wait, the more they're hurting their chances of making the playoffs. Mixed: $8; AL: $30.
Carlos Peguero, Mariners - Franklin Gutierrez was predictably placed on the DL this week, after dealing with a hamstring strain and Peguero was called up to take his spot on the roster. At Triple-A Tacoma he had hit .246/.351/.426 with two homers and two stolen bases over 74 PA. He's shown an ability to hit for power in the minors, but his ability to make contact in the majors has hurt him. This season he's shown better plate discipline in the minors, which should give his owners some hope. Still, he's fighting with Jason Bay, Endy Chavez, and Michael Morse for playing time, so he makes for a tough buy in most leagues. Moreover, Michael Saunders should be back with the club sometime this week, which could lead to Peguero being sent back down. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Michael Saunders, Mariners - Saunders is slated to come off the DL this coming week, after having dealt with a sprained should to start the season. Once back, he should reclaim a starting position in the M's outfield, where he hit .247/.306/.432 with 19 homers and 21 stolen bases last season over 553 PA. Owned in all AL only leagues, Saunders should be picked up in all deep and even some shallow mixed leagues because of his power/speed combination. Mixed: $7; AL: Owned.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.