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
John Danks, White Sox - Danks made his first rehab start this week as he continues to make his way back from shoulder surgery. He was effective enough as he pitched seven scoreless innings at Double-A Birmingham, but he only struck out one batter. He is scheduled to make at least two more rehab starts, before the team considers inserting him back into their rotation. Pitchers coming off of shoulder surgery are a particularly fickle bunch and Danks will likely need to show he is at least serviceable at the major league level again, before owners will want to invest. The last time we saw him was when he made only nine starts in 2012 with a 5.70 ERA (5.10 xFIP), before he was shutdown and surgery was required. He has a career 4.12 ERA (4.17 xFIP), so even the most optimistic of owners will want to tread lightly here. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Freddy Garcia, Orioles - Garcia took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Angels on Saturday, as he took over the rotation spot that was shortly held by Zach Britton. Garcia ended the game allowing two earned runs on three hits with one walk and two strikeouts, in what was an eye opening start to all. The 37 year old is someone most owners are familiar with, as he has pitched for many different teams throughout his career. The last time we saw him was with the Yankees as he posted a 5.20 ERA (4.06 xFIP) over 107.1 innings between the rotation and bullpen. He'll likely stick in the Orioles rotation until he blows up (career 4.14 ERA) or the team is ready to promote one of their youngsters. This coming week he faces the Twins on the road, in what should be a good spot to stream him in most formats. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Kevin Gausman, Orioles - Gausman might be the hottest pitching prospect in the minors right now, as he owns a 3.77 ERA over 28.2 innings with 29 strikeouts and just one walk at Double-A Bowie. His stuff is so electric that some scouts have him rated higher than Dylan Bundy, who is currently working on regaining the strength in his forearm. Gausman was the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft and features a devastating fastball with a great slider and promising change-up. Orioles GM Dan Duquette has shown with Manny Machado that he is not afraid to be aggressive with his promotion of prospects, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him promote Gausman up to the majors without notice. If you're in an AL only leagues, Gausman needs to be owned in your league, regardless of it's a redraft or keeper. In deeper mixed leagues, you'll likely want to stash him as well. Gausman has the potential to be an ace. Mixed: $2; AL: $8. - Much more in keeper leagues.
Kyle Gibson, Twins - With Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley giving the Twins nothing, it's likely that the team has considered calling up prospect Kyle Gibson to their rotation. Gibson is currently pitching in Triple-A Rochester with 4.26 ERA, 27 strikeouts, and nine walks over 31.2 innings. He had Tommy John surgery back in the fall of 2011 and was only able to pitch 28.1 innings last season, in which he had a 4.13 ERA with 33 strikeouts and six walks. The team likely doesn't want to push him too hard, but considering Kevin Correia is currently anchoring their rotation, he has to be in their plans for this season. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Corey Kluber, Indians - Kluber started his first game of the season last Sunday and pitched well as he allowed just two earned runs over seven innings with six strikeouts and no walks. The team also had Trevor Bauer come up and make an emergency start for them, but he was sent down as the team elected to keep Kluber in the rotation. On the season now, Kluber has pitched 12 innings and allowed three earned runs with 11 strikeouts and no walks. Last season he made 12 starts with the team and pitched better than the numbers showed, as he posted a 5.14 ERA (3.99 xFIP) over 63 innings. He is currently filling the rotation spot left by Brett Myers, who is out with a sprained UCL that will need at least a few more weeks to recover from. Kluber is 27 years old and not considered a prospect. If he can keep the walks to a minimum, something he had a problem with in the minors, he'll be a serviceable starter on most AL only rosters. This coming week he faces the Tigers on the road. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Jordan Lyles, Astros - Lyles made his season debut with the Astros this week and the results were great, at least by Astros standards. He pitched five innings and allowed two earned runs with six strikeouts and one walk to the Tigers at home. The last time we saw Lyles was in 2012, when he was setting fire to mounds as he produced a 5.09 ERA (4.10 xFIP) with 99 strikeouts and 42 walks over 141.1 innings. Lyles had done nothing at Triple-A Oklahoma City this season to warrant a promotion as he had a 5.32 ERA, but the Astros rotation has been on life support, so they need someone to come in and stop the bleeding. His next scheduled start is against the Angels at home. Regardless of the outcome, expect him to make at least another start. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Rick Porcello, Tigers - "Dead Cat Bounce" is defined as a temporary recovery from a prolonged decline or bear market, followed by the continuation of the downward trend. That's the best way I can describe Porcello's start to this season. His last two starts, both quality starts, are a temporary recovery from his first four starts, which were disasters. What is to follow I believe is a continuation of his first four starts, albeit not as disastrous. He simply cannot continue to be that bad or he'll be removed from the rotation. This bounce that he's had in his last two starts came against the Braves at home and the Astros on the road. Put in that context, he's really only had one start worth talking about in a positive light. The main problem for him so far this season has been the long ball, of which he has given up five in only 26.1 innings. If his home run rate were to regress to his career home run rate, he'd likely have an ERA in the fours, not sevens as he does now. Still, it's tough to roster any starting pitcher that struggles to miss bats as Porcello does. If you think his last two starts are the beginning of his turn around, then now is the time to buy. This coming week he faces the Indians at home. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Ricky Romero, Blue Jays - Romero made his first start of the season this week against the Mariners and allowed three earned runs over four innings. He walked three batters and struck out four as he threw 70 pitches, only 38 of which were for strikes. Prior to this start, Romero had been in the minors and in extended Spring Training working on retooling his mechanics, after a horrendous 2012 that saw him post a 5.77 ERA (4.86 xFIP) over 181 innings. Until he can show better control and command of his pitches, all owners would be wise to stay away. This week he faces the Rays on the road. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Hector Santiago, White Sox - In Santiago's first start of the season this week, he allowed just one earned run to the Rangers on the road over 5.1 innings with six strikeouts and two walks. From this the team as said that they are discussing keeping Santiago in the rotation when John Danks is set to return and moving Dylan Axelrod out to possibly the bullpen. This news and his recent performance raise Santiago's value. On the season he has a 2.29 ERA (3.81 xFIP) with 17 strikeouts and five walks over 19.2 innings. This coming week he is set to face the Mets on the road, while Axelrod is set to face the Angels at home. Keep an eye on both of these starts if you invest in either pitcher. Last season Santiago pitched primarily out of the bullpen with a 3.33 ERA (4.40 xFIP) over 70.1 innings. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.
Jerome Williams, Angels - Williams is set to make his season debut in the Angels rotation this Sunday against the Orioles. This comes on the heels of Garrett Richards being removed from the rotation and sent to the bullpen, after he fizzled out in back-to-back starts against the Mariners and A's at home. Last season with the team as a starter, Williams produced a 4.83 ERA (3.98 xFIP) over 91.1 innings with 64 strikeouts and 27 walks. If he can avoid flaming out, Williams will stick in the rotation because they really don't have anyone else to turn to at the moment. This coming week he faces the White Sox on the road. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Jerry Blevins, A's - Blevins has struck out 18 batters in his first 17.1 innings with just one walk and three earned runs allowed. The A's bullpen is filled with great relievers, so it'll be tough for him to move into a setup role with Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle. If your league values holds or middle relievers, give Blevins a look. Last season he had a 2.48 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 25 walks over 65.1 innings. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Darren O'Day, Orioles - Day has started the season allowing just three earned runs over his first 15 innings, with 15 strikeouts and six walks in the process. He has moved himself into a position where he would be considered for the closer role should something happen to Jim Johnson. As is, he'll serve as one of the O's top setup men. Last season O'Day had a 2.28 ERA with 69 strikeouts and 14 walks over 67 innings. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Drew Smyly, Tigers - The top reliever in the AL, in terms of WAR (from FanGraphs), Smyly is the ideal middle reliever that is not a closer to roster in AL only leagues. He has a 1.35 ERA with 21 strikeouts and five walks over 20 innings this season. Last season and coming up through the minors, he was used primarily as a starter. This season however, he has been moved to the bullpen, until a spot opens up for him. That spot will most likely be Rick Porcello's spot, if he continues down the path to darkness he is on. Smyly last season as a starter gave the team 95.0 innings of a 3.79 ERA with 88 strikeouts and 26 walks. Between now and when Smyly rejoins the Tigers rotation he's likely to continue racking up the strikeouts in middle and long relief appearances. This allows him to vulture a few wins and pitch more innings than your typical middle reliever. Smyly should be owned in all AL only leagues and deeper mixed leagues, where owners are looking for starting pitching help. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Hank Conger, Angels - Conger started three games behind the plate this week and batted out of the DH spot on Saturday, as he has seen an increase in playing time as of late. Part of this has to do with the fact that Chris Iannetta caught all 19 innings of the Halos six hour and 32 minute war of attrition with the A's on Monday. The other factor at play here is that Iannetta has been in a bit of a slump lately with one hit in his last 19 at-bats (his 0-for-6 effort in that 19 inning game did not help). On the season, Iannetta is batting a porous .208/.297/.377 with three homers over 91 PA. Conger has not been much better this season with a .222/.263/.361 batting line, but he does have a hit in four of his last five games. In the minors, Conger showed an ability to hit for average and power and get on base at a decent clip. He hasn't had the opportunity yet in the majors to showcase those skills and that will likely stay the case, unless something should happen to Iannetta. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Carlos Corporan, Astros - Corporan has started to get a little bit more playing time as of late, as the Astros continue to juggle their punchless lineup. On Monday this week he had a four hit night with a double and homer against the Yankees and on Saturday he had a two hit night with another homer against the Tigers. Jason Castro is the team's starting catcher now and for the foreseeable future, so don't expect Corporan's role to grow much more. Still, in AL only formats that use two catchers, you could certainly do much worse. On the season Corporan is batting .333/.405/.545 with two homers over 37 PA. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Jose Lobaton, Rays - Lobaton has started 12 of the Rays 29 games this season and three of their last five, as he is proving to be a somewhat better offensive threat than teammate Jose Molina. Molina is a fine defensive catcher (especially at framing pitches) and is in no jeopardy of losing major playing time, which limits Lobaton's upside. Still, Lobaton is hitting .268/.302/.463 with two homers over 44 PA and in this Rays offense, that's good enough for him to see more at-bats than your normal backup catcher does in the AL. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Luke Montz, A's - This week the A's were devastated by injuries to their front lines and had to call for reinforcements. One of those reinforcements is Montz, who was playing at Triple-A Sacramento hitting .283/.406/.679 with five homers. He can play catcher and first base defensively, but is most likely to see playing time at DH. Before this week, Montz had only seen 26 plate appearances at the MLB level, and that was back in 2008 with the Nationals. Last season in the hitter friendly PCL, he hit .222/.310/.495 with 29 homers in the Marlins organization. An undisciplined hitter, Montz will likely last until Chris Young or Coco Crisp is ready to come off the DL. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Chris Snyder, Orioles - With Taylor Teagarden on the DL with a dislocated thumb, the team turned to Luis Exposito to fill in for him, but quickly ditched that idea, in favor of trading for Snyder from the Angels organization. Snyder is a veteran with a career .225/.329/.385 batting line, whose best offensive days are behind him. His playing time will be limited as Matt Wieters is among the league leaders in plate appearances for a catcher, as he was last season. Last season with the Astros, Snyder hit .176/.295/.308 with seven homers over 258 PA. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Chris Stewart, Yankees - In the wake of Francisco Cervelli's broken hand, Stewart has started all but one game for the Yankees behind the dish. On the season he's batting .270/.317/.351 with one homer over 43 PA, which is to say he's pretty much done nothing. For his career, he's a .222/.284/.307 hitter, which says about all you need to know. Still, the Yankees seem content, at least for now, to let Stewart be their everyday catcher, which means he needs to be owned in all AL only leagues. Considering Austin Romine is a rookie, it's not likely he overtakes Stewart anytime soon. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Alberto Callaspo, Angels - Callaspo came off the DL on Friday after dealing with a calf injury. He should go back to starting full-time at third base over Luis Jimenez, who was filling in for him. On the season, Callaspo is hitting .256/.341/.359 with one homer over 45 PA, which is pretty in line with his career numbers. If he was dropped in any AL only leagues, add him immediately because of the playing time he'll get. In mixed leagues, you can almost certainly do better than a corner-infielder who will hit 10 homers with a .260 batting average. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Nate Freiman, A's - Brandon Moss has started to sit against some LHP in favor of Freiman, who is a RHB. Freiman has only appeared in 15 games this season and has just two doubles and a homer to his name. Before joining the team, he had been with the Astros in spring training and the Padres in Double-A last season. He has some power, as he hit 24 homers last season at Double-A San Antonio, but unless he starts to see more playing time, it's doubtful he gets a chance to showcase it. The best-case scenario for Freiman would be for him to start platooning with Moss, but that doesn't seem likely to happen anytime soon. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Mitch Moreland, Rangers - Over the last two weeks Moreland has raised his batting line from .157/.228/.294 to .283/.339/.444 and is starting to become relevant in mixed leagues once again. He hasn't shown that much power with only three homers on the season, but that's normal for Moreland, as he does not profile as a 20 plus homer bat. He struggles against LHP with a career batting line of .240/.303/.339 against them, but that has not affected his playing time yet this season. If you're in need of a corner bat, he's definitely worth a look in mixed leagues considering the lineup and park he plays in. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Chris Nelson, Yankees - Nelson was traded to the Yankees this week, where he should semi-regular playing time at third base, at least until Kevin Youkilis is ready to come off the DL. He was traded to New York, after originally being designated for assignment by the Rockies for hitting .242/.282/.318 and more importantly, blocking the path of Nolan Arenado to the majors. Nelson is a career .277/.320/.413 hitter, but those numbers have to be somewhat discounted as he has played his entire career, before this week, in Colorado. Never one to hit for much power, Nelson's value is limited to AL only leagues for the time being. Once Youkilis is ready to return, the idea is to get Jayson Nix some playing time at first base to offset Lyle Overbay's shortcomings against LHP, which might not leave a spot for Nelson. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Erick Aybar, Angels - Aybar was activated off the DL this week, after dealing with a heel injury. He's owned in all AL only leagues, but needs to be picked back up in any mixed leagues where he was dropped. He offers good speed and has already stolen a base since his return, showing his heel injury is behind him. Last season he hit .290/.324/.416 with eight homers and 20 stolen bases over 554 PA. Mixed: $9; AL: Owned.
Nick Franklin, Mariners - Mariners second basemen this season are hitting a collective .232/.270/.290 with one homer, while their shortstops are hitting .161/.228/.185 with no homers. This is prompting some to call for Franklin to be called up from Triple-A Tacoma to help give the offense a boost. At Tacoma, Franklin is hitting .342/.468/.513 with four doubles, three homers, and four stolen bases over 95 PA. He is playing shortstop right now, but profiles as a second baseman long-term. He doesn't hit for much power and the speed he's shown thus far is limited, but remember he's only 22 years old. Once he fills into his body and matures, he'll be a bigger offensive asset than he is today. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.
Grant Green, A's - The A's are getting very little offensive production out of their second basemen right now as they are hitting .224/.288/.306 with one homer on the season. Meanwhile, Green has hit .313/.385/.478 with four homes over 130 PA at Triple-A Sacramento. The team is willing to mix and match their middle infielders for now, but at some point they're going to have to give Green some consideration. A former top prospect, Green can play multiple positions defensively, which should help his transition to the majors. Mixed: No; AL: $4.
Elliot Johnson, Royals - Johnson drew a couple of starts this week at second base in place of Chris Getz, who has been battling allergies. It's likely not that bad of an idea for the team to rotate Johnson in more often as Getz is hitting just .229/.250/.357 on the season with one homer. Johnson hasn't been much better, but the two could collectively help the team if they were platooned. Last season Johnson helped owners with 18 stolen bases with the Rays, a feat he is unlikely to reproduce, unless he starts to see more playing time soon. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Ryan Raburn, Indians - Raburn got hot this week as he had back-to-back two-homer games and followed that up with a four-hit game that included a double. On the season he's now hitting .333/.375/.600 with four homers over 64 PA. He's been getting steady playing time in right field with Michael Bourn out and Drew Stubbs shifted to center. Bourn (finger) is about to begin a rehab assignment and should be back with the team before long, at which point the team will have a decision to make. We've seen this sort of power from Raburn before, most notably when he was with the Tigers. Last season however, he fell flat on his face with the team as he hit just .171/.226/.254 with one homer over 222 PA. Until this hot streak ends or he starts to lose playing time, Raburn needs to be owned in all leagues. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Adam Rosales, A's - Since coming off the DL last week, Rosales has started at shortstop in six of the team's last eight games. So far he has gone 9-for-31 with two doubles and a homer. It's also worth noting that he has hit leadoff in two of the team's last three games as well, so the team appears to have confidence in him not only defensively, but offensively as well. The experiment with him hitting leadoff won't last as he has a career .296 OBP, but while it does, he gets a small boost in value. He should be owned in all AL only leagues and deeper mixed leagues as long as he continues to see steady playing time. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Jeff Baker, Rangers - Baker started four straight games over David Murphy this week in left field for the Rangers. Murphy is currently in a 1-for-18 slump and battling a stomach virus as of late to top it off. In his place, Baker hit a double and two homers this week, making Ron Washington look smart for giving him playing time. But Murphy will get over his stomach bug and be back in the lineup sooner rather than later and once that happens he'll likely go back to being the career .281 hitter we're used to seeing, so don't buy into Baker's recent success thinking he's carved out a bigger role for himself than that of a bench outfielder and sometimes corner infielder. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Mike Carp, Red Sox - Carp hit two homers this week as the Red Sox continue to give him sporadic at-bats between left field and sometimes first base. He saw regular playing time while Shane Victorino was on the mend, but now that he's back in the lineup full-time, Carp is back to being a bench outfielder. It's tough to say just how much power he can hit for in a limited role because he's spent much of his career with the Mariners in their spacious park and with Victorino back and Daniel Nava playing so well, there are only so many at-bats to go around. If you're in an AL only league, give him a look, at least until the Red Sox sort out how they're going to dole out playing time in left field. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Scott Cousins, Angels - Cousins was called up this week to take the roster spot of Peter Bourjos, who hit the DL with a hamstring injury. Cousins will be a bench outfielder who will occasionally see some playing time and that's likely for the best as he is not much of a hitter. Last season with the Marlins he hit .163/.200/.267 with one homer and one steal over 92 PA. Cousins is probably most famous for being the runner who plowed into Buster Posey, knocking him out for the season, back in 2011. Unless something happens to Trout, Hamilton or J.B. Shuck, don't expect Cousins to find much playing time. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Wil Myers, Rays - Pretty much the same song and dance as last week here as Myers continues to hit in the minors, while the Rays continue to juggle their lineup in search of more offense. For the season Myers is now hitting .275/.367/.422 with three homers and a stolen base over 120 PA at Triple-A Durham. For those who haven't heard of Myers before, 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 hurt their chances of making the playoffs. Mixed: $9; AL: $35.
J.B. Shuck, Angels - With Peter Bourjos landing on the DL with a hamstring injury, Mike Trout has moved over to center field and Shuck has become a regular starter in left field. This is Shuck's first season with the Angels, after spending last season and time in the minors with the Astros organization. So far he has gotten off to a decent start going 11-for-30 with two doubles this season. He has some speed as he's stolen at least a dozen bases between the majors and minors for the last four seasons. Bourjos shouldn't be out more than the minimum 15 days, so don't expect Shuck's time in the starting lineup to be long. Mixed: $1; AL: $7.
Michael Taylor, A's - With Chris Young landing on the DL with a strained quad, the A's brought up Taylor from Triple-A Sacramento, where he was hitting .329/.380/.616 with five homers over 79 PA. Taylor is 27 years old and should be in his prime offensively, so those numbers along with the fact that he's already seen Triple-A pitching four different seasons before this one, should help put that production in its proper context. Taylor is worth adding in all AL-only leagues because of the power and speed he offers, but it's tough to see him getting much more playing time than Young, who he replaced. In mixed leagues he can likely be ignored. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
DeWayne Wise, White Sox - Wise has started five of the White Sox last six games in center field as the team awaits the return of Dayan Viciedo (oblique) from the DL and puts an end to using Jordan Danks with regularity. Wise is off to a slow start this season with a .188/.188/.313 batting line, one homer, and one stolen base over 32 PA. Viciedo is set to begin a rehab assignment on Monday and should be back with the team sometime shortly there after, so what value Wise does have should be gone soon. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.