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FAAB Factor - AL: Closer Speculation Abounds

Andrew Martinez

Andrew Martinez

Andrew Martinez writes about baseball and football, in addition to hosting the award winning RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio. He is a native Texan and roots for the Astros, Texans, Rockets, and Rice Owls.

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

Starting Pitchers:

Trevor Bauer, Indians - Bauer will be back up with the club on Monday to make a spot start against the Yankees at home. He's already made two starts in the majors this season and shown terrible control in both as he walked a total of 13 batters over 10 innings. In the minors this hasn't been as much of a problem, but then again those hitters aren't nearly as skilled as the ones in the majors. Until he proves at the major league level that he can control where the ball is going, owners need to stay away from him, despite his pedigree as an elite prospect. There's just too much risk here. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.

Jarred Cosart, Astros - As of right now Astros starters have pitched 180.2 innings, which is the second fewest in the majors. They also have the worst ERA in the majors at 5.93. Meanwhile, Cosart has a 2.18 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 14 walks over 33 innings. He has increased his strikeout rate from where it was a season ago at Triple-A Oklahoma City and cut down on the walks. In his last start he had 10 strikeouts with three walks over 5.2 shutout innings, which is impressive. Overall scouts view him as a reliever because of his mechanics and inconsistency in his change-up. Still, the Astros would be wise to keep him a starter as long as possible and considering the rate they're going through starters at the major league level, Cosart might not be that far off from joining their rotation. Mixed: $1; AL: $2.

John Danks, White Sox - Danks threw 92 pitches in a rehab start this week at Triple-A Charlotte. The results were four strikeouts and five walks with two earned runs over five innings. He'll likely need two more rehab starts before the team activates him back into their rotation. He's coming back from shoulder surgery, which is no small thing, so owners would be wise to take a cautious approach with him. He owns a career 4.12 ERA (4.17 xFIP), so even optimistic owners should know what they're dealing with here. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians - Jimenez has dominated in his last three starts with 20 strikeouts, six walks, 10 hits and three earned runs over 18.2 innings. He has stated that he's worked on repeating his delivery lately and it shows. Still, it's hard to trust him in mixed leagues because while he's in a groove now, it's not hard to see him falling out of it or going back to the way he used to pitch. Moreover, his velocity has not spiked. Until he cools though, he needs to be picked up in deeper leagues. This week he faces the Mariners at home, in what looks to be a friendly matchup for him. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.

Scott Kazmir, Indians - Is the old Scott Kazmir back?  He has sure pitched that way in his last two starts, in which he had 17 strikeouts and just one walk over 12 innings. Moreover, his fastball has been sitting around 92-94 MPH in his last three starts, which is back to where it was when he was on the Rays in 2008. On the season he's struck out 28.4 percent of batters he's faced, which is the most ever in his career and he's walking batters just 6.8 percent of the time, which is the least ever in his career. It would be foolish to think he would have a career year, after all he's gone through and how successful he's been in the past, but forget about his current 4.87 ERA (3.36 xFIP), this version of Kazmir looks legit. He needs to be owned in all leagues until further notice. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros - Keuchel made his first start of the season on Friday against the Rangers and pitched six innings, allowing two earned runs with three strikeouts and two walks. Prior to this he had been working out of the bullpen in long relief. He came up through the minors as a starter, so this was nothing new to him. He wasn't in the rotation sooner because he just doesn't miss enough bats to turn a lineup over multiple times and not be hit hard. Moreover, he has problems with his control that when mixed with his ability to miss bats leads to poor command of the strike zone. This week he faces the Tigers on the road, do not go near him. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Jordan Lyles, Astros - Through two starts Lyles has 12 strikeouts with three walks over 10 innings with five earned runs allowed. He's faced the Angels and Tigers at home, which is pretty good competition. The team seems to think he's up for good, but with a career 5.17 ERA (4.07 xFIP) this might wishful thinking. Still, he's looked decent in his first two starts, sitting around 92 MPH with his fastball. This Sunday he faces the Rangers in what should be another tough test. If he can pass that, it might be time for mixed leaguers to give him a try. This coming week he'll face the Pirates on the road. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.

Ramon Ortiz, Blue Jays - Ramon Ortiz, yes the Ramon Ortiz that is 40 years old and has been with 12 different organizations, is back in the majors and pitching for the Blue Jays. This week he made his first start with them and pitched five innings with five walks and one strikeout, but only one earned run allowed. He's supposed to make another start this week for the team, this time in New York against the Yankees. With a career 4.92 ERA (4.77 xFIP), there's zero upside here. You're better off rostering some random middle reliever and hoping he falls into a win than taking your chances with Ortiz. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Hector Santiago, White Sox - It's only been two starts, but it might be time to take Santiago for real. This week he took on the Mets on the road and struck out eight batters with two walks and no earned runs over seven innings. This now gives him a 1.69 ERA (3.68 xFIP) with 25 strikeouts and seven walks over 26.2 innings. A starter last season for four games, the team has debated leaving Santiago or Dylan Axelrod in the rotation once John Danks rejoins the team. Given how Santiago has looked so far and that Axelrod has a 4.17 ERA (5.12 xFIP), the choice seems pretty clear. This coming week Santiago will face the Twins and Angels on the road. If he clears those two hurdles, he will give the team no choice, but to keep him in the rotation. Mixed: $5; AL: $18.

Relief Pitchers:

Ryan Madson, Angels - Madson is set to begin a rehab assignment on Monday as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery. The idea is to get him 2-to-3 appearances, before bringing him up with the team. Once he joins the club, he'll assume a setup role, behind closer Ernesto Frieri. Frieri has been shaky at times this season, but currently holds a 1.59 ERA (4.24 xFIP) with 25 strikeouts and 12 walks over 17 innings. It is the walks that make Frieri such a shaky closer and what could ultimately be his undoing. If that does happen, expect Madson to be on the very short list of relievers to replace him. In any leagues where owners are speculating for saves, Madson needs to be owned, once he joins the team. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.

Joel Peralta & Jamey Wright, Rays - Fernando Rodney's deal with the devil appears to have been only good for one year as he's back to walking batters at a similar rate (7.11 BB/9) to when he was with the Angels, back in 2011 (7.88 BB/9). This along with a blown save on Monday should be setting off alarms in owners' heads that he might not be long for the job, despite his fantastic 2012 season. If he were to lose the job, the most likely replacements would be Joel Peralta (2.35 ERA, 3.58 xFIP) or Jamey Wright (2.30 ERA, 4.19 xFIP). Kyle Farnsworth (6.48 ERA, 5.29 xFIP) would be in that mix, but he's struggled this season with only three strikeouts over 8.1 innings. If you're a Rodney owner or just someone speculating for saves, it wouldn't be a bad idea to check on Peralta and Wright's availability. Both - Mixed: $1; AL: $3.

Junichi Tazawa, Red Sox - With Joel Hanrahan gone for the season due to a torn flexor muscle, Tazawa figures to be the team's closer, at least until Andrew Bailey (biceps) is ready to rejoin the team. Bailey is eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday, but is only playing catch at the moment and is clearly not ready to rejoin the bullpen. As the team's new closer, Tazawa made a bad first impression Saturday as he came into a tied game in the ninth inning and gave up the game-winning homer to Adam Lind. Still, he figures to remain the closer and for good reason as he has a 3.31 ERA (2.86 xFIP) with 21 strikeouts and three walks over 16.1 innings. If Tazawa should falter, Koji Uehara would be the next man up. My how this bullpen has changed since the days of Jonathan Papelbon. Mixed: $6; AL: $20.

Koji Uehara, Red Sox - With Joel Hanrahan out for the season and Andrew Bailey still on the mend (biceps), manager John Farrell has chosen Junichi Tazawa over Uehara for the team's closer role. Uehara was passed over because Farrell prefers to keep him in the setup role he's currently in. On the season Uehara has performed great with a 2.45 ERA (2.67 xFIP), 20 strikeouts, and two walks over 14.2 innings. Once Bailey returns, he could pass Uehara to be the next reliever to see save chances, after Tazawa, but we're not there yet and considering Tazawa did himself no favors by giving up the game winning homer in the ninth inning on Saturday, owners would be wise to roster Uehara just in case. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Catchers:

Robinson Chirinos, Rangers - When A.J. Pierzynksi hit the DL this week, Chirinos was brought up to take his spot on the roster and give new starter Geovany Soto a backup. At 29 years old and only having seen 60 plate appearances in the majors, it's safe to say Chirinos is not destined for big things. Last season he didn't appear in a single game because of a concussion he suffered with the Rays club. This season he appears to be over those woes as he was hitting .295/.404/.487 with two homers at Triple-A Round Rock. Pierzynski should be back before the end of the month and at that point expect Chirinos to be sent back down. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Carlos Corporan, Astros - The Astros continue to give Corporan a couple of starts a week between catcher and DH and he continues to reward them with a .295/.367/.455 batting line and two homers on the season. Starter Jason Castro isn't going anywhere, so there's no need to seek Corporan out in mixed leagues, but in AL only formats, Corporan makes for a decent second catcher right now. When Corporan has been in the lineup, he's been hitting fifth, which partially speaks to how bad the Astros offense is, but also to how much faith they have in Corporan's ability to hit. Mixed: $1; AL: $6.

Jose Lobaton, Rays - Lobaton has started three of the last four games behind the plate for the Rays, as he continues to steal playing time from Jose Molina. He appears to be the better offensive threat as he is hitting .276/.300/.414, while Molina is hitting .167/.225/.242. Neither possesses all that much power, so it's not like owners of either player are missing out. As long as Lobaton continues to see equal playing time with Molina, he needs to be owned in all AL only formats and some deep mixed leagues that use two catchers. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.

Geovany Soto, Rangers - This week A.J. Pierzynski hit the DL with a strained right abdominal muscle. Soto has taken his place in the lineup and should get the majority of the playing time until Pierzynski returns. On the season Soto has just two extra base hits over 39 at-bats with a .179/.289/.231 batting line to show for it. Last season he finished with 11 homers and a batting line of .198/.270/.343 over 361 PA between the Cubs and Rangers. A clear batting average drain, Soto will only be helpful in the interim if he hits for power and right now that's a shaky proposition at best. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Corner Infielders:

Daric Barton, A's - With Josh Reddick hitting the DL this week with an injured wrist, the team was forced to shift starting first baseman Brandon Moss to the outfield and bring up Barton to play first base. Unfortunately for Barton, outfielder Chris Young (quad) is expected to come off the DL on Wednesday this week, thus leaving him a very short window to prove he needs to stay in the majors. At Triple-A Sacramento he was hitting .287/.422/.465 with three homers over 128 PA. Barton has played in 488 games in the majors, so he's no stranger to the big leagues and will likely be brought up again later this season. He has shown a great eye at the plate in the past, so keep him in the back of your mind if you're in a league that values OBP. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.

Pedro Ciriaco, Red Sox - Starting third baseman Will Middlebrooks continues to complain about his sore ribs, which may be separated. He has played through the pain and delivered five doubles over his last three games, but at some point might need a trip to the DL to get fully healed. If that happens, Ciriaco would likely fill in for him and have value in AL only leagues. Ciriaco is not the best defender at third base as he's more of a middle infielder. Offensively he offers little power, but good speed as we saw last season when he got 272 PA and stole 16 bases. Keep an eye on him if the news on Middlebrooks worsens. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Conor Gillaspie, White Sox - Normally Gillaspie hits sixth in the White Sox lineup, but this week he hit cleanup for one game as the team has grown more confident in his offensive game. On the season he's hitting .278/.340/.444 with three homers over 100 PA. He struggles to make consistent contact is currently being helped by a .349 BABIP. Once Gordon Beckham returns, which should be before the end of the month, Jeff Keppinger will likely eat into Gillaspie's playing time, so don't grow too attached to his playing time. Until that happens though, he's worth a look in deep mixed leagues. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.

Chris Nelson, Yankees - With Eduardo Nunez dealing with a rib injury that now has him on the DL, the team has shifted Jayson Nix from third to shortstop and started Nelson at third base. Nelson has started to hit some too with a hit in each of his last four games, two of which were doubles. It's hard to get excited about his offensive game though as he is no longer in Colorado, where he spent the first three years of his career, before they designated him for assignment and traded him to the Yankees. He offers no speed and limited power, thus depressing his fantasy value. Still, until Nunez is able to retake the field, expect Nelson's playing time to continue. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Lyle Overbay, Yankees - Overbay went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer Friday night in KC and on the season is now up to six homers with a .263/.300/.500 batting line over 120 PA. This is the most power he's ever shown in his career, which isn't all that surprising considering the Yankees have had a deft touch at finding aging players and coaxing out the last bit of offense left in their bat over the last couple of seasons. Until he cools, Overbay needs to be owned in more mixed leagues. He won't hit for a great average, but the power seems legit. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.

Middle Infielders:

David Adams, Yankees - There has been talk this week that Adams will be called-up on Wednesday to help give the team depth up the middle as they deal with an injury to Eduardo Nunez. They can't call him up sooner because he re-signed with the team in spring training and hasn't yet been eligible to be added to the 40-man roster. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre he has hit .314/.404/.477 with two homers over 99 PA. The team is currently going with Jayson Nix at shortstop and just brought up Alberto Gonzalez, so it's tough to tell where Adams will fit in, if indeed he is called-up. With no real power or speed, his fantasy value is limited either way. Mixed: No; AL: $1.

Mark DeRosa, Blue Jays - DeRosa has started three of the last four games at second base for the Blue Jays as the team attempts to get Maicer Izturis more at-bats in place of Munenori Kawasaki at shortstop. On the season DeRosa has shown surprising power with three homers in 60 PA. Coming into 2013, he had one homer since 2009, so don't expect more from where those three came. At 38 years old, DeRosa struggles to make contact and offers no speed, so his fantasy value is very limited. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.

Alberto Gonzalez, Yankees - After being traded from the Cubs this week, Gonzalez was initially sent to the minors, but he was brought up on Sunday, after the team was forced to send Eduardo Nunez (ribs) to the DL. Gonzalez is a career .241/.279/.319 hitter with four homers and two steals over 989 PA, which is to say he doesn't too much of anything well. He might see playing time behind Jayson Nix at shortstop or be sent back down in favor of David Adams this week; either way he holds very limited value. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Grant Green & Jemile Weeks, A's - With the A's second basemen (mostly Eric Sogard) hitting a collective .236/.309/.317 with one homer this season, the team has to start considering other options. At Triple-A Sacramento Weeks has been hitting .291/.398/.390 with two homers and six stolen bases over 166 PA. Green has been no slouch either, hitting .302/.364/.453 with four homers and three stolen bases over 155 PA. Of the two, Weeks has been playing second base, while Green has been hitting DH, but both are capable of fielding the position. Both deserve a shot at the majors as both are likely better offensive options that what the A's are running out there right now. Both - Mixed: $1; AL: $5.

Elliot Johnson, Royals - Johnson has started five of the team's last six games at second base, over Chris Getz. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise as Getz is hitting .205/.235/.321 with one homer over 84 PA. Johnson doesn't offer much more in terms of skills, so this figures to be a lateral move. The team at some point will have to give Johnny Giavotella (currently in the minors) another run, as he is about four years younger than both Johnson and Getz, but we're not there yet. Johnson stole 18 bases last season with the Rays over 331 PA, but did so with a .242/.304/.350 batting line, so be aware of the batting average downside that exists here. For as long as the team keeps running him out there, Johnson needs to be owned in all AL only formats and deep mixed leagues. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Outfielders:

Oswaldo Arcia, Twins - Arcia's bat has started to heat up as of late with a four-hit game on Wednesday and a triple and homer on Thursday. On the season he's now hitting .301/.338/.507 with three homers over 77 PA. At 22 years old, he is young for the majors, but producing enough that the team needs to keep his bat in the lineup. He essentially skipped Triple-A as he only played 10 games there, before being promoted to the majors. This jump is proving to not matter right now, but may show itself once his .388 BABIP comes back down to Earth. Until then, he needs to be owned in all AL only leagues and deep mixed leagues. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.

Trevor Crowe, Astros - In one of the many moves the Astros made this week to retool their outfield, Crowe was brought up from Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he was hitting .307/.402/.421 with two homers and 11 steals over 133 PA. The last time we saw Crowe for an extended period was in 2010, when he hit .251/.302/.333 with two homers and 20 stolen bases over 479 PA for the Indians. As you can see he doesn't hit for power, but can steal a base, which is helpful in fantasy leagues. So far he has started three straight games in left field and hit leadoff on Sunday, so the team appears to want to give him at-bats to see what he can do. One other item of note is that J.D. Martinez, who opened the season as the team's starting left fielder, is back off the DL and could steal at-bats from Crowe. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Jarrod Dyson, Royals - Dyson has started three of the last five Royals games in center field, over Lorenzo Cain, who has shifted to right field to spell the struggling Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur is hitting just .226/.264/.322 with one homer and two stolen bases over 121 PA. Dyson, who hit his first homer of the season on Friday, doesn't have near the power that Francoeur does, but he has speed for days. Last season with the team he stole 30 bases over 330 PA, while hitting .260/.328/.322. Should a platoon develop between Dyson and Francoeur, Dyson would be the beneficiary as he is the LHB and would see the majority of RHPs. Either way, any increase to Dyson's playing time is a benefit to fantasy owners looking for speed. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.

J.D. Martinez, Astros - Martinez came off the DL this week, after dealing with a sprained right knee. He initially got three straight starts at DH, but should move back over to left field, now that he's proven his knee is stable. Before he hit the DL, Martinez had gotten off to a decent enough start, hitting .244/.271/.444 with two homers and one stolen base. Last season with the team he hit .240/.319/.399 with 11 homers in the first half of the season, before crashing back down in the second half. He should be owned in all AL only leagues and deep mixed leagues. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.

Wil Myers, Rays - This is your weekly reminder that Myers needs to be owned in all AL only and deep mixed leagues. The Rays haven't given any hints that he may be on the way soon, but they continue to give Sam Fuld at-bats, which may as well count. On the season Myers is hitting .278/.363/.437 with three homers and three stolen bases over 146 PA at Triple-A Durham. Last season in the minors he hit .314/.387/.600 with 26 doubles, six triples, and 37 homers. It's only a matter of time now. Mixed: $9; AL: $35.

Jimmy Paredes, Astros - With Rick Ankiel gone from the team after being designated for assignment, the Astros right field job appears to be Paredes' to lose. Paredes was at Triple-A Oklahoma City, prior to Ankiel's release, where he hit .366/.433/.580 with three homers and seven stolen bases over 127 PA. He doesn't possess much power, but he has good speed as proven by his 37 stolen bases last season at Oklahoma City over 536 PA. Until he stops seeing playing time, Paredes needs to be owned in all AL only leagues and deep mixed leagues. Mixed: $3; AL: $11.

Chris Young, A's - Young is scheduled to come off the DL on Wednesday this week, after dealing with a quad injury. Considering the state of the A's outfield right now, which is down Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp, the team needs Young back on their team and in the lineup. Prior to his injury, Young was hitting .172/.277/.391 with four homers and five stolen bases. The power and speed have always been there for him, it's his inconsistent ability to make contact that has been the problem. Until Reddick and Crisp are back, Young will see playing time and for that he needs to be owned in all AL only and deep mixed leagues. Mixed: $4; AL: $13.

Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.