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 - When Jake Odorizzi was sent back down to Triple-A Durham, Archer got the call to start for the Rays on Saturday against the Indians. He was knocked around quite a bit, giving up five earned runs on seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts over four innings. The Indians have a potent offense this season, so it's not surprising to see Archer struggle in his season debut. He figures to make at least one more start in place of David Price, who is on the DL, and could stick in the rotation if he performs much better against the Orioles this coming week. As far as his stuff goes, he's got an electric fastball and a devastating slider, but his change-up is still a work in progress. He profiles as someone who can be number two starter down the line. Grab him in deeper mixed leagues and certainly in AL only formats. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Jeremy Bonderman, Mariners - Bonderman made his season debut against the Twins on Sunday, as the team sent Brandon Maurer back to Triple-A Tacoma to work on his game. Bonderman hasn't pitched in the majors since 2010, back when he was with the Tigers, so it's tough to say just what exactly to expect. At Tacoma this season Bonderman had a 4.52 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 18 walks over 63.2 innings. Remain skeptical of him, until he proves he can be trusted or at minimum shows better command than he did in the minors. This week he faces the Yankees at home; buyer beware. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Kyle Gibson, Twins - Gibson has been feast or famine for much of the last month at Triple-A Rochester as he has either gone eight or more shutout innings three times or given up four runs or more in six innings or less three times. He likely needs to show he can limit out those disaster outings, before the team gives him a call to the majors, but it's tough to see what they're really waiting for when they keep running Mike Pelfrey (6.66 ERA) out there. Once the Super Two cutoff has passed (should be in two weeks), expect Gibson to be up. He's not a highly thought of prospect and for good reason as he doesn't miss enough bats. He'd be a middle-to-back-of-the-rotation guy for most AL teams. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Tommy Hanson, Angels - After missing almost four weeks to deal with a family matter, Hanson returned to the Angels rotation on Friday and gave up four earned runs over 6.1 innings to the Astros. He only struck out two batters, which is tough to do considering the lack of plate discipline the Astros batters have. He'll get the Red Sox on the road this week, in what is not a recommended spot to start him in. Until he gets his legs underneath him again, mixed leaguers should stay away. He just hasn't been the same pitcher since injuries set in, in the middle of 2011. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.
Corey Kluber, Indians - Going into Friday's start against the Rays, Kluber had 23 strikeouts and just one walk over his last three starts. Unfortunately the rain stopped what was starting to look like another dominant outing for him on Friday, as he had pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts and one walk. On the season he has a 4.36 ERA, but his underlying numbers say he's pitched much better with a 2.91 xFIP and 2.89 SIERA. Somehow Kluber has walked only eight batters over 43.1 innings this season, which is helping to drive his success. There's no reason he shouldn't be owned in all AL only leagues at this point. This week he faces the Yankees on the road. Mixed: $4; AL: $13.
John Lackey, Red Sox - Is this a new John Lackey, because he's not pitching like the one Red Sox fans have grown painfully accustomed to seeing take the mound? This season his velocity is down a little from last season, yet he's striking out batters at a higher than he ever has before in his career. Moreover, he's walking batters at rates similar to when he was with the Angels. I'd say this is smoke and mirrors, but manager John Farrell has shown a daft touch this season in helping many of the Red Sox pitchers. He needs to be owned in more mixed leagues for as long as this keeps up. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Jordan Lyles, Astros - Over Lyles last three starts he has allowed three earned runs over 18 innings, helping to lower his ERA from 6.63 to 4.50. He has never been a pitcher that misses bats well, so he's had to really keep his control sharp to find success. This season that hasn't been the case, as he has 12 walks over 32 innings. I'd liken Lyles to a poor-man's Rick Porcello as they both rely on their control to keep batters from reaching base. Unfortunately for Lyles though, he doesn't flash the potential to miss bats that Porcello occasionally does. This week Lyles gets the Royals on the road; tread lightly. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Luis Mendoza, Royals - Mendoza has allowed three earned runs or less in each of his last five starts and has a 19/10 K/BB ratio over that span. These are not the most impressive numbers out there, but for Luis Mendoza, it could be far worse. He's not working deep enough into games and thus only has three decisions on the season. Still, a 4.41 ERA and 4.03 xFIP in the month of May is worth at least talking about in AL only leagues. The elephant in the room is that Mendoza's command is below average and unless he cuts back on the walks or starts missing more bats, he's unlikely to help any fantasy owners and certainly not the Royals. This week he gets the Twins and the Astros at home. If there was ever a week to take a gamble on him, it's now. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Andy Pettitte, Yankees - Pettitte will return to the Yankees rotation on Monday against the Indians at home and then pitch again on Saturday in Seattle. He's coming back from strained shoulder and will have missed the minimum 15 days. Before he left the team, he had a 3.83 ERA (3.85 xFIP) with 39 strikeouts and 15 walks over 49.1 innings. At 41 years old, it's amazing he continues to take the ball and perform at this level. If he's still available in any leagues, get him on roster for his two-start week. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.
Erasmo Ramirez, Mariners - Exciting news Eraserheads, as Ramirez will be making a rehab start this Sunday at Triple-A Tacoma. Earlier in the week he pitched five innings at Double-A Jackson, showing he is ready to start ramping up his conditioning, in preparation for a return to the majors. He had been dealing with a triceps injury that had forced him to all of April and most of May. Last season with the Mariners as a starter, he had a 3.64 ERA (3.52 xFIP) with 41 strikeouts and eight walks over 47 innings in eight starts. He was legitimately hyped up in the offseason in fantasy circles, but that enthusiasm was put on hold when he was injured. If he can show he's healthy again, the enthusiasm should tick right back up as he is a promising young starter. If you can still find him, stash him away now. Mixed: $2; AL: $10.
Hector Santiago, White Sox - Just because Santiago is no longer in the White Sox rotation anymore doesn't mean owners should give up on him as a starter this season. He has a 2.51 ERA (3.89 xFIP) as a starter over 46.2 innings with the team over the last two seasons and that makes him the first option should someone go down with an injury (looking at you Jake Peavy) or prove ineffective (hello John Danks). Moreover, he's a good long reliever to have on your fantasy team because while he won't get save opportunities, he can still help lower your ratios. If he was dropped in your AL only or deep mixed league, don't give up hope yet. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Cody Allen, & Bryan Shaw, Indians - With Chris Perez blowing a save in epic fashion last Sunday and then going on the DL, Pestano was anointed the next man up to take the reigns as the Indians closer. He was coming off his own stint on the DL, after dealing with elbow tightness and then showed a drop in his velocity, which caused further concern that he might need to go back on the shelf. This week however, his velocity ticked back up, giving his owners some encouraging news. I remain highly skeptical of Pestano because while his injury woes might be behind him, they're still close enough to tap him on the shoulder or elbow. Moreover, his control has been poor all season long with eight walks over 14 innings. Until he tightens his control, he's playing with fire. Because he's been so great the last two seasons though, he understandably earned this opportunity to close games out. Owners should hedge their Pestano bets though with Joe Smith, Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw. Of that bunch, I prefer Smith, who has a 1.00 ERA (3.30 xFIP), but could see Allen being the next man up as he's got the stuff to really miss bats (95 mph fastball). Pestano Mixed: $5; AL: $16. Smith Mixed: $2, AL: $7. Allen Mixed: $1; AL: $4. Shaw Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Carter Capps, Mariners - M's closer Tom Wilhemsen's control has been off lately and as a result he's blown two of his last three save opportunities. And by off, I mean way off as he's walked five batters and struck out none in his last three appearances. It's possible he's hurt or just going through a rough patch that will end soon. Either way, it's a good idea to check in on the availability of Carter Capps in all leagues. He has a 3.81 ERA (3.08 xFIP) with 33 strikeouts and just five walks over 26 innings this season. His velocity is down this season from where it was last season, but maybe that's a good thing as he's shown much better control. The likely closer of the future for the M's, Capps should be owned in all leagues where owners are speculating for saves. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.
Chris Herrmann, Twins - Last Sunday Twins outfielder Wilkin Ramirez was put on the 7-day DL with a concussion and Hermann was brought up from Triple-A Rochester to take his roster spot. A week later and Ramirez has still not been cleared to rejoin the team, so Herrmann remains with the team as a backup catcher. He has only started in one game and the team also has Ryan Doumit to fill-in for Joe Mauer, so Herrmann's value is very limited. At Rochester he hit .238/.311/.285 with no homers and three stolen bases over 169 PA. Mixed: No AL: $2.
Lou Marson, Indians - After dealing with the flu, a strained neck, and most recently a shoulder injury, Marson finally appears ready to come off the DL this week, the only problem is Yan Gomes has been playing so well offensively there might not be a place for Marson on the active roster. He has only appeared in three games this season, through all of his maladies. When healthy, he's a backup catcher that offers minimal value in all leagues. Last season he hit .226/.348/.287 with no homers and four stolen bases over 235 PA. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Josh Phegley, White Sox - Phegley remains a good player to stash in AL only leagues as he continues to hit at Triple-A Charlotte. On the season he's now hitting .329/.386/.639 with 11 homers over 176 PA. It's a wonder as to why he hasn't been called up yet, when White Sox catchers just hit .237/.304/.333 in the month of May and were much worse in April. Scouts have knocked Phegley for his receiving skills, but the former '09 supplemental first round pick appears ready to come up and at least help the Pale Hose offensively. If you're thinking about prospect catchers, I'd much rather have him than Mike Zunino right now as I expect Phegley to be up much sooner, while Zunino is the better bet long-term and later this season. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Taylor Teagarden, Orioles - Teagarden is currently on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Norfolk as he makes his way back from a dislocated thumb. He should only need a few more games, before being activated and resuming his role as Matt Wieters backup. Teagarden is a career .205/.270/.390 hitter with 18 homers over 469 PA. Expect Chris Snyder to loss his job when Teagarden returns. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Jamey Carroll & Eduardo Escobar, Twins - First Trevor Plouffe hit the 7-day DL with a concussion and then he hit the 15-day DL almost immediately afterward with a calf injury. The two DL lists are different entities so they cannot run concurrent and thus Plouffe is out until the middle of June. Carroll and Escobar figure to continue to hold down third base, while he is gone. Both are marginal fantasy options for owners looking for a replacement to Plouffe. Carroll has hit .235/.286/.265 with no homers or stolen bases over 105 PA this season, while Escobar has hit .217/.267/.337 with two homers over 90 PA. Combined, you're better off looking elsewhere for help. Carroll & Escobar - Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Mark DeRosa, Blue Jays - With Brett Lawrie hitting the DL this week with an ankle injury, DeRosa should split time at third base with Edwin Encarnacion for the Blue Jays. Unfortunately Lawrie's injury sounds like one that could keep him on the shelf longer than just the minimum 15-days, so DeRosa could see more playing time than originally thought. He has hit .225/.313/.437 this season with three homers over 83 PA, which shouldn't surprise anyone as DeRosa is 38-years old and hasn't seen more than 104 PA since 2009, when he was with the Indians and Cardinals. If you're in a mixed league looking for a replacement to Lawrie, you can likely do better than DeRosa. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.
Nate Freiman, A's - While he continues to face primarily LHP, Freiman has started to warm up at the plate. In the month of May alone, he hit .351/.415/.514 with one homer over 41 PA. And he's started off June right going 1-for-3 with a triple and walk. Because he isn't facing many RHPs, his value is limited to AL only formats for now. He hit for power in the minors and as a Rule of 5 pick from the Padres via the Astros, his roster spot will be safe, so long as he continues to hit. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.
Alex Liddi, Mariners - Liddi was called up on Wednesday from Triple-A Tacoma to give the team another bench bat and has since hat one at-bat. At Tacoma he hit .267/.323/.456 with nine homers over 224 PA, which doesn't sound all that bad till one considers it's the PCL and those numbers are inflated already. Liddi has come up before both times showed difficulty making contact as he struck out almost 39 percent of the time. Expect him to be back in Tacoma shortly. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Miguel Tejada, Royals - Tejada started three games at third base this week for the Royals as the team continues to find ways to sit the struggling Mike Moustakas. Moose is now hitting .183/.253/.307 on the season and has had two extra base hits since May 10th, so he's certainly a candidate to be sent back down to the minors. Should that happen, expect Tejada to start full-time and perhaps Johnny Giavotella, who is currently playing third base at Triple-A Omaha, to come up and help. On the season Tejada is hitting .286/.333/.452 over 45 PA. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Gordon Beckham, White Sox - Beckham is slated to come off the DL on Thursday this week, after dealing with a broken hamate bone in his left wrist. The team plans to work him into the lineup slowly, so don't expect him to start everyday once he's activated. So far in his rehab at Triple-A Charlotte, he's 11-for-32 with two doubles in seven games. Injuries to the wrist can rob a player of his ability to hit for power; so don't be surprised if Beckham's power numbers are slow out of the gate. He's disappointed many since his debut in 2009, so it's understandable if many are skeptical about his production, but remember he's only 26 years old and in what should be his prime. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Ronny Cedeno, Astros - Cedeno has started at shortstop for the Astros in eight of their last 10 games, while Marwin Gonzalez battles a hamstring injury. Gonzalez has stated that he plans to return on Monday against the Angels, but if he cannot expect the team to possibly put him on the DL. Cedeno has hit .275/.314/.388 with one homer and one stolen base over 87 PA this season. Don't expect much more from the glove only shortstop. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Ryan Flaherty, Orioles - Flaherty was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday and has since started five games in a row at second base for the O's. He's 3-for-13 so far since coming back up, which shouldn't surprise anyone as he was hitting .133/.228/.233 earlier this season, before being sent down. Between Yamaico Navarro, who was sent down, and Flaherty it's clear the team has almost no faith in Alexi Casilla. Only the desperate should consider Flaherty an option on their roster. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Nick Franklin, Mariners - Franklin debuted this week with the Mariners and is already starting to show why he was so highly thought of in the team's minor league system. On Thursday he hit two home runs and while he's been pretty cold at the plate outside of that game, he is showing a great eye at the plate with four walks and two strikeouts in 21 PA. Don't expect Franklin to be a power hitter as he never hit for much power in the high minors and that's with the advantage of the homer friendly PCL. If you're in a league that uses OBP, he should have a bit more value because of his plate discipline. Mixed: $5; AL: $16.
Oswaldo Arcia, Twins - Despite being sent back down to Triple-A Rochester, Arcia still needs to be on the radar of AL only owners. He has homered in three consecutive games and should be on his way back up soon. He hit .255/.318/.449 with four homers over 107 PA, while he was with the Twins, which might not sound like much till you consider the rest of the Twins outfield and guys like Chris Parmelee who have no business starting over Arcia. If he's still available in your deeper mixed league or AL only league, get him stashed now. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Brandon Barnes, Astros - Barnes has started six straight games in center field for the Astros, after Robbie Grossman was sent back to the minors. The plan is for Barnes to start there full-time, till Justin Maxwell is ready to rejoin the team. Maxwell is dealing with a fractured left hand and has yet to start his rehab assignment yet, so Barnes has some time to prove his worth. On the season Barnes is hitting .279/.354/.395 with two homers and four stolen bases. Moreover, the team has been batting Barnes leadoff the last six games, so apparently they believe he can get on base and set the table for the rest of the lineup. Of course they also thought the same thing of Grossman, before he was sent away. As long as he's starting at hitting atop the lineup, owners should give Barnes a look, while he won't hit for power, his counting stats will help. When Maxwell comes back, expect Trevor Crowe to be sent away, if he is still on the roster by then. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.
Brennan Boesch, Yankees - With Curtis Granderson playing more like "Hurtis" Granderson with yet another injury, Boesch was recalled last week and has started two games thus far. He went 4-for-7 with a homer over those two games, so it's somewhat surprising he's not been back in the lineup yet. Until Granderson is back, which shouldn't be until maybe July, consider Boesch an option in AL only leagues. For those new to Boesch, he was with the Tigers, up until this season, and has shown power in stretches where he catches fire, however he's never really been able to sustain his success. Last season with the Tigers he hit .240/.286/.372 with 12 homers and six stolen bases over 503 PA. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Jackie Bradley, Red Sox - Bradley was recalled on Tuesday from Triple-A Pawtucket to give the team an option in in centerfield, while Shane Victorino remains on the DL and Jacoby Ellsbury deals with a groin issue. The last time we saw Bradley he fell flat on his face offensively as he hit .097/.263/.129 with one extra base hit over 38 PA. He had two doubles on Saturday, which is encouraging, but the fact remains, he needs to make more contact with the ball, before owners can even think about rostering him. Look elsewhere for outfield help. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Jordan Danks, White Sox - Danks was recalled Sunday to take the roster spot of DeWayne Wise, who hit the DL with a right hamstring strain. At Triple-A Charlotte Danks hit .299/.399/.457 with five homers over 148 PA, prior to his call-up. He was up with the team earlier this season, but sent down so the team could make room for Dayan Vicedo on the active roster. It's tough to see Danks getting enough playing time to help fantasy owners, as he's a bench bat. Still, he's 26 years old and in what should be his prime years, so he should contribute when in the White Sox lineup. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners - Gutierrez is of course injured again and currently on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma. He had gotten two hits in five consecutive games, going into Saturday, so he appears ready to rejoin the team. The team would be wise to shift him to a corner outfield spot because while his bat does not profile at those positions, he simply cannot stay healthy while manning center, despite the Gold Glove defense he brings to the position. Gutierrez has 20/20 potential when fully healthy, but has never been someone to hit for average. Give him a look in mixed leagues as a fifth outfielder. Prior to leaving the team he was hitting .259/.286/.537 with four homers and a stolen base over 57 PA. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Wil Myers, Rays - As we approach the Super Two cutoff date, Myers is breaking out of his early season slump and starting to catch fire at just the right time. Over his last 10 games he's hitting .341/.354/.773 with four doubles, five home runs, and a stolen base. The need for him in the Rays lineup has dissipated as their outfield had a pretty productive month of May. Still, once the Super Two cutoff date has passed there will be little reason to keep Myers in the minors as he's already proven himself at every level along the way. With how creative manager Joe Maddon can be with his lineups, it wouldn't surprise me to see Myers up in two weeks and helping the team in some fashion. Mixed: $5; AL: $20.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.