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FAAB Factor - AL: The Next Big Thing

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.


Starting Pitchers:

Trevor Bauer, Indians - Over his last three starts with Columbus, Bauer has allowed just two earned runs with 20 strikeouts and eight walks over 17.2 innings. His control has always been an issue and is likely something the Indians want him to conquer, before they promote him for a sustained period of time, but they may not have a choice as their rotation is starting to fall apart. Zach McAllister is on the DL with a strained middle finger for at least two more weeks and his replacement Carlos Carrasco isn't going to cut it. Meanwhile, Scott Kazmir has been getting knocked around pretty good lately and carries a 5.33 ERA (3.97 xFIP) with him, despite his renewed velocity. There has been no indication that Bauer is going to be promoted soon, but keep an eye on Carrasco's start this week against the Royals. If he gets bombed, Bauer may be given another look in the majors. As for the rest of the season, if Kazmir doesn't start to right the ship over the next month, he may be designated for assignment after the All-Star break. That might sound extreme, but only one of his last six starts has been a quality start. If he continues down that path, he won't make August. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.

Jeremy Bonderman, Mariners - Since his disastrous debut against the Twins earlier this month, Bonderman has allowed one earned runs over his last two starts with seven strikeouts and three walks. It's tough to make sense of exactly what this means as one of those starts was the Astros and the other was against the Yankees. Moreover, Bonderman hadn't started a MLB game since 2010. Since his debut against the Twins, he has used his change-up less and less and his fastball and slider more and more, thus becoming a two-pitch pitcher. Some starters can get away with this, but most can't because their secondary pitch doesn't miss enough bats and when it's flat or straightens out, hitters can jump all over them. It's only three starts, but I'm not optimistic about Bonderman's chances of survival for the rest of the season. Further, he's only struck out eight batters in 18.2 innings this season, which will not cut it. This week he faces the Angels on the road and A's at home. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.

John Danks, White Sox - Through five starts Danks has a 4.50 ERA (3.72 xFIP) against the Marlins, Cubs, Mariners, A's, and Astros. Only one of those offenses is considered decent, so it's tough to get a grasp of just how well Danks is pitching. What I am encouraged by is his increased strikeout rate (6.90 K/9) and decreased walk rate (1.20 BB/9), both of which are at or near career bests for Danks, who is coming off of shoulder surgery. His velocity is down across the board in comparison to before his injury, so that's not good, but he's using his change-up more and fastball less, so maybe this is the reason for his improved command. A fly ball pitcher, Danks will not be helped at all by his home park, so try to avoid starting him there, if you can. In AL only formats, I'd stick with him and in mixed leagues, I'd try to spot start him, if at all possible. This week he gets the Twins on the road. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.

Aaron Harang, Mariners - Over his last four starts, Harang has thrown two shutouts (Padres and Astros) and allowed one earned run over six innings in another start (Twins). The start not included in that bunch was a Molotov Cocktail he tossed at the Yankees that landed short of its target with six earned runs over just 2.1 innings. The fact that those three outstanding starts came against weaker competition should surprise no one. Still, he's been on a roll lately and deserves some attention, beyond just AL only leagues. This season he has 52 strikeouts and nine walks over 54.2, which is fantastic, but is being overshadowed by the 10 homers he's allowed. What's worse is the home runs are coming in bunches as he's given up two or more long balls in four starts. Harang is a fly ball pitcher, so I don't expect him to all of a sudden stop giving up home runs, but if he can just avoid the clusters of them, the results might be beneficial to owners. This week he faces the Angels on the road and A's at home. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros - Over his last three starts (Angels, Orioles, and Mariners), Keuchel has pitched 19 innings and allowed four earned runs with 13 strikeouts and two walks. As a starter this season he now has a 4.15 ERA (3.54 xFIP) with 29 strikeouts and 11 walks over 43.1 innings. This season his velocity has increased by at least one mph on all of his pitches, which helps to explain the rise in his strikeout rate (5.88 K/9) from a season ago (4.01 K/9). He's also walking fewer batters, which always helps. The most noticeable thing about Keuchel though is the amount of ground balls he induces. This season he has a 59.2 percent ground ball rate, which if he had pitched enough innings to qualify, would be the highest in the majors. This combination of ground balls, less walks, and an increase in velocity makes me think Keuchel might be on to something. This week he faces the Cubs on the road. Mixed: $3; AL: $12.

Jordan Lyles, Astros - Lyles had the best start of his career this week as he shutout the Mariners for seven innings with three hits allowed, two walks, and 10 strikeouts. Looking at his season as a whole, he has allowed two earned runs or less in eight of his 10 starts. A large reason for this level of success is that he's stopped giving up as many home runs. It's something that started late last August and over his last 15 starts, he's given up just five home runs. To broaden this out, consider his last 30 starts. In his first half of these he had a 1.56 HR/9 and 16.67 percent HR/FB, but in his last 15 starts he had a 0.53 HR/9 and 7.14 percent HR/FB. The league average of HR/FB is somewhere around 10 percent, but we know pitchers have their own baseline and Lyles' is 13.1 percent for his career. Given that he's only made 49 starts in the majors and is 22 years old, his home run rates are still moving targets and I consider his recent stretch of giving up fewer home runs as growth in his development. His ability to sustain this growth is another matter, but to me it's clear something has changed since when he first entered the league and was giving up homers left and right. Likely owned in all AL only formats, give Lyles a look in deeper mixed leagues. This week he faces the Brewers at home and Cubs on the road. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.

Luis Mendoza, Royals - This week Mendoza held the Rays to two earned runs over six innings and now has a 2.38 ERA over his last six starts. This might have some owners reconsidering the often-overlooked Mendoza, but they do so at their own peril as his command is well below average. On the season he has 40 strikeouts and 26 walks over 64 innings. With stats like those, his ERA should be climbing towards five, not close to dipping below four. His 1.50 WHIP over his last six starts should serve as a cautionary sign that danger lies ahead, if Mendoza continues to pitch this way. This week he faces the Indians on the road, buyer beware. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.

Erasmo Ramirez, Mariners - This week the Eraser threw eight shutout innings with five hits, no walks, and seven strikeouts at Triple-A Tacoma in a rehab start. This comes on the heels of him throwing seven shutout innings the week before. It's clear that he's ready to rejoin the Mariners rotation, but the team currently has no room for him. With a rotation that features Aaron Harang, Jeremy Bonderman, and Joe Saunders, you might wonder what the hell I'm talking about, but those three have really pitched well over the last month. Harang just threw a shutout with 10 strikeouts, Bonderman has allowed one earned run over his last 14 innings (he's only made three starts), and Saunders has allowed one earned run in three of his last four starts, so none of these guys are going anywhere. What's most likely to happen is Bonderman will falter and Ramirez will take his spot, but we're not there yet. In the meantime the Mariners will try to get those three as many starts as they can to boost their trade value. So for now, stash Ramirez if you can and expect him to perhaps be used out of the bullpen, if he is indeed called up any time soon. From the team's perspective, there's no harm in taking it slow with Ramirez. Mixed: $5; AL: $20.

Esmil Rogers, Blue Jays - Rogers turned in another great start against the Rangers this week, pitching seven innings with one earned run. This is now back-to-back starts, both against the Rangers, in which he's allowed one earned run with only one walk. On the season he's only made three starts, two of which were cut short because he wasn't stretched out far enough in preparation. As a starter he now has a 1.26 ERA (3.46 xFIP) over 14.1 innings with 11 strikeouts and four walks. The last time he was used as a starter was back in 2011 with the Rockies, as he posted a 6.28 ERA (4.91 xFIP) with terrible control. Since then, his control has improved and he's no longer pitching in Coors, so there's some hope that he's a different pitcher. He's at minimum worth a look in AL only formats and deeper mixed leagues because of what he did against the Rangers. This week he gets the Rockies at home. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.

Michael Pineda, Yankees - On Friday Pineda made his second rehab start, on his road to recovery from a torn labrum in his shoulder. He threw 74 pitches over 5.2 innings with three hits, one walk, and five strikeouts at Low-A Charleston. He will now move on to High-A Tampa, where he'll make his next start. If there are no setbacks in his rehab, he could rejoin the Yankees sometime near the end of this month or the beginning of July. His 30-day rehab window only lasts till July 8th, so that's the absolute latest we would find out about where Pineda is headed. His velocity sat around 91 mph in his first rehab start and will need to climb, if he's to be activated after his rehab assignment is over. The club could always option him to the minors if they feel he's not ready, so don't bid on Pineda thinking once his rehab is over, he's automatically coming back up. The last time we saw Pineda in the majors, he was with the Mariners and had a 3.74 ERA (3.53 xFIP) with 173 strikeouts and 55 walks over 171 innings in 2011. Stash him if you can in all AL only leagues. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.

Relief Pitchers:

Carter Capps & Oliver Perez, Mariners - Tom Wilhelmsen blew another save on Wednesday, this time giving up five earned runs, while only getting one out against the Astros. Since then manager Eric Wedge has said that Wilhelmsen will be given a temporary break from closing games. In the interim Capps and Perez figure to be the most likely options to pickup any available save opportunities. Capps is a RHP and Perez is a LHP, so it seems natural for Wedge to use both of them in a committee. The plan is for this setup to continue until Wilhelmsen is ready to get his job back. When that might be is up in the air as Wilhelmsen has seen his strikeout rate fall significantly and his walk rate go up, leading to very poor command. He has yet to allow a home run this season, which seems almost fluky at this point and makes you wonder just how bad his ERA would look, if he had considering the walks he's given up. There's been no change in his velocity from last season or big change in the pitches he's throwing, so Wilhelmsen likely isn't dealing with an injury or over compensating because of an injury. His ERA is 3.77 (4.44 xFIP) and prior to his last blown save, he had closed out four consecutive games, so it's not like he's gone for good or can't get his job back relatively quickly, so owners shouldn't be bidding up Capps or Perez. Of the two, I'd rather have Capps because he's a RHP and because he's been groomed as the future closer of this team. Both have missed plenty of bats this season, though Capps has the much better walk rate, which is another reason I'd choose Capps. Perez has a 1.11 ERA and is a veteran, so he's got that going for him. He also closed out the first game in Wilhelmsen's absence and sometimes that's the only reason a manager needs to stick with a guy. Expect Wilhelmsen back in the saddle sooner rather than later. Capps Mixed: $3; AL: $10. Perez Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Joaquin Benoit, Tigers - This week Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "We're going to use Jose Valverde until we decide Jose Valverde can or can't do it or we've got somebody else better." It's the "or we've got somebody else better" part that leads me to believe the team is exploring other possible options to Valverde through trades. One rumor has the team targeting Jonathan Papelbon, which would make some sense as the Tigers are in win-now mode and the Phillies are rebuilding. The reason we're discussing Benoit though is because until the team trades for a high-end reliever, if they even end up doing so, he's the next best option to Valverde in the closer role. Valverde blew a save this week in Kansas City, his third of the season, which is the reason Leyland made those comments. I don't think he's close to losing his job, considering how much rope the team has given him before, but that's doesn't mean that his owners shouldn't have Benoit stashed, just in case. I could very easily see a scenario where he starts to walk too many batters, blows a few more saves, Benoit has to cover for him, and then the team brings in someone to take the job from both of them. All of this is to say, Benoit should be owned in all AL only formats and in deeper mixed leagues. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Catchers:

Henry Blanco, Mariners - Blanco signed with the Mariners on Friday, after being released by the Blue Jays earlier in the week. He'll immediately become new starter, Mike Zunino's backup and likely his mentor, considering Zunino is 19 years his junior and was in the college this time last season. Blanco is a career .226/.290/.367 hitter with 70 homers and six stolen bases over 937 games, so needless to say, there's no upside here for owners. If you're looking for a second catcher in an AL only format, you can almost certainly do better than Blanco. Mixed: No; AL: $1.

Hank Conger, Angels - Conger hit another home run this week and serves as a reminder that in AL only and deeper leagues that use two catchers, he should not be forgotten. On the season he now has four homers and a .264/.303/.486 batting line over 76 PA, when he's a starter. He won't walk nearly as often as starter Chris Iannetta, but he will make more contact, hit for a higher batting average, and likely offer more power. He's probably the third best backup catcher in the AL, behind Yan Gomes and Carlos Corporan, in terms of fantasy value. I'd rather have Conger than someone like Alex Avila, who is hurting owners by playing every day and delivering a batting average well below the Mendoza Line. Mixed: $1; AL: $6.

Mike Zunino, Mariners - Zunino got the call this week from Triple-A Tacoma to join the M's, as the team shook up their roster once again, in efforts to jump-start their struggling offense. In the process, the team designated Kelly Shoppach and Brandon Bantz for assignment and signed Henry Blanco to be Zunino's backup. For those who have never heard of Zunino before, he was the top-hitting prospect within the Mariners system and one of the best catcher prospects in the minors, prior to his promotion. He was drafted last season in the first round, so to say he has been rushed to the majors would be an understatement. At Tacoma this season he maintained the power he's always shown, but his strikeout rate spiked considerably and his walk rate fell. What followed was a .238/.303/.503 batting line over 208 PA. These struggles are magnified when one considers he was playing in the PCL, where the ball flies out and the league average batting line is .272/.346/.423. Considering the majors are supremely more challenging than the PCL, I expect Zunino to swing and miss frequently, but also show off his power. Numbers akin to those of J.P. Arencibia this season seem reasonable to me. If you're in a keeper or dynasty league and Zunino is not yet owned, be prepared to increase your bid, perhaps substantially. Mixed: $4; AL: $16.

Corner Infielders:

Jose Iglesias, Red Sox - With Pedro Ciriaco off the team, Iglesias is the Red Sox primary utility infielder now. Most weeks, this sort of news wouldn't be worth mentioning, but Mike Napoli is currently back in Boston dealing with an illness and this could allow Will Middlebrooks to cover for him at first base and Iglesias to get some starts at third base. On the season Iglesias is hitting .447/.495/.576 with one homer and one steal over 95 PA. He's only 23 years old and has a little bit of speed with little to no power. He won't continue to hit for this high of an average, but he does make decent contact, so there should be some value here in AL only formats. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox - Middlebrooks came off the DL on Monday, after dealing with back spasms, and has since gone 3-for-18 with a double and walk. On the season he's hitting just .198/.232/.391 with eight homers over 204 PA. Across the board, his numbers and rate stats are down from last season, when he made his debut. It's now time for him to make the adjustment to pitchers that it seems pitchers have made to him. He's still hitting for power, so at least there's that. Don't be surprised to see Middlebrooks start a few games at first base this coming week, while Mike Napoli remains out with an illness. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.

Lyle Overbay, Yankees - Mark Teixeira left Saturday's game with an aggravated wrist injury to the same wrist that cost him the first two months of this season. This is something that will likely keep him out for a few games this week and could potentially send him back to the DL. In his place expect Overbay to fill-in, just as he did to start the season. On the season Overbay has hit .240/.282/.439 with eight homers over 209 PA. He swings and misses too much, but he has some power and as a LHB in Yankee Stadium, he can use that short porch in right field to his advantage. Give him a look in AL only and deeper leagues, if you're in need of a corner bat. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.

Trevor Plouffe, Twins - Plouffe came off the DL on Saturday, after dealing with a calf injury, and went 3-for-3 with a double, homer, and walk. He'll immediately go back to starting at third base for the Twins and is relevant in all mixed leagues. On the season he has a .270/.350/.467 batting line with five homers over 158 PA. This season he has carried over much of the power growth he displayed in 2012. Mixed: $8; AL: Owned.

Justin Smoak, Mariners - Smoak began a rehab assignment on Thursday this week, as he works his way back from an oblique injury. So far he's 3-for-12 with a double, down at Triple-A Tacoma. He should return sometime this week and go back to starting at first base for the Mariners. Before he was injured, he hit .240/.350/.344 with three homers over 180 PA. Only 26 years old, Smoak appears unlikely to ever live up to the hype that surrounded him, when he was a prospect coming up through the Rangers minor league system. Still, in deeper mixed leagues, he's not the worst corner bat to have, despite his lack of power. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.

Middle Infielders:

Dustin Ackley, Mariners - Since his demotion back to the minors, Ackely has gone on a tear hitting .412/.524/.574 with two homers over 85 PA. He has also shown a great eye at the plate with 15 walks and 10 strikeouts. Overall, he's doing exactly what he should be doing at a level he has already mastered once before and showing he might be ready for another look in the majors soon. Many owners will shy away from rostering him a second time, if they rostered him earlier this season and had to sit through the slump that got him sent down, which is understandable. If you're playing in an AL format where you can stash players though, Ackley should be on your radar. If he can just play like he did last season, he'll at minimum offer owners a handful of homers and stolen bases. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.

Reid Brignac, Yankees - With Kevin Youkilis put on the DL with a lumbar spine sprain, the Yankees have shifted Jayson Nix to third base and made Brignac their everyday shortstop. Considering Youkilis may be sidelined for more than just the minimum 15 days, Brignac may have value, despite being a glove first shortstop. On the season, he has struggled considerably at the plate with a .198/.235/.284 batting line and one homer over 87 PA between the Rockies and Yankees. In the past he has hit above the Mendoza line as he did in 2010, when he hit .256 over 326 PA, but it's no sure thing he'll do that again as he maintained a .193 batting average for 264 PA in 2011. Either way, he's a batting average liability. If you're really desperate for middle infield help, consider Brignac as he might score a few runs and help your counting stats. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Ronny Cedeno, Astros - Cedeno has started six of the last nine games at shortstop for the Astros as manager Bo Porter continues to switch between him and Marwin Gonzalez. Porter describes this as a "fluid situation," which doesn't help fantasy owners much. As long as Cedeno is getting the lion's share of the playing time though, he deserves some attention in AL only formats. On the season he's hitting .248/.280/.356 with one homer and one stolen base over 110 PA. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Elliot Johnson, Royals - Johnson has started five straight games at second base over Chris Getz and is starting to deserve attention in more than just AL only formats. On the season he's hitting .252/.287/.340 with two home runs and 10 stolen bases. It's that speed that makes him a much more intriguing option to owners than Getz, who doesn't do much of anything well. Last season with the Rays Johnson hit .242/.304/.350 with six homers and 18 stolen bases, numbers that he should meet or exceed, if he continues to start ahead of Getz. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.

Outfielders:

Oswaldo Arcia, Twins - Arcia was recalled from Triple-A Rochester this week, after Aaron Hicks was put on the DL with a strained hamstring. The move means that Clete Thomas will become the team's new center fielder and that Arcia should start most games, while he is up with the team. It really makes no sense not to play him as he's a prospect and needs steady at-bats to continue his development. So far the team has agreed as Arcia has started six games in a row in left field. Up already once this season, he is batting .270/.328/.470 with four homers over 125 PA. Hopefully the team does not send him back down, once Hicks is ready to come off the DL as Arcia is already a better hitter than the likes of Chris Parmelee. Mixed: $4; AL: $15.

Mike Carp, Red Sox - When Shane Victorino came off the DL, it was thought that Daniel Nava would go back to left field and Carp would assume a bench outfield role, where he would see an occasional start at first base, to spell Napoli, but Carp has continued to hit and hit and hit, leaving the Red Sox no choice, but to find more playing time for him. By hit and hit and hit, I'm referring to the three home runs he's hit over his last six games. Currently Napoli is dealing with an unknown illness, so Carp is getting to start for him at first base, but when he comes back, expect Carp to continue to find his way into the lineup. On the season he's hitting .320/.372/.680 with eight homers over 113 PA. Mixed: $3; AL: $12.

Justin Maxwell, Astros - Maxwell is still on a rehab assignment because the team wants him to get familiar with both corner outfield spots, as it appears he will no longer be coming back as the team's starting center fielder, a job Brandon Barnes currently has. Maxwell is coming back from a fractured left hand, which is an injury that could affect his ability to hit for power, once he returns. Last season with the Astros he hit .229/.304/.460 with 18 homers and nine stolen bases over 352 PA. Unfortunately there remains no set timetable for Maxwell's return, so it's tough to gauge just how much owners should be bidding on him. For now, stash him in AL only formats and hope that the team activates him this week. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.

Wil Myers, Rays - When will he be called up? I don't know. Why hasn't he been called up yet? Probably because the team doesn't know what to do with Luke Scott yet. He's 5-for-8 over his last three games with a double and homer. And for reasons foreign to me, manager Joe Maddon hit Scott third on Saturday and Sunday. This despite the fact that Scott has hit .200/.278/.300 with one home run over the last 28 days. There was a report this week from a Rays beat writer that the team doesn't have any plans to call him up anytime soon, should I still hold on to him or bid on him? Yes and yes. The team will most likely continue to say Myers isn't close to coming up, so they don't have to answer follow-up questions. Don't treat this as a sign that he's not close. If you have Myers on your roster, there's no sense in cutting him now, unless you're in a shallow league or league where bench spots are very limited. Well when do you think he'll be called up? The Super Two deadline is about to have passed, if it already hasn't, so I have to think that the reasoning to not call him up yet is not financial, but rather one of roster management. My best guess and one that is purely speculative based on no inside information is by the end of the month. I forgot, why are we even talking about this guy again? Because he's the top hitting prospect in the Rays system and the 2012 minor league player of the year. This season he's hitting .283/.354/.514 with 14 home runs and seven stolen bases at Triple-A Durham. He should be a middle of the order hitter in his prime. Mixed: $7; AL: $28.

Thomas Neal, Yankees - Neal was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday to give the Yankees some outfield depth. This might not seem like that big of a deal, but considering Mark Teixeira might be returning to the DL, after he hurt his wrist on Saturday, Lyle Overbay becomes more of a first base option for the team, thus leaving Neal as the only real backup outfielder on their roster. At Triple-A between the Giants, Indians, and Yankees organizations he hit .309/.377/.413 with four homers and 10 stolen bases over 472 PA. Considering that Vernon Wells has hit .128/.137/.160 over the last 30 days, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Yankees to give him a few days off at the expense of Neal. Mixed: No; AL: $3.

Clete Thomas, Twins - With Aaron Hicks landing on the DL this week with a strained hamstring that is expected to keep him out around three weeks, the Twins have made Thomas their starting center fielder. Thomas was just recently called up from Triple-A Rochester, where he hit .296/.385/.576 with nine homers and six stolen bases over 143 PA. While his speed is likely to translate, don't expect him to hit for nearly as much power. As a member of the Tigers organization, Thomas hit .253/.336/.391 with eight homers and five stolen bases over 443 PA. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.

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

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