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 the 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
Jesse Chavez, A's – Chavez is set to start the season third man up in the A's rotation, which gives him some value, considering the park and his command as a reliever. His conversion to a starter is something to watch, as he's only pitched 8.2 innings in two starts as a starter in the majors. As a reliever, he's posted a 5.30 ERA (4.28 xFIP) over 226 innings with a 2.22 K/BB. The hope is that the improved command he showed last season will translate, as he converts. Considering how lesser pitchers have faired in Oakland, he should be more than a staff filler for most AL owners. In mixed leagues, however, a wait-and-see approach is recommended. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Roenis Elias, Mariners – A relative unknown, Elias has never pitched above Double-A and is now in the M's rotation to start the season. He had a 3.18 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 50 walks over 130 IP at Double-A Jackson last season. He's not likely to last long in the majors, barring impressive results, as he's a placeholder for Hisashi Iwakuma (finger) and Taijuan Walker (shoulder), both of whom should be back in the rotation by late April or early May. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Colby Lewis, Rangers – Lewis won't start the season in the Rangers' rotation, but once he gets stretched out and can prove himself a bit, there should be a spot open for him due to the unproven nature of much of the current rotation. A torn flexor tendon put him on the shelf in 2013, and a hip injury before that. In 2012, when he was healthy, he produced a 3.43 ERA (3.89 xFIP) with only 14 walks over 105 innings. The command has always been above average, but it's his ability to avoid the long ball that's been at issue, which can be a problem in Texas. You may be able to pass him through waivers, considering he's still not up yet. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Felipe Paulino, White Sox – Tommy John surgery cost him all of last season in the majors; he's back, now with the White Sox. Previously, he showed great velocity with the Royals, and even before that with the Astros. Where he is now, after the time off and now in yet another new environment, is uncertain. If the control can come around, he has the potential to be a real asset, but it all depends on his comeback from surgery. Due to a career 4.93 ERA (4.00 xFIP), a wait-and-see approach is best for those in mixed leagues. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Robbie Ross, Rangers – Ross is making the transition from the bullpen to the rotation for the Rangers this season. As a reliever he has posted a 2.62 ERA (3.52 xFIP) with a 2.50 K/BB over 127.1 IP. If the improved strikeout rate he showed last season can translate, he should be able to find success. He showed to be apt at inducing groundballs in 2012, but that slipped in 2013. In the minors, he started, and at High-A Myrtle Beach in 2011, he had a 2.26 ERA with 98 strikeouts and 28 walks over 123.1 IP. He showed good control in the minors, so there's potential for profit here, if he can handle the workload. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Tanner Scheppers, Rangers – Another Rangers reliever converting to a starter, Scheppers was only briefly a starter in the minors. He can get groundballs and has good velocity, but like with Ross, it's a matter of if he can handle the workload and keep the command he's shown. When he was a starter in 2010 at Triple-A Oklahoma City, he had a 5.86 ERA with 23 strikeouts and eight walks over 27.2 IP. The park will also play a factor in his ability to limit the damage, which makes him an even riskier pickup in mixed leagues. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Matt Albers, Josh Fields & Chad Qualls, Astros – With Jesse Crain (biceps) starting the season on the DL, the Astros are set to go with a committee for their closer. Qualls seems to be the most apt for the job, with a great groundball rate and decent control. He also has closer experience, though his ability to miss bats is not what you think of ideally with a closer. Albers is a lefty, so his chances of securing the few saves the Astros have floating out there are less than ideal. In addition to that, he just doesn't have very good stuff or command. As for Fields, he is much better at missing bats, but it comes with diminished control. He is also much less experienced, with only 38 innings in the majors. And in case you haven't been watching the Astros lately, and I don't blame you, there aren't exactly many saves to go around on this club. Qualls Mixed: $4; AL: $12. Albers & Fields Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Darren O'Day, Orioles – While Tommy Hunter is the closer for now, he doesn't have much experience and hasn't shown a great ability to miss bats, though he does have good command and throws hard. O'Day doesn't throw hard, at all, but similarly has good command. If you're speculating for saves, here is a good spot to start, though I wouldn't expect Hunter to give up the job soon. Mixed: $1; AL: $2.
Joakim Soria, Rangers – If your league drafted/auctioned off early and you haven't had a chance to make any moves yet, there's a chance that Soria is unowned in your league. If this is the case, be prepared to make a big bid or use your No. 1 waiver claim on him. He has the experience and showed that he still has the stuff to miss bats and potentially be an elite closer once again. The question is if he can reign in his control, while keeping the dominance. Neftali Feliz is currently in the minors working his way back and improving his velocity, so there's no immediate worry of him taking the job. His demotion also speaks to where the team see his progress, so it not likely that he reclaims the job later this season, unless injuries strike the bullpen. Mixed: $20 AL: Owned.
J.P. Arencibia & Robinson Chirinos, Rangers – With Geovany Soto (knee) out for 10-to-12 weeks, Arencibia is suddenly on the radar as a viable second catcher in AL only and deeper mixed leagues. At 28 years old, he has enough power that he's averaged over 20 home runs the last three seasons with the Blue Jays. The power comes at a steep price, though, as he's a career .212/.258/.408 hitter. Chirinos is likely to share time with Arencibia, despite only having 90 MLB plate appearances. He did hit .257/.356/.400 with eight homers over 311 PA last season at Triple-A Round Rock, but at 29 years old, he is not a prospect. Arencibia Mixed: $2; AL: $8. Chirinos Mixed: No; AL: $2.
John Buck, Mariners – Seeing as how Mike Zunino is only 23 years old and has less than 200 PA in the majors to his name, it's easy to see a scenario in which he might struggle and the team turns to Buck, until Zunino is ready to carry the gig full-time. Buck still has power and most recently hit 20 home runs in 2010 with the Blue Jays over 437 PA. Not surprisingly, the batting average will be a drain, but you could do worse for a second catcher in AL only and very deep mixed formats. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Hank Conger, Angels – I continue to believe in the former first-round draft pick, who hit every step of the way in the minors and owned a .298/.371/.470 line over 854 PA at Triple-A Salt Lake (granted it's the PCL). This season, he's expected to again share time with Chris Iannetta, who can get on base and flash decent power. Conger is five years his junior at 26 years old and has likely not hit his peak yet. There's reason for concern with his contact rate, but again, he hit at every level in the minors, so a jump in skill here wouldn't surprise me. He's already one of the better backup catchers offensively in the AL but just needs more playing time. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Tyler Flowers & Adrian Nieto, White Sox – Now that Josh Phegley is back in the minors, Flowers should go back to being the team's starting backstop. There's potential for power here, but like with many catchers, he's a serious candidate to drain your batting average - striking out in over a third of his plate appearances over almost 600 career plate appearances is not a good sign of things to come. For Nieto, a Rule 5 pick in the offseason, there's likely very little profit to be had here, considering he's never been above High-A in the minors. Expect Phegley to be back in the majors sooner rather than later and for Nieto to be on his way after that. Flowers Mixed: $2; AL: Owned. Nieto Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Ryan Hanigan, Rays – Hanigan is expected to catch over half of the Rays' games this season, which is great news for the team and their pitchers, as he's skilled defensively and at framing pitches. Offensively, there's not much to talk about, as he has very little power. With a little help from Mr. BABIP, he might be able to provide a little production in the batting average category, but don't expect much more than that. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Derek Norris, A's – As the backup catcher for the A's, Norris is expected to platoon with John Jaso and start primarily against left-handers. This should limit his exposure to righties, against whom he struggles, but it limits his value overall in fantasy leagues. Last season, he hit .320/.410/.580 against southpaws, with nine homers over 173 PA, so it's hard to fault the A's for taking this approach. If only owners could so easily platoon him in AL-only formats as well, then we'd really be onto something. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Kurt Suzuki & Josmil Pinto, Twins – For reasons unknown, manager Ron Gardenhire has been hitting Suzuki second in the batting order this spring, a setup that could bleed into the regular season. This lineup makes little sense, considering Suzuki is a poor bet to hit for average or get on base. Still, owners should be prepared to take advantage of the extra counting stats that will be afforded to him, if this keeps up. As for Pinto, he somewhat surprisingly made the team and will be the backup. He hit .342/.398/.566 with four homers over 83 plate appearances last September, and at some point this season, he'll likely take over as the starter for the club. He hit for average in the minors and has promising power for a 25-year-old, which makes him someone you'll certainly want to consider in keeper leagues. If you can ride out the growing pains, there's serious profit to be had here. It just might take some time. Suzuki Mixed: $3; AL: Owned. Pinto Mixed: $1; AL: $6.
Daric Barton & Alberto Callaspo, A's – Now that John Jaso finally appears to be over his concussion issue, he will go back to being the team's primary catcher, allowing for a platoon of Brandon Moss and Barton against right-handers, and Alberto Callaspo against lefties. Moss will DH on most days, for now, leaving the platoon to mostly Barton and Callaspo. For his career, Barton is a .239/.349/.348 hitter against RHP over 1,459 plate appearances and has very little power for a first baseman, so it's going to be difficult for owners to extract much value here. Meanwhile, Callaspo hasn't ever played first base in the majors, so this experiment should be interesting defensively. Offensively, he's a career .300/.346/.420 hitter against LHP over 925 PA. At some point, catcher Stephen Vogt will be back from the minors, Jaso will start spending more time at DH, and Moss will move back to first base, making all of this an after-thought, so don't invest in either Barton or Callaspo in the long term. Barton Mixed: $2; AL: $8. Callaspo Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians – With Carlos Santana being named the Tribe's starting third baseman, Chisenhall has been forced into a bench role, but that doesn't mean owners should forget about him. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see Ryan Raburn struggle to hit and Santana move over to DH or 1B to allow Chisenhall to get into the lineup. He hit only .225/.270/.398 last season with 11 homers over 308 plate appearances. At 25 years old, he hasn't yet hit his stride offensively and really just needs an opportunity for more playing time. I wouldn't feel bad about having him as my CI in an AL-only format, while we all see how Santana's transition to the hot corner works out for everyone. Mixed: No; AL: $4.
Ryan Flaherty, Orioles – Manny Machado will start the season on the DL, while he continues to work his way back from the knee injury he suffered last season, which will allow Flaherty to be the O's Opening Day third baseman. At 27 years old, he has less than 450 PA in the majors with a .221/.279/.378 batting line. He has some power but not enough to convince you that he's a traditional CI bat. Machado is expected back sometime in April, so Flaherty's time at the hot corner may be short. However, he'll likely still have a role on the team, depending upon how rookie Jonathan Schoop and the recently acquired Steve Lombardozzi pan out at second base, where Flaherty is a more natural fit. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Paul Konerko, White Sox – A forgotten man, Konerko is now the backup first baseman with the recent addition of Jose Abreu. 38 years old this season, Konerko hit only .244/.313/.355 last year with 12 homers over 520 PA. He'll also see time at DH with Adam Dunn, but as we enter the twilight phase of Konerko's career, it's tough to see him getting much playing time. Konerko is still useful against LHP, so perhaps he gets into a platoon with Dunn, who struggles against southpaws. Either way, Konerko is really just a name now and not one that you should be bidding an extra dollar on. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Marc Krauss & Jesus Guzman, Astros – Krauss is set to start the season as the Astros' primary first baseman against RHP, while Guzman will hit against LHP and see time in the outfield. Used sporadically in the second half last season, he hit .218/.282/.387 against right-handers in his rookie season, with four home runs over 131 PA. At Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, he hit .257/.362/.462 against righties with 11 home runs over 343 PA. The power and the on-base skills aren't the question here. Rather, it's how much contact will he make and when will Jon Singleton be coming up to take over the position full-time, but we're not there yet. It should be noted that Krauss will also be the team's third catcher, which will allow Carlos Corporan to pinch hit in games more often. If your league allows a player to be eligible at a position, after only one game played, Krauss could be a sneaky pickup early this season. As for Guzman, it's tough to see him helping many owners as he bounces around defensively and looks for at-bats. He'll likely be eligible at first, outfield, and possibly third base fairly early in the season -- he's been playing some third in spring training -- but that's about as far as the positives go. He's a career .286/.358/.460 hitter against LHP over 408 PA, so he's got that going for him. Krauss Mixed: No; AL: $4. Guzman Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Eduardo Nunez, Yankees – There's a good chance that on any given week, Nunez is going to show up in the column, as he's the backup that can play a bit everywhere, hit enough to not kill your batting average, and has enough speed to just be relevant on a weekly basis. As of right now, Kelly Johnson is set to be the Yankees' third baseman, but that could change if/when Brian Roberts gets hurt again, which would force Johnson to the keystone. Last season, Nunez hit .260/.307/.372 with three homers and 10 stolen bases over 336 PA but also battled a malady of injuries to his biceps, ribs, and hamstring that limited his time on the field. In 2011, he stole 22 bases over 338 PA and showed how helpful he can be, when given some playing time. Considering the brittle nature of the Yankees this season, Nunez will likely find himself with a starting role sooner rather than later. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Alex Gonzalez & Andrew Romine, Tigers – With Jose Iglesias (legs) gone for the season, the Tigers have scrambled to find a replacement at shortstop. So far, they've traded for Gonzalez from the Orioles and Romine from the Angels. At 37 years old, Gonzalez has little to offer owners. He can still hit the occasional home run, but there's zero speed to be had and the batting average is likely to be troublesome (if you're in a league that uses OBP, you better be punting the category, if you're rostering Gonzalez). As for Romine, he's almost a decade Gonzalez's junior but offers about the same amount of power and ability to hit for contact. However, he can steal a base, as he did last season at Triple-A Salt Lake, when he took 15 bags over 416 PA. It's best to steer clear of this situation all together, if possible. Gonzalez Mixed: $0; AL: $2. Romine Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Steve Lombardozzi & Jonathan Schoop – Schoop somewhat surprisingly made the O's Opening Day roster. He's 22 years old and has barely over 300 PA above the Double-A level, so his assignment to the majors is certainly an aggressive one. Once Manny Machado is able to come off the DL from his knee injury, Ryan Flaherty may shift back to second base, so Schoop's time in the majors might be short-lived this time around. At Triple-A Norfolk, Schoop hit .256/.301/.396 with nine homers over 289 PA. He'll hit for power, as he develops, but his eye at the plate is likely not near ready enough for the majors. As for Lombardozzi, he's new to the O's organization, as he most recently played with the Tigers, before previously being with the Nationals to start his career. He has hit .269/.305/.351 against RHP, as a switch hitter, over 573 PA in his career, and while in the minors, he hit at every stop, although with very little power. He did steal 30 bases between Double- and Triple-A in 2011, so those looking for cheap speed might be able to tease some value out of him. Lombardozzi Mixed: No; AL: $2. Schoop Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Donnie Murphy & Josh Wilson, Rangers – The absence of Jurickson Profar (shoulder) has left the Rangers with a hole at second base and no good options to fill it. Adam Rosales was in the running for the job, but that was before he was DFA'd on Saturday. That now leaves Murphy and Wilson left to battle for playing time. Murphy is a career .215/.280/.405 hitter with 29 homers and seven stolen bases over 803 plate appearances but has somewhat better numbers against LHP as a right-handed batter. Wilson isn't much better as a career .225/.278/.317 hitter with 10 homers and 13 stolen bases over 1,077 PA. Together, this is a duo to forget, and it's likely in the best interest of the team to scour the waiver wire and see what shakes out from players that failed to make other rosters, before settling on Murphy and Wilson. Murphy Mixed: $1; AL: $4. Wilson Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Marcus Semien & Leury Garcia, White Sox – Regular second baseman Gordon Beckham (oblique) will start the season on the DL, meaning that Semien and Garcia will share the duties between themselves, until he's ready to return later in April. Semien should get the bulk of the playing time and is an interesting power/speed combination at only 23 years old. Last season between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, he hit .284/.401/.479 with 19 homers and 24 stolen bases over 625 PA, and that was before he got to the majors late last season and hit .261/.268/.406 in the final month of the season. He's not a highly-touted prospect but should be productive right away. As for Garcia, he has plenty of speed, but it's just a matter of will he get enough playing time to showcase it. He hit .265/.314/.395 last season between Triple-A Round Rock and Charlotte, striking out over a quarter of the time at both stops, which is not a great harbinger of things to come in the majors. Semien Mixed: $3; AL: $9. Garcia Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Abraham Almonte, Mariners – Almonte might not be a household name to owners but should be on everyone's radar, now that he's won the M's Opening Day starting center-field job and will bat leadoff for the club. Last season at Triple-A Tacoma, he hit .314/.403/.491 with 11 homers and 20 stolen bases over 396 plate appearances. His placement at the top of the lineup is also influenced by the fact that he's a RHB, which will help the team avoid starting out with three consecutive LHBs at the top of the order. Going into his age-25 season, he should have modest power and speed for a center fielder. The real question will be: can he continue to get on base like he did in the minors? If the answer is yes, he'll be a sneaky source of runs. Mixed: $4; AL: $12.
Michael Choice, Rangers – Choice will start the season as the Rangers' fourth outfielder, after a trade from the A's brought him to Texas. At Triple-A Sacramento last season, he hit .302/.390/.445 with 14 homers and one stolen base over 600 PA at 23 years old. This season, he only needs a crack at some playing time to show what he's capable of at the MLB level. The power is what's most impressive, as he hit 30 home runs in 2011 at the High-A level. Among all fourth outfielders in the AL, he's right near the top of the list in intrigue, especially considering he was a top-10 pick in the 2010 draft. Mixed: No; AL: $4.
Alejandro De Aza, White Sox – We know what De Aza is capable of when getting steady playing time, as he hit .264/.323/.405 last season with 17 homers and 20 stolen bases over 674 PA. It's just a question of will that playing time come in 2014. Right now, he's the Pale Hose's fourth outfielder with the addition of Adam Eaton to center field. Don't let that stop you from bidding on De Aza in shallower mixed leagues, as he's got the skills to be a productive player. If the team pulls off a trade of De Aza or Dayan Viciedo, which was rumored throughout the spring, then there could be a windfall of playing time headed De Aza's way, and his value will certainly rebound. In the meantime, though, it wouldn't hurt to have De Aza on your roster, or at least on your radar. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
David Lough, Orioles – Lough is expected to platoon in left field for the O's, as he hits well against right-handers. He may even hit leadoff in some scenarios or possibly hit second, which is great news for his value as well as his potential to score runs and steal bases. Last season with the Royals, he came up from the minors and hit .286/.311/.413 with five homers and five stolen bases over 335 PA. At 28 years old, he isn't a prospect but is a solid contact hitter. He wouldn't find himself in a platoon, if it wasn't for Steve Pearce, who hits LHP well. Don't forget about Lough in deeper mixed leagues. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Nyjer Morgan, Indians – Michael Bourn (hamstring) is expected to come off the DL in the early part of April, perhaps a few days after he's eligible on the fifth. In the meantime, expect the Cult of Personality -- Morgan -- to fill his shoes and potentially steal a couple of bases in the process. Last season, Morgan was in Japan, following a 2012 season with the Brewers, where he hit .239/.302/.308 with three homers and 12 stolen bases over 322 PA. In AL-only formats, he's worth stashing for his speed but not much else, unless your team needs some Tony Plush for team morale. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Grady Sizemore, Red Sox – Sizemore's comeback story added another chapter to it this week, when he was named the Red Sox's starting center fielder. His role on the team says as much about him and the work he's put in, as it does about Jackie Bradley and his readiness to take on a job offensively that he struggled with mightily last season. For Sizemore, this will be his first MLB action since 2011, when he was with the Indians and injuries to his knees robbed him of the prime of his career. 31 years old now, the team will need to rest him and do preventative care to keep him on the field and healthy. It's difficult to project what a player that's missed so much time will do, but what we do know is that when Sizemore was healthy, he hit for power and displayed speed on the basepaths, but his batting average was starting to become a real concern. If the power comes back around, he'll be mixed-league relevant. If not, though, then he might be of use solely in AL-only formats. Mixed: $6; AL: $18.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.