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
Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays - Buehrle struck out 11 batters with only one walk over 8.2 shutout innings against the Rays this week. This coming week he has two starts - against the Astros and Orioles, so he should be on most owners' radar. Buehrle has never been known for his ability to miss bats, rather he's been a pitcher that offers fringe command and never really does anything to hurt his owners. He didn't throw any harder than in the past against the Rays or introduce a new pitch, so there's no reason to think he's a different pitcher this season. He's off to a great start and will likely keep that rolling against the Astros at home this week, so he's at least worth an add if you stream pitchers. Last season he had a 4.15 ERA (4.09 xFIP) with 139 strikeouts and 51 walks over 203.2 innings. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Bruce Chen, Royals - Even after he posted a 3.27 ERA (4.93 xFIP) last season over 121 innings for the Royals last season, it's hard to trust Chen. This week however, he tempted owners by striking out seven White Sox batters with no walks over 6.1 innings with only one unearned run allowed. He usually doesn't have swing and miss stuff like this, so he relies more on his control and defense to help bail him out. This week he draws the Twins on the road, where he makes for a decent streaming option in mixed leagues. If you're in an AL only format, you have to add him till he turns heel and goes back to the pitcher we saw with over a 5.00 ERA in 2012. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Jarred Cosart, Astros - Cosart twirled five shutout innings against the Yankees this week with no walks, three strikeouts, and four hits allowed. The walks are important, as he battled control issues for much of last season, when he made his debut with the Astros. Really though, the strikeouts are an issue too, as he doesn't have overpowering stuff and isn't great at creating deception with his delivery. It's actually a small miracle he was able to post a 1.95 ERA last season when he pitched more like someone with an ERA over 4.00 in the 10 starts he made. Don't be fooled in mixed leagues, Cosart is working with smoke and mirrors and a two-pitch arsenal that is likely to have hitters guessing correctly more often than not. This week he faces the Angels at home and Rangers on the road. Mixed: No; AL: $4.
Colby Lewis, Rangers - April 11th is the earliest that Lewis may return to the Rangers rotation, until then he's slated to make another start in the minors. The way Tanner Scheppers and Joe Saunders pitched this week, there's going to be a spot open for Lewis, when he's ready to return. 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. He's worth speculating on in AL only formats, especially if you own Scheppers, who may not be long for the rotation. Mixed: No; AL: $4.
James Paxton, Mariners - Striking out nine Angels batters with only two walks and two hits allowed over seven innings is a great way to start your season, especially when you're hitting 96 mph in your last inning of work, as Paxton was this week. The young lefty is getting his first real taste of the majors, after he got a September call-up last season and posted a 1.50 ERA (3.08 xFIP) over 24 innings as a starter. He showed a good ability to miss bats in the minors, though his control was shaky at times. If he can keep missing bats and limit the walks and induce ground balls, he's going to be very successful in the majors. For now though, he needs to keep proving himself, before those in mixed leagues should show real faith in him. If you're in a deeper mixed league, make the add now and see what he does this week against the Angels a second time around and against the A's later in the week, both at home. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Erasmo Ramirez, Mariners - After tempting owners in 2012 with a 3.64 ERA (3.52 xFIP) as a starter in 47 innings, Ramirez burned owners in 2013 with a 4.98 ERA (4.26 xFIP) over 72.1 innings. A triceps strain held him back the early part of 2013 and might be partly to blame for the poor results. On Tuesday he pitched seven innings and allowed two earned runs with no walks and six strikeouts to the Angels. He had a strong spring training and is a good rebound candidate for this season. If he finds success against the A's on Sunday, he might be worth adding as more than a streaming option this week against the A's at home in a rematch. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Tyler Skaggs, Angels - Holding the Astros to one unearned run isn't a great feat of skill, but it is when you pitch eight innings, allow only four hits, with one walk and five strikeouts as Skaggs did Saturday night. Last season he was with the Diamondbacks, before he got traded as part of the Mark Trumbo deal. The shift in home ballpark is likely to help him out greatly as he's gone from one of the more hitter friendly parks to one of the more pitcher friendly parks. He showed promising command in the minors and was a top prospect for a while, before he lost some velocity on his fastball. In his start Saturday however, much of it was back as he was sitting in the low 90s, which is up from the high 80s he was hitting at the end of last season. This week he gets the Mets at home, where he's a great add for streaming purposes and those in mixed leagues looking to speculate on starters. Mixed: $7; AL: Owned.
Josh Fields, Astros - Fields nailed down the first Astros save opportunity of the season this week with Matt Albers serving as the setup man. On Saturday night, down three runs, Albers was brought in for the sixth and seventh innings, with Chad Qualls working the eighth, and Fields pitching the ninth. If this pattern continues, you can likely plan on Fields earning more save opportunities, however rare they maybe be for the Astros. Fields closed out five games for the team last season with a 4.97 ERA (4.20 xFIP) with borderline command. Jesse Crain is still working his way back from a biceps injury and is due back in early May, so there's still some time before he starts to factor into this equation. Until further notice, Fields is the man to own in the Astros bullpen. Mixed: $5; AL: $18.
Luke Gregerson & Sean Doolittle, A's - The Jim Johnson roller coaster didn't shut down, it just picked up and moved cities for the 2014 campaign. Now in Oakland, he gave up five earned runs in his first two appearances with no strikeouts and three walks both ending in losses for him. Saturday he worked the eighth inning, down three runs, and came out unscathed with two strikeouts, though he did give up a hit. He was brought in on a one-year contract, so the team doesn't have their future invested in him, and could move away from him, if his struggles continue. The likely replacements are Gregerson and Doolittle, both of which are much more stable options to close out games. Gregerson has more experience and is a righty, so he might be the choice; if Johnson is given some time to collect himself, either way both he and Doolittle are good speculative adds in most leagues. Gregerson Mixed: $2; AL: $8. Doolittle Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Matt Lindstrom, Scott Downs, & Daniel Webb, White Sox - So much for Nate Jones, who was thought to be the closer for the Pale Hose going into the season, only to be passed over, in favor of Lindstrom. To make matters worse, Jones is now on the DL dealing with a hip injury. Lindstrom is the man for the job now, but we'll see how long that lasts, as he should not be allowed to face LHB, of whom he owns a .280/.357/.397 batting line against. Overall his command is lacking and he has a 2.17 career K/BB. Manager Robin Ventura is likely going to need to keep Downs (LOOGY) on hand, if he's going to keep on running out Lindstrom in the ninth inning. Webb makes for a nice speculative add in all leagues, as he throws harder, has more swing and miss stuff, and has the better control. What he doesn't have though is experience, as he has only pitched 14 innings in the majors, which pales in comparison to Lindstrom's 388.2 IP. Lindstrom can keep this job, if managed correctly, but there's likely to be some bumps in the road, so don't be surprised if this remains a fluid situation. Lindstrom Mixed: $6; AL: $18. Downs Mixed: $1; AL: $4. Webb Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Sergio Santos, Blue Jays - With Casey Janssen dealing with a back injury and on the DL, Santos has taken over as the closer for the Blue Jays. Janssen's injury isn't serious enough that it should keep him out for an extended period of time, but it does have him limited to long toss for now. Santos is more than capable of taking this job and running with it, as he was originally brought in to be the team's closer back in 2012, before he suffered a shoulder injury. Now healthy once again and back to throwing heat with a slider and change-up, he should be a steady source of saves for owners. I would have no problem with bidding him up, in hopes of him keeping the job all year, but as we've already seen, relief pitchers are a fickle bunch. It's a little bit concerning that he issued a walk in each of his three appearances and was lifted for Brett Cecil against a LHB, suggesting a possible committee, but it's still early and Santos has never had issues with LHB in the past, so don't read too much into Cecil's vulture save. Mixed: $10; AL: $30.
Francisco Cervelli, Yankees - Cervelli will start to pickup a few more at-bats, now that Mark Teixeira (hamstring) is on the DL. Kelly Johnson will start at first base on most days with Yangervis Solarte picking up the slack at third base, but there will also be days where Cervelli starts at first as well. Normally the backup catcher to Brian McCann, he'll offer owners a hollow batting average, as he doesn't have much power or speed to speak of. His batting average though could be helpful, compared to other catchers, as he is a career .271/.343/.368 hitter over 631 PA in the majors. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Tyler Flowers, White Sox - Flowers had a four-hit game this week and backed it up with another three hits the next night, as he's gotten off to a quick start, going 8-for-14 at the plate with one double. He's known more for his power than anything else and has struggled to hit for contact, so the early success is likely more the result of a small sample size than a fundamental change in his approach. Still, he's worth a look in deeper leagues that use two catchers. He's a career .210/.286/.379 hitter with 22 homers over 606 PA. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Josmil Pinto, Twins - News came out this week that Pinto has been taking grounders at first base and could start there on days when Joe Mauer is used at DH. This doesn't give his stock much of a boost, but it does show that the team wants to find a way to get his bat into the lineup more often and is willing to try him at another position to do so. Pinto is currently the backup catcher, behind Kurt Suzuki, but is the likely future at the position. Last season between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester, he hit .309/.400/.482 with 15 homers over 528 PA as a 24-year old. Already this season he has one homer in the two games he's played. Keep him in mind, in deep mixed leagues, as he's likely to take over the job at some point this season. In AL only formats that use two catchers, he's a must own and especially in keeper leagues. Mixed: No; AL: $6.
Austin Romine, Yankees - Romine was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday to give the Yankees some depth, as they deal with the hamstring injury to Mark Teixeira. The plan is to shift Kelly Johnson over to first and use Francisco Cervelli as his backup until things are sorted out. With Brian McCann and Cevelli ahead of him, it's doubtful Romine finds much playing time. Last season he hit .207/.255/.296 with one home run and one stolen base over 148 PA. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Mike Zunino, Mariners - Zunino has started the season out hot with three extra-base hits in his first three games. A highly touted prospect while in the minors, this will be Zunino's first full season in the majors, after he was rushed through the minors, where he skipped High-A and only got 57 PA at Double-A, before moving on to Triple-A. Last season he struggled, hitting .214/.290/.329 with five homers over 193 PA, but was to be expected, given his age and inexperience. His power should continue to grow, as this week showed, but there will still be some growing pains that will hurt the bottom line of fantasy owners too. He's worth a look in mixed leagues, but he's not worth getting into a bidding war over, at least not yet. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Chris Colabello, Twins - Any time a player has six RBI in one game, owners are going to take notice, and that's just the case with Colabello, who backed up that performance with a homer the next night to keep the momentum going. On the season he's started out 7-for-18 with one homer and three doubles, so it's hard to fault owners for going out and scooping him up, even in shallower formats. He was a bit of an after-thought coming into the season with Joe Mauer at first base and a couple of bigger name guys ahead of him in the pecking order for at-bats at DH, but that has changed some with Colabello swinging a hot bat. For those that don't know much about him, and I can hardly blame you, Colabello spent seven seasons in independent ball before latching on with the Twins in 2012 in their minor league system. Last season he hit .352/.427/.639 at Triple-A Rochester with 24 homers over 391 PA, but struggled when given a chance in the majors, hitting only .194/.287/.344 with seven homers over 181 PA. At this point, he needs to be owned in all AL only formats and most deep mixers. If you're in a shallower format, you can afford to wait and see if he can keep this up. Mixed: $4; AL: $14.
Jesus Guzman, Astros - Guzman hit cleanup against LHP Tyler Skaggs and the Angels on Saturday, which is a shift from the fifth and sixth spots that he had hit in against RHP. The Astros lineup is often a weak one and it is not all that surprising that they've scored four runs over their last three games combined, but hitting cleanup against LHPs is still something to store away in daily leagues and AL only formats. For his career, Guzman is a .283/.354/.463 hitter over 415 PA against southpaws with 13 homers. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Jonathan Herrera & Brock Holt, Red Sox - With Will Middlebrooks hitting the DL on Sunday with a calf strain, Holt was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to take his roster spot. He'll backup Herrera, who now moves into a starting role, after backing up the left side of the infield to start the season. This is Herrera's first season with the Red Sox, after spending the first eight years of his career with the Rockies. He profiles more as a middle infield glove than a corner bat, so don't be surprised with the complete lack of power that Herrera brings to the hot corner. He doesn't run either; so really, there's not much profit to be had by adding him to your team. Still, he's going to get playing time, so he's worth a speculative add in AL only formats. He's a career .265/.325/.332 hitter over 1,113 PA. As for Holt, he profiles about the same in the power and speed department, though he makes better contact with his swing. Last season he hit .258/.327/.309 with three homers and eight stolen bases over 329 PA at Triple-A Pawtucket. Herrera Mixed: $1; AL: $4. Holt Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Justin Smoak, Mariners - Few players had a hotter opening series than Smoak did against the Angels this week, hitting two home runs and two doubles with a walk. Not surprisingly, both homers and one of the doubles came off of a RHP, as Smoak has done much better against righties as a switch-hitter than he has against LHP. He really should drop hitting from both sides of the plate all together, as he struggles against LHP (.192/.274/.274 vs LHP in 2013). The hot start has some fanning the flames of his past status as a prospect, back when he was with the Rangers, before he got traded as part of the Cliff Lee deal. He's always had decent power and his performance this week really shouldn't be much of a surprise, what will be a surprise is if he can keep this up. If you're in a mixed league, he's worth adding to find out, though if you can sit him against LHP, you're going to get the most efficient use of his playing time. Those in deeper leagues should already have him on their roster. Mixed: $8; AL: Owned.
Yangervis Solarte, Yankees - Solarte not only beat out Eduardo Nunez for a roster spot to start the season, but he's now the team's start third baseman, with the hamstring injury to Mark Teixeira that has forced Kelly Johnson across the diamond. He's taken advantage of this opportunity going 7-for-13 in his first four games with three doubles and one walk. Last season in the Rangers organization at Triple-A Round Rock he hit .276/.323/.403 with 12 homers and three stolen bases over 577 PA. 26-years old this season, he is not a prospect, but that doesn't mean he won't have value if the aging veterans on this Yankees roster continue to get hurt. Mixed: $4; AL: $14.
Gordon Beckham, White Sox - Beckham is currently on a rehab assignment at Double-A Birmingham, as he's on the DL with an oblique injury, but that may change later this week when he's eligible to come off said list and rejoin the White Sox. The team has been using Marcus Semien in his absence, but will not think twice before handing Beckham back his job, as Semien has started the season out 3-for 23 with eight strikeouts. Last season Beckham hit .267/.322/.372 with five homers and five stolen bases over 408 PA. 27-years old, it feels like Beckham has been around forever, likely because he was fast-tracked through the minors, after college. He has modest power with little speed, but he did make some strides last season in regards to his eye at the plate and ability to make contact, so there might still room for growth left. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Jonathan Diaz & Maicer Izturis, Blue Jays - The hamstring injury to Jose Reyes has opened the door for Diaz to start at shortstop for the Blue Jays. He's off to a 3-for-11 start with one double and a stolen base, and really that's about the most owners can expect on any given week, as he has no power and limited speed. Reyes could be back as soon as he's eligible, so don't expect Diaz's time as a starter to last long. As for Izturis, he's been seeing more time at second base lately, but can also play some shortstop too, so don't be surprised to see him eat into Diaz's time. Izturis has started the season off 6-for-12 with a double and stolen base, thus matching his stolen base total from last season. He figures to hang around on the roster once Reyes is back, unlike Diaz, making him the better long-term bet to help owners in AL only formats. Diaz Mixed: $0; AL: $3. Izturis Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Alex Gonzalez, Tigers - Gonzalez started his season off right with a walk-off single against the Royals and off Greg Holland no less. As the Tigers starting shortstop, he's been hitting in the bottom third of the order, but that's not necessarily a bad place to be as he has Ian Kinsler and Torii Hunter there to knock him in. At 37-years old, he's not going to hit his way back on the radars of fantasy owners in many mixed leagues, but he should hit for enough power to be relevant in AL only formats. A career .246/.291/.396 hitter, Gonzalez will hold value as long as he continues to receive playing time and his defense is passable (he already has two errors on the season). Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Steve Lombardozzi, Orioles - With Manny Machado (knee) still out Ryan Flaherty has started the season at the hot corner with a cold bat, going 0-for-15. The team has since slid Jonathan Schoop over to see if he can hold things down there until Machado is back, though his 2-for-14 start isn't encouraging. The one stable player in this has been Lombardozzi, who has started 4-for-11 and will likely keep his second base job, once Machado returns, if he can simply tread water and not sink offensively like Flaherty and Schoop seem to be doing right now. Last season with the Nationals he hit .259/.364/.364 with two homers and four stolen bases over 307 PA and while that might not sound like much (and it's not), he's still only 25-years old, so there might still be some room for growth in his skill set. Make sure he's owned in your AL only league, for the counting stats, if nothing else. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Dustin Ackley, Mariners - Like many of the other Mariners, Ackley has started the season off well, going 6-for-20 with a double, triple, homer, stolen base, and two walks. Considering he hit only four homers last season and was generally considered a bust, after being selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, this is positive sign for Ackley, albeit in a very small sample size. Last year he finished the second half of the season batting .304/.374/.435 with three homers over 208 PA, so perhaps whatever he learned then has carried over to this season. He's starting in left field and needs to be owned in more mixed leagues, until he cools or a better option comes along for owners. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Abraham Almonte, Mariners - Almonte started the week of going 6-for-21 with two doubles, a homer, a stolen base, and three walks, which is not bad for a relatively unknown player making his debut in the majors as the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter for the Mariners. The power and speed are nice to see, but the walks are most encouraging, as they're a sign he might be able to stick as the team's leadoff man. In this lineup with Brad Miller, Robinson Cano, and Justin Smoak hitting behind him, he should be a nice source of runs in all formats. At Triple-A Tacoma last season he hit .314/.403/.491 with 11 homers and 20 stolen bases over 396 PA. Mixed: $7; AL: $21.
Jackie Bradley & Jonny Gomes, Red Sox - Shane Victorino's hamstring injury has him on the DL (he also has the flu) and has the Red Sox starting Gomes in left field, with Mike Carp getting the occasional start there as well. Gomes really shouldn't be allowed to hit against RHP, as he owns a career .225/.310/.422 batting line against them, but such is life. Carp would make more sense against RHP, as he's a LHB, but he doesn't have the power that Gomes does. Until Victorino returns, expect Gomes to be in left field most games. As for Bradley, he was not originally going to make the Opening Day roster, but that was before Victorino got hurt. Now he's floating around looking for at-bats between center and right field. Defensively it might make more sense to have him in center and Grady Sizemore in left, to preserve his legs, but then again, I'm not the manager. For all of Bradley's struggles last season in the majors, he did hit well in the minors with a .275/.374/.469 batting line, 10 homers, and seven stolen bases at Triple-A Pawtucket over 374 PA there. Bradley Mixed: No; AL: $4. Gomes Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Lorenzo Cain, Royals - If you're looking for cheap speed in a mixed league, Cain might be a good place to start, as he has already stolen two bases in his first four games. He's not known for being a prolific base stealer, but he's fast enough (14 stolen bases over 442 PA in 2013) and with manager Ned Yost at the controls, he's likely to get his chances. For those that may have forgotten or didn't know, the Royals led MLB in stolen bases last season with 153, so Yost knows what he's doing sending his guys on the basepaths. For his career, Cain is a .266/.317/.378 hitter, so he shouldn't hurt you with his batting average, though you will have to take a hit in the power department, as there's not much there. Still, you could do much worse for a fifth outfielder in a mixed league if you've got a need for speed. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Matt Joyce, Rays - Joyce has started off the season well, going 7-for-13 with two doubles, a homer, and three walks. He's starting against RHP and for good reason, as he a career .263/.357/.486 hitter against them (that's a .223 ISO). While he's owned in all AL only formats, he needs to be picked up in more mixed leagues because of his power. He's hitting seventh in the lineup right now, but did hit leadoff for one game (Joe Maddon likes to tinker) already and could move up, if he continues to swing a hot bat. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.
Ichiro Suzuki, Yankees - A fourth outfielder for the Yankees now, Ichiro likely went for a mere pittance in most AL only drafts and auctions this year. In mixed leagues, he was likely a forgotten man, which makes sense considering he's 40 years old and doesn't get consistent playing time. Still, he has started the season out, as you would expect - hitting, going 5-for-9 with a double and four runs. Until he finds a regular role, he can likely be ignored in most mixed leagues, but those in deeper leagues and certainly those in AL only formats should make sure he's owned. He won't steal 40 bases any more, but he should hit for a decent average and score runs, which is more than you can say for some fourth outfielders. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.