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
Erik Bedard, Rays - With Alex Cobb headed to the DL with an oblique strain; Bedard is the next man up in the Rays rotation. Last season with the Astros he posted a 4.77 ERA (4.48 xFIP) as a starter with 130 strikeouts, 66 walks, and 71 earned runs over 134 IP. There's no reason to think he'll succeed this time around with the Rays, only that he'll be around to eat innings. That is hardly music to an owner's ears and should serve notice that he is not to be trusted, even in mixed leagues. This week he gets the Yankees at home. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Jesse Chavez, A's - Hard to argue with the results from Chavez's first two starts as he now has 13 strikeouts, two walks, and two earned runs allowed over 13 innings. His conversion from a reliever to a starter seems to be going well, and a 55.6% ground ball rate doesn't hurt either. This week he gets the Angels on the road and Astros at home, as a two-start starter. Keep rolling him out there in AL only formats and pick him up in mixed leagues, until he shows he can't be trusted. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Scott Feldman, Astros - Feldman held the Rangers scoreless on Friday night, as he gave up just two hits with four walks and three strikeouts. Through three starts he now has seven strikeouts, eight walks, and one earned run allowed over 20.2 IP. The strikeouts and walks tell the truth here; this is smoke and mirrors. His .119 BABIP is well below his .286 career level and command like this can only last so long. Still, it's a nice story and the fact that he pitched so well, the day before leaving the team to be at his father's funeral is touching. Just don't go running to the waiver wire to bid on him because, while the results are nice, he hasn't had a change in skill (he's actually throwing weaker than last season by almost two mph) or a change in what he throws. Mixed: $2; AL: $Owned.
Dallas Keuchel, Astros - Keuchel bounced back from a rough first start against the Angels this week to hold the Blue Jays to just one run over seven innings. He now has 11 strikeouts, four walks, and five earned runs allowed over 12 innings. His command is decent enough that if he has a good defense behind him, the ground balls that he induces should turn into outs and help him in the good graces of fantasy owners. Last season he had a 5.15 ERA (3.58 xFIP) with 123 strikeouts and 52 walks over 153.2 IP. This week he gets the Royals at home. If you're in a deep mixed league, he's worth keeping an eye on. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Colby Lewis, Rangers - Lewis (hip) is slated to join the Rangers rotation on Monday to face the Mariners at home and may start a second game this week against the White Sox, also at home. He's coming back from hip surgery, and before that elbow surgery. The last time we saw him in the majors was 2012, when he had a 3.43 ERA (3.89 xFIP) with 93 strikeouts and 14 walks over 105 IP. Considering the time out, he's not an option you can trust this week, but then again, he can't do much worse than Tanner Scheppers, who has a 7.88 ERA through three starts. Treadly lightly here in mixed leagues, while those in AL only formats will have to take the plunge on his upside (in 2010 he struck out 196 batters in 201 innings). Mixed: $2; AL: $10.
Dustin McGowan, Blue Jays - McGowan won his first game since 2008 on Friday, as he held the Orioles scoreless for 6.1 innings with two strikeouts, one walk and five hits allowed. He also hit two batters, so you can tell his command isn't sharp, but it's an encouraging start, all things considered. He might have to shift to the bullpen though, with J.A. Happ (back) not too far from returning to the rotation. On the season now, McGowan has five strikeouts, two walks, and four earned runs allowed over nine innings. He'll get the Twins this week on the road. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Garrett Richards, Angels - Richards received his second win of the season in as many starts, after he held the Mariners scoreless over seven innings with six strikeouts, three walks and only one hit allowed. On the season he now has 13 strikeouts, eight walks, and only one earned run allowed over 12 innings. The 0.75 ERA is fantastic, but his walks tell another story, as does his .148 BABIP. Last season he carried a 4.18 ERA (3.66 xFIP) over 103.1 innings as a starter, with 71 strikeouts and 32 walks. He is throwing harder this season, so there is some reason for optimism, but he's going to have to find better command. This week he gets the A's at home. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Cody Allen, Indians; Neftali Feliz, Rangers; Darren O'Day, Orioles - Not a bad idea to throw a dollar or two at these guys in AL only formats. Allen is setting up for John Axford, who has four saves, but also five walks to just seven strikeouts over 5.1 innings. Axford posted an ERA over 4.00 the last two seasons, so it might not be long before Allen is the man in Cleveland. As for Feliz, he's had three scoreless appearances of the four he's made in the minors (he gave up a solo homer in the other), so it might not be long before he's back up in the majors. His velocity is reportedly in the mid-90s, which is also encouraging. He'll have some work to do, once back up, but he's worth keeping an eye on in AL only formats, where he was dropped in mass, after he lost out to Joakim Soria for the closer job. And finally, look no further than Tommy Hunter's last two appearances, where he's given up an earned run in each, blowing a save in the later, as a reason to check on the status of O'Day. Hunter has three saves and hasn't walked a batter yet, so he's got some leash, but as we've seen with other teams, these situations can change quickly. All Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Anthony Bass, Josh Fields, Chad Qualls, & Matt Albers, Astros - Two weeks into the season and three different pitchers have at least one save for the Astros, which is true to manager Bo Porter's comments that he would use a committee and likely not helping any fantasy owners in the process. Of the bunch, Albers has pitched the best with six strikeouts, one walk, and one earned run over 5.1 innings, yet he has no saves. Qualls has done almost as well with five strikeouts, one walk, and two earned runs allowed over 4.2 innings and he has one save. Fields has almost as many walks (three) as strikeouts (four) in just 3.2 innings and then there's Bass, who has only one strikeout in 5.1 innings of work, yet got the save Saturday night in extra innings, to give him two on the season. Albers and Qualls are best suited for this job right now, though given the true committee Porter seems to be going with, there's no telling if they will actually get more chances than the others. The best advice is roster one of these two or none of them, as there's really no telling who will get the call next. Heck, even Kevin Chapman, who has no business being a closer or put in high leverage situations, was given the chance to get a save on Saturday night, but he blew it by serving up a homer to Michael Choice. Albers & Qualls Mixed: $3; AL: $10. Bass & Fields Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Luke Gregerson, Ryan Cook, & Sean Doolittle, A's - With the news this week that Jim Johnson has been removed as the A's closer for the time being, there are a host of possible options to fill this role, most notably Luke Gregerson, who shut the door on the M's Saturday night for his first save of the season. It wasn't without a couple of bumps in the road, as he gave up two hits. Still he didn't allow a run to score and was setup by Sean Doolittle, who tossed 1.1 clean innings. Gregerson being a RHP makes sense for the job, as opposed to Doolittle, who is much more than just a LOOGY. There might be real room to consider Doolittle as an option, if it weren't for Cook, who came off the DL this week and has closing experience. Cook has admitted his control isn't where he'd like it to be yet and you can see it in the numbers, as he has walked three of the nine batters he's faced this season. Moreover, manager Bob Melvin has come out and said that Cook won't be in the mix for saves right now, so that takes some wind out his sails. Expect to see Melvin go to Gregerson or Doolittle, depending on the matchup, until Johnson works out his issues, which might take a while. Gregerson Mixed: $8; AL: $25. Cook Mixed: $1; AL: $4. Doolittle Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, & Dellin Betances, Yankees - David Robertson hit the DL this week with a pulled groin, but believes he'll be able to return as soon as he's eligible. In the meantime, Kelly and Thornton look to be the most likely fill-ins and that's what they are, fill-ins, as Robertson is likely to get his job back when he returns. Kelley is a RHP and Thornton is a LHP, so you can see where manager Joe Girardi is going with this. Kelley already has two saves to his name, so he's likely to keep the role, though he did take a loss this week after giving up two runs in a tied game. Thornton will most likely be the guy asked to face tough LHBs, tough he was used in the seventh inning on Saturday when the team had a four-run lead, so maybe he still has some trust to earn. Betances is the man lurking who has impressed the most this season, with stuff that can touch the high 90s. He and Adam Warren are interesting options, but only if Kelley fails miserably. Kelley Mixed: $3; AL: $10. Thornton & Betances Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Edward Mujica & Junichi Tazawa, Red Sox - Closer Koji Uehara is dealing with stiffness in his shoulder and could go on the DL soon after being held out from Friday and Saturday's games. Mujica is the next man up and was able to close out Satuday's game against the Yankees with a clean ninth inning. Last season he had 37 saves with a 2.78 ERA, after stepping in for Jason Motte before fading in September and giving way to Trevor Rosenthal. No reason to think he can't be a more than serviceable fill-in, until Uehara is ready to close games out again. Tazawa is also a RHP and has been unscored upon in six appearances with eight strikeouts and only one walk. He had a 3.16 ERA last season and would be a fine option, should Mujica falter. Keep an eye on Uehara and the news surrounding him, as whoever is closing games out for the Red Sox has great value in all leagues. Mujica Mixed: $4; AL: $15. Tazawa Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Robinson Chirinos, Rangers - With starter J.P. Arencibia off to a 2-for-22 start with only one extra base hit and one walk, it wouldn't be surprising to see Chirinos start to get more playing time. This week Chirinos got a single, double, homer, and two walks over his 11 PA. If he can keep some of that up, it's going to be hard to keep running Arencibia out there, unless he starts hitting for power. Last season Chirinos hit .257/.356/.400 with eight homers and two stolen bases at Triple-A Round Rock over 311 PA. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Tyler Flowers, White Sox - This week Flowers kept his hot start going by getting four more hits, including a home run. On the season he's now up to a .419/.455/.548 batting line over 33 PA. Unfortunately he is still striking out a third of the time and his contact rate has yet to improve, so it's unlikely there has been some growth of skills here. Still, he's worth rostering in shallower league until he cools down. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Chris Herrmann, Twins - Herrmann was recalled from Triple-A Rochester this week to give the Twins some depth in their outfield, as they deal with injuries to Josh Willingham (hand) and Oswaldo Arcia (wrist). Herrmann caught 13 games last season for the team, so he should be eligible there defensively in all formats. At 26-years old, he doesn't have much power and won't hit for average, but will likely see some playing time in the outfield, so he might be of use in AL only formats. Last season with the Twins he hit .204/.286/.325 with four homers over 178 PA. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Derek Norris, A's - Norris has started to shake free from the platoon that was set up to start the season between himself (RHB) and John Jaso (LHB). This week Norris rewarded that extra playing time with two home runs against RHP. On the season he's now up to a .273/.333/.545 batting line over 24 PA. Norris is five years younger than Jaso and has more power to offer, though he will strikeout more often. In mixed leagues it's not a bad idea to pick Norris up, until he cools down or Jaso starts to get more playing time. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Josmil Pinto, Twins - With the injuries to Josh Willingham (hand) and Oswaldo Arcia (wrist), Pinto has gotten to see some playing time at DH, as Chris Colabello moves to right field. Pinto is normal the backup catcher, but the Twins like his bat so much they want to continue to find places for him to hit. This week he rewarded them with three hits, a home run, and three walks. On the season he's hitting .217/.308/.478 with two homers over 26 PA, which is not bad for a backup. As the season progresses, he should start to eat more and more at starter Kurt Suzuki's playing time and become the starter himself. Until then though, he's best left for AL only and deeper formats. Mixed: $1; AL: $6.
Mike Aviles, Indians - Aviles started four games at third base and one in left field this week, as the Indians continue to shuffle their lineup with the absence of Michael Bourn. On the season Aviles is hitting .233/.250/.367 with one double, homer, and stolen base over 32 PA. He'll need to keep on hitting, if he's going to continue to start, once Bourn gets back on Tuesday this coming week. The fact that he can play a little bit everywhere helps him in AL only formats. Last season he hit .252/.282/.368 with nine homers and eight stolen bases over 394 PA for the Indians. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Conor Gillaspie, White Sox - Gillaspie collected four RBI on Friday night against the Indians, a feat that helps highlight the fact that he has gotten a hit in every game this season. It's a small sample size, but his contact rate has not changed from last season, so it's doubtful that he's had a significant growth in skills. However, he has started to take more walks than in the past, which is a good sign for his eye at the plate. Until he cools down, he needs to be owned in more mixed leagues. He should keep his job once Gordon Beckham and Jeff Keppinger return from the DL. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.
Kelly Johnson, Yankees - Johnson isn't really a first baseman, but he's sure starting to hit like one, as he hit three home runs this week. He's now up to a .286/.342/.657 batting line over 38 PA with two doubles and a triple, in addition to said homers. He figures to stay at the position until Mark Teixeira (hamstring) is able to come off the DL, but even then, he should slide back to third and keep his playing time. The power isn't completely out of nowhere, as he did hit 26 homers back in 2010 with the Diamondbacks. The fact that he's playing first base should give him even more position flexibility for someone already eligible in most leagues at second and in the outfield (and soon third base). In mixed leagues he's worth an add, just to see if he can keep the power up and the position flexibility doesn't hurt either. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Kevin Kouzmanoff & Josh Wilson, Rangers - Adrian Beltre sounds like he could be headed to the DL as he deals with a quadriceps issue. In the meantime, Kouzmanoff and Wilson have shared the position. Moving forward though, Kouzmanoff is more likely to keep getting playing time, as he can hit for more power and has hit for a better average in the past. Both are RHBs, so there's no real platoon to create. Kouzmanoff had been at Triple-A Round Rock, before Wednesday this week, so he might not be on the roster once Beltre is ready to retake the field. Wilson is more of a utility infielder, so don't be surprised to see him at second base or even shortstop on some nights. In AL only formats Kouzmanoff is the better player to bid on, though his time in the majors may be short-lived. Kouzmanoff Mixed: $3; AL: $12. Wilson Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Ryan Roberts & Garin Cecchini, Red Sox - Roberts was signed to the Red Sox on Monday and was their starting third baseman by Tuesday, as the team hustles to scrap together a plan, while Will Middlebrooks (calf) remains on the DL. Roberts has some power and speed, though he's yet to show it with no hits or walks in his first 10 PA for the team. He's been sharing time at third with Jonathan Herrera, who we mentioned in this spot last week. If neither proves to be a suitable stopgap or Middlebrooks takes longer than expected to get back to full health, we might see Cecchini called-up from Triple-A Pawtucket. The team has said they don't think he's ready right now, but he's gotten off to a good start (.344/.400/.375 over 35 PA) at Pawtucket, after doing well at Double-A Portland last season (.296/.420/.404 over 295 PA). For now, Roberts is the smart short-term add, but keep an eye on Cecchini, especially in AL only formats. Roberts Mixed: $1; AL: $4. Cecchini Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Dean Anna, Yankees - Anna saw two starts this week, as the Yankees practice preventive care for their aging middle infielders of Brian Roberts and Derek Jeter. Anna took advantage of the opportunities with a double and home run. He could start to eat into more of Roberts' playing time, if he doesn't start to pull out of his 3-for-31 slump soon. To Roberts' credit, he does have eight walks on the season, but he's going to have to hit sometime soon. Anna hit .331/.410/.482 last season at Triple-A Tucson with the Padres, logging nine homers and three stolen bases. Mixed: No; AL: $4.
Gordon Beckham, White Sox - Beckham could return from the DL later this week, after dealing with an oblique injury. He is currently taking batting practice and fielding ground balls, so he might not be ready till the following week, but owners in AL only and deeper mixed formats should keep an eye on him. Last season he hit .267/.322/.372 with five homers and five stolen bases over 408 PA. He's only 27-years old, his contact rate has gone up the last two seasons, and he's cut down on his strikeouts, so there's some reason for optimism this season, but he'll likely never be the player we first laid eyes on back in 2009, as a rookie. Marcus Semien will go back to more of a part-time role, once Beckham is activated, so his owners should plan accordingly. Mixed: $3; AL: $12.
Alberto Callaspo, A's - Callaspo hit three doubles this week, as he has started the season hitting .400/.483/.640 over 29 PA. He's currently starting at DH for the A's, but is eligible in most leagues at second and third base. Last season with the Angels and A's, he hit .258/.333/.369 with 10 homers over 516 PA, and that's about what most owners should expect this season. However, he's worth adding in deeper mixed leagues, until he cools down. Hitting behind Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, and Yoenis Cespedes doesn't hurt either. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Jeff Keppinger, White Sox - If you're scrounging for middle infield help in your AL only league, Keppinger might be worth stashing. He's currently on the DL with a shoulder injury, but was able to play three innings in a spring training game Wednesday, as he works his way back. His best skill is that he can make good contact and his career batting line of .282/.329/.384 reflects that, along with the fact that he doesn't hit for much power. With Gordon Beckham looking like he'll takeover second base, when he gets back, Keppinger will likely have to battle Conor Gillaspie for playing time at third base, which may prove difficult with how Gillaspie has started the season. Mixed: No; AL: $4.
Andrew Romine, Tigers - Romine has started to see more time at shortstop over Alex Gonzalez lately, which isn't a surprise, given the latter's shaky defense at the position. Romine hasn't been much better offensively though, with a 1-for-12 start at the plate. Not surprisingly, the two have been relegated to hitting eighth in the lineup. Romine has very little power, but does offer some speed, as he stole 15 bases over 416 PA last season at Triple-A Salt Lake. If you're desperate for someone who will get playing time at your middle infield spot, Romine will do that and likely not much more. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Collin Cowgill & J.B. Shuck, Angels - Josh Hamilton's thumb injury has opened the door for Shuck to be recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake and form a platoon with Cowgill in left field. Being the LHB in the platoon, Shuck is likely to see the lion's share of playing time and could really help owners with his ability to make contact and hit for average. Last season he hit .293/.331/.366 with two homers and eight stolen bases over 478 PA for the Halos. He has more speed than that, so keep that in mind when bidding. The fact that he hit a home run in his debut Friday night doesn't hurt either. Cowgill hit a home run Saturday off a LHP, showing the platoon may work out great for the team. Last season between the Mets and Angels he hit .211/.245/.349 with four homers and one stolen base over 162 PA. As a fifth outfielder in AL only formats, you might be able to squeeze some value out of him, but it'll be tough. Cowgill Mixed: $1; AL: $4. Shuck Mixed: $3; AL: $12.
Jordan Danks & Dayan Viciedo, White Sox - With Avisail Garcia out for the year with a torn labrum, Viciedo, a RHB, is likely to see the bulk of those at-bats in right field. A career .264/.307/.430 hitter, he has decent power, as he showed in 2012 when hit 25 homers over 543 PA with the White Sox. Danks, who was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte this week, could eat into some of that playing time, as he's a LHB. Danks had a great spring for the club but was sent down, when there was no room for him on the active roster. He doesn't have nearly the power that Viciedo does and has not made good contact while in the majors, so don't expect much when he is in the lineup. Last season Danks hit .231/.313/.369 with five homers and seven stolen bases over 179 PA. Danks Mixed: No; AL: $3. Viciedo Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Craig Gentry, A's - Gentry was activated from the DL on Saturday, after dealing with a lower back strain to start the season. To make room, Sam Fuld was DFA'd, which is good for Gentry's value as the two do somewhat similar things for owners, mainly run. Last season with the Rangers, Gentry hit .280/.373/.386 with 24 stolen bases over 287 PA. The batting average isn't a fluke, as he's a career .279 hitter, but it's just a matter of finding playing time for the fourth outfielder. He should be owned in all AL only formats, especially where owners are looking for cheap speed. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Jason Kubel & Darin Mastroianni, Twins - Kubel started every game in left field this week for the Twins, as they dealt with the loss of Josh Willingham (wrist) to the DL. This is great news for Kubel, who has gotten off to a quick start, going 15-for-37 with four doubles, a triple and homer to start the season. He's a good bounce back candidate, after hitting 30 home runs in 2012 and then hitting .216/.293/.317 with just five homers over 290 PA between the Diamondbacks and Indians last season. As for Mastroianni, he got called up on Wednesday from Triple-A Rochester and has seen one start already in right field, but is less likely to help owners, just based on his playing time. The team has opted to shift the hot hitting Chris Colabello to right field and use Josmil Pinto at DH rather than give Mastroianni steady at-bats, which makes sense. Mastroianni stole 21 bases in just 186 PA in 2012 and likely would've been able to build on those numbers last season if it weren't for an ankle injury that required surgery. In AL only formats he provides speed, just don't expect much else as he has no power and weak contact skills. Kubel Mixed: $5; AL: Owned. Mastroianni Mixed: $1; AL: $6.
David Murphy, Indians - Murphy had an extra base hit, home run, scored two runs and picked up four RBI this week, twice. He accomplished the feat once against the Padres and then again against the White Sox. The hot start has him hitting .303/.333/.636 with three doubles, a triple, and two home runs. Last season he uncharacteristically hit .220/.283/.374, though a .227 BABIP is partially to blame. A career .280/.347/.472 hitter against RHP, he should not be overlooked in mixed leagues. He'll likely sit against tough LHP, but that's to be expected with Ryan Raburn, a RHB, around. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Delmon Young, Orioles - Young saw three starts at DH this week and rewarded the team going 7-for-15 with a double, homer and two runs. In his first season with the O's, he's likely to be relegated to the DH spot, as the team has David Lough and even Steve Pearce, to help out defensively in the outfield, though Young does qualify there in most fantasy leagues. Last season with the Rays and Phillies, he hit .260/.307/.407 with 11 homers over 361 PA, showing he still has some power left in his tank. Young needs to be owned in all AL only formats and deep mixed leagues, as long as he continues to get playing time. Mixed: $2; AL: $10.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.