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
Trevor Bauer, Indians – It's time to buy stock in Trevor Bauer again, after he struck out nine batters for the second time in a row, while regaining his control in the minors. He has only three walks in his two starts, and his velocity has ticked back up, showing he's not done yet improving as a pitching prospect. Previously, he had serious control and command issues in the majors, but he seems to have figured something out, which showed in his one start this season in the majors against the Padres, where he struck out eight batters and walked just two with one earned run allowed over six innings. If he's available on your waiver wire in deeper mixed leagues or any AL-only formats, it's time to stash him. He's going to make an impact in the majors soon; it's just a matter of finding a spot for him in the rotation. Mixed: $1; AL: $6.
Zach Britton, Orioles – Britton isn't a starter right now, but that may change soon, after his six appearances in which he hasn't allowed an earned run. His seven strikeouts and four walks over 11.1 innings speak to his true talent level. With Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris in the rotation, it wouldn't be surprising to see either put in the bullpen, especially Norris, and Britton given another shot at starting. Britton's career 4.57 ERA is ugly, but he's worth a flyer in AL-only leagues. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Kyle Gibson, Twins – Gibson held the Blue Jays scoreless for eight innings this week, with four strikeouts and one walk for his third win of the season. His two previous starts are more telling, as he twice had more walks (four) than strikeouts (three). It's Gibson's command that is troublesome and not likely to lead to him keeping his ERA under four for much longer. His 0.93 ERA is certainly not going to last for much longer. Gibson was a somewhat touted prospect while in the minors, but he never threw with much velocity, which is still the case. His home park will help him, but he's more of a groundball pitcher anyway. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Dallas Keuchel, Astros – Keuchel had his second consecutive quality start this week, this time against the Royals. He struck out five batters with one walk and two earned runs allowed over six innings. He's not going to miss a ton of bats, but he has shown improved command and has been great at inducing groundballs, so as long as his defense is able to pick him up, Keuchel should continue to find success. There are sure to be bumps in the road, but he should continue to pitch to the 3.50 ERA that he's shown thus far. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Jason Vargas, Royals – After spinning seven shutout innings against the Twins this week, many owners are likely taking a second look at Vargas. He's allowed only four earned runs in his four starts, with 16 strikeouts and six walks over 29 innings. Vargas has not increased his velocity or changed what he throws, so this hot streak is likely to be short lived. His 1.24 ERA is in stark contrast to his career 4.21 ERA, which he is more likely to pitch to in the coming weeks. Pick him up in all AL-only formats and deeper mixed leagues until he cools. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Al Alburquerque, Tigers – Joe Nathan has been one of the most dependable relievers in the game for over a decade now, so his 8.10 ERA this season isn't reason for great concern yet, but owners should check up on Alburquerque, just in case. He doesn't have electric stuff, but he's shown decent command in the past and is tough against right-handed batters (RHB) (.162/.320/.237). Again, Nathan hasn't done anything yet to get owners racing to the waiver wire, but it's always nice to have a plan in place if you're an owner of his. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Cody Allen, Indians – John Axford has six walks in his 6.2 innings this season, which is reason for concern. His 4.05 ERA shouldn't be a surprise, considering he has posted an ERA over 4.00 the last two seasons along with a WHIP that was over 1.40. Meanwhile, Allen has not allowed a run in his first nine appearances and has 12 strikeouts to only three walks. Don't be surprised to see Axford lose the job sooner rather than later. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Robinson Chirinos, Rangers – With a 2-for-28 start to the season, J.P. Arencibia has rightly found himself losing playing time to Chirinos, who had a three-hit night on Friday that included a home run, his second of the season. Chirinos has started four of the last six Rangers games, going into Saturday, of which Arencibia owners have likely taken notice. Until Arencibia starts to hit, Chirinos needs to be owned in all AL-only and most deep mixed leagues. He won't hit for great power or average, but he's in a good offense, so there's some upside here. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Chris Iannetta, Angels – Iannetta hit his second home run of the season this week, as he continues to take walks and help owners in OBP leagues. In leagues that use batting average, he's not nearly as valuable, as a career .233 hitter. Backup Hank Conger is deserving of more playing time, and maybe he'll find it as a DH, at the expense of Raul Ibanez, but we're not there yet. As a RHB, Iannetta does even better against LHP, so if you're in a daily league, make sure to take a look. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
John Ryan Murphy, Yankees – Murphy was brought up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this week, after Francisco Cervelli (hamstring) landed on the DL. He should serve as the backup to Brian McCann for the foreseeable future, as Cervelli was placed on the 60-day DL, not the 15, indicating it will be awhile before we see Cervelli back again. As for his skills, Murphy has a decent eye at the plate and won't kill your batting average, but he does't hit for much power either. Unless something happens to McCann, he's unlikely to have much value in most AL-only formats. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Josmil Pinto, Twins – Another week, another homer from Pinto, who now has three on the season, as the current DH for the Twins (he's started six of the last seven games there). Maybe most impressive though, is his eye at the plate, as he has more walks (11) than strikeouts (10) through his first 49 PA this season. He needs to absolutely be owned in all leagues that use OBP and deeper leagues that use batting average. The team likes his bat enough to make him their DH when he's not catching, and soon, if Kurt Suzuki doesn't pick it up, he'll take over his full-time job, once the Twins get healthier. Mixed: $5; AL: $16.
Mike Zunino, Mariners – Like Pinto, Zunino hit his third home run this week, as more owners in mixed leagues start to take notice of his offensive skills. He doesn't have the eye that Pinto does, but he likely has the higher long-term upside. Right now, he's hitting .280/.294/.540 through 51 PA, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him move up the lineup in short order, as he has no business hitting eighth and ninth, as he did this past week. I don't believe in him as much as Devin Mesoraco, but he's not far off. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Juan Francisco, Blue Jays – Francisco was called up from Triple-A Buffalo on Friday to take the roster spot of Adam Lind, who hit the DL with a back injury. Last season, between the Braves and Brewers, he hit .227/.296/.422 with 18 home runs over 385 PA. His power is real, but so is his lack of contact and eye at the plate. For owners looking for power, he's worth taking a flyer on, but as a career .243 hitter, he'll likely damage your batting average as well. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Brock Holt, Red Sox – Holt was brought back up from the minors this week to man third base, after Ryan Roberts was DFA'd. He'll hold down the hot corner, until Will Middlebrooks (calf and flu) is able to return to the team from the DL. Middlebrooks should start his rehab assignment sometime early this coming week, so Holt's value will likely be short-lived. Holt went 2-for-4 on Friday with an RBI, so he's already off to a good start and in the offense he's in, there will be opportunities to build his counting stats. At the Triple-A level, he hit .310/.373/.392 over 491 PA with five home runs and 17 stolen bases. Bid on him if you need a short-term fix in AL-only formats. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, Rangers – Adrian Beltre is expected back later this week, so Kouzmanoff's window for value is limited, but he's started the season off hot, going 15-for-38 with five doubles and two homers. Batting fifth, behind Alex Rios and Prince Fielder, is great for his counting stats. Once Beltre returns, it's tough to see where Kouzmanoff fits in, though he's done enough that Mitch Moreland should be watching his back. Kouzmanoff is a career .258/.302/.424 hitter. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Jonathan Singleton, Astros – Now that George Springer is in the majors, the next big Astros prospect that should get the call is Singleton. He's started the season off hot with a .343/.429/.776 batting line over 77 PA with seven home runs. As far as first base prospect goes, there really aren't many in the American League other than Singleton, so owners should have him on their radars now. As the Astros showed with Springer, it's just a matter of service time, before they'll make the call. The fact that Marc Krauss is hitting .143/.231/.257 with only one homer should further speed up the Singleton timetable. Mixed: $2; AL: $10.
Ian Stewart, Angels – Stewart has started to see more playing time as of late, with David Freese slumping (8-for-53) to start the season and while dealing with a quad injury. Stewart had a three-hit game on Friday night with a double and triple. In addition, he had a double and homer on Monday night as well, highlighting his recent success. It wouldn't be surprising to see him continue to eat into Freese's playing time, if he stays hot. A career .232/.319/.420 hitter, Stewart has power, but it will come at a price. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Gordon Beckham, White Sox – Beckham is expected back this week, after spending time on the DL with an oblique injury. Marcus Semien has been holding down the keystone in his absence but has hit only .187/.247/.293 with two homers. Beckham hit .267/.322/.372 with five homers and five stolen bases last season over 408 PA but has steadily improved his contact rate and cut down on his strikeouts. He needs to be owned in all AL-only formats and most deeper mixed leagues. Mixed: $4; AL: $16.
Alberto Callaspo, A's – Callaspo has started out the season with four doubles and two homers to highlight his .327/.386/.519 batting line. He's a career .274 hitter who has never hit for much power, making his early season success is a bit surprising. If he can keep some of this up, he'll be a valuable commodity in deeper mixed leagues. For now, he should be owned in all AL-only formats. Mixed: $3; AL: $10.
Nick Franklin, Mariners – Franklin was brought back up from Triple-A Tacoma this week to help give the team some depth in the infield. He hit .225/.303/.382 last season with 12 home runs and six stolen bases over 412 PA and has generally been considered a bust as a first-round pick out of the 2009 draft. He won't hit for much power and doesn't have great speed, so it's tough to see what he offers owners, but he's still only 23 years old, so there's still time for him find his niche. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Brennan Boesch & Collin Cowgill, Angels – Boesch is back in the majors, after Kole Calhoun hurt his ankle and landed on the DL. Previously with the Yankees and Tigers, he has middling power and limited speed, but can get hot at times and give owners value. Cowgill should be the main beneficiary, though he's not much better offensively. He's a career .240/.294/.342 hitter with less power and speed than Boesch. Neither are great options, but Boesch should hit for more power and offers slightly more upside, though both will likely hit for a poor average. Both Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Josh Reddick, A's – Off to a poor start to the season that almost had him sent back to the minors, Reddick needs to be picked up in leagues where he's been dropped. In 2012 he hit .242/.305/.463 with 32 homers and 11 stolen bases over 673 PA. He's not as bad as his early slump might suggest, and last season, his wrist injuries killed his power. Back-to-back three-hit games on Friday and Saturday suggest he might be rounding back into form, though his batting average will always be a concern. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
George Springer, Astros – Finally, he's here. The young center fielder with power and speed is still raw and learning how to play the game, but he's talented enough that he needs to be owned in all leagues. Last season, he hit .303/.411/.600 with 37 homers and 45 stolen bases between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City and was arguably the best player in the minors. There is plenty of swing and miss in his bat, so be prepared for a troublesome batting average, but there should be enough power to make up for that. In keeper leagues, you should bid aggressively for his talents. Mixed: $40; AL: $70… Bid aggressively.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.