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AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.

This is our weekly look at American League free agents. We have two goals for this article:

1. Identify likely free agents and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Estimate how much of your free-agent budget you should bid on them.

This year, we're incorporating grids into the FAAB articles, so users can easily see at a glance how certain players stack up against others and how much they should command in a variety of formats.

The grids, which are sortable by column (click on the header), include a very basic "player grade" column. This serves as a reflection of a player’s skills and role on an A-E scale. Carlos Correa would have been an "A" grade player last year -- that mark will be reserved for similar high-impact prospects stepping into an everyday role.

As always, if there is a player that was not discussed in the article that you would like to know about, feel free to ask about the player in the comments.

PLAYER TEAM POS GRADE $ (12-Team Mixed) $ (15-Team Mixed) $ (AL-Only)
Matt Boyd DET SP D No 1 3
Yu Darvish TEX SP A 11 23 Owned
A.J. Griffin TEX SP C 1 3 Owned
Drew Hutchison TOR SP C 1 3 7
Kyle Lohse TEX SP D No No 2
Alec Mills KC SP D No No 1
Mike Montgomery SEA SP C No 1 4
Ervin Santana MIN SP C 2 5 Owned
Tyler Skaggs LA SP C 1 3 7
Nick Tropeano LA SP B 1 3 7
Matt Barnes BOS RP D No 1 3
Brad Brach BAL RP C 1 3 Owned
Alex Colome TB RP C 7 15 Owned
Zach Duke CHI RP D No No 3
Kelvin Herrera KC RP D 3 7 17
Luke Hochevar KC RP D No 1 3
Nate Jones CHI RP C No 2 5
Taylor Rogers MIN RP D No No 2
Joakim Soria KC RP C 1 3 7
Junichi Tazawa BOS RP D No No 2
Koji Uehara BOS RP C 5 11 23
Tom Wilhelmsen SEA RP D No No 2
Brad Ziegler BOS RP C 3 7 17
Ryan Hanigan BOS C D No No 2
Matt McBride OAK C E No No 1
Omar Narvaez CHI C E No No 1
Geovany Soto LA C D No 1 4
Jesus Sucre SEA C E No No 1
Ji-Man Choi LA 1B D No No 3
Justin Morneau CHI 1B C No 4 11
Nick Franklin TB 2B C No 2 5
Aaron Hill BOS 2B C No No 5
Andy Burns TOR 3B E No No 1
Luis Valbuena HOU 3B C 4 9 Owned
Abraham Almonte CLE OF D No No 3
Michael Brantley CLE OF B 6 15 33
Todd Cunningham LA OF E No No 2
Jared Hoying TEX OF D No No 2
Dan Robertson SEA OF E No No 1
Eddie Rosario MIN OF C 2 5 13
J.B. Shuck CHI OF D No 3 7
Seth Smith SEA OF C 2 5 Owned
Kennys Vargas MIN DH C No 2 5


Starting Pitcher

Matt Boyd, Tigers: Called back up to pitch Saturday against Toronto, his former club, Boyd looked much sharper than he had earlier in the season, allowing just one run over five innings with a 6:2 K:BB. His numbers at Triple-A have been very good in 2016, but the lefty's velocity and raw stuff park him firmly in the “crafty” category. The Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris injuries should keep him in Detroit's rotation for at least one more turn after the ASB and potentially longer if he keeps producing results. His ceiling his limited, though. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $3

Yu Darvish, Rangers: Darvish looks set to rejoin the Rangers right after the All-Star break, potentially starting the team's second game of their series in Wrigley. He's missed a month with his latest issue, a bout of shoulder tightness, and it's always a concern when a pitcher experiences additional arm trouble after Tommy John surgery. That said he's still a legit ace until he proves otherwise on the mound, and Texas' offense should supply him with plenty of second half wins in addition to his usual Ks and strong ERA. If he somehow got cut loose in a league with shallow benches, be aggressive. 12-team Mixed: $11; 15-team Mixed: $23; 12-team AL: Owned

A.J. Griffin, Rangers: Griffin has pitched well enough to put himself on mixed league radars, managing a 17:6 K:BB in 13.1 innings since coming off the DL. If those numbers came in two starts it would be very impressive but instead those innings are spread over three outings, as he hasn't gotten out of the fifth in any of them. The Ks are interesting, especially given that he rarely breaks 90 mph with his fastball, but until Griffin goes deeper into games and puts himself in a better position to collect some wins, he's have a hard time producing much value. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: Owned

Drew Hutchison, Blue Jays: Profiled last week, Hutchison produced a quality start against the Tigers on Thursday with a 7:1 K:BB in six innings, but then got sent back down so the Jays could strengthen their bullpen heading into the break. Marco Estrada (back) could come off the DL in time to serve as the team's fifth starter, which would keep Hutchison at Triple-A, but if he has any kind of setback Hutch should be back in the majors for another start. Toronto will need him to take a regular turn in the rotation before the season is through, but it looks like for now he'll have to continue dominating minor league hitters. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Kyle Lohse, Rangers: Lohse's first start back in the majors Saturday did not go well, as the Twins tagged him for six runs on nine hits including a couple of homers. The 37-year-old was awful last year for the Brewers, and it's entirely possible he just has nothing left in the tank. The Rangers' rotation needs all the help it can get right now, so he could keep his spot even when Darvish comes off the DL, but Lohse is no kind of long-term solution. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Alec Mills, Royals: The 24-year-old righty started the season at Double-A, posting a 2.39 ERA and 68:12 K:BB in 67.2 innings, and made his major league debut in May as the extra man in a doubleheader. Mills' numbers in four Triple-A starts haven't been as impressive, but the Royals are still looking at him as a possible rotation plug-in after the ASB as a replacement for Chris Young. Mills has good control and isn't a junkballer, touching 95 mph with his fastball, but his lack of quality offspeed pitches could make it tough for him to succeed in the majors. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Mike Montgomery, Mariners: Montgomery has been strong in relief this season, but the M's need help for their battered rotation so he'll make a spot start Sunday and could stick around if he pitches well. The lefty's stuff has never been the issue, but in his previous starting stints control and command problems made him ineffective and unreliable. Over his last five appearances though, he's posted a 14:1 K:BB in 14 innings which at least offers some hope that he's figured something out, and the fact that he's given up just one home run in 50.1 innings this season suggests he's learned not just to groove one over the heart of the plate when he needs a strike. There's risk here, and Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker will want their rotation spots back soon enough, but there's also some real upside with Montgomery. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Ervin Santana, Twins: After a rough stretch in early June, Santana has found his groove over his last four starts and laid a two-hit, eight-K shutout on the A's in his last outing Wednesday. The veteran righty is worth riding in shallower formats while he's hot, and a 1.63 ERA and 19:5 K:BB over his last 27.2 innings certainly qualifies, but his lack of big upside in strikeouts means you shouldn't get too attached. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: Owned

Tyler Skaggs, Angels: Skaggs finally appears ready to rejoin the Angels after missing all of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery, then being shut down in April after experiencing some bicep soreness. He's been sharp in his recent rehab appearances though, posting a 17:0 K:BB in 17 innings over four games, and after throwing 73 pitches for Triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday his next outing could come in the majors. Control was always Skaggs' biggest obstacle prior to blowing out his elbow, so while the sample size is small those recent performances are very encouraging. The 24-year-old lefty probably won't be an ace, but he could help solidify the middle of the Angels' rotation. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Nick Tropeano, Angels: The 25-year-old right-hander has looked good in two starts since being called back up from Triple-A, posting a 14:1 K:BB in 11 innings. His control was uncharacteristically shaky earlier in the year, so those numbers are definitely a step in the right direction. Tropeano's fastball is just adequate at 91 mph, but his curve and changeup have allowed him to rack up K's throughout his pro career and should allow him to produce solid value in the majors once he finally gets settled in. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7



Relief Pitcher

Matt Barnes, Red Sox: He likely won't factor into the save mix for the Red Sox while Craig Kimbrel is on the shelf, but Barnes' recent performances has put him on the radar anyway as a high-K holds option. Since the middle of June, he's got a 1.38 ERA and 14:2 K:BB in 13.1 innings and has started to work his way into higher-leverage situations in an overtaxed Boston bullpen, picking up three holds in his last six appearances. The velocity and talent have always been there, but Barnes appears to finally be putting it together in the majors. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $3

Brad Brach, Orioles: Brach's All-Star berth is well-deserved, as the righty has a stunning 0.93 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 57:14 K:BB, six wins and 14 holds so far this season in 48.1 innings. Should anything happen to Zach Britton he'd be first in line for saves, but even without them Brach is supplying enough value to put him on the map in shallower formats and his appearance in the Midsummer Classic will put additional focus on him. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: Owned

Alex Colome, Rays: Colome's stay on the DL was kept to a minimum and he struck out one in a scoreless inning of work in his first appearance since returning this week, although the Rays' struggles have kept him from having any leads to protect. Brad Boxberger just started throwing BP, so Colome should have at least a couple of weeks after the ASB to keep the closer job and, to be honest, he's pitched more than well enough this year to keep it even after Boxberger finally gets healthy. He's probably not on your waiver wire, but if someone impatiently dropped Colome when he hit the DL, pounce. 12-team Mixed: $7; 15-team Mixed: $15; 12-team AL: Owned

Zach Duke / Nate Jones, White Sox: Duke was profiled last week, but with David Robertson injuring his leg the White Sox bullpen is worth another look. Jones will get the first crack at replacing Robertson should he land on the DL and the power righty picked up the save Saturday and struck out three, although it was far from a clean outing as he gave up two hits and a walk over 1.1 innings. Duke is one of the stingiest LOOGYs around and could see matchup save opportunities against tough lefties. Neither's worth more than a small bid right now until Robertson's status becomes clearer, but if you're trawling for saves better to make your move now than wait for their price to go up if Robertson's injury does prove to be serious. Duke – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3 / Jones – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Kelvin Herrera / Luke Hochevar / Joakim Soria, Royals: Much as with the White Sox, a minor injury to closer Wade Davis puts some extra focus on the set-up crew. Unlike Robertson though, Davis is actually on the DL with a forearm strain and while the Royals expect him to be back shortly after the break any arm injury to a pitcher is cause for concern. Of the three strong options available, Herrera will get the first shot at closing and picked up a save Saturday with a perfect inning. Soria, who has prior closing experience, would be next in line if Herrera stumbles, with Hochevar a dark horse candidate. All three have good numbers and no difficulty producing strikeouts, so the value here is purely that of opportunity. Herrera – 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team AL: $17; Hochevar – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $3; Soria – 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Taylor Rogers, Twins: This week's surprise high-K bullpen option is Rogers, a 25-year-old lefty who'd put up middling numbers in the minors as a starter. Converted to the bullpen this year at Triple-A Rochester before making his big league debut in April and getting promoted seemingly for good in May, he's still getting used to his new role but something seems to have clicked over the last few weeks. Over his last nine appearances and 10.1 innings, the lefty's got a 0.00 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with a 13:1 K:BB. The Twins aren't using him in high-leverage situations yet, putting a firm cap on his value, but given their rotation issues even a long relief role for Rogers makes him worth a look in deep formats. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Junichi Tazawa / Koji Uehara / Brad Ziegler, Red Sox: This has not been a good week for closers in the AL. Wade Davis and Craig Kimbrel were both placed on the DL, while David Robertson could soon join them due to a leg injury. The Red Sox's bullpen already needed help though, and the wheels were apparently in motion to acquire Ziegler from Arizona even before Kimbrel went down. Uehara, their closer the last three years before the Kimbrel trade, will be first in line to replace him but the 41-year-old isn't exactly suited for a heavy workload any more. The last time Boston tried to use him three times in four days was in April, and he got rocked for four runs in a third of an inning. Ziegler was closing for the D-backs, but his groundball-reliant approach is hardly a classic closer profile. He'll likely get the nod when Uehara is unavailable. Tazawa might also factor into the mix, but at the moment he's dealing with a shoulder injury of his own. Kimbrel could be out a month or more, so given the pieces the Red Sox have to work with this may end up effectively being a closer committee, even if manager John Farrell doesn't label it as one. Tazawa – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2; Uehara – 12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team AL: $23; Ziegler – 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team AL: $17

Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners: While Joaquin Benoit remains Steve Cishek's eighth-inning man and Edwin Diaz is the new hotness in the Mariners' bullpen, manager Scott Servais said this week that he might turn to Wilhelmsen in a save situation when Cishek is unavailable. Frankly, I'll believe it when I see it, as Wilhelmsen has been pretty dreadful this year (his 0.00 ERA in 3.1 innings since rejoining Seattle might look good, but he's only struck out one batter). Still, in a close race where every save counts, he could be worth stashing just in case. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2


Catcher

Ryan Hanigan, Red Sox: Hanigan came off the DL at the beginning of the week and got exactly one start, resuming his duties as Steven Wright's personal catcher. At some point, Sandy Leon has to cool off which should provide Hanigan with more playing time, but even in that case Leon might well just be cut loose and Christian Vazquez, the superior defensive option to either of them, called back up from Triple-A. It's hard to imagine a scenario where Hanigan becomes the starter, which makes him a depth option only. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Matt McBride, Athletics: Called back up to serve as Stephen Vogt's backup while Josh Phegley is on the DL, we have McBride officially listed as an outfielder in our database but he's already played seven games at catcher this year, which gives him eligibility in many formats. He's shown occasional flashes of power in the minors, but that's about the extent of his fantasy upside, which makes him, well, a poor man's Phegley. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Omar Narvaez, White Sox: The White Sox called Narvaez up when Alex Avila hit the DL at the beginning of the week and he has yet to get his first big league at-bat, which tells you all you need to know about how the team views him. He's purely a 'break glass in case of emergency' guy for fantasy purposes. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Geovany Soto, Angels: Soto returned from a mid-May knee injury this weekend but has yet to see any game action, as the Angels seem content to let Jett Bandy sink or swim in the lead role behind the plate. Bandy's extremely unproven though, so Soto could work his way back into at least a timeshare after the ASB. He was hitting pretty well before he got hurt, but long term the 33-year-old is probably just a low-BA power source. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Jesus Sucre, Mariners: Sucre replaced Mike Zunino as Chris Iannetta's backup this week because apparently Seattle hates the thought of getting any offense from their catchers. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1


First Base

Ji-Man Choi, Angels: C.J. Cron's broken hand puts Choi back in the major league mix nearly two months after his original demotion. The 25-year-old rookie is still looking for his first big league homer but he's been putting up solid numbers for Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting .327/.411/.485 in 45 games, albeit with just four homers. Salt Lake's got a favorable hitting environment so don't expect that kind of batting average in the bigs, but as he showed Saturday he's got good plate discipline (walking twice in four plate appearances) so he should have a little more value in OBP leagues. The Angels have little to lose by giving him regular playing time and seeing what he can do, but don't get your hopes up. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Justin Morneau, White Sox: Health-wise, Morneau appears set to join Chicago's roster right after the All-Star break, but he hasn't exactly proven he's shaken off the rust yet, going just 2-for-17 through his first six games at Triple-A without a home run. It's easy to glance at Morneau's numbers the last couple of years and get seduced by his name value into throwing a big bid at him, but you can barely see his upside any more through all the red flags. Aside from his concussion history, his numbers in a Rockies uniform were inflated by Coors Field, although not as much as you'd expect (he hit .290 with a .441 SLG on the road the last two years). He's a 35-year-old whose glory days are well behind him, and you don't have to look back far to find that the last aging first baseman the White Sox brought in to boost their offense was a complete washout. Morneau should hit better than Adam LaRoche, but he's unlikely to be a difference-maker. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team AL: $11


Second Base

Nick Franklin, Rays: Franklin's forced his way into the regular lineup for the Rays by hitting .350/.395/.500 in 40 at-bats over the last two weeks. He's got only one homer and two steals during that stretch, and he'll have stiff competition for playing time once Steve Pearce comes off the DL, but once upon a time he was considered a prospect. You never want to pass up the chance to grab a guy who might just be a late bloomer. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Aaron Hill, Red Sox: Boston's gotten a jump on their AL East competition when it comes to adding reinforcements, picking up both Hill and Brad Ziegler in separate deals this week. Hill will take over Brock Holt's old utility infielder role while Holt handles left field, and the veteran will probably see action at second and third base as well as the occasional start at first. He's also made a good first impression on the Fenway faithful, going 3-for-8 in his first two games with the Red Sox, and his doubles-power bat will fit right into their offense. If he keeps hitting he'll push Travis Shaw for playing time, but for now his value is at best the same as it was in Milwaukee in mixed formats. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $5


Third Base

Andy Burns, Blue Jays: Burns is purely on the roster through this weekend to give the Jays some bench depth, and in all likelihood he'll be sent back down after the break to bring up a pitcher. He did have a 15-HR, 18-SB season at Double-A in 2014, but it would take a lot of injuries to give him a chance to try and match that production in the majors. He's listed here purely for the completists in the crowd. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Luis Valbuena, Astros: While everyone clamors for Alex Bregman to get promoted already, Valbuena is doing his darnedest to prove to the Astros that they don't need the kid. The 30-year-old has been raking over the last month, hitting .344/.430/.633 with six homers and 20 RBI to lock down the starting third base job. The batting average will swoon eventually, but the power is real and in shallow formats riding the hot hand is a time-honored tradition. 12-team Mixed: $4; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team AL: Owned


Outfield

Abraham Almonte, Indians: Almonte returned from his PED suspension at the beginning of the week to find an Indians' outfield very different than the one he expected to find. Tyler Naquin's big rookie season and Rajai Davis' career year have left Almonte stuck in a reserve role, one he might have trouble hanging onto when Michael Brantley finally gets healthy. His 2-for-15 start to the year isn't going to encourage Cleveland to find more playing time for him, either. Given that he has somewhat limited upside anyway, Almonte can mostly be ignored in shallower leagues. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Michael Brantley, Indians: Set to begin his latest rehab assignment Monday, Brantley might be ready to rejoin the Indians' lineup soon after the All-Star break. Given his lengthy absence and the worries about what a serious shoulder injury could do to his swing it's fair to wonder whether he'll be an impact bat in the second half, but he's still got five-category upside if he is healthy and 100 percent for the final 10 weeks. He's probably stashed away on someone's bench, but if not that potential reward makes the risk well worth taking on. 12-team Mixed: $6; 15-team Mixed: $15; 12-team AL: $33

Todd Cunningham, Angels: The Angels keep churning through backup outfielders, and Cunningham is the latest warm body for their bench. His length Triple-A resume suggests he could hit for a decent batting average and chip in the occasional steal with regular playing time, but that's not likely to happen. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Jared Hoying, Rangers: Hoying is back on the Rangers' bench after spending a month at scenic Round Rock. Texas' outfield is too crowded to afford him much of an opportunity to show whether he can match his 20-20 production in the minors, though. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Dan Robertson, Mariners: After making his big league debut in 2014 with the Rangers and getting into a few games with the Angels last year, Robertson continues his tour of the AL West this season by showing up in a Mariners uniform. He can hit for a solid batting average and swipe a base or two, but he's really just keeping a roster spot warm until Norichika Aoki is ready to reclaim it. Don't be shocked if he becomes the new Billy Burns in Oakland next year though. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Eddie Rosario, Twins: Rosario really, really, really doesn't want to go back to the minors. After spending six weeks in Rochester, he's returned to the big leagues with a vengeance, going 9-for-26 (.346) in his first six games back with five extra-base hits including a homer. The Twins likely still view him as a part of their future, so if he keeps raking he should shove Robbie Grossman out of the starting left field job, but in the short term Byron Buxton's knee injury should get both of them at-bats. Long term Rosario should supply some power and speed, but his plate discipline makes him a batting average risk. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $13

J.B. Shuck, White Sox: Shuck just keeps on shuckin', hitting .333 over the last two weeks with three homers. The power surge is surprising, as he's never hit more than seven home runs in a professional season, but at 29 years old he could be developing some pop. The big question is what the White Sox do with him when Austin Jackson gets healthy. Jackson was doing very little at the plate when he hurt his knee, so if Shuck keeps hitting he might well hang onto the starting job and relegate Jackson to a bench role. More likely he'll cool down before then and make it a moot point, but if you need outfield help he could be worth another look.12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Seth Smith, Mariners: Smith is on a bit of a power tear right now, slugging five homers over the last two weeks after hitting six all season prior to that. His platoon with Franklin Gutierrez has been an effective one, and while it's hard to imagine the 33-year-old Smith suddenly having a career year after spending what should have been his prime years in Colorado, stranger things have happened. On the other hand the AL West also has a number of right-handed starting pitchers who can be roughed up between the Rangers, Angels and A's, so those homers might not be so strange after all. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: Owned


Designated Hitter

Kennys Vargas, Twins: Vargas was doing what he usually does down at Triple-A, namely hit some homers with a low BA and a lot of strikeouts, but he's looked like a completely different hitter since being called up to cover Trevor Plouffe's latest DL stint. Vargas has gone 7-for-15 with all seven hits going for extra bases (five doubles, two homers), and an entirely competent 3:2 BB:K in five games. The offensively-challenged Twins need all the help they can get, so expect Vargas to get a decent amount of leeway to prove it's not just a fluke. I mean let's be real, it's totally a fluke, but they've got nothing to lose by hoping it's not. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5