AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

This article is part of our AL FAAB Factor series.

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 $100 starting free-agent budget you should bid on them.

We've incorporated 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 talent on an A-E scale. Wander Franco would have been an "A" grade player last year – that mark will be reserved for similarly high-impact prospects that could thrive in 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.

PLAYERTEAMPOSGRADE12-Team Mixed $15-Team Mixed $AL-Only $
Dylan BundyMINSPB511Rostered
Glenn OttoTEXSPCNo14
Michael PinedaDETSPCNo25
Michael WachaBOSSPCNo1Rostered
Bruce ZimmermannBALSPCNo14
Dane DunningTEXSPC111
Josh FlemingTBSPC111
Taylor HearnTEXSPC111
Dallas KeuchelCHISPC1

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 $100 starting free-agent budget you should bid on them.

We've incorporated 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 talent on an A-E scale. Wander Franco would have been an "A" grade player last year – that mark will be reserved for similarly high-impact prospects that could thrive in 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.

PLAYERTEAMPOSGRADE12-Team Mixed $15-Team Mixed $AL-Only $
Dylan BundyMINSPB511Rostered
Glenn OttoTEXSPCNo14
Michael PinedaDETSPCNo25
Michael WachaBOSSPCNo1Rostered
Bruce ZimmermannBALSPCNo14
Dane DunningTEXSPC111
Josh FlemingTBSPC111
Taylor HearnTEXSPC111
Dallas KeuchelCHISPC111
Jordan LylesBALSPD111
Daniel LynchKCSPB111
Matt BushTEXRPDNo25
Dany JimenezOAKRPDNo25
Michael KingNYRPDNo14
Andres MunozSEARPCNo37
Colin PocheTBRPENoNo1
Jose RuizCHIRPENoNo1
Trevor StephanCLERPENoNo3
Jonah HeimTEXCCNoNo1
Vidal BrujanTB2BBNoNo1
Sheldon NeuseOAK2BC2511
Aledmys DiazHOU3BCNoNo2
Santiago EspinalTOR3BC137
Nick AllenOAKSSCNoNo1
Niko GoodrumHOUSSENoNo1
Taylor WallsTBSSB125
Adam EngelCHIOFDNo14
Josh NaylorCLEOFC137
Gavin SheetsCHIDHC511Rostered

Starting Pitcher

Dylan Bundy, Twins: There are still a shocking number of leagues in which Bundy is available considering the start to the season he's had, but expect that to change this weekend as he sits as the top of sorted free-agent lists and has a name even casual GMs will recognize. The 29-year-old is 3-0 with a 0.59 ERA, and his 12:1 K:BB through 15.1 innings may not be dominant, but it's at least pretty. The key for Bundy so far has been his zero homers allowed, but with power numbers down across the league, that may not be a complete fluke. He won't post ace-like numbers the rest of the way, but he could be a solid addition to any fantasy rotation. 12-team Mixed: $8; 15-team Mixed: $15; 12-team AL: Rostered

Glenn Otto, Rangers: Called up Friday, Otto gave Texas five good innings in his season debut, although the start did come against Oakland. The 26-year-old righty was a moderately interesting prospect when he was sent south by the Yankees last year in the Joey Gallo deal, and the Rangers' rotation is wide open for someone to come in and seize a job, so don't assume he's got a ticket back to Triple-A Round Rock once the likes of Jon Gray are back on the mound. Otto's best pitch is a plus slider, which he combines with a low-90s fastball with good spin, a curve that flashed plus on occasion in the minors and a show-me changeup, so he would profile as a back-of-the-rotation arm on most staffs. In Texas, even when everyone's healthy, he could be the No. 2 guy. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4 

Michael Pineda, Tigers: Pineda's season debut was everything the Tigers could have hoped for, as he blanked the Yankees over five innings Thursday. The veteran righty doesn't have big strikeout upside and is just staff filler in most fantasy formats, but he's useful staff filler, and that isn't nothing. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Michael Wacha, Red Sox: Wacha's results so far scream small-sample mirage to me. Yeah, he has a 1.88 ERA and 0.91 WHIP and still has the aura of a guy who was once a bit of a fantasy darling, but he also has an 8.6 percent swinging strike rate, a 12.5 percent walk rate and a 4.69 FIP. Take a stab if you want, but I think you'd be better off leaving him be. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: Rostered

Bruce Zimmermann, Orioles: To paraphrase Rancid, white shirt, black shoes, white hat, orange trim... the boy's a time bomb. Zimmermann is off to a flying start, posting a 1.20 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 16:5 K:BB through 15 innings and putting together the longest scoreless streak to begin a season to begin a season for a Baltimore pitcher since some guy named Jim Palmer. Unlike Wacha, a deeper dive doesn't reveal any immediate red flags – his 12.9 percent swinging strike rate and 27.1 percent strikeout rate are both career highs, and he's another guy likely benefiting from the league-wide power outage (as well as a friendlier home park with the changes to Camden Yards). Zimmermann's also a junkballing lefty though, and his average fastball velocity is actually down so far, so his margin for error is razor thin. The numbers are enticing, but I still view him as a streaming option at best. I'm also wrong a lot, and you might still be able to stash him for a bargain price if this turns out to be one of those times. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Other two-start options, Mon-Sun (12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $1)

Dane Dunning, Rangers (vs. HOU. vs. ATL)

Josh Fleming, Rays (vs. SEA, vs. MIN)

Taylor Hearn, Rangers (vs. HOU, vs. ATL)

Dallas Keuchel, White Sox (vs. KC, vs. LAA)

Jordan Lyles, Orioles (at NYY, vs. BOS)

Daniel Lynch, Royals (at CWS, vs. NYY)

Relief Pitcher

Matt Bush, Rangers: Oh Chris Woodward, you do like messing with people. Literally the same day he declared Joe Barlow the Rangers' closer, he doesn't send Barlow out to pitch and Bush gets the save. Barlow, you see, wasn't available because he worked Thursday and then, uhh, got warmed up but didn't pitch Friday, in a game that never featured a save situation as Texas was up 5-1 by the fourth inning. Chin-scratching emoji! Bush has had a good start to the season with an 8:2 K:BB through six innings, so even if you take Woodward at his, well, word, the veteran righty should still keep a high-leverage role and be next in line should Barlow falter, or be mysteriously unavailable again because of a bad horoscope or something. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Dany Jimenez, Athletics: I mentioned Jimenez last week after he got his first save, but now he has two so it's possible the bidding could get a bit silly this week. His second opportunity came while Lou Trivino is on the COVID-19 list, and it's getting to the point where it's fair to wonder if he was actually symptomatic, with all the issues that would imply for his eventual return. Trivino's also a prime candidate to get sent packing in a trade later in the year, so even if an investment in Jimenez doesn't pay off right now, it might in the second half. There are plenty of "closers" on rosters right now (he says, looking wistfully at all his Anthony Bender shares) that you could probably dump with impunity, with Jimenez probably being a better use of that spot. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Michael King, Yankees: King has been a godsend for the Yankees' staff so far, working, more than an inning in four of his five appearances and putting up excellent ratios to go along with a win, a save and two holds. As we've seen over the last few seasons, relievers with that kind of profile can have a lot of fantasy value, and King feels like the kind of converted starter who might become a bullpen stud. In shallow standard formats it's still hard to justify a roster spot on him as long as Aroldis Chapman is healthy and effective, but it's getting really hard to ignore a guy with an 18:2 K:BB through 10.2 innings. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Andres Munoz, Mariners: Another repeat mention from last week, Munoz picked up his first save of the season Friday, so you're welcome. Scott Servais seems committed to the committee model at the back of his bullpen, but if anyone has the overpowering raw stuff to change his mind on that, it's probably Munoz. Assume he'll wind up in the high single digits in saves by the end of the year with plenty of strikeouts, but his upside is significantly higher. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Colin Poche, Rays: You never know which Tampa Bay reliever is suddenly going to post ridiculous numbers or start collecting saves, so when Poche returned to the majors after posting an 11:2 K:BB in six scoreless innings for Triple-A Durham, it got my attention. The southpaw is a pure dart throw until his usage becomes clear, assuming he even sticks around for a while, but he worked a reasonably high-leverage spot in his 2022 debut Friday. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Jose Ruiz, White Sox: Another nice depth arm for deeper formats, the White Sox have been waiting for Ruiz to take on a higher-leverage role for a few years now, and 2022 looks like it might be the season their patience pays off. The 27-year-old right-hander has a 9:1 K:BB through his first 5.1 innings, and more importantly he's already tied his career high with four holds. Ruiz ditched his slider last year to focus more on his curve and changeup as complements for his high-90s fastball, and so far the combo is clicking. He's at best fourth in line for saves in Chicago, but in leagues that score holds or are deep enough that high-K, low-ratio arms have value, he should be rostered. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Trevor Stephan, Guardians: Emmanuel Clase has had a bumpy start to the season, and James Karinchak hasn't started throwing off a mound yet as he rehabs a shoulder issue. There's no clear next in line if Clase proves to be a flash in the pan, but Stephan is making a pretty strong case with a 0.00 ERA and 7:0 K:BB through 7.1 innings. Snagged from the Yankees' system in the 2020 Rule 5 draft, the 26-year-old righty didn't quite have a classic closer repertoire in the minors, but he averages about 96 mph with his fastball and has a good, if not quite plus, slider. It's increased usage of a splitter that seems to be making the difference for him in 2022, as the pitch has a silly 42.9 percent whiff rate so far. If you're looking for Clase insurance, Stephan should be your top choice right now. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Catcher

Jonah Heim, Rangers: Heim's minor-league profile, which suggested a solid hit tool and plate discipline with some power potential, had him on my personal sleeper list last season after he got traded to the Rangers, but a .197/.239/.358 slash line in 285 plate appearances scrubbed him from my brain. Well, I might have been a year early. The 26-year-old switch hitter is slashing a dazzling .364/.440/.682 through his first 25 plate appearances in 2022, walking more than he's struck out, and while he's stuck in a timeshare with Mitch Garver, Heim's defensive edge could tip the playing-time scales in his favor as the season goes on. The wild card is how manager Chris Woodward chooses to use his DH spot. If Garver starts seeing more action there, Heim's outlook for starts goes way up, and he did post a combined .310/.385/.477 line between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019.If you went the bargain root at catcher in your draft and are looking for someone to stash who could pay off later, Heim's worth a look. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Second Base

Vidal Brujan, Rays: Called up Saturday when Yandy Diaz landed on the COVID-19 list, it's not clear how long Brujan might stick around since Diaz was already back on the active roster Sunday. Brujan's outlook in Tampa hasn't really changed, as there doesn't seem to be anywhere for him to play even in a super-utility role, but his steals potential makes him a guy worth stashing if you have a deep bench, just in case he's being showcased for a trade. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Sheldon Neuse, Athletics: Neuse has taken firm hold of a starting job in Oakland. Slashing .318/.388/.409 while starting 13 straight games. He does have a huge campaign at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2019 on his resume, but the rule for Triple-A performances is that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That said, his 2021 campaign at Oklahoma City was pretty darn good too, and while his power potential gets most of the attention, there's some sneaky speed upside here too – he went 6-for-6 on steal attempts for the OKC Dodgers in 78 games, and he's 1-for-1 in the majors this season. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $11

Third Base

Aledmys Diaz, Astros: Jose Altuve is on IL with a hamstring issue, and while it's not considered serious, Altuve is 31 years old and has a lot of miles on his lower legs. While he's out, Diaz and Niko Goodrum seem to be splitting starts at the keystone, starting two games each so far. Diaz is the slightly more appealing fantasy option in the short term, although his .525 OPS to begin the year should probably change that phrase to 'slightly less unappealing'. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Santiago Espinal, Blue Jays: The 27-year-old infielder seems to have the second base job in Toronto locked down, and while his defense is the biggest selling point for the Jays, he's starting to hit a little too. Espinal got some "best shape of his life" buzz during the spring, and homers in back-to-back games this weekend in Houston suddenly reminded everyone that, oh yeah, he packed on some muscle this offseason. His .229 BABIP is due plenty of positive regression, and he's 9-for-10 in his big-league career on steal attempts. Espinal probably won't turn into a star, but he could wind up supplying the kind of numbers you might have been expecting from someone like Miguel Rojas or Josh Rojas. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Shortstop

Nick Allen, Athletics: According to MLB Pipeline, Allen is currently Oakland's No. 4 prospect. According to RotoWire's own James Anderson, he's not in the organizational top 20 or the overall top 400. Why the huge discrepancy? Allen's a pure glove-first shortstop right now, and while the 23-year-old has hit for some decent batting averages in the minors and swiped the occasional base, his total lack of power or a plus hit tool gives him an extremely narrow path to fantasy utility, even in deep formats. In the long run, maybe he turns his athleticism into some production, but right now, the gap between his "real" baseball value and fantasy value seems massive. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Niko Goodrum, Astros: The answer to the trivia question, "Which player's name is also the most likely explanation for how he ended up on your roster?", Goodrum is sharing the load at second base with Aledmys Diaz while Jose Altuve is on the shelf. That's a short-term gig, and Goodrum's .263 OPS (yes, OPS) and 0:9 BB:K through his first 19 plate appearances with Houston is beyond woeful. There's a reason Detroit let him go, despite his defensive versatility and hints of power/speed potential. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Taylor Walls, Rays: Walls is the player doing what everyone keeps hoping Vidal Brujan will do someday. So far this season, Walls has appeared in 12 games and played three different infield positions, and while he has only 35 plate appearances, he's drawn six walks and gone 3-for-3 on steals. It can be tough to justify a roster spot in shallow formats for players without regular starting jobs, but the 25-year-old's upside as a speed source makes that calculus a lot more favorable, and the Rays seem inclined to play to his strengths. If Walls does end up getting traded, that probably just means a starting gig as someone's shortstop, so there's little downside down that path. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Outfield

Adam Engel, White Sox: The White Sox just seem cursed this season. Eloy Jimenez is the latest starter to go down, and he could be facing another lengthy absence after suffering what was described as a "significant" hamstring injury Saturday. The two most likely beneficiaries of the available playing time are Engel and Gavin Sheets, and Engel is by far the least interesting of the two. The 30-year-old did steal 16 bases way back in 2018 when he had a starting gig for a while, but his career .225/.283/.357 slash line highlights his limitations in anything other than a bench role. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Josh Naylor, Guardians: I wrote up Naylor last week, but he's now reeled off multi-hit performances in five straight starts, so you're welcome. The 24-year-old hasn't quite played every day since making his belated season debut and could continue to be platooned against lefties, but he seems like Cleveland's clear best option at first base right now. He won't be this hot forever, but consistent playing time and some power potential will still give him value. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Designated Hitter

Gavin Sheets, White Sox: The 26-year-old suddenly has a clear path to a starting job, or at least the strong side of a platoon, with Eloy Jimenez landing on IL this weekend, although he was seeing semi-regular playing time already this season. Sheets batted .276 with 22 homers and 80 RBI over 114 games between Triple-A and the majors last season, so the upside is there even if he might be a bit of a batting average risk, and he's got multiple paths to a consistent spot in the lineup between the outfield corners, DH and occasionally spelling Jose Abreu at first base. 12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team AL: Rostered

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
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