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. Julio Rodriguez 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 $
Jhony BritoNYSPC112
Yonny ChirinosTBSPCNo13
Kutter CrawfordBOSSPC123
Josh FlemingTBSPDNoNo1
Kyle MullerOAKSPC235
Spencer TurnbullDETSPC235
Joey WentzDETSPC112
Jose CisneroDETRPDNo12
Jason FoleyDETRPENo

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. Julio Rodriguez 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 $
Jhony BritoNYSPC112
Yonny ChirinosTBSPCNo13
Kutter CrawfordBOSSPC123
Josh FlemingTBSPDNoNo1
Kyle MullerOAKSPC235
Spencer TurnbullDETSPC235
Joey WentzDETSPC112
Jose CisneroDETRPDNo12
Jason FoleyDETRPENoNo1
Jimmy HergetLARPD23Rostered
Matt MooreLARPDNo12
Ryan TeperaLARPENoNo1
Chris MartinBOSRPD123
Cole RagansTEXRPC123
Will SmithTEXRPDNoNo1
Korey LeeHOUCDNoNo1
Max StassiLACC123
Matt ThaissLACCNoNo1
Donovan SolanoMIN1BDNoNo1
Mauricio DubonHOUSSDNo12
Kyle FarmerMINSSCNoNo2
Mason McCoySEASSENoNo1
Anthony VolpeNYSSA112131
Justin DirdenHOUOFC357
Kyle IsbelKCOFC135
Michael TaylorMINOFDNoNo2
Matt VierlingDETOFDNo13
Yainer DiazHOUDHCNoNo1
Mitch GarverTEXDHC123
David HensleyHOUDHCNo13

Starting Pitcher

Jhony Brito, Yankees: The Yankees' rotation has been gutted by injuries this spring, with Luis Severino now expected to join Carlos Rodon and Frankie Montas on the shelf to begin the season. Clarke Schmidt and Domingo German has already moved up as a result of the latter two's absences, so who's left to take Severino's spot? The answer appears to be Brito, a 25-year-old righty who has yet to appear in the majors but posted a solid 3.31 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 70.2 innings last year at Triple, albeit with a lackluster 53:24 K:BB. Brito's seen his fastball gain some zip the last couple years, but he still lacks an effective breaking pitch, relying on an above-average changeup and sharp control to generate weak contact. It's not the sexiest profile, but with the Yankees' offense at his back, he could have some streaming value and be worth stashing. Keep in mind New York's fifth starter will likely either face the Phillies at Yankee Stadium or the O's in their home opener in the first week of April though, and neither is a great spot for a big-league debut. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $2

Yonny Chirinos, Rays: With Luis Patino send packing back to Triple-A, Chirinos got the start Saturday for Tampa Bay and delivered five perfectly cromulent innings against a bunch of Boston prospects and bench players, and he appears to be the favorite to begin the season as the Rays' fifth starter while Tyler Glasnow recovers from (spins Wheel of Injuries) a strained oblique. Glasnow might not be back until late April, so this won't be just a one or two turn assignment. Chirinos is no stranger to the IL himself, pitching just 18.1 big-league innings since 2020 due to Tommy John surgery, but he was one of the original Bulk Boys back in 2019, working behind an opener in eight of his 26 appearances and delivering generally solid numbers. The organization has moved away from the opener/long reliever model since, but they have plenty of options to handle a few one-inning starts if they want to revive it, and it couldn't hurt Chirinos' value as he's not likely to go longer than five innings too often. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $3 

Kutter Crawford, Red Sox: Boston's rotation is in pretty bad shape too, at least to begin the year. James Paxton being out is just business as usual, but Garrett Whitlock and Brayan Bello will also begin the season on the IL, so Crawford will take on fifth starter duties out of the gate. The 26-year-old righty lacks elite raw stuff but he's got a deep arsenal of average to above-average pitches, and he looked great this spring, posting a 14:3 K:BB through 13.1 innings and not allowing a homer. The Red Sox also have a better early schedule than the Yankees – their second series is at home against the Pirates, while their third is in Detroit – so if you're just looking for a streaming option to get you through for a week or two, Crawford should be at the top of the affordable targets list. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $3

Josh Fleming, Rays: If the Rays don't elect to go with Chirinos, or someone else gets hurt between now and Opening Day, Fleming is the alternative. The 26-year-old lefty has a rough 5.43 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 139.1 big-league innings over the last two seasons, but any port in a storm, right? 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Kyle Muller, Athletics: If we'd started the FAB columns back up a week earlier I would have been describing Muller as on the roster bubble and not locked into a rotation spot yet, but now he's Oakland's Opening Day starter, so I guess he won a job. He's the classic example of how being left-handed and an early draft pick keeps getting you chances. The 25-year-old was brutal in three starts for Atlanta last season, prompting the team to finally give up on him, but the A's got nothing to lose by seeing if they can unlock something in him. Muller did post intriguing numbers at Triple-A in 2022 – 3.41 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 159:40 K:BB through 134.2 innings – and the improved walk rate, or rather cleaner mechanics that would allow him to maintain better command along with consistent velocity, is probably the key to him finally making it in The Show. His spring results suggest he's still a work in progress, though. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $5

Spencer Turnbull, Tigers: Turnbull didn't pitch at all in 2022 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and hasn't thrown more than 56.2 big-league innings in a season since 2019, but the Tigers are still counting on him to take a regular turn in the rotation this year. He might have been headed for a breakout campaign in 2021 before his elbow gave out though, and his spring numbers have been encouraging, including a 12:2 K:BB in 12 innings. I'd take my chances on Tunrbull before Muller, but both are in the "stash them until they show something" bucket in most formats. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $5

Joey Wentz, Tigers: Detroit's rotation will also be missing multiple bodies to begin the year with Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize sidelined, and Michael Lorenzen (and maybe Matthew Boyd?) also dealing with injuries. That's opened up a spot for Wentz, who posted good ratios in seven starts in his big-league debut in 2022 but did it by keeping the ball in the park and generating weaker contact, an approach that may not be sustainable. He's basically the 21st century version of a soft-tossing lefty, sitting in the low 90s with his fastball rather than the old mid-80s Jamie Moyer Zone, but he has flashed some strikeout upside in the minors so there could be more fantasy appeal coming. Wentz did manage a 19:6 K:BB through 14.2 innings this spring, but he also served up four homers, so going for punchouts may not ultimately be in his best interest. View him as a streaming stash for now. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $2

Relief Pitcher

Jose Cisnero / Jason Foley, Tigers: Alex Lange was supposed to seize the closing job in Detroit after Gregory Soto was shipped out, but he's walked eight batters in six innings this spring, which is less than ideal. That opens the door for someone else to get a shot if his control issues linger. Cisnero would be the likely next man up, but he hasn't excelled this spring either, walking three batters and giving up three homers in 5.1 innings, although he has struck out 10. Jason Foley, a righty with a power sinker, could also be in the high-leverage mix for the Tigers. Lange is still probably the guy, but there's enough uncertainty now to warrant a dart throw or two at other potential saves sources if you have room to stash them. Cisnero – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $2 / Foley – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Jimmy Herget / Matt Moore / Ryan Tepera, Angels: Not to be outdone by Lange, Carlos Estevez may have cost himself a closing gig in Anaheim by issuing 10 free passes in 5.2 Cactus League innings. The Halos say they're not concerned (because unless they're cutting the dude, what else are they going to say?) but suddenly the ninth inning is a little more up for grabs than it was a month ago. Herget got the first nine saves of his career last year with strong ratios, but the team was hoping to use him as more of a fireman in high-leverage spots earlier than the ninth inning. Same for free-agent signing Matt Moore, who's the top lefty in the bullpen after a sharp 2022 campaign with Texas. Ryan Tepera is also coming off a nice season. I haven't even gotten to Ben Joyce yet, who will start the season in the minors scaring the bejeezus out of Triple-A hitters with 104 mph heat. Really, the Angels have the makings of an above-average bullpen, but a closer who can't find the plate would ruin the whole thing. Estevez's leash could be very short. Herget – 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: Rostered / Moore – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $2 / Tepera – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Chris Martin, Red Sox: Boston got a scare Friday when Kenley Jansen checked out of the game due to feeling light-headed – not the kind of thing you want to hear from your new $32 million closer with a preexisting heart condition. Jansen said afterward it was just dehydration, and he's probably fine, buuuut... should he need a stint on the shelf, Martin seems the likely next man up in the ninth. The veteran righty split last season between the Cubs and Dodgers and had a sub-1.00 WHIP with a 32.9 percent strikeout rate, which seems pretty closer-riffic to me. Martin's never been trusted as The Guy in a bullpen in his career – his high in saves is just four, back in 2019 – but he's got enough appeal as a high-K setup man to be worth stashing, even if your league doesn't value holds. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $3

Cole Ragans, Rangers: Ragans has been one of the stars of the spring, posting a 24:7 K:BB over 16.2 Cactus League innings. The 25-year-old was nothing more than a feel-good story in 2022, a first-round pick who survived two Tommy John surgeries to finally make it to the big leagues, but his diminished stuff didn't seem to offer much fantasy upside. That might have been just a prelude, though. Ragans busted his ass over the winter, broke down his mechanics, got in better shape, and suddenly he shows up in camp sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball and touching 99 mph. Texas doesn't have room for him in the rotation at the moment, but all his competition for the main long relief role (Glenn Otto, Jake Odorizzi) is hurt, and the chances of Jacob deGrom, Andrew Heaney, Jon Gray etc. all staying healthy for six months is pretty remote. Ragans' improved stuff seems legit, and at some point he'll get a chance to start. That's worth stashing. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $3

Will Smith, Rangers: Jose Leclerc seems a lot more secure in his closer role than Lange or Estevez, both because he's held the job before with the Rangers and because he's actually had a good spring, posting an 11:4 K:BB over 6.2 scoreless innings in the Cactus League. Nonetheless, the 29-year-old has a history of breaking down and losing the plate, so Smith could be a factor in the ninth inning before the season is over. The veteran lefty racked up 37 saves for Atlanta just two years ago, but his 2022 was a bit of a disaster. He's still only 33 years old, so Smith may not be done just yet. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Catcher

Korey Lee, Astros: Martin Maldonado has one more year left on his current contract, so identifying who might be the Astros' next starting catcher is of particular interest in keeper leagues. There are two likely suspects, and Lee is the one with the slightly better defensive reputation. (The other can be found down in the DH section.) The 24-year-old did his best Maldonado impression down at Triple-A Sugar Land in 2022, slugging 25 homers but hitting only .238 with a 28.5 percent strikeout rate, and unless you're as good at pitch framing and handling a staff as Maldonado, that kind of offensive profile may not cut it for a team with World Series aspirations. If Lee breaks camp as the No. 2, his power could give him some fantasy value, though. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Max Stassi / Matt Thaiss, Angels: The Halos were supposed to be handing the catching reins over to Logan O'Hoppe this season, but it's starting to look like he'll begin the season back at Triple-A. If that happens, this is the duo that will be keeping his seat warm. Stassi's offensive production collapsed in 2022 (and it wasn't that great to begin with), but there was some disparity between his Barrel rate and his actual power numbers which could hint at a rebound. Thaiss is a left-handed bench bat masquerading as a catcher, but he's consistently posted solid numbers at Triple-A Salt Lake and could offer some pop if he finds his way into more playing time. Stassi – 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $3 / Thaiss – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

First Base

Donovan Solano, Twins: Jorge Polanco will begin the season on IL along with Alex Kirilloff, which lets the Twins shift Jose Miranda across the diamond to take some of the load off his sore shoulder. That leaves second base and third base open, and while Nick Gordon will see a lot of that playing time, he can't play two positions at once and is already gone in most formats anyway. Solano and Kyle Farmer are the likely candidates to take on the rest. Solano only qualifies at first base in most formats (only 16 games at third in 2022) but he could gain extra eligibility fairly quickly, and he's batted .282 over the last two seasons between the Giants and Reds, albeit without much power or speed. In deep AL-only formats though, that's still a useful guy to have on your roster. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Shortstop

Mauricio Dubon, Astros: Jose Altuve's injury creates an opening at second base for Houston, but it's not clear who might fill it. Dubon is the safe, boring option, but even if he isn't named the starter at the keystone, he'll probably see time there as the team's top utility player, and he already qualifies at short and the outfield. Dubon didn't offer anything at the plate in 2022, but once upon a time in the minors he was a base-stealing threat and his sprint speed was in the 74th percentile last year, so he could be one of the players who takes advantage of the easier baserunning environment who suddenly swipe double-digit bags. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $2

Kyle Farmer, Twins: Unlike the contact-oriented Solano, Farmer offers some pop off the Minnesota bench, slugging 30 homers over the last two seasons for the Reds. He won't be playing in Great American Ball Park any more, but his home/road splits weren't egregiously skewed during his time in Cincy, and he already has dual eligibility between 3B and SS. Adding 2B to the mix during Polanco's absence would give him just that more deep-league value. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Mason McCoy, Mariners: While other teams are having trouble stitching together an Opening Day rotation, the Mariners have mixed it up a little by having one shortstop after another go down. Dylan Moore is coming off core muscle surgery and then strained his oblique in camp, which isn't a good combo, and then J.P. Crawford fouled a ball off his foot Friday. As yet, the injury doesn't seem to be anything more than a bruise, but if he's not ready for Seattle's opener, the M's will be down to McCoy. The 27-year-old flashed some power and speed last season at Triple-A Tacoma but isn't likely to hit for much of a batting average in the majors. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Anthony Volpe, Yankees: As I write this, the Yankees haven't announced their intentions at shortstop, but in Saturday's game Volpe got the start against Aaron Nola and hit leadoff (and had three hits including a double and a triple while scoring three runs), which sure sounds to me like he's going to be the guy over Oswald Peraza. Peraza also has a minor-league option left, which could make the decision even easier. Volpe is the team's top prospect and has looked ready all spring, with his 5-for-5 showing in steal attempts being particularly juicy from a fantasy perspective – not to mention the thought of him hitting at the top of the order ahead of Aaron Judge etc. He's the one player in this week's column it would be worth bidding big on... if you were sure he'll win the job and won't start the season at Triple-A, something the Yanks might not announce until later in the week. Your risk tolerance, and need at MI or shortstop, should determine how big a swing you take here, but these bid recommendations split the difference. 12-team Mixed: $11; 15-team Mixed: $21; 12-team AL: $31

Outfield

Justin Dirden, Astros: The truncated 2020 draft certainly achieved MLB's goals, as a ton of players like Dirden went undrafted and got signed cheaper than they would have been otherwise. Congrats to all the cheapskate owners, I guess. The 25-year-old is now knocking on the door of his big-league debut after tearing up Double-A last year and becoming the apple of Dusty Baker's eye in camp. The Astros still don't really have a center fielder, and it's not hard to imagine Dirden out-playing the likes of Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers and seizing the job by the end of April. Based on his athleticism, his ceiling might be something in the vicinity of what Austin Meadows was supposed to be, too, so he's not just a bench body getting by on hustle and moxie. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $7

Kyle Isbel, Royals: Speaking of teams without a center fielder, Drew Waters is on the shelf and Michael Taylor is in Minnesota, so the Royals need someone to step up. Isbel has done exactly that this spring, batting .400 (16-for-40) with six doubles and two steals. Modest power and some speed seems about right for a realistic fantasy projection, and maybe with consistent playing time this is the year the 26-year-old finally establishes himself as a big-league regular. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $5

Michael Taylor, Twins: Speaking of Taylor, he's essentially only a Twin so that Byron Buxton doesn't have to play center field every day, which might keep Buxton healthier. The 31-year-old can still pick it with the glove, but Taylor's .249/.304/.357 slash line over the last two seasons highlights his limited appeal at the plate. He's steal the occasional base and launch the occasional mistake over the wall, but don't expect anything more. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Matt Vierling, Tigers: Picked up from the Phillies in the Soto trade, Vierling has gotten some buzz as a possible breakout candidate, but you really have to squint to see it. He's had a solid spring though, while Akil Baddo hasn't, and that could put Vierling in the driver's seat for a starting spot rather than having to settle for a timeshare or platoon role to begin the year. He might end up in that platoon anyway – his splits last year were pretty gruesome in his first extended big-league action – but he's flashed speed in the minors, and he might be able to move the needle in that category if he gets on base enough. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $3

Designated Hitter

Yainer Diaz, Astros: While Lee has the rep with the glove, Diaz has the bat, slashing a combined .306/.356/.542 between Double-A and Triple-A last season with 25 homers in 105 games. He'll only qualify at Ut in a lot of leagues after playing three games at DH in his cup of coffee debut for Houston but only two behind the plate. Diaz is the more interesting of the two young catchers from a fantasy perspective, but he'll need to prove his defense and game-calling isn't a liability before he'll be considered a viable replacement for Maldonado in the future. In AL-only formats though, if you went with/got stuck with a couple $1 catchers, grabbing Diaz as a stash until he regains catcher eligibility could pay off. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Mitch Garver, Rangers: This is a good year for AL stealth catchers hiding in the Ut spot. Garver didn't see much work behind the plate last year due to a forearm injury that also sapped his power, and he lost over 100 points off his SLG from 2021. The 32-year-old seems to be healthy now, and while Jonah Heim is the clear No. 1 in Texas, Garver could gain catcher eligibility before long while also seeing action at DH. This is a player with a 31-homer season on his resume, even if it came during the happy fun ball 2019 campaign. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $3 

David Hensley, Astros: While Dubon is the safe, boring option to replace Altuve, Hensley is the younger upside play (at least compared to Dubon, anyway.) The 26-year-old hit .345 in a cup of coffee MLB debut last year and swiped 20 bags at Triple-A in 104 games, so he's got the skill set to provide some fantasy value in a regular role. He's almost like an off-brand version of the younger Altuve, in fact, offering some batting average and speed upside with a smidge of power. The Astros haven't quite tipped their hand yet what they intend to do at second base, but in Saturday's game against the Nats, Dubon got the start while Hensley was used off the bench and played first base, which isn't encouraging. Altuve will be out for months though, not weeks, so there will be time for Hensley to make his case. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $3

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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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