This article is part of our AL FAAB Factor series.
Article first appeared 9/7/08
This is our weekly look at the free agents in each 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 NL or Mixed, we'll specify)
- 5x5 categories
- Each team has a $100 FAAB budget.
We thought we'd try a different format this week. Since so many players were called up this week, and many of those players will not make much - if any - contribution this month, team-by-team might be a better way to organize this week's FAAB notables. Keep in mind that a number of call-ups were already covered in last week's article.
Radhames Liz - The Red Sox administered a righteous pounding upon Liz in his first start after returning from Triple-A Norfolk, knocking him around for nine runs. He has some ability to miss bats, but remains altogether too raw to be relied upon. Both his walk rate (41 in 60.1 innings) and homers allowed (15) are far from tenable. Such are the growing pains for the O's. Mixed and AL: No.
Garrett Olson - Speaking of growing pains. I'm more optimistic about Olson than I am Liz, but his 72:52 K:BB is too frightening to observe anywhere near my active roster. There's still some talent here, but watch from afar. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Jamie Walker - Jim Johnson is out for the year with a shoulder injury, and while George Sherrill is due back soon, there may be a lag before he's ready to close. If there happen to be any save opportunities in the intervening days, Walker is the most likely candidate to pick them up. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
BOSTON RED SOX
Bartolo Colon - The later the season gets, you'll see increasingly strange trades. Colon was the subject of a controversial trade in AL Tout Wars this past week, right before our deadline. Team A dealt Bobby Jenks to Team B in exchange for Colon. Team A's logic was that he didn't need any further saves (which was true) and needed wins, and Colon's 2-3 remaining starts were his best chance to add wins. It eventually went through, and the takeaway here is that right now, pure value doesn't matter if you're in a categorical league. All that matters is managing the categories. You can debate the sanity of trading for a pitcher that wouldn't return for two weeks from the DL and is always a risk for re-injury, but I grok the principle here. Colon will come back to start one of the two games of Saturday's doubleheader against the Jays. Mixed: $3; AL: $3.
Chris Smith - Don't look for Smith to pitch in any high-leverage innings, but his 52:11 K:BB as Pawtucket's closer is nice. Mixed and AL: No.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Brian Anderson - Part of the fallout from Carlos Quentin's injury is that Anderson will get a few more starts in center field, at least against lefties. Nick Swisher will be the full-time left fielder. It's getting pretty ugly on the South Side; Anderson will not be a cure for their woes. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Jason Bourgeois - If Bourgeois were to get any playing time for the White Sox in September, he could be a stolen base threat. A lot of things have to happen before he gets that playing time, however. Mixed and AL: No.
Josh Fields - All you need to know about how poorly Fields' season has gone is that Ozzie Guillen has chosen to keep and play Juan Uribe over him at third base, even with Joe Crede out. Crede's back injury has flared up, and while it's severity remains undecided, it's going to be an issue the rest of the month. Fields' status as a keeper is there, but his star has certainly diminished. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Chris Getz - Getz isn't playing right now, but if Joe Crede remains out and the team's other options remain unsatisfactory, he might squeeze in a few starts, and might not be that bad of an option at third base. He could put together a 2007-vintage Jeff Keppinger-esque stretch if given the chance. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Jerry Owens - If Josh Fields is the $1,000 answer for "Who is the biggest White Sox fantasy disappointment?", then Owens is the $800 answer. Granted, he was never very good in the first place (.636 OPS with the White Sox last year), but his stolen bases last year sure were tasty. Carlos Quentin's injury (and Ken Griffey Jr.'s) could provide a September opportunity for stolen bases for Owens. Mixed: $5; AL: $5 (only if you need stolen bases).
Juan Uribe - Uribe, and not Josh Fields, will get the bulk of the action at third base while Crede is out. Between Crede, Fields and Uribe, the White Sox have the market cornered on low OBP third basemen that could provide some pop. Uribe's defense gives him the nod over Fields. If you're in need of at-bats from the hot corner, consider some sort of platoon with Uribe where you use him for his home starts. Mixed: $4; AL: $11.
Michael Aubrey - Though the Indians have been in 2009-mode for some time now, Aubrey hasn't yet broken into their starting lineup since his callup. That's a pretty good signal that he's not considered a viable option for the position next year, despite Ryan Garko's really disappointing 2008 season. Instead, Victor Martinez appears slated to get any time Garko won't get there, and Aubrey has the likes of Beau Mills and potentially Matt LaPorta pushing up behind him. Mixed and AL: No.
Josh Barfield - Barfield's status has really cratered over the last two years, and it's because he still hasn't figured out the concept of plate discipline. In 299 at-bats at Triple-A Buffalo, he had 58 strikeouts and only 15 walks. Sub-.300 Triple-A on-base percentages do not make a good prospect. Mixed and AL: No.
Travis Hafner - Hafner could be back from the 60-day DL and his shoulder injury as early as Tuesday. He has homered in his last two days on his rehab assignment and finally appears to be close to full strength. Can Hafner rebound to give the Indians anything next year? What they do with him and Garko will be the toughest decision the Indians will have to make this offseason. Mixed: $4; AL: $10.
Scott Lewis - Lewis is expected to get the start on Wednesday against the Orioles. Lewis was 6-2 with a 2.33 ERA in 13 starts at Double-A and 2-2 with a 2.62 ERA in four starts at Triple-A this season. If you're absolutely desperate for a spot start he will get a favorable matchup against the Orioles. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Jonathan Meloan - Meloan is nominally in the picture for the back end of the Indians' bullpen next year, but he had the same control problems (nine walks in 12 innings) at Triple-A Buffalo as he had with the Dodgers. Until those control issues get ironed out, he's a fringe candidate to play a meaningful role next year. Mixed and AL: $0.
Mike Hessman - The Tigers' falling fortunes and Carlos Guillen's achy-breaky back could give Hessman a little bit of a run in September. Don't be confused by his 34 homers for Triple-A Toledo - at age 30, he's no prospect. In effect he's a poor man's Dallas McPherson, having hung around Triple-A longer. His 140 strikeouts indicate he'll have a pretty poor contact rate at the major league level as well. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Ryan Shealy - Manager Trey Hillman said Shealy and Kila Kaaihue would platoon at first for the rest of the season. Like Hessman, Shealy isn't a prospect, but Kaaihue might be. He once put up some big power numbers at altitude, but he's now the prototypical "Four-A" corner infielder. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Jason Bulger - Take a look at Bulger's numbers at Triple-A Salt Lake - he's struck out 75 batters in just 43 innings. This is not an anomaly either - he had a similar strikeout rate there last year. He promptly threw three shutout innings on Saturday, striking out five. His control could use a little improvement, but as a 29 year-old in Triple-A, he needs to be facing major league hitters or get dealt elsewhere. Baseball Prospectus 2008 compared Bulger to Heath Bell as a minor league reliever putting up superior numbers in one system but needing a new organization to get his real chance. That comparison is looking especially prescient right now. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Dustin Moseley - Moseley got a spot start in place of the injured Jered Weaver on Friday and got torched, giving up four runs without getting out of the second inning. It's been that sort of year for Moseley, who never was able to get untracked from offseason elbow surgery. Mixed and AL: No.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Melky Cabrera - How far has Cabrera's star fallen? He's back up with the team, but even with Bobby Abreu out, he's a mere backup. Cabrera's .718 OPS as a 22-year old last year was barely adequate, but we expected a significant improvement this year with the experience. Instead, he regressed badly, calling into question whether he'll be able to be a sufficient starter in this league. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Joba Chamberlain - Chamberlain is back as a reliever for the rest of the season, and might even begin 2009 as a reliever. This is all part of the Yankees' plan to preserve him for the long run, but it's drawing fire from many outlets. Normally media and fan reaction is immaterial to the analysis, but with the Yankees poised to miss the playoffs, there could be a power change in the front office this offseason, and Chamberlain's plan could change accordingly. Mixed: 3; AL: $9.
Dan Giese - Giese is back from the DL and his shoulder injury, but hasn't been stretched out enough to start yet. Thus, the Yankees will soldier on with Sidney Ponson, Carl Pavano and now Alfredo Aceves in the 3-5 spots in the rotation. That alone is representative enough of why the Yankees are probably going to miss the playoffs this year. Mixed and AL: No.
Dan Meyer - The A's are vetting Meyer for the future, with Justin Duchscherer out for the season. So far, it's been more of a bloodletting, with him getting pounded in two outings against the Twins and Royals, not exactly a pair of Murderers' Rows. Mixed: No; AL: $0, for the thrill-seekers.
Josh Outman - Outman came over from the Phillies in the Joe Blanton. He features a fastball that occasionally touches 90 mph but has a great feel for pitching and uses his changeup and slider effectively. He's going to be a bit of a swingman in September and probably will need at least a half-season at Triple-A Sacramento next year before he's a serious contender for the back of the A's rotation. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Mike Sweeney - With Frank Thomas done for the season, Sweeney will get more at-bats than anticipated for September at DH for the A's. He was once thought to be done as well, but instead he worked hard to make his way back. All that's well-and-good; Sweeney doesn't have the bat speed that he used to, and we expect him to provide precious little power. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Rob Johnson - Jeff Clement deservedly gets more attention, but Johnson is a pretty decent prospect in his own right. The Mariners are similar to their AL West brethren Rangers in that they're deep behind the plate. Johnson is hopelessly buried for now, however, with Kenjii Johjima under contract for the next three years. If he finds a scenario where he's playing regularly, he's a bit of a sleeper prospect. Johnson will get a decent look at least in September with Clement out for the rest of the season. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Brandon Morrow - Occasionally I can be wrong - that's the nature of the beast in this business, where I'm projecting 750+ players before the start of the season and answering a number of reader and listener questions. Rarely am I "the Titanic will never sink" wrong, like I was on Morrow. Given Morrow's utter lack of professional experience starting and his struggles while getting stretched out at Triple-A Tacoma, I thought that Morrow would really struggle as a starter for the rest of the year. And I really thought that his first matchup, against the Yankees, was one to avoid. After his dominant outing on Friday night, I'll retract and admit defeat. Go get him for the rest of the year if you had to wait until this weekend to bid on him and he's still available. Mixed: $15; AL: $35.
Matt Tuiasosopo - Tuiasosopo could get at-bats in September, either at third or DH. His future, though, is a bit cloudy. Unless Adrian Beltre is traded this offseason, there isn't a spot for Tuiasosopo, who also has yet to prove he's capable of an everyday role in the majors. He had a nice but not great season at Tacoma, hitting .281/.364/.453 with 13 homers and four homers. The on-base is pretty nice, especially as a 22-year old, but we'd like to see more power from a corner infielder in the PCL. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Fernando Perez - Stolen base alert - Perez can flat out fly. He stole 43 bases at Triple-A Durham this year. He's capable of taking a walk, to help utilize his speed. The problem, however, is that he's similar to Joey Gathright, in that opposing pitchers are capable of knocking the bat right out of his hands, and he struck out a whopping 156 times in 511 at-bats. He's getting some playing time in right field right now for the Rays, with them scrambling for outfield offense in the wake of Carl Crawford's injury. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
German Duran - With Ian Kinsler shutting it down for the rest of the season, Duran could get a few starts at second base, though Joaquin Arias is starting more often right now. Duran might have a little more power upside, though that hasn't manifested itself in the numbers this year. Kinsler is firmly ensconced at second base for the future, and Duran really can't play shortstop or hit for enough power at third base, limiting his value as a keeper. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Taylor Teagarden - Jarrod Saltalamacchia is out for the season, giving Teagarden his window of opportunity to give the Rangers a 2009 preview. Most teams would be happy to have one good catching prospect - the Rangers have three, in Saltalamacchia, Teagarden and Max Ramirez. Teagarden is the best defender of the three. His bat isn't as advanced as Ramirez and probably Teagarden, and he's had a hard time staying healthy. Still, he might have the most long-term value of the three, especially if Ramirez gets moved out from behind the plate. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Shaun Marcum - The Jays have earned all the criticism that they've gotten and are still getting this year, but their treatment of Marcum in August is actually defensible. They needed him to get a little bit of confidence in his stuff again, allowing him to pound the strike zone like he did prior to his injury. His strikeout rate has tailed off some since his strong start to the season, but he's capable of filling the Jays' third starter role again next year. It might be a roller coaster in September, but there's still some value here. Mixed: $5; AL: $17.
Brad Wilkerson - Maybe we can blame injuries for Wilkerson's fall from grace, but he's just a shadow of the player that once had a .872 OPS with the Expos in his peak season as a 27-year old in 2004. He didn't seem to be the type of player whose skill set would completely evaporate so quickly, but he's no better than a fourth or fifth outfielder now. Mixed: No; AL: $0.