FAAB Factor - AL: The Buck Stops Here

FAAB Factor - AL: The Buck Stops Here

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:

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

One size does not fit all, and we could never hope to encompass all league structures, so bids are based on:

12-team league (either AL or Mixed, we'll specify)
5x5 categories
$100 FAAB budget

Note: Andrew Martinez discussed some of these players last week, but they all warranted an update in light of new information.

Starting Pitching

Vincent Velasquez, Astros - While Velasquez's promotion may not have captured the headlines quite like teammate Carlos Correa's did, those familiar with the right-hander were thrilled to hear he'd get an opportunity with the major league team. A back injury cost Velasquez the first month of the season, but it was impossible to tell given how well he pitched with Double-A Corpus Christi upon his return. Velasquez breezed through Texas League competition in five starts for the Hooks (1.37 ERA, 0.92 WHIP), culminating in a dominant outing against a strong Northwest Arkansas team during which he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Walks were an issue for Velasquez in his major league debut Wednesday -- he issued four free passes to the White Sox, nearly half his total with Corpus Christi (nine in 26.1 innings) -- and he tends to give up a few too many flyballs (0.77 GO/AO at Double-A),

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

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

One size does not fit all, and we could never hope to encompass all league structures, so bids are based on:

12-team league (either AL or Mixed, we'll specify)
5x5 categories
$100 FAAB budget

Note: Andrew Martinez discussed some of these players last week, but they all warranted an update in light of new information.

Starting Pitching

Vincent Velasquez, Astros - While Velasquez's promotion may not have captured the headlines quite like teammate Carlos Correa's did, those familiar with the right-hander were thrilled to hear he'd get an opportunity with the major league team. A back injury cost Velasquez the first month of the season, but it was impossible to tell given how well he pitched with Double-A Corpus Christi upon his return. Velasquez breezed through Texas League competition in five starts for the Hooks (1.37 ERA, 0.92 WHIP), culminating in a dominant outing against a strong Northwest Arkansas team during which he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Walks were an issue for Velasquez in his major league debut Wednesday -- he issued four free passes to the White Sox, nearly half his total with Corpus Christi (nine in 26.1 innings) -- and he tends to give up a few too many flyballs (0.77 GO/AO at Double-A), but he has good enough stuff to hold down a rotation spot fairly easily, and the win and strikeout upside is significant. Plus, he's lined up for two starts this week, home against Colorado then at Seattle. Mixed: $8, AL: $17.

Justin Verlander and Kyle Ryan, Tigers - With the flood of young talent into the game this week, it was somewhat easy to overlook the return of a once-mighty veteran like Verlander. He made his season debut Saturday after battling back from a triceps injury, allowing two runs on three hits -- including a home run -- and two walks with two strikeouts over five innings in a no-decision against Cleveland. The velocity was there, but he gave up a good amount of hard contact and was lucky on balls in play in the outing (.133 BABIP). At 32, he's simply not the same pitcher he was even in 2013. Verlander can't miss bats like he used to and may prove to be an ERA and WHIP liability like he was last year, but he is healthy and has a firm role, so he should at least be owned in AL-only leagues. Meanwhile, Ryan will get an opportunity to replace Shane Greene in the Tigers' rotation, but his numbers at Triple-A Toledo this season (4.67 ERA, 31:17 K:BB in 54 innings) don't inspire much confidence. Verlander - Mixed: $2, AL: $4, Ryan - Mixed: No, AL: $0.

Mike Wright, Orioles - A groin strain forced Miguel Gonzalez onto the DL, opening the door for Wright to return for his second stint with the major league club this season. He will toe the rubber in Sunday's series finale against the Yankees. The 25-year-old right-hander had a successful four-start run in the Baltimore rotation his first time up (2-1, 2.96 ERA), and it appears the Orioles intend to lean heavily on him moving forward with Kevin Gausman (shoulder) seemingly being shortened up for a return to the bullpen. Gausman is only scheduled to go two innings Tuesday after building up to 61 pitches in his second rehab start. Wright has fanned 16 batters in 24.1 innings with the big club this year, but his numbers with Triple-A Norfolk (8.8 K/9) lend hope to the strikeout rate ticking up some. Mixed: $2, AL: $4.

Scott Copeland and Daniel Norris, Blue Jays - It was initially believed that the Blue Jays skipped Aaron Sanchez this week simply to manage his innings, but it came to light that he is dealing with an upper-body issue and is in danger of missing another start. While details regarding the injury are still scarce, it seems Copeland may be afforded another starting opportunity with Toronto this week -- Norris won't be an option after pitching for Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday. Copeland started Wednesday in place of Sanchez and fared extremely well, drawing the praise of manager John Gibbons, who said Copeland "definitely opened everybody's eyes." Norris has pitched reasonably well with Triple-A Buffalo since being demoted, though his control problems have persisted. Regardless, Norris still seems likely to get another run in the major league rotation later this season and may be worth a speculative bid if you have the bench space. Copeland - Mixed: $0, AL: $1, Norris - Mixed: $1, AL: $2.

John Lamb, Royals - Yordano Ventura felt weakness in his right hand during Friday's start, saying even that a few of his fingers went completely numb during the shortened outing, and tests later revealed an irritated ulnar nerve. It just further expounds the durability concerns with Ventura, though it's uncertain if he will miss additional time. The team will decide Monday whether Ventura will be able to make his next start, but Lamb appears to be Plan B in case Ventura can't go. Lamb, who was pulled from his start after Ventura left Friday, has gone 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA with Triple-A Omaha this season, though he is a major WHIP risk given his control issues at the upper levels of the minors (4.2 BB/9 at Omaha). Mixed: No, AL: $0.

Jose Berrios, Twins - Byron Buxton is getting the call Sunday...could Berrios follow? We've seen it with another one of the AL's top teams, the Astros, who pushed their chips to the center of the table by bringing up top prospects Carlos Correa and Vincent Velasquez within the span of a few days. The Twins have a major need in the rotation and Berrios has been outstanding in 12 starts for Double-A Chattanooga, going 7-3 with a 3.21 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 82:21 K:BB in 75.2 innings. Get him now if you can. Mixed: $1, AL: $3 (speculative bid).

Relief Pitching

Carson Smith, Mariners - Manager Lloyd McClendon expressed some reluctance to insert Smith into the closer role earlier this month, saying he wasn't sure if Smith had the "man muscles" for back-to-back-to-back appearances. However, after Fernando Rodney allowed runs in a pair of subsequent appearances, the skipper reversed course. Smith got the call to nail down wins on June 6 and June 9, earning saves in both despite giving up his second homer of the year in the second opportunity. Perhaps the team will opt against formally naming Smith to the closer role, and maybe he won't be used as frequently as a typical closer, but he's the best option in the Mariners bullpen by a significant margin and the club can't afford to be blowing many more late leads. Mixed: $7, AL: $15.

Jake McGee and Kevin Jepsen, Rays - Three relievers have earned saves for the Rays this month, and Brad Boxberger is not among them. Steve Geltz got the first back on June 3, but Jepsen and McGee have been the top options since, with the latter earning the last three saves for the club. McGee had one shaky outing shortly after his return from the DL, but he's been lights out overall, allowing just seven hits with an 18:1 K:BB in 11 innings. Jepsen has been good in his own right (2.73 ERA, 1.33 WHIP), but McGee's tremendous success this season and in the closer role last year make him the clear top target. He's likely owned in most AL-only and deeper mixed leagues, but if McGee is available, now is the time to rectify that. McGee - Mixed: $11, AL: $23, Jepsen - Mixed: $1, AL: $3.

Vidal Nuno, Mariners - The Mariners tabbed Nuno for a long-relief role after acquiring him from Arizona as part of the Mark Trumbo trade. Mike Montgomery has turned in quality starts in each of his three turns thus far, but Nuno could get an opportunity to start if another injury strikes the Seattle rotation before Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder) returns from the DL. That said, his upside in his current role is marginal, and he's not the caliber of pitcher worth speculating on outside of the deepest of AL-only formats. Mixed: No, AL: $1.

Catcher

Curt Casali, Rays - Bobby Wilson was mercifully optioned down Friday, with the team choosing to instead go with Casali as the backup to Rene Rivera. Casali hit four homers in 32 games with Triple-A Durham prior to his promotion, but was batting just .205/.326/.348 overall and his playing time figures to be limited. It's very slim pickings this week for catchers with most starters in the AL healthy -- double check to be sure Matt Wieters is owned just in case -- but even so, Casali is nothing more than a desperation option. Mixed: No, AL: $0.

First Base

Jake Elmore, Rays - Elmore made his second straight start at first base Saturday following three consecutive starts at the position by Nick Franklin. With another base knock, Elmore is now batting .290 for the month of June, though there's little-to-no power or speed to speak of with the 27-year-old. Further, the team figures to continue mixing and matching at the position until James Loney (finger) is ready to return next month. Don't bother. Mixed: No, AL: $0.

Second Base

Rougned Odor, Rangers - The likes of Hanser Alberto and Adam Rosales aren't getting it done at second base for Texas. Odor struggled mightily with the big club to begin the year, but he's making a very strong case to return, slashing .355/.430/.645 with five homers, three steals and a 12:10 BB:K in 29 games with Triple-A Round Rock since his demotion. The fact that Odor had nine homers and contributed at a league-average level in most offensive categories last season as a 20-year-old speaks volumes. If you're in need of a middle infielder, Odor makes for a very enticing option even with the uncertainty surrounding a potential recall. Mixed: $3, AL: $7.

Brock Holt, Red Sox - Defensive versatility and surprising offensive contributions, not to mention injuries and poor performances from others, have once again landed Holt in a prominent role with Boston. The 27-year-old has started the last eight games in the two-hole in the order for the Red Sox, seeing time at third base, right field, left field, and first base. He's not eligible at second base in most formats after playing 11 games there last year, but Holt is a serviceable plug-in option even as essentially a two-category play (batting average and runs). Mixed: $2, AL: $5.

Shortstop

Carlos Correa, Astros - Correa was probably auctioned off in a lot of leagues last week, but those whose FAAB ran before the news came down can expect to have to pay a hefty price to land the 20-year-old. He has flashed greatness in his first week up, hitting two home runs and swiping a base in five games thus far, and manager A.J. Hinch suggested he will continue to hit Correa second against left-handed pitching. Correa will likely bat sixth or seventh against right-handers, but he could easily be a top-10 shortstop the rest of season and arguably top-five in the American League. Mixed: $22, AL: $45.

Francisco Lindor, Indians - While Lindor is a better real-life prospect than fantasy prospect, his potential to hit for a decent average and steal bases makes him a worthy target in deep mixed leagues and AL-only leagues. Lindor, who will join the Indians on Sunday, has a good approach for a 21-year-old, as evidenced by his 25:37 BB:K with Triple-A Columbus this season, and he's stolen 25-plus bases in three separate minor league seasons. Lindor has not, however, been especially efficient on the basepaths in recent seasons (8-for-15 in stolen base attempts this year), and prospective owners need to be aware that power is not a big part of the package. Mixed: $2, AL: $5.

Third Base

Kyle Kubitza, Angels - The Angels have been looking for ways to improve against right-handed pitching, and the left-handed-swinging Kubitza would provide a bit of a boost. He went 3-for-9 in his first three games with the big club, but it's uncertain if he'll remain up with David Freese seemingly turning the page on his hamstring injury. Even if he does stay with the major league club, Kubitza would only be in line for a couple starts per week. It's possible Kubitza could take on a more regular role if a more significant injury befalls Freese, but for now, the 24-year-old can be largely ignored in mixed formats and left to those in deep AL-only and keeper leagues. Mixed: $0, AL: $2.

Giovanny Urshela, Indians - Like with Lindor, Urshela's calling card is his glove, but that's not to say there's nothing to like offensively. Last season, Urshela hit .280/.334/.491 with 18 homers between Double-A and Triple-A, though his numbers at Triple-A this season prior to his call-up were less impressive. It looks like Urshela will get an extended audition in the starting role with Lonnie Chisenhall sent down, but he's not the type of player that's going to put you over the hump or even really separate you in fantasy. Mixed: $1, AL: $3.

Outfield

Byron Buxton, Twins - Well, this is what we've waited for. The Twins announced Saturday that Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 first-year player draft and a consensus top prospect in all of baseball, will join the team Sunday. After a variety of unrelated injuries plagued Buxton last season and even into the fall -- he suffered a finger injury and was forced to bow out of the Arizona Fall League -- the 21-year-old has been locked in to begin this year, slashing .283/.351/.489 with Double-A Chattanooga, numbers buoyed by an eight-game hitting streak to close out his time with the affiliate. He stole 20 bases in 22 attempts and smacked six home runs, and it seems likely he will immediately step into a prominent spot in the top-third of the Minnesota batting order. Aaron Hicks' elbow injury played a part in the decision to promote Buxton now, but the team wouldn't have made the move if they didn't feel Buxton could thrive right off the bat. It remains to be seen how the power will play right away in the majors and in Minnesota specifically, but Buxton should be an excellent source of steals and runs with a useful average. Mixed: $21, AL: $43.

Mason Williams, Yankees - A .223/.290/.304 batting line in 128 games with Double-A Trenton in 2014 took most of the shine off Williams as a prospect, but he earned his first major league call-up by batting .318/.397/.398 between Double-A and Triple-A to begin this season. Williams, still just 23, has started the last two games in center field for New York, as it seems he may have taken over the larger end of a platoon in center alongside Chris Young. Still, Williams hits for very little power and his chances to run will be limited so long as he stays at the bottom of the order. Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) is also said to be nearing a rehab assignment. Mixed: No, AL: $1.

Nolan Reimold, Orioles - The 31-year-old has quickly re-acclimated himself back to Baltimore, going 4-for-14 with a double and two home runs in four games since his call-up from Triple-A Norfolk. Manager Buck Showalter figures to continue riding him while he's hot, but Reimold has dealt with numerous injuries over the past couple seasons and remains a major injury risk. In leagues that allow daily roster moves, Reimold makes for a decent streaming option -- he hit second against lefty CC Sabathia on Saturday -- but he's probably not worth the trouble in standard mixed leagues. Mixed: $0, AL: $1.

Note: Got another player to discuss? Drop a line in the comments.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Clay Link
Clay Link is the MLB Editor at RotoWire. Clay won the overall championship in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational and finished top 10 in the NFBC Online Championship in 2018. He can be heard on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, MLB Network Radio and twice a week on the RotoWire Fantasy Baseball Podcast during baseball season.
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