NL FAAB Factor: Throwing Darts

NL FAAB Factor: Throwing Darts

This article is part of our NL FAAB Factor series.

This is our weekly look at National 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.

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 NL or Mixed, we'll specify)
• 5x5 categories
• $100 FAAB budget

Starting Pitching

Tim Cooney, Cardinals – Cooney, not Tyler Lyons, got the call to initially replace Adam Wainwright in the Cardinals' rotation. Cooney posted a 14-6 record with a 3.47 ERA in 158 innings for Triple-A Memphis last year and had a 3.63 ERA and 14 strikeouts with Memphis in 2015. He lasted only 2.1 innings in his MLB debut Thursday against the Phillies, allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out three. Cooney is viewed at best as a back-of-the-rotation starter and was sent down until the Cardinals next need a fifth starter. Even if Cooley is called back up, Marco Gonzales (shoulder) or Jamie Garcia (shoulder) will likely replace him when either is ready. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Mike Foltynewicz, Braves – Foltynewicz, who came over to the Braves in the Evan Gattis deal in the offseason, was promoted and started Friday against the Reds, replacing Trevor Cahill, whose struggles landed him in the bullpen. Through four starts with Triple-A Gwinnett, Foltynewicz,

This is our weekly look at National 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.

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 NL or Mixed, we'll specify)
• 5x5 categories
• $100 FAAB budget

Starting Pitching

Tim Cooney, Cardinals – Cooney, not Tyler Lyons, got the call to initially replace Adam Wainwright in the Cardinals' rotation. Cooney posted a 14-6 record with a 3.47 ERA in 158 innings for Triple-A Memphis last year and had a 3.63 ERA and 14 strikeouts with Memphis in 2015. He lasted only 2.1 innings in his MLB debut Thursday against the Phillies, allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out three. Cooney is viewed at best as a back-of-the-rotation starter and was sent down until the Cardinals next need a fifth starter. Even if Cooley is called back up, Marco Gonzales (shoulder) or Jamie Garcia (shoulder) will likely replace him when either is ready. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Mike Foltynewicz, Braves – Foltynewicz, who came over to the Braves in the Evan Gattis deal in the offseason, was promoted and started Friday against the Reds, replacing Trevor Cahill, whose struggles landed him in the bullpen. Through four starts with Triple-A Gwinnett, Foltynewicz, who has a mid-90s heater that can hit 100 mph, posted a 2.08 ERA and 1.27 WHIP with 30 strikeouts over 21.2 innings. Foltynewicz allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits, walking three and striking out two in five innings to notch the win. He has yet to go beyond five innings and his inability to go deep in games in general coupled with his heater is why many believe he could be a closer in the future. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.

Carlos Frias, Dodgers – Frias is getting a shot to fill a rotation spot due to all the injuries in Los Angeles. He put up a 5.01 ERA (3.60 FIP) in 91.2 innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, but has been much better in three appearances – two starts – this season. Frias struck out three and walked one while holding the D-backs to four hits over 5.1 scoreless innings to get the win Friday and earn at least one more turn in the rotation. Scott Baker is filling one slot and either Zach Lee or Joe Wieland may also get a chance, so Frias has to consistently pitch well to stick. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Severino Gonzalez, Phillies – Gonzalez went 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA and a 9:2 K:BB ratio in 17.2 innings for Triple-A Lehigh Valley to earn a promotion. He throws a low-90s fastball that he complements with a curveball, cutter and changeup, which he spent extensive time developing last year. Gonzalez allowed seven runs on 10 hits and two walks in just 2.2 innings in his debut Tuesday against the Cardinals, but will get another start Sunday against the Marlins. That might be it for Gonzalez, who could be replaced in the Philly rotation by Chad Billingsley. He should get another look-see but without a true put-away pitch, Gonzalez may struggle at this level. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.

Michael Lorenzen, Reds – Lorenzen, the Reds' 2013 first-round pick, is getting the first chance to replace Homer Bailey (elbow) in the team's rotation. He allowed three runs, all on solo home runs, and eight hits with one walk and five strikeouts over five innings against Milwaukee. Lorenzen has steadily moved up the ladder and in three outings with Triple-A Louisville this season had posted a 2.84 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 12:4 K:BB in 19 innings. He possesses a 94 mph fastball and solid slider, but has yet to translate that good stuff into strikeouts. He should get every chance to stick with Cincinnati, however. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Steven Matz, Mets – Matz allowed one run on five hits and two walks while striking out 12 in seven innings for Triple-A Las Vegas on Thursday. He is 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in five appearances this season with the 51s. Even better, opponents have a .184 batting average against him and he has struck out 31 in 29.1 innings. Matz works at 92-94 mph from the left side with solid command. His slow curve can be a plus pitch while he is working on a changeup that should also miss bats regularly. Matz could get a call-up to make a spot start sometime in May when the Mets have a stretch of 20 games in 20 days. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (early spec call-up bid).

Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks – Ray will be called up from Triple-A Reno to start Tuesday against the Rockies, taking the place of Archie Bradley, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list after being struck in the face by a line drive last Tuesday. He is 1-3 with a 4.01 ERA in five starts for Reno this year, allowing 25 hits while walking 16 and striking out 35 in 24.2 innings. Ray was acquired in a three-team deal with the Tigers and Yankees during the offseason. Ray, who mixes a fastball that touches 93 mph with a changeup and an improving slider, struggled last year in the minors but has righted the ship a bit this year. He is a groundball pitcher, which could benefit him facing Colorado in Coors Field. Ray likely will get a couple of starts before Bradley is ready to return when his 15-day stint on the DL is over. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.

Injury activation/updates:

Chad Billingsley, Phillies – Billingsley, who had Tommy John surgery in 2013, missed all of last season as he eventually had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow in June. He allowed two runs on five hits in 5.2 innings Thursday in his fourth and final rehab start with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He threw 66 of his 99 pitches for strikes and will be promoted to fill the open rotation slot in Philadelphia on Tuesday rather than making one more rehab start. If healthy, Billingsley could be a decent middle-of-the-rotation starter. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Jamie Garcia, Cardinals – Garcia threw five innings (54 pitches) in a simulated game Thursday and will throw again this Tuesday. If all goes well, he could go on a rehab assignment in the near future. Garcia has battled arm woes since having surgery to repair a torn labrum in 2013. With Adam Wainwright out for the season, Garcia has a shot at getting a chance in the Cardinals' rotation at some point in 2015, though that likely will depend on his ability to stay healthy. Mixed: $0; NL: $3 (early spec return bid).

Charlie Morton, Pirates – Morton, who had offseason hip surgery and was shut down earlier this month, is pitching in another extended spring game instead of making a rehab start with High-A Bradenton on Saturday. He has pitched in several extended spring training starts and no word has come down if this is a setback. The expectation is that Morton still should be back towards the middle of May. Mixed: $0; NL: $3 (early spec return bid).

Relief Pitching

John Axford, Rockies – Axford will close for the Rockies with Adam Ottavino sidelined with a triceps injury. He missed time in March and April due to unusual circumstances (his young son was bitten by a rattlesnake), but he returned just in time for the Rockies. Rafael Betancourt could see the occasional chance, but Axford should be the main man. If he is able to continue to generate groundballs, he may quite effective closing. Mixed: $6; NL: $17 (upped bid from last week).

Elvis Araujo, Enrique Burgos, Carlos Contreras, Adam Liberatore, Kenneth Roberts, Miguel Socolovich, Sammy Solis, Donald Veal, Nick Vincent - This week's key middle reliever call-ups/activations, as well as expected call-ups, were/will be in Philadelphia, Arizona, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Colorado, St. Louis, Washington, Atlanta and San Diego. None have any substantial value save for Solis, who at one time was a big prospect. All save for Solis - Mixed: No; NL: $0; Solis – Mixed: $0; NL: $3.

Injury activation/updates:

Kenley Jansen, Dodgers – Jansen, who had a growth on his foot removed in February, began a rehab assignment with High-A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday, tossing a 14-pitch scoreless inning. He struck out one and allowed a single in the frame. After the inning, Jansen then went to the bullpen for about 10 extra throws to get more work in. Manager Don Mattingly said Jansen will make roughly six rehab appearances before being activated, with a targeted return of mid-May. However, he may not close right away, as Mattingly wants him eased into the role. Just an FYI as should be owned in all leagues.

Catcher

None noted.

First Base

Adam Lind, Brewers – Lind had a nightmarish 2014 campaign, playing 96 games and hitting just six home runs, but has rebounded early this year with four round-trippers already. He extended his hitting streak to eight straight games Wednesday and is hitting .419 with three homers in that span (albeit with nine strikeouts as well). Historically, Lind has mashed righties and been futile against lefties. However, Milwaukee is desperate for offense, so Lind could see more time than expected against southpaws, which may hurt his slash line but help his counting numbers. First and foremost, however, he will need to show he can remain healthy, as he has played more than 125 games just once in the last five years. Mixed: $18; NL: owned.

Second Base

Javier Baez, Cubs – Baez, who took a leave of absence following the death of his sister, returned to Triple-A Iowa on Thursday. Addison Russell is fairly locked in as the starter at second base, but Baez could get a call-up later in the year. For now, Baez, who hit just .169 with 95 strikeouts in 213 at-bats for the Cubs last year, will work on shaking off the rust and regaining his stroke at the plate. Mixed: $0; NL: $2 (spec bid).

Yangervis Solarte, Padres – Solarte has a .328/.388/.498 line with two home runs and 16 RBI over 66 plate-appearances in 22 games through Friday However, his splits show a major imbalance between his lines against righties and lefties. Interestingly, he is raking against righties and struggling against southpaws (though in just 13 at-bats). Those numbers are a reverse of his first year, where he was much better against lefties. Jedd Gyorko continues to struggle, which could open more time for Solarte. Mixed: $9; NL: likely owned.

Dilson Herrera, Mets – The Mets' woeful middle-infield defense prompted Herrera's promotion Friday. GM Sandy Alderson said Thursday that Herrera would only get the call if he were given consistent playing time, so expect him to be in the lineup while he is in NY. Herrera, after a slow start, hit .370/.402/.506 in 20 games with Triple-A Las Vegas to earn the call-up. He will play second base with Daniel Murphy moving over to third base while David Wright (hamstring) is out for at least another week. Once Wright comes back, it remains to be seen what will happen with Herrera or Murphy, but one thing to be sure of is that Herrera won't play shortstop despite Wilmer Flores' six errors. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (up in keeper leagues).

Injury activation/updates:

Scooter Gennett, Brewers – Gennett had stitches removed from his injured left hand Wednesday and started a rehab assignment at Low-A Wisconsin on Friday. He went 1-for-3 with a stolen base and a run scored and is slated to play three more games at that level before rejoining the Brewers on Tuesday. Gennett suffered a laceration on April 20 near the middle finger of his left hand that required five stitches to close. Mixed: $5; NL: $14.

Anthony Rendon, Nationals – Rendon, sidelined since March 9 with a sprained MCL in his knee, returned to the lineup at Double-A Harrisburg on Friday. He began his rehab assignment on April 24 and played just two games before getting scratched twice. Assuming Rendon has no further setbacks, he could be back in a week or two, though he was scratched again Saturday, which puts his return date in major question. It's still up in the air if Rendon will play third or move back to second when he returns, as Yunel Escobar has looked more comfortable at the hot corner. Regardless, Rendon has dual eligibility and Washington will be very happy to get him back in the lineup, whenever that may be. Just an FYI as should be owned in all leagues.

Shortstop

Adeiny Hechevarria, Marlins - Hechevarria is off to a tremendous start, as he's hitting a surprising .321/.349/.481. In the last two weeks he has batted over .400 and has driven in 14 runs. Hechevarria made major strides last year, but don't expect him to hit for power, as he is more of a contact hitter benefitting from a rise in BABIP, offsetting his poor walk rate. Ride the wave while it lasts, but be prepared to jump when needed. Mixed: $4; NL: $13.

Corey Seager, Dodgers – Seager was promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City after getting removed from Thursday's game with Double-A Tulsa. That switch came after he hit his fifth home run in the season earlier in the game, bringing his slash line to .375/.407/.675 through 20 games. It's a matter of when - not if - Seager will be promoted, but where he will play when that happens is the question. Jimmy Rollins, Juan Uribe and Howie Kendrick are all healthy at the moment, while Alex Guerrero is seeing time at third base and left field. It may take an injury for Seager to get promoted, even if he posts Kris Bryant-esque numbers at Triple-A. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (early spec call-up bid).

Third Base

Alberto Callaspo, Pedro Ciriaco, and Kelly Johnson, BravesChris Johnson is expected to miss 3-6 weeks with a fractured left hand, requiring Callaspo and Johnson to spilt time at the hot corner. Callaspo has compiled a .268/.333/.357 batting line in 21 games with more walks than strikeouts, resurrecting his career after bottoming out last season. He really can't hit against lefties, but his eligibility at second and first base enhances his value. Ciriaco was batting .234/.253/.286 with one home run and seven RBI at Triple-A Gwinnett when he was promoted, so don't expect much from him. Kelly Johnson has seen regular time in left field and offers multiple position eligibility, and he has four home runs and 11 RBI from the middle of the Braves' lineup. He sits against most lefties, but either he or Callaspo with have to play against southpaws with Chris Johnson out, though it likely will be Ciriaco who gets those starts. Callaspo - Mixed: $1; NL: $4; Ciriaco - Mixed: No; NL: $0; Johnson - Mixed: $3; NL: $9.

Maikel Franco, Phillies – Franco has a .315/.351/.478 slash line at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and could get promoted before too long. Philly has not indicated that will be the case, but Cody Asche is taking flyballs in left field, which is where he would need to move to make room for Franco. The call-up may not be imminent, but Franco may force the Phillies' hands if he continues to rake at the plate. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (early call-up spec bid).

Outfield

Peter Bourjos, Cardinals – Bourjos has started to see semi-regular at-bats over the last week and started again Saturday. He is 6-for-15 since coming off the paternity list last Friday, which should afford him more starts. That playing time would come at Jon Jay's expense, but for Bourjos to have value, he will need to steal bases. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Enrique Hernandez, Dodgers – Hernandez was called up to provide outfield depth with both Carl Crawford (oblique) and Yasiel Puig (hamstring) on the disabled list. He has hit the well in the minors, but struggled in his brief stints in the majors. Hernandez likely won't see much action this time around. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Junior Lake, Cubs – Lake's inability to make consistent contact and poor K:BB ratio not surprisingly resulted in poor numbers last season and a demotion to the minors to start this year. He was off to a decent start at Triple-A Iowa and was promoted to be the fourth outfielder, but could earn more time in left field with neither Chris Coghlan nor Chris Denorfia an answer there. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Darin Ruf, Phillies – Ruf isn't playing much, but given how bad the Philly offense is, maybe he should. Ruf could play left or first base and with Philly looking for the future, they need to see if he is someone that can be a productive piece down the road. Ruf does have some pop in his bat, which is something lacking for the Phillies. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.

Michael Taylor, Nationals – Taylor opened the season as the Nationals' center fielder, but was sent down when Denard Span was activated on April 19. Taylor hit .271/.314/.500 with two home runs and two steals, but also struck out 19 times in 51 at-bats, an indication that he needed a bit more seasoning. Taylor was recalled Wednesday with Reed Johnson (calf) landing on the DL. He will receive at least a couple starts a week, giving Span and Jayson Werth (who both missed all of spring training) more regular days off. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Injury activation/update:

Hunter Pence, Giants – Pence took on-field batting practice Friday for the first time since his left forearm was fractured in early March. In the past few weeks, he has progressed from swinging a wiffle bat and light swings with a fungo bat to swinging a regular bat and hitting off a tee. Manager Bruce Bochy said Friday he expects Pence to return to the team by "the back end of May." When he returns, Pence will assume his usual spot as starting right fielder and bat fourth or fifth for the Giants. Just an FYI as should be owned in all leagues.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jan Levine
Levine covers baseball and hockey for RotoWire. He is responsible for the weekly NL FAAB column for baseball and the Barometer for hockey. In addition to his column writing, he is master of the NHL cheat sheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets and Rangers.
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