NL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

NL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

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

This year, we are again using 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 grid, which is 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 role on an A-E scale. Dansby Swanson would have been an "A" grade player last year -- that mark will be reserved for similar high-impact prospects stepping into 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.

PLAYER TEAM POS GRADE $ (12-Team Mixed) $ (15-Team Mixed) $ (NL-Only)
Anthony Banda ARZ SP E No No No
Aaron Blair ATL SP E No No No
Sal Romano CIN SP E No No No
Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD SP C 1 3 5
Robert Stephenson CIN SP E No No No
Sean Doolittle WAS RP A 17 25 37
Ryan Madson WAS RP C 1 3 5
Kyle Barraclough MIA RP B 1 4 7
Hector Sanchez SD C

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

This year, we are again using 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 grid, which is 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 role on an A-E scale. Dansby Swanson would have been an "A" grade player last year -- that mark will be reserved for similar high-impact prospects stepping into 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.

PLAYER TEAM POS GRADE $ (12-Team Mixed) $ (15-Team Mixed) $ (NL-Only)
Anthony Banda ARZ SP E No No No
Aaron Blair ATL SP E No No No
Sal Romano CIN SP E No No No
Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD SP C 1 3 5
Robert Stephenson CIN SP E No No No
Sean Doolittle WAS RP A 17 25 37
Ryan Madson WAS RP C 1 3 5
Kyle Barraclough MIA RP B 1 4 7
Hector Sanchez SD C D No 0 1
Luis Torrens SD C E No No No
Eric Sogard MIL 2B D 1 3 5
Scooter Gennett CIN 2B B 5 10 Owned
Allen Cordoba SD SS D No 0 1
Maikel Franco PHI 3B C 5 15 Owned
J.D. Martinez ARZ OF A Owned Owned 65
Brett Phillips MIL OF C 2 5 9
John Jaso PIT OF D 0 2 4
Jose Osuna PIT OF D 1 3 6
Adam Frazier PIT OF E No 0 1
Randal Grichuk STL OF C 3 8 13
Gerardo Parra COL OF B 5 15 17
Nick Williams PHI OF B 5 15 Owned
Orlando Calixte SF OF E No 0 2

STARTING PITCHER

Anthony Banda, Diamondbacks - Banda was called up to make spot start Saturday against the Nats with Taijuan Walker on the paternity list, but was subsequently sent back down. The hard-throwing lefty is considered in some circles to be Arizona's top-remaining pitching prospect, but he's struggled some at Triple-A Reno, and RotoWire's James Anderson doesn't have him on our Top-400 Prospects list. Mixed-12, Mixed-15, NL-12: No bid.

Aaron Blair, Braves - Blair's schedule at Triple-A Gwinnett County is tied to Jaime Garcia's with the Braves, in case the latter gets dealt. The third part of the Shelby Miller package, Blair has been a disappointment so far, posting a 4.92 ERA and 1.48 at Gwinnett after getting knocked around at the big league level last year. What's really disappointing is his inability to pound the strike zone, having walked 40 batters in 86 Triple-A innings this year. Mixed-12, Mixed-15, NL-12: No bid.

Sal Romano, Reds - The Reds continue to take furtive stabs at finding rotation solutions, but the results so far have been painfully reminiscent of last season, if not worse. Romano has managed to pitch just 12 innings in his three starts, walking 10 in the process. His three big league starts have been home against the Brewers, at Coors Field, and home against the Diamondbacks. His next two will be against the Marlins, perhaps providing some hope of a positive correction. As with Robert Stephenson below, hope is it a good thing but it's not a plan - don't bid. Mixed-12, Mixed-15, NL-12: No bid.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers - Ryu (foot) will come off the DL on Monday and start against the Twins, and the Dodgers' early indication is that they will return to a six-man rotation for the short-term. It's worth noting however that Brandon McCarthy is dealing with blisters on his pitching hand, and Rich Hill is pitching through a respiratory issue. McCarthy is still supposed to start Tuesday, but the Dodgers frequently have used the DL for a short-term fix with various maladies and could do the same for McCarthy. Ryu has allowed a whopping 15 homers in 72.2 innings this season and has been hit hard by lefties and righties alike. Mixed-12: $1; Mixed-15: $3; NL-12: $5.

Robert Stephenson, Reds - Stephenson got the call to start against the Marlins on Saturday, replacing the injured Scott Feldman in the Reds' rotation, with middling results, allowing five runs over 5.1 innings on eight hits and two walks, striking out five. The 2011 first-round pick never has clicked at the big league level, nor has he dominated at the upper levels of the minors. Velocity has never been a problem for Stephenson, but he's frequently fallen prey to the gopher ball paired with a high walk rate, a deadly combo. While we're loath to give up too soon on a pedigreed prospect, there's no need for you to wait for him to get it together on your watch in redraft leagues. Mixed-12, Mixed-15, NL-12: No bid.

RELIEF PITCHER

Sean Doolittle, Nationals - After picking up the save Saturday night, Doolittle has two saves since his trade to the Nationals, while Ryan Madson has pitched the eighth inning in both of those games (and also in the eighth inning of a tied game on Friday). While the official line is that Doolittle and Madson will split the save chances, consider Doolittle the first among equals. It's good to see that manager Dusty Baker isn't using him as a lefty specialist. Mixed-12: $17; Mixed-15: $25; NL-12: $37.

Ryan Madson, Nationals - The early thought was that Madson was going to share time as the closer with Sean Doolittle. While that might still be true, so far Doolittle has received the first two save chances this week for the Nats, while Madson has pitched in the eighth inning in all three of his appearances for the club. There was plenty of talk early in the season in Oakland that Madson asked not to close, instead preferring to pitch the eighth inning. However, there was never a direct quote to those reports, albeit there were at least two separate reports. I tend to believe that the Nats are comfortable with the current set-up, and so long as Doolittle is healthy they'll continue using Madson in the eighth and Doolittle in the ninth. Mixed-12: $1; Mixed-15: $3; NL-12: $5.

Kyle Barraclough, Marlins - The relief pitcher trade market seems somewhat saturated, plus the Nats and Yankees have already completed trades to bolster their respective bullpens. But A.J. Ramos remains a candidate to be dealt, and the Marlins have done us the favor of already anointing Barraclough as the closer-in-waiting should a trade occur. But how likely is it that Barraclough would hold onto the job? On one hand, he throws hard (95.0 mph average fast ball), strikes batters out (12.14 career K/9) and the Marlins have helped clear the way by trading David Phelps. On the other, his walk rate has skyrocketed to nearly 6.0 BB/9, an untenable rate for a closer, and his strikeout rate this season is significantly below his career norms. If/when Brad Ziegler returns from his lower back injury, he could prove to be a viable alternative to Barraclough. Mixed-12: $1; Mixed-15: $4; NL-12: $7.

CATCHER

Hector Sanchez/Luis Torrens, Padres - Sanchez and Torrens are splitting the starts behind the plate for the Padres while Austin Hedges is on the DL with a concussion. Given the nature of Hedges' injury, a return date is uncertain. Sanchez has the higher offensive upside, having hit seven homers already, but that power usually comes at the cost of batting average. Torrens has only bit-power, as the Rule 5 pick from the Yankees (via the Reds) has yet to hit his first big league homer. Sanchez - Mixed-12: No; Mixed-15: $0; NL-12: 1. Torrens: No bid.

FIRST BASE

(None of note)

SECOND BASE

Eric Sogard, Brewers - The Brewers are starting to falter, with few struggling as badly as Jonathan Villar. Thus, when Sogard returned from the DL on Saturday, it wasn't a surprise that he got the starting nod ahead of Villar. Sogard was one of nicer success stories of the first half, perhaps a reflection of the Brewers' nice start, but his previous results suggest that a severe correction is coming. Even his current stats are less valuable in fantasy than they have been for the Brewers, unless your league uses OBP as a category. I suspect Villar will be back as the starter at second base in short order. Mixed-12: $1; Mixed-15: $3; NL-12: $5.

Scooter Gennett, Reds - Gennett had been a de facto regular in the lineup ever since his four-homer game against the Cardinals on June 6, but more as a super sub. Now the Reds have officially made him the full-time starting second baseman, relegating Jose Peraza to the bench. It's hard to imagine a player with a four-homer game somehow going under the radar, but did you realize that Gennett has a .946 OPS on the season? With so many other breakout hitters this year, it's easy to overlook him, but Gennett has absolutely crushed right-handers this year, both on the road and in Great American Ballpark, setting him apart from some of his teammates that thrive at home. Mixed-12: $5; Mixed-15: $10; NL-12: Owned.

SHORTSTOP

Allen Cordoba, Padres - Erick Aybar went on the DL with a foot injury, leaving Cordoba as the last man standing for the Padres at shortstop. Cordoba's first game as the starter Saturday did not go well - 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Cordoba hasn't always been so overwhelmed in the big leagues - he has a 76 percent contact rate this season. However, the Rule 5 pick out of the Cardinals organization hadn't risen above Rookie ball in four minor league seasons prior to his selection this winter, and thus hasn't been exposed to too many big league pitchers nor been subject to extensive scouting. He'll likely be in over his head playing every day while Aybar is out. Mixed-12: No; Mixed-15: $0; NL-12: $1.

THIRD BASE

Maikel Franco, Phillies - Franco has worked to "level" his swing with reasonably good results over the last month. While recognizing that July 1 is somewhat of an arbitrary endpoint, he has hit .297/.343/.563 since then. What's interesting is that despite his poor overall numbers, Franco has not had trouble making contact, striking out only 50 times. It's just the quality of the contact. And it's also noteworthy that his swing path improvement is to go in the opposite of current trends to get more uppercut on the ball. Perhaps in your mixed league his previous owner got fed up with his lack of production and cut him - you may wish to take a spin and see if you get better results. Mixed-12: $5; Mixed-15: $15; NL-12: Owned.

OUTFIELD

J.D. Martinez, Diamondbacks - The analysis here is pretty simple. If you have the hammer in your NL-only league, use it here. Even if you don't necessarily need another outfielder, he's the odds-on favorite to be the best player to cross over to the NL. Plus, you're getting him for an extra week (or probably two weeks, given that the trade deadline falls on a Monday this year) over any subsequent trade arrivals. About the only reason to pump the brakes with your bid is Martinez's hand injury, the result of getting hit by a pitch against the Reds earlier in the week. Mixed: Owned; NL-12: $65 (but be willing to go higher if that's what it will take to get him).

Brett Phillips, Brewers - The Brewers sent down Keon Broxton, who was the midst of a 3-for-50 slump, and suggested that Phillips will get an extended look in center field. He is a former Astros prospect who was acquired in the Carlos Gomez trade. Phillips is a good defender and has some power, but also has massive contact problems - his contact rate at Triple-A Colorado Springs was only 67 percent, and he already has 13 strikeouts in 27 big league at-bats. Nonetheless, unless he's overwhelmed Phillips will get significant playing time in center - neither Domingo Santana nor Ryan Braun can play there, leaving Phillips and Hernan Perez as the only legitimate options on the big league roster. Over the longer term the Brewers will have to decide whether Phillips, Broxton or Lewis Brinson is their future center fielder. Mixed-12: $2; Mixed-15: $5; NL-12: $9.

John Jaso/Jose Osuna/Adam Frazier, Pirates - Gregory Polanco's ill-timed hamstring injury has re-opened the door previously closed by Starling Marte's return from suspension. Jaso got the starting nod Saturday night and replaced the injured Polanco on Friday, but while Marte was still suspended the playing time was roughly split between Jaso and Frazier. Jaso has nominal power with no speed; his best offensive tool is his batting eye, but with his ability to hit for average on the wane, that's translated into only 17 runs scored this season. Frazier is probably second in line for playing time. Aside from one glorious series in Atlanta, he hasn't hit for much power, but at least has eight stolen bases in 12 attempts. Osuna is pretty much the opposite of Frazier - some power potential, but he won't run and isn't a great bet to hit for average. Jaso - Mixed-12: $0; Mixed-15: $2; NL-12: $4. Frazier - Mixed-12: $1; Mixed-15: $3; NL-12: $6. Osuna - Mixed-12: No; Mixed-15: $0; NL-12: $1.

Randal Grichuk, Cardinals - Grichuk (back) has returned from a short stint on the DL, starting in his first two games back, and he should remain in the lineup at least until Stephen Piscotty comes back from the DL. But Grichuk's long-term outlook remains cloudy. His demotion all the way down to A-ball didn't improve his ability to make contact, as he's K'd 30 times in his last 79 at-bats. The Cardinals also dealt for Tyler O'Neill from the Mariners this week, and O'Neill figures to get the call in September at the latest. Mixed-12: $3; Mixed-15: $8; NL-12: $13.

Gerardo Parra, Rockies - Our recommendation is based less on his recent hot streak and more on the news that the Rockies activated David Dahl from the minors and optioned him to Triple-A Albuquerque after Dahl completed his rehab assignment. Dahl is off to a slow start at Albuquerque (.235/.297/.353), and the Rockies are already having a hard time splitting playing time between Parra, Ian Desmond, Carlos Gonzalez and Mark Reynolds between the two corner outfield spots and first base. Parra has clearly outperformed CarGo, however, and with the Rockies leading the Cubs by 5.5 games for the second wild card, chances are they'll stick with the veteran ahead of Dahl. Mixed-12: $5; Mixed-15: $11; NL-12: $17.

Nick Williams, Phillies - Williams has started off his big league career on fire, hitting .308/.338/.569 with three homers in 18 games so far. Even Aaron Altherr returns from the DL at some point in August, Williams should find a regular spot in the lineup. In the minors Williams struggled with his plate discipline, and that hasn't changed in the majors, as he's had 17 strikeouts against just three walks. He also has been caught in his first two stolen base attempts and never has been a great base stealer in the minors. So for him to be a plus offensive player, he'll need to run on the good side of BABIP-variance - to his credit, he's been able to do that throughout his professional career. Mixed-12: $5; Mixed-15: $13; NL-12: Owned.

Orlando Calixte, Giants - The Giants have gone through left fielders like Spinal Tap went through drummers (yes, I have all sorts of topical and timely similes), and Calixte is latest candidate to fill the role. The former Royals farmhand has some power and good speed, but a poor command of the strike zone. Look for Calixte to struggle to hit for average whenever he gets a shot in left field. Mixed-12: No; Mixed-15: $0; NL-12: $2.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Erickson
Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He's also in the FSWA Hall of Fame. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).
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