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NL FAAB Factor: Rockies Bullpen About to Get Stronger

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

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.

Starting Pitchers:

Homer Bailey – Bailey, who has been on the disabled list since May 24 due to right shoulder inflammation, threw long toss from 120 feet Tuesday and then tossed a bullpen session Friday. The Reds might consider having Bailey make a rehab start first before activating him from the DL, but he should be up shortly thereafter and replace Sam LeCure in the Reds rotation. Prior to the start in which he was injured, Bailey was coming off back-to-back excellent outings and appeared to have turned the corner after a rough early part of the year. Mixed: $6; NL: $16.

Kris Benson – Benson, out since late-April with shoulder inflammation, will need at least one more start at Triple-A Reno before returning to the D-Backs. Benson started for the Aces on Sunday, but Arizona will not need a fifth starter again until June 8, which would actually be one day before his turn on regular rest following his next Triple-A start. He'll likely return to the D-Backs' rotation as soon as he's healthy enough to do so. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Charlie Haeger – Haeger, who had been on the DL with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, was activated prior to Thursday's game; and he may even get another crack at the rotation. Read this quote from Joe Torre – it pretty much says it all: "We activated Haeger more out of necessity than really wanting to at this point. I would feel a lot better if I was a little surer of his physical well-being, but after [Wednesday’s] game we’re kind of up against it." All we have to say is that Haeger opened the season with an 8.49 ERA through his first seven outings, which included five starts, and that information should be sufficient for you to know what to do. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Kameron Loe – Loe’s contract had an out-clause if he wasn’t promoted by June 5 and the Brewers called him up Tuesday. Loe was 4-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 10 starts for Triple-A Nashville this season and hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2008. Loe, who spent 2004-08 and had his best season in 2005 with Texas, will likely pitch out of the bullpen initially, but there's a chance he could join the starting rotation at some point. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.

Brad Lincoln – Lincoln threw six scoreless innings on Thursday for Triple-A Indianapolis to improve to 6-2 on the year. He holds a 3.16 ERA, 55:14 K:BB ratio, and .216 OBPA in 68.1 innings. Lincoln, the fourth overall pick in 2006, missed all of 2007 due to Tommy John surgery but appears to be all the way back, mixing a low-90s fastball with late life with a plus-curveball and developing changeup. With his "Super Two" status about to pass, look for Lincoln to be promoted shortly and eventually settle in as the Pirates’ second or third starter. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.

Jonathon Niese – Niese maintained that the hamstring strain he suffered May 16 against the Marlins was minor and it turns out he only needed one rehab start before being activated off the DL on Saturday. Niese pitched for Triple-A Buffalo last Monday, allowing eight hits and two earned runs while throwing 80 pitches, 57 for strikes, over six innings. Niese built on that start Saturday, scattering six hits and one run over seven innings to pick up the win against Florida. Before suffering the injury, Niese had a 3.10 ERA with a 25:12 K:BB in 29 innings during April; and as he showed Saturday, there is substantial upside. Mixed: $4; NL: $11.

Anibal Sanchez – Sanchez struck out seven and pitched 6.2 scoreless innings to pick up the win last Sunday against the Phillies. Sanchez had an excellent May, posting a 1.93 ERA over his six starts. He backed that up with a 35:16 K:BB and didn't give up a home run. Sanchez fell to earth slightly Friday, giving up four runs in 5.2 innings against the Mets, but that was the first time he allowed more than two earned runs in a start since April 16. Sanchez has seen his K/9 drop slightly, but a needed drop in his BB/9 rate has offset that. In addition his success has come despite a rise in his BABIP, which bodes well for his future value if that number normalizes. Mixed: $7 .

Carlos Silva – The Carlos Silva/Milton Bradley deal was essentially one bad contract for another, but so far it surprisingly looks like Chicago got the much better end of that trade. Silva struck out a career-high 11 batters last Saturday against the Cardinals and picked up the win to move to 7-0. Silva attributed the great performance to catcher Koyie Hill, saying, "I throw my curve to throw a first-pitch strike. I don't throw it to strike people out. Today, [Hill] made me throw it inside for lefties, backdoor for lefties. I'm not used to pitching like that. It was really good calls." Silva continued, "He called a really good game. He made me throw some pitches that I never throw. That was a big help." It's a small sample and could be a statistical coincidence, but in the four games Hill has caught Silva, he holds a 20:1 K:BB ratio and a 1.42 ERA. Silva may start to remember who he is and plummet back to earth at some point; but for now, ride the hot hand. Mixed: $7.

Dontrelle Willis - The Diamondbacks acquired Willis from the Tigers on Tuesday and slotted him in the rotation Saturday against Colorado. Willis allowed no runs on five hits and struck out three; but his recent command problems still plagued him. Willis walked four, hit a batter, and the Rockies had a runner in scoring position against him in every inning except the first, but they were unable to break through. Willis was just 2-8 with a 6.86 ERA during his time with the Tigers and will likely benefit from the move back to the NL. He should record a few more strikeouts, but his control needs to get better if he's ever going to regain his pre-Detroit form. Take a cautious approach with him for now until he shows signs of consistently cutting back on the free passes. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Relief Pitchers:

Casey Daigle/Enerio Del Rosario/Logan Ondrusek/Jack Taschner- This week’s cast of middle reliever/end of bullpen fillers are in player alpha order: Houston, Cincinnati (2x) and Pittsburgh. All - Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Andrew Cashner – The Cubs' first-round pick in 2008, Cashner has outstanding raw stuff, with the ability to touch 98 mph with his fastball and throw a sharp-breaking slider. After a rough rookie campaign Cashner was much improved in 2009, but he entered the 2010 season needing to do a better job with his command. He showed early signs of that at Double-A and dominated after his promotion to Triple-A. Cashner moved to the bullpen after three starts at Iowa and was promoted to the bigs last Sunday. Cashner was placed in the bullpen, where he will likely stay for the season to the Cubs’ starting pitching depth. There is some speculation that Cashner might stay in the pen and become a closer down the road, but that is not set in stone whatsoever. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Craig Kimbrel – We profiled Kimbrel when he was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett in early May to replace Jair Jurrjens on the Atlanta roster. Kimbrel, who overpowers hitters with a 95 mph heater and a nasty hard curve, is up this time to replace the injured Takashi Saito, who is out with a hamstring injury. Kimbrel is a pitcher to grab in keeper leagues becasuse he's viewed as Atlanta's closer of the future and could take over the role as early as 2011 if Billy Wagner goes through with his retirement plans. Mixed: $1; NL: $5 (more in keeper leagues).

Brad Lidge – Lidge, out since May 10 with elbow inflammation, was activated off the DL and pitched a perfect inning Monday. At that time, manager Charlie Manuel reaffirmed that Lidge would make a couple more appearances in relief before returning to the closer's role. Well, so much for that idea after Manuel turned to Lidge on Friday. Lidge pitched a perfect ninth inning against the Padres to earn his second save of the season. It wasn't a case of Jose Contreras not being available Friday night either, since Manuel used Contreras in the eighth inning. It looks like Lidge has officially reclaimed the job, but given his history of injury and ineffectiveness, no one knows how long that will last. For now, he is the closer. Mixed: $10; NL: $24.

Franklin Morales – Morales, who served as the Rockies' closer until being placed on the disabled list with left shoulder weakness on May 12, was activated from the 15-day DL before Wednesday night's game against the Giants and struck out the side in a non-save situation. Morales threw five scoreless innings, giving up one hit while striking out seven, in two rehab appearances for Triple-A Colorado Springs and appears to be fully healthy. Morales, who struggled with his command while pitching though the shoulder woes earlier in the year, should continue to set up Manny Corpas (and Huston Street when he returns), but he could see the occasional save opportunity for the Rockies. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Jason Motte – Motte has not allowed a run since May 11 and is excelling in his second year in the St. Louis bullpen. He has a 2.42 ERA and 0.90 while also carrying a 23:5 K:BB ratio in 22.1 innings. Motte is likely next in line should anything happen to closer Ryan Franklin and appears better prepared for that role than he was when opened 2009 there and lost it after Opening Day. Mixed: $3; NL: $8 (more in keeper leagues).

George Sherrill – Sherrill, who landed on the DL on May 25 with mid-back tightness, tossed a perfect inning in a minor league rehab appearance Thursday and should be ready to return on or around June 8. Sherrill struggled with his command this spring due to a mechanical flaw and that continued into the season – he posted a 10:15 K:BB ratio in 14.2 innings before landing on the DL. If Sherrill can regain his 2009 form, he will be a godsend for the LA bullpen. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.

Huston Street – Street has not pitched in the majors this year, first due to a shoulder injury and then a groin strain, but he pitched a perfect inning in a rehab appearance with Triple-A Colorado Springs Friday. Street is slated to pitch again on Monday, and then take two days off before making back-to-back appearances. At that point, he should be ready to be activated, though it might not happen until that weekend. Manny Corpas has replaced Franklin Morales as Colorado's closer, but Street, who is an upper-echelon closer when healthy, will move to the top of the heap when he's available. However, he may be eased back into the role. Mixed: $10; NL: $24.


Miguel Montero – Montero, out since April 11, continues to progress towards a mid-June return. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of walks as the DH in an extended spring training game on Monday and then caught three innings Thursday in a similar contest. Montero caught again on Friday before serving as the DH again on Saturday. He will head out on a minor league rehab assignment Monday and could be back by June 15 against Boston, but that depends on how well his knee responds to the rigors of catching. Chris Snyder got off to a decent start but has come back to earth, leaving the door open for Montero to reclaim the D-Backs’ starting catching job, which should eventually happen. Look for solid numbers across the board from Montero in the second half of the season. Mixed: $9; NL: $22.

Omir Santos – The Mets called up Santos Friday to take the place of Gary Matthews Jr., who was designated for assignment. Santos was having a horrific season in the minors, going 9-for-63 between Double- and Triple-A, but he was promoted because Henry Blanco recently had a cortisone shot and will miss a few games. Once Blanco is ready to return, look for Santos to return to the minors. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

First Base:


Second Base:

Alex Cora – Cora will see the occasional start while Luis Castillo is on the DL, but much of the time at second is expected to go to Ruben Tejada. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Matt Downs – The Giants recalled Downs from Triple-A Fresno on Monday. Downs was sent down just a few days ago, but the Giants were allowed to recall him for infield depth after they placed Ryan Rohlinger on the DL with a hamstring strain. Don’t expect Downs to see much action, even with Edgar Renteria on the disabled list. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Jon Herrera – The Rockies recalled Herrera Monday to replace Dexter Fowler on the roster. Herrera is better suited to play a utility role than Fowler would have been. He can play second, short and third in addition to the outfield. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Aaron Miles – The Cardinals purchased Miles' contract from Double-A Springfield on Tuesday. Miles will likely be used primarily as veteran depth eventually, but his playing opportunities could increase if he plays well. Mixed: No; NL: $2.


Ruben Tejada – The Mets recalled Tejada from Triple-A Buffalo on Friday to take the roster spot of Luis Castillo (foot), who was placed on the disabled list. Tejada opened the year on the Mets’ roster due to the injury to Jose Reyes but was sent down when Reyes returned. Tejada got off to a slow start with the Bisons but turned it on in early-May and remained consistent throughout the month. Tejada will be given a shot to play second base most days; and while he is not really a power threat, he can steal a base here and there and should post a solid batting average. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.

Third Base:

Omar Infante – Infante went 2-for-2 after replacing Chipper Jones at third base Wednesday. Jones left with a right ring finger injury and has not played through Saturday. Infante’s versatility and ability to hit for a decent average make him a useful stopgap in deeper leagues, however don't expect much in the power department. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.


Kyle Blanks – Blanks, out since mid-May with a tendon strain in his right elbow, made his first rehab appearance Tuesday with Low-A Lake Elsinore. Blanks has been in the lineup every day since then, but has not played the field and will need to do so before he is ready to return, which likely will be next week. Blanks had a big spring and looked prime for a huge year, but he struggled prior to being sidelined. He has tremendous power potential and will be in the lineup daily for San Diego when he returns. Mixed: $7.

Pat Burrell – Burrell was waived by Tampa Bay after a rough year and change, but he signed a minor-league contract with the Giants at the end of May and was called up on Friday. Burrell played just two games in the outfield after leaving Philadelphia for Tampa before the 2009 season, so he probably needs to get his field legs under him and five games at Triple-A Fresno may not have been enough. Look for him to see time as a back-up left fielder, pinch-hitter, and DH when San Francisco plays interleague games. Mixed: No; NL: $3.

Jim Edmonds – The Brewers activated Edmonds, who had been sidelined with a strained oblique, from the disabled list Monday. Edmonds was hitting pretty well before the injury, but with Corey Hart and Carlos Gomez also hot at the plate, Edmonds may not see as much playing time as he did before going on the DL. That said, Edmonds should see most of his time against right-handed pitchers and still looks to have a solid eye at the plate, with both components likely allowing him to see equal or more time than Gomez. Mixed: $5.

Scott Hairston – Hairston was activated from the disabled list on Wednesday. He was seeing regular playing time and playing all three outfield positions before injuring his hamstring. With Tony Gwynn Jr. playing better of late, look for Hairston to see most of his action in right field as well as some time in left and center. Mixed: $4; NL: $11.

Gerardo Parra – We profiled Parra two weeks ago when he was recalled by the D-Backs, replacing Cole Gillespie. His possible change in status warrants another mention as he got the nod over the slumping Conor Jackson (1-for-18) and went 2-for-5 with a double and RBI Friday against the Rockies. Parra is not replacing Jackson (who did start Saturday) at this point, but he should have enough value to entice NL-only and deep mixed leaguers. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

Randy Winn – Winn signed a contract with the Cards Saturday after being designated for assignment by the Yankees in late May. The switch-hitting outfielder will provide manager Tony LaRussa with a much-needed, versatile pinch-hitting option at the plate. He's clearly in the decline, evidenced by his compete flameout with the Yankees, but a part-time role back in the National League (where he's more familiar with the pool of pitchers) could lead to some value. Mixed: $0; NL: $4.