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FAAB Factor - AL: Prospect Speculation, Catchers Return

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).

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 AL or Mixed, we'll specify)
- 5x5 categories
- Each team has a $100 FAAB budget

Starting Pitchers:

Brett Anderson - Anderson has started throwing off the mound again in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. A setback in May pushed his timetable back a little bit, but he was ahead of schedule then. His likely return remains around the All-Star break. We most likely won't see a fully effective Anderson until next season, but if you're in a keeper league you might think about getting in cheap now. Mixed &AL: $1.

Chris Archer - How many times has Archer been called "Duchess" by his teammates in the last two years? I can't believe our player page doesn't have a single update playing off the show. Then again, I'm probably grateful that our staff of beat writers is more mature than I. Archer is up for Jeremy Hellickson, and the presumption is that Hellickson will miss only one start with this DL trip. Archer hasn't been that great at Triple-A Durham, posting a 4.81 ERA while walking 45 batters in 76.2 innings there. The 90 strikeouts at Triple-A represent his upside, but he's far from a finished product. It's hard to imagine him outlasting Alex Cobb in the rotation, at least this year. He'll probably pitch in Kansas City for his next start. Mixed: No; AL: $3.

Dylan Axelrod - Axelrod filled in for the injured Phil Humber on Saturday, giving up five runs (four earned) in his first start for the South Siders since early May. Despite the mediocre results, Axelrod might be in the rotation for a while. John Danks is weeks away with his shoulder injury, and Humber was in danger of losing his rotation spot before going on the DL with his elbow injury. Axelrod doesn't throw especially hard (average fastball was 88.5 mph in his earlier appearances this year), but all he's done as a minor leaguer is get batters out. At the very least, he looks to be a decent streaming option against weaker offenses. Alas, his next start emphatically does not qualify as such an opportunity - against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Looking ahead, his next start then would be a home start against the Rangers - also not a treat. So while there are things to like about the pitcher, he's not going to provide immediate help. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

Jesse Chavez - Chavez is in the rotation for now, but after two torching by NL clubs, the Jays might be forced to look for alternatives. Alas, very few exist given all their injury woes. Carlos Villanueva could be an option, but he broke down last year trying to start, a scenario the club would like to avoid. Right now the organization has a bunch of poor options to turn to. Mixed & AL: No.

Aaron Cook - Cook is in the rotation replacing Clay Buchholz, who had to go on the DL with his gastro-intestinal illness and probably will be out until the All-Star break. Cook is the ultimate pitch-to-contact hurler, and even at Triple-A Pawtucket has struck out just 16 batters in 37.1 innings. That sort of skill set wouldn't seem to work well in the AL East or in Fenway. At best he's a spot-starter with the hope that the Red Sox will give him copious run support. Mixed: No; AL: $1.

A.J. Griffin - Griffin will start for the injured Brandon McCarthy on Sunday for the A's. He began the season at Double-A Midland before getting promoted to Triple-A Sacramento about six weeks ago. Griffin is an extreme strike-thrower who features good command with his fastball and an excellent changeup. Formerly a reliever, Griffin made the climb from Low-A all the way to one start at Triple-A last season. He's not a high-pedigree guy - a 13th round draft pick out of college in 2010. Whether he sticks in the rotation depends on how long McCarthy and maybe Bartolo Colon are out. If he does well, it wouldn't be difficult to see him stick ahead of Tyson Ross. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.

Danny Hultzen - Hultzen just got the call to Triple-A Tacoma after dominating Double-A (1.19 ERA, 79:32 K:BB in 75.1 innings). When drafted many thought he would be quick to the majors, and so far he's done nothing to dissuade that notion. A September callup seems likely, and it wouldn't be shocking if he's up before that. However, the M's were smart to have him make that next step and pitch in the PCL, where he'll have to face a few more veteran hitters and pitch in some tough pitcher's environments. It might be premature to make a speculative bid now, especially if you have limited reserve roster space. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

Aaron Laffey - Laffey could end up getting two starts this week, thanks to the desperation faced by the Jays in filling their rotation following three injuries a week ago. The bad news is that Laffey will face the Red Sox in Fenway and then the Angels at home. This doesn't seem to bode well for potential success. Mixed & AL: No.

Roy Oswalt - Oswalt's debut was accelerated thanks to Alexi Ogando's groin injury, and he demonstrated that he didn't need that extra minor league prep start, defeating the Rockies on Friday. Oswalt's durability remains a concern, especially as he tries to work through the Texas summer (the Astros always played in a climate controlled facility), as does his ability to consistently beat AL lineups. He'll get a tough test this week, facing the Tigers. Mixed: $5; AL: $25.

Tyson Ross - Ross got a roster reprieve thanks to Bartolo Colon's oblique injury, but once again struggled against the Giants on Saturday, though his defense did him no favors behind. But he's just proven to be too hittable over the last two seasons, really since an oblique injury sidelined him last spring. He's a spot-start guy only, and his next scheduled start comes at Texas next week. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

Jacob Turner - Turner's start against the Cardinals might end up being a one-and-done trip for him on the major league roster, with Drew Smyly slated to come back next week. He worked in and out of danger in his start against the Cards, getting lucky to allow just one run in five innings, as he walked five and allowed four hits. His numbers at the upper levels of the minors still haven't matched his pedigree, striking out just 27 batters in 42 innings so far at Triple-A Toledo. Chances are he's still not ready to contribute much at the big league level this year. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

Relief Pitchers:

Joaquin Benoit / Phil Coke / Octavio Dotel - Jose Valverde has been sidelined with a wrist injury and is currently unavailable, though the Tigers hope they'll have him back for the beginning of the week series against the Rangers. In case Valverde can't come back, it's worth examining the options behind him. Dotel just came off the DL and manager Jim Leyland has turned to him in the past when Valverde has been unavailable. But he also just pitched two innings Saturday, so any short-term opportunities wouldn't likely go to him. Coke got the first save in Valverde's absence, but that happened because Benoit had already pitched in that game, and Valverde hurt himself while warming up. Benoit is the most likely option. He's been nothing short of spectacular this year, with a 1.93 ERA and a 44:14 K:BB ratio in 32.2 innings this season, following a great second half last year. Benoit - Mixed: $5; AL: $15. Coke - Mixed: No; AL: $0. Dotel - Mixed: $1; AL: $3.

Brian Bruney - Remember when he was part of the Brad Lidge / Shawn Chacon Club (saving games despite a 7.00+ ERA) with Arizona in 2005? That was fun. He's not a threat for a reprise of the role. Walks have been the culprit every time he's gotten the major league call, with a career 6.44 BB/9 rate. Mixed & AL: No.

Jordan Norberto - Norberto picked up a rogue save earlier in the season, but he's not a part of the A's back-end bullpen. Even with all of the A's transition, he's at best fourth in the pecking order, probably fifth behind Sean Doolittle. Mixed & AL: No.

Oliver Perez - Just in case you were wondering where Perez was, he just got called up by the Mariners. He's the same pitcher as always - he can miss bats, but he also all too readily misses the strike zone. There's not a foreseeable late-innings or starting role for him. Mixed & AL: No.

Alex Torres - Torres' latest callup is in the role of the "26th man" for the Rays' doubleheader Sunday against the Phillies. He'll probably return to Durham later in the week. Mixed & AL: No.


Alex Avila - Avila is back from the DL, and this could be a good buying opportunity for him while his numbers are still down. After having a .376 BABIP last year, of course some regression was to be expected. But it has come close to correcting too far in the other direction, and his owner, especially in single-catcher leagues, has probably gotten frustrated with his output. He's not so established that he's in that circle of trust yet, either. But I'm still a believer, and think that 2010 was the outlier. I'd acquire him now while the price is lower. Mixed: $10; AL - already owned.

Derek Norris - Norris is the token A's prospect that actually fits the old school "Moneyball" ideal that they seem to get credit for with all of their prospect. He's a take-and-rake slugging catcher acquired in the offseason from the Nats in the Gio Gonzalez trade. He has double-digit home run power, a good batting eye, and will strike out frequently, making batting average an enduring risk. It should be noted that he did improve his contact rate from his sub-70 percent levels the last two years to 81 percent at Triple-A Sacramento. He has started two of the last three games in place of Kurt Suzuki after his callup, though that sort of playing time ratio is unlikely to recur. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Salvador Perez - Perez made it back from his knee injury Friday, homering in his first game back. Perez isn't getting everyday playing time just yet, but that should happen in due time once the Royals are comfortable with the strength in his knee. He picked up right where he left off during his rehab assignment at Triple-A Omaha, where he was tearing it up. Last year Perez had a .368 BABIP after his callup, but he also made contact at an 86 percent rate. So even when his BABIP normalizes, he's got a pretty good chance of still hitting for decent average. Mixed: $7; AL: $18.

Yorvit Torrealba - Torrealba is getting more playing time behind the plate now that Mitch Moreland is on the DL, pushing Mike Napoli over to first base or designated hitter on a more regular basis. Torrealba isn't anything special with the bat, but he does have a smidge of power and of course will get to hit in a good lineup. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Bobby Wilson - Wilson is back from his concussion and will handle the majority of the catching duties in the short-term. Chris Iannetta has had multiple setbacks in his rehab, so this role might last for another month. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.

Corner Infielders:

Brooks Conrad - Conrad essentially replaces Drew Sutton as the short-term utility infielder, but his window to contribute is pretty small. As those that remember his high-profile defensive miscues in the 2010 playoffs, he may be able to stand at multiple positions, but actually fielding them is another story. He'll probably bat cleanup once next week, hit a big homer, and then get released a week later - that's just how Joe Maddon rolls. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

Middle Infielders:

Yuniesky Betancourt - Chris Getz is on the DL, so Betancourt is playing every day for the Royals at second base. It hasn't been as bad as one might think. His .293 OBP is awful, but as Joe Sheehan pointed out in his newsletter this week, we need to recalibrate our notion of what is acceptable in this era where the league average is considerably down. He's not going to walk, but he also strikes out infrequently and has hit for a modicum of power this year. Mixed: $1; AL: $7.

Irving Falu - The Royals called up Falu when Chris Getz went on the DL, but he hasn't yet played since the promotion on June 20. He's there in the case of insurance and a token day off for Betancourt or Alcides Escobar only. Mixed & AL: No.

Brandon Hicks - Hicks isn't going to win anyone a title, but given how scarce live hitters with a pulse can be in AL-only leagues, he'll fetch a few FAAB bids this weekend. Hicks has a little bit of pop - 18 homers at Triple-A Gwinnett last year and 13 already this year for Sacramento. But he also has major contact issues - 62 percent last year at Triple-A, 68 percent at Sacramento this year. This explains why the Braves were willing to let Hicks walk despite their own instable shortstop situation this spring. Factor in that his home park is going to depress his power, and Hicks is a "break glass only in the case of emergency" guy. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Orlando Hudson - There's a reason that the White Sox have been mentioned as a potential destination for Kevin Youkilis. Even at his current pace (.225/.311/.359), Youkilis would be the White Sox's most productive offensive player at the hot corner. We list Hudson here because he's the incumbent, but since joining the White Sox he's hit a putrid .167/.247/.286. This isn't to bash the O-Dog. He's had a wonderful, underrated career, but the wheels are off now. His tenure won't last past Brent Morel's return around the All-Star break, if it even gets there. Eduardo Escobar is no solution, at least with the bat, either. Look for someone, anyone, to get added at the position. Mixed & AL: No.

Jeff Keppinger - Keppinger's fantasy owners might have caught the rarest of breaks this week. He was activated from the DL on Friday, in a slew of other moves by the Rays. In many leagues, an owner who had been stashing him on their DL wouldn't be able to activate him until the following day. In this case, the Rays got rained out Friday, making Saturday the first day for Keppinger, who subsequently went 5-for-5. The Rays' infield is about to get really crowded - Keppinger can play second base or third base, the latter of which he'll get some time until Evan Longoria returns. Elliot Johnson and Sean Rodriguez subsequently are likely to lose the commensurate playing time. Mixed: $1; AL: $9.


Lorenzo Cain - Cain has started his rehab assignment and should be back from the 60-day DL before the All-Star break, perhaps as early as a week from now. Jarrod Dyson certainly won't provide much of an obstacle. But the bigger problem on the horizon is Wil Myers - something has to give to make room for Myers to play, and Cain has the least credentials among the Royals' outfielders, though there are some rumors out there suggesting that the team would be willing to trade Jeff Francoeur. Nonetheless, it might be pretty important for Cain to hit the ground running when he returns. Mixed: $2; AL: $9.

Jordan Danks - The White Sox's belief that Danks is ready for big league play convinced them to part ways with Kosuke Fukudome this week. Of course, that hasn't really translated into playing time for Danks, who has started just once in the last 10 days. Even when the team gives one of their regular outfielders a day off, as they did with Alejandro De Aza on Saturday, Danks isn't guaranteed to get the start in his place - Brent Lillibridge started instead. Mixed: No; AL: $1.

Wil Myers - As alluded to in the Lorenzo Cain comment, Myers is knocking on the door at Triple-A Omaha, hitting .313/.403/.657 there in 36 games. The only question now is where does he play? The Royals are in a bit of a bind, with DH/1B tied up between Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer. Myers even played a game at third base at Omaha, but that's not really an option for the team either. So either a trade needs to happen, Hosmer would need to have a "get his confidence back" demotion to Omaha, or Cain would have to sit to make room for Myers. Still, experience dictates that you don't worry about where the player is getting the playing time - grab the player with talent while you can (see also, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper - not that Myers is necessarily at that level, but I digress). Talent generally wills out, by hook or crook. Grab Myers now if you can. Mixed: $4; AL: $17.

Cody Ross - The bat-flipper is back, and with the injury to Scott Podsednik, he's going to get plenty of playing time. The question becomes what happens when the Red Sox get all of their injured regulars back? Ryan Sweeney isn't a big threat, though he still might platoon with Ross some. But Carl Crawford is on his rehab assignment and Jacoby Ellsbury isn't too far behind. Ryan Kalish is also up with the big squad, and Daniel Nava has had his moments, too. Ross is slugging quite well overall, though, and has made a pretty good case for inclusion into the lineup more often than not. Mixed: $3; AL: $15.

Casper Wells - Even with interleague play, Wells is playing fairly often, if not every day. He's earned that playing time with good defense and a recent hot surge at the plate, chasing his overall numbers up to .296/.367/.451. Early in the year he was an afterthought, though, even with Franklin Gutierrez on the DL. The more the Mariners can use Jesus Montero behind the plate, the better off Wells will be. Mixed: $0; AL: $6.