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FAAB Factor - AL: Prime Time Prospects

Andrew Martinez

Andrew Martinez writes about baseball and football. He is a native Texan and roots for the Astros, Rockets, Texans, and Rice Owls.

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:

Brandon McCarthy, A's - If McCarthy can make it through one more bullpen session; he will be allowed to rejoin the A's and their rotation. He has been on the DL since late June with shoulder soreness that would never go away. Prior to his injury he had a 2.54 ERA with 52 strikeouts and just 19 walks over 78 innings. Once he does return to the big leagues, expect him to be placed on waivers and possibly traded to a contending team looking for starting pitching. Until then, he'll take the spot left by A.J. Griffin, who was just placed on the DL. In his last rehab start, McCarthy pitched six shutout innings with nine strikeouts, two walks, and just two hits allowed. Mixed: $5; AL: $20.

Corey Kluber, Indians - Kluber was recalled this week from Triple-A Columbus to make his MLB starting pitching debut. In that game he was roughed up for six earned runs over 4.1 innings against the Royals. While at Columbus this season he had a 3.59 ERA with 128 strikeouts and 49 walks over 125.1 innings pitched. At 26 years old, Kluber is not considered a prospect, but will be allowed to pitch in the majors for at least a few more starts so that the Indians can see what they have with him. Last season at Columbus he had a 5.56 ERA with 143 strikeouts and 70 walks over 150.2 innings. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners - In his last start, Iwakuma registered 13 strikeouts over eight innings of 1-run ball against the Blue Jays. As a starter this season he has a 3.41 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 13 walks over 29 innings. This is his first season in the majors as he has spent the rest of his career in Japan. While there he was considered the best starting pitcher behind Yu Darvish. Stuff wise, he his fastball sits in the low 90s and he mixes in a slider and split-finger fastball. It's unlikely that Iwakuma continues to miss bats as he did in that one particular start against the Blue Jays, but he is worth monitoring in mixed leagues, especially when you consider he'll be pitching at Safeco in home games. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Ryan Dempster, Rangers - Dempster was traded this week from the Cubs to the Rangers as Texas attempts to figure out how to replace Colby Lewis in their rotation. Dempster had a 2.25 ERA with 83 strikeouts and only 27 walks in 104 innings with the Cubs, but that was in the NL. Now that Dempster is in the AL, he can expect quite a bit more adversity, as the lineups he'll be facing are more potent and his new home park won't be nearly as forgiving. Both of these factors were on display in his first outing with the Rangers as the Angels torched him for eight earned runs over 4.2 innings in Arlington Park. I don't think that Dempster will be nearly as bad as Roy Oswalt was/is, but I do think you can throw that 2.25 ERA out the window. I'm expecting something more along the lines of a 3.50+ ERA and with his declining strikeout rate (7.37 K/9), at most a handful of strikeouts each start. Mixed: Owned; AL: $17.

Franklin Morales, Red Sox - Morales will fill-in for Josh Beckett in the Red Sox rotation on Sunday and could potentially remain a starter if he pitches well. Looking at his splits, Morales has a 6.08 ERA at home this season, but just a 1.35 ERA on the road. All told, he has a 3.42 ERA this season as a starter with 31 strikeouts and eight walks over 26.1 innings. It's tough to recommend Morales as an starter in mixed leagues as he'll be pitching in the AL East, but the guy used to pitch in Coors Field, so he's used dealing with adverse conditions. Don't expect Aaron Cook to keep him from a spot in the rotation. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Brian Duensing, Twins - With the trade of Francisco Liriano to the White Sox, Duensing was given another shot at starting this week. In his two games he has combined to pitch 12 innings with only three earned runs, but he gave up 15 hits with only five strikeouts and no walks. This is pretty much what you can expect from Duensing on a good day - a couple of strikeouts, few if any walks, and for batters to put the ball in play. I would not run him out there in mixed leagues. In AL only leagues you can take your chances, but he has a 4.03 career ERA with a strikeout rate of 5.74 K/9. Mixed: No; AL: $3.

Relief Pitchers:

Greg Holland, Royals - With Jonathan Broxton being traded to the Reds this week, Holland has assumed the closer's job in Kansas City. Part of the reason he was given this role was because of the lights out numbers he produced last season, when he had a 1.80 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 19 walks over 60 innings. This season his control hasn't been nearly as sharp, but he has continued to miss bats with a 3.46 ERA, 57 strikeouts, and 23 walks over 41.2 innings. Stuff wise, he has a fastball that sits in the mid 90s and he mixes in a slider that can be quite devastating. Already this week he has one save since the Broxton trade and is expected to pile up many more down the stretch. Holland could keep this job well into next season. Mixed: $9; AL: $30.

Grant Balfour, A's - Ryan Cook has blown four of his last five save chances and seen his ERA rise from 1.70 to 2.47 during that time. When you take a closer look at his numbers, you realize that his control hasn't been all that great as he has issued 23 walks over his 47.1 innings this season. His xFIP sheds more light on this problem and says he's been pitching more like a 4.32 ERA. A's manager Bob Melvin hasn't said much regarding Cook or if he will remove him from the closer's job, but one can only assume that he is considering going back to Grant Balfour, who started the season as the A's closer. Balfour has a 2.60 ERA and hasn't given up an earned run in his last 13 appearances. His 4.23 xFIP is similar to that of Balfour's because he too has walked a fair amount of batters this season. Expect Balfour to get another crack at his old job sooner rather than later. If you have Cook, my advice is to not drop him. I think he'll be getting his job back once he steadies himself in a few setup appearances. Mixed: $4; AL: $10.
Derek Norris, A's - An up and down week for Norris, who was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento on Monday, recalled on Friday, and then given the starting backstop job for the A's because of the trade of Kurt Suzuki. Now that he will be getting starter's playing time, he's worth a second look in deeper mixed leagues and should already be owned in all AL only leagues. Skill wise he offers power as evidence by the 20 homers he hit last season at Double-A Midland. There is downside though as he's hitting just .198/.266/.326 on the season and he hit .271/.329/.477 this season at Sacramento. George Kottaras will serve as his backup. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.

Geovany Soto, Rangers - Soto was traded this week from the Cubs to the Rangers, which sounds great for his fantasy value till you take Mike Napoli and Mike Olt into consideration. Napoli, the team's starting catcher, has appeared in 25 games at 1B and four at DH, but Mike Olt will absorbing some of those 1B at-bats (along with Mitch Moreland) and force Napoli to spend more time at catcher. Offensively Soto is having a very depressing season as he's hitting just .201/.286/.348 with six homers. He has hit for power in the past (17 homers each of the last two seasons) and his new home park should help coax that out, but with limited playing time it's tough to invest much into Soto. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.

Ryan Lavarnway, Red Sox - Lavarnway was recalled this week from Triple-A Pawtucket to help the Red Sox at catcher and DH. At Pawtucket this season he hit .295/.376/.439 with eight homers, which is a downgrade from the .295/.390/.612 he hit there last season over 264 plate appearances. Considering how well Ryan Saltalamacchia has played this season (.233/.288/.502 with 20 homers), it's more likely that Lavarnway sees time at DH, while David Ortiz is away, rather than catcher. When Ortiz does return there is a decent chance that Lavarnway returns to Pawtucket, which could early this coming week. Given that and a reserve catcher role if he does stay, Lavarnway holds little fantasy value for now. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.

Corner Infielders:

David Cooper, Blue Jays - With Adam Lind placed on the DL with a back strain, Cooper was recalled this week from Triple-A Las Vegas. At Vegas Cooper hit .314/.395/.540 with 10 homers over 304 plate appearances. Those numbers are obviously inflated by the PCL, which is quite the hitter’s haven. Cooper has gotten off to a decent enough start since coming back up the majors, going 5-for-20 with three doubles and a homer. On the season he is now batting .282/.322/.459 with three homers over 90 plate appearances. Lind is on a rehab assignment right now and is eligible to come off the DL on August 11th. When he does rejoin the team it's highly likely that Cooper will be sent back to Vegas, so don't expect Cooper to be around for long. Mixed: No; AL: $3.

Mitch Moreland, Rangers - Moreland came off the DL this week, after dealing with a hamstring issue. He finds himself in a platoon with rookie Mike Olt where Moreland will be the one to face right-handed pitchers. Given this setup, Moreland shouldn't lose much if any playing time as he was already being sat against most lefties. There is also the issue of Michael Young, who should be put out to pasture, but will likely be kept around for appearances. All told, Moreland's fantasy value is similar to what he had before he hit the DL. He hasn't shown any ill effects of his hamstring issue as he has gone 7-for-16 with a double, homer, and stolen base since coming back. On the season he's batting .297/.342/.534 with 9 homers over 162 plate appearances against RHP. If he was dropped for some reason in your mixed league, he's worth a look as a corner bat. Mixed: $8; AL: Owned.

Mike Olt, Rangers - Olt was called-up from Double-A Frisco this week to help fill the void in the Texas offense known as Michael Young. In Frisco he hit .288/.398/.579 with 28 homers over 420 plate appearances, so he has power. As far as playing time goes, Olt will be in a platoon with Mitch Moreland and face left handed pitchers. In Frisco he hit .272/.422/.598 with eight homers against LHP. He will also see some playing time at DH and OF as Ron Washington attempts to massage him into the lineup. Olt is a highly thought of prospect and there has already been plenty of attention paid to his arrival, but for fantasy purposes, he likely won't get enough playing time (at least initially) to warrant picking him up in most mixed leagues. If you're in a keeper league, you'll want to up your bid considerably. Mixed: $5; AL: $25.

Casey McGehee, Yankees - McGehee was traded from the Pirates to the Bronx Bombers this week to help give the team corner infield depth. This depth is needed right now as Mark Teixeira is dealing with a swollen left wrist and Alex Rodriguez is out for six-to-eight weeks with a fractured left hand. McGehee is batting .250/.358/.463 this season against LHP with four homers. He's likely to see most of his time against lefties, which gives him limited value. Unless you're in an AL only league or very deep mixed league, McGehee is best left on the waiver wire. Mixed: No; AL: $1.

Middle Infielders:

Cliff Pennington, A's - Out with left elbow tendinitis, Pennington started a rehab assignment on Friday. Prior to his trip to the DL, he hit .197/.259/.282 with three homers and 11 stolen bases over 314 plate appearances - not exactly impressive numbers. In his stead, Eric Sogard, Brandon Hicks, and most recently Adam Rosales have played SS for the A's. When Pennington comes back, which could be as early as this week, he's most likely to regain his old job. Pennington stole 29 bases two seasons ago and is only 28 years old, so he does have speed. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.

Adam Rosales, A's - Rosales was recalled this week from Triple-A Sacramento to help play shortstop for the A's, while Cliff Pennington remains out. Skill wise, Rosales doesn't have many tools. He hit .280/.340/.451 this season with eight homers and four stolen bases over 310 plate appearances at Sacramento and owns a .222/.298/.328 batting line for his career in the majors. He'll likely only continue to hold shortstop warm till Pennington is able to make his way back, which could be as early as this week. Mixed: No; AL: $1.

Erick Aybar, Angels - Aybar could come off the DL early this coming week, as he makes his way back from a non-displaced fracture of his right big toe that landed him on the DL. Prior to this injury, Aybar hit .257/.296/.370 with four homers and seven steals over 352 plate appearances. Even if he is fully recovered from his toe injury, it's unlikely that Aybar provides much speed, which is his only real fantasy asset. Given this, Aybar really only has value in AL only leagues and the deepest of mixed leagues. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.

Robert Andino, Orioles - Andino came off the DL this week, after dealing with a left shoulder strain. He rejoins the O's who have lost Brian Roberts for the year and are now left with Omar Quintanilla to help man 2B. While Andino was gone, Quintanilla did well, hitting .333/.370/.476 with one homer. Given that Andino is a RHB and Quintanilla a LHB, it's conceivable, if not likely, that the two will form a platoon at 2B for the near future. This would put a drain on what little fantasy value Andino does have, as he has hit .230/.291/.324 with five homer and four stolen bases over 305 plate appearances this season. Avoid this situation if at all possible. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.

Will Rhymes, Rays - Rhymes was recalled on Friday from Triple-A Durham to give the Rays some infield depth. At Durham he hit .271/.329/.388 with two homers and a steal over 143 plate appearances. In the majors this season, he hasn't been much better, hitting .231/.304/.289 with one homer and one steal over 135 plate appearances. Rhymes has shown speed in the past, while in the minors, but none of it has surfaced this season. Those in AL only leagues can likely ignore him, as he won't garner enough playing time to be relevant. Mixed: No; AL: $1.


Moises Sierra, Blue Jays - Sierra was recalled this week from Triple-A Las Vegas to help platoon with Anthony Gose in LF for the Blue Jays as a RHB. In Vegas he hit .289/.360/.472 with 17 homers and seven steals over 422 plate appearances. He's only 23 years old, but not that highly thought of as a prospect as he wasn't on any top 10 prospect lists for the Blue Jays that I could find. So far he has gone 4-for-9 with a double and he'll need to keep that up as he will likely be shifted to the bench more often or sent back to Vegas, once Jose Bautista comes off the DL. Until then, he holds little fantasy value. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.

Ezequiel Carrera, Indians - Carrera was called-up from Triple-A Columbus this week, when Johnny Damon was told to hit the bricks. In Columbus he hit .294/.345/.419 with six homers and 26 stolen bases over 438 plate appearances this season. His speed is his best tool as he stole 35 last season in Columbus. Already this week Carrera has gone 4-for-7 with two triples, so he has brought that speed with him. He is expected to get a fair amount of playing time in LF and should be someone to consider in AL only and deeper mixed leagues for those looking for speed. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.

Eric Thames, Mariners - Thames was traded from the Blue Jays to the Mariners this week to help in their RF and possibly DH. While he was in Toronto he hit .243/.288/.365 with three homers over 148 at-bats. Those numbers are disappointing, when you consider he hit .262/.313/.456 last season with 12 homers over 362 at-bats. His numbers will take a hit just by playing his home games in Safeco, but he will get more playing time. So far with the M's he has gone 3-for-10 with a double and homer. Expect Thames to play on a regular basis at least until Franklin Gutierrez (concussion) returns, which shouldn't be any time soon as he has just now begun to swing a bat and do some running. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.

Nate McLouth, Orioles - McLouth was called-up this week from Triple-A Norfolk by the O's, when they decided to designate Endy Chavez for assignment. At Norfolk, he hit .244/.325/.461 with 10 homers over 209 plate appearances. These numbers and the ones that McLouth put up last season with the Braves (.228/.344/.333) do not inspire much confidence that McLouth will do much while up this time around. Given that he's a lefty, a natural platoon with Lew Ford seems likely and should give him a fair amount of playing time. In his one game with the team so far, he went 2-for-4 with a double. McLouth is a career .247/.335/.421 hitter that most fantasy owners can ignore. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Ryan Kalish, Red Sox - When Ryan Sweeney punched a wall and injured his hand; he also punched Kalish's ticket back to the majors. Kalish was in Triple-A Pawtucket, where he hit .307/.388/.533 with four homers and six stole bases over 85 plate appearances. In the majors this season he has struggled, hitting only .206/.247/.235 with no homers and one stolen base. As a lefty, he's likely to see most of his playing time against RHP, which should help him get playing time. However the Red Sox now have a fully healthy OF of Crawford, Ellsbury, and Ross, so there's not as much playing time as there was the last time Kalish was up. Ignore Kalish in everything but the deepest of mixed leagues and AL only leagues. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.

Andy Dirks, Tigers - Dirks was activated from the DL this week, after dealing with an Achillles injury to his right ankle. He comes back to a .328/.379/.515 batting line with four homers and a stolen base over 146 plate appearances. He should go back to playing on a regular basis with Quentin Berry, Delmon Young, or Brennan Boesch being shifted to the bench. In his first game back he went 2-for-4 with a walk. Don't expect Dirks to give you much power or speed down the stretch, as he hasn't shown much of either prior to this season. Hitting sixth in the Tigers lineup as he did upon his return should help his counting stats some. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.  

Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop them in the comments section.

You can follow me on Twitter @andtinez.