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
Manny Banuelos, Braves -
Banuelos, who was traded by the Yankees to the Braves for David Carpenter
and Chasen Shreve
during the offseason, has gotten off to a strong start at Triple-A Gwinnett. After struggling this spring and failing to earn a rotation or roster spot, he has a 2.08 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 10 strikeouts in 8.2 innings through two starts. Last season, Banuelos returned from Tommy John surgery to post a 4.13 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 71:31 K:BB in 26 appearances (25 starts) between the Yankees' High-A, Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. He pitched well in 15 innings in the low minors, but ran into difficulties as he moved up the ladder. If Banuelos continues to pitch well in the minors, he could get a look in Atlanta as the Braves continue to look to the future. Mixed: $0; NL: $2 (early starter spec bid).
Anthony DeSclafani, Reds -
DeSclafani received his first exposure to the majors last years, but it didn’t go so well, at least initially. He struggled early on, but did right himself out of the pen to close the year with seven scoreless appearances in his last eight outings. DeSclafani was traded to in the Mat Latos
deal and pitched well enough to earn a rotation spot this spring. He has taken the opportunity and run with it his first two starts, posting a 1.38 ERA and 11:3 K:BB ratio in 13 innings. DeSclafani has a strong and varied arsenal which should allow him to keep the fifth rotation spot over Jason Marquis
following the return of Homer Bailey
on Saturday. However, expect his numbers to rise substantially due to his .190 BABIP. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Carlos Frias, Dodgers -
Frias had a cup of coffee in the majors this week, spending a day with LA. He likely will be back again shortly, as he is the most likely candidate to start April 24, the next time the Dodgers need a fifth starter with Hyun-Jin Ryu
out. Don’t expect much as Frias was bombed in the majors last year. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Aaron Harang, Phillies -
Harang, who turned back the clock in 2014 in Atlanta, is pitching well again in Philadelphia. He improved to 2-1 Saturday, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks over six innings, and struck out six against Washington. After posting a career-best 3.57 ERA in 204.1 innings over 33 starts a year ago, he has a 1.96 ERA, 0.982 WHIP and 15:5 K:BB in 18.1 innings in his first three starts in 2015. Harang is the epitome of a wily veteran, knowing how to take a little off or add a little in to retire hitters, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at his current success. Mixed: $5; NL: $14.
Rafael Montero, Mets -
Montero, optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas on Friday, will be stretched out as a starter and called back up to start April 28 for the Mets. The Mets will go with six starters once through the rotation while they are in a stretch of 13 games in 13 days to give Jacob deGrom
and Matt Harvey
an extra day of rest. Montero, who struggled transitioning to the bullpen, is slated to only make the one start, but it is feasible that the team bumps Dillon Gee
to make room for him in the rotation. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (starter spec bid).
David Phelps, Marlins -
Phelps, starting in place of the injured Henderson Alvarez
, allowed one run over 4.2 innings Friday against the Mets. Despite having a solid spring - he had a 0.95 ERA and 0.89 WHIP over 19 Grapefruit League innings - Phelps lost the fifth rotation spot to Tom Koehler
and was pitching out of the bullpen. Phelps was on a strict 75-pitch limit Friday, as he is not yet fully stretched out, but he swill start again Thursday and possibly one more turn after that. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Homer Bailey, Reds -
Bailey, sidelined to start the year with a flexor mass tendon injury that forced him to miss his last 10 starts last season, was activated off the disabled list and made his first start Saturday. While his fastball topped out at 95 mph, Bailey struggled, allowing five runs on nine hits and three walks in 5.2 innings without striking out a batter. Look for him to be a lot better in his second start and moving forward as he settles back into the second spot in the Cincinnati rotation.Mixed: $10. NL: likely owned.
Chad Billingsley, Phillies -
Billingsley, who had Tommy John surgery two years ago, missed all of last season as he eventually had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow in June. The Dodgers declined the $14 million option on his contract and the Phillies scooped him up. Billingsley has made two rehab starts and the plan is for him to make three more before joining the Philly rotation. If healthy, he could be a decent middle-of-the-rotation starter, but that’s a big if. Mixed: $0; NL: $3 (early return spec bid).
Josh Johnson, Padres -
Johnson is working his way back from his second Tommy John surgery last April. He tossed his second bullpen session Monday and could pitch in minor league games in May. His history means that all this must be taken with a major grain of salt, but he did make a successful return from his first TJS in 2012 in Miami, so maybe lightning will strike twice. Mixed: $0; NL: $3 (early spec return bid).
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers -
Ryu, sidelined since March 20 with shoulder inflammation, played catch for several straight days this week. Presuming all goes according to play, Ryu should be back in the LA rotation in the latter part of May. Mixed: $5; NL: Likely already owned.
Daniel Corcino, Adam Liberatore, Sugar Ray Marimon, Rafael Martin, Felipe Rivero, Zac Rosscup, Jose Urena -
This week’s key reliever call-ups/activations, as well as expected call-ups, were/will be in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington and Miami. None have any substantial value save for Martin, who could work his way into high-leverage situations with the Nationals. All save for Martin - Mixed: No; NL: $0; Martin - Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Jeurys Familia, Mets -
The injury and then 80-game suspension to Jenrry Mejia
opened the door for Familia to close. All he has done so far is bust that door down. Familia is 5-for-5 on saves, relying on a 97-mph sinking fastball to retire hitters. While Bobby Parnell
is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and could be back by mid-May, Familia may keep the closer’s job given how well he has pitched. Mixed: $12; NL: $30 (get on board now).
Adam Ottavino, Rockies -
It seemed to be only a matter of time before Ottavino took over as the Colorado closer and it looks like that time is now as LaTroy Hawkins
has been replaced in the role. While Rafael Betancourt
, who notched the first save with Ottavino unavailable that day, and John Axford
(when he returns) may get some opportunities, Ottavino is the one to own. Last season, Ottavino posted a 3.60 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 70:16 K:BB ratio in 65 innings over 75 appearances, so roll with him with confidence. Mixed: $9; NL: $25.
Joel Peralta, Dodgers -
Peralta looks to be the closer du jour while Kenley Jansen
works his way back from foot surgery. He’s allowed just two hits in 5.1 innings, racking up a win and three saves, including one Saturday. Peralta will move back to a setup role once Jansen is back, but he should have a few more weeks of save chances. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Kenley Jansen, Dodgers -
Jansen, who had a growth on his foot removed February 17, threw off a mound Saturday for the first time since the operation. He was expected to be sidelined 8-to-12 weeks after the surgery and looks to be on track to meet that timeframe. Los Angeles has mixed and matched at closer while Jansen has been out, so his return, which likely come in the next few weeks, would be a big boost for the bullpen. Just an FYI as should be owned in all leagues.
Tucker Barnhart, Reds -
Barnhart was called up Friday, replacing Kyle Skipworth
as the Reds’ third catcher. Cincy is going with three backstops with Devin Mesoraco
dealing with a sore hip that has sidelined him the past five games. Brayan Pena
has been starting in his place and is one of the better backup catchers in the league, so don’t expect Barnhart to see much action. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
J.T. Realmuto, Marlins -
Realmuto, drafted by the Marlins in the third round in 2010, was called up to replace the injured Jeff Mathis
(broken finger). The original plan was for Realmuto to back up Jarrod Saltalamacchia
. But Salty’s slow start coupled with Realmuto’s upside potential and strong defense behind the plate has resulted in a changing of the guard. Realmuto started his third straight game Friday and may assume the role as Miami’s starting catcher, though he sat for Salty on Saturday Mixed: $3; NL: $9.
Andrew Susac, Giants -
Susac was promoted Saturday with Jake Peavy
(back) landing on the disabled list. His stint may only last as long as the Giants need to decide on a fifth starter, though they could just stretch out and use either Yusmeiro Petit
or Ryan Vogelsong
to fill that spot Thursday. Regardless of who fills that role, Susac may only stick around until Thursday. His upside is tied to if San Francisco decides to use Buster Posey
more at first base, allowing Susac to see semi-regular time in the majors rather than as a starter in the minors. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Chris Stewart, Pirates -
Stewart, out with a hamstring injury, was activated off the disabled list Friday. He will play one or two games a week backing up Francisco Cervelli
. Tony Sanchez
was sent down to make room for Stewart. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Jason Rogers, Brewers -
Rogers got the call when Carlos Gomez
landed on the disabled list with a strained hamstring that will sideline him for 2-3 weeks. Rogers, who was putting up big numbers for the second straight year at Triple-A Colorado Springs, is normally a corner infielder, but he could play the outfield corners in a pinch. He may see time at first against left-handed pitchers, replacing Adam Lind
. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Odubel Herrera, Phillies -
Herrera was taken by the Phillies from the Rangers during the Rule 5 draft in December and earned a spot on the team this spring. It’s been a fairly nightmarish start to the season for Philly, though Herrera has played well lately, upping his average to .308 with three hits Saturday. Herrera is starting almost every day in center field, moving Ben Revere
to left. He’s been leading off and should be a good source of runs and steals. Mixed: $4; NL: $11.
Dannny Muno, Mets -
Muno, who had a strong spring, was promoted Friday to serve as a backup infielder and lefty bat off the bench. The Mets were going with just four bench players, but finally realized they needed another bat there. Muno can play second, short and third, filling several needs, especially with David Wright
(hamstring) on the DL. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Dean Anna, Cardinals -
Anna was called up Saturday with Randall Grichuk (back) landing on the DL. Anna, who has gotten off to a strong start with Triple-A Memphis this season, recording 11 hits in his first 28 at-bats, gives St. Louis depth up the middle. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Reid Brignac, Marlins -
Brignac was called up from Triple-A New Orleans on Monday. He will provide Miami some middle-infield depth with Don Kelly
(broker finger) sidelined. Brignac spent his 2014 campaign with the Phillies, batting .222/.300/.346 over 91 plate appearances, so don’t expect much even when he does play. His stint in majors may last only as long as Kelly is out. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Kris Bryant, Cubs -
If you need me to tell you Bryant got called up Friday and should be owned in your league, maybe fantasy baseball just isn’t for you. Max bid.
Eric Campbell, Mets -
Campbell was called up this week when David Wright
(hamstring) landed on the DL. Last year with the Mets, Campbell served as a utility player, a role he expected to repeat this year as late as the final week of spring training. The Mets opted to go with eight relievers and only four bench players, meaning that Campbell was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas. Wright’s injury opened the door for Campbell, who should start the next two-plus weeks while Wright is out and then likely stick as a bench player when Wright returns. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (short-term value).
Matt Duffy, Giants -
Duffy was profiled last week, but gets another mention as he made the most of the regular playing time he saw while Casey McGehee
was sidelined with a knee injury. McGehee is now back, giving Bruce Bochy a decision on whether to bench one of his hottest hitters or find another place for Duffy to play. Duffy has been shagging balls in the outfield, so maybe Bochy will play him there despite his lack of experience due to the weak offense by the Bay. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Yasmany Tomas, Diamondbacks -
Tomas, signed by Arizona to a six-year, $68.5 million deal this offseason, struggled this spring and was rightly sent to the minors. His stint there lasted a lot shorter than one might expect, as he was surprisingly promoted Wednesday. Tomas was batting .190/.261/.381 with a home run and five strikeouts in 21 at-bats for Triple-A Reno, so it’s not as if his play forced a promotion. Tomas doesn’t really have a position and is clearly overmatched at the plate, so expect the D-Backs to come to their senses and send him back down. Mixed: $0; NL: $3 (higher in keeper leagues).
Chris Denorfia, Cubs -
Denorfia, out with a hamstring injury, was activated off the disabled list Friday. He will platoon in left field with Chris Coghlan
, seeing most of his action against southpaws. Denorfia slumped last year after a decent run from 2011-13, so temper your expectations. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Ender Inciarte, Diamondbacks -
Inciarte, profiled in the first column of the year, gets another mention as he seems to have taken hold of the starting left field and leadoff role for Arizona. Through Saturday, Inciarte had started seven of the previous eight games and it looks the promotion of Tomas won’t slow that roll down. Inciarte could steal 25+ bases and score 90+ runs if he starts almost daily, providing solid value in almost all formats. Mixed: $8 (upped bid from Week 1); NL: $22 (though likely owned).
Geraldo Parra/Logan Schafer, Brewers -
Parra will start the next 2-3 weeks while Carlos Gomez
is out with a hamstring injury. Coming into the year, Parra was slated to split left field with Khris Davis
, so Gomez’s absence gives him a slight uptick in playing time. Schafer will earn additional at-bats as the fourth outfielder while Gomez is sidelined. Parra - Mixed: $2; NL: $7; Schafer - Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Domonic Brown, Phillies -
Brown, who was shut down March 19 due to tendinitis in his left Achilles, is in the midst of rehab stint. He played five games at High-A Clearwater before moving to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Friday. Brown hit 27 home runs in 2013, but suffered through a miserable campaign last season. As we noted in our preseason outlook, there may be some hope for a rebound: “Underneath the disappointing surface numbers, Brown posted a career-high groundball rate (49.9%) while his HR/FB mark plummeted from 19.3% in 2013 to 7.9% last season (career 12.7%).” Presuming the GB/FB ratio improves, a subsequent rise in HR/FB mark could occur, especially playing half his games in Philly. Brown could be back late this week, replacing Jeff Francoeur
in right field. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Hunter Pence, Giants -
Pence, who fractured his left forearm in late March, has been swinging a wiffle bat and taking very light swings with a fungo bat. The expectation is that he will be back at the end of this month. As the end of the month is 11 days away and Pence has yet to swing a regular bat, take batting practice and play in a few rehab games, that timeframe looks optimistic. However, assuming no setbacks, look for him by the second week of May to be starting in right field and batting cleanup or fifth for San Francisco. Mixed and NL: Likely owned in all leagues.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.