This is our weekly look at American 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 AL or Mixed, we'll specify)
• 5x5 categories
• $100 FAAB budget
Rich Hill, Red Sox – Hill will take the mound Sunday against the Rays in what could be a spot start. He had a 2.78 ERA (3.64 FIP) with 29 strikeouts and nine walks over 32.1 innings at Triple-A Pawtucket before joining the team. No stranger to the majors, he has a career 4.80 ERA (4.71 FIP) over 70 starts between the Cubs and Orioles. I supposed if he’s effective and works deep enough into the game, he’ll get another shot, but there’s not much upside here. This week, if he does get another start, it would likely be against the Blue Jays at home, which doesn’t bode well. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Erik Johnson, White Sox – Johnson was wildly effective (and lucky) in his second start of the season, as he had five walks, six strikeouts, and a wild pitch, yet only surrendered one earned run over five innings to the Twins. He has already given up four home runs in his two starts, which is troublesome, especially given his home park. Still, he had a 2.37 ERA (2.61 FIP) with 136 strikeouts and 41 walks over 132.2 innings at Triple-A Charlotte this season, so he deserves some benefit of the doubt. This week he gets the A’s at home. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Wade Miley, Red Sox – Miley has a 4.41 ERA (3.70 FIP), but has pitched much more effectively of late with a 3.68 ERA, 19 strikeouts and just one walk over his last three starts. It’s not clear what adjustments he’s made, but in the second half of the season he’s dropped his ERA almost a full run from 4.80 (4.01 FIP) to 3.87 (3.14 FIP). Continue to ride him if you’ve got him in an AL format and in mixed leagues, but he’ll get the Blue Jays on the road this week, so beware. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Sean Nolin, A’s – Nolin made his second start of the season Saturday night, as he pitched 5.2 innings with one earned run, two walks, and five strikeouts against the Rangers on the road. It’s a step up from his debut, when he walked three and only had one strikeout against the Mariners at home. At Triple-A Nashville, he had a 2.66 ERA (4.43 FIP) with 38 strikeouts and 19 walks over 47.1 innings. He needs to build off this start and show better command going forward to be relevant in mixed leagues. As is, he’s a decent option the rest of the way in AL formats. This week he gets the White Sox on the road. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
James Paxton, Mariners – Paxton has been on the DL since late May with a series of finger-related issues, but hopes to put that behind him when he takes the mound Sunday against the Rockies. He returns to a 3.70 ERA (4.35 FIP) with 45 strikeouts and 22 walks over 58.1 innings. It’s unclear who will get bumped from the rotation - if anyone - as the season winds down, but Paxton should remain in the rotation as the M’s look to evaluate him for 2016. This week he gets the Rangers on the road. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays – Stroman came off the DL to make his season debut Saturday against the Yankees, as he pitched five innings with three earned runs, two walks, and two strikeouts over 78 pitches. He is making his way back from a torn ACL in what has been a quick recovery for the precocious talent. Last season he had a 3.65 ERA (2.91 FIP) with 111 strikeouts and 28 walks over 130.2 innings. Considering his injury was not to his arm, expect him to continue to take the ball down the stretch as he looks to build towards helping the team in the playoffs and into the 2016 season. This week he gets the Red Sox at home. Mixed: $5; AL: $15.
Josh Tomlin, Indians – Since coming off the DL following shoulder surgery, Tomlin has been nothing short of fantastic with a 2.85 ERA (4.74 FIP), 38 strikeouts, and only three walks over 41 innings. His FIP points to trouble and it’s found in the 10 home runs he’s given up. Still, he’s missing plenty of bats and walking almost no one, which is helpful to the Indians and his fantasy owners. This performance isn’t completely out of nowhere, as last season he had 80 strikeouts to 10 walks over 93.1 innings, but the ERA was 4.53 and his FIP not much better (4.00). This week he gets the Royals and White Sox at home. Mixed: $4; AL: Owned.
Adam Warren, Yankees – Warren is being stretched out with the expectation that he’ll take the rotation spot of Nathan Eovaldi (elbow), who is out for the season. A starter earlier this season for 14 games, Warren has a 3.59 ERA (4.18 FIP) with 54 strikeouts and 26 walks over 82.2 innings as a starter. It’s a wonder the Yankees didn’t keep him in their rotation, considering how effective he’s been, though he did only pitch 78.2 innings last season, so the 115 he’s at this season is a bit of a jump. It’s unclear when exactly he’ll join the rotation, but with not much season left, he’ll likely only have a few starts where he’s stretched out and worth using. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Sean Doolittle, A’s – Doolittle put down his first save of the season this past week, working his way through Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Carlos Gomez to preserve a one-run win over the Astros. Rusty early on, he’s given up just one hit in his last four appearances with six strikeouts and no walks. Seemingly back to his old self, Doolittle is the heavy favorite for saves the rest of the way for the lowly A’s. Mixed: $7; AL: $21.
Jean Machi, Red Sox – Allegedly the closer for the Red Sox, Machi has a 5.68 ERA over the last two weeks and is not to be trusted. That said, some of you might be in a league where every last save matters and if that’s the case, hold your nose and bid on Machi if you must. With Junichi Tazawa no better the last two weeks and fresh off giving up four earned runs and getting just one out Friday, Machi might even have some job security. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
J.P. Arencibia, Rays – Few hitters are hotter than Arencibia, who hit three home runs last week. He’s now hitting .382 with five home runs in 35 plate appearances since coming up at the end of last month. A notorious free-swinger, Arencibia also has 12 strikeouts and no walks. He needs to be owned in more leagues, as his power is a real difference maker. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Rob Brantly, White Sox – Brought up from Triple-A Charlotte when rosters expanded, Brantly is now seeing part-time duty as the everyday catcher in Chicago. A .291 hitter with four home runs over 94 plate appearances at Charlotte, he hit a home run this past week. With Geovany Soto seemingly on the outside looking in, Brantly should get decent playing time from here on out. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Josh Phegley, A’s – Stephen Vogt is battling a groin injury and hasn’t been in the lineup for almost a week, leaving Phegley as the A’s main backstop. A .252 hitter this season with nine home runs over 226 plate appearances, Phegley has power, so he’s not a terrible replacement for those looking for a stopgap. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Gary Sanchez, Yankees – Sanchez was brought up from the minors Saturday to get a cup of coffee and a taste of the big leagues before the season ends. He hit .274 with 18 home runs over 400 plate appearances between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as a catcher and DH. In scratch leagues, he likely has no value this season, but in keeper leagues, he’s worth bidding on if you can carry him into 2016 on the cheap. He’s not likely to stick at catcher long term, but he’s just 22, so there’s still time for him to develop offensively. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Mark Canha, A’s – Canha hit three home runs in the last week and needs to be owned in any mixed leagues where he’s still available. Over the last month, which is when he became a regular when Ike Davis went on the DL, he’s hitting .319 with six home runs and two stolen bases over 113 at-bats. It’s a punchless A’s lineup, but he’s hitting second, which shows the team has a fair bit of confidence in him. Mixed: $6; AL: Owned.
Jesus Montero, Mariners – Back with the M’s now that his minor league season is over, Montero was in the lineup at DH and first base all last week. He crushed it at Triple-A Tacoma this season, hitting .355 with 18 home runs over 430 plate appearances, but has been a flop in the majors, hitting just .209 with two home runs over 89 PA. Logan Morrison has been streaky this season and is currently in the cooler, so Montero may continue to get at-bats, but it’s anyone’s guess if Montero will take advantage of the opportunity. Still only 25 years old, Montero deserves a solid look from an organization that is unsure what direction it’s headed. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Taylor Featherston, Angels – Featherston continues to hold down second base for the Halos, as Johnny Giavotella (illness) sounds unlikely to return this season and Grant Green went cold at the plate and is now on the bench. Off to a slow start himself, Featherston has been able to turn it around a bit lately with seven hits last week. Hitting at the bottom of the lineup, he hasn’t seen many counting stats, so his value only goes so far. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Micah Johnson, White Sox – Brought up from Triple-A Charlotte, Johnson could be a modest source of steals down the stretch, depending upon how the team uses him. He stole 28 bases this season at Charlotte with a .315 average over 351 plate appearances, so to see him as a pinch hitter or runner late in games would make some sense. Starter Carlos Sanchez is in a 5-for-38 slump and hasn’t really done much the past month overall, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team see what Johnson can do at the plate, though Sanchez is the more skilled defender. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Cliff Pennington, Blue Jays – With Troy Tulowitzki out for a while due to a cracked shoulder blade, we’re likely to see Pennington replace him in the lineup at second base with Ryan Goins shifting to shortstop. Pennington has just two hits in 29 at-bats since joining the club via trade from the Diamondbacks. On the season he’s hitting just .207 with one home run and three stolen bases over 193 plate appearances. He’s shown more speed in the past, but the power is what it is. Even in deeper formats, you’re unlikely to conjure much value out of Pennington. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Eduardo Escobar, Twins – We discussed Escobar before, when he secured the job over Eduardo Nunez and the slumping Danny Santana, and not much was expected of him offensively. Lately though, he’s broken out with two home runs and a double in the last week, including a game where he went 3-for-3 with a walk. Over the past month, he’s been an asset to fantasy owners, hitting .315 with six home runs. Of course it helps when he can qualify at second, third, shortstop, and in the outfield, giving owners roster flexibility. If he’s still available in your mixed league, find a spot for him. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Marwin Gonzalez, Astros –Gonzalez qualifies at a slew of positions (first, second, third, shortstop, and outfield) and as a result has been able to keep himself in the lineup as a semi-regular. Last week he hit two doubles and a home run, primarily as a first baseman. A glue guy in most AL formats, he should be owned in more deep mixed leagues as he’s hitting for a good average (.282) and won’t hurt you anywhere. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Dixon Machado and Andrew Romine, Tigers – With Jose Iglesias dealing with a fractured finger, Machado and Romine have been sharing time at shortstop for the Tigers. A September call-up, Machado has some speed, but didn’t flash much of a hit tool in the minors this season, batting .261 with four home runs over 567 plate appearances at Triple-A Toledo. Romine is hitting .254 this season with two home runs over 152 PA and has less speed than Machado, so it’s probably a moot point as to who gets the lion’s share of at-bats. If forced to choose, go with the younger Machado, who has slightly more upside and speed. Both Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Mike Olt, White Sox – Olt has taken over the everyday duties at third base for the Pale Hose, following the team claiming him off waivers a week ago. He hasn’t done much to reward them so far, going 4-for-14 with no extra-base hits. Still, it’s clear the team wants to give him a look, as Tyler Saladino hasn’t shown much power over the last month. Previously in the Cubs organization, Olt hit .265 with nine home runs over 234 plate appearances at Triple-A Iowa earlier this season. Considering the team has gone through Conor Gillaspie, Gordon Beckham, Saladino and is now on Olt, it’s clear they don’t have yet have an answer at third base going into 2016. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Aaron Hicks, Twins – Activated from the DL a little over a week ago, Hicks has reemerged with home runs this past week and four walks in his last two games. He was on a bit of a hot streak before his injury, as he hit .346 with four home runs and three stolen bases in July. He’s been in the lineup most days, giving the young Byron Buxton and aging Torii Hunter some time off. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Mikie Mahtook, Rays – Brought up from Triple-A Durham, Mahtook has been playing right field and is holding his own, going 6-for-14 with a double, triple, and home run over the last week. Unfortunately for him, Steven Souza is back off the DL, so what playing time Mahtook had has likely dried up. Still, he might see some playing time, as he holds more upside than Grady Sizemore for 2016. At Durham, Mahtook hit .249 with four home runs and 10 stolen bases over 418 plate appearances. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Steven Moya, Tigers – Moya was brought up from Triple-A Toledo last week to grab a cup of coffee in the majors. The lengthy outfielder hit .240 with 20 home runs over 535 plate appearances at Toledo. Likely to be sporadically used, he’s worth bidding on in keeper leagues if you can carry him over to 2016 on the cheap. In scratch leagues, he likely has little to no value for 2015. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Shawn O’Malley, Mariners – Brought up when rosters expanded, O’Malley has been seeing semi-regular at-bats in centerfield for the M’s, as the team looks for him and Brad Miller to fill in after Austin Jackson was traded. With two home runs, a double, a stolen base, and eight walks last week, he’s relevant in AL formats, especially those that use on-base percentage. At Triple-A Tacoma this season, he hit .297 with five home runs and 20 stolen bases over 344 plate appearances. Even in deep mixed leagues, I’d be tempted to use him if OBP were a category. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Nolan Reimold, Orioles – Your new flavor of the week in left field for the O’s, Reimold has been swinging a hot bat since coming back up from Triple-A Norfolk a week ago. He’s hit two home runs, one of which was a grand slam on Friday night, as the team has installed him as their new leadoff hitter, moving Manny Machado to the second or third spot. Reimold has a career .325 OBP, but with five walks in the last week, maybe he’s seeing the ball well right now. He needs to be owned in all AL formats and deep mixed leagues until he cools. Mixed: $3; AL: $9.
Ryan Rua, Rangers – Rua was brought back up from Triple-A Round Rock on Saturday to help in left field, as the Rangers continue to push the Astros in the AL West. He hit just .197 with six home runs over 165 plate appearances at Round Rock, so his value only goes so far. Moreover, he’s sharing time with Joey Gallo, so he might not see much playing time. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Steven Souza, Rays – Souza came off the DL on Friday after missing over a month with a hand injury. He went 2-for-4 with a stolen base, picking up right where he left off. On the season he’s hitting .218 with 15 home runs and 11 stolen bases over 352 plate appearances, showing a nice blend of power and speed - but also far too much swing and miss - as a rookie. Seemingly over his injury, he should be owned in all formats once again. Mixed: $6; AL: $18.
Trayce Thompson, White Sox – Up from Triple-A Charlotte since early August, Thompson started to see more regular at-bats last week as the White Sox start to evaluate for 2016. The brother of NBA star Klay Thompson, he hit his third home run of the season in a 2-for-4 effort and is now hitting .408 with three home runs and one stolen base over 53 plate appearances. At Charlotte he hit .260 with 13 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 417 PA. Unless he really starts to catch fire, his value is limited to AL formats. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Note: If you have anyone else you'd like me to discuss, just drop a line in the comments section.