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AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

Clay Link

Clay Link is the MLB Editor at RotoWire. A fan of the Cincinnati Reds, professional wrestling and hip hop music, he can be heard Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. He also co-hosts the Prospect Podcast every Thursday.

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.

This year, we're incorporating sortable grids into the FAAB articles, so users can easily see at a glance how certain players stack up against others and how much they should command in a variety of formats.

The grids include a basic "player grade" column. This serves as a reflection of a player's skills and role on an A-E scale. Carlos Correa would have been an "A" grade player last year -- that mark will be reserved for similar high-impact prospects stepping into an everyday role.

Not seeing a certain player in the grid? Check to see if they are mentioned in last week's article. If there is a player not discussed in either article that you would like to know about, ask about the player in the comments.

PLAYER TEAM POS GRADE $ (12-Team Mixed) $ (15-Team Mixed) $ (AL-Only)
Erasmo Ramirez TB SP B 4 9 20
Rick Porcello BOS SP C 3 7 16
Tyler Skaggs LAA SP D No 0 3
Daniel Norris DET SP D No 1 4
Henderson Alvarez OAK SP D No 0 3
Sean Manaea OAK SP D No 1 5
Alex Meyer MIN SP D No 0 2
Cody Martin SEA SP E No No 0
Kevin Jepsen MIN RP B 7 15 32
Trevor May MIN RP D 2 5 12
Ryan Dull OAK RP D No 0 4
Johnny Barbato NYY RP D No No 2
Chris Devenski HOU RP D No No 2
Jarrod Saltalamacchia DET C D 0 2 7
Christian Vazquez BOS C D No No 2
Geovany Soto LAA C D No 0 3
Brett Nicholas TEX C E No No 1
Mike Zunino SEA C E No No 0
A.J. Reed HOU 1B C 4 9 20
Steve Pearce TB 1B D No 0 3
Cliff Pennington LAA 2B D No No 0
J.J. Hardy BAL SS C 2 5 13
Eduardo Nunez MIN SS C No 0 4
Tim Anderson CWS SS D 1 3 12
Colin Moran HOU 3B D No No 3
Renato Nunez OAK 3B D No No 3
Coco Crisp OAK OF C 0 3 8
Oswaldo Arcia MIN OF C No 0 4
David Murphy MIN OF C No No 3
Joey Gallo TEX OF D 1 4 15
Rafael Ortega LAA OF C No 1 4
Ryan Rua TEX OF C No No 3
Jerry Sands CWS OF C No No 1

Starting Pitcher

Erasmo Ramirez, Rays - His assignment to the bullpen to start the year was a bit of a buzz kill, but he reminded us Saturday why he had that buzz to begin with. The right-hander made the most of his 66 pitches in a win over the White Sox (double his pitch count from Wednesday's relief appearance), going 5.2 scoreless with three hits allowed, four strikeouts and zero walks. Ramirez was very good after his first two outings last year, showing improved control with swinging-strike rate north of 11 percent over 163.1 innings. While it's possible he eventually transitions back to the bullpen if everyone remains healthy and Blake Snell kicks the door in, the Rays will maximize his innings the next couple months at least. 12-team mixed: $4; 15-team mixed: $9; AL-only: $20

Rick Porcello, Red Sox - Two starts; two wins over the vaunted Toronto lineup. Porcello looked great throughout most of Friday's outing, routinely dotting the corners of the strike zone en route to eight strikeouts. He fanned seven in his 2016 debut. The right-hander did give up two more home runs (both to Edwin Encarnacion), bringing his total to four allowed through two starts, but he will get a bit of a break Wednesday with a matchup against the Rays at home, then a start again the Braves the following week. Porcello had success relying more on the sinker at the end of last year, but he has shown confidence in the four-seamer early this season. If he was dropped in mixed leagues, it's probably time to rectify that. 12-team mixed: $3; 15-team mixed: $7; AL-only: 16

Tyler Skaggs, Angels - A return to Triple-A was necessary for Skaggs to start the year, as he effectively continues his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Skaggs is still rebuilding strength in his elbow, and it may take some time before he's ready to start for the major league team. The 24-year-old left-hander worked three innings in his second appearance with Salt Lake, as he did in his debut, allowing two hits and zero walks while striking out five on 41 pitches. He could be a decent source of ratio help and strikeouts later in the year. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: $0; AL-only: $3

Daniel Norris, Tigers - While Skaggs appears to be a ways off, Norris appears rather close to a return to the majors. Norris built up to 57 pitches in his second rehab start for High-A Lakeland, and will now advance to the team's Triple-A affiliate in Toledo for his next outing. Mike Pelfrey was better in his second outing, but he still walked six batters, and these situations usually take care of themselves anyway. The results for Norris between Toronto and Detroit were mixed, and the control has been a flaw, but the strikeout upside is there. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: $1; AL-only: $4

Henderson Alvarez, A's - Alvarez cleared an important hurdle last week on the road back from shoulder surgery, facing live hitters for the first time. He threw a simulated game Friday, and reports from the Coliseum indicated he looked free and easy with no noticeable limitations. Still, the A's will be cautious with Alvarez as he begins a rehab assignment and bring him up the minor league ladder slowly. An All-Star in 2104, Alvarez averaged fewer than five strikeouts per nine during his time with the Marlins, but he's posted useful ratios and is expected to have a rotation spot once healthy. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: $0; AL-only: $3

Sean Manaea, A's - Jesse Hahn may be next in line for a rotation spot while the A's await Alvarez's return, but Manaea, the organization's top pitching prospect, probably has a higher ceiling. After a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, Manaea has gotten off to a roaring start with Triple-A Nashville this season, striking out 17 (11 in Saturday's start) while walking two over 12 innings of two-run ball. He battled an oblique injury last year and dealt with a groin issue earlier this spring, but Manaea seems healthy now, and should pay off as a stash whenever the A's deem him ready for the major leagues. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: $1; AL-only: $5

Alex Meyer, Twins - Everyone wants a share of Jose Berrios, but Meyer has started even better with Triple-A Rochester and is more widely available in fantasy leagues. After tossing four scoreless innings out of the bullpen in his 2016 debut, Meyer went 6.1 scoreless in his first start of the year Friday, striking out eight without issuing even one free pass. Meyer is on the 40-man roster (unlike Berrios), has posted high strikeout rates consistently throughout his time in the minors and might get another major league opportunity before long. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: $0; AL-only $2

Cody Martin, Mariners - Don't view him as anything more than a last-ditch spec pickup in AL-only leagues, but Martin is starting down at Triple-A Tacoma after spending last season almost working almost exclusively out of the bullpen in the majors. The right-hander is off to a decent start (11:2 K:BB in 11 innings), and more importantly, James Paxton is off to a miserable start. Martin, who is on the 40-man, figures to be one of the top spot-start or fill-in candidates. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $0

Relief Pitcher

Kevin Jepsen, Twins - Fears regarding Glen Perkins were realized, with the lefty hitting the 15-day DL with a shoulder strain this week, and Jepsen has seemingly taken over as the Twins' closer. Some struggles in his first two appearances led to some question as to his status as next in line for saves, but Jepsen has come through in recent games, nailing down the team's first two wins of the season. Trevor May, meanwhile, walked three and only recorded two outs in his most recent appearance, but he has 12 strikeouts in seven innings this season, and remains a threat to eventually supplant Jepsen. Perkins is without a clear timetable for a return. 12-team mixed: $7; 15-team mixed: $15; AL-only: $32

Trevor May, Twins - I wrote about May last week, but with Perkins now on the shelf, he becomes more interesting and should command more FAAB dollars. As mentioned, it looks like Kevin Jepsen will serve as the interim closer, and May has been a little shaky with his control lately after making great strides in that department last season. However, May posted a 28 percent strikeout rate while in the bullpen last season and is missing bats at an excellent clip this year. A couple blown saves for Jepsen in the short term could lead the Twins to consider a change to the bullpen hierarchy. 12-team mixed: $2; 15-team mixed; $5; AL-only; $12

Ryan Dull, A's - The 26-year-old Dull has been untouchable this season. He has not given up a hit or a walk over seven innings, fanning nine with an opponents' contact of little more than 65 percent. He only throws his fastball at about 90 mph, but he has a sharp slider and changes speeds well. Even though he's blocked by several veterans in the pecking order for saves, Dull makes for an appealing AL-only target, as he can chip away at the ratios while adding more than a strikeout per inning. 12-team mixed: No, 15-team mixed: $0, AL-only: $4

Johnny Barbato, Yankees - In a lot of deeper formats, many of the electric, young non-closers are already owned, but Barbato may have been overlooked given the star power in New York. An outstanding spring earned Barbato a spot on the Opening Day roster, and Barbato has carried that success into the regular season, allowing two hits while posting a 9:2 K:BB over six innings. Despite not having any real chance at earning saves, Barbato could pick up occasional wins as essentially the No. 2 right-hander in the Yankees' bullpen. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $2

Chris Devenski, Astros - Called up last week to replace Michael Feliz in the Astros' bullpen, Devenski has racked up eight strikeouts against one walk over 5.1 scoreless innings to begin his major league career. He could rise relatively quickly up the ranks in the Houston bullpen given his stuff and control, and could even crack the back end of the relief corps if Ken Giles can't get it together. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $2


Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Tigers - Now that he has the primary role with James McCann (ankle) on the DL, and three and 10 RBI already to his name, Saltalamacchia figures to be a popular target among those in need of a second catcher in deep leagues. However, if you grab Salty and put him in your lineup, you always run the risk that he'll go 1-for-20 over the next week and leave you right back in the same spot, scouring for a serviceable option. He should be owned in two-catcher AL-only leagues, but there's no need to go overboard. 12-team mixed: $0; 15-team mixed: $2; AL-only: $7

Christian Vazquez, Red Sox - After missing all last year due to injury, Vazquez returned to the majors Friday, supplanting the struggling Blake Swihart on the active roster. Vazquez made his presence felt right away both behind the plate and with the bat, going 2-for-4 with a double high off the Green Monster and two runs scored. He added a single in Saturday's game. There isn't a ton to get excited about, as Vazquez didn't flash much power at the upper levels of the minors, but it looks like he might be a regular part of the strong Boston lineup. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $2

Geovany Soto, Angels - Carlos Perez has done little this season, while Soto has homered and scored four runs in five games (13 at-bats). The Angels have scored just 34 total runs in 11 games (12th in AL) and could decide they need Soto's bat in the lineup more often. Soto hasn't hit above .250 since 2010, but he's shown over the past year that there's still some thump in his bat. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: $0; AL-only: $3

Brett Nicholas, Rangers - The 27-year-old collected a pair of hits, including a double, scored twice in his major league debut and touched home again Saturday. It appears the workload will be split fairly evenly between Nicholas and Bryan Holaday with Robinson Chirinos (forearm) out for an extended period, and Nicholas has put up 43 homers on the farm the last three seasons. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $1

Mike Zunino, Mariners - It's a small sample, but Zunino has been making noise at Triple-A Tacoma, racking up 12 hits in seven games with a home run in each of his last three starts. Perhaps most encouragingly, Zunino has struck out just five times in 28 at-bats. It's best to wait and see in most leagues, and Chris Iannetta has done nothing to hurt his cause, but Zunino's power potential is intriguing. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $0

First Base

A.J. Reed, Astros - Tyler White's emergence led to Reed hitting some waiver wires, but Reed remains a viable stash in deeper single-season formats, and it may not take a whole lot to get him with Evan Gattis returning this week. The 22-year-old Reed homered in back-to-back games with Triple-A Fresno earlier this week, giving him six extra-base hits in 34 at-bats with a handful of walks. Reed and White could both be in the Astros' lineup in a month. 12-team mixed: $4; 15-team mixed: $9; AL-only: $20

Steve Pearce, Rays - Pearce is serving on the short side of a first-base platoon, starting exclusively against left-handed pitching. There has been no indication Pearce could start playing against right-handers despite Logan Morrison's dismal start, and Pearce hasn't started well either, but he has been in the two-hole against lefties. The 33-year-old hit 36 combined home runs over the last two seasons in limited action. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: $0; AL-only: $3

Second Base

Cliff Pennington, Angels - He has as many hits as Johnny Giavotella (three) in 14 fewer at-bats, but don't expect Pennington to supplant Giavotella, since Pennington's the top backup at three middle infield positions. The 31-year-old Pennington is a true desperation option, similar to the Darwin Barney and Ryan Flaherty types. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $0


J.J. Hardy, Orioles - An afterthought in most mixed-league drafts this spring, Hardy had seen a significant dip in power in recent years, but he's tapping into it early this season. The 33-year-old already has two home runs and four doubles in 35 at-bats. Manny Machado has seen some time at short already this year, but Hardy should play more often than not, in a division with many favorable parks for power. He's not a great add in a 12-team mixed league, but he may even be picked up some leagues that shallow. 12-team mixed: $2; 15-team mixed: $5; AL-only: $13

Eduardo Nunez, Twins - Making his second straight atop the order Saturday, Nunez went 2-for-4 with a triple and a run scored, giving him nine hits in 13 at-bats with a pair of steals. He started Friday in place of Brian Dozier at second base, then at shortstop Saturday over Eduardo Escobar. As the team's top utility player and hottest hitter, Nunez figures to remain in the mix for at least semi-regular starts, making him a potential Week 3 starting option in AL-only leagues. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: $0; AL-only: $4

Tim Anderson, White Sox - Veteran Jimmy Rollins is getting on base at a .231 clip in the early going, but Anderson's start at Triple-A has been even worse. A switch isn't on the horizon, but if the speedy Anderson can hit a hot stretch, the White Sox, who have pitched well as a team but struggled to score consistently early this season, could think about an aggressive promotion to the major leagues. 12-team mixed: $1; 15-team mixed: $3; AL-only: $12

Third Base

Colin Moran, Astros - The Astros are getting next to nothing out of Luis Valbuena and Marwin Gonzalez -- they're a combined 8-for-48. Moran is getting his first exposure at Triple-A and the early returns have been encouraging for the most part. He hit safely in each of his first six games with one home run, two walks and eight RBI, though the strikeouts (10 in 27 at-bats this season) suggest there may be growing pains. As a 22-year-old last year, Moran hit .306 nine home runs and drove in 67 in 96 games with Double-A Corpus Christi. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $3

Renato Nunez, A's - The 22-year-old has been on a tear down at Triple-A Nashville, going 10-for-33 with home runs in each of his last two games. Danny Valencia hasn't been problem, but he hasn't been great either and is by no means an insurmountable obstacle for a power-hitting prospect like Nunez. Nunez followed up his 29-homer 2014 campaign with 18 big flies in just 93 games at Double-A last year. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $3


Coco Crisp, A's - Billy Burns has been back atop the order for three of the A's last four games, after Crisp saw quite a bit of time in leadoff spot over the first week and a half of the season. There was a little bit of a spark early, but Crisp is now 0-for-his-last-10, and hasn't drawn a walk in his last five starts. He can still chip in some stolen bases -- he has three steals this season -- and even the occasional home run, but you can do better in mixed leagues. 12-team mixed: $0; 15-team mixed: $3; AL-only: $8

Oswaldo Arcia, Twins - Starting in left field Saturday, Arcia went 2-for-4 with the go-ahead home run off the Angels' Joe Smith in the bottom of the eighth inning, his 37th home run in 223 games. Byron Buxton has been limited in recent days by a hand injury, but he's not expected to need a DL stint, so expect Arcia's starts to remain sporadic for the time being. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: $0; AL-only: $4

David Murphy, Twins - Although Murphy's deal with the Twins was a minor-league contract, the consensus among the team's beat writers seemed to be that his stay at Triple-A would be short. He's the least sexy among the speculative outfield options in Minnesota (Arcia, Max Kepler), but he may be the most reliable even at 34. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $3

Joey Gallo, Rangers - It's hard to imagine Gallo's available in many competitive AL-only leagues, but if he's hanging around in mixers, it's time to at least think about stashing Gallo with a final bench spot. The 22-year-old has a nine-game hitting streak at Triple-A Round Rock with four home runs and almost as many walks (7) as strikeouts (10). There's not an obvious path for him, but Ian Desmond might not have quite as long a leash as some think, and an injury could always clear room as one did for Nomar Mazara. 12-team mixed: $1; 15-team mixed: $4; AL-only: $15

Rafael Ortega, Angels - Daniel Nava hit the 15-day DL on Saturday with left patella tendinitis, and Ortega was recalled in a corresponding move. The 24-year-old immediately slotted into the No. 2 spot in the batting order, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base in the Angels' loss to the Twins. Ortega has not been a particularly efficient basestealer at the upper levels of the minors, but the 24-year-old has decent enough contact skills and plate discipline. It looks like he will be on the favorable end of a left-field platoon until Nava returns, so there's appeal in a variety of formats. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: $1; AL-only: $4

Ryan Rua, Rangers - Rua's already made a handful of starts for Texas, collecting six hits (one double) in 20 at-bats. He figures to continue seeing time against left-handed pitching, and 26-year-old has flashed a little bit of power, but there's not nearly enough to warrant any more than a few bucks at the most in an AL-only league. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $3

Jerry Sands, White Sox - The 28-year-old homered in his first start of the year, but fanned in his other three plate appearances. J.B. Shuck remains the top reserve outfielder, and it seems likely Sands will be among the first on the chopping block when the club needs a fresh arm. 12-team mixed: No; 15-team mixed: No; AL-only: $1