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NL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

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.

This year, we're incorporating 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, which are sortable by column (click on the header), include a very 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.

As always, if there is a player that was not discussed in the article that you would like to know about, feel free to ask about the player in the comments.

PLAYER TEAM POS GRADE $ (12-Team Mixed) $ (15-Team Mixed) $ (NL-Only)
Casey Kelly ATL SP E No 1 4
Junior Guerra MIL SP D 4 9 14
Ben Lively PHI SP E 0 1 4
Alex Reyes STL SP C 1 4 7
Jameson Taillon PIT SP C 2 7 11
Julio Urias LA SP B 2 7 11
Zack Wheeler NYM SP C 1 4 7
Anthony DeSclafani CIN SP D 1 4 7
Hyun-Jin Ryu LA SP B 5 12 18
Addison Reed NYM RP D 0 2 5
Miguel Castro COL RP D 0 1 4
Corey Knebel MIL RP D 0 1 4
Will Smith MIL RP C 2 5 8
Sergio Romo SF RP D No 0 2
Tyler Flowers ATL C D 1 4 7
Austin Hedges SD C D 1 3 6
Nick Hundley COL C C 3 7 11
Matt Adams STL 1B D 8 14 Owned
Alen Hanson PIT 2B D No 1 4
Chase Utley LA 2B C 3 9 Owned
J.P. Crawford PHI SS B 5 10 16
Matt Reynolds NYM SS E No No 2
Alexi Amarista SD SS E No 0 4
Wilmer Flores NYM SS D 1 4 7
Jhonny Peralta STL SS C 3 9 14
Eric Campbell NYM 3B E No No 4
Yangervis Solarte SD 3B D 3 9 14
Michael Bourn ARI OF E No 1 4
Keon Broxton MIL OF E No No 4
Matt Joyce PIT OF D No No 5
Peter O'Brien ARI OF D No No 3
Steve Selsky CIN OF E No No 0
Trayce Thompson LA OF D 4 9 17
Scott Van Slyke LA OF E No 3 7
Matt Szczur CHI OF E No No 2

Starting Pitcher

Casey Kelly, Braves – Kelly, who was a key piece in the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox, suffered through an injury-plagued and ineffective five seasons in the San Diego organization. He got a fresh start when Atlanta acquired him along with catcher Ricardo Rodriguez in exchange for Christian Bethancourt this past December. Kelly compiled a 2.63 ERA over seven appearances, including five starts, and 37.2 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett this season to earn a second call-up Sunday. In his first outing for Atlanta, Kelly tossed three scoreless innings in a bullpen appearance. This time, he will start Sunday against the Phillies. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4

Junior Guerra, Brewers – Guerra has more than held his own since his promotion from Triple-A Colorado Springs, going 3-0 with a 3.96 ERA in his first four major league starts. His most recent start was by far his best as he allowed three runs, five hits and three walks while striking out a career-high 11 in seven innings against the Cubs. At Triple-A, he posted a 4.63 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with a 23:9 K:BB in four starts (23.1 innings), building off the success he had at Double-A and Triple-A for the White Six last year after spending six seasons in independent leagues. Guerra mixes a mid-90s fastball and nasty splitter to retire hitters and has earned a fairly long leash in Milwaukee thanks to his fine start. 12-team Mixed: $4; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team NL: $14

Ben Lively, Phillies – Lively came to the Phillies from the Reds on New Year’s Eve 2015 for Marlon Byrd. In 2014, he pitched at High-A and Double-A, posting a 3.88 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and a 76:36 K:BB in 72 innings for Pensacola. Lively struggled at Double-A last year but has dominated there this season, going 6-0 with a 1.53 ERA and a 46:14 K:BB in 47 innings for Reading. He looks ready for a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and could see a cup of coffee in the majors later this year. 12-team Mixed: $0; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4 (early spec call-up bid)

Alex Reyes, Cardinals – Reyes’ 50-game suspension for marijuana ended Thursday and he will make his season debut for Triple-A Memphis on Sunday against Fresno. As we wrote in our preseason outlook: “last season, Reyes posted a 2.49 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and an eye-popping 151 strikeouts in 101.1 innings across three levels, finishing with a strong eight-start showing with Double-A Springfield. Reyes pumps gas that can touch 100 mph, but he also boasts a plus curveball and a changeup that should be average or better in time.” Reyes needs to work a bit on his control, but that is nitpicking. If he gets off to a strong start in the minors, Reyes could be called up initially to pitch in relief, like Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez before him, and be part of the 2017 Cardinals rotation. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7 (early spec bid)

Jameson Taillon, Pirates – Taillon continues to excel, posting a 1.82 ERA and 51:5 K:BB through 49.1 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis. As I wrote a month ago, Taillon was to be the next big thing in Pittsburgh, but injuries robbed him of two straight years. His velocity is no longer in the mid-to-upper 90s, topping out around 90-91 mph, but his curveball has become a more effective weapon. If he can stay healthy and continue to pitch even close to what he has done so far this season, Taillon could get a summertime promotion. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team NL: $11 (early spec bid)

Julio Urias, Dodgers – Urias, the Dodgers’ uber-prospect, continues to roll at Triple-A Oklahoma City, extending his scoreless streak to 27 frames with five shutout innings Friday. With those scoreless innings, he lowered his PCL-best ERA to 1.10 and he has allowed just 24 hits with a 41:8 K:BB in 41 innings. As I wrote a few weeks ago, Los Angeles has been cautious with Urias, limiting his innings and pitches since he turned professional, but his talent may force LA to promote him to the big leagues in the very near future. He is still being considered for a bullpen role, as he could pitch multiple innings per appearance and could also serve as a swingman when necessary. Since he only threw 86.1 innings last season, Urias, who has a plus-fastball, nasty curveball and developing changeup, may be limited to just 110-120 innings this season, many of which could come in the majors. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team NL: $11 (up bid if he gets a starting rotation spot)

Zack Wheeler, Mets – Wheeler, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in Match 2015, is still on track for a July 1 return to the Mets. Prior to his injury, Wheeler took a major step forward in 2014, going 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 185.1 innings along with improved groundball and walk rates. If all goes right, Wheeler, who mixes a mid-90s fastball that tops out at 97 mph with a nasty mid-70s curveball and work-in-progress changeup, will become the fifth Musketeer in New York this summer. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7 (early spec return bid)

Injury activation/updates

Anthony DeSclafani, Reds – DeSclafani, sidelined with an oblique injury, threw a 45-pitch live batting practice session Friday. It looked like he was going to rejoin the Reds after making two rehab starts in April, but he aggravated the injury and had to be shut down until recently. Prior to the injury DeSclafani, who had 151 strikeouts in 184.2 innings in 2015, was slated to start Opening Day as he looked to build on his successful first year in Cincinnati. His next rehab start will come Wednesday at Triple-A Louisville and DeSclafani should be back in the majors after making three starts. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers – Ryu made his second rehab start for High-A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday, allowing a pair of home runs in three innings while throwing 44 pitches. His fastball was around 87 mph as he threw at about 60-70 percent effort. Ryu will make his next rehab start Wednesday for Triple-A Oklahoma City and is expected to make three more starts to build up his pitch count before rejoining the Dodgers the first week of June. That would put his total rehab time at about 13 months after undergoing surgery last May to repair a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder. 12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $12; 12-team NL: $18 (slightly upped bid from last week)

Relief Pitcher

Addison Reed, Mets – Reed tossed another scoreless inning Saturday, lowering his ERA to 2.25 on the year. He now has a 26:6 K:BB in 20 innings along with nine holds on the season. Reed’s turnaround and resurgence can be traced to his move from the third base to first base side of the rubber last May 15. After making that move, his K-rate has spiked while his BB-rate has dropped substantially, resurrecting his career. 12-team Mixed: $0; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team NL: $5

Injury activation/updates

Miguel Castro, Rockies – Castro broke camp with the Rockies but was shut down April 17 with right shoulder inflammation. Prior to landing on the DL, Castro had allowed one run on two hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in six innings. Last season, Castro began the season as the Blue Jays’ closer but faltered in the role. He landed in the minors and then came to the Rockies in the Tulo deal, after which he struck out six in 5.1 innings albeit with six runs allowed. If Colorado trades Jake McGee, Castro could be next in line to close. 12-team Mixed: $0; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4

Corey Knebel / Will Smith, Brewers – Knebel, out with a strained left oblique since early April, threw a bullpen session Friday. He earned a significant role in the Brewers’ bullpen last year, using his mid-90s fastball and solid slider to strike out 58 in 50.1 innings to go with a 3.22 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. He should head out on a rehab assignment in the next week or two and could return to the Brewers' 25-man roster later this month or in early June to set up closer Jeremy Jeffress. Smith, out since spring training with a torn right LCL, threw live batting practice on Saturday. He has steadily progressed from pitching and fielding practice and agility drills to tossing successful bullpen sessions and now live BP. Prior to getting injured, he was battling Jeffress to open the season as Milwaukee’s closer. Now, once he completes a rehab assignment, he should set up Jeffress when he returns in mid-June. Knebel - 12-team Mixed: $0; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4 (early spec return bid) / Smith - 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team NL: $8 (early spec return bid)

Sergio Romo, Giants – Romo, out since April 10 with a strained elbow flexor tendon in his pitching arm, threw 24 pitches Friday in an extended spring training game in Arizona. The next step will be for him to make a few minor league rehab appearances at Triple-A Sacramento and then rejoin the Giants, possibly in 10-14 days. Once Romo returns to the majors, he will slot back in as one of Santiago Casilla’s setup men. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $2


Tyler Flowers, Braves – Flowers is the backup to A.J. Pierzynski but has already played 22 games with 71 at-bats. In addition, his playing time has ticked up a bit in May, which has also come with a rise in production and a solid line across the board. Flowers is eight years younger than AJP and on a two-year deal, so he is the possible starter in 2017. In addition, could get the starting job this season if Pierzynski, who is only on a one-year deal, is traded by the deadline. 12-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4, 12-team NL: $7

Injury activation/updates

Austin Hedges, Padres – Hedges lost out to Christian Bethancourt this spring in his battle to back up Derek Norris. He was off to a strong start at Triple-A El Paso, batting .333/.385/.583 with two home runs in 10 games, before landing on the disabled list with a hamate bone fracture that required late-April surgery and was to sideline him six-to-eight weeks. Hedges had his cast removed and was able to play catch Wednesday, keeping him in line for a June return. If he gets hot again at the plate, Hedges could get recalled and possibly become the starter if Norris is traded. However, Bethancourt has played better than expected, so a platoon might be in order. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team NL: $6 (early spec bid)

Nick Hundley, Rockies – Hundley, out since May 4 with a strained oblique, was finally able to catch Thursday. He has yet to swing the bat, but the good news is the pain has subsided, enabling him to catch. This is Hundley’s second stint on the DL this season, having missed time earlier with a concussion. But until he swings a bat and is able to take batting practice, no timetable for his return can be set. Once he does return to action for the Rockies, Hundley will slot back into to his starting catcher role. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $7, 15-team NL: $11

First Base

Matt Adams, Cardinals – Adams’ solid May continued Saturday, as he went 2-for-4 with a home run and three runs scored against the Diamondbacks. After a rough start, Adams is now hitting .291/.344/.477 with four home runs, 17 RBI and 11 runs scored. Adams still sits against most lefties but he did start Saturday against Robbie Ray and could be in line for more playing time moving forward due to his strong play lately. 12-team Mixed: $8; 15-team Mixed: $14, 15-team NL: Owned

Second Base

Alen Hanson, Pirates – Hanson got his first exposure to the majors when he was called up this week after Sterling Marte was placed on paternity leave. When Marte returned, Hanson was as expected sent back to the minors. Hanson was hitting .288/.309/.398 with two home runs, 11 RBI and seven stolen bases for Triple-A Indianapolis when he was promoted. He now will see some time in the outfield to increase his versatility and could be promoted again later this season. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1, 15-team NL: $4 (if you can stash him)

Chase Utley, Dodgers – Utley, the most hated player in Queens, opened the season as the Dodgers’ starting second baseman with Howie Kendrick (calf) on the disabled list. The expectation was that once Kendrick returned, Utley would move to the bench. Kendrick is back but seeing time at other positions, affording Utley solid playing time. Utley is on pace for over 500 at-bats, posting a solid line, though that has been propped up by a possibly unsustainable high BABIP so tread somewhat carefully. 12-team Mixed: $3; 12-team NL: $9, 12-team NL: Owned


J.P. Crawford, Phillies – Crawford, the Phillies’ best hitting prospect, was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Sunday. He hit .265/.398/.390 with three home runs, eight doubles, and 13 RBI over 36 games with Double-A Reading to earn the move up to the next level. The slash line is fairly close to what he hit in 86 games last year at Reading, with a slight in the SLG but major rise in OBP thanks to a 30:21 BB:K ratio. Crawford should be up in Philly before too long, possibly by midseason, where he will take over as the team’s starting shortstop and provide a nice blend of power and speed. 12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $10; 12-team NL: $16 (early spec bid, up in keeper leagues)

Matt Reynolds, Mets – Reynolds was promoted this week to give the Mets middle infield and third base depth. He wasn’t setting the world on fire in the minors, as he was hitting just .238/.303/.369 at Triple-A Las Vegas. But Reynolds is on the 40-man roster while Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera, who might be better options, are not. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $2

Injury activation/updates

Alexi Amarista, Padres – Amarista, sidelined since April 20 due to a right hamstring strain, was activated off the disabled list Wednesday. He isn’t playing daily initially but should slot back as the starting second baseman before too long. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $4

Wilmer Flores, Mets – Flores, out since May 9 with a strained right hamstring, will begin a rehab stint Tuesday. Assuming he has no setbacks, look for Flores to be activated when first eligible Friday. If Lucas Duda’s back injury continues to linger and/or proves to be a disc issue, Flores should be in line for a fair amount of playing time at first base in his stead. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7

Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals – Peralta, who underwent surgery on his left thumb March 10, began a rehab stint Friday, batting second and playing shortstop for Low-A Peoria. That rehab stint could last up to 20 days, after which he will rejoin the Cardinals. Aledmys Diaz has ably replaced Peralta, so to keep him in the lineup the veteran will see some time at third base during his rehab stint and there are some rumors that Peralta could see time at first as well. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team NL: $14 (slightly upped early spec bid)

Third Base

Eric Campbell, Mets – Campbell was profiled last week, as he was in line for more playing time with Wilmer Flores landing on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. That possible extra action has proven to be the case and he has and may continue to earn more at-bats than expected with Lucas Duda dealing with a back issue that could land him on the DL. Campbell's sole contribution has been a solid OBP so don’t expect much from him. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $4

Injury activation/updates

Yangervis Solarte, Padres – Solarte, out since April 9 with a strained right hamstring, was activated and rejoined the Padres on Saturday after two games with Triple-A El Paso. Jose Pirela has been optioned to make room for Solarte, who is resuming his role as San Diego’s starting third baseman. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team NL: $14


Michael Bourn, Diamondbacks – Bourn was profiled last week after he signed a minor-league deal with the D-Backs following his parting of ways with Toronto. He gets another mention as he was called up last Sunday due to David Peralta being out with a wrist injury. Chris Owings is seeing most of the time in center field but Bourn is in the mix for playing time, having seen two games there his first week in the desert. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4

Keon Broxton, Brewers – Broxton got off to a horrible start after making the Brewers out of spring training, going 0-for-16 in six games. That slump landed him at Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he hit .301/.390/.583 with seven home runs and 18 RBI in 103 at-bats, but some of that production has to be discounted due to the park. Broxton earned a second chance with Domingo Santana landing on the DL with a shoulder injury. Kirk Nieuwenhuis has given Milwaukee better than expected production and should be in the lineup every day against right-handed pitching, but Broxton could see some starts against lefties and possible more, if Nieuwenhuis hits a rough patch. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $4

Matt Joyce, Pirates – Joyce doesn’t see lots of playing time but he has been extremely productive when he is on the field. He is batting .333 with an OPS above 1.000 along with five home runs and 15 RBI in just 54 at-bats and 68 plate appearances. Those numbers have value in DFS and NL-only leagues. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $5

Peter O'Brien, Diamondbacks – The D-Backs are considering promoting O’Brien to provide some help in their depleted outfield. With injuries to both A.J. Pollock and David Peralta, the Arizona outfield is thin, prompting the discussion regarding O'Brien. The problem is what role would he fill and can he come off the bench. He's doing his part to force the issue, batting .327 with a .987 OPS, 12 home runs and 31 RBI in 37 games, but his poor outfield defense makes him a DH candidate so he could be called up to serve that type of role when Arizona is on the road at an AL park. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $3

Steve Selsky, Reds – Selsky, who was batting .275/.380/.383 with 33 strikeouts and 19 walks in 120 at-bats this season at Triple-A Louisville, was promoted Friday with Tim Adleman landing on the disabled list. While in the majors, Selsky will provide some outfield depth but his stint may last only until Cincinnati recalls a starter to replace Adleman in the rotation. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $0

Trayce Thompson, Dodgers – Thompson continues to rake, blasting his seventh home run Saturday night against the Padres. When the White Sox called up Thompson last year, he had a reputation as a glove-first, athletic outfielder with some power who strikes out a lot. Thompson displayed better than expected prowess at the plate and was stolen by LA as part of a three-team deal this offseason. His path to playing time looked blocked, but injuries along with Thompson maximizing the chances he has gotten has afforded him fairly consistent at-bats. That may change when Scott Van Slyke and Andre Ethier return, but for now, roll with Thompson. 12-team Mixed: $4; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team NL: $17

Injury activation/updates

Scott Van Slyke, Dodgers – Van Slyke, out since April 9 with a lower back injury, began a rehab stint at High-A Rancho Cucamonga on Sunday. It took him several weeks to be cleared for baseball activities and two more to regain his conditioning. Van Slyke will play several games on his rehab assignment before he is activated. After a breakthrough 2014 campaign, (.297/.386/.524 in 98 games) he had a disappointing season last year. Upon his return, Van Slyke will provide LA with added depth and a decent bat against southpaws. 12-team Mixed: $0; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team NL: $7 (early spec return bid)

Matt Szczur, Cubs – Szczur, out since May 2 with a tight right hamstring, was activated off the disabled list Saturday. He played just one game on a rehab assignment at Double-A Tennessee, but was promoted to provide depth with Jason Heyward (hip) out. Szczur will see occasional action at all three outfield spots. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $2