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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)
Manny Banuelos ATL SP E No No 0
Aaron Blair ATL SP E No No 2
Michael Bolsinger LA SP E No No 2
Archie Bradley ARI SP D 1 5 9
Josh Collmenter ARI SP E No No 0
Edwin Escobar ARI SP E No No 0
Jon Gray Col SP D 3 7 11
Josh Hader MIL SP D 1 4 7
Chris Rusin COL SP E No 0 3
Braden Shipley ARI SP D 1 4 7
Dan Straily CIN SP E 1 4 7
Chris Stratton SF SP E No No 0
Albert Suarez SF SP E No No 0
Julio Urias LA SP B 3 7 11
Zack Wheeler NYM SP C 1 4 7
Daniel Wright CIN SP E 0 1 4
Anthony DeSclafani CIN SP C 3 9 14
Hyun-Jin Ryu LA SP C 6 13 19
Jhan Marinez MIL RP E No No 2
Jason Motte COL RP D 1 3 6
Will Smith MIL RP C 1 3 6
Sergio Romo SF RP D No 0 2
Nick Hundley COL C C 3 7 11
Tommy Joseph PHI 1B D 2 7 11
James Loney NYM 1B D 1 5 9
Daniel Castro ATL 2B E No No 2
Aaron Hill MIL 2B C 8 14 Owned
Chase d'Arnaud ATL SS E No No 2
Wilmer Flores NYM SS D 1 4 7
Jhonny Peralta STL SS C 4 11 16
Adonis Garcia ATL 3B D No 1 4
Ty Kelly NYM 3B E No No 0
Cody Asche PHI 3B D No 1 4
Adam Duvall CIN OF C 9 18 Owned
Peter O'Brien ARI OF D No 0 3
Jarrett Parker SF OF E No 1 5
Mallex Smith ATL OF C 9 18 Owned
Scott Van Slyke LA OF D 0 3 7

Happy birthday to my youngest daughter on May 27 and anniversary to my very understanding wife on May 29.

Starting Pitcher

Manny Banuelos, Braves – Banuelos started the year on injured reserve due to elbow soreness and returned to action last week, giving up five runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks in two innings for Low-A Rome. The Braves activated him this week and sent him to Triple-A Gwinnett. If Banuelos pitches well there, as he did last year, look for him to be up in Atlanta this summer. While he struggled in the majors last year, his stuff would warrant a second look. Health is a major concern, so there is no guarantee he stays in one piece or in the rotation due to the elbow woes. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $0

Aaron Blair, Braves – Blair receives another chance to stick in the majors, as he started Saturday after Casey Kelly threw four innings and 77 pitches out of the bullpen ,earlier in the week then got demoted. This was start number six for Blair, whose first five resulted in a 0-3 record with a 7.59 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, eight strikeouts and 12 walks in 21.1 innings. He was much better Saturday, allowing just two earned runs over 5.2 innings and he will remain in the Braves rotation moving forward. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $2

Michael Bolsinger, Dodgers – Bolsinger, who opened the season on the disabled list with an oblique injury, returned to the Dodgers on May 18. He made one start, allowing three runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out two in just 4.1 innings, against the Angels. Bolsinger was sent back down right after that start but was recalled this week to start Tuesday against the Reds. His stint this time may only last until the return of Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder), though with Julio Urias and Alex Wood getting moved back a few days, the starting staff is in a bit of flux. Due to injuries in the LA rotation last season, Bolsinger posted a 3.62 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 109.1 innings over 21 starts, but faded late with a 7.08 ERA his last five outings. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $2

Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks – Bradley got a spot start for the D-Backs on May 9, allowing four earned runs on seven hits in six innings to pick up the victory, but was sent back down after the outing. With Shelby Miller landing on the DL due to his sprained right finger, Bradley should be on his way back to Arizona. He is 5-1 with a 1.99 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 47:18 K:BB in seven starts for Triple-A Reno, and his pedigree and stuff may allow him to carry that success over to the majors. It’s worth a bid to find out if that will be the case. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team NL: $9

Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks – Collmenter had a rough spring before landing on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. He made a few rehab appearances in the minors and was activated Friday with Rubby De La Rosa hitting the DL with an inflamed right elbow. Collementer’s stuff fits better in the pen, as he lacks solid secondary offerings, but he could replace De La Rosa in the rotation. That might not happen initially though, as he needs to build up his pitch count 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $0

Edwin Escobar, Diamondbacks – Escobar will start for De La Rosa on Monday, though it may just be a one and done. He's posted a 4.68 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in five starts for Triple-A Reno since being claimed off waivers from Boston last month and his career numbers leave a lot to be desired. Escobar could be a placeholder until Arizona calls up Braden Shipley. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $0

Jon Gray, Rockies – Gray posted his fourth quality start in his last five outings Thursday, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six in a win against Boston. His home/road splits are still stark, but he dominated the Mets in a home start on May 13 and had a rare road bobble in his next start May 19 against the Cardinals. Gray added a sinker this year to go along with his mid-90s fastball, which has allowed him to generate both swings-and-misses and groundballs. While it’s hard to recommend starting Gray at home, outings like he had against the Mets mean that he isn’t a must sit if he is pitching at Coors Field. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team NL: $11

Josh Hader, Brewers – Hader, a 19th round pick by the Orioles in 2012, came to the Brewers in the Carlos Gomez trade last season. He continued his rise last year and was brilliant in the AFL, posting a 0.56 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 16 innings. Hader hasn’t slowed at all this season, as he has a microscopic 0.79 ERA and 1.02 WHIP through nine starts and 45.1 innings at Double-A Biloxi. His unorthodox delivery and build has raised questions about his durability, but for now, he projects to remain in the rotation. Hader should see Triple-A before too long and possibly be up in Milwaukee this summer. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7 (early spec bid)

Chris Rusin, Rockies – Rusin has been inserted back into the Colorado rotation, replacing Jorge De La Rosa. Other than one nightmarish start against the Giants, Rusin pitched well subbing for an injured De La Rosa (groin), who now loses his spot due to poor performance. Other than his stint with the Cubs in 2013, Rusin has failed to perform well in the majors, so temper your expectations. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $3

Braden Shipley, Diamondbacks – Shipley spent all of 2015 at Double-A Mobile, posting a 3.50 ERA over 156.2 innings while notching 118 strikeouts. He moved up to Triple-A Reno this year, building off his prior success with a 42:7 K:BB, 2.98 ERA and 1.16 WHIP through nine starts and 54.1 innings. Arizona has two opening in the rotation with Rubby De La Rosa and Shelby Miller sidelined by injuries. Archie Bradley is likely to fill one. Shipley, who converted from shortstop to pitcher in college, could eventually be promoted to fill the other spot, though Edwin Escobar gets the first shot Monday. Shipley projects to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the majors, especially if his recent rise in strikeouts carries forward. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7 (spec bid)

Dan Straily, Reds – Straily went from the Astros to San Diego and then was claimed by the Reds off waivers from the Padres just before the season. In 2013, he made 27 starts for Oakland and posted a solid 3.96 ERA in 152.3 innings of work. Since then, he has failed to even come close to replicating those numbers, bouncing to several teams. Straily opened the year in the bullpen but moved into the rotation in mid-April. He has excelled in that role, striking out 52 whiffs in 54.1 innings this year to go with a 2.98 ERA. A look behind the numbers show that he has been sustained by an absurdly low .234 BABIP while he also has a 4.32 FIP due to his high walk rate, which has yet to hurt his real numbers. So while Straily is worth a bid, tread carefully. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7

Chris Stratton / Albert Suarez, Giants – Suarez pitched five innings in relief of an injured Matt Cain (hamstring) on Friday against the Rockies, allowing three runs on five hits and a walk while striking out three. Until he joined the major league team Suarez had been a starter in the minors, both for the Angels and Giants. He could slide into the rotation in Cain’s spot if Cain is sidelined any amount of time by his injury, though Stratton, who has a 6.02 ERA at Triple-A Sacramento this season but really impressed the team during spring training, may get the first chance. Both - 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $0

Julio Urias, Dodgers – Urias, the Dodgers’ uber-prospect, was profiled last week as he continued to roll at Triple-A Oklahoma City, extending his scoreless streak to 27 innings with five shutout frames on May 20. He gets the mention again this week due to his promotion to start Friday against the Mets. He struggled in his start, lasting just 2.2 innings and giving up three earned runs on five hits and four walks while striking out three before being optioned back to the minors Saturday. At the time of his call-up, he had a PCL-best 1.10 ERA with just 24 hits allowed along with a 41:8 K:BB in 41 innings, leaving his career minor league numbers at 2.63 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 308:83 K:BB over 263.1 innings. As I wrote a few times, Los Angeles has been cautious with him, limiting his innings and pitches since he turned professional. Since he only threw 86.1 innings last season, Urias may be limited to just 110-120 innings this season, a decent amount of which could still come in the majors. His command needs some refinement, but that is nitpicking due to his overall stellar stuff as he features an upper-90s fastball, nasty curveball and developing changeup. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team NL: $11 (bid limited by innings cap and demotion back to the minors)

Zack Wheeler, Mets – Wheeler, rehabbing from March 2015 Tommy John surgery and profiled last week, gets another mention as he threw off a mound this week for the first time since the surgery. He will throw several more times before progressing to live bullpen sessions, but he is still is 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 along with improved groundball and walk rates. Wheeler mixes a mid-90s fastball that tops out at 97 mph with a nasty mid-70s curveball and work-in-progress changeup, and if all goes well with his recovery he will become the fifth Musketeer in New York this summer. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7 (same early spec return bid)

Daniel Wright, Reds – Wright filled in admirably Tuesday, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out four in 5.1 innings with Jon Moscot not ready to return to the rotation. Wright was a 10th round pick from Arkansas State in 2013 and earned the promotion with brilliant minor league numbers. In four starts between Double-A and Triple-A, Wright posted a 0.79 ERA and 32:5 K:BB over 34 innings. Wright should get at least one more start, and if he pitches well, could remain in the Cincinnati rotation. 12-team Mixed: $0; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4

Injury activation/updates

Anthony DeSclafani, Reds – DeSclafani, sidelined with an oblique injury, is slowing working his way back as he made his first rehab start at Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday, allowing three runs on three hits in three innings. He is scheduled to make his second rehab start on Monday for Triple-A Louisville and may need 2-3 more before being ready to rejoin the Reds. It looked like DeSclafani 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 likely will make two more starts at Louisville and then be back in the majors. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team NL: $14 (slightly upped bid)

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers– Ryu made his third rehab start Wednesday, allowing four hits over four scoreless innings and 55 pitches for Triple-A Oklahoma City. His fastball was clocked between 88 and 90 mph, slightly higher than his prior two starts. Ryu will make at least two more minor league starts and could return to the rotation for the team’s June 10-12 series at San Francisco. 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: $6; 15-team Mixed: $13; 12-team NL: $19 (slightly upped bid from last week)

Relief Pitcher

Jhan Marinez, Brewers – Milwaukee acquired Marinez for cash from Tampa in mid-May. After struggling for several seasons, Marinez put it together in the minors last season and has struck out 74 batters over his last 69 innings at Triple-A. He is pitching in middle relief for the Brewers but might be a sneaky source of cheap Ks in NL-only leagues. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $2

Injury activation/updates

Jason Motte, Rockies – Motte, recovering from pain in his right shoulder that forced him out during spring training, was activated off the disabled list Wednesday. Now that he is back, he should set up Jake McGee. In addition if McGee falters or, as many suspect, is traded Motte, who saved 42 games in 2012, could close for Colorado. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team NL: $6

Will Smith, Brewers – Smith, out since spring training with a torn right LCL, kicked off his rehab with High-A Brevard County, making a pair of appearances. He will pitch in back-to-back games for Triple-A Colorado Springs before rejoining the Brewers, possibly this week in Philly. Prior to getting injured, he was battling Jeremy 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. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team NL: $6 (slightly lowered bid as Jeffress looks secure in the closer role)

Sergio Romo, Giants – Romo, out since April 10 with a strained elbow flexor tendon in his pitching arm, kicked off his rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A Sacramento. He has made two appearances and should rejoin the Giants this week. 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


Injury activation/updates

Nick Hundley, Rockies – Hundley, out since May 4 with a strained oblique, is working his way back to the Rockies for the second time this year. He was finally able to hit in a batting cage Wednesday and could go on a rehab assignment next week. Hundley missed time earlier in the season with a concussion, resulting in him having just 54 plate appearances in 13 games. 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

Tommy Joseph, Phillies – Joseph, who missed three months of the 2015 season due to a concussion and struggled after he returned, was promoted May 13 after batting .347 with six home runs and 17 RBI at Triple-A. He moved out from behind the plate last year due to his concussion history and is now a first baseman. Joseph is playing against lefties and should see some time shortly against righties as well, as Ryan Howard looks to be on his way out of town or to the bench before too long. Also, check his eligibility, since some sites may have him still listed at catcher. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team NL: $11 (higher if catcher eligible)

James Loney, Mets – With Lucas Duda out at least 4-6 weeks with a stress fracture in his back, the Mets acquired Loney for cash from the Padres. The veteran was hitting .342/.373/.424 with 22 runs scored, seven doubles, two home runs and 28 RBI in 43 games with Triple-A El Paso of the Pacific Coast League. Loney broke in with the Dodgers and spent the last three years with the Rays. Tampa Bay released the left-handed hitter on April 3 and he signed with the Padres on April 8. He is a solid defensive first baseman, who used to have a solid OBP but possesses little to no power. He should see most of the action at first for NY, sitting against some lefties. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team NL: $9

Second Base

Daniel Castro, Braves – Castro will seeing time at short alongside Chase d’Arnaud with Erick Aybar hitting the disabled list. Don’t expect much production from Castro save for some counting stats. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $2

Aaron Hill, Brewers – Hill was profiled three weeks ago after hitting three home runs and driving on seven runs May 8. While the power had vanished until this past Friday, Hill has remained relatively productive at the plate, upping his average to .282 by posting a .377/.473/.623 line in May. Hill hit 26 home runs and drove in 85 runs in 2012, but since then his production and playing time have plummeted. He is a short-term option in Milwaukee who should continue to see most of the action at third base as the Brewers try to raise his value to trade him. 12-team Mixed: $8; 15-team Mixed: $14, 12-team NL: Owned


Chase d'Arnaud, Braves – D’Arnaud isn’t playing daily but has been productive lately when he gets in the lineup. Over his last seven games through May 26, d'Arnaud is 11-for-26 (.423) with three doubles, a triple and two runs scored but no RBI. Other than the average, it’s an empty batting line, but d’Arnaud is seeing time all around the diamond, which should give him multi-position eligibility in most leagues. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $2

Injury activation/updates

Wilmer Flores, Mets – Flores, out since May 9 with a strained right hamstring, kicked off a rehab stint Tuesday at Double-A Binghamton. While there, Flores played second and first base, but the latter position is where he will fill in at times when he returns to the majors with Lucas Duda sidelined by a stress fracture in his back. Flores could play first against lefties, now that the Mets have acquired James Loney, and also see time at third as David Wright deals with his back and a stiff neck. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7

Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals – Peralta, who underwent surgery on his left thumb on March 10, began a rehab stint last Friday, batting second and playing short for Low-A Peoria. He moved to Double-A Springfield this weekend, as he steadily moves up the minor league ladder. Peralta will miss 3-4 days of his rehab assignment with a cut finger that required stitches, which will set back his return date slightly. He will likely next play for Triple-A Louisville before rejoining the Cardinals in early-to-mid June. Aledmys Diaz has ably filled in, so to keep him in the lineup Peralta will see some time at third in his rehab stint and there are rumors that he could also see time at first, leaving shortstop for Diaz. 12-team Mixed: $4; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team NL: $16 (slightly upped early spec bid)

Third Base

Adonis Garcia, Braves – Garcia opened the season as the Braves’ starting third baseman but his poor fielding and weak production landed him at Triple-A on May 6. He made the most of his time there, hitting .356/.413/.616 in 19 games to earn a call-up after Reid Brignac was designated for assignment. The Braves are looking to the future, so Garcia will get a second chance and could hold off Rio Ruiz, who is struggling in the minors. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4

Ty Kelly, Mets – Kelly was promoted this week with Lucas Duda landing on the disabled list. Prior to his call up, Kelly led the Pacific Coast League in batting average (.391) with two homers and 15 RBI in 115 at-bats while walking nearly as much as he's struck out (19:20 BB:K) through 35 games. He is a bench bat for the Mets and could see some time all around the diamond. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team NL: $0

Injury activation/updates

Cody Asche, Phillies – Asche, recovering from a strained left oblique muscle he suffered in late March, moved his rehab assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Friday. He went 2-for-16 in four games at Double-A Reading after going 3-for-18 in five games at High-A Clearwater. Asche, the Phillies’ fourth round pick in 2011, will play a few games at Lehigh Valley and should rejoin the Phillies this week. When he is activated, he should see some time at third and in left field, where he should provide a little bit of pop. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4


Adam Duvall, Reds – Duvall continues to rake at the plate, blasting a three-run home run while driving in four runs Saturday. He has driven in seven runs his last two games and has hit four homers with 10 RBI over the last 10 games. Duvall is now up to 11 HR and 26 RBI on the year, and despite his 47:6 K:BB in 147 AB, he should be in your lineup daily. 12-team Mixed: $9; 15-team Mixed: $18; 12-team NL: Owned

Peter O'Brien, Diamondbacks – O’Brien was profiled last week when the news broke that the D-backs were considering promoting him to provide some help in their depleted outfield. With injuries to both A.J. Pollock and David Peralta, the Arizona outfield is thin, but the team decided not to call O’Brien up at that time. He instead got the nod Friday. O’Brien forced his way up, posting a .306/.330/.601 line with 12 HR and 32 RBI in 42 games. He will initially come off the bench as a reserve outfielder but his poor outfield defense makes him a DH candidate, so he could be called upon to serve that type of role when Arizona is on the road at an AL park. However, his stint might only last until David Peralta returns from his wrist injury. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $0; 12-team NL: $3

Jarrett Parker, Giants – Parker was called up Tuesday for his second big league stint of the season, taking the spot of Angel Pagan after Pagan hit the DL on Tuesday with a strained hamstring. Parker earned that promotion by posting a .274/.359/.607 line with 13 HR and 29 RBI in 135 at-bats at Triple-A. He has started a few games with Hunter Pence out with a hamstring injury, hitting a home run in his first start. When Pence is back, Parker will be a fourth outfielder and could see time at both corner outfield spots. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1, 12-team NL: $5

Mallex Smith, Braves – If you had any concerns that Smith would be sent down or lose playing time with Ender Inciarte back, wipe them out of your mind. Smith is seeing more playing time in left field under new manager Brian Snitker, which afford him additional at-bats. He is still sitting against lefties due to his struggles versus southpaws, but he is pretty much a full-time player against righties. Smith, who came to the Braves in the Craig Kimbrel deal, has one true skill, and that’s speed. He had 88 steals between two levels in 2014 and 57 between Double-A and Triple-A last season. He got off to a slow start but has been much better the past month and now needs to work on making better contact and improving his plate discipline. 12-team Mixed: $9; 15-team Mixed: $18, 12-team NL: Owned

Injury activation/updates

Scott Van Slyke, Dodgers – Van Slyke, out since April 9 with a lower back injury, is in the midst of a rehab assignment and he should be activated early this week. It took him several weeks to be cleared for baseball activities and two more to regain his conditioning but he is now close to returning. After a breakthrough 2014 campaign, (.297/.386/.524 in 98 games), Van Slyke had a disappointing season last year. Upon his return, he will provide LA added depth and a decent bat against southpaws. 12-team Mixed: $0; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team NL: $7