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AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.

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 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) $ (AL-Only)
Alex Cobb TB SP B 7 15 35
Colby Lewis TEX SP C 1 3 7
Daniel Mengden OAK SP C No No 3
Alex Meyer LA SP B 1 3 7
Luis Severino NY SP B No 2 5
Jordan Zimmermann DET SP B 5 12 Owned
Andrew Bailey LA RP D No 1 4
Deolis Guerra LA RP D No 2 5
J.C. Ramirez LA RP D 1 3 6
Danny Barnes TOR RP E No No 1
Wade Davis KC RP C 11 25 Owned
Sean Doolittle OAK RP C No 1 4
Jandel Gustave HOU RP D No No 2
Jonathan Holder NY RP D No No 3
James Hoyt HOU RP D No No 2
Joe Kelly BOS RP D No No 2
Yohander Mendez TEX RP C No No 3
Curt Casali TB C E No No 1
Tony Cruz KC C E No No 1
Juan Graterol LA C E No No 1
Ryan Hanigan BOS C E No No 1
Adam Moore CLE C E No No 1
Kevan Smith CHI C E No No 1
Jesus Sucre SEA C E No No 1
Josh Thole TOR C E No No 1
John Hicks DET C E No No 2
Caleb Joseph BAL C E No No 2
John Ryan Murphy MIN C E No No 2
Ji-Man Choi LA 1B D No No 2
Brett Nicholas TEX 1B E No No 2
Tyler White HOU 1B E No No 1
Hanser Alberto TEX 2B E No No 1
Whit Merrifield KC 2B D No No 3
Rob Refsnyder NY 2B E No No 1
Joe Wendle OAK 2B D No No 3
Kaleb Cowart LA 3B C No No 3
Hunter Dozier KC 3B C No 1 4
Deven Marrero BOS 3B E No No 1
Yoan Moncada BOS 2B A 12 27 55
Ryan Goins TOR SS E No No 1
Erik Gonzalez CLE SS D No No 2
Michael Bourn BAL OF D No No 2
Byron Buxton MIN OF A 3 7 17
Darrell Ceciliani TOR OF E No No 1
Coco Crisp CLE OF C No No 3
Ben Gamel SEA OF C No 2 5
Terrance Gore KC OF D No 1 4
JaCoby Jones DET OF C No No 3
Matt McBride OAK OF E No No 2
Dalton Pompey TOR OF C No 2 5
Drew Stubbs BAL OF D No No 1
Eric Young Jr. NY OF D No No 2

Starting Pitcher

Alex Cobb, Rays: The right-hander looked good Friday in his return from Tommy John surgery, holding the Blue Jays to two runs in five innings with a 7:1 K:BB. With the possible exception of Jordan Zimmermann there won't be a pitcher with more upside joining the player pool for the rest of the season, so if you want Cobb be prepared to blow your remaining budget or bid the max if you hold the hammer when it comes to remaining FAAB. His control may still be an issue, as it often it for pitchers returning from TJ surgery, but the reward far outweighs the risk here. 12-team Mixed: $7; 15-team Mixed: $15; 12-team AL: $35

Colby Lewis, Rangers: Lewis hasn't pitched since mid-June due to shoulder woes but looks set to wrap up his rehab assignment Monday and rejoin the Rangers' rotation late this week, bumping either Martin Perez or A.J. Griffin to the bullpen. He'd be only a marginal upgrade on either of them – don't expect him to match the 3.21 ERA he held when he hit the DL -- but Lewis could net you a couple of wins over the final month without doing too much damage to your ratios. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Daniel Mengden, Athletics: Called up after Andrew Triggs' back started bothering him, Mengden got shelled by the Red Sox on Friday, adding to his misery in the majors. His Triple-A numbers this year have been outstanding, which gives him a smidge of keeper potential, but he's got a lot to prove (and little time to do it) before you'll want to risk him on your roster if you're in the hunt for a title this year. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Alex Meyer, Angels: Picked up from the Twins in the Ricky Nolasco/Hector Santiago deal, Meyer dominated for four scoreless innings at Triple-A last week (two hits and six K's with no walks) and that was good enough for the Angels. The oft-injured prospect with the big fastball had been on the shelf for three months due to “shoulder fatigue” so don't expect a lot of length or wins from him, but he could give you some strikeouts in the short term and his upside makes him an intriguing keeper stash. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Luis Severino, Yankees: Severino's been frankly awful in the majors this season, but Chad Green's elbow injury could give him another shot in the Yankees' rotation. You have to wonder if Severino's been tipping his pitches or something because his 2016 numbers in the bigs don't line up with either his 2015 performance or even his solid performance at Triple-A this year. It's easy to forget that he's still only 22 and has plenty of time to figure things out, but while he still has keeper value you can't count on him to help your title push in September. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers: After throwing 60 pitches in a rehab start Wednesday, Zimmermann seems just about ready to return to the Tigers' rotation from his neck injury. He's a better pitcher than his current 4.44 ERA, although obviously not as good as the ridiculous 1.50 ERA he had in mid-May, and with Detroit's offense behind him he could give your staff a significant boost over the final weeks. 12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $12; 12-team AL: Owned

Relief Pitcher

Andrew Bailey / Deolis Guerra / J.C. Ramirez, Angels: The Angels' closer carousel keeps spinning with Fernando Salas now a Met and Cam Bedrosian ruled out for the rest of 2016. Ramirez's big fastball arguably makes him the favorite for the job, although his velocity hasn't translated into K's at the major league level over the last two years. Guerra has the best ratios of anyone left in the 'pen, while the recently recalled Bailey is the only one with prior closing experience even if it did come five years and four teams ago. I was wrong about Salas getting and keeping the job last time so I won't make any guesses this time around and just suggest you cast a wide net instead, as any of the three could plausibly get the nod from Mike Scioscia. Bailey – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4 / Guerra – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5 / Ramirez – 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $6

Danny Barnes, Blue Jays: If I have roster spots lying around doing nothing at the end of the season in a keeper or dynasty league, one of my favorite uses for them is to collect all the high-K relief arms I can, as you never know what might happen in the offseason. It's the ultimate application of Ron Shandler's tried-and-true “draft for skills, not roles” rule – strikeouts in the bullpen tend to lead to higher-leverage roles eventually, so why not get a jump on tomorrow's potential closers today? Barnes isn't the ideal subject for the experiment as he relies more on deception than big-time velocity to get his strikeouts, but anyone with a 0.35 ERA and 13.2 K/9 rate at Triple-A is going to get at least a dollar's worth of my FAAB and attention. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Wade Davis, Royals: Davis missed the entire month of August with elbow issues and got touched up for two runs Friday in his return, but he looked more like his old self Saturday and the fact that the Royals used him in back-to-back games is a great sign that they aren't worried about his arm. If he got dropped and you need saves, he's worth throwing a max bid at. 12-team Mixed: $11; 15-team Mixed: $25; 12-team AL: Owned

Sean Doolittle, Athletics: Doolittle was activated from the DL on Friday but hasn't seen any action yet, which isn't exactly encouraging given his checkered health record. Ryan Madson hasn't allowed a run since the end of July and is in no danger of losing his closer spot, so assuming Doolittle's shoulder isn't still bothering him he's probably looking at a setup role. He can give you K's and holds, but don't expect any saves from him down the stretch. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Jandel Gustave, Astros: Gustave's another high-K relief arm stash for 2017, boasting a fastball that averages 97 mph and putting up solid numbers between Triple-A and the majors this year. The Astros could see some bullpen turnover in the offseason given how Luke Gregerson and Will Harris faltered when they were needed, so while the 23-year-old Gustave isn't necessarily likely to wind up in a high-leverage role next season, it's not out of the question. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Jonathan Holder, Yankees: I love it when kids like this come out of nowhere. Holder, a sixth round pick in 2014, started the year in High-A and looked untouchable in his first couple of outings, so the Yankees bumped him up to Double-A. He stayed untouchable at Trenton, posting a 2.20 ERA and 59:7 K:BB in 41 innings and seeing some work as their closer, so they moved him up to Triple-A. His numbers got even better – Holder posted a 0.89 ERA and inconceivable 35:0 K:BB (yes, that's a zero) in 20.1 innings with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, including last Sunday's mind-boggling performance when he struck out 11 straight Rochester Red Wings. What choice did the Yankees have but to add him to the 40-man roster and bring him up to the Show, really? Holder's fastball is good rather than great, sitting in the 92-95 mph range, but he complements it with a knee-locking curve and he attacks hitters with a closer's mentality. It's easy to see him sliding into the setup job for the rebuilding Yankees and should anything happen to Dellin Betances, well, you might be very glad you stashed Holder before everyone else caught on to him. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

James Hoyt, Astros: Hoyt pairs nicely with Gustave in the Astros' bullpen. Featuring a mid-90s fastball and nasty slider, Hoyt dominated Triple-A this year (1.64 ERA, 15.2 K/9) but has struggled with the long ball a little in his brief exposure to big league bats. Unlike Gustave though, the future is now for the 29-year-old righty, so he'll need to capitalize on his chances soon to establish himself as a viable late-inning option in Houston. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Joe Kelly, Red Sox: The BoSox finally gave up on trying to make Kelly work as a starter and moved him to a relief role at Pawtucket, and the result was a 1.54 ERA and 46:6 K:BB in 35 innings at Triple-A. Boston needs help getting the ball to Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning so look for Kelly to quickly work his way into a setup role if he keeps pitching like that. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Yohander Mendez, Rangers: The 21-year-old Mendez's future probably lies in the Rangers' rotation but for now he'll work in relief during a pennant chase and get some valuable experience. He started the year off by humiliating High-A hitters with a low 90s fastball and quality curve and changeup. Double-A hitters fared a little better but it wasn't until a promotion to Triple-A that his K/9 rate fell below 9.0, although he still posted a 0.57 ERA in 31.1 innings at Round Rock. Given his lanky frame there are some concerns about whether he can hold up in the rotation long-term, but Texas will give him every opportunity to succeed as a starter, perhaps as soon as 2017. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3


Curt Casali, Rays / Tony Cruz, Royals / Juan Graterol, Angels / Ryan Hanigan, Red Sox / Adam Moore, Indians / Kevan Smith, White Sox / Jesus Sucre, Mariners / Josh Thole, Blue Jays: Welcome to September, when every club calls up a third catcher. None of these guys belong on a fantasy roster – no, not even Hanigan – but they're available if you need them. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

John Hicks, Tigers: Hicks gets a separate mention after managing a .303/.356/.485 line at Triple-A this year and only being 27, which gives him some hypothetical upside. The Tigers are his third organization in the last 14 months though, so don't get too excited. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Caleb Joseph, Orioles: Joseph hasn't been able to find his power stroke at all this season, either in the major leagues or the minors, but he did pop 11 homers in 100 games for Baltimore last year and does have a 22-HR campaign on his resume (at Double-A in 2013), so like Hicks he has to be considered a little more favorably than your average scrub catcher. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

John Ryan Murphy, Twins: I guess the Yankees knew what they were doing when they picked Gary Sanchez over Murphy as their catcher of the future. Murphy's struggled all year at the plate, but he's still only 25 and could be the Twins' starter next year with Kurt Suzuki headed into free agency. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

First Base

Ji-Man Choi, Angels: The disparity between Choi's numbers at Salt Lake (.346/.434/.527 in 53 games) and Los Angeles (.167/.265/.353 in 43 games) scream Quadruple-A hitter, but it's not like the Angels have much to lose right now by giving him another shot. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Brett Nicholas, Rangers: Nicholas qualifies at catcher in most leagues, which is the most interesting thing about his fantasy resume. He's basically a slightly younger Caleb Joseph. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Tyler White, Astros: The Astros' Opening Day first baseman wasn't able to follow up his huge spring with any kind of consistent production in the majors, and his Triple-A performance is nothing to write home about either. A.J. Reed's struggling to make contact, but White isn't a viable alternative. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Second Base

Hanser Alberto, Rangers: Purely a depth infield option for the Rangers, Alberto doesn't have any real fantasy upside. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Whit Merrifield, Royals: Merrifield got some surprising playing time with the Royals earlier in the year when they were dealing with some injuries, but his role in September figures to be a lot more limited. His speed gives him some keeper value though if he winds up in a super-utility role with the club in 2017. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Yoan Moncada, Red Sox: The 21-year-old wunderkind wasted little time acclimating to the majors, going 2-for-5 in his first start with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. He has struck out in three of his first six at-bats, but did I mention that Moncada is only 21? The Cuban was the top fantasy prospect in the minors for a reason and while there's plenty of risk here given his age and possible steep learning curve, there's also four or even five-category upside over the next four weeks if his batting average doesn't collapse. He might have second base eligibility in many league too, even though the Red Sox are using him at third, giving his value an additional boost. The recommended bids listed here are for re-draft formats, as it's hard to imagine he's available in any keeper or dynasty league. If he is, you'll have to try and walk that fine line between bidding high enough to get him but not so much that he's not worth protecting. 12-team Mixed: $12; 15-team Mixed: $27; 12-team AL: $55

Rob Refsnyder, Yankees: Refsnyder's been considered the Yankees' second baseman of the future in some circles, but he doesn't offer much power or speed and the acquisition of Gleyber Torres in the Aroldis Chapman gives him a very short window in which to establish himself. He'll likely end up a utility player down the road. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Joe Wendle, Athletics: The 26-year-old has little left to prove in the minors and will get his first shot at the big club in September. There's some upside here for a middle infielder, as Wendle could hit double digits in HR and SB over a full campaign, but his batting average could be a liability given his minor league strikeout numbers. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Third Base

Kaleb Cowart, Angels: The Angels have been giving Cowart regular at-bats since his call-up and he's actually done something with them, hitting .275 over the last two weeks. His 0:11 BB:K in 40 at-bats is a glaring warning that he still doesn't have big league pitching figured out, though. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Hunter Dozier, Royals: After a couple of awful minor league seasons that squandered nearly all of his prospect pedigree, Dozier bounced back in 2016 and earned himself a September call-up. He still strikes out too much to maintain his strong batting averages in the bigs, but 23 home runs in 129 games between Double-A and Triple-A can't be ignored. The question for Dozier is whether the Royals have any room for him next year. Cheslor Cuthbert's now firmly ahead of him on the third base depth chart even if Mike Moustakas doesn't come back healthy, and second base doesn't seem to be an option. Still, the talent is there to make him worth stashing. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Deven Marrero, Red Sox: This is not the Red Sox third baseman you are looking for. No, wait, I know that sounds like a Star Wars reference, but Marrero really isn't the Boston third baseman you want this week. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1


Ryan Goins, Blue Jays: Going will be a late-inning defensive sub for the Jays down the stretch. From a fantasy perspective though, the fewer at-bats he gets, the better. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Erik Gonzalez, Indians: Gonzalez has put together a decent year at Triple-A (.296/.329/.450 with 11 homers in 104 games, although 12 steals in 22 attempts doesn't suggest he'll see many green lights in Cleveland) but barring an injury to Francisco Lindor or Jason Kipnis, there's no path to at-bats for him. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2


Michael Bourn, Orioles: Bourn's now on his fourth team in the last two seasons – fifth, if you count his brief stint with the Jays on a minor league deal earlier in the year – and he may not be long for the majors. The Orioles need some depth in the outfield though, so the one-category fantasy asset will hang onto a bench role for the next few weeks. He might get you a couple of steals. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Byron Buxton, Twins: Buxton's still only 22 and has a .327/.377/.563 line in 62 career games at Triple-A with 12 home runs and nine steals, folks. Quit panicking. If someone in your league did panic and cut him loose after another injury-marred season though, pounce on him, even in a re-draft league. A healthy Buxton having a big September wouldn't be surprising at all. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team AL: $17

Darrell Ceciliani, Blue Jays: This is mercifully the last stop on the Buffalo-Toronto shuttle this year for Ceciliani. He's still just a fifth outfielder though. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Coco Crisp, Indians: Crisp's bat might perk up a little now that he's out of Oakland and in a pennant race, but he's unlikely to see any more at-bats with the Indians than he did with the A's. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Ben Gamel, Mariners: There didn't seem to be much a of future for Gamel in New York, so the Yankees did him a solid and dealt him to the Mariners. After hitting .300 or better with good walk rates in each of the last two season at Triple-A while stealing 32 bases he could be a nice fit in the leadoff spot in Seattle, and the club should give him a long look in that role in September. He could be a nice keeper stash but that doesn't mean he's got no value in re-draft leagues, especially if you need a boost in runs. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Terrance Gore, Royals: Just what the Royals need, a pinch running specialist. Gore has six steals for Kansas City over the last two seasons in just 14 games played, which is actually pretty impressive. If you need steals and can afford to get little from a roster spot in any other category, Gore's your man. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

JaCoby Jones, Tigers: The 24-year-old is what passes for a prospect in the Tigers' threadbare system. His .243/.309/.356 line at Triple-A was not a product of bad luck (he struck out 97 times in 79 games) but Detroit will still give him a chance to show he can be at least useful, slotting him in at third base and center field in his first three big leagues games. He's got a bit of keeper value but keep your expectations for September well in check. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Matt McBride, Athletics: He's basically Oakland's version of Brett Nicholas, qualifying at catcher without offering much more as a fantasy asset. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Dalton Pompey, Blue Jays: The Jays may now be regretting rushing Pompey all the way to the majors in 2014, as his numbers have stagnated at Triple-A over the last couple of seasons and his rep as a prospect has taken a big hit. He's still only 23 and is by no means a lost cause, especially given his steals potential (34 SB over a full season's worth of games at Buffalo the last two years), but he needs to start showing a little more to continue being thought of as the team's center fielder of the future. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Drew Stubbs, Orioles: Another castoff the O's found in the bargain bin, he'll be a late-inning defensive replacement for Baltimore down the stretch but isn't likely to see many at-bats. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Eric Young Jr., Yankees: Young returns to the majors to supply a little veteran savvy to the Yankees' bench. He's not likely to see much playing time, but he did steal 30 bases in the bigs as recently as 2014 and had 23 at Triple-A this year, so he could give you a couple of SBs in a pinch. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2