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June 13, 2013

Free Agent Watch

Week 11

by Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre

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Welcome to the revamped version of the Free Agent Watch. The staff at Baseball Prospectus read a number of comments on how to enhance this piece and made the following changes:

  • One Integrated Article: In NL- and AL-only leagues, there aren’t that many free agents worth writing about every week, unless you “cheat” and write about players who aren’t free agents in any kind of serious -only format. Rather than waste time telling deep-league owners whether or not they should own a player like Andrew Cashner in NL-only (hint, he’s already owned), it makes more sense to lump all of these players together.
  • Focus on More Formats: With this in mind, why write only about free agents in NL- and AL-only leagues? The new format will look at potential free agents in not only AL-only and NL-only leagues, but also 12-team mixed and 15-to-16-team mixed leagues. This gives all of our readers a flavor for what we’re thinking in any given week about your league’s free agent pool.
  • Targeted Recommendations: In order to avoid inundating our audience with information overload, we have decided to write about one hitter and one pitcher in each of the aforementioned formats. As always, we will gladly field questions in the comments section if you have any questions about players we didn’t cover herein.
  • Comparable Players: Each player we write about will list a comparable player. This is typically a ceiling projection, not what we’re “calling” for a player to do. The idea is to give you an expectation of what might happen if everything breaks right for your free agent pickup.

We hope you enjoy the new format.

12-Team Mixed

Chris Carter, 1B/OF, Houston Astros

In standard mixed leagues, Carter seems like he would be the ideal match-up play: a right-handed masher who rakes against southpaws and plays in a homer-friendly park. The splits tell an entirely different story. Carter has hit 10 of his 13 home runs against right-handed pitchers and has been absolutely awful at home. There is nothing wrong with this if you are playing in a deeper format, but in standard mixers Carter is a match-up play where you are hoping to take advantage of the splits in your favor. Another problem for Carter is that his OBP has slipped to the point where he is a borderline play even in OBP-using mixed leagues. There could be another hot streak simmering underneath, but leaving Carter on your active roster all year in the hopes that you will benefit is a risky play. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Michael Morse

Jeremy Guthrie SP, Kansas City Royals

Guthrie is an example of a pitcher who should probably be avoided in 12-team mixed and maybe even in 16-team mixed who gets way too much play when his ERA is pointing in the right direction. Guthrie has a career 4.83 FIP. Some years he defies the odds and outpitches his FIP to a great degree, but in others he doesn’t and gets pounded. At the moment, Guthrie is outpitching his FIP significantly, with a 3.60 ERA compared to a 5.67 FIP. Nothing in Guthrie’s profile suggests that this is sustainable, and neither the defense behind him nor the park will be of any great help. You can play the matchups with Guthrie, but beyond the fact that he’s subject to the whims of his defense, the low strikeout rate also dampens his value in Roto formats significantly. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Joe Saunders

Deep Mixed

Scott Kazmir, SP, Cleveland Indians

Kazmir’s ownership rates have been a bit of a rollercoaster so far in 2013, but then again, so has his performance. Spring training saw him rise from the dead, only to be shut down with a ribcage injury until the second half of April. After a 10-strikeout start against the A’s on May 9, Kazmir was back and his ownership soared to above 50 percent, but two duds against struggling offenses landed him back on most waiver wires. He’s held his own recently, with a 4.13 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 24 innings in a very tough four-start stretch that included road outings in New York, Boston, and Texas, along with one at home against Cincinnati. His ratios look bad, but he’s gotten a bit unlucky with a .362 BABIP and is striking out over a hitter an inning for the season. But the most important thing about Kazmir’s performance is his velocity—which is not only back to where it was during his days with Tampa Bay, but has increased each month of this season thus far (92.2 mph in April, 93.0 mph in May and 93.45 mph in June). Sure, he could blow up or out at any point, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a pitcher with more upside on the wire in deeper mixed leagues. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: C.J. Wilson

Tyler Colvin, OF, Colorado Rockies

This admittedly could be a very short-term add, but any time Colvin is seeing playing time, he immediately becomes fantasy relevant again. On one side, the injuries (which seemed worse at the time) to Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer have turned out to be relatively minor, but on the other side, the Rockies designated Eric Young Jr. for assignment on Wednesday. This is important, as Colvin is now much more likely to stick as the fourth outfielder/Todd Helton insurance for the foreseeable future. So why is Colvin worth hanging onto even if he’s not playing every day in deeper mixed leagues? Maybe it’s because he’s a career .325/.368/.641 hitter in Coors Field, or maybe it’s because he hit .297/.334/.556 in 343 plate appearances against right-handed pitching last year. He hit his first two homers of the season on Tuesday night, though does the first one really count if it came off Dan Haren? He could hit 12-15 more, even in limited playing time—and in leagues with daily transactions, Colvin becomes even more valuable. He’s a must-start when he’s in the lineup against a righty in Coors. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Mitch Moreland

AL-Only

Josh Thole C, Toronto Blue Jays

Even in only-league formats, a back-up catcher with seven home runs and two stolen bases across 1,035 plate appearances is nothing more than a pedestrian option as your second catcher. It is interesting to note, though, that since he was called up on Friday, Thole has started two of the Blue Jays’ four games. At the end of April, suggesting that J.P. Arencibia was at any risk to lose his job would have seemed somewhere between foolhardy and high comedy, but since May 1, Arencibia has a woeful .190/.214/.322 slash line. It is doubtful that Arencibia is going to play his way out of a job, but Thole might be more than just R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher. It’s not worth placing more than a nominal bid for Thole’s services—the best he’ll do is score and drive in the odd run now and again—but in AL-only, the possibility of playing time in a two-catcher league can’t be ignored. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Jose Lobaton

Zach Britton, SP, Baltimore Orioles

It’s no secret that Britton has long been one of my favorite prospects/pitchers/busts/sleepers, but the fact that he’s been all of those things hints at the road he’s traveled. He had one major-league start earlier this year in Seattle, and got smacked around, but that was before he found his rhythm at Triple-A. He’s found it now, as he’s 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 26 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings in his last five starts, along with a metric ton of ground balls. As the current sixth starter behind a rotation light on talent (or experience, in Kevin Gausman’s case) and somewhat heavy on injury history, Britton could find his way in before the end of the month. With a career 55 percent ground-ball rate and a 63 percent rate in Triple-A this year, he continues to be well equipped to pitch in Camden Yards. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Trevor Cahill

NL-Only

Josh Satin 1B, New York Mets

When word started spreading on Sunday night that Ike Davis was getting demoted and Josh Satin was getting the call, the initial assumption was that Satin would be getting most of the at-bats at first base for the Mets. However, it seems that the club is going to move Daniel Murphy to first base and give Jordany Valdespin an extended look at second base to see if his defense holds up there. This all might matter more if Satin were one of the organization’s top tier prospects, but he’s a 28-year-old organizational soldier. The team’s situation is still in flux at a number of positions, so Satin could still work his way into some regular playing time. It’s more likely, though, that Satin is going to only get 8-10 at-bats a week in a part-time role. His Triple-A numbers look spectacular, but Las Vegas is an extremely hitter-friendly venue, so Satin’s numbers—while strong—must be viewed contextually. He’s worth an add in NL-only if you have a dead spot, but don’t bid like he will be starting. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Gaby Sanchez

Alex Wood, RP, Atlanta Braves

One of this season’s breakout prospects, Wood had a 1.26 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 57 innings at Double-A Mississippi before getting the call up to Atlanta on May 30. To get a better sense of Wood from a scouting perspective (along with my initial fantasy thoughts), check out his Call-Up post from two weeks ago. But since he’s been up, he’s been very good, allowing only five base runners in 6 2/3 innings, while striking out seven. He’s fully capable from a skills standpoint of being one of the top setup guys to Craig Kimbrel in 2013 and can provide solid ratios, strikeouts totals, and win potential out of the bullpen (as the Braves are not afraid to use him for multiple inning stints;he’s had two already in five appearances). —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Drew Smyly

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here

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Premium Article Daily Roundup: Around ... (06/13)
<< Previous Column
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Fantasy Article Free Agent Watch: Week... (06/20)
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