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June 20, 2013
Free Agent Watch
Kubel typically runs hot and cold, and 2013 has been no exception. After busting out of the gate with a super-hot April, Kubel all but disappeared in May, posting an awful 482 OPS. He has bounced back in June to some degree. There are a couple of problems with Kubel though that makes him a borderline option at best. First, the power has been down significantly this year. Kubel’s .403 SLG would be the worst full-season number of his career, and the 16 home runs he might hit are not acceptable from a mixed-league outfielder. Second, he has fallen into a quasi-platoon with A.J. Pollock. Granted, Kubel is on the “good” side of the platoon, but again he may not be productive enough to use as a platoon option depending on how deep your league’s bench is. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Justin Smoak
Vargas is a boring option in mixed leagues, but an option nonetheless. He moved from one favorable venue in Seattle to another in Anaheim and hasn’t missed a beat. Vargas is a good example of a pitcher who can easily outdo his FIP; the pitchers’ park combined with the outfield defense and range of Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos should keep Vargas’ ERA under 4.00. He isn’t a regular guy in mixers, but a worthy stream for home starts and in particular against weaker opponents. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Paul Maholm
After starting the season on the 60-day DL with plantar fasciitis, Forsythe has returned with a bang. Over his first eight games, he has hit .321/.355/.571 with two homers and a steal—which is no joke at a very shallow position. In fact, over the past two weeks, he’s been a top-10 second baseman, despite the fact that he only showed up nine days ago. Forsythe was a popular sleeper in the preseason in deeper mixed leagues because he hinted at double-double potential in 2012, when he hit six homers and stole eight bases in just 91 games. The key with him going forward, however, will be his playing time. With Jedd Gyorko scheduled to come back off the DL within the next two weeks, Forsythe doesn’t have the clearest of roles ahead of him, but the Padres have gotten him some abbreviated playing time in left field (one game thus far). If he keeps hitting, they will likely find a way to keep his bat in the lineup a majority of the time. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Neil Walker
For all the talk about the nice step forward that Rick Porcello has taken thus far in 2013, he has still been a less valuable starting pitcher for fantasy purposes than the man he beat out for the fifth starter’s role in Detroit. Smyly can hold his own on pure value basis, ranking as a top-60 starting pitcher according to the ESPN Player Rater (14 spots higher than Porcello). It’s easy to look at his ERA/WHIP and just see him as a good reliever who probably isn’t all that exciting to own, but the most important number on his stat page is 41 2/3—which is the number of innings he’s pitched so far this season. This puts him on pace to throw nearly 100 innings on the season, and a sub-2.00 ERA (along with a fantastic WHIP) can go a long way to helping your ratios. In fact, his ERA and WHIP have both been more valuable to fantasy owners than the 2.85/1.18 marks of Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. Add to that the fact that he could both see a handful of saves while the Tigers sort out their closer mess and potentially some starts down the road if Anibal Sanchez’ sshoulder injury ends up being more serious than initially expected, and you get a player who really needs to be owned in all deep mixed formats. —Bret Sayre
Green’s career retrospective, at this point, consists of only position changes and lowered expectations. Green was supposed to be a fast mover out of the draft, but still hasn’t made the majors after being a first-round draft pick (13th overall) in 2009. However, after not having a true defensive home for a few years, the Athletics finally moved him full time to second base this year, which slightly perked up the ears of fantasy owners, considering the dearth of talent at the position. The one thing Green has done continuously over his minor league career is hit for average—his .291 batting average in 2011 is the lowest of his professional career. With the Athletics not getting much performance out of their current second baseman, Eric Sogard, don’t be surprised to see Green get a shot in Oakland in the near future. At some point, they’re going to have to see what they’ve got here. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Marco Scutaro (not the insane 2012 second-half version)
By now, I have heard so many negative takes on Harang that I thought I’d kick the tires on him myself and see if he’s as unownable as everyone says he is. The short answer is: No, he’s not as awful as conventional wisdom makes him out to be. His K% is a robust 21.5. This would be good for 16th in the American League if Harang qualified, and would put him ahead of pitchers like CC Sabathia and Matt Moore in the category. His 4.18 FIP is right in line with Harang’s career 4.14 FIP. Mixed leaguers, you may put down your pencils and continue to the next section. In AL-only leagues, though, Harang should most definitely be owned. He has a solid matchup on the schedule next week at home against the Cubs. If you can have the luxury of a reserve list, keep Harang there and stream him. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Kevin Slowey
At this point, you’re probably saying to yourself, “I know NL-only leagues are deep, but why is this guy recommending a player with a sub-700 OPS in the Pacific Coast League?” Honestly, it’s a fair question. Struggling to start a season is nothing new for Gary Brown—he lost most of his prospect luster last year when he started out hitting .245/.325/.303 in April/May at Double-A, but rebounded to hit .300/.361/.436 with 18 steals the rest of the way. And he’s trying his hand at it again this year. In the most recent April/May, Brown hit .217/.283/.336, but he has hit .294/.351/.603 since the calendar flipped to June (including five homers). With Angel Pagan’s hamstring injury and Gregor Blanco patrolling left field, there’s certainly a scenario where Brown could force his way into some playing time if he keeps this up. The possibility is still there for him to collect double-digit steals and even hit a few balls out of the yard. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Angel Pagan
In NL-only leagues where you can stash minor leaguers, Oswalt is probably gone. However, some only leagues don’t allow pick-ups of minor leaguers in-season (in fact, some leagues don’t have farm systems/reserve lists at all). The Rockies announced on Thursday night that Oswalt will be called up for Thursday’s start in Washington. He has dominated at Double-A Tulsa, but he flopped in 59 innings for the Rangers in 2012. Despite this, Oswalt still posted a high strikeout rate and would at the very least be a match-up play in road starts. Your approach with Oswalt should depend on where your team is at the moment. If you need to gamble, Oswalt could be better than any pitcher who might come across from the American League at the trade deadline and you get a 5-6 week head start. If you have a strong staff, you might not want to run the risk that Oswalt will torch your ERA/WHIP the way he torched AL-only owners last year after his call up.
Comparable Player: Unknown. Too many variables at the moment.
Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @Mike_GianellaBP