July 18, 2013
Free Agent Watch
Joyce is reaching the point in his career where he is becoming a predictable commodity: a power-hitting, low-batting-average guy who will sit against most left-handed pitchers during the season. His utility comes in leagues with daily line-up changes; in this format, Joyce is a must-start against right-handers (he is a top-20 outfielder against righties) and should be firmly planted on your bench against lefties (he typically doesn’t play). I prefer Joyce in OBP leagues, although his OBP has slipped somewhat in 2013.
Comparable Player: Josh Willingham
They moved the fences in at Petco this year, but Stults is still benefiting from home cooking in 2013. He’s also murder on left-handed batters; his .182 batting average allowed to lefties is the ninth-best mark in the majors. Stults is a match-up play in mixed leagues; it is best to start him against left-leaning lineups at home. The schedule gets tough for Stults after the break. If it stays as is, Stults will get the Cardinals and Diamondbacks on the road, the Reds and Orioles at home, and the Rockies at Coors. Things could change, but the time to take advantage of Stults in your mixed league may have passed.
Comparable Player: Jhoulys Chacin
Luke Scott, DH, Tampa Bay Rays
It doesn’t feel like too long ago that both Rays and prospect fans alike were burying Luke Scott in order to get Wil Myers up to the major-league club. However, all he’s done since then is turn into one of the best hitters on the Rays’ squad without anyone even noticing. Over the last 30 days of the first half, Scott hit .342/.405/.671 with five homers and 16 RBI. And the kicker is that while he likely started the season as a DH-only player in your league, he got his fifth game in the outfield during late June, which gives him much-needed positional flexibility and a lot more value. Sure, there’s a good chance that he’ll come back down to earth and lose playing time, but such is the life of deep-league waiver wire fodder. Pick Scott up, plug him in, and hope for the best.
Comparable Player: Travis Hafner
As Peralta scuffled for the first two-and-a-half months of the 2013 season, he fell into that abyss-like territory between being a prospect and being a productive major-leaguer. And while that abyss has swallowed many top prospects, it also is essentially a rite of passage for most pitchers not named Jose Fernandez or Matt Harvey. When Wily Peralta stepped onto the mound on June 21 against the Braves, he was sporting a 6.08 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, and 45 strikeouts in 80 innings, but since then he’s been a completely different guy. In those last five starts, he is 3-1 with a 1.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 25 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings. With Peralta, it’s never been about the stuff—his average fastball this year is fourth in baseball (95.32 MPH) behind Fernandez, Harvey, and Stephen Strasburg. And with a career 53 percent ground-ball rate, he’s a nice fit for the homer-friendly environment of Miller Park. He’ll get the Marlins and the Cubs in two of his first three starts after the break, but unfortunately, a trip to Coors Field is sandwiched between those nice matchups.
Comparable Player: Trevor Cahill
I spend a good amount of time in this space encouraging deep-league players to grab everyday players if they can. However, part timers are a necessary evil in -only leagues, so thank goodness there are guys like Tuiasosopo. He seems to be taking a more patient approach at the plate and has become more of a three-true-outcomes guy this year. His numbers against right-handers will correct in a larger sample size, but Tui’s pop makes him a worthy add in AL-only, even if he isn’t playing every day.
Comparable Player: Eric Chavez
Most people still only remember Deduno as “that guy who started the WBC Championship game for the Dominican Republic,” but he has been quietly effective thus far in the regular season for the Twins. If you’re going to strike out less than five per nine innings, you better have a pretty killer secondary skill, which Deduno has in his 61.4 percent ground-ball rate. But while his worm-killing tendencies are nothing new, it’s the reduction in his walks that is a big part of his improvement. His career walk rate still sits at 12.0 percent, despite being moved in the right direction by his 2013 rate of 7.6 percent. If you go into owning Deduno with the expectation that he’ll be able to help you at all in strikeouts, you’re barking up the wrong tree, but as a guy who shouldn’t kill your ERA and can provide occasional wins, Deduno is well worth an add in -only formats.
Comparable Player: Joe Saunders
Tanaka is a one-dimensional fantasy player, but if he gets the playing time, he’s a must-add in -only leagues for that dimension. The Japanese import was a perennial 20-stolen-base threat from 2006-2010, and had 20 steals in the minors before getting the call. The Giants say that Tanaka is going to be on the good side of the platoon with Jeff Francoeur. It remains to be seen if this arrangement will stick, but as long as Tanaka is getting most of the at-bats, he has to be owned.
Comparable Player: Gregor Blanco
Chris Carpenter, SP, St Louis Cardinals
It’s really a great story that Carpenter is even this close to coming back to the major leagues this season, as it felt like a foregone conclusion after his latest shoulder injury was announced that we’d see him throw his last major-league pitch. This past Monday, he made his first rehab start, and despite not getting great results, made it through with great velocity (apparently he touched 95 mph) and without any ill effects. He’ll continue to rehab over the next three weeks or so in the hopes that he can contribute to the big-league club down the stretch. The decision on Carpenter, as a fantasy owner, is a tough one in a deep league—especially when bench/DL spots are limited. The upside is still there for him to be a contributor in August and September, but it still just seems awfully optimistic to say that he’ll even make it back to St Louis, as he’s thrown only 17 innings since his last full season (2011). Odds are someone will see the name and throw too much FAAB money at him, but a sneaky owner can come in early and nab him before the market wakes up. Just be prepared to get nothing out of him and be pleasantly surprised if he contributes.
Comparable Player: The real Chris Carpenter
Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @MikeGianella