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September 5, 2013

Free Agent Watch

Week 23

by Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre

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Welcome to a special September call-up edition of the Free Agent Watch. Rather than focus on players for specific formats, this week Bret and I thought we would take a look at eight recent call-ups who might or might not help your fantasy squads down the stretch… or possibly next year.

Jemile Weeks, 2B/SS/OF, Oakland Athletics
In 2011, Weeks was a fantasy force, particularly in deep leagues. He stole 22 bases and hit .303 in a mere 97 games. While Weeks’ game was one-dimensional, that dimension (stolen bases) made him fantasy viable. The cracks showed in 2012. Weeks’ batting average dropped to .221, and while his walk rate improved considerably, a .305 on-base percentage doesn’t cut it for a speedster, even if that speedster plays second base. The A’s decided to send Weeks back to Triple-A this year and turn him into a utility player. The good news was that Weeks got on base at an even more prodigious rate; the bad news is that what little power he had disappeared, and he didn’t run as much as he did in 2011. Weeks is a stretch of a pick-up in start-over leagues. He could be one of those players who steal a bunch of bases in September, but with the Athletics in the heat of a pennant race, he might simply get buried. Weeks could be a useful SB asset in deeper mixed leagues if he got an opportunity, but at the moment it looks like he needs a trade. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Jose Altuve

Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Seattle Mariners
Is Franklin Gutierrez worth adding, even in AL-only? In non-carryover leagues, this isn’t even a question; guys like Guti are an upgrade over someone for some team, even if they’re merely part of a platoon. In keeper leagues, though, contenders often upgrade their rosters through dump deals and a hitter on the “wrong” side of a platoon might not be worth it. Everything good about Gutierrez’s 2013 comes with significant small sample size caveats. His SLG percentage is terrific, but less than 100 plate appearances tell us nothing. The speed hasn’t been there since 2011, and the batting average/on base percentage isn’t good. For keeper owners, it’s more than possible that the Mariners don’t exercise their $7.5 million option on Guti. Despite all of the historical positives, in the here and now, Guti’s upside is quite limited. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Ryan Doumit

Josmil Pinto, C, Minnesota Twins
Just because small samples can be hilariously misleading doesn’t mean they can’t also be fun. Right now, the Twins’ catcher has an .875 BABIP in 11 at-bats in his major-league career—and while that clearly won’t even come close to continuing, there is some real value here. Pinto began to show signs of offensive improvement last season, but it wasn’t until this year at Double-A that he really showed a big step forward. In 107 games there, he hit .308/.411/.482 with 14 homers and 68 RBI. With Joe Mauer still on the shelf (and likely to see sporadic playing time behind the plate once he returns), Pinto should get a few handfuls of at-bats down the stretch. And while those few handfuls aren’t enough to get him much attention in mixed leagues, AL-only leaguers and deep dynasty leaguers should be ready to pounce. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Wilson Ramos

J.R. Murphy, C, New York Yankees
Another American League catcher who enjoyed a bit of a breakout year in 2013, Murphy has had the reputation as an offense-first catcher since being drafted four years ago out of a Florida high school. Slowly but surely, his defense has been making positive strides forward, giving him a real chance to play the position at the major league level. And although the Yankees do have Gary Sanchez creeping up the ladder, Murphy could potentially take advantage of the Yankees’ dearth of catching at the highest level. The playing time may not be there for him this year, unless the Yankees fall out of the playoff race early, but keep Murphy in mind for 2014 in AL-only formats and very deep mixed leagues as the combination of talent and opportunity is there for him. A catcher who can hit in the .260-.270 range with 12-15 homers is nothing to shake your head at. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Also Ryan Doumit

Chris Coghlan, 3B, Florida Marlins
Will a return to the infield revive Coghlan’s career? That’s what the Marlins are probably hoping with their move of Coghlan to third base down the stretch. The 2009 Rookie of the Year has fallen on hard times since then, and is probably on the fringe of the majors and running out of chances, even in Miami. If Coghlan does stick, his value is in only leagues if he can steal a modest 7-10 bases the way he did in his 2009-2011 campaigns. Coghlan appears to be no better than a short-term play at best; NL owners will hopefully plug him into their lineups hoping for the best but are likely to be disappointed once again. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Alberto Callaspo

David Hernandez, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Hernandez picked a really bad year to be a little unlucky with the home-run ball, as the Arizona bullpen has been nothing short of a mess all year. While serving as a key cog in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen in 2011 and 2012, Hernandez gave up just eight homers in nearly 140 innings. However, this season that has ballooned up to 10 in fewer than 50 innings. This hasn’t been accompanied by any significant change in his underlying numbers (velocity, walk rate, batted ball profile) and banished him to the minors in August. But after a solid showing in Reno, he’s back and looking to regain some of the value he’s lost. Hernandez makes for a solid speculative pickup in holds leagues for the playoffs, and don’t be surprised if he sneaks in for a couple of saves before the year ends. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: The David Hernandez we knew and loved

Heath Hembree, RP, San Francisco Giants
For a top-10 organizational prospect, Hembree gets little if any fantasy ink. Some of this, of course, is because of his role; set-up men get little love in fantasy, and predicting holds a year out is a fool’s game. Nevertheless, Hembree’s a solid two-pitch pitcher who has closed for the last two years in the PCL for the Giants. Sergio Romo is signed through 2014, so Hembree is only worth a stash in dynasty. His high strikeout rates make him an option in 2014 in NL-only and deeper leagues that value relievers. I’m not a believer in stashing relievers, but if you are inclined to do so, Hembree is a decent play. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: David Carpenter (Braves edition)

Jimmy Nelson, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
Long one of the more interesting minor league arms in the Brewers’ system, Nelson finally ascended to the majors this week after putting together an up-and-down season. The “up” came in 12 starts for Double-A Huntsville to start the season, putting up a 2.74 ERA and very impressive 4.8 strikeout-to-walk rate and 24.9 percent strikeout rate. He wasn’t as great upon promotion to the Pacific Coast League, maintaining the strikeout percentage, but more than doubling the walks. But even when he struggles with his control, Nelson can bail himself out with his ground-ball tendencies. In fact, despite the 50 walks in 83 1/3 innings in Triple-A, he maintained a 3.67 ERA partially due to his 60 percent ground ball rate and only two homers allowed. The scouting report on him backs that up, as his fastball is a plus pitch with a healthy amount of downward movement. Nelson could compete for a rotation spot in 2014, and his path could look similar to Wily Peralta, who got a handful of starts down the stretch in 2012 to prepare him for a look the following season. Of course, he doesn’t have the stuff or the chance to start that Peralta does, but he’s worth tracking in NL-only formats for this season and in deep dynasty leagues for potential value next year. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: 90 percent of Wily Peralta

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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