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September 12, 2013

Free Agent Watch

Week 25

by Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre

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12-TEAM MIXED

Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle Mariners
You’re forgiven if you bailed on Franklin in standard mixed. A prolonged slump pushed Franklin’s slash down to 220/291/395. The power has been terrific, but everything else in Franklin’s game has been terrible. His strikeout rate skyrocketed, suggesting that Franklin was overmatched after the pitchers adjusted to him. Franklin seems to talented not to improve, but the Mariners don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to guys like Franklin. If you really need the power jolt, stick Franklin in your line-up, but I’d stay away from him in mixed unless it’s a keeper. –Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: J.J. Hardy

Mark Buehrle, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Buehrle’s overall numbers look pretty pedestrian, but he was riding a pretty terrific streak before this week’s clunker of an outing. I can point to improved command in the zone of late, but most of this is fairly typical for Buehrle’s career. He has always been an up-and-down pitcher, and right now is one of those Buehrle hot streaks. The problem is that the streaks often end with a terrible series of crash and burn starts that leave no ERA safe in their wake. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Dillon Gee

DEEP MIXED

Josh Rutledge, 2B, Colorado Rockies
Let’s get the pleasantries out of the way first. I was down on Rutledge coming into the season and I was even more down on Rutledge when he returned to the majors earlier this season after his first demotion. But now it’s September, which means you don’t necessarily have to be very good to accumulate stats for fantasy purposes. What Rutledge needs is opportunity and environment—and it’s a great thing for him that the Rockies play their next 13 games in hitters’ parks (3 in Arizona followed by 10 in Coors). Since his recall when rosters expanded, Rutledge is hitting .500 with a homer and two steals in 18 at bats. But even more importantly, he has a 2:2 strikeout-to-walk rate. And even though the sample size is way to small to be predictive in any way, it’s a good sign because it’s a continuation of what he was doing at Colorado Springs. In August at Triple-A, Rutledge hit .400 with only five strikeouts in 55 plate appearances. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Howard Kendrick, if you squint really hard

Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians
It’s easy to have forgotten about Kluber and how well he was pitching before he got hurt, but he’s surprisingly available in many deeper leagues. The stats speak for themselves in 2013, but his upcoming schedule speaks even louder. He will finish the season with starts at Chicago (AL), at Kansas City, home against Houston, and at Minnesota. That’s a stretch that I can get behind even for a pitcher with lesser skills. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Corey Kluber from June

AL ONLY

Daric Barton, 1B, Oakland Athletics
The biggest beneficiary of Brandon Moss getting more playing time in the outfield of late in Oakland has been their former first baseman of the future. Well, it is the future and Daric Barton is playing first base, just as the A’s drew it up when he was a big fish int the trade which sent Mark Mulder to the Cardinals. Since returning to the majors on August 26, Barton is hitting .358 with a homer and 10 RBI in just 39 at bats. The playing time is key here, as Barton is unlikely to generate much in the way of homers, steals or runs scored. The batting average and runs batted in can be helpful down the stretch—though he’s even more valuable in leagues that count on-base percentage instead.

Comparable Player: James Loney

NL ONLY

Elliot Johnson, OF/2B, Atlanta Braves
Johnson is one of three players in the majors this year who have stolen more than 10 bases this season without being caught—though he’s the second member of that group in this column (Josh Rutledge is 10-for-10). He fell off the map a bit ton after being miserable for the Royals in the heat of the summer—from the beginning of June to when he was traded, Johnson hit .029/.108/.029. Yes, that’s a .138 OPS for those of you scoring at home. If that was pathetic number was his OPS+, it still wouldn’t be good enough to crack the top-20 in baseball. Okay, I’m done now. However, since Johnson arrived in Atlanta, he’s been an underrated source of value in the middle infield. In 45 plate appearances over the last three weeks, Johnson is hitting .279 with four steals. It’s not crazy value, but it works. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: D.J. LeMahieu

Carlos Torres, SP, New York Mets
It’s hard to figure out what to make of Torres this year. Typically, a 30-year-old journeyman wouldn’t merit much consideration at all, but Torres’s overall numbers are solid even after Monday night’s pasting by the Nationals. The number that jumps out for Torres this year is his much lower BB/9. He is pounding the strike zone, and the results have been far better than they have for Torres in the past. His future might be in the bullpen, but the Mets will probably start Torres down the stretch. He is similar to Jerome Williams (mentioned above); whether you care to start Torres or not likely depends upon your team’s circumstances. If you’re chasing wins and strikeouts he’s a good play; if you are trying to protect your ERA/WHIP, he’s probably too risky. --Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Not enough starts to gauge yet

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

3 comments have been left for this article.

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