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September 19, 2013

Free Agent Watch

Week 25

by Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre

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12-TEAM MIXED

Jon Jay, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
In -only leagues, you have to take whatever measly at-bats you can get. If playing time opens up and you have a dead spot, it is a knee-jerk response to grab a player and worry about performance later. Mixed leagues offer more choices, and owners have the luxury of zeroing in on certain categories at the end of the season. A case in point is Jon Jay. Jay’s .272 batting average is barely worth considering, but over the last 15 days he has been putting up crooked numbers in runs and stolen bases for a recently red-hot Cardinals offense (admittedly, Coors has helped somewhat). If you need power, leave Jay in the free agent pool. On the other hand, if you are set in home runs and RBI but need a boost in runs or stolen bases, Jay might be your guy. Elliot Johnson has stolen five bases in the last 15 days, but the Cardinals are jockeying for playoff position while the Cardinals are not. Jay is likely to play regularly over the last 11 days of the regular season or until the Cards clinch a division title/avoid that dreaded wild card play-in game. —Mike Gianella

Remaining Schedule @COL (1), @MIL (3), WAS (3), CHC (3)

Josh Fields, RP, Houston Astros
Chasing saves? It’s unlikely that you are, but Josh Fields is the rare reliever out on the wire who might be able to help. Fields is only owned in 26 percent of ESPN leagues, meaning there is a good chance he’s available in your mixed league. He is arguably the worst closer out there and he is on a bad team, but if he is the exclusive closer, as a matter of chance it’s entirely possible that he could save 3-4 games the rest of the way. Again, this might be meaningless to many in mixed formats; only chase if you need the saves. In start limit leagues, it’s inexcusable if Fields is out there if you’ve reached your start limit. —Mike Gianella

Remaining Schedule: @CLE (4), @TEX (3), NYY (3)

DEEP MIXED

Juan Uribe, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Welcome to the time of the year where it’s OK to not only pick up Uribe in mixed leagues, but also use him judiciously. One of the hottest third basemen in baseball over the past couple of weeks, Uribe is hitting .294/.321/.667 with five homers and 11 RBI in just 14 games in September. And while three of those home runs came in the same game against the Diamondbacks on September 9, he hasn’t let up since then. With the playing time and the power going in his favor, the only drawback over the next week and a half is the schedule the Dodgers face—including a series in San Diego and one in San Francisco. But then again, he has two homers in PETCO Park so far this season and another in AT&T Park and seven of his last nine homers are been classified as either “plenty” or “no doubts” according to ESPN’s Hit Tracker Online. —Bret Sayre

Remaining Schedule: @ARZ (1), @SD (3), @SF (3), COL (3)

Burch Smith, SP, San Diego Padres
This recommendation is not for the faint of heart, but the hard-throwing right-hander has been potentially turning the proverbial corner over his last two starts. Smith came into his start against the Rockies on September 6 with a 11.37 ERA and 2.21 WHIP in 12 2/3 innings. His OPS against was 1.155, which would make hitters facing Burch Smith the best hitter in the majors. But in his last two starts, he’s 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts in just 12 innings—including a seven-inning shutout performance against the Braves last time out. And despite the early struggles, Smith maintains a 13.5 percent swinging strike rate, 71.9 percent contact rate, and 62.6 percent first-pitch-strike rate (all well above league average). His last two starts could be very favorable matchups against a Dodgers team that will have likely recently clinched their division and a Giants team that is just not very good on offense (save Hunter Pence, the savior). But again, the risk with Smith is just as big his fastball. —Bret Sayre

Remaining Schedule: LAD (9/21), @SF (9/27)

AL ONLY

Abraham Almonte, OF, Seattle Mariners
Way back in 2010, Almonte was considered a promising prospect, but shoulder surgery wiped out his season and turned him into a forgotten man, particularly in the veteran-laden Yankees organization. The Yankees flipped him this past February to the Mariners for Shawn Kelley, and in the process may have given Almonte a new lease on life. From a fantasy perspective, Almonte has always intrigued because of the speed he brings to the table, but this year he showed some power in the minors as well before his promotion. Ben Carsley wrote most of the things yesterday I would have written about Almonte today, but with Almonte swinging a hot bat, he’s a no-brainer in AL-only. —Mike Gianella

Remaining Schedule: @DET (1), @LAA (3), KC (3), OAK (3)

Jake Odorizzi, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Somewhere in the dark corner of the internet, there is a support group for those of us who drafted Jeremy Hellickson this year in fantasy leagues. You should come some time; I’m the treasurer and there are always donuts. But our time of need may be nearing an end as the whispers of Hellickson being removed from the rotation before he can further torpedo the Rays’ chances of making the playoffs have gotten louder. And as you could probably guess, Odorizzi is right on schedule with the disappointing righty, as he just gave up one run in four innings on Tuesday night in the Triple-A Championship Game against Omaha (his former team). If he were to get the call (and there’s been no word of any movement yet), Odorizzi would have two half-decent matchups to show his worth prior to 2014—Tropicana Field is a good venue to face a high-powered offense like Baltimore’s and the Blue Jays are the walking wounded on offense at this point, despite playing in a hitters’ park. —Bret Sayre

Remaining Schedule: Potentially BAL (9/22), @TOR (9/27)

NL ONLY

Cesar Hernandez, 2B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Hernandez has been hot, but mostly because of a ridiculous .407 BABIP that will almost definitely come down regardless of his line drive rate or his foot speed. Speaking of foot speed, where are the stolen bases? After swiping 32 bases in the minors in 440 plate appearances, Hernandez doesn’t have a steal yet in 83 big league plate appearances entering last night’s action. As with most NL or AL-only players, you have to grab Hernandez if he is getting regular at bats, but much of his fantasy value has been coming from his batting average and his runs. This isn’t a terrific formula for future success. —Mike Gianella

Remaining Schedule: NYM (3), @MIA (3), @ATL (4)

David Hernandez, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks
I briefly wrote about Hernandez in the September call-up version of the FA Watch two weeks ago, but his performance since then warrants his mention again. In seven innings since returning from his stint in Triple-A, Hernandez has allowed no runs and only two hits and two walks, while striking out eight. He’s also re-taken his role of primary set up man to surprising closer Brad Ziegler. There may not be any saves in his future (though don’t entirely count that out with the Diamondbacks out of the race), but many of you will have starters on your roster who will throw in the next day or two and then will have only one remaining start on the year. Unless that’s a potentially high-impact matchup, it could be worth your while to drop him for Hernandez to see if you can get lucky and snag a win or two. At the very least, he should be able to provide solid ratios and strikeouts—though be careful of using him in Coors Field, where he has a career 7.88 ERA (in just eight innings). —Bret Sayre

Remaining Schedule: LAD (1), @COL (3), @SD (4), WSH (3)

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

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Jon Jay,  Josh Fields,  Burch Smith,  David Hernandez

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