April 3, 2014
Free Agent Watch
Welcome back to our weekly walk through some of the players who may want to keep an extra eye on in your leagues. Mike and I will be tackling this topic on Thursdays again and focusing on a single hitter and pitcher in four of the more popular formats: shallow mixed, deep mixed, NL-only and AL-only. These are certainly not the only players who are worth picking up, but it gives us a nice opportunity to write about players we have close tabs on in our leagues.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Washington Nationals
There was really not a whole lot of excitement around LaRoche during draft season, even in deeper mixed and NL-only formats. And while he’s taken in those leagues, those selections and bids were met with either disdain or a yawn. If there was someone in your league who was SUPER EXCITED to get him on their team, you’re very much in the minority. However, after hitting a two-run homer on Opening Day (to go along with two walks and three runs scored), those owners are probably feeling a little better about their boring selection. LaRoche may be 34 years old, but he’s still only one season removed from a 33-homer, 100-RBI season that saw him finish sixth in the National League MVP voting. Yes, that actually happened. [Fun fact: LaRoche got the only black ink of his career in 2012 when he led the National League in sacrifice flies with nine]. There was a time when the Nationals’ first baseman was considered .270/20/80 in the bank, and while he’s only done that once in the last four years, he’s probably still closer to that guy than we all are comfortable betting on (Opening Day home run or not). —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Adam LaRoche in his prime
Drew Hutchison, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Hutchison was a lost player, with his post-prospect status being even further muddled by injury. However, the reports on the 23-year-old right-hander from spring training were glowing—and the stats too, but that’s clearly the less important of the two. Flash forward to Tuesday as he threw 5 1/3 shutout innings against the Rays in his 2014 debut. The results may have looked really nice, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here. Hutchison did walk three batters and only got three whiffs on anything other than his fastball. Also, the supposed mid-90s velocity from the spring didn’t quite show up, as he only averaged 92.7 mph and barely peaked above 94 just once. That said, he’s a strong candidate for both mixed leagues with shallow benches as a streaming option or mixed leagues with deep benches as a keep. He still has the potential for two above-average secondaries to go along with a fastball that has shown as plus. Even in Toronto, he can hold an ERA in the 3.00s with enough strikeouts to keep your eye from wandering. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Dillon Gee
Juan Uribe, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Uribe is the kind of reliable/boring free agent who is typically available early in a deep league mixed format. Deep mixed owners strongly prefer to take minor leaguers with upside in the reserve rounds, which make every day players like Uribe available as injury replacements. Uribe isn’t anything special in a mixed league, but he possesses enough power that he should be owned in all but the shallowest formats. His defense will keep him in the line-up for Los Angeles no matter what, and Uribe should be good for double-digit home runs this year. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Trevor Plouffe
Aaron Harang, SP, Atlanta Braves
It’s too early to start “believing” in the 35-year-old Harang because of one strong outing against the Brewers. But there are never that many available starting pitchers in a 16-team mixed and Harang will likely be the best of a weak bunch on the wire this week. He is projected for a two-start week in week two (at the Mets and home against the Nationals). If you have had some injuries and are looking for an early streamer to try and keep up in strikeouts, you could do worse than Harang in these matchups. He had a similar K/9, BB/9, HR/9 in 2013 to everyone’s favorite sleeper Phil Hughes, who is owned in nearly all of these formats. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Phil Hughes
Tyler Collins OF, Detroit Tigers
If you’re reading this article looking for a useful free agent in your AL-only league, you have my sincerest apologies. Most of the players in the free agent pool this week are clear backups with extremely limited avenues toward playing time. Collins is a possible exception. With Andy Dirks on the shelf for 10-12 weeks, there is a good chance Collins gets some reps in the outfield, as Rajai Davis and Don Kelly are also stretched as full timers. Collins is a probable future fourth outfielder in his own right, but his 12-15 home run potential makes him a surprising find in April in an AL-only league, even if the batting average might cause a little pain. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Marc Krauss
Zach Britton, RP, Baltimore Orioles
It’s very difficult for me to be objective about Britton, who has long been one of my favorite prospects, then post-hype prospects, then post-prospects and now second left-handed relievers. Britton’s biggest problems thus far in his career have been throwing strikes and staying healthy—yeah, two pretty important things. But now with a bullpen future in his present, Britton is throwing gas and doing the one thing he does better than nearly anyone in baseball: get ground balls. Both were on full display in his first appearance on Monday (which led to a vulture win) when he threw two scoreless with six ground ball outs and an average fastball of 94.6 MPH, which is more than two miles-per-hour greater than we’re used to seeing. And while Britton may be the longest of long shots in that pen to get saves, he could throw a ton of innings with tidy ratios and many more vulture wins. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: A 100-inning Tim Hudson
Lyle Overbay, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
How serious are the Brewers about an Overbay/Mark Reynolds platoon? If they’re doctrinaire about it, Overbay will carry a good amount of value in NL-only, at least from the outset. Like many, I simply assumed Overbay was an incredible stretch as an MLB starter, but then I looked at his numbers and a 14/59/2/.240 line across 445 at-bats in 2013 is something you can live with in an only format, particularly if you can stomach the batting average. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Travis Ishikawa
Santiago Casilla, RP, San Francisco Giants
There’s nothing wrong with Casilla—he’s a perfectly competent reliever—but this recommendation has everything to do with a lack of faith in Sergio Romo as the season wears on. The reports of him not throwing his slider during Spring Training were bad enough, but he looked uncomfortable out there in his first appearance of the season against Arizona on Monday. Romo threw four sliders, and had more homers allowed (one) than whiffs (none) on the pitch. The former Jairo Garcia, on the other hand, has a 2.20 ERA in the 232 games he’s pitched for the Giants since heading westbound on the Bay Bridge. He has the chops to handle the job if Romo is either hurt or ineffective, and given the way closers have been going down left and right, who knows how quickly that might happen. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Jose Veras
Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Click here to see Bret's other articles.
You can contact Bret by clicking here