April 24, 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 singular 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 pickups, but it gives us a nice opportunity to write about players we have close tabs on in our leagues.
Chris Carter, 1B/OF, Houston Astros
Carter was a topic of conversation on the Flags Fly Forever podcast this week, as he was one of the 13 hitters off to terrible starts that we discussed. I wasn’t all that worried about him when we recorded on Monday night, and I’m even less worried about him now after hitting his first two homers of the season over the last two days. The big Astro is a streaky hitter (as you would expect by his propensity for the punch out, and though it’s just a small sign, this is a positive one for his near future. There’s really no one else on the Astros’ major-league roster with the kind of power that Carter brings, and that will hold true when streaking prospect Jonathan Singleton gets the call. Speaking of Singleton, he should not eat into Carter’s playing time upon promotion—the Astros have every intention of playing him at first base at the major-league level.—Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: A poor man’s Adam Dunn
Jon Niese, SP, New York Mets
Maybe it’s the draft season injury or maybe it’s the lack of perceived upside, but Niese’s ownership levels are surprisingly low across platforms (10 percent in Yahoo! and five percent in ESPN leagues). With a 2.45 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 19 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings, those numbers won’t stay that low for long. Yes, the Mets don’t exactly have a Murderer’s Row on offense (or even a Manslaughter’s Row for that matter), but that’s only one category and a highly unpredictable one at that. There’s always the risk of injury with Niese, who has now been on the disabled list in five of his last six seasons, including a rotator cuff strain that had many Mets fans and fantasy owners worried. Fortunately in a shallow mixed league, pitching is always available on the wire, so you’re not in much of a bind if that happens. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Martin Perez
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Cleveland Indians
Chisenhall started out the season mostly as the backup to Carlos Santana, but some hot hitting has landed Chisenhall some additional playing time over the last week. His surge is mostly BABIP fueled, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t continue to find his way into the lineup from time to time. In a deep mixed league, someone like Chisenhall beats hot corner alternatives like Brock Holt, Eric Chavez, and Donnie Murphy; this is a case where I prefer ceiling to a pure, boring at-bats play. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Kyle Seager, if everything broke right
Tyler Chatwood, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Chatwood’s a matchup play in deep mixed leagues, but the fact that he is that much is amazing given where has been the last two years. Chatwood’s sinking fastball should generate enough ground balls that you can start him at Coors if you’re feeling frisky, and if the Rockies keep D.J. LeMahieu over Josh Rutledge at second base all year, the infield defense of LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, and Troy Tulowitzki is an additional plus. Don’t go overboard (yesterday’s game should give you pause about casually starting him at home), but if you’re streaming starters in mixed, Chatwood is at a minimum a valid road play.
Comparable Player: Charlie Morton
Michael Choice, OF, Texas Rangers
The biggest loser from the Shin-Soo Choo signing, Choice made the major league roster to start the season, but was not poised to get a ton of playing time. And while he’s only made six starts on the season, he’s played well enough to avoid being sent back down to the minors thus far. The Rangers have done a nice job of putting him in the best position to succeed this season, getting him 21 of his 36 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. And while being a strict short-side of a platoon will put a heavy governor on his AL-only value, a few different injuries could open up more playing time for the young outfielder. If he could get himself 300 at bats through hitting lefties and spelling veterans, Choice could be looking at a .260 average with 10-12 homers. That’s certainly useful enough in the format. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Eric Chavez
Collin McHugh, RHP, Houston Astros
Unfortunately for AL-only owners, McHugh’s terrific Astros debut means that he’ll probably be snatched up this weekend in leagues with weekly transactions and you’ll have to make a decision shortly. The velocity was up two miles-per-hour from last season, but what was most impressive about McHugh’s debut was how effectively he worked off of the slider, getting 11 swings and misses on the pitch (out of 17 total) against the Mariners. The Mariners are slumping, but a major league lineup is a major league lineup. McHugh should be grabbed immediately in mono leagues. Assuming the rotation lines up, McHugh will get the Mariners at home next week. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Phil Humber
Drew Stubbs, OF, Colorado Rockies
With the Hall of Fame enshrinement of Charlie Blackmon still scheduled for this summer, the maligned former Red is going to have to find another way into the starting lineup. Fortunately for him, one of those was a Michael Cuddyer injury—though Corey Dickerson has been scooping up most of that playing time for now. Then again, Dickerson isn’t the guy here because he’s clearly owned in your NL-only league (if he’s not, please skip the rest of this paragraph and get him instead). But Stubbs hasn’t been overly effective so far and has not gotten a meaningful bump in at-bats—which leaves him as a slightly undervalued asset. This is still a player who has recorded double-digits in both steals and homers each of the last four seasons, one of only eight to accomplish the feat (Ben Zobrist, David Wright, Shane Victorino, Alex Rios, Hanley Ramirez, Andrew McCutchen, and Carlos Gonzalez are the others). He’s clearly way worse than every other name on that list, but the skill set and home park are why he’s still worth owning. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: 80 percent of A.J. Pollock
Franklin Morales, LHP, Colorado Rockies
Morales’ strong start in San Diego was a big yawner and surely didn’t entice anyone to pick him up, but his strong follow up in Colorado (against the Giants) might. Morales has always had potential and certainly could survive as a back-end starter, but his breaking stuff is an important part of his arsenal and Coors is typically likely to always impact Morales’s non-fastball pitches. Like many, I believe Morales’ future is as a reliever even if he can survive as a starter. Despite the strong results in his recent outings, Morales isn’t someone I’d trust unless the matchup was ideal. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Tyler Clippard, both as a starter and as a reliever
Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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