June 5, 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.
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers
We all know what Reynolds is at this point, and it’s that knowledge that led to him be a very underwhelming draft pick this year. In fact, even in Mixed LABR, a 15-team league, Mike and I were able to secure Reynolds in the reserve round. However, 13 homers later (including five in the last two weeks), he’s become a very legitimate shallow league option. All of the rate stats are right in line with his career numbers, and most importantly, his fly ball rate has harkened back to his big power days at 48.2 percent. On the other hand, you may be tempted to see his .227 BABIP and think he’s capable of bringing his batting average up in a meaningful way. It may sneak up to around .220, but with a 25 percent infield-fly-ball rate, anything higher than that would take good fortune. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Pedro Alvarez
Henderson Alvarez, SP, Miami Marlins
Especially after a complete-game shutout of an admittedly depleted Tampa Bay Rays team, I was very surprised to see how low Alvarez’s ownership levels remained. Right now, he’s owned in just seven percent of ESPN leagues and less than 20 percent of Yahoo! formats. Sure, the strikeout rate isn’t super attractive, but unless you’re in a K/9 league, he will get enough of them due to his bulk innings that it won’t matter so much. The strong ground-ball rate, strong offense in front of him, and generous home park (Alvarez has historically had issues with the long ball) are all factors in his favor and make him someone who should be owned across just about all leagues at this point. On top of that, he has a very favorable short-term schedule (his next three starts come against the Cubs, Pirates, and Mets). —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Tim Hudson
Yasmani Grandal, C, San Diego Padres
Thanks to yet another injury, so far it has been a lost season for Grandal. His latest malady was a hand injury after getting hit by a Paul Goldschmidt backswing behind the dish. Last year, Grandal missed time due to back and finger injuries. It might not merely be the injuries keeping Grandal down; many of his Padres teammates are also suffering at the plate. On the positive side, Grandal has five home runs in a mere 116 at-bats. He should be owned in all deep mixed formats, Even if the batting average does continue to stink, a 20-25-home-run pace over the rest of the 2014 campaign wouldn’t be shocking. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Hank Conger
Chris Young, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Thus far, Young has befuddled hitters despite a lack of overwhelming stuff and a two-pitch combination that some feel isn’t enough for a big league rotation. Young’s height does give him a combination of deception and the illusion that his fastball is coming in harder than it actually is, but it’s hard to live with a sub-5.0 K/9 and expect prolonged success. More importantly, that low K rate is a significant drag on Young’s fantasy value. He’s doing well now, but even if the wheels don’t come off, the lack of whiffs makes Young iffy in deeper mixed. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Bruce Chen
Donnie Murphy, 2B/3B, Texas Rangers
There’s playing short-handed, and then there’s what the Rangers are doing. With Prince Fielder currently on the shelf, they’ve been playing Mitch Moreland full time at first base, which leaves the DH spot open for a rotation among their current full-time players. This allows for their bench players with flexibility to pick up extra playing time and Donnie Murphy has done just that. He’s gotten four starts since coming back on May 24, and has a 1.053 OPS in those 16 plate appearances (.385 with a homer). That pace is clearly not going to continue, but it may get him a few extra starts between now and when the team inevitably adds another piece for the second half (calling Kendrys Morales). —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Eric Campbell
Joe Saunders, LHP, Texas Rangers
Saunders is your typical soft-tossing lefty, but over the past two year his velocity has actually climbed slightly. This doesn’t mean that Saunders has suddenly become a fireballer, but he is hitting the low 90s with his fastball, as opposed to the mid-to-upper 80s he was hitting on the gun over the last couple of seasons. Saunders is still a very dangerous play even as a match-up guy because if he loses even a little bit of his stuff on any given night he could become a human pinball machine. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Kyle Lohse before he became really good.
Ed Lucas, 2B/3B, Miami Marlins
With Derek Dietrich being sent down to the minors on Tuesday night, despite actually being somewhat decent at the plate this year, Dartmouth grad and 10-year minor leaguer Ed Lucas appears to have the inside track on playing time at the keystone for the near future. Armed with a .327/.393/.400 line, Lucas is taking full advantage of this—and his last four starts have come out of the no. 2 spot in the lineup. And while the effects of it have been overstated throughout the years, hitting directly in front of one of the hottest hitters and most devastating home run monsters on the planet isn’t likely to hurt the smattering of pitches Lucas sees. With Rafael Furcal somewhere off in the distance and Dietrich working on his defense in Triple-A, who knows how long Lucas’ time in the sun will last. But even when it’s over, he’ll go back to playing against lefties, and he’s killed them to the tune of a .360/.400/.544 career line in 136 plate appearances. Also, multi eligibility. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Tommy La Stella
Tony Watson, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Watson stands in for all of the capable middle relievers in NL-Only. Watson probably won’t get saves and owners in mixed leagues will give you grief for even mentioning someone pedestrian like Watson when there are so many potential closers out there, but in an only you need pitchers like Watson for the quality ERA/WHIP that they offer for your squad. Watson is capable against both lefties and righties; he’ll get more innings than your typical lefty specialist and thus be worthy in NL-only. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Tom Wilhelmsen
Vic Black, RP, New York Mets
Sometimes it’s useful to speculate when a closer is struggling, and sometimes it’s useful to speculate when a closer with a checkered injury history is being overworked. The latter is the case with Jenrry Mejia, and Black could finally be reaping the benefits after being all-but-anointed the closer of the future prior to Spring Training. Mejia made eight appearances between May 21 and June 1, a span of 12 days—and despite the solid performance (1.13 ERA and five saves), it’s a red flag. Black, on the other hand, has thrown six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts since his return to the majors. It may not happen tomorrow, but he’s finally doing what he needs to do in order to earn back the Closer of the Future title. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Hector Rondon
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