June 19, 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.
Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Detroit Tigers
Things haven’t been all wine and roses for the rookie third baseman, but Castellanos is making a push towards becoming a must-own player in June. For the month so far, he is hitting .377 with a homer, a steal, and five RBI. It’s not exactly Lonnie Chisenhall numbers, but it’ll do. What gets me excited about Castellanos’ long-term prospects isn’t his plate discipline (which will always be a little lacking—making him a lesser option in points leagues), but his ability to square up major league pitching. Right now, he has the second-highest line drive rate in baseball, next to Freddie Freeman, at 29.8 percent—and this not only portends future batting average success, but future RBI accumulation as well. Castellanos has done a good job of lowering his strikeout rates after adjusting to each level of the minors, and if he can continue that trend in Detroit, he could be someone who hits at a .290 clip or so going forward. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Nolan Arenado, but healthy
Jake Arrieta, SP, Chicago Cubs
It’s time. As much as I’d like to have another place to talk about how you should pick up Andrew Heaney, let’s focus on someone who hasn’t been written up 20 times at this site in the last week. Arrieta put an exclamation point on his successful season thus far in 2014 by striking out 11 Marlins and allowing just a Giancarlo Stanton homer in seven innings. This puts his ERA at a tidy 1.98 and his WHIP at 1.20 with 55 strikeouts in just 50 innings. So how is this guy owned in less than 30 percent of leagues? Maybe it’s the fact that he’s languishing on the north side of Chicago or that he’s a failed prospect in his second organization. Then again, he is only 28 years old. Arrieta is missing bats at the level he was supposed to years ago, walking batters at a career low rate, getting ground balls at a career high rate and has only allowed two homers this season. The party won’t continue like this forever, but then again if it did, the neighbors would certainly call the cops. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Jeff Samardzija
Daniel Nava, OF, Boston Red Sox
Entering the season, Nava looked like a viable platoon option in all formats, and a strong play in deeper mixed leagues because he destroyed right-handed pitching in 2013 putting up a .322 batting average with 10 home runs in 397 plate appearances. This year, a horrific start led to a demotion in April. Nava was brought back up to Boston more out of necessity than anything else in late May, and little was expected. He has been raking during the last week, and the ouster of Grady Sizemore leaves Nava with a narrow window to grab some playing time. Don’t expect miracles, but a 10-15 HR pace with a good batting average is possible if Nava rebounds. He is especially valuable in leagues that count on base percentage. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: David Murphy
Tyler Matzek, LHP, Colorado Rockies
Entering 2014, lack of control and repeatability in his delivery led some to believe that Matzek’s future was in the bullpen, not the starting rotation. But the former first rounder had other ideas, putting up a strong showing at Colorado Springs this year (a 4.05 ERA with an 8.24 K/9 is a strong showing at Colorado Springs) and pushing him to the front of the minor league pecking order. With Juan Nicasio’s demotion, Matzek could be in the majors for a while. His repertoire is hard, harder, and hardest, with a power slider that compliments a mid-90s fastball. I have little faith in Matzek keeping it up, but he is strongly worth considering for spot starts on the road in deeper mixed. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: the bad version of Tony Cingrani
Mikie Mahtook, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
There are a whole slew of prospects who are relevant in only formats, but don’t carry the potential in mixed leagues to show up on the Stash List. Mahtook is certainly one of those. He doesn’t do any particular things well, but the former first-round pick has an impressive .323/.394/.516 line in Triple-A so far this season—and with the depth and performance issues the Rays have had in 2014, could see a call up at some point this summer. If this does happen, the batting average won’t be a huge selling point, but he does have the potential to hit a few bombs and steal a few bases, and let’s face it, that’s really all you can ask for out of an AL-only free agent hitter. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Hitter: David Peralta
Matt Shoemaker, RHP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Shoemaker was only supposed to be up for a few starts while Hector Santiago got his act together in the minors, but a Tyler Skaggs hamstring injury gave Shoemaker a few more starts to prove himself and so far he has responded with a terrific run, including Tuesday night’s strong start against the Tribe. He’s one of those guys who has had to fight against the organizational filler label every step of the way (he was an undrafted free agent) but has managed to eventually succeed at every level. I’m not the one who is going to go out on a limb and project future success, but Shoemaker’s work ethic and ability to adapt makes him an interesting fill in in only leagues, particularly in leagues where you can spot start him in the spacious confines of Anaheim. He only has one or two more scheduled starts before Skaggs is ready, but he’s putting the competitive Angels in a difficult position and could stick given his recent performances. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: A litany of pitchers in Triple-A who could make it but probably won’t
Jake Marisnick, OF, Miami Marlins
The forgotten toolsy prospect is finally back in the majors due to Christian Yelich’s lower back strain, and he has taken advantage so far, collecting five hits in his first 14 at bats and stealing two bases. The strikeouts are likely always going to be a part of his game (even though he did have a full-season career best 16.8 percent strikeout rate in Triple-A prior to his call-up), but the speed will likely mask any batting average deficiencies he may have. Unfortunately what hasn’t showed up recently is the power, which projected as either above-average or plus back in the height of his prospect days. Still just 23 years old, Marisnick will use this opportunity to prove that he (and not Marcell Ozuna) should be the Marlins’ center fielder of the future. Though given the injury prone nature of that outfield, the designation may not be of much importance in the short-term. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Lorenzo Cain with a lower batting average
Jesse Hahn, RHP, San Diego Padres
In -only leagues, few of these write-ups are about sleepers. Most of them are about borderline, fringy guys whose role has improved and are thus worth owning. Hahn is one of the rare exceptions: an only league free agent who could be a legitimate sleeper. Hahn’s stuff is pretty good despite having only 169 1/3 professional innings under his belt (he had TJ surgery almost immediately after being drafted by the Rays back in 2010). Hahn has a heavy fastball that can touch the mid-90s but the most important part of the pitch is that it generates a lot of sink. Hahn’s career ground ball rate is well above 50 percent. His secondary stuff is pretty solid too. He’s still a bit of a work in progress and could be served well by some more time in the minors, but if Hahn sticks he isn’t going to be a Petco-only proposition. He has the potential to slot in as a future #3 or #4 if everything breaks right. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Chad Bettis
Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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