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June 26, 2014

Free Agent Watch

Week 13

by Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre

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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.

12-TEAM MIXED

Jordy Mercer, 2B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
There’s no question that the season started brutally for the 27-year old shortstop. In fact, as recently as May 28, he still had an OPS of under .500. But since he bottomed out four weeks ago, Mercer has been hitting a cool .295/.323/.500 with five homers, 14 RBI and a stolen base thrown in for good measure. That’s more or less the pace he hit at in 2013, with some regression in slugging (let’s not get carried away with expectations here). Of course, he’s also only walked eight times in 245 plate appearances and has a strikingly low line drive rate (14.1 percent), so this is not a recommendation to fill your starting shortstop spot. However, a player with multi-eligibility who can pace for 15-20 homers while potentially hitting north of .270 is a great fit for a middle infield slot. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Asdrubal Cabrera with half the steals

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
It’s purely coincidental that a Jake takes the spot here two weeks in a row. With Odorizzi, the scouting report has always been more or less the same: very athletic, good command profile, no true out pitch. This held true for the first two years of his major league career as well, but 2014 has seen a huge spike in his strikeout rate—in large part to the addition of a split-change to his repertoire that he now uses nearly a quarter of the time, with good results. At least when it’s not leaving the yard (four on the year so far). That said, he still remains a back-end option in mixed leagues because of the Rays’ general terribleness and the unlikelihood that his strikeouts will continue at this high of a level going forward. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Chris Archer

DEEP MIXED

Robinson Chirinos, C, Texas Rangers
It isn’t often that I write about the same player as a potential free agent pickup twice in one season, but Chirinos has seen a significant improvement in his profile since I covered him two weeks ago as a potential AL-only pickup. Nothing has changed from a skills or ability perspective, but it seems more and more likely that Chirinos will spend the rest of the season as a starter for the Rangers. This makes him a viable option in 15-team mixed, two-catcher leagues, where Chirinos’s moderate power potential makes up for a potentially subpar batting average and puts him ahead of a handful of limited or no power everyday backstops. In non-keeper formats, I’d take Chirinos over a few more highly touted rookies who are getting playing time but are not as likely to have an offensive impact in 2014. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Chris Stewart

Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Due to his ground-ball tendencies and the strong infield defense the Rockies have put together behind him, Chacin might look like a tempting streamer in deeper mixed leagues. However, he has actually been better at home than on the road this year and hasn’t been able to maintain any sort of consistency from start to start. For the second year in a row, Chacin’s velocity has dropped precipitously. While some pitchers can survive on an 88 MPH fastball, it takes time to get accustomed to working with diminished velocity (assuming it happens at all). Beyond his drop in velocity, Chacin’s bigger problem in 2014 has been a spike in his walk rate. Chacin’s success in 2013 came when he was throwing strikes and challenging hitters, something he will need to do again to be successful. For now, I’d leave Chacin out on the wire. As tough as it is in deep mixed to say no to a living, breathing starting pitcher with a turn every fifth day, the risk is far too great. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Jeremy Hellickson

AL-ONLY

Caleb Joseph, C, Baltimore Orioles
Way back in 2010, Joseph was considered a prospect due to a combination of decent skills behind the dish combined with a promising albeit somewhat raw power bat that had 15-20 home run upside potential. The batting average profiled poorly, but many thought Joseph could survive in the majors if the on base skills coalesced. Four years and multiple stops at Double-A Bowie later, Joseph’s profile was cemented as a non-prospect who didn’t get on base enough to warrant a big league job. Flash forward to early 2014. A 28-year-old Joseph still hadn’t markedly improved, but a major injury to Matt Wieters put Joseph into a job sharing arrangement with recent import Nick Hundley. Neither catcher is anything special, so could be a case where the batter with the hotter hand gets most of the at-bats. In the last two weeks, this has been Joseph. His recent hot streak could portend the future once envisioned for him: as a low batting average, okay power backstop. He isn’t much to consider but in AL-only should be owned across the board. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Stephen Vogt

Trevor May, RHP, Minnesota Twins
It’s still difficult for me not to write “Philadelphia Phillies” next to May’s name whenever I write him up anywhere. Admittedly, that’s because there hasn’t been positive news to write about since leaving the Phillies’ organization. That has changed in 2014, as May is sitting pretty with a 2.94 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in Triple-A, with more than a strikeout an inning to boot. But the number to watch with the big right-hander has always been the free passes, and this year he is walking fewer than 10 percent of batters for the first time since he was in Low-A during the 2009 season. At the outset of the year it was laughable that he might get a shot before bigger (both in stature and upside) prospect Alex Meyer, but it’s not anymore. I still like Meyer to get a shot first, but May could see upwards of 6-8 starts this season in Minnesota and strikeout chasers should take note.

Comparable Player: The 2014 version of Edwin Jackson

NL-ONLY

Cesar Hernandez, 2B/3B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Only in the world of NL-only would you even consider picking up a player who isn’t getting much playing time and isn’t doing particularly well when he does play. Hernandez isn’t doing much right now, but on an old, creaky team that likely isn’t going anywhere Hernandez could see a boost in playing time as the season progresses and the veterans around him need additional rest. The only interesting thing Hernandez does offer is steals, but if the opportunity comes he could provide those in bunches. To date, 19 National League players have 10 stolen bases or more. When your other free agent choices up the middle are Darwin Barney, Clint Barmes, and Joaquin Arias, the idea of Hernandez doesn’t sound as awful as it did previously. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: D.J. LeMahieu

Mike Bolsinger, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
These are the types of starting pitchers who are potentially out there in NL-only formats. At best, Bolsinger won’t kill you—and in fact, the 15th round senior sign from the 2010 draft has been very respectable in his major league time so far. To take that one step further, he’s been a hidden Holy Trinity arm in those 37 2/3 innings by putting up 7.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, and a 53.3 percent ground-ball rate. Of course, I say hidden because his ERA stands at 4.78 and his WHIP is no better (1.43). However, the best part about Bolsinger may not be anything statistical, but that he draws the Padres in Petco on Sunday. In fact, these days I would start a limbless Daniel Cabrera in San Diego (apologies if Cabrera has actually lost any limbs since he last appeared in an MLB game). —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Rick Porcello

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,  Waiver Wire

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