July 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 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.
James Jones, OF, Seattle Mariners
If you want dingers and runs batted in, just skip to the next player now. But if you need an infusion of speed (and very little else), Jones makes for a great near-term pickup. The Brooklyn native has stolen 17 bases in 18 attempts so far this season, and has only played in 56 games (starting just 48 of those). The real question here is why is he owned in fewer than 15 percent of Yahoo mixed leagues? He's coming off a June that saw him hit .292, steal 12 bases and score 14 runs; by comparison Dee Gordon hit .303 with six steals and 15 runs scored. Yes, this may just end up being a short-term fluke, but he's done it long enough that you should be along for the ride. Two additional fun stats about Jones: 1) He is left-handed, but not only is he performing better at the plate against lefties (each of his three slash figures are higher versus southpaws), but he's stealing more bases per plate appearance against them. 2) Jones has 10 extra-base hits on the season: six doubles and four triples. All six doubles have come at home, and all four triples have come on the road. —Bret Sayre
Comparable player: Dee Gordon without the MI eligibility
Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
I swear I'm not writing up all players from New York this week, it's merely coincidental at this point. It's not like there's anything wrong with the numbers that the Long Islander is putting up so far with Toronto: a 4.01 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 7.6 K/9 are all very good for a rookie. However, when you strip out the failed bullpen experiment in May (yes, the one that Stroman may or may not have actually been told about ahead of time), his numbers get much flashier. In six starts, he has a 2.48 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 32 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings. Those are elite numbers for any pitcher, let alone someone who's only made six starts in his major league career. And as you'd expect, the stuff is more than legit. Stroman is averaging just shy of 95 MPH on his fastball and is augmenting it with two breakers, a change and a cutter. There will be bumps in the road (cliché alert), but he needs to be owned in all leagues right now. —Bret Sayre
Comparable player: Sonny Gray
Travis D’Arnaud, C, New York Mets
Entering 2014, it was an open question whether d’Arnaud would hit well enough in his rookie season to provide value in deeper mixed leagues or if his poor performance in 2013 for New York would carry over into this year. Through early June, d’Arnaud was a flop with a capital F. The Mets decided to send d’Arnaud down to Triple-A to make some adjustments and he responded with six home runs in 59 plate appearances. The Mets Triple-A affiliate is in hitter-happy Las Vegas, so the results do have to be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism, but it did seem like he had turned it around. d’Arnaud has been hitting well in the week or so since he has been back up, but where d’Arnaud had some poor BABIP luck prior to his demotion he has had a good deal of BABIP luck in the past week. D’Arnaud is taking the bat off of his shoulder a lot more, and thus far the more aggressive approach is working for him, despite the higher strikeout totals. In two-catcher, 15-team mixed leagues, D’Arnaud is a must-own. He’s a batting average gamble, but there is still potential for 5-7 home runs the rest of the way, which is a solid output from your no. 2 catcher. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Yan Gomes
David Phelps, RHP, New York Yankees
Just like the Yankees do, if you’re a deep-mixed player, sometimes you have to run pitchers like this out there. Phelps wasn’t especially good in June, but he strikes batters out enough (7.27 K/9 as a starter) that he has some value in the category. I wish Phelps kept the ball on the ground more, but his infield-fly percentage makes the fly-ball rate tolerable. The problem with Phelps in deeper mixed is that while he’s not the ideal pitcher to simply roll with, he’s extremely tough to stream due to a lack of consistent tendencies. He has a reverse split against RHB/LHB and has pitched much better at Yankee Stadium in the last year-and-a-half than on the road. For me, Phelps is a strong streaming option on Saturday against the Twins, but beyond that he’s probably a roll of the dice and a needs/desperation play more than anything else. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Josh Collmenter
Marwin Gonzalez, SS, Houston Astros
With Jonathan Villar and his .255 on-base percentage not quite cutting it in Houston, the Astros have been increasingly turning to Gonzalez, a 25-year-old role player who finished his only two previous major league seasons with OPS+ of 65 and 57, respectively. This year, it's Villar with the 65 OPS+ and Gonzalez hitting bombs like it's just what he was put on this planet to do. He has already tied his career high with four HR in 2014, and has started five of the Astros' last seven games. For those trying to sniff out any semblance of playing time, Gonzalez makes for an interesting short-term add, even though it's unlikely he will continue to see nearly this much playing time going forward. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Clint Barmes
Hector Noesi, RHP, Chicago White Sox
On Tuesday, Noesi showed why he can be both tantalizing and aggravating for his fantasy owners. He pitched four no-hit innings against the Angels but a lack of control led to seven walks and Noesi’s unraveling in the fifth inning. Noesi is one of those pitchers who is tempting based on glimpses of his raw stuff but ultimately isn’t worth the aggravation. He has good heat (92 MPH) on his fastball and has shown flashes with his secondary pitches, but loses command of the fastball and cannot manage consistency with his off-speed offerings. It seems that the White Sox are using the big leagues as the testing ground for Noesi to iron out his deficiencies. While this is borne out of necessity, it doesn’t make Noesi a good pick up in the short term. He’s included here because while he might not be a good pickup, he is one of the stronger free agent options in a weak AL-only bunch. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Charlie Furbush
Clint Robinson, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
It seems like forever ago when the Alabama Hammer was constantly being lobbied for a promotion by Royals fans. For those who don't remember, Robinson had a 1.035 OPS in Double-A as a 25-year-old in 2010 and then followed it up with a .932 OPS in Triple-A the following year (before falling off and into obscurity). He's made five pinch-hit appearances in five games since joining the Dodgers' roster, and he's reached base in three of them. However, he'd still be just another "oh hey, I remember that guy" situation if it weren't for Adrian Gonzalez having a neck injury. Sitting out Wednesday's game, Robinson not only found himself in the lineup, but in the heart of the order (batting fifth). If Gonzalez either has to miss an extended period of time or is just going to need a few extra days of rest for the next couple of weeks, he'll certainly have some NL-only value. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Kila Ka'aihue
Brian Wilson, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Even though almost nobody in the fantasy baseball community writes about them, you have to carry middle relievers on your active roster in mono league formats. You HAVE to do it! The best ones earn $15-20 and two strong non-closer arms can carry your staff to the promised land for little or no cost. Wilson is not going to supplant Kenley Jansen barring an injury, but he has been riding a hot streak of late, posting a 0.87 ERA in June across 11 1/3 innings with 10 strikeouts, three walks, and only one extra-base hit allowed. If Wilson is not owned in your NL-only, he is a superior choice over many of the backend starting pitchers who won’t do anything put push your strikeout totals up while hurting you everywhere else. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Jonathan Papelbon
Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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You can contact Bret by clicking here