July 17, 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.
Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets
The first two and a half months of the season were of the forgettable variety for the 25-year old backstop. He was terrible, then injured, then concussed, then terrible again, and then finally demoted back to Triple-A. That was where he finally showed some signs of life (hitting .436/.475/.909), and he’s carried it back with him to Queens. In the 16 games since returning from the minors, he’s hitting .295/.338/.525 with three homers and 10 RBI. In fact, the Mets recently bumped him up to fifth in the lineup—partially because of his hot hitting and partially because the Mets offense is essentially four major leaguers and a Quad-A clown car. Right now, Kurt Suzuki has been the 10th-best catcher in mixed leagues during 2014, and d’Arnaud can do better. He should be owned in nearly all formats once again. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Salvador Perez with less durability
Jacob deGrom, RHP, New York Mets
There was a back-and-forth between the SNY broadcasters about a month or so ago during one of deGrom’s starts where they spent at least two minutes talking about how the Mets’ staff brainstormed in order to get the lowercase “d” on the Mets’ collection of players who required one (they also have a third in Matt den Dekker). In the end, after much brainstorming, they finally realized that they could just turn a capital “P” upside-down. That story clearly has nothing to do with deGrom’s fantasy value, which is much better than his pre-season outlook, but worse than his current numbers. The ERA and WHIP may be somewhat sustainable in that division/ballpark, but I’d be pretty shocked if he ended the season with nearly a strikeout per inning. Like most other Mets’ pitchers, deGrom shouldn’t be universally owned or used, but until he slows down, he’s a must-start at home (where he has a 1.83 ERA in six starts). —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Dillon Gee
Yangervis Solarte, MI/3B, New York Yankees
We’re at that point of the season where it’s not longer simply about playing time or opportunity. A number of middle infielders are available in Mixed LABR who are playing every day but will negatively impact batting average without offering enough everywhere else. Solarte could fall into this bucket, but he was just good enough during his first tour with the Yankees to be considered serviceable in deeper mixed. He is probably only up while Carlos Beltran recovers from his injury, but unless the Yankees decide to make a trade for an infield upgrade, Solarte’s only competition at the hot corner is the similarly underwhelming Kelly Johnson. Solarte has one more chance to claim some playing time the rest of the way. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Brandon Crawford with less power
Travis Wood, LHP, Chicago Cubs
Last year, the mojo seemed to be on Wood’s side all season long. A late-season swoon pushed his ERA north of 3.00, but he was still well worth owning in all formats. This year has been a different story. Wood’s peripheral numbers are actually very similar to what he did last year, with the exception of an elevated walk rate. That’s bad news for a pitcher like Wood, who has very little margin for error given the okay-not-great-stuff he possesses. I’m probably the last man standing who has any faith in a Wood rebound, but faith alone doesn’t win fantasy titles. If you can stash Wood and start him at home (3.88 ERA and .353 slugging percentage against in Wrigley) that’s the play, but at the moment he has to stay on your bench until he shows some signs of improvement. He is worth stashing in a league with 5-6 reserves. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Tom Koehler
Marcus Semien, 2B/3B/OF, Chicago White Sox
With Gordon Beckham injured for the first three weeks of the season, and Conor Gillaspie out for the following two, Semien had over a month to try and establish himself as a regular for the White Sox this year. Unfortunately, he failed, and was relegated to a reserve role before being sent back down to Triple-A to play every day (which didn’t help his performance either). However, he’s been catching fire in July, hitting .333/.429/.604 with seven doubles, two homers, and a steal in 12 games. There may not be a place for him to play right now on the South Side, but with the White Sox six games under .500 at the break, there is a very real possibility that a piece or two gets move prior to the deadline, opening one of those spots he can play. If he could get consistent playing time in August and September, he could hit .250-.260 with a handful of homers and steals—which would be extraordinarily helpful in an only league. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Marcus Semien from April
Kevin Correia, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Correia is riding the kind of hot streak that defies explanation. Despite an awful 2.72 K/9, Correia has somehow put up a 2.30 ERA in his last seven starts. The FIP tells you that Correia is the 4.50 ERA guy that he has been the last couple of years, so I decided to dive deeper into his pitch profile to see if there is something he has been doing differently during the streak. The only discernable difference is that Correia has been throwing his change up a little bit more. This isn’t the kind of earth shattering discovery that should have you rushing to pick Correia up in your AL-only league. He hasn’t suddenly turned into James Shields. Correia is a dangerous play in any format. Be wary of the streak. He isn’t going to keep this level of performance up for long. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Chris Young
Tony Cruz, C, St Louis Cardinals
This one is for you two-catcher crazies (I kid, I kid, I play the format, too). It’s only the most sadistic folks out there who would get all hot and bothered over a catcher with a career 68 OPS+, but here we are. Cruz looks to be the beneficiary of Yadier Molina’s wrist injury that will sideline him for the majority of the season. There’s certainly a chance they go out into the market to pick up a more solid replacement, since Cruz has been worth negative WARP for his career, but in the meantime, playing time and a relatively strong lineup in front of him will mean the opportunity for cheap RBI and maybe a homer or two. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Jose Lobaton, when Wilson Ramos was injured
Trevor Cahill, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Bronson Arroyo’s season-ending injury opens the door one more time for Cahill to stick in the Diamondbacks starting rotation. The Diamondbacks gave up on Cahill as a starting pitcher this year after four starts, but then decided to stretch him out again in the minors after he slipped through waivers unclaimed. His overall numbers have been terrible this year, but Cahill’s FIP since 2010 has barely moved from season to season. This doesn’t mean that Cahill is significantly better than his overall numbers. He is a fifth or sixth starter in NL-only and more of a desperation play than a solid pick-up. The best-case scenario is a trade to a contender, which is certainly what the Diamondbacks are hoping for between now and the trade deadline on July 31. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Matt Harrison
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