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August 8, 2014

Free Agent Watch

Week 19

by Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre

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Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
There’s definitely some weirdness to Singleton’s numbers so far this season. The biggest, by far, is that he’s handling lefties extremely well, despite having that knock against him in the minor leagues. I mean, 59 plate appearances is nothing to draw vast conclusions from, but his .264/.322/.566 line against southpaws at least hints at an ability that many thought he’d struggle with. Recently, it hasn’t mattered who Singleton has faced, the power stroke has been out in full force. If the performance against left-handers is even slightly real, that will fill out Singleton’s fantasy value even more than we had initially thought—potentially raising his future batting average and power output (assuming full playing time). After all, Singleton is not going to keep producing like a below replacement-level infielder against right-handers (.589 OPS in 141 at bats). If you just lost Paul Goldschmidt in a shallow league and are looking to at least replace his power, Singleton has a chance to give you some similar output in that arena—albeit, at a price. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Pedro Alvarez with lesser eligibility

Kyle Gibson, RHP, Minnesota Twins
When you play with Gibson, you’re playing with fire, as there haven’t been many pitchers this year who has seen as little compression in his performance. The former first-rounder may have a very pedestrian looking 3.93 ERA, but he’s arrived there by taking the scenic route. Gibson has started 21 games this season, and he’s allowed one run or less in more than half of them (11). On the other side, he’s allowed five or more runs seven times—for those of you who don’t want to do the math, that leaves only three starts during which he’s allowed either two, three or four runs. There’s no point in trying to predict it either, as there’s no home/road or matchup theme to it. If you’re looking to catch some lightning in a bottle, Gibson could be a great play down the stretch in the hope that his good starts outkick his bad ones. The strikeouts won’t be wonderful (so he’s more attractive in leagues without inning/start caps), but he can carry a H2H team in a good week. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Ryan Vogelsong


Cody Asche, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Asche is—stop me if you have heard this one before—a matchup play in deeper mixed leagues. Six of his seven home runs this year have come against right handed pitching, and this is in sync with his career-to-date. The conundrum is that Asche’s overall numbers are poorer against right handers because he goes up there hacking. However, third base drops off after a few excellent producers at the top of the food chain so playing matchups can pay off in leagues with deeper reserve lists. Earlier this year, it seemed like Maikel Franco was more of a threat, but now I suspect that he won’t be called up until September if he is called up at all. Asche isn’t a great play but he should at least be a reserve option in your 15- or 16-team mixed league. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Chris Johnson

Marco Estrada, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
The emergence of Jimmy Nelson combined with Estrada’s tatterific tendencies led to Estrada’s demotion to the bullpen, but Matt Garza’s oblique injury opens the door for another opportunity for Estrada. Since late June, Estrada has somewhat curbed his propensity for the long ball, allowing only three home runs in his last 27 2/3 innings. He seems to be pitching out of a modified version of the stretch in an attempt to keep the ball down in the zone, and thus far the approach has limited the damage. I’m still not a strong Estrada fan, but his schedule for the rest of August if he does step into Garza’s spot looks quite favorable. If you can stomach the HR risk, Estrada’s decent whiff rate does make him worth owning. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: J.A. Happ


David Freese, 3B, Los Angeles Angels
Freese stands in for the handful of players who were released by first division fantasy teams in carryover leagues that managed to find better alternatives via trade or FAAB imports in the last two weeks or so. If you have an eye on Freese, it is either because you are in the second division or your team suffered a very recent injury. It has mostly been a lost year for Freese, but in AL-only he is a pretty solid asset when he is on the field. Since June 1, Freese has put up a decent 286/360/406 slash line. The power is no longer where it used to be, but in every other aspect of his game Freese has been solid after a slow start. If an impatient owner dropped Freese in your AL-only, now is the time to pounce. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Kelly Johnson without the steals

Erasmo Ramirez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
This is neither a full-throated endorsement of the Nicaraguan-born right-hander, nor is it a token “he’s going to pitch so I guess you have to pick him up” situation either. Ramirez, for all his flaws, has been pitching a lot more effectively at Triple-A (and in his MLB spot start) since the beginning of July. The most telling of those numbers: 37 strikeouts, seven walks and only one homer allowed in 44 2/3 innings. And before this recent run, you ask? In the 88 2/3 innings prior, Ramirez had 71 strikeouts, 38 walks and 16 homers allowed. Ramirez looks ticketed for a Sunday start at home against the White Sox—which is a friendly matchup, and even though it doesn’t appear as though there’s a rotation spot for him, he has passed Taijuan Walker at this point as the sixth starter for the Mariners. That alone makes him worth rostering, even if he hasn’t truly turned things around. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Chase Whitley


Kris Negron, 2B (SS? OF?) , Cincinnati Reds
Negron isn’t anything special from a scouting perspective, but the Reds have a lot of holes and a number of marginal starters at multiple skill positions. Negron isn’t necessarily better from a real world perspective than Ramon Santiago or Skip Schumaker, but he does provide a decent amount of stolen base ability to go along with a tiny amount of power. Some of Negron’s value depends upon your league’s position eligibility rules. Negron is second base only in some leagues, but if you can carry his minor league eligibility across he is shortstop and outfield eligible as well. Negron is no more than an injury fill-in even in NL-only, but as I’ve said often in this space in the past, he’s a slightly better option than guys like Joaquin Arias. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Gregorio Petit

Brad Penny, RHP, Miami Marlins
Yes, THAT Brad Penny. This is who your 2014 Miami Marlins designated Jacob Turner for assignment in order to get into the rotation. Sure, it’s probably Andrew Heaney’s rotation spot if he starts pitching better in Triple-A, but for now, this is what we’re stuck with. Somehow, the ageless (well not really he’s 36) Penny had a 2.28 ERA over five starts in Triple-A and likely draws two downtrodden offenses in his first starts back—Cincinnati on Saturday and Arizona at home after that. Expectations shouldn’t be high for either his performance level or his ability to stick in the rotation, but if you’re in need of a starter, THIS is a “he’s going to pitch, so I guess you have to pick him up” situation. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Randy Wolf

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

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