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August 28, 2014

Free Agent Watch

Week 21

by Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre

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Oscar Taveras, OF, St Louis Cardinals
The statistics haven’t quite backed up the pedigree thus far in St Louis, but Taveras has been quietly improving ever since he was plugged into the lineup nearly every day following Allen Craig’s exportation to the Red Sox at the deadline. In those 24 games, the 22-year-old outfielder is hitting .262/.311/.345 with a homer and nine RBI. So why exactly is he showing up here? Because I’ll always take a chance on a high-end prospect with a strong contact rate upon hitting the major leagues if I need a shot of upside in September. The power certainly hasn’t shown up yet, and he’s showing his mettle as a free swinger, but Taveras has been making some tweaks to his swing, including shortening it up, and the results appear positive thus far. This recommendation isn’t for the owner who needs a reliable source of fantasy production at the back of the outfield, but if you’re trying to make up some ground, Taveras could be just the sparkplug you need. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Matt Holliday

Vance Worley, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Admittedly, this is more about what Worley will be facing over the last four-plus weeks of the season, and not what he’s capable of on the mound—although he has been more impressive than anticipated. After all, Worley’s 3.14 ERA is almost as surprising as his 3.63 FIP. But the kicker here is that his projected schedule includes the Reds, Cubs, Phillies, Red Sox, Brewers and Reds. That’s one first place team, and then four of the worst recent offenses in baseball. What Worley has brought to the table this year is a career high ground-ball rate (48.1 percent) and a career low walk rate (4.2 percent), so the gains he’s made, despite not missing more bats, are real and repeatable. And while that doesn’t mean that he’ll continue his low-3.00s ERA, it does mean that Worley has a good chance of continuing his run as an above-average pitcher down the stretch. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Tim Hudson


Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants
Are you looking for a little help across the board or help in one category? That’s the question most teams still in contention are asking right now. If you need every day at bats (read runs and RBI) then Panik is the guy you want to grab. He won’t hit home runs and will offer only a marginal amount of speed, but Panik is going to play every day, make good contact, and help you a little bit in three categories. I like Panik if you’re trying to defend a lead and need a little bit of everything across the board. Teams in third or fourth trying to clear the bases with one swing of the bat shouldn’t bother with Panik, but if you just need 20-30 at-bats of solid production every week, this is the way to go the rest of the season. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Steve Lombardozzi

T.J. House, LHP, Cleveland Indians
There are at least a couple of players I’d prefer to write about this week, but with our “no repeats” rule, it eliminates Alfredo Simon and Edinson Volquez, players I wrote about earlier this season. House is one of those pitchers who isn’t anything special but throws four pitches decently and is a decent spot start in mixed leagues. The left/right splits are still fairly large, so if you are going to roll with House try to avoid him against righty-heavy teams. I’m not a huge fan of House, but in deeper mixed with any kind of reserve lists, he is one of your better FA options out there right now. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Nick Tepesch


Carlos Sanchez, 2B/SS, Chicago White Sox
Instead of bringing up someone who could actually be a bit useful in fantasy (Marcus Semien) after dealing Gordon Beckham to the Angels, the White Sox have instead called up the personified yawn that is Sanchez. That’s not to say he’s a non-prospect—in fact, he could end up as a solid second-division regular in time—but fantasy owners should not be lining up for his services. The first handful of games since being recalled comprise of the best-case scenario for Sanchez: one of the emptiest useful batting averages you’ll ever want to use in a middle infield spot. Before hitting a career-high seven homers in Triple-A this season, Sanchez had a total of three long balls in 387 games over his first five professional seasons. And while his 74 steals over that span (including 16 this season) seems helpful, with a 65 percent, he’s unlikely to be getting too many green lights for now. Oh, and counting stats, you say? Don’t worry about those. Sanchez is hitting ninth for a team that has scored the fourth fewest runs in baseball over the last 30 days. And that was WITH Gordon Beckham. There’s value in the average and the playing time, but expecting more will leave you disappointed. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: A more boring Marco Scutaro

Nick Martinez, RHP, Texas Rangers
Martinez is probably best in an old school 4x4 league. His numbers simply aren’t pretty and the super low strikeout rate is a hindrance in 5x5, particularly in this age of high whiff rates. The minor league whiff rates were better across the board, but Martinez had all of six starts at Double-A prior to his promotion. All things considered he has performed admirably, but he is a significant risk for your fantasy squad, even in only formats. The schedule isn’t kind either. The Rangers get a lot of Angels/Mariners/Athletics down the stretch, so if you were looking for some help based on a favorable schedule, forget about it. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Robbie Ross


Matt McBride, OF/1B, Colorado Rockies
There’s certainly no favoritism here, despite the fact that McBride is the only player current in the majors representing my alma mater. Mountainhawk pride aside, with the carcasses of Rockies’ outfielders nearly outnumbering the attendance at Coors Field, they’re literally giving just about anyone an opportunity to get into the lineup—including the 29-year-old with all of 93 major-league plate appearances to his name. Of course, at we learned with countless names before him, anyone looking at even a handful of at bats per week in Colorado is worth exploring in NL-only formats. McBride may very well give way to Kyle Parker (who is a younger and better version of him), but he’s also here now and is pitching in at both first base and right field. He’s not worth blowing your remaining FAAB on or anything (save that for Jorge Soler, if he’s still a free agent), but a buck or two could get you a homer or two during September. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Travis Snider

Eric Stults, LHP, San Diego Padres
Last week, my partner Bret Sayre wrote about the possibility that Robbie Erlin gets called up to replace Stults in the rotation. That’s a possibility, but there is also a good chance Stults keeps his job down the stretch. He has quietly posted a 2.43 ERA in August, and could definitely soldier on for San Diego if they simply want to keep Erlin rested/avoid additional wear and tear. Stults should be avoided for a start in Colorado on September 5th (assuming the rotation stays on schedule), but otherwise could be a useful chip down the stretch in NL-only if you simply need the innings. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Jason Marquis

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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