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September 4, 2014

Free Agent Watch

Week 23

by Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre

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12-TEAM MIXED

Mookie Betts, OF/SS/2B, Boston Red Sox
It’s been a roller-coaster season for the diminutive Red Sox rookie, as Betts tore through the upper minors during the first half of the year, and then was briefly shunned after struggling out of the gate at the major league level. The shock of a top prospect not being super awesome right away must have just paralyzed the organization and fan base. Lo and behold, after some experience and soul searching, Betts is doing pretty much was Betts was expected to do by those with unrealistic expectations. After being recalled on August 1st, Betts is just hitting .311/.400/.525 with three homers and three steals in 61 at-bats. In fact, he’s been hitting so well that his 132 OPS+ ranks second on the team, among players with 50 plate appearances or more. With the shallowness of middle infield (and the fact that he carries outfield eligibility to boot), there’s no reason he should be owned in only 26 percent of Yahoo leagues and 18 percent of ESPN leagues. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Jason Kipnis

Kelvin Herrera, RP, Kansas City Royals
It should not be a surprise that the closer we get to the end of the season, the more of these shallow mixed recommendations are relief pitchers. We know why it makes a ton of sense for players in leagues with inning/start caps, but even those without them are best advised to start circling in an extra reliever or two in September, unless you’re in a very tight race in wins or strikeouts. Herrera, unlike the big names who are likely already owned, has continued to fly under the radar despite having a fantastic season—maybe it’s because it’s being overshadowed by the amazing seasons that the two relievers ahead of him in the pecking order (Greg Holland and Wade Davis) are having. However, Herrera’s recent numbers stack up against most anyone else. In fact, Herrera has not given up an earned run since June 24. In the 25 appearances he’s made since that last earned run, he has a 0.87 WHIP and 26 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. In fact, even without any saves, Herrera has been a top-20 relief pitcher over the last month. —Bret Sayre

DEEP MIXED

Michael McKenry, Colorado Rockies
Due to a minor Wilin Rosario wrist injury, McKenry has received the bulk of the playing time behind the plate for Colorado in the last week and change. It is possible that Rosario returns early next week, but with the Rockies at the bottom of the NL West standings, there is not any incentive to rush Rosario back into action or use him for the majority of the starts. McKenry is more of a solid backup than a second division starter just waiting for a chance in Colorado, but boy can he hit home runs. In his career, McKenry has 22 home runs in 755 plate appearances, and most of that came earlier in his career in pitcher-friendly Pittsburgh. Even if McKenry only starts three days a week the rest of the season, he is an interesting flier in two catcher deep mixed leagues if you need to gamble on a power bat. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Nick Hundley

Yusmeiro Petit, RHP, San Francisco Giants
If you are casually glancing at the waiver wire, don’t be fooled by Petit’s glittering overall numbers; Most of those came as a reliever earlier this year. On the other hand, Petit’s 5.54 ERA as a starter this year undercuts his ceiling as a starting pitcher, particularly when he is pitching at home. The best thing Petit has going for him the rest of the way is a very favorable schedule. If Petit stays on turn he would face the Diamondbacks and Dodgers at home, the Padres on the road, and the Padres again at home. The Dodgers aren’t pushovers by any stretch, but between the venues and the opponents, those matchups are about as favorable as you’re going to get from a free agent the rest of the way. Yes, there are no guarantees that Tim Lincecum doesn’t return to the rotation at some point, but Petit is a worthy gamble if you need to take chances.—Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Josh Tomlin

AL-ONLY

Tomas Telis, C, Texas Rangers
Telis isn’t much of a prospect, but in most AL-only formats is one of the only catchers on the wire who will see even semi-regular playing time. The Rangers have struggled with their backstops this year, and will probably give Telis an extended look to see if he can fill the role in 2015. For fantasy purposes, there isn’t much to see here, but the venue could give Telis a decent .270 average with a slight amount of pop. That doesn’t sound like much, but in AL-only and at catcher could give him some sneaky value. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Juan Centeno

Cory Rasmus, SP/RP, Los Angeles Angels
The step down from Garrett Richards to Rasmus on paper is something that could have a large effect on a team in September, but so far so good for the 26-year-old who came over from the Braves in the Scott Downs trade last summer. Of course, to find this out, the Angels took a brief detour through Wade LeBlanc—a path no contender should ever have to go down. In his first start of the season, Rasmus lasted just three innings (while throwing 49 pitches), but allowed just one base runner and struck out six Athletics. Now he’s lined up to possibly take on the Twins, Rangers, Mariners and Rangers again—not a bad stretch by any means. And if you’re concerned the Angels are going to skip him down the stretch when they don’t need a fifth starter, do not fear, the Angels’ next off-day is September 25. As a reliever, Rasmus has been steady all season, putting up both an ERA and FIP under 3.00, while striking out nearly 10 batters per nine innings. I mean, if Matt Shoemaker can do what he’s doing, why can’t Rasmus fake it for a month? —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: A non-stretched out Yovani Gallardo

NL-ONLY

Andrew Lambo, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
A hot commodity early this spring, Lambo didn’t make the cut during Spring Training and was optioned to the minors. A left thumb contusion in early May kept Lambo out for two and a half months and seemingly pushed him off of the fantasy radar, now and possibly forever. However, upon Lambo’s return to Indianapolis, he did what he has always done in the minors: hit the snot out of the ball. It might turn out that Lambo will be unable to shake the Quad-A label, but with Travis Snider. Jose Tabata, and a struggling Gregory Polanco as the primary competition, the opportunity is there for Lambo this month if he hits. If you need to take a roll of the dice on 2-4 September home runs instead of taking the conservative route on a middle-of-the-road 15-20 at-bat per week performer, Lambo is the way to go. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Mark Krauss

Justin Grimm, RP, Chicago Cubs
If the goal of baseball was to squeeze all of the freshly failed starters into one bullpen, the Cubs would be winning at baseball. Unfortunately, they’re not actually winning at baseball, but that’s hardly Grimm’s fault. With a season mapped out in the vein of Jim Johnson (strong early and late season performance, with an epic stretch of failure in the middle like the molding cheese in the middle of a sandwich that’s been stuck to the back wall of your refrigerator for two years). Incredibly over the top analogy aside, Grimm had been cruising along for the better part of the first three months in 2014, with a 3.03 ERA and TKTKTK, until he gave up multiple runs in three straight appearances between June 28th and July 5th (nine earned total in 2 1/3 innings). But since then it’s been even smoother sailing, as his 1.93 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 24 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. There’s always the chance it could all turn sour again with Grimm, but then again, most of the more reliable relievers are taken in this format. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Neil Ramirez

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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