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July 24, 2015

Free Agent Watch

Week 16

by Jeff Quinton and Keith Cromer

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12-Team Mixed

Patrick Corbin, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Corbin should not be available in any 12-team mixed leagues, but, alas, he is. We should be remedying this if Corbin is available in any of our leagues. Corbin has only gone five innings in each of his first three starts since returning from Tommy John surgery, but the velocity and swing-and-miss stuff look to be back. Not only is he striking out 21% of batters, Corbin has showed exceptional control, only issuing two walks thus far. His 4.80 ERA (the reason he is probably still available) is mainly due to allowing four home runs over his first 15 innings, but his current 23.5% HR:FB rate is a lock for regression.

Scooter Gennett, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

After hitting .324 in 230 plate appearances in 2013 and .289 in 474 plate appearances in 2014, Gennett hit .144 over his first 69 at bats in 2015. One trip to Triple-A later, Gennett has hit .333 in 108 at-bats since returning. His limited pop has also returned; Gennett has 13 extra-base hits since his return (compared to only one prior to being sent down). With Aramis Ramirez heading back to Pittsburgh, Gennett has (in this one-game sample) been moved up to the no. 6 spot with the productive Ryan Braun, Adam Lind, and Carlos Gomez hitting in front of him.

15-Team Mixed

Marco Estrada, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

There has been a lot of ugly since, but it was only a year-and-a-half ago that Estrada was a fringe-or-better 10-team-mixed starting pitcher. He has made his cutter a consistently used part of his repertoire over the last two months (throwing it about 10% of the time), to terrific overall results (2.74 ERA and 1.04 WHIP). A cutter helping a changeup-first pitcher is something we have seen before in Cole Hamels, and it’s not that Estrada is near Hamels’ overall talent, but his new pitch mix does have a chance to help him return to the pitcher he was in 2013.

Jon Niese, SP, New York Mets

After a particularly rough May and role uncertainty because of the Mets’ starting-pitching depth, Niese has been his usual, solid, boring self. Like Estrada above, Niese upped his cutter usage the past two months and the results have been excellent. Niese has induced a career high 54.7% ground-ball rate in 2015 (not always a great thing with the Mets’ infield), which has led to fewer balls leaving the yard. Additionally, Niese is one of the Mets pitchers who will not need his innings restricted, which could mean continued opportunities even once Steven Matz returns. —Jeff Quinton

AL-ONLY

Kyle Kubitza, 3B, Los Angeles Angels

I have written about Kubitza in this spot before, when David Freese was nursing a hamstring injury last month. With Freese now back on the 15-day DL with a right thumb fracture, Kubitza gets another shout out after being called up from Triple-A yesterday. For a refresher, in a less-publicized offseason acquisition by Jerry Dipoto and the Angels, Los Angeles got Kubitza and pitcher Nathan Hyatt from the Braves in exchange for lefty pitcher Ricardo Sanchez back in January. The former third-round pick by the Braves back in 2011 was snatched up by the Angels as a potential replacement to Freese at the hot corner, if Freese departs in free agency after the season. Kubitza slashed .295/.405/.470 with 21 steals in Double-A last year and had an .801 OPS in 78 games at Triple-A this season at the time of his second call-up. With Freese now out of action for an undetermined amount of time, Kubitza has short-term fantasy potential unless the Angels make a move before the deadline. The Pirates already landed third sacker Aramis Ramirez from the Brewers yesterday, removing one external option for the Halos.

Mark Lowe, RP, Seattle Mariners

While the Mariners have dealt with injuries and inconsistency in their bullpen for much of the season, nobody has been more reliable in relief for Seattle than the 10-year veteran (and I am the self-appointed president of the Carson Smith fan club). Heading into this week, Lowe had a microscopic 0.62 ERA and 11.8 K/9 with 11 holds, and he had only allowed an earned run in two of his 29 appearances and permitted just one inherited runner to score all season. Lowe had a hiccup on Monday night in Detroit, when he allowed his first home run of the season, a two-run shot by Ian Kinsler in the eighth inning that led to a Tigers comeback victory. However, the veteran reliever has been a ratio stud this season, and he has additional fantasy value in leagues that count holds. Following his outing on Monday, Lowe responded on Thursday with two scoreless innings in a 2-2 tie, striking out four. Even without one win or one save on the season, he’s earned a modest $4 in standard AL-only formats in his 32 innings, making Lowe a safe, cheap FAAB option if you are looking to add a pitcher to help pad your ERA and WHIP.

Other AL-Only FAAB options: Geovany Soto, C, Chicago White Sox; Tomas Telis, C, Texas Rangers; Jake Elmore, IF, Tampa Bay Rays; Daniel Robertson, OF, Los Angeles Angels; Chasen Shreve, RP, New York Yankees; Kyle Crockett, RP, Cleveland Indians; Zach Putnam, RP, Chicago White Sox; Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles; Steve Geltz, RP, Tampa Bay Rays

NL-ONLY

Austin Barnes, C, Los Angeles Dodgers

With A.J. Ellis now on the DL and Yasmani Grandal dealing with a jaw injury, Barnes was called up from Triple-A on Monday and is expected to split time with Grandal behind the dish for the Dodgers. Barnes was acquired this past offseason from the Marlins in the deal that sent Dee Gordon to south Florida. He has a pretty solid minor-league résumé, including a .298/.389/.437 line and impressive 239-to-245 K:BB ratio over parts of five minor-league seasons. The 25-year-old Arizona State product has continued his offensive success this year at Triple-A, posting a .304/.385/.484 line with eight home runs and 10 steals over 62 games behind the dish. If Barnes can impress in the time that Ellis is out, he has a chance to replace Ellis as the Dodgers’ backup backstop. I like Barnes more as a future play in dynasty leagues, but when you have a backstop who can rake like Barnes has proven he can, you have to consider him this year in deep two-catcher NL-only formats.

Jumbo Diaz, RP, Cincinnati Reds

I have written about Diaz before in the Deep League Report and other preseason articles, so after his call-up last week, in combination with the Aroldis Chapman trade rumors, I have to give Jumbo a little more love. After 12 seasons in the minors, Diaz was finally given the opportunity by the Reds to show what he could do at the big-league level last season and appeared in 36 games for the Reds. He responded when being handed the ball in high-leverage situations and delivered in those 36 appearances with solid ratios and a 9.6 K/9. The hefty reliever saved 105 games in his minor-league career coming into the season, and saved eight more in his 13 games at Triple-A before his call-up last week. J.J. Hoover has been rumored to be the next man in line for saves for the Reds if they do move Chapman, but I am not buying that. While I am not sold the Reds would trade Chapman, if they do, deep NL-only leaguers need to focus on the portly reliever who throws gas and has demonstrated solid K rates during his current stint in the big leagues.

Other NL-Only FAAB options: Travis Ishikawa, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates; Pedro Ciriaco, IF, Atlanta Braves; Matt den Dekker, OF, Washington Nationals; Javier Lopez, RP, San Francisco Giants Keith Cromer

Jeff Quinton is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jeff's other articles. You can contact Jeff by clicking here
Keith Cromer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Keith's other articles. You can contact Keith by clicking here

Related Content:  Free Agents,  Fantasy,  Waiver Wire,  FAAB

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