May 30, 2013
Free Agent Watch
American League, Week Nine
Simply put, Tyler Flowers isn’t doing a good job of filling the void left by A.J. Piersynzki’s departure from Chicago. In his first full season, the 27-year-old Flowers is triple-slashing a disappointing .198/.271/.339 at the plate. Sometimes a catcher can justify his playing time with stellar defensive play, but Flowers hasn’t been up to par behind the plate either.
This has led to calls for Phegley, the White Sox’ Triple-A backstop who is currently lighting up the International League. In 39 games, he is batting an outstanding .329 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI. For a catcher, those numbers are especially impressive. And although he’s not known as a defensive wizard behind the plate, he’s at least been throwing out runners at an impressive 50 percent clip. The White Sox aren’t going to put up with Flowers’ replacement-level play much longer, so Phegley could see major-league action in the next few weeks, or even sooner. If called up, I wouldn’t expect Phegley to be a top-20 catcher or even play everyday. Still, he’s someone to keep a speculative eye on in two-catcher leagues because of his offensive potential.
With the Super Two deadline slowly nearing and likely to pass sometime in early June, plenty of prospects will magically become “ready” for the major leagues. Gibson is basically assured to be part of that bunch, and AL-only leaguers should be awaiting his arrival. I won’t say eagerly awaiting since Gibson is more of a solid number-three arm than a marquee starter. The former first-rounder currently has a 2.82 ERA in 60 Triple-A innings. His 7.86 K/9 is solid, but suggests that strikeouts won’t play a big role in his fantasy value. I see Gibson as a 4.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, mid-7.00s K/9 type of pitcher, which could make him worth rostering, but mostly just in AL-only leagues.
Nate Freiman, 1B, Oakland A’s
Freiman has been sneaking his way into the A’s lineup more and more recently, which is no easy feat when you’re 6-foot-8. His production has also been on the rise, as he’s raised his average from .220 to .267 and collected six RBI in the past week. The limiting factor to Freiman is that he’s a strict capital “T,” which rhymes with P and stands for platoon player, only drawing starts against lefties. This is because, against southpaws, he’s an All-Star, OPSing 1.000 in 43 at-bats. It’s a small sample, but it’s also somewhat telling that he’s got zero hits off right-handers in his 16 attempts. As much as his first-base platoon partner Brandon Moss is struggling, there’s no way Freiman draws regular starts against righties. Especially with Josh Reddick returning this week, the option of starting Moss in right field and Freiman at first is off the table. Still, even as a weak-side platoon player, I’d seriously consider adding Freiman in AL-only formats and any daily league where you can shuffle him in and out of your lineup as the A’s do with theirs.
After pitching lights out in his first 13 appearances of the season, Jays closer Casey Janssen has hit a small bump in the road. Before nailing down his 11th save last night in a perfect ninth, he allowed runs in his previous two trips to the mound. Normally, allowing runs in consecutive appearances wouldn’t be worth mentioning for a pitcher who has been so dominant, but Janssen also admitted to dealing with a “tender” shoulder recently. It’s important here to note that Janssen has undergone three surgeries on his right shoulder in his career, the most recent of which occurred this past offseason. Thus, any news of pain or tenderness in his shoulder, however minor, should be taken seriously. Janssen appears to be back on track after his scoreless appearance last night, but it’s worth knowing that the Jays have a mostly effective, high-strikeout reliever in Delabar behind him. Those looking to speculate for saves in deeper leagues should consider picking up him up until Janssen fully settles down.
Bradley Jr. is back in the big leagues after a successful return to the minors, in which he triple-slashed .354/.457/.544. Rumor has it that he’ll operate in a backup role while called up, and is even likely to be sent back down when Shane Victorino returns from the disabled list on June 5. With that in mind, I’d hold off on bidding in all but the deepest of mixed leagues until more permanent playing time is secured. Considering how terribly he fared in the first couple of weeks of the season, it will at least be interesting to see how he fares in a limited at-bats over the next week.
Sonny Gray, SP, Oakland A’s
If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that you should know who’s first in line to pitch for the Athletics if one of their starters goes down. A’s pitchers are both a fragile and successful bunch. If I told you that the pitcher currently in that position also has a 20-to-0 K:BB over his last two starts, I would hope that would catch your attention. Oh, it does? Well, you should want to know more about Sonny Gray then. The Vanderbilt product and 2011 first-rounder is impressing at Triple-A, with five wins and a 2.38 ERA in 56.2 innings. After struggling to strike batters out in Double-A last year, he’s managed to increase his punchout rate to a smidge above 9.00 this season. If promoted, I wouldn’t expect great overall numbers from the 23-year-old, but in AL-only leagues and 14-plus-team mixed leagues, he’ll be worth the hassle for his home starts. The A’s rotation is currently full, but a spot should open up in time.