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July 11, 2013

Free Agent Watch

Week 15

by Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre

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12-Team Mixed

Marlon Byrd, OF, New York Mets

I have considered writing about Byrd for weeks. I have resisted, partially because I keep expecting him to cool off, but partially because he’s Marlon freaking Byrd. At some point, though, you have to cry uncle. Byrd is on pace for a 26 HR, 88 RBI season. He’s going to cool off, but even in OBP leagues, you have to play the hot hand. If you’re suffering because Matt Kemp went back on the DL, there’s nothing wrong with rolling Byrd out there as long as he’s prolonging the magic. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: YTD Jay Bruce. Going forward, Garrett Jones.

John Axford, RP, Milwaukee Brewers

Starting pitchers are the obvious, knee-jerk choice to write about in a standard mixed league, but once in a while a reliever is worth considering. Since his hiccup in the first week (four games) of the season, Axford has a 1.87 ERA in 33 2/3 innings with 34 strikeouts. He is still prone to the occasional control issues, but he is decent enough that he would be passable as a closer. With arbitration on the horizon, there is a good chance that the Brewers flip Axford to a contender at the deadline. Axford is a solid play in a mixed league that uses start limits even if he isn’t closing. The strikeouts provide value in this specific type of format. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Paco Rodriguez

Deep Mixed

Juan Francisco, 3B/1B, Milwaukee Brewers

“Fat Juan,” as he’s still lovingly called on Twitter by Braves fans, is going to be a starter for the Brewers for the rest of the year with Corey Hart not returning. Of course, this wouldn’t matter if he wasn’t actually performing, but he’s doing just that. Since coming over to the NL Central, Francisco is hitting .250/.340/.500 (slash lines look prettier with round numbers)—but the improvement in his contact rate is what jumps out the most. Francisco had a 37.4 percent strikeout rate in Atlanta, which has dropped to 25.2 percent in Milwaukee, and he’s not hitting bombs any less often. If he continues to get the playing time, Francisco is on pace to get to 25 homers, which would be very valuable for someone eligible at the hot corner. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Pedro Alvarez

Carlos Villanueva, SP, Chicago Cubs

The first beneficiary of the Cubs’ impending pitching fire sale, Villanueva jumped right back into the rotation following the Scott Feldman trade to Baltimore. Prior to being demoted to the bullpen, Villanueva had a 3.93 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 36 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings. Well, after four very solid innings against Pittsburgh on Sunday, Villanueva becomes a hot commodity in deeper mixed leagues. He’s unlikely to produce a lot of value in wins down the stretch, but the ratios and strikeout numbers should be good enough to make him usable despite that. There should not be a 15- or 16-team mixed league in which he is unowned right now, even with the Cardinals on deck for Friday. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: The 2012 version of Marco Estrada


Jonny Gomes, OF, Boston Red Sox

There are few sure things in this world: death, taxes, and Jonny Gomes being significantly worse against righties than lefties. However, this season has been a strange one for the lefty-masher. I wrote prior to the season that Gomes would be a great option to stream against lefties in daily-transactions leagues, but he’s just not going ahead with the plan. In games against lefty starters, Gomes has a 642 OPS, and in games against righty starters, he has an 885 OPS. Did I make you do a spit take? I did, didn’t I? Well, as if that weren’t enough, he’s also hitting .323 with three homers and 11 RBI since June 1. If he was dropped in your AL-only league, now is the time to make sure he’s not still sitting out there. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Scott Hairston

Roberto Hernandez, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

On paper, there are things about Hernandez that look terrific. He has a low walk rate, keeps the ball on the ground, and has a decent enough swinging-strike rate. And the good stuff in the peripherals shows up in his xFIP and SIERA. The problem is that none of this translates to better fantasy numbers. The higher strikeout rates give him enough value that he is a borderline AL-only option, but he is just that: a match-up play. The home runs make him risky even in AL-only formats —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Rick Porcello with more dingers.


Jeff Francoeur, OF, San Francisco Giants

Yea, I know what you’re thinking, but just go with me on this one. Instead of writing about who Francoeur is, which has been done a million times, I’m going to show you one reason why he’s suddenly interesting again. Here are his stats during his first month with every new team he’s ever been on:

  • Atlanta Braves, 2005: .403 with eight homers and 21 RBI in 77 at-bats
  • New York Mets, 2009: .306 with five homers and 20 RBI in 108 at-bats
  • Texas Rangers, 2010: .340 with two homers and 11 RBI in 53 at-bats
  • Kansas City Royals, 2011: .314 with five homers and 20 RBI in 102 at-bats.

And last I checked, San Francisco is a new team for him. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: An earlier incarnation of Jeff Franceour

Dan Haren, SP, Washington Nationals

Is it crazy that Haren is being profiled in an NL-only? He’s available in a deep home league I’m in, and in leagues with benches, Haren is on more than a few. The larger question is should you waste a reserve spot on Haren and possibly use him as a spot starter/matchup play? His outing against the Phillies on Monday was actually encouraging. Haren struck out seven batters in five innings but—more importantly—kept the ball in the park. Forget about seeing the Haren of old; if you can get a pitcher with a 4.00 ERA with a decent whiff rate, you should be happy. Haren should be snagged in NL-only leagues if he’s available. There’s a turnaround lurking here, even if it isn’t a turnaround that suggests a return to Haren’s sunniest days.

Comparable Player: Joe Blanton

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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