May 30, 2014
Free Agent Watch
Welcome back to our weekly walk through some of the players who may want to keep an extra eye on in your leagues. Mike and I will be tackling this topic on Thursdays again and focusing on a singular hitter and pitcher in four of the more popular formats: shallow mixed, deep mixed, NL-only and AL-only. These are certainly not the only players who are worth pickups, but it gives us a nice opportunity to write about players we have close tabs on in our leagues.
Denard Span, OF, Washington Nationals
There’s a certain vanilla-ness to Span’s fantasy value that gets him overlooked in shallower mixed leagues, but when he’s right, he can still be a very good last outfielder in the format. This year, he has the lowest strikeout rate of his career (at 9.7 percent) and the only thing keeping him from being on pace for a .280 season with 25 steals is a .285 BABIP, which is well south of his career .316 pace. Of course, BABIP by itself is lazy analysis, but he’s hitting line drives at a higher clip than his career norm and he’s perched atop a Nationals lineup that will only get stronger as the season goes along (i.e. once Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman return). He’s been strong lately—the last two weeks, he’s hitting .321 with a homer and three steals. There’s no reason he should be owned in one-fourth as many leagues as Michael Bourn is. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Michael Bourn
Jaime Garcia, LHP, St Louis Cardinals
It fills me with such joy that I can heartily recommend that Garcia be picked up in just about all leagues right now. The last two seasons have been disappointing for the promising lefty, as he’s thrown only 177 innings over that stretch and had tears in both his labrum and rotator cuff. While that all sounds delightfully frightening, Garcia is out to prove that not all shoulder injuries are career-derailing. In his first two starts, he’s doing the things that I love him for: getting strikeouts (12 in 12 2/3 innings), reducing walks (none so far) and keeping the ball on the ground (54.3 percent ground-ball rate). It’s too early to say that he’s fully regained our trust from a health perspective, but the skills never really went away and he’s still only 27 years old. This is the Holy Trinity in its purer form. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: The Jaime Garcia of our hearts
Tyler Flowers, C, Chicago White Sox
Flowers has historically been a low batting average, decent power hitter but in 2014 he has been Bizzarro Tyler Flowers, putting up a high batting average to go with a modicum of power. Flowers’ .301 batting average is mostly fueled by a ridiculous .560 BABIP in April, and he has already cooled off quite a bit in May. His history would suggest that more home runs should be coming, but Flowers is barely hitting any balls in the air this year. In deep mixed, he’s worth grabbing if he’s out there but if the average plummets while the home runs don’t come he is going to be a low average power hitter without the power, and a serious drag on your team. If I had a dead spot at catcher, I’d take the risk, but at the moment I have little if any confidence that the power is coming. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Taylor Teagarden
Josh Tomlin, RHP, Cleveland Indians
Tomlin was supposed to be a nothing more than a placeholder for Trevor Bauer, but with Danny Salazar’s demotion, Tomlin should be up for more than just a two or three-start stay. There were some reports of increased velocity immediately after Tomlin’s call-up, but the PITCHf/x data says that he is throwing at about the same speed as he was prior to Tommy John surgery. The strikeouts are up, but without a significant change in Tomlin’s velocity and swinging strike percentage, it is difficult to say that Tomlin has taken a step forward. He’s fine to play as long as he is getting results, but I prefer him in deep mixed as a matchup guy only. Long-term, I see Tomlin’s future in the bullpen. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: J.A. Happ
Andrew Romine, SS, Detroit Tigers
Have a gaping hole at middle infield? Don’t care about your batting average at all? In that case, I have a shortstop for you. With Stephen Drew signing with the Red Sox, Romine received a stay of execution for at least another month or so. Romine is a terrible hitter, but he runs just enough to be worth a stab in AL only. Romine could steal another 10 bases if he hangs onto the job all year, but it’s more likely that the Tigers acquire some middle infield help at the deadline. Truthfully, this is a terrible add but one in AL-only that you might have little choice but to make if you’re SB hungry. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Elian Herrera
Allen Webster, RHP, Boston Red Sox
With Clay Buchholz on the shelf, Webster is one of the candidates to replace him this Saturday in the Red Sox rotation. And while he hasn’t been dominant in Triple-A, he should still have the inside track based on his previous experience and solid performance in the upper minors. Webster still has a big sinking fastball and although he doesn’t have the control or command you’d love to see out of a mid-rotation starting pitcher, expectations shouldn’t be that high anyway. Saturday isn’t the greatest matchup in the world, taking on the Tampa Bay Rays at home, though it doesn’t get much easier than that with Detroit and Baltimore on the horizon after that. However, if he gets through that gauntlet, the schedule opens up a bit in mid-June for the Sox, and Webster could be a beneficiary of that. Don’t expect big strikeout numbers, but a few wins and a decent ERA is possible. —Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Danny Duffy
Drew Butera, C, Los Angeles Dodgers
With A.J. Ellis on the DL for the second time this season, Butera will get another opportunity to at least share the full time catching duties for Los Angeles. He doesn’t offer much, but has a marginal amount of power and with full-time at bats could be worth it as a back end, second catcher in NL-only. He could also be terrible and completely torpedo your batting average and do nothing else. The marginal reward may not be worth the risk depending upon your team’s needs. —Mike Gianella
Comparable Player: Jeff Mathis
Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
While he was sent right back down after his spot start on Sunday, due to the lack of a major injury to Yovani Gallardo, Nelson should remain on fantasy radars because of both his talent and the injury histories of the men in front of him. The Brewers’ rotation is a big reason why they’ve spent most of the 2014 season in first place, but the reality is that if both Matt Garza and Marco Estrada pitch 200 innings, it will not only be a big surprise, but if Estrada even goes 140, it will be a first for him. Nelson’s big fastball, ground-ball tendencies, and strong frame could cement him as a solid deep league fantasy starter immediately with the potential to have a sub-4.00 ERA and around seven strikeouts per nine. He’s worth having around. –Bret Sayre
Comparable Player: Wily Peralta.
Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Click here to see Bret's other articles.
You can contact Bret by clicking here