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Welcome to Week 25 of The Free Agent Watch, Baseball Prospectus’ weekly free agent answer to Dear Abby. This column is designed to offer a brief glimpse into the top free agents in 12-team mixed, 15-team mixed, and AL and NL-only formats, with the idea being that while we can’t address every unique free agent situation in your league, we can guide you through the waters and help with the broader strokes of the decision making process.

I (Mike) will be tackling all the mixed-league formats, while Keith will be handling the only-league duties.

Table 1: 12-Team Mixed Hitter

LAST 15 DAYS

Player

H/AB

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

%OWN

+/-

J.P. Arencibia, TB C, 1B

11/31

6

4

8

0

.355

43.1

+30.6

Angel Pagan, SF OF

18/57

9

2

6

3

.316

19.9

+11.7

J.T. Realmuto, Mia C

13/34

5

3

7

1

.382

14.5

+8.2

Didi Gregorius, NYY SS

12/49

9

2

9

0

.245

35.1

+5.6

James McCann, Det C

15/40

6

1

6

0

.375

10.1

+5

Martin Prado, Mia 3B, 2B

18/47

5

1

11

0

.383

40.2

+3.7

C.J. Cron, LAA 1B

12/47

5

4

12

0

.255

9.4

+3.7

Jonathan Schoop, Bal 2B

15/53

7

4

7

0

.283

21.2

+3.6

Alexei Ramirez, CWS SS

16/46

12

2

9

2

.348

53.0

+3.5

Francisco Cervelli, Pit C

11/39

2

0

2

0

.282

28.7

+3

Source: ESPN, Razzball Expert League. Stats through Wednesday, September 16
Repeaters From Week 24: Arencibia, Gregorius, Prado.

The weekly question of whether any of these catchers are worth adding or not in a 12-team, one-catcher mixed league rears its head with returning free agent Arencibia and additions Realmuto, McCann, and Cervelli. I typically advise fantasy that these backstops aren’t worth picking up in this format, but I’ll recommend Realmuto if you’re looking for a catcher. He has some sneaky speed for a backstop, and offers enough power that he is a worthy addition.

All of those steals for Pagan came in one game, so don’t simply assume that he is going to be a running fool down the stretch if you are steals-desperate. On the other hand, the Giants schedule is soft (until they get to the Dodgers at the end of the month) and Pagan is going to play as long as he is healthy. Cron has found his way into regular at bats at first base for the Halos thanks to Albert Pujols’ foot ailment pushing Albert to DH. Cron has always had decent power potential, and while 2015 has mostly been a lost year, if Cron gets the at-bats he should be a solid addition down the stretch.

Schoop bounced back from an awful batting average season in 2014 to emerge as a fairly decent talent at middle infield. If you believe the batting average is legitimate, Schoop is a solid mixed-league add. There is probably some BABIP luck here, but Schoop isn’t a .220 hitter either. Ramirez has been a disappointment most of the year, but it seemed that a bounce back was “inevitable” and there is no reason not to ride the hot streak, particularly if you need both home runs and steals.

Mike Recommends: Alexei Ramirez
A few weeks ago I would have shied away from any White Sox because of their schedule, but with the Royals struggling and the Yankees non-Tanaka pitchers up and down of late, Ramirez is a safe enough add in fantasy if you need a middle infielder. I don’t want Ramirez in an OBP league, but 10 home runs and 17 steals from a middle infielder plays in any format.

Table 2: 12-Team Mixed Pitcher

LAST 15 DAYS

Player

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

%OWN

+/-

Week 24

Ervin Santana, Min

22.0

22

2

0

2.05

1.09

45.5

+25.1

CLE, @DET

Jake Peavy, SF

18.2

15

3

0

2.89

0.80

25.2

+15.8

@SD

J.A. Happ, Pit

18.2

26

2

0

1.93

0.86

55.1

+9.1

@COL, @CHC

Bartolo Colon, NYM

21.1

6

2

0

2.11

1.17

68.1

+7

ATL, @CIN

Cody Anderson, Cle

12.2

6

2

0

1.42

0.95

14.6

+7

@MIN

Logan Verrett, NYM

5.0

3

0

0

1.80

0.80

6.9

+5.7

Tim Hudson, SF

12.1

7

1

0

1.46

0.89

8.1

+5.6

@OAK

Rick Porcello, Bos

14.1

12

2

0

3.77

1.26

29.2

+5.1

TB

Robbie Ray, Ari

14.2

14

1

0

3.68

1.43

13.0

+4.4

@LAD, @SD

Jered Weaver, LAA

16.2

13

1

0

3.24

1.26

33.4

+4.4

@HOU, SEA

Source: ESPN, Razzball Expert League. Stats through Wednesday, September 16
Repeaters from Week 24: Santana, Happ, Anderson, Porcello

From this point forward, a caveat for any pitcher you are considering picking up is that the schedule and the matchups are always subject to change. As I write this, Verrett isn’t scheduled to start for the Mets, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he takes Matt Harvey’s place in Cincinnati on Friday, September 25th. Any recommendation I make here has to be taken with a grain of salt.

If these matchups hold, there are a total of five projected two-start pitchers, and these are the guys who you probably want to roll with in this format. In DFS, a one-start pitcher can easily be superior to a two-start option, but when it comes to the pool of available free agents, this is seldom if ever the case. This advice applies to leagues with weekly lineup changes only.

Of the five two-start options:

Happ has put up the best numbers of the bunch in the last two weeks but as hot as Happ has been the Colorado start should give any potential fantasy owner pause. If you only need strikeouts, the Rockies/Cubs combo does make Happ a strong play; otherwise, he should be avoided.

Ray’s potential makes him a better add in keeper formats than in non-keeper for the rest of 2015. He could put up decent numbers against a Dodger team with the luxury of cycling in their backups and a Padre team that is playing out the string, but his high pitch counts on an inning-by-inning basis keep him from being a strong play, even on the road.

Weaver has been striking out a few more batters of late and his overall numbers have incrementally improved, but it is difficult to trust a pitcher with his stuff at this juncture in his career. The Houston matchup in particular is a little scary for a fly ball pitcher with a propensity to surrender home runs.

Despite a so-so outing against the Marlins, Colon would be very tempting if that second start against the Reds was a certainty. If you have the option of only picking up Colon for his start at Citi Field against Atlanta he is a must-add; otherwise, there is too much risk that he could lose his second start to make Colon a must-add this week. Additionally, Great American Ballpark is not a terrific place to pitch.

By process of elimination, this leaves…

Mike Recommends: Ervin Santana
Yes, the matchup against the hot-hitting Indians looks brutal, but Santana has pitched extremely well of late and has elevated himself slightly above matchup play status, even in 12-team mixed leagues. With the Twins trying to survive in the Wild Card race, it is unlikely that Santana will be skipped or pushed back next week, which is a big plus if you are looking for guaranteed innings down the stretch.

Table 3: 15-Team Mixed Hitter (Last 14 Days)

Player

Own%

AB

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Seager, Corey (SS)

55.45

43

7

1

6

2

.419

Rios, Alex (OF)

27.33

28

4

2

4

0

.321

Simmons, Andrelton (SS)

21.39

47

2

0

6

0

.277

Butler, Billy (1B)

18.22

45

8

3

11

0

.356

Escobar, Eduardo (2B,SS,3B,OF)

16.24

46

4

3

8

0

.261

Hamilton, Josh (OF)

15.84

1

0

0

0

0

.000

Gregorius, Didi (SS)

15.25

45

6

1

8

0

.222

Suzuki, Kurt (C)

13.27

36

3

1

3

0

.194

Flowers, Tyler (C)

7.72

14

3

1

4

0

.357

Santana, Danny (SS,OF)

7.72

4

0

0

0

1

.000

SOURCE: RT Sports, LABR Mixed, Stats through Wednesday, September 16
Repeaters from Week 22: Seager, Rios, Simmons, Butler, Escobar, Gregorius, Suzuki, Flowers, Santana.

For reasons I cannot quite fathom, Seager was not picked up last week in LABR Mixed. The only change from last week’s list is that Michael Conforto was picked up and Josh Hamilton is the only new addition to the list. Not much will change in a week’s time in mid-September. Butler cooled off a little bit but is still a fine add in a deep mixed format. Rios is playing well after returning from the chicken pox. Gregorius’ hot streak is over; if you were riding him due to past performance, now is the time to cut bait. The recommendation here is still obvious:

Mike Recommends: Corey Seager
With Conforto off of the list, Seager is even more of a no brainer than he was last week. Seager is going to play, even after Jimmy Rollins comes back. The Dodgers have to figure out a way to keep his bat in the lineup no matter what.

Table 4: 15-Team Mixed Pitcher

Player

Own%

W

ERA

SV

IP

SO

WHIP

Week 25

Haren, Dan (P)

67.72

1

2.81

0

16.0

13

1.56

PIT

Storen, Drew (P)

31.68

0

9.00

0

3.0

3

2.67

Shoemaker, Matt (P)

30.69

0

0.00

0

0.0

0

0.00

SEA

Hudson, Tim (P)

28.32

1

1.74

0

10.1

5

0.97

@OAK

Fister, Doug (P)

27.33

0

0.00

1

1.0

2

1.00

Duffey, Tyler (P)

24.55

1

2.08

0

13.0

15

1.23

Rodney, Fernando (P)

23.76

0

6.75

0

4.0

6

2.00

Stroman, Marcus (P)

23.76

1

5.40

0

5.0

2

1.20

NYY

Koehler, Tom (P)

15.25

2

2.25

0

20.0

18

1.25

PHI

Young, Chris (P)

15.05

0

3.86

0

4.2

2

1.29

SOURCE: RT Sports, LABR Mixed, Stats through Wednesday, September 16
Repeaters from Week 24: Haren, Storen, Fister, Rodney, Young.

The deep-mixed picture looks a little bit better than it has in a couple of weeks in terms of the free agent pitcher pool. Duffey is the deep-mixed version of Verrett; he isn’t slated to start as I write this, but he could find himself making a spot start or pressed into action down the stretch if Minnesota has a need.

Unlike in standard mixed, there aren’t any two-start options on this table. Stroman is going to be the popular pick, but he faces off against the Yankees, and while he certainly has the potential to perform well, it isn’t a matchup I’d relish unless you’re in an AL-only. Shoemaker in Seattle is a solid matchup—and he has had two strong starts in a row—but hasn’t pitched since September 1 and the rust makes me inclined to shy away. Hudson has been good as well, but is a poor quality start option and might not even get the win if Bruce Bochy employs the quick hook like he did in Hudson’s last start. Haren has also done fairly well of late, but he’s facing a tough Pirates lineup at Wrigley, and while he could be a solid wins play, he is risky otherwise.

Mike Recommends: Tom Koehler
Koehler isn’t the kind of pitcher you want to run out there on a regular basis in deep mixed, but as a streamer against a weak Phillies lineup, he is a solid play. Six or seven innings of work with 7-8 strikeouts and a good possibility for a win is a fine outcome in a deep mixed format for your seventh starting pitcher, and this is a realistic possibility for Koehler against a Phillies team simply playing out the string.

AL-ONLY

Mikie Mahtook, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

The 2011 first-round pick of the Rays has yet to live up to expectations, but the LSU product could be a sneaky fantasy play the rest of the way in deep AL-only formats. Since his September 1st call up from Triple-A, the 25-year-old outfielder has been seeing regular playing time, and in fact has started eight of the past nine games for Kevin Cash, slashing .323/.400/.548 this month. But more importantly in fantasy circles, Mahtook is running of late and has stolen a base in three consecutive games, which should pique the interest of contending owners who need a speed play. He has 76 career steals in parts of four minor-league seasons, so keep Mahtook on your short list of FAAB targets this week if you have upward mobility in the SB category.

Robbie Ross, RP, Boston Red Sox

It’s a very light week in terms on AL-only pitching waiver-wire options, so if Ross is still available in your respective leagues, then he is worthy a FAAB flier as a saves play. Loyal BP subscriber franco77 commented on Ross earlier this week in the Deep League Report, meaning Ross is probably still available in many non-expert leagues. While I really do not know what to make of the Red Sox bullpen at this point in time, with Torey Lovullo announcing they are shutting down Junichi Tazawa for the rest of 2015, Ross is a good bet to grab some save opportunities in Boston the last two weeks of the regular season. I am not a believer in Ross, based on his ratios and 37 percent inherited-runners-scoring rate, but with Jean Machi’s struggles in the ninth inning when given the chance and Alexi Ogando’s inconsistency from appearance to appearance, Ross makes for decent FAAB play if you can take a potential hit to your ratios.

Other AL-Only FAAB options: Nolan Reimold, OF, Baltimore Orioles; Jonny Gomes, OF, Kansas City Royals; Shawn O'Malley, OF, Seattle Mariners; Jerry Sands, OF, Cleveland Indians; J.R. Murphy, C, New York Yankees; Grady Sizemore, OF, Tampa Bay Rays; Jake Smolinski, OF, Oakland A’s; Eric Sogard, IF, Oakland A’s; Craig Gentry, OF, Oakland A’s; Nate Jones, RP, Chicago White Sox; Heath Hembree, RP, Boston Red Sox

NL-ONLY

Daniel Castro, IF, Atlanta Braves

Signed as a 17-year-old amateur free agent out of his native Mexico back in 2009, Castro has been very young at every level he has played throughout his six minor-league seasons. However, the infielder who went unselected in the Rule 5 draft this past season has continued to climb up through the Braves system, and after posting a.295/.335/.330 in 112 games this season between Double-A and Triple-A, he is getting a third call-up. With Jace Peterson struggling (posting an anemic .216/.286/.314 in the second half over 216 PAs), Castro has gotten the start at second base for Atlanta in four consecutive games and has registered a hit in each of those contests. Admittedly, there is not a lot of power in his profile, and he won’t post impressive SB numbers, but Castro can help with your AVG and counting stats if he continues to play over Peterson.

Brandon Finnegan, RP/SP, Cincinnati Reds

This former first-round pick by the Royals just one year ago who came over in the Johnny Cueto trade in July and will make his first major-league start on Friday night against the Brewers. Long term, Finnegan projects as a strong keeper play in NL-only 5×5 formats, but he can also provide fantasy value in 2015 now that the Reds are giving him the opportunity to showcase his talents in their starting rotation to close out the season. Finnegan has struck out four of the nine batters he has faced with the Reds since his call-up, and the ceiling is very high for the 22-year-old southpaw. If he can put up a strong showing on Friday, the FAAB bids should be aggressive based on the upside of strong K rates and some potential wins.

Other NL-Only FAAB options: Cristhian Adames, IF, Colorado Rockies Luis Sardinas, IF, Milwaukee Brewers; Scott Schebler, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers; Greg Garcia, INF, St. Louis Cardinals; Justin Ruggiano, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers; Jason Rogers, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers; Javier Lopez, RP, San Francisco Giants; Travis Wood, RP/SP, Chicago Cubs; Jairo Diaz, RP, Colorado Rockies; George Kontos, RP, San Francisco Giants