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Welcome to Week Two of The Free Agent Watch, Baseball Prospectus’ weekly free agent advice column. 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.

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

12-Team Mixed Hitter

LAST 7 DAYS

Player

H/AB

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

%OWN

+/-

Alex Avila C

4/13

6

1

3

0

.308

42.6

+42

Jose Iglesias SS

9/15

4

0

1

2

.600

42.7

+41.3

Nick Markakis OF

5/20

3

0

4

1

.250

63.0

+35.5

Brandon Crawford SS

5/22

3

1

3

0

.227

16.2

+14.2

Jake Lamb 3B

2/7

1

1

7

0

.286

14.2

+13.7

Alejandro De Aza OF

6/18

5

2

3

0

.333

8.4

+7.6

Mark Canha 1B

8/20

5

1

6

0

.400

7.2

+7.1

Ryan Howard 1B

3/16

0

0

1

0

.188

45.1

+6.2

Joe Panik, SF 2B

5/20

2

0

1

0

.250

11.0

+5.9

DJ LeMahieu, Col 2B

11/21

1

0

2

1

.524

7.9

+5.7

Source: ESPN, Razzball Expert League. Stats through Saturday, April 11

Maybe it’s just me and my “I’m-in-too-many-leagues” battle fatigue, but I somehow expected the top ads in 12-team mixed to look—I don’t know—better somehow. A lot of these guys “move the chains”, as like to say because I like to mix metaphors and am a horrible human being who must be stopped.

Iglesias and LeMahieu are the kind of players you don’t want to pick up in 12-team mixed. You’re chasing the stats they just accrued, and while this duo could be useful in this format, they’re bottom of the barrel at best. Panik and Crawford fit this mold as well. If I’m pressed for a middle infielder due to injury, I’ll hold my nose and take Crawford.

Avila has been added in a lot of leagues, and seems to be the logical replacement for Yan Gomes owners in one-catcher formats. Avila will probably be fine, although I prefer him in two catcher leagues. Derek Norris has greater availability (28 percent) and is the catcher I’d take if I had Gomes.

Howard is getting added due to playing time, but his spring training woes have carried over into the regular season, including a four-whiff performance yesterday. Even if the Phillies don’t cut him, he’s going to lose PT eventually. Canha is a wonderful story, but the add rate is another overreaction to a fast start. He’s unlikely to be mixed relevant.

Mike Recommends: Alejandro De Aza.
It was a close call between Markakis and De Aza, but I prefer the park and lineup that surrounds De Aza, even if he’ll lose some at bats against lefthanders to perennial fan favorite Delmon Young. I like the speed that is attached to De Aza. While the Braves’ 5-1 start is a nice story, De Aza’s lineup and team give him a slight runs/RBI edge. Lamb may have the most upside of anyone in this group, but until/unless Aaron Hill is traded, I don’t like the idea of picking up a guy with so much uncertain playing time, especially in non-keeper formats.

12-Team Mixed Pitcher

LAST 7 DAYS

Player

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

%OWN

+/-

C.J. Wilson

8.0

2

1

0

0.00

0.38

53.8

+51.3

Bartolo Colon

6.0

8

1

0

1.50

0.67

37.8

+35.5

Matt Garza

5.0

2

0

0

7.20

1.80

87.6

+27.3

Kyle Kendrick

12.0

9

1

0

6.00

1.67

18.3

+18.2

Aaron Harang

6.1

8

1

0

0.00

0.47

10.0

+9.6

Justin Masterson

6.0

7

1

0

3.00

0.83

14.4

+9.5

Tim Lincecum

7.0

5

0

0

0.00

1.00

12.4

+9.1

Edinson Volquez

8.0

5

1

0

1.13

0.63

8.0

+6.6

A.J. Burnett

5.1

7

0

0

3.38

0.94

19.8

+6.5

Henderson Alvarez

7.0

2

0

0

2.57

0.86

27.9

+6.1

Source: ESPN, Razzball Expert League. Stats through Saturday, April 11

We cannot help it; we love us some recency bias. Kendrick, Harang, and Masterson all should not be owned in standard mixed formats, but here they are, getting some love in the shallower leagues. Harang and Masterson aren’t terrible stashes in leagues with deep reserve lists, I suppose, but I’d rather not and say we didn’t.

Lincecum looks intriguing to some (did his Dad fix his mechanical issues? OMG, emoticon, emoticon, emoticon! Let’s speculate wildly about something we can’t really prove or disprove until our tongues start to bleed!), but his successful outing was against the Padres at Petco, a venue where he always does well. He has to do better in a more difficult road venue before I trust him.

We all love Colon, but entertainment value of pitcher at bats isn’t a fantasy category, and he’s a streamer against the weaker offenses in his own division in this format. Granted, it wasn’t that long ago that Colon was extremely useful in mixed (2013), but his age doesn’t make him worth trusting.

Mike Recommends: C.J. Wilson
Since Garza is owned in 87.6 percent of ESPN leagues, I’m going to be equitable and take him out of the equation. Even though Wilson is owned in over 50 percent of leagues, I’ll make the judgment call and say I’m getting him in just under the wire. Wilson is prone to his bad starts, but when he is on, he has the ability to strike out somewhere between seven to eight batters per nine. He’s on a good team with a good defense, and is great as a back-end guy to stream. Volquez, Burnett, and Alvarez wouldn’t be bad choices either, although in standard mixed I want strikeout potential from everyone. Alvarez doesn’t have that, and Volquez and Burnett have some of the same WHIP concerns that Wilson does.

15-Team Mixed Hitter

Player

Own%

AB

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Kurt Suzuki, C

16%

15

1

0

1

0

.200

Francisco Cervelli, C

7.4%

14

1

0

1

0

.357

Casey McGehee, 3B

4.2%

21

3

1

2

0

.238

Didi Gregorius, SS

1.8%

15

0

0

2

0

.133

Alex Guerrero, OF

1.4%

2

0

0

0

0

.000

Eduardo Escobar, SS/3B

1%

13

2

0

0

0

.154

Yangervis Solarte, 2B/3B

1%

11

1

0

2

0

.455

Jacob Lamb, 3B

1%

7

1

1

7

0

.286

Craig Gentry, OF

0.6%

14

1

0

0

0

.000

Brock Holt, 3B/OF

0.6%

6

1

0

3

0

.667

SOURCE: RT Sports, LABR Mixed

If you want to make God laugh…ah crud, I already make this joke a few weeks ago; I won’t cheapen myself by making it again. The contrast between 12-team and 15-team mixed free agent pools is stark. The only full timers are McGehee, Gregorius, and the catchers. LABR is a two-catcher league, so Cervelli or Suzuki are arguably better choices than a handful of the catchers rostered, but the gain is marginal (though I suspect that by the time you read this that one of them will have been picked up for the injured Yan Gomes).

Everyone else is either a bench player or a quasi-platoon guy who perhaps has an avenue toward full time play. I like Solarte over Will Middlebrooks… but in an NL-only, not in a 15-team mixed where full time at bats matter. The same applies for Escobar, Gentry, and particularly Holt, who had a great game on Saturday but is buried in Boston.

Mike Recommends: Jake Lamb
This is the big difference between standard and deeper mixed leagues. Waiting on a full slate of at bats for Lamb in 12-team mixed when there are multiple, solid, everyday options out there is folly. In 15-team mixed, taking the risk on Lamb over McGehee makes some sense. Even if you lose out on runs/RBI, the upside with Lamb in the HR department could give him a slight edge even if he only gets 10-12 at bats a week. It seems extremely unlikely that Yasmany Tomas goes back to third, so Lamb looks like the man if the bat plays.

15-Team Mixed Pitcher

Player

Own%

W

ERA

SV

IP

SO

WHIP

Jason Grilli

23.8%

0

0.00

3

3.0

4

0.33

Alfredo Simon

9%

1

5.06

0

5.1

3

1.69

Mark Buehrle

4.4%

1

3.00

0

6.0

1

1.67

Jonathan Broxton

3.8%

0

6.00

0

3.0

4

0.67

Joe Smith

3.4%

0

0.00

0

1.0

2

3.00

Tim Lincecum

2.6%

0

0.00

0

7.0

5

1.00

Tony Watson

1.8%

0

6.75

0

4.0

3

1.00

Hector Santiago

1.8%

0

5.06

0

5.1

4

1.31

Kyle Gibson

1.8%

0

14.73

0

3.2

5

3.55

Jim Johnson

1.6%

0

0.00

0

4.1

6

0.69

SOURCE: RT Sports, LABR Mixed

One of the biggest differences between standard mixed and deep mixed is that relievers are more appropriately valued. This is reflected in the top free agent choices (by ownership) in RT Sports’s player pool. Grilli is the “well, duh” no brainer here, but I won’t focus on him since the only reason he is still available is because LABR ran their first transaction period this year on Saturday, not Sunday. Broxton’s ownership percentage is likely an artifact of when he was projected to close in Milwaukee before Francisco Rodriguez was signed. I wouldn’t touch him in this format. Smith, Watson, and Johnson, however, are all the kind of pitchers I wouldn’t mind owning in this format. If you have a reserve slot you can use to stash them all the better; their usefulness comes in using them to fill in for weaker starting pitchers you don’t want to drop but who you can stream off of your roster to avoid a tough matchup. You lose strikeouts, but losing ground in one category is far better than losing ground in two.

The starting pitchers here aren’t as good as the ones in standard mixed, with good reason. With one exception, these are the kind of low strikeout guys who are matchup plays only, even in this deeper format. Gibson has potential I suppose, but potential doesn’t pay the bills or win the fantasy leagues. Santiago has some of the same park advantages that his teammate Wilson has, but without the strikeout profile his value is tempered. Buehrle could go on a nice run like he did last year, but there is no rhyme or reason to indicate that he will.

Mike Recommends: Tony Watson
I started typing the words “Tim Lincecum” and I just couldn’t do that to you, dear reader. Lincecum is probably the best of the weak bunch above, but even though he has two home starts coming up, his dip in velocity against the Padres concerns me. Go with the safe reliever this week and take Watson over any of the starting pitchers listed above. As an added bonus, the Pirates have a 10-game stretch in favorable PNC Park up next on the docket.

AL-ONLY

Carlos Peguero, OF, Texas Rangers
I featured Rangers outfielder Jake Smolinski in this spot last week, and with the injuries to Ryan Rua and Shin-Soo Choo, another Rangers outfielder finds top billing again. Peguero was called up Saturday to replace Rua on the Rangers roster and was immediately plugged into the starting lineup. There’s no question he has the power to help a fantasy team (30 bombs in Triple-A in just 418 PA last year), but just know he is going to swing and miss quite a bit. If you need a little pop, and are not terribly concerned with an AVG hit short term, Peguero will do just fine.

Nate Karns, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
After a rough outing in his first start against the Orioles, Karns looked sharp in his second start versus the Marlins on Sunday, allowing just two hits and one earned run over seven innings. Karns has above-average velocity on his fastball and a plus curveball that generates the bulk of his swings and misses. Karns is scheduled to face an underwhelming Yankees lineup at home in his next start, so he makes for a decent streaming option this week.

Other AL-Only FAAB options: Jerry Sands, OF, Indians; Tim Beckham, 2B, Rays, Orioles; James McCann, C, Tigers; Yoervis Medina, RP, Mariners

NL-ONLY

Matt Duffy, 2B, San Francisco Giants
Duffy has been the beneficiary of a banged-up Giants infield during the early season, and has been getting playing time across the diamond. Duffy does not provide much fantasy upside, but in leagues that grant one-game positional eligibility, he now qualifies at all CO and MI positions ,which gives his value a slight boost. If you have dead spot in the infield, Duffy will offer a little help until a better option comes along.

Tyler Matzek, SP, Colorado Rockies
Matzek was not sharp in his first start of the season against the Cubs, but was able to escape despite his command issues, allowing just one run over four innings before being pulled due to his pitch count. Matzek gets the Giants in San Francisco this week, a team he beat in his only appearance again them last year, going seven strong innings and striking out seven. There are not many streaming options in deep NL-Only leagues this week, and Matzek is your best bet if you’re in search of SP.

Other NL-Only FAAB options: A.J. Ramos, RP, Marlins; Jason Marquis, SP, Reds, Jumbo Diaz, RP, Reds

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BPKevin
4/13
Do you see any reason to think Aaron Hill will be fantasy-relevant this year?
MikeGianella
4/13
If there is a trade or an injury. I believe in Lamb, and if the Diamondbacks are committed to Nick Ahmed at SS, then it seems there isn't much room for Hill.
sam19041
4/13
What does that imply for Brandon Drury this year, if anything?
seanqueue
4/13
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks you sourced your lists of popular adds from the ESPN Razzball Leagues, where the goal is to field the worst team over the course of a full season (cf. Razz, poker version). I wouldn't be recommending any of those guys to the 99.4% of us who are interested in accumulating, not avoiding, category points.
MikeGianella
4/13
It is a different league than the one you are referencing. I'll try to clarify this next week.
username49
4/13
Roberto Perez is taking over for the injured Yan Gomes. He seems like a very solid grab in AL only leagues, or any 2 catcher leagues. In 2013, he suffered from Bell's Palsy and many people thought it had effected his hitting. After getting the issue corrected in 2014, he made major improvements at the plate in AAA with a 305/405/517 slash line, and has performed rather well in his short time in the majors. I'm taking a flyer. Could be a cheap source of power at the C position.
Slyke18
4/13
Yep, Perez makes for a decent flier in AL-Only leagues with the Gomes injury. In my old school AL-Only 4x4 home league this weekend, Perez went for $4 to the team who owned Gomes.As you stated, Perez could be a cheap source for power from your second catcher slot.