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Welcome to Week Four 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 will be tackling all the mixed-league formats, while Keith will be handling the only-league duties.

12-Team Mixed Hitter

SEASON STATS

Player

H/AB

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

%OWN

+/-

Caleb Joseph, Bal, C

12/35

5

1

4

0

.343

53.6

+47.8

Will Middlebrooks, SD, 3B

14/51

7

2

9

2

.275

25.6

+24.7

Ender Inciarte, Ari, OF

16/51

10

0

5

2

.314

77.4

+23

Adeiny Hechavarria, Mia, SS

21/53

13

2

12

1

.396

23.6

+22.9

Sam Fuld, Oak, OF

11/45

11

0

3

2

.244

30.3

+13.3

Jimmy Paredes, Bal OF

12/30

8

3

6

1

.400

12.0

+12

A.J. Pierzynski, Atl, C

12/32

5

2

4

0

.375

14.0

+11.8

Josh Reddick, Oak OF

15/42

3

1

7

2

.357

13.9

+8.4

Brock Holt, Bos 3B, OF

14/32

4

1

8

1

.438

9.2

+5.7

Brandon Phillips, Cin 2B

15/49

5

0

6

0

.306

39.7

+5.1

Source: ESPN, Razzball Expert League. Stats through Saturday, April 25

Repeaters from Week 3: Joseph, Inciarte, Fuld.

Catchers in one-catcher format leagues can sit on the wire for some time, regardless of how well they are doing. For as well as Joseph has done, he isn’t doing much more than providing some empty batting average. That’s awesome in two-catcher formats, but in one catcher leagues there’s no need to race to pick him up. Fuld and Inciarte offer a little cheap speed. The call up of Yasmany Tomas makes Inciarte slightly less appealing, particularly in standard mixed.

Phillips is a bottom-end fill in type if you have an injury. I miss the power and I miss the speed from the days of Phillips’s yesteryear. Hechavarria isn’t going to keep this up, though I am intrigued by the early home run power (albeit in a small sample size). Like Joseph, Pierzynski’s stock has gone up but he is a two-catcher format guy.

As if often the case, outfielders dominate the mixed-league free agent risers. Paredes and Holt are terrific stories, but unless you can stream players daily, it seems like you’re chasing yesterday’s sunrise with these types of players. If you need an outfielder, Reddick is the guy I’d want. He looks healthy in the Athletics games I have watched, and the power should come.

Mike Recommends: Will Middlebrooks. Here is an early entrant in the preseason “Mike was wrong” category. Middlebrooks’ power looks legitimate, and he has quickly shed the bad-side-of-a-platoon label. Petco will hurt, but it isn’t hard to envision at least 15-17 home runs from the formerly embattled third baseman (eh, maybe he’s not embattled. Maybe I’m being a tad dramatic). In today’s context, those numbers could play in mixed, particularly in the upgraded Padres’ lineup.

12-Team Mixed Pitcher

SEASON STATS

Player

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

%OWN

+/-

Alfredo Simon, Det

22.0

12

3

0

0.82

0.77

83.9

+71.7

Edinson Volquez, KC

14.2

12

1

0

2.45

0.82

87.4

+51.1

Nick Martinez, Tex

13.0

4

1

0

0.69

1.08

50.7

+32.5

Hector Santiago, LAA

13.0

13

2

0

1.38

0.92

28.4

+28.2

Chris Heston, SF

20.0

15

1

0

3.60

1.35

36.4

+19.5

Aaron Harang, Phi

20.0

13

1

0

1.80

0.90

41.3

+16.1

Jonathon Niese, NYM

13.0

9

2

0

1.38

1.46

20.4

+14.5

Jeff Locke, Pit

13.0

13

1

0

3.46

1.08

14.2

+11.6

Dan Haren, Mia

13.0

12

1

0

4.15

0.92

12.6

+8.7

Ubaldo Jimenez, Bal

15.2

16

1

0

2.30

0.89

31.7

+6.6

Source: ESPN, Razzball Expert League. Stats through Saturday, April 25

Repeaters from Week 3: Volquez, Harang, Heston, Jimenez

It’s understandable why the repeaters on the list aren’t trustworthy. Volquez hasn’t logged a lot of innings, and U-Ball is about as stable as a three-legged table. Harang did this last year in April with even more strikeouts before fading, and while Heston has been getting a lot of love for improvement in his stuff, the numbers aren’t exactly great.

Do I have to recommend someone from this list? Simon is a “ride the hot hand” kind of guy, but in mixed you really want to make sure you get those strikeouts. Martinez fits this model even more than Simon does. A lot of these other guys are pitchers where you just have to play the matchups, and even then only if you’re not in a start-limit league. I dig Locke as a slick, sneaky play when he’s home at PNC and the same can be said for Niese and Santiago in their home starts.

Mike Recommends: Dan Haren. It’s a weak list, but Haren always offers that strong strikeout potential that I like to have. Definitely keep him on your bench or on the waiver wire in non-NL East road games, but he is a pretty strong start in divisional games and particularly at home.

15-Team Mixed Hitter

Player

Own%

AB

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Kurt Suzuki, C

19.21

49

5

2

6

0

.204

Mark Canha, 1B/OF

9.70

64

10

1

7

2

.250

Zack Cozart, SS

3.17

62

8

4

9

1

.306

Juan Lagares, OF

3.17

71

10

0

8

1

.296

Freddy Galvis, SS

2.38

58

4

1

8

0

.328

Tim Beckham, 2B

1.98

40

7

3

10

1

.275

Casey McGehee, 3B

1.78

48

3

1

2

0

.188

Cody Asche, 3B

1.58

59

4

2

3

0

.305

Adeiny Hechavarria, SS

1.58

68

15

2

13

1

.324

Chris Young, OF

1.39

46

8

4

9

0

.320

SOURCE: RT Sports, LABR Mixed, Stats through Saturday, April 25

Repeaters from Week 2: Suzuki, McGehee, Beckham

At this point, Suzuki reminds me of the “wouldn’t you…like to be…a big brother…to me?” joke from Seinfeld. His fast start is gone, but a starter is a starter in 15-team, two-catcher mixed. McGehee has to do better, right? The reality is that since July 1st of last year, McGehee has put up a miserable .254/.320/.323 slash with four home runs in 388 plate appearances. He doesn’t appear to be a viable option. Beckham looked better last week before James Loney’s return. With Franklin back soon as well, Beckham is probably not useful in mixed.

Do you believe in Zack Cozart? Well, you probably shouldn’t believe he’s this good, but 2014 looks far more like the anomaly. Another 8-10 home runs this year is realistic, and if you can stomach the average, he should be okay. I like a little bit better than Galvis or Hechavarria in this format, even though Hechavarria has been out of his mind so far (including a bases-clearing triple yesterday that isn’t reflected on the stat line above.

Chris Young has four home runs, but as long as the Yankees are committed to Carlos Beltran, Young is likely to be a part timer. He still isn’t bad as a platoon guy in deep mixed. Asche has been okay, but the disappointing RBI totals aren’t likely to jump significantly on the sad sack Phillies.

Mike Recommends: Juan Lagares. Lagares has appeared to be a much better hitter than advertised, and while he isn’t a big time power hitter, he should be able to get to 10-12 home runs this year. The defense will keep him on the field almost every day, and the Mets improved performance should help the counting stats a good deal.

15-Team Mixed Pitcher

Player

Own%

W

ERA

SV

IP

SO

WHIP

Buehrle, Mark (P)

18.02

3

4.94

0

23.2

10

1.73

Lohse, Kyle (P)

17.43

1

7.94

0

22.2

14

1.37

Lincecum, Tim (P)

7.13

1

2.00

0

18.0

14

1.22

Milone, Tommy (P)

4.36

2

3.38

0

18.2

11

1.23

Lewis, Colby (P)

2.57

1

3.75

0

24.0

15

1.25

Smith, Joe (P)

2.18

0

0.00

0

7.0

10

1.14

Broxton, Jonathan (P)

1.58

0

6.75

0

6.2

10

1.05

De La Rosa, Jorge (P)

1.58

0

11.57

0

7.0

10

2.29

Chavez, Jesse (P)

1.58

0

0.71

1

12.2

13

0.79

Matzek, Tyler (P)

1.39

1

2.40

0

15.0

10

1.53

SOURCE: RT Sports, LABR Mixed, Stats through Saturday, April 18

Repeaters from Week 2: Buehrle, Lincecum, Milone, Lewis, Smith, Broxton

I’m not a big advocate of Lincecum in mixed, but the Colorado rainout gives him a two-start week this week and saves him from a start in Colorado. Buehrle is getting the wins (and probably will continue to do so in Toronto) but unlike last year is not off to a very good start. Lewis and Milone both seem borderline even from a match-up perspective. I’m mystified as to why Broxton is still here.

For the first time in a long time, Lohse owners did not benefit from a fast start. He should be fine, but it is the gamblers’ fallacy to assume that he is “owed” something better the rest of the season. De La Rosa is liked by some as a road play, but has always made me nervous, despite the high strikeout rates. Matzek is a road play, but his WHIP and K/9 indicates that he isn’t going to keep this up.

Mike Recommends: Jesse Chavez. With Kendall Graveman getting demoted to Triple-A, Chavez gets another crack at the A’s rotation. He isn’t the greatest option (those strikeouts will dip as a starter), but he should be good enough to provide back-end value in deeper mixed. Just make sure not to start him this week in Arlington.

AL-ONLY

Eric Sogard, 2B, Oakland A’s

Sogard should see the bulk of playing time at 2B while Ben Zobrist recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery. Sogard is what he is, but he did steal 10 bases in 2013 and 11 more last season in limited time for the A’s. The veteran second sacker has earned a combined $16 in standard AL-only 5×5 formats the past two seasons and is a caoable MI to plug into a dead spot while Zobrist is out.

Roenis Elias, SP, Seattle Mariners

Elias was called up from Triple-A Tacoma to replace the recently disabled Hisashi Iwakuma and got the start on Sunday against the Twins. Elias enjoyed success as a rookie last year, making 29 starts and posting a sub-4.00 ERA with a solid K/9 of 7.9. Iwakuma’s lat injury could keep him out for a month, which means the Cuban left-hander could stick in the rotation for an extended period. His FIP indicates he pitched to his ERA last season, and Elias will bring value in AL-only formats if he can pitch to last year’s levels.

Other AL-Only FAAB options: Jesse Chavez, RP/SP, A’s; Jimmy Paredes, 3B, Orioles; Ryan Raburn, OF, Indians; Shane Robinson, OF, Twins; Tony Sipp, RP, Astros; Cam Bedrosian, RP, Angels; Grant Green, OF, Angels; Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Texas Rangers

NL-ONLY

Elian Herrera, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

It’s a pretty thin week in terms of free agent hitters in NL-only leagues, hence Herrera getting top billing this week. Scooter Gennett is not eligible to return from the DL until May 5th, so Herrera and Hector Gomez will be the Brewers fill-ins until then. Herrera has a little better track record of success in the majors than Gomez, so he might have the edge in terms of playing time. His grand slam and five-RBI night last Tuesday certainly won’t hurt in his fight for playing time. That said, Herrera is nothing more than an injury fill-in, even in the deepest of NL-only formats.

Eric Stults, SP, Atlanta Braves

Stults is making another appearance in the Free Agent Watch this week after he was profiled back in Week One’s article. The veteran southpaw is still floating around on the waiver wire in many leagues, and makes for a decent streaming option this week. Stults is coming off a quality start against the Mets his last time out, and will have a two start week this week scheduled to face the Nationals and Reds. He has a 10-to-3 K:BB ratio in first three starts with a 1.188 WHIP, so while he may not be much help in the strikeout category, he won’t kill your ratios and might get you a win, or possibly two.

Other NL-Only FAAB options: Luis Garcia, RP, Phillies; Scott Baker, SP, Dodgers; Jason Rogers, 1B/OF, Brewers; Dale Thayer, RP, Padres; Jumbo Diaz, RP, Reds; John Axford, RP, Rockies; Paco Rodriguez, RP, Dodgers.