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Welcome to Week Eight 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. In case you missed the news last week, based on popular demand*, we decided to move this column from Monday to Friday.

*inchoate yelling in the comments section

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

+/-

Logan Forsythe, TB 2B, 1B

41/136

15

4

18

1

.301

35.0

+14.3

Freddy Galvis, Phi SS

45/139

17

1

11

4

.324

25.3

+10.5

Brad Miller, Sea SS

30/115

11

5

14

3

.261

13.5

+10.2

Danny Espinosa, Wsh 2B

29/108

23

5

13

0

.269

10.8

+7.1

Zack Cozart, Cin SS

37/129

20

6

17

3

.287

75.1

+6.8

Ryan Howard, Phi 1B

35/136

13

8

20

0

.257

23.2

+6

Miguel Montero, ChC C

25/87

8

4

15

0

.287

32.9

+5.6

Todd Cunningham, Atl OF

9/19

5

0

2

1

.474

4.0

+4

Aaron Hill, Ari 2B, 3B

25/96

14

3

12

2

.260

17.8

+3.5

David DeJesus, TB OF

31/98

12

3

16

1

.316

5.6

+3.3

Source: ESPN, Razzball Expert League. Stats through Wednesday, May 20

Repeaters from Week 7: Galvis, Cozart, Hill, Montero

The ESPN Razzball league agrees emphatically with me about Montero (well, maybe I’m embellishing a little bit with the “emphatic” part) and is leaving him out in the free agent pool for now. He has certainly been solid, but probably isn’t one of the 12 best catchers in fantasy baseball.

It’s a thick, thick broth of middle infielders in the pool, and there is a surprising amount of power available up the middle. If I was lukewarm on Galvis last week, I’m even more tepid now looking at some of the other options at shortstop and second base. Galvis’ new and improved approach is great for his real-life value but in fantasy hitting a lot of grounders and line drives helps no one. All of the 2B/SS eligible players are superior pickups to Galvis, with the possible exception of Espinosa, if you are concerned about the long term and the return of Anthony Rendon.

I profiled Cunningham humorously (I guess; I didn’t get as many favs and RTs on Twitter as I was hoping for, to be quite honest) in this week’s FAAB Review. He is a significant stretch in standard mixed formats and I would ignore him entirely.

Mike Recommends: Ryan Howard. (Mmmmm, crow. Tastes delicious). Very quietly, Howard has picked it up in the batting average department, getting all the way up to a respectable .257. If he can stay in the .250 range, Howard offers enough power that he could provide backend mixed-league value in 2015. His ISO is comparable to what he did in 2010-2011. His real life value is still as a marginal 1.5-win or so player, but in fantasy he could swat 25-30 home runs if he stays healthy.

12-Team Mixed Pitcher

SEASON STATS

Player

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

DRA

%OWN

+/-

Mike Bolsinger, LAD RP, SP

17.1

14

2

0

1.04

1.10

3.74

20.9

+16.3

Chris Young, KC SP, RP

28.2

21

3

0

0.94

0.63

3.28

30.9

+14.1

Wei-Yin Chen, Bal SP

49.2

38

1

0

2.90

1.09

3.77

32.7

+13.1

Rubby De La Rosa, Ari SP

53.0

47

4

0

4.08

1.11

3.69

29.0

+12.5

Jered Weaver, LAA SP

57.2

28

3

0

4.37

1.16

4.31

66.2

+10.9

Miguel Gonzalez, Bal SP

50.0

42

5

0

3.24

1.12

3.49

44.2

+10

Mike Wright, Bal RP

7.1

6

1

0

0.00

0.55

3.68

9.5

+9.4

Jaime Garcia, StL SP

9.8

+8.3

David Phelps, Mia RP, SP

42.0

30

2

0

3.21

1.31

3.73

17.7

+7.5

Hector Santiago, LAA RP, SP

48.0

44

3

0

2.25

1.23

3.96

39.8

+7.5

Source: ESPN, Razzball Expert League. Stats through Wednesday, May 20
Repeaters from Week 7: Young, Bolsinger, Karns

With the exception of Weaver, the pitchers here are fairly representative of the high end free agents in standard mixed leagues. Most of these guys are gone even in deeper mixed leagues, but the comfort level with nearly all of these arms is understandably limited in 10 or 12-team formats.

For a spot start, I dig nearly all of these pitchers based on my old friend K/IP. It is intuitive, yet we forget that guys who strike out a lot of batters tend to keep the WHIP in friendly territory as well. Phelps and Santiago are the only pitchers on this list who have a WHIP above 1.2, and half of the pitchers on the table have a WHIP of 1.12 or lower. These are some fairly team-friendly choices that the owners in standard mixed have at their disposal.

I don’t particularly like pitchers in the AL East, but Gonzalez and Chen have been stellar this year (even though Chen hasn’t been getting the wins). The Orioles have a rough stretch of games coming up, with eight home games in seven days starting on Monday against the Astros (3), White Sox (2), and Rays (3), followed by a six-game road trip against the Astros and Indians and then six games at home against the Red Sox and Yankees. The regression police are likely to come calling in the next few weeks.

If you count Anaheim as L.A. (it has been in the Angels’ name for years now, which means it must be real), then Los Angeles has three pitchers on this list. Despite the better results of late, I’d still stay away from Weaver, whose velocity still scares me, even in his home starts. Of the three L.A. guys, I like Santiago the most, although his DRA speaks to a fall at some point.

Mike Recommends: Rubby De La Rosa. This is a combustible recommendation, as De La Rosa either seems to be on the top of his game and completely dominant or doesn’t have it and does some hefty damage. He looks like the pitcher who people were high on five years ago (or was it six years ago, time sure does fly when you’re having fun writing free agent watches) more and more, and has the stuff where a breakout could be coming. In standard mixed, play the upside.

15-Team Mixed Hitter

Player

Own%

Pena, Brayan (C,1B)

20.00

90

6

0

4

0

.322

Perez, Carlos (C)

5.74

28

1

1

5

0

.250

Canha, Mark (1B, OF)

5.35

112

16

5

15

3

.214

Middlebrooks, Will (3B)

3.56

114

12

4

13

2

.202

Turner, Justin (3B)

2.18

69

11

5

16

1

.290

Gosewisch, Tuffy (C)

2.18

105

7

0

12

1

.229

Snider, Travis (OF)

1.58

82

10

1

9

0

.268

Escobar, Eduardo (SS,3B, OF)

1.39

103

11

2

16

1

.252

Rivera, Rene (C)

1.39

109

5

2

9

0

.138

Taylor, Michael (OF)

1.19

84

6

3

13

4

.238

SOURCE: RT Sports, LABR Mixed, Stats through Wednesday, May 20
Repeaters from Week 7: Pena, Perez, Middlebrooks, Turner, Escobar

In LABR, there is a minimum FAAB bid of $1, so you can’t simply plunk zero bids down on anyone and everyone when you are looking for a replacement. The result of this is that marginal upgrades tend to stay available on the wire, since an owner doesn’t want to spend even one dollar on a change that does little to help his squad.

All of the catchers on this table kind of fit this bill. Is Tuffy Gosewisch worth a dollar, especially when spelling his name is enough of a chore to begin with? Shouldn’t be a character on Downton Abbey? Do you always spell “Downton” with a second “w” too before getting mad at yourself for how elitist that spelling and the entire show is, mainly because you don’t understand things like “class distinctions” and “proper hygiene”? Hmmm, I seem to have lost the thread of what I was saying yet again. Oh, yes, catchers. The catchers here are maybe worth a buck, but if you can’t make zero bids or waiver claims, it is worth thinking about passing entirely.

Snider is a cautionary tale about how last year’s breakout guy can become this year’s dud. There is certainly plenty of time for him to bounce back, but the Orioles have enough options elsewhere and Buck Showalter is not the kind of manager to rely on loyalty to make decisions going forward. With Jayson Werth on the DL, I prefer Michael Taylor’s power/speed combo over Snider, even if the batting average isn’t the most appealing thing in the world.

Mike Recommends: Mark Canha.
The batting average is down but then so is the BABIP. The power/speed combination still plays in fantasy and while I understand why you don’t want to play a player in a prolonged slump, Canha should at least be a reserve stash in 15-team or deeper mixed. He could still go 15/10, which most definitely plays in this format.

15-Team Mixed Pitcher

Player

Own%

W

ERA

SV

IP

SO

WHIP

DRA

McCullers, Lance (P)

10.89

0

1.93

0

4.2

5

1.29

4.08

Buehrle, Mark (P)

10.10

5

5.36

0

47.0

23

1.57

5.81

Roark, Tanner (P)

9.31

0

2.66

1

20.1

7

1.38

4.32

Kelly, Joe (P)

5.54

1

5.13

0

47.1

43

1.31

3.53

Locke, Jeff (P)

5.54

2

5.28

0

46.0

36

1.46

5.03

Miley, Wade (P)

3.17

3

5.10

0

42.1

29

1.44

3.99

Watson, Tony (P)

2.77

1

1.57

1

23.0

21

0.74

3.53

Garcia, Jaime (P)

1.78

0

2.57

0

7.0

3

1.43

Warren, Adam (P)

1.19

2

4.26

0

44.1

27

1.38

4.17

Iglesias, Raisel (P)

0.99

1

3.94

0

16.0

11

1.25

3.73

SOURCE: RT Sports, LABR Mixed, Stats through Wednesday, May 20

Repeaters from Week 7: Buehrle, Kelly, Miley, Warren

The song remains the same, which in this case means that the pitchers available in deeper mixed are still fairly poor. Buehrle’s ERA has come down, but it is still pretty awful, and while I dig Kelly (and recommended him two weeks ago) the ERA still isn’t inspiring confidence even if the DRA is. Miley is a similar pitcher: he should get better, but he hasn’t yet, and the K/IP isn’t as good as it was in Arizona.

The relievers are always tempting in deeper mixed, but the same idea that applied to the catchers on the hitting side of the pool applies here. I like Tony Watson. Do I want to bid on on a reliever like Watson whose best work is probably behind him? Probably not. Iglesias is a better spec play (and I agree with my colleague Bret Sayre’s Stash List recommendation on him for later in the season), but he is a tough add right now if your FAAB resources are limited.

Mike Recommends: Jaime Garcia. Yuk it up if you believe that Garcia is an injury waiting to happen, but he pitched very well yesterday against the Mets and will perform as long as he is on the field, with a strong lineup giving him extra win chances to boot. In deeper mixed, Garcia is worth the moderate bid under the assumption that he will at the very least give you 8-10 strong starts.

AL-ONLY

Hitter

Max Muncy, 1B/3B, Oakland A’s
The 24-year-old has been seeing regular playing time for the A’s of late, and his .286/.364/.607 line with a couple of HR over his first 15 games is starting to open the eyes of AL-only owners. His minor-league scan shows he has hit at every level, and his 250-to-228 K:BB ratio over 1,500 career PA in the minors is impressive. He looks like a player to target if you need to fill a corner spot on your AL-only squad.

Pitcher

Lance McCullers, SP, Houston Astros

I wrote about McCullers way back in November in my Houston Astros 2015 Team Preview, thinking he coul have an impact in 2015. However, I envisioned he would make his contribution as a reliever, not as a starter. McCullers made his major-league debut this week against the A’s and pitched well in his 4 2/3 innings. Check out J.P. Breen’s analysis in his The Call-Up article from Monday and adjust your bids accordingly.

NL-ONLY

Position Player

Wilmer Difo, 2B, Washington Nationals

In a somewhat surprising move, the Nationals called up Difo on Tuesday to replace Jayson Werth on their active roster. Difo was the Nationals’ 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, after hitting .315 with 14 home runs and 49 stolen bases in Low-A ball. He was slashing .315/.367/.520 over his first 33 games between High-A and Double-A this year, including seven steals in eight attempts. I’m not sure what to expect from a player who only has 14 games above A-ball, but he should see time at second base and is worth a spec play based on the potential power/speed combination. You can also check out Bret Sayre’s fantasy analysis of Difo in The Call-Up from Wednesday.

Pitcher

Enrique Burgos, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks

I felt Brad Ziegler was the best bet to replace Addison Reed as the closer for the Diamondbacks. While Ziegler picked up the save yesterday for Arizona, Chip Hale is going with a committee approach, and Burgos notched saves on back-to-back nights earlier this week. What is intriguing about Burgos is his swing-and-miss stuff combined with his ground-ball rates. He posted a 13.7 K/9 last year in High-A, which really came out of nowhere based on his career scan, but also had 6.1 BB/9, which would explain why Burgos didn’t pass A-ball until after he turned 24. That said, he has a 15.4 K/9 though his first 11 2/3 MLB innings and a 1.76 FIP. NL-only owners are always looking for potential hidden gems from a cheap saves perspective, and Burgos could definitely fit the bill.

Thank you for reading

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Carosella
5/22
My money is on Ziegler over Burgos. I know Burgos got 2 saves, but the 1st was in extra innings and the 2nd was probably because Ziegler was unavailable having pitched 2 innings the night before. Unless he has changed his stripes.... Burgos will walk too many to be a viable closer IMO.
Slyke18
5/22
Hey Quagmire,
Thanks for checking out the article and commenting.

I am with you about Ziegler, as I kind of referenced in my summary. I have little faith Burgos can sustain his fast start based on his career scan and BB/9 rates. That said, Burgos should still be on our radars based on his K/9 and his early success so you never know if he has figured it out at 24. He just needs to focus on tossing less balls....giggity.