Welcome to Week Nine 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.
Gerardo Parra, OF, Brewers
With Khris Davis injured and Ryan Braun trying to hang on via cryotherapy, at-bats have opened up for Parra. What is even better is that he is batting second against righties and staying in the lineup, albeit farther down the lineup, against lefties. I think he will run more given more playing time and should be a nice all-around contributor to your lineup while he plays every day.
Brett Anderson, SP, Dodgers
Anderson is throwing harder than last year, his groundball rate is way up, and his walk rate has improved. If the results were better, particularly in the form of wins, he probably would not be eligible for this article. There have been negatives aside from the results, though. Anderson has not been able to induce as many popups as usual and has been plagued a bit by the home-run ball, but I am betting on these trends to regress (he was doing better in these departments in his short stint in Coors last year). More than anything though, he is still healthy and still pitching for a very good team. It ain’t optimal and it ain’t sexy, but it will play and it will probably play better than the alternatives.
Justin Bour, 1B, Marlins
Bour sure looks like a first baseman. Whether it is his appearance combined with traditional positional-batting order roles or his recent production that has the Marlins batting Bour cleanup really does not matter to us as fantasy baseball participants. Now, is Bour going to bat .333 or maintain a 23.8 percent HR:FB rate going forward? No. He will, however, most likely keep his strikeout rate in the respectable 18-22 percent range and will probably see his walk rate improve. With Michael Morse still out and the Marlins’ willingness to play younger players over veterans (see: J.T. Realmuto and Jarrod Saltalamachia), it is not difficult to imagine Bour continuing to provide at least average corner infield production even when Morse returns.
Kyle Hendricks, SP, Cubs
Hendricks has carried his excellent control into 2015 (5.4% walk rate), while improving his strikeout rate from 14.6 percent percent in 2014 to 20.0 percent in 2015. Like most pitchers with good enough stuff, but not enough ownership to be recommended in this section, Hendricks’ ERA (3.99) and win total (1) do not align with his underlying numbers. He has been throwing more sinkers this year and hitters have been hitting more groundballs. This is all good, but I do expect some regression in his strikeout rate (if not I would recommend him over Anderson) on account of having a lower swinging strike rate than last season. Either way though, Hendricks deserves some attention in 15 team mixed leagues.
Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Seattle Mariners
After a six-player trade on Wednesday, Trumbo heads back to the AL West and the Mariners hope the slugging corner outfielder will add some punch to a struggling Seattle offense. I have never been a big fan of Trumbo from a fantasy perspective: His average salary typically far exceeds his actual earnings and Trumbo has only reached $20 in fantasy earnings once in his career in standard 5×5 AL-only formats ($21 in 2012). He is also much less valuable in OBP leagues, sporting a poor .298 mark in over 2,200 career ABs. That said, when a hitter comes over from the NL with Trumbo’s power résumé, he is a hot commodity and deserves aggressive bids. However, the move to Seattle will most likely not help his power numbers; he holds just a career .396 SLG in Safeco Field, so caveat emptor.
Josh Fields, RP, Houston Astros
There are not a lot of strong pitching options in AL-only leagues this week, so I will go back to my wheelhouse—the Astros bullpen. I saw Fields floating around on the AL Tout Wars waiver wire this week, and if he was available in any of my multiple AL-only leagues, I would bid on him. I just love this Astros bullpen this year, and Fields has been lights out in his 14 appearances, sporting a 21-to-5 K:BB ratio and 0.846 WHIP over his 13 innings. Luke Gregerson is the closer, so do not expect saves. Just enjoy the peripherals and hope he can add to his current win total of two.
Other AL-Only FAAB options: David Lough, OF, Baltimore Orioles; Grant Green, IF/OF, Los Angeles Angels; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF, Los Angeles Angels; Shane Robinson, OF, Minnesota Twins; J.B. Shuck, OF, Chicago White Sox; Jake Smolinski, OF, Texas Rangers; Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, Seattle Mariners; Chasen Shreve, RP, New York Yankees; Steve Geltz, RP, Tampa Bay Rays; Alex Wilson, RP, Detroit Tigers; Vidal Nuno, RP, Seattle Mariners
Welington Castillo, C, Arizona Diamondbacks
I profiled Castillo two weeks ago in this article, but it was on the AL-only side after the veteran backstop was dealt from the Cubs to the Mariners. Castillo now heads back to the NL but stays on the left coast and has the potential to earn more playing time in Arizona. The Diamondbacks had seemed to be moving forward with Jarrod Saltalamacchia as their primary catcher once Tuffy Gosewisch went down for the season, but the acquisition of Castillo casts doubt on that plan. Castillo has tallied a combined $17 in earnings in standard NL-only 5×5 formats the previous two seasons, and his power should play well in Arizona. In deep NL-only leagues, Castillo becomes a solid second catcher option based on Saltalamacchia’s inconsistencies at the plate.
Brad Hand, SP, Miami Marlins
I wrote about Hand in Wednesday’s Deep League Report, but there are not many viable options this week in the NL-only pitching pool, so he resurfaces in the Free Agent Watch. Hand is certainly a gamble—you should know that going in—but he did beat the Cubs on Tuesday while allowing just two runs over six innings. Again, if you need a short-term SP streaming option, Hand could be serviceable based on the current state of the Marlins rotation, but the risks are obvious as he is scheduled to start against the Blue Jays on Monday, which is not the best matchup.
Other NL-Only FAAB options: Junior Lake, OF, Chicago Cubs; Shane Peterson, 1B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers; Daniel Descalso, IF, Colorado Rockies; Jose Tabata OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; Donovan Solano 2B/SS, Miami Marlins; Dale Thayer, RP, San Diego Padres ; Chris Rusin, SP/RP, Colorado Rockies; Taylor Hill, RP, Washington Nationals; Kendry Flores, RP, Miami Marlins; Corey Knebel, RP, Milwaukee Brewers.