As a friendly reminder, the Free Agent Watch article, which appears every Friday, will cover any midweek transactions that might impact your interest in available players in -only leagues. With all that said, here’s what we have to pique our collective interests from a free-agent perspective thus far in week 20.
Ryan Strausborger, OF, Texas Rangers
The former 16th-round pick back in the 2010 MLB draft has been known more for his defense during his minor-league career, but he has amassed some impressive stolen-base totals on the Rangers farm, racking up 154 in six-plus seasons. He had 27 swipes in 32 attempts at Triple-A this season before his call-up. With Josh Hamilton nursing a sore left knee, the Indiana State University product got a couple of starts and managed 12 at-bats last week for the Rangers. He’s also shown some pop, hitting 10 homers at Triple-A this year, and another one for the Rangers on Sunday. Strausborger has started for the Rangers in their OF the past three games, and considering Hamilton’s injury issues this season and Strausborger’s plus defense, he could continue to get a couple of starts a week in the short term, which gives him value in deep AL-only leagues.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels
Cowart was called up from Triple-A on Tuesday by the Angels after they designated Conor Gillaspie for assignment. Cowart got the start at the hot corner last night and could see time at third base while David Freese remains out with a broken finger. To the chagrin of Angels’ fans, once a top 50 Baseball Prospectus prospect, the no. 18 pick in the 2010 draft has not lived up to those lofty expectations. It’s been a bit of a rocky road for Cowart who began this year in High-A ball. However, since a promotion to Triple-A back in June, he has posted a .323/.395/.491 slash line over 253 PA, and the switch-hitting corner infielder now gets the call-up for a team right in the mix in the AL West and Wild Card races. Cowart is only 23 years old, so the book is not written yet on this former top prospect. Given Freese’s injury history and the Angels’ desperate need for offense, Cowart could get an extended look should he show some production. Cowart has stolen 36 bases over the past year-and-a-half in the minors, so fantasy owners who need a speed source down the stretch might take a closer look in AL-only leagues.
Other AL-Only FAAB hitting options: Jerry Sands, OF, Cleveland Indians; Sam Fuld, OF, Oakland A’s; J.R. Murphy, C, New York Yankees; Paulo Orlando, OF, Kansas City Royals; Chris Gimenez, C, Texas Rangers; Daniel Nava, OF, Tampa Bay Rays; Greg Bird, 1B, New York Yankees; Ryan Jackson, IF, Los Angeles Angels; Jefry Marte, 1B, Detroit Tigers
Mychal Givens, RP, Baltimore Orioles
Givens, a middle infielder who was converted into a relief pitcher two years ago, was called up by the Orioles last week when Chaz Roe was placed on the 15-day DL. It’s the 25-year-old’s second stint pitching out of the Baltimore ‘pen this year, and he has delivered impressive results in his small sample of outings with the Orioles. The right-handed reliever has appeared in five games with Baltimore, recording a 10-to-1 K:BB ratio in his 7 1/3 innings, posting a 0.535 WHIP without allowing an earned run and. The former second-round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft (again, as a middle infielder) has posted solid numbers since the position change back in 2013, and he excelled at Double-A this year, putting up a 1.73 ERA, 0.942 WHIP, 12.4 K/9, and 15 saves in 57 1/3 innings.
Kris Medlen, RP, Kansas City Royals
I wrote about Kris Medlen in this spot last week, but he is still floating around on waiver wires in expert leagues. Medlen made his first big-league appearance following his second Tommy John surgery three weeks and struggled in his first outing, allowing four ER over 3 1/3 IP against the Pirates. Since then, the right-handed hurler has recorded four straight scoreless appearances, including 3 2/3 hitless innings in his last appearance on Sunday, in relief of an ineffective Danny Duffy. With the Royals running away with the AL Central, and some question marks at the back end of the rotation, Ned Yost could look to the proven veteran Medlen as a rotation option down the stretch in Kansas City. He also makes for a decent keeper play in those formats.
Other AL-Only FAAB pitching options: Nate Jones, RP, Chicago White Sox; Chasen Shreve, RP, New York Yankees; Trevor Gott, RP, Los Angeles Angels; Zach Putnam, RP, Chicago White Sox; Josh Fields, RP, Houston Astros; LaTroy Hawkins, RP, Toronto Blue Jays
Peter Bourjos, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
It seems to be a recurring theme this season, but it is yet again a very thin week on the waiver wire for NL hitting options. With the news on Monday that Randal Grichuk will be placed on the 15-day DL, Bourjos gets a little boost in fantasy value in the short term. The Cardinals recalled Tommy Pham from Triple-A in a corresponding roster move, so admittedly we will need to monitor the playing time in the Cardinals outfield during the week. Bourjos has been a fantasy tease since his 2011 breakout season, so do not expect much, but if he can steal you a couple of bases in a week when you have a dead spot on offense, that is quite valuable this late in the season.
Other NL-Only FAAB hitting options: Logan Schafer, OF, Milwaukee Brewers; Jason Rogers, IF, Milwaukee Brewers; Tommy Pham, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Andrew Chafin, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks
You know I love my middle relievers, and Chafin needs some love in deep NL-Only Leagues. This former 43rd-overall pick (2011) has thrived for the Diamondbacks since being moved from the rotation to a relief role. Very quietly, the former Golden Flash from Kent State University has put up 16 consecutive scoreless appearances, and during that streak has shut down opposing hitters, allowing only five singles while logging a 14-to-5 K:BB ratio (which becomes even better when you note that two of those walks were intentional. Overall on the season, the southpaw is 5-0 with eight holds and two saves, while toting a strong 2.37 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. His 57% ground-ball rate has limited opponents to just one long fly in his 60 2/3 innings. While he’s not a sexy roster option, Chafin has earned $8 to date in standard NL-only 5×5 league formats, and he makes for a safe play in these deep leagues, with a little upside based on the ratios.
Other NL-Only FAAB pitching options: Javier Lopez, RP, San Francisco Giants; Hector Neris, RP, Philadelphia Phillies; Bud Norris, SP/RP, San Diego Padres
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