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 that said, here’s what we have to pique our interest on the fantasy free-agent market to this point in week 25.
Jake Smolinski , OF, Oakland A’s
After eight years in the minors, the second-round pick of the Nationals back in 2007 finally made it to the big leagues in 2014 and appeared in 24 games with the Rangers. He made the Opening Day roster for Texas, but after putting up a dreadful slash line in April and May (.140/.290/.220 over 62 PA), Smolinksi was sent to the minors and eventually DFA’d in June. The outfielder was claimed by the A’s a few days later, and since the calendar flipped to September, Smolinski has been a regular in Bob Melvin’s lineup, starting 14 of the last 18 games. While the AVG is troublesome, he has smacked three home runs this month, and with the consistent playing time, he should do enough in the counting stats to provide value in AL-only leagues the rest of the way.
Since his September 1st call-up from Triple-A, the 25-year-old outfielder has been seeing regular playing time and in fact has started 11 of the last 14 games for Kevin Cash. During this time, he has produced at the plate for the Rays, slashing .381/.435/.595 this month. But, more importantly in fantasy circles, Mahtook is running as well, with three stolen bases in this past week, which should pique the interest of contending squads that need a speed play. He has 76 career steals in parts of four minor-league seasons, so keep Mahtook on your shortlist of FAAB targets this week if you have upward mobility in the SB category.
This year’s Southern League Player of the Year was called by the Twins on Monday to provide some outfield depth for Minnesota’s AL Wild Card push. The German native who was signed as a 16-year-old by the Twins has a nice power/speed profile and slashed .322/.416/.531 in his 482 PA at Double-A this season. If Kepler can work his way into Paul Molitor’s lineup over the last two weeks of the season, the 22-year-old prospect could provide fantasy dividends for contenders.
Like Smolinski and Mahtook, Featherston has also been seeing regular playing time this month, which is why he is mentioned here. The utility infielder has started all but one game for the Angels this month, and has additional value because he qualifies at three infield positions (2B, SS, and 3B). However, the issue with Featherston is that even though he is getting regular AB, he has been a liability offensively for most of the season. He is coming off a productive last week, hitting a HR while also stealing a base, so if he can follow it up with another week like that, he would be a safe option to fill a dead spot at MI in deep AL-only leagues next week.
Other AL-Only FAAB hitting options: Paulo Orlando, OF, Kansas City Royals; Craig Gentry, OF, Oakland A’s; Shawn O'Malley, OF, Seattle Mariners; J.R. Murphy, C, New York Yankees; Drew Stubbs, OF, Texas Rangers; Grady Sizemore, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
The 23-year-old Ryan was a September call-up by the Tigers, and after three relief appearances, he got the start on Monday in the first game of a doubleheader against the White Sox. The 6-foot-5 southpaw pitched quite well, allowing just two ER and seven baserunners over seven innings, but ended up taking the loss due to Jeff Samardzija’s gem. Ryan does not have electric stuff—his average fastball velocity is south of 90 mph—but despite the low strikeout totals, the contact hurler has put up solid ratios over his professional career. The lefty has posted a 3.06 and 1.245 WHIP over his 17 2/3 innings this month and is scheduled to get another start this weekend against the Twins. Ryan has more value in standard 4×4 formats, but if he can put up another solid outing against Minnesota, he would make for a nice streaming option next week in any format.
The 28-year-old first baseman has been working his way into the Nationals lineup this month and still possesses some pop, as he launched home runs against the Marlins on Saturday and Sunday. It’s a very thin waiver-wire pool right now in deep NL-only formats, so Moore appears to be the most intriguing option early this week. Monitor the slugging corner outfielder/first baseman’s playing time this week, as he could be a sneaky power play for teams needing a boost in the HR category.
Zach Davies, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
I wrote about Davies in the Deep League Report a couple of weeks back, and his name is still floating around on waiver wires across multiple expert leagues this week. The 22-year-old right hander has struggled with his command in his first four big-league starts, which has been a little surprising based on the solid BB/9 rates he posted in the minors. The diminutive hurler is coming off a quality start against the Reds and will toe the rubber against the Cubs on Wednesday. If Davies can produce a strong showing this time, he is scheduled to start against the Padres in San Diego next week, making him an intriguing streaming option in NL-only formats.
I wrote about Kontos last week, but when you toss up a 1.82 ERA and 0.880 WHIP over 66 1/3 innings and have been unowned in most leagues all season, you deserve another shout out. Despite not pitching in the highest-leverage situations, he has still earned a tidy $10 to date in standard NL-only 5×5 formats. Kontos is what he is, but if you are looking for a safe play to replace a ratio killer on your staff, Kontos makes for a decent FAAB option to secure your ERA and WHIP categories, and offers some hope for another vulture win.
Other NL-Only FAAB pitching options: Javier Lopez, RP, San Francisco Giants; Matt Stites, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks; Jairo Diaz, RP, Colorado Rockies; Corey Knebel, RP, Milwaukee Brewers; Sam Tuivailala, RP, St. Louis Cardinals; Travis Wood, RP/SP, Chicago Cubs