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Free Agent Watch

Week 24

By: George Bissell & Mark Barry

Baseball Prospectus

12-team mixed leagues (must be available in at least 50 percent of CBS, ESPN, or Yahoo leagues)

Hitters

Matt Olson (1B/OF)Athletics

Available: 53% CBS, 48% ESPN, 52% Yahoo

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Matt Olson handing out souvenirs in Fenway. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/RootedInOakland?src=hash”>#RootedInOakland</a> <a href=”https://t.co/4SyRUCmjp1″>pic.twitter.com/4SyRUCmjp1</a></p>&mdash; Oakland A’s 🌳🐘⚾️ (@Athletics) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Athletics/status/908112015658336256″>September 13, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

The 23-year-old slugger was not only featured in this space last week (and you know how I feel about repeating the same selections over and over again), but Olson proceeded to homer in three of his next five games. What more do prospective fantasy owners need to see? Since being recalled from Triple-A on August 8, he’s hitting .311/.388/.728 with 14 home runs in just 116 plate appearances. Sure, there are some legitimate concerns in his profile. He’s still striking out nearly a quarter (22 percent) of the time and won’t sustain the truly absurd 41 percent HR/FB rate he’s run since returning to The Show last month. However, mixing tremendous raw power, as evidenced by a 91.9 mph average exit velocity that ranks tied for seventh-best in baseball along with Giancarlo Stanton this season, with a boatload of fly balls, is a recipe for fantasy goodness. If you haven’t invested in Olson yet, this weekend likely represents the final chance to do so in re-draft (and dynasty formats) before the hype train takes off and the mainstream perception of his long-term fantasy value skyrockets.

Ozzie Albies (2B)Braves

Available: 61% CBS, 82% ESPN, 83% Yahoo

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Ozzie Albies is fast, you guys. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Braves?src=hash”>#Braves</a> <a href=”https://t.co/1JObNaPSik”>pic.twitter.com/1JObNaPSik</a></p>&mdash; FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) <a href=”https://twitter.com/FOXSportsBraves/status/905499016573489152″>September 6, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

We knew the youngest everyday position player in baseball would be able to contribute in the stolen base department once he was called up last month. While he’s stolen just three bases in 40 games, he’s hitting a sparkling .293/.361/.467 with 15 extra-base hits (seven doubles, five triples and three home runs) with 26 runs scored, 19 RBIs and nearly as many walks (16) as strikeouts (26) through his first 170 plate appearances. Not only is the 20-year-old rocking a cool 11-game hit streak, but he’s ascended to the second spot in the Braves loaded lineup, sandwiched between on-base machine Ender Inciarte and elite slugger Freddie Freeman. The question long-term question marks with Albies regard his ultimate power and speed upside, but this is essentially a Jose Ramirez starter kit. It was fair to be skeptical of him a month ago, but he’s hitting enough to warrant a pickup even in a shallow mixed league right now, especially with a weekend series against the lowly Mets on tap. –George Bissell

Pitchers

Lucas Giolito (SP)—White Sox

Available: 32% CBS, 53% ESPN, 54% Yahoo

The 23-year-old righty makes his second-consecutive appearance in this column, as he continues to be very good, and is also still under-owned (how’s that for straightforward?). In his latest start, against the Royals, he admittedly didn’t have his best stuff. While typically this can lead to calamity and catastrophe for young starters, Giolito grinded through 6 1/3 innings, giving up only one run, and actually lowered his ERA to a tidy 2.56. The mere six swinging strikes were underwhelming, but the Royals have a knack for contact, and the rookie has been otherwise adept at inducing whiffs this season. For more dynamite analysis, check out last week’s column and go pick up Giolito.

German Marquez (SP)Rockies

Available: 31% CBS, 68% ESPN, 66% Yahoo

I’m probably the first person to bring this up, but it’s really hard to pitch at Coors Field, due to the elevation or something or other. Despite the inherited handicap, Marquez has acquitted himself quite nicely in his rookie season, striking out nearly a batter per inning in 145 innings. Sure, his 4.41 ERA isn’t ideal, and a 5.28 DRA doesn’t really absolve the 22-year-old from blame. He’s not riding a hot hand, as he got drubbed the last time out in Arizona, surrendering four runs in 3 2/3 innings, recording only one strikeout. Wait, so why I am advocating for this guy again? Right. It’s all about the matchups. If Coors Field is the barren desert for starting pitchers, the schedule this week is the oasis that pops up out of nowhere (RKO style). Marquez gets two starts, both on the road, in pitcher-friendly parks, against the two worst offenses in baseball (according to wRC+). The righty has shown flashes in the past, and games against the Giants and Padres could put a nice bow on his rookie season, not to mention fantasy owners’ championship pushes. –Mark Barry

15-team mixed leagues (must be available in at least 75 percent of CBS, ESPN, or Yahoo leagues)

Hitters

Justin Bour (1B)Marlins

Available: 38% CBS, 70% ESPN, 60% Yahoo

Don’t tell me you completely forgot about him. The 29-year-old was on the precipice of a massive breakout campaign, hitting .289/.366/.548 with 21 homers in 339 plate appearances before a right oblique strain July 24 sidelined him for nearly a month and a half. Power is plentiful in the current fantasy landscape, but Bour’s first half performance, which culminated with an appearance in the All-Star Home Run Derby, puts him among the upper echelon of dinger manufacturers. He merits a shout out in this space simply because he’s a four-category masher currently available in more than half of ESPN and Yahoo fantasy leagues. Don’t let him linger on the waiver wire, especially if you’re in a position to win a title.

Michael Taylor (OF)Nationals

Available: 56% CBS, 65% ESPN, 66% Yahoo

I’m tired of writing about Kevin Kiermaier (who is somehow still out there in way too many leagues). You know what to do if a streaky outfielder like Carlos Gonzalez or Mitch Haniger is still on your leagues waiver wire, but it’s time to have a discussion about Taylor. The 26-year-old is on the verge of becoming a member of the vaunted 20/20 club this season. The only four members so far: Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts and Elvis Andrus. Several others like Paul Goldschmidt, Brian Dozier, Wil Myers, Jose Ramirez, Keon Broxton, Brett Gardner, Andrew Benintendi, Tommy Pham, Chris Taylor, Whit Merrifield and Alex Bregman are close. All things considered, the Nationals center fielder is arguably the most surprising name of them all since he posted a gruesome .278 on-base percentage a year ago. A .364 BABIP has catalyzed his surge at the dish, but he’s homered four times since Sept. 1, and has locked up everyday at-bats behind the heart of the Nationals order. He isn’t a potential superstar, but he can make an impact in deeper formats over the final few weeks. I’m willing to roll the dice here. –George Bissell

Pitchers

Dillon Peters (SP)Marlins

Available: 67% CBS, 95% ESPN, 86% Yahoo

We talked a little bit about George’s new favorite pitcher, Peters, last week, and the lefty padded his resume with a solid showing in Philadelphia, giving up only two runs in six innings. He only registered four strikeouts, but he induced 11 swinging strikes, giving him a 12.1 percent swinging-strike rate for the season. There’s a lot to like with Peters, including a robust 66 percent ground-ball rate in his first three starts. As of now, the 25-year-old is penciled in to make three more starts this season, including a date with the strikeout-happy Brewers at Marlins Park next week.

Scott Alexander (RP)Royals

Available: 92% CBS, 88% ESPN, 85% Yahoo

Everyone could use a few more saves, right? When one closer’s door closes, another closer’s door opens. With Kelvin Herrera’s recent bouts with injuries and general ineffectiveness, Ned Yost has been scouring the roster for a suitable replacement while gazing longingly at old photos of Greg Holland and Wade Davis. Enter (maybe?) Alexander. Now, he’s widely available for a reason. Conventional wisdom, not to mention old-school managerial tactics would favor recent trade acquisition Brandon Maurer in the role. After all, Maurer has been a Proven Closer (™) in the past. However, Alexander has put together a strong 2017 campaign, and has seen a lot of time in high leverage situations, especially in September. The 28-year-old has recorded three saves this month and was in line for a fourth before blowing a save opportunity in his most recent chance against the White Sox on Wednesday night. While it’s never a good look to blow a save amid a closer competition, the runs allowed by Alexander were his first since Aug. 12 (coincidentally also against the White Sox).

Alexander isn’t going to get you a ton of strikeouts, or at least not consistently. He’s basically a one-pitch pitcher (two—if you’re feeling charitable), throwing his sinker in around 95 percent of his offerings. The pitch does get good whiffs, contributing to Alexander’s well-above average 12.8 percent swinging-strike rate. The whiffs don’t necessarily translate to gaudy strikeout numbers because batters are too busy pounding Alexander’s pitches into the ground. Among all pitchers with at least 60 innings, Alexander’s 74% ground-ball rate is the best in the league, and is over 7 percentage points better than his closest competitor. Alexander has the skills to close out games—it all comes down to opportunity. If Yost keeps Alexander around the ninth inning, he could be an excellent source for you to steal a few saves as the season winds down. –Mark Barry

The Deep League Specials (must be available in at least 90 percent of CBS, ESPN, or Yahoo leagues)

Willie Calhoun (2B/OF)Rangers

Available: 85% CBS, 94% ESPN, 92% Yahoo

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Extremely okay with that deal. Willie Calhoun can fuckin’ hit. <a href=”https://t.co/vp63JT3MKI”>https://t.co/vp63JT3MKI</a></p>&mdash; Craig Goldstein (@cdgoldstein) <a href=”https://twitter.com/cdgoldstein/status/892121330350530560″>July 31, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

I think my colleague, BP’s minor league editor Craig Goldstein, summarized the Calhoun experience perfectly. The 22-year-old mashed 31 taters, while hitting .300/.355/.572 and striking out just 61 times in 534 plate appearances in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League this season. If you’re desperate at second base in a deep mixer, the Rangers called him up with the intent to play him everyday, and we know he can hit. –George Bissell

Luis Perdomo (SP)Padres

Available: 84% CBS, 94% ESPN, 96% Yahoo

As you might recall the Padres had quite the time filling out their rotation before the 2017 season. While we all made our fair share of jokes (myself definitely included), the Padres managed to find a way to uncover some true bargains on the market, developing some interesting young starters along the way. Sometimes interesting doesn’t always mean “good,” as is the case with Perdomo. If I had to pick a young Padres starter to hang my hat on, it would be Dinelson Lamet, without question. However I can’t shake the feeling that something is there with Perdomo. The 24-year-old throws 97 mph bowling-ball sinkers and leads all qualified starters with a 63 percent ground-ball rate. The problem is (and what I would imagine will take up the vast majority of his offseason), however, that he doesn’t really have a third pitch he trusts, making his sequencing much more predictable. Perdomo has had some success with a splitter, but still only throws the pitch in around 7 percent of his offerings.

The main reason for the recommendation, again, is the schedule. Perdomo has tossed at least six innings in 10 consecutive outings, and has a 3.30 ERA in his past five starts. He’s slated for three more starts this season, getting the Rockies and Diamondbacks at home (ranking 25 and 26 in road wRC+ respectively), before finishing his 2017 season in San Francisco. That’s the schedule you want to face if you’re taking a flyer on a guy down the stretch. –Mark Barry