This is our weekly look at American League free agents. We have two goals for this article:
1. Identify likely free agents and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Estimate how much of your free-agent budget you should bid on them.
One size does not fit all, and we could never hope to encompass all league structures, so bids are based on:
• 12-team league (either AL or Mixed, we'll specify)
• 5x5 categories
• $100 FAAB budget
Roenis Elias, Mariners – With Hisashi Iwakuma going to the DL with a shoulder strain, the Mariners will call up Elias on Sunday from Triple-A Tacoma to take his spot in the rotation. Iwakuma is expected to miss 2-4 weeks, which means Elias has at most a handful of starts to help out owners. Last season he had a 3.85 ERA (4.10 FIP) with 143 strikeouts and 64 walks over 163.2 IP. This season at Tacoma he hasn’t been nearly as effective, with a 8.04 ERA (5.77 FIP), 12 strikeouts, and seven walks over 15.2 IP. He’s going to need to show much improved command and keep the ball in the park if he’s to find success. Still, he showed enough last season that he’s worth a gamble. This week he’ll face the Astros on the road. Mixed: $1; AL: $6.
Kevin Gausman, Orioles – Gausman is miscast in the O’s bullpen, as the team believes he’s best suited to help the team in that role and not as a starter. He is a starter though and soon enough the team will realize that and remove Bud Norris and his 17.42 ERA from the rotation and give Gausman another shot. Last season Gausman had a 3.57 ERA (3.48 ERA) with 88 strikeouts and 37 walks over 113.1 IP. He still has much to learn, but I seriously doubt it’s going to come in the bullpen, where he’s been ineffective this season until his last two appearances in long relief. In AL-only formats, don’t lose faith in him just yet, and if you see him on your waiver wire, he’s worth a bid. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Andrew Heaney, Angels – Heaney bounced back from one of his worst starts ever to pitch 5.1 innings with six hits, three earned runs, two walks, and nine strikeouts at Triple-A Salt Lake last week. The strikeouts are no joke, as he’s shown he can miss bats with the best of them in the minors. How he fairs in the majors is another question, as is where he’ll slot into the rotation, as there are no open spots. Still, he’s worth monitoring to see if he can start to string together more starts like his last one. Last season between Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans, he had a 3.28 ERA with 143 strikeouts and 36 walks over 137.1 innings. Stash him, if you can, in AL-only formats. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Kyle Lobstein, Tigers – Now that Justin Verlander (triceps) doesn’t look like he’s returning to the Detroit rotation any time soon, Lobstein’s leash on the fifth starter’s job has likely grown some. This past week he pitched six innings against the Yankees and allowed three hits with one earned run, four walks, and three strikeouts in a loss. He now has a 6:6 K:BB ratio through 11 innings, which tells you more than his 3.27 ERA (3.75 FIP) about where things are headed. Sunday he gets the Indians at home, and if he survives that, he’ll face the Royals on the road this coming week. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Alex Meyer, Twins – Meyer racked up 11 strikeouts this week in a start at Triple-A Rochester, as he pitched six innings of shutout ball with two hits and three walks allowed. It’s a fine bounce-back effort after he gave up a combined eight earned runs and walked 11 in 8.2 innings over his first two. His control can get away from him at times and is a big reason why he’s still in the minors working on his craft, but when he’s on, he can miss bats and keep hitters guessing. Last season at Rochester he had a 3.52 ERA (3.51 FIP) with 153 strikeouts and 64 walks over 130.1 innings. If he can build on his latest start and put his first two behind him, it might not be long before we see him in the majors. For now, stash him in AL-only formats where possible. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Ricky Nolasco, Twins – Nolasco is on a rehab assignment in Low-A Cedar Rapids right now getting over an elbow injury. He’s only made one MLB start this season and it was an ugly one - he got torched by the Tigers for six runs over just three innings - so there’s a decent chance he’s unowned right now in AL-only leagues. After two or three rehab starts, he should be activated and allowed back into the Twins’ rotation. Last season he had a 5.38 ERA (4.36 FIP) with 115 strikeouts and 38 walks over 159 innings. There’s plenty of risk here, but it’s a new season and I’d at least see what he shows in his rehab starts before I completely dismiss him. For now he’s worth a few bucks to stash on your roster if you can. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Carlos Rodon, White Sox – If by some chance Rodon is still on your waiver wire, he needs to be picked up immediately. His debut effort of 2.1 innings pitched with three hits, two earned runs, three walks, and one strikeout is not what anyone was expecting, but it was his MLB debut and it was out of the bullpen, which is not his likely home, as he’s a starter. White Sox starter Hector Noesi has a 5.23 ERA (5.74 FIP), while John Danks has a 6.06 ERA (5.36 FIP) and Jose Quintana has looked very shaky in two of his four starts, so it’s really just a matter of time before Rodon is given his shot to start. Only in the minors for a short period of time, Rodon had a 3.15 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 17 walks over 34.1 innings. An elite pitching prospect, make sure he’s not still available in your league. Mixed: $15; AL: $60.
Wandy Rodriguez, Rangers – With no real depth to their rotation, the Rangers turned to Rodriguez this week against the Angels. He pitched five innings with one earned run on five hits, three walks, five strikeouts, one hit by pitch, and two wild pitches. He’s not nearly the pitcher we saw in his heyday with the Astros, but he may be effective enough to stick in the Rangers’ rotation for the time being. Last season in Pittsburgh he had a 6.75 ERA (7.47 FIP) with 20 strikeouts and eight walks over just 26.2 IP. This week he’ll get the Mariners at home. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Brett Cecil and Roberto Osuna, White Sox – I don’t believe Miguel Castro is long for the closer role in Toronto. On Saturday he faced three batters, gave up two hits, and allowed an earned run to push his ERA to 2.79 (5.51 FIP). That outing alone doesn’t concern me, but rather it’s his recent outings where his command has failed him at times and he’s given up home runs. On the season he has a 7:4 K:BB ratio over 9.2 innings, which is not what you want to see out of your closer. I would prop up former closer Brett Cecil, but he gave up a run and couldn’t get a batter out Saturday, pushing his ERA to 7.20 (7.63 FIP). I still trust him more, as he had one really bad outing and the rest had been fine - until Saturday. Perhaps it’s Osuna that is going to assert himself. He gave up his first earned run Saturday to give him a 0.87 ERA (1.58 FIP). He has 12 strikeouts to three walks over 10.1 innings and seems the most effective of the bunch so far, though he’s been used in lower-leverage situations. Really this is mess to me, though Castro continues to hold the job for now. If you’re speculating for saves, Cecil and Osuna should be owned. Both Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Joba Chamberlain, Tigers – Now that Joe Nathan (elbow) is out for the season and Joakim Soria is the new Tigers closer, it might be a good idea to check on the status of Chamberlain, as he’s likely to vulture a few saves when Soria is resting or is otherwise unavailable. So far, Chamberlain has not given up a run in five appearances and he’s backing it up with a 1.82 FIP, three strikeouts, and zero walks. Last season he was effective in a setup role with a 3.57 ERA (3.23 FIP), 59 strikeouts, and 24 walks over 63 innings. If you’re wondering about Al Albuquerque, he’s been erratic in his last two appearances with seven earned runs over three innings. Until he gets his command back and stops giving up home runs, Chamberlain is the guy to own after Soria. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Rafael Soriano, free agent – Per agent Scott Boras, calls about Soriano have increased this week, leading to speculation about where he might sign. I’m sure almost any bullpen would be happy to have him, even in a setup role. I could see him jumping right in and taking the closer role if he were with the Yankees (again) or Blue Jays. If you’re in a league where all the setup men are owned and owners are vultures on the waiver wire for saves, you might want to throw a buck at Soriano this week. He’ll still need time to get loose in the minors before being activated, but a small investment in stashing him now can’t hurt if you have the roster space. Last season with the Nationals, he had a 3.19 ERA (3.15 FIP) with 32 saves, 59 strikeouts, and 19 walks over 62 innings. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Drew Butera, Angels – Halos starting catcher Chris Iannetta has gotten off to an icy .106/.204/.128 start over 54 plate appearances this season. It’s still very early, but if Iannetta continues to struggle, Butera may begin to see more playing time. Right now Butera is hitting .250/.250/.250 over just eight plate appearances. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Blake Swihart, Red Sox – With three hits Friday, Swihart is now up to a .340/.353/.400 batting line over 51 plate appearances at Triple-A Pawtucket. In comparison, Red Sox starting catcher Ryan Hanigan is batting .189/.362/.297 over 48 PA. Hanigan’s lack of ability to hit for contact is likely to catch up to him sooner rather than later and when it does, expect Swihart to be promoted. For now he’s a great player to stash, if you can, in AL-only formats. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
James Loney, Rays – Likely owned in all AL-only formats, those in deeper mixed leagues should take note of Loney (oblique) coming off the DL on Friday. He uncharacteristically hit both a double and home run in his return with two runs scored. The power display is not like him, as he has failed to reach double-digit home runs in two of his last three seasons. Still, those in need of batting average help could find the career .285 hitter a useful addition as a corner bat or utility player on their roster. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Jonathan Singleton, Astros – Singleton hit another home run – his fourth of the season – Friday night, raising his batting line to .288/.373/.610 over 67 plate appearances at Triple-A Fresno. Right now he needs to focus on striking out less and so far he has 13 strikeouts to eight walks. I’m not convinced he’s turned any sort of a corner, as he showed a decent eye at the plate last time he was in Triple-A and it didn’t translate at all once he reached the majors. Still, he’s one of the few first base prospects close to the majors and figures to showcase his power once called up. Continue to stash him in AL-only formats where he’s still available. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Eric Sogard, A’s – With Ben Zobrist hitting the DL with a knee injury that could sideline him for the next 4-6 weeks, Sogard is the A’s starting second baseman going forward. A career .237 hitter, Sogard is hitting .267/.298/.311 with one stolen base over 49 plate appearances this season. He offers owners almost zero power with slight speed, so don’t expect much if you do roster him. If anything, he’s a below-average replacement to owners in AL-only formats that lost Zobrist. If you’re digging deeper, Joe Wendle is hitting .274/.324/.548 with three home runs at Triple-A Nashville and could come up to offer the team some depth. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Tim Beckham, Rays – After going 1-for-4 with a two-run double Saturday, Beckham is now hitting .275/.318/.575 with three home runs and one stolen base over 44 plate appearances. He’s mostly being used against lefties and coming off the bench, but if Beckham continues to hit well, manager Kevin Cash will have no choice but to find more playing time for him. A former, No. 1 overall pick, Beckham has failed to live up to his projections in the minors and is just now getting a taste of the majors. At Triple-A Durham he hit .266/.326/.381 with 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases over 1,021 plate appearances. Mixed: No; AL: $4.
Nick Franklin, Rays – As the month draws to a close, Franklin’s return date also draws closer. He’s on the DL with an oblique injury, but hopes to return this coming week. Last season between Triple-A Tacoma and Triple-A Durham, he hit .271/.366/.412 with 11 home runs and 11 steals over 466 plate appearances. In his place, Logan Forsythe has been steady with a .278/.381/.444 batting line and two home runs over 63 PA. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Francisco Lindor, Indians – After four hits Friday, Lindor is now hitting .263/.333/.404 with one home run and five stolen bases over 64 plate appearances at Triple-A Columbus. Meanwhile, in the majors, after going 0-for-3 Saturday, Jose Ramirez is down to a .196/.250/.275 batting line with one home run and three stolen bases over 58 PA. It was always just a matter of time, before Lindor was called up, but the longer Ramirez struggles the sooner we may see Lindor playing for the Tribe. For now continue to stash him in AL-only and deep mixed league formats. Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Chris Taylor, Mariners – Taylor hit a home run Thursday and followed that up with a double Friday to push his batting line to .314/.368/.471 with two home runs and four stolen bases over 57 plate appearances at Triple-A Tacoma, and he appears to be over his wrist injury. Meanwhile in the majors, Brad Miller was struggling to start the season, but has turned things around this last week to raise his batting line to .300/.333/.440 with one home run and two stolen bases over 54 PA. Until Miller goes into another swoon, it may take some time for Taylor to come back up. For now stash him in AL-only formats. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Gordon Beckham, White Sox – Pale Hose starting third baseman Conor Gillaspie is hitting a meager .195/.233/.317 over 43 plate appearances right now. Last season he limped down the stretch, hitting just .228/.284/.330 in the second half after a successful first half (.326/.377/.484). Friday Beckham got a start in Gillaspie’s place and he may steal more playing time than just that if Gillaspie continues to struggle at the plate. Beckham is hitting .333/.478/.556 with one home run over 23 plate appearances. His .245/.308/.376 career batting line should tell you what to expect if the team goes with Beckham full time. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Danny Valencia, Blue Jays – Valencia has gone 7-for-11 with four doubles in his last three games, showing he might be worthy of more playing time, particularly at the expense of Justin Smoak, who is a career .224/.311/.382 hitter who is hitting just .226/.385/.452 in 2015. Smoak has two home runs in his last three games, but has just one multi-hit game this season. If Valencia can keep some of this up, he’ll start to see more playing time. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Max Muncy, A’s – Brett Lawrie got a day off Saturday, possibly related to him banging his knee on the bullpen mound Friday. In his place was Muncy, who was called up from Triple-A Nashville, as Ben Zobrist hit the DL with a knee injury. At Nashville Muncy hit .293/.408/.466 with one home run over 71 plate appearances. Unless the caustic Lawrie misses real playing time going forward, Muncy can likely be left on most waiver wires. Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Jimmy Paredes, Orioles – Paredes hit his second home run in three games Friday night, as he’s begun to take over the O’s DH starting gig. Not surprisingly, his playing time increase has coincided with a drop in playing time for Steve Pearce, who is batting just .167/.259/.292 with two home runs over 54 plate appearances this season and is in a 5-for-37 slump. He’s not just getting playing time, though, as Paredes is hitting second in the lineup most games and hit third Friday night, showing that manager Buck Showalter has confidence in him. Last season between Triple-A Omaha and Triple-A, Paredes hit .289/.317/.436 with eight home runs and 21 stolen bases over 420 plate appearances. Mixed: $3; AL: $15.
Rusney Castillo, Red Sox – Dealing with inflammation in his right shoulder, Castillo has resumed baseball activities and could DH for Triple-A Pawtucket this coming week. Once fully healthy, he’ll need to show he can take the field and defend his position defensively. The timing of the injury couldn’t be worse, as Shane Victorino (hamstring) hit the DL on Saturday. Had Castillo been healthy and producing, this would’ve been an ideal time for him to come up and show what he can do. Instead, we’ll wait to see his shoulder improve and see how long Victorino is out. For now, stash him in AL-only and deeper mixed league formats. Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Grant Green, Angels – The Angels have perhaps the least productive left fielders in baseball right now with a cumulative .165/.202/.252 batting line over 109 plate appearances. Matt Joyce is the main reason why, as his batting line is down to .132/.175/.189 over 57 PA. Collin Cowgill has been marginally better, hitting .189/.231/.324 over 39 PA. If the team decides to look for an alternative, Green could be the man, as he was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday and went 2-for-3 with two runs scored Saturday. He played a bit everywhere in the infield last season for the team, but played mostly in left field, so he knows the position defensively. A career .259/.293/.347 hitter over 256 plate appearances in the majors, he’s worth a speculating in AL-only formats. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Josh Hamilton, Angels/Rangers? – With the news that Hamilton will likely get dealt to the Rangers, it’s time to pick him up in deeper mixed leagues if he’s still available. He’s on the DL with a shoulder injury that will keep him out another month, but at least we now know there will soon be some resolution to his falling out with the Angels. In returning to Texas, he gets a ballpark upgrade, but also a downgrade in lineup, as the Rangers are a shell of the team they had before Hamilton left. It’s concerning that his power has dropped off and his strikeout rate has increased since he left Texas and his shoulder injury may not make matters any better, so don’t go crazy bidding for his services. Mixed: $5; AL: $20.
Allen Craig, Brock Holt and Daniel Nava, Red Sox – Shane Victorino’s trip to the DL with a hamstring injury means we’re likely to see some combination of Craig, Holt, and Nava in right field on most nights until he returns. Nava figures to get the most at-bats, as he has a career .290/.381/.423 batting line against right-handers. From there, Craig figures to get at-bats against southpaws, as he has a career .281/.320/.506 line against them. What’s left over will likely go to Holt, who can play almost anywhere and will see time in left and center, as needed. I actually like Holt the most of this bunch, as he’s the most flexible, but Nava figures to get the most playing time moving forward. Craig Mixed: No; AL: $3. Holt Mixed: No; AL: $5. Nava Mixed: $2; AL: $8.
Carlos Quentin, Mariners – Quentin signed with the Mariners this week, agreeing to a minor league contract that will initially send him to Triple-A Tacoma. A career .252/.347/.484 hitter, Quentin has always hit for power despite a malady of injuries and a move to Petco Park in San Diego. Now in Seattle, he’ll need to prove his health before he can come up and help as a backup first baseman/outfielder (think platoon partner with Logan Morrison). Mixed: No; AL: $6.
Michael Saunders, Blue Jays – Saunders was activated off the DL on Friday and started in right field, hitting seventh Saturday and going 0-for-3 with a walk. The outfielder, when healthy, has a nice blend of power and speed to his game. Last season with the Mariners he hit .273/.341/.450 with eight home runs and four stolen bases over 263 plate appearances. The upgrade in park and lineup should benefit him if he can stay healthy. He needs to be owned in all AL-only and deeper mixed formats, while those in shallower leagues can take a wait-and-see approach. Mixed: $3; AL: $12.
Nick Swisher, Indians – Swisher (knee) started his rehab assignment at Triple-A Columbus on Friday, going 3-for-5 with two strikeouts and two runs scored. He’s expected to spend what sounds like a couple weeks on said rehab assignment before being activated, as the team wants to make sure he’s fully healthy once activated and not still nursing his injury. if Swisher strings together a few games like his debut, it might not be that long before he’s back up with the team. He’s a risky bet, however, as his isolated power average has dropped in four of the last five seasons and his strikeout rate continued to increase. Last season he hit a woeful .208/.278/.331 with eight home runs over 401 plate appearances. Bid cautiously. Mixed: No; AL: $4.
Chris Young, Yankees – Likely owned in all deeper leagues, it might be time for those in shallower mixed leagues to give Young a look, as he’s shown nice power in the early season. This past week, he hit two doubles, two home runs, and even took two walks. If you’re pessimistic he’ll keep this up, you’re not alone, as he a career .235/.314/.431 hitter whose best days came when he was still in his 20s. As is, he’s on a hot streak right now and picking him up in shallower leagues isn’t the worst idea as long as you know you’ll be cutting bait sooner rather than later. Mixed: $3; AL: Owned.