This is our weekly look at National 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 NL or Mixed, we'll specify)
• 5x5 categories
• $100 FAAB budget
Note: David Regan has a great look at some possible September call-ups here. Some we have discussed before like Robert Stephenson and Hector Olivera (see below) but Tyler Glasnow and Alex Reyes would warrant interesting early spec bids.
Tyler Cravy, Brewers – Cravy made three appearances - two of them starts for Milwaukee in July - before he was sent down. He was promoted again this week and is moving into the rotation, replacing Kyle Lohse. Cravy had a 3.97 ERA and a 75:31 K:BB in 95.1 innings over 17 starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs. He has a shot to remain in the rotation if he pitches well, but he didn’t do much to help his cause Friday against St. Louis, allowing six runs on eight hits and two walks over five innings. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Jon Gray, Rockies – Gray, who was profiled a few weeks ago, finally got the call and started Tuesday. This is what I wrote last time, updated to reflect the current situation. “It was expected that Gray would make a few starts at Triple-A to begin the year and then get called up to the majors. Someone forgot to tell the Triple-A batters that, as Gray had an unsightly 10.70 ERA his four starts, but a 2.90 ERA and 82:30 K:BB in his last 80.2 innings at Triple-A, to finish at a 4.33 ERA in 114.1 innings. Jorge De La Rosa and Chad Bettis (now injured) are filling the first two slots in the rotation while the pedestrian Kyle Kendrick (now injured) and Chris Rusin are slotted into two more spots. That leaves the fifth spot, which originally was thought to go to Gray, who has a fastball that routinely hits the upper-90s to go along with his plus-slider.” Gray, the third overall pick in the 2013 draft, allowed two earned runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts in four innings Tuesday and should remain in the rotation the rest of the way. Mixed: $3 NL: $9.
Justin Nicolino, Marlins – Nicolino will likely get an extended look over the last two months of the season now that Dan Haren and Mat Latos have been traded away by the Marlins and Jose Urena was placed on the disabled list. Nicolino, who came over to the Marlins from the Blue Jays several years ago, made two starts for Miami in June before he was sent back down to Triple-A New Orleans, where had a 3.52 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 115 innings over 20 starts, albeit with a 63:29 K:BB. That low strikeout rate is the major red flag against Nicolino, but he has had success at every level and may be able to carry that over to the majors. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Colin Rea, Padres – Rea looks to be headed to San Diego to start and make his major league debut Tuesday. After a good 2014 campaign, Rea really shot up the prospect charts this year while also pitching in the Futures Game. After ridiculous numbers at Double-A, aided by a low BABIP and high strand rate, Rea came back to earth a bit at Triple-A El Paso with 13 runs allowed on 29 hits and 12 walks over 26.2 innings. Despite those struggles and with the Padres really looking to the future, Rea should get a long look-see the rest of the season. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Joe Ross, Nationals – Ross, who has pitched well since coming up to the majors, will stay in the rotation despite Stephen Strasburg’s return, with Doug Fister instead moving to the bullpen. He showed that was the right decision, tossing six innings of one-run ball Thursday for his sixth straight quality outing, continuing the trend he has established in each of his seven big-league starts. Ross, who has a three-pitch arsenal that includes a 91-92 mph two-seam fastball (he can touch 96 mph with his four-seamer), above-average slider and improving changeup, has posted a 2.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 47:4 K:BB ratio for the Nationals, continuing the success he had in the minors. Mixed: $12; NL: $35 (substantially upped bid).
Ryan Vogelsong, Giants – Vogelsong, who began the year in the Giants’ rotation but was removed after the All-Star break, made a spot start Friday against the Cubs with Mike Leake landing on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. He allowed three runs on six hits and a walk while striking out six in four innings. Prior to Friday, Vogelsong, was 6-6 with a 4.00 ERA in 16 starts and a 5.40 ERA in eight relief appearances. Vogelsong may be limited to the one start, as the Giants have an off day Monday which would allow them to skip Leake's spot in the rotation while giving the rest of the staff their normal rest. Leake is expected back August 18. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Chase Anderson, Diamondbacks – Anderson, who had been on the disabled list with right triceps inflammation for the last two weeks, started Friday against the Reds. He struggled in five starts prior to landing on the DL, posting a 9.12 ERA and allowing nine homers in 25.2 innings. Anderson’s time on the seems to have done wonders for his fastball, as his velocity was 93-95 mph during his rehab start and he carried that velocity over to Friday’s start, as he threw seven shutout innings, surrendering four hits and two walks while striking out seven in a win over the Reds. Zachary Godley was sent down to make room for Anderson. Mixed: $3 NL: $9 (return bid).
Chad Bettis, Rockies – Bettis, sidelined with elbow inflammation since July 18, threw another bullpen session this week and will throw three innings in a simulated outing with Double-A New Britain on Tuesday. He likely will stay there to begin a rehab assignment. For the year, Bettis has a 4.88 ERA and has struck out 65 over 75.2 innings, but he posted a 8.55 ERA in four July starts, indicating that he may have been pitching through the injury before he was sidelined. When Bettis is healthy, he should replace either Yohan Flande or Eddie Butler in the Rockies’ rotation. Mixed: No NL: $0 (early spec return bid).
Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks – Bradley, sidelined since early June with right shoulder tendinitis, is throwing off a pitcher's mound and will soon pitch in a simulated game. If he gets through both of those with no setbacks, he will head out on a rehab assignment and possibly be back before the end of the month or in early September. At the beginning of July, Bradley looked to be on his way back before he was shut down completely for 10 days to allow his shoulder to rest. That time off has accomplished the stated goal for Bradley, who is 2-3 with a 5.80 ERA in eight starts for Arizona. Mixed: $1 NL: $4 (early spec return bid).
Steven Matz, Mets – Matz, sidelined with a slightly torn lat muscle since his second start on July 5, has progressed from flat-ground work and should throw a bullpen session next week. He likely will require several mound sessions and at least one rehab start before returning to the Mets' rotation, probably in early September. At that point, New York is expected to use a six-man rotation to limit the innings of Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. Mixed: $3 NL: $9 (early spec return bid, to be upped as he gets closer to returning).
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals – Strasburg, out with a strained left oblique since July 4, was activated off the disabled list and struck out 12 against Colorado on Saturday. He made two rehab starts for Triple-A Syracuse before being deemed ready to return to Washington. It’s been a lost year so far for Strasburg, who has a 4.76 ERA in 14 starts this season. He has not been healthy most of the season, though at least the injuries have been relatively minor. Saturday’s strong start bodes well that he’ll finish the season on a high note. Just an FYI as he should be owned in all leagues.
Kyle Barraclough, Brian Ellington, Kendry Flores, Frank Garces, Keith Hessler, Ryan Kelly, Adam Loewen, Tyler Lyons, Chris Narveson, Eric O’Flaherty, Josh Osich, Manny Parra, and Clayton Richard - This week’s key reliever call-ups/activations, as well as expected call-ups don’t have any substantial value, unless you count pitchers’ hitting stats and can use Loewen, a former outfielder, to boost those numbers. All - Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Tommy Kahnle, Rockies – Kahnle was profiled last week when it up in the air who would be the Rockies’ closer following John Axford’s removal from the role: “Kahnle’s 96-mph fastball has allowed him to post a 2.96 ERA with 30 strikeouts though with 16 walks since his call-up in June, which is concerning. However, Kahnle has experience closing in the minors – he saved 15 games for the Yankees' Double-A Trenton affiliate in 2013 – that could tilt the scales in his favor.” Kahnle tossed a scoreless ninth inning Friday to pick up the save and may have a leg up on the competition to keep the job. Mixed: $5; NL: $14 (upped bid).
Sergio Romo and Hunter Strickland, Giants – Santiago Casilla blew his fifth save in 32 chances in spectacular fashion Monday night. Although Casilla subsequently gave up three runs in a non-save situation Saturday, bumping his ERA to 3.89 ERA and WHIP to 1.50, manager Bruce Bochy does not appear inclined to make a change now. If he does, Romo (80 career saves) and Strickland (2-1 with a 1.72 ERA to go along with 36 strikeouts in 31.1 innings) would seem to be next in line. However, Romo lost the job to Casilla and Strickland has been used in the seventh and eighth innings and is still working on an off-speed pitch. Keep those two names in mind in case Casilla continues to struggle. Strickland - Mixed: $1; NL: $4, Romo - Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Tomas Telis, Marlins – Miami acquired Telis from Texas for Sam Dyson just before the trade deadline. Telis hit .291 with five home runs in 70 games for Triple-A Round Rock and had played six games this year for Texas. He will be the third catcher for the Marlins. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
A.J. Ellis, Dodgers – Ellis, sidelined with a knee injury, was activated when first eligible Tuesday. He slots back in as the Dodgers’ No. 2 catcher behind Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes was optioned back to Triple-A. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Miguel Montero, Cubs – Montero’s sprained left thumb was expected to keep him sidelined until September, but that turned out not to be the case. Doctors found no issues after examining Montero's thumb and after a short rehab stint, he was activated Friday. Kyle Schwarber is catching in Montero’s absence, but Chicago might play the talented rookie in left or all over to make room for Montero. Mixed: $4; NL: $11 (slightly upped return bid in case he sees time behind the plate).
Joey Terdoslavich, Braves – Terdoslavich, who was promoted thrice already this year, was called back up to take the roster spot of Freddie Freeman, who was placed back on the disabled list due to his injured wrist. With Kelly Johnson gone, Nick Swisher likely will see most of the playing time at first base, though Terdoslavich could see some time there. In addition, Terdoslavich will provide depth in the outfield, and possibly at the corner-infield spots while Swisher, Jonny Gomes and Eury Perez see most of the action in left field. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Nick Swisher, Braves – Swisher was traded to the Braves along with Michael Bourn and about $10 million in cash with Chris Johnson heading to Cleveland. Swisher's knee issues have cost him most of the 2015 season, but he was activated Saturday. After four solid years with the Yankees, Swisher has struggled the past three campaigns, partially due to injuries. It's unclear what role he'll serve with his new club, but he could see playing time in both the outfield and at first base, especially with Freddie Freeman (wrist) landing back on the DL. Mixed: $3; NL: $9 (if healthy).
Ehire Adrianza and Kelby Tomlinson, Giants – Adrianza and Tomlinson are splitting time at second base with Joe Panik on the disabled list with lower-back inflammation. Adrianza hasn’t done much with his limited playing time in the majors while Tomlinson has split the season between Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento, hitting a combined .321/.376/.414 with 43 RBI, 19 doubles and 21 stolen bases. Tomlinson seems to provide a bit more upside, though his stint may be short-lived as Panik will be returning soon. Adrianza - Mixed: No; NL: $2; Tomlinson - Mixed: $0; NL: $4.
Hector Olivera, Braves – Olivera, traded to the Braves as part of a three-team deal and sidelined with a hamstring injury, could be activated in about two weeks. Olivera is hitting well over .300 in limited action in the minors this year and should play every day at third base when he is activated, replacing Adonis Garcia. Atlanta is investing $6.5 million for each of the next five years, which gives them ample incentive to see what Olivera can do. Mixed: $4; NL: $11 (upped early spec call-up bid).
Chase Utley, Phillies – Utley, out since June 23 with inflammation in his right ankle, completed his rehab assignment with Triple-A Lehigh Valley and rejoined the Phillies last week. He’ll see time at first base as well as at second base with Cesar Hernandez giving breaks to Freddy Galvis at shortstop and Maikel Franco. Utley was hitting .179/.257/.275 with four home runs and 25 RBI in 249 plate appearances when he landed on the disabled list. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Addison Russell, Cubs - Russell has picked it up the last few weeks, coinciding nicely with his move back to shortstop. Manager Joe Maddon has been sitting Starlin Castro recently, allowing Russell to play his natural position and providing the rookie with a bit more comfort. In addition, this allows Kyle Schwarber to stay in the lineup in left, with Chris Coghlan moving to second and Miguel Montero back behind the plate following his return from injury. Russell's 1:7 BB:K in 28 August at-bats shows he has some work to do, but his bat has been a lot more potent of late and his 11 games at short means he likely qualifies there in most leagues. Mixed: $7; NL: owned.
Jordy Mercer, Pirates – Mercer, out since July 19 with a lower-leg contusion and MCL sprain resulting from a questionable-at-best slide by Carlos Gomez, will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday. He figures to require several rehab games as he works back to full strength, so look for him to return in the next week or two, beating the six-week timeframe originally estimated. Mercer had a breakthrough campaign last season, but regressed this year before the injury. When he does come back, Mercer could end up slitting time with Jung-Ho Kang, who has filled in more than nicely while he was sidelined. Mixed: $0; NL: $2 (early spec return bid).
Jason Rogers, Brewers – Rogers was promoted Friday for his second stint this season with Milwaukee. He posted a .236/.284/.360 slash line in 89 at-bats for the Brewers, but continued to rake in the minors after his demotion with a 344/.449/.607 line in 33 games. Rogers will serve in a reserve role at the corners, but will only receive starts in place of Adam Lind at first base and be an emergency option at the hot corner. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Josh Harrison, Pirates - Harrison, out since early July with a torn ligament in his left thumb, will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. He likely will need a fairly extensive rehab stint, so look for him to be back in anywhere from 10 days to three weeks. Harrison had a breakthrough campaign last season, but has failed to repeat that success this year. Despite that, he likely will slide back into his role as the starting third baseman, but will be spelled by Jung-Ho Kang and Aramis Ramirez at the hot corner. Likely owned in all leagues but if not, $4/$11 early spec return bid.
Justin Turner, Dodgers – Turner, on the disabled list with an infection in his leg, was originally expected to be activated on August 12. However, it looks like he will miss a few more days, though he should be back by the weekend. Just an FYI as he should be owned in all leagues.
David Wright, Mets – Wright, out since mid-April, first with a hamstring injury, then with spinal stenosis, completed five days of rigorous baseball activities Saturday and will start a minor league rehab assignment Monday. He could rejoin the Mets later in the month. Once back, Wright, who has slightly altered his batting stance to take pressure off his back, likely will start at third base almost daily, but will be rested periodically for Juan Uribe. Mixed: $4; NL: $11 (upped early spec return bid).
Michael Bourn, Braves – Bourn was traded to the Braves along with Nick Swisher and about $10 million in cash with Chris Johnson heading to Cleveland. Bourn signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Indians in February of 2013, which included a vesting option for a fifth year that would earn him an additional $12 million. He has struggled since signing the deal and had seen his playing time cut this year. Cameron Maybin is fairly established in center field for Atlanta, but he has struggled for the past month, which could afford Bourn some playing time. In addition, it’s possible Bourn gets flipped again before the August 31 waiver trading deadline. However, for the time being Bourn is playing left field and batting leadoff for Atlanta. Mixed: $3; NL: $9 (if healthy and solely for steals).
Khris Davis, Brewers – With the departures of Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra, Davis has a clear path to regular at-bats in left field even though he has struggled since his breakthrough 56-game campaign after his call-up in 2013. Davis may be rounding into form, punctuated by him blasting two home runs and driving in six against San Diego on Thursday. He did have 22 home runs last year and is batting a solid .275 versus righties in 2015. His numbers against lefties and strikeout rate leave a lot to be desired, but he should hit fifth or sixth the rest of the way and benefit from consistent playing time. Mixed: $11; NL: owned.
Jamie Romak, Diamondbacks – Romak earned a promotion with his strong Triple-A numbers, batting .289/.373/.554 with 22 homers in 458 plate appearances, but he’s 29 and is not a big-time prospect. He’ll likely be an extra outfielder for Arizona. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Michael Cuddyer, Mets – Cuddyer, who was bothered for a while by a bone bruise under his right kneecap, which finally landed him on the disabled list on July 24, completed a short rehab assignment and is expected to rejoin the Mets on Monday. Prior to being sidelined, Cuddyer posted a very disappointing .250/.303/.380 line with eight home runs in 82 games while playing most of July with the knee soreness that landed him on the DL. With Yoenis Cespedes now in New York, Cuddyer may be relegated to backup duty in left field and first base when he returns. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Wil Myers, Padres – Myers, out nearly all of the last three months with injuries to his left wrist, was cleared to resume baseball activities in mid-July but was shot down again a few days later with wrist irritation. He is now reportedly pain-free and will swing a light bat Sunday, but tread carefully given the myriad of issues he has had. He will need to go from swinging a bat, to hitting off a tee to batting practice and then rehab games. Look for Myers, assuming no more setbacks, to rejoin the Padres somewhere around the end of the month or in early September. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (early spec return bid in case he was waived).