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
Randall Delgado, Arizona – Delgado, who had pitched exclusively out of the bullpen this year and was just activated from the DL last week, replaced the injured Jeremy Hellickson in the rotation for Saturday's contest. He allowed four runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts in just 2.1 innings. With the September 1 call-ups looming, it’s possible that Delgado only gets this start or just one more. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Jerad Eickhoff, Phillies – Eickhoff, who came over to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade and posted a 2.49 ERA over three starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, was promoted to the majors and started Friday. He had posted a posted a 4.47 ERA and 93:33 K:BB over 101.2 innings at Triple-A Round Rock before the trade, so he benefitted from a move outside of the PCL. Eickhoff, who is not considered a big-time prospect, allowed just five hits and a walk while shutting out the Marlins over six innings to get the win in Miami on Friday. Keep in mind that he could struggle at the bandbox known as Citizens Bank Park. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Kendry Flores, Marlins – Flores, who has pitched in relief during his two stints with the parent club, started Friday for Miami and could get an extended look in the rotation with David Phelps (elbow) out for the year. He made six relief appearances with Miami, allowing two earned runs on nine hits with a 4:2 K:BB in 7.2 innings. Flores, who has started his entire career, posted a 2.34 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 84:29 K:BB in 115.1 innings over 19 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings while striking out five in Friday's loss to Philadelphia. Flores threw three shutout innings before fading, which was to be expected, as likely wasn’t stretched out to be a starter. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Ryan Vogelsong, Giants – Vogelsong, who began the year as a starter and moved to the bullpen to start the second half, but he should remain in the Giants' rotation following the demotion of Chris Heston. Vogelsong, who is coming off two excellent starts filling in for Mike Leake, was expected to go back to the pen when Leake returned. Instead, San Francisco sent Heston down, though he should rejoin the team in a week when rosters expand in September. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Chad Bettis, Rockies – Bettis, sidelined since his July 18 start with elbow inflammation, made his second rehab start Thursday, striking out seven over five scoreless innings for Triple-A Albuquerque. He tossed 3.1 shutout innings for Double-A New Britain in his first rehab start last Saturday and could be activated this week. For the year, Bettis has a 4.88 ERA and has struck out 65 batters over 75.2 innings, but he posted a 8.55 ERA over four June starts, which could mean he was pitching through the injury. When Bettis is healthy, he should replace Chris Rusin, Yohan Flande or Eddie Butler in the Rockies’ rotation. Mixed: No NL: $2 (early spec return bid).
Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks – Bradley, sidelined since early June with right shoulder tendinitis, may be inching closer to a rehab stint but isn't expected to rejoin the big club until September. He has thrown a simulated game and bullpen session in recent days, fueling speculation that a rehab appearance should occur soon. 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).
Jarred Cosart, Marlins – Cozart, who has been dealing with vertigo due to a nerve issue for more than two months, threw four scoreless innings and 44 pitches for the Gulf Coast League Marlins on Saturday. His fastball hit 94 mph and Cosart will now join High-A Jupiter for one of two additional rehab starts before he is activated. Cosart, on medication to treat the nerve problem, should be up around September 1 when rosters expand. Mixed: $0; NL: $3 (early spec return bid).
Steven Matz, Mets – Matz, sidelined with a slightly torn lat muscle since July 5, allowed one run on four hits and 41 pitches in 2.2 innings during his second rehab start Thursday for High-A St. Lucie. In his first rehab start last Saturday, Matz gave up three hits and one run in one inning for High-A St. Lucie, throwing 18 of his 23 pitches for strikes while striking out two. Matz will next pitch for Double-A Binghamton on Wednesday, as he looks to progress to 90 pitches before he is promoted. He likely will need two more rehab starts after Wednesday before returning to the Mets' rotation, probably on Sept. 5. At that point, New York will use a six-man rotation to limit the innings of Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. Mixed: $5 NL: $14 (slightly upped spec return bid, to continue to rise as he gets closer to returning).
Dario Alvarez, Erik Cordier, Zack Godley, Sam LeCure, Scott McGough, and Peter Moylan - This week’s key reliever call-ups/activations, as well as expected call-ups, do not have any substantial value, save for Godley, who will work out of the bullpen for now due to his workload this year, but could see a spot start or two down the stretch. Godley made three starts for Arizona earlier in the season and allowed 14 hits and three earned runs over 18 innings. He could factor into the team’s rotation in 2016. All save for Godley - Mixed: No; NL: $0; Godley – Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (keeper league focus).
John Axford, Rockies – Axford, who blew four straight save opportunities at the end of July to lose the closer job to Tommy Kahnle, was restored back to that role this week by manager Walt Weiss. Axford hasn’t been great, but after looking solid initially, Kahnle has struggled, leading to the switch. This situation looks like it will be fluid the rest of the way, but for now, Axford is the man again in the Colorado bullpen. Mixed: $5; NL: $14.
Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks – Collmenter continued his fine recent stretch of pitching, tossing three shutout innings against the Reds on Thursday. Since the All-Star break, Collmenter has posted a 1.61 ERA and 0.90 WHIP over 22.1 innings with a 14:5 K:BB. He should remain in the bullpen the rest of the way, but could get a shot at starting next spring. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Carter Capps, Marlins – Capps, out since Aug. 2 with a strained right elbow, tossed a successful bullpen session Thursday, and is scheduled to throw off the mound again Sunday. Capps has been dominant this year; in 31 innings, he has a 1.16 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 58 strikeouts. A.J. Ramos has struggled in August, including the last two games, so it’s possible Capps gets a shot at closing some games when he returns. Mixed: $4; NL: $11.
Dustin Garneau, Rockies – Garneau was promoted this week after a knee injury ended Mike McKenry's season. He posted a .274/.335/.475 line with 15 homers in 81 games at Triple-A this season to earn the call-up. Garneau benefitted from hitting in Albuquerque and gains a similar advantage in Colorado, where he will serve as Nick Hundley's backup. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Andrew Susac, Giants – Susac, out since July 18 with a sprained right thumb, was activated off the disabled list Monday and will serve as Buster Posey’s backup. Susac’s return allows Posey to occasionally play first base, enabling Brandon Belt to play left when Nori Aoki and Marlon Byrd receive days off. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Darin Ruf, Phillies – Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said Friday that he’ll sit Ryan Howard against lefties to give Ruf more playing time at first base. Ruf hasn’t set the world on fire, batting .241/.294/.365 with four home runs in 170 at-bats through Friday’s game, but he will get a chance to see semi-regular playing time. He made the most of it, blasting a solo home run off A.J. Ramos on Saturday. Mixed: $0; NL: $4.
Matt Adams, Cardinals – Adams, out since late May with a torn right quadriceps that required surgery to repair, is expected to begin a rehab assignment in the next week. This is a bit quicker than expected and if all goes well, Adams could be back by mid-September. Adams, the team's starting first baseman and cleanup hitter, may come back as a pinch hitter, though it wouldn’t be shocking to see him see consistent action down the stretch to see if he is ready for a bigger role in the playoffs. Mixed: $3; NL: $9 (upped very early spec return bid).
Freddie Freeman, Braves – Freeman, sidelined since August 3 with a strained right oblique, came off DL Aug 19. Just an FYI as he should be owned in all leagues.
Andres Blanco, Phillies – Blanco is serving as the Phillies' starting third baseman while Maikel Franco is sidelined with a fractured wrist. Originally, Cesar Hernandez was expected to fill in at third, but that changed when Chase Utley was traded to the Dodgers, as Hernandez is now back at second base. Cody Asche and Darnell Sweeney will spell Blanco, who is slashing .302/.371/.548 in 126 at-bats this year. Blanco’s eligibility at second base only adds to his value. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.
Chris Coghlan, Cubs – Coghlan continues to rake, especially against right-handed pitchers, and has become a full-time player against righties, though Starlin Castro continues to start against southpaws. Coghlan has 14 home runs, 34 RBI and 11 steals in 306 at-bats against righties but is just 4-for-35 with no counting stats against lefties. Ride the wave and start Coghlan when Chicago faces off against a righty. Mixed: $8; NL: already owned.
Derek Dietrich, Marlins – Dietrich now qualifies at second, third and outfield, adding to his strong value. He has made the most of his playing since his mid-June promotion, especially lately. Over his last 16 games, Dietrich is hitting .340 with three homers, 11 RBI, and 12 runs. He should continue to play daily and be a quiet source of nice production. Mixed: $9; NL: likely owned.
Ivan De Jesus and Skip Schumaker, Reds – De Jesus and Schumaker could see time at second base with Brandon Phillips dealing with a strained bicep, though Phillips did return to the lineup Saturday. With Billy Hamilton on the DL and Marlon Byrd dealt, both are in the mix for time in the outfield as well. De Jesus - Mixed: No; NL: $2; Schumaker - Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Hector Olivera, Braves – Olivera, traded to the Braves as part of a three-team deal and sidelined with a hamstring injury, has moved his rehab stint up to Triple-A Gwinnett. He should be in Atlanta sometime in the next week. Olivera, who has a .348/.392/.493 line with two home runs in 74 at-bats, should play every day at third base when he is activated, replacing Adonis Garcia. Atlanta is investing $6.5 mil for each of the next five years, which gives them ample incentive to see what Olivera can do. Mixed: $5; NL: $14 (same early spec call-up bid).
Javier Baez, Cubs – Baez, who missed seven weeks with a fractured finger, has made up for lost time since returning to action a month ago. He is 30-for-103 with four home runs and 26 RBI over his last month, though that is offset a bit by his 30:9 K:BB. He’s benefitted from a .371 BABIP, but when he makes contact, it’s solid contact, so that number isn’t that much of a shock. Baez should be a September call-up and see some time at second and short. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (higher in keeper leagues and bid based on his projected role as backup once promoted).
Trea Turner, Nationals – Turner, a first-round pick of the Padres in 2014, came to the Nationals along with Joe Ross as part of a three-team deal in the offseason. Because of the rules at the time, Turner was unable to join Washington until June. While playing for three minor league teams in two organizations, Turner has batted .322 with eight home runs and 54 RBI in 116 total minor league games. At Double-A Harrisburg, Turner hit .359 in 10 games, after which he was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse, where he batted .314 with three homers, 15 RBI, 31 runs and 14 steals in 48 games. Turner should see time at second base, where he recently made an appearance in the minors, and possibly at short, though as of now, it’s unclear if he will see regular playing time. Mixed: $3; NL: $9 (higher in a keeper league and bid based on him seeing time at second).
Jordy Mercer, Pirates – Mercer, out since July 19 with a lower-leg contusion and MCL sprain, could return from his rehab stint at Triple-A Indianapolis this weekend. He is hitting .240 with one home run and three RBI in 25 at-bats in the minors and his return means that he beat 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 splitting time with Jung-Ho Kang, who has filled in more than nicely while Mercer was sidelined. Mixed: $0; NL: $2 (return bid).
Elian Herrera, Brewers – Herrera, who was promoted when Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gomez were traded, has received consistent playing time at third base in the wake of the Aramis Ramirez trade. He has just a .278 on-base percentage, but with Hernan Perez as the only other option in Milwaukee, look for manager Craig Counsell to continue to run him out there almost daily. Herrera struggled previously in the majors, posting a .249/.304/.343 line, but he hit .357/.413/.490 in 56 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs, so it’s possible he’ll boost his numbers by year’s end. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Corey Seager, Dodgers – Seager has struggled a bit the past month, possibly due to the after effects of the illness that plagued him in July, but still should be a September call-up as a backup third baseman and shortstop. Next season, Seager is likely to take over for Jimmy Rollins at short. Mixed: $1; NL: $4 (higher in keeper leagues and bid based on his projected role as backup once promoted).
Josh Harrison, Pirates – Harrison, out since early July in the wake of surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, was activated after a short rehab stint in which he went just 1-for-19 in five games at Triple-A Indianapolis. Harrison started at second base Friday against lefty Madison Bumgarner, with Neil Walker sitting, and should receive consistent starts against left-handers. However, it's unclear how much time Harrison, who has had a difficult season, will play against righties with Aramis Ramirez at third base. He’ll likely slide back into his role as the starting third baseman, spelled by Jung-Ho Kang and Ramirez, who also will back up Pedro Alvarez at first. Mixed: $5; NL: $14, though likely owned in all leagues.
David Wright, Mets – Wright, out since mid-April, first with a hamstring injury, then with spinal stenosis, will likely join the team when the Mets kick off a series in Philly on Monday. Once back, Wright, who has slightly altered his batting stance to take pressure off his back, will start at third base but be rested fairly often for Juan Uribe. Mixed: $7; NL: $18 (slightly upped early spec return bid).
Aaron Altherr, Phillies – Altherr, who posted a .293/.367/.487 line with 14 homers and 16 steals between Double-A and Triple-A, was promoted when Maikel Franco landed on the disabled list with a fractured wrist. He will back up Odubel Herrera in center while also seeing playing time in right field and maybe some in left, replacing Domonic Brown and Jeff Francoeur, as the Phillies look to the future. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Jason Bourgeois, Brennan Boesch, and Ryan LaMarre, Reds – Bourgeois, who had seen minimal action and put up non-descript numbers when he did play, looks to be the likely option in center field with Billy Hamilton hitting the DL with a shoulder injury. He could garner some counting stats - mainly runs and a few stolen bases - but don’t go overboard. Boesch, who spent the first two months of the season with the Reds, was called back up when Hamilton was placed on the DL. Despite hitting .331/.394/.438 with Triple-A Louisville after his demotion, Boesch will serve primarily in a reserve role, backing up Bourgeois in center as well as in left and right, though he may see some starts if Skip Schumaker plays second while Brandon Phillips rests. LaMarre was promoted to replace the traded Marlon Byrd. He struggled last year at Louisville, but improved this season, posting a .257/.307/.400 line with eight home runs and 11 stolen bases. None of the three will set the world on fire. Bourgeois – Mixed: $1; NL: $4; Boesch - Mixed: No; NL: $2; LaMarre - Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Travis Jankowski and Melvin Upton Jr., Padres – Jankowski, a second-round pick of the Padres in 2012, was promoted this week following the trade of Will Venable to the Rangers and should share the center field job with Upton down the stretch. Jankowski posted .335/.413/.425 line with 32 steals and one home run in 97 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season, benefitting from a .365 BABIP at Double-A and ridiculous .437 at Triple-A. That said, he improved his walk and strikeout rates in the minors, which should help his numbers at this level. Upton has been seeing regular playing time the past month and has made the most of it, batting .295/.328/.492 over his last 30 days. Those numbers are offset a bit by a 19:3 K:BB, but as long as he continues to produce, he should see most of the playing time despite the call-up of Jankowski. Jankowski - Mixed: $0; NL: $3 (up if you think he’ll start over Upton); Upton – Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (drop if you think Jankowski starts).
Tommy Pham, Cardinals – Pham was promoted this week for the second time this year when Randal Grichuk (elbow) was placed on the disabled list. He played 13 games the first time, around batting .182/.265/.341, but hit .327/.398/.503 with six home runs and nine stolen bases at Triple-A Memphis. Pham is seeing time in center field and could remain the starter there while Grichuk and Jon Jay (wrist) are sidelined. Mixed: No; NL: $2.
Domingo Santana, Brewers – Santana was one of the two main prospects acquired by Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers. At the time of the trade, Santana was tearing up Triple-A, batting .320 with 16 HR and 62 RBI in 75 games. After joining the Brewers' system, Santana batted .380/.424/.544 with two home runs and a much-improved 20-percent strikeout rate in 20 games at Triple-A after having a 27.9-percent rate with Houston. As noted, the key for him is plate discipline, for which he made some strides this year in the minors but wasn’t apparent when he was promoted earlier in the year. Santana blasted a home run in his first game Friday but was on the bench Saturday. He is normally a corner outfielder, but will likely play center field for Milwaukee and should play daily to help accelerate that transition. Mixed: $4; NL: $11 (higher in keeper leagues and if you think he plays daily).
Darnell Sweeney, Phillies – Sweeney, acquired as part of the Chase Utley deal, was called up to the Phillies. He posted a .741 OPS with 32 stolen bases over 116 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City and will be a utility player for Philly, seeing time at several positions. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Norichika Aoki, Giants – Aoki, on the 7-day disabled list due to a concussion, was activated as expected Thursday. With Hunter Pence (oblique) on the DL, Aoki will play right field with newly acquired Marlon Byrd in left. Just an FYI as he should be owned in all leagues.
Angel Pagan, Giants – Pagan, out since August 11 with right patella tendinitis, is ready for a rehab assignment. Injuries have plagued Pagan all season, as he has batted just .258/.290/.308 with no homers and just six stolen bases in 102 games. San Francisco can be patient with his return due to the acquisition of Marlon Byrd, return of Nori Aoki and solid play of Gregor Blanco, though Hunter Pence is out with an oblique injury. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Denard Span, Nationals – Span, out since July 7 with a bad back, started a rehab assignment with High-A Potomac last Sunday. He has not reported any issues with the back after having a mild setback two weeks ago. Span could be back before the end of the month if he doesn’t suffer any relapses. Injuries have limited him to 59 games, during which he has posted a .304/.367/.430 line with 11 stolen bases. Mixed: $2; NL: $7 (upped early spec possible return bid).
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins – Stanton, out since June 27 with a wrist fracture that required surgery, still has some minor discomfort, but hopes to rejoin the Marlins before September. He started hitting against live pitching last week, but had to miss a day due to pain in the wrist. Prior to being sidelined, Stanton was off to a tremendous start, batting 265 with 27 homers and 67 RBI over 74 games. Stanton may not be at full strength for a while, but still hopes to return soon. Due to ongoing issues with the wrist, temper your expectations when he does return. Just an FYI as he should be owned in all leagues.