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AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.

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 $100 starting free-agent budget you should bid on them.

This year, we're incorporating grids into the FAAB articles, so users can easily see at a glance how certain players stack up against others and how much they should command in a variety of formats.

The grids, which are sortable by column (click on the header), include a very basic "player grade" column. This serves as a reflection of a player’s skills and role on an A-E scale. Andrew Benintendi would have been an "A" grade player last year -- that mark will be reserved for similar high-impact prospects stepping into an everyday role.

As always, if there is a player that was not discussed in the article that you would like to know about, feel free to ask about the player in the comments.

PLAYER TEAM POS GRADE $ (12-Team Mixed) $ (15-Team Mixed) $ (AL-Only)
Alec Asher BAL SP D No No 1
Jose Berrios MIN SP B 2 5 11
Chase De Jong SEA SP D No No 3
Kendall Graveman OAK SP C 4 9 Owned
Sonny Gray OAK SP B 5 11 Owned
Derek Holland CHI SP C 1 4 9
Ariel Miranda SEA SP C No 3 7
Jake Odorizzi TB SP B 9 Owned Owned
JC Ramirez LA SP D No 2 5
Chris Tillman BAL SP B 4 9 Owned
Sam Dyson TEX RP D No No 3
David Hernandez LA RP E No No 1
Chih-Wei Hu TB RP C No No 1
Bud Norris LA RP D 2 5 13
Anthony Swarzak CHI RP E No No 1
Alex Avila DET C D 1 4 Owned
Luke Maile TOR C E No No 1
Christian Vazquez BOS C D No No 3
Kennys Vargas MIN 1B C No No 3
Dan Vogelbach SEA 1B B No 4 9
Josh Rutledge BOS 3B E No No 1
Luis Valbuena LA 3B C 2 5 13
Tim Beckham TB SS C 1 3 Owned
Chase d'Arnaud BOS SS E No No 1
Didi Gregorius NY SS B 5 11 Owned
Jorge Bonifacio KC OF C No 2 5
Tyler Collins DET OF C No 3 7
Delino DeShields Jr. TEX OF D No 1 4
Ben Gamel SEA OF C No 2 5
Avisail Garcia CHI OF C 2 5 Owned
Leury Garcia CHI OF D No 2 5
Guillermo Heredia SEA OF D No No 3
Tony Kemp HOU OF E No No 1
Ryan LaMarre OAK OF E No No 1
Colby Rasmus TB OF C No 3 7
Joey Rickard BAL OF D No No 2
Ryan Rua TEX OF D No No 3


Starting Pitcher

Alec Asher, Orioles: Asher should get another start Tuesday after Jayson Aquino was used in long relief Saturday and then sent down, and Chris Tillman was determined to need more time on his rehab stint. Asher turned in a solid effort April 15 in his first start of the season, but that was against a struggling Blue Jays offense. Tuesday's outing will be in Fenway, a much more dangerous assignment, making the 25-year-old righty only a deep streaming option. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Jose Berrios, Twins: May 6 remains the target date for Berrios' 2017 debut, although the Twins still haven't officially announced him as their fifth starter. The 22-year-old doesn't look like he has anything left to learn in the minors after posting a 1.44 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 28:6 K:BB through 25 Triple-A innings to begin the season. By the end of the week, Berrios should be slotted in and looking to wipe away memories of last year's rocky big-league debut. This might be your last chance to get him cheaply. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $11

Chase De Jong, Mariners: Felix Hernandez's shoulder issue opens up a spot in the Mariners' rotation, and De Jong will get the first shot at filling it. He's had a couple of good starts for Triple-A Tacoma and held the A's to one hit over four innings in his last outing, but as a junkballing righty his margin for error is thin. Still, he should get at least a few turns through the rotation, and Seattle doesn't have any other obvious candidates to take the job. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Kendall Graveman, Athletics: Graveman returned to the rotation Thursday and picked up where he left off before hitting the DL with a sore shoulder, giving up two runs over six innings. His 2.25 ERA and 1.00 WHIP look out of line with his 16:5 K:BB through 24 innings, but there is reason to believe he'll continue to out-perform his mediocre career numbers. The 26-year-old righty has seen a big velocity boost to begin this season, averaging 94.1 mph with his fastball, and while it's certainly easy to draw a line between “throwing harder” and “shoulder soreness” and decide there are better, safer breakout targets out there, it's also possible he's taking a big step forward. 12-team Mixed: $4; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team AL: Owned

Sonny Gray, Athletics: Gray's return from a lat strain is going swimmingly, and he was dominant in his latest rehab start Thursday, putting him on schedule to rejoin the A's rotation May 2 and bump Jesse Hahn, assuming no one else breaks down in the meantime, of course. Which version of Gray the A's get back (the reliable near-ace of 2014-15, or the train wreck of 2016) remains to be seen, but given his significant potential upside and relatively high-profile name brand you may need to move quickly and decisively if you want to land him.12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team AL: Owned

Derek Holland, White Sox: The former Ranger has put together a terrific April, posting a 2.17 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 23:11 K:BB through 29 innings with four quality starts in five outings. His ERA is a little deceptive, as in his one bad start five of the seven runs he coughed up were unearned, but those numbers are still good enough to put him on the radar in shallower formats. The lefty basically hasn't been able to stay healthy since 2013 and his fastball has never regained its jump after his shoulder issues, so there's really no way to predict how long he might be able to keep this up. Holland's best viewed as a short-term rental who might surprise you. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team AL: $9

Ariel Miranda, Mariners: Miranda continues to alternate solid starts with sketchy ones, but the overall results so far have been useful and right in line with his performance last season: 3.81 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 24:7 K:BB in 26 innings. The Mariners' injury issues also ensure that the Cuban lefty's rotation spot is pretty secure. Home runs remain his Achilles heel (2.1 HR/9 so far in 2017), so his performances will likely remain volatile, but pitching in Safeco helps. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Jake Odorizzi, Rays: There's little chance Odorizzi's actually available in most leagues, but maybe he got cut loose in a shallow format by a GM who was strapped for bench/DL spots. He'll make his return from a hamstring injury Monday, and has a nice schedule upon his return as faces the Marlins on the road, then gets consecutive home starts against two struggling offenses in the Blue Jays and Royals. He's still only 27 and while Odorizzi may not have ace upside, he's a steady mid-rotation piece. 12-team Mixed: $9; 15-team Mixed: Owned; 12-team AL: Owned

JC Ramirez, Angels: I still can't say I'm a believer, but after Ramirez threw seven shutout innings with seven Ks in his last start he at least got my attention. The righty has a big fastball and his 22:7 K:BB through 22.1 innings may not be a fluke. Then again, he'd never topped 7.0 K/9 as a reliever over parts of three big-league seasons, so he still has a lot to prove. The Angels are desperate for healthy rotation arms, though, so even the glimmers Ramirez has shown so far have probably earned him a long leash. He also faces the Rangers in Arlington on Sunday after this column will be up, so even the tepid optimism I'm showing here could look very silly if he gets hammered. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Chris Tillman, Orioles: Baltimore elected not to bring him up to take Tuesday's start, so Tillman will get one more minor-league rehab outing before he rejoins the Orioles. Given that he's allowed eight runs and three homers in 11.1 innings while rehabbing, it's not hard to see why the club might want to give him more time. The 29-year-old has been a reliable, if somewhat low-ceiling, fantasy arm in three of the last four seasons, though, and there's no reason to think 2017 won't make it four out of five. 12-team Mixed: $4; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team AL: Owned


Relief Pitcher

Sam Dyson, Rangers: Back from the DL, Dyson threw a scoreless inning Friday which brought his ERA on the year down under 22.00. Huzzah? If he can return to his 2015-16 form now that he's healthy it is possible he could push his way back into the saves mix for Texas, but that would probably require not only him looking good, but Matt Bush faltering and maybe a couple of other guys as well. Dyson's sinker-heavy arsenal probably profiles better in a setup role anyway. If his horrific beginning to the season caused him to be cut loose, consider him a spec saves play only, but a potentially solid relief arm in holds formats. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

David Hernandez, Angels: Picked up from Atlanta after he couldn't win a spot in their bullpen, Hernandez has looked good through his first few appearances with the Angels, posting a 5:0 K:BB and not allowing a baserunner in 3.2 innings. His track record indicates that while the strikeouts are probably for real, he's going to have trouble keeping the ball in the park (and that ERA below 4.00) eventually, but in a Los Angeles bullpen that's had trouble keeping anyone healthy and is currently relying on Bud Norris to be their closer, that's probably good enough for Hernandez to carve out a prominent role. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Chih-Wei Hu, Rays: Called up to fill a middle relief role when Tommy Hunter landed on the DL, Hu is a solid stash in dynasty formats. His strikeout rate took a tumble at Double-A last year, but the 23-year-old's plus changeup and ability to pound the bottom of the zone should allow him to keep posting solid ratios at any level. Given Hu's spot on the organizational depth chart it might take a rash of injuries for him to get a crack at the rotation any time soon, though. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Bud Norris, Angels: I should've known Mike Scioscia would turn his closer spot over to the oldest pitcher he could find. Norris has looked good in the ninth inning since Cam Bedrosian hit the DL, converting four straight opportunities, and his 15:5 K:BB through 12.2 innings on the year certainly looks closer-worthy. Curiously, Norris' raw stuff hasn't been playing up in the bullpen – his 93.3 mph average fastball is right in line with what he's been offering up as a mediocre (at best) starting pitcher since 2014. Given the inability of Bedrosian and Huston Street to stay healthy, it can't be ruled out that Norris will stay in the closer picture even when one or both of their other options return to action, and that makes him worth a couple extra bucks if you're trawling for saves. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $13

Anthony Swarzak, White Sox: Some teams just have a knack for producing high-K relievers with fantasy utility, and this season it looks like the White Sox are one of those teams. Swarzak has a lot of arms between him and the ninth inning, and may not even see much setup duty and the holds that come with it, but he has yet to allow a run through 12.1 innings and his 14:1 K:BB is superb. His fastball is also averaging a career-high 94.4 mph so far, giving some reassurance that this isn't just a small sample fluke. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1


Catcher

Alex Avila, Tigers: It's been a long time (2011, to be exact) since Avila had much fantasy value in shallower formats, but he's kicked off 2017 in style, slashing .364/.488/.788 through 41 plate appearances with four homers. That sample is far too small to think that's remotely sustainable, but with James McCann hitting .164 at the same time, the balance of playing time could begin to shift in Avila's favor, especially considering that if the Tigers decide to use a strict platoon behind the plate, Avila's the one who hits left-handed. If you're churning your second catcher spot hoping someone sticks, Avila's worth a look. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team AL: Owned

Luke Maile Blue Jays: Maile replaces Jarrod Saltalamacchia as hometown hero Russell Martin's backup in Toronto, a role that has a very limited fantasy ceiling. Of course, the last time Maile hit over .270 at any level was in 2013 at High-A Bowling Green, so there's no reason to expect much here. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Christian Vazquez, Red Sox: Vazquez has started to cut into Sandy Leon's playing time, starting four of the last seven games and picking up five hits along the way. His .452/.485/.645 slash line is completely unsustainable – Vazquez has a .560 BABIP, for pity's sake – but his strong defense behind the plate means he only has to be a little bit better than Leon with the bat to eventually earn the starting job, and that's a low bar to clear with Leon hitting .180/.196/.280. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3


First Base

Kennys Vargas, Twins: Called up last Sunday to fill the Twins' roster hole until they need a fifth starter, Vargas has made a solid case so far to stick around, hitting .308 with a homer in 13 at-bats. He's been splitting time between first base and DH, but as Robbie Grossman cools down DH is Vargas' more likely home. The question is whether he's able to do enough over the next week to justify keeping him around over an eighth bullpen arm when Minnesota calls up Berrios. That makes him a risky investment right now, but if Vargas does survive and move into a near full-time role as the designated hitter he still has significant power upside. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Dan Vogelbach, Mariners: Vogelbach got called up right after last week's column was published, but he hasn't exactly taken the Pacific Northwest by storm since then. He's been splitting time at first base just about equally with Danny Valencia, and the 24-year-old is still looking for his first extra-base hit while batting just .154 (2-for-13). There's still a lot of upside here guven his power stroke and the lineup around him, but Vogelbach could need some time to acclimate to the majors. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team AL: $9


Third Base

Josh Rutledge, Red Sox: Rutledge came off the DL on Tuesday and despite the fact that the Red Sox don't have a healthy starting third baseman, he's seen exactly four at-bats since then, going 0-for-4. In other words, he's not the answer for Boston at the hot corner. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Luis Valbuena, Angels: C.J. Cron already seemed to be in manager Mike Scioscia's doghouse, so the Angels used a foot bruise as an excuse to put him on the DL and let him clear his head. That should give Valbuena about a week to show what he can do once he comes off the disabled list early this week. Once both are healthy they could end up in a platoon or timeshare at first base, but Cron still seems like the better long-term option unless there's something going on with him that the team isn't sharing with the class. At 31 years old, you know what you're getting with Valbuena – occasional pop and a batting average risk. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $13


Shortstop

Tim Beckham, Rays: Beckham has been on a tear lately, hitting .333 with four homers over the last couple of weeks. The first overall pick in 2008 has never lived up to that billing, but with Matt Duffy still a couple of weeks or more away from returning to action and prolonged hot streak from Beckham could allow him to secure his hold on the starting shortstop job and push Duffy into a utility role. Beckham's 33.7 percent strikeout rate is still very problematic, though, so even if he's experiencing an age-27 power surge, he'll be a batting average risk. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: Owned

Chase d'Arnaud, Red Sox: The Red Sox do love their utility infielders. Scooped up on waivers from the Braves, d'Arnaud might only have a roster spot until Brock Holt gets healthy, and might not see much action while he is in Boston. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Didi Gregorius, Yankees: Gregorius came off the DL and immediately jumped back into the lineup Friday, going 2-for-5. After popping a career-high 20 homers last season, the 27-year-old will be itching to start hitting balls into Yankee Stadium's short porch once again, and there's no reason to think his 2016 production was any kind of fluke. If he was cut loose by an impatient GM in a shallow league, now's the time to pounce. 12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team AL: Owned


Outfield

Jorge Bonifacio, Royals: The Royals announced that Jorge Soler will stay on his rehab stint for a while longer, affording Bonifacio another couple of weeks to show what he can do. The 23-year-old has looked pretty good, hitting .300 through 20 at-bats with his first big-league homer, and if he's still hitting well when Soler gets activated it's always possible that Alex Gordon and his .181 batting average start to lose playing time in left field. Given the state of Kansas City's offense right now, they can't really be too picky about where their hits and runs are coming from, and while the youngster's prospect pedigree has faded in recent years he does still offer the possibility of solid four-category production. More likely, though, Bonifacio heads back to Triple-A once Soler is ready, making him a better stash in keeper leagues. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Tyler Collins, Tigers: The Tigers' outfield remains a mess outside of Justin Upton in left field, but Collins has been hitting well enough to earn near full-time duty. What prospect cache he has comes from a few years ago when he was among the best options in a bad system, but his 2014 line at Triple-A (.263/.335/.423, 18 homers, 12 steals) offers a glimpse of what he could do with regular playing time. J.D. Martinez is getting close to a return, which will restrict Collins' paths to that playing time, but it's not like JaCoby Jones or Mikie Mahtook are making much of a case in center field. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Delino DeShields Jr., Rangers: DeShields has worked his way back into the left field mix for the Rangers, although that seems to be as much because Jurickson Profar has been a flop than anything DeShields himself has done. Still, he's started three straight games this week and stolen two bases, so while he won't offer much else from a fantasy perspective, those steals can still be gold. When your main competition for at-bats is Ryan Rua, things are looking up for you. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Ben Gamel, Mariners: Mitch Haniger's oblique strain brought Gamel back to the majors, and he's been seeing consistent at-bats in an unsettled outfield. The 24-year-old has shown the ability to hit for a good average with a smidge of power and some speed in the high minors – basically a Brett Gardner starter kit – and that's a skill set worth a bid in deep formats even if Haniger only misses a couple of weeks of action. Gamel could essentially be competing with Guillermo Heredia for a starting job once Haniger returns, and Gamel's got more upside than Heredia. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Avisail Garcia, White Sox: Garcia continues to rake, hitting .333 with four homers and 12 RBI over the last couple of weeks. He's teased breakouts before, but the guy once considered a mini-Miggy in the Tigers' system is still only 25 years old and might finally be healthy and coming into his own. Then again, he's had over 1,600 plate appearances in the majors already and managed only a .265/.316/.399 slash line, so don't get too excited just yet. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: Owned

Leury Garcia, White Sox: The White Sox's other Garcia (not to be confused with Willy, their other other Garcia) has at least for the moment seized the starting center field job, hitting .310 over the last couple of weeks with two homers and a steal. That's pretty much in line with last year's .313/.367/.426 performance at Triple-A, so while the book on him is that he's playing over his head and Charlie Tilson will eventually claim the center field gig, I'm not so sure. Garcia's only 25 years old and was once one of those toolsy Rangers prospects who just needed to add some skills to his portfolio. It's possible that the skills have finally developed. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Guillermo Heredia, Mariners: The initial big winner when Leonys Martin was jettisoned off the roster, Heredia has been seeing regular at-bats in left field and doing pretty well with them. He still profiles as nothing but a source of fairly empty batting average from a fantasy perspective, though, and with Ben Gamel now getting a look as well, Heredia could find himself back in a fourth outfielder role once Mitch Haniger is healthy. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Tony Kemp, Astros: Called up after Teoscar Hernandez got hurt, Kemp will sit on the end of the Astros' bench until they need his roster spot for someone else. He's stolen some bases in the minors, but don't expect him to get a chance to run much in Houston. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Ryan LaMarre, Athletics: The A's are so strapped for warm bodies in the outfield that they essentially bought LaMarre from the Angels for cash considerations last Sunday and had him in the majors by Tuesday. The 28-year-old has had some decent minor-league lines, notably hitting .303/.369/.445 with 10 homers and 17 steals in half a season with Triple-A Pawtucket last year, but his upside is limited and his stay in the majors might only last until Rajai Davis gets healthy. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Colby Rasmus, Rays: After a couple of setbacks with his rehab from a groin injury, Rasmus finally seems close to joining the Rays. Expect him to slot in as the starting left fielder once he comes off the DL and do what he always does, which is play good defense and hit some homers with a bad batting average. His real impact might be on Tampa's pitching staff, though, as he and Kevin Kiermaier catch all the things hit between the left-field foul line and the right-center gap. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Joey Rickard, Orioles: Rickard came off the DL on Friday and immediately went 2-for-5 with a walk and two runs scored as the leadoff hitter, which is nice. He's probably on the short side of a left-field platoon with Hyun Soo Kim, but in deeper AL-only formats his stolen base potential makes him worth rostering, even if his playing time is limited. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Ryan Rua, Rangers: It speaks to the confusion in Texas right now that in the four days since Rua was named as the “everyday” left fielder by manager Jeff Banister, he's started two games in left, one at first base and sat for the fourth. Still, almost half of his at-bats on the season have come in the last week, so Rua's value is definitely trending up. He profiles best as a platoon bat against LHP, but if he's getting semi-regular playing time he's worth a look in deep formats. Just don't expect him to keep his “everyday” gig for too long. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3