April 16, 2013
Free Agent Watch
American League, Week Three
Jose Reyes’ ankle injury is causing all sorts of shuffling in the Toronto lineup. One positive side effect is Jose Bautista potentially gaining third-base eligibility, with two starts at the hot corner over the weekend. The speedy Rajai Davis also figures to receive more starts in the outfield as a result. At first glance, you might think the injury also opens significant playing time for Izturis, but that might not be the case.
First off, Izturis has been disappointing at the plate, batting .194/.242/.323 in 33 plate appearances. Next, the Jays clearly don’t trust him defensively at short, having played Munenori Kawasaki there on Saturday and Sunday. Yeah, who? Then, there’s the Brett Lawrie Experiment underway at second base, which, if successful, would leave Izturis near-homeless on the diamond. For what it’s worth, my money is on Lawrie not sticking at second and Izturis filling the role of the primary stopgap at short, perhaps until a trade is made to acquire someone else. The point is that this situation is fluid, and Izturis is not necessarily an obvious beneficiary. Speculate in AL-only leagues, but avoid counting on him in mixed formats if possible.
Both Jeff Francoeur and Lorenzo Cain are playing uninspiring ball, making me think the distribution of playing time in the Royals’ outfield will undergo a shift in the near future. Dyson, who has started just three of the first 12 games, stands to see his playing time increased going forward. The speedy outfielder should be no stranger to the fantasy crowd, since he had a valuable season last year. In 300 at-bats, he batted .260 with 30 steals and should put up similar numbers this year. I didn’t round those numbers by the way, and as a baseball writer, these are the little things I appreciate. Anyway, if Dyson’s unowned in an AL-only league, I’d grab him immediately. In 14-plus-team mixed leagues, I see no harm in stashing him now before his stock rises. In anything shallower, you can wait, but keep him firmly on your radar.
Last week’s A’s infield recommendation, Scott Sizemore, tragically suffered the second torn ACL of his career last Tuesday, so let’s hope this week’s fares better. His name is Grant Green, a former first-rounder originally drafted as a shortstop, converted to an outfielder, and now back in the infield playing second base for the A’s Triple-A squad. He ranked fifth on the A’s preseason Prospect list, receiving praise for his all-around skill set, particularly his hit tool, as scouts call it. He possesses mostly gap power, but as a starter, something like 10 homers and steals along with a .260s average is possible.
Basically my faith in Eric Sogard who resembles a Keebler Elf more than a baseball player, is nada. I don’t mean to knock him solely on appearance, but his play in 2013 has justified the comparison. So far, he’s batting .226/.314/.258 with one extra-base hit in 35 plate appearances. I don’t expect the A’s to tolerate this performance much longer, with Adam Rosales, Jemile Weeks, Andy Parrino, or our guy, Green, taking his place. Green is batting .260 with a couple of homers already in Triple-A, and deserves the first chance in the majors. If he gets that chance, AL-only players should take notice.
We’re sticking with the surname Greene—but now with an extra “e” at the end. After losing out on the Astros shortstop gig (to a player we’ll discuss next), Greene has resurfaced in the South Side of Chicago, a fortuitous landing place. The White Sox have a void in their infield because of Gordon Beckham’s hamate injury, a void Greene can now fill at least some of the time, depending on how Conor Gillaspie is deployed. Getting cut from the Astros is never a good sign, but I believe Greene still has enough pop to warrant consideration from the AL-only crowd while he draws a few starts a week.
I said we’d talk about the Astros shortstop next, and here we are. After starting out as a mix of Gonzalez and Ronny Cedeno (yuck), the Astros shortstop scene has recently shifted heavily in Gonzalez’ direction. And he’s has earned it, batting .333 with two homers in 29 plate appearances. Unfortunately that power likely will shut down based on career numbers, and he’s also stuck batting ninth in the Astros’ lineup. But there’s potentially full-time at bats here, and a .270s average that should get the attention of AL-only players and those in 16-plus-team mixed leagues.
Among the A’s youthful rotation, the 40-year old Colon stands out like a sore thumb. In two starts this year, he’s given us typical Colon-ian performances, going deep into the game, allowing his share of hits, walking no one, and adding a few strikeouts to the mix. Personally, I find the way Colon pitches fascinating. His stubborn refusal to work outside the zone is almost comical, epitomized by throwing a ridiculous 38 consecutive strikes last season. If there’s an advantage to be gained by adding deception to his approach, he isn’t interested. Colon will continue to relentlessly attack the strike zone, which sometimes causes him to get lit up, but is often efficient and effective. This no-nonsense approach should prove effective Wednesday against the Astros, so long as he avoids serving up a meatball to former Athletic Chris Carter. I’d consider streaming the stone-aged wonder in all leagues, but he is also worthy of ownership in 14-plus-team mixed formats for the rest of the season.
Dan Straily, SP, Oakland Athletics
Another A’s player, how boring! It’s not my fault the A’s are so flush with pitching talent that a talented arm like Straily has to be relegated to the minors. I don’t expect him to languish there long, however, since someone in the rotation is bound to get injured soon enough. Straily is the obvious call-up in that situation, and would instantly become universally own-able. He’s made two starts this year, one in the majors and one in Triple-A, and he dominated both, leaving him with flawless 0.00 ERA and 20-to-0 K:BB. In add-drop leagues, consider stashing Straily now, before the rat race commences; in FAAB leagues, I’d throw a $1 bid his way before that price rises dramatically.
After being acquired and promptly cut by Colorado, Harang has landed in Seattle with a rotation spot. Seattle is an ideal landing place for any pitcher, and Harang should be a serviceable innings-eater up north. A low-4.00s ERA coupled with a strikeout rate in the 6.0 K/9 range is worth a roster spot in AL-only leagues. Hopefully, you have better options in mixed leagues, though.
The impotent Tampa bats could use a serious shakeup, lest Jason Collette blow a gasket in the near future. Buzzy prospect Wil Myers might not be the first reinforcement; that honor could instead go to the much-less-heralded Guyer. He has some impressive minor-league seasons under his belt—for instance, in 2011 at Triple-A, he batted .312 with 14 homers and 16 steals in 107 games. His 2012 season was mostly lost to shoulder surgery, but now he’s off to a quick three-home-run start in 2013. Expect to see his name in a call-up article around the end of the month. Once in the majors, he will likely be limited by a platoon, making him exclusively an AL-only play.
The Angels are dealing with some infield woes, with shortstop Erick Aybar already on the disabled list and third baseman Alberto Callaspo potentially joining him. As a result, Jimenez will draw some starts at the hot corner for the Halos, and he has the potential to be an offensive contributor. Jimenez has never been a top prospect, but has remained productive all the way up the minor-league ladder. Notably, he led the Texas League in doubles in 2011 as a 23-year-old, and triple-slashed .309/.334/.495 last year in Triple-A. He’s more of a gap-power hitter than home-run threat, but he still managed to put up mid-teen homer and steal totals the past few seasons. If you’re desperate as an AL-only owner, Jimenez could be a two-week stopgap, assuming Callaspo hits the shelf.