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July 24, 2014

Free Agent Watch

Week 17

by Mike Gianella and Bret Sayre

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Welcome back to our weekly walk through some of the players who may want to keep an extra eye on in your leagues. Mike and I will be tackling this topic on Thursdays again and focusing on a singular hitter and pitcher in four of the more popular formats: shallow mixed, deep mixed, NL-only and AL-only. These are certainly not the only players who are worthy pickups, but it gives us a nice opportunity to write about players we have close tabs on in our leagues.

12-TEAM MIXED

Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS/OF, Chicago Cubs
Over the last two weeks, Alcantara has been a top-20 hitter in fantasy leagues, but you wouldn’t know it by his ownership across the board. He’s up to 36 percent owned in ESPN leagues, but he’s still unowned in four out of five Yahoo leagues. All he’s done since getting called up is act as a facsimile of his impressive performance in the minor leagues, clubbing extra-base hits and stealing bases. Through his first nine games, the rookie is hitting .282/.326/.590 with two homers and three steals—and though it’s always dangerous to rely on a fresh face, he has to be played in all leagues right now. Finally, another interesting thing with Alcantara is that his eligibility differs based on where you’re playing. Right now, he’s SS-only in ESPN, 2B-only in Yahoo, and both in CBS—though he should end up with outfield eligibility soon across all formats. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: The good Jimmy Rollins with less power

Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
It only took three months and a small country’s GDP of homers, but Marco Estrada finally was banished to the bullpen in favor of the rookie starter who’s been tearing up the Pacific Coast League all season. The big right-hander has made three starts at the major league level now in 2014: one very good, one pretty good, and one terrible. Going forward, I think we can expect more of the good than the bad. As Craig Goldstein wrote in his non-Call Up Call up on Nelson a few weeks back, this is more of an impactful arm in fantasy than we initially thought coming into the season; he’s not just a minor league wonder. With the strong offense the Brewers have, Nelson should be able to win a good number of games down the stretch to go along with what should be pretty good ratios and strikeout numbers (think around a 3.75 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 7.0 K/9. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Wily Peralta

DEEP MIXED

Justin Ruggiano, OF, Chicago Cubs
Ruggiano is never a player you want to have on your roster all season long in a mixed league. Even in a mono format, there are times when Ruggiano does nothing and is a complete drag on your roster. However, there are times when Ruggiano’s hot and you simply have to ride the streak for as long as you can. Right now is one of those times. Ruggiano has hit .377 in July with two home runs, 12 RBI, and two steals over 65 plate appearances. Junior Lake has disappeared, so Ruggiano should get considerable playing time assuming the Cubs don’t flip him in the next week or so. It’s rare to find a power/speed combination in deep mixed sitting in the free agent pool, but Ruggiano fits the bill. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: A poor man’s Curtis Granderson

Neftali Feliz, RHP, Texas Rangers
Last night, as I was writing this, Joakim Soria was traded to the Detroit Tigers. Feliz seems like the first option for the Rangers to close, so he’s worth an immediate pick up. However, he is an extremely risky option. Look past his decent ERA and Feliz’s numbers are subpar at best. His velocity is down for a second year in a row and with every passing season he looks less like the dominant pitcher we thought he would be. Neal Cotts is the more logical pickup based on skills/performance, but Cotts is a free-agent-to-be and could also be headed out of town. The main thing Feliz has going for him is that the other non-Soria/Cotts options in the bullpen are also weak. He might get the job by default if Soria goes. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: Henry Rodriguez

AL-ONLY

J.P. Arencibia, C, Texas Rangers
There is no doubting that J.P. Arencibia is bad and that he is a fringe major leaguer, even at catcher. However, his BABIP and his strikeout rate don’t speak to someone who should be hitting .138. He isn’t a .300 hitter either, but Arencibia should offer enough batting average to make him passable in AL-only, even if he “only” hits .220. It is uncertain how much more time the Rangers will give him before they pull the plug on his season and cut him entirely. I maintain that in an AL-only—where nine backup catchers are carried on 12 active rosters—that Arencibia is worth a low FAAB bid and is a viable short-term risk. —Mike Gianella

Comparable Player: John Buck

Brandon Maurer, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Having failed as a starting pitcher (at least for now), Maurer was moved to the pen in Triple-A around the start of June. He seems to have taken to the transition. In nine appearances since rejoining the Mariners’ active roster on June 25, Maurer has not give up an earned run across 14 innings, while striking out 17 and walking only two. Of course, it helps when your average fastball velocity goes from the 93-95 MPH range to averaging nearly 97.5 MPH (yay short bursts). He’s also throwing a 90.5 MPH slider (NBDKBD). If the domination continues (which of course it won’t at this pace), Maurer could find himself as a key cog in the Mariners’ bullpen—which could mean holds for those of you who are into that sort of thing. Relievers who can do things like this are awfully valuable in only formats, especially if you can find them before your league mates. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Brad Boxberger

NL-ONLY

Jordany Valdespin, OF, Miami Marlins
There have certainly been other players whose fantasy/real life value gap has been significant, but few have been as major league borderline as Valdespin. His real life value is probably limited to utility player, but Valdespin is always enticing when he has an opportunity to start because of his power/speed combination and the potential for 15 home runs and 15 steals if he gets 500 at-bats. Ultimately, he’ll never get 500 at-bats because his batting average is a significant drag and his fielding stinks, but in small sample sizes, Valdespin can provide decent short-term NL-only league value. He is currently only competing with Donovan Solano for second base at-bats. He will soon be second-base eligible; he isn’t listed at 2B here because many leagues use a five-game in-season requirement.

Comparable Player: Ryan Flaherty

Jacob Turner, RHP, Miami Marlins
The 2014 season has been shaping up like another lost one for Turner, who’s been a big disappointment since being a key piece in the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante trade of 2012. Somehow, he’s getting another shot in the Marlins’ rotation in the second half, despite a 6.22 ERA and 1.62 WHIP prior to the All-Star break. However, his first start back was actually something positive to build on, as he allowed only two runs and six base runners in five innings against the Braves on Tuesday. Someone is going to lose their rotation spot when Andrew Heaney gets his second chance at the MLB level, and if Turner puts together another start or two like this, it may very well be Brad Hand instead of him. For all of his career ups and downs thus far, Turner is still barely 23 years old and still has the potential to be a piece of the Marlins’ Rotation of the Future™. —Bret Sayre

Comparable Player: Anthony DeSclafani

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Waiver Wire

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