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May 9, 2013

Free Agent Watch

American League, Week Six

by Paul Singman

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Daric Barton, 1B, Oakland A’s
Ownership:  ESPN: 0.0% Yahoo!: 0%  CBS: 0%
2013 Stats: 18 R, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 0 SB, .287 AVG (AAA)

The thickly bearded, rocket-armed Josh Reddick has hit the disabled list with a wrist injury, prompting the veteran Barton to be recalled to Oakland. Barton’s past experiences in the majors aren’t pleasant ones, with replacement-level play forcing his demotion in the first half of both 2011 and 2012. Thus far in 2013, he has been playing well at Triple-A, batting .287 with three homers, 21 RBI, and a typical 19 percent walk rate. Barton figures to see playing time at first base when the A’s are facing a righty, but only for the couple of weeks Coco Crisp and Reddick are out. If you are in an AL-only league that uses OBP, he can be mildly exciting. Otherwise, there’s nothing to see here. 

Junichi Tazawa, RP, Boston Red Sox
Ownership: ESPN: 42.5% Yahoo!: 47%  CBS: 32%
2013 Stats: 14.1 IP, 2 W, 0 SV, 18 K, 2.51 ERA, 0.98 WHIP

Tazawa leapfrogged setup man Koji Uehara to steal the Red Sox’ closing gig after both Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan succumbed to muscle strains in their throwing arms. Based on his performance to date, Tazawa has the chops to close and should thrive in the role. Even though Bailey could return in a week, I can see Tazawa hanging on to the job, considering Bailey was closer for all of five minutes before getting hurt. If you need saves, now is a good week to add a closer with volatility in several bullpens.  

Hector Santiago, SP, Chicago White Sox
Ownership: ESPN: 3.4% Yahoo!: 10%  CBS: 34%
2013 Stats: 26.2 IP, 1 W, 0 SV, 25 K, 1.68 ERA, 0.98 WHIP

Along with Matt Harvey, Santiago was the other tough-luck recipient of a no-decision in Tuesday night’s duel. After holding the Rangers to one run in 5 1/3 innings in his first start, he next blanked the Mets in seven innings, punching out seven batters. Last year, inflated 5.12 BB/9 and 1.28 HR/9 ratios hurt Santiago’s ERA, but so far in 2013, he’s been able to limit both his walks and homers allowed. His high projected strikeout rate, near 8.0 K/9, makes him an appealing option for all league types, and his soft May schedule (@MIN, @LAA, MIA, @CHC) only sweetens the pot.

Jamey Wright, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
Ownership: ESPN: 0.0% Yahoo!: 0%  CBS: 0%
2013 Stats: 14.0 IP, 0 W, 0 SV, 12 K, 1.29 ERA, 0.93 WHIP

As Jason Collete proclaimed in the Towers of Power Fantasy Hour Facebook Group, “Fernando Rodney is once again a pumpkin.” His 5.08 ERA and 1.78 WHIP support this statement, so let’s see who potential replacements are in the Rays bullpen. In the preseason, Jake McGee would be the first answer, but he’s lost faith in his secondary offerings and has an ERA in the 11.00s. After that, there’s Jamey Wright and setup man Joel Peralta, who are performing well in the Rays pen. Admittedly, I would assume Peralta is next in line, but Collette believes Wright would be the Rays’ first choice. It’s all speculation at this point, but if you have an extra roster spot, stashing Wright could be worth a try.

Jordan Lyles, SP, Houston Astros
Ownership: ESPN: 0.0% Yahoo!: 5%  CBS: 3%
2013 Stats: 10.0 IP, 1 W, 0 SV, 12 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.30 WHIP

A former top prospect, Lyles’ stock has since fallen with two subpar major-league auditions in 2010 and 2011. It’s important to note that he was 20 and 21 years old in those seasons, when most pitchers are still “developing” in the minors. Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect for some growth in Lyles, who has performed decently in two starts against the Tigers and Angels. The strikeout gains he’s displayed thus far will certainly regress, but given his uptick in fastball velocity, perhaps he’ll maintain a solid mid-7.0 K/9. Playing for the Astros limits him to AL-only leagues for now, but deep mixed-leaguers should keep an eye on him if he puts together a few more solid starts. Unfortunately, he draws the Rangers next.

Jason Bay, OF, Seattle Mariners
Ownership:  ESPN: 0.2% Yahoo!: 1%  CBS: 6%
2013 Stats: 10 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, .254 AVG

For those who have stopped following, Bay is still playing in Seattle and is actually achieving an acceptable level of production. He’s not performing like he did in his peak years, but the 34-year-old outfielder is still displaying good on-base skills with some pop in his new environs. For a player with his history, it’s worth seeing in deep mixed leagues if he can enjoy something of a career rejuvenation.

Jeff Baker, 1B/OF, Texas Rangers
Ownership:  ESPN: 0.0% Yahoo!: 0%  CBS: 1%
2013 Stats: 6 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB, .333 AVG

Baker is currently on the weak side of a platoon in left field with David Murphy, and, so far, he has excelled in that role, batting .333 with three home runs in just 33 at-bats. That’s a lot of threes. It’s also a lot better than his career production, but Baker has always fared well against lefties. He’s likely owned in AL-only leagues—or at least should be—but isn’t getting enough at-bats at the moment for mixed leagues. Still, as the backup for Rangers starters, his at-bats could easily increase in the future, making him a mixed-league-relevant player.

Jarred Cosart, SP, Houston Astros
Ownership: ESPN: 0.0% Yahoo!: 0%  CBS: 5%
2013 Stats: 33.0 IP, 4 W, 0 SV, 39 K, 2.18 ERA, 1.18 WHIP (AAA)

After being touted as a potential high-strikeout starter while in the low minors, Cosart has had curiously low punchout rates in his minor-league career. This year in Triple-A, though, the fireballer whose fastball reportedly touches 98 mph, has been mowing through batters with 39 strikeouts in 33 innings. In the preseason, BP’s prospect team ranked him as the Astros fifth-best prospect, pessimistically predicting a future in the bullpen. I’m guessing his recent performance is changing some of those opinions. While the Astros won’t provide many wins, their rotation is easy to crack, meaning we could see Cosart in the majors in a month or two. AL-only leaguers, take note.

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