The catching free agent pool could be the weakest I’ve seen in years with not too much help sitting at the top end of the minors.
The only free agent catcher to hit well over the last week is Martin Maldonado. He has six hits in last 11 at-bats with three runs, one HR, and two RBI. All of his success came in two games on May 1st and May 2nd (6-for-8). In his other 12 games over the last 23 days, Maldonado doesn’t have a hit in 36 at-bats. Martin has double-digit power, but his batting average has plenty of risk long-term even with him due for a correction. At best, a short-term injury cover.
Austin Hedges suffered an elbow injury over the last week leading to a DL stint. He already has 30 Ks in 75 at-bats, so the elbow issue may have been affecting his swing all year. Either way, the injury could be a long-term problem. The Padres called up Raffy Lopez to replace on the roster. He’s a journeyman catcher with a career .275 average in the minors with 46 HRs and 262 RBI over 1,812 at-bats. In 2017, Lopez hit .288 with 16 HRs and 45 RBI over 240 at-bats at AA and AAA. His season started off great this year at AAA at age 30 (.300 with seven HRs and 15 RBI over 70 at-bats). Raffy may be the best looking free agent catching option this week in deep leagues, and he already hit a home run in the majors in nine at-bats.
The swing of Francisco Mejia remains lost at AAA. Over 109 at-bats, he’s hitting .193 with three HRs and 14 RBI. Mejia had a nice game on May 4th (3-for-3 with a home run and four RBI) with nine empty at-bats on both sides of that game.
My forward-looking swing at catcher looks to be Jacob Nottingham. Over 62 at-bats at AAA, Nottingham hit .339 with four HRs, 13 RBI, and one SB. He does have 19 Ks over this span, which invites downside in batting average. Jacob looked close to the majors after his 2015 season at A and High when he hit .316 with 17 HRs and 82 RBI over 465 at-bats. He struggled at AA in 2016 (.234 with 11 HRs and 37 RBI over 415 at-bats) and 2017 (.209 with nine HRs and 48 RBI over 325 at-bats). For now, Nottingham is just a player to follow in the minors at catcher.
With Adam Eaton making no real progress with his left ankle injury, Matt Adams is on the verge of qualifying in the outfield (needs one more game in ten games leagues). Adams started the last six games with Nationals leading to seven hits in 21 at-bats with seven runs, four HRs, and seven RBI. The previous week Matt had a huge game when he went 3-for-5 with one HR and six RBI. Adams offers a boost in power as an injury cover with possibly a much longer window to get at-bats.
It may be a good time to own Twins’ batters. Their offense is starting to come around (19 runs in the last three games), and they will have some high scoring games with power. Logan Morrison has ten hits in his last 33 at-bats with seven runs, three HRs, and seven RBI. Ideally, a Fantasy owner would like to see him hit higher in the batting order to improve his chances in runs and RBI. Worth a flier if you have an issue at CO or DH in shallow leagues.
A smart owner would have invested in Wilmer Difo after drafting Daniel Murphy. Difo has an eight-game hitting streak (12-for-22) with eight runs, two HRs, and four RBI. Wilmor has underlying speed, and his window for at-bats looks longer than expected with Murphy stating this week that his right knee is still feeling pain when running. The time frame of Murphy returning in question; I would be looking to buy the insurance with Wilmer Difo this week.
Brad Miller may not look like much in the free agent power, but he does offer the power than a Fantasy owner may be lacking from second base. His swing looks much better over his last ten games (.313 over 32 at-bats with six runs, two HRs, and six RBI), but he will sit against lefties. When Brad is in the lineup, he’s been hitting cleanup, which is a positive for his value in runs and RBI. In 2016 vs. RB pitching, Miller hit .247 with 27 HRs and 67 RBI over 438 at-bats. I always expected more from him in batting average after hitting .334 over 891 at-bats in the minors.
Jose Bautista won’t qualify at third base for a couple of weeks, but he will be the best option in the free agent pool this week after the Braves called him up from the minors. He had nine hits in 36 at-bats in his get in shape assignment at AAA with one HRs and five RBI. Bautista is a veteran bat with 30 HR upside who can take walks. His batting average has been a risk over his last two seasons (.234 and .203) due to a rising K rate (24.8 in 2017).
With Martin Prado returning from the DL, most Fantasy owners thought Brian Anderson would be out of a job. The Marlins moved Anderson to the outfield, which led to him extending his starting streak to 32 games. Over his last 52 at-bats, Anderson hit .308 with four runs, one HR, and eight RBI. Brian has a 20/80 type skill set with more growth in his approach in the majors.
Brandon Crawford has a four-game hitting streak (9-for-18) with four runs, one HR, and seven RBI. His batting average (.241) still needs more work, but the Giants’ offense is trending upward. San Fran scored 29 runs in their last three games and 61 runs in their last nine games leading to seven wins in nine games. Crawford will drive in runs with sneaky power, but he is hitting low in the batting order hurting his value in runs.
It’s showtime in Kansas City for Adalberto Mondesi after spending the first month on the DL. In his first five games at AAA, Mondesi has seven hits in 22 at-bats with four runs, two HRs, three RBI, and three SBs. He should be up in the major shortly with a chance to hit in a favorable part of the batting order if he can repeat his earlier success. For a Fantasy team trailing in speed, Adalberto could be the best out of the year at middle infield.
Alen Hansen has been a spark in the Giants’ batting order over the last two games while hitting in the leadoff spot. In his last four starts over the last five games, Hansen has six hits in 17 at-bats with three runs, one HR, five RBI, and two SBs. Hansen will be a fun player if he’s getting at-bats and playing well. Possible double digit power with 30+ stole base upside with a full season of at-bats. Alen qualifies at second base as well.
I’d mention Jorge Soler, but I can only kick that tire so many times on the waiver wire report. Soler has 15 hits in his last 43 at-bats with seven runs, three HRs, and ten RBI. If you read this report, he should have been on your radar a month ago or even on draft day in deep leagues.
With Corey Seager out for the season, it will be interesting to see how the Dodgers handle their outfield positions over the last five months of the season when Yasiel Puig returns from the DL. LA called up Alex Verdugo last week. He’s started the last six games. Over this stretch, Verdugo has six hits in 21 at-bats with two runs and an RBI. Alex is a career .304 hitter in the minors over 1,688 at-bats with 35 HRs, 242 RBI, and 36 SBs with a full season of at-bats under his belt at AAA (.308 with 79 runs, ten HRs, 77 RBI, and nine RBI over 509 at-bats). Verdugo is a nice player, but I don’t see him offering an impact in HRs or SBs early in his career.
Alex Gordon has become relevant again over the last two weeks since returning from the DL. He has 17 hits in his last 50 at-bats with eight runs, two HRs, and RBI while hitting at the bottom of the Royals’ lineup. Gordon should move up in the Royals’ batting order with continued success. Possible trade option for a contending major league team that has an issue in the outfield.
This week could be one of the most interesting periods in the free agent market from a starting pitching point of view. A Fantasy owner will have multiple chances at young arms, but they need to place the right bet to long-term value.
Nick Kingham outpitched his minor league resume in his major league debut when he tossed seven shutout innings with one hit, no walks, and nine Ks. In his follow up start, Kingham allowed four runs, seven baserunners, and two HRs over 5.1 innings with seven Ks. Nick has a 3.74 ERA over 43 starts at AAA with 217 Ks over 255.1 innings. He projects to have solid command with a low K rate (7.7). His best asset is a plus changeup.
The Braves called up Mike Soroka on Tuesday. Over six innings vs. the Mets, Soroka gave up one run with six hits and five Ks. He pitched well in his first four starts at AAA (1.99 ERA over 22.2 innings with 24 Ks) after a strong year at AA in 2017 (2.75 ERA with 125 Ks over 153.2 innings). Mike has a career 2.85 ERA in the minors with 311 Ks over 353.1 innings. Soroka is only 20 years old. He has a mid-90s fastball and a plus breaking pitch. His command is exceptional while his upside in Ks will come with the development of his changeup.
The Twins called up Fernando Romero last week. He proceeded to post an attention getter game (no runs over 5.2 innings with four hits, three walks, and five Ks). Over six years in the minors, Romero has a 23-17 record with a 2.83 ERA and 314 Ks in 324.1 innings. His command started to fade at AA (3.2 walks per nine) in 2017 while showing more risk (4.3 walks per nine) in his short innings (21) at AAA this season. Fernando has a high 90s fastball. His slider has a chance to be above average with a mediocre changeup at this point of his career.
Flying behind all of these arms will be Jaime Barria. He has a 3.45 ERA in his career in the minors with 327 Ks over 404.2 innings while having limited experience at AAA (2.67 ERA over 27 innings with 25 Ks). Barria pitched well in his first two starts in the majors (three runs and five hits over 11 innings), but he’s battled his command (five walks) with low Ks (five). Jaime is a control pitcher will limited upside in Ks early in his career. Barria has a low 90s fastball and a changeup with upside. Based on stuff, he rates below the above arms, but Jaime may beat many in execution and guile.’
My first choice out of this group would be Mike Soroka followed by Fernando Romero. Both of these arms could have a long window in the majors in 2018. Nick Kingham should lose his job to Joe Musgrove in a couple of weeks unless another Pirates’ arm has an injury. I also believe Tyler Glasnow has a lot higher ceiling than Kingham and he’ll press him for a job at some point in 2018. Jaime Barria pitches for a team that is going to win games and tends to have healthy pitching issues. I wouldn’t overlook Barria as long-term options for the Angels this year.
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