2014 Fantasy Baseball: Week 20 Free Agent Fixes
A pair of first basemen on different ends of the career spectrum get the nod in this week’s column. They are joined by an outfielder who took the path less traveled to the majors and now finds himself hitting third for his club, a one time blue chip prospect pitcher who could be figuring it out after an extended stay in the bullpen, and an outfield prospect getting his first taste of big league coffee.
Adam Lind, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
Ownership: ESPN: 32.7%, Yahoo!: 25%, CBS: 26%
Lind’s disabled list stint sent his ownership rate plummeting, but by the time these words are devoured by your eyeballs, he’ll be activated. His struggles with left-handed pitchers probably means he’ll be used in a platoon role, as he was prior to his injury, and that’s okay.
In 166 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers this year he was hitting .369 with four homers and 16 doubles. He routinely hit anywhere from third through fifth in the Blue Jays order, and should be expected to hit in those same lineup slots going forward. That’s outstanding for run production potential since no offense has been better against right-handed pitchers than the Blue Jays, at least measured by wRC+. The bar is high to be useful at first base in fantasy leagues, but Lind should be scooped up in all AL-only leagues and he makes for a nice utility or corner infield option in 14-team mixed leagues or larger. Once he shakes the rust off, he should be relevant in 12-team mixed leagues as well.
Kennys Vargas, 1B, Minnesota Twins
Ownership: ESPN: 6.9%, Yahoo!: 3%, CBS: 26%
Vargas wasn’t a highly touted prospect entering the year, but a breakout season at the Double-A level helped him land a spot on the World team in the Futures Game. The beauty of him playing in the Futures Game was that it meant updated scouting reports from reputable outlets. Ron Shah of Baseball Prospectus lauded his improved approach and “tremendous raw power.” At the end of July, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America tossed a 70 (on the 20-to-80 scale) on Vargas’ raw power and noted his “surprising contact skills.”
Of course big raw power doesn’t assure immediate dinger contributions, and his playable power doesn’t get the same gushing reviews. That said, gambling on plus raw power and solid contact skills resulting in useful fantasy output isn’t a bad move. Getting that skill-set from a guy that’s now hitting cleanup is even better. Lind is the better grab at first base, but Vargas should be snatched up in the same leagues as the Blue Jay (AL-only formats and 14-team mixed leagues or larger).
David Peralta, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Ownership: ESPN: 8.2%, Yahoo!: 9%, CBS: 35%
Peralta entered affiliated ball back in 2006 with the Cardinals, and was no longer in an organization by 2008. He played some independent league ball, and latched on with the Diamondbacks last season. This year he’s scorched the ball hitting .313 with modest power and speed contributions of five homers and four steals in 225 plate appearances. Colleague Gerard Martin wrote about Peralta in his column this week, and I fully support his recommendation for adding him.
Peralta makes a lot of contact, which will help offset some likely BABIP regression. That’s not to say I expect steep BABIP regression, but .348 is a few ticks too high to project for my liking. He doesn’t need to maintain his .313 average to have value, though, especially not since he’s worked his way into the third spot in the Diamondbacks order. He should be added in all NL-only leagues and most 12-team mixed leagues or larger using five outfielders.
Carlos Carrasco, SP/RP, Cleveland Indians
Ownership: ESPN: 0.6%, Yahoo!: 2%, CBS: 5%
I’ve long had a mancrush on Carrasco, so this endorsement should come as little surprise. The one time big get in the Cliff Lee deal played his way out of the rotation early in the year, but he was lights out in the bullpen tallying a 23.1% strikeout rate, 5.3 percent walk rate, and a 2.92 FIP according to FanGraphs. He returned to the rotation on Sunday and threw a five inning gem at Yankee Stadium allowing just two hits and zero runs with four strikeouts throwing 51 of his 77 pitches for strikes and 12 of his 17 first pitches for strikes.
I tend not to put much stock in reading about a player’s mentality, but Paul Hoynes had some interesting quotes from Carrasco that noted the starter carried over a worry free approach he developed in the bullpen into his first start since April. Carrasco previously worried about how he’d go through a lineup multiple times instead of simply attacking hitters. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. Carrasco used a power arsenal to mow down the Yankees.
Brooks Baseball had his average fourseam fastball clocking 97.24 mph and his sinker coming in at 96.03 mph. He threw those two offerings over 63 percent of the time, and backed that with three secondary offerings that he nearly mixed equally. That three pitch mix featured a curveball, changeup, and slider. The slider was his best swing-and-miss pitch inducing three whiffs on 11 thrown, but his change also got a pair of empty swings on nine pitches thrown and his fourseam fastball had two whiffs on 34 pitches. Combine his power arsenal with an ability to throw strikes and induce groundballs (54.6% groundball rate this year) and you’ve got my attention. Grab him in all AL-only leagues, and if you’re pitching starved in large mixed only leagues, take the plunge and hope the 27-year old right-handed pitcher has finally figured it out.
Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego Padres
Ownership: ESPN: 0.9%, Yahoo!: 2%, CBS: 16%
Liriano missed the entire 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. A lost season after struggling mightily at the Double-A level in 2012 makes it almost unfathomable that he is in the bigs already. The toolsy outfielder has earned the look, though, hitting .264/.335/.442 in 415 plate appearances at the Double-A level and hammering the ball to the tune of a .452/.521/.661 triple slash line in 71 plate appearances at the Triple-A level.
His tools translated to 14 homers and 20 stolen bases across those two levels. To expect instant success is probably a touch optimistic, but ignoring his power/speed combination in NL-only leagues is foolish. The 23-year old’s lineup spot (seventh in his debut) will set the cap very low on run production potential, but snagging a guy with some power and speed upside makes that low ceiling in run production forgivable. He shouldn’t have the longest leash, but grab Liriano in NL-only leagues and hope he makes a quick transition to the majors before the book gets out on him and he’s forced to make adjustments.