2014 Fantasy Baseball: Week Five Free Agent Fixes
Outfielders are well represented in this week’s Free Agent Fixes with five outfield eligible players making the cut. There is a little bit of something for everyone in today’s article with a guy featured that hit 29 homers in 2013. Speed is also well represented with a couple of well above average base stealers that play the outfield included in today’s write-ups, and even a middle infielder that can help AL-only leaguers snag a few extra stolen bases. If youth and upside are your thing, a pair of American League Central players will catch your eye. Finally, I lead off with the only arm discussed, and he’s a really exciting one that has struck out better than a batter-per-inning in four Triple-A starts.
Marcus Stroman, SP/RP, Toronto Blue Jays
Ownership: ESPN: 0.2%, Yahoo!: 3%, CBS: 24%
The time for Stroman making his big league debut is coming, and coming soon. The diminutive right-handed pitcher was scheduled to start on Saturday, but a rain out on Friday caused Triple-A Buffalo to shuffle their rotation and push his start back to Tuesday. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, struggling starter Dustin McGowan is starting for the parent club on that night as well. Another ugly start from McGowan, and his odds of sticking in the rotation for another turn drop dramatically. The team could turn to reliever and former starter J.A. Happ to fill that spot first and bide further time on starting the service time clock on Stroman, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ splashy and pricey moves that have yet to pan out could leave him on thin ice in regards to keeping his job and force him to ignore the service time repercussions with calling up Stroman before June.
Of course none of this would be a discussion if Stroman wasn’t pitching so well at the Triple-A level. The Duke product has been playing really well though, striking out batters in bunches with 26 in 20.2 innings, and his walk rate has been solid at 2.61 BB/9. Because he is a shorter pitcher, he’ll need to keep the ball in the zone to avoid having it flatten out and get punished (i.e. put in the seats). His strikeout potential puts him on large mixed league radars and makes him a must stash in AL-only leagues with any bench space at all. Those in shallow-to-medium sized mixers can take a wait and see approach with Stroman before grabbing him.
Chris Carter, 1B/OF, Houston Astros
Ownership: ESPN: 12.0%, Yahoo!: 23%, CBS: 33%
To paraphrase former NFL coach Dennis Green, Carter is who we thought he was. The problem for the strikeout prone slugger is that he has endured a slump to start the season as opposed to stumbling through one in the middle of the season where a solid foundation of stats would make his overall line look less repulsive. As it stands, Carter is hitting .169/.293/.364 with three homers and he’s been cast to the waiver wire in many leagues.
The thing is, much of his statistical profile resembles that from his 2013 campaign where he belted 29 homers with a .223 average. His batted ball profile this year lines up nicely with last season, and the biggest differences in the early going are a lower HR/FB percentage this year and a massive discrepancy in BABIP (.311 BABIP in 2013 and .238 in 2014). Carter’s swing rates are almost identical to those he posted in 2013, with the only red flag being a slip in his contact percentage from 65.4 percent to 59.6 percent. Carter appears to be heating up having swatted all three of his taters in the last week. He’ll have his ups and downs, but I expect Carter’s year end numbers to resemble those he tallied last year and that makes him ownable in all AL-only leagues and large mixed leagues as well as some medium sized mixed leagues.
Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Detroit Tigers
Ownership: ESPN: 29.4%, Yahoo!: 43%, CBS: 69%
Castellanos’ ownership indicates he’s long gone in large leagues, as he should be, but he should be owned in far more medium sized and shallow formats as well. Among qualified hitters, Castellanos ranks second in line drive percentage according to FanGraphs, and he’s yet to hit an infield flyball. Derek Carty has shown that it takes a long time (around two full seasons) for line drive rate to stabilize, and expecting Castellanos to continue to rip liners at a 36.4 percent clip is foolish, but his present batted ball distribution should have resulted in a much better BABIP than his current .269 mark.
The young third baseman’s carrying tool has long been his bat, and it’s exciting seeing it play at the highest level so quickly. There is a lot of see ball, hit ball, in Castellanos’ approach as his 85.1 percent swing rate on pitches in the strike zone would suggest, and his contact rate of 70.4 percent isn’t ideal, but he doesn’t look like he’s over matched and adjustments will come for him. He has bounced between six and seven in the Tigers ordered, which depresses his run production upside some, but Castellanos ranked as a top prospect for good reason and gambling on his talent is advisable. The 22-year old should only be available in the free agent pool of extremely shallow mixed leagues, and that means his ownership percentage across fantasy baseball host sites should be north of 80 percent, yet it isn’t.
Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Minnesota Twins
Ownership: ESPN: 0.5%, Yahoo!: 3%, CBS: 24%
Like the player highlighted immediately before him in this article, Arcia was a well regarded prospect whose carrying tool was his lumber. His 2013 debut in the majors had some good, 14 homers in 378 plate appearances, and some bad, a six percent walk rate and a strikeout rate over 30 percent. He was up and down from the parent club last year, and when he was down, his assault on minor league pitching continued. Take a looksy at his minor league statistics, the guy has raked at every stop and compiled a triple slash line of .315/.377/.540 in over 1,700 minor league plate appearances. The hope was that he’d begin making the adjustments at the big league level that are necessary for him carry his minor league production to the Show right out of the gate, but that was put on hold just four games into the season due to a wrist injury.
Arcia hit the disabled list on April 5th, and he began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester on April 26th. Now that he’s playing in games, it won’t be long before he’s recalled and playing some outfield and designated hitter for the Twins. The team has gotten surprising contributions from Chris Colabello and Jason Kubel, and young catcher/designated hitter Josmil Pinto has been outstanding with the bat, so Arcia might not initially step into full-time playing time when he rejoins the club. Kubel has ridden a sky high .440 BABIP to his line of .303/.376/.447 line despite striking out in 29.4 percent of his plate appearances, and that makes him a serious regression candidate. Arcia might have to deal with sporadic playing time getting shuffled between the outfield and designated hitter while the other shoe drops on Kubel, but he should see enough playing time to be useful in AL-only leagues and large mixed formats, and his upside is great enough that he could play his way onto medium sized mixer rosters over the summer. An added benefit of nabbing the 22-year old outfielder now is that he can be stashed on the disabled list in leagues that use DL spots.
Cameron Maybin, OF, San Diego Padres
Ownership: ESPN: 0.6%, Yahoo!: 2%, CBS: 13%
Maybin was quickly re-inserted into the Padres starting lineup taking over center field duties and starting on Sunday, the first day he was activated from the disabled list. He went two-for-four and hit seventh in the order. His above average center field defense should make him a mainstay in the Padres lineup, but it’s his speed that will appeal to fantasy gamers.
The toolsy center field stole 40 bases in 2011, and followed that up with 26 stolen bases in 2012. He missed almost all of last year due to injury, but from 2011-2012 his 66 stolen bases ranked 10th in the league. His run production and batting average are unlikely to move the needle much, but unlike some speedsters, he does have some power and he hit 17 homers in 2011-2012. Maybin should be owned in all large mixed leagues and NL-only formats, and speed starved owners in medium sized mixed leagues should take the plunge and find room on their roster for him.
Jemile Weeks, 2B, Baltimore Orioles
Ownership: ESPN: 0.1%, Yahoo!: 0%, CBS: 3%
Chris Davis hit the disabled list on Sunday with an oblique strain, but the club recalled Weeks from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday to provide infield depth. Weeks joined the Orioles in the offseason by trade when the club sent Jim Johnson to the Athletics. He was expected to win the second base job in the spring, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Weeks opened the year in the minors and he’s played very well hitting .296/.451/.481 with more walks, 16, than strikeouts, 10, and four stolen bases in five attempts.
The team immediately inserted him into the leadoff spot and used him as their designated hitter on Saturday, and he was once again used as the designated hitter and leadoff hitter on Sunday. The infield will get Manny Machado back very soon to play third base, and that will leave a handful of players vying for playing time at second base. Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Flaherty (who will be in the mix to play first base with Nick Markakis in Davis’ absence) have been awful at the dish, and while Jonathan Schoop‘s .297 wOBA is palatable, his 1.2 percent walk rate and 31.7 percent strikeout rate are not. Weeks is very much in the mix for steady playing time, and he has above average speed that has, at times, resulted in solid stolen base totals in his professional career. Owners in need of second base or middle infield help in AL-only leagues should add Weeks and hope he wins the game of musical chairs at second base for the Orioles.
Nate McLouth, OF, Washington Nationals
Ownership: ESPN: 0.2%, Yahoo!: 3%, CBS: 4%
On Monday it was revealed that Bryce Harper would need to undergo thumb surgery that will sideline him until at least early July. The Nationals’ two year pact (plus a club option for a third year) with McLouth is looking like a wise one since he’ll be sliding into the outfield on the heavy side of a platoon. Kevin Frandsen will serve his platoon mate against left-handed pitchers temporarily, and will be replaced by Scott Hairston when he returns soon, but McLouth is the outfielder to own since he’ll be facing right-handed pitching.
The 32-year old outfielder hit only .258 in 2013, but he chipped in some power numbers, 12 homers, and was a terror on the bases stealing 30 bags in 37 attempts. McLouth doesn’t chase pitches out of the strike zone often, and when the ball is thrown in the strike zone, he makes contact with it at a very high rate. He’s a must add in NL-only leagues and large mixed leagues.