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NL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

This is our weekly look at National League free agents. We have two goals for this article:

1. Identify likely free agents and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Estimate how much of your free-agent budget you should bid on them.

This year, we're incorporating grids into the FAAB articles, so users can easily see at a glance how certain players stack up against others and how much they should command in a variety of formats.

The grids, which are sortable by column (click on the header), include a very basic "player grade" column. This serves as a reflection of a player’s skills and role on an A-E scale. Carlos Correa would have been an "A" grade player last year -- that mark will be reserved for similar high-impact prospects stepping into an everyday role.

As always, if there is a player that was not discussed in the article that you would like to know about, feel free to ask about the player in the comments.

This is the final column of the season. Thank you to all those who provided comments throughout the year. Any additional comments regarding the column, please email support@rotowire.com and/or jan.levine@gmail.com .

PLAYER TEAM POS GRADE $ (12-Team Mixed) $ (15-Team Mixed) $ (NL-Only)
Chad Bettis COL SP E 8 14 Owned
Jerad Eickhoff PHI SP D 11 16 Owned
Taylor Jungmann MIL SP E 0 1 4
Brett Anderson LA SP E 1 4 7
Homer Bailey CIN SP D 0 1 4
Adam Conley MIA SP D 3 9 14
Alex Wood LA SP D 0 1 4
Mauricio Cabrera ATL RP C 9 14 Owned
Brandon Maurer SD RP C 18 Owned Owned
Hector Neris PHI RP C 4 8 Owned
Sergio Romo SF RP C 14 18 42
Pedro Strop CHI RP D 0 1 4
Austin Hedges SD C C 5 11 18
Tom Murphy COL C C 2 7 11
Josh Bell PIT 1B C 12 24 35
Carlos Asuaje SD 2B D 2 7 11
Dansby Swanson ATL SS B 35 Owned Owned
Sean Rodriguez PIT 3B D 11 22 32
Manuel Margot SD OF B 8 16 32
Hunter Renfroe SD OF B 7 13 25
Scott Schebler CIN OF E 7 13 25

Starting Pitching:

Chad Bettis, Rockies – Bettis, heading into his Saturday start against the Dodgers, has been on a role. His win and fine start Sunday against the Padres made him 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA and 0.67 WHIP with 21 strikeouts and three walks in 28.1 innings. Bettis had a rough half, but he flipped the script in the second half of the season, going 7-1 with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in his last 13 starts. Unfortunately, he struggled Saturday, allowing seven runs – five earned – on eight hits and four walks in 4.2 innings. But his prior 13 starts should enable him to head into spring training with a secure rotation spot. 12-team mixed: $8; 15-team Mixed: $14; 12-team NL: owned

Jerad Eickhoff, Phillies – Eickhoff is closing the season strong, posting a 3.34 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in his last 11 starts. Overall, he is 11-14 with a 3.75 ERA in 31 starts for the Phillies, serving as their de-facto ace down the stretch. Eickhoff has allowed 29 home runs, including seven his last two starts, and benefits from a .247 BABIP. Resulting in a 4.61 xFIP. So, there are some warts and flaws, but he has been more than solid for a weak Phillies team and projects to be a #3 starter in the future, which provides some nice value for your teams. 12-team mixed: $11; 15-team Mixed: $16; 12-team NL: owned

Taylor Jungmann, Brewers – Jungmann started Saturday for Milwaukee against the Reds, allowing two runs on three hits and four walks with three strikeouts in four innings of work. This was Jungmann’s first start for the Brewers since April, as he opened the season 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA, resulting in a demotion to the minors. Initially, Jungmann, the Brewers' first-round Draft pick in 2011, didn’t fare well following that demotion, as he struggled at Triple-A Colorado Springs. He finally righted the ship at Double-A Biloxi, posting a 2.51 ERA in 13 starts for Double-A Biloxi to earn a September callup. Jungmann had been working in relief since rejoining the team on Sept. 6 but may close the year in the rotation. 12-team mixed: $0; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4.

Injury activation/updates:

Brett Anderson, Dodgers – Anderson, on the disabled list since his August 20 start with a blister, was activated and started Thursday for the Dodgers, allowing Anderson returned to the mound for the Dodgers, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk with two strikeouts over five innings, This outing follows his start the previous Friday for Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he surrendered only one earned run with five strikeouts over 54 pitches in five innings. Back surgery sidelined most of this season, and when he returned to action for LA, he struggled in those two outings. Anderson is likely to remain in the rotation and will face the Padres in his next start. 12-team mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team NL: $7

Homer Bailey, Reds – Bailey, who missed almost the first four months of the season recovering from 2014 Tommy John surgery, made just six starts before he was sidelined with biceps tenderness. He threw a 44-pitch bullpen session last Tuesday and was scheduled for another session Friday, though that was cancelled with no reason provided. Bailey finally tossed a bullpen session this past Tuesday and could get a start or two before the end of the season. Though there is a decent chance he is just shut down for the year, so watch for our updates closely. 12-team mixed: $0; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4

Adam Conley, Marlins – Conley, out since August 14 with a finger injury, came off the DL to start Sunday's game against the Braves. Activating Conley enabled Miami to move Jose Fernandez back a day to face the Mets at home where he has dominated them. If Conley, who likely benefitted from the break, as he was struggling before he was sidelined, pitches well, he could get one start the final weekend of the season. 12-team mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $9; 12-team NL: $14

Alex Wood, Dodgers – Wood, sidelined since May 31 with left elbow soreness, which ultimately required a debridement in mid-July, was activated Tuesday. Prior to getting injured, Wood had started 10 games, during which the southpaw built a 3.99 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, though he had posted a 2.31 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over his last four games before getting sidelined. Wood is serving as a swingman out of the LA bullpen the final two weeks of the season. 12-team mixed: $0; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4.

Relief Pitchers:

Mauricio Cabrera, Braves – Jim Johnson is still the Braves’ current closer with Arodys Vizcaino sidelined but Cabrera is making a case to be Atlanta’s future ninth-inning man. Cabrera notched saves Thursday and Friday, giving him six for the season, while lowering his ERA to 2.87 for the year. Walks are still a concern, but if he can find a way to limit those, he clearly has closer stuff. 12-team mixed: $9; 15-team Mixed: $14; 12-team NL: owned

Brandon Maurer, Padres – Maurer may not be a good as Fernando Rodney but he has done a solid job since assuming the role as the Padres’ closer. Maurer has thrown scoreless innings in eight of his past nine outings and has converted 12 of 14 saves since converting his first one July 1. Maurer’s performance gives him a leg up on opening 2017 as the Padres' closer. 12-team mixed: $18; 15-team Mixed: owned; 12-team NL: owned

Hector Neris, Phillies – Jeanmar Gomez has 37 saves for the Phillies but he is limping to the finish. Prior to allowing Jose Reyes’ two-run home run Thursday without retiring anyone, Gomez’s ERA was up to 4.28 on the season with a weak 6.15 K/9. That ERA is largely comprised of a 10.13 ERA in 16 appearances since August 14. Phillies’ manager Pete Mackanin has been reluctant to remove Gomez from the closer spot, and announced that Gomez will remain the closer but Neris, Edubray Ramos, Michael Mariot, (who got a shaky save Saturday) and Joely Rodriguez will all be considered for save chances. Neris, despite a slight bobble recently, has been solid all season, posting a 11.52 K/9 and 2.43 ERA across 77.2 innings of work. If Neris has a good final week, he could enter the off-season as the favorite to open 2017 as the Phillies’ closer. 12-team mixed: $4; 15-team Mixed: $8; 12-team NL: owned

Sergio Romo, Giants – The spinning carousel that is the Giants’ closer role has apparently landed on Romo. Romo, who was SF’s closer in 2012 and lost the role to Santiago Casilla in 2013, looks to be manager Bruce Bochy’s current favorite in the role, as he has picked up saves in the Giants’ last three wins. Hunter Strickland and Derek Law may be better long-term options, but with the Giants battling the Mets and Cardinals for the two Wild Card spots and the backend of the bullpen a tire fire for a while, Romo should keep the job the rest of the way. 12-team mixed: $14; 15-team Mixed: $28; 12-team NL: $42 (up if he think he is the sole closer).

Injury activation/updates:

Pedro Strop, Cubs – Strop returned to action Friday after missing six weeks following arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Prior to being sidelined, Strop had posted a 2.89 ERA and 0.89 WHIP over 43.2 innings. Strop will resume his role as one of the primary set-up men for Aroldis Chapman. 12-team mixed: $0; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team NL: $4.

Catchers:
 
Austin Hedges, Padres – Hedges, profiled last week, was promoted as expected Wednesday. He completed a fine campaign at Triple-A El Paso, batting.326/.353/.597 with 21 home runs and a 15.3 percent K-rate in 334 plate appearances. As I noted last week, the Padres website reported that as of last Thursday, San Diego assured themselves an extra year of team control with Hedges, so service time won't be an issue. Plus, Hedges is already on the 40-man roster, and there's plenty of playing time available with Christian Bethancourt on the disabled list and Derek Norris struggling. Hector Sanchez has been a nice fill-in, but the Padres are likely to give Hedges the starting job next year, so he gets a jumpstart on that role the remainder of the season. 12-team mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team NL: $18.

Tom Murphy, Rockies – Murphy was profiled when he was first promoted, noting that he could be Colorado’s starting catcher next season. He earned that call up by hitting .327/.361/.647 with 19 homers in just 80 games (322 plate appearances). The main knock on Murphy is that he is injury-prone, missing time with shoulder and oblique issues. But when he plays, he hits. That has been the case so far, notching five home runs and 11 RBI, even though he isn’t starting daily, splitting time with Nick Hundley and Tony Wolters, With Hundley a free agent after the season, Murphy, who played 11 games in the majors last year, has shown he can handle the role in the future. 12-team mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team NL: $11.

First Basemen:
 
Josh Bell, Pirates – Bell has seen consistent playing time since his promotion, earning the lion’s share of playing time at first base over David Freese. The big issue with Bell is his defense, but with Pittsburgh all but out of Wild Card contention, it makes sense for the Pirates to play Bell down the stretch, either at first or in the outfield. Bell is batting .287/.383/.449 with a three home runs, 18 RBI and an 18:15 BB:K ratio over 128 plate appearances. 12-team mixed: $12; 15-team Mixed: $24; 12-team NL: $35.

Second Base:

Carlos Asuaje, Padres – Asauje was called up Wednesday along with Austin Hedges, Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe to provide San Diego a glimpse at their top prospects the last 10 days of the season. Asauje named the Pacific Coast League's Rookie of the Year after leading all Triple-A players this season with 172 hits and being tied for first with teammate Manuel Margot with 98 runs scored. He hit .321/.378/.473 with nine home runs and 10 steals (in an extreme hitting environment), playing primarily second base while also seeing time at third base and left field. Rob Schimpf has made the most of his chance this year; look for San Diego to give Asauje a similar chance to proof himself at the top level. Yangervis Solarte has had another solid season, so San Diego may need to get creative or deal one of these players to create room in the lineup. 12-team mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team NL: $11.

Shortstops:

Dansby Swanson, Braves – Swanson was profiled when he was promoted in mid-August but his recent play warrants another mention. After a slow start, Swanson has found his groove at the plate, batting .311/.366/.422 with a pair of home runs and 14 runs batted on over his last 30 games through Thursday, Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 draft by Arizona, came to the Braves this off-season as the headliner in the Shelby Miller trade. Atlanta got by far the better end of the trade, as Swanson is unquestionably the Braves' No. 1 prospect. Swanson led Vanderbilt team to the College World Series in June and has quickly moved up the ladder, going from short-season to High-A and Double-A and then the majors since he was drafted. Questions were raised as to whether Swanson was promoted more for his Georgia roots than using the last six weeks of the year to get his feet wet for 2017. But his play of late shows that regardless of the reason, he belongs at this level. Our preseason outlook spelled out what should expect from him down the road: “Swanson should be a good, not great, defensive shortstop who bats for a high average with 15-20 homers, while hitting first or second in a big league lineup during his peak years.” 12-team mixed: $35; 15-team Mixed: owned, 12-team NL: owned

Third Basemen:

Sean Rodriguez, Pirates – Rodriguez, who qualifies at first, second, third, shortstop and the outfield, was profiled last week, but deserves another mention due to his hot bat and additional playing with Josh Harrison out 4-to-6 weeks with a strained groin. Adam Frazier continues to see time in left field with Sterling Marte (back) out, opening second base for S-Rod. Frazier was to play against righties with S-Rod starting versus southpaws. But, Rodriguez has been on a tear, going 17-for-52 with six homers and 16 RBI since entering the lineup through Thursday and he has shown he can hit righties with 14 HR and an .823 OPS, so Pittsburgh continues to roll with the hot hand. 12-team mixed: $11; 15-team Mixed: $22; 12-team NL: $32.

Outfielders:

Manuel Margot/Hunter Renfroe, Padres – Margot and Renfroe, profiled a few weeks ago when I speculated they were post-September 1 roster expansion call ups, get another mention as each joined the paired club this week. One of the jewels acquired by the Padres for Craig Kimbrel, Margot projects in the future to be the team’s leadoff hitter, providing speed and defense with a modicum of power from the top of the order. In early-August, speculation was rampant that Margot would be promoted then after San Diego traded Matt Kemp to the Braves on Saturday, a few days after dealing Melvin Upton Jr. to the Blue Jays, clearing room for Margot, who was batting 306/.356/.431 with four homers, 24 steals and just 40 strikeouts in 93 games with El Paso. However, he remained in the minors and played his way through a slump to finally get the nod this week. Margot finished the season by hitting .304/.351/.426 with six home runs, 30 steals and a 64:36 K:BB in 566 plate appearances. Renfroe, who San Diego selected in the first round of the 2013 draft, hit 20+ home runs in 2014 and 2015 but was plagued by a lower walk rate coupled with a high K rate, which has dimmed his prospects a bit. This season, Renfroe has put it altogether, batting .306 with 30 HR and 105 RBI, but that came with 115:22 K:BB ratio, and like Margot, he slumped a bit down the stretch. Renfroe brings power, seen in his major-league first home run Saturday, while Margot brings speed and a solid batting average and projects to hit 10-15 HR down the road. Each will get a chance to open 2017 in San Diego. Margot - 12-team mixed: $8; 15-team Mixed: $16; 12-team NL: $32; Renfroe-12-team mixed: $7; 15-team Mixed: $13 12-team NL: $25

Scott Schebler, Reds – Schebler is closing the season on a hot note. His 3-for-5 performance Saturday upped his average to.320 in September. Schebler has added a home run, 11 RBI and 11 runs scored this month, making up somewhat for his slow start that earned him a demotion in May. 12-team mixed: $7; 15-team Mixed: $13 12-team NL: $25