AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

This article is part of our AL FAAB Factor series.

This is our weekly look at American 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 $100 starting free-agent budget you should bid on them.

We've incorporated 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 talent on an A-E scale. Wander Franco would have been an "A" grade player last year – that mark will be reserved for similarly high-impact prospects that could thrive in 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.

PLAYERTEAMPOSGRADE12-Team Mixed $15-Team Mixed $AL-Only $
Brad KellerKCSPC12Rostered
Chris PaddackMINSPBRosteredRostered21
Tyler AlexanderDETSPD111
Paul BlackburnOAKSPD111
Taylor HearnTEXSPC111
Spencer HowardTEXSPC111
Daniel LynchKCSPC111
Matt ManningDETSPB111
Adam OllerOAKSPC1

This is our weekly look at American 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 $100 starting free-agent budget you should bid on them.

We've incorporated 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 talent on an A-E scale. Wander Franco would have been an "A" grade player last year – that mark will be reserved for similarly high-impact prospects that could thrive in 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.

PLAYERTEAMPOSGRADE12-Team Mixed $15-Team Mixed $AL-Only $
Brad KellerKCSPC12Rostered
Chris PaddackMINSPBRosteredRostered21
Tyler AlexanderDETSPD111
Paul BlackburnOAKSPD111
Taylor HearnTEXSPC111
Spencer HowardTEXSPC111
Daniel LynchKCSPC111
Matt ManningDETSPB111
Adam OllerOAKSPC111
Vince VelasquezCHISPD111
Michael WachaBOSSPC111
Ryan YarbroughTBSPC111
Bruce ZimmermannBALSPD111
Jorge AlcalaMINRPD125
Tyler DuffeyMINRPD3511
Jhoan DuranMINRPC137
Emilio PaganMINRPENoNo3
Paul FryBALRPENoNo1
Jorge LopezBALRPD3511
Brooks RaleyTBRPENoNo1
Francisco MejiaTBCC12Rostered
Marwin GonzalezNY2BDNoNo2
Jake BurgerCHI3BC137
Aledmys DiazHOU3BCNo1Rostered
Steven KwanCLEOFC3713
Josh LoweTBOFA354555
Jose RojasLAOFDNoNo1
Jose SiriHOUOFC125

Starting Pitcher

Brad Keller, Royals: The right-hander wasn't able to match his numbers from a small-sample 2020 last season, or even repeat his passable ratios from 2019, but given Keller's lowish strikeout rate, volatility isn't a big surprise. His fastball velocity and K rate did tick up ever so slightly, however, and his .347 BABIP carried its fair share of bad luck, creating some faint hope for a rebound in 2022. Keller did more than that in his first start Saturday, blanking the Guardians over six innings in a no-decision. Taking care of Cleveland's underpowered lineup isn't a huge accomplishment, but it's one Keller could get a chance to repeat multiple times this season, and he lines up to face the Tigers on Thursday. He's still more streamer than reliable arm, and his value goes down in formats that value strikeout rates more than raw Ks, but he could still be worth a bench spot if you have one to churn for pitching depth. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: Rostered 

Chris Paddack, Twins: Minnesota sent its nominal closer Tyler Rogers west right before Opening Day in exchange for Paddack, a young starter whose stock has plummeted since his strong 2019 debut. The 26-year-old's lack of an effective third pitch behind his mid-90s fastball and changeup has held him back in the majors, so pitching coach Wes Johnson has some work to do, but Paddack's upside is undenaible. For now, he'll be part of a six-man rotation for the Twins, but he's essentially competing with Chris Archer for the final spot in a five-man. That perception of ace-like potential will probably send bidding higher than it should go based on Paddack's actual performance last season, but if you came out of your draft needing to take a gamble or two to bolster your rotation, this is the kind of arm you want to roll the dice on. 12-team Mixed: Rostered; 15-team Mixed: Rostered; 12-team AL: $21

Other two-start options, Mon-Sun (12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $1)

Tyler Alexander, Tigers (vs. BOS, at KC)

Paul Blackburn, Athletics (at TB, at TOR)

Taylor Hearn, Rangers (vs. COL, vs. LAA)

Spencer Howard, Rangers (vs. COL, vs. LAA)

Daniel Lynch, Royals (at STL, vs. DET) 

Matt Manning, Tigers (vs. BOS, at KC)

Adam Oller, Athletics (at TB, at TOR)

Vince Velasquez, White Sox (vs. SEA, vs. TB)

Michael Wacha, Red Sox (at DET, vs. MIN)

Ryan Yarbrough, Rays (vs. OAK, at CHW)

Bruce Zimmermann, Orioles (vs. MIL, vs. NYY)

Relief Pitcher

Jorge Alcala / Tyler Duffey / Jhoan Duran / Emilio Pagan, Twins: Rogers' departure for San Diego throws the back of the Twins' bullpen into even more chaos than manager Rocco Baldelli creates just by his usage patterns. Alcala was a preseason darling thanks to his classic fastball/slider arsenal and is likely gone in a lot of leagues, but he's listed here for the sake of completeness. Duffey, the veteran setup man who notched a career-high 22 holds in 2021, got the Twins' first save chance of the year Saturday and blew it. Pagan, part of the Rogers/Paddack deal, had 20 saves for Tampa Bay in 2019, back when the Rays believed in things like closers, but his numbers for the Padres the last two years were fairly mediocre. Duran has the best pure stuff of the bunch, hitting 100 mph with his fastball and striking out four batters over two innings in his big-league debut Friday, but Baldelli's already said he'll be eased into high-leverage work. Lefties like Caleb Thielbar could also see situational chances, so until someone emerges from the pack here, it might be best to keep your investment low. Duffey's the safer short-term play, but in the long run, I'm putting my chips on Duran. Alcala – 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5 / Duffey – 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $11 / Duran – 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7 / Pagan – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Paul Fry / Jorge Lopez, Orioles: My condolences to anyone who thought Cole Sulser might help their bullpen this year. The O's sent the "core" of their "high-leverage" crew to the Marlins right before the season started in Sulser and Tanner Scott, throwing a confused bullpen into further chaos. I wrote up Dillon Tate last week, and his outlook essentially hasn't changed – if he starts to pitch well he'll probably get a chance to close, but he's got a lot to prove, both to Baltimore and to fantasy GMs. Lopez and Fry, on the other hand, are just the new Sulser and Scott. Lopez is a failed starter who has shown a big velocity spike in relief, and if that turns into strikeouts he could easily claim the ninth-inning role. Fry is the top southpaw in the O's bullpen, and he had a little flicker of success in 2020 before regressing badly last season. Remember that no one's had double-digit saves for Baltimore in either of the last two years, and Mychal Givens topped the team with 11 in 2019, so even if you guess right here, there may not be much of a reward. Fry – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1 / Lopez – 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $11

Brooks Raley, Rays: Right out of the gate, the Rays reminded everyone of what they're all about, using Andrew Kittredge in the eighth inning Friday before handing the ninth over to J.P. Feyereisen and, eventually, Raley for the final out. Kittredge got the save Saturday though, and that one save could well be the only one Raley gets all season, so don't do any real damage to your budget chasing something that may never come – he's journeyman lefty who had three career saves coming into 2022 with a career 5.62 ERA. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Catcher

Francisco Mejia, Rays: Once a top prospect in the Cleveland system, Mejia has had trouble establishing himself in the majors, but this may finally be the season his bat makes an impact. His defense has become passable enough that he could work in a timeshare with OBP sink Mike Zunino, and Mejia's .260/.322/.416 slash line in 277 plate appearances last season was better than league average. A little more improvement and a little more playing time for the 26-year-old switch hitter, and he'll be mixed-league worthy. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: Rostered 

Second Base

Marwin Gonzalez, Yankees: The veteran utility man has looked washed over the last two seasons, managing a .590 OPS over 506 plate appearances while bouncing between three different teams, but the Yankees apparently valued his defensive versatility enough to give him a roster spot. The team already can't find a starting spot for Gleyber Torres, so it's not clear how much work Gonzalez might get around the infield, but he can also handle the outfield corners and anybody golfing shots toward the right-field porch in Yankee Stadium can have some fantasy value. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Third Base

Jake Burger, White Sox: Things keep going Burger's way to begin the season. Originally ticketed for Triple-A, the 26-year-old got called up before Opening Day when Yoan Moncada went down, as Leury Garcia was needed at shortstop to cover Tim Anderson's two-game suspension. Then, just before Anderson returned to action, AJ Pollock suffered the first of what could be many injuries in 2022. Burger posted solid numbers last year that look downright miraculous when you consider he hadn't played a game since 2017, and he's got enough power and upside to be intriguing if the baseball gods keep opening up paths to playing time for him. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Aledmys Diaz, Astros: Yuli Gurriel hit the paternity list, leaving Diaz as the starter at first base for Houston. The veteran utility player has shown he can contribute when he gets the playing time, making him a solid short-term add. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: Rostered 

Outfield

Steven Kwan, Guardians: Ah, the joys of bidding based on small sample sizes. I gave Kwan what I thought was a fairly aggressive bid recommendation last week at No/$2/$5, but all he's done since the season started is reach base six times in eight plate appearances and not strike out once while working his way up to the second spot in the Cleveland batting order. His power and speed are questionable, but if you are specifically targeting a batting average or OBP boost, Kwan could well be your best option already. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team AL: $13

Josh Lowe, Rays: If it wasn't obvious already, the rules by which big-league clubs handle their top prospects has changed dramatically with the new CBA. I still think we haven't seen the other side of it, where players like Riley Greene or even Adley Rutschman get kept down even longer than they would have been before you avoid any chance they might do well in Rookie of the Year voting, but the Rays' decision to trade Austin Meadows to make room for Lowe (and the Giants' decision this week to call up Heliot Ramos) make it clear that contenders won't hesitate to bring up top talent right away if they think those prospect can provide immediate help. Lowe has gone 2-for-6 wit ha triple and a 2:1 BB:K through his first two games and doesn't look overmatched at all, and he should be an everyday player for Tampa Bay. Given his power/speed potential and the full six months of production ahead, Lowe is a player who could win you a league, so spending big is entirely defensible. 12-team Mixed: $35; 15-team Mixed: $45; 12-team AL: $55

Jose Rojas, Angels: Initially, manager Joe Maddon indicated the outfield corners would be split fairly evenly between Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh and Taylor Ward. Then, Maddon said Ward would be the starter in right field and Adell and Marsh would platoon in left – but he waited until after Ward had been placed on IL to do it. To me, that smacks of him trying to motivate the other two guys, top prospects who have struggled so far in the majors, but with Adell flailing again out of the gate, Maddon's following through on the bluff by giving Rojas two starts in three games. The 29-year-old utility player had a mammoth campaign in 2019 at Triple-A Salt Lake, but he didn't come close to those numbers last year in the majors, and Rojas' upside seems marginal. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Jose Siri, Astros: Another guy profiled last week, Siri and Chas McCormick have alternated starts in center field so far, but it's the former who made an immediate fantasy splash by stealing a base. Given how much of a premium speed is at, and Siri's 24 steals in 27 attempts at Triple-A last season, that's going to attract some bids. He's still a risky option in shallower formats given the lack of consistent playing time, but Siri is the Astros' best defensive option in center field, and if he proves he can supply decent offense as well, he could win the starting job. Consider stashing him if you have a bench spot to churn. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erik Siegrist
Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.
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