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.

<!–td {border: 1px solid #ccc;}br {mso-data-placement:same-cell;}–>

PLAYERTEAMPOSGRADE12-Team Mixed $15-Team Mixed $AL-Only $
Johnny CuetoCHISPC137
Jonathan HeasleyKCSPCNoNo1
Cole IrvinOAKSPCNoNo3
Jordan LylesBALSPC12Rostered
Elvin RodriguezDETSPDNoNo1
Brady SingerKCSPB2511
Devin SmeltzerMINSPCNoNo1
Jeffrey SpringsTBSPCNo25

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.

<!–td {border: 1px solid #ccc;}br {mso-data-placement:same-cell;}–>

PLAYERTEAMPOSGRADE12-Team Mixed $15-Team Mixed $AL-Only $
Johnny CuetoCHISPC137
Jonathan HeasleyKCSPCNoNo1
Cole IrvinOAKSPCNoNo3
Jordan LylesBALSPC12Rostered
Elvin RodriguezDETSPDNoNo1
Brady SingerKCSPB2511
Devin SmeltzerMINSPCNoNo1
Jeffrey SpringsTBSPCNo25
Michael WachaBOSSPC12Rostered
Chris ArcherMINSPC111
Beau BrieskeDETSPC111
Felix BautistaBALRPDNo14
Matt BarnesBOSRPD23Rostered
Hansel RoblesBOSRPENo1Rostered
Adley RutschmanBALCAWhateverYouGot
Emmanuel RiveraKC3BC137
Isaac ParedesTB3BBNo14
Luis BarreraOAKOFC149
Kole CalhounTEXOFC37Rostered
Daz CameronDETOFDNoNo1
Derek HillDETOFDNoNo1
Kyle IsbelKCOFBNo25
Riley GreeneDETOFA125
Kevin KiermaierTBOFC12Rostered
Kyle LewisSEAOFB112135
Trevor LarnachMINOFB511Rostered

Starting Pitcher

Johnny Cueto, White Sox: The 36-year-old righty didn't sign with the White Sox until early April, and Chicago decided to give him a full ramp-up period in the minors to make up for him missing spring training rather than rushing him to the majors. Cueto was dazzling in his Pale Hose debut Monday, fanning seven Royals over six scoreless innings, but it's important to remember he hasn't posted a K/9 rate of even 8.0 or better since 2017, or an ERA below 4.00 since 2018. He could have value as a streamer, but don't bid expecting him to be the staff anchor he was in his heyday. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Jonathan Heasley, Royals: Heasley appears to have fallen into a rotation spot almost by accident, but with Carlos Hernandez back in Triple-A Omaha, he'll get a chance to show what he can do. So far in 2022, that's involved a putrid 2:7 K:BB through 8.1 frames, and it's easy to figure out why he might be reluctant to challenge big-league hitters after he served up four homers in 26.1 innings for Omaha before his promotion, and 18 in 105.1 Double-A innings last year. His minor-league numbers suggest some upside in K's, but I really can't recommend him in any format, unless you're deliberately tanking this season and are looking for players likely to struggle but who still have some possible long-term value. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Cole Irvin, Athletics: Irvin is expected to be activated from the IL for Sunday's start after getting shut down with shoulder tendinitis at the end of April. The 28-year-old southpaw was off to a good start to 2022, but he got off to a good start last season too and wound up with fairly mediocre numbers by the end of the year. Irvin is a back-end guy who's tops out as a streaming option given his lack of put-away stuff. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Jordan Lyles, Orioles: With so many pitcher injuries hitting this week, fantasy GMs are going to be scrambling for warm bodies. Lyles is about as warm as he gets right now, having tossed three quality starts in his last four outings, although one of them qualified only as a result of a couple unearned runs. Still, he has a 3.12 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in May, and he even has a respectable 25:7 K:BB through 26 innings over that stretch. It could all come crashing down at a moment's notice, but he could also be benefitting from the double whammy of the 2022 ball and Camden Yards' new dimensions, something which might just be sustainable – he has yet to serve up a home run at home, posting a 2.10 ERA in Baltimore versus a 6.64 mark on the road. That said, he lines up for a two-start week... on the road against the Yankees and Red Sox. Maybe just stash Lyles on your bench this week if you pick him up. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: Rostered

Elvin Rodriguez, Tigers: Leave it to the Tigers, the team that trots out multiple utility players named Castro, to create the headache of calling up a different ERod when Eduardo Rodriguez lands on the IL. It's hard to blame them though when they currently have six starting pitchers on the shelf, and potentially a seventh if the comebacker that struck Tarik Skubal on Friday results in anything more than a bruise. Their rotation at that point would be 'Brieske and Faedo and pray for tornado', so sure, call up all the ERods you can. Elvin will make his first big-league start, and just his second appearance, Monday after posting fairly unexciting numbers for Triple-A Toledo and getting tagged for four runs in 2.2 innings in his debut in early April. Rodriguez lines up for a two-start week assuming he isn't a disaster in the first and gets demoted again, at the Twins and home to the Guardians, so as dart throws go he's got maximum volatility. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Brady Singer, Royals: Given his struggles the last couple years, it's easy to forget Singer was the 18th overall pick in the 2018 Draft, the first pitcher Kansas City popped before also scooping up Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic within the first 40 selections. (Somehow, they missed Shane McClanahan, who went two picks ahead of Kowar at 31. Whoops). Singer reminded everyone of his pedigree in his first start of the season Tuesday, fanning nine White Sox over seven scoreless innings as the 27th man for a twin bill. While he got sent back down to Triple-A that night, he'll be back for Sunday's start against the Twins, and another good outing could strap a rocket to bids on him. The 25-year-old had a sinkerball-heavy approach when he was drafted, but an improved changeup to go with a sharp slider could be just what he needed to take that next step. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $11

Devin Smeltzer, Twins: Smeltzer is currently doing the yo-yo thing between Minnesota and Triple-A St. Paul, but when your affiliate's basically within walking distance of your home park, I guess it makes sense to take advantage of every minor-league option you can. The 26-year-old lefty has been stingy in his two "spot" starts so far, but he rarely breaks 90 mph with his fastball and his 2:3 K:BB through 10.1 innings highlights the tightrope he walks as a fantasy option. If the contact Smeltzer allows doesn't find gloves, the results can be ugly, but over 80 innings in the majors he's managed a decent 3.94 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Jeffrey Springs, Rays: Springs has made four starts for Tampa this season and got stretched out to 5.1 innings in his latest one, which makes him a lot more interesting in shallower fantasy formats now that he can qualify for a win without an opener working ahead of him. The 29-year-old southpaw has a 1.53 ERA and 0.79 WHIP through 17.2 innings in May, but his 15:4 K:BB suggests some regression is probably coming given his lack of dominance. That doesn't mean he'll be terrible though, and he should be useful staff filler in his current role. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Michael Wacha, Red Sox: The veteran right returned from a brief IL stint and rejoined the Red Sox rotation Friday, looking fairly meh over 4.2 innings. Wacha's numbers this season have been outstanding, largely due to a change in his pitch mix that has seen him throw more changeups than four-seam fastballs, and phase out in cutter for a sinker. His 1.76 ERA and 1.01 WHIP are almost certainly unsustainable, but as long as he keeps generating weak-ish contact, he'll be useful. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: Rostered

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

Chris Archer, Twins (vs. DET, vs. KC)
Beau Brieske, Tigers (at MIN, vs. CLE)

Relief Pitcher

Felix Bautista, Orioles: The 27-year-old has improved his control this season while maintaining his high-90s heat, and the result has been Bautista's emergence as a viable high-leverage arm, something the Orioles' bullpen has in short supply. Jorge Lopez is the current top choice for saves, but Lopez has a 6:6 K:BB through 7.2 innings in May and could always get dealt, just like Mychal Givens, Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser were before him. Bautista is the clear next man up, and he might perform well enough to be the guy the front office decides to keep. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Matt Barnes and Hansel Robles, Red Sox: The back of Boston's bullpen remains a mess, and most fantasy GMs are just staying away from it entirely. Both Robles and Barnes picked up their second saves of the year this week though, and if either one gets hot, he could claim the closer role. Barnes is the better bet to do it, as manager Alex Cora seems really invested in his potential return to form and keeps giving him chances his actual performance maybe doesn't deserve, but he was one of the best closers in the league in the first half of 2021. Robles is a better fit in a setup role, but he's been relatively consistent this year, which puts him miles ahead of most of Cora's other options. Barnes – 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: Rostered / 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: Rostered

Catcher

Adley Rutschman, Orioles: I'm not going to give recommended bids here because Rutschman is 100 percent rostered already in every re-draft league I looked at, but if you're in some league where no one was allowed to add him until he was promoted, well, the day has finally come. The 24-year-old laced a triple in his MLB debut Saturday and is the best catching prospect since Buster Posey. You are perfectly justified in blowing your budget on Rutschman.

Third Base

Emmanuel Rivera, Royals: Rivera has started five straight games and seven of the last eight, going yard three times in that span while batting .320 (8-for-25). The 25-year-old is probably the Royals' best option at third base right now regardless of where they put Bobby Witt or Hunter Dozier, but I've given up trying to figure out the rationale behind that team's moves. Just enjoy the playing time and production while it lasts. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Isaac Paredes, Rays: Of course Paredes had a two-homer game against the Tigers, the team that finally gave up waiting for his power stroke to develop and sent him to the Rays in the Austin Meadows deal. Paredes has been a projection over production prospect for a couple years now, but 11 homers in 72 Triple-A games last year suggested he was close to turning his plus-plus batting eye into something more than a great BB:K. Unfortunately, Tampa appears set on keeping him in a short-side platoon role for now, although he did get a start against Baltimore righty Tyler Wells on Friday, With neither Taylor Walls nor Vidal Brujan hitting much, Paredes could sneak into the starting role at second base while Brandon Lowe is on the shelf. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Outfield

Luis Barrera, Athletics: I called Barrera a deep-league dart throw last week, but I'm suddenly hearing a rousing "one hundred and EIGHTY" from the announcer. Since last Saturday's doubleheader against the Angels, the 26-year-old has batted .391 (9-for-23) with a homer and two doubles while starting six of eight games, including the last five. He's got some power and speed, and more importantly, Oakland has nobody better for an outfield spot, especially with Ramon Laureano banged up. I don't want to oversell Barrera, but if you have a hole in your roster, he could be a solid option for a while, and there's always the possibility he has a true breakout. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $4; 12-team AL: $9

Kole Calhoun, Rangers: The veteran outfielder had a miserable start to his Texas tenure, but Calhoun has caught fire in May, slashing .353/.414/.784 over his last 15 games with six homers and 13 RBI. He hasn't hit over .244 in a season since 2016, so don't expect the hits to keep coming, but up until his injury-plagued 2021 he was a consistent power source. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team AL: Rostered

Daz Cameron and Derek Hill, Tigers: Both these guys are getting some playing time right now and are the kind of athletic youngsters who could rack up some counting stats for a brief stretch, but neither is doing anything to really warrant a fantasy roster spot right now. The Detroit outfielder you want to stash is located a couple entries below. Both – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Kyle Isbel, Royals: It's so weird. Isbel finally gets regular playing time, and he starts hitting and looking more comfortable in the majors. What a strange coincidence. I can't guarantee the Royals won't put the 25-year-old back on the bench as soon as Michael Taylor clears the COVID-19 protocols, but Isbel's started seven straight games and gone 9-for-23 (.391), so he's at least making his case for a consistent role. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Riley Greene, Tigers: Greene looked set on winning an Opening Day roster spot, and probably the starting job in center field, when he broke his foot right at the end of spring training. The 21-year-old is in the home stretch on his rehab though, playing in intrasquad games at the Tigers' complex at Lakeland and moving around well. Greene likely won't begin an official rehab stint until early June, but he could be in the majors quickly after that if he's healthy, as nobody else Detroit has trotted out in center has done much. This is normally a bit earlier than I like to suggest stashing someone, but given his sky-high upside and clear path to a starting job, jumping early on Greene if you can in a redraft format makes some sense. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Kevin Kiermaier, Rays: Kiermaier is usually good for a couple hot streaks in a season when he's healthy and feeling his oats, and the 32-year-old is having one right now, reeling off three straight three-hit games with two homers and four RBI coming into Sunday. He had a .139/.162/.278 slash line through 37 plate appearances in May prior to that, but maybe he just took over whatever magic Manuel Margot was benefitting from when Margot landed on IR. Whatever the reason for Kiermaier's recent run, cash in on it while it lasts and don't be afraid to cut him loose when it ends. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: Rostered

Kyle Lewis, Mariners: Nothing has changed in Lewis' profile since I wrote him up last week, but Seattle has all but confirmed he'll be activated Monday. The 26-year-old was the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year after slugging 11 homers in 58 games, but he took a step back last year before getting hurt and then began this season on the IL while recovering from knee surgery. He could eased into regular duty with frequent off days for the first week or so, but a starting job is waiting for him, and the inexplicable signing of Justin Upton or the promotion of Taylor Trammell won't be an obstacle. 12-team Mixed: $11; 15-team Mixed: $21; 12-team AL: $35

Trevor Larnach, Twins: Out since May 7 due to a groin injury, Larnach is set to rejoin the Minnesota lineup Sunday. While he's still looking for his first homer of the year, the 25-year-old had pushed his slash line up to .313/.365/.448 when he got hurt, and he doesn't have to worry about competing with Alex Kirilloff for playing time, at least for now. (Kirilloff, incidentally, is 12-for-28 since his demotion with more walks than strikeouts, so the emphasis is definitely on the 'for now'.) Larnach likely has a small window in which to prove he should be the everyday left fielder, rather than just one guy in the LF/1B/DH/3B mix with Kirilloff, Jose Miranda, Gio Urshela, Luis Arraez, Nick Gordon etc., but he does have the advantage of being the player the Twins would like to see claim the job. 12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team AL: Rostered

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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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