Welcome to the latest edition of “Free Agent Frenzy,” which will try to steer you in the right direction when trying to fill roster spots.
Note: Ownership percentages below are from FOXSports.com leagues. We’ll try to stick to the general rule that no player will appear twice in Free Agent Frenzy during a four-week period.
Standard Leagues: Geovany Soto (6.4 percent owned) came off the DL last week after a month-long absence, and projects to get the majority of starts behind the plate for the Cubs moving forward. It’s hard to like Soto’s up-and-down batting averages – .285-.218-.280-.228 from 2008-11 – but he’s averaged 17 homers over those seasons. You know the old saying: Free-agent catcher beggars can’t be choosers.
Deep Leagues: I think it’s time to stash Ryan Lavarnway (0.3 percent owned), who’s swinging a hot bat at Triple-A Pawtucket (.308 BA, seven homers, .883 OPS). The Red Sox have a catcher logjam with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach playing well enough, but the bet here is that Lavarnway will force the issue at some point soon. Call this one a hunch.
Standard Leagues: Finally! For the past few weeks, Brandon Belt (34percent owned) has become an everyday player for the Giants, and he’s starting to hit, with a .360 batting average, four homers and an 1.164 OPS in June. Belt’s minor-league track record suggests that he’s going to be a pretty good hitter – not a slugger, but hopefully a .300, 20-homer guy. If the Giants leave him alone – and it looks like that’s what they’re doing now, at long last – he’ll be fine.
Deep Leagues: Anthony Rizzo’s (3.9 percent owned) callup should come any day now; the Cubs have even started playing Bryan LaHair in right field to make room for their sweet-swinging prospect. Rizzo isn’t a must-add in standard mixed leagues – he’s still just 22, you know – but in deeper formats he should be snatched up as quickly as possible if he’s still available. You might see him in the Cubs’ lineup as soon as Tuesday against the Mets
Standard Leagues: This position is so bad, I was tempted to recommend Ramon Santiago. Instead, let’s go with Dodger Elian Herrera (1.3 percent owned), who qualifies at both second and third base, is on the verge of qualifying in the outfield as well, and steals some bases (33 in 116 games at Double A last season). Herrera will never hit for power, but his ability to draw walks will help him on the stolen-base front.
Deep Leagues: Yuniesky Betancourt (2.9 percent owned) is getting some time for the Royals during Chris Getz’s latest injury-related absence. The free-swinging Betancourt gets some justified heat for being a bad real-life ballplayer (.292 career OBP), but for fantasy owners he’s not so bad, carrying a .268 career BA with decent home-run pop (29 HRs in 2010-11) for a middle infielder. Take a flier on Yuni while he’s still a sort-of-regular. It’s not like Getz was tearing it up, you know.
Standard Leagues: Pedro Alvarez’s (30.4 percent owned) 13 home runs have come in bunches this season, with his latest binge including a five-homers-in-five-games barrage last week. Alvarez has shortcomings that include a sky-high strikeout rate and a .223 batting average, but he’s on pace for 30 home runs. If Mark Reynolds was worth drafting, then Alvarez merits free-agent consideration.
Deep Leagues: Luis Valbuena (1.9 percent owned) flopped in a couple of opportunities with the Indians after a strong second half in 2009, but he’s making the most of his latest chance with the Cubs while Ian Stewart is out. Valbuena had 10 homers at Triple A before his promotion 10 days ago, and has socked a couple for the Cubbies since then. He also qualifies at second base, which is nice. (NOTE: Valbuena has played nine games at third base so far. He’ll qualify there in a day or two in most leagues if he hasn’t already done so in yours.)
Standard Leagues: Mets starting SS Ruben Tejada (7.8 percent owned) returned to the lineup Sunday after spending six weeks on the DL with a quad injury. Tejada isn’t a fantasy stat-stuffer, but his strong line-drive rate suggests that he’ll hit for a good average, and play enough to score some runs along the way. Tejada won’t look sexy on your roster, but he can help.
Deep Leagues: Has Cody Ransom (0.3 percent owned) ever appeared in the same free-agent article twice during one season? Now with the injury-depleted Brewers, the versatile Ransom (qualified at SS and 3B) is playing more often than not, and whenever he does that, he hits some home runs (five in 130 AB so far). You’d have to be in a pretty deep mixed league to want Ransom, but he might still be available in some NL-onlys, and he’ll be solid there.
Standard Leagues: Gregor Blanco (2.2 percent owned) is the Giants’ everyday right fielder, and all he’s done this season is hit four homers, steal 12 bases and score 37 runs in 63 games. If you think you’ll get more than this from a free-agent outfielder, you’re dreaming.
Deep Leagues: Brian Bogusevic (0.4 percent owned) got off to a slow start and isn’t playing every day for the Astros, but once you get past the disappointment of him not being as good as he was in 2011, you’ll see that he’s on his way to hitting a dozen homers and stealing 12-15 bases in semi-regular playing time. You’ll take that, right?
Standard Leagues: Roy Oswalt (32.7 percent owned) is still widely available in FOXSports.com leagues after making his first start of the 2012 season on Friday (6 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 6 K, win). As I wrote in Friday’s blog post, Oswalt isn’t a stud anymore, but he’s worth your time if you can still grab him as a free agent. That ballpark in Texas won’t do him any favors, though. Pick him up for his track record, but don’t be stubborn about keeping him if things go badly.
Deep Leagues: Ross Detwiler (13.1 percent owned) returned to the Nationals’ rotation on Sunday, throwing five shutout innings in place of Chien-Ming Wang. Detwiler isn’t spectacular, but he’s got solid stuff, an above-average ground-ball rate, and a 3.88 career ERA. You could do worse when trolling for free-agent starters in leagues that are 15 or more teams deep.
Standard Leagues: This week’s contestant in “People Must Not Know He’s a Closer” is Toronto’s Casey Janssen (6.7 percent owned), who has seven saves this season, with six of them coming since he took over the job in May. Since Santos’ rehab is going slower than a Billy Butler inside-the-park homer, assume that Janssen will keep his duties for awhile.
Deep Leagues: Raise your hand if you think Matt Capps and his soft strikeout rate will implode at some point. Yep – that’s a lot of hands (get yours down, Ron Gardenhire!). Glen Perkins (0.8 percent owned) has 40 whiffs in 30 2/3 innings this season with a 2.93 ERA, and would have been a much sneakier pickup if he hadn’t gotten saves on Wednesday and Friday in placed of the sore-shouldered Matt Capps. If you’re looking to speculate on saves, Perkins a pretty good candidate – but act fast due to recent developments.
P.S. Shortly before publication of this article, the Mets put Frank Francisco (oblique) on the DL, and said that Bobby Parnell (0.7 percent owned) is next in line for saves. That should be good enough for all of us, right?