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: Josh Donaldson (9 percent owned) is the A’s everyday third baseman, but he still qualifies behind the plate, and is batting .307 with six home runs since being recalled in early August. Heck, the guy even steals bases here and there. Pick him up!
Deep Leagues: Ryan Lavarnway (0.5 percent owned) is batting below .200 for the Red Sox, but his very low BABIP (.204) suggests a healthy dose of bad luck, and he has a history of high batting averages in the minors. I’m not suggesting a late-season explosion or anything, but Lavarnway is more likely than most free-agent catchers to hit a homer over the next week.
Standard Leagues: After all that Kendrys Morales (18.8 percent owned) went through in 2010 and 2011, seeing him come back with 22 homers and a .277batting average is pretty darned impressive. He gets occasional days off due to the Angels’ logjam at OF/DH, but produces enough to overcome that in all formats.
Deep Leagues: Want to buy into a hot streak? I’d normally say no, but with 10 days left in the season, what the heck? Justin Smoak (4.8 percent owned) is finally turning things around, with 15 hits in 32 at bats (including a couple of homers) over his last nine games, and an OPS above .900 for the month. Go ahead, take a chance.
Standard Leagues: Look, I’m as sick of the Pedro Ciriaco (14.5 percent owned) hype as you are, but the guy has stolen four bases in the last 10 days. If you need speed and could use a guy who qualifies at 2B/SS/3B, grab him.
Deep Leagues: Jean Segura (1.3 percent owned) appears to have re-taken the Brewers’ shortstop job from Jeff Bianchi. Segura hasn’t been bad for a 22-year-old making the jump from Double A, batting .256 with 17 runs and six steals in 36 games for the red-hot Brewers. His BA potential and speed are his fantasy calling cards.
Standard Leagues: Thanks for the memories, Chipper Jones (27.4 percent owned)! Our main quibble with you over the last few years has been your health, but with the Braves fighting for an NL wildcard berth, we can count on you for one lousy week, right? Chipper’s .295 BA is close to his .304 career mark, making him likelier to help you than a lot of those .240 hitters you can always find in the free-agent pool. I hate those guys.
Deep Leagues: Why does Lonnie Chisenhall’s (1.4 percent owned) name always remind me of the scene in Animal House where Neidermeyer introduces Kent Dorfman and Larry Kroger to the other pledge candidates. “Ken, Lonny, I’d like you to meet Mohammad, Jugdish …”
Anyway, Chisenhall has been good enough this season, with five homers and a .743 OPS in 35 games. He missed a couple of months with a broken forearm, but has been hitting well and playing just about every day since returning earlier this month. He’s also playing his way into a 2013 job.
Standard Leagues: In 2010 and 2011, the problem with Royals SS Alcides Escobar (43 percent owned) has been the old “you can’t steal first base” thing. However, his excellent speed has always hinted at higher batting averages, as he gets a lot of infield hits. Escobar is batting .293 this season, with 31 stolen bases and a solid 66 runs scored. He’s not perfect, but sometimes fast is enough.
Deep Leagues: Pedro Florimon (0.1 percent owned) isn’t as fast as Escobar and can’t hit much, but he is the Twins’ everyday shortstop because of his perceived defensive value. Florimon is batting .239, which is about what his minor-league track record suggests. However, because he plays so much, he scores runs sometimes – nine in the last 30 days, which ranks 14th among shortstops. Are you desperate enough to reach deep for runs? If so, here’s an option.
Standard Leagues: Seattle’s Michael Saunders (3.2 percent owned) has turned his career around this season. He’s not a star, but will finish with close to a 20-20 campaign, and that’s not too shabby. He’s been one of fantasy’s most underappreciated players this year, probably due to the .199 career batting average he had before Opening Day. Go ahead and get Saunders if you need an outfielder, and keep him on the radar for 2013.
Deep Leagues: Justin Maxwell (1.4 percent owned) has whiffed 105 times in 287 at bats, and hardly anyone can succeed as a big leaguer with that kind of contact rate. Fortunately, most fantasy owners don’t need to worry about Maxwell’s strikeouts, and can focus on his pleasantly surprising 17 homers and eight steals. The 28-year-old Maxwell doesn’t have much of a future, but he does have enough of a present to help your deep mixed-league squad.
Standard Leagues: Remember a couple of months ago, when you all wanted to kill Ervin Santana (53.9 percent owned)? He has a 2.89 ERA with a 0.89 WHIP and 54 strikeouts against 15 walks in 59 1/3 innings over nine starts since the beginning of August. Want more? Santana has two double-digit strikeout games in his last three starts. He’s expected to start once more, on Saturday at Texas. I’ll take him either way, but hopefully, the Rangers will have clinched the AL West by then.
Deep Leagues: Doesn’t the name “Erasmo” sound like some kind of superhero with the ability to erase villains? Seattle’s Erasmo Ramirez (0.9 percent owned) has been pretty good in six starts, with a 3.63 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 32 strikeouts against four walks in 32 1/3 innings. You could roster him in a standard league, never mind a deeper one. Ramirez is scheduled to start Tuesday at Anaheim, and probably again Sunday at Oakland.
Standard Leagues: Sergio Romo (9.8 percent owned) has taken over the chairmanship of the Giants’ closer committee, with seven saves over the last month. There’s always the chance he could cede a lefty-lefty matchup to Javier Lopez, but if the Giants win any close games over the next nine days, Romo is the likeliest candidate to save them.
Deep Leagues: Congratulations to two of our favorite non-closing relievers, Detroit’s Joaquin Benoit (2.2 percent owned) and Arizona’s David Hernandez (1.6 percent owned)! Both guys have really high strikeout rates, good ERAs and low WHIPs, and should be considered as alternatives to risky starting pitchers if you need to pick someone up right now. Chasing wins can be a fool’s errand, especially if you’re risking your place in ERA and WHIP. I prefer elite relievers to sketchy starters every time.