Free-agent frenzy: Claim emerging OF, SP

BY John Halpin • April 19, 2011

Matt Capps is already owned in more than 70 percent of leagues, folks. You might still be able to get him, but you’re not sneaking up on anyone with your effort. Sorry to be a wet blanket.

And now, without further ado, below are 10 free agents owned in less than 75 percent of leagues, starting with the second player that falls below the threshold. Please note that no players will be repeated within any four-week period.

Gavin Floyd, SP, Chicago White Sox (73.3 percent owned)

Floyd has a 4.29 ERA through three starts, but he also has a K/BB ratio of better than 3-to-1. That’s close to where Floyd’s ratio is normally. When you toss in his groundball-heavy repertoire, it’s easy to like him as a fifth starter in standard leagues. Floyd won’t be a star, but he can help you.

Brandon Morrow, SP, Toronto (63.5 percent owned)

Morrow is expected to make his first start of the season for the Blue Jays on Friday or Saturday. His forearm injury makes it easy to forget that he was a popular breakout candidate just a few weeks ago. I had Morrow ranked 28th among starters in the preseason, and I’m not backing off. Morrow whiffed 178 batters in 146 1/3 innings last season. If he stays healthy, he’ll be very good.

David Murphy, OF, Texas (53.4 percent owned)

From 2008-10, Murphy averaged 422 at bats, with nearly 15 homers and 10 stolen bases. Those aren’t superstar numbers, but you can live with them until Josh Hamilton gets back, right? Of course, by that time, Nelson Cruz will probably be on the DL with a pulled hamstring, and Ian Kinsler will be hobbled by any number of maladies. Let’s just say that the chances of Murphy getting 400-plus at bats again are pretty good.

Logan Morrison, OF, Florida (31.7 percent owned)

LoMo is turning up the power, with four homers, five doubles and a .654 slugging percentage through his first 14 games. I’m not sure if Morrison will keep hitting at this level. OK, I’m pretty positive he won’t. But he’s talented enough for you to grab in a standard league if you need a replacement.

Derek Holland, SP, Texas (26.3 percent owned)

Over three starts, Holland has a 3.66 ERA with 16 strikeouts and five walks in 19 2/3 innings. That’s not bad, right? Holland has always been regarded as a high-ceiling talent, and he seems to be putting things together now. He’s worth a look in all formats.

David Freese, 3B, Arizona (15.8 percent owned)

Remember when we discussed Freese as a sleeper during the offseason? Didn’t I tell you he was going to bat .360? OK, the second part isn’t true, but Freese can be a solid fantasy third baseman this season with a decent batting average and 15-20 homers. There are some dregs at this position beyond the first dozen players, and Freese can provide better production at the low, low price of a free-agent claim.

Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Washington (10 percent owned)

Zimmermann’s minor-league history suggests that he’s almost certain to increase his current strikeout rate (with 10 K in 18 1/3 IP), and his three walks allowed so far is very encouraging. Zimmermann had Tommy John surgery in 2009, and command/control is often the last thing to return after that procedure (see: Nathan, Joe). If Zimmermann can keep throwing strikes, his power arsenal will make him a pretty good standard-league option.

Chris Iannetta, C, Colorado (6 percent owned)

This perennial fantasy tease is batting .211, not far below his career mark of .234. Is it usually a good idea to own a catcher who will kill your batting average? Not really, but if you need a short-term injury replacement – Joe Mauer owners, I’m looking at you – then a Rockies player with pop isn’t a bad idea for a month.

Kyle Farnsworth, RP, Tampa Bay (6 percent owned)

The Rays said all spring that they’d use a closer committee, but so far Farnsworth has all three of the team’s saves. It’s not like you should trust him to keep the job. He could be threatened at any time by Joel Peralta, Jake McGee or (soon) J.P. Howell. But if you’re hunting for free-agent saves, Farnsworth should provide short-term help. Just don’t expect him to get 30.

Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City (2.7 percent owned)

The Royals said all spring that they’d be aggressive on the basepaths, and they’re currently third in the majors in both stolen bases (19) and attempts (23). Escobar isn’t hitting much yet, but he’s got three steals, and his fielding ability will keep him in the lineup. If he can hit .250, he’ll easily steal 30 bases. Remember that he swiped 46 between the minors and majors in 2009.

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