Free-agent frenzy: Claim Escobar

Free-agent frenzy: Claim Escobar

Published May. 17, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

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.

Joel Hanrahan, RP, Pittsburgh (74 percent owned)

Hanrahan is relying almost exclusively on his fastball this season. He’s throwing it on 86.2 percent of his pitches, according to FanGraphs. That sounds like a good idea when your average fastball velocity is 97.2 miles per hour, but Hanrahan’s strikeout rate has dropped to just below seven per nine innings after averaging more than 10 for his career. Still, he’s getting tons of ground balls, and has 11 saves with a 1.37 ERA. I still think Hanrahan could be trade bait come July, but until then enjoy his fantasy value, which might improve if he started throwing more sliders.

Mark Reynolds, 3B, Baltimore (65.3 percent owned)

With a .191 batting average, Reynolds has nowhere to go but up. On second thought, he hit .198 last season, so maybe that’s a bad reason to pick him up. A good reason is that he hit 104 home runs from 2008-10, and has two in his last three games after starting the season slowly. The homers are going to come for Reynolds. If you can carry his bad average (.239 career), he’ll be worth your while.

Tom Gorzelanny, SP, Washington (45.4 percent owned)

Gorzelanny has been a nice pickup for the Nats with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP through seven starts. His strikeout rate has remained solid (35 K in 42 1/3 IP), but his biggest change from last season has been a 34 percent drop in his walk rate. Gorzelanny has been lucky with a .189 BABIP. But if he keeps throwing strikes, he’ll be a decent starter in deep standard and NL-only leagues.

Brandon League, RP, Seattle (41 percent owned)

The guy who just blew three saves in a row? Yep. M’s Manager Eric Wedge says he’s still the closer; there’s not a good potential replacement on the roster with David Aardsma out indefinitely; and League’s peripheral numbers (13 K, two BB in 16 IP) belie his 7.31 ERA. Buy low now if you can.

Yunel Escobar, SS, Toronto (34.1 percent owned)

Escobar is batting .295, and is on pace to hit about a dozen homers with close to 100 runs scored. He seems to be back to the level of his 2008-09 seasons with the Braves when people rated him as a top-10 shortstop. People don’t appreciate Escobar enough.

Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay (28.8 percent owned)

Earlier in the season, I wrote that Hellickson could become the Rays’ second-best starter at some point soon, and maybe that won’t happen thanks to the resurgent James Shields. His 2.98 ERA has benefited from some good fortune, but he’s still SP5-worthy in standard leagues. He could get better, too.

Jason Marquis, SP, Washington (20.1 percent owned)

I normally don’t go for pitchers with low-strikeout rates, but Marquis is having his best season in quite awhile. The second-most famous alumnus of South Shore Little League in Staten Island, N.Y., has dramatically lowered his walk rate this year while inducing his usual boatload of ground balls, helping him to a 5-1 record with a 3.54 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. Don’t expect Marquis to be an All-Star or anything, but he could be kinda sorta OK for the rest of the season.


(Note: The most famous South Shore Little League alumnus is me. Right?)

Mark Trumbo, 1B, Los Angeles Angels (11.1 percent owned)

With Kendrys Morales done for another season, the Angels seem ready to sink or swim with Trumbo at first base. His 36 homers in 2010 came in the extremely pitcher-friendly Pacific Coast League, but he does have solid power. This year’s edition of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook says that Trumbo has 25-homer potential.

Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee (10.6 percent owned)

Lucroy’s .877 OPS has earned him more playing time lately, and that makes him much more valuable for fantasy owners. The 24-year-old backstop flashed good power and solid batting averages as a minor leaguer, and appears to be a perfect option as your standard-league backup. There probably aren’t 20 fantasy catchers better than Lucroy.

Roger Bernadina, OF, Washington (1.7 percent owned)

After hitting 11 homers and stealing 16 bases last season, Bernadina was an intriguing fantasy option in the spring. Then the Nats sent him to the minors so Rick Ankiel and his .312 on-base percentage could play, disappointing fantasy owners who wanted actual production from the team’s center fielder. Bernadina is back, seems to have a hold on the leadoff spot for now, and is batting .273 with four stolen bases in nine games since his latest recall from the minors on May 7. Bernadina isn’t the most rock-solid fantasy option around, but as a deep-league gamble, he has good upside.