Free-agent frenzy: Claim Pagan

Free-agent frenzy: Claim Pagan

Published May. 24, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

To expand on something I wrote in my Monday's blog entry, the current MLB saves leaders are as follows: Leo Nunez (17 saves), Francisco Rodriguez (15), Huston Street (14), Mariano Rivera, Joel Hanrahan, Brian Wilson and Chris Perez (13 each).

Only three of those seven – Rodriguez, Rivera and Wilson – were drafted among the top 10 closers in most drafts. If you draft closers early in standard leagues, you deserve to lose, because it’s too much of a crapshoot.

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

Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets (74.9 percent owned)

We suspected that Beltran’s knee issues would rob him of the stolen-base ability that once made him one of fantasy’s elite players, and that’s been the case so far in 2011. However, Beltran is batting .280 with eight homers, 25 RBI, 21 runs and a .910 OPS in 44 games. If you can still pick him up, go ahead. Just remember that his health isn’t a guarantee.

Alex Gordon, OF, Kansas City (61 percent owned)

Gordon has slowed down after his hot start, but he’s on pace for a 15-homer, 15-steal season. Those numbers might make him a disappointment if you were still hoping he’d become a star, but they’re pretty useful in most fantasy formats. You’re not going to send Gordon to the minors again, are you, Dayton Moore?

Angel Pagan, OF, New York Mets (40.5 percent owned)

Pagan has been out since April 21 with an oblique injury, but he’s expected to return to the Mets’ lineup this weekend. In case you forgot, he batted .290 last season with 11 homers, 80 runs scored and 37 stolen bases. If you want a speed guy who brings a little more to the table than the Rajai Davises of the world, Pagan is your guy.

Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati (39.6 percent owned) Bailey has been terrific since coming off the disabled list, posting a 2.08 ERA with 20 strikeouts against four walks in 26 innings over four starts. Remember a few years ago, when people couldn’t decide if Bailey, Phil Hughes or Clay Buchholz was baseball’s best pitching prospect? At age 25, Bailey might finally be ready to live up to the hype.

J.P. Arencibia, C, Toronto (20.8 percent owned)

Coming into the season, the common fantasy label on Arencibia was good power, but potentially bad batting average. The rookie is batting .252, which you can live with. He also has eight home runs and 23 RBI, which you can more than live with. If Arencibia isn’t good enough to be your backup catcher – or even a starter if your current No. 1 is struggling – you’re overthinking.

Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco (13.6 percent owned)

The wins will come, folks. Bumgarner sports a 1-6 record, but also carries a respectable 3.71 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. His strikeout rate is just about average, and he gets batters to beat balls into the ground. He should be a solid starter for the rest of the season. Did I mention that the wins will come?

Danny Espinosa, 2B, Washington (10.7 percent owned)

Espinosa strikes out a lot, but it’s not like he’s the worst in the league in that department (that honor belongs to White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, who has whiffed in an astonishing 40.5 percent of his plate appearances this season). Heck, he’s not even in the top (or is it bottom?) 30. Espinosa is batting just .204, but with an unlucky .236 BABIP, he’s likely to improve in that area. While free-agent hunting, I’d take my chances on a young, talented second baseman with six homers, 27 RBI, 23 runs scored and three steals at this point of the season.

Doug Fister, SP, Seattle (4.9 percent owned)

Fister isn’t a bad starter. His strikeout rate is low, but he doesn’t walk a lot of people, and benefits from the pitcher-friendly confines of Safeco Field. Fister has a 2.81 ERA at home and a 3.08 mark on the road so far. While that road number is likely to increase, in deep leagues he can help you as a guy who spot starts half the time.

Chris Denorfia, OF, San Diego (2.1 percent owned)

Preseason draft darling Will Venable has been sent to the minors, thanks to a putrid .584 OPS. Denorfia is expected to get most of the Padres’ starts in right field for the time being. If you can still grab him in a deep standard league, he may help you. His track record suggests decent speed with the ability to post a solid average. If you’re in a league with 15 teams or more, your bench probably has worse players on it.

Juan Miranda, 1B, Arizona (1.4 percent owned)

The D-backs have waived Russell Branyan, so it looks like they’ll give Miranda a chance to sink or swim. The former Yankee farmhand has some power – he hit 15 homers in 280 Triple-A at bats last season, and owns an .886 OPS with three dingers in 81 at bats this year. With his upcoming increase in playing time, Miranda is worth a flier if you’re looking for power.