Free-agent frenzy: Remember Sizemore?

Free-agent frenzy: Remember Sizemore?

Published Apr. 5, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

There have been five days of baseball so far. Are you panicking yet? I hope not, but it’s never too early to make roster improvements.

There are valuable free agents out there, and it’s better to get them before your competition catches on.

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.

Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies (73.1 percent owned)

Chacin’s strikeout/ground ball arsenal is sort of Ubaldo Lite, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The 23-year-old righty had a 3.28 ERA with a 1.27 WHIP and 138 whiffs in 137 1/3 innings last year. He could be the Rockies’ second-best starter in his first full season.

Colby Lewis, SP, Rangers (64.4 percent owned)

Lewis struck out 196 batters last year, ranking 17th in the majors in that category. His ERA will probably be in the high 3.00s, but his control is good enough that his WHIP shouldn’t be too high (it was 1.19 last season). Oh, and have I mentioned the strikeouts? Lewis offers significant K help in 5x5 leagues, so if he’s still available in yours, snatch him up.

Matt Wieters, C, Orioles (49.9 percent owned)

Many leagues require only one starting catcher, but are there really 10 backstops in your league better than Wieters? Even a small improvement over 2010 would mean 15 homers with a solid batting average. Sure, Wieters was overhyped last spring, but the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. He’s underrated and should be owned in all leagues.

Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles (40.6 percent owned)

Roberts went undrafted in many leagues because many people – including yours truly – were worried about the back issues that plagued him last season. However, if you have another second baseman that you’re willing to bench, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ride Roberts until (or if) he gets hurt. For as long as he plays, he should be good for a 12-homer, 30-steal pace.

Bud Norris, SP, Astros (30 percent owned)

Norris isn’t an ace by any means, but starters who whiff more than a batter per inning are hard to find. He had a shaky first outing, but if his control improves this season, he’ll be a nice (and free!) roster addition in deep leagues. Stash Norris on your bench and watch his progress, because a significant payoff is possible.


J.P. Arencibia, C, Blue Jays (23.6 percent owned)

I’ve been on the Arencibia train all spring after ranking him 13th at his position, so don’t think I’m just getting over-excited about the two homers he hit in the Jays’ opener. The rookie’s 32 homers in Triple A last season were partly because of a hitter-friendly league and home ballpark, but he’s got real power, and might not saddle you with the low batting average you can count on from guys like John Buck, Chris Snyder and Miguel Olivo. Arencibia is the perfect backup catcher for mixed leagues.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves (17.8 percent owned)

All the big boppers are gone at first base. Maybe you’re in a bind after drafting the injured Kendrys Morales, or aren’t happy with your backup option. Freeman might hit some bumps in the road this season, but we’re talking about a guy who posted an .898 OPS in Triple A at age 20, so he’s probably less likely to get overmatched than some other rookies. Freeman can be a competent backup in deep mixed leagues – like those with more than 12 teams.

Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians (15.8 percent owned)

There’s no question that Sizemore’s recent injury history makes him a risk, but nobody asked you to draft him in the first round again. Leaving him unowned in any format is irresponsible. Sizemore is hoping to be back in the Indians’ lineup sometime this month, and his upside is too great to ignore. Even if his stolen-base prowess doesn’t return, he can still hit enough to be worth a roster spot. It’s Grady Sizemore, for crying out loud! Take a chance.

J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles (9.5 percent owned)

Hardy was disappointing in 2009 and 2010 after hitting 50 homers in 2007-08, but at least part of his terrible performance last season can be attributed to a wrist injury. Fifteen homers seem likely, and that would put Hardy among the top 10 at his position. Even if you’re not ready to pick him up yet, put him on your watch list.

Justin Smoak, 1B, Mariners (4.2 percent owned)

See what I wrote about Freeman? The same goes for Smoak, who was fast-tracked to the majors last season after fewer than 500 minor-league at-bats. Through four different teams (two Triple A, two MLB) and some struggles, Smoak hit 22 homers in 150 games while maintaining an excellent walk rate at age 23. Smoak should be the Mariners’ second-best hitter this season, and while that’s not necessarily a compliment, it should make him worthy of a bench spot on your fantasy roster.