AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week

This article is part of our AL FAAB Factor series.

This is our weekly look at American League free agents. We have two goals for this article:

1. Identify likely free agents and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

2. Estimate how much of your $100 starting free-agent budget you should bid on them.

We've incorporated grids into the FAAB articles, so users can easily see at a glance how certain players stack up against others and how much they should command in a variety of formats.

The grids, which are sortable by column (click on the header), include a very basic "player grade" column. This serves as a reflection of a player's skills and talent on an A-E scale. Wander Franco would have been an "A" grade player last year – that mark will be reserved for similarly high-impact prospects that could thrive in an everyday role.

As always, if there is a player that was not discussed in the article that you would like to know about, feel free to ask about the player in the comments.

PLAYERTEAMPOSGRADE12-Team Mixed $15-Team Mixed $AL-Only $
Shane BazTBSPA253545
Jonathan HeasleyKCSPCNoNo3
Jared KoenigOAKSPCNoNo1
Kyle BradishBALSPC111
Johnny CuetoCHISPC111
Chris FlexenSEASPC111
Rony GarciaDETSPC111
Taylor HearnTEXSPC111
Jordan LylesBALSPC1

This is our weekly look at American League free agents. We have two goals for this article:

1. Identify likely free agents and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

2. Estimate how much of your $100 starting free-agent budget you should bid on them.

We've incorporated grids into the FAAB articles, so users can easily see at a glance how certain players stack up against others and how much they should command in a variety of formats.

The grids, which are sortable by column (click on the header), include a very basic "player grade" column. This serves as a reflection of a player's skills and talent on an A-E scale. Wander Franco would have been an "A" grade player last year – that mark will be reserved for similarly high-impact prospects that could thrive in an everyday role.

As always, if there is a player that was not discussed in the article that you would like to know about, feel free to ask about the player in the comments.

PLAYERTEAMPOSGRADE12-Team Mixed $15-Team Mixed $AL-Only $
Shane BazTBSPA253545
Jonathan HeasleyKCSPCNoNo3
Jared KoenigOAKSPCNoNo1
Kyle BradishBALSPC111
Johnny CuetoCHISPC111
Chris FlexenSEASPC111
Rony GarciaDETSPC111
Taylor HearnTEXSPC111
Jordan LylesBALSPC111
Jason AdamTBRPDNo37
Colin PocheTBRPDNo14
Diego CastilloSEARPDNo25
Eli MorganCLERPENoNo1
Matt StrahmBOSRPDNo25
Reese McGuireCHICDNoNo1
Francisco MejiaTBCC12Rostered
Gabriel MorenoTORCA51121
Cal RaleighSEACB25Rostered
Stephen VogtOAKCCNoNo1
Ji-Man ChoiTB1BC13Rostered
Tyler NevinBAL1BCNoNo2
Ezequiel DuranTEX2BC3511
Richie MartinBALSSDNoNo1
Michael TaylorKCOFC12Rostered
Matt DavidsonOAKDHCNoNo3

Starting Pitcher

Shane Baz, Rays: Listing Baz is academic for a lot of leagues, as he's been stashed on a bench since March, but what the heck. Elbow surgery delayed the start of his campaign after he made a dazzling debut in 2021, and a rough first outing Saturday might help keep bidding from getting too loopy – but don't count on it. The 22-year-old righty offers four plus pitches including a high 90s fastball, and the only real concern with Baz is workload-related, as he has yet to toss triple-digit innings in a pro season, and Tampa Bay could well go easy on him this year as a result with an eye toward having him peak down the stretch. He's got every bit as much upside as Shane McClanahan though, and if you can grab him now, Baz could be a difference-maker. 12-team Mixed: $25; 15-team Mixed: $35; 12-team AL: $45

Jonathan Heasley, Royals: The 25-year-old rookie had a shaky start to his stint in the Kansas City rotation this season, but Heasley's now reeled off three straight quality starts, posting a 2.84 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 15:5 K:BB in 19 innings over that stretch. Part of the same 2018 draft class that netted the Royals future "aces" Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic, Heasley was popped in the 13th round but made a steady climb through the system until getting the call for his big-league debut last year. He profiles as a back-end arm, deploying four average to above-average pitches without the plus command that might allow them to play up, but that can still be useful as a streaming or depth option in deeper formats. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Jared Koenig, Athletics: Koenig's a really easy guy to root for. The 28-year-old lefty was originally drafted in the 35th round in 2014 by the White Sox out of high school, didn't sign, went to college, didn't get re-drafted, kicked around independent ball and pitched in Australia for a couple years before finally getting the attention of MLB scouts again after the pandemic. After a solid but unremarkable Double-A campaign in 2021, Koenig somehow thrived this year in the pitching graveyard that is Triple-A Las Vegas to earn his first ever big-league promotion. Of course, that debut came against the defending champs Wednesday, and predictably Atlanta's bats gave him a rude welcome to the majors. The A's don't exactly have better healthy options for his spot though, so Koenig should get another couple turns through the rotation to try and prove himself. He works off a fastball that tops out at about 95 mph, but that's not where he's most effective – Koenig throws different variations of the pitch at different speeds to keep hitters off-balance, the very definition of a "crafty lefty", while also mixing in a slider, curve and changeup. It's an arsenal that has worked for other pitchers, but he'll need to prove he has the command to get away with it in the bigs. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Other two-start options, Mon-Sun (12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $1)

Kyle Bradish, Orioles (at TOR, vs. TB)
Johnny Cueto, White Sox (at DET, at HOU)
Chris Flexen, Mariners (vs. MIN, vs. LAA)
Rony Garcia Tigers (vs. CHW, vs TEX)
Taylor Hearn, Rangers (vs. HOU, at DET)
Jordan Lyles (at TOR, vs. TB)

Relief Pitcher

Jason Adam / Colin Poche, Rays: Andrew Kittredge is lost for the season, J.P. Feyereisen is also on the shelf, and Brooks Raley's early-season effectiveness has waned. In other words, it's back to being a total mystery who might close for Tampa Bay (not that there was a lot of clarity before). Adam picked up his second save of the year Thursday, and he's been the Rays' most consistent high-leverage arm all year, posting an ERA and WHIP both below 1.00 through 25 innings. Poche has been the team's best lefty option, recording a win, save or hold in each of his last six appearances and also racking up excellent ratios this season. He's also given up runs in four of those outings, although two of those instances were because of the phantom runner in extra innings and the run was unearned. Now that I've written up these two guys, watch Shawn Armstrong and Ryan Thompson split the next six save chances for Tampa. Adam – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7 / Poche -- 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Diego Castillo, Mariners: The Mariners are another team where it's pretty futile to guess who'll get the next save, but Castillo has the last two, so I'd better mention him. The 28-year-old righty's numbers on the season are bad but he's reeled off eight straight scoreless appearances with a 15:1 K:BB, so it seems safe to say he's fixed whatever the problem was. Castillo recorded 16 saves last year between the Rays and M's, and if manager Scott Servais decides he'd rather use Paul Sewald in a high-leverage role, Castillo could find himself in the ninth inning more often than not, Of course, Andres Munoz might be a factor again at some point, and Ken Giles might get healthy, and hey, Sergei Romo has 137 career saves too. If Servais wants a closer committee, he'll have a committee. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Athletics relievers (Domingo Acevedo, Zach Jackson, Sam Moll, A.J. Puk, Lou Trivino): I'm listing all these guys in a clump and wouldn't recommend more than a minimum bid on any of them, but it might be time to start speculating on the ninth-inning job in Oakland again. Dany Jimenez has been tagged for three or more runs in three of his last six appearances, posting a 21.21 ERA and 3:6 K:BB (no, that's not backwards) in 4.2 innings during that stretch while blowing both his save chances. As good as he looked earlier in the year, Jimenez doesn't have the track record that will allow him to keep the job through that kind of disaster. The only thing working in his favor is that every other vaguely plausible option is also struggling right now with the exception of Moll, who has a 13.8 percent walk rate on the season. Trivino has gotten 14 of his last 22 outs via strikeout and somehow has a 9.82 ERA over that stretch. Puk arguably has the best stuff of the bunch, but also a 4.91 ERA and mediocre 5:1 K:BB over his last seven appearances and 7.1 frames. If you need saves and have bench spots to churn, it might be worth throwing a couple darts here.

Eli Morgan, Guardians: Morgan's moved himself into a high-leverage role in the Cleveland bullpen with an outstanding season to date, and all five of his holds on the season have come since May 30. Emmanuel Clase remains locked into the closer spot, but it's hard to argue with Morgan's 35.3 percent strikeout rate and 3.9 percent walk rate through 28.1 innings, as he thrived in his conversion to relief. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Matt Strahm, Red Sox: Boston's bullpen is another messy one, but Strahm might be inching ahead of the pack after nabbing saves in back-to-back games early this week. The lefty hasn't quite been dominant, as his 4.00 ERA attests, but a 21:4 K:BB through 18 innings on the year is still pretty strong. Manager Alex Cora will probably try to make fetch... I mean, Matt Barnes happen again when the right-hander gets healthy, and Tanner Houck is starting to see high-leverage work too, but he's not likely to be available. Right now, Strahm looks like your best option for getting some kind of share of the ninth inning for the Red Sox. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Catcher

Reese McGuire, White Sox: Yasmani Grandal has been abysmal this season, but (and I'm speaking from personal experience here) it's been tough to pull the plug on a veteran when we just saw him rebound in impressive fashion from a slow start last year. Grandal tweaked his hamstring Saturday though, and an injured list stint for a 33-year-old catcher would change the equation. He hasn't been placed on the IL yet, but if he does, McGuire would be Chicago's starter as long as Grandal is out. McGuire was a first-round pick of the Pirates back in 2013, but his bat has never caught up to his glove, and his one decent big-league stint came in the happy fun ball 2019 campaign. Still, if he's getting consistent playing time, he could rack up enough counting stats to have some deep league value. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Francisco Mejia, Rays: The situation in Tampa is much clearer. Mike Zunino is shut down due to shoulder inflammation, and Mejia will start in his absence with rookie Rene Pinto for backup. Mejia's struggled at the plate this season, striking out more often and hitting more grounders, but playing time is gold behind the plate. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: Rostered

Gabriel Moreno, Blue Jays: The other elite prospect to make his season debut this week in the AL, Moreno gets his opportunity thanks to Danny Jansen's broken hand, and the Jays seem willing to give the rookie a shot at holding down the starting job while Jansen's out. Moreno wasn't hitting for much power at Triple-A this year, but he otherwise has every tool you could possibly want, both offensively and defensively. Jansen could be out until July, and with Alejandro Kirk also in the mix, Toronto could be faced with a tough decision in a few weeks if Moreno shows he belongs. 12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team AL: $21

Cal Raleigh, Mariners: Raleigh is finally claiming the starting job in Seattle after his brutal start to the season. A .241/.333/.586 slash line in June with three homers, eight RBI and a palatable 21.2 percent strikeout rate through nine games is a vast improvement, and his performance has pushed Luis Torrens into a bench role. Tom Murphy has no timetable for his return from a shoulder injury, but if Raleigh is producing, Murphy won't be an obstacle. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: Rostered

Stephen Vogt, Athletics: The veteran backstop returned from the IL on Wednesday and has started three of four games since, going 3-for-9 with a walk and a homer. All three starts came at DH while Jed Lowrie nurses a sore wrist, as Sean Murphy remains the primary catcher and Christian Bethancourt is still contributing, but the A's will find a role for Vogt if he's hitting. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

First Base

Ji-Man Choi, Rays: Choi has an active 10-game hitting streak going, slashing .324/.350/.595 over that stretch with four doubles, two homers, eight runs and 11 RBI. The veteran is a great rental in shallower formats, the kind of player you can pick up when he's hot to fill a hole and then drop when he cools down or your injured guy comes back. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: Rostered

Tyler Nevin, Orioles: The 25-year-old has been bouncing between Triple-A and the majors this season, but with Ramon Urias on the shelf with an oblique strain, Nevin could get consistent playing time at the hot corner for the next little while. His .319/.406/.505 slash line with three homers and four steals in 25 games for Norfolk highlights his ceiling, but as yet Nevin hasn't come close to that kind of production in the majors. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Second Base

Ezequiel Duran, Rangers: Duran's had a quick start to his big-league career, batting .308 (8-for-26) through his first seven games with a double and a homer, and Texas' lack of option at third base should buy him a long look. The 23-year-old has a bit of speed as well as power, and while in the long run he might be a utility player, for 2022 he could see enough playing time to have shallow league value. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $11

Shortstop

Richie Martin, Orioles: Martin has a rep for being a glove-only infielder, but it's possible he's beginning to develop some upside with the bat too. The 27-year-old was a Rule 5 pick in 2019 and then missed all of 2020 with no minor-league season, and that development gap hurt him. Martin's putting things together at Triple-A this year though, slashing .294/.382/.442 through 41 games with 17 steals in 19 attempts. Urias' injury opens up some playing time, and Jorge Mateo's .579 OPS doesn't exactly make him a lock at shortstop. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Outfield

Michael Taylor, Royals: There isn't much on the wire for the AL in the outfield this week, but Taylor's been on a roll since returning from the IL, batting .429 (9-for-21) over his last seven games with a double and a homer. Why the Royals, winners of an American League-low 20 games so far, are starting a 31-year-old retread over Kyle Isbel on a regular basis, I can't begin to explain, but if Taylor's going to produce when given a chance, fantasy GMs should at least take advantage. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: Rostered

Designated Hitter

Matt Davidson, Athletics: Speaking of 31-year-olds inexplicably getting playing time on teams in the AL cellar, Davidson got called up Tuesday and has started four of Oakland's last five games, mostly at third base. Sheldon Neuse earned a demotion to Triple-A and Kevin Smith might soon follow him down given his current 1-for-37 skid, so sure, Davidson, why not. The journeyman has gone 3-for-13 for the A's, but he's never been able to turn his minor-league power numbers into big-league production consistently, so don't get too excited by his 15 homers in 32 Triple-A games this season, especially considering those games were split between Reno and Las Vegas. Davidson probably isn't the next Khris Davis, but it won't cost you much to find out if you need a bat. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erik Siegrist
Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.
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