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 $
James KaprielianOAKSPCNo1Rostered
Jake OdorizziHOUSPC2511
Michael PinedaDETSPCNo25
Devin SmeltzerMINSPC25Rostered
JP SearsNYSPCNoNo1
Jose SuarezLASPCNo14
Spenser WatkinsBALSPDNoNo2
Josh WinckowskiBOSSPC137
Dylan BundyMINSPC1

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 $
James KaprielianOAKSPCNo1Rostered
Jake OdorizziHOUSPC2511
Michael PinedaDETSPCNo25
Devin SmeltzerMINSPC25Rostered
JP SearsNYSPCNoNo1
Jose SuarezLASPCNo14
Spenser WatkinsBALSPDNoNo2
Josh WinckowskiBOSSPC137
Dylan BundyMINSPC111
Jonathan HeasleyKCSPC111
Garrett HillDETSPD111
Dean KremerBALSPC111
Matt MooreTEXRPDNoNo1
Lou TrivinoOAKRPE35Rostered
Korey LeeHOUCDNoNo1
Sandy LeonCLECDNoNo1
Martin MaldonadoHOUCC23Rostered
David MacKinnonLA1BDNoNo1
Vinnie PasquantinoKC1BA152535
Sheldon NeuseOAK2BCNo25
Jonathan VillarLA3BCRosteredRostered2
Nick AllenOAKSSCNo14
Gabriel AriasCLESSCNoNo1
Skye BoltOAKOFCNoNo3
Sam HaggertySEAOFDNoNo2
Kyle IsbelKCOFBNo1Rostered
Jarred KelenicSEAOFB125
Chas McCormickHOUOFCNo25
Richie PalaciosCLEOFDNoNo2
Stephen PiscottyOAKOFCNo14
Harold RamirezTBOFC13Rostered

Starting Pitcher

James Kaprielian, Athletics: The right-hander has had a tough year so far, but Kaprielian might be turning things around. Over his last three starts he's posted a 3.24 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 13:8 K:BB through 16.2 innings, and most importantly has only served up one homer. The opposition wasn't exactly top shelf – two starts against Seattle sandwiched around one against Kansas City – but any sign of progress is a good one, and Kaprielian's always had the talent to be at least a mid-rotation guy if he could stay healthy and begin to put things together. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: Rostered

Jake Odorizzi, Astros: Out since mid-May with a foot/ankle sprain after he got hurt trying to cover first base, Odorizzi is on the verge of returning from the IL, and Dusty Baker has already confirmed he'll shift to a six-man rotation to accommodate the 32-year-old. He was on a roll when he went down, delivering a 0.79 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and 16:5 K:BB through 22.2 innings over his last four starts (including the one in which he got hurt), and while he doesn't have the upside or track record of reliability that should encourage you to plug him into your lineup sight unseen, Odorizzi makes a good stash for a week or two while he shakes off the rust. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $11

Michael Pineda, Tigers: Another veteran righty out since mid-May, Pineda's deal was a fractured finger on his pitching hand as a result of a comebacker. The 33-year-old returned to the rotation Friday and looked like his usual self against the Royals, giving the Tigers five adequate innings. That's about his ceiling these days, so don't g o overboard bidding for a recognizable name. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Devin Smeltzer, Twins: A blowup last month may have scared off GMs who were already expecting the bottom to fall out with Smeltzer, but really, the smoke-and-mirrors southpaw has been pretty amazing since joining the rotation despite his feeble 15.8 percent strikeout rate. Look past the lack of dominance and focus on the soft contact he generates, fueled by a chase rate in the 86th percentile on Statcast and a hard-hit rate in the 38th percentile. Yes, it's possible – even likely – the league eventually figures him out, but Smeltzer has been providing strong ratios for over six weeks now. Especially in a format where the lack of Ks isn't a deal-breaker, he needs to be rostered. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: Rostered

JP Sears, Yankees: The 26-year-old lefty has looked pretty good in two spot starts for the Yankees this year, but he never stuck around on the roster long enough to get a write-up in this column. He got promoted again Sunday though, and while he seems ticketed for a bullpen job this time around, Sears might still be worth stashing. He's been dominant at Triple-A with a 2.06 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and 50:6 K:BB through 39.1 innings thanks to great control and deception in his delivery, but his fastball has also ticked up in recent years and he's not just a junkballer. If the team comes up empty in their attempts to add an established starter by the deadline, Sears might get more work in the rotation in the second half – or he might be part of the package to land that established starter, and find himself with a clearer path to fantasy value on a new club. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Jose Suarez, Angels: The 24-year-old is the guy the Angels always seem to want to upgrade in their rotation, but then have to turn back to when the upgrades don't pan out. Despite solid numbers over nearly 100 innings last year, the lefty got bumped down to Triple-A after a shaky April and has bounced between levels and roles since. He's back in the majors right now though, and a strong outing against the M's last Sunday should earn him at least another turn or two. With Michael Lorenzen fading, Suarez doesn't have to be an ace to stick around longer than that, either. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Spenser Watkins, Orioles: I'm not sure what's gotten into Baltimore pitchers lately. First Dean Kremer catches fire, and now Watkins has strung together a couple good outings. The latter doesn't really have much to recommend him other than those good results, but if you're in a spot where riding a hot streak seems like the best option for your staff, the 29-year-old righty could fit the bill. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Josh Winckowski, Red Sox: I wrote up Winckowski a couple weeks ago, but with Boston's rotation disintegrating around him, the 24-year-old's spot looks a lot more secure. Sharp control has been his calling card in the majors so far, as he's walked exactly one batter in four straight starts and posted a 1.96 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 15:4 K:BB through 23 innings over that stretch. Winckowski's minor-league numbers suggest more strikeouts could be coming too, although he doesn't profile as anything more than a mid-rotation arm if he reaches his ceiling. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

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

Dylan Bundy, Twins (at CHW, at TEX)
Jonathan Heasley, Royals (at HOU, vs. CLE)
Garrett Hill, Tigers (vs. CLE, at CHW)
Dean Kremer, Orioles (vs. TEX, vs. LAA)

Relief Pitcher

Matt Moore, Rangers: The veteran lefty has been shifted to a full-time relief role for the first time in his career, and he's thriving with predictable usage. The talent has always been there – a decade-plus ago when he was a baby Ray, he was viewed in some circles as the top pitching prospect in the game – so it's nice to see him finally find some success. Moore's 13.7 percent walk rate is still a little too sketch, and he may not ever be a reliable closing option, but a 28.1 percent strikeout rate and 54.1 percent groundball rate indicate his 2.02 ERA is no fluke, either. At this point, Moore is best viewed as staff filler, a guy who can give you some useful innings and maybe luck into a win when you don't have better options for your active roster, but winning rosters in deep leagues still usually need those guys to protect them from having to deploy more volatile arms. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Lou Trivino, Athletics: I pegged Trivino as (marginally) the best option in the A's bullpen last week after he got the team's first save with Dany Jimenez on the IL, and he picked up two more this week before stumbling Saturday. Trivino's numbers on the season are ghastly, and even over the last couple weeks when he's got a more palatable 1.59 ERA, it comes with a 2.12 WHIP. If you bid for Trivino, expect him to be a short-term saves source only. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: Rostered

Catcher

Korey Lee, Astros: With Jason Castro sidelined, Lee was called up to caddy for Martin Maldonado behind the plate in Houston. The 23-year-old is really only interesting in two-catcher dynasty formats; he was a first-round pick in 2019 and has slugged 10 homers in 64 games at Triple-A Sugar Land this season, but his plate discipline and hit tool issues are a significant concern. Basically, Lee is the AL version of Joey Bart, but if you can stash him cheaply as part of a rebuild, he might start returning value a year or two from now. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Sandy Leon, Guardians: With Austin Hedges out due to a concussion, Cleveland brought back Leon to help out behind the plate, and he seems to be in at least a timeshare with Luke Maile. Neither's a particularly interesting pick-up, but Leon at least has that brief, shining moment in 2016 when he looked like the second coming of Ted Simmons or something. If he got hot for multiple weeks back then, maybe he can do it again. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Martin Maldonado, Astros: Maldonado's the same guy he's always been – low batting average, enough power to turn on a mistake – but now he'll probably get a full starting workload with Castro out. The 35-year-old slugged two homers Saturday, and he might run into a couple more while he's got the job mostly to himself. If you can stomach the lack of hits other than the homers, he's worth picking up. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: Rostered

First Base

David MacKinnon, Angels: There are a lot of guys this week who are getting juuuuuust enough playing time to get consideration for a write-up, but MacKinnon's probably the most interesting. To be clear, that doesn't mean he's got the most fantasy appeal, just that he's got one of those heart-warming "never should have made it but never gave up on his dream" stories everyone loves. MacKinnon was a 32nd-round pick in 2017 out of the University of Hartford – in other words, a round that no longer exists and a school that no longer even has a Division I baseball program -- who showed a decent hit tool but no power in college, and he hadn't risen above High-A before tearing his ACL in 2019. Between that and COVID, he could easily have just packed it in, but instead he used the long layoff to revamp his swing, and when he returned to action in 2021, things started to click. After a strong start at Triple-A Salt Lake this year, MacKinnon got his first big-league promotion and hasn't looked out of place. He's seen most of his action at third base in place of Anthony Rendon, starting four of the Angels' last six games at the hot corner. This team has made a habit of turning unheralded minor leaguers into productive players (Jared Walsh is the most obvious example) and while MacKinnon isn't close to that level yet, it's tough to rule out an eventual breakout considering how much work he's put it just to get this far. Hmm, maybe he is the most interesting guy from a fantasy perspective after all. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Vinnie Pasquantino, Royals: Kansas City finally got Carlos Santana out of the way and called up Pasquantino last weekend, and after leaving him on the bench for a couple games to, I dunno, soak up the atmosphere or whatever, the 24-year-old has started the last four games, three at DH and one at first base. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the idea Hunter Dozier is the better defensive option at any position, even first base, but you do you Mike Matheny. Pasquiantino only has two hits in his first 12 at-bats, but one of them left the yard, and a 3:1 BB:K shows he hasn't been overmatched. Despite his dazzling minor-league numbers I don't expect him to be a star right from the jump, but numbers not unlike Santana in his Cleveland days – middling batting average but plus OBP with solid power – could be on the table in the second half. 12-team Mixed: $15; 15-team Mixed: $25; 12-team AL: $35

Second Base

Sheldon Neuse, Athletics: Neuse didn't really solve his plate discipline issues during his brief demotion, but it's hard to focus on taking pitches when you're crushing everything you can get wood on. A .404 batting average and .731 SLG in 12 games for Triple-A Las Vegas earned the 27-year-old another crack at the majors, and over 12 games since his return to the Oakland roster he's gone 13-for-39 (.333), albeit with only one extra-base hits. The team's infield remains an ongoing experiment, but just as he did earlier in the year, Neuse should keep finding his way into the starting lineup as long as he's raking. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Third Base

Jonathan Villar, Angels: Anaheim definitely has a type. Andrew Velazquez, Tyler Wade, Luis Rengifo, David Fletcher... all infielders with some speed and defensive versatility who can be mixed and matched when healthy, although Velazquez's glove at shortstop has made him a fixture there even as his offensive contributions have dwindled. As such, it shouldn't have been a shock the Angels scooped up Villar, an infielder with speed and defensive versatility, when he got waived by the Cubs. He wasn't doing much in Chicago, but maybe a return to the AL will wake the 31-year-old up at the plate. Look for Villar to become part of the second base/third base mix once he's gotten acclimated to his new squad. 12-team Mixed: Rostered; 15-team Mixed: Rostered; 12-team AL: $2

Shortstop

Nick Allen, Athletics: Allen's another young Oakland infielder who found some confidence as a hitter at Triple-A. Over his last 15 games for Vegas before returning to the big-league roster, he slashed .365/.500/.538, and he's carried that forward by reaching base safely in all 11 games since his recall, leading to a .297/.366/.432 slash line. Allen's calling card is his glove at shortstop, so of course he's been playing second base because Elvis Andrus is apparently untouchable. Allen's shown a little speed in the minors too though, so if he keeps getting on base regularly, maybe he'll get a chance to flash it. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Gabriel Arias, Guardians: Another possible dynasty or keeper stash, Arias has missed a big chunk of the year due to a broken hand and posted lousy numbers at Triple-A when healthy, but he's still got some intriguing upside. The 22-year-old was one of the youngest position players in Triple-A last season but still posted very good numbers for Columbus, and he could emerge as a strong defensive option at shortstop who can put some balls in the seats, or maybe even something more – Cleveland's got a track record of getting the most out of their athletic young infielders. There's no clear path for Arias to see significant playing time in the majors this year without an injury or two, however. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Outfield

Skye Bolt, Athletics: The switch hitter with the 80-grade name has been getting occasional cups of coffee with the A's since 2019, but this time he might actually have a chance to carve out a starting role in center field. Bolt has started two of the last three games, going... OK, he's 0-for-7 with two strikeouts. He's got little left to prove at Triple-A though, slashing .317/.408/.536 over a season's worth of playing time with 23 homers and 13 steals, and while there's plenty of PCL desert inflation in those numbers, the 28-year-old's got the athleticism to be a power-speed threat in the majors. It's more likely he flames out and finds himself back in Las Vegas over the summer, but it probably won't cost much to see if he can figure things out. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Sam Haggerty, Mariners: Haggerty's started four straight games in right field since his latest promotion, as he takes advantage of Taylor Trammell's hamstring injury and Justin Upton's Justin Upton-ness. A 3-for-3 performance with two doubles and a steal in his first start has accounted for basically all Haggerty's production during that stretch, and while the 28-year-old doesn't have massive upside, he could chip in a couple more steals while getting this opportunity. His window could also close quickly though, as... well, see below. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Kyle Isbel, Royals: Right field seems to be settling into a platoon between Isbel and Edward Olivares, with the former on the long side of it as the left-handed hitter, and he responded with homers in back-to-back games earlier this week. The real key to value for both outfielders is the trade winds surrounding Andrew Benintendi, though. If he gets shipped out, and the Royals don't get a shiny new big league-ready outfielder back in the package, Isbel could find himself as an everyday starter. Of course, Kansas City could also shift Hunter Dozier back to an outfield corner in that scenario, which wouldn't make any sense but would be kind of par for the course for the organization. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: Rostered

Jarred Kelenic, Mariners: Is Kelenic actually figuring things out? Over his last 20 games at Triple-A Tacoma, the 22-year-old is slashing .279/.326/.488 with three homers and nine doubles, and his OPS jumps to .939 over his last nine contests. His plate discipline remains shaky – 2:12 BB:K over those last nine games – but as long as he's hitting the ball with authority, Seattle will probably live with some empty air in his swing. There's been no official word from the team a return to the majors is imminent, but a Haggerty/Upton timeshare in right field is the very definition of "stopgap". If Kelenic got dumped after, or even before, his demotion in May, it might be time to sneak him back onto your bench, as he still has enough prospect sheen to draw big bids if you wait until he;s officially back. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Chas McCormick, Astros: While Jake Meyers has taken over in center field, McCormick got a new lease on life when Michael Brantley landed on IL and he's taken advantage, homering in back-to-back games coming into Sunday while starting three of the last five games in left field. The 27-year-old's got some pop – 22 homers with a .247/.313/.441 slash line in his first 504 big-league plate appearances – and while Houston does have other options for left field, including Aledmys Diaz and shifting Yordan Alvarez out of the DH spot once in a while, McCormick is the team's best choice for a variety of reasons. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Richie Palacios, Guardians: With Oscar Gonzalez on the shelf, Palacios appears to be the most likely candidate to get a significant playing time boost. Remember, the 25-year-old got a promotion this season before Gonzalez did, so it's not like the Guardians don't see something in Palacios. He doesn't have a lot of upside, but he could contribute a solid batting average, a handful of steals and whatever other counting stats that come from hitting toward the bottom of the order in a middling offense. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Stephen Piscotty, Athletics: Out since early May with a calf issue, Piscotty finally made his return to the lineup Tuesday and has gone 3-for-15 with a double while starting four of Oakland's last five games. If he stays healthy and produces, he's prime candidate to be traded, but neither of those things is a guarantee for the oft-injured 31-year-old. He could at least get regular playing time while the team showcases him, though. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Harold Ramirez, Rays: Ramirez has started seven straight games for Tampa Bay as he stakes his claim to a starting job ahead of top prospect Josh Lowe, going 11-for-26 (.423) over that stretch with three doubles. The 27-year-old doesn't have a lot of over-the-fence power, but like Yandy Diaz, he can still make enough hard contact to have value. Kevin Kiermaier's return from the IL does make the Rays' outfield a little more crowded, but Ramirez should keep getting ABs in right field and at DH as long as he's raking. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: Rostered

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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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