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 $
Hunter BrownHOUSPB3715
Max CastilloKCSPCNoNo2
Cody MorrisCLESPBNo14
Michael PinedaDETSPCNoNo3
Ken WaldichukOAKSPBNo37
Tyler AlexanderDETSPC111
Chris ArcherMINSPC111
Jordan LylesBALSPC111
Matthew BoydSEARPCNo

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 $
Hunter BrownHOUSPB3715
Max CastilloKCSPCNoNo2
Cody MorrisCLESPBNo14
Michael PinedaDETSPCNoNo3
Ken WaldichukOAKSPBNo37
Tyler AlexanderDETSPC111
Chris ArcherMINSPC111
Jordan LylesBALSPC111
Matthew BoydSEARPCNoNo1
DL HallBALRPCNoNo1
Jimmy HergetLARPD137
Trevor RichardsTORRPENoNo1
Tucker BarnhartDETCC12Rostered
Yainer DiazHOUCCNoNo1
Jesus AguilarBAL1BCRosteredRostered5
Triston CasasBOS1BA51121
Nick PrattoKC1BC23Rostered
Spencer TorkelsonDET1BBNoNo3
Jonathan ArandaTB2BCNoNo2
Vidal BrujanTB2BCNoNo1
Matt DuffyLA3BCNoNo1
Dermis GarciaOAK3BCNoNo3
Abraham ToroSEA3BCNo14
Elvis AndrusCHISSC12Rostered
Romy GonzalezCHISSCNoNo2
Gunnar HendersonBALSSA153555
Oswald PerazaNYSSCNoNo1
Ryan AguilarLAOFDNoNo1
Michael TaylorKCOFC12Rostered
Jose SiriTBOFB25Rostererd

Starting Pitcher

Hunter Brown, Astros: One of Houston's annual pop-up pitching prospects, Brown was a fifth-round pick in 2019 who posted good strikeout numbers thanks to a big fastball, but he didn't have much else going for him his first couple seasons in the minors. He's made major strides with his curveball, however, and it's now a plus pitch that disappears on right-handed hitters with 11-5 action. He also mixes in a slider and changeup, giving him an arsenal deep enough to make it as a starter in the majors if at least one of the latter two pitches can be effective. Brown's control and command unsurprisingly still need some refinement, but the 24-year-old dominated at Triple-A Sugar Land this year and could be the next big thing in the Astros rotation. With Justin Verlander on the shelf, Brown will get a chance to prove he's ready. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $7; 12-team AL: $15

Max Castillo, Royals: Castillo came over from the Jays in the Whit Merrifield deal, and while he gave the Royals a solid five innings in his lone start for them so far, he's struggled at Triple-A Omaha since the trade. The 23-year-old seemed to take a big step forward this year in the high minors in the Toronto system, but it was really only a nine-start stretch totaling 56.1 innings, and it's entirely possible Kansas City got fleeced and bought high on a guy who'll be nothing more than a swing man at best in the majors. Castillo lacks a plus pitch and needs to have sharp command to get the most out of his sinker/slider/changeup combo, but that is a formula that has worked for other pitchers in the past. With Zack Greinke out, perhaps for the rest of the season, Castillo should get a longer look in the rotation this time around. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Cody Morris, Guardians: The 25-year-old righty was on a lot of sleeper lists this spring until he came down with more shoulder issues, and Cleveland took no chances with him given his checkered injury history. Morris didn't see game action until mid-July and was being built up for a September role in long relief, but injuries to Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale have forced the Guardians to scramble. Morris now finds himself in the rotation, although he lasted only two innings and 54 pitches in his big-league debut Friday. He boasts a plus changeup and plus high-90s fastball, and his curve and cutter aren't just token offerings either, so the only reason questions with Morris are how well his arm can hold up – he was drafted in 2018, but he has yet to throw even 100 innings across an entire season. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Michael Pineda, Tigers: A triceps strain cost him all of August, but Pineda returned to the mound for Detroit on Saturday... and got hammered by the Royals. Whoops. The 33-year-old offers little but veteran moxie at this stage of his career, but the Tigers don't have any better, healthier options to take a turn every fifth day. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Ken Waldichuk, Athletics: The 24-year-old southpaw was one of the big prizes the A's got back in the Frankie Montas trade with the Yankees. Waldichuk's minor-league strikeout numbers are definitely intriguing – 13.3 K/9 in High-A and Double-A in 2021, 13.0 in Double-A/Triple-A this year – and he's earned that dominance with a fastball that sits mid-90s and touches 98 mph, and his slider and changeup both show the potential to be plus pitches. Add in a passable curve and a deceptive, slingy delivery from a 6-4 frame, and you have the makings of an ace if it all comes together. He's got some work to do on his control, walking four Nationals over 4.2 innings in his big-league debut Thursday, but he should be a regular part of Oakland's rotation in September. 12-team Mixed: No; 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)

Tyler Alexander, Tigers (at LAA, at KC)
Chris Archer, Twins (at NYY, vs. CLE)
Jordan Lyles, Orioles (vs. TOR, vs. BOS)

Relief Pitcher

Matthew Boyd, Mariners: The veteran lefty came off the IL to join Seattle's bullpen in September, an unusual assignment for a player who hadn't made a relief appearance since 2017. Boyd's probably better viewed as a keeper stash, but he was always more promise than production with the Tigers despite his strikeouts, and he only managed to get his ERA below 4.00 for a full season in 2021, and that for only 15 starts. Still, M's relievers have generally been good investments this year, even if all you're looking for is some ratio help and a chance at a vultured win or two. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

DL Hall, Orioles: Speaking of keeper stashes, Hall is still basically a Nuke LaLoosh starter kit who posts big strikeout and big walk rates at every stop. The 23-year-old lefty will work out of the bullpen this September, and the O's have kind of been down this road before with Tanner Scott, but they will give Hall every chance to figure things out and eventually win a rotation spot. I'm not optimistic about his chances, but far stranger things have happened. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Jimmy Herget, Angels: I'm not exactly sure how or why the Angels concluded a long reliever with a fastball that barely scrapes 90 mph was their best closer option, but here we are. Herget reeled off three straight saves to close out August, and since coming off IL about a month ago he does have a 0.49 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 19:7 K:BB through 18.1 innings. He won't keep up that pace, Jose Quijada and Ryan Tepera may not be entirely out of the mix, and Los Angeles may not have many leads to hand to any of them anyway, but if you're speculating for saves in this bullpen, Herget seems like the top target. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Trevor Richards, Blue Jays: Richards can be a frustrating pitcher to roster. He boasts one of the best changeups in the game, but he has nothing else to back it up, so if hitters aren't biting he can get crushed. They're biting right now, though. Since the beginning of August, the 29-year-old sports a 1.26 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 19:6 K:BB over 14.1 innings. His usage has only gotten him one hold over that stretch, but with the Jays struggling to find ways to patch together their rotation, it's possible Richards finds his way into a bulk reliever role at some point and falls into a couple wins. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Catcher

Tucker Barnhart, Tigers: Barnhart's a classic defense-first backstop, but he has a couple things working in his favor from a fantasy perspective. One, he's the only healthy catcher Detroit has right now with Eric Haase nursing an abdominal issue. Two, Barnhart is actually doing some damage with the stick. He finally hit his first homer of the year Saturday, and since Aug. 14 he's gone 13-for-38 (.342) with three RBI and five runs. If you're scrambling for any sort of production at a catcher spot, Barnhart is worth a dart throw. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: Rostered

Yainer Diaz, Astros: Diaz put together a breakout campaign in the high minors this year, slashing .306/.356/.542 through 105 games with 25 homers and putting himself on the prospect radar. The 23-year-old may not see much playing time in September behind Martin Maldonado and Christian Vazquez though, and the Astros have a history of churning through young catchers without giving them a real shot if their defense isn't deemed palatable. Diaz has made some progress on that front however, and neither veteran ahead of him is under contract for 2023, so there's some keeper stash intrigue here. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

First Base

Jesus Aguilar, Orioles: The 32-year-old got cut loose by the also-ran Marlins, but the playoff-contending Orioles saw fit to give Aguilar a chance to plug the hole at DH the team created when they shipped out Trey Mancini. He's gone 0-for-8 with three strikeouts to begin his Baltimore tenure, which is in keeping with his Miami performance this year, but Aguilar could run into a few homers down the stretch if you don't care what he does to your batting average. 12-team Mixed: Rostered; 15-team Mixed: Rostered; 12-team AL: $5

Triston Casas, Red Sox: Boston head-faked everyone this week, having Alex Cora go out and say "oh, well, we want Casas to get steady reps at Worcester, but maybe he'll come up later this month" only to promote him a couple days later. Hmm, maybe Cora was the one not in the loop? Anyway, the 22-year-old will almost certainly be the team's regular first baseman the rest of the way as neither Franchy Cordero nor Christian Arroyo is much of an obstacle, and Bobby Dalbec was the player shipped down to Triple-A to make room. Casas didn't seem to have much left to prove in the minors, slashing .327/.445/.541 since the beginning of August with a 19:23 BB:K through 27 games, and he certainly has the talent to keep raking and not miss a beat against September pitching. 12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team AL: $21

Nick Pratto, Royals: The 23-year-old slugger flipped the switch in late August and has gone 11-for-33 (.333) over his last eight games with four homers and 11 RBI. He's also struck out 11 times in that stretch mind you, which is actually pretty good for Pratto given his track record, but even if you view him as a volatile low-BA power source, it's important to keep in mind that 'volatile' means he'll have some good stretches too. Scoop him up and hope to get a couple more weeks of elite production out of him before the Ks drag him down again. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: Rostered

Spencer Torkelson, Tigers: Torkelson's exile is over, and the 23-year-old got called back up when rosters expanded Thursday. He didn't exactly regain his confidence at Triple-A Toledo though, slashing .229/.348/.389 through 35 games. The talent is still there, and with Miguel Cabrera on the IL there's absolutely no reason for him not to play every day on a team maybe headed for 100 losses anyway, but the ship has already sailed on him being an immediate success in the majors. The question now is how long it takes him to make the adjustments he needs to make. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Second Base

Jonathan Aranda, Rays: Tampa reinforced its bench for the stretch run with a couple of its seemingly inexhaustible supply of hitting prospects, but between Aranda and Brujan, the former seems more likely to get enough playing time to be useful. With Brandon Lowe down for a bit, Aranda could see action at second base alongside Isaac Paredes and Yu Chang, and indeed the 24-year-old got the start Saturday against the Yankees, which is a decent vote of confidence from Kevin Cash. Like a lot of players this week though, his keeper appeal outweighs his probable short-term value, and even then, an offseason trade would be a lot better for Aranda's fantasy prospects. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Vidal Brujan, Rays: The 24-year-old switch hitter looks set for utility and pinch-running duty again during his latest big-league stint, putting a hard cap on his fantasy value. Brujan's speed will keep him on the radar for a while even if he has no real path to a starting role in Tampa Bay, but maybe he can be the 2025 version of Jorge Mateo or something if you hang onto him long enough in dynasty formats. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Third Base

Matt Duffy, Angels: The veteran infielder returned from the IL last week and has started two of five games since, going 2-for-11 with a double. Jared Walsh's season-ending surgery does open up some playing time, and Duffy is basically the only RHH option the Angels have at first base, but he'll likely see most of his time at third, subbing in for Luis Rengifo when the latter is needed at shortstop. Duffy's offensive ceiling is limited, but he offers a smidge of power and speed and can supply a decent batting average. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Dermis Garcia, Athletics: The 24-year-old started six straight games at first base this week, going 6-for-18 with a double and two homers, and it looks like Oakland is going to give him a long look to close out the season. Garcia's 40.0 percent strikeout rate to begin his big-league career is a red flag, but he trimmed that down to 29.9 percent at Triple-A this season – the first time he'd been below 30 percent since rookie ball, which is encouraging. In the end he might not be any better than Seth Brown, but Garcia is at least six years younger. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Abraham Toro, Mariners: The M's can't seem to quit Toro. Despite a .573 OPS in the majors this year, the 25-year-old got called back up in late August and got re-inserted into the second base mix, which probably has more to do with the fact that Adam Frazier is batting .188 (6-for-32) over his last 12 games. Toro was in a bit of a groove for Triple-A Tacoma prior to his promotion, slashing .275/.393/.490 over his last 14 games, and he's kept that up in Seattle by going 3-for-11 with a homer. Maybe this time things start to click for him? 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Shortstop

Elvis Andrus, White Sox: I can't believe I'm writing up Andrus this late in the year, but here we are. The 34-year-old has not only held down the fort at shortstop admirably while Tim Anderson recuperates from finger surgery, he's pushed his way into the leadoff spot with a seven-game hitting streak, and Andrus is slashing .279/.323/.459 with three homers, 13 RBI and a steal in his last 15 games. Anderson isn't guaranteed to play again in the regular season, and the White Sox aren't out of the wild-card race yet, so acting manager Miguel Cairo has little reason not to keep riding Andrus as long as he's useful. If you need middle infield help, you might want to consider doing the same. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: Rostered

Romy Gonzalez, White Sox: On the flip side of that coin, 25-year-old rookie Gonzalez has also been hot lately, starting eight of the last 10 games and batting .343 (12-for-35). He posted a 20-20 campaign at Double-A in 2021, so the tools are there, but that playing time could dry up when Yoan Moncada and his feeble .582 OPS come off the IL. Or maybe Cairo just says, "To heck with it, I'm going with the guy who's actually hitting to try and get us to the playoffs", you never know. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Gunnar Henderson, Orioles: The biggest-name AL prospect to get a September promotion (even if it somewhat inexplicably came Aug. 31), Henderson has started his big-league career by going 6-for-15 with two doubles, a homer and a steal. Oh, and a 1:2 BB:K. Rather than giving him a consistent starting spot, the O's are using the 21-year-old in a super-utility role, and he's already seen action at second base, third base and shortstop. Henderson should play every day though, and he's got legit five-tool upside. If you've got much of a budget left to blow, this is the guy to blow it on. 12-team Mixed: $15; 15-team Mixed: $35; 12-team AL: $55

Oswald Peraza, Yankees: The 22-year-old was holding his own this season at Triple-A, socking 19 homers and stealing 33 bases in 99 games with a .256/.326/.444 slash line, and that was enough to earn a big-league debut in September. It's not clear how much playing time Peraza will get, but the Yankees are in free fall and need to shake things up somehow, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa has a .197/.260/.288 slash line over his last 20 games. I'm not sure Aaron Boone has the guts to make that switch, to be honest, but he really doesn't have much to lose. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Outfield

Ryan Aguilar, Angels: Aguilar was up in late August for a trip to Toronto as a COVID-19 sub, then returned when rosters expanded and has seen some at-bats to kick off September. He looks like the Angels' fourth outfielder at the moment and doesn't have any kind of prospect pedigree – the 27-year-old was a 31st-round pick of Milwaukee in 2016 – but he put together a solid .280/.427/.517 slash line for Double-A Rocket City with 15 homers and 11 steals in 88 games prior to his initial promotion. Jo Adell certainly hasn't done anything to lock down a starting spot in an outfield corner, either. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Michael Taylor, Royals: It's not every rebuilding club that's willing to give a 31-year-old his umpteenth chance in the majors, but at least Taylor is taking advantage of his. He's had a huge week, recording four multi-hit efforts in his last six starts with three homers and nine RBI. I have zero confidence he'll keep it up for much longer, but he could still have some value as a short-term option – and really, at this point in the season, you probably don't need anything more than short-term help. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: Rostered

Jose Siri, Rays: The 27-year-old's elite glovework has kept him in the lineup for Tampa, but Siri did show flashes of turning his athleticism into offensive production during his minor-league career, and he might be doing the same now in the majors. Over his last 12 games, he's slashing .382/.447/.676 with four doubles, two homers and two steals, and his 26.2 percent strikeout rate during that stretch shows some progress too. This is a guy who hit 16 homers with 24 stolen bases in 94 games for Triple-A Sugar Land last year, remember. I'm not saying this level of production is sustainable over the long haul, but I'm also not ruling out the Rays just stole the next Randy Arozarena from the Astros, either. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 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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