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. Julio Rodriguez 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 $
Michael KingNYSPC35Rostered
John MeansBALSPCNo14
Sean NewcombOAKSPDNoNo2
Nick PivettaBOSSPC114
Cal QuantrillCLESPC13Rostered
Kenny RosenbergLASPDNoNo3
Touki ToussaintCHISPC125
Ken WaldichukOAKSPC111
Jhony BritoNYRPBNo

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. Julio Rodriguez 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 $
Michael KingNYSPC35Rostered
John MeansBALSPCNo14
Sean NewcombOAKSPDNoNo2
Nick PivettaBOSSPC114
Cal QuantrillCLESPC13Rostered
Kenny RosenbergLASPDNoNo3
Touki ToussaintCHISPC125
Ken WaldichukOAKSPC111
Jhony BritoNYRPBNoNo2
Randy VasquezNYRPBNoNo3
Mason MillerOAKRPBNo14
Bryan ShawCHIRPDNoNo3
Rene PintoTBCC137
Enmanuel ValdezBOS2BDNo14
Josh JungTEX3BA71525
Kevin SmithOAK3BCNoNo2
Zach NetoLASSC137
Jordyn AdamsLAOFCNoNo2
Will BrennanCLEOFCNo1Rostered
Trey CabbageLAOFCNo25
Evan CarterTEXOFB112135
Aaron HicksBALOFCNo14
Jarred KelenicSEAOFB51121
Alex KirilloffMINOFB2511
Edward OlivaresKCOFCNo14
Brett PhillipsLAOFDNoNo1
Nelson VelazquezKCOFC13Rostered

Starting Pitcher

Michael King, Yankees: King continues to pitch extremely well since being stretched out and moved into the rotation, and over his last three outings he's posted a 1.29 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 18:1 K:BB through 14 frames, lasting five innings in each of the last two. The right-hander hasn't been deployed regularly as a starter since about 2019, getting used as a multi-inning reliever for the most part in the majors, but the velocity gains he's shown in the bullpen the last couple years have held up as a starter – in his most recent outing Saturday, King was consistently sitting 95-96 mph with his fastball in his final inning. All the injuries on the New York pretty much ensure the 28-year-old will remain in the rotation the rest of the way, but he's beginning to look like a viable option in 2024 too. 12-team Mixed: $3; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: Rostered

John Means, Orioles: With Cole Irvin now in the bullpen and Means' rehab assignment having run out, the road seems paved for the lefty to rejoin the O's over the final weeks. He's posted a 10:4 K:BB through 10 innings over his last two rehab outings, but given that he hasn't pitched in the majors since April 2022, expectations should be kept low. He isn't even guaranteed to move into the rotation, as manager Brandon Hyde has suggested he'll drop the six-man rotation he's currently running. If he does slot in and stay on turn though, Means would line up for two home starts this week against the Cardinals and Rays. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Sean Newcomb, Athletics: Newcomb is now 30 years old, and he's gone from being an intriguing southpaw prospect who couldn't find the plate consistently to a journeyman reliever who's suited up for three MLB teams over the last two seasons. His stuff keeps earning him chances though, and the A's have decided they have nothing to lose by stretching him out and seeing what he can do as a starter. Saturday's results against the Rangers were promising – he gave up only one hit with a 5:2 K:BB over four innings, his longest big-league appearance since 2020, and both walks came while he was shaking out the jitters in the first inning. Newcomb's track record says he'll implode soon enough, but it's also possible something's finally clicked for him. It shouldn't cost you much to find out. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Nick Pivetta, Red Sox: The veteran righty will move back into the rotation with James Paxton done for the year with a knee injury. Pivetta hasn't exactly earned the assignment though, posting a 5.97 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 28.2 innings since the beginning of August, albeit with a 40:13 K:BB. The Ks are coming at a high cost, but if that's your top priority, Pivetta lines up for a two-step this week, home against the Yankees and on the road in Toronto. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Cal Quantrill, Gurdians: The right-hander's given Cleveland back-to-back quality starts since rejoining the rotation, and it looks like Quantrill's regained at least his 2022 form. His low strikeout upside does limit his appeal in shallower leagues, but in formats that use QS or innings, the 28-year-old claws back some of that lost value. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: Rostered

Kenny Rosenberg, Angels: The 28-year-old is the modern version of a crafty lefty, sitting in the low 90s with his fastball and relying on his command and off-speed pitches to generate weak contact, but that formula worked well enough to get him a quality start against the O's last Monday in his first start of the season. Rosenberg doesn't have a lot of upside, but the Halos also don't have better rotation options over the final weeks. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Touki Toussaint, White Sox: To be clear here, I'm very leery of Toussaint, but GMs looking at the last couple weeks of stats are going to find his name floating to the top. He's won two of his last three starts while posting a 2.76 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 16:8 K:BB through 16.1 innings. Those are very enticing numbers... and they came against the Royals, Tigers and A's. Toussaint now lines up for a two-step this week with home starts against Kansas City and Minnesota, and while the 27-year-old righty could keep shoving, he could also turn back into the guy who had an 8.84 ERA over his prior four outings. The optimal scenario for rostering Toussaint this week is if you need strikeouts and are trying to luck into a win or two, and don't care what happens to your ratios. If you have significant ground you can lose in ERA/WHIP though, he's probably too volatile to roll the dice on. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

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

Ken Waldichuk, Athletics (at HOU, vs. SD)

Relief Pitcher

Jhony Brito / Randy Vasquez, Yankees: Luis Severino is the latest Yankees starter to be lost for the season, so at least one of these guys should move into the rotation in some fashion. (Given that the team's fully looking ahead to 2024, I'd pair them up as a tandem and swap who gets the start each time out so you can get the best look at both, but that's just me.) Brito's most recently pitched more than four innings in the majors, looking good in a five-inning relief stint against the Marlins on Aug. 12, but Vasquez tossed 63 pitches on Aug. 26 over 4.2 frames for Triple-A Scanton/Wilkes-Barre, so he's probably closer to being stretched out enough to last five innings if he gets the nod. He's also got better numbers and a slightly better prospect pedigree, although Brito's 3.92 ERA since the beginning of August is marred by one bad outing – otherwise, he's allowed one run or less in six of his last seven appearances for the Yankees. Until Aaron Boone announces who's getting the nod when, both right-handers are just dart throws, but there's some upside in each. Brito – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2 / Vasquez – 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Mason Miller, Athletics: Miller made his return from the IL on Wednesday and looked great, hitting triple digits with six of his 27 pitches and striking out three over two perfect innings of relief. Oakland intends to keep him in a relief role for the rest of 2023, which does limit his potential for wins, but he could be a very useful ratios-K/9 guy if that's what you need. His keeper/dynasty value remains high, but I do wonder if he would be better off staying in a high-leverage long-relief role, or even closing, given his inability to stay healthy in his career. The A's won't given up on him as a starter just yet, but if you're investing for 2024 and beyond, just be aware that he might never become a pitcher capable of tossing 100 innings in a season. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Bryan Shaw, White Sox: Every season, it seems like one veteran, reliable setup reliever falls into some saves in September in a bullpen that's collapsed into chaos and needs some stability on the back end. That setup men could be Shaw in 2023. Gregory Santos has blown his last three save chances, with the last coming via balk, and that's the kind of disaster it can be tough for a young pitcher to shake off. Shaw, meanwhile, got the save Wednesday and has been scored upon just once in his last nine appearances. The 35-year-old doesn't have premium stuff and has never recorded more than three saves in the season – he's got only 17 in 778 career games – but the White Sox really don't seem to have anyone else trustworthy at the moment. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $3

Catcher

Rene Pinto, Rays: Pinto has stormed into the Rays' plans behind the plate by homering three times in six September games, and over the last week or so he's been starting two games for every one Christian Bethancourt gets. Pinto doesn't have outstanding offensive numbers in the minors, but in a full season's worth of playing time for Triple-A Durham over the last three years, he's slashed .273/.319/.525 with 35 homers in 162 games. Bethancourt's not much of an obstacle, and Pinto's defensive skills seem up to Tampa's usual standards, so there's no real reason the 26-year-old can't hang onto the No. 1 job over the final weeks. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Second Base

Enmanuel Valdez, Red Sox: Valdez has started four straight games at second base and six of the last seven, going 7-for-20 over that stretch with a double and a homer. The 24-year-old has had other flickers of offensive success this season for the Red Sox too, and with the team seven games out of a wild-card spot with 20 to play, Boston's got no reason to hold back on playing time for the 24-year-old. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Third Base

Josh Jung, Rangers: My glance at roster rates indicates too many people cut Jung loose when he fractured his thumb in early August, figuring he wouldn't play much, if at all, the rest of the season. Well, the 25-year-old is already taking batting practice, and manager Bruce Bochy teased the possibility of the 25-year-old rejoining the lineup as soon as this coming weekend's series against the Guardians. There will be some risk if you pick him up – we saw how well Mike Trout's early return from a thumb issue went – but with Texas currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, the team can't afford to get cute. If Jung looks ready, he'll play. 12-team Mixed: $7; 15-team Mixed: $15; 12-team AL: $25

Kevin Smith, Athletics: The A's shuffled their infield once again and drew Smith out of the deck, and he's started three straight games at third base since his latest promotion, going 4-for-11 with a double and a homer. He's also struck out five times of course, and those contact issues are probably never going away, but he's got useful power and a bit of speed if he ever gets the bat on the ball often enough. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Shortstop

Zach Neto, Angels: Neto appears poised to return from his back issues this week, or even Sunday, after going 4-for-13 with two homers at Triple-A on his rehab assignment. (Incidentally, this was the first time he's faced Triple-A pitching, as he jumped straight from Double-A to make his MLB debut in April.) The 22-year-old shortstop will play as much as he's able over the final weeks, and while his .180/.226/.340 slash line in 15 games since the All-Star break isn't encouraging, that stretch came in the brief window between an oblique injury and his back woes. In his 20 May-June games prior to all that, he slashed .276/.377/.552. 12-team Mixed: $1; 15-team Mixed: $3; 12-team AL: $7

Outfield

Jordyn Adams, Angels: Called back up Friday, Adams might find himself in a consistent role down the stretch, albeit only on the short side of a platoon with either Mickey Moniak (if he's healthy) or Brett Phillips in center field, or Trey Cabbage in right. Adams' .270/.348/.472 slash line at Triple-A contains some PCL inflation, but the 23-year-old's 42-for-47 performance on the basepaths highlights his fantasy upside. Pick him up hoping for a handful of steals, and if he chips in other counting stats too, so much the better. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $2

Will Brennan, Guardians: Platoon players, even those on the strong side, are tough to roster in shallower formats due to the playing time and counting stats you lose when they're on the bench. Brennan's hitting well enough to be an exception right now though, batting .426 (20-for-47) over his last 15 games dating back to Aug. 22 with four steals, five RBI and six runs. He doesn't offer much, if any, power, but if you specifically need BA and steals, Brennan could be a better option for you than a full-time player who offers one or the other, but not both. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: Rostered

Trey Cabbage, Angels: Trout's out, Moniak's hurting, Luis Rengifo's done for the year, and Jo Adell's not guaranteed to play again in 2023. The Angels also keep trying to get someone to claim Randal Grichuk on waivers and get them off the hook for whatever's left on his contract, and even Nolan Schanuel's banged up. That all points to Cabbage getting lots of reps down the stretch, at least on the strong side of a platoon if not as a full-time option between the corner OF spots and 1B. The 26-year-old struggled in his first look at the majors, but this is still a guy who nearly posted a 30-30 season at Salt Lake with a .967 OPS. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $2; 12-team AL: $5

Evan Carter, Rangers: The Rangers were apparently contemplating calling Carter up just to inject some life into a sluggish lineup, but the injury to Adolis Garcia made the decision for them. Carter forced his way to the majors by slashing .303/.438/.434 in 32 minor-league games since the beginning of August, but most of that came at Double-A. The 21-year-old is absolutely legit as a prospect, but his ultimate power upside is a still unclear, so his fantasy value in the short term will depend on how often he can get on base and use his speed. Going 1-for-3 with a walk and a steal in his debut Friday was a good sign. 12-team Mixed: $11; 15-team Mixed: $21; 12-team AL: $35

Aaron Hicks, Orioles: Hicks has basically been an everyday player since returning from the IL, going 9-for-21 with a double, a homer and eight RBI in six games while bouncing around the O's outfield. With Cedric Mullins struggling, center field seems like Hicks' clearest path to keeping hold of those ABs, but Baltimore's only four games up on Tampa in the AL East and not yet in a position where they can start resting guys ahead of the postseason, so that playing time isn't guaranteed. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Jarred Kelenic, Mariners: The M's keep saying they'll take their time with Kelenic's recovery, but he's looked fine playing back-to-back days and is slashing .324/.425/.500 on his rehab assignment at Triple-A, so he should be back in Seattle any day now. He had a seven-game hitting streak going when he kicked a water cooler in July and broke his foot, and he should be able to get back into the swing of things quickly. 12-team Mixed: $5; 15-team Mixed: $11; 12-team AL: $21

Alex Kirilloff, Twins: Kirilloff came off the IL on Friday and immediately reclaimed the starting job at first base, although he should platoon with Donovan Solano given his awful numbers on the season against LHP. That might be a good thing for his fantasy prospects, as Kirilloff has a .305/.388/.481 slash line against righties. Oh, and Minnesota faces nothing but right-handed starters this week, so he'll get every opportunity to get into a groove. 12-team Mixed: $2; 15-team Mixed: $5; 12-team AL: $11

Edward Olivares, Royals: I don't know what else Olivares has to do to get a look as a regular member of the lineup. The 27-year-old has four homers in his last five games, and still sat Wednesday and Friday. The Royals really, really want Drew Waters and Kyle Isbel to turn into something despite the evidence so far, and as long as they're wishcasting on athletic guys who can't make consistently good contact, it'll be tough for Olivares to establish himself. On the other hand, he'll probably put up huge numbers whenever he finally winds up with the Rays, which seems inevitable at this point. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: $1; 12-team AL: $4

Brett Phillips, Angels: Phillips has started four straight games in CF in the injury-ravaged Angels outfield, going 4-for-12 with a homer, but that doesn't erase his .622 OPS in nearly a thousand career big-league plate appearances. He should keep getting playing time, but don't expect much production. 12-team Mixed: No; 15-team Mixed: No; 12-team AL: $1

Nelson Velazquez, Royals: The 24-year-old homered in three straight games to begin this past week, and Velazquez is slashing .262/.340/.690 over his last 12 with five long balls and 11 RBI. Kansas City's giving him a look in an everyday role between RF and DH, and while he strikes out enough that a cold spell could be just around the corner, when there's this little time left in the season, there are worse plans than trying to ride a hot streak to the finish line. 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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