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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

2013-14 MLB Free Agent Rankings 1.0

Wild on Sports
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2013-2014 Free Agent Rankings 1.0
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

It’s already the second week of baseball, and that makes it a good time to begin WOS’ rankings of future free agents. The list will change as players are signed mid-season or move up or down based on their play. These rankings also assume that certain players will have their option picked up and thus not be eligible for the list, such as Ben Zobrist. Also, as we move into the later part of the season, we’ll also include predictions of where they might end up after the season.

1. Robinson Cano, 2B (.222/.300/.481) Cano is off to a slow start but there’s no reason to think he’ll be anything less his usual all-star self. He might get walked a little more if he’s the only true threat in the lineup, but that won’t affect his numbers that much. He figures to be the only premium free agent next winter. His surprise move to switch agents from Scott Boras to Jay-Z could mean several things. But one obvious interpretation is that he’s looking to maximize a return from the Yankees as opposed to truly testing the market. Jay-Z said it himself: in New York the lights will inspire you. I guess technically the Mets could be in play, but they will have to actually spend money before anyone believes they can. STOCK HOLDING

2. Sin-Soo Choo, RF (.317/.549/.759) Choo’s big start speaks for itself, but there are two big reasons to think that this year will lead to a big contract. First, Choo’s power numbers could get a boost from Great American Ballpark, and second, if he proves he is capable of playing center field, that means any team with money and a hole in the outfield could be bidding for his services. STOCK UP

3. Josh Johnson, RHP (0-0, 4.50) Johnson offers the biggest upside of any free agent pitcher, but he will probably be overpaid considering his health risk. At least Johnson has proven that health, and not performance, is the issue. If he is on the mound, he is a contributor. However, he still has to show if he can return to his pre-2011 levels of dominance. STOCK HOLDING

4. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (.273/.314/.485) That big 2011 looms large in Ellsbury’s statline, as does the missed time in 2010 and 2012. What kind of player is Ellsbury really? His 2012 looks suspiciously like years prior, in that he hit balls into the gaps and stole bases but that home run power that made him an MVP candidate could have been a career-year fluke. He’s off to a decent start, and the fact that he’s healthy is a good sign. STOCK UP

5. Hunter Pence, RF (.280/.333/.680) Pence makes it this far up the list because of his age (30) and steady rate of production. He’s now gone five straight seasons with at least 22 HR and 72 RBI. That said, last year was the worst of his career, as the power and RBI numbers disguise a major decline in contact ability (hits down, strikeouts up). He’ll need to prove that last year’s lower production was an outlier or an effect of adjusting to San Francisco’s pitcher-friendly ballpark. Otherwise he will have a hard time separating himself from the guys lower down on this list. STOCK HOLDING

6. Carlos Beltran, RF (.190/.261/.190) Beltran has always been an underappreciated player, and just like two years ago he figures to be a tremendous bargain as his age will prevent him from getting a massive contract in years or dollars. But despite losing his foot speed and range in the outfield, Beltran is still a very capable hitter and an underrated power threat. He’s not the player he once was, but 32 HR and 97 RBI is invaluable now that league-wide hitting rates have gone down, and he has the track record that everyone else but Cano on this list lacks. STOCK HOLDING

7. Gavin Floyd, RHP (0-1, 3.00) Floyd makes this list because he is durable and dependable, and that’s it. He’s a good pitcher, not a great one, but he’s slightly more interesting than your generic innings eater. Over the last five years, he’s averaged 190 IP, a 4.12 ERA, and a 7.2 K/9. None of those numbers have been trending significantly, either. His health sets him apart and makes him more valuable than a pitcher with higher upside, such as Matt Garza (who is still on the DL). STOCK HOLDING

8. Mike Morse, 1B/OF/DH (.273/.314/.727) If Morse can produce in cavernous Safeco Field, he will command a decent contract. He’s off to a rip-roaring start so far, slugging his sixth HR of the season already tonight. Morse is not a good defensive player and he’ll dance around the corners this year and try not to give away too much in the outfield. But a power bat like his is in scarce supply around the league. STOCK UP

9. Tim Lincecum, RHP (1-0, 4.91) Lincecum is off to a terrible start; he’s allowed 11 walks in 11 innings since the season began, and this was coming off a shaky spring. If this continues, it looks more and more like the Cy Young winner is a distant memory. I still thought going into the year that his 3.84 second-half ERA was a sign that he could still be a mid-rotation asset. If his command and control continue to erode, however, not only is this season a question mark, but what kind of risk would he be worth on the open market? An incentive-laden one-year deal? Some analysts have suggested Lincecum’s diminished stuff and stamina could play up better in the bullpen, so perhaps he could sign with a team to be a closer? This bears watching. STOCK DOWN

10. Brian McCann, C (DL) McCann will not play until late April or May, but as someone with an all-star track record at a premium position, he is still someone to keep an eye on. Hopefully when he comes back he will be over the problems that led to a down year last season. Before that, he was an underrated player, as his consistent overall game made him one of the best catchers in the league. Raise your hand if you knew he’d hit 20 HR in six out of the last seven seasons? He’s still young enough (29) to return to being the .280/.350/.475 player he was pre-injury, and that’s worth a decent contract.

Honorable Mention: Roy Halladay, RHP What’s going to happen to Halladay? Before the season it was hard to imagine that Philadelphia wouldn’t keep him, even for $20 million, but right now it’s looking like he might be out of baseball by this time next year. It’s still early, of course, and I have a hard to believing Halladay is done, even with diminished velocity, but if he’s so bad that Philadelphia doesn’t keep him, what will his value be on the free agent market?

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