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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

MLB Free Agent Watch 2.0

Wild on Sports
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MLB Free Agent Watch 2.0
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

A month of baseball has gone by, and that makes it a good time for WOS’ second rankings of future free agents. The list will change as players are signed midseason 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
(.328/.378/608) Cano is playing like his usual all-star self, anchoring the Yankees lineup and surprising start. He finishes April with 7 HR and 17 RBI, and still looks like the best second baseman baseball. There has been little word lately on how his new agents will affect negotiations, but I still believe that the Yankees will not allow him to leave the Bronx. He is probably looking for, and deserves, a long-term deal north of $200 million. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 1)

2. Sin-Soo Choo, RF
(.340/.484/.557) Choo has really taken his game to a new level this year, leading the league in OBP and holding his own in center field. His walk rate is not up significantly, as he is taken ball four in 13.6% of his PA, up from an 11.5 career mark. A lot of his OBP spike is coming from a fluky TEN HBP so far this year (his career-high is 14). However, his K% is way down, to 15.6% of PA this year from a career mark of 21.1%. His extra contact thus far has led to more base hits. Whether or not this is a career year, he looks like an elite player and could now be in line for a six or seven-year contract from potential suitors. STOCK UP (previous rank: 2)

3. Chase Utley, 2B (.290/.345/.505) Utley has long been the unsung hero for the Phillies, and had been dogged by injuries the past few years, but right now is healthy and productive. Right now it looks like he has more or less returned to being the best second baseman in the National League, the only downside to his game being reduced range in the field (according to fangraphs.com, he is on pace to have his worst fielding season since his rookie year according to the UZR fielding runs stat—of course, it’s a small one month sample size). On the FA market he’d command a short term contract but one with a high annual salary. STOCK UP (previous rank: NR)

4. Tim Lincecum, RHP (2-1, 3.64 ERA) It has not been a great year for free agent pitchers so far but Lincecum stands out as he’s rebounded from his first few starts and looks like a solid workhorse again, even if he may never again be as good as he was from 2008-2011. Lincecum’s velocity is still down a little but his 9.71 K/9 is spot on for his career mark of 9.76. He walks a lot of batters but if he can continue to fool hitters at such a strong rate he will continue to be a good starter. My guess is he’ll wind up commanding more money than he’s worth, and the Giants will have a tough decision to make by the end of this year. STOCK UP (previous rank: 9)

5. AJ Burnett, RHP (2-2, 2.83) Ladies and gentlemen, your current NL strikeout leader! When Burnett was with the Yankees, he was inconsistent, frequently wild, and overall too much of a project to untangle. The Pirates deserve a lot of credit for believing in his stuff and there may have actually been something to the pundit chatter that New York and the pressure had gotten to Burnett’s head. He’s looking solid for the second straight year, and although he’s in his mid-thirties now a team in a mid-range or smaller market, one that won’t be such a pressure cooker, could do worse than overpay for his services for the next few years. STOCK UP (previous rank: NR)

6. Carlos Beltran, OF (.286/.333/.524) Another solid start providing capable middle-of-the-order power without fanfare. Ho hum. Beltran’s HOF case inches forward as he continues to age well. His defense has been marginal this year but it’s still April, he’ll need a season’s worth of reps in RF before we know if he’s really lost a step. The one red flag is his 6.8% walk rate, which would be the lowest since his rookie year (when he won a ROY award for his troubles). It may be too early, however, to say he’s being less selective than usual; he’s swinging at pitches at the same rate as last year. There’s not much reason to think he can’t due this for at least a few more years. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 6)

7. Ervin Santana, RHP (3-1, 2.00 ERA) Santana is making the Royals look pretty smart right now, as he is putting his terrible 2012 behind him and looks like a different pitcher right now. With just 5 BB in 31 IP, he’s refurnished himself as an extreme control pitcher, on pace to best his career mark of 1.9 BB/9 which he set in 2008. If this is the “new” Santana he’ll command a significant deal as he’s only 31 next year. STOCK UP (previous rank: NR)

8. Phil Hughes, RHP (0-2, 4.67 ERA) Pitching is always in short supply and Hughes will hit the market next year as a 28-year-old with playoff experience and a solid track record. Ignore the bad ERA for now: his 5/25 BB/K ratio in 27 IP indicates a pitcher who can eat up innings in the middle of a rotation. He may be due for a contract similar to what Edwin Jackson received last offseason, as his profile is very similar. Like Jackson, if he doesn’t get a long-term offer he can probably sign an expensive one-year deal with a contender. STOCK UP (previous rank: NR)

9. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP (3-1, 2.79 ERA) Another Yankee! Kuroda is off to another great start in a park that is murder for pitchers. He’s healthy, productive; one of these years the 38-year-old is due to implode but until he does, teams need to assume he’ll provide a quality veteran presence, and oldsters like him can often be bargains since buyers are always wary of those nearing 40. STOCK UP (previous rank: NR)

10. Brian McCann, C (DL) This is what I wrote last time, and nothing has changed: “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.” STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 10)

Honorable Mention: Roy Halladay- Halladay continues to mystify, although his miserable start has turned into more of a roller coaster ride, as he rattled off three straight quality starts, only to give up 8 runs tonight to the Indians in less than 4 innings. His ERA now stands at an unsightly 6.75, but his striking out batters again and it may take another few months before anyone knows what kind of pitcher Halladay is for certain. One thing that it is safe to assume, however: he is no longer worth $20 million, which means he will hit the market at the end of the year.

Others with stock up:
John Buck C, Mark Reynolds 1B

Others with stock down/moved off the rankings: Jacoby Ellsbury OF, Gavin Floyd RHP, Josh Johnson RHP, Mike Morse 1B/OF, Hunter Pence OF

See Version 1.0 Here

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