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Saturday, May 25, 2013

2013-14 MLB Free Agent Rankings 3.0

Wild on Sports
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2013-2014 MLB Free Agent Rankings 3.0
(stats as of 5/25)
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

A little over a quarter of the way into the season it is time for another Free Agent Ranking. 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. Since it is already late May, now we still start listing possible destinations for each player.

1. Robinson Cano, 2B
(.295/.337/.563) Cano is playing like his usual all-star self, leading the league in Home Runs and anchoring the Yankees lineup and surprising start. The power is nice but his walk rate is a little lower than it’s been in recent years. He should raise his batting average as the season goes on. 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) POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): YANKEES

2. Sin-Soo Choo, RF (.309/.456/.549) Last time I wrote: “Choo has really taken his game to a new level this year, leading the league in OBP and holding his own in center field.” Earlier, in April, he was getting on base largely due to a fluky run of HBPs. However, now his walk rate is a very robust 15.5%, currently the eighth-best mark in baseball, and his OBP is second in the league only to the insanely selective Joey Votto. Choo is on pace for a career high in Home Runs as well. The Reds have shown the ability to spend money, and there is mutual interest in keeping Choo. The only other current ‘obvious’ suitor are the Mets, who will have money (so say the owners) to spend and need an outfielder. Some sportswriters have said Choo is not a “New York kind of player”, but New York also has a sizeable Korean community, near CitiField to boot. The Mariners and Cubs also have a history with Asian players, in the major and/or minor leagues. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 2) POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): REDS, METS, MARINERS, CUBS

3. Brian McCann, C (.229/.349/.486) Well now I feel smart for keeping him on the edge of this list. McCann is off to a nice start after finally coming off the DL in early May, hitting for power and drawing walks. His batting average is low, probably due to the small sample size of AB, but his component ratios are all very close to his career numbers. He’s been consistently among the top catchers in the league and as long as that continues he will be in line for a big contract. That might not come from the Braves, who also have the younger (and cheaper) rookie Evan Gattis on hand, and he showed good power while subbing for McCann. The usual suspects (those without catchers at least) but one dark-horse possibility is the Tigers, if Alex Avila shows his 2011 season was just a career anomaly. STOCK UP (previous rank: 10) POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): YANKEES, RANGERS, TIGERS

4. AJ Burnett, RHP (3-4, 2.57 ERA) Yes, he’s 37 next year. Yes, he’s had an erratic career. But yes, he’s the best pitcher on the market next winter. He still has an above-average fastball that averages over 92 mph and he’s STILL leading the league in strikeouts (79) AND strikeout rate (11.3 K/9). He’s having the best year of his career, but coming off last year’s success, he’s suddenly in line for a contract similar to the one Derek Lowe received several years ago from the Braves. Speak of which, that sounds like a nice fit as a mid-market contender. STOCK UP (previous rank: 7) POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): BRAVES, BLUE JAYS, ANGELS (?), CUBS (??)

5. Chase Utley, 2B
(.276/.335/.481) It doesn’t look like he’ll return to his days as a near-batting champion, but even at 34 he’s still hitting for power and is on pace for a full year at second base. His defensive numbers are back in line with his career-that is, they’re good-and he gets on base enough for his power to matter. Utley is a poor risk long-term but for the next few years he will help a team in more ways than can be seen in traditional batting lines. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 4) POSSIBLE DESTINATION(S): PHILLIES, YANKEES, ORIOLES (?), TIGERS

6. Tim Lincecum, RHP (3-3, 4.70 ERA) It looks like the “new” Lincecum is the one we saw in the second half of last year; his reduced velocity has led to more walks and home runs, but he still has the swing-and-miss stuff to be a third starter, and one with high upside. His ERA is high for now but it is sure to come down; according to fangraphs.com, Lincecum’s “FIP” (fielding independent pitching) is 3.81, which is where his ERA should end up by the end of the year. Last time I said this: “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.” That has not changed STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 6) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: GIANTS, ANGELS, DODGERS, PHILLIES

7. Carlos Beltran, OF (.305/.337/.518) Last time I wrote: “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.” His defensive numbers have normalized and he’s still posting impressive power numbers. The walk rate is very low at 4.7%; he’s still taking pitches (3.47 per plate appearance) so it’s hard to tell what is going on here, other than perhaps a small sample size. It’s still hard to see him going back to the Cardinals when you factor in the presence of Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 5) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: YANKEES, RED SOX, GIANTS, PHILLIES, METS (??)

8. Ervin Santana, RHP (3-4, 3.14 ERA) It looks like he’s figured out a new way to succeed. He’s still allowing lots of Home Runs but he’s not walking any batters (a career-low 1.4 BB/9) and his strikeout rate is solid (back up to 7.5 from a career low 6.7 K/9 last year). His ERA might rise a little bit but his revival reminds me a little bit of Ryan Dempster last year (although his stuff is different). He’ll be in line for a similar contract from someone who needs pitching. The Royals might want another go-round if he helps them to the playoffs. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 8) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: ROYALS, TEAMS WHO NEED PITCHING

9. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP (6-3, 2.67 ERA). Kuroda battles through various ailments to continue to produce excellent numbers for the Yankees. His ERA is especially impressive considering his home park. Two things to worry about: his career-low strikeout rate (5.7) and his .246 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which probably means he’s been a little lucky with where balls are falling. But you don’t need a 2.67 ERA to be valuable. Even if he pitches closer to his 3.6 FIP mark, he’s still a bargain as a veteran who will probably go year-to-year. He’s at the age where suitors are limited to those Kuroda has personal preference for. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 9) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: YANKEES, DODGERS, ANGELS

10. Matt Garza, RHP
(0-0, 0.00 ERA) Garza is a bit of a wild-card on the free agent market, as he still has ace potential but he’s almost 30 and he’s never put everything together. If his first start is an indication, he’s past his health ailments and ready to contribute. He’ll be in another uniform by July and that might affect what team he plays for next year, as well. Even if what we saw in 2010-2011 is as good as Garza gets, he’ll get paid a lot by somebody. STOCK UP (previous rank: NR) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: RANGERS, ORIOLES, YANKEES, BLUE JAYS…TEAMS THAT NEED PITCHING

Honorable Mention: Jacoby Ellsbury, OF. I’ve avoided putting Ellsbury on this list, in part because it’s almost a guarantee he will be overpaid in some ways, both based on his age (29) and his extreme outlier season in 2011 when he hit for power and was an MVP candidate. This year he’s sitting on just one Home Run as he currently looks like Michael Bourn, a speedster with good range in center field but below-average on-base skills and contact ability. He might similar be in line for a long wait to sign with a new team, but as of now somebody will still consider that skill set worth 5+ years.

Others with stock up: Mark Reynolds, Nate McLouth, James Loney

Others with stock down/moved off the rankings:
Roy Halladay RHP, Gavin Floyd RHP, Josh Johnson RHP

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