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Friday, July 5, 2013

2013-14 MLB Free Agent Rankings 3.0

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2013-14 MLB Free Agent Rankings 3.0
By Wild on Sports Analyst Aaron Dorman

(Stats as of 7/03)

Just past the halfway point in 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. Signings could soon be impacted by the trade market. 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 early July, we still continue listing possible destinations for each player.

1. Robinson Cano, 2b (.299/.376/.541). Another all-star, MVP-caliber season for Cano, ho hum. This year he’s practically holding the entire Yankees offense together all by his lonesome. Although his BA is down from career levels, he’s on pace for career-best HR and BB totals, so even though he’ll be 31 next year, there’s no reason for him not to expect a $200 million dollar contract. From the Yankees? I still think so. Jayson Nix can’t carry a lineup. The Dodgers are theoretically involved but recent rumors indicate they are more enamored with veteran Chase Utley. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 1) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: YANKEES, DODGERS

2. Sin-Soo Choo, of (.270/.419/.456) A recent off month has dragged his numbers down, particularly his batting average, but the newly robust plate discipline keeps his OBP good for second in the league and he’s still playing a tolerable center field, which will at least increase his flexibility (and expand potential suitors). Choo only has 27 RBI out of the leadoff spot and his power numbers could slide away from Great American Ballpark, but an outfielder with all the offensive tools Choo has is still worth top dollar. Like Cano he’ll be 31 next year. Who’s going to come forward this winter with a 5+ year deal? STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 2) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: REDS, METS, MARINERS, CUBS

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, of (.298/.361/.404) Since mid-May, when I called him a “poor man’s Michael Bourn”, Ellsbury has improved to no less than a middle-class man’s Michael Bourn (or just Michael Bourn) as he hit .360 in June. Ellsbury is still showing no power and just average plate discipline, so his value could fluctuate from month-to-month based on his hits on balls in play. His 33-for-36 SB rate is pretty nice, that and his defense, and the legacy of 2011, will keep Ellsbury in line for a crazy contract. The Red Sox, burned by the recent memory of Carl Crawford, are unlikely to keep him. STOCK UP (previous rank: ‘honorable mention’) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: MARINERS, CUBS, GIANTS,

4. Brian McCann, c (.262/.357/.503). The steady and unspectacular McCann has put his injured 2012 behind him and is the underappreciated, power-hitting catcher of old. McCann may never have the power or BABIP spike to be an MVP candidate, or even an all-star in a league with Buster Posey and Yadier Molina, but he could be a long-term solution for a team at catcher. The Braves may be comfortable with Evan Gattis going forward next year, but that’s a big risk on a one-dimensional player. McCann could be the best catcher to change hands via free agency since another Brave, Javy Lopez, signed with the Orioles in 2005. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 3) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: YANKEES, RANGERS, TIGERS

5. Carlos Beltran, of (.304/.345/.539) He’ll be 37 next year, but after three healthy years in a row, it looks like Beltran may have passed the point where he could have predictably declined, due to age, and he could be a reliable power threat in an outfield corner reasonably well into the future a la Raul Ibanez (but better). His walk rate is down, but his power numbers are up; he currently ranks 5th in HR and 7th in Slg %. The fact that Beltran has lost so much speed and athleticism and is STILL a major asset speaks to just how talented he was in his prime, and whoever signs him next is getting a Hall-of-Fame level talent, IMO. Has John Jay’s slump created a window whereupon Beltran re-ups with St. Louis and Oscar Taveras plays in center next year? Such a thing is now possible. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 7) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: CARDINALS, YANKEES, RED SOX, PHILLIES, GIANTS

6. Chase Utley, 2b (.279/.348/.510) Utley’s been on fire since coming back from a brief injury in early June. Over his last 48 AB, Utley has a .674 Slg %. The games he missed point to a player who may never step in for more than 120-130 games a season going forward, but if in that time Utley can hit .280 with power and defense, he’s still arguably the best 2b in the NL when he plays and that means he’s due for a high annual salary over the next few years. If the Phillies don’t trade Utley, is that a sign they will keep him? Hard to say, only because he figures to have several prominent suitors. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 5) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: PHILLIES, DODGERS

7. AJ Burnett, rhp (4-6, 3.13 ERA) Although recently sidelined by injuries, Burnett was the ace of the Pirates’ staff, a team that was the first in baseball to 50 wins. At age 36, his 10.0 K/9 would be a career high and with his stuff still intact, Burnett offers the highest upside of any free agent pitcher…provided he goes someplace where the city environment/media culture doesn’t get to his head. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 4) POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS: BRAVES, ANGELS, DODGERS, BLUE JAYS

8. Tim Lincecum, rhp (4-9, 4.66 ERA)
Since the last ranking, his walks have come down and his component ratios are right in line with 2011…when he won 13 games with a 2.74 ERA. So why is he still struggling so badly? His stuff has declined, for sure. And that’s made him more hittable. But buried under all those base runners is a mid-rotation starter, or perhaps a high-end closer if Lincecum would prefer to dominate there. The Cy Young winner might be gone, but a canny buyer might that what he is is more than good enough, particularly on a one-year deal. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 6) POSSIBLE SUITORS: ANGELS, BRAVES, DIAMONDBACKS, PHILLIES, GIANTS?

9. Hiroki Kuroda, rhp (7-6, 2.95 ERA) Don’t bet against the 39-year-old control artist’s ability to keep flinging strikes and winning ball games until he actually stops doing so. Kuroda, like his current teammate Andy Pettitte, will let nagging injuries and family concerns dictate when he calls it quits, and that also limits his suitors. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 9) POSSIBLE SUITORS: YANKEES, DODGERS, ANGELS

10. Ervin Santana, rhp (5-5, 2.84 ERA) Speaking of strike throwers, Santana is arguably having his best season of an up-and-down career, having turned in the stingiest walk rate of his career thus far at 1.8 BB/9, the first time it’s been under 2.8 since 2008. He might have to keep doing this all year to secure a long-term deal, but don’t put it past Santana who has quietly enjoyed a nice career, reaching the 100-win mark this past month. He still averages 92 mph on his fastball, so his stuff is still in good shape. The Royals have rewarded players like this in the past, so don’t count them out of the bidding. Other interested teams would probably be those looking for a mid-rotation starter to anchor a young and/or unproven and/or inconsistent pitching staff. STOCK HOLDING (previous rank: 8) POSSIBLE SUITORS: ROYALS, PHILLIES, PADRES,…ANGELS?

Honorable Mention: Josh Johnson and Matt Garza
, rhps. These guys have both dealt with significant injuries recently but currently look healthy and are posting solid numbers. Together they represent the best combination of (relative) youth and upside on the market this upcoming winter, but buyer beware: these are not solid bets for 30+ starts. Will one or both accept a one-year, high-salary deal to prove they can maintain a solid stretch of health?

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