2016 MLB Free Agency Preview: Position Players

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

The 2015 MLB season may have just ended, but free agency is about to begin. Here’s a quick look at the top players available at each position, with their 2015 statistics, and statistics over the last three seasons. A list of free agent pitchers will come out later this week.

Catchers

Matt Wieters – 29-years-old

2015: 8 HRs, 0 SBs, .267 Ave, .319 OBP, .422 SLG, 23 K%, 7 BB%, 1.0 WAR

2013-2015: 35 HRs 2 SBs .253 .302 .428 19% 7% 4.4 WAR

Pretty easily the best catcher on the market, Wieters is younger, one of the strongest catchers in baseball defensively, and is a relatively predictable bat. The one concern is his injury history, but 75 games in 2015 was a step in the right direction for his recovery.

AJ Pierzynski – 38

2015: 9 HRs, 0 SBs, .300, .339, .430, 8%, 4%, 2.1 WAR

2013-2015: 31 HRs, 0 SBs, .276, .308, .403, 12%, 3%, 2.9 WAR

Based on last year’s numbers alone, Pierzynski would be the best option out here. He cut his strikeout rate way down, and the 38-year-old continued to do work behind the plate (He played 107 games there last season). As a one-year fix, a team could do a lot worst than Pierzynski, but I couldn’t imagine him as anything more.

Dioner Navarro – 31

2015: 5 HRs, 0 SBs, .246, .307, .374, 15%, 9%, 0.5 WAR

2013-2015: 30 HRs, 3 SBs, .276, .328, .417, 14%, 7%, 4.6 WAR

Navarro’s counting numbers took a hit last season when Toronto signed Russell Martin to be their everyday backstop, and 2014 was really his only season as a full time player, but he looked like a strong offensive catcher when he was out there, and played good defense as well.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia – 30

2015: 9 HRs, 0 SBs, .225, .310, .435, 30%, 10%, 0.9 WAR

2013-2015: 34 HRs, 4 SBs, .243, .325, .421, 31%, 10%, 5.8 WAR

After signing a big contract before the 2014 season, Saltalamacchia was cut by the Marlins nine games into 2015. His main problem is his predictably high strikeout rate, but he is an average defender behind the plate and could thrive in a homer-friendly park.

John Jaso – 32

2015: 5 HRs, 1 SB, .286, .380, .459, 18%, 13%, 0.7 WAR

2013-2015: 17 HRs, 5 SBs, .272, .364, .421, 17%, 11%, 3.5 WAR

Jaso is your typical part-time catcher. He gets the job done on offense, and isn’t a liability defensively.

Geovany Soto – 32

2015: 9 HRs, 0 SBs, .219, .301, .406, 30%, 10%, 1.1 WAR

2013-2015: 19 HRs, 1 SB, .235, .312, .421, 29%, 10%, 2.4 WAR

Soto hasn’t played in 100 games since the 2011 season, and has been on 4 teams in the last 4 years. Can’t imagine he’s in high demand.

Chris Iannetta – 32

2015: 10 HRs, 0 SBs, .188, .293, .335, 26%, 13%, 0.5 WAR

2013-2015: 28 HRs, 3 SBs, .223, .344, .368, 25%, 15%, 5.5 WAR

Iannetta’s always been a much better hitter against lefties, and could be signed as part of a platoon behind the plate.

Alex Avila – 28

2015: 4 HRs,0 SBs, .191, .339, .287, 30%, 18%, 0.3 WAR

2013-2015: 26 HRs 0 SBs, .216, .326, .351, 31%, 13%, 3.1 WAR

Avila’s had one really good season in the past but nothing else. Batting .191 with a .287 slugging is pretty inexcusable.

Corner Infield

Chris Davis – 29

2015: 47 HRs, 2 SBs, .262 AVE, .361 OBP, .562 SLG, 31 K%, 12 BB%, 5.6 WAR

2013-2015: 126 HRs, 8 SBs, .252 AVE, .347 OBP, .544 SLG, 31 K%, 11 BB%, 13.4 WAR

There are only two real power hitters available in this year’s free agent class, and Davis– who bounced back with an absurd second half–makes Cespedes look like a joke.

Juan Uribe – 36

2015: 14 HRs, 2 SBs, .253, .320, .417 20%, 8%, 1.9 WAR

2013-2015: 35 HRs, 7 SBs, .281, .329, .432, 19%, 6%, 10.5 WAR

It feel’s like he’s been in the league forever, but somehow, Juan Uribe is still only 36. He can still flash the leather better than most at the hot corner, and is extremely competent on offense as well (he batted .311 just one season ago). No fan is going to be thrilled when their team signs him, but know that you’re getting consistency and leadership for a good price.

Justin Morneau – 34

2015: 3 HRs 0 SBs .310 .363 .458 13% 7%, 0.5 WAR

2013-2015: 37 HRs 0 SBs .290 .345 .452 14% 7%, 3.8 WAR

Morneau had one resurgent season in Colorado followed by a subpar one filled with injuries. It’s hard to know how much of his success was caused by playing in Coors, or how many game’s his body will be able to withstand next season.

Mike Napoli – 34

2015: 18 HRs, 3 SBs, .224 .324 .410 25% 12%, 0.7 WAR

2013-2015: 58 HRs 7 SBs .245 .352 .440 28% 13%, 6.9 WAR

Five seasons ago Napoli broke out by hitting 30 home runs and batting .320 in 113 games. He’s never come close to that same production, and in 2015 hit less than 20 homers the first time since 2008. Solid defense at first though, so that’s something.

David Freese – 32

2015: 14 HRs 1 SB .257 .323 .420 23% 6%, 2.2 WAR

2013-2015: 33 HRs, 3 SBs, .260 .328 .394 22% 7%, 3.9 WAR

Outside of one unprecedented playoff run, Freese hasn’t done anything to prove he’s a valuable baseball commodity. His defense is lacking, and he’s got limited offensive upside when considering his poor strikeout to walk rate.

Steve Pearce – 32

2015: 15 HRs 1 SB .218 .289 .422 21% 7%, – 0.3 WAR

2013-2015: 40 HRs 7 SBs .258 .339 .482 20% 9%, 6.1 WAR

Pearce didn’t come close to matching his breakout second half of 2014. While the power was still there, he dropped 75 points of batting average and had a lowered walk rate. He was able to accumulate innings at first, second and in the outfield, so although his defense isn’t great, his versatility could be seen as an asset.

Kyle Blanks – 29

2015: 3 HRs 1 SB .313 .352 .458 28% 5%, 0.8 WAR
2013-2015: 13 HRs 2 SBs, .264 .328 .410 27% 7%, 1.7 WAR

Blanks has never played more than 88 games in a seasons (back in 2013), and has played 44 total games the last two season. Not really much to see here, but the class gets even thinner after this.

Middle Infield

Ian Desmond – 30

2015: 19 HRs, 13 SBs, .233 AVE, .290 OBP, .384 SLG, 29K%, 7BB%, 1.7 WAR

2013-2015: 63 HRs, 58 SBs, .258, .311, .423, 26%, 7%, 10.5 WAR

Desmond had a really disappointing season in 2015. Not only was his usually superb defense below average, he somehow struck out more than usual, and failed to reach 20 homers or steals for the first time since 2011. Before 2015, he was one of the most consistent shortstops in baseball, so it’s hard to know if it was just a small blip during a down year for his team as a whole, or the sign of more struggles to come.

Howie Kendrick – 32

2015: 9 HRs, 6 SBs, .295, .336, .409, 16%, 5%, 2.1 WAR

2013-2015: 29 HRs 26 SBs, .295, .340, .414, 16%, 5%, 9.4 WAR

Kendrick pretty much did what he always does last season, matching his 3-year average in homers, average, and both strikeout and walk rate. He only played 117 games however, and his defense wasn’t as good as usual, so he could be showing some wear and tear headed into his year 33 season.

Daniel Murphy – 30

2015: 14 HRs, 2 SBs, .281, .322, .449, 7%, 6%, 2.5 WAR

2013-2015: 36 HRs, 38 SBs, .285, .324, .420, 11%, 5.4%, 8.1 WAR

After his defensive meltdown in the World Series, it might be a stretch to consider Murphy a middle infielder going forward, and chances are he’ll play third or first base for his new team next year. He’s still a very valuable offensive asset though, with a high contact rate and mid-teens power.

Asdrubal Cabrera – 29

2015: 15 HRs, 6 SBs, .265, .315, .430, 19%, 6%, 2.2 WAR

2013-2015: 43 HRs, 25 SBs, .249, .307, .405, 19%, 7%, 4.2 WAR

Bad defense, but Cabrera is still an adequate contributor for a team looking for a small lineup boost.

Chase Utley – 36

2015: 8 HRs, 4 SBs, .212, .286, .343, 15%, 7%, 0 WAR

2013-2015: 37 HRs, 22 SBs, .259, .328, .413, 14%, 8%, 8.3 WAR

Utley’s batting average plummeted in 2015. While you could say he got unlucky with BABIP all year, you could also point to his age or his injury history. Someone will trust him enough to give out a three-year deal thought.

Alexei Ramirez – 34

2015: 10 HRs, 17 SBs, .249, .285, .357, 11%, 5%, -0.5 WAR

2013-2015: 31 HRs, 68 SBs, .269, .301, .382, 11%, 4%, 5.8 WAR

Jimmy Rollins – 36

2015: 13 HRs, 12 SBs, .224, .285, .358, 15%, 8%, 0.2 WAR

2013-2015: 36 HRs, 62 SBs, .254, .310, .366, 15%, 9%, 5.6 WAR

Rollins and Ramirez are pretty similar players at this point of their careers. Rollins no longer possesses the elite power that differentiated him from other short stops, and both players have been declining defensively. I think I give Ramirez the slight edge because of his age, but neither player is particularly exciting anymore.

Stephen Drew – 32

2015: 17 HRs, 0 SBs, .201, .271, .381, 16%, 8%, 0.2 WAR

2013-2015: 37 HRs, 7 SBs, .213, .288, .386, 22%, 9%, 2.6 WAR

Drew’s a second baseman that good for defense and mid-teens power. Don’t expect anything more.

Outfielders

Jason Heyward – 26

2015: 13 HRs, 23 SBs, .293 Ave, .359 OBP, .439 SLG 14 K%, 9 BB%, 6.0 WAR

2013-2015: 38 HRs 45 SBs, .274 Ave .353 OBP, .416 SLG, 15% K rate 10% BB rate 14.7 WAR

Heyward is undoubtedly the best position player on the market this year. At only 26-years-old, he brings elite defense, the ability to get on base consistently and power upside. He isn’t a franchise-altering talent, but is a really solid player that still has room to grow.

Yoenis Cespedes – 30

2015: 35 HRs, 7 SBs, .291 Ave, .328 OBP, .542 SLG, 20%, 5%, 6.7 WAR

2013-2015: 83 HRs, 21 SBs .265 .309 .481 21%, 5%, 12.4 WAR

Cespedes finally reached his full potential in the second half of the season, hitting over 30 home runs for the first time in his career and bringing his average close to 300. He still strikes out, and is reckless at times in the outfield, but his power can’t be ignored.

Justin Upton – 28

2015: 26 HRs, 19 SBs, .251, .336, .454, 25%, 11%, 3.6 WAR

2013-2015: 82 HRs, 35 SBs, .262, .344, .470, 25%, 10%, 10.6 WAR

Upton ‘s strike out rate is still way too high, and his average/on base percentage dropped a lot in Petco. Still, he’s a pretty safe bet to hit 25 homes with speed, but there’s a lot more to be desired from a guy with his potential.

Alex Gordon – 31

2015: 13 HRs, 2 SBs, .271, .355, .432, 21%, 11%,  2.8 WAR

2013-2015: 52 HRs, 25 SBs, .267, .348, .428, 20%, 9%, 13.1 WAR

Gordon is one of the games best defenders and is an underrated offensive weapon.

Ben Zobrist – 34

2015: 13 HRs, 3 SBs, .276, .359, .450, 10%, 11%, 2.1 WAR

2013-2015: 35 HRs 24 SBs, .274, .356, .413, 12%, 11%, 12.6 WAR

Zobrist should be on every team’s radar. He plays average defense at every position, rarely strikes out and draws walks at a high level. He could be a leadoff man on almost any team, and with his versatility would help any struggling squad, or one that lacked depth.

Denard Span – 31

2015: 5 HRs, 11 SBs, .301, .365, .431, 9%, 9.5%, 1.4 WAR

2013-2015: 14 HRs, 62 SBs, .292, .345, .404, 10%, 7%, 8.8 WAR

Span’s career took off in Washington. He became a dangerous leadoff guy who puts the ball in play a lot. The one concern is the injury that limited him to 61 games in 2015.

Dexter Fowler – 29

2015: 17 HRs, 20 SBs, .250, .346, .411, 22%, 12%, 3.2 WAR

2013-2015: 37 HRs, 50 SBs, .262, .361, .406, 21%, 12%, 6.7 WAR

Although he strikes out, his ability to draw a walk made him a valuable leadoff guy for the Cubs in 2015, where he experienced career highs is homers and stolen bases.

Gerardo Parra – 28

2015: 14 HRs, 14 SBs, .291, .328, .452, 15%, 5%, 0.4 WAR

2013-2015: 33 HRs, 33 SBs, .273, .320, .408, 16% ,6%, 5.0 WAR

If given the chance, I think Parra could be a good everyday player. He’s extremely underrated, and his only flaw really is his inability to draw walks.

Nori Aoki – 33

2015: 5 HRs, 14 SBs, .287, .353, .380 6%, 7%, 1.5 WAR

2013-2015: 14 HRs, 51 SBs, .286, .353, .369, 7%, 8%, 5.3 WAR

The best thing about Aoki is he never strikes out, making him a strong leadoff guy.

Austin Jackson – 28

2015: 9 HRs, 17 SBs, .267, .311, .385, 23%, 5%, 2.3 WAR

2013-2015: 25 HRs, 45 SBs, .265, .319, .382, 22%, 7%, 6.3 WAR

Jackson still hasn’t really lived up to lofty expectations. He came onto the scene with 27 stole bases in 2010, and peaked with 16 home runs in 2012, but his inconsistent batting average has made him an unreliable offensive contributor so far in his career.

Colby Rasmus – 29

2015: 25 HRs, 2 SBs, .238, .314, .475, 31%, 9%, 2.8 WAR

2013-2015: 65 HRs, 6 SBs, .248, .315, .476, 31%, 8 % 8.8 WAR

Rasmus’ problem has always been plate discipline, but he’s and average defender with some power.

Marlon Byrd – 38

2015: 23 HRs, 2 SBs, .247, .290, .453, 26%, 5%, 1.0 WAR

2013-2015: 72 HRs, 7 SBs .268, .313, .469, 27%, 5%, 7.2 WAR

Byrd has played for nine teams in his 13-year career, and has been anything but consistent in his offensive game.   Now, he seems pretty set as power-hitting guy who will strike out a lot but also drives in runs.

Chris Young – 32

2015: 14 HRs, 3 SBs, .252, .320, .453, 20% 8% 1.2 WAR

2013-2015: 37 HRs 21 SBs .224 .299 .405 21% 9% 2.1 WAR

Rajai Davis – 35

2015: 8 HRs, 18 SBs, .258, .306,. .440, 20% 6% 1.8 WAR

2013-2015: 22 HRs, 99 SBs, .268 .313 .405 18% 5% 4.3 WAR

Alex Rios – 34

2015: 4HRs, 9SBs, .255, .287. 353 16% 3% .2 WAR

2013-2015: 26 HRs, 68 SBs, .273 .310 .401 16% 5%

Ryan Raburn – 34

2015: 8 HRs, 0 SBs, .301 .393 .543 21% 11% 1.4 WAR

2013-2015: 28 HRs 0 SBs, .257 .335 .465 23% 9%

Alejandro De Aza – 31

2015: 7 HRs, 7 7 SBs, .262 .33 .422 23% 8% 1.2 WAR

2013-2015: 32 HR 44 SBs .259 .322 .402 22% 7% 5.4 WAR

Will Venable – 33

2015: 6 HRs, 16 SBs, .244, .320, .350, 24%, 9%, 1.2 WAR

2013-2015: 36 HRs, 49 SBs, .247, .306, .394, 23%, 7%, 5 WAR

Chris Denorfia – 35

2015: 3 HRs 0 SBs, .269, .319, .373, 24%, 6%, 0.8 WAR

2013-2015: 16 HRs, 20 SBs, .261, .316, .366, 19%, 7%, 4.8 WAR

Justin Maxwell – 31

2015: 7 HRs, 2 SBs, .209, .275, .341, 27%, 7%, 0.5 WAR

2013-2015: 14 HRs, 8 SBs, .224, .295, .371, 30%, 7%, 0.5 WAR

David Murphy – 34

2015: 10 HRs, 0 SBs, .283, .318, .421, 12%, 5%, 0.3 WAR

2013-2015: 31 HRs, 3 SBs, .253, .305, .392, 12%, 7%, 0.1 WAR

Kelly Johnson – 33

2015: 14 HRs, 2 SB, .265, .314, .435, 24%, 7%, 0.3 WAR

2013-2015: 37 HRs, 11 SBs, .239, .305, .405, 24%, 8%, 2.0 WAR

Shane Victorino – 34

2015: 1 HRs, 7 SBs, .230, .308, .292, 15%, 7%, 0.0 WAR

2013-2015: 18 HRs, 30 SBs, .250, .333, .404, 14%, 5%, 6.0 WAR

Drew Stubbs – 31

2015: 5 HRs, 5 SBs, .195, .283, .382, 42%, 10%, -0.1 WAR

2013-2015: 30 HRs, 42 SB, .251, .316, .413, 32%, 8%, 3.3 WAR

David Dejesus – 35

2015: 5 HRs, 3 SB, .233, .297, .330, 16%, 6%, -0.3 WAR

2013-2015: 19 HRs, 8 SBs, .244, .322, .379, 17%, 8%, 2.2 WAR

Matt Joyce – 31

2015: 5 HRs, 0 SBs, .174, .272, .291, 23%, 10%, -1.4 WAR

2013-2015: 32 HRs, 9 SBs, .228, .324, .376, 21%, 12%, 2.4 WAR

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