2015 Free Agent Power Rankings

The trade deadline will be upon us next week, but the 2014-15 free agent class still warrants an early look.  My June edition of the 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings can be found here, and the full list of 2015 free agents is here.

1.  Max Scherzer.  Scherzer overcame a midseason hiccup by posting a 1.87 ERA over his last five starts, bringing him back down to 3.34 on the season.  He even picked up the win for the American League in the All-Star Game.  It’s been a long time since agent Scott Boras has had a starting pitcher of this caliber as a free agent.

2.  Jon Lester.  Lester isn’t far behind Scherzer, having allowed three earned runs in 38 2/3 innings since our last set of rankings.  Lester owns a 2.50 ERA as well as superb timing, and he’s been better than Scherzer this year.  Lester hasn’t whiffed this many batters since 2010, and he’s never shown this level of control.  Accounting for performance prior to this year, I still give Scherzer the overall edge.  Around late June the Red Sox looked to reignite extension talks with Lester, but the pitcher did not receive a new offer and continues to prefer to table discussions until after the season.  With the Red Sox slipping in the standings of late, Lester could be traded by the July 31st deadline and freed of a qualifying offer.

3.  Hanley Ramirez.  Ramirez’s shoulder and calf have been bothering him, and he’s been hit by pitches three times this month.  The 30-year-old avoided the DL and continues to hit well.  On the other hand, he’s giving back some runs in the field, and defensive question marks are enough to push him down a few spots in the rankings.

4.  James Shields.  With a 4.39 ERA since May, Shields has failed to keep pace with Lester.  Still, Shields’ 2014 peripheral stats are mostly better than last year’s, which led to a 3.15 ERA.  The Royals also seem to be hanging around contention enough that they won’t give serious consideration to trading the big righty.  With a new contract that will begin with his age-33 season, Shields will be difficult to price in free agency.

5.  Pablo Sandoval.  As of May 13th, Sandoval’s OPS was down to .554.  He’s at .903 since then, with a .335/.370/.533 line in 230 plate appearances.  Just 28 in August, Sandoval has age on his side relative to most free agents.

6.  Nelson Cruz.  Cruz has stumbled since our last set of rankings, hitting .229/.282/.422 in 117 plate appearances.  He still ranks second in all of baseball in home runs and RBI, and could top his career-high of 33 longballs at some point in August.  Cruz is another tough free agent to price, as teams will be buying into his age 34-36 seasons (and perhaps age 37, if things go well for the slugger).

7.  Victor Martinez.  V-Mart’s resurgent contract year has continued unabated.  Though he’ll be 36 in December, Martinez’s goal might be a three-year pact.  On June 29th, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that while there have been no extension discussions, Martinez would love to remain in Detroit.  One complication for the Tigers is that Miguel Cabrera is signed through 2023 and will probably need to move to DH at some point.

8.  Yasmani Tomas.  A new entrant to this list, Tomas is a different kind of potential free agent.  As Ben Badler of Baseball America explained on June 20th, Tomas left Cuba to pursue an MLB contract but still has to clear the usual hurdles before he’s free to sign.  A 23-year-old corner outfielder, Badler pegs Tomas’ raw power as a 70.  It seems possible Tomas’ actual free agency will coincide with the MLB offseason.  Jose Abreu‘s dazzling debut has made his $68MM contract look like a bargain, which should help Tomas score big.  It’s worth noting that Tomas isn’t said to be as polished as Abreu and likely doesn’t have the same ceiling.  He is younger, however, which helps his cause.

9.  Melky Cabrera.  Cabrera, 29, is hitting .305/.352/.463 on the season.  His ties to Biogenesis cloud the picture, but his injury-shortened 2013 might end up being Cabrera’s only poor season in his last four.

10.  Russell Martin.  Perhaps Martin can’t maintain his .271 batting average, but he’s in the midst of another solid campaign and doesn’t turn 32 until February.  Teams are also placing more and more emphasis on catching defense, and Martin has gunned down 37 percent of attempted base-stealers while ranking sixth in extra strikes added via pitch framing, per Baseball Prospectus.

This month’s Kenta Maeda watch: the 26-year-old Japanese righty is down to a 2.08 ERA in 15 starts.  Ervin Santana has been decent of late.  Jason Hammel was traded to Oakland and has seen his ERA rise from 2.98 to 3.35 after two starts.  Josh Beckett returns from a DL stint for a hip injury tonight.

You likely won’t find a reliever cracking the top 10, but closers David Robertson, Francisco Rodriguez, Casey Janssen and Rafael Soriano have been excellent, while Luke Gregerson and Andrew Miller have been lights out in a setup capacity.

Among position players, Chase Headley, who earlier today was traded to the Yankees, is still not showing any power (though perhaps a move to the hitter-friendly parks of the AL East can change that).   Colby Rasmus was placed in something of a platoon role earlier this month.   Nick Markakis leads MLB in plate appearances and has been useful this year.  Aramis Ramirez, who like Markakis has a mutual option on his deal, is having a nice year at the plate as well.  Stephen Drew‘s bat has started to come alive this month after his late start to the season, while Kendrys Morales is hitting .295/.319/.432 over an 11-game hitting streak.  Neither Boras client has very appealing overall numbers.  Both Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Morse have dropped off the list after sluggish performances since our last edition of the rankings.  A strong finish could put either back onto the map.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


31 Responses to 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings Leave a Reply

  1. mauryfeldman 12 months ago

    Awful. Worst free agent crop ever?

    • WhoKilledTheRallyMonkey 12 months ago

      Scherzer, Shields and Lester are better than any of the starters, excluding Tanaka, that were available last off-season.

    • letsgogiants 12 months ago

      The off-season of 2012-13 was much worse, IMO.

  2. letsgogiants 12 months ago

    Was Boras’ last premier starting pitcher Barry Zito?

    • I think so.

      • letsgogiants 12 months ago

        I’m surprised Boras doesn’t have more premier pitchers as his clients; especially those who hit the free agent market. Is this just coincidental? Or does Boras have a personal preference for position players since they make more money?

        • Marc Nash 11 months ago

          Matty Harvey is signed with Boras. He will likely cash in big time down the road

      • Mike1L 12 months ago

        Depends on whether you consider Kyle Lohse premier.

        • letsgogiants 12 months ago

          He has put up spectacular numbers over the past 3 and a half seasons, though he couldn’t quite net a premier contract due to a draft pick being attached to his asking price as well as inconsistencies before 2011.

  3. Matt 12 months ago

    It will just get worse and worse every year. Teams lock up their stars earlier now. You can get a stud, but he’s going to be in his 30’s and overpriced.

  4. Shane Flannagan 12 months ago

    Cubs got to sign either Scherzer or Lester. Its looking like there is a good chance Bryant, Baez, and Soler are going to be on the team next year and when you had those 3 to the lineup and they produce like we hope they do, then they have a chance to be contenders.

    • CJ 12 months ago

      Wow that seems just so incredibly unlikely. CHC realistically might be ready to contend in 2016 at the earliest. None of those guys will even be called up until after the Super 2 date (IE June).

      • Matt 12 months ago

        I agree about signing the pitching, but there is an indication that the cubs are more concerned with team control years than super 2. Bryant may be up a couple of weeks into 2015

        • I agree with this…I think Bryant will be in the bigs somewhere between April 15 and May 15 next year, with the Cubs not minding the extra millions for Super Two after the 2017 season.

      • Shane Flannagan 12 months ago

        First off, its not unlikely because its rare now days you get a possible ace on the free agent market and the Cubs have money to spend so here’s their chance. 2nd, I have hear that theres a good chance Soler is a September call up this year if he stays healthy rest the way. 3rd, there is no question Baez and Bryant is ready now and I hear there is a good chance they will be coming out of spring training with the big league team

  5. Brian McKeever 12 months ago

    What about Adam LaRoche? His mutual option will likely be declined as the Nats want to move Ryan Zimmerman over to first next year. LaRoche is having a decent offensive season and is a demon with the glove.

  6. tune-in for baseball 12 months ago

    Regarding Victor Martinez,a 3 year deal would be very doable in Detroit. Cabrera can play 1st base for at least the next 3 years. V Mart does and will challenge everyone to play at their highest level with his leadership and discipline. Even with some regression, he should still hit over 300 with 80+RBI. Miggy played the field last year with injuries that would have put mere mortals on the DL.

  7. TruthTeller 12 months ago

    Lester should be ranked ahead of Scherzer… Lester has made his living pitching in a much more difficult AL East, has stellar postseason numbers and over his last 5 starts has a sub-1 ERA and a sub-1 WHIP. His record doesn’t indicate how good he’s been this year because the Red Sox offense has been inept for a majority of the season. Scherzer is at 3.34 ERA, Lester is almost a full run better at 2.50…. It goes on and on IF you look at the numbers. People are ga-ga over Scherzer because he had one great year… Lester has been putting up good numbers over his entire career and again, in a much, much more difficult division.

    • WhoKilledTheRallyMonkey 12 months ago

      While a case can be made for ranking either at #1 pointing to Lester’s current 2.50 ERA, which is more than a run lower than his career ERA, is exactly the same as going “ga-ga over Scherzer because he had one great year.” Lester and Scherzer actually have very similar career numbers and Shcerzer is a bit younger.

      • TruthTeller 12 months ago

        That shows how good of a year Lester is having… People that don’t watch all of his starts say no because of the win %… It’s not his fault the offense hasn’t shown up this year.
        Are the rankings based on what these players or doing This year, or last year? Max was better last year. Lester is better this year. Lester has the better overall career. I think that puts him ahead of everyone on this list…

        • vtadave 12 months ago

          Very few people these days would say that simply due to winning percentage. Folks have gotten a lot smarter on pitching evaluation. I would think these rankings would be based on what Tim would expect these guys to do in their next contract, not what they have done this year and in the past.

    • I think there’s a case for it, but I still like Scherzer over Lester currently. Scherzer has been a big strikeout guy since 2012, but Lester was pretty average in that regard in the two years prior to this one. Scherzer having six months on Lester age-wise doesn’t matter too much for me.

      • TruthTeller 12 months ago

        Lester is having the better year.. Fewer ER, HR, BB. Better ERA, WHIP, Hits per 9, BB per 9. You seem to put a lot of stock into strikeouts, Max only has 8 more then Lester.

        Their career WIN% is identical (with Scherzer having fewer starts. Conceivably, Max should have a higher %). Career ERA is nearly identical, 3.64 for Max and 3.65 for Lester. Lester has 10 complete games, Max has 1. Lester has hardware, Max doesn’t.

        Lester by far has the more impressive career; he’s having a better year this year, and done it all in the toughest division in Baseball. Not trying to take anything away from Max, but with the year Lester is having, he should be atop the rankings.

        • hediouspb 12 months ago

          and he’s left handed. i’ll take the lefty before i’d take the better year last year. lester will look good in pinstripes…

  8. KJ4realz 12 months ago

    I actually think this is a pretty decent top 10 FA. There have definitely been worse classes and I do agree that it’s going to be worse and worse now that players are signing extensions before they hit FA.

    Definitely a decent pitchers market.

  9. Andrew m 12 months ago

    Philly better pursue the 23 year old Cuban outfielder. I need a reason to watch them and honestly anything over dom Brown and Revere has got to be an improvement. Make it happen rube.

  10. bobbleheadguru 12 months ago

    Regarding VMART and Cabrera:

    According to Fangraphs, Miguel Cabrera is the #1 Defensive 1st baseman in the AL.

    He did need to make the move from 3rd base to 1st base. However, he should have no problem at 1st base indefinitely.

  11. bobbleheadguru 12 months ago

    Wonder if Tigers feel like it was a blessing in disguise that they did not lock up Scherzer. Porcello is pitching very well and the Verlander contract may be an albatross that they have learned from. If Ray becomes a solid #4, they may be fine with Anibal as their best pitcher.

  12. JacobyWanKenobi 11 months ago

    Tomas seems like the exact player NY needs to be going after once their infeild is taken care of. Of course that depends on what Beltran’s throwing arm is like and if the DH spot isn’t clogged.

  13. Mickey Jennifer Wind 11 months ago

    Mets should be in on both Tomas and Melky. With CY coming off the books, as well as Dice-K and a probable move of Colon, the Mets should be in position to afford one of them. Mets will also be in on Cabrera or Drew again. Both have plus side to them and should have price drop considering competition in the market that is above them. I would be shocked to see the Mets reach higher than Cabrera for SS.

  14. Mickey Jennifer Wind 11 months ago

    Mets should be in on both Tomas and Melky. With CY coming off the books, as well as Dice-K and a probable move of Colon, the Mets should be in position to afford one of them. Mets will also be in on Cabrera or Drew again. Both have plus side to them and should have price drop considering competition in the market that is above them. I would be shocked to see the Mets reach higher than Cabrera for SS.

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