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2022 Top 50 Free Agents

Welcome to perhaps the most uncertain edition of FanGraphs’ annual top-50 free-agent rankings. In past years, luminaries like Dave Cameron, Kiley McDaniel, and Craig Edwards have helmed this exercise. This year, I’ve enlisted a little help from my friends to fill their shoes.

Below, I’ve ranked the top 50 free agents and provided contract estimates for each of them. For the top 25 players, I’ve also written some short commentary, alternately about their potential suitors and what makes them enticing. Devan Fink, Brendan Gawlowski, Kevin Goldstein, Jay Jaffe, Eric Longenhagen, Dan Szymborski, and Jon Tayler have provided their own breakdowns for each player in the top 50 (with me chipping in for a few guys at the end), focusing mainly on the players themselves rather than their market.

Players are ranked in the order that I prefer them. That’s often the same as ranking them in contract order, but not always. In some cases, I’d prefer a player who I expect will get less money over one who stands to make more. I’ll generally make note of that in the accompanying comment, but just to reiterate, the list isn’t exclusively ordered by descending average annual value, or total dollars, or anything of that sort. All dollar amounts are estimated guarantees. Plenty of contracts in the bottom half of this list could end up with team options tacked on, but those aren’t included in these estimates. Some players in the top 10 could end up with opt outs, which also aren’t included. Unless otherwise noted, all projections are Steamer 2022 projections. The listed ages indicate the age-season the player is about to play.

We’ve made a note of which players received a Qualifying Offer, which is worth $18.4 million this year. Teams had five days after the World Series to make those offers, after which time players have 10 days to accept or decline. The uncertain nature of this year’s collective bargaining agreement makes predicting whether players will accept Qualifying Offers more difficult than usual. As a refresher, if a player receives and declines a qualifying offer, the team that eventually signs them forfeits a draft pick, while the team that made the offer gains one. Which draft picks change hands depends on the circumstances of both teams, as well as the total dollar value of the contract signed. Read the rest of this entry »


2021 Top 100 Prospects

Below is my list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. The scouting summaries were compiled with information provided by available data and industry sources, as well as from my own observations.

As I’ve noted while publishing my team lists, because there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was learned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. Each blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report if there were any. As always, I’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside of a given org than those within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, I’ve primarily focused on data from there, and the context of that data, in my opinion, reduces how meaningful it is. Lastly, in an effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both on my lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher.

And now, a few important things to keep in mind as you’re perusing the Top 100. You’ll note that prospects are ranked by number but also lie within tiers demarcated by their Future Value grades. The FV grade is more important than the ordinal ranking. For example, the gap between prospect No. 3 on this list, Adley Rutschman, and prospect No. 29, Josiah Gray, is 26 spots, and there’s a substantial difference in talent between them. The gap between Heliot Ramos (No. 61) and Luis Matos (No. 87), meanwhile, is also 26 numerical places, but the difference in talent is relatively small. You may have noticed that there are more than 100 prospects in the table below, and more than 100 scouting summaries. That’s because I have also included 50 FV prospects whose ranking fell outside the 100; their reports appear below, under the “Other 50 FV Prospects” header. The same comparative principle applies to them.

You’ll also notice that there is a Future Value outcome distribution graph for each prospect on the list. This is an attempt to graphically represent how likely each FV outcome is for each prospect. Before his departure for ESPN, Kiley McDaniel used the great work of our former colleague Craig Edwards to find the base rates for each FV tier of prospect (separately for hitters and pitchers), and the likelihood of each FV outcome. For example, based on Craig’s research, the average 60 FV hitter on a list becomes a perennial 5-plus WAR player over his six controlled years 26% of the time, and has a 27% chance of accumulating, at most, a couple of WAR during his six controlled years. I started with those base rates for every player on this year’s list and then, with the help of Kevin Goldstein (who assisted with other elements of this list as well), manually tweaked them depending on our more specific opinions about the player. For instance, Jose Garcia and Trevor Larnach are both 55 FV prospects, but Garcia’s approach makes him very volatile, while Larnach is a surer bet to hit. At the same time, if Garcia ever develops a better approach, his power and ability to play a premium position give him a ceiling that Larnach can’t reasonably attain. My hope is that the distribution graphs reflect these kinds of differences.

For a further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, please read this. If you would like to read a book-length treatment on the subject, you can purchase the book I co-wrote with Kiley, Future Value.

Read the rest of this entry »


2021 Top 50 Free Agents

Welcome to FanGraphs’ top-50 free-agent rankings. In years past, Dave Cameron or Kiley McDaniel has been been responsible for this annual post; I have taken the reins this year, with some assistance from my colleagues.

In what follows, I’ve provided contract estimates and rankings of the winter’s top free agents, along with market-focused breakdowns for the top 25 players. Meanwhile, a combination of Ben Clemens, Brendan Gawlowski, Jay Jaffe, Eric Longenhagen, Rachael McDaniel, Dan Szymborski, and Jon Tayler have supplied the more player-focused breakdowns, which are designed to provide some context for each player at this moment in his career.

Players are ranked in the order in which I prefer them. Often, that order closely follows that of the overall contract values that both the crowd and I have projected for them, but not always. All dollar amounts are estimated guarantees to the player. Many players could end up with one-year deals that include a team option for a second year, but only the expected guaranteed years and dollars are included below. All projections are Steamer 2021 projections, with the exception of Ha-seong Kim’s, which is ZiPS 2021.

Some players still have pending opt-out or teams option decisions to contend with; we will update the profiles below to reflect any relevant changes as we learn of them. The list below also includes multiple players who are likely to receive a Qualifying Offer. The QO amount for this season is $18.9 million. Teams must make those offers within five days of the end of the World Series. Players then have another 10 days to decide whether to accept them. It’s not clear whether teams will curtail making such offers this winter out of a fear that more players than usual will decide to accept them and attempt to re-enter free agency in what will hopefully be a more certain climate next offseason. Only J.T. Realmuto and George Springer seem like guarantees to decline such offers, with Trevor Bauer and Marcus Semien likely to do so as well; Marcell Ozuna cannot receive a QO after receiving one last year.

For a comprehensive list of this year’s free agents, which will be updated to include signings as they happen and crowdsource results for those players on whose deals we polled, please consult our Free Agent Tracker. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 Top 100 Prospects

Below is my list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. The scouting summaries were compiled with information provided by available data, industry sources, as well as from my own observations.

Note that prospects are ranked by number but also lie within tiers demarcated by their Future Value grades. The FV grade is more important than the ordinal ranking. For example, the gap between prospect No. 3 on this list, MacKenzie Gore, and prospect No. 33, Jazz Chisholm, is 30 spots, and there’s a substantial difference in talent there. The gap between Evan White (No. 64) and Matthew Liberatore (No. 94), meanwhile, is also 30 numerical places, but the difference in talent is relatively small. You may have noticed that there are more than 100 prospects in the table below, and more than 100 scouting summaries. That’s because we have also included 50 FV prospects who didn’t make the 100; their reports appear below, under the “Other 50 FV Prospects” header. The same comparative principle applies to them.

As a quick explanation, variance means the range of possible outcomes in the big leagues, in terms of peak season. If we feel a prospect could reasonably have a best big league season of anywhere from 1 to 5 WAR, that would be “high” variance, whereas someone like Sean Murphy, whose range is something like 2 to 3 WAR, would be “low” variance. High variance can be read as a good thing, since it allows for lots of ceiling, or a bad thing, since it also allows for a lower floor. Your risk tolerance could lead you to sort by variance within a given FV tier if you feel strongly about it. Here is a primer explaining the connection between FV and WAR. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, please read this. (If you would like to read a book-length treatment on the subject, you can pre-order my forthcoming book, Future Value, co-written with erstwhile FanGraphs analyst Kiley McDaniel.)

You’ll also notice that there is a FV outcome distribution graph for each prospect on the list. This is our attempt to graphically represent how likely each FV outcome is for each prospect. Using the work of Craig Edwards, I found the base rates for each FV tier of prospect (separately for hitters and pitchers), and the likelihood of each FV of outcome. For example, based on Craig’s research, the average 60 FV hitter on a list becomes a perennial 5+ WAR player over his six controlled years 26% of the time, and has a 27% chance of accumulating, at most, a couple WAR during his six controlled years. I started with these base rates for every player, then manually tweaked them for the first few FV tiers to reflect how I think the player differs from the average player in that FV tier, since a player in rookie ball and a player in Triple-A with the same FV grade obviously don’t have exactly the same odds of success. As such, these graphs are based on empirical findings, but come with the subjectivity of my opinions included to more specifically reflect what I think the odds are of various outcomes.

Read the rest of this entry »


2020 Top 50 Free Agents

Welcome to FanGraphs’ top-50 free-agent rankings. Dave Cameron had previously been responsible for this annual post; I took the reins last year. I’m back leading the charge again, with some assistance from my colleagues.

In what follows, I’ve provided contract estimates and rankings of the winter’s top free agents, along with market-focused breakdowns for the top-25 players. As for why I’ve provided commentary on only the top 25, you can decide for yourself whether it’s because my take on No. 49 Eric Sogard was too hot for the internet, or because all of the players just kind of seemed the same to me by that point. Meanwhile, a combination of Ben Clemens, Craig Edwards, Brendan Gawlowski, Jay Jaffe, Eric Longenhagen, Rachael McDaniel, and Dan Szymborski have supplied the more player-focused breakdowns, which are designed to provide some context for each player at this moment in his career.

Note that players are ranked in the order in which I prefer them, in terms of the overall guaranteed money I’d spend on them. Usually, this is very similar to the order of the overall contract values as both the crowd and I have projected. But in some instances, that’s not the case. I explain my rationale where relevant.

The main theme that I hit upon multiple times in my comments below is the continued evolution of free agency: how hard teams compete with one another in the market, how quickly players sign, the types of player helped or hurt by the changing landscape, and the methods agents use to position their clients, and the deals they eventually sign. If you’re interested in more notes and rumors, I’ll have a corresponding post up to that end shortly, but I didn’t want to make you scroll any further.

Now let’s get to the list.

– Kiley McDaniel Read the rest of this entry »


2019 Trade Value: #1 to #10

Fernando Tatis Jr. rocketed onto this year’s list and into the top 10. (Photo: Keith Allison)

As is the annual tradition at FanGraphs, we’re using a week around the All-Star Game — when the industry pauses to take a metaphorical breather — to take stock of the top-50 trade chips in the sport. For more context on exactly what we’re trying to do here, see the Honorable Mentions post linked at the top of the page.

For this post, I’ll present a graphic (by way of the wizard Sean Dolinar) breaking down each player’s objective skill level (represented, in this case, by a five-year WAR projection from ZiPS), contract/team-control details, rank in last year’s series, and then year-by-year details of age, WAR, and contract through the end of 2023, although a couple players have control beyond those five years, and some, you’ll notice, show projections for fewer years to reflect when those players reach free agency. For those readers who are partial to spreadsheets rather than blocks of text, I’ll also include all of the players we’ve ranked so far in grid format at the bottom of the post.

It should be noted that the ZiPS WAR forecasts influenced the rankings a bit. For players who were bunched together, it acted as an impartial tiebreaker of sorts, but the industry opinions I solicited drove the rankings.

With that said, let’s get to the final 10 spots on this year’s Trade Value list.

Five-Year WAR +22.1
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2025
Previous Rank #18
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2020 21 +3.3 Pre-Arb
2021 22 +3.8 Pre-Arb
2022 23 +5.0 Arb1
2023 24 +5.1 Arb2
2024 25 +4.9 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

Vladito hasn’t been the otherworldly hitter many were hoping for or expected during his first taste of the big leagues, but no one I spoke with is worried. First of all, he’s running a .270 BABIP and underperforming his xwOBA by 17 points, suggesting he “deserves” to have a wRC+ over 100, which is still below his lofty pre-season projections, but not by much. And also, it’s been 66 games and he’s 20 years old.

Given his size and eventual move to first base, Vlad needs to mash, so his profile will be more sensitive to offensive performance than others might be, but the track record of the “that guy looks like a generational hitter” and “gets to the big leagues at 20” profiles is really strong. Vlad has an extra year of control over Gleyber Torres and Walker Buehler, so the projected five-win peak seasons are a push, and I lean to the extra year. Interestingly, there were concerns raised by executives about how all three of these guys will age; history tells us (I mean it feels like it does?) that at least one of them will turn out a good bit worse than we’re expecting. Read the rest of this entry »


2019 Top 100 Prospects

Below is our list of the top-100 prospects in baseball. The scouting summaries were compiled with information provided by available data, industry sources, as well as from our own observations.

Note that prospects are ranked by number but also lie within tiers demarcated by their Future Value grades. The FV grade is more important than the ordinal rankings. For example, the gap between prospect No. 5 on this list, Victor Robles, and prospect No. 35, Sean Murphy, is 30 spots, and there’s a substantial difference in talent there. The gap between Travis Swaggerty (No. 56) and Adrian Morejon (No. 86), meanwhile, is also 30 numerical places, but the difference in talent is relatively small. You may have noticed that there are more than 100 prospects in the table below, and more than 100 scouting summaries. That’s because we have also included 50 FV prospects who didn’t make the 100; their reports appear below, under the “Other 50 FV Prospects” header. The same comparative principle applies to them.

As a quick explanation, variance means the range of possible outcomes in the big leagues, in terms of peak season. If we feel a prospect could reasonably have a best big league season of anywhere from one to five WAR, that would be “high” variance, whereas someone like Colin Moran, whose range is something like two to three WAR, would be “low” variance. High variance can be read as a good thing, since it allows for lots of ceiling, or a bad thing, since it allows for a lower floor. Your risk tolerance could lead you to sort by variance within a given FV tier if you feel strongly about it. Here is a primer explaining the connection between FV and WAR. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.

You’ll also notice that this year, we’ve added probable FV outcome distribution graphs for each prospect on our list. This is our attempt to graphically represent how likely each FV outcome is for each prospect. Using the work of Craig Edwards, we found the base rates for each FV tier of prospect (separately for hitters and pitchers), and the likelihood of each FV of outcome. For example, based on Craig’s research, the average 60 FV hitter on a list becomes a perennial 5+ WAR player over his six controlled years 26% of the time, and a 27% chance of accumulating, at most, a couple WAR during his six controlled years. We started with these base rates for every player, then manually tweaked them to reflect how we think the player differs from the average player in that FV tier, since a player in rookie ball and a player in Triple-A with the same FV grade obviously don’t have exactly the same odds of success. So, these graphs are based on empirical findings, but with the subjectivity of our opinions included to more specifically reflect what we think the odds are of various outcomes. This is just a concept we’ve been kicking around for a while, one we hope to continue to refine to try to better communicate things about prospects.

Read the rest of this entry »


2019 Top 50 Free Agents

Welcome to FanGraphs’ top-50 free-agent rankings. Dave Cameron has previously been responsible for this annual post. This year, though, I’m leading the charge, with some assistance from my colleagues.

In what follows, I’ve provided contract estimates and rankings of the winter’s top free agents, along with market-focused breakdowns for the top-25 players and one case beyond that. (As for why I’ve provided commentary on only the top 25, you can decide for yourself whether it’s because my take on No. 46 Cody Allen was too hot for the internet or if all the players just kinda seemed the same to me by that point.) Meanwhile, a combination of Craig Edwards, Jay Jaffe, Eric Longenhagen, Meg Rowley, Dan Szymborski, and (in one case) Carson Cistulli have supplied the more player-focused breakdowns designed to provide some context for each player at this current moment in his career.

Note that players are ranked in the order in which I prefer them, in terms of the overall guaranteed money I’d spend on them. Usually, this is very similar to the order of overall contract values as both the crowd and I have projected. In some instances, that’s not the case, however — notably with the first and second players on the list. I explain my rationale where relevant.

Given how slow and frustrating last offseason was for the players, the biggest storyline to follow this winter will be how the market reacts. With the Dodgers and Yankees getting under the luxury tax specifically for this winter, multiple mid-market clubs rumored to be ready to spend, and rare stars in their prime on the market, there are fewer causes for restraint. I wouldn’t expect Harper or Machado to sign quickly, as both their agents and the players union will be focused on precedent-setting across the board and they’ll need to get the lay of the land first. If you’re interested in more notes and rumors, I’ve got a corresponding post up, but I didn’t want to make you scroll any further.

Now let’s get to the list.
– Kiley McDaniel

1. Manny Machado, SS, Age 26
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Kiley McDaniel 9 $31.0 M $279.0 M
Median Crowdsource 8 $32.0 M $256.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 8.6 $31.7 M $273.0 M
2019 Steamer Forecast
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
630 9.4% 15.6% .287 .356 .527 .370 134 25.3 2.6 5.0

Kiley’s Take
Has produced roughly as many career wins as Harper and is projected to produce roughly the same number in the near future, but will likely be available for less. That and ability to play shortstop place him first.

Player Notes
Machado’s baserunning antics and related comments cast him as a villain during the Dodgers’ postseason run, but they probably won’t dent his market much. Despite splitting his season between Baltimore and Los Angeles, he set or tied career bests in all three slash stats, wRC+, walk and strikeout rates (9.9% and 14.7%), and homers. Given his age, he could maintain this level for a few years. Meanwhile, playing shortstop full-time for the first time since 2012, his pre-trade metrics were brutal (-7.2 UZR, -18 DRS in 96 games), but improved markedly post-trade (0.8 UZR, 6 DRS in 51 games) thanks to a combination of better positioning by the analytically inclined Dodgers and an emphasis on better anticipating batted balls as opposed just to reacting to them. Expect him to prioritize remaining at short and to receive a massive payday. – JJ

Read the rest of this entry »


2018 Trade Value: #1 to #10

Jose Ramirez has considerable value even without his bat.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

As is the annual tradition at FanGraphs, we’re using the week of the All-Star Game — while (some of) the industry pauses for a metaphorical breather — to take stock of the top-50 trade assets in the sport. For more context on exactly what we’re trying to do here, see the honorable-mentions post linked at the top of the page.

For this post and the others in this series, I’ve presented a graphic (by way of the wizard Sean Dolinar) breaking down each player’s objective skill level (represented, in this case, by a five-year WAR projection from ZiPS), contract/team-control details, rank in last year’s series, and then year-by-year details of age/WAR/contract through 2023, although a couple players have control beyond those five years. For those readers who are partial to spreadsheets rather than blocks of text, I’ve also included all the players we’ve ranked so far are in grid format at the bottom of the post.

The ZiPS WAR forecasts did influence the rankings a bit: for players who were bunched together, it acted as an impartial tiebreaker of sorts, but the industry opinions I solicited drove the rankings.

With that said, let’s get to the top 10 spots on the Trade Value list this year.

Five-Year WAR +26.3
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2022
Previous Rank #35
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 25 +5.3 Arb1
2020 26 +5.5 Arb2
2021 27 +5.5 Arb3
2022 28 +5.0 Arb4
Arb

Severino bests Kluber for the top spot amongst pitchers on this year’s list. He is eight years younger than Kluber with an additional year of control and has been at least as good as the Cleveland right-hander this season, depending on how you measure it. Predictably, though, execs are concerned — as they are with basically any pitcher — that Severino’s next pitch could lead to a year-long DL stint and uncertainty after that. As a 24-year-old who averages 97.7 mph on his fastball, Severino is still a bit of a risky bet compared to comparable hitters. There’s a tier here from Nos. 7 to 13 that you could shuffle in a few different orders depending on your personal preferences or evals of these players.

Read the rest of this entry »


2018 Top 100 Prospects

Below is our list of the top-100 prospects in baseball. Scouting summaries were compiled with information provided by available data, industry sources, as well as from our own observations.

Note that prospects are ranked by number but also lie within tiers demarcated by their Future Value grades. The FV grade is more important than the ordinal rankings. For example, the gap between prospect No. 5 on this list, Fernando Tatis Jr., and prospect No. 35, Corbin Burnes, is 30 spots, and there’s a substantial difference in talent there. The gap between Ke’Bryan Hayes (No. 56) and Leody Taveras (No. 86), meanwhile, is also 30 numerical places, but the difference in talent is relatively small. Below the list is a brief rundown of names of 50 FV prospects who didn’t make the 100. This same comparative principle applies to them.

As a quick explanation, variance means the range of possible outcomes in the big leagues, in terms of peak season. If we feel like a prospect could reasonably have a best big league season of anywhere from one to five wins/WAR, then that would be “high” whereas someone like Colin Moran where it’s something like two to three wins/WAR is “low.” High variance can be read as good since it allows for lots of ceiling, or bad since it allows for a lower floor. Your risk tolerance could lead you to sort by variance within a given FV tier if you feel strongly about variance. Here is a primer about the connection between FV and WAR.

Read the rest of this entry »