Before I get into the power rankings, I want to just say Rest in Peace to Roy Halladay, who died in a plane crash on Tuesday. He was 40 years old. Halladay was a husband and father of two and was widely considered to be one of the best human beings in baseball, as he was very involved in the community, from charity work to coaching little league. He was also a phenomenal pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, winning the Cy Young Award in 2003 and 2010, an 8-time All Star, and the embodiment of a workhorse. Since 1998, when Halladay made his Major League debut, no pitcher has thrown more complete games than Halladay’s 67. He retired in 2013 and that number since 1998 still hasn’t been caught. For a while, it was pretty safe to say that Halladay was the best pitcher in baseball, as his stretch between 2008-2011 was some of the most dominant years of pitching I’ve ever seen. His 2010 season was particularly special, as it included a perfect game against the Marlins and a no hitter in his postseason debut (second in postseason history) against the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS. Rest in Peace, Roy Halladay (1977-2017), you will be missed by all.
On a happier note, free agency has officially kicked off in Major League Baseball and speculation as to who’s headed where and who is due for a big contract will be the talk of the next four months or so. This year’s class is essentially the warmup to the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado class of 2018 that will be sure to shake the foundation of baseball to its core, but it is still loaded with plenty of star power. So without further ado, let’s get into the rankings.
#10. Zack Cozart-Shortstop
Zack Cozart has been the shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds for a few years now but has battled injuries and hasn’t played a full season since 2014. However when he has been healthy, he’s been very effective, especially in the last two seasons, 2017 being his best. He hit .297 this season in 122 games with 24 home runs and 63 RBI while also playing some solid defense, which accumulated to a WAR of 5.0. He also earned his first All Star nod, and in turn, won a donkey from Joey Votto. You read that correctly. Here’s the story. Cozart may not be a household name, but he’s been playing the best baseball of his career and whichever team signs him will have themselves a heck of a player, provided he can stay healthy.
Projected Team: Signs with New York Mets
#9. Carlos Santana-First Baseman/DH
Carlos Santana is an oddity mainly because he often batted leadoff for the Cleveland Indians despite being a first baseman that lacks speed. It’s mainly because he draws a LOT of walks thanks to having one of the best eyes for the plate in baseball. He’s been really consistent these last two seasons, as he batted .259 in both 2016 AND 2017, and his on base percentage was .366 in 2016 and .363 in 2017. His power numbers were down from 2016, he hit a career-high 34 in 2016 and 23 in 2017, but he is still a threat to go yard if a pitcher hangs one on him.
Projected Team: Returns to the Cleveland Indians
#8. Jay Bruce-Outfielder
Jay Bruce has spent the majority of his career with the Cincinnati Reds but since being traded to the Mets in 2016, he’s had some of his best success at the plate. He hit 33 home runs between the Reds and Mets in 2016, then hit 36 bombs and drove in 101 runs between the Mets and Indians in 2017. He has only hit fewer than 20 home runs in a season once (2014) and that was by far the worst year of his career. He also has one of the strongest outfield arms in the game and many teams are hesitant to run against him.
Projected Team: Signs with the Toronto Blue Jays
#7. Mike Moustakas-Third Baseman
Moustakas had a MONSTROUS offensive breakout this season, hitting 38 home runs (his previous best was 22) and 85 RBI while hitting a solid .272. Moustakas was a key cog in the Royals’ 2015 championship run, and his defense has typically been a major positive at the hot corner (however it has been steadily trending downward since 2012). Moustakas is one of four players on this list from the 2015 champion Royals team (three of which were still with KC at the end of the 2017 season) and he will be a big factor for whomever signs him.
Projected Team: Signs with San Francisco Giants
#6. Wade Davis-Closing Pitcher
Wade Davis is one of a plethora of pitchers with promise who flamed out as starters, but once they moved to the bullpen, they rescue their careers. Davis is probably the best example of this and has been absolutely dominant since he was named the closer of the Royals in 2015 and he was a big boost for the Cubs’ bullpen in 2017. Davis was Chicago’s only All Star in 2017 and had a 2.30 ERA, which was actually his WORST since he became a reliever in 2014. Just let that sink in.
Projected Team: Returns to Chicago Cubs
#5. Lorenzo Cain-Outfielder
Lorenzo Cain has been pretty consistent since 2014, his average typically hovering around the .300 mark with moderate power while playing some solid defense in centerfield. I wouldn’t say Cain is an elite player, but he’s a good one who will be an impact on any lineup, best part being you pretty much know what you’re going to get out of him. Health was an issue for him in 2016 but he was totally healthy in 2017, playing in 155 games.
Projected Team: Signs with New York Yankees
#4. Eric Hosmer-First Baseman
Eric Hosmer is the last of 4-straight members of the 2015 Royals on this list. While I did note in my luck blog that he was probably the luckiest hitter in baseball in 2017, he is still one of the better first basemen in the game. He’s coming off his best season as a pro, slashing .318/.385/.498, all career highs, and tied his career high of 25 home runs while playing in all 162 games. He’s a below-average defender at first base, but that’s probably the one position where I don’t care too much about defense, unless they are absolutely abysmal.
Projected Team: Signs with Boston Red Sox
#3. Jake Arrieta-Starting Pitcher
Jake Arrieta’s second half of 2015 was perhaps the most dominant stretch of pitching I have ever seen. It’s kind of been downhill since, though it is almost impossible to do much better. He’s still one of the game’s better pitchers, as he had an ERA of 3.53, his worst since joining the Cubs, but still better than what you get out of most pitchers. He was hurt, however, by the fact that opponents had a .279 BABIP against him, a career-worst, which may suggest that he just got unlucky last season.
Projected Team: Signs with Texas Rangers
#2. Yu Darvish-Starting Pitcher
Yu Darvish had a terrible showing in the Dodgers’ World Series loss to the Astros but that shouldn’t put a damper on peoples’ opinions on his abilities as a pitcher. When healthy, Darvish is one of the most electrifying righties in baseball. He had a 3.86 ERA on the year, 3.38 since his trade to the Dodgers from the Rangers at the Trade Deadline, as he played his first full season since missing much of 2014, all of 2015, and much of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery. He’s never struck out fewer than 10 batters per 9 innings in his career and his control has gotten better each season, as he has cut down on his walks per 9 every year (technically it did go up by 0.02 from 2016-17, but that’s so minuscule that I think it’s fair to overlook).
Projected Team: Resigns with Los Angeles Dodgers
#1. JD Martinez-Outfielder
Holy shit did JD Martinez have a big year. Between the Tigers and Diamondbacks (where he was traded at the Trade Deadline), Martinez hit .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI, numbers that would easily have him in the MVP discussion had he not switched leagues. 29 of those 45 bombs came in his 2 months in Arizona, as he helped catapult the Diamondbacks to a playoff run. Martinez missed the first month of the season due to injury but upon his return he was unstoppable, and I think it’s fair to expect that he continue to thrive, as he only just turned 30 in August.
Projected Team: Resigns with Arizona Diamondbacks
Others that just missed the list: Todd Frazier-Third Baseman, Eduardo Nunez-Utility, Alex Cobb-Starting Pitcher, Carlos Gonzalez-Outfielder, Jonathan Lucroy-Catcher
Those are my free agency rankings for this season. Agree with my list? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.