All through the week, we’ve lined the upcoming free agent class at MLBTR. As Anthony Franco famous earlier at the moment, we’ll now transfer to the outfield. You may take a look at that piece for a preview of the left discipline/proper discipline choices obtainable this winter, however we’ll focus right here on middle discipline — one of many comparatively well-stocked (emphasis on “comparatively”) areas of the place participant market this winter.
Notice: solely gamers who’ve been on an MLB roster in 2023 are included. Ages listed are for the 2024 season.
On a regular basis Choices
Non-tendered by the Dodgers final yr, Bellinger has loved a massively profitable rebound with the Cubs. In 492 plate appearances, the previous NL Rookie of the Yr and Most Invaluable Participant has posted an enormous .316/.358/.545 batting line with 25 residence runs, 20 stolen bases and a career-low 16.1% strikeout price. He’s strolling on the lowest price of his profession (6.5%) and chasing balls out of the strike zone excess of he did at his peak. Nevertheless, he’s additionally sporting career-high contact charges on pitches off the plate (71.7%) and pitches throughout the strike zone (87.1%).
Bellinger missed about six weeks of the season with a knee damage, which may be the one factor that stops him from reestablishing himself as a 30-homer slugger. Have been it not for that absence, he’d have had a authentic likelihood to ship a 30-30 season with above-average protection at a number of spots (middle discipline, first base).
The 2021-22 seasons had been nightmarish for Bellinger, although they got here within the wake of 2020 shoulder surgical procedure. Bellinger additionally suffered a fractured fibula early within the ’22 marketing campaign that would properly have impacted him on the plate even after his return. His high quality of contact isn’t as spectacular because it as soon as was — Bellinger averaged 91.1 mph off the bat with a forty five.6% hard-hit price in 2019, in comparison with 87.9 mph and 31.7% in 2023 — however the outcomes are laborious to disregard. In a market with so few bats of notice, Bellinger stands not solely as probably the greatest but in addition because the youngest choice obtainable.
The Cubs will make Bellinger a qualifying supply, and he’ll reject it with little thought. They’ll be one in every of many groups angling to signal him this winter, however Bellinger and agent Scott Boras will in all probability attempt to see to it that whoever inks him does so to the tune of $200MM or extra.
Bader’s offense in 2023 definitely hasn’t been that of an on a regular basis participant. He’s batted simply .237/.280/.356 on the yr — the worst efficiency in any of his full seasons on the MLB degree. A part of that’s doubtless because of an uptick in fly balls and reduce within the proportion of these flies which have change into residence runs, however Bader has in all probability additionally had a little bit of misfortune on balls in play; his .268 BABIP is 50 factors decrease than the profession mark he carried into the yr.
Even with some slight optimistic regression, it hasn’t been yr on the plate. Bader has by no means walked a lot, and he’s doing so at only a 5% clip in 2023. He’s placing the ball in play greater than ever earlier than (career-low 17.5% strikeout price), however he’s not often doing so in an impactful method (86 mph common exit velocity).
That stated, Bader’s most respected abilities are nonetheless shining. He’s a lights-out middle fielder — a legitimately elite defender who’s posted 6 Defensive Runs Saved and 10 Outs Above Common in simply 735 innings this season. He’s additionally pummeling left-handed pitching, hitting southpaws at a .317/.380/.610 clip this season. Bader’s above-average pace is on show greater than ever earlier than, too. His 19 steals are a career-best mark, and he’s solely been caught 3 times.
Bader’s glove alone will earn him a multi-year deal, and he confirmed from 2018-21 that he has the potential to ship at the very least common offense. In that four-year run with St. Louis, Bader hit .244/.325/.420 in 419 video games. With a excessive ground and a ceiling within the 4 to 5 WAR vary, Bader might shock some onlookers with a powerful multi-year deal this winter. That he’s ineligible for a qualifying supply solely helps his case.
Talking of preternatural outfield defenders, you’d by no means know by watching Kiermaier within the outfield that his 2022 season ended with hip surgical procedure. The longstanding defensive wizard is again to classic kind and having fun with one in every of his greatest all-around seasons. The longtime Rays outfielder has logged 866 innings in middle discipline in his first yr with Toronto and racked up 16 Defensive Runs Saved and 11 Outs Above Common. He’s nowhere close to his career-best 38 DRS (not a typo), however these 16 DRS rank eighth within the Majors at any place (one behind his outfield-mate Daulton Varsho in left discipline). His 11 OAA are tied for “solely” 14th within the sport.
Accidents have a tendency to come back with the territory for Kiermaier — partly because of the reckless abandon with which he performs his place — and the Jays have been good about affording him loads of relaxation to maintain him contemporary. He additionally had a quick keep on the 10-day IL after a collision with the outfield wall required eight stitches in his elbow. He’s tallied simply 361 plate appearances this yr however turned in a pleasant .271/.331/.433 batting line with eight homers and 13 steals.
Kiermaier managed to land a one-year, $9MM deal in Toronto when he was coming off a notable surgical procedure, and he’s now had a wholesome and productive season. He’s not solely reestablished himself amongst baseball’s premier defensive gamers, he’s turned in one in every of his greatest offensive campaigns, on a price foundation, and needs to be in place to command a multi-year deal. The Jays will face an fascinating name on the qualifying supply. A one-year deal for Kiermaier value round $20MM may properly show worthwhile, however the threat of damage is so substantial that they might decide to not roll these cube.
Although he’s typically been utilized in a part-time position, Taylor is having fun with a profession yr offensively in Minnesota, the place he’s swatted a personal-best 20 homers in simply 354 journeys to the plate. He’s additionally added 14 doubles and swiped 13 bases in 14 tries. Granted, a career-low 5.9% stroll price and career-high 33.3% strikeout price name into query how doubtless it’s that he can maintain the sort of output, however Taylor’s .229/.281/.456 slash is roughly common, by measure of wRC+ (99).
Furthermore, even when a crew doesn’t count on Taylor to copy that offense, he’s a powerful sufficient defender that there’s a case to trot him out to middle discipline each day anyhow. In 891 innings this yr, he’s posted optimistic marks in DRS (5) and OAA (9). Relationship again to 2017, he’s posted respective marks of 68 and 52 in these classes, rating as probably the greatest defensive gamers in MLB — no matter place.
Taylor’s glove alone makes him a viable supply of two to 3 WAR, and if he exhibits he’s capable of maintain his 2023 energy surge, he might discover himself in an on a regular basis position. He’ll have an opportunity at touchdown a multi-year deal this winter. He’s QO-eligible, however strong as his season has been, he received’t obtain one.
He’s primarily been a nook outfielder in his profession, however Duvall was signed to play middle discipline in Boston and has accomplished so for 448 innings in the course of the 2023 season. That quantity can be larger had he not missed a number of months with a fractured wrist. Defensive metrics like DRS (-6) and OAA (-3) aren’t a fan of Duvall’s work in middle, as one may count on for a 34-year-old who’s successfully taking part in out of place.
Duvall’s once-elite grades within the outfield corners have light to common or barely above in latest seasons, and the corners are in all probability the place he’ll play the vast majority of the time with a brand new crew. However he’s at the very least able to dealing with part-time middle discipline work, and his bat is his carrying device anyhow. Whereas Duvall has a penchant for low stroll charges and bottom-of-the-barrel OBPs, there’s little doubting his energy. He’s having fun with a pleasant rebound on the plate, hitting .254/.316/.543 with 19 residence runs in solely 310 plate appearances.
Duvall isn’t more likely to signal as an on a regular basis middle fielder, however he can float by means of all three outfield slots and blend in time at designated hitter wherever he indicators in 2024 — doubtless on a multi-year deal.
Gallo acquired out to a blistering begin after signing a one-year, $11MM cope with the Twins. They’ve caught with him all year long, despite the fact that his bat went chilly in Might and has by no means actually rebounded. Gallo is hitting simply .177/.301/.440 on the season, however he’s delivered a dreary .159/.287/.365 slash in his previous 275 plate appearances. The Twins would’ve had ample justification to maneuver on at any level, however he might but end out the yr on their roster. Gallo not too long ago hit the 10-day IL with a foot damage and will return in the course of the closing couple weeks.
Since being traded from the Rangers to the Yankees in 2021, Gallo carries a .166/.293/.396 batting line in 970 plate appearances. He’s smashed 53 residence runs in that point — 21 this season — but in addition has fanned in 40.5% of his plate appearances. Somebody together with his energy and stroll price will doubtless get a giant league deal this winter, however it’s laborious to think about him being ticketed for an on a regular basis position in middle discipline, the place he’s performed simply 46 innings this season (however has 463 innings of expertise in his huge league profession).
Grichuk was having fun with a high quality season in Colorado, slashing .308/.365/.496 on the time of a commerce to the Angels. His bat has wilted since that swap, as he’s turned in a tepid .203/.253/.392 output in 154 plate appearances. Grichuk has 14 homers in 417 plate appearances total. As is often the case, he’s performed all three outfield spots however graded out below-average in middle. Grichuk is greatest suited to nook work, the place he has optimistic grades for his profession. That’s notably true in proper discipline, the place his sturdy throwing arm is greatest deployed.
Groups in want of assist in opposition to left-handed pitching will certainly be drawn to Grichuk’s large .320/.386/.573 slash when holding the platoon benefit this yr. He’s a lifetime .266/.314/.502 hitter in such conditions as properly. He’s gone unclaimed on waivers twice, however that’s doubtless because of a $9.333MM wage greater than it’s sheer disinterest in him. Grichuk makes for a high quality bench bat who can be utilized in a bigger position as accidents elsewhere on the roster may necessitate.
Hernandez had an ideal first yr in Boston after signing a two-year deal, tanked in 2022, was prolonged anyway, and has struggled for a lot of the 2023 season. Since a commerce to the Dodgers, he’s rebounded to the tune of a .267/.329/.427 slash, however the offense has been suspect as a complete for the majority of the previous 5 years. That 2021 marketing campaign stands out as Hernandez’s solely above-average season on the plate since 2019. Over the previous 5 seasons, he owns a collective .237/.306/.394 line.
Hernandez can go get it in middle discipline, nevertheless — evidenced by 23 DRS and 17 OAA in simply 2629 profession innings on the place. He’s a viable defensive choice across the outfield and at second base, though the Pink Sox proved this yr that he shouldn’t be entrusted with something greater than emergency duties at shortstop. Hernandez has usually hit lefties properly and has sufficient defensive aptitude and flexibility to command a giant league deal.
Kiner-Falefa acquired his first profession look in middle discipline this yr, and held his personal, although the Yankees have used him on the place extra sparingly because the season’s worn on (partly because of latest promotions of different gamers). “IKF” has beforehand drawn plus defensive marks at third base and left discipline, and he’ll now hit the free agent market as a light-hitting jack-of-all-trades who could be deployed in tremendous utility trend. He’s hitting .240/.307/.341 on the season, which is roughly consistent with his profession .261/.314/.346 batting line in 2397 plate appearances.
Fourth Outfielders and Depth Candidates
Engel posted eye-popping defensive marks in middle throughout his first two huge league seasons (2017-18) and hit properly in a small pattern from 2020-21. He’s nonetheless an above-average defender, although to not the identical extent as he was at 25-26 years of age. He’s additionally a profession .224/.279/.349 hitter who’s battled a number of accidents in latest seasons. His glove alone will get him curiosity on a minor league deal although.
It’s straightforward to miss simply how good Marisnick has been defensively in his profession. Since his 2013 debut, he ranks eighth amongst all outfielders with 80 DRS and twelfth with 53 OAA. That comes even though practically everybody forward of him on the checklist has lots of, if not hundreds extra innings within the outfield. He’s a profession .228/.281/.385 hitter in 2247 plate appearances, nevertheless, and the dearth of offense usually relegates him to minor league offers and bench roles.
Pillar was a human spotlight reel early in his profession with the Blue Jays, however his defensive prowess has understandably waned as he’s aged into his mid-30s. The Braves have solely given him 24 innings in middle this yr, primarily deploying him in left discipline. Pillar has by no means gotten on base at a excessive clip, and this yr’s .236/.260/.422 slash is a little more of an excessive growth of his lifetime .258/.295/.409 batting line. He signed a minor league cope with a $3MM base this previous offseason and will discover comparable curiosity this winter.
Tapia has good bat-to-ball abilities and pace however is mild on energy, evidenced by a profession .273/.317/.388 batting line. A lot of his manufacturing on the huge league degree has come at Coors Area, and he was launched twice in 2023 (Brewers, Pink Sox) after posting a mixed .230/.308/.338 line. Tapia has primarily performed left discipline however has 469 innings of middle discipline work in his profession. He’ll in all probability signal one other minor league deal this winter.
Earlier installments: catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, nook outfield.