Josh Hamilton will be the hottest commodity for 2013.
With free agency well under way, it's time to take a look at the players who will be the hottest commodities for the upcoming 2013 season.
Where a player ends up can make all the difference in the world. For example, if a fringe pitcher signs with the San Diego Padres, then his fantasy stock gets a boost. Likewise, a hitter leaving spacious Safeco Field in Seattle for Cincinnati will also be rewarded.
Here's a list of the top 50 fantasy players who will be entering the free-agent market.
Pena doesn't make a lot of contact, but still has some pop.
No. 50: Francisco Liriano, SP
Liriano is arguably the most frustrating fantasy pitcher. He'll string together two or three pretty good starts in a row and then have a clunker. Despite his inconsistency, Liriano has good stuff. His K/9 was 9.59 last season and his FIP was 4.34, which was much better than his 5.34 ERA.
No. 49: Travis Hafner, DH
When healthy, Hafner can provide nice power numbers. The only problem is that he can never stay on the field. He hit 12 home runs with 34 RBI in 66 games last year. Hafner will have to sign with an AL team so he can DH, and this should help limit his injury potential.
No. 48: Francisco Rodriguez, RP
Rodriguez is dealing with domestic abuse charges to kick off his 2013 free agency (via Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com). He was pretty bad last season, but his 4.38 ERA is misleading. His FIP was 3.83 and his LOB percentage was under 70 for just the second time in his career. Rodriguez has the ability to close, but if he doesn't, he's worthy of picking up for holds.
No. 47: Jeremy Guthrie, SP
Guthrie had a Jekyll and Hyde season in 2012. He was 3-8 with a 6.05 ERA in the first half, but then improved to 5-4 with a 3.66 ERA after the All-Star Game. Depending on where Guthrie ends up will be important. If he goes to a pitcher-friendly stadium, Guthrie will be a nice late-round pick.
No. 46: Carlos Pena, 1B
For the second time in three seasons, Pena hit under .200. The average hasn't been there the last few years, but the home runs were. 2012 was a different story. Pena failed to hit 20-plus homers for the first time in five years. I'm not sold on Pena's power outage because his HR/FB was the lowest of his career. He can still provide solid power numbers.
Berkman will try to rebound from an injury-filled '12.
No. 45: Joe Saunders, SP
Saunders was very serviceable last season. The veteran lefty went 9-13 with a 4.07 ERA. He was able to improve his K/9 while decreasing his BB/9 in 2012. Saunders looked very good in the postseason as well. He went 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA and struck out nine batters in 11.2 innings.
No. 44: Roy Oswalt, SP
Oswalt had a very bad season in Texas last season. He had a 5.80 ERA and didn't seem to get along with manager Ron Washington. 2013 should be a different story. Oswalt will be ready to go at the start of the season, and he'll be fresh because he only pitched 59 innings. Oswalt can be an end-of-the-rotation guy and have a respectable season.
No. 43: Stephen Drew, SS
When Drew was traded to Oakland, he was able to pick up his game. He was hitting just .193 with the D-backs, but he jumped that up to .250 with five homers with the A's. Drew is injury-prone, but he's capable of hitting .260 with 10-plus home runs.
No. 42: Alex Gonzalez, SS
Gonzalez played in just 24 games with the Brewers last season, but he appears to be making good strides after surgery (via Adam McCalvy of MLB.com). If Gonzalez ends up back in Milwaukee, it'll be important to see what it is going to do with Jean Segura. If Gonzalez can get regular at-bats, he can hit .250 with 15 homers.
No. 41: Lance Berkman, 1B
Injuries plagued Berkman's 2012 season. In fact, he made more stints on the DL (three) than hit home runs (two). Berkman might very well decide to call it a career. I don't think he will though. He can sign with an AL team and play DH to conserve his fragile health.
Youkilis will try to stay healthy in 2013.
No. 40: Juan Pierre, OF
Pierre was signed to a minor league contract and ended up being one of the best Phillies in 2012. He hit .307 with 37 stolen bases. While a regression is surely in place for Pierre in 2013 (who is 35 years old), he can still be valuable with the steals.
No. 39: Cody Ross, OF
When Ross was on the field, he proved to be a respectable outfield option. The journeyman ended up hitting .267 with 22 home runs and 81 RBI in 130 games last year. Depending on where Ross goes will be key. If he earns a starting gig, he'll be a nice add in deep leagues.
No. 38: Joakim Soria, RP
Soria will return in 2013 after missing the entire 2012 campaign because of Tommy John surgery. Soria was an elite closer before he got injured. He was roughed up a little in 2011, but he was spectacular from 2007-10. Pitchers are rebounding very nicely from TJ these days and Soria shouldn't be a different story. If he ends up closing, his value will go way up.
No. 37: Jason Grilli, RP
Grilli's career looked like it was going nowhere. From 2006-09, Grilli had an ERA below 4.00 just once. Then he became a different pitcher with the Pirates. In 2011 and 2012, Grilli has an overall ERA of 2.76 with a 12.52 K/9. Grilli can close, but if he doesn't, he's still valuable with his low ERA/WHIP and high strikeout rate.
No. 36: Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B
Youkilis used to rank high on cheat sheets, but injuries have slowed him down and he's no longer considered reliable. Youk hasn't played in more than 140 games since 2008 and has averaged just 120 games played over the last four years. With this said, he still offers the potential to hit 20-plus home runs at the corner positions.
Valverde lost his job and will now look for a new team.
No. 35: Mike Adams, RP
Adams is another middle reliever hitting the free-agent market. Adams had his worst season since 2008 and he still managed to have an ERA at 3.27. He was dealing with an illness during the entire season and he underwent successful surgery for his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (via ESPNDallas.com). Adams is a great reliever and has the talent to close.
No. 34: Jonathan Broxton, RP
Broxton played two different RP roles last year and did a nice job with both. He saved 23 games in 27 opportunities with the Royals before notching 10 holds for the Reds. Broxton will obviously be more valuable as a closer, but he can still provide value if your league uses holds.
No. 33: Brett Myers, SP/RP
Myers is marketing himself as both a starter and reliever, and that makes him valuable for the upcoming 2013 season (via Rotoworld.com). Myers closed out 19 of 21 opportunities with the Astros and then collected eight holds for the White Sox. Also, he was a starter in 2010 and 2011 and went a combined 21-22 with a 3.79 ERA in that span.
No. 32: Ryan Madson, RP
Madson was signed to be the Reds' closer in 2012, but he required Tommy John surgery before the season even started. According to Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Madson wants to remain in the closer's role. Madson will be very valuable if he indeed ends up closing for a team. In his only year as a closer, Madson saved 32 of 34 opportunities in 2011.
No. 31: Jose Valverde, RP
Valverde was atrocious in the playoffs and lost his spot to Phil Coke. The woeful postseason shouldn't kill Valverde though. This is a guy who has saved 135 games over the last four seasons. If given the chance to close, Valverde will remain as a decent option.
Scutaro was a nice spark plug for the Giants in '12.
No. 30: Carlos Lee, 1B
Lee is 36 years old and seems to be on a decline. After hitting 37 home runs in 2006, Lee has hit 32, 28, 26, 24, 18 and nine homers in succession. Lee clearly isn't what he used to be, but I'm not ready to believe he's done. I think he can hit .280 with 12-15 homers in 2013.
No. 29: Russell Martin, C
While many will look at Martin's .211 batting average and cringe, please realize he was still able to belt 21 home runs. He also got it together in the second half. He hit 63 points higher after the All-Star Game and hit .256 in September and .273 in October. Martin isn't a great option, but the catcher position isn't very deep.
No. 28: Joe Blanton, SP
Blanton pitched better than what his 4.71 ERA indicates. In fact, Blanton is pretty unlucky. His FIP was 3.91 and his SIERA was 3.41 (17th best in the MLB). Blanton had a pretty good 7.82 K/9 in 2012 with an incredible 1.60 BB/9. Blanton should have better stats in 2013.
No. 27: Angel Pagan, OF
Pagan is a pretty well-rounded player. He hit .288 with eight home runs, 29 steals and 95 runs scored for the Giants in 2012. He'll cash in during free agency because of these numbers. There's no reason to think that Pagan can't put up similar numbers again in '13.
No. 26: Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS
A trade from Colorado to San Francisco rejuvenated Scutaro. He was hitting .271 with a .684 OPS for the Rockies, but ended up hitting .362 with an .859 OPS with the Giants. Scutaro is 37 years old, so a regression is imminent. He does provide value with position versatility though.
We'll see if Swisher can cash in on a good contract year.
No. 25: Andy Pettitte, SP
Pettitte had a very successful 2012 season after not pitching at all in 2011. The veteran southpaw went 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA and an 8.24 K/9. Pettitte's status for the 2013 season in unclear, but GM Brian Cashman is confident he will return (via Erik Boland of Newsday). Pettitte is 40 years old, but he knows how to pitch. If he returns, he should be a good play in all formats.
No. 24: Kelly Johnson, 2B
Johnson doesn't do much for the average, but he still brings value with his power and speed combination. There were only seven second basemen who had 15-plus home runs and 10-plus steals. Johnson was one of those seven. If you can live with the poor average, Johnson will get you double-digit home runs and stolen bases.
No. 23: Delmon Young, OF
Young had a fair 2012 regular season, but he came to life in the postseason. He hit .312 with three home runs and nine RBI. Even if Young goes to an unfriendly hitter stadium, he proved he can play well at a spacious field. He has the potential to hit 20 homers with a .280 average.
No. 22: AJ Pierzynski, C
Pierzynski had a career year in 2012. He hit .278 with 27 home runs, 77 RBI and 68 runs scored. Because of these numbers, he will most likely be overvalued in 2013. Pierzynski will have a regression, but he should still hit around .280 with 15 home runs.
No. 21: Nick Swisher, 1B/OF
Swisher is a very streaky player. These are his batting averages by month in order: .284, .207, .321, .222, .306, .233 and .636. But while his average fluctuates, his power numbers are steady. Over his eight-year career, Swisher averaged 25.88 homers per season. It doesn't look like Swisher will return to the Yanks, and that may cause his stock to take a hit.
Depending on Jackson's new location, he could be very valuable.
No. 20: Brandon McCarthy, SP
McCarthy had a very serious injury that resulted in having emergency brain surgery. He was plagued by injuries all season long, but he went 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA when he managed to stay on the field. McCarthy will have plenty of suitors in the offseason, and he'll be a solid option in 2013.
No. 19: Ryan Ludwick, OF
Ludwick resurrected his career by a very strong performance in 2012. After hitting a combined 30 home runs from 2010-2011, Ludwick blasted 26 long balls in '12. I'm not completely sold on Ludwick just yet, but if he signs with the right team, he can put up similar numbers.
No. 18: Torii Hunter, OF
Hunter had a good season in a contract year. While he hit his lowest home run output in seven years, he also hit .313—the first time he's been above .300 in his career. The Angels did not extend a qualifying offer to Hunter, so he will be gone. The Red Sox are interested (via Chris Cwik of CBSSports.com), and that would be a nice fit for Hunter.
No. 17: Shawn Marcum, SP
Marcum made just 21 starts in 2012, but he did well in those appearances. He went 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA and a 7.91 K/9. Marcum is a quality pitcher; he has finished with an ERA under 4.00 every year since 2007. He will help whatever team he signs with and your fantasy team as well.
No. 16: Edwin Jackson, SP
Jackson is a journeyman with plenty of potential. His 4.40 career ERA suggests that he's just mediocre, but his FIP has outperformed his ERA in each of the last three years. Since 2010, Jackson's FIPs are 3.86, 3.55 and 3.85, respectively. If Jackson signs with a solid team, he could be in for a big season.
Lohse was lights out for St. Louis in 2012.
No. 15: Rafael Soriano, RP
Soriano decided to opt out of his Yankees contract for the last year. This makes Soriano the biggest free-agent RP. He did a great job closing after Mariano Rivera went down. He saved 42 games in 46 chances. Soriano proved he can be an elite closer. If he earns a closer's role, he'll be a top RP in 2013.
No. 14: Ryan Dempster, SP
Dempster was looking like a front-line starter while pitching in the NL, but got roughed up once he was traded to Texas. He was 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA with the Cubs, and went 7-3 with a 5.09 ERA for the Rangers. If Dempster returns to the NL, he'll be more valuable than if he stays in the AL.
No. 13: Dan Haren, SP
It looked like Haren was heading to the Cubs, but a last-second withdrawal made Haren a free agent. There's some concern with Haren's health (via Dave Cameron of Fan Graphs), but if he is healthy, he can be a quality starter. The strikeout numbers continue to decline, but he's had an ERA under 4.00 in five of the last six seasons.
No. 12: Ichiro Suzuki, OF
It looked like Ichiro found a new home in the Big Apple. After hitting just .261 with the Mariners, Ichiro went on to hit .322 with 14 stolen bases for the Yankees. Ichiro is getting old, but he can still hit .315-plus with 20-plus steals. He looks like a good fit in Yankee Stadium, but it's unclear if he will remain there.
No. 11: Kyle Lohse, SP
Lohse's career looked like it wasn't going to progress to anything, but after back-to-back great seasons in St. Louis, he should get a good payday this offseason. Obviously, Lohse thrived under Dave Duncan's tutelage, so I'm skeptical about him going elsewhere.
Kuroda looked good in his first season with the Yanks.
No. 10: Anibal Sanchez, SP
Sanchez might not get the notoriety, but he's been solid over the last four seasons. His record is under .500, but his ERA during that span is 3.72. He displayed what he's capable of accomplishing this postseason. In three starts, Sanchez posted a 1.77 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 20.1 innings. If he resigns with Detroit, he'll be a solid starter in 2013.
No. 9: Shane Victorino, OF — Victorino didn't have a good walk-year, but he should still be pretty sought after. He lacked in the home run department but made up for it on the base paths, swiping 39 bags. His BABIP was down in 2012, so I would expect his average to climb up from .255 next season. I wouldn't be surprised if Victorino hit .275 with 15 home runs and 30 steals in 2013.
No. 8: Mike Napoli, C/1B — Napoli failed to reach his lofty expectations in '12, but he'll be looked upon to reach them again in 2013. The .320 batting average the he had in 2011 will most likely not be attainable, but eclipsing the 30-HR plateau is certainly plausible. Napoli's home/away splits were pretty even (he actually hit two more homers on the road), so it's not like he needs to stay in Texas to put up big numbers.
No. 7: Melky Cabrera, OF
Cabrera was on his way to earning an MVP trophy. Before getting suspended 50 games for testing positive for PEDs, Cabrera was hitting .346 with 11 home runs, 13 steals and 80 runs scored. There's no question regarding Cabrera's talent anymore. This biggest concern will be how he comes back from adversity.
No. 6: Hiroki Kuroda, SP
Kuroda did a fine job in the Bronx. He did so good that he's considering a return to pitch for the Hiroshima Carp (via Nate Aderhold of the MLB Daily Dish). No seriously, he really is. I don't think that will happen because he was contemplating the same option last year. If he does stay stateside, Kuroda showed he can pitch anywhere. He's good for double-digit wins with a mid-three ERA.
Hamilton tops MLB's biggest FA list.
No. 5: BJ Upton, OF
Bossman Junior is a nice source of power and speed. The batting average will be low, but as long as he comes close to 30/30 seasons, it will be tolerated. In 2012, Upton hit 28 homers to go along with 31 steals. There were just three players who were 25/30 in '12, and Upton was one of them. The Phillies are looking for a center fielder, and Upton would be a nice fit in that park.
No. 4: Adam LaRoche, 1B
Other than 2011, LaRoche has been very consistent. He's a guy who annually hits 25 home runs, drives in 90 runs and scores 70 runs. LaRoche has bounced around from team-to-team, but he can put up the same numbers anywhere he plays. He and the Nats are reportedly nowhere close to a deal (via Jared Smith of SB Nation), but wherever he ends up shouldn't effect his value.
No. 3: Zack Greinke, SP
Greinke will be the best pitcher in the free-agent market. He is 31-11 with a 3.64 ERA over the last two seasons. Greinke is an ace on any MLB team and can be a No. 1 SP on any fantasy squad as well. Obviously his stock will go up if he remains on a contender, but he proved he can be a stud on any team. Remember he won the Cy Young with the Royals in 2009.
No. 2: Michael Bourn, OF
Bourn's value is rooted in his speed and he has a ton of that. Over the last five years, Bourn has averaged 51.4 stolen bases per season. His contact rate is lower than what you'd want, but he still manages a way to hit around .270. Expect the power to go down and the speed to increase in 2013. Look for Bourn to hit .270 with five home runs and 50 stolen bases.
No. 1: Josh Hamilton, OF
Hamilton will lead a loaded outfield group in free agency in 2013. Hamilton played in the most games (148) since he played in 156 in 2008. He showed what he could do when staying healthy. He hit .285 with 43 home runs, 128 RBI and 103 runs scored in 2012. Hamilton is a star and will remain so wherever he chooses to play. The right team could add a boost in value though.