B/R MLB Roundtable: Predicting Landing Spots for Top 25 Remaining Free Agents

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2021

B/R MLB Roundtable: Predicting Landing Spots for Top 25 Remaining Free Agents

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The snail's pace at which the 2020-21 MLB offseason is moving means a wealth of impact talent is still available on the free-agent market.

    Trevor Bauer is the headliner of a starting pitching crop that also includes 2019 All-Star Jake Odorizzi, a resurrected Taijuan Walker, bounce-back candidate James Paxton and a potentially healthy Chris Archer, among others.

    Sluggers Marcell Ozuna and Nelson Cruz are still available, along with shortstops Didi Gregorius and Marcus Semien and arguably the best all-around catcher in the game in J.T. Realmuto.

    That's to say nothing of Justin Turner, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brad Hand, Joc Pederson, Garrett Richards and several others who are capable of effectively plugging a roster hole on a number of contenders.

    Ahead, the B/R MLB writing team of Martin Fenn, Abbey Mastracco, Joel Reuter and Zachary Rymer have made their picks for where each of the market's top remaining players will sign.

    Bragging rights are officially on the line for whichever analyst can get the most predictions right.

RHP Chris Archer

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Chicago Cubs

    Chicago still needs rotation depth and could buy low in the hopes Archer discovers his old form.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Los Angeles Angels

    The signing of Jose Quintana alone isn't enough to fix a rotation that had a 5.52 ERA last season.

         

    Joel Reuter: Tampa Bay Rays

    Last offseason, we saw Taijuan Walker resurrect his career after returning to the familiarity of Seattle on a one-year, $2 million contract. Archer could follow a similar path and rejoin the Rays as he looks to get back on track.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Tampa Bay Rays

    He's the kind of low-cost reclamation project the Rays need and can afford. The familiarity between the two is merely a nice bonus.

RHP Trevor Bauer

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Los Angeles Angels

    The Halos need an ace, and they could be gearing up for a big offer after plugging the catcher hole with a buy-low move in Kurt Suzuki.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Toronto Blue Jays

    George Springer's decision to sign with Canada's team could help lure other blue-chip free agents. Bauer wants to go where he can do his unorthodox training regimen, and if the Blue Jays want him, they'll let him continue with it.

         

    Joel Reuter: Los Angeles Angels

    It sure feels like the Dodgers are a sleeping giant here, but the Angels simply can't let him sign anywhere else. If there's any team that can point to him as the missing piece and justify handing out an annual value north of $30 million, it's the Angels.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Los Angeles Angels

    Even after signing Jose Quintana, the Angels would do well to upgrade a rotation that had a 5.52 ERA in 2020 by bringing Bauer home to Southern California.

CF Jackie Bradley Jr.

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: New York Mets

    Bradley would be a cheaper alternative to George Springer and allow the Mets to pursue multiple bullpen upgrades. He offers a plus-plus glove with slugging upside.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Houston Astros

    They need another outfielder aside from Michael Brantley. They have some prospects coming through the pipeline, but Myles Straw isn't the answer just yet.

         

    Joel Reuter: Houston Astros

    The Astros currently have five outfielders on the 40-man roster, including speedy utility man Straw, prospect Chas McCormick, who has yet to make his MLB debut, and Yordan Alvarez, who will almost certainly be the everyday DH. Someone has to play center field.

          

    Zachary Rymer: Boston Red Sox

    They still need him in center field, and the man himself should know how well he fits at Fenway Park.

DH Nelson Cruz

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Minnesota Twins

    Nelly holds Minnesota's lineup together. I can't imagine the Twins will allow him to walk.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Minnesota Twins

    The two parties appear to want a reunion, but the sluggish pace of free agency is complicating things. If the league fails to adopt a universal DH, then Cruz should stay right in Minnesota.

         

    Joel Reuter: Chicago White Sox

    The opportunity to steal Cruz away from the division-rival Twins should be all the motivation the White Sox need. Even with his terrific 2020 numbers, it's unlikely Cruz is going to cost much more than the $12 million they paid Edwin Encarnacion a year ago as he enters his age-40 season.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Chicago White Sox

    Oh, sure. He'll probably end up back with the Minnesota Twins. But if he wants to win a ring, he'd be better off jumping ship to the rising power on the South Side of Chicago.

LF Adam Duvall

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Miami Marlins

    Miami ranked 13th in the National League in slugging last year. Duvall would give the Marlins more oomph in that department.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Miami Marlins

    He could be a low-cost platoon option as Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra continue to develop.

         

    Joel Reuter: Cleveland

    The corner outfield spots have long been an issue in Cleveland, and even with Josh Naylor plugging left field and looking like a potential breakout candidate, another power bat would be a welcome addition. Duvall has a chance to be one of the steals of the winter if he can come close to replicating his 2020 success.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Minnesota Twins

    If they aren't going to re-sign Eddie Rosario, Duvall would make sense as a platoon partner for Jake Cave in left field.

SS Didi Gregorius

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Cincinnati Reds

    Cincy needs a shortstop, and Didi provides more left-handed pop alongside Jesse Winker, Mike Moustakas and Joey Votto.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Cincinnati Reds

    Adding a shortstop may solidify their status as the favorites in the NL Central. His powerful left-handed bat could play well at Great American Ballpark.

         

    Joel Reuter: Cincinnati Reds

    Prospect Jose Garcia did not look ready as he made the jump from High-A to the majors last season and hit .194 with zero extra-base hits in 68 plate appearances. The 22-year-old can still be the shortstop of the future, but bridging the gap with Gregorius would afford him more time to develop.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Philadelphia Phillies

    This was a good fit in 2020, in part because Citizens Bank Park had the dimensions to accommodate Gregorius' low exit-velocity power.

LHP Brad Hand

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Houston Astros

    Addressing the bullpen has been a priority for the Astros. But they still need a lefty, and signing Hand would allow Ryan Pressly to move back into the setup role.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: New York Mets

    Edwin Diaz isn't the answer at closer, and if they want to contend, as new owner Steven A. Cohen says they do, then a closer would put them over the top.

         

    Joel Reuter: Los Angeles Dodgers

    The Dodgers still need to replace Pedro Baez in the late innings, and they could use a shutdown lefty at the back of the bullpen. The question here is whether Hand would prefer to go somewhere he's guaranteed to be the closer, but the opportunity to join the defending champs and chase a ring could supersede that.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Los Angeles Dodgers

    They always seem to pop up as a rumored destination whenever Hand is available. He'd fit in their bullpen now as another late-inning arm and insurance for past-his-prime closer Kenley Jansen.

IF/OF Enrique Hernandez

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Boston Red Sox

    Hernandez offers positional versatility as a guy who can play up the middle or in the outfield. That could be immensely valuable in Boston's lineup.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Miami Marlins

    He could be reunited with former manager Don Mattingly and play just about anywhere for a team that could use some bench help.

         

    Joel Reuter: Boston Red Sox

    Brock Holt became a fan favorite and an All-Star serving in a super-utility role in Boston, and he was sorely missed last season. The Red Sox can offer Hernandez an everyday gig at second base until Jeter Downs is ready and then move him into the utility spot in which he has thrived.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Miami Marlins

    He isn't exactly the big bat their lineup needs, but he is the super-utility guy their bench could use.

C Yadier Molina

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Retirement

    The catching market is not as fruitful as it once was, and the Cardinals have been frugal. Yadi hangs 'em up.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: St. Louis Cardinals

    The need for him is still there and he seems destined to retire as a Cardinal.

         

    Joel Reuter: St. Louis Cardinals

    Did you see Molina pitching in a playoff game in Puerto Rico? It's not hard to tell how much he still loves the game, so I don't believe for a second he's ready to walk away. He'll need to take a pay cut, but once he accepts that, a one-year, $10 million deal should be agreeable for all involved.

         

    Zachary Rymer: St. Louis Cardinals

    They still have a spot for him, and it's simply hard to picture him in another uniform.

1B Mitch Moreland

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    Derrick Tuskan/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Chicago White Sox

    Moreland can be a stopgap at DH while Andrew Vaughn gets more seasoning. He would also give the White Sox some balance from the left side of the batter's box.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Pittsburgh Pirates

    They're thin at first base and can trade him at midseason to continue their rebuild.

         

    Joel Reuter: Minnesota Twins

    If Nelson Cruz signs elsewhere, as I'm predicting here, the Twins could shift Miguel Sano into the DH role and target Moreland on a short-term deal at first base. The 35-year-old had a 139 OPS+ and 10 home runs in 42 games last season and remains a standout defender.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Colorado Rockies

    First base has been a weakness in Denver for a while now. Moreland could fix that at a low price and potentially be trade bait if things don't work out for the Rockies in 2021.

RHP Jake Odorizzi

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Toronto Blue Jays

    Odorizzi is the perfect second-tier starter for the Blue Jays if they miss on Trevor Bauer.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Boston Red Sox

    The two parties continue to be linked to one another, probably because the Red Sox need an upgrade to a rotation that had a 5.34 ERA last season.

         

    Joel Reuter: Boston Red Sox

    The Red Sox desperately need some stability in the starting rotation with Chris Sale sidelined until midseason and Eduardo Rodriguez working his way back from significant COVID-19 complications. Odorizzi was a non-factor in 2020, but he's just a year removed from pitching well enough to earn a qualifying offer and should come at a fraction of the price now.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Boston Red Sox

    They've been linked to him pretty much throughout the entire offseason, which may or may not have something to do with their dire need for a mid-rotation innings-eater.

DH/OF Marcell Ozuna

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Atlanta Braves

    Atlanta will re-sign Ozuna even if it means he is the full-time left fielder.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Houston Astros

    They need outfield help, and they can use him at DH. They need a slugger in that lineup with the Crawford Boxes.

         

    Joel Reuter: Atlanta Braves

    The decision to non-tender Adam Duvall makes it easier to see how Ozuna fits into Atlanta's 2021 plans. For all that's been made of his poor defense, he's no worse than Nick Castellanos, who had no trouble landing a four-year, $64 million deal to be an everyday outfielder a year ago.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Houston Astros

    He's a tough one to place. But the Astros need a slugger, and he would enjoy taking aim at the Crawford Boxes in Houston.

LHP James Paxton

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: San Francisco Giants

    Paxton's velocity and stuff make him an interesting bounce-back candidate. The Giants can sign him to bolster the rotation while also keeping the future books mostly clear.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Cincinnati Reds

    They need to replace Trevor Bauer, and should Paxton stay healthy, he'd have a chance to contribute to a team with playoff aspirations.

         

    Joel Reuter: Minnesota Twins

    The Twins have a rock-solid trio atop the rotation in Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda, but the other two spots are up in the air. They signed Rich Hill to a one-year deal last winter knowing he was extremely unlikely to start 30 games or pitch 200 innings, so Paxton's injury history isn't going to scare them away.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Cincinnati Reds

    They should pick him up as a low-cost replacement for Bauer and see what pitching coach Derek Johnson can do with a hopefully healthy version of him.

LF Joc Pederson

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Milwaukee Brewers

    Milwaukee needs a replacement for Ryan Braun, and it could use a righty masher like Pederson to add production in the middle of the lineup.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: New York Mets

    The Mets need a defensive upgrade in the outfield because Brandon Nimmo isn't the answer in center field. This would allow Jeff McNeil to move out of left field and go back to where he's best in the infield. Putting McNeil at third would solve a lot of problems.

         

    Joel Reuter: Texas Rangers

    The Rangers have quietly done a nice job buying low on David Dahl and Nate Lowe, and they could see Pederson as a similar bargain play if his market doesn't pick up steam in the coming months.

         

    Zachary Rymer: St. Louis Cardinals

    They badly need an influx of power. He could provide plenty of it from the left side for what should be a reasonable rate after his step back in 2020.

IF/OF Jurickson Profar

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: San Diego Padres

    The Friars value Profar's positional versatility. He also showed added discipline at the dish and was a danger on the bases in 2020.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Oakland Athletics

    They may lose Marcus Semien, so they'll need some help in the infield. Profar can provide that, plus more as a switch-hitter who slashed .278/.343/.428 last season.

         

    Joel Reuter: Detroit Tigers

    Still just 27 years old, Profar could conceivably be part of the next contending team in Detroit, and he's an intriguing player to roll the dice on with a multiyear deal. I think the Tigers get bold and sign him to a four-year deal after selling him on their upward trajectory.

         

    Zachary Rymer: San Diego Padres

    This was a fruitful partnership last season, and there's still space for him even after the addition of Ha-Seong Kim.

C J.T. Realmuto

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Philadelphia Phillies

    It's hard to imagine another team will surpass Philadelphia's nine-figure offer.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Philadelphia Phillies

    The Phillies need to pay him what he wants if they want to have any chance of competing in a deep division next season. He's the best catcher in baseball, and that's not the type of player you let walk away.

         

    Joel Reuter: Philadelphia Phillies

    The Phillies didn't give up Sixto Sanchez with the intention of only keeping Realmuto around for two years. The offer on the table is believed to be around $110 million, and I'd expect them to outbid anyone who tries to top that figure.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Philadelphia Phillies

    Retaining the best catcher in baseball is pretty much the only hope they have of contending in 2021 and beyond.

RHP Garrett Richards

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Boston Red Sox

    Richards' spin rates are off the charts, which could bode well for future success if he stays healthy. Boston will take a flier.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Cleveland

    Richards would help bolster a rotation that is looking thin without Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger behind Shane Bieber.

         

    Joel Reuter: Houston Astros

    Starting with their impressive spin rates, there are a lot of similarities to be drawn between Richards and Charlie Morton before his career took off in Houston. That should make this an attractive pairing for both sides. The Astros need some sort of contingency plan with Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. all a year away from free agency.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Houston Astros

    Their rotation would look better if it had another veteran starter, and he definitely has spin rates worthy of the Astros.

LF Eddie Rosario

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Boston Red Sox

    Adding Rosario makes sense, especially if Boston trades Andrew Benintendi and fails to re-sign Jackie Bradley Jr.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Cleveland

    Rosario mashes at Progressive Field. Over 45 games in Cleveland, he has hit .353 with a 1.031 OPS and 11 home runs.

         

    Joel Reuter: Pittsburgh Pirates

    A middling .310 career on-base percentage undercuts Rosario's value, but he is a proven run producer and a solid left fielder. I expect him to be one of the final free agents to sign this winter, and by the time he does, the Pirates will be one of the few clubs able to offer him an everyday job.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Chicago White Sox

    Assuming Eloy Jimenez is their DH for now, Rosario would be a better regular in left field than Adam Engel.

RHP Trevor Rosenthal

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: San Diego Padres

    Money could be tight, but the Padres still need a late-game presence, and he excelled there last year.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Kansas City Royals

    Their big need is a left-handed reliever to break up their all-right-handed bullpen, but bringing back Rosenthal would provide a reliable reliever in a bullpen full of young arms.

         

    Joel Reuter: San Diego Padres

    With the starting rotation sufficiently upgraded, the Padres can now turn their attention to shoring up the relief corps around Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan. The hard-throwing Rosenthal looked right at home after he was acquired from Kansas City at the trade deadline last year.

         

    Zachary Rymer: San Diego Padres

    They haven't yet addressed their need at closer, and reuniting with Rosenthal is the best they can do at this point.

SS Marcus Semien

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Philadelphia Phillies

    Philly has addressed the bullpen and figures to bring back Realmuto. There is still a hole at short, however.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Boston Red Sox

    There aren't a ton of teams looking for infield help, but the Red Sox are one of them. His flexibility to play all over the infield is likely an attractive quality.

         

    Joel Reuter: Oakland Athletics

    This is not the year to be signing a one-year deal and hoping to rebuild your stock if you're a shortstop since there's a bumper crop of shortstop talent set to hit free agency next winter. The A's have seen what Semien can do at his best, and they may be the team willing to offer the most years as a result.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Oakland Athletics

    If he's looking to boost his value by playing shortstop every day on a one-year deal, the A's are one of very few teams that can offer that opportunity.

SS Andrelton Simmons

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Oakland Athletics

    The Athletics replace Marcus Semien with Simmons, who would be a better defender and a more refined contact hitter in Oakland's lineup.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Philadelphia Phillies

    If they lose Didi Gregorius, then Simmons could be a suitable replacement.

         

    Joel Reuter: Philadelphia Phillies

    The Athletics, Phillies and Reds appear to be the three teams in the market for a starting shortstop, and Simmons will likely have to wait out Didi Gregorius and Marcus Semien before signing with whichever of those teams still has a hole to plug at the position.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Toronto Blue Jays

    He would upgrade their defense and allow them to move Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to first base in lieu of either Bo Bichette or Cavan Biggio playing at third base.

SP Masahiro Tanaka

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Return to Japan

    It's hard to envision Tanaka pitching for another club aside from the Yankees, and he is getting more lucrative offers from Japanese clubs.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Toronto Blue Jays

    It looks like the right-hander could be headed back to his native Japan, but if the George Springer signing prevents the Blue Jays from going for the high-priced Trevor Bauer, then Tanaka could be another way to bolster the rotation.

         

    Joel Reuter: Return to Japan

    The Corey Kluber signing seems to have signaled the end of Tanaka's time with the Yankees if they want to stay under the luxury-tax threshold, leaving a return to Japan to close out his career as the likely next step for the 32-year-old right-hander.

         

    Zachary Rymer: New York Mets

    Let's just say that both parties have reasons to stick it to the Yankees.

3B Justin Turner

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Toronto Blue Jays

    Toronto pries Turner away from the Dodgers with a longer offer.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Los Angeles Dodgers

    He's a SoCal kid through and through. He grew up in Long Beach listening to Vin Scully, he played college ball at Cal State Fullerton, and he's a respected voice in the clubhouse.

         

    Joel Reuter: Los Angeles Dodgers

    That four-year deal for which Turner is hoping isn't going to happen. Once he accepts that, a return to the Dodgers is going to be his best move. It's hard to envision anyone else paying more for a player who has lost a step defensively and turned 36 years old in November.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Los Angeles Dodgers

    Maybe there are fits for him elsewhere, but the Dodgers still need him. Frankly, it's hard to picture him in another uniform.

RHP Taijuan Walker

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: Detroit Tigers

    Detroit has a plethora of young and talented arms but could use another veteran presence in the rotation.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: Chicago Cubs

    The Cubs need someone in the middle of the rotation after letting Colin Rea go to Japan, and Walker can eat some innings.

         

    Joel Reuter: Chicago Cubs

    Someone has to eat up innings behind Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies in a Cubs rotation that is currently projected to lean heavily on the largely unproven duo of Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay. At 28 years old, Walker is one of the few attractive options for a multiyear deal this winter.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Minnesota Twins

    He would fit in the middle of their rotation, and his pitching style would mesh well with their Byron Buxton-led outfield defense.

2B Kolten Wong

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    Scott Kane/Associated Press

    Martin Fenn: St. Louis Cardinals

    Despite declining his option at the start of the offseason, the Cardinals reportedly have interest in a reunion with Wong. He hasn't ruled out a return to St. Louis, and his defense is valuable up the middle.

         

    Abbey Mastracco: St. Louis Cardinals

    He's still on the market, and the Cards still have a need at second base.

         

    Joel Reuter: Miami Marlins

    Isan Diaz has looked overmatched in his brief MLB action to this point, and Jon Berti fits best in a utility role. If the Marlins are serious about contending in 2021, an upgrade at second base should be high on their shopping list.

         

    Zachary Rymer: Boston Red Sox

    If nothing else, he'd be a solid placeholder for top prospect Jeter Downs.

         

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.