Chris Larson 2020 MLB Free Agents Position Player Group

MLB Free Agents
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Position Player Group for the 2020 Season

Last week, the mini-series was focused on building out a 13-man pitching staff using MLB free agents from this past offseason. In the exercise, any MLB free agents could be selected, but money was the focal point. Taking the Top Ten payrolls in the game of baseball right now, the average came out to $186 million dollars.

As such, I utilized that monetary amount when building out the pitching staff and will do the same when assembling the rest of the roster. On the pitching staff, as a General Manager, I spent $109.75 million dollars. Therefore, I will have the remaining $76.25 million to utilize for the position player group.

With that being said, here is how the remainder of the MLB free agents team would round out.

Yasmani Grandal: G-Man Behind the Dish

Yasmani Grandal is the easy choice to take number one overall. At a salary of $18.25 million dollars this year, it’s going to make a dent in the remaining budget. However, Grandal is a two-way catcher who excels with his defense and offense. For a team that could benefit from having a catcher who ranks plus in the pitch-framing category, Grandal would be a nice addition. Adding even more intrigue to the equation, Grandal is a switch hitter as well furthering his value to the team.

Last season with the Milwaukee Brewers, Grandal put together a terrific season at the plate. Over the span of 632 plate appearances, Grandal slugged: .246/.380/.468 with 28 home runs, 77 RBI, 109 walks, and 139 strikeouts. From a plate discipline viewpoint alone, that more than makes up for the cost to sign Grandal. Furthermore, Grandal can be utilized as a nice mentor for the team.

Justin Smoak: Moakey Takes First

Justin Smoak could very easily be a nice bounce-back candidate this coming season for the aforementioned Milwaukee Brewers. It was only three years ago that Smoak hit 38 home runs along with 90 RBI during a season which resulted in Smoak’s first career All-Star nod. Although Smoak is a year older, there is still that power potential there to like. At a rate of $5 million dollars this coming season, it seems like a very affordable signing.

Furthermore, you have to think a change of scenery will do Smoak some good. Last season was a down year in many ways for the 33-year old, but Smoak still came through in those high-leverage situations in a game. 79 of the 500 plate appearances that Smoak recorded last year were considered high-leverage. In those 79 plate appearances, Smoak hit: .302/.443/.587. As is the case with Grandal, Smoak is yet another switch hitter.

Starlin Castro: All-Starlin, All Second Base

Starlin Castro is yet another value pick-up for this MLB free agent team. As a General Manager, I know that teams aren’t heavily investing in the second base position. Therefore, Castro follows that way of thinking since he will be owed an affordable $6 million dollars this coming season. Additionally, Castro is heading into his age 30 season so there could be quite a bit left in this tank and for the next few seasons.

Furthermore, depending on the matchup at hand Castro can be utilized at second or third base as well as shortstop where he played 3 games last season with the Washington Nationals. One area where Castro really shined last season was against finesse pitchers. Against those types of pitchers over 181 plate appearances, Castro slugged: .311/.354/.569.

Jose Iglesias: The Man with the Glove

Jose Iglesias will be the team’s primary shortstop. Iglesias is a sneaky good defender and has the instincts necessary to excel at the shortstop position. As a General Manager, I would follow the theory that defense reigns over offense especially when it comes to the shortstop position. Iglesias fits that bill perfectly and displayed that last season with the Cincinnati Reds and comes at an affordable $3 million dollars.

Over the span of 144 games last season with Cincinnati, Iglesias recorded 7 Defensive Runs Saved along with a 5.9 Ultimate Zone Rating. When you add everything up together, it equaled a total Defensive Rating of 11.9 for Iglesias. Defense and pitching will win games and Iglesias will help in the field with some of the shortcomings/uncertainty of the pitching staff.

Maikel Franco: Maik for Three

Maikel Franco was non-tendered by the Philadelphia Phillies last December. Following that, the Kansas City Royals saw a clear value opportunity and inked Franco a mere three weeks later. Franco is a huge wild card, but there is a ton of upside that he comes with if he can live up to expectations and find a way to stay healthy. If that happens, then the $2.95 million dollars that Franco is owed this season will be chump change.

One aspect of Franco’s game that I would be drawn to is his power. Last season, Franco recorded 148 plate appearances which resulted in the baseball being hit to the outfield. Over the span of those 148 plate appearances, Franco hit: .538/.527/1.000. As a General Manager, when you see that it gets you excited because you know that Franco has the potential to do some major damage at the plate. It’s a gamble worth taking.

Corey Dickerson: CD to Left Field

Corey Dickerson was one of the more underrated names in this past offseason’s MLB free-agent class. Dickerson has some pop with his bat and while Dickerson rates poorly defensively, left field is going to be the easiest of the three outfield positions for him. To illustrate the pop that Dickerson has, consider that he recorded an Isolated Power (ISO) value of .262 and a .367 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) last season over 78 games.

If Dickerson can stay healthy for an entire season, then those numbers could increase even more. Additionally, Dickerson is a middle of the order bat that can hit after Justin Smoak and before Yasmani Grandal. While it’s not the most fearsome threesome in the league, there’s some pretty good power potential there and Dickerson helps add to that. Dickerson is owed $8.75 million dollars this coming season.

Jarrod Dyson: Zoombiya the Speedster

Jarrod Dyson, who is heading into his age-35 season, is the perfect guy for the leadoff spot on this team. The lineup is in need of someone like him who can provide speed at the top of the order, set the table for the rest of the batting order, and record a stolen base when it matters the most. Last season over 91 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Dyson recorded a total of 30 stolen bases.

Mr. Zoombiya, a nickname that is well-earned for Dyson, did quite well against lefties last year. Over 50 plate appearances versus lefties, Dyson slugged: .326/.380/.326. With some of the power and offense at other positions around the diamond, the team can afford to lose some offense with Dyson as he makes up for it with speed on the base paths for an affordable $2 million dollars.

Kole Calhoun: Red Baron to Right Field

Kole Calhoun, a native of Buckeye Arizona and someone who was a very good pickup for the Arizona Diamondbacks this past offseason, is a great MLB free agent pick to round out the starting outfield group. Calhoun has a lot of power and is someone else that can be utilized in the middle of the batting order. Last season over 632 plate appearances, Calhoun slugged: .232/.325/.467. In that span, the Red Baron recorded 33 home runs, 74 RBI, 70 walks, and 162 strikeouts.

Additionally, depending on the matchup that is present, Calhoun can be utilized as a leadoff hitter. For games where Dyson might be platooned in centerfield, that would be a nice asset to have. Furthermore, Calhoun is a line drive machine. Last season with the Los Angeles Angels, Calhoun recorded 98 plate appearances which resulted in a line drive. In those 98 plate appearances, Calhoun hit: .639/.633/.897. When combined with his power, it’s $8 million dollars well spent for the coming season.

Kevin Pillar: Fourth Outfielder

Given that the three starting outfielders all hit left-handed, having a right-handed bat in Kevin Pillar is essential. Pillar signed a one-year, $4.25 million dollar deal this offseason with the Boston Red Sox. The 31-year old MLB Free agent is a great choice for the fourth outfielder role and can platoon with Jarrod Dyson as mentioned previously. Additionally, Pillar can play right field as well which furthers his overall value with the team.

Depending on the matchup at hand, the outfield foursome can be mixed and matched to make it favorable for the team. As a General Manager, having that right-handed bat in the mix is also vital. Last season over 87 games with the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants, Pillar hit: .278/.305/.519 against lefties.

Edwin Encarnacion: The Parrot = DH

Edwin Encarnacion makes another dent in the money remaining with a salary of $12 million dollars for the coming season. However, given that this team will be in the American League Encarnacion was the only true MLB free agent Designated Hitter that signed as a free agent this past offseason. Encarnacion, who is heading into his age 37 season, is yet another veteran leader for the team.

Last season with the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees, Encarnacion hit: .244/.344/.531 over 486 plate appearances. In that span, Encarnacion recorded 34 home runs, 86 RBI, 58 walks, and 103 strikeouts. When combined together, that equaled a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) value of 1.9. Given the defensive shortcomings for Encarnacion, the Designated Hitter role is perfect for the right-hander.

Rounding Out the Bench

Kevin Plawecki: Backup Catcher

Kevin Plawecki is the guy who will get to fill the role as the team’s backup catcher. Plawecki signed a one-year, $900,000 dollar contract with the Cleveland Indians this past offseason. While it’s not a significant addition, Plawecki is the perfect guy to fill the role and Yasmani Grandal can be a great mentor for the 29-year old.

Brock Holt: Utilityman Extraordinaire

Brock Holt was a terrific pickup for the Milwaukee Brewers this past offseason. Holt came to terms with Milwaukee on a one-year, $3.25 million dollar deal. Last year, with Milwaukee Holt played at virtually every position and that’s something that every team should strive to have in a utility man. If there is an injury anywhere around the diamond, Holt can immediately be used as a replacement.

Cameron Maybin: Fifth Outfielder

Rounding out the position player group of MLB free agents is outfielder Cameron Maybin. Maybin is now with the Detroit Tigers after agreeing to a one-year, $1.5 million dollar deal with the team this past offseason. Maybin can be utilized as a defensive replacement off the bench and on occasion as a starting outfielder when needed. Additionally, having that depth in the outfield is critical as is the fact that Maybin is a right-handed bat to provide more balance.

Lineup Construction

With all of that being said, here is how the starting lineup would likely look:

  1. CF Jarrod Dyson (L)
  2. 2B Starlin Castro (R)
  3. 1B Justin Smoak (S)
  4. LF Corey Dickerson (L)
  5. C Yasmani Grandal (S)
  6. DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
  7. RF Kole Calhoun (L)
  8. 3B Maikel Franco (R)
  9. SS Jose Iglesias (R)

Final Thoughts

With the lineup above, it gives the team it’s best chance to win. When you combine that with Kevin Pillar and Cameron Maybin as bench outfielders, Brock Holt as the team’s utility man, and Kevin Plawecki as the backup catcher, the offense looks very strong. In many ways, the lineup compliments itself nicely as well. There is a good balance of left and right-handed hitters and two switch hitters in Justin Smoak and Yasmani Grandal.

Depending on the matchup at hand, the starting lineup might shift especially in center and right field as well as at second or third base since Holt is a left-handed bat. Regardless, this position player rounds out the 2020 MLB Free Agent Team nicely and the best part is there’s still money remaining!

Total Money Spent on Pitching Staff: $109.75 Million Dollars

Total Money Spent on Position Player Group: $75.85 Million Dollars

Remaining Money: $400,000 Dollars

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