While Major League Baseball waits for Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, and other high-profile free agents to make decisions on where to play in 2020, here are 10 under-the-radar MLB players worth taking a flier on.
While he garnered just four plate appearances in the Washington Nationals’ 2019 World Series run, Adams was a fixture in the team’s order for the bulk of the regular season. Blasting 20 home runs and holding his own at first base, he was a reliable force at the plate and in the field. Adams holds a towering left-handed power bat, is a starting-caliber first baseman, and capable of producing power on a large scale.
Few players have fallen under the radar more than Cabrera has over the last five years. The 35-year-old outfielder continues to be a contact-hitting machine. He’s an efficient source of offense and has hit .280 or above in five of the last six seasons. Sure, his defense comes into question, but he makes consistent hard contact and is a proven commodity. This bat can’t make a difference somewhere?
Want a veteran second baseman who becomes more productive as the year progresses and comes through with timely hits? Give Starlin Castro a call. He’s a well-versed hitter who ropes pitches to all fields and has pop in his bat. From July-September of last season Castro hit .313 and recorded a .909 OPS. He also totaled a career-high 22 home runs and 86 RBIs.
It was just one year ago that Duffy was coming off a career year where he hit .294 and served as the Tampa Bay Rays’ starting third baseman. In the midst of an injury riddled 2019 season, he still played well at the hot corner. At full force, Duffy is a steady hitter who makes consistent contact, puts the ball in play, is difficult to strikeout, and serves as a slick all-around corner infielder.
Through the injuries and occasional postseason struggles, Gonzalez remains a steady force. Sure, he labors through at-bats and consequently surrenders a lot of baserunners, but he’s adept at limiting damage and keeping his team in games. The southpaw recorded a 3.50 ERA across 19 appearances, 17 of which were starts with the Milwaukee Brewers last season and continues to throw a deceptive curveball.
Veteran pedigree, contact hitting, and smooth defense are a trio that won’t die. Case in point: Jay keeps finding a job in MLB. The veteran outfielder has bounced around the sport over the last few years, partially due to being on rebuilding teams and/or his teams wanting to get their youngsters more reps. Jay’s an ideal fourth outfielder on a contender and, if need be, could start for an extended period of time.
The analytics work against Jones, but the intangibles and offensive production continue to work in his favor. The outfielder is coming off another productive season at the plate, where he makes considerable contact and still has the power to elevate pitches. While it’s an often criticized part of his game, Jones, at the very least, is a respectable fielder, whether it be in center or right field.
Yes, McHugh struggled out of the Houston Astros bullpen last season, but he’s just a year removed from recording an astonishing 1.99 ERA out of the bullpen and found success as a starting pitcher in the years prior. The right-hander throws a mean slider, totals strikeouts at a high rate, and can serve as a flex starter. Versatility is vital on a 2019 pitching staff, and McHugh fits the bill.
Is Smoak the same player who blasted 38 home runs in 2017? No, but he’s still a proven first baseman who brings a powerful stick to the batter’s box. He has plausible defensive range, which makes the infielders around him better. From 2018-19 Smoak totaled 47 home runs and continues to serve as an intimidating left-handed bat. His skill set should be able to find a home.
Wood’s lone season with the Cincinnati Reds was one to forget given his career-worse 5.80 ERA and him being limited to seven starts due to injury. At the same time, in the three and a half seasons he spent with the Los Angeles Dodgers beforehand, the southpaw served as a reliable groundball pitcher and found success in the postseason. Entering spring training healthy, Wood can be a savvy middle-of-the-rotation starter.