Power Ranking the Mid-Tier Free-Agent Starting Pitchers

Source: Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America

Source: Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America

11. Henderson Alvarez – RHP

Qualifying Offer Attached: No

Alvarez, 25, was the Miami Marlins’ Opening Day starter in 2015 due to the absence of Jose Fernandez — who was recovering from Tommy John surgery and rehabbing. However, Alvarez did not pitch after May 22 due to shoulder problems that led to surgery to repair the shoulder tear. He’s going through rehab now, and isn’t expected to fully return until May of 2016.

MLBTradeRumors.com projected Alvarez to make $4 million through arbitration this offseason, but the Marlins ultimately non-tendered the 25-year-old right-hander, making him a free agent.

Even if the Marlins didn’t want to pay Alvarez $4 million, I’m surprised they weren’t able to find a trade partner for him. He has an impressive career groundball rate of 55 percent, which would play well to multiple clubs with a strong infield defense. Even if clubs have a hitter’s park at home, Alvarez has a 0.86 HR/9 rate in his career. He has low 4.73 K/9 and 2.06 BB/9 rates in his career. He pitches to contact, which has allowed him to average just over six innings pitched per start in his career. He also has five career complete games, all of them being shutouts — one being a no-hitter.

Even with the shoulder injury, I think we’ll see many teams look for Alvarez. As long as his shoulder allows him to pitch, Alvarez could very well slot into the middle-to-back of one of many club’s rotations.

Contract Prediction: One-year, $4 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

10. Doug Fister – RHP

Qualifying Offer Attached: No

Fister is a 31-year-old right-hander that stands very tall at 6’8″. In a career that has featured two-and-a-half years each with the Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers, and two years with the Washington Nationals, Fister has a 3.42 ERA (3.62 FIP) and seven complete games — two being shutouts — over 1,085.2 innings in his seven-year career.

However, 2015 wasn’t as kind to the tall right-hander. Fister recorded a 4.19 ERA (4.55 FIP) over 103 innings pitched combined from starting and coming in relief. Fister was bumped from the rotation after his August 3 start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, in which he allowed five earned runs over six innings pitched.

Fister wasn’t awful in 2015, but he certainly didn’t pitch to the level where we have seen him pitch before. He posted a 1.31 GB/FB ratio in 2015, and has a 1.56 GB/FB ratio in his career. He pitches to his defense, and allows most of the balls put in play to be hit at a medium speed. He has allowed 18.2, 55.2, and 26.6 percent of the balls put in play to be hit at a soft speed, medium speed, and hard speed, respectively.

Here’s a red flag that needs to be noticed: Fister’s average fastball velocity has been dropping since 2011. He was averaging 90 mph on his fastball in 2011. Here’s how it’s decreased since then:

  • 2012: 88.9
  • 2013: 88.8
  • 2014: 87.9
  • 2015: 86.2

Expect Fister to land a one-year deal somewhere with a big park and a strong infield defense to help rebuild his value for next offseason. Teams that want to bring in Fister should keep tabs on where his fastball velocity is at throughout the season.

Contract Prediction: One-year, $10 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

9. Mat Latos – RHP

Qualifying Offer Attached: No

Latos — like Fister — is probably going land a one-year deal with a club to rebuild his value for next offseason. Only difference? Latos is younger and has more upside. Latos will be 28 years old on Opening Day and has a career 3.51 ERA (3.41 FIP), while averaging 8.08 K/9, 2.65 BB/9, 0.84 K/9, and over six innings pitched per start in his career.

Latos had a rough 2015, which also came with some bad luck. He appeared in 24 games (21 starts) combined with the Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Los Angeles Angels. He had a 4.95 ERA, but had only a 3.72 FIP, which is a huge 1.23 difference.

The 6’6″ right-hander is a good low-risk, high-reward bet that many teams should be able to afford on a one-year deal.

Contract Prediction: One-year, $11 million deal with the Kansas City Royals.

8. Ian Kennedy – RHP

Qualifying Offer Attached: Yes

Kennedy, who will be 31 on Opening Day, is the only one of this first group that has a qualifying offer attached to him this offseason. He is likely going to be the only one of these four that will earn a multi-year contract.

Kennedy and his agent, Scott Boras, seem pretty confident in his value by rejecting the $15.8 million qualifying offer, even though that’s certainly in question. He has a career 3.98 ERA (3.99 FIP), but recorded a 4.28 ERA (4.51 FIP) while also allowing a whopping 31 home runs in 2015.

However, there is one thing that Boras can sell his client to clubs on — strikeouts.

Teams love guys that have a put-away pitch and can generate a lot of swing and misses. That’s what Kennedy does pretty well, posting a career 8.31 K/9, but has recorded an approximate 9.3 K/9 rate over each of the last two seasons.

Remember, he’s one year removed from a 2014 season in which he had a 3.63 ERA (3.21 FIP), so teams have to wonder if they can bring that back. Look for a team with a pitcher-friendly park to take a shot at Kennedy on a multi-year contract. Whoever signs him likely isn’t ecstatic about giving up a first-rounder for him, so maybe a team with a protected pick will jump in, or maybe a team who has already signed a free agent with a qualifying offer attached will give up their second pick for a risky Kennedy.

Contract Prediction: Three-year, $40 million deal with the Miami Marlins.

2 Responses

  1. J French Rennier

    This article is a little dated, Greinke signed for $34 mill with the Diamondbacks which rules out their signing Leake. The Giants signed the Shark & have more money left to burn.
    The $64 question is whether the Giants will sign Leake or a Leftfielder as they are unable to sign both.
    The Giants have Heston available as a 5th Starter behind the Mad Bum, the Shark, Peavy & Cain so a Leake signing is not a necessity.
    The also can use a platoon in LeftField with Blanco when not playing Center, Parker & Williamson both called up at the end of last year & Tomlinson who is learning the outfield becoming a Super Utilityman so a proven big bat left fielder is also not a necessity especially since they are basically set in the batting order 1 thru 7.
    As a longtime Giant Fan, my prediction is they will heavily pursue Leake who fits their ballpark & is a good age for a 5 year contract averaging $15 to $18 mill ea.


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