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These 6 MLB Players Have Been Incredible Free Agent Bargains so Far in 2016

During this past winter, the MLB free agent market seemed to move a lot slower than in recent memory. While there were plenty of legitimate players available after the holidays and with Spring Training fast approaching, a number of them still managed to bring in huge paydays.

Zack Greinke and David Price both broke records for starting pitchers with their respective $200 million deals, and there were five others who landed a payday of $100-plus million (Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Chris Davis). Those huge contracts are great, but they also come with high expectations. Some have dealt with them just fine in 2016, and some are off to a slow start.

There’s plenty of baseball to be played, but with about a quarter of the regular season schedule complete, the following six players have been incredible free agent bargains thus far — especially considering the ever-growing cost of acquiring top talent on the open market.

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The Numbers Behind John Jaso’s Early Success

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To say nothing of his more-than-capable defense at first base, John Jaso has been a revelation at the top spot in the batting order for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

John Jaso has put up some solid slash lines over his career, so it should not come as much of a surprise that he currently carries a .414 on-base percentage as part of an .897 OPS.

How has Jaso been able to acclimate himself so quickly and effectively to the top of the Pirates’ lineup?

A Solid Foundation

For Jaso, his propensity for quality plate appearances starts with the first pitch.

His F-Strike percentage (percentage of plate appearances that start with a strike) clocks in at 53.3 percent. That figure represents the third-best on the club, behind Starling Marte (52.5) and Gregory Polanco (51.6). While the importance of first-pitch strikes has been debated in recent years, good things happen for Jaso on a 1-0 count. More on that later.

In looking a bit deeper at what Jaso is actually seeing on the first pitch, the four-seam fastball is seen the most at 46 percent. It likely may not even matter what type of pitch Jaso sees first, as chances are it won’t be anywhere near the strike zone. His Zone % (percentage of pitches seen in the strike zone) is 47.8 percent, which is not significant on its own until coupled with his O-Swing % (percentage of pitches outside of the zone that a batter swings at).

Jaso’s O-Swing percentage clocks at 16.5 percent, nearly two-thirds better than the league average of 30 percent. Incredibly, he isn’t even the best on this Pirates team in this regard. That honor belongs to David Freese and his 15.7 percent clip. Regardless, Jaso’s rate is fourth-best in the National League for anyone with 50 or more plate appearances.

The foundation that Jaso lays in his plate appearances almost feels as if he dictates to pitchers how the PA will go. He absolutely refuses to chase anything out of the zone, and such an approach can force an opposing pitcher to offer something he may not necessarily want to offer on the next pitch, which usually comes at a 1-0 count.

READ MORE AT PIRATES BREAKDOWN….

MLB Power Rankings 2016: Week 2 – April

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Hunter Stokes (BBBA Featured Writer) 

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Disclaimer:  We based these rankings on best strength to win the World Series.  Therefore some teams that have an easier division to play in, with the least path of resistance to the postseason overall may be ranked a lot higher than a club who is equally talented, yet may play in a juggernaut of a division.

The Cubs will top our list for a second straight week despite losing 2 out of 3 games to the Rockies at Wrigley Field this weekend.  The biggest reason is the pitching.

Jake Arrieta is 3 – 0, and has picked up right where we he left off in 2015, and Jon Lester has thrown awesome too.  The Bullpen has also been good.

The bats are too solid not to come around and gel as the season moves along.  They are playing .750 baseball after a 4 – 2 week still.

Bryce Harper is the best player on the planet, and has homered in 6 straight contests at Citizens Bank Ball Park (4 overall in a row for the MLB this year.)

Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg. Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy are their top players – and all performing like it, the rest of the club is following through in their secondary roles.  This team is scary.

I have the Royals as the top American League club.  This squad is 8 – 1 in games that are not started by back end of the rotation man Chris Young.

The reigning 2 time pennant winners have company on the top of the Division to make it interesting, however this team has the better pedigree the last few years.

Some may say with a weekend series win – that the Dodgers should be put in front of the Giants, yet they are still only one game ahead of San Francisco.

With the Giants – there is no real weakness, while with the Los Angeles team, the Bullpen is not giving everyone confidence in the back half of games.

The Dodger Blue is still in the top 5, so I am high on them. Kenta Maeda could be the steal of the winter with how this guy is throwing so far.  Reinforcements are starting to come back. Read the rest of this entry

I Am Not Buying Into The Tampa Bay Rays This Year

This squad also doesn't have any ALL - Star caliber position players, and will have a tough time keeping up with the offenses of the Jays, Orioles, Red Sox and even the Yankees. I would gladly take all other 4 teams shut down late inning relief over Tampa Bay's as well.

This squad also doesn’t have any ALL – Star caliber position players, and will have a tough time keeping up with the offenses of the Jays, Orioles, Red Sox and even the Yankees. I would gladly take all other 4 teams shut down late inning relief over Tampa Bay’s as well.  Last season the club took advantage of a strong Bullpen that led the AL in Saves with 60, and have since traded stalwart Jake McGee, and have lost Brad Boxberger to start they year for 2 months.  Some of the departed veterans were also not adequately replaced.  All of the four other club all improved or maintained, whereas Tampa will need some luck to just maintain.

Hunter Stokes (BBBA Featured Writer) 

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Forgive me if I don’t follow a lot of other people’s opinion on the Tampa Bay Rays. I outlined in a recent article on over/under win totals for the year that the Rays are 1 of 2 best bets to be under their 82.5 wins for the year.

Okay so last year I did also call for their demise – and they rallied late in the year for a 80 – 82 record, however I don’t even think this club is as good as the roster that competed the 2015 season – meanwhile all the other clubs have maintained or added good players to their depth charts.

Out for the Rays are Jake McGee, John Jaso, Nate Karns, Asdrubal Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, J.P. Arencibia and Brad Boxberger is out 8 weeks after core muscle surgery.

In are: Corey Dickerson Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, Steve Pearce, Danny Farquhar, Ryan Webb and Hank Conger.

Not exactly loading the fanbase with can’t miss talent the Rays are significantly weaker in 2016 than 2015 in my view.

Their Bullpen is worse…The loss off Starter Karns may actually hurt the club. Read the rest of this entry

Pittsburgh Pirates to experiment with John Jaso at leadoff

Over the course of Spring Training, many different lineups are thrown together. Whether it’s by design to get a certain hitter more at bats, or to experiment with slotting different players in different roles, it’s very rare to see a firm lineup until the very last week of camp.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are no different. Aside from Andrew McCutchen‘s lock on the number three spot, the hitters around him are a swirl of possibilities.

One of the more interesting possibilities is being tested in today’s Grapefruit League tilt against the Baltimore Orioles.

There is a lot of thoughts to unpack regarding this lineup, and first among them is John Jaso in the lead-off spot. The accepted thinking is that the first spot in the order would be manned by either Josh Harrison orGregory Polanco. Though both have been used lower in the order often, Jaso may force Clint Hurdle‘s hand to keep the two in the bottom half of the order.

Hitting Jaso first in Spring Training is nothing new, and he performs well there for his career.

Of course, any conversation regarding Jaso’s role as a hitter must carry the obligatory note that he will be hit strictly in a platoon against right-handed pitching. Over his eight-year career, Jaso’s workload between right-handers and left-handers is drastically different.

READ MORE AT PIRATES BREAKDOWN…

 

MLB Power Rankings New Year Of 2016

Perhaps the Back to the Future Prediction was off by just one year. The Cubs , who are immensely loaded with young offensive superstars added another to the mix with the Jason Heyward signing. Add that to a revamped Bullpen, strong Starters signed last year in Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, coupled with John Lackey this year, and this team is the clear cut #1 ranked team. Oh yeah..They even have depth to make another trade should they need to.

Perhaps the Back to the Future Prediction was off by just one year. The Cubs , who are immensely loaded with young offensive superstars added another to the mix with the Jason Heyward signing. Add that to a revamped Bullpen, strong Starters signed last year in Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, coupled with John Lackey this year, and this team is the clear cut #1 ranked team. Oh yeah..They even have depth to make another trade should they need to.

Hunter Stokes (Chief Writer/Part-Owner) 

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(1) Chicago Cubs: Big additions of Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey.  Tonnes of young superstars only ging to get better.

(2) NY Mets:  Starting Pitching best in the Majors.  Offensive depth better in offseason.  Need David Wright to stay healthy.  NL East easiest bottom 3 teams in the bigs.

(3) Kansas City Royals:  Easiest Division in the Majors.  Back to Back AL Pennants and defending World Series Champs.  Look for some more mid year deals. (more…)

Tampa Bay Rays State Of The Union For 2016

The Rays have still been one of the best teams in baseball since the start of 2008. Last year marked their 1st losing season since 2007 - and that was only at 80 - 82. But with the starting positional players listed on depth chart all being below league averages on offense - except for Logan Forsythe and Evan Longoria, they will need a few breakout players from their bench. It may be time trade one or 2 Starting Pitchers to add some offensive help. If they fall out of contention, it also may not be a bad idea to trade all veterans that they can. This may include Evan Longoria.

The Rays have still been one of the best teams in baseball since the start of 2008. Last year marked their 1st losing season since 2007 – and that was only at 80 – 82. But with the starting positional players listed on depth chart all being below league averages on offense – except for Logan Forsythe and Evan Longoria, they will need a few breakout players from their bench. It may be time trade one or 2 Starting Pitchers to add some offensive help. If they fall out of contention in 2016 it also may not be a bad idea to trade all veterans that they can. This may include Longoria.

Chuck Booth (Owner/Lead  Analyst) 

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The Tampa Bay Rays failed to make it to .500 or better for the 1st time since 2008 in 2015, however with a 5 game winning streak at the end of the campaign, they made it to 80 wins or better for an 8th year in a row.  I highly suspect this year that may come crashing down.

First Boston went off on a spending spree to amp up its roster, and now the Yankees have added Aroldis Chapman to the fold, and upgraded at Second Base with Starlin Castro.

Toronto made its moves for the better in late July, and should be a team to be reckoned with again in 2016.

Only the Orioles don’t look to compete in the AL East during the 2016 campaign with the Rays thus far, and they still may be tough to play 19 times a year if they are to re-sign Chris Davis.

Tampa Bay still clearly has the best Pitching Rotation in the Division with Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi filtering in spots 1 – 5.  But will it be enough to help a fledgling offensive in 2016? (more…)

Players With Potentially Expiring Contracts In 2016: Trade Bait, CBA + Payroll Implications

In the last year of the current CBA, there is potentially only one more year to take advantage of a feeble penalty as a first time abuser in 2016. With Boston set to join the Dodgers and Yankees as abusers, I took a look at other teams who should consider the 2016 campaign as a rare gamble to dole out some cash in seeking a World Series trophy before the new CBA is authored in prior to the 2017 season.

In the last year of the current CBA, there is potentially only one more year to take advantage of a feeble penalty as a first time abuser in 2016. With Boston set to join the Dodgers and Yankees as abusers, I took a look at other teams who should consider the 2016 campaign as a rare gamble to dole out some cash in seeking a World Series trophy before the new CBA is authored in prior to the 2017 season.

Hunter Stokes (Chief Writer/Part-Owner) 

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The Boston Red Sox might just be on to something.  They will be penalized for the 1st year of going over the new $189 MIL limit in 2016, but it is also the last year the CBA may have the percentages.

Currently right now, there is a 17.5% penalty for spending dollars over $189 MIL.  The Dodgers and Yankees are the only other teams that are budgeted over the mark in addition to Boston.

On the cusp are the Detroit Tigers, sitting at around $177 MIL – while the Giants and Angels are nearly at $170 MIL.  The Cubs are also near the $165 MIL area.

Why not spend like crazy in 2016 – and take advantage of the system as it is presented towards you? (more…)

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