Free Agent Depth Charts

A few weeks ago, we provided some links to a few different custom leaderboards, which allow you to sort and compare free agents to your hearts content. These are super useful for seeing how various players on the open market have done in the past, but the leaderboards don’t contain future projections, which is mostly what we care about when discussing what kind of contracts a player is going to sign or whether a team should pursue one free agent over another.

So, today, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that you may or may not have noticed: we now have a free agent depth chart, complete with 2014 Steamer Projection data, so you can compare available free agents at each position to each other based on their forecasts for next season. These depth charts reveal some pretty fun facts, so let’s walk through a few of them and see why I’m going to be using this page regularly.

Don’t pay for Jarrod Saltlamacchia when Dioner Navarro is basically the same thing.

Navarro is one year older than Salty (2/9/84 versus 5/2/85) and isn’t going to land anything close to the same contract as the more notable free agent catchers, but their projections are almost identical. Steamer has Navarro forecast for a .316 wOBA, four points better than Saltalamacchia’s .312 mark. Both are switch-hitters, but Navarro’s career numbers suggest he’s better from the right side, so he’s not quite as good of a fit as a regular catcher as Salty (since most pitchers are RHPs), but he’s still effective enough against them to be at least a 50/50 catcher.

Navarro’s going to be priced like a backup and will probably sign for a few million dollars, and if he’s lucky, he might get a second guaranteed year. Salty’s going be looking for $10+ million annually on a multi-year contract, and the FanGraphs Crowd expects him to sign for $45 million over 4 years. Navarro is projected to give you most of the same production level for a tiny fraction of the cost.

The forecasts love Juan Uribe.

I’m pretty sure that no one is going to buy into this forecast, but it’s at least worth noting that Steamer is projecting Uribe and Shin-Soo Choo to post the same WAR in 2014. Yes, Uribe’s WAR is heavily driven by defensive value, but his defensive numbers have been consistently excellent over a long career, so at some point, the world is just going to have to accept that Juan Uribe is a very good defensive player. I’ll take Choo to outperform Uribe in 2014 too — sorry Steamer, I like you, but +2.9 WAR for Uribe seems a bit aggressive for even my tastes — but Uribe’s going to cost $7 to $10 million while Choo’s going to get $20 million for twice as many years. At the very least, Steamer reminds us that the gap probably isn’t as big as the market is going to suggest.

Don’t forget about Kevin Youkilis.

Coming off a terrible season in which he was bad and mostly injured, and heading for his age-35 season, it would be easy to assume that Youkilis is finished as a productive player. Steamer forecasts him for a .330 wOBA, however, which would make him an above average third basmean if he could still play the field on a semi-regular basis. Even if he can’t play third and needs to strictly be a 1B/DH at this point, that still makes him a decently useful player, not that different from Justin Morneau or James Loney. Odds are he’s going to have to take a deal not too different from what Eric Chavez got last year, and could be a nice cheap addition for a team looking for a hitter.

Dan Haren still has a lot of potential.

Haren was supposed to be a bounce back guy last year, only he didn’t bounce back, so it’s easy to assume that he won’t ever bounce back. But Steamer is not deterred, forecasting Haren as a +3 WAR pitcher for 2014, better than every other free agent starter besides A.J. Burnett and Hiroki Kuroda. It likes Haren more than Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, two other bounce back guys from last winter who actually did bounce back. Assuming that Haren’s going to come in slightly under what Tim Hudson just got — the Giants likely chose Hudson over Haren — Steamer thinks he might be the bargain of the winter.

Matt Garza, still wildly overrated.

Garza’s going to get a big contract from someone based on his reputation, but Steamer sees him as basically a league average starting pitcher, projecting +2.1 WAR over 188 innings pitched. It’s a worse projection than the system gives for Roberto Hernandez, and it puts him squarely in the same class as Jason Vargas, Chris Capuano, Jason Hammel, and Paul Maholm. Those guys are likely going to be shopping for short term deals at less than $10 million per year, while Garza is projected to sign for $59 million over four years. A couple of years ago, Garza was legitimately excellent, but he’s been mediocre for the last two seasons and his strikeout rate is rapidly trending the wrong way. Even if you think this forecast undersells him a little bit, throwing 4/60 at Garza seems like a great way to light money on fire when similarly valuable pitchers will be had for fractions of the price.

There’s plenty of other interesting nuggets on those depth charts, and yes, the team depth charts are updated with 2014 Steamer projections too, so you can look at how the forecasts might see your favorite team’s expected outcome based on their current roster. Marlins fans might want to avoid doing so, however.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

47 Responses to “Free Agent Depth Charts”

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  1. Tom Stoner says:

    Just wanted to say Dave I’ve been reading the site regularly for a little over a year now as I’ve been introduced to more and more statistical information on sports, specifically baseball, and I appreciate everything you and the other writers do to bring all of us this great content for free. Fangraphs is my go to site for baseball analysis, and it’s a wonderful alternative to some of the narrative driven major media outlets. Thanks for all the work you put in.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Well, thank you, but credit for this should go entirely to David Appelman, Paul Swydan, and the team of guys who keep the depth charts updated. I’m just stealing their glory with this post.

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      • Tom Stoner says:

        More of an all encompassing thanks. I love Eno and Carson and Wendy Thurm as well. Basically everyone who writes here. Just created an account today. The comment sections here are a lot more civil than most places.

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        • Bip says:

          I agree that this is one of the only sites I’ve been to that has a comment section that is all at once civil, topical, relevant and insightful. There is the occasional homer who get everyone riled up, but that’s rare, and that’s the worst that will happen.

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      • ian says:

        I’ll second what Stoner said. I think Fangraphs has become the best, most relevant baseball analysis site on the web.

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    • gavzac says:

      Stoners are really the nicest people.

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      • Tom Stoner says:

        Guess I should just list myself as “Tom”

        The internet isn’t the best place for someone born with the last name Stoner

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      • bobbysf says:

        Maybe Tom & FG have the makings of a new football/basketball advance stat: StonerWar. Special stat covering all these knucklehead players who keep getting caught with mj on them.

        Hail the Grateful Dead! And FanGraphs!

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  2. Brandon Firstname says:

    I really like Dan Haren to the A’s. A fly ball pitcher in that park with that outfield defense makes a lot of sense even before you factor in the facts that the A’s need a starting pitcher and Haren is likely within their budget.

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  3. J. Cross says:

    I’m a little surprised by Uribe’s ultimate WAR but the individual components don’t seem too shocking to me.

    A .306 wOBA (.242/.304/.396) projection and +12 UZR at 3B (he was +24 at 3B last year and if you add up 2009-2012 you get about one full season and +18.3 UZR at 3B) and slightly negative base running.

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    • Brandon Firstname says:

      Yeah, being good defensively at a position that has a plus positional rating really helps out your floor. If you manage to hit just close to league average then, you’re a pretty productive player.

      Even if you’re fat.

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    • Paul Clarke says:

      What about the playing time? 2.8 WAR might be reasonable if he gets 603 PAs, but he hasn’t done that since 2002.

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      • Brandon Firstname says:

        Very good point, 450 PA is probably a more realistic prediction.

        Because he’s fat.

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        • J. Cross says:

          I’ll buy that.

          WAR should be proportional to playing time so 2.8*450/603 = 2.1 WAR. He’s still be a nice buy at the 2 years and $16 M the fans think he make and the fans would offer 1 year and $6.1 M, essentially suggested that they think he’s good for 1 WAR. It looks like he’d be worth (a touch more than) that with 450 PA and *average* defense at 3B.

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  4. cass says:

    The Nats have the 18th highest WAR projection? And apparently they should have given Haren a QO?

    This is not good news for Washington fans.

    All the team can do is build a better bench and pen and then hope and pray that Bryce has a breakout, MVP-type season, right?

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    • Brandon Firstname says:

      It seems like the problem for the Nats is that they’re pretty average across the board and so it’s just not easy for them to upgrade. A couple mid-grade relievers would be helpful, probably, but that’s just not going to make that much of a difference.

      The team’s not bad, but it’s probably going to take some baseball happening for them to win too many more than half their games.

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    • bobbysf says:

      Willing to bet the Nationals will be very good next year, maybe one of the top 3 teams in the NL. They had some tough luck last year. Talent wise, I see them as better than the Braves in the East.

      As for pitching, don’t sleep on Ohlendorf. He looked very good at the end last year, throwing harder than before he was injured. The young dude Jordan probably needs some time in AAA, but he’s going to be good. I like Haren too (especially to a home park that tilts towards starters), but the Nats have enough to make up for losing him.

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  5. ............. says:

    Has Omar Infante secretly signed with a team?

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  6. AK7007 says:

    I actually slightly disagree with the Salty analysis. Navarro might be projected for similar offense, and they are both probably around average with the defensive numbers that are on Fangraphs – but framing numbers have them roughly a win apart if you were to give them average playing time. (120 games caught) That doesn’t make up for the difference in salary the two will get, but it is dishonest to say that they provide the same number of wins to a team. Navarro is the better value, but Salty is the better player.

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  7. Jaack says:

    This is a really fun tool, but I’m not sure I believe steamer projecting Jeff Francis to have the best FIP of his career…

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  8. human era says:

    Steamer is projecting Peralta to be a better fielder than Drew. At shortstop? Why?

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  9. LaLoosh says:

    um Jeff Francis 2.5 ?

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  10. Ruki Motomiya says:

    The difference between Dioner Navarro and Jarrod Saltalamacchia can be summed up thusly:

    2009-2012 Salty: 3.7 WAR (Including a year he got 30 PA)
    2009-2012 Navarro: -1.0 WAR

    Was Navarro good last year? Yes. But the fact he has stunk like a skunk for so long beforehand adds in a lot more element of risk. If Navarro regresses to his career, he’ll stink. If Salty regresses to his career, he’s a solid starter.

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    • brendan says:

      projections are taking into account a weighted average of past performance, and regression to the mean. I think looking at steamer is pretty reasonable, right?

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      • Ruki Motomiya says:

        It’s reasonable, but Navarro has had 2 years of more than 1 WAR and 3 years of negative WAR. Anyone who wants to sign Navarro should take a big look at his numbers and see if his numbers are a real improvement or if his ISO rose due to a fluke. His HR/FB being 18.88% vs. a career 7.5% means that, especially given the low PAs, Navarro looks like he has a big possibility of reducing that. And once he does, you’re stuck with the same crappy guy he’s been for a while.

        Steamer is also projecting Navarro to be a 6.6 defender in 81 games, a pace he’s only done once in his career. It projects him to be worth -2.4 with the bat, something he has beaten only 2 times (3 if you count a whole 7 PAs in his first year: The others were 2012 and 2013, where he combined for a total of 339 PAs, and 2012 was still negative!).

        I think that, for Navarro, Steamer is over-weighing his recent performance (Likely helped because 2012 essentially buffered the previous years). He’s always had a bad bat, his defense is good but not great.

        Salty’s 2013 was definitely fluky (Just look at that BABIP!), but the numbers he’ll regress too should be much better than Navarro looking at his career numbers, and he has a better priod of recent success, with his bat being better than Navarro even in his negative years, with the exception of 2009, with similiar to slightly better defense numbers and a BsR that isn’t too bad, especially for a catcher.

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  11. Mariners2001 says:

    Awesome. I’m confused about one thing though…How does A.J. Pierzynski project to have +5 Fld? He’s been negative in preventing stolen bases and pitch blocking. I’m not sure if Steamer accounts for framing in their catcher defense projections, but as far as I know, he’s not that great at framing either.

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  12. Nick says:

    Dan Haren DID bounce back last year, just in the 2nd half, .370 woba against in the 1st half vs .279 woba against in the 2nd half

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  13. Harry says:

    Projecting Freeman and Simmons to both be worth 1 win less next year than they were in 2013? Don’t young guys usually get better year to year, not worse?

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    • Anon21 says:

      Tempered by regression to the mean. The defensive projection for Simmons is obviously too low, but I think that’s just how it’s going to go with projections; the systems don’t really seem to think “historically great defender” is a reasonable assumption.

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    • Anon21 says:

      Also, Heyward was worth 3.4 WAR in 2013 (due mostly to all the time he missed), but is projected to be worth 4.8 WAR in 2014 on the strength of a higher wOBA. In the best case, I could see him breaking out to a .380 wOBA with excellent defense and finishing around 4th in MVP balloting, but 4.8 WAR is not a bad projection by any means.

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  14. Hurtlockertwo says:

    It’s interesting that if you watch any Dodgers Baseball that Vin Scully lavishes praise on Uribe’s defense at third base.

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  15. Michael says:

    What I want to know is why on the SP FA chart the FIP is different then the ERA. Shouldn’t they be the same in theory because they don’t know what the defense is going to look like?

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  16. Jonathan Judge says:

    I’m not seeing the Steamer numbers at that Depth Charts link. Maybe I misinterpreted.

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  17. BritDawg says:

    A few notes and queries:

    1. I’m not sure why Scott Hairston is listed – I don’t think he’s a free agent until after next season.

    2. Nearly all of the recently signed FAs appear to have been excluded, but Brayan Pena and Marlon Byrd are both on the list.

    3. The WARs given here don’t appear to be the same as the Steamer WARs listed on the individual player pages. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for this, but I’m not sure what it is.

    4. This discrepancy between the two lists seems to have led to some possible omissions, such as John Lannan (0.4 Steamer WAR), Chad Qualls (0.3 Steamer WAR) & Manny Parra (0.2 Steamer WAR).

    5. I also don’t underestand why Steamer WAR only predicts 1 IP for Scott Feldman & Boone Logan, and only 1 AB for Michael Morse, Clint Barmes and Jose Molina.

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  18. skyjo says:

    These are super awesome. May I offer a suggestion? Two more columns: Age and Handedness. Thanks!

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  19. gummy says:

    Garza is projected for the same innings and WAR as Haren.

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  20. Darren says:

    Wow, so if I am looking at Team Depth Chart WAR summary correctly, this would be a ‘as of now’ win projection given current players under contract. This will be neat to watch this change in real time as Free Agents / Trades are made. Thanks, Daves.

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