MLB free agency begins Thursday, and this class is full of players that can get the Texas Rangers over the hump. In the Top 10, we find four elite shortstops, three Cy Young candidates, and the reigning AL MVP in Aaron Judge, who is coming off the best season in recent memory.
Today, we will look at three class standouts being overshadowed by the Goliaths at the top.
The Texas Rangers can use them to bolster their roster and make that 2023 playoff push.
1. Tyler Anderson, Age 33: 2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 138 Ks in 2022
Tyler Anderson broke out in a major way for the Dodgers in 2022. He posted career highs in IP, ERA, BB/9, and FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), among other categories. The Dodgers have a way of unlocking the potential of pitchers who were ordinary elsewhere, and Anderson is no exception.
He did not become a strikeout pitcher but was fantastic at limiting hard contact and keeping the ball on the ground. In 2022, he was in the 98th percentile in both Average Exit Velocity (85.0), as well as Hardhit% (28.5), and in the 91st percentile in BB% (4.8). This was primarily because an improved changeup became his most effective pitch.
That changeup used to take a backseat to his cutter a, but this season he threw it 31.8% of the time, compared to his cutter (22%). The changeup had an improved spin rate, which resulted in a major increase in its downward vertical movement. The pitch truly rendered hitters useless, forcing a 37% Whiff%, .179 BA, .262 SLG, and an average exit velocity of 82.0 mph.
The grass is not entirely green for Anderson, though. First, he is 33 years old, and the history of throwing huge amounts of money in the offseason when the players over age 30 has been miserable. He is projected to receive around a two-to-three-year deal with an AAV of around $13-$15 million, so age should not be a major factor on such a short contract.
Secondly, he had some luck on his side in 2022. The estimators for his pitching stats were at least 50 points higher than his actual results: 2.57 ERA vs. 3.10 xERA, 3.31 FIP vs. 4.11 xFIP. His BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) was the ninth lowest in the league (.256) and the lowest of his career. It’s usually an indication regression when just over 25% of the balls in play against you are hits.
I would expect his balls-in-play stats to remain on the lower end since he was in the top 40 in the league for both groundball % and flyball% and because of how effective that changeup has become. The Rangers’ pitching staff desperately needs Anderson’s skill set, after finishing 2022 in the bottom 10 in BB/9% (26th, 9.4%) and Avg EV (21st, 88.8).
If the Texas Rangers could scoop him up, he would be a relatively cheap top- half-of-the-rotation starter.