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Players Who Benefit From Free Agent Departures (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Jan 26, 2023
J.D. Davis

Per Statcast, J.D. Davis had a 91.0 mph exit velocity, 15.2-degree launch angle, 53.1 HardHit% and 22.2 Barrel% for the Giants.

A player leaving in free agency for greener pastures can open the door for an incumbent member of the free agent’s former club. The returning players might benefit from more playing time or a more prominent role on their club in 2023. The following six players can benefit from teammates taking their talents elsewhere. And interestingly, all of the featured players have an earlier expert consensus ranking (ECR) than their average draft position (ADP), suggesting drafters aren’t accounting for the role changes for the six players to the degree rankers are baking it into expectations.

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Fantasy Baseball Players Who Benefit From Free Agency

Let’s take a look at players who benefit from free agency.

Raisel Iglesias (RP – ATL): 114.0 ADP and 82.8 ECR

Sadly, Iglesias’s value cratered during the 2022 season after the Angels traded him to the Braves. The veteran reliever was a closer before the trade and had to settle for a setup role for his new employer. He’s positioned to return to the closer role this year, though. Kenley Jansen signed with the Red Sox, leaving Iglesias to slam the door at the backend of Atlanta’s bullpen.

Iglesias has saved 28 games or more four times in seven seasons as a reliever. The righty also had rock-solid underlying and surface stats. According to FantasyPros, Iglesias has a 2.74 ERA, 3.26 xFIP, 1.05 WHIP, 7.3 BB% and 31.0 K% in 423.0 innings of relief in his career.

Further, Iglesias has been even better than his career marks lately. Since 2020, he’s had a 2.55 ERA, 2.66 xFIP, 2.29 SIERA, 0.94 WHIP, 5.1 BB%, 34.8 K% and a 34.8 CSW%. Thus, Iglesias is a top-10 caliber reliever and worth drafting closer to his ECR than his ADP.

Andrew Vaughn (1B/OF – CWS): 144.7 ADP and 141.0 ECR

Vaughn might seem like an odd inclusion among the featured players. The third pick from the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft played in 134 games and had 555 plate appearances last year. However, Vaughn bounced around between the outfield, first base and the designated hitter spot.

The young bat-first player’s lumber hasn’t lived up to expectations to date. Yet, Vaughn was tasked with playing out of position, learning the outfield because Jose Abreu was entrenched at first base and Eloy Jimenez often slotted in as the designated hitter. Could a full-time move to first base help unlock Vaughn’s bat? Maybe.

Vaughn’s bat was already trending in the right direction, whittling his strikeout rate from 21.5% to 17.3% while his wRC+ rose from 93 to 113. Vaughn’s power has left much to be desired, especially for a player with plus scouting grades on his power tool. Thus, the scouting reports provide a reason for optimism about Vaughn’s power showing up in The Show, perhaps this year. If Vaughn can hit a few more bombs while maintaining his above-average contact, he can be an asset for batting average and homers. The cost is entirely reasonable for Vaughn in drafts, and his eligibility at first base and the outfield is a bonus.

Vaughn Grissom (2B/SS – ATL): 201.7 ADP and 198.0 ECR

The Braves asked much of Grissom last year, calling him up from the minors after amassing only 98 plate appearances at the Double-A level. Fortunately, Grissom rewarded their faith by posting a 121 wRC+. He had a dash of power and speed, swatting five homers and stealing five bases in 156 plate appearances. Grissom also had a helpful .291 batting average.

The sophomore will patrol the middle infield at shortstop this year after Dansby Swanson signed with the Cubs this offseason. It’s unwise to extrapolate Grissom’s numbers in the majors last year across an entire season’s worth of plate appearances this year. Nonetheless, he showcased a balanced skill set that can make him a valuable bench or middle infield option in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers, albeit with a low floor and ceiling for runs and RBI if he hits ninth, which is where Roster Resource projects the youngster to open the year in Atlanta’s lineup.

Hunter Brown (SP/RP – HOU): 242.0 ADP and 231.0 ECR

Justin Verlander signed a sizable contract with the Mets. Even without Verlander, Brown is likely on the outside looking into Houston’s rotation. However, Lance McCullers pitched only 47.2 innings in the regular season and 15.1 innings in the postseason. So, he’ll presumably face an innings restriction.

Additionally, injuries could open the door for Brown since he’s seemingly the next person up when Houston needs a replacement in the rotation. The young righty had a brilliant 2022 campaign, tallying a 2.55 ERA, 3.59 xFIP, 1.08 WHIP, 10.6 BB%, 31.5 K% and 11.7 SwStr% in 106.0 innings (14 starts and nine relief appearances) in Triple-A before seamlessly transitioning to the majors at the end of the year.

Brown was lights out for the Astros in 20.1 innings (two starts and five relief appearances) in the regular season, sporting a 0.89 ERA, 2.78 xFIP, 2.87 SIERA, 1.08 WHIP, 8.8 BB%, 27.5 K% and 31.4 CSW%. He even got his feet wet in the postseason, illustrating Houston’s belief in the youngster. The Astros could handle him as they did with Cristian Javier and use him as a multi-inning reliever and spot starter until a rotation spot becomes available or Brown forces their hand. Gamers with medium-to-large-sized benches are encouraged to stash Brown and see how things shake out.

J.D. Davis (1B/3B – SF): 395.7 ADP and 341.0 ECR

Davis opened the 2022 season on the Mets before they traded him to the Giants for Darin Ruf. After an underwhelming start to 2022, Davis finished with a flurry for his new employer. In 158 plate appearances for the Giants, Davis clubbed eight homers and was a three-true-outcomes player, earning a walk at a 12.0% clip and punching out at a 35.4% rate.

The corner infielder also had blistering batted-ball data. Per Statcast, Davis had a 91.0 mph exit velocity, 15.2-degree launch angle, 53.1 HardHit% and 22.2 Barrel% for the Giants. San Francisco didn’t use him in a full-time role, but he might deserve a full-time gig in the wake of Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria leaving the organization in free agency.

The right-handed-hitting Davis had 84 plate appearances against fellow righties after joining San Francisco and hit four homers with a .250 batting average, .357 OBP, 11.9 BB%, 34.5 %, .208 ISO and 134 wRC+. Davis was better when holding the platoon advantage, but his numbers against righties were obviously nothing to sneeze at.

Additionally, Davis’s primary competition for reps at first base is LaMonte Wade, and the latter had only a .329 OBP, .176 ISO and 111 wRC+ against righties last season. Was Wade’s breakout in 2021 a fluke? Maybe. The versatility for Wade and Davis is also a plus for Davis’s playing time outlook since the former can also play the outfield, and Davis can play third base or fake it in the outfield, too. Finally, Davis is only a few years removed from recording a .307 batting average, .369 OBP, 137 wRC+ and 22 homers in 453 plate appearances for the Mets in 2019. Davis is a nifty late-round target in 12-team-mixed leagues with large benches or deeper formats.

Daniel Hudson (RP – LAD): 415.3 ADP and 350.0 ECR

The Dodgers have an opening at the back of their bullpen. Craig Kimbrel led the Dodgers in saves in 2022 and signed with the Phillies this offseason. Los Angeles might take a committee approach to close games, but Hudson’s an intriguing candidate to soak up the bulk of save chances.

Hudson recorded five saves in 25 appearances and 24.1 innings for the Dodgers last year. The righty’s underlying numbers were also impressive. Hudson had a blistering 2.22 ERA, 2.74 xERA, 2.42 xFIP, 0.90 WHIP, 5.2 BB%, 30.9 K% and 27.6 CSW%. The veteran reliever is a screaming value at his ADP or ECR.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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