Six weeks into the 2019 regular season, we are finally getting to the point where we can separate the small sample size noise from the trends. As such, we're better able to gauge free-agent stock for the upcoming class, which has of course been thinned out by extensions these last few weeks. There are still plenty of quality players scheduled to hit the market though.

Here is the May edition of our 2019-20 free-agent power rankings. We're going to keep tabs on the upcoming free-agent class with weekly stock watches between rankings updates. Here are two players whose stock is on the rise and two who are heading in the other direction.

Stock Up

Elvis Andrus
OAK • SS • 17
BA0.338
R21
HR5
RBI23
SB8
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Elvis Andrus has been around so long that it can be easy to forget he is only 30 years old. This is his 11th big league season and at some point later this year he should record his 1,700th hit and 300th double. At only age 30, he is currently 26th among active players in plate appearances. Pretty crazy.

After spending a few years as a light-hitting defensive specialist, Andrus has blossomed offensively the last few years, hitting .288/.338/.434 from 2016-18. (The league average shortstop is hitting .264/.321/.446 this year.) Andrus has taken his offense to another level this season. He's hitting .338/.392/.529 through 148 plate appearances.

Andrus, like most hitters these days, has upped his hard contact rate while hitting fewer ground balls. He's not a full blown launch angle guy, but he is showing similar tendencies, hence the uptick in offense.

elvis-andrus-batted-balls.png
More hard contact and few grounders is working wonders for Andrus. FanGraphs

Statcast indicates Andrus is playing over his head a bit -- his expected batting average (.299) and slugging percentage (.457) based on exit velocity and launch angle are below his actual rates -- but the expected numbers are really good. Point is, Andrus is producing more offensively right now than he has at any point in his career.

A prime-aged shortstop who is above-average defensively and putting up the best offensive numbers of his career is poised to cash in nicely as a free agent. The question is whether Andrus wants to test to free agency. This is year five of his eight-year, $120 million contract and he can opt out after the season. He'd walk away from three years and $43 million.

Here's what Andrus told Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram about his looming opt out back in spring training:

"It's hard to think ahead and move ahead of time. But right now I'm here and I'm happy. We're building something great here. For sure, I would like to stick around."

For all intents and purposes, Andrus has three options. One, he can decline the opt out and stay with Texas. Two, he can opt out and test free agency. And three, he can try to leverage the opt out into an extension with the Rangers. The important number is $43 million. Can Andrus use the opt out to secure more than $43 million guaranteed across however many years?

Right now, my guess is Andrus will leverage the opt out into a small extension with Texas. The Rangers could guarantee his $15 million club option for 2023 and add a $15 million club option for 2024, for example. The way he's playing though, the chances of Andrus using the opt out and testing free agency are much greater than they were a few weeks ago.

Jake Odorizzi
HOU • SP • 17
ERA2.78
WHIP1.09
IP35.2
BB15
K38
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Seeing his ERA climb from 3.35 to 3.69 to 4.14 to 4.49 in a four-year span sent Twins righty Jake Odorizzi searching for answers this past offseason. He is only 29, yet his performance was trending the wrong way, so it was time to make some changes. As Brandon Warne at Zone Coverage explains, Odorizzi spent his winter at a training facility in Florida searching for answers.

From Warne:

"I did all my work on mounds over there too," Odorizzi said. "So twice a week when I went over there, I was working on an indoor mound with a net about 10 feet in front of me with targets on it. So I was working on location and accuracy while also doing all my drills on the mound.

"I think the big key was, it's fine doing things on flat ground, but you pitch on a slope. Why not do all your drills and all your work on the mound when you are trying to get back your mechanics back in order? I think that was really helpful, learning it while I was on the mound, rather than learning it and then taking it to the mound and twist and contort to get right on the mound."

Seven starts and 35 2/3 innings into the season, Odorizzi is sporting a 2.78 ERA with a career-high strikeout rate (26.6 percent) and a career-low exit velocity allowed (85.9 mph). His expected batting average (.223) and slugging percentage (.350) are comfortably above-average and much improved from last season (.252 and .439, respectively).

At some point Odorizzi is going to get whacked with the home run regression stick -- in the launch angle era, I'm not sure a 0.50 HR/9 is sustainable with a 26.2 percent ground ball rate (Odorizzi's career averages are 1.22 HR/9 and 32.5 percent grounders) -- but solo homers won't kill you. Odorizzi is limiting baserunners in general and that'll be imperative going forward.

A year ago at this time Odorizzi was a potential non-tender candidate. He was trending in the wrong direction and, as a guy without blow-you-away stuff, his margin for error is not especially big. Instead, the Twins decided to keep him, and they are being rewarded after he spent the offseason in a biomechanics lab. He's a big reason Minnesota is in first place.

There is a lot of season still to play and we'll see how Odorizzi looks once the home run rate corrects. For now, there is at least some reason to believe his newfound success is not a fluke, and he will play the entire 2020 season at age 30. Whoever signs him is getting a prime year or two. Lance Lynn's three-year, $30 million is a potential contract benchmark.

Stock Down

Starlin Castro
WAS • 2B • 13
BA0.230
R11
HR3
RBI11
SB1
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Is there a more frustrating player in baseball than Starlin Castro? The Cubs turned Yankees turned Marlins second baseman is so obviously talented. He reached the big leagues 44 days after his 20th birthday and looked like a budding star early in his career. Castro was supposed to be part of the core that helped the Cubs break the curse.

Now, 10 years later, Castro looks like ... the exact same player? He has yet to take that step forward and he'll still get himself out far too often. There are at-bats that would lead you to believe he's a rookie rather a veteran with over 5,400 big league plate appearances. Even after a 3 for 4 night Wednesday, Castro is hitting .230/.280/.302 on the season and his expected rates based on contact quality are not good:

  • Expected batting average: .260 (57th percentile)
  • Expected slugging percentage: .390 (34th percentile)
  • Expected weighted on-base percentage: .310 (35th percentile)

Baseball players are human beings and I can't imagine it's easy going to the park to suit up for the Marlins. They are as bad as any team in recent history and, despite public proclamations, ownership gives off the vibe that they are completely indifferent to contending. These guys are pros, yes, but it has to be tough to perform in that environment.

That all said, we have been waiting years for Castro to take that step forward and elevate his game, and we're still waiting. The plate discipline has not come around, the defense has slipped even after the move to second, and the poorly-timed baserunning mistakes continue to pile up. Everything we said about Starlin five years ago still applies. That shouldn't be the case, but it is.

The Marlins will undoubtedly decline their $16 million option on Castro after the season and he'll head out into free agency for the first time. He turned only 29 in March -- 29! -- and I have no doubt some team will believe he is thisclose to figuring it out. For now, Castro is looking at a one-year prove yourself contract. It would take some sudden improvements -- the improvements we've been wait years to see -- for Starlin to get a more lucrative deal this winter.

Francisco Cervelli
MIA • C • 29
BA0.174
R10
HR1
RBI5
SB1
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I thought it was telling no team was willing to meet the Pirates' asking price for Francisco Cervelli over the winter. It was no secret he was available in trades and an accomplished two-way catcher with one affordable year ($11.5 million) on his contract figured to be in demand. Instead, the former Yankee remained with the Pirates. Teams stayed away despite his track record at a hard to fill position.

Six weeks into the regular season the 33-year-old Cervelli is sitting on a .174/.276/.233 batting line with by far his highest strikeout rate (24.2 percent) since becoming a starter and by far his lowest exit velocity (85.5 mph) since Statcast launched in 2015. The expected numbers based on contact quality are shockingly bad:

  • Expected batting average: .191 (6th percentile)
  • Expected slugging percentage: .297 (8th percentile)
  • Expected weighted on-base percentage: .269 (11th percentile)

Yikes. This is not a player dealing with some back luck. Cervelli has been legitimately terrible at the plate. Furthermore, the (admittedly far from perfect) defensive stats at Baseball Prospectus indicate his glovework has slipped as well. Allow me to throw some numbers at you:

YearFraming RunsTotal Defensive Runs

2015

+21.6

+22.0

2016

+13.0

+10.4

2017

-6.0

-5.6

2018

-5.8

-4.0

2019

-9.3 (pace)

-1.7 (pace)

That's rough. Three years ago Cervelli was comfortably above-average at the plate and in the field. He got on base (.372 on-base percentage from 2014-16) and he stole strikes with his framing. Now? Now I'm not sure he does anything well. He certainly hasn't to date this season. That could change in an instant and it'll have to for Cervelli to get signed this winter. Catchers are known to turn into pumpkins at his age and it may've happened here.

Catching is always in demand and my hunch is Cervelli has a long enough track record to land a contract this winter. The player he has been this year is a minor league contract only guy. He's a "sign him to a minor league contract and see if he can beat out the incumbent backup catcher for a job in spring training" player. Cervelli's best case scenario might be the Jonathan Lucroy contract (one year and $3.35 million).