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Under-the-radar skills available on free-agent market

December 17, 2017

The free-agent market includes several stars who need no introduction and possess skill sets coveted by teams. But beyond names such as J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Wade Davis, there are many under-the-radar players whose abilities could provide a boost to clubs that sign them.Here's a look at the top

The free-agent market includes several stars who need no introduction and possess skill sets coveted by teams. But beyond names such as J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Wade Davis, there are many under-the-radar players whose abilities could provide a boost to clubs that sign them.
Here's a look at the top players who fit the bill in several Statcast™ categories. For hitters, we look at hard-hit rate and expected weighted on-base average in 2017. For baserunners, we look at average sprint speed. And for relievers, we look at average fastball velocity.
Hard-hit rate (Defined as the percentage of batted balls with an exit velocity of 95 mph and above)

5. Logan Morrison, 43.2 percent: Morrison belted a career-high 38 home runs in 2017, increasing his value before hitting the open market. He had the second-highest 2017 isolated power (.270) of any free-agent first baseman, behind Lucas Duda.
4. Matthew Holliday, 43.6 percent: Despite struggling in the second half of 2017 (.179/.225/.300), Holliday finished the season with 27 barrels, two more than his '16 total.
3. Lucas Duda, 44.1 percent: Duda had a barrel in 12.1 percent of balls in play last season, just behind National League Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger (12.2 percent) and ahead of Gary Sanchez (11.8) and Bryce Harper (11.7).
2. Adam Lind, 44.7 percent: Lind has steadily increased his hard-hit rate since 2015, when Statcast™ was introduced. That season, it was 36 percent. In '16, it was 42.7 percent.
1. Alex Avila, 51.3 percent: Avila increased his hard-hit rate from 40.2 percent in 2016. He also ranked 15th in MLB in barrels as a percentage of balls in play at 15.0, just behind Kyle Schwarber (15.1).

xwOBA (Measures quality of contact -- including walks and strikeouts -- and put on the OBP scale)

5. Logan Morrison, .367: Morrison's xwOBA jumped 27 points from his 2016 figure, and for the first time since Statcast™ was introduced in '15, his xwOBA was within five points of his actual wOBA (.372).
4. Yonder Alonso, .368: Alonso had a career year in 2017, hitting a career-high 28 homers while slugging .501 for the A's and Mariners. His xwOBA jumped by 37 points from '16.
3. Mitch Moreland, .371: Moreland's xwOBA increased from .344 in 2016, and even at .371 in '17, he was somewhat unlucky, as his actual wOBA was .335. Overall, he slashed .246/.326/.443 with 22 homers for the Red Sox.
2. Adam Lind, .379: Lind improved his xwOBA by 40 points from 2016, and that was reflected in his .513 slugging percentage last season, the second highest of any full season in his career (.562 in '09).
1. Alex Avila, .401: Avila's xwOBA had the highest increase of any player on this list, from .327 in 2016 to .401 last season. His actual wOBA in '17 was 33 points lower, indicating some bad luck on balls that could have been hits based on launch angle and exit velocity.
Sprint speed (Measures how many feet a player traveled in his fastest one-second window)
3. Alcides Escobar, 28.2 feet/second: Escobar has been one of the most durable players in the game, having played in all 162 games in three of the last four seasons with the Royals. He only attempted 11 stolen bases last season (swiping four), but he stole at least 17 bases in each of the previous six seasons.
T-2. Peter Bourjos, 28.8 feet/second: Bourjos has 36 career triples despite never being a full-time player, including seven in 2016 while with the Phillies. It's a testament to his speed on the basepaths that has him in good company on the Statcast™ sprint speed leaderboard.
T-2. Gregor Blanco, 28.8 feet/second: Blanco has posted double-digit steal figures in seven of his nine big league seasons and played solid defense in a spacious AT&T Park outfield for the Giants from 2012-16.
T-2. Jarrod Dyson, 28.8 feet/second: Dyson has always been a stolen-base threat, having swiped 204 bags in his eight-season career. He is also a strong defensive center fielder, utilizing his speed to often make difficult plays look routine. In 2017, he was tied for 10th in baseball with seven Outs Above Average, per Statcast™. He was also tied for sixth in MLB with 11 four-star catches.
1. Rajai Davis, 29.3 feet/second: Davis led the American League with 43 steals in 2016, not to mention three in the World Series against the Cubs that October. He has 394 career steals over 12 seasons and still has near elite-level speed (30 feet/second) entering his age-37 season.

Fastball velocity, relievers
3. Jake Petricka, 96.1 mph: Injuries took much of the past two seasons from Petricka before the White Sox non-tendered him, but from 2013-15, he posted a 3.24 ERA.
2. Jumbo Diaz, 97 mph: Diaz had a down year in 2017, posting a 5.70 ERA in 31 appearances before being designated for assignment by the Rays in July. But with the Reds in '16, he finished with a 3.14 ERA in 45 appearances.
1. Bruce Rondon, 97.2 mph: Rondon was considered the Tigers' closer of the future when he signed out of Venezuela in 2008, and with a 100-mph fastball, he looked the part. In 30 appearances for Detroit as a rookie in '13, he posted a 3.45 ERA. The right-hander missed the 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and struggled upon his return in '15. In 2016, he posted a 2.97 ERA and 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 37 appearances. Last season, however, his ERA was 10.91 in 21 games, and he was non-tendered this offseason.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.