Top 25 MLB midseason free-agent rankings: Juan Soto leads a group heavy on power hitters

Anthony Santander, Tyler O’Neill move up; Max Kepler, Clay Holmes tumble

The season is halfway over, so let’s check back in on how the impending free agents have been doing before we reach the All-Star break in two weeks. Some players have taken big leaps up the list, while a few new players have joined the top 25, and others have fallen off the list entirely.

Note: Whenever you see a number, a slash and another number, that’s a reference to contract years and total earnings. For instance, the shorthand for Bryce Harper’s 11-year, $330 million deal would be “11/330.” Ages listed are for the 2025 season.

Soto has a .495 on-base percentage since June 1. He and Mookie Betts are the only qualified hitters with more walks than strikeouts. Only six hitters have more long balls than Soto. The icing on top? Soto’s outfield defense, which was downright abysmal last season, has graded out around league average, according to advanced metrics. Unless he gets Space Jammed, he’ll be the top free agent in the class.

Both of these aces continued to roll in June and are still firmly pitchers 1a and 1b for this free-agent class. You could argue Fried over Burnes because (1) Fried strikes out more hitters and (2) throws with his left hand. But most people around the game would put the O’s ace on top because (1) he has a track-record of dependability and (2) he walks fewer batters than Fried.

Bregman was antarctic to start the year, but he has picked things up over the past month and a half as the Astros have gnawed their way back into the playoff picture. Adames snapped an 0-for-27 skid with three hits Monday, and besides that frigid stretch, he has generally maintained his level of play. One could make an argument for either of these players over the other. Adames plays a premium position but has a less stellar offensive résumé than Bregman.

Kim hops over Bellinger and Alonso on our list, thanks to his continued offensive production. The Korean shortstop has an even strikeout-to-walk ratio dating to May 1. That on-base ability coupled with superb infield defense and his unique power/speed combo make Kim an incredibly valuable player.

Alonso was a crucial part of New York’s volcanically hot month of June, posting an .868 OPS and six dingers. Unfortunately, the Polar Bear is still working against the reality of his profile as a right-handed-hitting first baseman. He won’t get more than the 6/162 Freddie Freeman got unless he catches absolute fire in the second half of the season.

The switch-hitting Santander has been en fuego since June 1; his 13 homers over that span are tied with Shohei Ohtani for the most in baseball. He offers practically no value defensively or on the basepaths, but there are very few offensive players with this kind of track record from both sides of the dish. He’s making cash with every additional homer.

It has been an underwhelming 2024 thus far for Bellinger, who completely remodeled his game in 2023, going from a big-swinging power threat to a more contact-oriented hitter. But his overall profile has taken a step back this year, with more whiffs and fewer optimal launch angle batted balls dampening his offensive numbers. Bellinger’s great outfield defense and relative youth still give him a high floor.

Hernández has kept raking and should be an All-Star. He slides a spot just because Santander is two years younger and has been so, so good. Expect a team to sign Teo on a multi-year deal.

Consistency is Christian Walker, and Christian Walker is consistency. There’s not much else to say about the 34-year-old who keeps on slugging despite the Diamondbacks' sluggish season.

Lowe missed most of April and May due to an oblique issue but has mostly been his typical low-average, high-power self since returning. Injuries have limited Lowe since his sensational 2021 season, when he slugged 31 homers and finished 10th in AL MVP voting. He’s still an every-day second baseman about to turn 30, so there’s value here.

Popeye lives! O’Neill had a brief IL stint in late May due to a knee problem, but he returned swiftly and spent most of June raking up a storm. He has the 16th-highest OPS in baseball this season behind a who’s who of all-world sluggers. The injury history is a legit red flag, and he’s still punching out a ton, but there aren’t many hitters with this type of power potential.

He should have been on the first rankings — that’s a miss on my part — but there was legitimate reason to doubt Profar’s explosive start. A prospect once upon a time, the Curaçaoan was a mediocre offensive performer for much of his career. Just last year, he was straight-up awful despite playing his home games at Coors Field. But he has maintained the breakout and this week was selected to start the All-Star Game. He’ll be 32 this winter with just one year of elite performance, but he’s definitely on track to get a multi-year deal.

Perhaps the American League’s most surprising pitching breakout, Flaherty has maintained his performance but had his most recent start skipped due to back discomfort. If he’s healthy, Flaherty should be a big trade chip for the underwhelming Tigers and, eventually, an alluring free-agent pitching option set to secure a multi-year deal.

Martinez missed most of April after a back issue and a late signing delayed his ramp-up. But he has been outstanding for the Mets since getting back. No team is going to offer a 37-year-old DH a multi-year pact, but Martinez will keep receiving lucrative one-year deals until he proves he’s no longer deserving.

Injuries and ineffectiveness have hampered the pair of late-signing Scott Boras clients who seem to be suffering from the difficulties of not having a typical spring training ramp-up. At this point, it would be surprising to see either of them opt out of their current contracts.

Torres has been statistically better over the past six weeks but still found himself benched by Yankees skipper Aaron Boone last weekend after some lackluster hustle. He has always been a low-energy player, but it’s hard to get excited about Torres’ free-agent profile right now. That’s a shame, given his talent and age.

Kikuchi has really scuffled over the past month, with a 5.73 ERA in his past seven starts. If Toronto chooses to sell, he’ll be a relatively sought-after trade piece, but unless he can turn the production around, he’s looking at a one-year deal this winter.

Goldy has been better as the Cardinals have leaped back into the playoff mix, but there’s no doubt that he’s no longer the hitter he once was. I have him well below the similarly aged J.D. Martinez just because Martinez has a track record of performance at his advanced age, whereas with Goldschmidt, it’s unclear how quickly the descent will continue. Still, it’s good to see things pick up for him.

Scott has been one of the game’s most dominant relief pitchers for going on a year and a half. In 114 innings in that span, he has a 2.05 ERA in 109 appearances with 142 strikeouts. He throws with his left hand and doesn’t turn 30 years old until July 22. Some contending club is going to give Scott a hefty chunk of change.

It was a rocky month for Holmes, who posted an ERA over 5.00 in June. That’s always a possibility for a contact-oriented closer such as this. Holmes looked much better this week against Cincinnati, but the sinkerballer is no longer the consensus top reliever on the market.

Hoffman is essentially the right-handed version of Scott but a few years older. Since the beginning of last year, the top-prospect starter-turned-reliever has a 1.93 ERA in 91 innings with 115 strikeouts. He likes life in Philadelphia but could get a heftier multi-year offer from another club.

The change of scenery hasn’t led to an offensive uptick for the bombastic outfielder. It hasn’t gotten embarrassingly bad quite yet, but Verdugo, frankly, just isn’t a very dynamic hitter. He’s a league-average player.

  • Danny Jansen, Blue Jays C, age 30 : The Blue Jays backstop is still the top option in a very weak catching market, but he has tailed off at the plate enough to drop off the Top 25.

  • Rhys Hoskins, Brewers 1B, age 32: The Brewers first baseman missed a few weeks in May due to a hamstring strain and has been awful at the plate since his return. He could opt into the second year of his current contract.

  • Walker Buehler, Dodgers SP, age 30: The Dodgers starter was terrible and out-of-sorts in his first eight starts this season after returning from Tommy John, before he hit the IL in late June due to a hip problem. He has such a stellar track record, but teams probably need to see some level of production before offering him a hefty deal. A return to the Dodgers on a one-year pillow deal is looking more likely.

  • Shane Bieber, Guardians SP, age 30: He won’t pitch this year as he recovers from Tommy John. It's probably best to put him on the backburner until he returns.

  • Max Kepler, Twins OF, age 32: The Twins outfielder started hot but has looked horrendous recently. Most concerning, his athleticism appears to be on the decline as he crawls deeper into his early 30s. Smelling like a one-year deal here.