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2017 MLB Free Agents: Rumors, Predictions for Dexter Fowler, Rich Hill and More

Slowly but surely, the free-agent dominoes are beginning to fall around Major League Baseball. It should make for an intriguing December as the marquee names still available make their decisions about where to play in 2017 and beyond.

As always, there are some eye-popping numbers being thrown around during the early stages of the offseason. But that’s all part of the roster-building process. Sometimes front offices are forced to overpay a bit in order to fill a void on their rosters with a coveted target.

That’s a trend likely to continue for at least another month before some reasonable value may finally begin to emerge after the new year. For now, let’s take a closer look at some of the latest buzz surrounding notable names still on the market.


Dexter Fowler Heading North of the Border?

Dexter Fowler made a last-minute decision to rejoin the Chicago Cubs last offseason. The decision paid off in a massive way as he helped the organization win its first World Series title in 108 years. Now he’s back in free agency and should command a lucrative, long-term deal.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported the Toronto Blue Jays have emerged as a top contender for the outfielder given their likelihood of losing Jose Bautista. It’s noted the longtime center fielder would likely slide over to a corner spot to accommodate defensive wizard Kevin Pillar in center.

More importantly, Fowler would give the Jays somebody to consistently get on base atop the lineup. He posted a .393 on-base percentage last season. That’s 60 points better than the .333 mark accumulated by the various players who filled the leadoff role in Toronto in 2016, per ESPN.

Those numbers show why swapping Fowler for Bautista is an ideal move. The Jays desperately need somebody to set the table for the likes of Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson and Kendrys Morales. They should have enough power even without Joey Bats.

Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM previously pointed out Fowler’s camp is seeking a four-year contract, which is a reasonable demand for a 30-year-old player still in his prime. Other teams will likely make a push, but Toronto feels like the best fit.

Prediction: Blue Jays


Rich Hill Market Heating Up

Rich Hill was one of the league’s most overlooked pitchers in 2016. The 36-year-old lefty posted a 2.12 ERA and 1.00 WHIP across 20 starts with the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers. He also struck out 129 batters in 110.1 innings.

What makes him unique is that he posts those terrific strikeout numbers without the benefit of an upper-90s fastball like so many other starters in the current era. Instead, he relies on a wipeout curveball he threw 42.4 percent of the time this past season, according to FanGraphs.

Jim Bowden of ESPN reported there are currently four teams highly involved in the sweepstakes: the Dodgers, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Houston Astros. He also listed the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles as other teams keeping tabs on the situation.

That’s an awesome list for Hill from a financial perspective. Whenever the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox are all involved, the player’s leverage is through the roof and, in this case, it should ensure the aging starter is able to land at least one more high-dollar contract.

That said, don’t sleep on Houston. The Astros should be able to compete with those big-spending franchises since it should be a short-term deal. And Hill is the perfect pitcher to bolster an already-promising roster by adding some depth to the rotation.

Prediction: Astros


Edwin Encarnacion Generating Ample AL Interest

Edwin Encarnacion is one of the most reliable power producers in baseball, but it has nothing to do with playing in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. Over the past three seasons, the Toronto Blue Jays slugger hit 57 homers at home and 58 on the road, so his pop clearly travels.

While his power presence can upgrade any lineup, his defense is a concern. FanGraphs noted he’s racked up minus-17 defensive runs saved at first base and a minus-52 DRS mark at third, though he hasn’t played there since 2013 and probably won’t shift back across the diamond.

The market for his services reflects those two sets of numbers. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported the teams most active in pursuit of the slugger are the Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers and Astros—a similar group to those interested in Hill.

While he’s still likely to play some first base regardless of his landing spot, the team’s defense should improve the more time he spends at designated hitter. That’s the main reason for almost exclusive interest from the American League, even though plenty of National League teams could use his bat, too.

No team has a bigger void to fill at DH than Boston following the retirement of David Ortiz. It’s created a logical link between Encarnacion and the Red Sox for quite a while now, and it still feels like that’s where he’ll end up despite the competition.

Prediction: Red Sox


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Jon Jay to Cubs: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Veteran outfielder Jon Jay came to terms Tuesday with the Chicago Cubs on a one-year contract worth $8 million, according to the Associated Press

The Cubs later confirmed the signing on Twitter. 

Jay developed into a reliable offensive producer across six years with the St. Louis Cardinals. He put up a .354 OBP and .738 OPS across 757 games with the organization before the Cardinals traded him to the San Diego Padres in a deal for Jedd Gyorko last offseason.

Just like his final year in St. Louis, however, the center fielder’s debut season in San Diego failed to reach expectations because of injury. He battled through wrist problems in 2015 and was limited to 90 games this past season because of a broken forearm.

Those setbacks, combined with the fact he’s not a major power or speed threat, left his stock a bit up in the air as his previous contract came to an end.

In August, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune noted Jay expressed interest in staying with the Padres but also discussed the attractiveness of hitting the open market:

I love San Diego, I love what’s going on, I love where the team’s headed. Obviously, with free agency, you wait so long to get to this point as a player, you want to see what’s out there. But at the same time, I feel very comfortable here. I do like it a lot here, so this is definitely something my wife and I will discuss when we’re making those decisions.

It’s a common internal debate for free agents, especially a late bloomer like Jay, who will have a limited number of chances to cash in.

In the end, Jay decided the Cubs gave him the best opportunity to make a significant impact moving forward. It’s not a major loss for the Padres, however, since several of their outfield prospects, such as Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe, are ready for full-time roles in the majors.

Jay is capable of playing anywhere in the outfield, and that versatility is valuable as Chicago starts building its lineup for next season. His ability to get on base could make him a nice fit for the No. 2 spot in the lineup, too.

He’s not the flashiest player in the field, and his signing won’t generate a ton of attention, but he can provide a nice boost if he can stay healthy for the first time since 2014.


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Taijuan Walker to Diamondbacks for Jean Segura: Latest Trade Details, Reaction

The Seattle Mariners agreed to trade starting pitcher Taijuan Walker to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday as part of a five-player trade.

The Diamondbacks announced they acquired Walker and infielder Ketel Marte from Seattle in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Mitch Haniger and left-handed pitcher Zac Curtis.

Walker has showcased a lot of promise across parts of four seasons in the big leagues. The 24-year-old right-hander possesses a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout curveball, giving him a lot of untapped potential as he continues to learn how to attack the strike zone. ranked him as the fourth-best prospect in all of baseball in 2013, but Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times cautioned: “Reminder about prospects: Three years ago, Mariners wouldn’t trade Taijuan Walker to get David Price. Today, Walker gets Jean Segura.”

A foot injury slowed Walker’s development some during the 2016 season. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times previously reported the starter made a Triple-A rehab appearance during the campaign. The good news was he got in some on-field work without feeling any pain, which likely played a role in his becoming a hot trade target.

His results before the injury were encouraging. He posted a 3.66 ERA, which is nearly one full run better than a year ago, and 1.14 WHIP while striking out 80 batters in 86 innings. His walk rate (1.88 per nine innings) was also on track to become a career low, according to FanGraphs.

He ultimately made 25 starts in 2016 and posted a 4.22 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto commented on the trade, per Tim Booth of the Associated Press: “It’s always hard. It’s hard anytime you give up talent like Taijuan. Frankly you have to give to get.”

Receiving a talent like Segura in return makes things easier.

The 26-year-old slashed .319/.368/.499 in 153 games in 2016, drilling 20 home runs and stealing 33 bases. He stole as many as 44 bases in 2013, and ESPN Stats & Info noted he led the National League with 203 hits in 2016. He also finished with career highs in WAR (5.7) and OPS (.867).

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reflected on the swap: “Arizona sold high on Jean Segura and bought low on Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte. Marte a legit SS, four years younger than Segura to boot.”

In terms of Walker, some may wonder why the Mariners traded a pitcher with so much upside who’s under team control through 2020, per Spotrac. The most likely explanation would be the front office’s uncertainty about whether he can truly become an ace, so Seattle capitalized on his value while he’s still a prized young arm.

All told, moving a pitcher with Walker’s potential is a risk, even when considering the package the Mariners got in return. But it’s one Seattle decided to take after getting a close look at the starter since drafting him in the first round in 2010.


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Jason Castro to Twins: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Veteran catcher Jason Castro reached an agreement Tuesday with the Minnesota Twins on a new contract.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports cited a source and reported the news. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that it was a three-year, $24.5 million deal.

Although Castro’s overall statistics, including a career .232 average, don’t jump off the page, it’s important to remember evaluating catchers requires grading on a curve. The number of impact hitters at the position is limited, which makes his power potential more valuable.   

The 29-year-old backstop has racked up double-digit home runs in four straight seasons despite not playing more than 126 games in any campaign. His best season came in 2013, when he finished with 18 long balls and a .350 on-base percentage.

Those types of numbers are hard to find at the catcher spot, and that created a little more intrigue around his status entering the offseason, though he had a .307 OBP with 11 homers in 2016.

In September, he didn’t rule out a return to the Astros, but he made it clear he wanted to explore the possibilities, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle.

“It’s kind of a weird feeling coming down to the end here,” Castro said. “It’s been a great six-and-a-half years here, and I’ve really enjoyed everything about it. But the future’s kind of up in the air, so we’ll see what happens.”

In the end, Castro decided it was time for a change of scenery after spending his entire career so far in Houston. The Astros may look to move Evan Gattis behind the plate to fill the void because it’ll be easier to fill a hole at designated hitter than it would be at catcher.

Catchers always require some additional off days due to the wear and tear of the position, but Castro still needs to stay more involved to make the new deal pay off. He played in just 113 games last season, compared to 139 for the Kansas City Royals‘ Salvador Perez, a top-tier option.

That said, it’s still a solid investment for the Twins given the catcher’s power upside. They’d like to see him move back closer to those 2013 numbers going forward, though.


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Kris Bryant Wins 2016 NL MVP Award: Voting Results and Comments

Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs captured the 2016 National League Most Valuable Player Award on Thursday and edged fellow finalists Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals to win the NL’s top individual honor.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America shared the news and final voting results:

Winning the MVP caps a remarkable season for Bryant. While it’s hard to imagine any feeling matching that of helping the organization end its 108-year championship drought, this is probably as close as it gets from a personal perspective.

The 24-year-old third baseman was outstanding during the regular season. He hit .292 with a .385 on-base percentage to go along with 39 home runs, 102 runs batted in, 121 runs scored and eight stolen bases. His 8.4 WAR easily led the league, according to FanGraphs.

In September, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago noted Bryant credited his teammates for creating an atmosphere of intense competition that made everybody better:

Look at our pitchers—they’re just outdueling each other every day. Kyle [Hendricks] goes out there and has an awesome game, and then Jake [Arrieta]’s like: ‘OK, it’s my turn.’

There’s a certain feel. You never want to be the type that’s all about your individual self. But I think you can just kind of see that people want to do well for the team. And in order to do that, they just outshine each other.

I love that. I love seeing the competition. It just makes this whole environment so much fun to be in.

While there’s no doubt the Cubs featured plenty of star power—which made completing the World Series journey far from a surprise—Bryant is the cornerstone. He’ll lead the way if the club transforms a title into a new dynasty.

Randall J. Sanders of NumbersMLB previously highlighted the star’s recent accolades:

Ultimately, his outstanding campaign paired with the Cubs’ regular-season success made him a slam dunk choice for the MVP despite great years from Seager and Murphy. The Dodgers shortstop hit .308 with 26 homers to win the NL Rookie of the Year, while the Nationals second baseman finished second in the batting-title race to DJ LeMahieu (.348) at .347 to go with 25 home runs.

What makes the situation more worrisome for the rest of the National League is that Bryant is so young. He should still have around a decade of top-tier production left, which is the biggest reason the Cubs’ outlook is so promising.


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Josh Reddick to Astros: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Veteran outfielder Josh Reddick has reached an agreement with the Houston Astros, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported Thursday.

Passan noted the deal is for $52 million over four seasons.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports confirmed Reddick will sign with the Astros, pending a physical.

Reddick is a streaky player, but his net impact on a team has almost always been positive. He’s accumulated 15.9 WAR across eight seasons, and he’s rated above replacement level every year except 2009, when he played just 27 games for the Boston Red Sox in his debut campaign, per FanGraphs.

The 29-year-old Georgia native split the 2016 season between the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers. He posted a career-high .345 on-base percentage in 115 games but racked up just 10 home runs, his lowest total since 2011.

His up-and-down play was on full display after he joined the Dodgers in a midseason trade. He hit just .161 with a miserable .395 OPS in August before rebounding with a strong September to help the club clinch a playoff berth by winning the National League West.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times highlighted the type of production the outfielder can provide when he’s in a zone at the plate:

Interestingly, Reddick told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register the resurgence wasn’t about making changes but rather sticking to his normal routine until he broke out of the slump.

“I learned that probably last year,” he said. “For the most part, when I’m going well, my cage work is limited to almost none at all. Pregame, right before the game, I go in there and do my routine.”

Another thing he didn’t spend much time thinking about was his impending foray into the free-agent market. He explained his mindset early in the season, per Jon Paul Morosi of

“I’m one of the guys that doesn’t think about that,” Reddick said. “I’m not going into the box thinking, ‘If I don’t get this run in, or I don’t get this amount of home runs, I’m not going to be the free-agent player I need to be.’ That’s just something I’ve put very far back in my mind.”

The plan worked. Even with the drop-off in the power department, Reddick’s overall performance allowed him to maintain his value.

In the end, Reddick is heading to his third team in the past year. The upside is that going through the transition of joining the Dodgers should make the latest change of scenery easier to deal with during spring training.

Now the question is whether Reddick can put everything together. He’s shown the ability to hit for power, with 32 homers in 2012, and he recorded a strong on-base percentage this past season. If he combines those, he could be a bargain.

It’s a risk worth taking for the Astros. Even if he doesn’t have a huge year at the plate, he’ll likely be a solid hitter who plays plus defense, and that combination carries plenty of value.


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Michael Fulmer Wins 2016 AL Rookie of the Year Award: Voting Results, Comments

Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers was named the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year on Monday. He beat out fellow finalists Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees and Tyler Naquin of the Cleveland Indians for the honor.

MLB announced the news on its Twitter account:

Here are the complete voting results for the prestigious award:

ESPN Stats & Info noted just what made the pitcher such a good choice for voters:

Fulmer lived up to his billing as a top prospect by immediately slotting in as a reliable member of the Tigers rotation. He finished his first season with a 11-7 record to go along with a 3.06 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 132 strikeouts in 159 innings across 26 starts.

Although he fell three innings short of reaching the number needed to qualify, he would have ranked third in the AL in ERA behind only Aaron Sanchez of the Toronto Blue Jays and teammate Justin Verlander. His WHIP would have tied for sixth.

George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press noted in late September the 23-year-old starter wasn’t overly concerned about chasing down the ERA title, though.

“I’d rather pitch in the postseason than get a personal achievement, honestly,” Fulmer said. “Seriously, it might be a once in a lifetime chance. I’m wanting that feeling, and this team is wanting that feeling.”

He’ll need to wait at least one more season to achieve that goal, as the Tigers fell 2.5 games short of the final wild-card spot. But that team-first attitude is welcome in any clubhouse.

Moreover, Fulmer’s successful transition to the majors played a key role in Detroit having a top-10 starting staff. The Tigers finished tied for ninth in starter ERA with the Seattle Mariners, per ESPN.

Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press previously pointed out another key rookie honor the starting pitcher received:

In the end, his performance was enough to hold off a late charge from Sanchez, who tallied 20 home runs in just 53 games for the Yankees. Naquin also enjoyed a strong debut year, finishing with a .372 on-base percentage, 14 homers and six stolen bases.

Now the Tigers will hope Fulmer can build off his terrific first season to become a crucial cog in the club’s rotation for the foreseeable future. He’s already shown the tools necessary to make that happen.


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Danny Valencia to Mariners: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

The Oakland Athletics reportedly traded infielder Danny Valencia to the division-rival Seattle Mariners Saturday in exchange for pitching prospect Paul Blackburn. 

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported Valencia was on the move. Greg Johns of provided the other half of the deal, which has yet to get confirmed by either team.

Valencia is coming off back-to-back strong offensive years. He posted a .345 on-base percentage with 18 home runs in a 2015 season split between the A’s and Toronto Blue Jays. He basically matched those numbers in Oakland this past season, finishing with a .346 OBP and 17 homers in 130 games.

The 32-year-old veteran, who will be joining his seventh team since reaching the majors in 2010, was also discussed as a potential movable asset before the trade deadline. He told Bob Nightengale of USA Today in June he preferred to stay but understood the business aspect of the game:

We all joke about it. They are notorious for making trades, so it’s in the back of everybody’s mind. If the team’s not in the thick of things, they will make moves and blow up the team to some degree.

I know I don’t want to go anywhere. I love Oakland. I love the Bay Area. I love my coaching staff, my teammates. We all love it here. But if we don’t want to be moved, we’ve got to play better. They’ve shown that nobody’s untouchable.

Ultimately, Oakland decided to cash in on what could be peak value for Valencia. Before last season, he had hit more than eight homers just once, and he’s entering his final season of arbitration with the possibility of becoming a free agent after the 2017 campaign, per Spotrac.

The A’s get a promising starter in return. Blackburn just arrived to the Seattle organization in July from the Chicago Cubs in a trade that also included Mike Montgomery, who ended up getting the final out in the World Series when the Cubs won their first championship in 108 years.

Meanwhile, Blackburn made 26 appearances (25 starts) at the Double-A level between the two minor league systems. He posted a 3.27 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in those games. While he’s not a big strikeout pitcher, punching out only 99 batters in 143 innings, he has showcased solid stuff and good command. rated him as the No. 18 prospect in the Seattle organization before the deal.

Valencia, who has played all around the diamond throughout his career, figures to fight for the Mariners’ starting right field job during spring training. Otherwise, he’ll play the super-utility role and see the field almost on a daily basis one way or another.


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Mark Melancon: Latest News, Rumors and Speculation on Free-Agent RP

Mark Melancon, one of several prized relief pitchers on this year’s free-agent market, is already generating interest as the offseason wheeling and dealing begins to heat up. 

Continue for updates.

Latest on Free-Agent Interest in Melancon

Thursday, Nov. 10

Jon Morosi of the MLB Network reported Thursday the San Francisco Giants have already met with the closer’s representatives, along with those for Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen.

Melancon is a well-traveled pitcher despite enjoying consistent success since breaking into the major leagues with the New York Yankees in 2009. He’s posted a 2.60 ERA and 1.04 WHIP across a career that’s included stops with five teams across eight years.

His numbers were even better this past season, which he split between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals after a midseason trade. In all, he racked up 47 saves with just four blown opportunities while finishing with a microscopic 1.64 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.

The 31-year-old reliever finished the year in Washington, and the Nats are reportedly interested in keeping him in the fold. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported in late October the Nationals are expected to “go hard” in the sweepstakes.

Melancon isn’t going to rush into a decision, though. Patrick Reddington of SB Nation’s Federal Baseball passed along comments the Colorado native made about free agency during an October appearance on MLB Network Radio:

I’ve been home for like four days and I’m starting to work out next week, so I’m just doing the same thing I’ve done. Obviously it’s going to be a little bit different. It’s kind of—you’ve been trying to get to this point for a long time and I’m excited for it, but until those offers are on the table and the decisions need to be made, I can’t really do a whole lot.

So I’m just waiting for those times and we’ll go from there. It will be a family decision and it will be fun.

Meanwhile, the Giants’ interest in Melancon and his fellow closers doesn’t come as the least bit of a surprise. The team struggled in the late innings throughout the 2016 campaign, as illustrated by a league-high 30 blown saves, according to

Getting a reliable asset like Melancon for the high-leverage situations would take a lot of pressure off the likes of Hunter Strickland and Will Smith. The bullpen as a whole isn’t bad, but it needs a lockdown option for the back end.

San Francisco is going to face a lot of competition for those marquee free agents, though. Both the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians showcased the increasing value of relievers who can go multiple innings in keys spots during their journey to the World Series.


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Todd Frazier Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation Surrounding White Sox 3B

The Chicago White Sox are reportedly listening to trade inquiries for third baseman Todd Frazier as part of what could be a busy offseason for the organization.

Continue for updates.

Latest on Frazier’s Trade Availability

Thursday, Nov. 10

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Wednesday that Frazier is among a high-profile group of potential White Sox trade assets this winter that also includes Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera and David Robertson.

“I think they’re in the exact same place they were in during the summer,” a rival executive told Rosenthal. “They’ll listen on everyone, but I think they’ll focus on trying to move the short-term guys first and then listen on the big guys—and ultimately not move the big guys.”

Frazier would fall into the category of “short-term guys.” He’s under team control for only one more season and can hit free agency after the 2017 campaign, according to Spotrac.

The 30-year-old infielder slugged a career-high 40 home runs during his first season with the White Sox after spending his first five years with the Cincinnati Reds. His batting average fell to a career-low .225, and his .302 OBP was the lowest since his rookie season.

While the latter numbers are concerning, finding the type of power he possesses isn’t easy, which equates to value on the trade market. And it’s no surprise the White Sox may be looking to shake things up after going 78-84 to miss the playoffs for the eighth straight season.

That said, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune noted Frazier expressed interest in sticking with the White Sox in August after building a straightforward relationship with general manager Rick Hahn:

I would rather they build around this, to be honest with you. I like it in Chicago. I like the atmosphere. I like the people there. I think they’re all genuine. … When Rick comes and talks to me about things, I haven’t had any bad (feelings) about it. He goes about his business the right way. He says, ‘We’re going to do this,’ and eventually it happens. You can be happy with that. Good, bad or ugly, he tells the truth.

Several teams make sense as trade partners on paper if Chicago does opt to move him. The San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees are among the clubs that could use both more power and an upgrade at third base.

Ultimately, Frazier doesn’t get on base enough to serve as the main piece of an offense despite his pop. But he’s a perfect fit as a No. 5 or No. 6 hitter who can deliver a lot of runs for a team with a strong top of the order.


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