With the midpoint of the 2023 regular season fast approaching, the 2023-24 free agent class is beginning to solidify. The coming class has long been considered one deep in pitching but light on potentially impactful hitters. While that evaluation has mostly held up throughout the first half of the season, a handful of surprising hitters are on track for a healthy payday this winter, should their performance hold up throughout the rest of the year.
Each of these players has appeared primarily as a DH in 2023, meaning they would offer prospective suitors little in the way of defensive value. Still, each could find himself among the top options for teams looking to add thump to their lineup without breaking the bank for the likes of Shohei Ohtani or Matt Chapman. Let’s take a look at five hitters who are helping to transform the complexion of the coming class of free agent hitters, in ascending order based on their wRC+ in 2023:
Justin Turner, Red Sox (121 wRC+):
After nine seasons with the Dodgers, the club’s longest tenured hitter departed Los Angeles over the offseason, eventually landing with the Red Sox on a complex two-year deal with an opt-out following the 2023 campaign. Despite concerns that the veteran infielder was headed for a downturn in terms of production as he entered his late thirties, Turner has managed to stave off father time through his first 67 games in Boston, slashing .278/.356/.451 across 289 plate appearances.
That quality slash line comes with excellent peripheral numbers, as well: his 14.5% strikeout rate remains elite, and his 9.7% walk rate is well above league average in its own right. His chase rate has actually improved since last season, as his 65th percentile rank in 2022 has leapt to the 80th percentile in 2023. Those improvements leave Turner with a .363 xwOBA that would be his best in a 162 game season since 2019. While there’s some cause for concern about the veteran’s power production going forward, as his barrel rate has dipped from 8% last season to just 6% in the current campaign, Turner seems all but certain to beat the $6.7MM he’d be leaving on the table by returning to the open market this offseason as long as he stays healthy and avoids a significant downturn in production in the second half.