Tag Archives: Aroldis Chapman

2016 MLB Positional Rankings

Each year, I like to do an MLB-wide player ranking by position. It’s a breakdown of what I expect to be each player’s total contribution to his team in the coming season. It takes into account offense, defense, baserunning—the overall game. For the sabermetrically-inclined, I suppose you could say this is how I expect the players to rank in total WAR for 2016. The only reason they’re grouped by position is that they’re easier to compare that way. For instance, I couldn’t definitively say who was better between Giancarlo Stanton and Addison Russell, because I wouldn’t know how to quantify the importance of position, and the defense-for-offense tradeoff. But I can compare Stanton to other outfielders, and Russell to other shortstops.

Comments are welcome, of course, but please keep in mind that there is a fair amount of speculation included in the following rankings. The best players of 2015 won’t be the same as the best players of 2016, because that isn’t how baseball works.

We’ll start with the top five catchers in 2016:

  1. Buster Posey, Giants
  2. Salvador Pérez, Royals
  3. Matt Wieters, Orioles
  4. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
  5. Francisco Cervelli, Pirates

Posey is the indisputable favorite here. His 6.1 bWAR last year was far and away the best of any full-time catcher in the majors. He put up his usual strong offensive numbers, while putting the world on notice to his improving defensive skills: he was recognized as a Gold Glove finalist for the first time in his career. But Wieters is the one to watch. After being limited to just 101 games over the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, he accepted the Orioles’ one-year qualifying offer in a bid to re-establish his value as an elite backstop. If he comes back strong with 20-homer power and his usual cannon of an arm, expect to hear his name a lot this year.

Honorable mention: Russell Martin, Travis d’Arnaud, Brian McCann

Top five first basemen in 2016:

  1. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
  2. Joey Votto, Reds
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  4. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
  5. Chris Davis, Orioles

As ridiculous of a notion as it is that Paul Goldschmidt might still be underrated, that’s exactly the case. At least the league recognizes he’s the greatest hitter in the game right now: pitchers showed him respect last season to the tune of 29 intentional walks. Add his Gold Glove defense to that, and you can understand why he’ll be at the top of the MVP discussion for many years to come.

Honorable mention: Eric Hosmer, Freddie Freeman, Jose Abreu

Top five second basemen in 2016:

  1. José Altuve, Astros
  2. Jason Kipnis, Indians
  3. Dee Gordon, Marlins
  4. Robinson Canó, Mariners
  5. Kolten Wong, Cardinals

Jason Kipnis started to find his way in 2015, batting .318/.391/.481 from May 1st on. One hopes, as the Indians certainly do, that this is the true player that had been touted so highly since his days as a top prospect. But José Altuve still claims the top spot on this list, because he’s firmly established himself as one of the top hitters in the game. He’s virtually a lock for 200 hits, and he even started to find some power last season with 15 long balls. Expect this level of production to continue, as the 25-year old is just now entering his prime.

Honorable Mention: Joe Panik, Ben Zobrist, Logan Forsythe

Top five shortstops in 2016:

  1. Carlos Correa, Astros
  2. Francisco Lindor, Indians
  3. Addison Russell, Cubs
  4. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
  5. Brandon Crawford, Giants

An impressive field of youngsters highlights this list, most notably Carlos Correa, who hasn’t even played a full season in the big leagues, yet should still be considered one of the best players in the game right now. With 22 homers in his rookie campaign, his bat is exceptionally mature for a 21-year old. Fellow second-year player Addison Russell, whose defensive game is up there with the best in baseball, should also be fun to watch, as he’s set to assume the shortstop role for a full season with the Cubs.

Honorable Mention: Troy Tulowitzki, Ketel Marté, Andrelton Simmons

Top five third basemen in 2016:

  1. Manny Machado, Orioles
  2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies
  3. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
  4. Kris Bryant, Cubs
  5. Jung Ho Kang, Pirates

Manny Machado’s power production exploded in 2015, with 35 home runs, blowing past his previous career high mark of 14. He’s also the only player in baseball to have played all 162 games last season, putting to rest any concerns about him being injury-prone. At this rate, the 23-year old should continue to mash, as well as provide wizard-like glovework for years to come.

Honorable Mention: Matt Duffy, Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltré

Top five left fielders in 2016:

  1. Michael Brantley, Indians
  2. Miguel Sano, Twins
  3. Starling Marté, Pirates
  4. Justin Upton, Tigers
  5. David Peralta, Diamondbacks

Michael Brantley has somewhat quietly been one of the best-hitting outfielders in baseball the past two seasons, with a combined slash line of .319/.382/.494 over that time. As the Indians’ middle-of-the-order hitter, Brantley stands to see even more opportunities as his young teammates mature. Miguel Sano is a guy to watch, as his offensive production should be impressive—but I’d be concerned with how well his defense will hold up in left field.

Honorable Mention: Alex Gordon, Kyle Schwarber, Kevin Pillar

Top five center fielders in 2016:

  1. Mike Trout, Angels
  2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
  3. A.J. Pollock, Diamondbacks
  4. Jason Heyward, Cubs
  5. Lorenzo Cain, Royals

No surprise as to who’s number one on this list. The less familiar names include A.J. Pollock, who should be recognized as a perennial MVP candidate after last year’s breakout season. Look for him to build on that 20-homer, 7.4 bWAR campaign. Jason Heyward has been one of the best defensive outfielders for years, but will the move from right to center help—or hurt—his outlook? I’m expecting a few growing pains.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Kiermaier, Carlos Gómez, Byron Buxton

Top five right fielders in 2016:

  1. Bryce Harper, Nationals
  2. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
  3. José Bautista, Blue Jays
  4. Kole Calhoun, Angels
  5. Carlos González, Rockies

I still don’t think we’ve seen peak Giancarlo Stanton. If he can play a full season and stay healthy, there’s no reason he couldn’t put up numbers similar to Bryce Harper’s last year. The two of them should really be viewed as equals, but Harper gets the #1 spot since he’s the reigning MVP. Also, I’m obligated to remind you that Carlos González is still only 30 years old and coming off a 40-homer season.

Honorable Mention: Curtis Granderson, J.D. Martinez, Yasiel Puig

Top five starting pitchers in 2016:

  1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  2. Chris Archer, Rays
  3. Jake Arrieta, Cubs
  4. Chris Sale, White Sox
  5. Max Scherzer, Nationals

Clayton Kershaw is simply superhuman. With a career-high 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings last year, he’s more unhittable than ever before. Arrieta is the reigning Cy Young winner, but he’ll need to establish himself even more if he has thoughts of dethroning the king. Chris Archer’s strikeout rate has improved each of the last three seasons, and he’s just entering his prime years. Also, look for a bounce-back year from Chris Sale. His 3.41 ERA and .324 BABIP last year were hugely out of character, so expect him to settle back down near his career norms.

Honorable Mention: Zack Greinke, Dallas Keuchel, David Price, José Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Madison Bumgarner, Masahiro Tanaka

Relief pitchers are always a crap shoot, but I’ll take a shot at it:

  1. Aroldis Chapman, Yankees
  2. Jeurys Familia, Mets
  3. Wade Davis, Royals
  4. Ken Giles, Astros
  5. Zach Britton, Orioles

Not much of an explanation needed here. If you can throw 103, you can have the top spot on this list. I’m excited to see the evolution of Ken Giles, but there may be a learning curve as he gets used to his new home ballpark in Houston. Zach Britton is, for the second year running, the best closer no one’s talking about.

Cincinnati Reds 2015 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Reds, who aside from a few bright spots, are coming off an injury-plagued, forgettable year. Second-year manager Bryan Price has quite a task on his hands to get these guys back into contention, but if they can stay healthy, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to do it.

Projected Lineup: CF Billy Hamilton, 3B Todd Frazier, 1B Joey Votto, C Devin Mesoraco, RF Jay Bruce, 2B Brandon Phillips, LF Marlon Byrd*, SS Eugenio Suarez*

Projected Rotation: RHP Johnny Cueto, RHP Homer Bailey, RHP Mike Leake, RHP Anthony DeSclafani*, RHP Jason Marquis*

* new additions

The Reds are not a bad team.

Repeat that with me. The Reds are not a bad team. Write it on the chalkboard over and over like Bart Simpson until the message sinks in.

So much went wrong for the Reds last season that you can hardly blame them for the poor finish: Aroldis Chapman took a liner to the face. Joey Votto missed more than half the season. Ryan Ludwick played in Major League Baseball games. All these things normally spell doom for a team, but the Reds actually managed quite well despite their unfortunate circumstances.

In fact, their pitching was nothing short of phenomenal.

Let’s start with Johnny Cueto, who had a pitching season for the ages last year.

First of all, he won 20 games for a sub-.500 team, the first guy to do that since R.A. Dickey in 2012. He also led the National League in hits per nine innings as well as total innings pitched, the first guy to do that since Greg Maddux in 1994. And he did all that while pitching in Cincinnati, in one of the biggest bandbox ballparks in the league!

With Johnny Cueto anchoring the staff, the rest of the guys should fill the 2-5 slots with quality.

Keep an eye on Mike Leake in particular, because I think he’s on the cusp of an All-Star season. He’s been pitching a lot deeper into games, and finished sixth in the NL in total innings pitched last season. If he can continue to improve, he’ll be a solid #2 starter.

Having the best closer in the game doesn’t hurt, either—Aroldis Chapman struck out more than half the batters he faced last year. With him closing out games, and a halfway-decent group of starters, the pitching will always keep the Reds in ball games.

The offense is where they need some work.

Billy Hamilton is kind of a crap shoot. He’s deadly when he gets on base, but more often than not he either strikes out or hits a weak fly ball to the outfield.

And therein lies my big question for Billy Hamilton: If you’re the fastest guy in baseball, why are you hitting fly balls?

Anybody who’s seen Major League will tell you that for fast guys, be they Hamilton or Willie Mays Hayes, it’s better to drop down a grounder and leg out the infield single. But Hamilton must not have seen that movie. His ground ball to fly ball ratio is just 0.73:1, which is well below the Major League average. That means he’s hitting a higher percentage of fly balls than most players in baseball, a pool which includes all the big home run guys—i.e., the players who actually should be hitting fly balls.

If Hamilton makes that slight adjustment at the plate, that alone could get the team’s offense back on track. Todd Frazier, coming off of a breakout year, will benefit by seeing better pitches to hit. Joey Votto and Devin Mesoraco will have more RBI opportunities, and just like that, one cog activates the entire big red machine.

You’ll notice an absence of Zack Cozart in my projected starting lineup. Generally, when a guy is bad enough to be the worst qualifying hitter in baseball by OPS+, management should ask themselves why he’s a qualifying hitter. I expect Cozart to receive much less playing time this year, especially with newcomer Eugenio Suarez in the fold.

The Reds are built to win now. Cueto is an impending free agent, and I don’t see the Reds putting together any type of playoff run unless he’s involved. Depending on how they stand at the trade deadline, look for the Reds to either go all-in and add help, or to cut their losses and trade Cueto.

Projected Finish: 83-79, Third place in NL Central

Cincinnati Reds 2014 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in the National League. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Reds, who after a quick exit from last year’s playoffs are looking to their “secret weapon” Billy Hamilton to help them go further this year.

Projected Lineup: CF Billy Hamilton, 2B Brandon Phillips, 1B Joey Votto, RF Jay Bruce, LF Ryan Ludwick, SS Zack Cozart, 3B Todd Frazier, C Devin Mesoraco

The only story that will get any media attention in Cincinnati this year is Billy Hamilton, even when Joey Votto embarks on his typical MVP-caliber season that, as usual, will go completely unheralded. To that end, this will be the last mention of Votto in this article.

Touted as the fastest man to step on a baseball field since the great Billy Hamilton, Hamilton didn’t miss a beat when he was called up last September, swiping nearly as many bases (13) as he had at-bats (19).

The only knock on him is his hitting, but let’s be honest—if he were a good hitter, that just wouldn’t be fair.

The question is whether his mediocre hitting clip will be enough to keep him in the lineup. His numbers aren’t projected to be great: last year in Triple-A, he put up only a .308 on-base percentage in 547 plate appearances, and his production may dip further as he faces tougher big league pitching. Competition for the starting center field job exists in the form of Skip Schumaker and Chris Heisey, who will be ready to step in if Hamilton isn’t getting on base enough to make his steals worthwhile.

The Reds could end up facing a major problem atop their batting order if Hamilton struggles. Missing the departed Shin-Soo Choo, they lack a real on-base threat to set the table. The best option to hit second looks to be Brandon Phillips, and we’re all aware of his well-documented issues with on-base percentage.

Pitching-wise, the Reds added no one new this winter, and lost the ever-reliable Bronson Arroyo to free agency. The rotation looks okay to start the season, but with Johnny Cueto, the question never seems to be, “if he gets hurt,” but rather, “when he gets hurt”. And when that happens, the Reds have no real big-league ready prospects to take his place. There’s a thing called a “contingency plan” that the Reds are lacking.

The Reds are starting the season with their bullpen in rough shape as well, with Aroldis Chapman having taken a nasty comebacker to the face, and potential fill-in closers Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall dealing with their own respective injuries. Sure they’ll all be back before too long, but in the early stages of the season, the Reds will be stretched pretty thin.

Rookie manager Bryan Price has quite a task ahead of him if he’s going to lead the Reds to the playoffs. With the cast of characters he’s been handed, a playoff run seems like a long shot.

Projected Finish: 78-84, Third place in NL Central