Tag Archives: Bryce Harper

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.

Washington Nationals 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 Nationals, who after a couple early October exits have left their fans itching for a deeper playoff run. And after signing the biggest free agency prize of the winter, there seems to be little that can stop them from achieving that goal.

Projected Lineup: CF Denard Span, 3B Anthony Rendon, RF Bryce Harper, LF Jayson Werth, 1B Ryan Zimmerman, SS Ian Desmond, C Wilson Ramos, 2B Yunel Escobar*

Projected Rotation: RHP Stephen Strasburg, RHP Jordan Zimmermann, RHP Max Scherzer*, LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Doug Fister

* new additions

September 28: Jordan Zimmermann throws no-hitter, Nats finish season with best record in the National League.

October 4: Manager Matt Williams pulls Zimmermann with two outs in the ninth inning of a 1-0 game. Regrets decision for the rest of his life.

That pretty much sums up last season for the Nats. They spent six long months proving themselves, only to have it all crumble away in an instant. Now the only thing for which they’ll be remembered is that unfortunate early exit in October.

It’s crazy, but that’s how this game works—you can be the best all year long, but if you can’t perform when it matters most, you lose any credibility you might have had.

And what do you do when you’re feeling insecure about your cred? Spend money on things you don’t need!

Like $210 million for new starter Max Scherzer, who will slot into the rotation right behind aces Stephen Strasburg and Zimmermann, and make hitters around the league feign all types of injuries this year when they see that upcoming three-game series in Washington.

Strasburg is finally blossoming into the superstar the Nats were hoping for when they drafted him first overall six years ago. He’s a more complete pitcher now—and the stat that supports this fact is his walk rate. Prior to 2014, he averaged 2.5 walks per nine innings. Not bad, and a few control problems are expected when you come into the big leagues throwing 99 miles per hour. But last season, his walk rate improved to just 1.8 per nine innings. A huge jump, and one that shows he’s hitting his spots better than ever.

But we shouldn’t dwell for so long on Strasburg without mentioning Zimmermann, who is probably the real ace of this staff.

Strasburg has the higher strikeout totals, but Zimmermann’s numbers are better in just about every other category. Think of Zim as the quiet assassin who sneaks up and kills you while you’re entranced by Strasburg’s flashy arsenal of pitches.

And Scherzer? He can be Mr. Pink, since he sort of looks like Steve Buscemi.

The lineup might be just about as deep as the rotation.

The big thing to remember when it comes to the Nats’ offense is Bryce Harper is still only 22 years old. He isn’t a great player yet, nor will he be the Nats’ best hitter this year. Give him time to mature, and he’ll get there.

The title of “best hitter on the team” actually belongs to Anthony Rendon. To say that the former top prospect figured out how to hit major league pitching last year would be an understatement. He figured out how to make major league pitching his bitch. Take a look at his spray chart and note that he can pretty much put the ball wherever he wants to on a baseball field. And that’s a scary proposition.

And let’s not forget about Jayson Werth, who in an added twist also spent some time in jail this offseason. If you’re wondering whether the prison time fazed him, I doubt it. Werth may be the only guy in baseball who could go to a prison and actually fit in.

What will happen is he’ll probably see his respect rise around the league. If I were a pitcher, I wouldn’t want to hit him with a pitch ever again, for fear that retaliation might involve an encounter with his “friends from the inside”.

Between a hardened Werth, a fast-rising Rendon and an elite pitching rotation, the Nats have a crew that can hang with any team in the National League.

The only question will be whether Williams can pull the right strings in October.

Projected Finish: 97-65, First place in NL East

Washington Nationals 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 Nationals, a team full of fast-improving young stars and a burgeoning fan base. As the faithful clad in red, white and blue can attest, the Nats really are America’s team.

Projected Lineup: CF Denard Span, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, LF Bryce Harper, RF Jayson Werth, 1B Adam LaRoche, SS Ian Desmond, C Wilson Ramos, 2B Anthony Rendon

The trendy pick has lost considerable traction since a year ago, when everyone was trying to be the first to get onto the Nats’ bandwagon and proclaim them World Champions.

Now they’re yesterday’s news. Fans are over it, and have gone off in search of the next underground team that no one’s heard of. Baseball fans are such hipsters.

But there’s still a lot about the Nationals to be excited about. Star hitter Bryce Harper is still just 21 years old. And he’s healthy now, for the first time in almost a year. Injuries appeared to put a damper on much of Harper’s production last year, as a steep decline in his numbers, specifically his slugging, seemed to occur right around the same time his knee became acquainted with the outfield wall at Turner Field on April 30th:

Healthy: .352/.438/.736, 10.1 AB per HR

After Turner Field wall: .252/.350/.417, 30.3 AB per HR

Maybe it’s not fair to assume he would’ve continued the pace of the torrid April he had. But he easily should have hit a few more homers, and it’s reasonable to expect that a healthy Harper in 2014 is capable of 30-35 dingers.

The rest of the lineup is pretty stacked, with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th place hitters all coming off 20-homer seasons (Wilson Ramos likely would have also hit 20, if he had played a full season).

Second base is a concern, and if Anthony Rendon can’t retain the job, the Nats might be forced to seek outside help at the trade deadline. As for second basemen around the league, Rickie Weeks is a free agent after the season and has been displaced from his job in Milwaukee by a kid named Scooter. Don’t tell me that wouldn’t frustrate you. I’m betting there’s some pent up aggression there that Weeks can unleash in the form of homers in a Nats uniform.

The pitching has the potential to be outstanding.

They’ve added Doug Fister to what was already one of the best young rotations in baseball. Fister adds a new dynamic to the staff, being a finesse pitcher in the midst of a bunch of power guys. Imagine trying to get your timing down as a hitter when you have to face Strasburg’s 96 one day, and Fister’s 89 the next.

The Nats have the youth, they have the talent, and the sky’s the limit for how far they can go in the postseason.

Projected Finish: 96-66, First place in NL East