Tag Archives: Buster Posey

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.

San Francisco Giants 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 defending World Champion Giants, who despite very few roster changes since a year ago, are being picked by almost no one to repeat as champions. But that’s okay—this team seems to thrive on being the underdog.

Projected Lineup: LF Nori Aoki*, RF Hunter Pence, 1B Brandon Belt, C Buster Posey, CF Angel Pagan, 3B Casey McGehee*, 2B Joe Panik, SS Brandon Crawford

Projected Rotation: LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Matt Cain, RHP Tim Lincecum, RHP Tim Hudson, RHP Jake Peavy

* new additions

In last year’s World Series, Madison Bumgarner dominated on the mound, Joe Panik made highlight-reel plays on defense, and Hunter Pence batted over .400.

But people forget that for most of the season, the Giants were not a great team. And with almost all the same cast returning for another season, it figures that they still won’t be a great team.

Let’s start with the rotation.

Outside of Bumgarner, you don’t know what to expect from anyone. An optimistic outlook would be that Matt Cain comes back strong after elbow and ankle surgery, and Tim Lincecum throws a couple more no-hitters. But that’s a best-case scenario.

What’s more likely is that it takes a whole squad of guys to get through the season. That’s why the Giants gave new contracts to departing free agents Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy—for reinforcements. As the dog days of the season wear on, the older guys might need some extra rest, or someone may get injured as a result of standing too close to Jeremy Affeldt. Any number of things could happen that would require the Giants to dig a little deeper for starters. Watch for super-reliever Yusmeiro Petit to even make a few starts, and possibly lock down a rotation spot if the other guys aren’t pulling their weight.

At the start of the offseason, the world was concerned that the Giants wouldn’t have enough power in their lineup. The Giants gave zero fucks about what the world thought.

They replaced the departed Michael Morse with his physical polar opposite in Nori Aoki. They replaced Pablo Sandoval with Casey McGehee, who hit as many homers last year as Madison Bumgarner.

Essentially, they’re an offense built on speed, little dinky base hits, and the occasional Buster Posey bomb.

But is that really a bad thing?

What the Giants have upgraded is their on-base ability. McGehee is good at drawing walks, having posted a .355 on-base percentage last season with Miami. Aoki was just as proficient with Kansas City, sporting a .349 on-base clip. On last year’s Giants, those numbers would have ranked 2nd and 3rd on the team, behind only Posey. Now they join other pesky pitch-takers on this team like Gregor Blanco and Brandon Belt, forming an epic lineup of guys who take walks.

How well might that work out? Just ask that “Moneyball” team that played across the bay in the early 2000’s.

The Giants aren’t a great team. But they don’t seem to mind being the underdogs. In their recent run of championships, there hasn’t been a single postseason series in which they’ve been viewed as the odds-on favorites, yet they’ve emerged with three titles.

Maybe the key to success in this crazy game is to be a not-great team. I can’t pretend to know the formula. All I know is that the Giants seem to have mastered it as much as anyone ever has.

Projected Finish: 84-78, Second place in NL West, Wildcard berth

San Francisco Giants 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 Giants, who still boast the same pitching rotation that won two World Championships, and they’re ready to bring that trophy back to San Francisco.

Projected Lineup: CF Angel Pagan, 2B Marco Scutaro, 1B Brandon Belt, C Buster Posey, RF Hunter Pence, 3B Pablo Sandoval, LF Michael Morse, SS Brandon Crawford

The Giants’ disappointing 2013 season reached a low point when a quiet October culminated with Kim and Kanye’s engagement ceremony at AT&T Park. Such a violation of the field should give the Giants extra incentive to ensure the only ceremony taking place this October will be of the World Championship variety.

The key player that hinges on is Brandon Belt. Belt reportedly made a change to his grip in the batter’s box in early August, lining his knuckles up on the bat. It sounds like a pointer you’d get from your little league coach, but nevertheless, Belt responded, hitting .346/.408/.576 in August and September. Manager Bruce Bochy rewarded Belt by elevating him to the third spot in the lineup. That comes with added responsibility, however. Belt now needs to be “the dude” in this lineup. Sorry, I’m using very technical baseball terms here—by “dude”, I mean the guy you want at the plate in a critical spot, feared by pitchers throughout the league because of his ability to come through in big situations.

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about home runs. Belt’s value has always been greatest when he’s getting on base, ever more important now that he’s hitting ahead of Posey, Pence, and the rest of the power hitters. Belt’s career-high for drawing walks in a season is just 54, but he’s absolutely capable of reaching 80 or 90. If he does, that’ll be what keeps the line moving in the Giants’ lineup.

A winning team also needs a spark plug. That’s the guy who starts rallies by becoming a presence on the basepaths, getting into the heads of opposing pitchers. And that role on the Giants belongs to Angel Pagan. The Giants were 39-32 last year in games in which he played, and 37-54 when he didn’t. Talk about a crucial piece of the puzzle.

The Giants also added Michael Morse, addressing their subpar left field situation. Morse will be a great fit for San Francisco because of his raw power, something the Giants have severely lacked in recent years. Along with Hunter Pence, it also gives the Giants the ultimate one-two punch of ridiculous on-deck circle routines.

The pitching staff remains a strength for the team, despite the recent struggles of ace Matt Cain and former ace Tim Lincecum. Lincecum is still struggling to find a rhythm after the perils of aging took hold of his velocity about two years ago. The good news for Lincecum comes in the form of Tim Hudson, the new member of the staff. Hudson is a veteran with the same body type as Lincecum, who has learned to pitch effectively with limited velocity, and who can hopefully help Lincecum find a little consistency. Lincecum doesn’t need to throw a no-hitter every night, but avoiding the early-game implosions and throwing a solid six innings every time out could be within his reach.

With the ever-consistent Madison Bumgarner anchoring the staff, the Giants’ rotation can tolerate a few rough outings here and there, and still vie for the division.

Projected Finish: 89-73, First place in NL West