Tag Archives: Jason Heyward

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.

St. Louis Cardinals 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 Cardinals, whose championship drought has now reached critical levels for St. Louis fans, with no new hardware since 2011. With the core of the team still intact, is it time for the Cards to reclaim their spot at the top?


Projected Lineup: 3B Matt Carpenter, RF Jason Heyward*, LF Matt Holliday, 1B Matt Adams, SS Jhonny Peralta, C Yadier Molina, 2B Kolten Wong, CF Jon Jay

Projected Rotation: RHP Adam Wainwright, RHP Lance Lynn, RHP John Lackey, RHP Michael Wacha, RHP Carlos Martinez

* new additions

A lot of people take it for granted that the Cardinals will make the playoffs every year, just because that’s the way the world works. But when you try to take a step back and explain why, it’s harder to pinpoint. It’s sort of like gravity—we all just take for granted that it works, but even some of the most highly-regarded scientists couldn’t for the life of them tell you why or how.

Most people will tell you it has a lot to do with that dude putting down the signs. But here’s the thing about Yadier Molina: while he continues to be the same unstoppable force on defense, his bat is slipping. Last season, he posted his lowest OPS since 2010, showing a significant decline in power. The now 32-year-old Molina will be valuable no matter what, but if the offensive half of his game is gone, the Cards will be hurting for runs.

To remedy their lack of offense, the Cards traded for Jason Heyward, who is more known for his great defense, but can be a source of power as well as an on-base machine. He’ll likely hit in the 2-hole, which was a black hole for the club last season, with hitters posting an anemic .680 OPS from the spot last year.

But the guy to watch in terms of a potential breakout year is Kolten Wong. Initially thought to be a top-of-the-order bat with decent speed, he added another element to his game by finding some power halfway through last season—of the twelve homers he hit, eleven came after July 1. And let’s not forget about the three additional bombs he hit in the playoffs, including the walk-off in the NLCS that showed he’s not the least bit fazed by high-pressure situations.

The bench is pretty stacked, with the most notable aspect being all the outfielders who will be fighting for playing time. The Cards have always been inexplicably insistent on starting Jon Jay, which means worthy candidate Randal Grichuk will be relegated to bench duty. Grichuk is a legit prospect who just finished tearing up the Grapefruit League with a .911 OPS. And yet, thanks to Mike Matheny’s love affair with Jay, Grichuk will probably only see starts against lefties or if someone gets hurt.

And don’t even get me started on Peter Bourjos, who at this rate will only see playing time if a lunar eclipse coincides with a Led Zeppelin reunion concert.

Adam Wainwright is the anchor of the pitching staff, but you wonder when his workload will catch up to him—in the last two seasons, including the playoffs, Wainwright has thrown 519.2 innings! For a 33-year-old in today’s game, that amount of work is not normal. And as great as Waino has been, it’s the workload that will almost certainly be blamed when he inevitably hits that decline.

Michael Wacha appears healthy, but his innings will be closely monitored this year after last season’s shoulder injury. Lance Lynn and John Lackey round out a very consistent top four.

Carlos Martinez will continue to grow as a starter after winning a spot in the rotation with a very good spring. Prior to this year, the organization had kept him in the bullpen due to having too much rotation depth. Now they’re set on letting him develop as a starter, which means he’ll have to be a different pitcher, having to rely on his secondary pitches to get outs rather than his velocity. There may be an adjustment period, but don’t freak out if he has a rough start to the season—the kid’s talent is real.

The bullpen is solid, and the one thing all the relievers have in common is that they all should have been pitching instead of Michael Wacha in Game 5 of last year’s NLCS.

(Sorry. Too soon?)

24-year-old closer Trevor Rosenthal could very well reach “elite” status this year with his electric stuff. He had a slight problem with free passes last year, with a rate of 5.4 walks per nine innings. But he appears to have fixed that issue going into this year, having only walked one batter all spring.

The Cardinals have some extra depth in rookie Marco Gonzales, who will start the year in Triple-A despite a very good spring in which he posted a 1.04 ERA working mostly as a starter. He’ll appear in some capacity on the big league club this year, either as an extra left-handed arm in the bullpen, or as a backup starter in case someone in the rotation goes down.

With an aging core, it’s anyone’s guess as to when the Cardinals will make the jump from baseball royalty to over-the-hill. And with the competition in the NL Central only getting stronger, the fall could come soon for the redbirds.

Projected Finish: 80-82, Fourth place in NL Central

Atlanta Braves 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 Braves, who boast a deep lineup, great pitching, and who seem to be in the hunt year after year.

Projected Lineup: RF Jason Heyward, LF Justin Upton, 1B Freddie Freeman, C Evan Gattis, 3B Chris Johnson, SS Andrelton Simmons, 2B Dan Uggla, CF B.J. Upton

Trivia time: When was the last time a playoff team featured not one, but two everyday players who hit under .200 for the season?

That would be last year’s Braves. And it’d be generous to say they were even remotely close to .200. B.J. Upton hit .184 and that wasn’t even the worst mark on the team. That mark would be Dan Uggla’s .179, although Uggla did draw enough walks to maintain a decent on-base percentage.

Quite appropriately, the Braves were bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, you could take a couple of things from that.

One, the Braves clearly have some holes they need to address.

And two—If they choose not to address said holes, Uggla and Upton couldn’t possibly get any worse, right? What happens when the law of averages boosts the tandem back up to their normal levels of production? In fact, based strictly on the projected improvement of the 7th and 8th place hitters, the Braves should be considerably better in 2014. And that’s a scary thought.

Scary, because the Braves’ other young core players are all a year older and a year wiser as well.

Jason Heyward, for instance. After a rough first half, he finally started to pull it together in late July, and the Braves responded by making him their leadoff hitter. From that point forward, he hit .325 with a .406 on-base percentage. That second-half Jason Heyward looked a lot more like what I hesitate to call the “Heyward of old,” since he’s still just 24, but that’s exactly what he looked like—the dangerous, top of the order hitter who is the catalyst of the Atlanta lineup.

Then there’s Andrelton Simmons. The guy whose defensive exploits have prompted first base coach Terry Pendleton to compare Simmons to an old teammate, 13-time Gold Glove award winner Ozzie Smith.

But Simmons’ defense might actually be overshadowing some of the other dimensions of his game. As a result, no one noticed that his offense took several steps forward in the second half last year. After the All-Star Break, he posted an OPS of .789—higher than the second-half OPS of Dustin Pedroia, J.J. Hardy or Ian Desmond.

With Simmons’ improving pop and elite glovework, we’re talking about an MVP candidate for many years to come.

The big concern that has sprouted up recently for the Braves is the health of two key starting pitchers. Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy have both come down with ominous arm soreness, and are decidedly out for the season, which has left the Braves’ rotation looking a little thin.

It puts a great deal of pressure on youngsters like Alex Wood, who has never thrown more than 140 innings in a season as a professional. There’s no telling how he’ll hold up over a full season, or whether any innings cap will be in place.

The Braves picked up Ervin Santana and some additional insurance in Gavin Floyd, who is also working his way back from Tommy John surgery, and expected to return midseason.

The Braves’ starters will do their best to handle the workload, but it looks like this season will be the story of rookies trying to fill the gaping voids left by the two injured starters. It’s a story that doesn’t end well.

Projected Finish: 90-72, Second place in NL East, Wildcard berth