Tag Archives: Jose Altuve

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.

Houston Astros 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 Astros, the long-time basement dwellers in the AL West who have quietly gained some respectability in recent years. While you weren’t looking, all their young minor league talent morphed into real, major league ballplayers. But are they good enough for a shot at a division title?


Projected Lineup: 2B Jose Altuve, 3B Luis Valbuena*, RF George Springer, 1B Chris Carter, CF Colby Rasmus*, DH Evan Gattis*, C Jason Castro, SS Jed Lowrie*, LF Jake Marisnick

Projected Rotation: LHP Dallas Keuchel, RHP Collin McHugh, RHP Scott Feldman, LHP Brett Oberholtzer, RHP Roberto Hernandez*

* new additions

The Astros have a few areas needing improvement.

Now typically, when you know you have some problem areas, you go out and try to fix them. Say a girl dumps you because she says you’re a poor dresser. Wouldn’t you, before you tried to pursue another girl, maybe go out and buy some new clothes?

Not the Astros. The Astros’ two big issues last season were defense and strikeouts. Simple things. Easily fixable, especially when you have an entire offseason in which to fix them. But nope—the Astros went out and actually made themselves worse in both departments.

Let’s start with defense. There’s no charade here. The Astros aren’t trying to be one of the better defensive teams in the league. George Springer and Jose Altuve ranked among the worst last year at their respective positions. But to be fair, it isn’t Altuve’s fault that he doesn’t have the range of most second basemen. Remember that “vertically challenged” becomes “horizontally challenged” when diving for groundballs.

But let’s take a look at some of the newcomers to the team: Jed Lowrie is clinging to life as a big league shortstop. With his age and declining range, he’s probably better suited to play second base at this point in his career. And Evan Gattis, primarily a catcher throughout his career, will reportedly play either left field or first base, which means they’re counting on him to hit about two homers per game to make up for the number of runs he’ll give up by fielding.

And then there are the strikeouts. There were 19 guys in the Major Leagues last season who struck out in more than a third of their at bats (min. 300 plate appearances), and the Astros had three of them: Springer, Chris Carter and Jon Singleton. So what did they do to fix this? They retained all three of those guys, and added another one: Colby Rasmus, who joins his new teammates in staking the same dubious claim.

The upside to all this, despite all the apparent regression, is that these guys will mash. Chris Carter hit 37 home runs last year, and at age 28 his power should just now be peaking. Evan Gattis will hit 30 easily if he’s anything close to an everyday player. Every game for the Astros will be a waiting game until someone runs into one and blasts a homer 440 feet. And it’ll be fun to watch.

The pitching staff is among the more underrated in baseball. Dallas Keuchel rose from obscurity last year to give the Astros their first 200-inning season from a pitcher since Brett Myers in 2011. And they were quality innings, too; the lefty’s 2.93 ERA ranked seventh in the American League. If he continues that level of dominance, he could be in the Cy Young discussion.

Collin McHugh gets overshadowed by Keuchel’s beard, but in one short year in Houston, McHugh made clear his campaign to be co-ace of this team. He was almost unhittable down the stretch last year—in August and September, he posted a 1.77 ERA in ten starts. The Astros are hoping he can be from the right side what Keuchel gives them the left side, thus forming quite the one-two punch.

McHugh appears to be the real deal, but don’t forget that he hasn’t even pitched a full season in the majors yet. Let’s wait for him to get a little more time under his belt before we give him co-ace status.

The Astros also revamped their bullpen in a major way after their relievers posted an MLB-worst 4.80 ERA a season ago. From free agency they added Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek, solidifying their set-up corps and providing some insurance in case 36-year-old closer Chad Qualls starts pitching like a 36-year-old closer.

It’s safe to say the dark days are over for the Astros. They’ve got a few pieces in place, but it’ll be a couple more years before the prospects they’ve accumulated over the past few years are ready to help boost the team into contention.

Projected Finish: 82-80, Third place in AL West

Positional Rankings 2015

Every year, I like to do an MLB-wide player ranking by position. It’s a ranking of what I expect each player’s total contributions to his team to be 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 2015. 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 Andrelton Simmons, 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 Simmons to other shortstops.

Comments are welcome, of course – just keep in mind that there is a fair amount of speculation included in the following rankings. The best players of 2014 won’t be the same as the best players of 2015, because that isn’t how baseball works.

Onward!

We’ll start with the top five catchers in 2015:

  1. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
  2. Salvador Perez, Royals
  3. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
  4. Devin Mesoraco, Reds
  5. Buster Posey, Giants

Now, I don’t know much about catching at the major league level. But I do value defensive skills here more than at any other position, because at catcher is where I believe it’s most critical. Game-calling and overall leadership also come into play here. Salvador Perez is not the best-hitting catcher in baseball, far from it. But he’s one of the best damn team leaders I’ve ever seen.

Honorable mention: Yan Gomes, Matt Wieters, Russell Martin

Top five first basemen in 2015:

  1. Jose Abreu, White Sox
  2. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
  4. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
  5. Joey Votto, Reds

I just hope that last year was an anomaly, that Joey Votto isn’t actually breaking down. Because he’s one of the best players in the game when he’s healthy. The top four should speak for themselves, but I expect both Abreu and Rizzo to continue to climb into the echelons of baseball’s elite players.

Honorable mention: Freddie Freeman, Eric Hosmer, Adrian Gonzalez

Top five second basemen in 2015:

  1. Robinson Cano, Mariners
  2. Jose Altuve, Astros
  3. Kolten Wong, Cardinals
  4. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
  5. Brian Dozier, Twins

Jose Altuve could eclipse Cano this season if he repeats last year’s performance. And that’s a very lofty statement because Cano is baseball royalty. Kolten Wong is an emerging star of whose 12 home runs in 2014, 11 came after July 1st. Dozier gets the nod over the Tigers’ Ian Kinsler and others because I believe he could be an elite defender, something which up to now has only shown up in flashes.

Honorable Mention: Ian Kinsler, Daniel Murphy, Jason Kipnis

Top five shortstops in 2015:

  1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
  2. Andrelton Simmons, Braves
  3. Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals
  4. Starlin Castro, Cubs
  5. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox

Despite Tulo’s history of injuries, it isn’t even close. I’d take 100 games from him over 162 from any other shortstop in baseball. Castro was an easy pick, if you recall he’s still just 24 years old. Alexei gets the nod due to consistency and defense, over guys like the Nats’ Ian Desmond, who didn’t quite make the cut because his numbers have been on the decline since 2012.

Honorable Mention: Ian Desmond, Jose Reyes

Top five third basemen in 2015:

  1. Anthony Rendon, Nationals
  2. Adrian Beltre, Rangers
  3. Kyle Seager, Mariners
  4. Nolan Arenado, Rockies
  5. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

Anthony Rendon figures to own the top spot on this list for many years to come. Even if he can’t replicate his offensive numbers from last year, he still has the defensive skill to be number one. You’ll notice an absence of Josh Donaldson – while one of the best players in MLB the past two seasons, I figure I’m with Billy Beane in thinking that he’s peaked.

Honorable Mention: Josh Donaldson, Brett Lawrie, Kris Bryant

Top five left fielders in 2015:

  1. Alex Gordon, Royals
  2. Jayson Werth, Nationals
  3. Michael Brantley, Indians
  4. Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox
  5. Starling Marte, Pirates

I’m not quite sold on Michael Brantley yet – if this were last year’s rankings, he’d be at the top of the list, but I want to see him repeat that performance and prove it wasn’t just an extended hot streak. Hanley Ramirez is another potentially controversial pick, since he hasn’t played an inning in left field yet, but I think he’ll surprise some people, and actually end up being an above average defender.

Honorable Mention: Christian Yelich, Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton

Top five center fielders in 2015:

  1. Mike Trout, Angels
  2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
  3. Carlos Gomez, Brewers
  4. Lorenzo Cain, Royals
  5. Adam Jones, Orioles

There shouldn’t be any surprises here — except how on earth a .300 hitter with elite speed and defense could end up ranking 4th! It turns out center field is a pretty stacked position in MLB, as you can clearly see.

Honorable Mention: Billy Hamilton, Juan Lagares, Marcell Ozuna

Top five right fielders in 2015:

  1. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
  2. Jason Heyward, Cardinals
  3. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
  4. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
  5. Kole Calhoun, Angels

Yes, I’m a believer in Carlos Gonzalez. He’s one of the best all-around players in the game when he’s healthy, so I wish him and Rockies a good tentacle-free year. Kole Calhoun is the surprise here – he’s my breakout star for the coming season, I expect him to get his walk rate up while maintaining the power stroke he found last year that went somewhat under-the-radar. He should make the All-Star team in 2015.

Honorable Mention: Bryce Harper, Hunter Pence, Yasiel Puig

Top five starting pitchers in 2015:

  1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  2. Chris Sale, White Sox
  3. Yu Darvish, Rangers
  4. Madison Bumgarner, Giants
  5. Felix Hernandez, Mariners

Felix Hernandez doesn’t quite rank as high as he would have with last year’s numbers, only because I don’t know when he’ll be hitting that decline all too common with pitchers around his age. Also, just do me a favor and take a minute to look up how good a season Chris Sale had last year – if he continues pitching the way he’s been, a Cy Young should happen for him sooner rather than later.

Honorable Mention: Corey Kluber, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann

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

  1. Aroldis Chapman, Reds
  2. Greg Holland, Royals
  3. Craig Kimbrel, Braves
  4. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
  5. Dellin Betances, Yankees

So there you have it. These rankings might provide a sort of preview to how I believe the divisions will shake out in baseball this year. Those posts are soon to come. In the meantime, enjoy these and keep in mind that nothing makes me happier than people who argue with me on twitter!