Archive for January 11th, 2013

Friday: 01.11.2013

Top 10 Second Basemen Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will fire up the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will start with the both the centerfield and second basemen shows. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.                                           This is not a fantasy list!!

SECOND BASEMEN

This position isn’t nearly as crowded as centerfield. In fact I don’t even really see the need for detailed honorable mentions. I had Jose Altuve close and Jason Kipnis even a bit closer, but I was pretty set on this top 10.

10. Aaron Hill (ARI) – Kipnis could’ve taken this spot and for some, I’m sure he will. Kip’s first season started off nicely, but faded quickly and sputtered to the finish. Hill, meanwhile, has truly been all over the map since entering the league in 2005 sometimes looking like a superstar and other times barely deserving a starting role. Even at the times the bat has lagged, he has been pretty solid in the field throughout.

9. Chase Utley (PHI) – It’s not really about skill with Utley as he still has tons of it, but obviously the injuries have stacked up and conspired to limit him to just 301 games the last three years. That alone has him buried on this list.

8. Neil Walker (PIT) – You may not remember that Walker was a four-time top 100 prospect by Baseball America from 2005-2008, though that was a catcher then third baseman. He has settled in at second and really started to put together a nice career. He remains one of the game’s bests at the position, though somewhat overlooked as he doesn’t have that one standout skill.

7. Danny Espinosa (WAS) – The defense has always been there for Espinosa so being about a league-average bat the last two years has really heightened his overall value, though the Nats would no doubt love to see him swing-and-miss a good bit less. As is, the 26-year old remains a positive asset, but looking at his skills and seeing how good he can be when he’s on fire, it’s hard not to think there is more in there ready to be untapped.

6. Howie Kendrick (LAA) – While maybe he has failed against the lofty expectations that had him winning multiple batting titles, Kendrick is undoubtedly putting together a successful career. He finally appears to be past the injury bug and he delivers in all three facets of the game making him one of the best, but also most underrated second basemen in the league.

5. Ian Kinsler (TEX) – His struggles are clouded a bit by the fact that he was still a fantasy beast so you might not realize he was essentially league-average. His fielding and base running have been huge assets making him a complete second baseman and one of the best in the game.

4. Brandon Phillips (CIN) – The glove, oh man the glove. I love watching him play defense. His defense elevated him here, though he still has a quality bat and does tremendous work on the base paths. The biggest change in his game last year that led to a ho-hum offensive line was the drop in walk rate. He had established himself at the seven percent level for four years before dropping to 4.5 percent last year. Hopefully it’s an aberration.

3. Ben Zobrist (TB) – Baseball’s best Swiss Army Knife, Zobrist is usually pulling double or triple duty across the diamond for the Rays, but the addition of Yunel Escobar moves him to second on a more permanent basis. He may spend some time in the outfield, but with 189 of his last 313 games at second (60 percent), he is getting ranked at this position. Oh, and all that moving around the diamond has taken nothing away from his hitting as he has been one of the best players in all of baseball the last four years.

2. Dustin Pedroia (BOS) – What doesn’t this guy do well? He has it all: huge bat, amazing glove, and brilliant base running (including an 80 percent career success rate). When a 797 OPS is a “fade”, you know you’ve set the bar pretty high. He’s still better than all but one.

1. Robinson Cano (NYY) Duh-doy! Seriously, do I really need to expound on it? He’s lapping the field with the bat all while continually improving his defense to an above average level. He’s so good and he is just turning 30.

Friday: 01.11.2013

Top 10 Centerfielders Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will fire up the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will start with the both the centerfield and second basemen shows. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air. Again, this is not a fantasy list.

CENTERFIELDERS

This was a bit tough because there is some legitimate transition at this position. Because it is a premier defensive position, we have some guys who are excellent with the leather, but lagging with the bat so deciding their fate was difficult. As such, I did some honorable mentions to cover these cases:

Chris Young (OAK) – He grades out extremely well with the defensive metrics even if your metric of choice happens to be your eyes, but his offense has never been great and has been on the decline since 2010’s peak. He’s now in a playing time crunch in Oakland.

Josh Hamilton (LAA) – He has been in center for exactly 52 percent of the time the last two years (130-of-250) with modest results. He is unlikely to see a single game there in 2013 or perhaps ever again as two of the best centerfielders will be playing in the same outfield with him.

Peter Bourjos (LAA) – A near-shoo-in for the 2014 iteration of this list, Bourjos is arguably the best defensive centerfielder in the game, but he was limited to just 195 plate appearances last year because his production at the dish imploded after a strong 2011. I feel like my list reflects how seriously I consider defense, it’s not just a list sorted by OPS, but Bourjos just didn’t do enough in the follow up to his breakout 2011 to warrant a spot.

Cameron Maybin (SD) – Similar to Bourjos in that almost all of his value is coming from his defense and base running right now with a lagging bat, except Maybin is logging 560-ish plate appearances of modest to poor bat work. Don’t even worry about bringing Petco Park, either. He was far worse on the road last year with a disgusting 572 OPS in 269 plate appearances

Ben Revere (PHI) – Revere is a ridiculously good defensive outfielder, but his time has been split between right and center with the best work being done in the former. The Phillies paid a handsome fee to the Twins for Revere’s services in order to make him a full-time centerfielder. He may well wind up on the 2014 list like Bourjos, but for now he’s merely an honorable mention.

10. Curtis Granderson (NYY) – Grandy was so exceptional with the bat in 2011 that most overlooked any defensive foibles, but when the bat regressed in 2012 his issues in center were exacerbated. He has really struggled with what the Fielding Bible labels as “Deep” plays the last two years which has result in some poor grades across all the defensive metrics. The bat and base running make a net-positive as a centerfielder, but the diminishing defense holds him back.

9. Bryce Harper (WAS) – He spent 92 of his 138 games kicking butt in centerfield during his rookie year, but the Nats set the precedent for the Phillies by also paying the Twins a handsome fee for a big time centerfielder when they acquired Denard Span at the end of November. Span has a deep enough track record in the field and with the bat so if he is healthy, he’s their guy in center and that’s why Harper is buried on the list. I’ll be interested to see how MLBN handles these cases since they won’t technically enter 2013 as centerfielders, but we know without question that they are very capable centerfielders.

8. Denard Span (WAS) – And here he is. I love Span’s defense, he is definitely one of the best out there with the glove and hopefully his concussion issues are behind him so he can stay on the field. He rebounded last year from a two year lull with the bat, but not quite to his exceptional level from 2008-2009. He still owns those bat skills and when combined with his defense, he is a near-elite centerfield.

7. Adam Jones (BAL) – His defensive reputation is definitely substantial as evidenced by a pair of Gold Gloves, but I don’t see an elite glove when watching him. I see some great player, but otherwise he’s a good-not-great defender. The defensive metrics aren’t particularly fond of him, especially for a two-time hardware winner, but reality and perception are often far apart when it comes to the Gold Gloves. Elsewhere, his bat continues to advance so even modest defense makes him a tremendous asset for Baltimore.

6. B.J. Upton (ATL) – This is one where my eyes and the metrics just don’t marry well. I see a silky smooth defender who uses his speed well and makes a lot of amazing plays. I think Upton has to fend off a lot of heat being labeled a disappointment because he isn’t a superstar and it looked like he would become one after 2007. He has been a remarkably consistent player value-wise save a 2009 blip in which he still delivered 2.4 fWAR. He was paid like a star for a reason, he is one.

5. Matt Kemp (LAD) – This is like an amped up Granderson case. Kemp’s bat is phenomenal, one of the absolute best in baseball the last two years even with him playing just 106 games last year. But his defense, while improved, still leaves something to be desired. I feel like he has been improving a lot since that debacle across-the-board in 2010, but the metrics are still down on him. If this were a fantasy list, he likely wouldn’t fall past two or three, but since we’re focusing on the complete package, he is down here.

4. Austin Jackson (DET) – I went back and forth on A-Jax and almost slotted him as high as second because I think his defense is truly elite and the bat took a major, sustainable step forward last year. Of course, he has just the one elite year with the bat so his outstanding glove earns him the four-spot. While the hitting improvements are definitely viable, he still has to go out and prove it with a strong follow-up.

3. Michael Bourn (FA) – Bourn hasn’t reached 105 wRC+ once in the last four years yet he has finished 4.9, 4.7, 4.1, and 6.4 fWAR. That is some serious defensive and base running value being delivered by Bourn. He is still lingering on the market, but someone is going to get themselves a fantastic centerfielder.

2. Andrew McCutchen (PIT) – I’m not a huge fan of his defense, but he has excellent and sustained bat to earn such a high spot. He is improving yearly with the bat and seems to be getting better in the field. He isn’t atrocious by any means, but I didn’t see a Gold Glove winner out there in 2012. When you’re crushing the hell out of the baseball like Cutch does, you don’t need to be Peter Bourjos-esque with the leather.

1. Mike Trout (LAA) – Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you are! It’s only the one season, but Trout was Cutch-plus with the bat all while playing Bourjosian D, predominantly in center (110-of-139 games). I know he isn’t going to start 2013 in centerfield, but he is still the best centerfielder in the game right now. Unlike with Span/Harper, Bourjos could lose his starting role if he performs poorly with the bat again and Trout would assume the role. Harper only moves back to center with a Span injury so he is more of a theoretical CF than Trout. I will be very interested to see how MLBN handles this tonight.

Friday: 01.11.2013

FakeTeams Guest Post on Homer Bailey

The fantasy site over at SBNation, FakeTeams, is wrapping up Starting Pitcher Week and Bret Sayre asked if I could contribute a guest post on a starting pitcher-related topic of my choice. With the release of their 51-100 rankings, I decided to choose a favorite of mine from that segment. The result was a breakdown on Homer Bailey that turned out pretty well if I may say so myself.

Here’s an excerpt:

In 2012, [Bailey] had just five implosion starts, or 15 percent of his 33 outings. He also cut down the damage from his worst outing of the year. Last year he had a nine earned run shellacking that did a number on his ERA (accounted for 14 percent of his total earned runs), but this year his worst outing was six earned runs. Everyone is going to have a bad outing (Justin Verlander had an eight run disaster last year), but mitigating the overall damage helps stem the tide on a poor composite ERA. Bailey isn’t Verlander so he will have trouble recovering from an eight earned run outing. Whereas Verlander put up a 1.93 ERA in his next six starts.

Some highlights from week of Starting Pitchers:

Plus so much more including other profiles similar to the Bailey on guys like Jarrod ParkerJordan Zimmermann, and C.J. Wilson