Posts tagged ‘Rankings’

Friday: 02.1.2013

Top 10 Catchers Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall*”. They will air both the catcher and first base shows on Friday evening. 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.

*I will not be doing a top 100

This is not a fantasy list!!

I didn’t really have anyone that I fretted over leaving off. Wilin Rosario doesn’t actually play catcher so his hitting exploits would have to be about 2x what they are currently. OK, he puts on the equipment and positions himself behind home plate, but to say he plays catcher is an insult to even the worst of defenders behind the dish, let alone the best.

Jonathan LuCroy was probably closest, but he was beat out by another guy who played under 100 games last year as I expect this guy to top LuCroy in 2013.

THE LIST

10. Salvador Perez (KC) – There is a lot of speculation on this one as Perez has just 115 games played in his major league career, but part of these lists is projected 2013 performance and I’m expecting a nice year from him which should be his first full season. Despite the small sample of work, he has shown a lot. He has shown legitimate power (.471 slugging percentage & 14 HR), a strong hit tool (.311 batting average), and an ability to make adjustments as he dropped his strikeout rate from 12.7 percent in 2011 to 8.9 last year. The Royals no doubt see the potential signing him to a 5-year, $7 million dollar deal before last year which includes options for 2018 and 2019 which will be remarkably affordable (at $5 and $6 MM, respectively) if he continues at the trajectory we’ve seen early one.

9. Carlos Ruiz (PHI) – He is on the shelf for the first month of the season serving a 25-game suspension for banned substances which is unfortunate as he looks to follow-up his breakout 2012. Of course, he put together his .325/.394/.540 line in 114 games last year so missing 25 doesn’t necessarily preclude him from repeating. Suspension or not, the big question is whether or not his spike in HR/FB rate (from 4.4 in ’11 to 15.1 last year) is legitimate and thus will sustain his 16-homer output. That’s huge spike especially in light of his flyball percentage shrinking five percent.

8. Brian McCann (ATL) – The latest news has McCann’s shoulder feeling better and gives him a shot to be ready by Opening Day. Last year was an unmitigated disaster given his standard of excellence as he played a career-low 121 games with a paltry 87 OPS+ output. He kept his 20+ HR streak intact, but that was probably the only positive point in his season. This ranking takes the injury concerns into consideration as he’d be much higher without them.

7. Alex Avila (DET) – Avila labored through a tough season after a huge 2011 breakout as nagging injuries hampered him from day one. Most catchers are usually dealing with an ailment or three by the time Spring Training hits the one-week mark, but Avila seemed to suffer more than his fair share and lower body ones to his hamstring and knee held his power numbers down quite a bit. Despite the injuries, he was still above average offensively and an offseason rest should help him chase down those 2011 numbers again in 2013.

6. Carlos Santana (CLE) – A rough start to 2012 didn’t stop Santana from putting together an excellent season and the only thing keeping him this low is that he’s not a particularly great catcher defensively. I wrote about him in detail in my Countdown to Spring Training series if you’re interested in more.

5. Joe Mauer (MIN) – He still played the majority of his games at catcher and after an ugly half-season in 2011, his numbers returned to what we expect from Mauer (unless you’re still expecting 2009, in which case just stop). He’s still an excellent player even if he spends most of his time at first base or DH, but he’s not a good defensive catcher so he can only be ranked so high as we move into the elite who combine offense and defense.

4. Matt Wieters (BAL) – He’s yet to become the offensive juggernaut we expected when he was coming up through the minors, but that hasn’t stopped him from rounding into one of the best catchers in all of baseball. The defensive piece is in place and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his offensive game take off in these final three years of his 20s.

3. Miguel Montero (ARI) – Like Santana, Montero didn’t sprint out of the gate in 2012, but that couldn’t deter him from a great season at the dish and he pairs that bat with great work behind the dish. In fact, he has improved a ton when it comes to shutting down the running game the last few years. After posting a 26 percent caught stealing rate in his first full season back in 2009, he has since posted rates of 31, 40, and 42 percent. The 42 percent a year ago was the third-best in baseball. He is really one of the best overall catchers in the game and yet doesn’t get nearly enough credit as such. I will be especially interested to see where he rates on the lists tonight.

2. Buster Posey (SF) – How much can really be said about this reigning NL MVP that hasn’t been said yet? His 2010 was a precursor to his excellence which was delayed a year by his injury in 2011. Those who were worried that the injury might take some time coming back from were shown the door immediately as Posey ripped the league apart for a 1016 OPS in April. But it was his second half of the year that really earned him the MVP as he posted a 1023 or better OPS in each month with 21 RBIs per month and his .364 average in September was his worst from July on as he hit a combined .371 in the three months.

1. Yadier Molina (StL) – This shouldn’t be too much of a shock. Sure, Posey won the MVP, but he also played 29 games at first base and Molina was a legitimate candidate finishing 4th in the voting. Long regarded as the unquestioned best defender in baseball, Molina’s offensive outburst the last two years puts him in the discussion as the single best player in the game if you were talking about building a team from scratch.

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Friday: 02.1.2013

Top 10 First Basemen Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall*”. They will air both the catcher and first base shows on Friday evening. 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.

*I will not be doing a top 100

This is not a fantasy list!!

Youngsters Eric Hosmer and Anthony Rizzo were close, but #10 on the list beat em out because of his two full years of big time production.

Dear Lord, please don’t let the MLBN guys list Ryan Howard.

THE LIST

10. Freddie Freeman (ATL) – I think so forget that the sweet-swinging lefty is just 23 years old. He has back-to-back 20-homer seasons and showed improvement in both his walk and strikeout rates from year one to year two improving both by about two percent. His continued ascent makes the loss of Chipper Jones easier to swallow for that offense (not to mention the addition of the Upton Bros) and the best may well be on the way as early as 2013.

9. Allen Craig (StL) – The purpose of these lists is to explore the position right now and project forward for the 2013 season. As such, Craig makes my list. His skills are plentiful and already in place, but he needs to stay healthy which I think he will do in 2013 and show subsequently show everyone what a beast he is with the bat. Those paying attention have already seen the 141 OPS+ the last two years, but that’s only been in 733 plate appearances, a full season of dominating will earn him the attention he deserves.

8. Mark Teixeira (NYY) – He is likely to rate higher on everyone’s list on the show tonight, but that’s based solely on name value. The shift (not be confused with MLBN’s The Shredder) has eaten his batting average and it isn’t coming back. He’s been under .260 the last three years and barring a change in approach, I just don’t see him coming back to the levels we were used to in his 20s when he hit a combined .290, topping .300 three times. His OPS has declined yearly since 2007. He’s still good, but no longer great.

7. Paul Konerko (CHW) – He sputtered to the finish line in 2012, but he’s far from done, even at 37 years old. Despite the down second half, he still finished with the 6th-best OPS+ among first basemen qualified for the batting title. Konerko has at least another big year in his bat, if not maybe even 2-3 seasons.

6. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) – He may not repeat his 2012 breakout that saw him pop 42 bombs, but he’s far from a power fluke. He had a 162-game average of 27 homers for the three years leading up to last year so we had definitely seen glimpses of greatness within his game. Of course Cory Schwartz, Jason Collette, and Matthew Berry have seen the greatness since E40 was in teeball.

5. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) – I’m extremely high on Goldschmidt as evidenced by this ranking, but I think he’s slated for a big 2013. He’s got a great all-around game bringing big power (43 doubles, 20 homers), a good batting eye (10% walk rate), and speed which is rarely seen from the position (18-for-21 SB success rate). He has 30-35 home run upside, too, which could start to shine through as early as 2013 in his age-25 season.

4. Adrian Gonzalez (LAD) – When your down season is a .299-18-108 season, you’re a damn good ballplayer. That was Gonzalez’s 2012 and while it isn’t what we’re used to (he averaged .306-33-106 from 2009-2011), it was hardly bad. Throw in the trade to LA and I think he’s being slept on a bit. My only major concern is the plummeting walk rate that has gone from 18 percent in 2009 to 13, 10, and then just six percent last year. Thankfully his strikeout rate has held firm between 16 and 16.6 percent in that span. He is still a star.

3. Prince Fielder (DET) – First base is always a position with offensive stalwarts, but I wonder if Prince ever looks things over and shakes his head that even with his numbers he isn’t the unquestioned best at his position. He has missed one game in the last four seasons. Though he peaked at 50 home runs in his second year, he has hardly struggled in the meantime. He is still averaging 36 per season since that 2007 breakout along with a .290 average and 111 RBIs. Plain and simple, he is one of the best the game has seen and he has plenty more in store.

2. Albert Pujols (LAA) – Remember when his career was over in April? And how he probably wasn’t going to make the Hall of Fame in early May? It was an uncharacteristically slow start for The Machine, but the panic button was smashed to bits by far too many people especially since he’d just done something similar in 2011. He is still unquestionably one of the game’s best players and I wouldn’t even quibble with someone giving him the top spot, but for me it was easily…

1. Joey Votto (CIN) – The torch is passed. Yes, he only played 111 games last year thanks to an injury, but he still led first basemen in fWAR at 5.9 among those with 450+ plate appearances. He won his third straight OBP title in the National League and second MLB-wide title in three years. Despite playing just 111 games, he still clubbed a career-best 44 doubles. If he had gotten the 625 plate appearances he normally gets in a season, he was on pace for 58 doubles which would’ve been one shy of Todd Helton’s 59 in 2000, the most in the integration era (since 1947).

I really should do these during the week so I don’t smash four posts (two reviews, two new lists) onto the site in a matter of hours. I’ve just been so deep in the SP guide stuff that by the time Friday hits, I’m like “Oh man, I gotta get my top 10 stuff done”.

Wednesday: 01.30.2013

ESPN Rankings Summit: Top 25 SPs

The ESPN fantasy crew is in the midst of the rankings summit where they get together and hash out the initial run of their positional ranks. It accompanies a chat moderated by one of the parties involved and it’s a pretty interesting watch/read. They are coming down the home stretch with their starting pitchers where I believe they’ll go 50 deep. Here are the top 25.

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. Clayton Kershaw
  3. Felix Hernandez
  4. Stephen Strasburg
  5. David Price
  6. Matt Cain
  7. Cliff Lee
  8. Cole Hamels
  9. Jered Weaver
  10. Zack Greinke
  11. Gio Gonzalez
  12. Adam Wainwright
  13. Madison Bumgarner
  14. Yu Darvish
  15. R.A. Dickey
  16. C.C. Sabathia
  17. Chris Sale
  18. Johnny Cueto
  19. Mat Latos
  20. Jordan Zimmermann
  21. Roy Halladay
  22. Aroldis Chapman
  23. Kris Medlen
  24. Matt Moore
  25. James Shields

I had some minor quibbles early, but my first real contention was Chris Sale at 17. Of course that was immediately blown out of the water by Aroldis Chapman at 22. I just can’t get behind that on any level. It assumes so many things go perfectly for him. Bret Sayre did point out that it’s a tough rank on overall value because if he implodes, he will likely move back to the bullpen. A fair point, but I just don’t see how they came to this ranking because even if Bret’s scenario comes to pass, he will have x amount of horrible innings on his ledger before transitioning back. I think he’d have to be truly awful to go back into the bullpen, not just fantasy bad. A 4.20 ERA/1.35 WHIP would be fantasy bad, especially at his cost, but Cincinnati can definitely live with that out of their fifth starter especially if he’s fanning 25 percent of the batters he faces and going six innings a game.

Chapman basically has to have Sale’s season to fulfill that ranking and while there is at least chance of that, it’s pretty low on the probability spectrum making such a lofty ranking tough to justify for me. I also think Kris Medlen is too high at 23, but at least he has starting experience at the major league level and an actual arsenal of pitches. Chapman has major name value and Medlen has his brilliant end to 2012, factors that will keep both very high on most lists this year. I just think the talent pool is too deep to take the added risk of them in lieu of more consistent performers who also have greatness in their profile (e.g. Matt Moore, Max Scherzer).

The summit is a very cool event that ESPN does every year. I love reading some of the thinking going on in the room and I hope they show some videos again as they’ve done in the past.

What do you think?

Tuesday: 01.22.2013

Top 10 SP – Review

On Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 Starting Pitchers Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, co-host John Smoltz, and special guest to the series Bill James. The results were interesting and perhaps unsurprisingly, I had more gripes with this list than I have any of the previous ones.

Here are all four lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top10SPListsThe Shredder

Let’s start with the list that comes from their objective machine they call “The Shredder”. Kenny suggests that it is cold and calculated in its evaluation relying heavily on the most recent season, but also not forgetting track record. I have to call heaping amounts of BS on it. It just doesn’t add up. First off, it you’re focusing on “RIGHT NOW”, then how does Roy Halladay still finish fourth? There has to be a lot of subjectivity used to get him there. But that’s far from the most egregious infraction.

If this is supposed to be the most objective tool relying on data only for projection analysis, how does Chris Sale not only make the list, but finish ahead of Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, and reigning Cy Young winner David Price? It had to rely heavily on track record (or pure subjectivity) to get Halladay that high, so then track record would send Hamels and Price rocketing past Sale. Meanwhile, Sale wasn’t better than them last year, either.

Strasburg is probably skewed because he threw just 160 innings, but he was so stellar in that allotted time that it is still a surprise to see him so low. Plus, since I think they had to finagle things to get Halladay that high, surely they could’ve just done the same to get Strasburg into a more reasonable slot. Whatever the case is, I’m done believing that The Shredder is purely objective on any level. And if it is coming to these conclusions based on the data it is being fed, it’s broken and Master Splinter does in fact need to take over.

Maybe I got too caught up in Jered Weaver’s peripherals when leaving him out because I didn’t even give him an honorable mention. I recognize the fact that he is a damn fine pitcher, but I am a strikeout whore and looking over the numbers again I think I focused too much on the plummeting strikeout rate and not enough on his incredible ability to keep runners off the bases, specifically by preventing hits. I still think six is a little high, but I can see how he would fit nicely at 10 bumping the NL version of him (Matt Cain) up to nine and Gio Gonzalez getting moved to an honorable mention.

My inclusions they didn’t list: Cain, Gonzalez, and R.A. Dickey

Bill James

Without treading over well-worn ground too much again, I just can’t see how on a “RIGHT NOW” list James saw fit to put teammates Cliff Lee and Hamels so far below Halladay who is 36 and coming off of an injury-marred season. Plus there’s the fact that he and the Phillies were going to start discussing an extension, but worries about his shoulder scared them off a bit. I still love Halladay as an undervalued fantasy commodity, but as the #4 pitcher right now, I’m a bit more skeptical.

James was the only one to list C.C. Sabathia which I think says more about the depth at the top of the pitching heap than anything else. I certainly don’t fault James for including him nor would I have faulted any of the other participants. He was basically tied with Adam Wainwright on my list at that 13/14 spot, but I gave Waino the mention because I honestly thought CC would appear on most of the lists and didn’t need the extra love.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Cain, Gonzalez, and Dickey

John Smoltz

Smoltzie’s list was close to being my favorite list but including Sale at the expense of Lee was just too much to overlook. Frankly, it doesn’t even matter if Lee wasn’t 11th, just the inclusion of Sale over many more deserving (at least in my estimation) candidates is tough for me. I’m not anti-Sale overall, just when it comes to ranking him this high among the best pitchers right now. Another big season in 2013 could elevate him onto my list next winter, but he hasn’t done enough to pass enough all of these guys just yet.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Gonzalez, Dickey, and Lee

Brian Kenny

I guess by sheer virtue of the fact that we had the most matches (eight), Kenny’s list should be my favorite, but it boggles my mind how he could wind up with Price at nine. Apart from that, our lists are pretty close on the matches we had usually off by just a spot, maybe two, and we had three direct matches (JV, Strasburg, and Hamels). He was adamant about getting Dickey on his list and was the only one to do so which obviously I support, but I just kept coming back to the Price thing. If you go off of mostly last year, then Price has to go above Weaver (and obviously Halladay) and even when you factor in track record, it’s not like Price is without one. You’d have to weigh track record pretty heavily to Halladay above Price which I thought went against the conceit of these lists.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Cain and Gonzalez

All in all, I know these lists are still just fun and filled with opinion (yes, even yours Shredder), but I can’t make sense of it sometimes when arguments supporting guys contradict where you rated them or others.

I’ve still got my reliever review upcoming and then the LF and RF lists are due this week before Friday night’s airings.

Friday: 01.18.2013

Top 10 Starting Pitchers Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will air both the relief and starting pitcher shows on Friday evening. 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!!

(Ed. note: I swore my DVR said the reliever episode was first which is why I posted that list first. Sorry about that!)

This list was even harder than the relievers one as I just want to include so many guys. To spare you, the reader, I’m only going to include a few of honorable mentions.

Roy Halladay (PHI) – Since it is “right now”, I couldn’t justify his inclusion coming off of an injury-marred season that was easily his worst since 2004. From a fantasy angle (which isn’t entirely relevant in this NON FANTASY list) I still think he’s being criminally underrated early on in mock drafts and rankings I’ve seen, but he’s not a top 10 guy right now.

C.C. Sabathia (NYY) – This has a lot more to do with how deep the top of the starting pitcher pool is than anything Sabathia hasn’t done. There are no obviously flaws in his games, he’s absolutely amazing, but there are only 10 spots, so he’s on the outside.

Yu Darvish (TEX) – I couldn’t just play favorites and put Darvish in ahead of more deserving candidates. He took a while to get his feet under him last year and while I think he will show his top 10 worthiness this year, this list is about right now as opposed to projection. So it is with great pain that I leave Darvish out.

Also: Adam Wainwright (he was great coming off of TJ, but not great enough to include just yet.)

MLBNtopSP

THE LIST

10. Matt Cain (SF) – See what I mean? Leaving Cain off would’ve felt silly yet that’s what I would have to do to get Darvish included. Track record doesn’t weigh heavily on a “right now” list, but even just the 2012 track record favors Cain in terms of pure results. He’s awesome and he’s getting better each year. He doesn’t post the gaudy strikeout totals I drool over, but he’s proven you can be great with just a solid 20ish percent rate.

9. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) – If you think this rating is crazy, you haven’t watched him pitch enough. He keeps adding to his strikeout rate going from 20 percent in 2010 to an NL-best 25 percent last year. Meanwhile he made his first real dent in his walk rate last year dropping it a full percentage point to nine, which isn’t great, but easier to overlook when a quarter of the guys you face are walking back to the dugout after three strikes.

8. R.A. Dickey (TOR) – Absurd. Just completely absurd. His 2012 season was so freaking incredible. Seemingly out of nowhere, he ups his strikeout rate from 15.3 to 24.8 percent while actually incrementally improving his walk rate from 6.2 to 5.8 percent. Just bananas. He deservingly won the NL Cy Young and now gets to peddle his wares in the AL East with Toronto. I basically had Dickey and the next two guys neck and neck so I used track record as the tiebreaker. I’d still take these next two over him in a one-game situation.

7. Cole Hamels (PH) – When you factor out how much I’m responsible for myself, Hamels just doesn’t get enough love as an ace-level pitcher. Part of it is that he’s obscured by his rotation mates, but part of it is just that I think some fail to recognize how great he’s been the last three years. He had the 8th-best strikeout rate (24.9 percent) in the majors last year among qualified starters and only Dickey bested his 6.0 percent walk rate among those eight and it was by 0.1 percent.

6. Cliff Lee (PHI) – How did he win six games and fan 207 batters last year? I know wins and strikeouts don’t exactly go together, but the point is that he was just too good to be saddled with such a lame record (6-9). He walked a laughable 28 guys in all last year, too. His 3.3 percent walk rate was baseball’s best by nearly a full percent over Bronson Arroyo and Joe Blanton (4.2) and then of course there is the fact that he was also light years better than them in every other skill-based metric.

5. Felix Hernandez (SEA) – The top five were pretty easy for me in terms of who belonged in it. You can quibble over the order, but the group should be pretty consistent among anyone making such a list. Listing Felix fifth just doesn’t feel right, but I don’t see how I could get him any higher even as he continues to dominate. A career-best six percent walk rate accompanied fifth straight spike in strikeout rate, though just a small bit from 23 percent in 2011 to 23.8 last year. Oh, and he threw a perfect game.

4. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) – There is little doubt in my mind that he could’ve gone well past his innings limit without issue, but the Nats painted themselves into a corner. In the 159 innings he did throw, he was simply amazing. If he had qualified (requires 162 innings), his 30.2 percent strikeout rate would’ve topped Max Scherzer’s gaudy 29.4 mark for baseball’s best. He has three excellent pitches that he uses to devastate hitters. His changeup might be the best of the bunch generating a ridiculous 29 percent swing-and-miss rate. It was accountable 53 percent of his 197 strikeouts, too.

3. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – As I mentioned earlier, I thought Dickey was a deserving Cy Young winner, but he wasn’t the only deserving candidate. Kershaw was right there and you can probably argue that wins and a great story are the only things that cost Kershaw a repeat. He led baseball in ERA for a second straight season, posted the same 6.7 H/9 mark which not only led the NL like it did in 2011, but all of baseball this time, and he led the NL in WHIP for the second straight season 1.02. His 14-9 record plus not being a knuckleball journeyman likely did him in.

2. David Price (TB) – Price showed flashes of greatness in 2010, though his 2.72 ERA was probably a bit more favorable than his numbers seemed to “deserve”. Then in 2011, he went the other way improving his underlying numbers and likely should’ve ended up with a result better than his 3.49 ERA. He finally found the right potion in 2012 repeating his 2011 base skills (24% Ks, 7% BBs) while adding a crapton of groundballs (moving 44 to 53% groundball rate) and sharpening up with runners on (moving from 73 to 81%, second to only Jeremy Hellickson at 83%) to turn in a Cy Young performance. His curveball was the driving force yielding a meager 368 OPS and generating 44 percent of his 205 strikeouts.

1. Justin Verlander (DET) – Verlander had an amazing follow up campaign to his Cy Young/MVP season in 2011 and like Kershaw, he had a very strong case for a repeat at Cy Young, but it wasn’t to be for him. He lost out by four points (whereas Dickey inexplicably crushed Kershaw, whose repeat case was probably stronger than JV’s). He again paced the entire league in innings and total strikeouts, but dropped seven wins off that flashy 24 count from last year dropping below the famed 20-mark.

By the way, Verlander is an instructive case for why I’m referencing strikeout percentage a lot more these days. He had an 8.96 K/9 in 2011 and 9.03 K/9 last year so there’ll be plenty of analysis stating that “he even raised his strikeouts!!!”, but he didn’t actually do that. He fanned 25.8 percent of batters in his dream season of 2011, compared to a flat 25 percent last year. Small difference, but important nonetheless.

Despite not winning any end of season awards, I doubt you will get much argument on Verlander as the best pitcher in the game, though the latest chic thing to do is to project a 2013 injury for him based on these recent workloads. It’s the most risk-less “bold” prediction you can make, so don’t fall into the trap of doing so to appear ballsy. Predicting any pitcher to get hurt is like guessing that Lindsay Lohan will be arrested soon. Both are ticking time bombs. Always.

Friday: 01.18.2013

Top 10 Relief Pitchers Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will air both the relief and starting pitcher shows on Friday evening. 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!!

My guess is that MLBN will rely a bit too heavily on saves here and lean toward closers, but I’m going for the best relievers regardless of role. This was pretty tough because I could’ve made a legitimate case for quite a few guys who didn’t wind up on my 10. In fact, my honorable mention list could’ve run 10-15 deep. Instead, here are just a few.

Sean Marshall (CIN) – Since these lists stress the “Right Now” aspect, considering Marshall’s track record too heavily would go against the conceit of the lists. And since he is coming off of his worst year against righties (750 OPS), he lost out on a spot. He obliterates lefties (410 OPS) and has plenty of previous success against righties to avoid the LOOGY status, but his rough start likely cost him a spot here. He had a 4.15 ERA in 17.3 innings through May, but then just a 1.85 ERA the rest of the way in 43.7 innings.

Jonathan Papelbon (PHI) – He was hardly bad in 2012, but some chinks in the armor did pop up (namely the home runs and the margins are so thin here that any small ding could cost you a spot on the list. I will state clearly that this has nothing to do with my disdain for Papelbon. I want to make the best list possible and I ended choosing my #10 over Papelbon after a couple flips back-and-forth between the two.

Jake McGee (TB) – A lefty who throws 96? How the hell is that fair? To say he dominated right-handers last year is a gross understatement. They managed a .098/.157/.134 line–that’s a 291 OPS for those keeping score–all while striking out 36 percent of the time. With these honorable mentions, there really aren’t reasons why they didn’t make the list. The top 10 was just so rich that the runoff seems entirely snubbed given how deserving they are on their own merits.

Tyler Clippard (WAS) – Remember when he stranded 96 percent of runners in 2011? So sick. He’s still awesome, just not quite top 10 awesome. Hell, neither are his bullpen mates, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano.

Darren O’Day (BAL) – If we were doing A-Rod’s list, he might be number one. O’Day was 5th in win probability added for relievers last year while teammate Jim Johnson was tops by a good margin. O’Day just missed and Johnson wasn’t given much consideration ranking around 20 or so. It’s probably my whorishness for strikeouts. Sorry, Jimmy-J.

Sorry as well to: Jason Grilli (homers), Rafael Betancourt (drop in Ks), Al Alburquerque (innings), Kelvin Herrera (Ks didn’t stack up), Ernesto Frieri (walks), and Joel Peralta (homers).

MLBNtopRP

THE LIST

10. David Hernandez (ARI) – The D’Backs better not even consider giving the 8th inning to Heath Bell setting up J.J. Putz as Hernandez handled it masterfully last year and continues to get better each year. He is a flyball pitcher, but maintains a 0.5 HR/9 because 15 percent of his flyball stays in the infield. In the mortal division (non-Kimbrel & Aroldis), his 35 percent strikeout rate was good 5th while his 7.9 percent walk rate was best among those five.

9. Koji Uehara (BOS) – How does he only get $4.25 million from Boston this offseason? That is a steal, especially juxtaposed against the 2/$28 mil that Washington is paying Soriano (and I like Sori). Even missing two months, he deserved more than a $250,000 dollar raise for his work. He had a 14.3 K/BB! He hates walks. In fact, he hates walking. He moves briskly everywhere he goes often breaking into a trot or jog. He walked three batters in 36 innings last year. Carlos Marmol walked three batters in a game three times last year.

8. Joe Nathan (TEX) – Homers ate him up a bit at home (1.7 HR/9) or his sparkling numbers (2.80 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) would’ve been even better. And he was 37 years old.

7. Fernando Rodney (TB) – Who would have bet that Rodney would appear on a list like this… ever? Chalk one up for the “change of scenery” factor working and how. The Rays remade Rodney and he became one of baseball’s best relievers recapturing his strikeout-per-inning stuff while walking next to nobody (far and away a career-best 5 percent BB rate and 1.8 BB/9; previous best was 9 & 3.5). His velo even spiked a bit up to a career high 98.2 MPH on his four-seamer making his 83 MPH changeup that much more devastating.

6. David Robertson (NYY) – He experienced the worst timed injury ever going down in early May shortly after getting the closer’s role once Mariano Rivera went down. Robertson had been missing bats like crazy for four years, but it was always paired with a walk rate of 12 percent or worse. That changed last year when he cut it to just 7.7 percent with little cost to his strikeouts (dipped from an obscene 37 percent to a still-excellent 33 percent). He’s added a groundball element to his game the last two years only adding to his effectiveness.

5. Kenley Jansen (LAD) – An irregular heartbeat could barely tame Jansen, though it did cost him about half of September. He’s usually the one doling out irregular heartbeats, terrifying batters into submission with his filthy cutter which he throws almost exclusively (93 percent of the time). When a pitch is that good, why throw anything else? Sounds like another reliever we all know pretty well.

4. Jason Motte (StL) – Completely embraced the closer’s role en route his best across-the-board season yet in a career-high 72 innings. His 2.75 ERA was up from 2011’s 2.25, but the WHIP dropped from 0.96 to 0.92 while his strikeout rate spiked majorly to 31 percent without impacting his 6 percent walk rate. I think he is one of the more underrated relievers in the game, but that could just be my perception of him. I guess we’ll see tonight on the lists of those involved in the show.

3. Sergio Romo (SF) – While I’m constantly annoyed at how much the Giants baby Romo, I understand it. It’s probably not a surprise that he posted his best year in 2011 when they limited him to just 48 innings (1.50 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 40% K rate, 14.0 K/BB). I’m just being selfish because I want to see flat-out embarrass grown men with his NSFW slider, rated second best in the majors last year per pitch values. His arm may one day accompany the ball to the plate, but until then, enjoy this diminutive badass.

2. Mariano Rivera (NYY) – This was obviously the toughest ranking. He had to be included despite throwing just eight innings last year before tearing his ACL, but how high? It wasn’t a leg injury and he hasn’t seen his dominance diminish at all yet, so I felt comfortable slotting the 43-year old right here. He doesn’t have the same gaudy numbers as a lot of these guys, but he is still fanning a quarter of the batters he faces and his walk rate was actually on the decline from 4.8 in 2010 to 3.4 in 2011, though it ticked up a bit to 6.3 (still great) last year in his tiny sample.

1. Craig Kimbrel (ATL) – He’s on a different plane. If you put up his numbers in a video game, your friends would tell you to get real and up the difficulty. He’s doing it on All-Madden (mixed sport metaphors FTW!). His 40+ percent strikeout rate dropped our jaws, but he wasn’t satisfied so he dropped a 50 burger on our faces fanning precisely 50.2 percent of the batters he faced last year. Major league batters. And for good measure, he nearly sliced his walk rate in half dropping from 10.5 to 6.1 percent.

No one stood a prayer against him evidenced obviously by everything I’ve already shared, but also his .126 batting average against. His 19.2 swinging strike rate was tops in baseball to the surprise of absolutely nobody. He got 40 percent of his strikeouts on three pitches. If he got two strikes on a batter, they hit .068/.112/.105 and struck out 68 percent of the time. I could keep going, but I think you get the point. This was an easy choice.