Posts tagged ‘Yoenis Cespedes’

Friday: 02.1.2013

Top 10 LF – Review

Last Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 Leftfielders Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, co-host Eric Byrnes, and special guest to the series Bill James. There is no real consistency with these lists and that part has been a bit annoying. I’m specifically referring to deciding where to list guys. Why are they listing Martin Prado and Josh Hamilton as leftfielders and Justin Upton as a rightfielder when they will not be playing those positions in 2013?

By their own admission, these lists are also supposed to be projecting the 2013 season so it makes zero sense to do this, especially since they set that precedent with their first episode and listed Shin-Soo Choo in center. I know these lists are for s’s & g’s and despite how it may read, I’m not getting that worked up over it, I’m just trying to have some fun as we move closer toward real baseball.

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

top10LFlists

The Shredder

Technically, I only had one difference with The Shredder because had I know they were counting Hamilton and Bryce Harper as leftfielders I’d have done the same. I talked about them in the centerfielder list with Harper actually making the top 10. Since I hadn’t ranked Hamilton in the CF list and realized that the lists were supposed to be a ranking of where they were slated to play, I included him with the rightfielders. With that out of the way, I don’t really have any major problems with The Shredder’s list. I obviously like Carlos Gonzalez quite a bit more, but it seems The Shredder dings him hard for his road stats, as does Brian Kenny which is pretty silly because he still plays in Colorado. If the list is supposed to be about who they are right now and how they’ll do in 2013, how does his poor road work matter when he more than makes up for it at home?

My inclusions they didn’t list: Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner, and Justin Upton

Eric Byrnes

Similarly to The Shredder, if you remove the Harper/Hamilton issue then I’m almost in lock-step with Byrnes. In fact, apart from a major difference on Alex Gordon, we about matched on every pick. He seriously underrated Gordon’s defense, but also made a big point out of the fact that Gordon isn’t a 30-home run guy. Neither was Byrnesie in his best year, 2007, during which played left predominantly. Another point he stressed repeatedly was that he felt Cargo was definitely the best defensive leftfielder in the game. It’s Gordon for me, but his claim isn’t outlandish. Oh, and Byrnes seemed to have played WITH EVERYBODY ON EVERY LIST IN THE SHOW.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Soriano, Gardner, and Upton

Bill James

More of the same as we only have one disagreement beyond his ranking guys who aren’t actually leftfielders anymore and Harper. I was really surprised with his ranking of Harper and Hamilton, but I guess he was leaning heavily on the track record differential between the pair. Some of James’ lists during this series have really surprised whether it was a shocking inclusion or questionable positioning of a player. David Murphy had his first 500 PA season last year in what was easily his best season and now he’s a top 10 LF? I don’t see it, Bill.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Soriano, Gardner, Upton, and Melky Cabrera

Brian Kenny

Kenny’s lists have really shocked me, too. I watch Clubhouse Confidential daily so I think I’m pretty well versed in Kenny’s mindset about the game, but then he goes and drops Carlos Quentin seventh on his list after an 86-game season. In fact, Quentin has never topped 131 games and he’s now four years removed from his best season.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Soriano, Gardner, Upton, and Cabrera

 

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Friday: 01.25.2013

Top 10 Leftfielders 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 left and right field 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!!

***I will not be doing a top 100

I felt I was getting a little verbose on these lists given that they’re really just about having some off-season fun, so I’ve cut the explanations down a bit on these.

The leftfield list was one of the easier ones as the 10 came pretty easily to me. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will not be included because they were included on the centerfielder list. We saw MLB Network put Shin-Soo Choo on the centerfielder list as well, so they’re going with where guys are expected to play in 2013 thus you won’t see Martin Prado on the list, either, as he will now play third base for the D’Backs. Nor will you see Desmond Jennings as he shifts over to center to replace B.J. Upton. Oddly enough, MLBN was counting new position for guys like Choo and Aroldis Chapman yet they still included Trout with the CFs and he is slated to play left with Peter Bourjos in center.

HONORABLE MENTION

Jason Kubel (ARI) is the only leftfielder who was close for me. His NL debut was impressive, but he just missed out as he lags a bit behind defensively and his bat was good, but not overwhelmingly so.

THE LIST

10. Alfonso Soriano (CHC) – A punching bag for many fans, Soriano hasn’t been the 40-40 guy from his Washington season, but he’s not exactly Vernon Wells, either. In fact, by fWAR he’s earned $98.5mm ($5mm/WAR) on the field while being paid $97mm. Even if you don’t buy the defensive gains, he’s been a plus-hitter for five of six seasons with the Cubs.

9. Melky Cabrera (TOR) – How much do you think PEDs helped Melky? And do you think he’s taken them consistently for two years? Those are the two questions to be asked when analyzing him. I lean toward “some, but not overwhelmingly so” and “no”, so he makes my list. I doubt he’d be the 2012 version of himself even if he kept using, so look at 2011 as a guidepost for his performance.

8. Brett Gardner (NYY) – Speculating a bit here since Gardner missed most of 2012, but when he plays he does everything except hit for power. He plays incredible defense, has game-changing speed, and he’s the Van Gogh of walks—he draws ‘em like crazy!

7. Josh Willingham (MIN) – Staying on the field has been the only real issue with Willy during his career and he’s improving in that avenue improving his games played from 114 in 2010 to 136 and 145 the last two years. Regardless of how often he plays, he’s always raked at the dish and done so enough to cancel out his below average defense.

6. Yoenis Cespedes (OAK) – What an incredible debut! I don’t think anyone saw that coming. He was the commensurate five-tool player hitting .292 with a .505 slugging percentage, playing elite defense in left using his arm to terrify runners into staying put, and stealing 16 out of 20 attempts while also taking extra bases at an above average clip. Imagine if he tops 130 games this year.

5. Justin Upton (ATL) – New to both his team and his position, Upton was finally traded after approximately 212 years of speculation. The potential is overwhelming, but we need to see it more consistently and since we don’t yet, he lands lower than you probably would’ve expected to see him.

4. Matt Holliday (StL) – Only two LF, both regarded among baseball’s best, have topped him with the bat at the position. He pairs the first-rate bat with better defense than you think. Unless you think he plays good-not-great defense boosted by his solid arm and ability to freeze runners.

3. Carlos Gonzalez (COL) – He’s failed to repeat that stunning 2010, but he hasn’t exactly been a slouch in the meantime and his rising walk rate bodes well for his late-20s. He’s yet to play more than 145 games in a season which only make his three straight 20-20 (all w/22+ HR) seasons that much more impressive.

2. Alex Gordon (KC) – The unquestioned best leftfielder in the game defensively speaking whether you trust the metrics or simply use your eyeballs. Mind you, that’s not the only reason he rated this well, he’s also come around big time with the bat including an MLB-best 51 doubles last year. Took him a while, but he’s finally paying dividends on the savior tag that was slapped on him before the ink dried on his contract in 2005.

1. Ryan Braun (MIL) – Duh-doy!

Tuesday: 10.2.2012

Down Ballot MVPs: Yoenis Cespedes

Let’s talk AL MVP.

No, not that MVP battle.  I am talking about the next tier, the down ballot candidates.  I realize that most people probably don’t care about the also-rans in an MVP race, but I actually do care because I like seeing guys recognized for their big seasons even if they weren’t quite the best.  There is no financial benefit (that I’m aware of) and no one but the encyclopedic fans with incredible memories will remember the 7th-place finisher in a given year, but I’m sure it is special for the player to be given consideration for such a prestigious award.

Top 5 or top 10 finishes in the MVP do get thrown around when it comes to Hall of Fame discussion, too, so it is important that the “right” guys get their due.  I put right in quotes obviously because there is no single right answer.  For one, fans really only care that the writers get the winner right.  After that, most couldn’t care less.  There were 22 players who got votes in the American League last year and 23 for the National League so the ballot runs deep.  For this series, I am pointing out guys I want to see in that upper range, say top 5-7.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll profile some of my favorite down ballot candidates in each league.  In the American League, these guys are fighting for third place and beyond.  I can’t envision any scenario where Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera aren’t first and second in some order.

Let’s start out west:

Yoenis Cespedes (OAK, OF) – How great has he been this year?  In just about any other year he is a walkaway Rookie of the Year, but he picked the Year of Trout for his debut.  Not only did he deliver the power and speed that was expected from him based on his elite athleticism (23 HR; 16 SB), but he also hit .291 with a .353 on-base percentage, both higher than anticipated by a significant margin.  He was expected to be among the freest swingers, but his 19% strikeout rate was 31st in the AL among those with 500+ plate appearances.  Adam Dunn paced the league at 34%, easily taking the MLB title, too.  Cespedes was nowhere near the 25%-30% range that made up the rest of the top 10.

When you talk about value, there is a desire to get the heart of how a singular player impacted his team.  Now that is difficult to quantify, but the methods in place look kindly upon Cespedes.  First off, the A’s were 80-47 when he was in the lineup (an incredible .630 win percentage) and just 12-21 (.364) when he was sidelined.  Obviously crediting one of 25 as the sole reason for those splits in record is a bit outlandish on par with pitchers and quarterbacks getting far too much credit for wins and taking too large a hit for losses.  It does at least begin to show how important he is to that team, though.

If you lean more into the sabermetric sect, you might be interested to know that he has a 3.81 Win Probability Added (defined here) in his 127 games.  That is good for 7th in the American League (for the record, Trout had a massive lead at 5.61 and he has played just 10 more games than Cespedes).  These two have squished a lot of WPA into smaller sample sets than the others in the top 10.  On that definition page, it defines a 3.0 or better as great which coincidentally covers the entire top 10 in the AL as Adam Jones rounds it out at 3.04, just ahead of 11th place Billy Butler’s 2.85 mark.

Fangraphs also has a Clutch statistic (defined here) in which Cespedes also grades out nicely with a 0.75 mark (where 0.5 is above average and 1.0 is great).  He actually kills Trout here who is at -0.53 which is below average by their scale.  Of those top seven in WPA, Cespedes is the 3rd-most clutch by that statistic.  Looking at his statistics in various states of leverage (defined by Baseball-Reference here), his quality clutch rating isn’t a huge surprise as he does his best work in High Leverage situations with a .349/.432/.651 line including six home runs, 28 RBIs, and six stolen bases in 74 plate appearances.  He also has eight walks against 11 strikeouts.  The strikeout tick upward to 49, but he also fares quite well in Medium Leverage situations with a .327/.388/.567 line with 10 homers, 34 RBIs, and seven stolen bases in 240 plate appearances.  He has a meager .682 OPS and .230 batting average in Low Leverage situations across 216 plate appearances.

He wasn’t the top WAR guys on the A’s thanks in large part to Josh Reddick’s incredible defense (though he was hardly a slouch with the bat), but I do think Cespedes was easily their best offensive player overall (combinations of Chris Carter, Brandon Moss and Johnny Gomes were better in various stats like OPS, OPS+, wRC+, and wOBA, but none of them played close to as much as Cespedes) while being a capable defender in centerfield (a premium position) and leftfield.  He essentially split his time down the middle between the two positions when looking at the innings.  He is older than most rookies (26), but he still exceeded expectations in his first year as a major leaguer and he is a major reason why the A’s are now playoff bound.