In what has become an annual event in the CHEAP SEATS, the first entry of this year’s Top 100 players in baseball will be released this week. This season the location will be different, as it will debut in my column at The Sports Fan Journal, but there will still be links to each here. Other than that, everything will be the same: 100 players in total (obviously), released in five sections until the top 10 is revealed in an extended version in the final entry.
Last year, there wasn’t much mention of the players that missed, or why. While I’ll discuss the methodology of how I come to my selections in the first entry tomorrow, I can discuss why some of both the toughest omissions and subtractions from last year’s list were made.
First of all, there are at any time, 750 players on Major League rosters, so not being counted in the upper 7.5% of players isn’t exactly a defeat in the status of guy. If anything it speaks to how much talent there is spread around the game that explaining why a guy in the 7.6-8.0% range doesn’t make the proverbial cut. But a cutoff is a cutoff, and somebody has to miss. To speak to that ever evolving element of the fluctuating MLB/CSP elite, there are 26 players that won’t return from last season’s group. That is due to a variety of reasons, which…..is where we will move on to showcasing the “almost makes for this year”….
Crawford will have a chance to rejoin the game’s elite this year in the midst of the stack Dodgers’ lineup
Group 1— Injury Issues: There are players that were either severely limited by injuries last season or will have their season limited this year due to them.
Alex Rodriguez (33): Between a downtown in his play, hip injuries, new steroid scandals and more postseason failures, A-Rod has hit an all-time low in his career. A reoccurrence of his hip injury, and recent surgery, has put his career into question.
Chris Carpenter (35): The Cardinals right-hander was limited to only five starts out of him last year due to a nerve injury in his shoulder that necessitated a rib being removed for him to be able to continue rehab. After the injury flared back up this spring, Carpenter’s career is likely over.
Carl Crawford (44): He opted for Tommy John surgery to heal his ailing elbow in August, but also still hadn’t completely turned around from a bad 2011, where his hit only hit .255.
Brian Wilson (45): He didn’t throw a pitch in 2012, as he also underwent Tommy John surgery. Questions regarding where his rehab is at have kept interest in him low on the open market this winter.
Lance Berkman (54): After his huge 2011, a series of leg and knee injuries limited him to only 32 games a year later.
Neftali Feliz (58): The switch from closer to starter wasn’t kind for Feliz, who was effective in seven starts, but his elbow wasn’t up to the workload. He will return as a reliever in the late part of 2013.
Joakim Soria (89): His second Tommy John procedure of his career shelved him for 2012, and saw his contract option not be picked up in Kansas City. He signed with the Texas Rangers, but will not be able to return until June.
Ichiro will make the longest slide from last year’s list at #25, to off it entirely a year later.
Group 2—Declines: The career arch of some players has taken a swing since the beginning of last season. This group won’t make a repeat appearance due to the either their downsides of their career setting in, or an extremely large swing from where they entered last year to 2013.
Ichiro (25): 2011 was a low mark in his career, but 2012 went even lower in Seattle, hitting only .261 at the time of his trade to the Yankees. He had a brief revival in pinstripes, but he’s clearly on his downside.
Michael Young (34): His hit total swung down by 44 from from 2012, and his lowered by 61 points. Now in his new home in Philadelphia, he’ll have to switch back to third base after two years as a majority DH.
Eric Hosmer (50): The sophomore slump hit hard, to the tone of a .232 average and 13 home runs.
Kevin Youkilis (60): A career-low batting average of .235 average hit Youk, who also failed to reach at least 125 games for third straight year.
Jose Valverde (66): He followed up a statistically perfect year as a closer, with a season that spiral out of control to the point of a 25.31 postseason ERA.
Ubaldo Jimenez (67): His first season in Cleveland was a forgettable one: he led the AL in losses with 17 and his ERA sat at 5.40.
Dan Uggla (75): His traditionally poor glove work couldn’t be offset by his bat any longer. He hit only .220 and his home run total swung down to 19 from 36.
Heath Bell (91): His season imploded from the start. Throughout three demotions from the closer position in Miami, he blew eight saves and finished with ERA greater than 5.00.
Josh Beckett (96): A loser of 11 games in Boston before being dealt to the Dodgers, and finished with an ERA of 4.65.
Group 3—Come up short: Part of the game is that there’s always a guy on your heels, ready for his opportunity to breakthrough. It doesn’t always mean that one player had a bad effort, because none of the players in the group did. But either they didn’t have quite the same impact on 2012 as they did on 2011, or they were simply victims of other players moving into the elite.
Jeremy Hellickson (95): The 2011 Rookie of the Year still posted a top 10 ERA, but his wins (10) and innings (177) regressed.
Shane Victorino (68): He swiped a career high 39 bases, but his range in the field and his batting average lowered as well.
Alex Avila (72): He came down from the Silver Slugger-winning season in 2011, and was limited to 116 games due to injury.
Carlos Santana (73): His average picked up to .252, but his power numbers dropped across the board (27 doubles to 27, 27 homers to 18).
Mike Napoli (76): Power numbers stayed strong, but his average dipped down to .227 and only nine doubles.
John Axford (79): A year after winning the Rolaids Reliever of the Year honor, his era rose nearly three runs, and he lost the closer job early in the season, but regained it later.
Jonny Venters (81): High usage over his first two seasons caught up with him last year, and he eventually landed on the disabled list. But had a strong second half (1.71 ERA) that shows promise for 2013.
Hunter Pence (83): His average fell from .314 in 2011 to .253 in 2012, including batting only .219 after a deadline trade to the San Francisco Giants.
Nick Markakis (97): Two stints on the DL kept him out for much of the Orioles run last year, but he still hit .298 and drove in 54.
Tyler Clippard (98): He had a solid year (32 saves), but perhaps was a bit over exposed due to injuries in the Nationals bullpen.
How’s it going to play out this year? Find out starting tomorrow, and talk it early and often with me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.