Archive for February, 2013

David-Price

Here it is: the top 25 players in the game. If a true dream team of baseball was to be put together (not those watered-down versions they run out for the World Baseball Classic), this is what it would most likely look like. To be at this point, you’ve got to be in your prime and playing the best ball of your life. But what exactly is a prime? As this list has shown so far, you can play elite level baseball at age 20 all the way up to 43, so narrowing that down where the best baseball is played is a bit of a task in today’s game.

Of the Top 100 players in baseball today, the breakdown of where the best of the best baseball is played by age, it looks like this:

Age 20-25: 15

26-30: 54

31-35: 26

36 & up: 5

Late 20’s to early 30’s prime is still in control in a major way, and there are a few old veterans that are hanging on as well. But there is a real surge of impact players that are making their presence known in a major way early on. The youth movement produced an MVP last season, the game’s most dominant reliever and potentially a DC-based sensation that will do the same at the beginning of the game as well. Experience always plays, but the youth will be served…as the climb to #1 will show very clearly.

 

25. CC Sabathia-Pitcher-New York Yankees: Nobody carries more of load for a rotation than CC. He’s topped 200 innings for the last six seasons, while averaging 18 wins a year along the way. He also continued his big game flare in 2012, winning both the opening and closing games of the ALDS versus the Orioles last year.

24. Troy Tulowitzki-Shortstop-Colorado Rockies: When he makes it to the field (which he only managed to do 47 times last year), he’s by far the best overall shortstop in the game. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner that’s topped 27 homers three times. Numbers like these are what make the Rockies refuse offers for him. Risk can kill the reward.

23. Prince Fielder-First Base-Detroit Tigers: He’s become baseball’s most consistent pure power hitter. 2012 marked his sixth consecutive year topping 30 home runs, and he rounded it out by hitting for a career-best .313 average as well. For good measure, he took home a second Home Run Derby championship as well.

22. Adrian Beltre-Third Base-Texas Rangers: He played the best baseball of his life a year ago, hitting .321, with 36 home runs and continued his reign has arguably the best infield defender in baseball. He finished in third in AL MVP voting and is a huge reason why the Rangers will still be strong, post-Josh Hamilton.

21. Stephen Strasburg-Pitcher-Washington Nationals: Before the much-debated early ending to his year was put in place, he was every bit the sensation he has been billed as being. In only 28 starts, he won 15 games and struck out 197 to the tone of an 11.1 average per nine innings. Now with his first true full season upon him, the sky is the limit….

 

How’s this going to end up? It’s close to the time to crown who’s number one, and follow along the rest of the past at The Sports Fan Journal here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-2013-top-100-players-in-baseball-part-4/

 

And for the real time word and rundown, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

 

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Bryce-Harper

In day three of the 2013 Top 100 Players in Baseball, we hit the middle of the mountain and start into the Top 50 players in the game today. At this point, the free agency season is nearly at a close (with the exception of the Kyle Lohse rumors), and the teams are what they are. The impact of each player’s performance on his team shows his true value and factors into where each is ranked this week.

Does competition have anything to do with placement? Sure, it has to. Team success is a major marker of if there’s any point to how good a player is. With the exception of a few extreme differences in top player-to-team effort (think David WrightGiancarlo Stanton or Felix Hernandez), most top players compete. Here in the middle of the list, the translation will be started from the really good players to some of the best of the best.

46 of the 100 players were members of teams that made the 2012 postseason, in comparison to over 80 that made the All-Star team, won a Gold Glove or even won an MVP at some point. In today’s list, there’s as diverse a mixture of impacts as there are in the game, or at any other part of the Top 100. But there really is only one goal, and in today’s list there are 17 players that visited the postseason in the last two years … and another seven that have been World Champions at one point, at least one time over.

 

50. Chase Headley – Third Base – San Diego Padres: Here’s a man that had a season’s worth of impact in just one half. After the All-Star break he hit an MLB-best 23 homers, which helped him to 115 RBI on the year, tops in the NL. He also took home a Gold Glove and showed why he is the most discussed trade chip all of baseball.

49. Adam Wainwright – Pitcher – St. Louis Cardinals: Coming back from Tommy John surgery, he won 15 games in his return to the game. While he didn’t always have the form that won him 39 games from 2010-11, he rounded into form behind the league’s best curveball, and from June to July he won 7 games with a 2.75 ERA.

48. R.A. Dickey – Pitcher – Toronto Blue Jays: After his dirty good knuckleball led him to a season highlighted by 20 wins (for the fourh-place Mets), an NL-best 230 strikeouts and three shutouts, he landed the Cy YoungAward. The Blue Jays traded their top prospect to land him to resurrect their long-suffering rotation.

47. Dustin Pedroia – Second Base – Boston Red Sox: The gritty heart of the Red Sox cracked 39 doubles, stole 20 bases and hit .290 on the year despite battling through a broken finger — an injury he played the last game of the season with just to prove there was no less fight at the bottom of the standings as there was at the top.

46. Justin Upton – Left Field – Atlanta Braves: The D’Backs finally pulled the trigger on the long-discussed trade of the 25-year-old outfielder, and now he’ll help to form the most talented young outfield in either league. The do-it-all talent has scored 212 runs the last two seasons, while hitting 48 homers along the way as well.

45. Bryce Harper – Left Field – Washington Nationals: There’s legit claim to call the Nats’ 19-year-old phenom the best teenager to ever play. In route to the NL Rookie of the Year, he popped 22 home runs, nine triples and stole 18 bases. Along the way, he became the youngest position player to ever make an All-Star team, and his 5.0 WAR topped the NL’s best team…

 

For the rest of the list, and what you’ve missed you missed so far, check in at The Sports Fan Journal here

And to follow the upcoming season, and player debate in real time, follow me on Twitter @CheapSeatFan

 

Pablo-Sandoval

In this year’s Top 100 Players in baseball, the talent is spread out all over the diamond’s 11 positions/roles in the everyday game. The totals by position are as follows:

  • 27 starting pitchers
  • 10 center fielders
  • Nine third basemen
  • Eight each from right field, left field and shortstop
  • Seven first basemen
  • Six catchers and relief pitchers, respectively
  • Five reps from second basemen and designated hitters

And one Ben Zobrist as well, for good measure.

In addition to that, 29 of the 30 MLB teams are represented, with only the () loss Houston Astros failing to send at least one representative on the list. The Cleveland Indians also nearly missed, until signing Michael Bourn last week. As for team representation, the Atlanta Braves lead the way with a major seven representatives in the top 100. On their heels are six other teams each bringing six delegates to the list this week.

Does this say anything about where everything willstack up in the end? Absolutely not, because on last year’s countdown, only four San Francisco Giants were in the mix, and they went on one of the most undeniable runs of any team in recent history. Even this year, there’s only four in the mix, with one already accounted for. Top-shelf talent is nice, but the right team, riding the right wave, will wreck even the most intimidating foes. Ask the Yankees and Detroit Tigers, who will post a total of 11 players on this list, yet won a total of zero games against the Giants last fall.

 

75. Ian Kennedy – Pitcher – Arizona Diamondbacks: He’s won 36 games over the last two years and has become the most underrated staff ace in baseball. His .840 win percentage in 2011 was tops in baseball, one of the few categories Justin Verlander was bested in during his 24-win season.

74. Michael Bourn – Center Field – Cleveland Indians: Despite having no home for a while, he is still the game’s premier speedster on the bases and best defensive centerfielder. He has led the NL in swipes for four of the last five years, averaging 51 per season.

73. Martin Prado – Third Base – Arizona Diamondbacks: The D’Backs traded for and then handed him $40 million this offseason, and for good reason. He can play three positions with equal ease, and while he’ll settle in at third full-time, as long as he continues to carry his .295 career average, he’ll be well worth the investment.

72. Derek Jeter – Shortstop – New York Yankees: Jeter had a renaissance in 2012 that made it clear that his demise was far from underway. His 216 hits led the American League, before he had his usual strong October, hitting .364 in the AL Division Series.

71. Yovani Gallardo – Pitcher – Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers set an MLB record for the most strikeouts by one pitching staff last year, and Gallardo led the way yet again. He topped 200 K’s for the fourth consecutive year and is only 26 years old.

 

The beat goes on today and for the rest of the week at The Sports Fan Journal, where you can find #70-51 right now, right here.

 

And for the debate in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Chase_Utley

It’s spring training, and it’s time to break in the season with the greatest debate in any sport: Who’s the best at it? And in the case of Major League Baseball, which has the longest marathon to crowning its champ, there are a lot of players to consider.

Who’s truly trending up, holding their places and standing among the rest in the game of baseball right now? This week, I’ll be working my way from the 100th best down to who is the best of all 750 players from all 30 MLB clubs today. The challenge is justifying and explaining it all along the way. The point is to determine the best player in baseball, not who had the best season or best career currently. It’s about finding the balance between statistics, talent, performance, consistency and potential impact on the upcoming year as well. Not an easy task, but I’m going for it.

We will get to breakdowns by position, who’s taken the biggest steps forward, and backward, as well as which teams have the most representation on this countdown as the week goes on, but for now … let’s get to it: the top 100 players in baseball for 2013.

 

100. Allen Craig – First Base – St. Louis Cardinals: After returning from a knee injury in early May, Craig went on a tear. He hit .400 with runners in scoring position for the season and added 35 doubles while driving in 92 runs in 119 games.

99. Miguel Montero – Catcher – Arizona Diamondbacks: The D’Backs backstop is one of the more underrated catchers in the game. He set career highs in batting average (.286), RBI (88) and on-base percentage (.391, third best in the National League) last summer.

98. Chase Utley – Second Base – Philadelphia Phillies: Utley proved he may have finally shaken off knee woes that had slowed him since 2010. The five-time all-star put up nearly identical 2012 totals as he did in 2011, only in 20 fewer games.

97. Victor Martinez – Designated Hitter – Detroit Tigers: V-Mart will return from an ACL injury that sidelined him for the Tigers’ entire 2012 season. A .303 career hitter who drove in 103 runs in 2011, he will join with the Cabrera-Fielder duo to form potentially the best heart of any lineup in baseball.

96. Dan Haren – Pitcher – Washington Nationals: There were few workhorses who have pulled a heavier load than him, but it caught up a year ago. The six-time winner of 14 games or more wore down in Anaheim last summer and couldn’t be himself. Now well-rested and back in the National League, he’ll be a part of the best rotation in baseball….

 

That’s just the beginning, and the best (literally) is yet to come. The rest of the #100-76 part 1, head over the Sports Fan Journal to get the low down here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-2013-top-100-players-in-baseball-part-1/

 

And for the debate in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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

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.

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.

Via Hannah Miller of FanDuel.com

At the start of each baseball season, optimism usually runs rampant. Just about every club feels like they can make a run to the postseason, and way too many players look like they could be on the verge of a breakout season after one hot week in Florida or Arizona. The harsh reality is that there are always going to be disappointments. While predicting these are just as difficult as predicting stars, here are three players who are showing some warning signs that this could be a poor 2013 season for them individually.

Hanley-Ramirez-Dodgers-602x339
Hanley Ramirez

The little bit of life Ramirez showed after the trade to the Dodgers seemed like nothing more than a tease for this quickly aging infielder. At one point in his career, Ramirez was a reliable first round pick who had five tools. Now, Ramirez seems out of shape, unable to play third or shortstop with any consistency and striking out more than ever. He will be entering his age 29 season, which isn’t that old, but age and weight issues are slowing him down on the base paths.

It is remarkable that a player who hit .332 in 2007 and .342 in 2009 is now a .250 hitter. While that average should go up a bit this season, he is no longer a guy who should be able to get by on name recognition. Avoid Ramirez in the early rounds to prevent disappointment.

Jered Weaver

Staying in the Los Angeles area, Jered Weaver is a pitcher who might not seem like he is declining, but the warning signs are there. For starters, his velocity on all of his pitches is way down from even a couple of seasons ago.  This in turn has affected his strikeout rate, although his ERA and WHIP appear unaffected.

It is hard to argue with three straight top five AL Cy Young award finishes, but now 30 years old, Weaver’s durability seems to be a bit of a cause for concern. Playing on a solid team like the Angels will help his value by getting him wins, but he seems to currently be going too high in FanDuel.com Fantasy Baseball 2013 mock drafts.

Edwin Encarnacion

After a career year in 2012, Edwin Encarnacion then received word that the Blue Jays would be bringing in other talent to help him out. Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and others might appear to be helpful, but in order for Encarnacion to use them to his advantage, he must repeat his numbers from a season ago.

Injuries have always held back Encarnacion during his career, but his 2012 numbers of .280, 43 home runs, 110 RBI, 93 runs and 13 steals seem too good to be true. There appears to be no way he can repeat those numbers given his history. Considering that some mock drafts have him as the 10th-15th best fantasy option, that seems like a swing and a miss just waiting to happen for owners.

For more articles, contests and Fantasy games across the year, head over to FanDuel.com and @FanduelFantasy and get involved. For more on baseball season as a whole, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

The Hidden Greatness of Chris Carpenter

Posted: February 6, 2013 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , ,

CarpChris Carpenter’s 2013 season was announced over with before it even got started yesterday. But unlike a year ago, when the same injury that sidelined him yesterday first emerged, there’s no sign of a comeback waiting. More likely than not, Carpenter’s start in the National League Championship Series in San Francisco was the finale of his career.

Potential is usually a word aligned with guys half a lifetime younger than the 37-year old Carpenter, but in his case, it still is very relevant. His career will always be summed up by his gritty, clutch performances and bulldog approach. Yet there will always be a strong case of the “what if’s” surrounding him, due purely based on missed time to a continual string of injuries suffered over his career. While his legacy as one of the best postseason pitchers of all-time is secure, he potentially was injured out of a trip to Cooperstown.

But for what wasn’t, there surely was a lot that was. The case around his greatness with the organization is tough to quantify, as his numbers do not paint a complete picture of his impact on a major era of Cardinal baseball. While his raw body of work with the organization will not stack up Bob Gibson, or even Bob Forsch, he has legitimate claim to being one of the top three pitchers in club history. This would place him above some other more decorated pitchers in team history, including a few members of the Hall of Fame, which will elude him ultimately.

Here’s some a perspective on just what he accomplished in his 10-year tenure with the team, included two World Series titles, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award, the 2009 NL ERA title (2.24) and three All-Star appearances. All the same, here are few interesting takes on how the numbers can never tell the whole story.

Cardinal Wins: 95 (18th)…but…

Team Winning percentage: .683 (6th) …but even more….

Total Postseason Wins: 10 (7th in MLB history)

Those are the most striking contradictions on record, but his Cardinal record has more impressive totals.

Strikeouts: 1,085 (3rd) …11 behind Dizzy Dean for 2nd all-time

Walks + Hits by Innings Pitched: 1.12 (5th) ….mathematical tie for 3rd

Cardinal ERA: 3.07 (19th)

Games started: 197 (11th) & innings pitched: 1,348.2 (20th) …despite missing four seasons. A workhorse; twice led the NL in starts (2010-11).

Overall, his regular season marks within the franchise are rather average. But what must be considered is they were achieved when he missed all or the vast majority of three seasons (2003, 2007-08 & 2012). During a season where he made at least 28 starts, his average season line was outstanding:

15 wins, 6 losses, 3.04 ERA, 31 starts, 218.1 innings, 177 strikeouts

To take it a step further, look at his postseason body of work, one of the best of not just his era, but really…any.

Postseason total: 10 wins, 4 losses, a .714 winning %, 3.00 ERA

World Series Record: Four games, 3 wins, 0 losses, 2.00 ERA. He never lost consecutive postseason games.

The new rule at hand in Busch Stadium is that no number is retired unless the player is voted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet currently, there is one Cardinal that has been honored on the local level, without such an all-encompassing honor. His name is Ken Boyer, a World Champion and MVP for the team himself. Nobody else is wearing number 14 in St. Louis, and it would be fitting pull to at least consider it for number 29. As you can see, he’s earned it.

For more on the future of Chris Carpenter, and the Cardinals as a whole, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan