Archive for the ‘MLB’ Category

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After a few years of being one of the weaker positions in the game, there has been a renaissance of sorts at second base in the past year. Part of it has been younger players making their mark in the game, while another part has been old standards continuing to carry the torch. But all things considered, second base is once again home to a variety of impact-level talents around the game.

This proves in splitting the hairs of the position and assigning ranks. While it gets a bit easier at the top, the upper-middle class of the position is very tightly knit. In some cases, it breaks down to what you may be looking for. Is it middle of the lineup pop….or elite glove work? Is it a pure speed threat to mix things up…or on-base threats that set the table for their more powerful teammates?

Regardless of what it is, it can be found on the list below. So let’s have a look through the best of the best at second base headed into 2016.

To get caught up on where this list stood headed into last spring, click here.

 

10. Logan Forsythe, Rays (Not Ranked in ’15)

2015: .281/.359/.444, 17 HR, 68 RBI, 69 runs scored, 9 stolen bases, .804 OPS

Last 3 Years: .251/.323/.388, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 41 runs scored, 6 stoletn bases, .712 OPS

A breakout 2015 sees Forsythe inch his way onto the list. He was a much needed source of offense for the scattershot Rays lineup. He played in 153 games and posted the second highest WAR among AL second basemen, totaling a 5.1 win figure. Amongst his teammates in Tampa, Forsythe finished second on his club in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI and total bases, while leading in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.

This was due to him hitting the third most home runs, third most RBI and working out the second highest on-base percentage among all AL 2B’s.

 

9. Brandon Phillips, Reds (Not Ranked in ’15)

2015 Stats: .294/.328/.395, 12 HR, 70 RBI, 19 doubles, 69 runs scored, 23 stolen bases, .723 OPS

Last 3 Years: .274/.315/.389, 13 HR, 75 RBI, 23 doubles, 64 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, .704 OPS

Don’t call it a comeback, but after a few seasons of decline, Phillips posted a vintage-like year in 2015, posting his first over .290 average/70 RBI season since 2011. He also topped 20 stolen bases for the first time since 2009 as well.

What had not tarnished was his sterling defense at second base, which still remains at a top tier level in all of baseball. He made the third fewest errors of all National League second basemen, while posting the second best defensive WAR (0.9) of all full-time NL 2B’s.

 

8. Brian Dozier, Twins (#10 in ’15)

2015 Stats:  .236/.307/.444, 28 HR, 77 RBI, 101 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, .751 OPS

Last 3 Years: .240/.322/.425, 23 HR, 71 RBI, 95 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, .747 OPS

Dozier has been the low key engine that has pushed the revival of the Minnesota Twins towards some legit competitive waters entering 2016. He made his All-Star debut a year ago, and in all actuality it was a year later than it was due.

Dozier finished with 23 home runs, 71 RBI and 21 stolen bases in his breakout 2014 season. He proved it was no fluke year the following season by upping his homers to 28, RBI to 77 and topping 100 runs for second straight year as well. Those 28 long balls led all MLB second baseman, making it the second year that he has led the MLB in the category at the position. All in all, only Ian Kinsler and Jose Altuve have posted a higher collective AL 2B WAR over the past two years than Dozier.

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7. Ben Zobrist, Cubs (#5 in ’15)

2015: .276/.359/.450, 13 HR, 56 RBI, 36 doubles, 76 runs scored, 3 stolen bases, .809 OPS

Last 3 Years: .274/.356/.413, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 35 doubles, 79 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .769 OPS

Known more for his versatility, perhaps it would be more apt Zobrist to be noted for his stunning consistency. He regularly posts premier on-base figures to go with strong extra base hit totals as well— he has posted at least a .350 OBP to go along with 34+ doubles and 10+ home runs annually since 2011.

This strong penchant for finding base helps him have a purpose in every lineup (his offseason move to Chicago will be his fourth team in the last three years), but also be able to make an impact as well. Zobrist was one of the final pieces the Royals acquired in their successful push for a World Series title, and he held his own in October as well. He posted a .303 postseason average, while scoring 15 runs and of course, reaching base at a .365 clip.

 

6. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (#4 in ’15)

2015: .291/.356/.441, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 19 doubles, 46 runs scored, 2 stolen bases, .797 OPS

Last 3 Years: .291/.356/.408, 9 HR, 60 RBI, 31 doubles, 70 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .763 OPS

It was certainly a quality over quantity year for Pedroia, as he played in his fewest amount of games since 2010, but still found a way to out-homer himself from his single-season totals the previous two years (9 and 7, respectively).

Other than that, it was frustrating year for Pedroia as the Red Sox’ struggles continued and he battled a bad hamstring himself. But when he was on the field, he was the same mix of hustle and impact he always has been. He had the third-highest on-base percentage among AL second basemen and of all players at the position that were good for at least two Wins Above Replacement, Pedroia did so with the second fewest at-bats (Devon Travis).

 

5. Jason Kipnis, Indians (#9 in ’15)

2015: .303/.372/.451, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 43 doubles, 86 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, .823 OPS

Last 3 Years: .277/.351/.414, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 35 doubles, 78 runs scored, 21 stolen bases, .766 OPS

With most of his injury issues of 2014 behind him, Kipnis returned to All-Star form a year ago and put together another fantastic season, topping .300 for the first time. This campaign was highlighted by 51 hit outburst in May, where he joined none other than Ty Cobb and Al Simmons as the only American Leaguers to ever hit the half-century in hits level in one month.

Overall, his power and speed numbers were down some from where they were a few years ago, but he still pumped out 43 doubles, good for second in the AL. Toss in another career high in triples (9) and a vastly reduced strikeout rate, and Kipnis showed that he is rounding into one of the top overall producers at the position.

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4. Robinson Cano, Mariners (#1 in ’15)

2015: .287/.334/.446, 21 HR, 79 RBI, 34 doubles, 82 runs scored, 6 stolen bases, .779 OPS

Last 3 Years: .305/.366/.471, 21 HR, 89 RBI, 37 doubles, 80 runs scored, 6 stolen bases, .838 OPS

It is certainly fair to say that Cano had a down year last season. However, the notion that he has fallen all the way off into irreversible tailspin of a career, has many eluded to during his first half struggles last year, is far off the mark.

After a pre All-Star performance that was lowlighted by a 6 home runs, a .290 on-base percentage and a .250 overall batting average, Cano went instant vintage in the second half of the year. In his final 70 games, he hit at a .330 clip, popped 15 home runs and scored 44 runs, while producing a .926 OPS, which was by and far the best in all of baseball at the second base position. The old standard bearer still has more than enough punch left in him.

 

3. Dee Gordon, Marlins (Not ranked in ’15)

2015: .333/.359/.418, 4 HR, 46 RBI, 24 doubles, 88 runs scored, 58 stolen bases, .776 OPS

Last 3 Years: .306/.340/.391, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 63 runs scored, 44 stolen bases/.731 OPS

Gordon, whom the Marlins swindled away from the Dodgers prior to the 2015 season, has become the most dynamic leadoff hitter in the game today. Over the past two years, he has twice led the National League in stolen bases, stealing 122 bags over the time. During the same time period, he has 20 triples, has scored 180 runs and reached base at a .342 clip.

Yet he made his biggest stride forward in being an on-base terror when he hit .333 last season and won the National League batting title. During the course of doing so, he also ran up an NL-best 205 hits and took home a Silver Slugger as well. And top it all off and prove he’s not just two trick pony, he grabbed his first Gold Glove award as well in his second season season as a full-time second baseman.

 

2. Ian Kinsler, Tigers (#2 in ’15)

2015: .296/.342/.428, 11 HR, 73 RBI, 35 doubles, 94 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, .770 OPS

Last 3 Years: .283/.330/.420, 14 HR, 79 RBI, 35 doubles, 93 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, .750 OPS

When considering what an “All Underrated Team” might look like for the MLB over the past five years, Kinsler would be firmly entrenched at second base. This is because there is no other leadoff hitter in the game that impacts run production at a strong rate than he does.

In each of the past five years, Kinsler has driven in 70 runs, scored at least 85 (with three seasons over 100), reached double digits in home runs and topped 30 doubles. And while his speed has tailed off some in recent years, Kinsler made up for that by increasing his batting average to its highest level in seven years last season.

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1. Jose Altuve, Astros (#3 in ’15)

2015: .313/.353/.459, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 40 doubles, 86 runs scored, 38 stolen bases, .812 OPS

Last 3 Years: .313/.349/.426, 9 HR, 59 RBI, 39 doubles, 78 runs scored, 43 stolen bases, .775 OPS

425.

That is the number of hits that Altuve has run up over the past two seasons. That is a back-to-back season total that Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar, Eddie Collins or Nap Lajoie ever reached. So it should be appreciated the tear that Altuve is on throughout his first few seasons as an American Leaguer.

Altuve wears on the opposition unlike any other player in the game today. The self-confessed 5’5 Altuve has twice led the AL in stolen bases over the past two years and took home the 2014 batting title. A three-time All-Star (with an appearance in both leagues), if Dee Gordon is baseball’s most dynamic speed threat out of the leadoff spot, Altuve is easily the best overall player inhabiting the role today. His presence on the base paths gets the rest of the Astro lineup fed a steady diet of fastballs to feast on in the cozy confines of Minute Maid Park.

Toss in the fact he took home his first Gole Glove as a byproduct of carrying the highest fielding rating at the position in the game a year ago, and it proves his across the board impacts make him among the elite players in all of the game today.

 

Just A Bit Outside: DJ LeMathieu, Rockies; Daniel Murphy, Nationals; Joe Panik, Giants

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Annually, one of the toughest positions to put in tiers is the first base slot. This is largely due to it being the home to many of the game’s greatest all-time bats. Jimmie Foxx, Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, Eddie Murray and the great Lou Gehrig have all added to the legend of the position, providing quite a standard to keep for the premier first sackers in the game today.

This a group with multiple MVP winners and a pair of sure fire Hall of Famers. It is a group where there is an already inducted member of the 500 home run club, and whom is joined by the game’s preeminent home run hitter of today. There is a Triple Crown winner, a newly crowned World Series champion and one of the game’s most emergent stars as well.

The first base position truly has something for everyone, and endures as the most toughly debated position in the game yet again.

Before beginning this list allow me to mention an organizational note for these rankings moving forward. I rank players at the position that they played the majority of their games at the previous season. So Edwin Encarnacion and Prince Fielder, both of whom were All-Stars last season and appeared in 2015’s top 10 list of 1B here, have been moved over to designated hitter.

To review last year’s Top 10 First Basemen, click here.

 

10. Albert Pujols, Angels (#10 in 2015)

2015: .244/.307/.480, 40 HR, 95 RBI, 22 doubles, 85 runs scored

Last 3 Years: .258/.319/.464, 28 HR, 88 RBI, 26 doubles, 74 runs scored

2015 was a renaissance of sorts for Pujols. He met the 40 home runs plateau for the first time since his St. Louis days and for seventh season in his career. He also made his first All-Star appearance as an American Leaguer in the process. He finished 5th in the AL in homers and 10th in RBI as well, before a re-occurrence of a previous foot injury that slowed his year tremendously and will see him likely miss all of spring training this season.

Regardless of this though, Pujols has remained an elite run producer, having driven in 200 runs since the beginning of 2014. And while he will never meet the previous standard that will see him reach the Hall of Fame one day, when even mostly healthy, he remains potentially one of the most dangerous hitters in the game.

 

9. Eric Hosmer, Royals (Not ranked in ’15)

2015: .297/.363/.459, 18 HR, 93 RBI, 33 doubles, 98 runs scored

Last 3 Years: .291/.347/.437, 15 HR, 77 RBI, 34 doubles, 79 runs scored, .784 OPS

Hosmer is the anomaly in the rankings here, as he brings more finesse than brute impact at the position. He has been a three-time Gold Glove winner in the past three seasons, while regularly staying north of 30 doubles, twice topping 175 hits and a driving in north of 85 runs, including a career-best 93 a year ago. He’s a run producing, on-base threat that plays a hug role in the non-stop machine that is the Royals offensive effort.

What works against him is that he has struggled for both consistency (he has been an every other year contributor thus far…with history saying 2016 could be rough) and lacks true power production at a position that is heavily populated by them (he is yet to reach 20 home runs in any of his six seasons). Yet, he plays a vital role in the Royals ‘One for all’ approach to offensive production, where he is the perfect mixture of a high on-base percentage, gap hitting threat in the heart of their order.

 

8. Freddie Freeman, Braves (#8 in ’15)

2015: .276/.370/.471, 18 HR, 66 RBI, 27 doubles, 62 runs scored

Last 3 Years: .296/.385/.478, 20 HR, 84 RBI, 32 doubles, 81 runs scored, .863 OPS

The usually durable Freeman battled wrist injuries last season and played in a career-low 118 games, just a year removed from suiting up for all 162 in 2014. He still turned in some solid totals despite being limited to 481 plate appearances, and played at a pace that would have placed him close to his 2014 totals of 43 doubles and 175 hits.

If anything, Freeman showed a clear improvement in his raw power numbers in the jump from his age-24 and 25 seasons. Freeman matched his 2014 home run total in 44 less games (he homered once every 23 AB’s, up from every 33 in ’14) while still keeping his overall extra base hit ratio steady (9.4% of his total hits). Despite playing in an even more diminished Braves lineup, Freeman appears to be prone to be an independently successful batter, regardless of the lack of true protection around him.

 

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7. Chris Davis, Orioles (Not ranked in ’15)

2015: .262/.361/.562, 47 HR, 117 RBI, 31 doubles, 100 runs scored

Last 3 Years: .252/.347/.544, 42 HR, 109 RBI, 30 doubles, 89 runs scored, .891 OPS

No one has hit more home runs over the past four years than Davis has, and due to this rarefied (and electrified) air around him, the O’s decided to make him the highest paid player in franchise history this offseason. This is based on the expectation that “Crush” continues to mash the ball at the explosive rate he has since reaching Baltimore(6.5% of ), when he led the MLB in home runs for the second time in three seasons. In addition, he has accounted for a phenomenal 14 Wins Above Replacement in just 2013 and 2015 alone.

Davis is also an underrated fielder and athlete, who can help at multiple positions, having spent an increasing amount of time as a corner outfielder as well. He is a classic slugger, whose batting average is marginal (.255 for his career) and who carries a prolific strikeout rate (MLB-worst 208 a year ago). His status is also compounded by the struggles he faced in 2014, as he was suspended for non-approved (but non-PED) prescription drugs and stumbled into a .196 average. However, there are few players as capable of having the instant impact that Davis creates.

 

6. Jose Abreu, White Sox (#4 in ’15)

2015: .290/.347/.502, 30 HR, 101 RBI, 34 doubles, 88 runs scored

Last 2 Years: .303/.364/.540, 33 HR, 104 RBI, 34 doubles, 84 runs scored, .904 OPS

What a start it has been for Abreu in his MLB career. Back-to-back seasons of 30 HR, 30 doubles, 80 runs scored and 100 RBI. At $7 million per year, he is firmly in line as baseball’s greatest value going currently.

And he is also in line to hit at the core of the best lineup that has surrounded him in his young career this upcoming season. Although his average dipped down 27 points from his phenomenal rookie season, he still turned in a very strong .290 mark and should see better pitches than he did a year ago as he will be flanked by the powerful Todd Frazier now. So it reasons to believe that an even bigger year could be on the way from the powerful Cuban.

 

5. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers (#3 in ’15)

2015: .275/.350/.480, 28 HR, 90 RBI, 33 doubles, 76 runs

Last 3 Years: .281/.342/.474, 26 HR, 102 RBI, 35 doubles, 76 runs, .817 OPS

Mr. Consistency. Gonzalez has been one of the steadiest, yet most underrated run producers in the game over his career. While Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson and Hanley Ramirez have taken the lion’s share of credit for fueling the Dodger offense over the past few seasons, it has been Gonzo that has been the proverbial “straw that stirs the drink”.

His penchant for driving runs in has been so consistent that the 90 RBI he finished with in 2015 was his lowest output since 2007. His consistency also carries over in the fact that he has played at 156 games in each season since 2006, has only once posted an on-base percentage south of .340 in the last 10 years and has stayed in the top 20 in MVP voting in seven of the past eight years, regardless of league played in.

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4. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs (#6 in ’15)

2015: .278/.387/.512, 31 HR, 101 RBI, 38 doubles, 94 runs scored

Last 3 Years: .265/.365/.484, 29 HR, 86 RBI, 35 doubles, 85 runs scored, .848 OPS

Rizzo is one of the fastest rising stars in the game today, and as he sits at the heart of the emergent Cub lineup, 2016 could prove to be his true breakout year as a superstar in the game. Over the past two years, no National League first baseman has hit more home runs than Rizzo’s 63, and as a result, he has twice finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting the past two seasons.

In the mold of a classical power conduit at first base, Rizzo is already the best at what he does in the game. But beyond that, he is one of the more well-rounded players in the game between the lines as well. He offsets high strikeout rate by reaching base at a .386 rate and working the count very well. An athletic and durable player (he led the NL in both games played and plate appearances last year), Rizzo also added in 17 stolen bases last season as well, the second most for a first baseman in baseball.

Rizzo is rounding into one of the best all-around players in the game. And considering this is a guy that was traded twice before turning 23, that’s not too bad of a feat.

 

3. Joey Votto, Reds (#7 in ’15)

2015: .314/.459/.541, 29 HR, 80 RBI, 33 doubles, 95 runs scored

Last 3 Years: .300/.438/.498, 20 HR, 59 RBI, 26 doubles, 76 runs scored, .935 OPS

The on-base animal played the best baseball of his career in the second half of 2015, and that is quite a feat to pull off, considering he has a National League MVP in his trophy case as is. But his phenomenal post-June body of work, which saw him hit .405, .315 and .337 in consecutive months, while reaching base at a ridiculous .535 clip over that same time span. To put that in context, if he maintained that clip for a full year, it would be the fifth best season of all-time, behind only some of the finest campaigns from Barry Bond, Babe Ruth, Ted William and John McGraw.

Votto put to bed any questions about if injuries had begun put his day of top-level production behind him. His .459 overall on-base percentage was the second highest of his career (he has led the NL in the category in four other seasons), and hit 29 home runs as well, which should service as a silence notice to those that say he “could” or “should” hit for more power.

At the end of the day, he finished third in NL MVP voting, despite the Reds being far afterthought in the NL Central race by even the All-Star break. And he confirmed he will continue to apply his craft on the Cincinnati Riverfront for the foreseeable future, refusing to wave his no-trade clause even amid the deconstruction of the Reds’ roster around him.

 

2. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (#1 in ’15)

2015: .338/.440/.534, 18 HR, 76 RBI, 28 doubles, 64 runs scored

Last 3 Years: .332/.415/.566, 29 HR, 107 RBI, 35 doubles, 89 runs scored

To put the excellence of Miguel Cabrera with a bat in his into proper context is a rather difficult task. He is the premier hitter in the game and is gaining a seat in the conversation for Top 10 ever. After all, this is a man that has won a pair of MVP’s, achieved the long-elusive Triple Crown, drove in 100 runs a year for 11 straight seasons—all before turning 33.

So snap shotting his impact is difficult, but not impossible. His 2015 season, for example, provides a specifically strong chance to appreciate his impact. It was a season where he went to the disabled list for the first time in his 12 year career, missing the majority of the month of July and still fought to return in just over a month. And what did he do on the other end of that? Only win his fourth batting title in the last five years.

It was a mark that he did not stumble into either, as he hit .393 upon returning in August from the DL, hitting like a man that had to prove himself. Instead, he is a man that has hit .334 since that first batting title in 2011 and hit his 400th home run and 1,400th RBI a year ago. He carries the highest active batting average in the game and turns 33 in April, so those counting stats stand a pretty good chance of getting some substantial upgrades as well.

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1. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (#2 in ’15)

2015: .321/.435/.570, 33 HR, 110 RBI, 38 doubles, 103 runs scored

Last 3 Years: .309/.412/.556, 29 HR, 101 RBI, 38 doubles, 94 runs, .968 OPS

There is no better overall infielder in the game today than Goldschmidt. Over the past three seasons, he has transformed himself into a perennial MVP contender, having more finishes in the top two in MVP voting than any other National Leaguer, albeit without winning one yet.

He had his best campaign to date, and the one he had the best opportunity of taking home the hardware, ended early by a stray fastball to the back of his hand in 2014.

But Goldy bounced back without a step lost last season, remaining as one of the elite overall players in the game. He finished in the top three of all NL Triple Crown categories, with a .321 average (3rd), 33 home runs (5th) and 110 RBI (2nd). In addition to this, he tied career-bests in hits (182) and runs scored (103), posted career-bests in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, which all combined into a 1.005 OPS, second to only Bryce Harper in the National League. Add in that he swiped a personal high of 21 bases as well and won his second Gold Glove in three years, and it forfifies the fact that he is one of the top 5 overall talents in the game today.

 

Left on Deck: Brandon Belt, Giants; Mark Teixeira, Yankees; Lucas Duda, Mets.

To catch up on last year’s picks for top first baseman, 

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Spring Training is coming around again, and thus means that all is preparing to be well in the world. The best of the best in the game are dusting off the tools of their trade and preparing to get back to business around the diamonds of Major League Baseball.

And in what has become an annual tradition here in the CHEAP SEATS, it is prime time to take stock of the best of the best in the game today at each of those roles around the field. Over the next month, the top 10 players at each position in the game will be pitted against each other and ranked to determine who the best is today.

Where else better than to start such a countdown than at the nucleus of any baseball team: with the catcher? In recent years, there has been an ebb and flow at the top of the catching mountain between the defensive mastery of Yadier Molina and the comprehensiveness of Buster Posey. While a few others have jockeyed for position, they have proven to be an air-tight duo.

 

10. Stephen Vogt, Athletics (Not ranked in ’15)

2015: .261/.341/.443, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 21 doubles; 32% caught stealing

Last 3 Years: .265/.327/.432, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 12 doubles

It was a tale of two halves for Vogt during his breakout 2015 year. After swinging his way into an All-Star birth during a first half that saw him post 14 home runs and a .287 average, Vogt plummeted in the second half. Perhaps it was the wear and tear of playing a full slate of games behind the plate for the first time, but his numbers dipped to a .217/.280/.349 split in 51 post-ASG games and he managed only four home runs and 15 RBI in that run.

Vogt’s first half showed what he is capable of at full capacity, but it remains to be seen if he is built for the life of a dual-threat catcher.

 

9. Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers (Not ranked in ’15)

2015: .234/.353/.403, 16 HR, 47 RBI, 12 doubles; 29% caught stealing, 3.34 CERA

Last Three Years: .228/.341/.395, 11 HR, 35 RBI, 13 doubles

Grandal splits some time with A.J. Ellis still behind the plate, but he is the vastly superior offensive option between the two and should see more and more time as he continues to mature as a backstop. Grandal at age 27 has battled some health issues in the past, including a shoulder injury that slowed his second half in 2015. But in being liberation of Petco Park, he predictably produced his strongest offensive year during his first full year away from it.

His eye at the plate improved last season (an increase in walks combined with a steep decline in strikeouts), which produced a career-best .353 on-base percentage. He profiles to produce plus power from behind the plate, although his switch hitting future is likely as a first baseman.

 

8.Francisco Cervelli, Pirates (Not ranked in ’15)

2015: .295/.370/.401, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 17 doubles; 22% caught stealing

Last 3 Years: .294/.370/.401, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 10 doubles

Cervelli followed in the footsteps of Russell Martin in becoming a former Yankee catcher who made the most of a full-time opportunity in Pittsburgh. In his first season as a frontline backstop, Cervelli proved that he could maintain his career trend of producing high on-base and extra base hit totals in a full-time role as well.

Of NL catchers that qualified for the batting title, Cervelli’s .370 on-base percentage was second behind only Buster Posey –and by a slim .009 margin. He also added in an eye-raising total of five triples, which shows a rare athleticism for the position as well. Cervelli profiles to continue to rise further and further up the power ranks of MLB catchers in the immediate sense.

 

7.Derek Norris, Padres (#10 in ’15)

2015: .250/.305/.404, 14 HR, 62 RBI, 33 doubles; 34% caught stealing

Last Three Years: .256/.333/.405, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 23 doubles

While he did not make a return to the All-Star Game again in 2015, Norris still produced a strong season amid his transition to the National League. He set career-highs in games played (147), hits (129), runs (65), home runs (14) and RBI (62). Albeit, these counting stat totals are dampened by an extreme fall off in his on-base percentage and a huge jump in strikeouts.

Yet this is all balanced out by the fact that he has become a much more mature backstop in the process. He threw out 17% more would be base stealers last year and guided the talented Padres staff well. Further NL familiarity could provide for his most balanced season to date this upcoming year.

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6. Brian McCann, Yankees (#7 in ’15)

2015: .232/.320/.437, 26 HR, 94 RBI, 15 doubles; 36% caught stealing

Last 3 Years: .239/.312/.432, 23 HR, 75 RBI, 14 doubles

McCann remains the most reliable and consistent power conduit at the position in the game. 2015 marked the eighth consecutive year that he hit at least 20 home runs. This should be given due deference, especially considering that the only other catchers to do this in the history of the game are Hall of Famers Mike Piazza and Yogi Berra.

Furthering the point, it was the ninth season overall that McCann reached 20 long balls, which joins him with Johnny Bench and Gary Carter as well as the only catchers to reach that level.

His consistency is shown in the fact that he also played in 275 of the Yankees’ 324 games since he joined the club before the 2014 season, with 234 of them coming behind the plate. He’s a silently, consistent soldier amid baseball’s most spotlighted team.

 

5. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers (#3 in ’15)

2015: .264/.326/.391, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 20 doubles; 28% caught stealing

Last 3 Years: .284/.349/.443, 13 HR, 65 RBI, 33 doubles

Injuries kept Lucroy out of the lineup for a little over a month last season and also slowed his production at the plate from hitting full mass until late in the year….just in time for a concussion to end his year prematurely. However that should not erase the memory what he was capable of doing at full speed just two years ago. The master pitch framing technician finished in the top 5 in NL MVP voting, after producing a .301 average to go along with 66 extra base hits.

With his health abiding, as well as a stated desire to play for a contender (something that he will not be a part of in Milwaukee) this year should an audition year of sorts for the 29-year-old backstop, as he either vies for a trade or simply proves that he still is who we (or perhaps “I”, based on this ranking) think he is.

 

4. Salvador Perez, Royals (#4 in ’15)

2015: .260/.280/.426, 21 HR, 70 RBI, 25 doubles; 31% caught stealing

Last 3 Years: .270/.297/.420, 17 HR, 73 RBI, 26 doubles

The most constant presence amid the Royals’ rise to the top of the baseball world, Perez is by and far the game’s top young backstop and has continued to affirm that position. He will enter the season at only 25 years old, but has taken home the past three AL Gold Gloves at his spot and has been an All-Star thrice in as many seasons as well. During this run, he has topped 70 RBI and 25 doubles in each year, and has reached a new career-best in home runs in each season thus far, with 21 representing his new peak.

Considering the high volume of innings he logs (he has logged 2,440 innings behind the plate in the past two years) he could stand to do much better with his patience at the plate (he walked 13 times in 553 appearances last year –Buster Posey walked that many times in the month of September last year). However, he is a big, tough, formidable two-way threat, who’s best days are still ahead of him.

 

3. Russell Martin, Blue Jays (#5 in ’15)

2015: .240/.329/.351, 23 HR, 77 RBI, 23 doubles; 44% caught stealing

Last 3 Years: .250/.351/.421, 16 HR, 66 RBI, 21 doubles

Martin took well to his new surroundings in Toronto last season, and was a major catalyst in breaking the Blue Jays’ 20+ year drought. He turned a career-year offensively, with new personal bests in home runs (23) and RBI (77), well as a six year best in slugging percentage. It was the fifth straight year he topped 60 RBI, and also marked the 4th time in five years that he hit 15 or more homers while posting an OPS of greater than .700.

But where Martin makes his biggest impact is between the lines via intangibles. He makes a pitching staff better when it is throwing to him, as well as limits the ability to take the extra base. The soon to be 33-year-old cut down an AL-best 44% of would-be base thieves, while working the Jays staff to a 3.88 ERA as well.

Jul 14, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Edward Mujica (44) is congratulated by catcher Yadier Molina (4) for a victory against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Cardinals beat the Cubs 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 14, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Edward Mujica (44) is congratulated by catcher Yadier Molina (4) for a victory against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Cardinals beat the Cubs 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

2. Yadier Molina, Cardinals (#2 in ’15)

2015: .270/.310/.350, 4 HR, 61 RBI, 23 doubles; 41% caught stealing

Last 3 Years: .291/.334/.407, 8 HR, 60 RBI, 29 doubles

2015 was probably the most difficult season that Molina has had to endure in his career. A ligament injury in his thumb shortened both his regular season, as well as his postseason (and one that has carried into his 2016 start as well). This was after struggling through the season with lingering issues from a knee injury suffered the year before. The result was a five year low in offensive output across the board nearly, albeit still producing a respectable 61 runs batted in, 23 doubles and working his way to seventh consecutive All-Star Game.

However, what did not diminish was his perennially unparalleled defensive impact. Molina won his eight consecutive Gold Globe by catching 41% of would be base stealers (only 37 runners attempted to steal on him all year), converting 9 double plays and allowing only four passed balls. Add in the fact that Cardinal pitching worked a MLB-best 2.80 ERA when he was behind the plate in route to a 100-win season, and it goes to prove that impact comes from far more than just the clearest parts of a box score.

 

1. Buster Posey, Giants (#1 in ’15)

2015: .318/.379/.470, 19 HR, 95 RBI, 28 doubles; 36% caught stealing

Last 3 Years: .308/.371/.470, 19 HR, 85 RBI, 30 doubles

The class of the position by far, few players combine more raw talent with inherent leadership and intangible presence than Gerald Posey does. His perennial standard has reached such a clip that they are better compared to those already in Cooperstown than most of his peers, and he still yet to reach his 30th birthday. Buster led all MLB catchers in hits (177), batting average (.319, 4th in the National League), RBI (95) and OPS (.849). All of this combined saw him produce just over six Wins Above Replacement –three more than any other catcher.

Already the owner of three World Championships, an MVP, a batting title, three All-Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers and a .310 career average (the 4th highest of all-time for a player that has been primarily a catcher), it would seem that Posey has it all. And that’s because he does, but he is only halfway through the race and is just now approaching his prime.

 

Just a bit outside: Travis d’Arnaud, Mets; Yan Gomes, Indians; Matt Wieters, Orioles; Miguel Montero, Cubs

To catch up on last year’s picks for top catcher, click here.

 

By James Martin, guest post

 

For the past few years, Cheap.Seats.Please and the good folks over at Fanduel, the home of one-day fantasy leagues covering the entire sporting spectrum, have teamed up to bring analysis to get you ready to put your money where your mouth. With baseball season upon us, we are once again coming together to breakdown a particularly important portion of the game: starting pitching.

Wild Card Game - San Francisco Giants v Pittsburgh Pirates

 

Last week, I broke down my top 10 starting pitchers today, but now another take on the game’s top arms is ready to weight in on that debate as well, but from a fantasy baseball perspective. And as you will see, regardless of purpose for ranking, it remains a position where the riches are truly plentiful.

Having good starting pitching is one of the most important keys to success in baseball. That is why teams are willing to spend top dollar in free agency to sign great arms, and they will hold onto young and promising guys as tightly as possible. They might be a bit too unpredictable to be drafted really early on in fantasy baseball, but World Series champions know how much they mean. Here is a look at the 5 best pitchers in the game right now going into the 2015 MLB regular season.

 

Clayton Kershaw

When you win a Cy Young Award and a MVP trophy in the same season, it is supposed to be celebrated as one of the best seasons in baseball history. However, the ending of the 2014 season for Kershaw was a little bit bittersweet. He was hit around in the postseason, and that led to an early exit for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is healthy, in the middle of his prime and hungry to show that he is as dependable as they come. Do not be surprised if he is once again the best regular season pitcher in the game.

 

Felix Hernandez

He didn’t end up winning the Cy Young last year for the Seattle Mariners, but he was still the main reason why they were able to stay in the playoff race until the very end. With some extra support added to the roster in 2015, he will be looking for an even better year statistically. Not only has he been dominant since the beginning, but he has been pretty consistent as well. Pitching in spacious Safeco Field does help him out a little.

 

Madison Bumgarner

By fantasy baseball standards, many look at Bumgarner as a guy who will be extremely overrated going into the regular season. You see, he did not put up monster numbers last year, and he probably will not in the regular season in 2015 either. However, he is still a top 10 pitcher by fantasy baseball standards, and he is arguably the best big-game pitcher in the game right now. He is the ace of the pitching staff for the reigning World Series champions. That has to count for something.

 

Chris Sale

Casual baseball fans might be a bit surprised to see him ranked this highly, but the Chicago White Sox expect big things out of Sale in 2015. He probably would have been the Cy Young Award winner in the American League last year if it was not for some missed playing time. He is still very young, and the White Sox have better talent around him now. He racks up strikeouts with ease, and that always helps all the other numbers as well.

 

Max Scherzer

It can always be tough for a pitcher to change not only teams, but leagues as well. That is what Scherzer is going through this offseason as he joins the Washington Nationals. He will also have the weight of a huge contract on his shoulders that could take a toll on him in general. With all that being said, he is been consistent for a few years now, so it really should not be that much of an issue for him to stay strong.

 

chi_u_abreu_600x400

With today’s designated hitter breakdown, it brings to a close the second annual installment of my rankings of the Top 10 players at each position entering the spring. Coming to such conclusions is an imperfect science to say the least, based on both what is proven, predicated and set by precedence in some areas. But at the end, the goal is to get a snapshot of the players who have the biggest current impact at each position, pitted against each other. And that is a goal I do believe I achieved yet again.

Not to say that there were not a few close calls along the way, as well as players that I believe could easily turn in better 2015 returns than their ranking dictates. When putting 115 players into tiers, this is bound to happen.

One of the most hotly debated rankings was the placement of Pirates outfielder Starling Marte at #3 in left field, a spot that put him over such players as Matt Holliday, Justin Upton and Hanley Ramirez. The ranking of Marte so high is admittedly a gamble; he is clearly talented player that has turned in some impressive extra base hit, stolen base and defensive performances over the past few years. However he also is coming in off the benefit of a scorching hot second half of 2015 and is still yet to turn in a full year of the type of excellent play that many others below him have on that list. There are even some that make argument that he should not be considered even among the top 10 players at the position currently, let alone upper third.

But he is a perfect example of what a portion of the goal of the ranking is: to get it right going ahead. If he performs at a 15% decreased clip of his second half average, he still pulls in at just south of a .300 average at .297 and when combined with his proven ability to run up steals, runs scored and triples, Marte is an elite level contributor at the spot. And by taking him so high on the list, I am betting his development continues and he does.

Going in the opposite direction, there is the fact that I left the American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber outside of the top 10 starting pitchers this year. This could be seen as a ridiculous notion and I understand that. How can the guy that was just recognized as the best pitcher in his league not be considered among the top 10 players at his spot, especially on a list that includes four other pitchers (included then ALer Max Scherzer) that he beat out for the honors?

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians

It is a valid argument, however one that is being made at the wrong position to jockey for position. The upper class of starting pitching hierarchy is one that is reached by reaching (and staying at) the elite level of pitching in my mind. And while Kluber had a solid 2013 (11-5, 3.86 ERA, 147 innings), followed by his massive 2014, it still does not surpass the regular standard set by the 10th man on the list in Jordan Zimmermann, or even other runners up in Cole Hamels or Jon Lester, among others. If Kluber comes back and anchors another tremendous year for the Indians, a full expectation of him making a Johnny Cueto-like jump into the top 10 will be realized.

Sometimes making a big debut into the rankings is simply a matter of the being aligned at the right position at the right time as well. While Kluber could not make it into pitcher’s top 10, there were several notable players that did make either high initial impacts or substantial jumps up the list.

Jose Abreu of the White Sox is easily the most notable of the group, because he did it at such a difficult position to make a dent within. The AL Rookie of the Year debuted at #4 on the first base charts after his huge breakout year. Part of this was a function of his undeniable impact on the field, but another portion was due to the fact that first base is undergoing a bit of an overhaul as well. While Miguel Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt set a clear cap atop the position, it is open season some underneath that level with younger impacts such as Abreu and Anthony Rizzo fighting for position among a group of veterans such as Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto and Edwin Encarnacion who all make comparable impacts.

Another such major debut belong to Anthony Rendon, who checked in at #5 among third basemen. Third base is it usual mixture of impact depth, but is also seeing some of its long-time stalwarts such as David Wright, Evan Longoria and Aramis Ramirez beginning to slide some. That shake up allowed for Rendon’s big 2014 to push him to strong debut among his positional contemporaries in the same fashion that Matt Carpenter did just a year ago, who checked in just a spot above Rendon this year.

All in all, there a plenty of debates that can be made among these type of ranks, because for the most part there are only a few positions where there is a clear cut top guy. Giancarlo Stanton, Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki, Adrian Beltre and Clayton Kershaw have it on lock. There are some very interesting to watch wages for positional supremacy between Cabrera and Goldschmidt, Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey and Yadier Molina, and Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman and Greg Holland.

Debates such as these are part of what makes the game the game, and the fun in how to determine it. Coming up soon at The Sports Fan Journal, I will begin to release my Top 100 players in the game today, which is built on slightly different set of parameters. Recent impact is offset by a look into the three year window of player more than just their immediate impact in the game. Developmental trends (both upward and downward) come into play more and award winners see a greater precedence set as well. There is no cap on players per position either, so more first basemen, starting pitchers and outfielders work their way into the scene as well.

There is a lot to sort out and a lot of work to put into the inexact science that its final result is, but for now here is a recap of the rankings by position. For the full article on each, click the header above each ranking column. (Top 3 at each position noted below)

Top 10 Catchers—January 28th (Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Jonathan Lucroy)

Top 10 First Basemen—January 29th (Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Adrian Gonzalez)

Top 10 Second Basemen—January 30th (Robinson Cano, Jose Altuve, Ian Kinsler)

Top 10 Third Basemen—February 3rd (Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria)

Top 10 Shortstops—February 4th (Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Desmond, Jhonny Peralta)

Top 10 Left Fielders—February 5th (Alex Gordon, Michael Brantley, Starling Marte)

Top 10 Center Fielders—February 6th (Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones)

Top 10 Right Fielders—February 9th (Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Bautista, Bryce Harper)

Top 10 Starting Pitchers—February 10th (Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale)

Top 10 Relief Pitchers—February 11th (Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman)

Top 5 Designated Hitters—February 12th (Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, Nelson Cruz)

For kicks, what would a lineup look like made out of the top ranked player at each position? Here’s my take at the ultimate All-Star Team:

  1. Mike Trout-CF
  2. Robinson Cano-2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera-1B
  4. Giancarlo Stanton-RF
  5. Troy Tulowitzki-SS
  6. Victor Martinez-DH
  7. Buster Posey-C
  8. Adrian Beltre-3B
  9. Alex Gordon-LF

 

Clayton Kershaw-Pitcher

Craig Kimbrel-Closer

 

Now that’s downright ugly right there.

 

 

To keep up with me on Twitter, follow at @CheapSeatFan. Stay current on the columns at The Sports Fan Journal and I-70 Baseball as well.

Designated hitter may be the clearest job description in all of the work force: hit the ball, every time. And hard. You have no other job or responsibility, just go up and rake every time. But at the same time, such a clear job comes with some fairly heavy expectations as well. And those that do it better than most usually find themselves among the very best hitters in the game.

V-Mart

That rings true with the best of the AL’s top specialty bats headed into this year. Among the best of the current group of DH’s includes a runner up for MVP honors, the league’s reigning top home run producer, the active (and returning) home run king and arguably the greatest player to ever frequent the position as well. The competition is thick, but the elite is still somewhat easy to pull apart.

With that said, here is the finale of the year’s Top 10 rankings headed into the spring, as well as the best in the game today to put a “particular set of skills” on display nightly.

 

1. Victor Martinez, Tigers: He narrowly avoided what could have been yet another serious knee injury this offseason, but is likely to be ready for Opening Day now. And considering the way that he stepped up last year, which is a godsend for the retooling Tigers. V-Mart finished second in the American League MVP vote after posting career bests in batting average (.335) home runs (32) and hits (188). Most remarkably however is that he was so efficient in his production that he joined none other than Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds as the only players ever aged 35 or later to hit .300 with 30 home runs, while striking out 45 times or less (42) – all in 641 plate appearances.

2-year average: .317 average/.876 OPS, 23 home runs/94 RBI/185 hits/78 runs scored/34 doubles

2. David Ortiz, Red Sox: The ageless Papi continued to be a top-tier run producer a year ago. He reached the 35 home run plateau for the first time in seven years –and eighth time overall – while also posting the sixth most RBI in the AL. With the retooled Red Sox lineup surrounding him this year, yet another high productivity year should be on deck for Ortiz as he creeps closer and closer to 500 home runs.

2-year average: .286 average/.916 OPS/32 home runs/104 RBI/148 hits/72 runs scored/32 doubles

3. Nelson Cruz, Mariners: He made the absolute most of his one-year redemption deal in Baltimore, making a huge impact by leading the Majors with 40 home runs. He also tacked on a career-best 108 RBI as well, and parlayed it all into being the Mariners’ major addition this offseason. He will return to an AL West where he averaged 27 long balls a year from 2009 thru 2013 for the Rangers.

2-year average: .269 average/.848 OPS/34 home runs/92 RBI/138 hits/68 runs scored/25 doubles

4. Adam LaRoche, White Sox: Steady as ever, LaRoche ran up over 80 home runs in his four year stint with the Nationals and in the process became one of the most dependable middle of the lineup options in the National League. Now as he takes his game to the American League, he should be fed a healthy diet of fastballs to allow him to transition nicely into his bat-only capacity on the South Side.

2-year average: .248 average/.776 OPS/23 home runs/77 RBI/124 hits/72 runs scored/19 doubles

5. Steve Pearce, Orioles: He was the biggest unsung contributor in the Oriole offense a year ago, whose emergence made it possible for the club’s offense to thrive in light of some of the serious injuries it had to endure. Pierce made the most of his first crack as a full-time option, connecting for 21 home runs and sporting a superb .373 on-base percentage as well.

2-year average: .284 average/.891 OPS/12 home runs/31 RBI/65 hits/32 runs scored/16 doubles

 

Runners Up: Alex Rodriguez, Billy Butler, Evan Gattis

 

To catch up on the entire Top 10 rankings series, stay locked here at CSP. To get the words in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

The relief pitcher game is a varied and tough world. From overpowering closers, to strategically placed match up artists, to the jacks of all trades that get the tough outs whenever they come up, there are all sorts of impacts that are requested out of the modern day bullpen.

Craig-Kimbrel

With all of those elements considered, 2014 was a year where it seemed that the redefinition of a true impact arm out of the pen took a further step in a new direction. Gone are the days when a big save total and a flashy one-inning arm alone makes for the cream of the relief crop. Now the seventh and eighth innings are arguably just as important and are also manned by some of the most dominant relievers in the game as well. In order to make an elite bullpen today, it takes at the minimum of what could be considered two closer caliber arms. The old adage of an elite reliever making it an “eight inning game” is getting earlier and earlier.

And with that, here are the best in the world at bringing a game to screeching halt today—regardless of when the cease fire may be needed.

 

1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves (#1 in 2014): He is the easy answer to a comprehensive question. No closer has been more efficiently dominant than Kimbrel has been since he debuted four years ago. In 2014 he kept to his usual ways, which included taking at least a share of the National League saves lead for the fourth straight year with 47, and posting a sub-2.00 ERA while holding batters to an average against beneath .200 (1.61 and .142, respectively) yet again.

2-year average: 1.40 ERA, 0.894 WHIP, 48 Saves, 57 Games Finished, 13.5 K’s per nine, .142 avg. against

2. Greg Holland, Royals (#5 in ’14): The final nail among KC’s deadly bullpen toolbox is Holland, who affirmed the fact that he is among the game’s most dominant mound presences a year ago. He nearly replicated his outstanding 2013 performance, finishing in the top 3 in the American League in saves and games finished, while limiting opponents to a .170 average against him.

2-year average: 1.32 ERA, 0.889 WHIP, 46 saves, 60 games finished, 13.4 K’s per nine, .170 avg. against

3. Aroldis Chapman, Reds (#2 in ’14): The game’s most overpowering presence issued over 400 pitches that were at least 100 miles per hour a year ago. He rode this regular abuse of power to a stunning 106 strikeouts in just 54 innings, a rate that would play out to 17.7 per nine innings. Over the course, he set a MLB-record for consecutive appearance with a K, at 49 and struck out 52% of his total batters faced.

2-year average: 2.29 ERA, 0.943 WHIP, 37 saves, 50 games finished, 16.7 K’s per nine, .121 avg. against

4. Wade Davis, Royals (Not Ranked): Dominance was not in short supply out of the Royals pen a year ago. Davis was the second stage of hell in the Royals pen, between Kelvin Herrera and Holland, and was arguably the toughest part of the equation. He allowed just eight earned runs over 72 innings in 2014, while striking out 109 and allowing only 64 base runners.

2-year (in relief) average: 0.98 ERA, 0.829 WHIP, 3 saves, 13 games finished, 9 K’s per nine, .151 avg. against

5. Dellin Betances, Yankees (Not Ranked): During his rookie year, he simmered behind closer David Robertson despite being the clear best arm in the Yankee pen, but now the slow burn is nearly done. Betances is still not the sole owner of the Yank’s ninth inning duties –the newly signed Andrew Miller is in the mix as well – but his 2014 effort (135 strikeouts in 90 innings, a 1.40 ERA) proved that he has the type of stuff that makes an easy translation into the role with Joe Girardi is ready.

2-year average: 1.89 ERA, 0.853 WHIP, 1 save, 6 games finished, 13.7 K’s per nine, .149 avg. against

kenley_jansen_21

6. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (#6 in ’14): He got off to a slow start with the rest of the Dodgers’ pen, but he turned back into the standard shutdown machine he is beginning to regularly be in the second half. Jansen ran up 101 strikeouts against only 19 walks on the year, in route to a career-best 44 saves and solidifying himself as one of the preeminent power arms in the game.

2-year average: 2.28 ERA, 0.976 WHIP, 36 saves, 51 games finished, 13.4 K’s per nine, .224 avg. against

7. Sean Doolittle, Athletics (Not Ranked): It is tough to beat what you simply cannot reach base against, and regardless of whether he was a situational arm, setup man or closer –all roles he worked in last year— Doolittle was epically stingy. He held batters to a .169 average against him, while walking only eight batters over 62 innings and striking out 89. He followed a 30 game run without issuing a walk by seamlessly sliding into the closer role, converting 22-of-26 situations.

2-year average: 2.94 ERA, 0.851 WHIP, 12 saves, 26 games finished, 10.2 K’s per nine, .169 avg. against

8. Koji Uehara, Red Sox (#3 in ’14): He was bound to come back to Earth some after his once-in-a-lifetime 2013, but Uehara was still his usual very efficient self a year later. He used his pinpoint control and confounding change-up to convert 26 saves and keep a 10-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio (80-to-8). Uehara reaffirmed the fact that he is one of the most efficient final inning options in the game, albeit in a far more finesse way than any of his contemporaries.

2-year average: 1.75 ERA, 0.728 WHIP, 24 saves, 45 games finished, 11.7 K’s per nine, .216 avg. against

9. Mark Melancon, Pirates (Not Ranked): He was one of the NL’s best setup men before becoming one of its best closers, all in the same year. Melancon notched 14 holds before taking over for an injured Jason Grilli in the ninth, when he then ran up 33 saves as well. Armed with a hard turning slider, impressive control and an ability to take the ball as often as asked, he is one of the most versatile relievers in the game.

2-year average: 1.65 ERA, 0.915 WHIP, 24 saves, 36 games finished, 8.9 K’s per nine, .195 avg. against

10. Huston Street, Angels (Not Ranked): He put forth his usual uber-proficient effort between San Diego and Anaheim, posting a sub-2.00 ERA in over 25 innings in both leagues. His overall 1.37 ERA was a personal low and the second time in three years he posted an ERA figure sub 1.90, and he converted a career-high 41 saves overall in the process.

2-year average: 2.02 ERA, 0.983 WHIP, 37 saves, 52 games finished, 8.0 K’s per nine, .196 avg. against

 

Runners Up: Jonathan Papelbon, Jake McGee, Zack Britton, Drew Storen