Posts Tagged ‘Adrian Beltre’

 

May 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) throws to first base in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Third base has been a position that has been fairly set for the past few years. The elite have been elite and have kept their head firmly in the clouds of the position. However, it is now a spot that is under siege from a new generation of stars. It could be argued that no position has seen more top end impact from the new blood of the league than third base, which has led to a redefining of the Top 10 list this season.

However, those mainstays are not going down without a fight. While injuries have taken the starch out of some formerly great players such as David Wright, while others like Aramis Ramirez have retired and even more have peaked and declined such as Ryan Zimmerman, Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval, there is a strong veteran core that is mixed in among the upstart prodigies in the group.

So how does it all sort out? One thing for sure, there has been a hostile takeover within the top 5 of players far south of seeing their 25th birthday.

To see where the full list stacked up last season, click here.

 

10. Evan Longoria, Rays

2015: .270/.328/.435, 21 HR, 73 RBI, 35 doubles, 74 runs scored, .764 OPS

Last 3 Years: .264/.331/.446, 25 HR, 84 RBI, 33 doubles, 83 runs, .776 OPS

Longoria’s production is not once what it was, this is blatantly true. He has not hit 30 home runs since 2013, nor has he driven in 100 runs nor has he been an All-Star since 2010. It also seems like he has been around a lot longer than it would seem for a guy that is just preparing to enter his age 30 season.

But with all of those things considered, what Longoria still does is show up every day (he has played in 476 of a possible 480 games since 2013) and produce at a more than respectable level both at the plate and in the field. 2015 marked seventh time he has topped 20 home runs in season, having hit a total 205 in his 20’s. He may not be the megastar he was on course to be, but Longoria is still a force to be approached cautiously amid the Rays lineup.

 

9. Todd Frazier, White Sox

2015: .255/.309/.498, 35 HR, 89 RBI, 43 doubles, 82 runs scored, .806 OPS

Last 3 Years: .255/.320/.457, 28 HR, 81 RBI, 31 doubles, 78 runs scored, .777 OPS

Even five years into his career, every season The Toddfather has done something better than the year before. Last year it came in the form of 35 home runs, 89 RBI and 43 doubles, all of which represented new career highs. The 35 long balls marked the second straight year that he finished in the top 5 in the National League in homers, a fitting place for a guy that won the All-Star Home Run Derby in front of his (then) hometown crowd.

Now he will call the Southside of Chicago his new home after being at the core of a three-team trade this offseason between the Reds, Dodgers and White Sox. And his new lineup home should be quite hospitable as well, as he’ll be paired with another elite power threat in Jose Abreu.

 

8. Kyle Seager, Mariners

2015: .266/.328/.451, 26 HR, 74 RBI, 37 doubles, 85 runs scored, .779 OPS

Last 3 Years: .265/.333/.444, 24 HR, 80 RBI, 32 doubles, 78 runs scored, .777 OPS

If one word could be used to describe Seager, it should be consistency. Over the past four years, the Mariners have been able to call on the now 28-year-old for:

20 Home Runs? Check. 150 hits? Check. Staying within a rock’s toss of a .260 average, 75 RBI and a .450 slugging percentage? Check, check and check. Toss in the fact that he plays Gold Glove caliber defense, makes it into the lineup nearly every day and carries the versatility to hit anywhere throughout the heart of the ever-changing Mariner lineup, and you have one of the most quietly valuable players in the American League.

Check.

 

 

7. Mike Moustakas, Royals

2015: .284/.348/.817, 22 HR, 82 RBI, 34 doubles, 73 runs scored, .817 OPS

Last 3 Years: .246/.305/.403, 16 HR, 59 RBI, 27 doubles, 53 runs, .707 OPS

There was a collective sense of “finally” around the coming of age of the Moose last year. After years of falling well short of the type of hefty expectations that he carried on his shoulders since arriving in Kansas City in 2011, he broke through the glass ceiling over his career with an All-Star campaign in his age 26 season.

Moustakas set career highs in over 10 offensive categories during his breakout year, and continued the pace into the offseason, as he hit .300 (7-for-24) in route to helping to guide the Royals to taking the World Series crown. The Moose chats that ring out of the confines of “The K” throughout the summer stand as proof of the fact that Moustakas’ impact is felt on a nightly basis.

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6. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

2015: .272/.365/.505, 28 HR, 84 RBI, 44 doubles, 101 runs scored, .871 OPS

Last 3 Years: .288/.378/.453, 16 HR, 74 RBI, 44 doubles, 109 runs scored, .831 OPS

Nobody in the game works an at-bat harder than Carpenter does at the top of the Cardinal lineup. The MLB leader in most pitches per at-bat again last season, Carpenter added a new trick his offensive arsenal, as he launched a career-best 28 home runs, 19 of which came after the All-Star break. His evolution as a power hitter went to an extent that his 2015 total was three more than he had hit in his entire career entering the season.

Otherwise, he led the National League in doubles for the second time in three years, which saw him finish seventh in the NL in extra base hits with 75. In each of his three seasons as a starter, three times he has finished in the top 10 for most times on base, reaching base 280, 265 and 243 times, respectively.

 

5. Kris Bryant, Cubs (Not ranked in ’15)

2015: .275/.369/.488, 26 HR, 99 RBI, 31 doubles, 87 runs scored, .858 OPS

In the year of the rookie, none made a more potent debut than Bryant did. It seemed unlikely that he could possibly match the buzz around him not being immediately a member of the Cubs out of spring training, but he still somehow managed to exceed the buzz.

Bryant smashed his way towards the All-Star Game and the National League Championship Series and ended up as a runaway selection for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Of course it came with the pitfalls of also leading the NL in strikeouts with 199, but that is a pardonable offense for a player that forecasts as being at forefront of power hitters in baseball for the next decade.

 

4. Adrian Beltre, Rangers (#1 in ’15)

2015: .287/.334/.453, 18 HR, 83 RBI, 32 doubles, 83 run scored, .788 OPS

Last 3 Years: .309/.365/.485, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 32 doubles, 83 runs scored, .850 OPS

Beltre is essentially the fine wine of elite producers in the game today. He is under 300 hits away from 3,000 and 600 doubles are within his sights as well. He’s a young 36; still capable of reaching into his considerable stockpile of offensive skills even at the age of 36. Take into evidence his 2015 campaign, where it appeared that he may be over the hill, he turned it on netted his third top 10 finish in the AL MVP race within the last five years.

Beltre’s bat came alive in the second half, hitting .318, driving in 61 runs, reaching base at a .376 clip and slugging an impressive .509%. Those numbers are in line with the rate he swung at in 2013, when he led the AL in hits. It should come as no surprise that this mid-season renaissance also sparked the Rangers’ rise back into competitive prominence in the AL West, as they came from behind to take the AL West crown.

Mar 7, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) at bat against the Boston Red Sox at a spring training baseball game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 7, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) at bat against the Boston Red Sox at a spring training baseball game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

3. Manny Machado, Orioles

2015: .286/.359/.502, 35 HR, 86 RBI, 30 doubles, 102 runs scored, .861 OPS

Last 3 Years: .283/.334/.459, 20 HR, 63 RBI, 32 doubles, 76 runs scored, .793 OPS

Another year and another new trick for the precociously talented (yet still miscast) Orioles shortstop that is still amid his matinee performance as an elite defensive third baseman. Yet between being the most athletic 3B in the game and a multiple time All-Star by the age of 22, Machado is steadily expanding his offensive rapport as well.

He began the time tested developing power hitter process of converting doubles to home runs season, dropping his doubles total to 30 (down from 51 two years ago) to home runs, of which his 2015 total were two more than his career total to date (33 from 2012-2014, 35 from April to October of 2015). Toss in the 20 stolen bases that came as well, and there could be a 30-30 season in the works from Manny soon as well. Never count out anything from this prodigy come true.

 

2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies

2015: .287/.323/.575, 42 HR, 130 RBI, 43 doubles, 97 runs scored, .898 OPS

Last 3 Years: .281/.318/.500, 23 HR, 81 RBI, 35 doubles, 68 runs scored, .818 OPS

Firmly entrenched as the best defensive third baseman in the National League (and it is a rather fun debate about whether him or Machado’s glove reigns supreme in all of baseball), Arenado went about the business of putting to bed any doubts about who is the best overall NL third baseman as well a year ago too.

Arenado launched 42 home runs a year ago, tying with MVP Bryce Harper for the league lead. He also drove in 130 runs, which was far and away the best total in the NL (by 20 over Paul Goldschmidt) and was good for the top total in all of the game as well. Of his 177 hits, 89 went for extra base hits and he totaled 354 bases overall. As a three-time Gold Glover, Silver Slugger and All-Star, Arenado stands to be among the elite overall talents in the game for years to come.

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1. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays (#2 in ’15)

2015: .297/.371/.568, 41 HR, 123 RBI, 41 doubles, 122 runs scored, .939 OPS

Last 3 Years: .284/.366/.508, 31 HR, 105 RBI, 36 doubles, 101 runs scored, .874 OPS

Donaldson has gone from a part-time catcher in his mid-20’s in Oakland five years ago, to bringing home the American League MVP as a Blue Jay last season. Donaldson’s coming of age has been quiet noticeable over the past three years, as over that time period he has been good for a mind-numbing impact of 24.2 Wins Above Replacement level over that time period. However, he took that buffet of talents to a new level in his first year as a Blue Jay, and it played the primary role in breaking their two decade postseason deficit.

Donaldson hit 20 home runs and bested 60 RBI in each half of the season. While the Jays were making their push down the stretch to win the East, he picked his batting average up to north of .300. Has has been his calling card in recent years, Donaldson was a terror with runners in scoring position, hitting .353 when the stakes were highest. He scored one less run himself than he drove in, accounting for a part of 245 runs on the year.

The MVP can be variously defined, but nobody created a more diverse high-level impact last season. As well, there is no one playing a better third base than Donaldson is today.

The scene at third base around the Major Leagues has undergone an extreme amount of overhaul over the past few seasons. Many impact players such as Ryan Zimmerman, Martin Prado and Miguel Cabrera (who moonlighted for two years on the hot corner) have relocated to other spots. At the same time, multi-tooled infielders such as Matt Carpenter, Anthony Rendon and Josh Harrison have settled in on a full-time basis at the position as well. Add this in with a few mainstays that have long been considered among the premiere properties at the position and you have a melting pot of names manning the position.

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It has also been a position that has seen many emergent talents, as well as breakthrough youngsters hit the position as well. All of these things combined have made it the ranking that has seen the most shakeup from last year headed into the next. Even contention for the top spot has gotten tighter and tighter over the past 12 months.

But all players here make a diverse contribution to their team, from being dynamic leadoff hitters to being the face of the organization—and hitting at the heart of its lineup. There is something for everybody on the hot corner these days.

 

1. Adrian Beltre, Rangers (#1 in 2014): He remains largely underappreciated, while putting up the type of numbers that others get more shine for doing much less. Beltre is a year removed from hitting .324, his third consecutive year of at least a .315 average. He also crossed over the 500 double and 2,500 hit marks for his career, one that is on the way to hitting multiple Hall of Fame worthy totals. He finished in the AL top three in average, on-base percentage and Wins Above Replacement, where he put up a well-rounded split of 5+ offensive Wins and 1.5 defensive as well. He’s remains a stunningly complete, sleeper of a star.

2-year average: .319 average/.880 OPS/24 home runs/84 RBI/32 doubles/84 runs scored/.963 Fld%

2. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays (#6 in ’14): Very few players can see their average drop by nearly 50 points, but not see their value take much of hit, but then again everyone can’t do what Donaldson can. He followed up his 2013 breakout campaign by hitting 29 home runs and driving in 98 runs. In addition to his often jaw-dropping pop, he also led all MLB third basemen in defensive Runs Above Replacement, at a stunning 2.7, while still sporting the second widest range factor in the game.

2-year average: .277 average/.840 OPS/26 home runs/96 RBI/34 doubles/91 runs scored/.956 Fld%

3. Evan Longoria, Rays (#2 in ’14): After annually battling injuries for a couple of years, Longoria has become a mainstay in Tampa again and replied with a solid 2014 effort. He hit 22 home runs and drove in 91 runs, while playing in all 162 games. Over the course of these feats he became the Rays all-time leader in homers and RBI, as well as doubles.

2-year average: .261 average/.783 OPS/27 home runs/90 RBI/32 doubles/87 runs scored/.969 Fld %

4. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals (#5 in ’14): He did not duplicate the eye popping numbers he did at second base in 2013, but Carpenter remained one of the game’s better leadoff hitters during his shift back to the hot corner all the same. The ever-patient catalyst reached base at .375 clip, while leading the NL with 95 walks, to go along with 162 hit and 99 runs scored. Along the way he made his second All-Star team in as many years and at as many positions.

2-year average: .296 average/.813 OPS/10 home runs/68 RBI/44 doubles/112 runs scored/.958 Fld%

5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals (Not ranked): He did everything the Nationals needed last year, from being a fill in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman to being a plus producer as a second baseman as well. By the time it was all said and done, Rendon had led the National League in runs scored (111), while hitting 21 home runs, 39 doubles and stealing 17 bases, good enough for a Silver Slugger and a top-5 MVP finish.

2-year average: .279 average/.788 OPS/14 home runs/59 RBI/31 doubles/76 runs scored/.913 Fld%

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6. David Wright, Mets (#4 in ’14): He is at a crossroads entering 2015, as both of his last two seasons have been cut short by injury. The difference is that one was a very productive one (2013), while last year was not by any means. But it is still too early to write off Wright, who at age 32 still has a lot of baseball ahead of him. It is show and prove time for the Mets captain.

2-year average: .286 average/.791 OPS/13 home runs/60 RBI/26 doubles/58 runs scored/.963 Fld%

7. Kyle Seager (Not ranked): 2014 represented a coming into his own for Seager, as he set career highs in each of the triple crown categories (.268/25/96) and won the AL Gold Glove as well. He’s just entering his prime and is slated to play a big part in the Mariners recent aggressive rebuild project for a long time, as he was inked to a seven-year, $100 million extension coming out of his breakout campaign.

2-year average: .264 average/.776 OPS/24 home runs/82 RBI/30 doubles/75 runs scored/.972 Fld%

8. Nolan Arenado, Rockies (Not ranked): He’s a defensive wizard; winner of two Gold Gloves in his first two seasons and his bat is beginning to follow in fine suit as well. Arenado ran up a 28-game hit streak early in 2014, and also grew his home run total by 8 and his batting average by 20 points. This is what a star in the making looks like.

2-year average: .277 average/.764 OPS/14 home runs/56 RBI/32 doubles/54 runs scored/.966 Fld%

9. Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox (Not ranked): The Panda had a record breaking October, setting a World Series record of hits in route to his third championship and followed it up with a big check to take his talents to Boston. The steady swinging switch hitter should transition nicely to Fenway, and should see his best days ahead of him.

2-year average: .279 average/.748 OPS/15 home runs/76 RBI/26 doubles/60 runs scored/.955 Fld%

10. Todd Frazier, Reds (Not ranked): He became a first-time All-Star in 2014 as he carried the injury ravaged Reds offense. He connected for 29 home runs, drove in 80 runs and even stole 20 bases as well. Also a solid hand in the field, Frazier is more valuable than ever in Cincy.

2-year average: .254 average/.760 OPS/24 home runs/76 RBI/26 doubles/76 runs scored/.970 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Aramis Ramirez, Manny Machado, Josh Harrison, Trevor Plouffe

 

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In no other sport do “magic numbers” mean more than in baseball. And while if the validity of such automatic qualifier numbers is still current, or needs to be revised for today’s game is another debate completely, there are still round numbers that prove excellence has been met for a long enough time to take note.

Each new summer brings a chance for a new chance for certain career mile-markers to be met each summer. This summer is no exception, as a few standout marks will be met. On the heels of his recent announcement to retire following the season, Derek Jeter will put the finishing touches on his legacy, which will see him move through the top 10 all-time in hits—and potential reach an awe inspiring cap.

Likewise, Albert Pujols will begin to touch some of the hallowed marks that his effort has long forecasted, as will Miguel Cabrera. More surprisingly however, is what the summer could represent for Adrian Beltre, who is on the cusp of several numbers that will begin to create a completely different connotation for his body of work.

Here are the major career milestones that stand to be met in the 2014 MLB campaign.

HITS

3,500 Hits

3,316—Derek Jeter is 184 hits short of becoming the sixth player ever to reach 3,500 hits. He is 199 hits away from moving ahead of Tris Speaker for fifth place all-time (3,514).

2,500 Hits

2,426—Adrian Beltre will easily surpass the 2,500 level and enters an important year towards making a decisive push towards getting aligned for a shot at 3,000 in his late prime at age 35.

2,000 Hits

1,996—Miguel Cabrera is four hits (or a game and a half for him) away.

1,993—Raul Ibanez is seven hits short of the mark at age 41.

HOME RUNS

500 Home Runs

492—Albert Pujols has hit a home run one per every 14.9 per at-bats in his career, and enters the season eight shy. Not that there was any doubt about his legacy, but this is the first in a line of major posts to be met by the three-time MVP.

450 Home Runs

440—Adam Dunn is ten way, and has hit one per every 14.7 at-bats in his career. It is not certain if he’ll continue after 2014, but he would be safely in range of 500 if he plays through 2015.

438—Paul Konerko is 12 short, and has homered once per every 18.9 at-bats in his career, but will be in a part-time role.

431—David Ortiz is 19 short, and has not had a season with less than 20 in a year since 2001.

400 Home Runs

376—Adrian Beltre, and he has averaged 32 per season over the past four years.

365—Miguel Cabrera is 35 away and has hit not had season total below 44 since 2011.

RUNS BATTED IN

1,500 RBI

1,498—Albert Pujols will meet the mark easily.

1,000 RBI

966—Matt Holliday should meet the mark by the All-Star Break at the latest.

963—Ryan Howard (health abiding) should move past the 1,000 mark. He’s never had a season with fewer than 43 RBI.

500 DOUBLES

495—Adrian Beltre will easily surpass the next milestone in his signature hit in the first month of the year.

200 WINS

189—Bartolo Colon is 11 shy of hitting the 200 mark, due to his late career resurgence in Oakland.

186—Mark Buehrle enters the year 14 victories short of the level. However, if history speaks for the future, he’ll have to wait until next summer—he has won 13 in four of the past five years, and has not topped 13 since 2008.

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2,500 STRIKEOUTS

2,389—CC Sabathia will become the ninth left-hander ever to surpass 2,500 strikeouts this summer, joining Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Mickey Lolich, Frank Tanana, Chuck Finley, Tom Glavine, Warren Spahn and Jerry Koosman.

SAVES

350 Saves

341—Joe Nathan enters the year nine saves shy of becoming the ninth player to ever accumulate 350, and has a shot to reach as high as seventh all-time this summer.

300 Saves

286—Jonathan Papelbon stands to shoot up past the middle-tier of closers historically and into near elite standing this year. With his standard 30+ saves he not only passes 300, but to pass into the top 10 next year.

286—Jose Valverde he was signed by the Mets last week to provide bullpen depth, so there’s no clear road to 300, but if he somehow ends up in the role due to an injury to Bobby Parnell he could meet it.

 

For the moments as they inevitably happen in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more content, head to I70 Baseball and The Sports Fan Journal.

Adrian+Beltre+2011+World+Series+Game+5+St+9_pDhh0yTYul

It does not get spoken to very often, but the lay of the land in baseball right now at the hot corner is perhaps the best the position has ever been. There is a deep collection of dual threat bat/glove performers, with many in the middle of their primes right now. There are the perennial great performers that are getting pushed by the up-and-comers….who are in turn getting pushed by a prodigy or two at the spot.

The game’s silent, but deadly collection annually factors in the MVP race, and 2012 was no exception. With the exclusion of Miguel Cabrera, who has collected the last two AL MVPs, but has since moved back to first base, the current collection of third basemen has three members who finished in the top 5 of their league last season, with another who rightfully should have—but will get more than his due at the top of this list later (and no, that is not an excuse to jump ahead. Patience.)

Yet, with that let’s get into it—the top third basemen in the game today (even if a few are just coming and another could be going soon enough)

10. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates: There’s nothing wrong with being a one trick pony if you can do that trick really, really good. Alvarez’s thing is home runs, and he tied for NL-led with 36 last year, albeit while topping strikeouts by himself with 186.

9. Martin Prado, Diamondbacks: He drove in a career-best 82 runs in his first season in the desert, and 36 doubles as well. While he continued to be a slight utility man (notching 25+ starts in left field and second base, respectively), he committed only six errors in 113 games at third.

8. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers: Injuries limited him last year, but he just a season removed from a 50 double/27 homer/105 RBI campaign. He’s been one of the most quietly consistent performers in baseball over the past 10 years and his return to full health plays as big a part of the Milwaukee revival as the Ryan Braun’s comeback could.

Ryan Zimmerman

7. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: Coming off shoulder surgery, he continued to be a steady producer in DC, despite being a part of the across-the-board Nats downturn last year. He’s topped 25 homers in four of the past five years, and a three-homer game in July.

6. Josh Donaldson, Athletics: He became the backbone of Oakland’s second consecutive run to the top of the AL West. After driving in 93 runs, hitting 24 homers and a .301 average, he won the AL Player of the Month in the A’s clinching effort in September—for a fourth place finish in the AL MVP vote.

5. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals: He returns to his native third base for 2014 after slugging his way to a second base Silver Slugger a year ago. He led the NL in hits (199), runs scored (126) and doubles (55) in his first full season as a starter, while hitting .318 overall.

4. David Wright, Mets: The man the Mets have rightfully built their empire around continues to prove why he’s among the faces of the game. Despite missing over a month to injury, he hit .307, hit 18 home runs, stole 17 bases and made his seventh All-Star Game in 10 years.

Manny Machado

3. Manny Machado, Orioles: The lifetime shortstop became a phenom last year, all while playing out of position. While the 20-year-old’s 51 doubles led the AL, it was with the glove where he truly showed some jaw dropping excellence. His defensive WAR reads to a level that says he won nearly 4.5 games with his glove alone for the O’s. And all with the type of ease that has not been seen in B-More since Brooks Robinson.

2. Evan Longoria, Rays: Tampa’s franchise player played in a career-best 160 games a year ago, and knocked out 32 homers, drove in 88 runs and 39 doubles. A perennially good defender as well, he committed the least errors of any full-time AL third baseman, while having the third best range rating.

1. Adrian Beltre, Rangers: He’s been the most productive hitter at the position over the last four years, finishing in the top 10 of the AL MVP three times. Across that span he’s at least .315 three and drove in 100 runs, respectively three times as well. He has the best arm from the hot corner in the game as well, and is among the most underrated all-around talents today—as well as a growing dark horse Hall of Fame candidate.

Just A Bit Outside: Kyle Seager, Pablo Sandoval, Nolan Arenado

For more on this list and the march to Spring in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more content, head to The Sports Fan Journal and I-70 Baseball.

Each award in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is named after a player that portrays the values best exemplified by the award. Appropriately, the Most Valuable Player in each league receives the Stan Musial Award for their exploits. Musial is easily within the conversation for greatest hitter of all-time; his not a pure power hitter, but still topped 400 home runs. He attacked in volume, topping over 3,600 hits and the second most total bases ever.

The current owner of best hitter in the game has all of these things in common with Musial, as well as a few more. He’s a multiple-time batting champ, that has power to burn, but wastes no at-bats by reaching for the home run only. The best approach to facing Musial, as described by Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe was to “Throw him four wide and try to pick him off first base”. And judging by the success that AL pitchers have had against Miguel Cabrera over the last few years, this tactic may be one worth dusting off next summer.

2013 American League Stan Musial Most Valuable Player: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Cabrera_Miguel_MVP

The Numbers: .348 avg, 44 HR, 137 RBI, 193 hits, 103 runs, 26 2B, 3 SB, 1.078 OPS, 7.2 WAR

For Miguel Cabrera, 2012 could have easily been the crown jewel of his career. He took home the first Triple Crown in 45 years, won his first MVP and reached another World Series as a capper. However, it was clear by mid-April that last season may have just been a warm up, because Cabrera arguably played better baseball than he ever had before. If not for a superhuman season from Chris Davis aligning with an annoying hip injury, he was running away with adding another Crown to his head.

And while this didn’t finish with a repeat of that rare feat, in 13 less games, Cabrera equaled his home run total from the previous year and came within two RBI and eight hits of his 2012 numbers. He hit an MLB-best .348 (18 points better than 2012) to win his third consecutive batting title. He hit over .360 in three separate months, and .356 in another. Led the AL in on-base and slugging percentage, while striking out only 94 times. He finished in the top two in the MLB in six separate categories.

He’s in the midst of one of the classic runs of excellence at the plate in MLB history, and it actually is tough to blame pitchers for challenging him, because they did it less this time around. He drew 24 more walks in 2013, but he responded by striking out less and making his hits matter more (a career best 1.078 on-base + slugging percentage). All in all, over the last three MLB seasons, his average season has been a .340 average, with 39 home runs, 38 doubles, 127 RBI and a batting title a season. And the way things are going, these ridiculous numbers are a substandard effort for what he’s really doing—and unfortunately for those cunning AL pitchers, there is no sign of any let up soon.

The Rest:

2. Chris Davis-Orioles: .286 avg, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 167 hits, 103 runs, 42 2B, 4 SB, 1.004 OPS, 6.4 WAR

It takes an extraordinary performance to reach the altitudes that Cabrera is living at now, and that is exactly the right word to sum up what Crush did this summer. He led the Majors in home runs, RBI and total bases, and became one of three players to ever hit 50 homers and 40 doubles in the same season.

3. Mike Trout-Angels: .323 avg, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 190 hits, 109 runs, 39 2B, 33 SB, .988 OPS, 9.2 WAR

The most talented player in the game put his buffet of skills on full display again, leading the AL in runs scored and walks, while topping .320 yet again. He set career highs in hits, doubles, RBI and on-base percentage…and continued to reach Wins Above Replacement levels that only that only a player that can do literally everything as well as him can find.

4. Robinson Cano-Yankees: .314 avg, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 190 hits, 81 runs, 41 2B, 7 SB, .899 OPS, 7.6 WAR

The Yankees were far from their usual form this year, but Cano decided not to include himself in that mix, as he put up yet another strong season. He finished in the top five in hits, doubles, average, RBI and played another superb year in the field.

5. Josh Donaldson-Athletics: .301 avg, 24 HR, 93 RBI, 174 hits, 89 runs, 37 2B, 5 SB, .883 OPS, 8.0 WAR

The leader of the Oakland ensemble became Donaldson, who in his first full season in the Majors proved to be a formidable presence in the Oakland lineup. He had 56 multi-hit games on the year and saved his best for last, winning AL Player of the Month honors in September, hitting .337 with 17 extra base hits while helping the A’s to close out another improbable AL West Championship.

6. David Ortiz-Red Sox: .309 avg, 30 HR, 103 RBI, 160 hits, 84 runs, 38 2B, 4 SB, .959 OPS, 4.4 WAR

7. Adrian Beltre-Rangers: .315 avg, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 199 hits, 88 runs, 32 2B, 1 SB, .880 OPS, 5.5 WAR

8. Evan Longoria-Rays: .269 avg, 32 HR, 88 RBI, 165 hits, 91 runs, 39 2B, 1 SB, .842 OPS, 6.3 WAR

9. Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox: .301 avg, 9 HR, 84 RBI, 193 hits, 91 runs, 42 2B, 17 SB, .787 OPS, 6.5 WAR

10. Adam Jones-Orioles: .285 avg, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 186 RBI, 100 runs, 35 2B, 14 SB, .811 OPS, 4.4 WAR

The Awards run is almost complete, but there are is still just a ways to go…and one final big splash with the National League Most Valuable Player to close things out.

November 6: NL/AL Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the YearKoji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel

November 7: NL/AL Willie Mays Rookie of the YearWil Myers and Jose Fernandez

November 8: AL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the YearMax Scherzer

November 11: NL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the YearClayton Kershaw

November 12: NL/AL Connie Mack Manager of the Year

November 13: NL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player

Adrian+Beltre+Texas+Rangers+v+New+York+Yankees+-zbEh2XEhAql

In the first of this summer’s project series for me here at CSP on what active ballplayers could be due for a call to Cooperstown, I’ll be taking a look at the credentials of Adrian Beltre. In a certain way, Beltre has flown under the radar, from a production perspective. He is veteran of (…) years, spent initially with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and then moving along to the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and now Texas Rangers. In a time where third base depth is at arguably the highest group caliber it has ever been, Beltre has stayed consistent as any throughout the years, and now with Chipper Jones retired, he is the longest tenured everyday third baseman in the game. He has quietly offered up a very good career, and is entering into his crucial years for potential immortality. Here’s what he has both in his favor, against it and potentially where it all lands.

The numbers (pre 2013):

– 15 seasons (age 34) .279 average, 351 home runs, 1215 RBI, 2227 hits, 463 doubles, 30 triples, 115 stolen bases, .331 on-base %, .476 slugging percentage

1. The Case For: In making a point for Beltre, looking at the complete body of work is important. He’s already reached 350 career home runs, and has nine seasons of at least 20. His single-season high is 48 with the Dodgers in 2004. What’s more is that he’s shown great ability to be a consistent overall run producer as well; he has topped 80 RBI in nine separate seasons, and his in-prime years have seen him best 100 in three consecutive seasons since 2010. Beltre is one of the rare players that broke in as a teenager and stuck; he is entering his 16th season and is only 34 years old. Across that time he has played in an average of 141 games per season, and topped 150 in seven seasons.

Yet the greatest asset of his game perhaps is his defensive acumen. He has become the best defensive third baseman in the game currently, and has won the previous two American League Gold Gloves, bringing his career total to four. The Fielding Bible, which measures a variety of defensive metrics, as named him the best at the position in six separate seasons.

2. The Case Against: In the midst of his career, he slipped dangerously close to the “wasted” potential category of players…in a perspective way. The huge spike of home runs that he hit in 2004 followed a stretch he averaged 21 home runs a year for the next four years, in addition to not getting his average above .276 in any season, and has low as .255. Basically, he went through a very mortal stretch. In that time, a brand new stretch of third basemen came along in David Wright, Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman that took the spotlight at the position. Basically, he spent a good portion of his career being average, but the high seasons have added up and made some growing impressive totals here at the back end of his prime.

Beltre's acumen in the field is truly an asset, as he is among the premier best corner infielders of his time.

Beltre’s acumen in the field is truly an asset, as he is among the premier best corner infielders of his time, with both range (.958 fielding %) and arm.

3. Similar Players (through age 33)

Ron Santo (.279 avg, 337 home runs, 1290 RBI, 2,171 hits, 353 doubles)

Cal Ripken, Jr (.280 avg, 310 home runs, 1179 RBI, 2227 hits, 414 doubles)

Orlando Cepeda (.298 avg, 354 home runs, 1252 RBI, 2144 hits, 384 doubles)

4. Cooperstown Likelihood (what’s it going to take): Third base is a developing position in regards to Hall of Fame caliber players. There are 13 HOFers currently considered to be primary third basemen throughout their careers. Of them, the “magic number” rule (500 HRS, 3000 hits, etc) isn’t in play for that many at the position. Only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews have passed 500 homers, while George Brett and Wade Boggs are the only members of the 3,000 hit club. Beltre’s projection over the course of the remainder of his career put him short of both of those numbers, so the complete body of work is what he’ll have to lean on.

He’ll likely pass 400 home runs, which would put him in the top 5 all-time at third. It would be helpful to surpass Darrell Evan’s mark of 414 to pull him closer to his contemporary, Chipper Jones, who’s 468 have him third all-time currently at the position. If he averages 150 hits a year over the next four seasons, he’ll top 2,800 hits, which would a very strong case of placing him among the elite of bats to play the position. It would move him into range with a player that he has some in common with, due to his defensive acumen: Brooks Robinson.

Robinson, a 16-time Gold Glove winner, is the absolute standard defensively at the hot corner. Beltre, the standard bearer of his era, could present an intriguing case on his behalf by approaching (or surpassing) Hoover’s 2,848 hits, which currently stands as the fourth best total of all-time for the 3B. It also would pull Beltre past Chipper Jones, the preeminent offensive third baseman of his time.

Overall, there’s more work to do, but Beltre is currently in good range. For intangibles, not winning a major award in his career isn’t helpful, nor is not having a championship on his resume. But luckily he plays a position where there’s a lot of growth during his time, and he’s had multiple seasons of finishing in the top 5 in AL MVP race (2004, 2012). Advanced metrics show him already on the verge of being a candidate: Baseball-Reference’s JAWS meter places him as the 13th most productive 3B all-time, and there are only three players (Craig Nettles, Edgar Martinez and Scott Rolen) in between him and breaking into the elite area of the position manned currently by Paul Molitor and Brooks Robinson. Adding in his defense and continued offensive production at an average rate into his decline seasons, and Beltre has a much better than expected case for being a member of Cooperstown eventually.

So when it’s all said and done, when the question is asked, is Adrian Beltre In, Out or In-Between, as things stand already, in my estimation, he’s really the definition of IN-BETWEEN as it stands right now.

For more on the season as it unfolds (and some of everything else as it unfolds around me), follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics

The American League West was the scene of a hijacking last year. Despite the Los Angeles Angels making the coup of all coups in landing Albert Pujols and the Texas Rangers once again returning as the powerhouse of the division, intact mostly from the year before, it was another Billy Beane crafted Oakland A’s team that prevailed in the end. After an August/September surge that saw them rise constantly through the standings, on the season’s final day the A’s took the division from the Rangers in game number 162. All in all, it was an incredibly balanced division; the last place Mariners would have finished third in American League Central. It was home to one of the greatest debut years in baseball history from Mike Trout, and hosted the top three finishers for Rookie of the Year, as well as a historic start for a particular (now former) Texas Rangers slugger.

2012 Finish

  1. A’s (94-68)
  2. Rangers (93-69)
  3. Angels (89-73)
  4. Mariners (75-87)

Moving forward a year later, and the scene has continued to shift. The Angels made the surprise splash of the offseason again, signing Josh Hamilton away from the aforementioned Rangers and pairing him with Pujols and Trout in a real-life Fantasy League lineup. The Athletics continued to add strartegic pieces to their core, to prove that last season was anything but a fluke. The Mariners were silently aggressive all winter, by adding a couple of much needed sluggers, while making Felix Hernandez the highest paid pitcher in baseball, all in an effort to continue to pull up their bootstraps from the bottom. Also, the Houston Astros swapped over leagues to join the American League, evening out the long four-team division. In the midst of all of this, where does this leave the Rangers? They have stayed steady in the league’s elite despite some critical losses over the last few years, but have they finally lost enough to lose their edge? Time to find out.

All Division Team

Catcher: AJ Pierzynski-Rangers

First Base: Albert Pujols-Angels

Second Base: Ian Kinsler-Rangers

Third Base: Adrian Beltre-Rangers

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus-Rangers

Left Field: Mike Trout-Angels

Center Field: Coco Crisp-A’s

Right Field: Josh Hamilton-Angels

Designated Hitter: Mark Trumbo-Angels

Felix Hernandez

Hernandez finished in the top 5 for the AL Cy Young for the third time in four years in 2012, with 3 years to go until he’s even 30.

Starting Pitcher: Felix Hernandez-Mariners

Starting Pitcher: Jered Weaver-Angels

Starting Pitcher: Yu Darvish-Rangers

Starting Pitcher: Brett Anderson-A’s

Righty Relief: Ryan Cook-A’s

Lefty Relief: Sean Burnett-Angels

Closer: Joe Nathan-Rangers

Top 10

  1. Mike Trout, Angels
  2. Albert Pujols, Angels
  3. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
  4. Josh Hamilton, Angels
  5. Jered Weaver, Angels
  6. Adrian Beltre, Rangers
  7. Elvis Andrus, Rangers
  8. Ian Kinsler, Rangers
  9. Nelson Cruz, Rangers
  10. Yoenis Cespedes, A’s

Lineup

  1. Angels
  2. Rangers
  3. A’s
  4. Mariners
  5. Astros

The top of the Angels lineup gets the headlines, but a core including Trumbo, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar doesn’t give many breaks either. The strength of the A’s is in numbers: Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Cespedes all topped 20 homers a year ago. The Rangers are hoping Pierzynski can have a similar follow up to his 27-home run breakout effort a year ago with the White Sox.

Adrian-Beltre

Beltre has averaged 34 home runs and 33 doubles a season, with a .310 average against only 68 strikeouts on average as well.

Heart of the Lineup

  1. Angels (Pujols/Hamilton/Trumbo)
  2. Rangers (Beltre/Cruz/Berkman)
  3. A’s (Cespedes/Moss/Reddick)
  4. Mariners (Seager/Morse/Morales)
  5. Astros (Pena/Carter/Castro)

Putting Josh Hamilton behind Pujols permanently is terrifying. It puts a total of four MVP seasons, and 73 2012 homers in the middle of the order. Add on Trumbo to the backend, and that power number surges past 100. Beltre has been a juggernaut in his two Texas seasons, smacking 36 homers in route to a top 5 MVP finish a year ago. The Mariners addition of Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales finally puts a pair of formidable bats in their lineup again.

Table Setters

  1. Rangers (Kinsler/Andrus)
  2. Angels (Trout/Aybar)
  3. Astros (Altuve/Wallace)
  4. A’s (Crisp/Lowrie)
  5. Mariners (Ackley/Gutierrez)

Trout is the most versatile offensive player in the game, and his impact out the leadoff spot is just the same as it would be hitting in the middle of the lineup. He hit 27 doubles and 8 triples in addition to leading the AL with 53 steals. Jose Altuve is the lone bright spot in the downtrodden Astros lineup, who topped 160 hits and 30 steals in his second season.

Bench

  1. A’s
  2. Angels
  3. Mariners
  4. Rangers
  5. Astros

Depth is the A’s greatest weapon, and the fact they can rotate in two former All-Stars in Chris Young and Daric Barton is just a small sign of how deep they truly are. Tag in Jemile Weeks, Seth Smith and Derek Norris, and the Oakland roster is one full of starter-caliber players.

J-Parker

Parker was one of three rookie hurlers to post either at least 13 wins or win percentage over .600% in Oakland a year ago.

Rotation

  1. A’s
  2. Rangers
  3. Angels
  4. Mariners
  5. Astros

It was pitching that launched Oakland along its improbable run up the standings last season. Behind group effort of Dan Straily, AJ Griffin, Tom Milone, Jarrod Parker and the return of Brett Anderson, they formed one of the best young rotations in baseball. The Angels added Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton in an attempt to balance out their thin staff from a year ago, and replace Zack Greinke.

1-2 Punch

  1. Angels (Weaver/Wilson)
  2. Rangers (Darvish/Holland)
  3. A’s (Anderson/Parker)
  4. Mariners (Hernandez/Iwakuma)
  5. Astros (Norris/Harrell)

King Felix has been holding up what seems like the Mariners entire universe for years now. He posted his fourth consecutive 200 strikeout year in 2012. Jered Weaver posted his first no-hitter and 20 win season last season, while CJ Wilson struggled down the stretch but still is among the best southpaws in baseball. Darvish came in second in the AL Rookie of the Year vote a year ago, and along with Holland stands to be one the young arms with a chance to make the biggest leap forward this season.

Bullpen

  1. A’s
  2. Angels
  3. Rangers
  4. Mariners
  5. Astros

The backend of the A’s pitching staff is what completes them as the best collection of arms in either league, overall. Both Cook and Grant Balfour took on closing duties last year, and were just as effective in the setup role with Sean Doolittle as well. If Ryan Madson and Joakim Soria return to their previous form for the Angels and Rangers, respectively, it could change the entire direction of both teams’ seasons.

Defense

  1. Mariners
  2. Angels
  3. Rangers
  4. A’s
  5. Astros

Between Brendan Ryan, Franklin Gutierrez and Dustin Ackley, the M’s can go get it in the field. They had the best team fielding percentage in the AL a year ago, and are a huge reason why they have been able to stay somewhat afloat despite having an anemic offense. In Trout and Peter Bourjos, the Angels easily could have two Gold Glove outfielders for a long time. The Andrus/Kinsler middle infield combo in Texas is the best in the AL, and Beltre is the best defensive infielder in baseball.

St. Louis Cardinals v Houston Astros

Altuve is a diverse threat for the Astros, who led the team in nine different categories a year ago in his second season, and also made his All-Star debut.

Speed

  1. A’s
  2. Angels
  3. Mariners
  4. Rangers
  5. Astros

Between Crisp, Cespedes, Weeks and Young, the A’s can kill it around the bases. From both steals to the extra base, they are very capable of getting the extra base that is needed to survive in their spacious home ballpark. Not too far behind are Angels, who could very well see Trout and Aybar alone top 80 steals this season.

Manager

  1. Mike Scioscia, Angels
  2. Bob Melvin, A’s
  3. Ron Washington, Rangers
  4. Eric Wedge, Mariners
  5. Bo Porter, Astros

Bob Melvin did a masterful job of pulling the most out of the talent of his club a year ago. The AL Manager of the Year won the West, and finished a game away from the ALCS. Mike Scioscia is the longest tenured manager in the MLB, and for good reason.

Finances

  1. Angels
  2. Rangers
  3. Mariners
  4. Astros
  5. A’s

The Rangers have the money to improve their roster at any time, yet they are strategic about how they do so. Despite missing out on both Greinke and Hamilton this offseason, the money they haven’t spent yet may be their most valuable commodity throughout the season. The Mariners made a big statement ($175M to Felix), while the Astros made a big commitment to starting over (dropping team payroll to under $20 million…$5M less than Felix will pull down himself).

Josh Hamilton

The Angels made waves by handing Hamilton $123 million; both boost their lineup, and sink their long-time in-division rivals hopes some.

Impact Additions

  1. Josh Hamilton (Angels from Rangers)
  2. Ryan Madson (Angels from Phillies)
  3. Kendrys Morales (Mariners from Angels)
  4. Michael Morse (Mariners from Nationals)
  5. Lance Berkman (Rangers from Cardinals)

The Angels struck a devastating blow in snatching Hamilton away from their division rivals in Texas. There may be just as much value in paying him $125 million over the next five years to keep him away from Texas as there is to having him in their lineup. The Rangers are hoping for Berkman to have a similar renaissance this season as he did two years in St. Louis to help replace Hamilton and Michael Young’s departed impact.

Leap Forward Candidates

  1. Brett Anderson, A’s
  2. Jarrod Parker, A’s
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, A’s
  4. AJ Griffin, A’s
  5. Yu Darvish, Rangers

Notice a trend? The A’s honestly had the season that would be more likely this year, last summer, so what could come this year is truly special. Cespedes’ roof is still far away from him, while Parker and Griffin have the stuff to be top notch pitchers for years to come. Anderson is skilled the level of being an instant Cy Young contender if he can stay on the hill and off the DL.

J-Profar

Profar is the future in Texas, but finding room for the 20 year old now is proving to be a difficult task due to the All-Star presences on board.

Rookies/Prospects to Watch

  1. Jurickson Profar (Shortstop, Rangers-AAA)
  2. Mike Zunino (Catcher, Mariners-AAA)
  3. Taijuan Walker (Pitcher, Mariners-AA)
  4. Danny Hultzen (Pitcher, Mariners-AAA)
  5. Mike Olt-Rangers (Third Baseman, Rangers-AAA)

Profar is a Jeter-like talent that can impact the game in every way possible. His instincts are off the charts to be any age, but at only 20 years old, it’s a truly remarkable thing to see already. He’s good enough to force a trade of Elvis Andrus to make room for him this season. The group of Mariners prospects is impressive, but they are content with developing their young arms, and only Zunino could have a real impact on 2012’s MLB team.

2013 PREDICTIONS

  1. ANGELS
  2. A’S
  3. RANGERS
  4. MARINERS
  5. ASTROS

The West went through plenty of stages last season, and this one could prove to be no different. The Oakland A’s got as hot as they had since their hallowed 20-game win streak 10 years ago. But they did it with a solid core, and most importantly, good pitching. The will still be a potent player in the race this year, as will the Rangers. Texas has lost a lot, but keeps as balanced of a team as possible. In the same way that the St. Louis Cardinals stepped up their production after losing their franchise player, Texas has the same potential to do so with their mixture of veteran and maturing prospects. Both teams will be at the very top of the division, with most likely no more than five games separating them from the top by September.

Outside of the three elite teams, Seattle has made improvements to their club, and will be more equipped to support their very solid pitching staff, but does not have quite enough firepower to last out the entire year. However, a strong push through to make some noise is possible. As for the Astros, a third straight year at the top of the Draft in June 2014 is basically assured.

But all business will carry through Anaheim, a team that learned from its past sins. While they made another big splash signing in Hamilton, the attention to detail to the rest of their roster didn’t escape GM Jerry Dipoto this winter. They were among the worst at finishing games via the bullpen last year, and were plagued by a shallow starting staff as well. The additions of Madson, Sean Burnett, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas aren’t headline grabbers, but they are substantial upgrades to the foundation of the club. In the end, that’s the difference that sells it; in the West it’s all about the details. It’s what won it for the A’s last year, and now the Angels have taken that strength and added it to a rarely matched top-talent collection. This is their year.

 

 

For more on the run up to Spring Training and the rest of the upcoming year in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan