Posts Tagged ‘Giancarlo Stanton’

bryce-harper

The right field position traditionally has one job, and one job amongst all others: to rake. Some of the most potent power threats in the history of the game have called the right corner of the outfield home, including Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Mel Ott and none other than Babe Ruth himself.

In today’s game, the tradition of the spot being home to some of the most prodigious hitters of the day has stayed true. Today, it is home to a trio of bats that have made 40 homers look like child’s play over the past few years, as well as another group behind them that ceaselessly chases 30 long balls with minimal effort. It is a competitive position that has seen a different player be ranked as the top gun at the spot in each of year that this list has been compiled as well. And if all things remain constant, it should continue to be a difficult one to keep a hold on at the top.

This is due to the fact that beyond just the pure power of the spot, it is also rapidly becoming a position that is home to players that would more traditionally make left or center field their home, due to their mixture of speed, on-base talents and glove work. Remember, right field was also where Tony Gwynn and Ichiro made their names as well, so this is nothing new.

So how does this all shake out headed into 2016? And can the new #1 hold his spot for another year? Let’s see who he is, as well as what the competition looks like along the way.

To review last year’s list, click here.

 

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10. Carlos Beltran, Yankees (Not ranked in 2015)

2015: .276/.337/.471, 19 HR, 67 RBI, 57 runs scored, 34 doubles, 0 Stolen Bases, .808 OPS

Last 3 Years: .272/.327/.459 19 HR, 67 RBI, 61 runs scored, 29 doubles, 2 stolen bases, .787 OPS

The ageless Beltran put to bed any notions that he was over the hill at age 38 last year. After a 2014 debut in pinstripes that saw him be both ineffective at the plate and oft-injured, Beltran picked his numbers back up across the board last season and remained the club’s everyday right fielder. His average improved by over 40 points, and his contact rate improved significantly as well.

While he would be better suited for a DH role at this point in his career and could see more platoon work this year (his dWAR came in a full -2 games impact), Beltran’s offensive offering allows him to remain an asset for the Yanks. He is on pace to surpass 400 career home runs and 2,500 career hits this season, and has indicated that it will not be his last one, despite it being the final year of his Yankee deal.

 

9. Kole Calhoun, Angels (NR in ’15)

2015: .256/.308/.422 26 HR, 83 RBI, 78 runs scored, 23 doubles, 4 stolen bases, .731 OPS

Last 3 Years: .266/.321/.439 17 HR, 58 RBI, 66 runs scored, 20 doubles, 4 stolen bases, .759 OPS

Calhoun followed up his breakout 2014 with another strong campaign last season, firmly settling himself in as one of the more underrated overall corner outfielders in the American League. The 28-year-old has hit 43 home runs over the past two years since getting an opportunity at regular playing time, and has done so while only playing over 150 games once.

What rounds him off most however is his defensive capabilities, which earned him the nod for the AL Gold Glove. Calhoun was good for six defensive runs saved, 11 outfield assists and a 2.30 range factor defending the area, which qualified for the best mark in the league.

 

8. Matt Kemp, Padres (#6 in ’15)

2015: .265/.312/.443 23 HR, 100 RBI, 80 runs scored, 31 doubles, 12 stolen bases, .755 OPS

Last 3 Years: .274/.328/.459 18 HR, 74 RBI, 64 runs scored, 28 doubles, 10 stolen bases, .786 OPS

Kemp found his stride in the bat-only, corner outfielder portion of his career in his first season as a Padre. He put to bed the concerns about his durability that had plagued him a few years ago, playing in 150 games for the second time in as many years. And one thing that is indisputable about Kemp: when he is healthy, he hits.

Kemp met the 100 RBI mark for the first time since 2011, while topping 20 home runs, 30 doubles and 150 hits for the second consecutive year. He even had a slight re-emergence of speed on the base paths as well, reaching double digits steals for the first time in 5 years as well. Entering only his age-31 season, Kemp stands to continue on the path of being a steady middle of the order bat that is short of being the superstar he once was, but being more than just a role player as well.

Apr 13, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts (50) is safe at second base then steals third base against the Washington Nationals in the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

7. Mookie Betts, Red Sox (NR in ’15)

2015: .291/.341/.479 18 HR, 77 RBI, 92 runs scored, 42 doubles, 21 stolen bases, .820 OPS

Last 2 Years: .291/.348/.471 12 HR, 48 RBI, 63 runs scored, 27 doubles, 14 stolen bases, .818 OPS

Betts has been a man on the move in regards to where his every day position will be. He rose through the system as a second baseman, but also displayed a clear athleticism that related well to centerfield duties as well. And now a year after proving himself in the heart of the outfield, he will move over to the right corner –for now at least.

But regardless of where he take he takes his glove, Betts proved himself to be one of the most exciting young players in the game. In his first full season, he made an impact everywhere possible, saving nine defensive runs in the field (often of the highlight variety), while also living up to the sizeable hype at the plate. In his first full season, he finished with 68 extra base hits, by way of 42 doubles, 8 triples and 18 home runs—good for a .820 OPS. He is on a crash course with being a perennial 20/20 threat.

 

6. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies (#9 in ’15)

2015: .271/.325/.540, 40 HR, 97 RBI, 87 runs scored, 25 doubles, 2 stolen bases, .864 OPS

Last 3 Years: .274/.332/.540 26 HR, 68 RBI, 65 runs scored, 21 doubles, 9 stolen bases, .864 OPS

As is always the case, when CarGo is healthy, CarGo is among the most impactful players in the game. Gonzalez finished a season for the first time since 2010, playing a career-best 153 contests and as a result, he finished second in the NL in home runs.

He got off to the worst start of his career throughout April and May, before strapping a rocket to his back mid-summer. He hit 36 home runs from June-September, while topping 20 RBI per month after the All-Star Break. While no longer the speed threat or high average producer he formerly was, Gonzalez settled in nicely as the second hammer to join Nolan Arenado at the heart of the Rockies lineup, although he is likely to be heavily shopped this summer as they continue to retool.

 

5. J.D. Martinez, Tigers (#8 in ’15)

2015: .282/.344/.535 38 HR, 102 RBI, 93 runs scored, 33 doubles, 3 stolen bases, .879 OPS

Last 3 Years: .286/.333/.506 23 HR, 71 RBI, 58 runs scored, 27 doubles, 4 stolen bases, .840 OPS

If anyone had doubts about if the breakout player of the year from 2014 keeping up his out of the blue pace he found once he relocated from Houston, it is safe to say they have been put to bed now permanently. Martinez entrenched himself among the elite power hitters in all of the game last season, running his two-year total for long balls up to 61, the 11th best combined total in baseball over that time.

Since coming to Detroit, Martinez has carried at .296/.350/.543 split line, and drove in a career-best 102 runs ago as well. And despite what he has already established, it stands to reason that Martinez is line to put up even more potent numbers than he did in his Silver Slugger/All-Star 2015, with Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton and Miguel Cabrera hitting in front of him, along with Victor Martinez watching his back. Martinez could be on a collision course with another 20+ RBI total increase this year.

 

4. Jason Heyward, Cubs (#5 in ’15)

2015: .293/.359/.797 13 HR, 60 RBI, 79 runs scored, 33 doubles, 23 stolen bases, .797 OPS

Last 3 Years: .274/.353/.415 13 HR, 52 RBI, 73 runs scored, 27 doubles, 15 stolen bases, .768 OPS

Perhaps the game’s premier outfield defender, Heyward alters the game from right field in a way that few players can from a corner defensive position. He took home his third Gold Glove in his only season in St. Louis, contributing a second consecutive year of a posting at least two Wins Above Replacement defensively. He posted a fielding percentage of .990+ for the third straight year as well, while still leading the game in right fielder range factor. Toss in his 10 outfield assists –which brought his two year total to 19— and Jey Hey is one of the most dangerous defenders in the game.

This norm continued while he stayed the course of rounding himself into a much more complete player at the plate as well. He achieved new career-highs in batting average, doubles, on-base percentage and stolen bases, all which contributed to a new personal high WAR of 6.5. And by relocating to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, his long-awaited power surge could finally be sparked as well.

 

3. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays (#2 in ’15)

2015: .250/.377/.536 40 HR, 114 RBI, 108 runs scored, 29 doubles, 8 stolen bases, .913 OPS

Last 3 Years: .266/.381/.521 34 HR, 97 RBI, 97 runs scored, 27 doubles, 7 stolen bases, .902 OPS

The most epic bat flip of the decade provided a fantastic cap to a year that deserved it from Joey Bats. It came on the heels of yet another season of being the preeminent power hitter in the American League, as Bautista topped 40 home runs for the third time in his career.  In route to making his sixth consecutive All-Star appearance, Bautista also topped the AL in walks and finished in the AL top 10 in home runs, RBI, runs scored, slugging % and on-base + slugging % as well.

Yet while he has remained a superior power threat, he has also rounded into one of the most balanced hitters in the game as well. 2015 marked the second straight year where he hit at least 35 home runs and drove in 100 runs, while still working more than 100 walks, and still getting more free passes than he strike outs (214 walks compared to 202 K’s).

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2. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins (#1 in ’15)

2015: .265/.346/.606 27 HR, 67 RBI, 47 runs scored, 12 doubles, 4 stolen bases, .952 OPS

Last 3 Years: .270/.374/.541 29 HR, 78 RBI, 66 runs scored, 23 doubles, 6 stolen bases, .915 OPS

If only he could have avoided yet another freakish injury last season, Stanton could have put on one of the best power displays seen in many years. In only 76 games, he hit 27 home runs, which worked out to a homer every 10 at-bats. If he had stayed at that clip and played a full second half, he would have reached 50 easily with some time to go still in September.

From a pure ability standpoint, there is no one at his level in regards to hitting the long ball today. Stanton is 26 years old and in line to top 200 career homers already this season, all while only playing 150 games in a season once. As his 2014 season showed, he is capable of doing prodigious numbers, even if surrounded by less talent than many other superstars are afforded. The only trick is to keep him on the field, because if he does, there will not be an MVP race in which his name is not mentioned.

 

1. Bryce Harper, Nationals (#3 in ’15)

2015: .330/.460/.649, 42 HR, 99 RBI, 118 runs scored, 38 doubles, 6 stolen bases, 1.109 OPS

Last 3 Years: .296/.401/.534, 25 HR, 63 RBI, 77 runs scored, 24 doubles, 6 stolen bases, .936 OPS

It is asinine to think that it was just last season that Harper was named “Most Overrated Player” in the game in a vote of his peers conducted by ESPN. Because apparently Harper’s ears were wide open for that and he put all of his considerable talents towards creating a coming of age that had to be seen to be believed. With his propensity for running into walls behind him, he launched an all-out assault on everything thrown his way that saw him become the third youngest MVP winner of all-time, behind such substantial company as Johnny Bench and Stan Musial.

At age 22, Harper led the National League in home runs and runs scored, as well as on-base, slugging and on-base + slugging percentages, while finishing second in batting average. His MLB-leading ballpark adjusted OPS+ of 195 showed that he dominated at every park with the same ferocious nature across the board. So complete was Harper’s effort that he hit .335 with 35 homers against righties and .318 against lefties, with only two more strikeouts than walks. Yet, the greatest testament to Harper’s year is that while it was a huge leap from where he was before, at only 23 he has proven that he is the best hitter in the National League already and he is only getting started—he won’t even turn 30 until 2023.

 

Just A Bit Outside: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers; Shin-Soo Choo, Indians; Hunter Pence, Giants; George Springer, Astros.

Coming into 2015, “rebound field” may be the better way to view the group that inherits this list, as much of its population is in flux in one way or another. Whether it be an injury rehab, a positional relocation or simply reestablishing some stock that had taken a shift over the past few years, the position is far from solid in terms of determining its hierarchy.

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But with so many different factors weighing in, how does a true ranking really get determined? There are some clear impact players that register on any board, such as the NL’s MVP runner up, a pair that finished 1-2 in a prior MVP race that are now retooling their respective games, the game’s most brimming potential talent, and finally, the biggest defensive difference maker in the game. But each has a caution flag and point to prove entering the year as well, making it as difficult to decipher group as there is in the game.

But all things considered, it is an enticingly talented group that IF most of its inhabitants can perform up to their billing; it will be a complexity of a much different type to readdress around this time next year.

 

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins (#8 in 2014): He unleashed nearly his full potential a year ago, in route to establishing himself as the game’s top power threat. His 37 home runs led the National League, as did his .555 slugging percentage and 299 total bases. Stanton’s unfortunate run in with a Mike Fiers’ fastball to his face stopped him short of running his output even higher, but that did not stop the Marlins from rewarding their 25-year-old cornerstone with the largest contract in sports history.

2-year average: .271 average/.904 OPS/30 home runs/84 RBI/28 doubles/7 stolen bases/.975 Fld%

2. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays (#5 in ’14): For the first time in three years, Bautista was truly back to full strength in 2014, and he returned to stand among the top of the American League hitter’s food chain. His 35 home runs were the fifth most in the league and he took home his third career Silver Slugger as a result. One of the underrated parts of his game is the impact his arm makes as well, as his 12 outfield assists were tops among all MLB right fielders.

2-year average: .274 average/.896 OPS/32 home runs/88 RBI/26 doubles/6 stolen bases/.981 Fld%

3. Bryce Harper, Nationals (#4 in left field in ’14): Again plagued by injuries throughout the regular season, Harper played a career-low 100 games a year ago. As a result his numbers dipped across the board and even made a few people question his still sky high potential. But the then 21-year-old was one of the few live wires in the Nats Division Series versus the Giants, clubbing three huge home runs and instantly reminding everyone of why he carries the rep he does. And he’s only 22 and settling into a new position—while finding his way.

2-year average: .273 average/.815 OPS/16 home runs/45 RBI/17 doubles/6 stolen bases/.987 Fld%

4. Hunter Pence, Giants (#9 in ’14): As well, due to his quirky mannerisms and awkward style, Pence’s play is one of the most underrated parts of what sets the Giants apart. His 106 runs scored were the second most in the NL, while his 180 hits were the third most in the league. Pence turned in a .444 World Series average to top it all off as well. He has also been stunningly consistent—and therefore regularly agitating for opponents and rival fans alike—playing in all 162 games each of the past two seasons.

2-year average: .280 average/.799 OPS/24 home runs/86 RBI/32 doubles/18 stolen bases/.983 Fld%

5. Jason Heyward, Cardinals (Not Ranked): The multi-talented corner outfielder has spun between heart of the lineup presence and back up to patient table setter over the past few years while looking to develop an offensive identity. But one thing that has remained intact is that he arguably makes the biggest defensive outfield impact in the game. In route to winning his second Gold Glove, he counted for 30 runs saved in the field and cut down nine base runners from right as well.

2-year average: .264 average/.752 OPS/12 home runs/48 RBI/24 doubles/11 stolen bases/.998 Fld%

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6. Matt Kemp, Padres (#6 in center field in ’14): There was so much discussion about how long he would stay in LA last year, as well as how long he could stay healthy, that it was lost in the mix that he put up his best season in years along the way. Kemp made the transition to the corner outfield and hit 25 home runs, drove in 89 runs and tied a career-high with 38 doubles. Now his encore season will be cast as the the center attraction in the Padres aggressive facelift effort.

2-year average: .281 average/.810 OPS/16 home runs/61 RBI/26 doubles/8 stolen bases/.971 Fld%

7. Ryan Braun, Brewers (#1 in ’14): Braun slipped to career-low levels for a majority season’s work during his return to the field from the despicable season-ending suspension. But considering what he was before his two injury and suspension filled 2013-14 campaigns, along with some solid, yet unspectacular numbers a year ago (19 home runs, 81 RBI, 30 doubles) he still deserves some benefit of the doubt for a revival.

2-year average: .275 average/.805 OPS/14 home runs/60 RBI/22 doubles/8 stolen bases/.993 Fld%

8. J.D. Martinez, Tigers (Not Ranked): He figured it all out in a major way after making it to Detroit last year, hitting 23 home runs, turning in a .315 average and filling a much needed void in offense in the evolving Tiger lineup. His rapid ascension could cause some skepticism, but Martinez only hit south of .340 during one of the year’s final four months, when he turned in a .265 August mark….only to return with a season-high .354 in September. So he passes the smell test for now.

2-year average: .289 average/.808 OPS/15 home runs/56 RBI/24 doubles/4 stolen bases/.985 Fld%

9. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies (#5 in center field in ’14): 2014 was a total loss for Cargo, hitting .238 and missing over half of the season’s games after finally succumbing to a bad knee that required August surgery. But he stays relevant simply because of what he is capable of when right, which has included Gold Gloves in two of the last three years and four consecutive years of 20 homer/20 stolen base seasons.

2-year average: .276 average/.864 OPS/18 home runs/54 RBI/19 doubles/12 stolen bases/.986 Fld%

10. Torii Hunter, Twins (Not Ranked): Consistency pays out big after a while, and the recent late career groove that Hunter has been in is a remarkable one to watch. The now 39-year-old has refused to decline, and his offensive production is at nearly the same level it was a decade ago. And now as he returns back to his original home with the Twins, it should not be a surprise that does far more than just be a veteran influence on his young teammates.

2-year average: .295 average/.783 OPS/17 home runs/84 RBI/35 doubles/4 stolen bases/.982 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Michael Cuddyer, Jay Bruce, Carlos Beltran, Kole Calhoun

Picking apart the top guy in the National League this year is no easy task. There was brilliance at the plate, as well as over and above dominance on the mound that was worth noting as well. There were also shifts in the waves of impact across the year as well. From the hot start of Tulowitzki and Puig, to the way that Lucroy and Kershaw threw their clubs on their backs, as well as the postseason clinching efforts of McCutchen and Posey. But with all things considered, there was one man’s effort that literally overpowered the rest of the pack and stood out above the rest. Here is his story….

2014 National League Stan Musial Player of the Year—Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

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“Most Valuable Player” is a term that, at best, is variously defined. Sometimes it is the biggest stat monster, while in other cases it is the player whose presence made the biggest difference on the course of the season. I personally tend to graze the fence between those two elements and think of it as the player who makes the biggest impact on the season, where his performance made the biggest day-to-day impact, while also improving his team’s fortunes and changing the layout of the season.

Giancarlo Stanton checked off each of these boxes with ease this season. The rhetoric on Stanton has been that he is one of the game’s great young talents, BUT….then the conversation always took away from what he was accomplishing on the field. Between injuries, playing for a perpetual lame duck franchise and being the favorite trade rumor on the yearlong hot stove league, what he was actually capable of on the field was taking a backseat.

Yet the receipts that Stanton turned in this summer were enough to drown out any other background noise around his play, because what he accomplished was a thorough destruction of all things pitching related, and in the course of it all, he raised the Marlins into immediate respectability as well. During his year 24 season, Stanton crushed NL pitching to the tone of a league-best 37 home runs. And they were not just run of the mill shots either, as quite often they were the type outfielders or pitchers do not bother turning around to see land either. His “average” (because these type of shots are common for him alone) long ball checked in on average at 415 feet, and defined the term ‘moonshot’ by getting up to 85 feet high and leaving the park at 107 mph, on average. He hit seven shot that went at least 450 feet this year, including a 484 shot in April that flat out defied logic. That is a complete obliteration of the baseball, and he made it his specialty this summer.

But there was more to Stanton than just his signature impact, as he began to round out his game even more. He set career-highs in RBI (105), hits (155), doubles (31), runs scored (89), stolen bases (13), walks (90) and posted his second-best batting average of his career with a .288 mark, despite playing in 22 more games than he did when he set his career high of .290 in 2012. The 37 long balls tied his career best also set in 2012, while his 299 total bases led the National League too, as did his .555 slugging percentage.

Pitchers attempted to wise up to approaching Stanton, and intentionally avoided him 24 times this year, one less time than he been purposefully passed in his entire career to date. But that approach did not breed the expected results, because it put Stanton in place to create opportunity for the other emergent Marlins on the year and created a far better outcome than was expected. With Stanton both as a conduit of run production and an element to be created around, the Fish improved by 15 games from the previous season, even without their emergent star in pitcher Jose Fernandez. This is a credit to having their premier property in Stanton both available, producing and maturing throughout the entire season.

His season was brought to sudden, and scary, stop in mid-September when he was hit in the face by a pitch. Subsequently, the Marlins (smartly) shut his season down, but Stanton is mostly back to good health and in position to return to the field on time next season. But while the clipped schedule on the year shorted him likely from a 40 home run year and an RBI title (where he finished second to Adrian Gonzalez), it should not take away from the fact that no other player made a more decisive difference more often than Giancarlo did. And therefore, he deserves the year’s top NL nod for works done and the path he not only laid, but drug into place this year.

Runners Up

  1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: I discussed the brilliance of Kershaw’s year in his Pitcher of the Year column, and he did make a calculable push for MVP as well. No player made a bigger difference in the direction of the pennant chase than he did and he had one of the great seasons in recent history off the mound.
  2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: He finds a new way to steer the Pirates every season, and an MVP-caliber year is his norm. This year he finished third in average (.314), first in on-base percentage (.410) and topped 20 home runs and 80 RBI for the fourth straight year, while playing a brilliant center field as well.
  3. Buster Posey, Giants: He went into overdrive in the second half, hitting .354 after the break and finishing fourth in the NL with a .311 average. Once again spearheaded a Giant charge into September.
  4. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers: He had a brilliant overall year, pulling himself into the talk for the NL’s elite at catcher. He led the Majors with 53 doubles, 46 of which set an MLB record for a catcher.
  5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals: In a team full of bigger names, he was the most important property. Rotating between second and third base as needed, Rendon posted 21 homers, 39 doubles, 83 RBI and 17 stolen bases.
  6. Josh Harrison, Pirates: His breakout year was crucial to filling the many capacities he did for the Pirates. The first-time All-Star spent time at second and third base, shortstop, left and right field, and nearly took the NL batting title as well, hitting for a .315 second place finish.
  7. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers: He played a brilliant first base and led the NL in RBI at 116. Gonzo added 41 doubles to his resume as well, and was the key run producer for the talented Dodger lineup.
  8. Yaisel Puig, Dodgers: He did a little bit of this and little bit of that, providing whatever was needed for LA at the given time. Puig hit .296 with 16 homers, 69 RBI and played his sometimes awe-inspiring (and sometimes confounding) game on the bases and with the glove.
  9. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Oh what could have been. Tulo’s most brilliant campaign to date was once again curbed by injured. When his season ended in August, he was sporting a .340 average, with 21 homers and 69 RBI in just 315 at-bats.

Previous CSP Votes

2013: Yadier Molina, Cardinals

2012: Buster Posey, Giants

2011: Ryan Braun, Brewers

2014 CSP/BBBA BALLOT REVIEW

 

Stan Musial Players of the Year Awards

NL: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins—.288 avg/37 HR/105 RBI, 31 doubles, .555 slugging %

AL: Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels—.287 avg/36 HR/111 RBI, 39 doubles, 115 runs scored

 

Walter Johnson Pitchers of the Year Awards

NL: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers—21-3 record, 1.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts, 6 complete games

AL: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners—15-6 record, 2.14 ERA, 248 strikeouts, .200 average against

 

Willie Mays Rookie of the Year Awards

NL: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets—9-6 record, 2.69 ERA, 144 strikeouts, 22 starts

AL: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox—.317 avg/36 HR/107 RBI, 35 doubles, .581 slugging %

 

Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the Year Awards

NL: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves—47 saves, 1.61 ERA, 92% saves converted, 13.9 strikeouts/9

AL: Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals—46 saves, 1.44 ERA, 96% saves converted, 90 strikeouts

 

Connie Mack Managers of the Year Awards

NL: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants: 88-74 record, 2nd place NL West; Wild Card winner

AL: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles: 96-66 record, 1st place AL East; First division title since 1997

2014 is now officially in the books in the Cheap Seats, and onward to 2015. Stay locked here for more on the upcoming free agent blitz, as w@CheapSeatFanell as a variety of other biz as well. And if you need to now in the moment, as always follow on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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The position that Babe Ruth first defined, and Hank Aaron later rewrote the record book from is always a home of some of the most potent bats in any era of the game. Today’s offering features that traditional grouping of power conduits, but has also been influenced by a defensive presence that has also been more aligned with center field traditionally, as well as more overall skilled contributors that left fielders have been.

Yet when looking at what is at the position now, there is a mixture of everything at the spot—and that is all before accounting for a new addition to role that has been one of the game’s most all-around talented (and recently controversial) players in the game. All things considered, it’s one of the toughest positions to pull one factor apart from the others, due to offering of skills across the board.

But that’s what I’m here to do, so that’s what we’ll do. Here is the final of this winter’s positional ranks (as well move into pitchers next). As well as one of the toughest to pull apart, between the new additions, the one-year sensations and the standard bearers—both young and established.

 

10. Jayson Werth, Nationals: Year three in DC was much better for The Beard as he delivered what was paid for finally. He delivered a .318 average, along with a .398 on-base percentage via 147 hits, 25 home runs and 82 RBI in 129 games.

9. Hunter Pence, Giants: He put his awkward looking, yet very complete game on full display last season. He topped 90 RBI for the fourth straight year, stole 22 bases and covered more ground in right by the numbers than any other player in baseball.

8. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: The potential is brimming to break over the top, but he just needs to stay on the field to fully deliver on it. Still, he has hit 107 home runs before his 24th birthday, many of the “no doubt” variety—his 2013 average was 413 feet.

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7. Allen Craig, Cardinals: He is moving back to the outfield on a more full-time basis this summer, but he’ll be taking the game’s best everyday clutch bat along with him. In addition to his overall .315 average and 97 RBI in 2013, he hit a staggering 59-for-130 (.454 average) and 83 of those RBI with runners in scoring position.

6. Shane Victorino, Red Sox: He found his way again in the Red Sox ensemble and was a memorable part of the push that took the club to a third World Series in 10 years. In the process he also became the best defensive right fielder in the American League by a fair margin, being responsible for a 2.2 wins with his glove alone.

5. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: Injuries have clipped his production some over the past two years, but he remains among the elite power threats in the game. He hit 97 home runs between 2010-11, and despite his injury-related decline, he has stayed in the top 10 in the MLB home runs per at-bat the past two years.

4. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers: The enigmatic Puig’s approach can be questioned, but the results are beyond reproach. A testament to the value that WAR showcases, in 104 games (hitting .319), he turned around the entire direction of the Dodger season, and consequently, the direction of the franchise as well. He’s a natural—even if it gets clouded in perception.

3. Carlos Beltran, Yankees: His late career resurgence has kept him moved him to the elite class of corner outfielders, as well as becoming the centerpiece of which the Yankee offensive rebuilding effort is based. In his two years in St. Louis, his average season was a .282/.343/.493 with 28 home runs and 90 RBI.

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2. Jay Bruce, Reds: He’s 26 years old has never had a season under 20 home runs in his first six seasons. Over the past three, he’s turned it up to 30+. In 2013, he produced a 30 homer, 43 double, 109 RBI effort, but arguably his greater impact continues to be in the field. He had the second best fielding percentage, range rating and outfield assist totals a year ago as well.

1. Ryan Braun, Brewers: The move across the outfield doesn’t change anything about his standing amongst his new peers, and until further notice, neither does the post PED edition either. Braun is simply one of the best hitters of his era; three times in the last five years his season total has seen a .300 average, 30 home runs, 30 doubles, 100 RBI, 20 stolen bases and over 330 total bases.

 

Just A Bit Outside: Jason Heyward, Wil Myers, Torii Hunter

For more on the upcoming season and the ranks here, follow me in real-time on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Strasburg

The National League East was the most diverse division in all of baseball a year ago. It was home of the a Cy Young winner on a fourth place team, a former middle reliever that inspired a 23-game winning streak as a starter, the greatest teenage season in baseball history, the farewell of Chipper Jones, two different coming of age stores (that went in two different directions), as well as the most expensive collapse in all of baseball. Yes, the NL East was the scene of five very different stories that left the division looking unlike anything that could have been expected.

The newly minted Miami Marlins entered the year with all the expectations that a complete franchise facelift brings. However, by half way point of the first half, they’d begun to fold already, trading their long-time franchise player and languishing at the bottom of the division. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the long-time division champs watched their age and injury come together in the worst possible way. Behind David Wright and RA Dickey, the Mets showed some promise, and the Braves continued to be the absolute best second place team imaginable. A place they inhabited because the Washington Nationals rose to power, and never gave it up.

2012 FINISH (*Wild Card winner)

  1. Washington Nationals (98-64)
  2. Atlanta Braves (94-68)*
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (81-81)
  4. New York Mets (74-88)
  5. Miami Marlins (69-93)

Fast forward to now, and things seem a bit more set than they did last summer. Behind a powerhouse lineup and pitching staff, the Nationals have gone from building to win-now status. But the Braves have had as aggressive of an offseason as they’ve had in years to make sure the DC rise isn’t unchallenged. The Phillies, on the other hand, have been in that same “win now” mode for three years, face perhaps the last season where they have a chance to do it. And new eras are coming into play with the Mets and Marlins, and pulling themselves up in a top heavy division will be a challenge of multiple types. But in a division with two teams easily able to represent the NL in October, is the upset even possible?

All Division Team

Catcher: Brian McCann, Braves

First Base: Adam LaRoche, Nationals

Second Base: Chase Utley, Phillies

Third Base: David Wright, Mets

Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Nationals

Left Field: Bryce Harper, Nationals

Center Field: BJ Upton, Braves

Right Field: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins

Stanton's prodigous power -to-age ratio is the reason he's the last man standing in Miami.

Stanton’s prodigous power -to-age ratio (40 home run per year average at 23 years old) is the reason he’s the last man standing in Miami.

Starting Pitcher: Stephen Strasberg, Nationals

Starting Pitcher: Gio Gonzalez, Nationals

Starting Pitcher: Cole Hamels, Phillies

Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee, Phillies

Righty Relief: Tyler Clippard, Nationals

Lefty Relief: Jonny Venters, Braves

Closer: Craig Kimbrel, Braves

Top 10

  1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves
  2. David Wright, Mets
  3. Stephen Strasberg, Nationals
  4. Cole Hamels, Phillies
  5. Cliff Lee, Phillies
  6. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
  7. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
  8. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals
  9. Bryce Harper, Nationals
  10. Justin Upton, Braves

Lineup

  1. Nationals
  2. Braves
  3. Phillies
  4. Mets
  5. Marlins

Top to bottom, there’s very few NL lineups that can swing with the Nationals. As you’ll see below, there’s no area they are weak in, but the strength is truly in the numbers. They finished in the top five in runs, total bases, team batting average and home runs in the NL. The Phillies haven’t been able to perform at maximum capacity for the past two years, but Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will both enter the season healthy for the first time in that span as well. Atlanta could very well carry six players that top 20 home runs, but could also lead the NL in strikeouts by a wide margin as well.

Wright carried a heavy load in the Mets lineup well a year ago, topping 40 doubles and driving in 93 runs.

Wright carried a heavy load in the Mets lineup well a year ago, topping 40 doubles and driving in 93 runs.

Heart of the Lineup

  1. Nationals (Harper/Zimmerman/LaRoche)
  2. Braves (Upton/Freeman/Upton)
  3. Phillies (Utley/Howard/Young)
  4. Mets (Wright/Davis/Duda)
  5. Marlins (Stanton/Brantly/Ruggiano)

The emergence of the Adam LaRoche (33 HRs/100 RBI) pushed the Nationals lineup to a new level last year. With Zimmerman and Harper, the Nats have a chance to get 75 homers from the middle of their lineup alone. The Braves revamped the team with the addition of the Uptons, and Freddie Freeman’s continue growth will make the heart of the ATL attack formidable for years to come.

Table Setters

  1. Nationals (Span/Werth)
  2. Braves (Simmons/Heyward)
  3. Phillies (Rollins/Revere)
  4. Marlins (Pierre/Polanco)
  5. Mets (Tejada/Murphy)

Denard Span is the table setter Washington has been after for the last few years, and when coupled with the do it all Harper, the Nats will jump on pitchers early and often. Ben Revere is the type of regular on-base threat the Phillies need. His .294 average was a 27 point increase from 2011. Juan Pierre is still a steady hitter at age 35 and his consistent effort will be helpful in the sparse Marlin lineup.

Bench

  1. Nationals
  2. Braves
  3. Phillies
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

The Nationals have the best bench in baseball. Wilson Ramos, Roger Bernadina, Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi start in a lot of other places. The mix of Delmon Young, Lee Mayberry and Freddy Galvis is a promising support group for Charlie Manuel in Philly, as long as they aren’t stretched too thin by being forced into the starting lineup too often due to injury.

Rotation

  1. Nationals
  2. Phillies
  3. Braves
  4. Mets
  5. Marlins

The best rotation in the NL got better when Dan Haren joined Strasburg, Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler in DC. This group won a combined (…) games in 2012. Not to be outdone, the Phillies boast two legitimate aces in Lee and Hamels, but the health of Roy Halladay continues to be questionable. The Mets staff is still without Johan Santana, but has several quality young arms in Dillion Gee, Matt Harvey and Jonathan Niese.

1-2 Punch

  1. Nationals (Strasberg/Gonzalez)
  2. Phillies (Hamels/Lee)
  3. Braves (Hudson/Medlen)
  4. Mets (Santana/Niese)
  5. Marlins (Nolasco/LeBlanc)

Strasberg and Gonzalez could become the first teammates to both win 20 games in a season since 2002. In Atlanta, Kris Medlen was unbelievable down the stretch last season, with the Braves winning 23 of his starts, consecutively. Paired with the always reliable Tim Hudson, they have the firepower to match up with the more hallowed top of the line in-division arms.

With O'Flaherty, Kimbrel and Venters waiting in the wings, if the Braves aren't beat by the seventh, it's probably not happening.

With O’Flaherty, Kimbrel and Venters waiting in the wings, if the Braves aren’t beat by the seventh, it’s probably not happening.

Bullpen

  1. Braves
  2. Nationals
  3. Phillies
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

There’s no better bullpen in baseball than Atlanta’s. The late inning gauntlet includes the often untouchable trio of Johnny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel, and added former All-Star Jordan Walden as well. The Nationals added Rafael Soriano to Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard to form a formidable late game trio of their own. Mike Adams, who has posted an ERA under 2.00 four of the last five years, was added bridge the gap to Jonathan Papelbon.

Defense

  1. Braves
  2. Nationals
  3. Mets
  4. Marlins
  5. Phillies

The addition of both Upton brothers to an outfield with Gold Glove winner Jason Heyward makes the Atlanta outfield the best in the game. The Mets infield is strong unit, led by Wright and Ruben Tejada, while Giancarlo Stanton’s bat gets the headlines, but his athleticism and arm both round him out as a one of the best overall players in the game as well.

Speed

  1. Braves
  2. Nationals
  3. Phillies
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

Once again, it all starts with the outfield in the A. While Michael Bourn is gone, the Braves will get even quicker with the combined efforts of the Uptons (49 steals a year ago), as well as Andrelton Simmons. Revere adds 40 steal speed to the Philly attack, and Span has twice hit 10 triples in a season, as well as topped 20 steals.

Manuel has averaged 90 wins in his eight years in Philly, and his handling could be the x-factor in the Philly year.

Manuel has averaged 90 wins in his eight years in Philly, and his handling could be the x-factor in the Philly year.

Manager

  1. Davey Johnson, Nationals
  2. Charlie Manuel, Phillies
  3. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves
  4. Terry Collins, Mets
  5. Mike Redmond, Marlins

It is Johnson’s last go around in DC (he’s retiring after the season), and the 2012 NL Manager of the Year has the tools at his disposal to make it a memorable departure. Collins has kept the Mets surprisingly afloat the last few years despite the constant turmoil surrounding the Mets the last two years. Rookie manager Redmond will be tasked with a tough task pulling along the stripped down Marlins in his debut year.

Finances

  1. Phillies
  2. Braves
  3. Nationals
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

The Phillies have the funds to make their usual aggressive additions if they find themselves in the chase late in the season. Despite having three four players due $20 million this season, GM Ruben Amaro has the green light to spend if needed. On the flipside, the Marlins and Mets are two of the biggest financial disasters in sports, despite the substantial $138 million commitment made to Wright this winter.

Impact Additions

  1. Justin Upton (Braves via D’Backs)
  2. BJ Upton (Braves via Rays)
  3. Dan Haren (Nationals via Angels)
  4. Rafael Soriano (Nationals via Yankees)
  5. Ben Revere (Phillies via Twins)

After years of being floated in Arizona, the Justin Upton finally was moved to a place where he can freely play with no rumors hanging off his every move. The Braves re-invented themselves by signing him and his older brother BJ. Meanwhile, the Nationals made several “finishing touch” type moves, highlighted picking up a potential steal in Haren, a 4-time All-Star workhorse who’s averaged 14 wins a season.

Leap Forward Candidates

  1. Bryce Harper, Nationals
  2. Matt Harvey, Mets
  3. Ike Davis, Mets
  4. Julio Teheran, Braves
  5. Ross Detwiler, Nationals

Harper is the easy call, but considering what could be on deck is one of the most exciting things to look forward to in the season. He hit 22 homers and stole 18 bases a year ago, and has a legitimate shot to become the youngest member of the 30 homer/30 steal club this time around. Harvey was at times completely overpowering as a rookie, averaging 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 10 starts.

Rookies/Prospects to Watch

  1. Zach Wheeler (Pitcher-Mets, AAA)
  2. Travis D’Arnaud (Catcher-Mets, AAA)
  3. Anthony Rendon (Third Base-Nationals, AA)
  4. Andrelton Simmons (Shortstop-Braves, MLB)
  5. Adeiny Hechavarria (Shortstop-Marlins, MLB)

The future looks good for the Mets, and it’s most promising of its entire stockpile of young arms. Wheeler has a triple digit fastball, and the stuff to go along with it. Pairing him with D’Arnaud, the former top prospect of the Blue Jays and main return piece for RA Dickey, ensure the Mets will return to relevancy soon enough.

2013 PREDICTIONS

  1. Nationals
  2. Braves
  3. Phillies
  4. Mets
  5. Marlins

Last season was the story of anybody having a chance out in the East, this time around will not be more of the same. The Nationals and Braves are both returning very strong team’s that didn’t lose much over the winter, yet made some substantial additions. On the other hand, the Phillies who have a solid core, made some additions as well, but simply can’t keep up with the younger and more well rounded Nationals and Braves. But they are a veteran laden club with more winning experience than any other team ahead of them and a very good manager, if any team in the NL is capable of spring a surprise heist of a Wild Card spot, it’s them.

The Mets are growing, and have made several moves that have put young talent in their system and Major League staff, but after Wright and Davis, there’s nothing else in their lineup and the East is the wrong division not be able to hit in. The Marlins, after their “everything not named Giancarlo must go” dump are more of a factor in the push for the number spot in the Draft than the division.

So this brings it all back to the same two postseason reps from a year ago. The Braves are getting better in a hurry, and with their entire core under 30, their best days are yet to come. A return to the playoffs should be expected, and not just a one and done this year either. But the Nationals better days are here now. The difference comes down the arms: the Braves have a very good pitching staff; the Nationals have a devastating staff, which has four Cy Young capable starters and three relievers with 30 save capability. Add on the prime of Zimmerman, LaRoche and Werth with the rise of Harper and Ian Desmond all happening at once, and the Nationals aren’t just the best in the East. They’re among the two or three best period.

For more on the upcoming MLB campaign along the East coast in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Yahoo

I present to you a struggle that many can relate to….the struggle of a fantasy sports season gone bad from the beginning.

I was riding high coming into my fantasy baseball Draft last March. I was coming off a strong run of being in first place nearly the entire season, before a single hit knocked me out of the playoffs (against my father no less). I’d drafted well the year before, made some shrewd moves and put myself in good position to win my second consecutive championship. The loss was okay, I can deal with it.

Back to last year’s draft, I was ready. I’d done my research, was obviously ready up on the happenings around baseball and was sitting in a nice spot in the middle of the first round, with the sixth pick out of 12 teams. I was ramped up and ready to go.

And then I picked the worst team in the history of the game, about the game.

There are a few things that went wrong here that were outside of my control, with regularity: injuries ravished my roster, nearly from the beginning. This happens; it’s the nature of the game. Also, there were some guys that plain didn’t perform up to their expected levels. Once again, the nature of the game. All in all, the season was rough as it gets, and anti-2011. I stuck around the middle of the pack all year, made every deft trade I possibly could with the underachieving roster I had, but nothing gave, and I was bludgeoned out of the playoffs in round 1, with very little fight. It was the worst finish I’ve had, and the longest season of the all.

But in the middle of all-that there was also some pure user error, and while everything is 20/20 in hindsight, there were some plain mistakes I made in evaluating and approaching the draft from the beginning.

And with that, I present to you my tragically flawed shadow of the summer of 2012: the 6-Tool Superstars, whose name will prove ironic as possible.

 

Pick 5—Jose Bautista: The lure was the fact he hit 97 home runs over 2010-11, and was eligible at two positions. He was an on-base machine as well, that led the league in walks and hit .302 the year before. But really, it was a reach on the single homer stat alone, and predictably, he regressed. He still hit 27 long balls, but he stunk it up everywhere else. A late season surge helped him pick UP his average to .241, before two wrist injuries ended his season in August.

The great conflict between me here was between him and Ryan Braun, who I gave into the suspicion about PED performance, although I never believed he was implicated in, as well as the loss of Prince Fielder as his protection. And all Braun did was have the best year of his life. Figures.

Pick 20—Roy Halladay: The greatest tragedy of them all, this was a colossal mistake on every level for me. Firstly, I took a pitcher not named Verlander in the top 24 picks. Secondly, his arm died early on in the year, and I couldn’t even trade out on name value alone. Worst of all, lost potential everyday value from Andrew McCutchen, Adrian Beltre and Mark Teixeira in the name of landing the pitcher formerly known as Doc too.

Pick 29—Giancarlo Stanton: Great pick, best of the draft. He won’t be there this late this time around.

Pick 44—Dan Uggla: Worst pick of the entire draft, and when I looked back at this I spit my coffee up on my screen. It was a pure reach for positional value that would have been bad even if he was good by his own standards. Uggla staying healthy actually hurt me, with his 19 homers and .220 average.

Pick 53—Eric Hosmer: The reach of the draft, where I felt like I’d gotten a steal and justified my passing up of the first and second-tier of first baseman. The sophomore slump hit Hos like a truck, and while he gained some value in the second half, he didn’t top 15 homers or a .240 average.

Hosmer's struggles held the Royals back, but in the Fantasy world, he missed his expectations by miles.

Hosmer’s struggles held the Royals back, but in the Fantasy world, he missed his expectations by miles.

Pick 68—CJ Wilson: He started off a virtuoso in the first few months, and then hit the absolute bottom of the tank by the second. He turned out a 5.54 second half ERA, before exiting the season injured as well.

Pick 77—Shin-Soo Choo: He’s a steadily consistent guy, that’s the type you want to grab here. Finally was healthy (155 games) and gave me 43 doubles and 21 steals (the only runner on the team; another huge draft error).

Pick 92—Joe Mauer: My sleeper pick that made good. He tumbled down the draft boards due to his injury history, but I grabbed him right when the run on catchers was about to take off.  Joe led the American League in on-base percentage, and had first base eligibility too, which was needed mid-Hosmer’s year long tumble down off the year two cliff.

Pick 101—Josh Johnson: Another reach that wasn’t made good on, completely. He started off slow, working through his rehab from shoulder surgery, but I cashed in on him by trading for Brett Lawrie….who also ended up out for most of the August/September. Figures.

Pick 116—Heath Bell: Sigh….moving right along.

After the tenth round, things are usually about finding depth, and this actually treated me well. Landing Derek Jeter in the 11th round and Adam Dunn in the 16th were solid picks that paid off throughout the year. But overall, even this late, solid draft picks just didn’t show up. Cameron Maybin (12th), Jonny Venters (17th), Trevor Cahill (20th) and Justin Masterson (19th) couldn’t match their fantastic 2011 efforts. Andrew Bailey (13th) and Brandon McCarthy (22nd) never got healthy either, and Jesus Montero (15th) or Zack Cozart (23rd) never lived up to their impact rookie billing.

All in all, a frustrating season, but flawed from the start. Three things win Fantasy Baseball: high team on-base percentage pitching depth and speed. They are fringe stats that can be picked up sparingly across the board, but must be had. This team had none of those, and when coupled with a few long-range reaches and an injury sheet that looked like an episode of the Walking Dead, there’s nowhere to go but up soon.

Maybe I’ll skip pre-draft beers this time..

 

For more on the game in all its forms and formats, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan