Posts Tagged ‘Matt Kemp’

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.

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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

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics

There is no position in the history of the game that has more of an illustrious history than center field. Decked out with the likes of Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Ken Griffey Jr, Joe Dimaggio, Tris Speaker and Mickey Mantle, reaching up rungs of the middle of the outfield means nothing less than immortality.

And while the center fielders of today’s game still have quite a ways to go before they are to be mentioned in that class, it still remains perhaps the most impressive gathering of a talent pool of any in the game. To be in the top 5 of the position is to be among the 1% or so of the best players in the game. In the listing below, there is an impressive selection of both crowned, and in many people’s minds, uncrowned MVPs.

At this position, to be in the handful of the best of the best, “V” is better suited to stand for “versatile” than anything else, because to be among the best requires at least four of the 5 Tools of the complete ballplayer to be put to use, and with at least one being at an elite level.

But that’s enough of the posturing—here are the best of the best in the heart of the outfield today.

10. Coco Crisp, Athletics: He has long been one of the most effective runners in the game, stealing 35 bases on average since arriving in Oakland, as well as being charged with guarding the super spacious center field in the o.Co Coliseum. But he also added a power swing last summer, hitting 22 balls over the fence as well.

9. Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks: The best outfielder in the game with the glove, he’ll move back from right field this year to line up between Mark Trumbo and AJ Pollack. He was good for 4 defensive wins above replacement a year ago, and took home his second Gold Glove in three years.

8. Austin Jackson, Tigers: The multi-skilled Jackson has been one of the most active run scorers in the game (395 since 2010), reaching base in front of Miguel Cabrera’s historic run. He has twice led the AL in triples within the last three years, and cut his long-plaguing strike out total down to 129 last year.

7. Carlos Gomez, Brewers: He took his game to a new level a year ago, finishing with the highest WAR figure in the NL. This came on a combination of 61 extra base hits and 40 stolen bases, in addition to his nearly unequaled range and ability in the field.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Los Angeles Angels

6. Matt Kemp, Dodgers: Injuries sunk the former Triple Crown threat to career-low in games played a year ago, but he is far too talented to consider a “has been” yet. From 2011-12 when he at 100%-to-mostly healthy, his average effort was a .315/.387/.567 slash line, with 31 home runs, 98 RBI and 24 stolen bases. He’s just got to get out there and do it again.

5. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: Moving over from left field this season, where he was among the best defenders in all of the game. He won his second consecutive Gold Glove in left, while reaching 26 home runs, 70 RBI and 21 stolen bases, despite having his season cut short to only only 110 games.

4. Adam Jones, Orioles: He has become one of the most impressive all-around players in either league, winning his third Gold Glove a year ago, while hitting a career-best 33 home runs, 108 RBI and 186 hits.

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees: The most dangerous leadoff hitter in the game, he’s both a terror on the bases (52 steals per year in his last four full campaigns) and carries a consistent stick to the plate as well (career .297 hitter). With the generous right field fence in his new home in the Bronx, a return of his power stroke could also be in play.

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2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: The reigning National League MVP does some of everything, and does it all good. He spread his contributions around the board more in 2013 than in 2012, but within the past two seasons he has led the NL in hits once, took home a Gold Glove, two Silver Sluggers and stolen 47 bases—all while resurrecting the D.O.A. Pirates franchise.

1. Mike Trout, Angels: The game’s best all-around talent is easily the class of his position, and that’s saying a lot considering the level McCutchen is at. In his two full pro seasons, he has changed the course of 18.8 games by his impact alone. There was no sophomore slump for Trout, who in year two came within one double, one triple and three RBI of being the only player in history to post a 40 double/10 Triple/20 home run/100 run/30 stolen base season—all while hitting .323 at the reverent old age of 21 years.

Just A Bit Outside: Dexter Fowler, Chris Denorfia, Denard Span

For more on the rankings and the now near sprint to spring in real-time on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more content, head to The Sports Fan Journal and I-70 Baseball.

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The MLB Winter Meetings are in full swing in Orlando as this is written and as you read it. And the moves are coming in quick, and the rumors are spreading like oxygen. There’s not much hype to bring, only what the rumor mill is spinning. And with that, here is the buzz on the streets from Florida as the sun is getting set this today.

  • While the free agent game is developing, the trade market has been the pot that every one is waiting to boil over on the stove. David Price is the hottest name, and the Mariners, Rangers and Dodgers are stated as being the hottest in pursuit of his services. The price in return for him is a wealth of young prospects, of the vein that the Rays build their team around, and the availability of Taijan Walker could either make or break the entire scene around him.
  • The Dodgers have reportedly had discussions about the availability of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier as well.
  • Justin Masterson is reportedly being floated by the Indians, as he entering the last year of his contract.
  • As of last night, the Rangers and Shin-Soo Choo were engaged in talks that were moving in positive direction. The Diamondbacks also are showing interest, but are exploring a trade to acquire Mark Trumbo as well to amplify their corner outfield production.
  • The Orioles have said they will not pursue any of the high priced arms on the market, but are not opposed to giving out a multi-year contract for an arm.
  • The Brewers, who were stated as having interest in Logan Morrison, are instead working towards resigning Corey Hart
  • The relief pitcher market is starting to shake out, as teams with a ninth inning need are beginning to show themselves more clearly. The Cubs, Rockies, Indians, Astros, Orioles and potentially Yankees are all in the mix.
  • Bronson Arroyo has been one the most discussed names in the last few weeks, and is nearing a decision. His balance of carrying a short-term contract, along with no Draft Pick compensation makes him a perfect ad for both big and small market clubs looking to boost their rotation.

Here is the final rankings board of the winter of the free agent market. From here on out, I’ll continue to do ‘Cut The Check’ updates on signings and outcomes, but this is about as deep of a relevant board that remains. Here is where the kids in left in the pool stand:

  1. Shin-Soo Choo-RF: Rangers, Mariners, Tigers, Diamondbacks
  2. Matt Garza-RHP: Yankees, Twins, Angels,
  3. Ubaldo Jimenez-RHP: Yankees, Angels, Astros
  4. Nelson Cruz-RF/DH: Rangers, Mariners, Orioles, Royals
  5. Ervin Santana-RHP: Angels, Yankees, Astros
  6. Masahiro Tanaka-RHP: Yankees, Dodgers, Japan
  7. Stephen Drew-SS: Red Sox, Dodgers, Mets
  8. Grant Balfour-RHP: Indians, Yankees, Rockies, Tigers, Rays
  9. Kendrys Morales-1B: Mariners, Indians, Mets
  10. Fernando Rodney-RHP: Indians, Rays, Cubs
  11. Omar Infante-2B: Yankees, Royals
  12. Joaquin Benoit-RHP: Mariners, Phillies, Tigers, Orioles
  13. A.J. Burnett-RHP: Pirates, Orioles
  14. Bronson Arroyo-RHP: Angels, Pirates, Twins, Giants, Phillies
  15. Bartolo Colon-RHP: Marlins, Angels, Mets
  16. Jesse Crain-RHP: Rockies, Cubs
  17. Corey Hart-1B/RF: Brewers, Mariners, Mets, Pirates
  18. James Loney-1B: Rays, Rockies, Pirates
  19. Michael Morse-OF: Giants
  20. Chris Perez-RHP: Astros, Athletics, Mets
  21. Raul Ibanez-DH: Yankees, Orioles
  22. John Axford-RHP: Cubs, Orioles
  23. Boone Logan-LHP: Nationals, Yankees
  24. Gavin Floyd-RHP: Twins, Orioles
  25. Jason Kubel-OF/DH:
  26. Scott Downs-LHP: Nationals
  27. J.P. Howell-LHP: Nationals
  28. Scott Baker-RHP: Cubs
  29. Jose Veras-RHP: Rockies
  30. Garrett Jones-1B: Signed w/ Marlins (2 yrs, $7.25 million)
  31. Paul Maholm-LHP:
  32. Jason Hammel-RHP: Giants
  33. Juan Uribe-3B: Dodgers
  34. Chris Capuano-LHP: Twins
  35. Joba Chamberlain-RHP: Royals, Braves, Giants, Astros
  36. Francisco Rodriguez-RHP:
  37. Mark Ellis-2B: Orioles, Rays
  38. Eric O’Flaherty-LHP: Nationals, Dodgers, Phillies
  39. John Buck-C: Nationals
  40. Rajai Davis-OF: Twins, Orioles, Tigers

 

For what’s cookin’ on the stove in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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Tonight, the best baseball players of the year thus far will be celebrated. However, there is also a group of players that have had just as much impact on the year, albeit in adverse way. They are the group of players that you would usually look to revere this time of the year, however they haven’t had the time of season that helps the cause. Rather, they are the reason why the summer hasn’t panned out the way it may have seemed in game 1. Yes, they are the Un-Stars; the players who have to do more, if it is not too late already.

So with no further delay, here is the squad that has left a lot to be imagined thus far on the year…

Catcher

Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks— He’s quietly been one of the most productive catchers in baseball over the past few years, and finished fifth in the NL in on-base percentage a year ago, and has driven in 87 runs on average over the past two years.

At the break, Montero’s average sits at a career-low .224. The rise of Paul Goldschmidt, along with the acquisition of Martin Prado has eased the blow of it, but D’Backs will not be able to hold off the Dodgers and Rockies without a much bigger second half from him.

First Base

Nick Swisher, Indians— The big money signing that was “most likely to not play up to contract level” has lived up to his billing. While he has shuffled between first and right field, his production has not picked up regardless of where his glove is filled out in the lineup. His average his pit stopped in the middle of the .240’s, and he’s on pace to hit only 15 home runs and drive in just over 50 runs. Not much bang for the $11 million bucks he’s bringing in.

Second Base

Dan Uggla, Braves— The great paradox continues. Uggla is leading all NL second basemen, well as the Braves, in home runs with 18, but is once again scraping by hitting .200 and reaching base only 31% of the time. Not to mention he’s still playing his tradition lead glove defense, and the reasons for the Braves offensive struggles become clear: they have many captains of industry in the All Feast or Famine squad, and Uggla’s the Admiral of it.

Third Base

Chase Headley, Padres— The Padres may have sat on him for too long, as one of the off season’s hottest commodity’s has come back to Earth, meteor style. A year after leading the NL in RBI with 115, hitting 31 home runs and snagging a Gold Glove, Headley sits with a .230 average and just 31 runs driven in at the break.

The bright side is that he only had 8 long balls at this point last season, before taking off with his huge second half, but there is also the stark truth that before 2012, he’d hit 36 homers, total. Whatever the numbers are, a quick trade of him would help the Padres save some of the top tier market value he built up last fall.

Shortstop

Starlin Castro, Cubs— The tendency in recent years has been to pay young guys early to lock up their pre-prime years at good price without any interruption from arbitration or agents. The Cubs gave Castro $60 million over eight years at the ripe young age of 22 so they could lock in what was supposed to be the cornerstone they would rebuild around.

Smart logic at the time, but so far in 2013 it has seemed like they may have fed the Baby Bear too soon. He’s struggled with his effort all year, which has also not so ironically impacted his results as well. He’s hitting a bleak .243 on the year and was even benched in mid-June for both lacking hustle on the bases and focus in the field. It’s too early to write him off, but some signs of life would be nice to see.

Hamilton has not delivered on the promise that he brought to the Angels line and the hopes for a turnaround season via the former MVP and division rival.

Hamilton has not delivered on the promise that he brought to the Angels line and the hopes for a turnaround season via the former MVP and division rival.

Outfield

Ryan Braun, Brewers— For the first time in his career, he has looked mortal, and the Brewers have suffered because of it. Braun hits the break coming off a first half where he took his first trip to the disabled list, then was brought back up on a second round of PED controversy with the Biogenesis investigation and ended the half on the bereavement list just a few games after returning from injury. Along the way, he’s still managed to hit .304 with nine home runs, but for a team that is without much of its offensive core already; it was the worst possible time for Braun’s fall to begin.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers— He was once baseball’s iron man, but in the last two years Kemp hasn’t been able to hold himself together. 2013 has been pinnacle of his ongoing struggle to rise back up, as even when he has been healthy, he’s been a shell of his true self. He hits the break with a .254 average, only 4 home runs and over a month of time missed already between two stints on the disabled list. Probably his greatest highlight of the season was his vendetta trip to track down Carlos Quentin after he broke Zack Greinke’s collarbone.

Even when he has been active, he’s been limited and the Dodgers struggled to get mobile until Yaisel Puig arrived and provided the spark that had previously been Kemp’s to light up. It remains to be seen if LA can reach its summit while its greatest asset is still down.

Josh Hamilton, Angels— Two years, two big offseason adds in Anaheim, and two questionable (at best) returns. Hamilton has been stuck in a summer-long slump since landing with the Halos, and is carrying a .224 average into the break. By the month on the season, he has hit .204 in April, then .237 in May, back down to .231 in June and thus far .233 in July. Perhaps for the Rangers less (as in player, contract and roster boulder) is more with Hamilton plugging up a spot in LA instead of Arlington.

Pitchers

Matt Cain, Giants— It is hard to say why the Giants’ ace is down in the dumps, but one thing is for certain, he’s been the biggest enigma in one of the least impressive championship defenses in many years. His ERA is just north of 5.00 across his first 19 starts. April was particularly brutal, seeing him post an 0-2 record, with a 6.49 ERA and the Giants lose his first five starts.

R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays— The biggest name addition to the Jays run for the pennant this season has failed to find the form that made him the story of last summer. At the halfway point, he has already taken 10 losses, which is four more than his total all year with the Mets and has an ERA at 4.69. He has had seven starts where he has surrendered at least six earned runs, and has been responsible for the decision in all but two of his 20 starts thus far.

For more on these potential turnaround stories, or the fallout that will continue to be, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Justin Verlander

A couple of weeks ago, I broke the Top 100 Players in Baseball coming into 2013. As to be expected, it cause several levels of debate, from the way that such a decision was arrived at, all the way down to the results in the end. As the course of it went along, the players were ranked as a large pool, not by position, and in the end, some players landed interesting places.

But what is does this say about the strength of each position in game? If you go back and take it apart to assess “who’s the best (fill in blank position) in baseball, what does my Top 100 say about that. Well to save the time on that, I’ve done it for you. Today we’ll rank the Top 5 players by position, as well as breakdown what the game looks like at each spot both today, and moving forward.

To refresh on the entire list, head to The Sports Fan Journal, where the full Five Part Series is listed here.

 

Catcher

13. Buster Posey

15. Yadier Molina

38. Joe Mauer

81. Matt Wieters

92. Brian McCann

Catcher was tough at the top, with the margin between Posey and Molina nearly requiring a daily check of the box score to decide who’s better on that day. Overall, only six catchers made the list, with Miguel Montero being the only one missing here.

First Base

8. Joey Votto

9. Albert Pujols

23. Prince Fielder

33. Adrian Gonzalez

39. Mark Teixeira

Votto and Pujols are another pair that can trade off by the day, but overall the entire first base position could be in a different place by next year. Fielder, Gonzalez and Teixeira all had career-low efforts in some of their signature categories last season, which an upswing could pull each of them back to the top 25.

dustin-pedroia

Second Base

5. Robinson Cano

36. Brandon Phillips

47. Dustin Pedroia

58. Ian Kinsler

98. Chase Utley

It’s Cano, and then everybody else. Robby is on the verge of pushing for the best in the game period, but everybody else isn’t so bad overall; but they pale in comparison. The 31 slot difference between Cano and Phillips is easily the largest of any other everyday position.

Third Base

1. Miguel Cabrera

16. Evan Longoria

18. David Wright

22. Adrian Beltre

42. Ryan Zimmerman

Quiet as kept, the current group of third baseman around the league could be the most impressive group of any era in baseball history. This group has multiple MVP-caliber competitors as well as the last two World Series MVPs in Pablo Sandoval and David Freese as well.

Shortstop

24. Troy Tulowitzki

28. Jose Reyes

53. Elvis Andrus

56. Starlin Castro

59. Hanley Ramirez

Shortstop as a whole is a position that’s steady across the board, but is in transition some. Andrus, Castro and Ian Desmond are emerging, and prospect Jurickson Profar could easily force his way into the mix. But Tulowitzki remains the best due to a mixture of potential, and few legit challengers to his class thus far.

Carlos_Gonzalez white classic

Left Field

3. Ryan Braun

4. Mike Trout

19. Carlos Gonzalez

29. Matt Holliday

45. Bryce Harper

With Trout moving over to the left corner, the position has taken a swing upward. The Harper/Trout era will now pit them against each other from the same position, so for comparison’s sake, this is a story that just keeps getting better.

Center Field

7. Matt Kemp

10. Andrew McCutchen

35. Adam Jones

41. Curtis Granderson

61. Jacoby Ellsbury

What fantastically deep group there is roaming the middle of the outfield there is in the game today. Kemp, McCutchen, Jones and Ellsbury have each been major players in each of the last two MVP races. It’s a deep position as well, with Michael Bourn, Austin Jackson and Shin-Soo Choo all representing the diversity that comprises the spot now.

Right Field

12. Josh Hamilton

20. Jose Bautista

32. Giancarlo Stanton

54. Jason Heyward

62. Jay Bruce

No position may have more raw power than right field right now. Stanton is a 50 home run season waiting to happen, and Bautista has already passed the mark. Heyward and Bruce are as well-rounded players as imaginable on the corner, and neither is close to their 30th birthday.

Starting Pitcher

2. Justin Verlander

5. Clayton Kershaw

11. Felix Hernandez

14. David Price

21. Stephen Strasberg

Picking the top 5 pitchers in baseball is a task at best. Especially in the current era of wide spread dominance, staying on top is truly an impressive feat, which Verlander has pulled off in 2011-12. Strasberg appears after giving a glimpse of what could be in only 159 innings last year, but a case could be made for no less than 10 other arms to crack into the top 5 with no real arguments.

Relief Pitcher

17. Craig Kimbrel

37. Mariano Rivera

55. Jonathan Papelbon

78. Fernando Rodney

86. Jim Johnson

Considering that Aroldis Chapman will move to the starting rotation, Kimbrel’s position as the best ninth inning guy in the game is virtually untouched. Rivera and Papelbon have consistency on their side, but an emerging group of closers featuring Johnson, Jason Motte and Sergio Romo are all closing in on overall elite league status as well.

 

That’s what it is for now for the year in looking at the players, but coming up next week it’s time to look at the teams, with the third annual CSP divisional previews. Until then, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan for up the second info on everything I’m up to.

Los Angeles Dodgers Photo Day

It’s tough to do an intro to the very best of the game and just why they are, so I won’t bother. The credentials on the best of the top 100 players in baseball are below and speak for themselves. But just to quantify why they are who they are, this is a rundown of just what they have accomplished along the way:

  • 10 Players
  • Nine MVP/Cy Young Awards
  • 40 All-Star appearances
  • Five World Series Championships
  • And $134,000,000 coming their way this season

All things considered, they’re worth it. It is a level where 30 home run seasons are answered with “What’s wrong with him?” instead of congratulations for the effort. Where if they give up a home run from the mound, there’s legitimate shock. It’s also a place where there’s constantly someone else pushing you, where an injury or simple down year (by their standards) gets them seen as having a “bad” season. Dominance is what it takes to get to this level, but answering expectations, repeatedly, is what it takes to stay here.

Here’s the 10 best in the world at doing just that. For now at least …

 

10. Andrew McCutchen-Center Field-Pittsburgh Pirates: The Cutch nearly became not just the undisputed man in Pittsburgh a year ago, but nearly all of baseball. His tear through the first half landed him a starting All-Star gig and firm placement in the MVP race. While the Pirates faded in the second half, he still led the National League in hits with 194 and set other career highs in home runs (31), RBI (96) and average (.327), while also topping 20 stolen bases for the fourth consecutive year.

9. Albert Pujols-First Base-Los Angeles Angels: He had a down year in 2012, hitting “only” .285. But for the unmatched historic standard he set for himself in his first decade in the game (posting averages of 40 homers, 121 RBI and hitting .323), it’s understandable why  a career-low 30 home runs is frowned at. He’ll pass 500 home runs and 1,500 RBI in his upcoming 12th season and remains the most devastating first-base bat of all-time.

8. Joey Votto-First Base-Cincinnati Reds: For as good as Pujols still is, Votto’s all-around game has edged him to top of the first base heap. He hit 44 doubles before being curbed by a knee injury in July, which landed him 24 off of setting a new record, despite missing two months. He’s a line-drive hitting terror with a .313 career average and has led the NL in on-base percentage for the past three seasons. As testament to his steady approach, he has only popped out 10 times in his career.

7. Matt Kemp-Center Field-Los Angeles Dodgers: If not for a hamstring injury that sent him to the disabled list for the first time in his career, Kemp was set up for another tear through the summer. He launched 12 homers in April alone before the injury and still rebounded to hit a respectable 23 on the year despite missing 50 games. Consider that to be a glimpse of what could have been for the man one year removed from 39-homer/40-steal 2011…..

 

To see the rest of where this year’s CSP Top 100 Players ends at, head over to The Sports Fan Journal now: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-2013-top-100-players-in-baseball-the-top-10/#sthash.qpLfExvj.dpuf

 

And for more in real-time, as well as the world on the World Baseball Classic, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.