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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 680

post #20371 of 73663
Anybody watch college baseball?
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

post #20372 of 73663
Strong clubhouse demographics give the Rangers 1.6 added wins and will lead them to the AL West crown in a close race. (Of course, the arrival of 1B Prince Fielder doesn't hurt.) In Anaheim, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols are healthy again. And with 2.4 extra wins coming from their own good demographics, the Angels will steal a wild card from the A's, who lack diversity­ -- Dominican reliever Fernando Abad is the only nonwhite pitcher on the projected roster.

I don't understand what ESPN is saying here. The A's will perform worse than the Rangers and Angels because they aren't as ethnically diverse?
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

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post #20373 of 73663
I'm at a loss for words after reading that mean.gif
post #20374 of 73663
laugh.gif WTF
post #20375 of 73663
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

I don't understand what ESPN is saying here. The A's will perform worse than the Rangers and Angels because they aren't as ethnically diverse?

laugh.gif Apparently they designed an algorithm measuring team chemistry and they're valuing it up to 4 wins. Demographics are one of the variables.
post #20376 of 73663
Originally Posted by abovelegit1 View Post

laugh.gif Apparently they designed an algorithm measuring team chemistry and they're valuing it up to 4 wins. Demographics are one of the variables.

laugh.gif You've got to be ******* kidding me. This takes ad*****d stat nerdom to a new level.

What do you think of the O's this year, man? Gonna be another dogfight in the AL East, but I have us (again) over .500 and winning 92.


why is a-d-v-a-n-c-e-d a banned word? laugh.gif
post #20377 of 73663
We'll I guess diversifying your investments is a good thing...same applies to baseball?? laugh.gif

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation
post #20378 of 73663
Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

laugh.gif You've got to be ******* kidding me. This takes ad*****d stat nerdom to a new level.

What do you think of the O's this year, man? Gonna be another dogfight in the AL East, but I have us (again) over .500 and winning 92.


why is a-d-v-a-n-c-e-d a banned word? laugh.gif

laugh.gif Yeah, I'm all for sabermetrics, but that's a fool's errand. I'd like to see the exact methodology they came up with, but it seems impossible to quantify personalities and measure how they'd fit with any sort of statistical significance.

I think they'll be around .500, but as usual it's a tough division and I'm not sure the pitching is good enough to keep pace. The Rays and Sox look to be in the 90s, and the Yanks look solid on paper, too. I'm naturally pessimistic, but if most things break right (Davis doesn't revert to career mean, Jimenez and the starters have good years, Hunter and the bullpen pans out, etc.), they could be in the playoff hunt.
I'm really hoping to see the blue chippers (Bundy, Gaus, E-Rod, Schoop) make real strides. With Manny out we could see Schoop start the season on the roster.
post #20379 of 73663
2014 Major League Payroll Numbers, according to a study by A.P.

1. LA Dodgers $235,295,219
2. NY Yankees $203,812,506
3. Philadelphia Phillies $180,052,723
4. Boston Red Sox $162,817,411
5. Detroit Tigers $162,228,527
6. LA Angels $155,692,000
7. San Francisco Giants $154,185,878
8. Texas Rangers $136,036,172
9. Washington Nationals $134,704,437
10. Toronto Blue Jays $132,628,700
11. Arizona Diamondbacks $112,688,666
12. Cincinnati Reds $112,390,772
13. St. Louis Cardinals $111,020,360
14. Atlanta Braves $110,897,341
15. Baltimore Orioles $107,406,623
16. Milwaukee Brewers $103,844,806
17. Colorado Rockies $95,832,071
18. Seattle Mariners $92,081,943
19. Kansas City Royals $92,034,345
20. Chicago White Sox $91,159,254
21. San Diego Padres $90,094,196
22. NY Mets $89,051,758
23. Chicago Cubs $89,007,857
24. Minnesota Twins $85,776,500
25. Oakland A's $83,401,400
26. Cleveland Indians $82,534,800
27. Pittsburgh Pirates $78,111,667
28. Tampa Bay Rays $77,062,891
29. Miami Marlins $47,565,400
30. Houston Astros $44,544,174
post #20380 of 73663
When the Yankees win it all no one better complain about our payroll wink.gif .
New York Yankees | New York Jets
New York Yankees | New York Jets
post #20381 of 73663



post #20382 of 73663
I'm so ready.
post #20383 of 73663
Dodgers with 235 mill sick.gif

Still won't get to the World Series wink.gif
post #20384 of 73663

Hmm, interesting
post #20385 of 73663
Dang man, 86M makes you the fifth poorest team in the league?

I feel like I remember a time not too long ago when having a 100M payroll meant you were spending in the the top third.
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

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post #20386 of 73663
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

Dang man, 86M makes you the fifth poorest team in the league?

I feel like I remember a time not too long ago when having a 100M payroll meant you were spending in the the top third.


$86M is probably how much the Dodgers are paying just for their starting pitchers.

post #20387 of 73663


Why edit the ***** part in ad*****d?????
post #20388 of 73663
Originally Posted by macbk View Post

When the Yankees win it all no one better complain about our payroll wink.gif .

You know they will regardless. 27 rings rub certain ppl wrong.

It's really comical how the mets are 22nd in the biggest market laugh.gif
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
post #20389 of 73663
Starling Marte agrees to a 6 yr extension with the pirates.
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
post #20390 of 73663
Originally Posted by CP1708 View Post



Why edit the ***** part in ad*****d?????

i'm so confused right now :lol.......what's the word?



edit: yea that's weird as hell......hell is wrong w/ *****? 

post #20391 of 73663
V an ce

Ad va nce d

I don't get it. Why that word banned?

post #20392 of 73663
Originally Posted by CP1708 View Post

V an ce

Ad va nce d

I don't get it. Why that word banned?


Reported for getting around the filter. #CrimeStoppers
post #20393 of 73663
Watching MLB Tonight do a piece on Bautista and it's hard to believe it was four years ago now that he hit 54 HR's. It feels like only two years ago.
post #20394 of 73663
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

Watching MLB Tonight do a piece on Bautista and it's hard to believe it was four years ago now that he hit 54 HR's. It feels like only two years ago.
I remember watching him on the Pirates thinking he'd only amount to being a platoon player
post #20395 of 73663
Thread Starter 
Sorry I haven't updated in a bit, been out of state for a while. Start posting up articles and **** soon.

BTW, that diversity algorithm is the funniest thing I've seen in a while.
post #20396 of 73663
Thread Starter 
Angels overrated by experts.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Today, we turn our attention to the American League, where there is a bit more disagreement between my computer and ESPN's experts.

As I did with the NL, I used Monte Carlo simulation to get estimated playoff probabilities derived from both the ZiPS and Forecaster projections. Division-by-division breakdowns can be found at the bottom.

Projections think Forecaster is underrating these teams

Houston Astros

ZiPS isn't exactly known for being enthusiastic about recent Astros teams, projecting last year's squad to go 57-105, with their estimated shot at winning the World Series being worse than 1,000-to-1. The relatively optimistic ZiPS projection of 68 wins is a change of pace for a Houston forecast.

I'm not sure that 68 wins is as crazy as it may sound for someone watching the Astros, given that talent is being added to the team through trades and the minor league system. Dexter Fowler is a solid addition, even though he won't put up his Coors Field-inflated raw numbers, and George Springer will be on the major league roster in the near future. The rotation is still a mess, as neither Scott Feldman nor Jarred Cosart are at the top on a good team, but if top prospect Mark Appel and one or two of Mike Foltynewicz, Vince Velasquez and Lance McCullers survive to contribute in the majors, things will start to look better quickly.

Baltimore Orioles

ZiPS gives the O's a few extra wins, reversing the order the panelists picked in the Baltimore-versus-New York battle for third place in the AL East. The computer is a big fan of Ubaldo Jimenez, and one thing the simulation catches that looking at the rotation on paper may not is that while the O's are missing that ace to go against Yu Darvish or Justin Verlander, they have excellent depth.

The entire rotation is likely to be league average or better, with a sixth option in Kevin Gausman who should bump one of those pitchers in short order. Suk-Min Yoon and Zach Britton also remain fallback options if and when injuries hit, as both are better options than most teams have for Plan C or Plan D. Nelson Cruz is a one-dimensional player, but in Camden Yards, being a right-handed slugger is a good choice for your one dimension.

Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto had a disappointing offseason, as it failed to land a starting pitcher with the entirety of its major league spending being a two-year, $8 million contract for Dioner Navarro. Despite the winter of discontent, the Jays still have enough talent on their roster to at least be interesting in 2014.

Brandon Morrow and Drew Hutchison both appear to be healthy, which wasn't the case in 2013. Plus, a full season of Jose Bautista is always helpful, and Navarro is an upgrade behind the plate from J.P. Arencibia. And there's still hope for Melky Cabrera; he was a 2013 flop, but a flop who happened to play through a painful tumor near his spine and a number of possibly related-leg issues. ZiPS projects the Blue Jays to finish last in the AL East, as the writers did, but gives them a real shot at a playoff spot.

Projections think Forecaster is overrating these teams

Los Angeles Angels

Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton may very well have bounce-back seasons, but ZiPS doesn't believe that either will bounce back to their prime form. The computer doesn't see a lot of upside from the lineup, which mostly consists of known quantities: Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar are good players, but neither are likely to break out and become superstars at this point.

ZiPS remains skeptical about Kole Calhoun matching his 2013 production and thinks the David Freese trade was one of the worst moves this offseason. My computer has the Angels as a full four games worse than the experts.

New York Yankees

ZiPS is a skeptic about the Yankees' depth, especially with an infield that has tremendous train-wreck potential. The Yankees made some upgrades, but they also lost some serious production in the form of Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.

As messy as the season was, the 2013 Yankees actually outperformed their runs scored and runs allowed by about six games (79 Pythagorean wins versus 85 actual), something general manager Brian Cashman noted last month. The Yankees remain an old team, with serious injury concerns for some of their main contributors.

Detroit Tigers

None of the Tigers' moves this winter inevitably doom the team to fall short of 90 wins, but it's hard to view the offseason as any sort of success. Even if the Tigers liked Robbie Ray more than anybody else, moving Doug Fister for Ray, Ian Krol and Steve Lombardozzi Jr. is an odd move for a team in win-now mode. This is especially odd when considering that in order to replace Fister in the rotation, they have to remove one of the two most valuable pieces (Drew Smyly) from a 2013 bullpen that was the weakest of all the playoff teams.

The loss of Jose Iglesias to stress fractures in his legs can't be attributed to poor planning, but acquiring a 37-year-old Alex Gonzalez, a rapidly declining defender with a .279 OBP over the past six years, is surely a self-inflicted one. Joe Nathan only replaces the departed Joaquin Benoit's production rather than upgrading it, and counting on Joba Chamberlain, a pitcher whom the Yankees couldn't give away last summer, to be the second or third option in the bullpen is just asking for some late-inning meltdowns.

AL East
Comparing ZiPS to AL Forecaster.

Team ZiPS
wins Forecaster
wins Diff ZiPS Playoff Forecaster Playoff Diff
BOS 88 90 -2 55.5% 62.5% -7.0%
TB 87 89 -2 50.7% 57.8% -7.1%
BAL 84 82 2 36.6% 26.7% 9.9%
NYY 83 85 -2 32.7% 39.3% -6.6%
TOR 81 77 4 24.8% 11.8% 13.0%
AL Central
Comparing ZiPS to AL Forecaster.

Team ZiPS
wins Forecaster
wins Diff ZiPS Playoff Forecaster Playoff Diff
DET 89 91 -2 67.6% 72.2% -4.6%
KC 83 83 0 38.1% 34.2% 3.9%
CLE 80 82 -2 24.9% 29.6% -4.7%
CHW 70 72 -2 3.8% 4.9% -1.1%
MIN 68 69 -1 2.3% 2.3% 0.0%
AL West
Comparing ZiPS to AL Forecaster.

Team ZiPS
wins Forecaster
wins Diff ZiPS Playoff Forecaster Playoff Diff
OAK 89 87 2 62.6% 51.3% 11.3%
TEX 88 87 1 58.2% 51.9% 6.3%
LAA 81 85 -4 26.6% 42.1% -15.5%
SEA 77 77 0 13.9% 13.2% 0.7%
HOU 68 62 6 1.8% 0.3% 1.5%

Five offseason moves that will backfire.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When a general manager makes a trade or a free-agent signing, he must always have significant justification for why the move was made. This could include:

• Scouting reports
• Ad*****d metrics and analytics
• Medical reports
• Evaluations of makeup and character
• Financial considerations
• Roster structure
• Team needs to wants

Most GMs will provide owners with at least 20 pages of documentation supporting any significant move. By the time everyone evaluates why the decision was made most of the organization should believe the move was made in the best interest of the organization.

However, after all the preparation and analysis is done, the decision is right only until something goes wrong. That could be an injury, a decline in performance, a personal problem that changes the player’s focus, a change of vibe in the clubhouse or even a change of league or position that all of a sudden makes the move go wrong, leaving the club with nothing but regrets.

Of course, anyone who's ever been a GM, president or owner would love to have a mulligan or two during their careers. Looking at this year’s offseason moves, here are the five that will backfire, either by season’s end or sometime in the next few years.

1. Texas Rangers sign OF Shin-Soo Choo

Choo’s seven-year, $130 million contract will expire on his 38th birthday. Choo is a solid player, and although he was one of the worst defensive center fielders in baseball last year, at least the Rangers will be playing him in his best position -- left field. I like Choo and the fact he has hit 20 home runs three times and stolen 20 bases in four different years, demonstrating a speed/power combination that is somewhat unusual in this day and age. The best part of his game is his .389 career on-base percentage.

However, this is also a player who has never won a Silver Slugger, Gold Glove or ever been voted or named to an All-Star team and probably never will. For $130 million, you should at least be an All-Star-caliber player. I also don’t like his age during this seven-year deal. He’ll be 32 in the first year of the deal. I think Choo will be valuable to the Rangers for the first three years of the deal, but I can’t imagine it ending well for the Rangers, especially in this post-PED era.

2. Oakland Athletics trade Brett Anderson to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen

This was a perplexing deal at the time considering Billy Beane had opined to me back in 2010 that he thought Anderson could win a Cy Young Award someday. Anderson certainly has been plagued with injuries over the past several years, and with an inflating salary, I can understand why Beane felt it was best to trade him for healthy arms and non-arbitration eligible players based on the team's financial limitations.

However, Anderson is just 26 years old and his stuff is top-of-the-rotation caliber. Based on what I saw in spring training, he might end up being the Rockies' No. 2 starter behind Jorge De La Rosa. I remember back in 2002 when the Toronto Blue Jays were tired of waiting for Chris Carpenter to get healthy, and with his salary inflating, they let him go. He would go on to become a three-time All-Star with the Cardinals, finishing in the top three in Cy Young voting three times.

Anderson won’t do that pitching half of his games at Coors Field, but at 26, his stuff is all the way back and this is a move that could really backfire for the A's, especially because Jarrod Parker is out for the year.

3. Colorado Rockies trade Dexter Fowler to the Houston Astros in exchange for Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes

As good a trade as the Anderson move was, trading Fowler was equally bad, and one of the worst moves of the offseason. The Rockies’ biggest need right now is center field and leadoff. Fowler was both.

In return, the Rockies received Lyles, who won’t even make their Opening Day rotation and whose repertoire probably won’t work at Coors Field, and Brandon Barnes, who’s a solid fourth outfielder. Fowler, on the other hand, just turned 28 and is starting to figure it out. His career on-base percentage is a respectable .365 and he has the potential to steal 20 bases. He runs down the ball in both gaps and is a high-character, high-energy and high-enthusiasm player. The Rockies will regret this trade.

4. Los Angeles Angels trade OF Peter Bourjos to the St. Louis Cardinals for 3B David Freese

Freese will be 31 in April but looks and plays a lot older based on a bad lower half that has endured a litany of injuries. Freese did not look good last season for the Cardinals, and by the postseason his range was so limited that manager Mike Matheny had to sub for him late in games. Freese's power was reduced to nine home runs during the regular season, and he didn’t look any better in BP, either.

After watching him this spring, I didn't see much improvement in his range or power. He's a winning-type player who can get the big hit as we've witnessed in the postseason several times. However, his decline is already in motion and he probably isn't going to impact this club on the field, although he does make the clubhouse much better.

In return the Angels gave up the speedy Bourjos, who only once got a chance to play every day for them. Having elite defenders such as Mike Trout and Bourjos in the same outfield was special for the fans and pitching staff. His one year of playing every day was a success, and based on the fact he's about to turn 27, this trade won’t have a happy ending for Angels fans. In addition, the second player the Angels included in the deal, Randal Grichuk, is considered a legitimate outfield prospect and at the very least a trade chip for the Cardinals.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks trade OF Adam Eaton to the White Sox and LHP Tyler Skaggs to the Angels

This three-way deal netted Arizona power hitting left fielder Mark Trumbo and two minor leaguers. The Diamondbacks should "win" this deal in the short term and Trumbo should hit 35-40 home runs this year. Although he's a below-average defender in left field, he has been working hard and should improve now that he has only one position to worry about. His power is undeniable, but his on-base percentage is questionable. He's a No. 5- or No. 6-hole hitter as manager Kirk Gibson quickly found out this spring.

The Diamondbacks control Trumbo for three more years and will pay him $4.8 million this year; that annual salary will at the very least double over the next couple of years during his arbitration years. They would have controlled the two players they gave up, Skaggs and Eaton, for six years -- twice as long as Trumbo -- and they would not have had to pay either one significant money until 2017, when Trumbo will be a free agent.

Skaggs is only 22 years old and still profiles out to a solid No. 2 starter, and Eaton is a cross of Lenny Dykstra and Kenny Lofton. Eaton is a true leadoff hitter and a scrappy player who will become a fan favorite. As much as I love Trumbo's power, I think this deal will backfire on Arizona in the long run.

Experts overrating the Nationals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It's that time of the season again, when everybody who analyzes baseball for a living makes final predictions, right before baseball teams do their best to rip the projections into tiny little shreds.

The MLB Forecast predictions are powered by ESPN Forecast.

One of the frustrating things about being a writer with an especially nerdy secondary skill set is that going into a season, I know just how terribly off some of the team projections will be. If we knew, with perfect foresight, the exact probability of each team winning each of the 2,430 games on the schedule, on average, we'd still miss on our win projections by seven games nearly a third of the time. Math can be cruel sometimes.

It's important to note that these are mean projections, so the spread will be smaller than it will be on average. Because, after all, 30 teams aren't all going to play at exactly the level they have a 50/50 chance of meeting in any given season.

This year, ESPN's Forecaster panel picked the win totals for all 30 teams, not just the division and playoff winners. While I voted there, I did mine before the final ZiPS projections, and my opinion frequently differs from what ZiPS comes up with. Below, I'll tackle some of the teams that sparked the most disagreement between ZiPS and the panel. Also, for the panel, using the same Monte Carlo simulation, I put in the panel estimated win totals instead of ZiPS, to get estimated playoff probabilities derived from the panel projections.

You can see a full table with all of the ZiPS and Forecaster standings projections at the bottom of this piece.

Projections think Forecaster is underrating these teams

Pittsburgh Pirates

ZiPS and the panel agree that the Cardinals are the favorite to win the division, but ZiPS is more optimistic (if you're a Pirates fan) about the size of the gap between Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

St. Louis remains the team with the least downside, according to ZiPS, but Pittsburgh's upside remains intriguing, even if the Bucs weren't really as good last year as their 94-win record. If A.J. Burnett had stayed with the Pirates, that would have helped (he's better than Edinson Volquez). Also, the Pirates are waiting to bring outfielder Gregory Polanco up to the majors to preserve his major league service time; with his defensive abilities, ZiPS thinks he'd be a strong Rookie of the Year contender in a full season. Still, ZiPS sees a serious contender with no gaping hole that can't be filled.

Arizona Diamondbacks

In the NL West, ZiPS is more sold on the Diamondbacks than the Forecaster panel is. ZiPS was a fan of Didi Gregorius before last season -- I was not, ZiPS beat me there -- and is a fan of Chris Owings this year. Overall, ZiPS loves the team's depth, and with the Monte Carlo simulation varying playing time for the starters (linear algebra is involved, don't ask), that depth gives Arizona a boost in the computer's eyes.

The loss of Patrick Corbin is, of course, significant, but the Diamondbacks are better-equipped to deal with his loss than most teams would be after losing their best pitcher from the previous season. Arizona may even be able to deal with the sadly inevitable Brandon McCarthy injury, but that shouldn't keep the Snakes from adding a pitcher if they get the right deal for one of their extra shortstops.

Atlanta Braves

For most of the offseason, ZiPS has had the Nationals and Braves running neck-and-neck, and while the Braves have been hit by some injuries this spring, rumors of Atlanta's demise may be too early. The pitching situation looks bleak given the Tommy John surgeries of Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, but bringing in Ervin Santana at a hefty price did minimize some of the damage, and the Braves' options at the back end aren't really that bad.

ZiPS is bullish on Alex Wood, and on Gavin Floyd's recovery shot, and the Braves have some better than replacement options in Cody Martin, David Bromberg, and Aaron Northcraft (ZiPS is less crazy about David Hale).

The mean projection for the Braves isn't that different from the panel, but ZiPS is such a fan of the upside of the Braves young core of Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and Andrelton Simmons that the Braves have a better projected chance of hitting the 100-win mark (8.5 percent) than any other team with a mean projection under 90 wins. That's enough to put Atlanta in the positive list, even with the questions involving the starting pitching.

Projections think Forecaster is overrating these teams

Washington Nationals

The Nats have excellent front-line talent, but the team's depth isn't quite there, something that we saw last season when the bench was one of the worst in baseball. Nate McLouth improves the bench, but there are enough downside scenarios -- and enough players in the starting lineup who are injury-prone -- that ZiPS isn't as comfortable as the experts in chasing the Nats all the way above 90 wins.

St. Louis Cardinals

Once again, ZiPS gives St. Louis the title of the least-volatile team in baseball. ZiPS still sees St. Louis as not having a ton of untapped upside, but it is one of the deepest teams in baseball, so it's hard to see the team falling apart and having that dreadful season like the Red Sox did two years ago.

While the computer sees the Cards winning the division, the gap between them and the Bucs is four games fewer than our experts predict.

San Diego Padres

San Diego's playoff odds aren't impressive in either ZiPS or the estimated Forecaster odds, but as with the Mets, there's interesting potential here. The Padres have been plagued by injuries to the rotation in recent years, and if they get a little bit of luck from that front, I think we're looking at a very respectable team. After all, the team won 76 games last year with a starting rotation that combined for a 79 ERA+ (35th-worst dating back to 1950).

Now, since Josh Johnson is already injured and Joe Wieland's latest elbow problem is likely to cost him half the season, that scenario doesn't yet appear to be happening, but I'm optimistic. Call it a hunch. Can I have hunches, or are the other nerds going to give me a swirlie in the Sabermetric High School boys' bathroom? If you haven't guessed, I'm siding more with the panel on this one, which gives the Padres a roughly 1-in-5 shot at the playoffs.

Team Szymborski prefers over both panel and ZiPS

New York Mets

The Mets are one of the more interesting teams to project -- if I change the assumptions to give more playing time to Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero and Jenrry Mejia, and start swapping out Eric Young at-bats for Juan Lagares (I asked what Terry Collins would do and picked the opposite), the Mets' playoff percentage shoots up significantly.

I really like this team's future and am probably more optimistic than the average analyst on Mejia's abilities. Will the Mets challenge the Braves and Nats? Probably not, but this team has solid best-case scenarios, shinier than the average mid-70s win team.

NL East
Comparing ZiPS to NL Forecaster.

Team ZiPS
wins Forecaster
wins Diff ZiPS Playoff Forecaster Playoff Diff
WAS 90 91 -1 71.4% 74.8% -3.4%
ATL 85 86 -1 48.2% 52.6% -4.4%
NYM 75 75 0 11.1% 11.1% 0.0%
PHI 74 73 1 9.3% 9.4% -0.1%
MIA 69 69 0 2.9% 2.8% 0.1%
NL Central
Comparing ZiPS to NL Forecaster.

Team ZiPS
wins Forecaster
wins Diff ZiPS Playoff Forecaster Playoff Diff
STL 90 92 -2 67.4% 76.3% -8.9%
PIT 87 85 2 53.8% 45.3% 8.5%
CIN 84 84 0 39.5% 40.5% -1.0%
MIL 76 76 0 11.8% 12.3% -0.5%
CHC 72 69 3 5.2% 2.5% 2.7%
NL West
Comparing ZiPS to NL Forecaster.

Team ZiPS
wins Forecaster
wins Diff ZiPS Playoff Forecaster Playoff Diff
LAD 90 93 -3 67.5% 80.0% -12.5%
SF 86 84 2 49.1% 40.9% 8.2%
ARI 84 80 4 39.6% 23.9% 15.7%
SD 76 78 -2 11.6% 17.3% -5.7%
COL 76 75 1 11.7% 10.1% 1.6%

Miggy's strong Triple Crown odds.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In 1967, Carl Yastrzemski won baseball's Triple Crown, batting .326 with 44 home runs and 121 RBIs to lead the American League in all three categories. While that was considered an impressive feat at the time, it wasn't exactly a shocking one, given that Frank Robinson had just accomplished it the previous year and Triple Crown seasons by Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams weren't that far in the rearview mirror.

There were a lot of close calls, but it took 45 years for someone to take Yaz's mantle as the most recent Triple Crown winner. As 100 percent of you reading this recall, that someone was Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, who pulled off the feat in 2012.

In 2014, Cabrera -- whom our BBTN100 panel ranked as the best first baseman in the game -- has a chance to do something even rarer: win it a second time. And those chances ain't half bad.

A second Triple Crown is something only two players in baseball history have successfully accomplished, Williams and Rogers Hornsby. You may have heard of those guys; they were pretty good.

Cabrera is also pretty good, but a Triple Crown requires more than simply being one of the best players in the league. It requires a favorable set of circumstances. The competition has to be beatable on all three fronts. You can lead the league in home runs and runs batted in, but if you're up against Ichiro Suzuki in one of the years he hits .350, you're likely going to fall short.

What does ZiPS say?
According to the ZiPS projection system, Cabrera will lead the AL in two of the three necessary categories, batting average and RBIs. In those categories, he benefits by some of the usual suspects being not quite as dangerous as they used to be. Albert Pujols, second among active players in career batting average, has fallen off considerably from his peak years. Derek Jeter is at the end of his career, Adrian Beltre is 35 years old, and Robinson Cano, moving to Safeco Field, is in a tough place to generate a high batting average. With a healthy 17-point projection over Mike Trout, Cabrera is given a 40 percent chance at leading the league in batting average.

The story is similar when it comes to homers and RBIs. Only two players, Chris Davis and Prince Fielder, are projected to finish within 20 RBIs or 10 home runs of Cabrera.

Using one of my favorite bits of nerd equipment -- the Monte Carlo simulator -- I ran the 2014 season (based on the projections) 1 million times and Cabrera won the AL Triple Crown 14.1 percent of the time.

Preseason Triple Crown odds, 1968-2014
Player Year % chance
Miguel Cabrera 2014 14.1
Albert Pujols 2005 13.4
Albert Pujols 2004 11.2
Miguel Cabrera 2013 10.6
Barry Bonds 1994 10.2
Albert Pujols 2006 9.9
Jim Rice 1979 9.5
Ryan Braun 2013 9.4
Don Mattingly 1987 8.8
Frank Thomas 1995 7.7
Jim Rice 1980 5.9
Todd Helton 2002 5.3
Jim Rice 1978 4.5
Frank Robinson 1968 4.4
Frank Thomas 1996 4.3
How significant is this? Given that the Triple Crown has been achieved once in the past 46 years, those seem like some pretty strong odds. To answer this question, using ZiPS going back to 2004 and Tom Tango's Marcel projections for the 1968 to 2003 seasons, I ran the probabilities for each league, the results of which can be seen in the table to the right.

As you may have guessed, the probability for any individual player leading in all three categories is quite low. The 15 players listed in the table are the only guys since Yaz who entered the season at better than 1-in-25 odds (4 percent) to win the Triple Crown, and Cabrera's 2014 comes out as the most likely Triple Crown of the group.

Pujols and Jim Rice had the longest sustained periods in which they had a realistic possibility, both ahead of those 1-in-25 odds in three consecutive seasons during their peaks. Both did in fact make serious runs, Rice missing in 1978 thanks to hitting .270 in September (while Rod Carew hit .330 that month) and Pujols making it close a few times.

How about a Quadruple Crown?
Adding runs scored, making it a Quadruple Crown, is also in the realm of possibility for Cabrera. There, he needs a bit of help, with Trout being extremely difficult to dethrone after leading the league the past two years and the possibility of some kind of rebound from Pujols and Josh Hamilton. ZiPS forecasts around a 2 percent chance of a Cabrera Quadruple Crown.

Cabrera also has realistic hopes of winning the Triple Crown for all of Major League Baseball, something that he didn't manage in 2012; neither did Yastrzemski nor Robinson, the last such season being Mantle's 1956. While a projected probability of 1.4 percent does make this an unlikely occurrence, in the realm of likelihood, that's much closer to "Ichiro hits a home run in a given at-bat" than it is to "Earth collides with the sun" or "Yuniesky Betancourt is a smart signing."

One of the things that great players do is make amazing achievements -- such as the Triple Crown -- seem almost easy. Cabrera performed that feat once, making one of baseball's most elusive accomplishments seem like just another day at the office. In 2014, the numbers tell us that he has a relatively strong shot to do it again.

Trades that should still happen.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With a week to go before Opening Day, several contenders still have glaring weaknesses that can, and should, be addressed via trade. Today, let's look at a few deals that should get done before the season gets underway.
Chicago Cubs give up: RHP Jeff Samardzija
Arizona Diamondbacks send back: SS Didi Gregorius, RHP Randall Delgado and RHP David Hernandez

The D-backs spent the entire winter looking for an ace before settling for Bronson Arroyo as their primary pitching upgrade, but the loss of Patrick Corbin to season-ending surgery once again has GM Kevin Towers looking for an impact starting pitcher. No available pitcher would make a bigger impact on Arizona's rotation than Samardzija, and this is the kind of deal that could help both teams.

The D-backs would get a legitimate front-line guy, the kind of arm they could throw in a play-in game, should they qualify for one of the NL's two wild-card spots. Samardzija's 4.34 ERA in 2013 is not at all indicative of his talent, and you should expect a performance closer to his 3.45 xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) instead. He's the kind of arm that the D-backs have coveted all winter, and with Gregorius seemingly out of a job in Arizona, this trade would upgrade the D-backs rotation without taking anyone out of their starting lineup.

For the Cubs, this trade would just be about extracting value from a seller's market. While they might not have a pressing need for a shortstop, Gregorius could slide over to second base for a season while the Cubs let him prove that he can hit big league pitching well enough to be another team's every-day shortstop. With a solid offensive performance, the Cubs could shop him as a legitimate young shortstop either at the trade deadline or next winter and likely get more in return than they will trying to trade an impending free agent in Samardzija.

In addition to picking up an asset with the ability to increase his own value, they'd also collect value in Delgado and Hernandez and likely come out ahead over trying to deal Samardzija at the deadline.

Chicago Cubs give up: OF Nate Schierholtz and 2B/SS Darwin Barney
Detroit Tigers send back: 2B Devon Travis

The acquisition of Gregorius makes Barney expandable, and the Cubs could then create a package deal that would solve two of the Tigers' more pressing issues. Schierholtz would slide into the role that was to be filled by Andy Dirks -- who is out for at least a couple of months with a back injury -- forming another solid platoon with Rajai Davis in left field, while Barney could slide into the Tigers' open shortstop position and provide defensive stability and roughly as much offense as the team could have expected from Jose Iglesias.

While Barney has played second base almost exclusively in Chicago, his defensive ratings suggest that he could hold his own at shortstop, at least in the short term. With Iglesias expected back in 2015, the Tigers don't need a long-term answer or a multiyear commitment, and Barney could be a solid one-year replacement who could also be a quality utility player for 2015.

The low cost of acquisition -- Travis hit well in Class A last season, but, as a diminutive second baseman, his upside is limited and he has no place to play in Detroit -- makes this the kind of move general manager Dave Dombrowski should pursue.

For the Cubs, Travis' potential offensive value is worth betting on, and neither Schierholtz nor Barney are part of the next good team in Wrigley. Turning a couple of solid role players into a prospect with some offensive potential is the kind of move that the Cubs should be aggressive in making.

And if the Cubs want an arm instead -- they do have their fair share of infield prospects -- they could shoot for any number of arms in the Tigers' system, such as Jake Thompson or Corey Knebel.

New York Mets give up: 1B Ike Davis
Houston Astros send back: LHP Dallas Keuchel

It feels like the Mets have been shopping Ike since the Eisenhower administration, so let's go ahead and just end the interminable wait and ship Davis to a team that could use him. The Astros' first-base competition includes a few names that sound like they were made up in witness protection, and Davis could potentially be their best hitter, even if that is damning with faint praise.

The Astros are in a position to bet on Davis' upside, and they certainly don't have any better alternatives until prospect Jonathan Singleton is ready. Even when he is, either he or Davis could be an option at DH.

Keuchel isn't anything particularly special -- as a soft-tossing lefty with minimal potential -- but he's also not Daisuke Matsuzaka. Even as a marginal back-end starter, he'll at least make Mets games far more watchable, as he's averaged a full three seconds less between pitches than Dice-K.

Literally swapping out Matsuzaka for Keuchel could shave five minutes of agony off of every fifth Mets game, even if he's not any better. If he does improve -- his 3.58 xFIP in 2013 suggests there's some talent there -- the Mets might actually even find a decent pitcher for the next few seasons.

Soria easy choice over Feliz as closer.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- I'm leaving Arizona on Monday to head home, so here's the last two days' worth of notes on players I saw over the weekend.

• Texas lefty Joe Saunders showed virtually no ability to get major league hitters out, but reliever Neftali Feliz came in after and wasn't a whole lot better. Worse, Feliz seemed totally disinterested in the whole "pitching" part of his day.

Feliz's fastball was 89-91 mph with good tailing life, but that's way below his old velocity, although he also didn't seem to be putting any effort into it. He threw a handful of changeups anywhere from 83-87, using them in different counts and to right- and left-handed hitters, plus a pair of sliders at 77 and 79, better than a "show-me" pitch but not a swing-and-miss pitch either. The Rangers' decision to make Joakim Soria the closer probably reflects this new, reduced version of Feliz; I don't know if he's got more velocity in there when he puts more effort into pitching, but it seems he left the plus-plus fastball on the operating table.

• The Padres acquired lefty Alex Torres in a seven-player deal with Tampa Bay this offseason, and have at least explored the idea of making Torres a starter, but I think he's in the ideal role now, a view reinforced by what I saw Sunday.

Torres was 90-92 in relief of prospect Matt Wisler, facing five batters and striking out three of them, all on fastballs. His changeup is his best pitch, 83-85 and around the plate, and he threw one fringy slider at 85 as well. However, he made one of the worst non-Saunders pitches of the day, throwing a 2-0 fastball right down the middle to right-handed hitter Michael Choice, who did Torres a favor by only hitting it for a two-run double rather than hitting it out to Bell Road. His fastball doesn't have much life and he doesn't throw it hard enough to compensate for that, especially not if he were to start and having to turn a lineup over three times. He's a very good one-inning reliever, but I think that's all he's going to be.

• Matt Wisler started for the Padres and looked great through six batters, establishing both his two- and four-seam fastballs early, retiring the first five batters before a comically bad misplay in left field cost him the last out of the second inning. After that point, it seemed as if the Rangers were ready for his fastball, as they began to make more and more solid contact against him, and he couldn't make the in-game adjustment to work more with his slider and changeup.

Wisler showed both varieties of fastball, 91-94 on the four-seamer and 90-92 on the two-seamer, trying to keep the ball down but losing some of that plane when he had to work from the stretch. He worked to establish the fastball early in the game, throwing almost exclusively fastballs until the middle of the second, after which he started throwing an above-average slider at 78-82 mph. He threw one changeup in the first two innings, showing good action on the pitch but deferring to the slider even in typical changeup situations (e.g., ahead in the count to a left-handed batter).

Wisler's arm is extremely quick, but he accelerates it late, and it looks as though he might be generating most of that power from his upper half. His stride isn't long, and he's a little too upright at his finish, although he still manages to keep a lot of his fastballs down and has good bite on the slider. He probably has the stuff right now to get big league hitters out, but the delivery might hold back his command, and it was hard to watch him fail to adjust once the Rangers started squaring up his fastball, so perhaps he's not ready to fill a vacant spot in the Padres' rotation.

• On Saturday, I dropped by the Los Angeles Angels' minor league camp to check out their second-tier arms, including reliever Cam Bedrosian, who was up to 96 with his fastball and complements it with an above-average curveball. Kyle McGowin, their fifth-round pick last year from Savannah State, was mostly 90-91 (but as low as 88) with some glove-side run and showed an above-average slider at 78-79. The Angels are pretty excited about his progress, but I'd like to see a better changeup than he threw in that outing.

Their fourth-round pick, Elliot Morris, rebounded from taking a line drive off his head in a previous outing to show late-game reliever stuff, a 92-96 mph fastball with some sink and an average slider at 82-83. His delivery is rough, maximum effort with some head violence and a hard landing, but this could be premium stuff for a one-inning guy. Angels staffers at the game told me Morris hadn't shown this good a slider previously in camp, so this was very promising.

I also got a fresh look at shortstop Jose Rondon, my No. 5 prospect for the Angels in 2014 and my sleeper prospect for their system heading into 2013. He has gotten stronger but still looks like a long-term shortstop with the same great hand-eye coordination I'd seen from him in the past. He might skip low-A and go right to the California League, as he seems to be a pretty polished hitter. This would allow another of their shortstops, Erick Salcedo, to play every day in low-A while one of their July 2 signings from last year, Venezuelan shortstop Franklin Torres, stays behind in extended spring training. I only caught a brief glimpse of Torres -- enough to say that he looks really young and the ball comes off his bat pretty well, better than you'd expect from a $95,000 bonus baby.

Scouting Zastryzny, other Cubs prospects.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Two days watching Chicago Cubs prospects beyond the Big Four -- Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora -- didn't yield a ton of positive observations, but here are my thoughts on three of the most notable names:

• The Cubs' second-round pick from 2013, University of Missouri lefty Rob Zastryzny, was the first of seven college pitchers the team took in the top 10 rounds, and the one with the best chance of the group to profile as a starting pitcher in the majors. On Friday, he looked like a back-end guy between a mostly average fastball and the lack of a quality breaking ball.

Zastryzny threw four fairly efficient innings, sitting mostly 88-92 mph, touching 93 once that I saw, and showing a solid-average changeup at 80-81 with significant tumble to it. He had very little feel for a mid-70s curveball, throwing some traditional two-planers, some that looked like failed spikes, and a few where he dropped down as if he was trying to force tilt on a slider. Some of that might have been planned -- he could really use a weapon to get lefties out -- but the knock on him as an amateur was that he lacked a plus pitch, something that is still true today.

Zastryzny doesn't get a lot of help in that regard from his delivery, one that's mostly clean but doesn't generate a lot of power, especially since he barely rotates his hips. He lands on his front heel first -- I don't know if that's bad in any way, just unusual -- and his arm is definitely late relative to when he gets that lead foot down. He appears to be pretty flexible and gets way out over that front side at release. I could see him surfacing as a fifth starter because he throws strikes and can change speeds, but to be more than that he'll need a swing-and-miss offering.

• The Cubs paid Taiwanese RHP Jen-Ho Tseng last July for $1.625 million, a dubious investment to begin with given the track record of Taiwanese arms, but one that looks even more questionable now given how ordinary his stuff and arm speed are. Note: Of the five Taiwanese pitchers who signed for the highest bonuses with MLB clubs as amateurs, three blew out their arms at least once after signing, one hurt his shoulder and was done after a single season, and the last, Ching-Lung Lo, lost 5 to 7 mph off his fastball without suffering a catastrophic arm injury. Taiwanese teenagers pitch far more than their U.S.-born counterparts, and throw more breaking stuff, so it's not terribly surprising that their track record here isn't very good.

Tseng threw Friday and was 89-92 with little life, flashing an 89-90 mph sinker as well that was probably the better weapon for him. He threw two breaking balls, a pretty but slow curveball with two-plane break but very soft rotation at 73-76 mph and a short slider at 84-85 that moved like a cutter without the benefit of cutter velocity. His arm wasn't quick at all, and at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, he doesn't offer any kind of projection. Like Zastryzny, Tseng might have a little more in the tank once we get into the regular season, but I couldn't write him up as a future starter.

• I saw parts of two games involving Eloy Jimenez, and the main observation I can offer is that he is going to be a very, very large man when he grows up. Already 6-foot-4, 200 pounds when he signed last summer for just over $3 million (cash plus a college scholarship), Jimenez has the frame to end up an absolute beast, maybe bigger than system-mate Soler.

Now 17 years and just shy of four months old, Jimenez has a flat swing and he drags the bat head through the zone, loading pretty deep and maybe not having the hand and wrist strength yet to generate plus bat speed and make hard contact against better stuff. He's going to be strong, and big, so I'm not worried about him developing stronger hands, but a guy this size should probably have a little more loft in his finish.

Julio Urias showing big league stuff.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Though only 17 years old until August, Julio Urias was my No. 14 prospect coming into 2014 and he’s already showing big league stuff. He performed very well in a brief stint in the low Class A Midwest League last year and threw an inning for the Dodgers on Saturday. He then came back with a crisp three-inning outing on Wednesday in an A-ball game against the Cubs' high Class A roster.

Urias was 91-95 mph with his fastballs, showing good life on a two-seamer and a lot of confidence in the four-seamer, running it in to a right-handed batter for a strikeout when the hitter was probably looking for off-speed. Urias didn't throw his curveball, but threw some very sharp sliders anywhere from 81-86, tending toward the top end of the range for right-handed batters. His changeup was at least solid-average, 81-84 with a little action, relying more on deception and his ability to control the pitch.

Urias' delivery is very clean and simple, with a good stride, plenty of hip rotation, a clean arm swing and a landing that puts him online to the plate. There's a little deception in his delivery, but most of his swings and misses will be from the quality and diversity of his pitches, not from hitters failing to pick up the ball. His body is mature, thick but not fat in any way, and he's every bit of 5-foot-11 (although his listed weight of 160 pounds is a little optimistic). While the ptosis in his left eye may have scared teams away from him when he was an amateur, the issue is a cosmetic one and the Dodgers are going to reap the rewards from seeing past that superficial problem.

• The Dodgers' eighth-round pick from last year's draft, University of Georgia shortstop Kyle Farmer, is now a full-time catcher and the early returns are promising. Farmer receives very well for a player who's less than 12 months into his tenure at the position, having little trouble with velocity or balls in the dirt over the two games I saw. He only struggled when the occasional ball was fouled straight back at him -- and even that hardly bears mentioning.

He's got at least an average arm, 1.98 seconds to 2.05 down to second base when I saw him, although I have other reports of throws below that range that would put him comfortably above average. At the plate, his swing is sound but his bat speed was below average -- he has a good feel to hit, but I worry that better fastballs will blow by him. There's backup catcher potential here, most likely, which would be a solid return for a pick in that round.

• I got a very brief look at Padres' farmhand Franchy Cordero this week, three swings and a few innings at shortstop. The 19-year-old is going to be huge, big enough that it's hard to imagine him staying at short, and although his swing is a little long his approach overall is quiet. He homered on the last swing I saw, going to the opposite field even though he seemed to be slightly fooled on the pitch, testament to how strong his wrists and hands are. My gut reaction was that he's probably not a very polished hitter, but the frame points to a lot of future power and the quiet approach may help him succeed even if his pitch recognition and/or plate discipline aren't great yet.

• On Sunday, I saw Milwaukee right-hander Devon Williams make his first start of the spring, a scheduled two-inning outing that fell a little short when he hit his pitch limit before recording six outs. Williams, the team's second-rounder and first overall pick in 2013, was 88-92 and aggressive with the fastball, just working a little below his velocity from last spring and summer but with lots of room to fill out. His breaking ball is still a work in progress; he threw a number of off-speed pitches, one clear slider at 76 with good tilt, a few changeups in the 83-85 range that were OK and a lot of mediocre slider/cutter things in the low 80s that just didn't work.

He's a long-term play, a great body with a delivery that really works well start-to-finish and the potential for future plus velocity. However, he might be best served by spending 2014 in extended spring and short-season ball rather than rushing to the low Class A Midwest League right away.

Yasiel Puig issues are no myth.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
We aim to dispel a handful of myths today. Let's get to it.

Myth No. 1: Controversy swirls around Yasiel Puig because a stodgy media picks on him.

The reality: Controversy swirls around Puig because the media's coverage of him reflects the internal view of a whole lot of folks in the Dodgers organization, and that view is that the right fielder makes too many mistakes.

The team loves his energy, loves his talent and -- at the same time -- there is a growing exasperation among some teammates and members of the front office and staff that he makes the same mistakes over and over again, whether it be in his punctuality or with baserunning. No one is out to get him; no one is trying to repress him; no one is trying to make him look bad. They just want him to take care of business.

As Ramona Shelburne writes, Don Mattingly held a team meeting Tuesday to clear the air with Puig, to wipe the slate clean. Mattingly wouldn't do this if he only thought that a couple of sports writers were being unfair.

And while Mattingly retreated from his comments made in Australia in the past couple of days, it's worth remembering that he played his entire career in New York and dealt with the media a whole lot. He understands how to get a message across through reporters. He made his concerns known with sarcasm -- which, again, reflect the concerns of a whole lot of other folks with the Dodgers who aren't going on the record. In the past week, Mattingly has played both the good cop and bad cop roles, perhaps because some of his players (particularly those who speak only English) aren't comfortable telling Puig directly how they feel. This is what the team meeting was for -- to create an open forum. It's a great sign that Puig welcomed the feedback in the way he did.

If he makes the changes some of his teammates want him to make, they'll respect him like crazy for that. If he doesn't, the exasperation will grow.

Myth No. 2: The players' association has been forced into concessions to make the drug-testing penalties tougher.

The reality: The union has been leading the fight to give baseball the toughest program in professional sports. No change can happen without the union’s approval, and after the Biogenesis scandal erupted last summer, players were furious that some of their peers were basically trying to cheat them. Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and others were really no different from someone sticking aces up their sleeve in a neighborhood card game.

So the union has worked to identify a penalty system they believe will serve as a proper deterrent, without going too far. The latest version is 100 games on a first positive test, a full season on a second positive test.

If the cheating persists, the penalties will be ramped up again -- and it will be the union that makes it happen.

Myth No. 3: Stephen Strasburg had a bad season in 2013.

The reality: He had a pretty good season, with an ERA of 3.00, generating an opponents’ OPS of .588, sixth-best in the majors, and 191 strikeouts in 183 innings. He had 16 starts in which he went at least seven innings. But he was pitching with bone chips in his elbow, and while pitching repeatedly in close games created by the Nationals' sporadic offense, he wasn’t as successful as he wanted to be.

He had the bone chips removed in the offseason. He added a slider. He decided to focus on slowing the running game. He became a dad.

Strasburg looks like he could be poised for a dominant season.

Myth No. 4: The replay system is all set and ready to go.

The reality: The 2014 season will be filled with a whole lot of trial and error -- and not just in the calls.
MLB Replay
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
MLB's replay system will have its ups and downs early on.

Managers and coaches are privately concerned that they really haven’t had an opportunity to practice the process -- how the play will be reviewed internally, with someone anointed by the team looking at video and then communicating with the dugout that the call may have been missed, and then the manager discussing that with the umpire. Because the technology wasn’t available in spring training, or before spring training, managers -- and umpires, for that matter -- really will be in the early stages of testing the new challenge system as the season begins.

Privately, managers note there is a whole lot of gray area within the challenge system that they will work to exploit, and a whole lot of gray area that could be interpreted differently from umpire to umpire.

For example: Challenges are supposed to be made within a "timely" fashion. What does that mean? Will Angel Hernandez view "timely" differently than Greg Gibson will?

It was good that Major League Baseball acknowledged that replay is a work in progress from the outset, which should make it easier for MLB officials to embrace the exposure and discussion of the flaws as constructive criticism.

Richard Sandomir writes here about how the system will work. From his story:
A manager must leave the dugout and tell the umpire he is challenging a call. He cannot yell his request from the dugout. He cannot throw a flag or sunflower seeds. He can also argue a play but must answer if an umpire asks, "Are you making a challenge or not, buddy?"

Each manager gets one challenge a game, but if he is correct, he gets another. He must specify to the umpire exactly what he is challenging and can ask that more than one element of a play be reviewed.

There are long lists of what can or cannot be challenged. Force plays, tag plays, ground-rule doubles, hit by pitches and fan interference are on the roster of challengeable situations.

But balks, foul tips, balls and strikes, and the so-called neighborhood play at second base during a double-play attempt are on an even lengthier list of plays that cannot be challenged.

During the testing of the system in spring training -- which involved broadcast trucks outside each ballpark, not the Manhattan operations center -- 61 plays had been reviewed and 11 had been overturned, through Tuesday. Forty-nine of the reviews came from managers' challenges; the other 12 were initiated by the umpires' crew chief (which can happen only from the seventh inning on).

Baseball officials expect that force plays and tag plays will be the largest segment of challenges.

Joe Torre, the former Yankees manager who is now M.L.B.’s executive vice president for baseball operations, said the system was intended to preserve the "instinctive" desire of managers to dispute a call while providing a remedy to reverse incorrect calls that in the past could not be.

"There may be a bang-bang play where the manager will argue, and defend his player, but it doesn’t mean he’ll challenge," he said.

Myth No. 5: Justin Verlander is a pitcher in regression.

The reality: He doesn’t appear to have reached the downslope of his career yet. Verlander had his struggles in 2013, with some diminishment in his velocity, but all along he felt this was related to a flaw in his mechanics -- and he showed that in the postseason with three dominant starts, in which he allowed one run in 23 innings, with 10 hits, 3 walks and 31 strikeouts. This spring, he hasn’t allowed a single run, in 20 innings, with just 8 hits and 5 walks.

Verlander looks tremendous, and had another dominant outing Wednesday.


• Clayton Kershaw is hurt, but hopes his injury will cost him only one start.

• If Jon Lester is going to get a contract extension, it will be because he makes it happen, in the way that Dustin Pedroia made it happen last summer in his negotiations.

Like Max Scherzer, Lester has a choice: Does he want to make a whole lot of money knowing that he will pitch in a place he likes for the foreseeable future, or would he prefer to take a chance to make even more money, while embracing a summer of risk and the real possibility he will wind up elsewhere?

Lester is getting the ball on Opening Day. Lester acknowledges it would have been tough to turn down the deal that Scherzer turned down.

• Six weeks ago, Tanner Scheppers was a long shot candidate to make the Rangers' rotation. Now he's pitching on Opening Day for them. Nick Martinez will be the No. 5 starter, Robbie Ross is at No. 3.

The Rangers claimed Donnie Murphy on waivers, cut Tommy Hanson and agreed to terms with Scott Baker.

There is some good news: Colby Lewis is making progress.

• Salvador Perez, who hit Aroldis Chapman with a line drive last week, was hit in the head with a pitch Wednesday.

• Bryce Harper's guide to healthy living, courtesy of Adam Kilgore.

• Francisco Cervelli locked up the backup catcher role for the Yankees, who have a wealth of catching options. This should not be easily squandered, because in recent years, the teams perceived to have a similar situation -- the Rangers among them -- have seen it change rapidly.

The fight for jobs

• The Mets must choose between Eric Young Jr. and Juan Lagares, writes Tim Rohan.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Pirates have two-thirds of their outfield locked up in long-term contracts. This brightens the outlook for the Pirates, writes Ron Cook.

2. Erasmo Ramirez was penciled in as the Mariners' No. 2 starter.

3. The fact that the Red Sox are using Daniel Nava in center field suggests they are preparing for the possibility -- the possibility -- that they will open the season with Grady Sizemore as the everyday center fielder and Jackie Bradley Jr. in the minors, with Nava set to fill in when needed.

4. The Cardinals picked up David Aardsma, a sign they know they need bullpen insurance.

5. The Reds have yet to name an Opening Day starter.

6. The White Sox claimed a reliever on waivers.

7. Paul Konerko may not be in the starting lineup for his last Opening Day.

8. Robbie Grossman will be the No. 2 hitter in the Houston lineup, writes Evan Drellich.

9. The Angels cut Joe Blanton, and GM Jerry Dipoto took full responsibility for the decision to sign him.

Dings and dents

1. Francisco Liriano threw off the mound with no issues.

2. Jean Segura is still a question mark for Opening Day.

3. Nolan Reimold will open the season on the disabled list.

4. Louis Coleman may start the year on the disabled list.

5. Gordon Beckham and Jeff Keppinger will open the season on the disabled list.

6. Byron Buxton will open the season on the disabled list.

7. Joe Wieland will play catch in six weeks.

8. Jeremy Affeldt and Marco Scutaro will begin the season on the disabled list, writes Alex Pavlovic.

Wednesday’s games

1. Cliff Lee put on a pitching show.

2. Miguel Gonzalez struggled.

3. Adam Wainwright looked great, again.

4. Justin Masterson had a good day.

5. The Astros closed out spring training with a win.

6. Jorge De La Rosa looked good.

AL East

• Derek Jeter is finding his form at the plate, writes Mark Feinsand.

• Perseverance has paid off for the Blue Jays' Dustin McGowan.

• Anthony Gose has one last chance, Richard Griffin writes.

• Josh Lueke believes he's ready for the show, writes Roger Mooney.

• Logan Forsythe brings a blue-collar approach to his job, as Joe Smith writes.

AL Central

• Bruce Rondon will be missed in the Detroit bullpen, writes Lynn Henning.

• Michael Brantley has had a great spring.

• The Twins need somebody to take a step forward, as assistant GM Rob Antony says.

• Ownership is not to blame for the Twins' many woes.

AL West

• Brandon Moss doesn’t stop talking, writes Susan Slusser.

• Josh Reddick feels healthy and productive.

NL East

• Nate Eovaldi is ready to go as the Marlins' No. 2 starter.

• Having Ike Davis and Lucas Duda on the same roster will be tough to manage for the Mets, writes Joel Sherman.

• A weak division helps the Braves, writes Mark Bradley.

NL Central

• Ramon Santiago is the Reds' backup shortstop.

• Nyjer Morgan fondly remembers 2011.

NL West

• Brandon McCarthy has been tabbed to start in the home opener for Arizona.

• **** Monfort believes the Rockies can win 90 games.

• Josh Byrnes talked about the state of the Padres.

Behind the Sizemore vs. Bradley decision.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Compared with the choices of desperation being made in the camps of the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves, the Red Sox's outfield quandary is like picking between Hawaii and the Bahamas for a vacation spot. Texas would love to have Boston's troubles.

But Boston's decision about what to do with Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. has been complicated, presenting competing sets of priorities.

Sizemore has looked great this spring, after having just 435 plate appearances over the last five years. If the question was only about who is Boston's best center fielder today, Sizemore would be the choice, given the way he has looked this spring. It appears that may be the way the Red Sox are leaning, based on what manager John Farrell said Tuesday.

But Bradley, who turns 24 next month, is clearly the center fielder of the future for the Red Sox, having demonstrated his superlative defensive skills in the minors, having shown his knack for getting on base year after year (career .404 OBP in the minors). If the decision was only about the long-term plans for the Red Sox, Bradley would be the center fielder.

So Red Sox evaluators have been weighing the various options they have at their disposal. They could pick Sizemore, but then would have to trust that he would be OK to play center field regularly, without the sort of breakdowns that have been commonplace for him -- which is why they have talked about having him be part of some sort of extended spring program, to continue to build the foundation of an ability to play every day. They have talked about having him open the season in the minors, to get more at-bats. In these scenarios, of course, Bradley would be the every-day center fielder at the outset of the season, which was Boston's winter plan when Jacoby Ellsbury departed via free agency.

But rival scouts believe that Sizemore has shown himself to be the superior player at this moment, and one evaluator with another team gave voice to another line of thought the Red Sox could take when it comes to Sizemore: "If he looks that good now, I'd ride that horse until he dropped." In other words, there's no telling how long Sizemore will last, or whether he'll hold up, so why not just play him until he proves he can't handle it?

If Boston chooses to do that, Bradley would likely open the season in the minors, because the Red Sox don't really have comfortable room to carry both unless an injury develops (such as Shane Victorino's rib cage discomfort). They have Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp already.

But if Sizemore is the center fielder and has the sort of small nagging injury that forces him to sit out, they don't want to have to shift Victorino out of right field, where he proved himself to be Boston's best at that difficult position since Dwight Evans.

And the Red Sox probably don't want to carry both Sizemore and Bradley, because that would mean that unless Victorino was hurt, Bradley wouldn't be playing every day, something he needs to do at this stage of his career, whether it's in the majors or the minors.

They could open more playing time for Sizemore and Bradley by trading one of their other veterans, with Carp being the most likely candidate for a deal. But Carp was extremely valuable for Boston last season; the Red Sox don't really have a glaring need, and Carp might not bring a lot of return, anyway. This early in the season, the Red Sox would probably be inclined not to cut into their own depth.

What do you think the Red Sox should do?

Sizemore's play has him front and center for the Red Sox, writes Peter Abraham. Rocco Baldelli understands the challenge that Sizemore faces, writes Scott Lauber.

Victorino sat out Tuesday's game.

Around the league

• Major League Baseball hopes for a new drug deal this week. The key concession could be made by MLB, in creating some sort of a protection in those cases when the use of a PED was clearly inadvertent -- something that was really important to the union. From Ron Blum's AP story:
Many players have advocated stiffer penalties as a deterrent. Arizona pitcher Brad Ziegler spoke out after Jhonny Peralta, who served a 50-game suspension, agreed in November to a $53 million, four-year contract with St. Louis.

"We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously it's not. So we are working on it again," he tweeted then. "It pays to cheat ... Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use."

Some players said suspensions should lead to larger monetary losses. San Diego Padres outfielder Will Venable maintained last summer "somehow having to forfeit or void your contract that you're under is something that needs to be the main focus of the penalties."

But for the majority of players, that would go too far.

"I'd venture to guess that even though there are concerns on a number of levels, that we will never end up in a world where player contracts are voided as a result," Clark told the AP during a January interview.

Addressing positives caused by inadvertent use was a factor in the talks.

Philadelphia infielder Freddy Galvis was suspended for 50 games in June 2012 for a Clostebol Metabolite, which he later claimed was contained in a foot cream he used. Reliever Guillermo Mota, then with San Francisco, was suspended for 100 games in May 2012 after taking a cough syrup with Clenbuterol.

The players have been loud and mostly united since the Biogenesis scandal broke last summer in their collective call for tougher penalties, which could not happen without their consent.

• The Dodgers supplanted the Yankees as baseball's biggest-spending team.

• Texas GM Jon Daniels is dealing with the holes created by the tsunami of injuries that has hit the Rangers' camp this spring. "You don't want to get tested right out of the gate," the Texas GM said Tuesday morning, "but that's where we are."

Today, the Rangers will learn more about the severity of the injury to Yu Darvish. Daniels' inclination is to believe that Darvish will be OK, and will make his first start in the first turn through the Texas rotation -- although Opening Day has been ruled out. But Daniels added that Darvish hasn't responded to treatment since his problem popped up last week, which is why he has been sent to see a specialist.

So the Rangers are scrambling to plug holes as best they can, with the pricier fixes off the table. Stephen Drew, a middle infielder who could theoretically help the Rangers at second base or shortstop with Jurickson Profar out for a couple of months, is not an option. Darwin Barney is available, and Texas checked in on Francisco Cervelli to fill in for the injured Geovany Soto, but it's unclear whether Texas would offer either the Cubs or the Yankees enough to interest them.

It may be that the Rangers will just try to grab the most useful players who are cut free through roster moves in the days ahead, as the Yankees did late in last year's spring training.

There is help on the way. Derek Holland could be ahead of the original projection that he would be back at the All-Star break, and the Rangers are hopeful that Matt Harrison will return not long after the season begins. "It's a long season," said Daniels, noting that nothing is decided early.

Thirteen of the Rangers' first 41 games are against the Astros and Mariners, and this could help Texas tread water in the early part of the season. In the articles we posted last month, the Rangers' early-season schedule was rated 10th among 15 teams in its difficulty (No. 1 is toughest, No. 15 is easiest).

Here's the AL early-season strength of schedule (bad news for the Twins).

The NL early-season strength of schedule (bad news for the Cubs).

The Rangers' season could be headed for an early grave if Darvish is seriously hurt, writes Jeff Wilson.

Martin Perez or Tanner Scheppers will start on Opening Day for the Rangers, writes Evan Grant. Not Darvish. Not Derek Holland. Not Matt Harrison. Astounding.

• On the Tuesday podcast, Jerry Crasnick and I previewed the AL Central -- we both have the Royals getting into the playoffs. And Richard Durrett discusses the early challenges for the Texas Rangers.

• The Braves are leaning toward using Chris Johnson as their cleanup hitter.

• Here's a Q&A with GM Ruben Amaro on the state of the Phillies; he says there might have to be a disaster plan.

• Stephen Strasburg finished a strong spring. I'd bet he's going to have a big year.

• Randy Wolf is not happy with the Mariners after what he says they asked him to do. He refused to sign a probationary clause.

The fight for jobs

1. Michael Pineda won the No. 5 spot in the Yankees' rotation.

2. John McDonald won a spot on the Angels' roster.

3. Carlos Santana was named the third baseman for the Indians, with Lonnie Chisenhall winning a spot on the roster. The guess here is that Chisenhall will play a fair amount, finishing games at third when the Indians have a lead and perhaps starting when ground-baller Justin Masterson starts.

4. Aaron Barrett won a job in the Washington bullpen.

5. Kyle Gibson is in the lead for the No. 5 spot in the Minnesota rotation.

6. Andrew Lambo, who had gotten a shot to be the Pittsburgh first baseman, was sent to the minors. Travis Ishikawa and Gaby Sanchez will open with Pittsburgh.

7. The Phillies worked out an arrangement to give Bobby Abreu more time.

8. A Met has a chance to make the team after years in the minors.

9. Peter Bourjos could be the Cardinals' center fielder.

10. Roster moves loom for the Cubs, writes Mark Gonzales.

11. Yasmani Grandal's hard work could win him a spot on the Padres' Opening Day roster, writes Corey Brock.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Braves named Aaron Harang as the starter for their home opener.

2. The Nats cut reliever Mike Gonzalez and infielder Jamey Carroll, along with others.

3. The Royals added a reliever.

4. It looks like Bud Norris will be the No. 3 or No. 4 starter for the Orioles. I don't think those designations mean less in any other organization, given how Buck Showalter will stay flexible in his management of the rotation.

5. The Rays appeared to set their 25-man roster, writes Marc Topkin.

Dings and dents

1. Freddy Galvis says he's getting better.

2. Cory Gearrin sprained his elbow. We were watching on set when this happened and it did not look good.

3. Yasiel Puig is getting treatment on his sore back. From Bill Plunkett's story:
"Tomorrow, I'm working out and I'm playing (in the Freeway Series against the Angels)," Puig said through a translator, brushing off questions about the back pain and dismissing it as "not enough for it to affect me."

Puig walked away at that point, leaving no chance to ask him about the coincidence of Mattingly's on-field absence at the start of the workout. Mattingly was on the field when the workout started, but then disappeared into the clubhouse and didn't rejoin the team on the field for nearly an hour.

Mattingly spent at least part of that time meeting with Puig. Mattingly would not say what was discussed but there were obvious possibilities.

Mattingly was frustrated with a sloppy finish (particularly by the bullpen) to the second victory in Australia and Puig's poor baserunning was part of that.

But this time, it might have been Mattingly who had to explain himself to Puig during their meeting. Mattingly had some odd answers to questions about Puig's back issues in Australia.
Before the second game, Mattingly referenced the "boy who cried wolf" when talking about Puig's physical issues – comments Mattingly explained Tuesday as "really playful" more than critical and were unfairly "rolled into" his postgame comments. But Mattingly prefaced those postgame comments by saying "like we were talking about before the game" and appeared to be dismissive of Puig's injury, saying it was "shoulder yesterday, back today." Mattingly has made similar references in the past to the minor injuries that come up frequently with Puig.

"I said it in a way, in my mind – ‘This guy plays hard. There's always something going on,'" Mattingly said Tuesday.

Whether it truly was playful or more pointedly a passive-aggressive expression of Mattingly's ongoing frustrations with Puig's seeming immaturity, the manager was not willing to explain himself any more, offering "not even a hint" about the topic of Tuesday's discussion.

"I'm not going to keep going into it. Yasiel and I have talked. We're good," Mattingly said. "Yasiel and I are fine. We've talked. I'm not having any issues with Yasiel.

"I know Yasiel is a huge lightning rod. Any time I say anything about Yasiel it turns into a story. Any time Yasiel does anything it turns into a story. I understand that. But it's the whole team I'm concerned with."

4. Matt Kemp could be activated by the Dodgers' home opener.

5. Omar Infante's elbow continues to bother him.

6. Alfonso Soriano is dealing with a tight shoulder.

7. Francisco Liriano is going to test his groin today.

8. The Reds have a lot of names on their disabled list.

9. Kirk Gibson had surgery, too.

10. Starlin Castro is 100 percent, his manager says.

11. Devin Mesoraco is likely to be unavailable on Opening Day.

Tuesday's games

1. Alex Gonzalez made his Tigers debut and said he felt great. You can't control how these things play out, Gonzalez told Lynn Henning.

2. The Pirates rolled out 29 hits.

3. Jose Fernandez had a rough start.

4. J.A. Happ got hammered by the Pirates, and this may have opened the door for Dustin McGowan.

NL East

• David Wright told Matt Harvey that his reputation now depends on his rehab behavior. Harvey says it's all good now.

• The Marlins have sleeper potential, writes Jerry Crasnick.

NL Central

• The Cardinals could be risking the players' trust by demoting Carlos Martinez to the bullpen, writes Joe Strauss. I don't cover the Cardinals daily, but I still wonder if that's really the case.

If the Cardinals had chosen Martinez over Joe Kelly -- who was absolutely essentially to St. Louis' second-half run last season -- how would the team's veterans have felt about that? They're not telling Martinez he has to go back to the minors, only that he'll work in a crucial spot in the bullpen, and Kelly earned an incumbent's advantage. Last spring, Kelly was the odd man out, going to the bullpen while Jake Westbrook remained in the rotation, and later in the summer, Kelly got his shot -- and down the road, the same could happen for Martinez.

• Mike Olt has put injury issues behind him.

• The Brewers plan to use their veteran starters a lot.

• Mark Attanasio could be a candidate for next commissioner.

NL West

• Brandon Barnes has turned heads in the Rockies' camp, writes Troy Renck.

• If the Giants don't pay Pablo Sandoval, some other team will, writes John Shea.

• Bronson Arroyo is feeling perfect.

AL East

• The Orioles' Jonathan Schoop is yet another player from an emerging baseball hotbed. Schoop may be the biggest second baseman in MLB history, at about 6-foot-3, 230 pounds.

• David Ross has found happiness, writes Gordon Edes.

• There will be changes in the Boston batting order.

• The Rays' opener is not sold out yet.

AL Central

• Robin Ventura revealed his rotation order.

AL West

• The Astros will rank last in payroll again.

• Derek Norris might wind up being part of a platoon for Oakland, writes John Hickey.

• Alberto Callaspo could be your basic 5-foot-9 first baseman.

Rangers confident despite early injuries.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The New York Yankees’ camp opened in 2013 with Derek Jeter still hobbling, despite a doctor’s projection that he would be ready to go at the start of the season, and Alex Rodriguez was sidelined, as well. Day by day, the team’s casualty list grew: Curtis Granderson got hurt, and so did Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis.

The Yankees’ front office scrambled to fill the spots in the last days of spring training, adding Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and others. Joe Girardi handled the adversity well, setting a strong tone for his players, who spent all summer maxing out in preparation and effort.

But in the end, the Yankees were overwhelmed by the impact of their injuries. There was nothing they could do to change the reality that losing their first baseman, shortstop, third baseman and left fielder -- as well as catcher Russell Martin, who had signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates -- crushed their production. The Yankees hadn’t finished out of the top 10 in runs scored since 1991, and last summer 15 teams scored more runs than they did. The club won 85 games, surprisingly, but failed to make the playoffs.

It’s as if a curse that hung over the Yankees’ camp last spring has now been attached to the Texas Rangers, given everything that has gone wrong in Surprise, Ariz., where the team trains. The day after the Rangers announced that second baseman Jurickson Profar will miss 10 to 12 weeks, they revealed that catcher Geovany Soto will also be gone 10 to 12 weeks -- following a wave of other injuries.

From Evan Grant’s story:
Since the calendar year turned to 2014, the Rangers have gotten injured in every way possible. Derek Holland: playing with his dog. Joseph Ortiz: Walking on the side of the road. Elvis Andrus: Doing nothing, apparently, was the cause of the arm/elbow soreness that has kept him from playing shortstop most of the spring.

The list goes on and the injuries are becoming more significant. Yu Darvish is now doubtful to make the season-opening start because he slept wrong.

On Monday, a day after announcing Jurickson Profar would miss the next 10-12 weeks while recovering from a torn muscle in his shoulder, Daniels and assistant GM Thad Levine explained Profar will have a workout mate. Starting catcher Geovany Soto will miss the same 10-12 weeks recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

The loose piece of meniscus apparently lodged in Soto’s knee joint while he was crouching Sunday and the leg locked up. When he was finally helped up, the cartilage dislodged, but an MRI exam revealed the tear. If you are scoring at home, Soto has more surgeries (two) this spring than homers (zero).

Oh, and while we’re at it, the Rangers also discovered prodigy outfielder Engel Beltre conveniently had a fracture in his tibia a mere week before the team was forced to either carry him on the roster or expose him to waivers. Some injuries are actually fortunate.

Any way you slice it -- and with the number of scalpels being unsheathed around here that’s dangerous phrasing -- it’s been an awful spring for the Rangers. Daniels and company would be happy to discuss that, but first they’ve got a team to reassemble in the final week of camp.

“We just lost two everyday players; it’s a tough day,” Daniels said. “You can’t sugarcoat it. We’ll look to our depth and see where we go from there.”

The Rangers believe that Derek Holland will be back by midseason and could help in the second half, but it’s worth remembering: The Yankees had thought Jeter would return to their lineup -- and he wound up only having 73 plate appearances. The Rangers believe that Elvis Andrus will overcome his shoulder trouble, but it’s worth remembering: The Yankees believed that Mark Teixeira would recover from his wrist problem, and instead he missed the last 3.5 months in a season limited to 63 plate appearances.

But the Rangers have to hope that the AL West plays out differently than the AL East did last season, when the Red Sox essentially broke away from the pack and distanced themselves from the Yankees. Other AL West teams have been hammered by injuries, too, with Oakland having lost two-fifths of its projected rotation -- Jarrod Parker is done for the season, A.J. Griffin has had elbow troubles -- and Seattle will be without All-Star Hisashi Iwakuma at the outset of the season.

Daniels is right: There’s really no way to sugarcoat the impact of the injuries. The Rangers have no choice but to try to do the best they can to compete with a roster that is greatly compromised, and it may be that the epitaph of a lost season is already being drawn up, in the form of a disabled list.

• The Rangers’ camp has been the worst ever, writes Gil LeBreton.

Around the league

• There seem to be middle infield scrambles all over the place, with teams looking to fill holes -- and the Tigers landed Alex Gonzalez to be their every-day shortstop.

Alex Gonzalez
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
Former Orioles shortstop Alex Gonzalez was traded to the Tigers for utilityman Steve Lombardozzi
He probably won’t be a lot different than what Jhonny Peralta was defensively last season -- he’ll catch everything he gets to. I spoke with some rival evaluators Monday who wondered aloud if Gonzalez will provide anything that different from what the Tigers might’ve gotten out of Danny Worth, had they chosen to go that route. Obviously Detroit’s front office feels differently.

• Darwin Barney remains focused as trade rumors swirl around him, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

• Andrew McCutchen puts some thought into what he does, as you’ll see within this Q&A.

• On Monday’s podcast, Tim Kurkjian and I ran through our AL East picks, and Jason Beck discussed Max Scherzer’s negotiations.

• The Braves felt like they knew what they had in Freddy Garcia, and they are hoping to get something better out of Aaron Harang.

• Pablo Sandoval and the Giants are a mere $50 million apart in their negotiations. The plain and simple explanation: They love and respect his talent but don’t trust that he will take care of himself after years of wrestling with his conditioning.

• David Ortiz’s contract works well for both him and the Red Sox. The structure -- with the vesting options -- could allow them to move forward without any more discussions about his deal and his future.

• The Red Sox are still talking with Jon Lester. A key question will be whether Lester makes a deal happen in the same way that Dustin Pedroia did, because I doubt the Red Sox will move far beyond what they have determined to be their comfort zone.

• When it comes to Matt Harvey, it’s the Mets who need the attitude adjustment, writes John Harper.

• Rafael Furcal might have to go on the disabled list. Jose Reyes has a mild hamstring strain, the Blue Jays say.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The White Sox locked up Jose Quintana to a long-term deal.

2. The Twins cut Matt Guerrier. It looks like Jason Kubel is going to make the team. Brian Duensing could move on because of dollars.

3. The Orioles swapped for Steve Lombardozzi. Folks around baseball loved this trade for the O’s.

4. Oakland sent Josh Lindblom to their minor-league camp.

5. Dillon Gee will be the Mets’ Opening Day starter, as Marc Carig writes.

6. Cesar Izturis was cut.

7. Danny Duffy was sent to Triple-A the other day.

8. Scott Baker declined an offer to pitch in Triple-A.

The fight for jobs

1. Adrian Nieto could be the backup catcher for the White Sox.

2. Taylor Jordan continues to make his case to be the No. 5 starter for the Nationals.

3. Daisuke Matsuzaka has looked strong in his fight for a spot in the Mets’ rotation.

4. The Astros have two rotation spots open.

5. Lonnie Chisenhall has made the Indians’ roster, as Paul Hoynes mentions within this piece.

6. Franklin Morales had a great day in his bid for a spot in the Colorado rotation, writes Patrick Saunders.

Dings and dents

1. Starlin Castro is making progress. He will be tested today, as Mark Gonzales writes.

2. Francisco Liriano will test his groin Wednesday.

3. Marco Scutaro might start the year on the disabled list, writes Henry Schulman.

4. Mike Trout says he’s fine after rolling his wrist.

5. Not surprisingly, Manny Machado will start the year on the 15-day disabled list.

6. There are no real concerns with Johnny Cueto.

7. Michael Bourn will open the year on the disabled list.

8. Oscar Taveras is hurt again.

9. Hisashi Iwakuma is taking the next step in his rehab.

10. Matt Moore is expected to make his next start, after being hit in the face by a liner.

Monday’s games

1. Ryan Vogelsong has had an inconsistent spring.

2. Dan Haren struggled in a camp start.

3. Eric Stults had another strong start.

4. Shelby Miller has had a so-so spring training.

NL East

• Bryce Harper won a vote of other players that Derek Jeter won in the past: most overrated.

• Greg Dobbs is ready to resume his quest for 100 career pinch-hits.

• The Phillies’ bench is a work in progress, writes Marc Narducci and Matt Gelb.

• Carlos Ruiz is ready for the season to begin.

NL Central

• Carlos Gomez takes pride in his defensive ability.

• Neil Walker is embracing his union role, writes Bill Brink.

• Charlie Morton has learned to trust his stuff, writes Rob Biertempfel.

• Reds pitchers are looking for answers.

• Michael Wacha will start the Cardinals’ home opener, writes Rick Hummel.

NL West

• Arizona’s roster is all but set, as Zack Buchanan writes.

• Tim Lincecum had a bad day this week, as Alex Pavlovic writes.

AL East

• Brandon Workman is gaining consistency.

• Mark Teixeira made a roundabout trip to first base.

• Brandon Morrow and the rest of the Jays’ rotation needs to step up.

AL Central

• David Murphy has struggled this spring.

• The Tigers’ offer to Max Scherzer aimed to assure Detroit fans they will spend.

• The Royals hope that Jeremy Guthrie can match last year’s production, as Andy McCullough writes.

AL West

• Stephen Vogt may not have a spot on the Oakland roster, writes Susan Slusser.
post #20397 of 73663
Thread Starter 
The Most Interesting NL Rebuilder: Colorado Rockies.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Over the past two weeks, we’ve been taking a look at some of the most interesting teams in baseball – one contender and one rebuilder from each league. What makes a team “interesting”? Taking advantage of the extreme nature of its ballpark, for a couple of clubs. Bucking some of the game’s most prevalent current trends and having success, for another. Or almost completely breaking from every pattern displayed in a club’s fairly successful recent past. In this final installment, let’s look at our NL rebuilder, the Colorado Rockies, who finally may have developed a concrete plan of attacking their ever-present conundrum – how on earth does one build a winning ballclub in Coors Field?

Before one can develop a battle plan for success at Coors Field, the impact of playing half of your games one mile above sea level needs to be quantified and understood. Utilizing granular batted ball data, I have compiled park factors by comparing actual batted-ball outcomes to projected ones, by assuming that each ballpark’s actual batted ball mix was converted into singles, doubles, triples and homers at MLB average rates. As you might expect, Coors Field ranked as the most hitter-friendly park in baseball in 2013, with an overall park factor of 127.8. This obviously was not a one-year phenomenon, as they also led in 2012 with a 130.8 park factor. If you break it down by batted-ball type, Coors was the most hitter-friendly park for fly balls (176.4), the third most for line drives (109.6) and even the third most for ground balls (114.1). It has the fifth highest park factor for singles (104), the second highest for doubles (120), the fourth highest for triples (145), and the second highest for homers (133). It is not only the sole ballpark to inflate all four types of base hits, it inflates them all by at least a full standard deviation. This isn’t just about homers – Coors mounts a full frontal assault on pitchers and their sometimes delicate sensibilities. Obviously, however, the biggest driver of a park’s run-scoring environment is its effect on fly balls, so that’s where we’ll take a closer look at the data.

COL 0.335 0.829 0.256 0.617 176.4
BOS 0.342 0.858 0.273 0.707 151.1
SD 0.282 0.744 0.254 0.614 136.7
MIL 0.305 0.806 0.275 0.698 129.3
BAL 0.314 0.870 0.292 0.759 124.9
NYY 0.270 0.736 0.264 0.658 116.5
MIN 0.285 0.725 0.264 0.672 116.3
NYM 0.272 0.686 0.260 0.631 114.7
CWS 0.269 0.751 0.270 0.672 114.3
CIN 0.280 0.790 0.279 0.735 109.6
CUB 0.284 0.770 0.279 0.729 108.2
TEX 0.271 0.713 0.270 0.694 103.7
LAD 0.259 0.657 0.260 0.642 102.7
DET 0.286 0.731 0.281 0.726 102.3
HOU 0.310 0.877 0.313 0.873 99.8
TOR 0.294 0.844 0.304 0.829 99.8
TB 0.284 0.753 0.291 0.768 95.9
OAK 0.251 0.666 0.264 0.685 92.9
CLE 0.294 0.792 0.303 0.828 92.4
PHL 0.319 0.859 0.322 0.913 91.9
WAS 0.273 0.698 0.287 0.745 88.8
LAA 0.292 0.771 0.307 0.854 84.9
AZ 0.284 0.745 0.302 0.833 83.2
ATL 0.303 0.768 0.326 0.902 77.7
STL 0.249 0.620 0.278 0.719 76.5
MIA 0.243 0.569 0.269 0.669 76.1
PIT 0.261 0.641 0.286 0.757 76.1
SF 0.261 0.626 0.283 0.744 76.0
SEA 0.283 0.757 0.323 0.913 71.8
KC 0.254 0.615 0.291 0.755 70.0
MLB 0.284 0.743 0.284 0.743 100.0
The above table shows actual fly ball production in all 30 MLB parks compared to projected fly ball production using batted-ball data in the manner previously described. There’s some interesting info here – while Coors inflates fly ball offense the most, there was more actual fly ball production in four other MLB parks last year – Boston, Houston, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The ball was struck with much more authority in those parks last season – in fact, in every park with the exception of San Diego, the ball was struck with greater average authority than in Coors Field. That speaks well of the Rockies’ pitching staff – more on them later – but not as well of its position players.

Coors is generous on fly balls hit to all fields. Breaking the field into sectors reduces the sample sizes used in determining the park factors, increasing their year-to-year volatility, but it’s still very illuminating information. From left to right, the 2013 sector-specific Coors Field fly ball park factors break down like this: LF = 118.6 (sixth in baseball), LCF = 166.3 (third), CF = 149.9 (fifth), RCF = 287.9 (first), and 150.4 (second). Only two other parks inflate fly ball production to all five sectors (Milwaukee and Baltimore), and no other park ranks among the 10 most hitter-friendly in each sector, or is at least one-half of a standard deviation more hitter-friendly than the MLB average in each sector. The 2013 RCF park factor is no fluke, by the way – it was a very similar 276.9 in 2012. In the air, there is no escape for pitchers in Coors Field. Which leads us to…..


For most of their history, the Rockies have followed a similar script. Score a ton of runs, give up more. Fool yourself into thinking you have a better offense than you do – more on that later, as well – and watch the pitching wither as the season progresses and attrition sets in. The rules state that you can only have 25 active players on the roster, and 13 would seem to be about the absolute maximum number of pitchers you can carry. More hits and runs mean more batters faced, more pitches, more pitching changes, more attrition. If there is no escape in the air for pitchers in Coors Field, they must either miss a lot of bats, or keep it on the ground to prevent runs with any degree of success. Last season, the Rockies got to work on the latter.

The raw traditional numbers say that the Rockies’ pitching was poor in 2013 – their 4.44 staff ERA ranked last in the NL, and 28th overall, ahead of only the Twins and Astros. The batted-ball data, however, tells a far different story. The Rockies’ staff ranked sixth in the NL (and in MLB) in contact management. They did this despite allowing the second most line drives (960) in the major leagues. They ranked so high because they induced the second most ground balls (2026) in baseball – over two standard deviations higher than the MLB average – and allowed the third weakest fly ball contact in the majors.

Though they managed contact very well, their overall projected 2013 pitching rank drops to 18th overall and 10th in the NL once the K’s and BB’s are added back to the equation. Their staff total of 1064 strikeouts ranked 29th in baseball, and last by a mile in the league in which pitchers get to bat. They obviously need to improve their bat-missing for their pitching plan to fully evolve, but help is on the way, as we shall soon see.

Let’s take a closer look at the outcome frequency and batted-ball production data for some of the key members of the Rockies’ starting rotation to see how they fit into the new and improved pitching plan.

Chacin % REL PCT
K 15.9% 80 10
BB 7.7% 98 55
POP 6.1% 79 27
FLY 25.4% 90 29
LD 23.5% 111 83
GB 44.9% 105 62
— — — —
Chatwood % REL PCT
K 14.4% 73 7
BB 9.0% 117 74
POP 3.7% 49 8
FLY 23.1% 83 11
LD 17.7% 82 2
GB 55.4% 129 97
— — — —
De La Rosa % REL PCT
K 16.3% 82 15
BB 9.0% 114 83
POP 5.6% 72 20
FLY 23.3% 82 3
LD 24.9% 117 97
GB 46.2% 108 78

FLY 0.255 0.582 69 48
LD 0.669 0.937 110 104
GB 0.196 0.203 66 101
ALL BIP 0.303 0.447 83 84
ALL PA 0.252 0.308 0.372 91 92 3.47 3.54 3.57
— — — —
FLY 0.309 0.617 87 73
LD 0.694 0.839 104 104
GB 0.227 0.242 91 92
ALL BIP 0.324 0.429 86 82
ALL PA 0.274 0.338 0.363 100 96 3.15 3.88 3.71
— — — —
FLY 0.325 0.700 104 91
LD 0.664 0.813 96 99
GB 0.189 0.218 67 103
ALL BIP 0.318 0.453 89 98
ALL PA 0.263 0.328 0.375 99 107 3.49 3.84 4.16
First, let’s look at Chacin, most likely the club’s “ace” at this point, despite a shoulder injury that will delay the start of his season. He has been a consistent ground ball generator throughout his relatively brief career, fitting the club’s preferred starting pitcher mold. He not only minimizes quantity of fly ball contact, he also minimizes damage done in the air, as he runs a high weak fly ball rate, almost a must in Coors, where average fly balls often reach the gaps, and sometimes the seats. Posting an actual relative production figure of 69 while pitching half of your games in Coors is amazing – adjusted for context, it plunges even further to 48. His line drive rates have swung wildly from season to season, from a percentile rank as low as 4 in 2011 to as high as 98 in 2010.

Chances are that his 2013 line drive percentile rank of 83 will regress downward this season. His K rate has also fluctuated wildly throughout his career – his stuff is simply too good for his K rate percentile rank to remain as low (at 10) as it was last season. Chacin’s adjusted relative production on all BIP – the best measure of contact management ability – of 84 is quite good, though it creeps up to 92 when the K’s and BB’s are added back. His 2013 “tru” ERA of 3.57 approximates his actual 3.47 mark. He’s not a true ace, but should be a solid #2-3 starter with upside if healthy.

Tyler Chatwood takes things to extremes. His K rate is beyond miniscule, with a 2013 percentile rank of 7 that is in line with career norms. On the plus side, he generates tons of grounders (97 percentile rank), a true skill. The quantity of ground ball contact is impressive, but so is the quality – he has a high weak grounder rate, leading to a solid adjusted relative production figure on grounders of 92. Like Chacin, he kept fly ball damage under control (87 actual relative production, 73 adjusted for context). On the flip side, Chatwood’s line drive rate was off-the-charts low in 2013 (2 percentile rank), and is likely to regress closer to his 2011 percentile rank of 82 in this category.

With an adjusted relative production figure on all BIP of 82 – even better than Chacin – Chatwood ran in some pretty fast company last season, matching Andrew Cashner‘s mark and besting Madison Bumgarner‘s 83 figure. Add the K’s and BB’s back, however, and it shoots up to 96, with a “tru” ERA of 3.71, over a half-run higher than his actual mark. His 2013 actual performance is about as good as it gets for an extreme-low K guy in an extreme-high run-scoring environment. There’s a nice foundation here, but Chatwood has zero margin for error unless he begins to miss more bats.

Jorge De La Rosa missed the bulk of both 2011 and 2012 following Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2013 with all but one component of his typically ground-ball centric repertoire. What was missing – the strikeouts – was a very important missing piece. He allows extremely few fly balls (3 percentile rank), and many of the ones he does allow aren’t hit very well. His ground ball percentile rank of 78 is in line with career norms. Like Chacin and Chatwood, his line drive rate has pinballed up and down throughout his career, and he should expect regression downward from his 2013 percentile rank of 97. Overall, De La Rosa’s contact management skills were about average last season (98 adjusted relative production on all BIP), but once the K’s and BB’s are added back, it jumps to 107, and a “tru” ERA of 4.16, 0.67 above his actual 2013 mark.

This is where we stumble upon another piece of the Rockies’ overall run prevention strategy. Step 1 – Induce a bunch of ground balls. Step 2 – Assemble an exceptional infield defense to convert them into outs. For each of these pitchers, look at the difference between the ground ball “REL PRD” and “ADJ PRD” columns. The “REL PRD” column measures actual production on ground balls to the MLB average scaled to 100, while the “ADJ PRD” adjusts that figure for team defense, ballpark, luck, etc., to isolate the pitcher’s true ability. For all three pitchers, the “REL PRD” column, measuring actual performance, is significantly lower. We’ve already noted that Coors Field inflates even ground ball offense, but the Rockies’ 2013 infield defense was so good that it outweighed that inflationary effect and then some, helping these pitchers to perform better when allowing ground balls than they “should have” based on their respective batted ball mixes.

In fact, utilizing the granular batted ball data, the Rockies out-defended their opponents on ground balls by the sixth largest margin in MLB last year. Their left side of Nolan Arenado and Troy Tulowitzki in particular should keep them at or near the top of infield defense rankings for the foreseeable future, continuing to enable these ground ball pitchers to continue to “play up” above their true talent levels.

To improve their overall run prevention ability to a level befitting a contender, a lot more missed bats are going to be required. To that end, another ground ball guy, Brett Anderson, will be added to the mix this season, and he has shown better bat-missing ability than the holdovers from 2013. Jordan Lyles, acquired from the Astros this offseason, is in the short-term rotation mix, and also has a strong track record of keeping the ball on the ground, though he isn’t a bat-misser. Not too far down the road is the arrival of youngsters Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler, who both have combined high strikeout rates with ground ball inducement skill throughout their respective college and minor league careers. These two have ace potential, and could push the current starters down a notch or two in the pecking order, making the unit as a whole significantly more dangerous. Before too long, the words “Colorado Rockies” and “run prevention” may no longer be mutually exclusive. Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin.


As mentioned earlier, due to the Coors Field effect, the Rockies are typically perceived as good offensive club with bad pitching. In 2013, at least, the exact opposite was true. Based on granular batted ball data, their offensive contact quality ranked 26th in baseball, and 13th in the NL. This, despite hitting the third most line drives (973) in baseball. Only the White Sox hit the ball with less authority on fly balls, and only the Brewers hit the ball more weakly on the ground.

It is very easy to be fooled by the relatively high raw offensive numbers the Rockies typically post as a team, and think that they are a more talented offensive club than they truly are. In 2013, the Rockies ranked first in the NL in batting average (.270), fourth in OBP (.323), first in SLG (.418), and second in runs scored (706). Despite all of this they were, based on the granular batted ball data, unequivocally a bad offensive club. As we did with the pitchers, let’s take a look at some of the Rockies’ key position players’ outcome frequencies and batted-ball production data to get a better feel for their true talent.

Arenado % REL PCT
K 14.0% 70 19
BB 4.5% 57 8
POP 8.3% 106 56
FLY 27.1% 96 38
LD 23.4% 110 72
GB 41.2% 97 46
— — — —
Cuddyer % REL PCT
K 18.5% 93 55
BB 8.5% 108 62
POP 3.2% 41 8
FLY 29.0% 102 55
LD 19.3% 91 16
GB 48.5% 114 82
— — — —
Gonzalez % REL PCT
K 27.1% 136 93
BB 9.4% 119 71
POP 10.6% 136 88
FLY 25.9% 91 31
LD 28.5% 134 99
GB 35.0% 82 7
— — — —
Rosario % REL PCT
K 23.4% 118 80
BB 3.2% 41 1
POP 6.6% 85 37
FLY 31.2% 110 72
LD 23.7% 111 78
GB 38.4% 90 27
— — — —
Tulowitzki % REL PCT
K 16.6% 83 41
BB 11.1% 141 84
POP 9.0% 115 69
FLY 30.8% 109 69
LD 20.4% 96 35
GB 39.8% 93 35

FLY 0.252 0.640 76 67
LD 0.698 0.927 114 94
GB 0.201 0.213 71 85
ALL BIP 0.310 0.471 90 83
ALL PA 0.264 0.297 0.402 94 87
— — — — — —
FLY 0.370 1.019 181 139
LD 0.806 1.014 145 106
GB 0.330 0.368 198 102
ALL BIP 0.414 0.656 166 113
ALL PA 0.329 0.387 0.521 158 113
— — — — — —
FLY 0.471 1.485 348 212
LD 0.747 1.267 164 112
GB 0.280 0.323 147 89
ALL BIP 0.424 0.833 217 142
ALL PA 0.297 0.363 0.584 164 114
— — — — — —
FLY 0.385 1.029 189 118
LD 0.671 0.924 109 116
GB 0.281 0.281 132 121
ALL BIP 0.384 0.639 150 128
ALL PA 0.291 0.314 0.484 118 102
— — — — — —
FLY 0.400 1.182 231 185
LD 0.630 0.795 89 103
GB 0.324 0.352 187 138
ALL BIP 0.377 0.656 151 133
ALL PA 0.306 0.384 0.532 160 143
We’ll start with the easy one – Troy Tulowitzki, He’s just really…..good. He’s had the same frequency profile for years – strong K/BB ratio, fairly high popup rate (69 percentile rank in 2013, over 60 in his last five qualifying seasons, fairly low line drive rate (35 percentile rank in 2013, below MLB average last four qualifying seasons). His hard fly and grounder rates are solid, but just as importantly, his soft fly and grounder rates are very low. And, hey, he’s a shortstop, where his powerful skill set is virtually nonexistent. Coors takes this very good offensive player (143 adjusted relative production) and turns him into a great one (160 actual relative production).

Next let’s look at the other three veterans of the group, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Gonzalez and Wilin Rosario. The first won the NL batting title in 2013, the second is considered one of the game’s premier hitters, and the third has hit 49 homers and slugged over .500 – as a catcher – in the last two years combined. Offensive stalwarts, right? Not exactly. They all have their true strengths – Cuddyer rarely pops up (8 percentile rank in 2013), a rarity for a hitter with power. Gonzalez led MLB regulars in line drive rate last season (99 percentile rank), a real skill of his, as his line drive percentile rank has been 87 or higher in three of the last four seasons. Rosario hit a lot of line drives in 2013 (79 percentile rank), which is likely to regress, but hit them really hard, which isn’t.

They all do some things poorly, also. Cuddyer’s line drive rate (16 percentile rank in 2013) has been below average in four of the last five seasons. Gonzalez has a massive K rate (93 percentile rank in 2013), and his popup rate spiked upward to 88 last season. Rosario never, ever walks (1 percentile rank in 2013). Truth be told, these three are in the average range as players, but are made to look much better than that by their home park.

If you took every batted ball hit by Michael Cuddyer over the last six seasons and placed them in a neutral context, with singles, doubles, triples and homers generated at MLB-average rates for his batted ball mix, you would have:

2008 = .284-.361-.434
2009 = .268-.335-.454
2010 = .278-.343-.437
2011 = .276-.339-.430
2012 = .264-.321-.445
2013 = .268-.331-.445

Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Cuddyer, slightly above average MLB corner outfielder. His production on fly balls (from 139 adjusted relative production to 181 actual relative production) and liners (from 106 to 145) were pumped up, largely by the Coors effect, and he also got incredibly lucky on grounders (198 actual relative production, only 102 after adjustment for context). His adjusted relative production on all BIP was a relatively modest 113, compared to his actual relative production of 166 on all BIP. Gonzalez? Remember that 287.9 fly ball park factor to RCF? That just happens to be where Gonzalez most often hits the ball. Look at what his home park does to his relative production on fly balls (from 212 adjusted relative production to 348 actual relative production) and liners (112 to 164). He even posted a 147 actual relative production figure on grounders despite an extremely high soft grounder rate, due in large part to his tendency to roll over soft grounders to the pull side.

Gonzalez’ overall batted ball authority supports a 142 adjusted relative production figure – context inflates it to 217. Rosario? He’s Miguel Olivo with a much lower popup rate. His fly ball authority supports a 118 adjusted relative production figure, but Coors helps bump it all the way up to 189. On all BIP, his 128 adjusted relative production figure is inflated to 150 by context, though that obviously takes a major hit once his K’s and BB’s are added in.

How about Arenado? He’s a work in progress, for sure. Both his K and BB rates are low, and he did have a high line drive rate in his 2013 debut (72 percentile rank). He should add strength and hit the ball with the greater authority in the near future – and he’ll need to, based on his batted-ball production table. He showed below average batted-ball authority on all BIP types last season, and didn’t get much of a boost from Coors, only moving from 83 adjusted relative production to 90 actual relative production on all BIP with context added into the equation. Why is that? There is a tipping point, authority-wise, at which the Coors fly ball effect kicks in, and Arenado doesn’t often enough reach that threshold just yet. In 2013, his can-of-corn fly balls turned into slightly better hit cans of corn at Coors.

As described earlier, Rockies’ starting pitchers were effective at keeping much of the fly ball contact they allowed below that tipping point, helping key their success. Every ballpark has a tipping point exit velocity-wise where fly balls suddenly tend to cease being can-of-corn outs, and begin being extra-base hits. Coors’ tipping point is lower than all of the rest. The other four position players discussed above are physically mature men whose average fly ball has met and exceeded that tipping point. Arenado will get there, maybe this season, and he too will likely become an average player that Coors makes look great.

And that’s pretty much what the Rockies need to do offensively – accumulate more average-ish players. They have one true star in Tulo, and the aforementioned average players that appear to be stars. Justin Morneau might not even be an average offensive player at this point, D.J. LeMahieu sure isn’t, and center field is a mess. Plug truly average players into those three spots, and they’re off to the races offensively.

The Colorado Rockies aren’t nearly where they want to be just yet, but for the first time in quite awhile, they appear to have a clear roadmap to show them the way. With any luck, within two years they have the potential to be a well above average run prevention club. Their offense too can be quite good with the elimination of the remaining black holes in their lineup. To finish the job, they must recognize those black holes as such, and not be thrown off course by the blinding magnitude of the Coors’ effect.

What is a Jose Quintana?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The White Sox aren’t close, but they’re building a long-term core. Earlier in the week they signed starting pitcher Jose Quintana to a five-year contract with two more years of club options. Appropriately, given the player, the news didn’t capture the nation’s interest. In fact, the biggest immediate effect was Quintana could stop being such a nervous, uncomfortable wreck. It’s a smaller deal than Starling Marte‘s new contract with Pittsburgh, in both guaranteed money and in rele***** to the average fan’s interests.

There’s something here, though. Something one wouldn’t expect. Quintana’s 25 years old. Last year, by WAR, he was tied for 24th among major-league starters — neck and neck with the likes of Homer Bailey, Madison Bumgarner and Patrick Corbin. By RA9-WAR, he was tied for 23rd, equal to Jordan Zimmermann and Chris Tillman. He made all of his starts, and he threw 200 innings. A season ago, ever so quietly, Quintana was one of the better starters in the majors. Which leads to this: What the heck is a Jose Quintana?

There is no single tried-and-true metric to measure the underrated player. It’s a feel thing, which means it’s a subjective thing, and players I perceive to be underrated might be different from players who are truly underrated. But not only do I think Quintana is underrated — I think he’s almost a total unknown. Given his background, that’s forgivable. Given his present and probable future, it’s about time to get to know him. Quintana’s story is one to tuck away, as the story of a guy breaking through his own ceiling.

His professional career can be broken down into chapters:

Chapter 1: Quintana signed as a teenager with the Mets. In March 2007, when he was 18, Quintana was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. At the end of the suspension, Quintana was released, as the Mets had a zero-tolerance policy. It was dumb, to be sure. Quintana was young, to be sure. The following March, Quintana signed with the New York Yankees.

Chapter 2: Quintana was written off by the Yankees. Not immediately, though. He pitched for four years with the organization. His last year, he was an effective swingman in High-A. But when it came to be decision time, the Yankees left Quintana off the 40-man roster, which allowed him to become a minor-league free agent. The Yankees chose to protect David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, David Adams, Zoilo Almonte and Corban Joseph. This is the reason the Yankees left Quintana off:

GM Brian Cashman said they deliberated on the matter and, despite a dearth of quality lefties in the system, “We looked at him as a fringy prospect. We offered him a minor-league contract to stay, but not a 40-man roster position. We didn’t feel he was ahead of other guys we gave spots to.”

Chapter 3: Quintana made a difference for the White Sox. He was signed in November 2011, along with Donnie Veal. Ken Williams said at the time:

“He’s a strike-thrower,” Williams said. “He can spin the breaking ball. He’s got velocity to both sides of the plate. He can grow up and be a starter. We’re very happy to have both.”

White Sox scouts who’d seen Quintana liked the profile of a steady, strike-throwing lefty — level of competition be damned. Here’s a good article about his discovery and emergence. A few key excerpts:

“Quintana had some nice tools going forward, but the way he went about his job … I thought he had growth and had potential to get better.”

“That breaking ball was OK. He could vary the angle, get depth or widen it out to a left-hander. But I thought the changeup would be key. If the changeup gets better, I thought, ‘My gosh. There’s no telling what he could do.’”

“I thought he had a chance to be a back-end, a fourth starter. I knew he was a guy who could get some innings. He commanded the ball and could pitch deep into games.”

Quintana began 2012 in Double-A. He wound up hurried to the majors, and in the majors he remained, getting by as the sort of back-end guy he’d earlier been projected to become. In almost 140 innings, Quintana posted average peripherals and prevented an above-average number of runs. He was hardly the exciting type, but he’d arrived ahead of schedule and he made a positive contribution for next to nothing. The White Sox figured they had a half-decent asset.

Chapter 4: Quintana got better. Last season, as a full-time starter, Quintana dropped his ERA- by four points. He dropped his FIP- by six points. He dropped his xFIP- by eight points. The end result was that Quintana finished as one of the more effective starters in baseball. It’s because of that improvement the White Sox decided to commit to Quintana as a part of the core, and that improvement allowed Quintana to become more than he was projected to be even by the scouts who recommended him to the front office.

To really get a sense of things, you have to go to the splits. In both 2012 and 2013, the left-handed Quintana was good against lefties, as one would expect. He reached a new level because he turned himself into a different pitcher against righties. In his first exposure to the bigs, his strikeout-to-walk ratio against righties was 1.5. In his sophomore season, that jumped up to 3.0. A good lefty starter is more than good just a fraction of the time, and Quintana made himself complete.

What happened? Part of it was that Quintana gained about a mile per hour, on average. His fastball got harder, his cutter got harder, his curveball got harder. His changeup… didn’t get much slower. But there was more to the story, and credit has to go to both Quintana and pitching coach Don Cooper, under whom another decent talent has exceeded expectations.

Last spring, Quintana put a lot of work into improving his off-speed pitch. Those minor-league scouts talked about what Quintana could become with a better change. Quote:

“I’m really locked in on my changeup,” said Quintana through translator and White Sox coach Lino Diaz. “I’m working on all areas, but the changeup is the concentration right now for me.”

Against righties, in 2012, Quintana threw 7% changeups. Against righties, in 2013, Quintana threw 13% changeups. In 2012, it wasn’t an actual threat. In 2013, one of every four swings missed, and the pitch didn’t get battered as badly. The in-play results still weren’t spectacular, but Quintana threw his changeup with more confidence and better location, and it stands to reason that improved his whole repertoire.

The story doesn’t stop there. One thing the White Sox liked about Quintana was he wasn’t afraid to come inside. One thing they wanted more of was pitching to the arm side. One writeup:

Then ahead of the 2013 season, pitching coach Don Cooper asked Quintana to work on command to the outside portion of the plate. Pitching inside hasn’t been an issue for Quintana, but hitters stayed away from outside pitches in 2012 knowing he had trouble throwing strikes.


“For me, it’s that he’s able to use all parts of the plate now, not just the one part of the plate. Whenever he got in trouble, it was because he wasn’t able to expand. Now because of his delivery, he’s able to do things pretty easily when you suggest it. He has always been that way.”

In part because of the improved changeup, and in part because of greater mechanical consistency, Quintana opened up the outside against righties, which forced them to cover a bigger area. That’s made the job harder for hitters.

Quintana also had great success with a new two-strike weapon. In 2012, he proceeded to two-strike counts 45% of the time, and he converted those into strikeouts 32% of the time. In 2013, he proceeded to two-strike counts 50% of the time, and he converted those into strikeouts 40% of the time. In 2012, against righties, Quintana picked up 38% of his strikeouts with his four-seamer. Last season that jumped to 65%.

The power fastball became Quintana’s two-strike pitch. Some of those were just well-located on the outside edge, but he also made an effort to blow hitters away up high. Let’s define a high fastball as a fastball around the upper-third of the zone, or higher. Two years ago, in two-strike counts against righties, 29% of Quintana’s fastballs were high. Last year, in two-strike counts against righties, 51% of Quintana’s fastballs were high.

Pitching up also came with another side effect: Quintana tied for the league-lead in pop-up rate. His own pop-up rate more than doubled season to season, and there were improvements there against both righties and lefties. So not only did Jose Quintana push his strikeout rate forward — he also improved in another category of automatic outs, which presumably contributed to his moderately low BABIP.

In Chapter 3, Jose Quintana went from being a minor-league free agent to a decent back-end big-league starting pitcher. In Chapter 4, due to improvements in repertoire and delivery, Quintana went from being a back-end sort to being a legitimate No. 2, behind Chris Sale. I was always blown away by the progress made by Doug Fister. Fister was a non-prospect who has turned himself into one of the better starting pitchers in the game. At the same time, Fister was also a seventh-round draft pick. He wasn’t highly-touted, but he wasn’t nothing. Jose Quintana is probably a step or a half-step below Doug Fister, but Quintana was pulled from the pool of minor-league nobodies, having been left off the Yankees’ roster entirely. Between Fister and Quintana, we don’t have to pick a favorite story. We can be thankful to have them both.

Quintana authored one heck of a fourth chapter in his career. As a result, the White Sox have made a commitment to his fifth. I think it’s fair to say he’s among baseball’s lesser-known starting pitchers. I also think it’s fair to say that will no longer be his fault.

Padres Fans Finally Get Team On TV; Dodgers & Astros Fans, Not So Much.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Two years after signing a new local television contract with Fox Sports San Diego, the Padres will have their games carried by all the major cable and satellite operators in the team’s viewing area. The same cannot be said for the new Dodgers network called SportsNetLA, or for the year-old Comcast SportsNet Houston, which broadcasts Astros games.

In their inaugural season with FSSD in 2012, Padres games were broadcast only on Cox Cable and DirecTV. Last season, DISH Network and AT&T U-verse came onboard, which still left Time Warner Cable customers — more than 180,000 households or approximately 40% of the market — without access to the Padres on TV. TWC finally cut a deal with FSSD last month. Come Opening Day, anyone in San Diego or Hawaii with service from Cox, DirecTV, DISH, AT&T U-verse or TWC will be able to watch Padres games.

FSSD’s slow rollout reflects the economic realities of sports on TV. Advertisers love live, DVR-proof programming that’s watched by 18-to-45-year-old men, and they spend wildly on commercials during those programs. Sports networks — regional and national — see the money the advertising generates and bid obscence amounts for the broadcast rights. But the ad money isn’t nearly enough to cover the fees paid to the leagues and teams, and still turn a profit. For that, the networks turn to the cable and satellite operators that would like to offer the sports programming to their customers. The two sides negotiate the carriage fee — the price the cable and satellite operators will pay, per customer, in order to “carry” network as part of its sports programming packages.

The Padres-FSSD contract is valued in the range of $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion, putting average annual payments to the Padres in the $50 million to $75 million range. It’s thought the initial payment for 2012 was closer to $30 million. Before the 2012 season, Cox and DirecTV reportedly agreed to pay FSSD $5 per subscriber, but TWC, AT&T and DISH balked at that fee, leading to the impasse. It is not clear whether the holdouts eventually came around to a $5 per subscriber fee or if FSSD agreed to a lower fee to get those cable and satellite operators to join on.

The battle over carriage fees isn’t limited to regional sports networks, as I explained in this post last July. But when it comes to local sports programming, cable and satellite operators are digging deep — beyond the ratings reported by Nielsen — to understand who watches the local sports teams, when and for how long. Based on that information, many pay-TV providers simply have decided that paying carriage fees in the range of $5 per subscriber doesn’t make financial sense for them or for their customers.

SportsNet LA launched in February with around-the-clock Dodgers programming, but only customers with TWC or Bright House can view the network in their homes. Every other cable and satellite operator in the Los Angeles market has balked at the network’s carriage fee demand. And TWC hardly counts as an arms-length agreement, as it is the Dodgers’ broadcast partner in SportsNet LA. Indeed, TWC will essentially pay itself the carriage fee for SportsNet LA, and then pay the Dodgers their monthly rights fee as part of the 25-year, $8.3 billion megadeal. TWC CEO Rob Marcus apparently isn’t worried. He recently told a media conference that Opening Day has a way of making these deals shake out.

But according to the Wall Street Journal, DirecTV is pushing for an a la carte pay structure with SportsNet LA; that is, DirecTV will pay the carriage fee only for those customers who specifically subscribe to the network. The Dodgers have rejected that proposal, and for good reason. The economics of their deal don’t make sense if customers can pick and choose whether to pay for the network.

Bad economics are precisely what unfolded in Houston, where the Astros are embroiled in several lawsuits and a bankruptcy proceeding involving CSN Houston and the Astros’ broadcast rights. I explained what led to the legal mess in this post from last November. In short, CSN Houston couldn’t reach carriage fee deals with any cable or satellite provider other than Comcast. Disputes arose between and among Comcast, the Astros and the Houston Rockets — which collectively own CSN Houston — over how to negotiate the carriage fee deals and at what price. Comcast forced the parties into bankruptcy court. The Astros sued former owner Drayton McLane, claiming he misled new owner Jim Crane on the financial viability of the new network. Four months later, nothing’s been resolved.

There is a glimmer of hope for Astros fans, though. The Houston Chronicle reported this week the Astros are hoping to make their games available in the Houston area through the MLB Extra Innings Package. Typically, local games are blacked out on Extra Innings or, as a way of protecting the regional sports networks’ economic interests (often called their monopoly). It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which CSN Houston willingly allows games to be broadcast on Extra Innings, as that would further undercut the little leverage the network has in trying to reach carriage deals and work its way out of bankruptcy.

At some point, you’d think sports networks would stop dolling out huge rights fee deals.

Ryan Zimmerman And Trying To Stick At Third Base.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
FanGraphs recently added the ability to view Inside Edge fielding data breakdowns to player pages, and it’s a fun way to look at defense. Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez converted the highest percentage of “Remote” (defined as being 1%-10% likely) plays, not unexpected given his stellar defensive reputation, while Brandon Crawford and Pedro Florimon tied for the largest raw number of such plays, at 24, also not unexpected since they are shortstops who are mostly in the big leagues for their defensive value. You can view this data in any number of different ways, really. By definition, no major leaguer converted a single “Impossible” play, but the two players who had the most such plays head their way were Cincinnati outfielders Jay Bruce and Shin-Soo Choo, who had a combined 250 “Impossible” plays. That the top two players both played on the same team tells us… something, probably.

But we’ve already looked at Crawford’s greatness, and Florimon just really isn’t that interesting. What I’m thinking about today are the 90%-100% plays, defined as “Almost Certain / Certain” for our purposes. Those are the plays that are so routine that most every major leaguer should be converting nearly every such opportunity into an out, and for the most part, they do. Nine qualified big leaguers made 100% of those plays last year, including the defensively-maligned Choo, which tells you a little something that his issues were more with his routes and speed in center than they were with making plays on the balls he got to. (Which sort of makes him sound like the Derek Jeter of center fielders, doesn’t it?) 44 players converted at least 99% of those plays. 60 got to at least 98%. Every team made at least 97.2%; as a whole, the sport converted 98% of such plays.

This is all as you’d expect. Those are the routine, mundane, barely thought-of plays you see a dozen times a night. They’re just short of extra points in football; they’re made all the time because they should be made all the time. You don’t notice them until they give you a reason to. The rankings tend to overweight outfielders, because there’s of course a smaller likelihood of making a throwing error from the outfield. But someone has to be pulling up the rear, and that’s what I wanted to know: which big leaguer (non-catchers, for simplicity) was the worst at making the easiest play?
Among qualified players, it’s Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman, who converted 93.9% of his 294 opportunities, and while that might not sound so bad, it means that he blew 18 of the easiest plays in the game. By comparison, Manny Machado blew only nine, and he had 96 more opportunities to do so. That’s maybe not surprising, either, because Zimmerman’s throwing issues have been well-chronicled over the years, leading to increased conversation that he’ll move to first base in 2015 after Adam LaRoche‘s contract is up, and he’s already begun to see some time there this spring.

You already know that Zimmerman isn’t the third baseman he used to be, of course. Last year, among the 29 third basemen to play at least 500 innings, he ranked 17th in DRS and 25th in UZR/150, and he won’t have Miguel Cabrera and Michael Young around this year to provide obvious “at least I’m not them” examples. (Though he may have the benefit of Carlos Santana.) This is a continuing trend. In 2007, he was among the best in the game. In 2008, he was above-average; In 2009, he was among the best in the game, worthy of being compared to Evan Longoria in completely realistic discussion. In 2010, he was among the best in the game. An injury-shortened 2011 was rough; 2012 was maybe mildly better, leading into 2013′s worst-to-date after offseason right shoulder surgery.

But for as much attention as Zimmerman’s awkward style of throwing and resulting mistakes have received, his woes aren’t all throwing errors. Here he is in the fourth inning on June 29 of last season behind Taylor Jordan with Marlon Byrd at the plate:

And here he is in the fifth inning on June 29 of last season behind Taylor Jordan with Marlon Byrd at the plate:

It’s not just the throws across the diamond, it’s also the range. We have a fielding stat called RngR, which is “Range Runs Above Average.” Between 2007-10, Zimmerman was in the 11-15 runs above average range three times in four years, with 2008′s injury-shortened campaign being the exception. In 2011 and 12, those numbers both started with a “negative” in front of it; in 2013, it was -10.2.

That’s likely related to the shoulder too, as former manager Davey Johnson noted last summer:

One reason is that Zimmerman’s range has suffered. Zimmerman has played shallower the past two years than earlier in his career, about two steps behind third base, Johnson said. Johnson believes Zimmerman has been cheating in to give himself a slightly shorter throw to first.

It’s like cheating on the fastball when the bat speed starts to go, only to find that you’re more vulnerable on breaking pitches. This is, hopefully, one of the many benefits of MLBAM’s recently announced tracking system, which Jay Jaffe jokingly has dubbed “OMGf/x.” Maybe at some point in the near future, we could call up a page and identify exactly where Zimmerman was positioning himself, as easily as we can look at a spray chart of his hits. We’re not quite there yet, so the best we can do is look at the limited video of his play this spring to see if, with the benefit of several more months off that right shoulder surgery behind him, there are signs of improvement.

And I do mean limited, by the way. Perhaps I’m jaded by the fact that every single non-split squad Dodger game has been televised this spring, but a shocking amount of Nationals games, particularly the early ones, were not broadcast by either side — and then Zimmerman missed several days of play with soreness in, wait for it, his right shoulder.

Later in the same game game against L.J. ****, a similarly loopy throw was more on target:

This is three plays, and three spring plays at that, and so this isn’t a fair sample. It can’t be. Don’t take it as though it is, but it is what we have so far (there’s a few others, probably, but no need to explode your browsers any further than I have already, and against Ike Davis yesterday, he was shifted so far that he was basically a shortstop), and so the point here isn’t to draw conclusions that Zimmerman will or will not be a viable defensive third baseman this year. It’s to point out that he was a detriment to the team last year, and on a team that will almost certainly be the consensus pick to win the NL East after Atlanta’s recent pitching injuries, whether or not he can still handle the position remains one of the biggest open questions for the 2014 Nationals. That’s especially the case given that they have a perfectly capable third baseman in Anthony Rendon available — though he’ll almost certainly be the starting second baseman, Matt Williams still hasn’t quite officially named him as such over Danny Espinosa — and a first baseman who has been essentially replacement-level in three of the last four seasons.

Williams claimed earlier this spring that Zimmerman would play third base “99 percent of the time,” and ideally that would indeed be the plan. But for a team with legitimate World Series hopes, it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on Zimmerman’s defense (and LaRoche’s offense) and see if that’s even possible. Again, don’t overreact to two or three GIFs here. It’s just on Zimmerman to show that he can still be a valuable defensive third baseman this year, and the spring hasn’t exactly been flawless in that regard.
post #20398 of 73663
Thread Starter 
2014 Positional Power Rankings: Second Base.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
As we make our way around the infield, we now land on second base. To the graph.

At the keystone position, there’s a clear top three, a bunch of teams in the same general range, and then there’s the Blue Jays. Make a trade, Blue Jays.

#1 Mariners
Robinson Cano 630 .289 .354 .469 .354 17.4 -0.3 3.3 4.7
Nick Franklin 42 .246 .318 .391 .313 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Willie Bloomquist 28 .263 .304 .338 .284 -0.8 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .286 .350 .459 .349 16.5 -0.4 2.9 4.8
Last year, it was the Yankees who appeared to feature the strongest second-base contingent entering the season; now, it’s the Seattle Mariners. Here’s what those two clubs (i.e. the ’13 Yankees and ’14 Mariners) have in common: very good baseball hitter Robinson Cano.

It’s entirely possible that Cano’s 10-year contract with the M’s won’t appear very reasonable when a 40-year-old — and, one assumes, a less productive — Cano is earning $24 million. Even assuming a pretty conservative dollar-per-win estimate of ca. $5 million, however, Cano is likely to provide marginal value in 2014.

Of some interest in the case of Seattle is the second name on the list above. While certainly not so impressive as Cano, Nick Franklin is a promising young player in his own right — one most likely capable of producing wins at a league-average rate, given the opportunity. Of course, with the club’s acquisition of Cano, that’s an opportunity Franklin is much less likely to receive. As such, what the Mariners have effectively done is paid not so much for five, but rather three, additional wins. Unfortunately for devotees of the club, maneuvers such as this one aren’t entirely unusual for the current front office.

#2 Rays
Ben Zobrist 525 .262 .352 .416 .338 10.8 0.6 4.9 3.8
Logan Forsythe 70 .233 .316 .351 .298 -0.8 0.1 -0.4 0.2
Sean Rodriguez 70 .231 .305 .371 .300 -0.6 0.0 0.7 0.3
Hak-Ju Lee 35 .242 .301 .331 .283 -0.8 0.1 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .255 .341 .401 .328 8.7 0.8 5.4 4.4
While entirely productive on the field, Ben Zobrist does possess one glaring deficiency as a ballplayer — namely, that his versatility renders projects like the present one (i.e. a positional power ranking) more difficult than they might otherwise be. In 2013, Zobrist recorded more than 100 defensive innings at second base, shortstop, and right field. He’s also logged time at center and right in the not-so-distant past and could presumably play anywhere else on the diamond.

As of press time, Zobrist appears likely to appear most often at second base in 2014. Regardless of where he plays, however, he’s expected to remain of the league’s most surprisingly complete players. Consider: despite little in the way of fanfare, Zobrist has recorded the third-highest WAR (29.7) since 2009 — i.e. the first season in which he appeared in something like a full complement of games. At 33, he’s unlikely improve, of course; still, Zobrist remains a well-rounded and versatile member of a very strong ball club.

#3 Red Sox
Dustin Pedroia 595 .286 .356 .427 .343 8.7 0.2 9.4 4.3
Jonathan Herrera 70 .250 .307 .322 .280 -2.4 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Brock Holt 35 .266 .321 .341 .295 -0.8 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .282 .349 .412 .335 5.5 0.0 9.1 4.3
The present author can’t speak to the effect that injuring a thumb ligament might have on a person’s well-being. He did once, however — i.e. that same author did once — catch his smallest toe on the leg of his bed, after which event he proceeded to do a lot of work with the “fetal position” for a better part of the day.

It would appear, from his 2013 season, that Dustin Pedroia’s capacity for dealing with physical discomfort is more robust than the author’s. After tearing the UCL in his thumb on Opening Day, Pedroia went on to record a 115 wRC+ and 5.4 WAR in 724 plate appearances over 160 games.

There’s reason to suspect that, following off-season surgery, Pedroia might actually be prepared to improve upon his power numbers, which were uncharacteristically low in 2013. “I didn’t have the strength I normally had,” Pedroia recently told the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman. “I was fine to contact point, after that I didn’t have anything behind it. Now, there’s a difference.”

Indeed, even were he to repeat his 2013 campaign, Pedroia would still remain one of the league’s best — and, it would seem, most durable — players at the keystone.

#4 Tigers
Ian Kinsler 630 .266 .340 .419 .335 6.4 1.3 2.9 3.6
Steve Lombardozzi 35 .267 .307 .359 .294 -0.8 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Hernan Perez 35 .259 .285 .343 .277 -1.2 0.1 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .266 .336 .412 .330 4.4 1.3 2.8 3.7
If one takes for granted that the wisdom behind this trade or that signing ought to be evaluated by whatever information was available to the relevant parties at the time of the deal — that is, as opposed to at whatever point in the future all the players involved have retired or whatever — then it’s probably fair to say that Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski’s move to acquire Kinsler in exchange for Prince Fielder was/is a smart one.

The Tigers played most of the 2013 season with three DHs in their lineup, which isn’t entirely sound strategy, owing to how only one player can fill that role at any given time according the rules of baseball. As a result, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera were compelled to occupy positions (first and third base, respectively) at which they were stretched. Dealing Fielder for Kinsler had the immediate benefit not only of filling the vacancy at second base left by the departure of Omar Infante to free agency, but also of allowing Cabrera to return to a position more suited to his skill set and giant man’s body.

#5 Phillies
Chase Utley 525 .258 .337 .432 .335 6.9 1.2 3.6 3.2
Kevin Frandsen 56 .265 .309 .363 .297 -0.9 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Freddy Galvis 84 .243 .280 .362 .281 -2.4 -0.1 0.5 0.1
Cesar Hernandez 35 .267 .310 .346 .291 -0.7 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .257 .326 .413 .324 2.8 1.0 4.0 3.4
Last season marked the ninth consecutive one in which Chase Utley produced a WAR of 3.0 or greater. Two more seasons along those lines will put him across the 60-win threshold that serves as the rough barometer for Hall of Fame eligibility.

Last season also represented the fourth consecutive one in which Utley failed to record at least 600 plate appearances. Age appears to have affected both his overall durability and his production on a rate basis, as well. Like many players with a high peak, however, Utley has been able to decline into merely an above-average second baseman — as opposed to a perennial MVP candidate. Steamer and ZiPS both regard him as a three-win player for 2014.

Who, though, will replace Utley if and when he requires treatment for a (probably inevitable) injury? The answer is probably the same in 2014 as it was in 2013: a combination of Kevin Frandsen, Freddy Galvis, and Cesar Hernandez. None are stars or even stars-in-the-making. All of them are either switch or right-handed hitters, however, meaning that they can spell Utley against left-handers, if necessary.

#6 Indians
Jason Kipnis 595 .262 .339 .416 .332 8.5 1.2 -1.7 3.2
Mike Aviles 56 .255 .286 .373 .289 -1.1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Elliot Johnson 35 .228 .279 .333 .271 -1.2 0.1 -0.1 0.0
Jose Ramirez 14 .264 .305 .346 .289 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .259 .331 .407 .325 6.0 1.3 -2.0 3.3
Jason Kipnis struck out approximately a third more often in 2013 than he had the previous season without a commensurate increase in his walk rate. That’s not the most ideal of developments; however, there are a number of mitigating factors. Like, for one: his swinging-strike rate was nearly identical to his 2012 mark. And, for two: he produced a bunch more extra-base hits, increasing his isolated power figure by about 45 points.

The most reasonable view with regard to the 2014 version of Jason Kipnis is that he’s likely to produce some combination of his 2012 and -13 seasons. That’s what both Steamer and ZiPS project, for example. The result, should the come to pass, will be one of the better players on probably a pretty good team.

Of note with regard to Cleveland’s second-base position is the presence of prospect Jose Ramirez. In just his age-20 season last year, he struck out in fewer than 8% of his plate appearances while walking nearly as often. Were Kipnis to find himself injured for an extended period of time, Ramirez would make for a compelling — if not necessarily productive, yet — replacement.

#7 Padres
Jedd Gyorko 630 .258 .311 .431 .324 6.6 0.1 -1.7 2.8
Alexi Amarista 70 .251 .290 .362 .287 -1.3 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .257 .309 .424 .320 5.3 0.1 -1.9 2.9
The success of Jedd Gyorko isn’t particularly surprising in retrospect. First, he was good in the low minors. Next, he was good in the high minors. Right after that, he was good in the majors. Nothing could make more sense.

In a season and in a league that didn’t include both Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig, he might have been a reasonable candidate for Rookie of the Year honors. As things worked out, he wasn’t that. Still, was an above-average second baseman. Because he plays in Petco and because he batted .249, people might not know that Gyorko was above-average. But he was. Or, to the best of our knowledge he was.

Indications indicate that Gyorko will once again be an above-average second baseman in 2014. For the reasons mentioned above, he might not receive attention commensurate with his talents or production. But that has more to do with the ballpark in which — and the club on which — he plays.

#8 Angels
Howie Kendrick 560 .277 .318 .412 .319 2.4 -0.2 1.6 2.6
Grant Green 70 .261 .301 .382 .300 -0.7 -0.1 -0.5 0.1
Andrew Romine 35 .238 .294 .304 .269 -1.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Tommy Field 35 .225 .290 .340 .281 -0.9 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .271 .314 .400 .312 -0.4 -0.3 1.0 2.8
In 2005 — or 2006, maybe it was — the majority of scouting reports concerning Howie Kendrick cited quality of contact as his No. 1 asset. “This guy really barrels the ball,” is probably a sentence that appears somewhere with regard to Howie Kendrick. “Man, does this guy barrel the hell out of the ball,” is maybe another one.

Now eight years into his major-league career, Kendrick has produced a .340 BABIP over 3745 career plate appearances — a figure (the BABIP one, that is) which ranks among the top 5% of qualified hitters since Kendrick’s rookie season. Because his strike-zone figures haven’t been ideal — and also perhaps because of his home park — neither Kendrick’s batting average nor on-base marks have been entirely impressive. Fortunately, the offensive threshold for a player on the more challenging side of the defensive spectrum is lower, and Kendrick has recorded above-average batting lines, on the whole.

At 30, Kendrick might begin to exhibit signs of decline. Probability suggests that those signs won’t be strong enough to deteriorate the skills that have allowed him to produce above-average figures for the last seven years.

#9 Diamondbacks
Aaron Hill 630 .271 .330 .436 .334 5.1 -0.7 -0.8 2.7
Cliff Pennington 49 .247 .307 .355 .293 -1.2 0.0 0.2 0.1
Chris Owings 21 .267 .296 .391 .301 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .269 .327 .429 .330 3.6 -0.6 -0.6 2.8
While not having actually played for the club for about 2.5 years, Aaron Hill remains spiritually a Toronto Blue Jay to the degree that — like Jose Bautista, for example, or Edwin Encarnacion — he’s capable of producing relatively impressive power numbers while also making lots of contact. What he’s been able to do as a Diamondback is to also improve his batted-ball figures. To wit: in his last two complete seasons with Toronto, Hill recorded a .248 BABIP in 1314 plate appearances. In two full seasons with Arizona those numbers look much better: Hill’s posted a .315 BABIP in 1030 PA over that time period — i.e. about a 65 point difference. Coincidence? Perhaps. A product of improved health? Perhaps that, too. Maybe the result of a mechanical adjustment? This is also a possibility. The result is that, when healthy, Aaron Hill is a net offensive asset who plays a relatively demanding position. What might prevent him from producing above-average numbers overall, should that happen, is his health, as was the case in 2013.

#10 Reds
Brandon Phillips 595 .267 .316 .404 .315 -1.9 0.1 6.9 2.7
Skip Schumaker 105 .255 .317 .335 .292 -2.3 -0.2 -1.4 0.0
Total 700 .265 .316 .394 .312 -4.2 -0.1 5.6 2.7
Because it’s more or less his job as a professional athlete to retain Maximum Confidence in his skills, it’s understandable that Brandon Phillips has taken umbrage at suggestions that he’s less valuable than his RBI totals might suggest or that he’s entered the decline phase of his career (even if his manner of expressing said umbrage strays inappropriately ad hominem). Merely because it’s in Phillips’ best interests to ignore such criticisms, however, doesn’t make them any less accurate. While still a fantastic defender by all accounts, Phillips’ aggressive approach at the plate has produced below-average walk rates year after year, in turn putting more pressure on both the frequency and quality of his contact. In 2013, unfortunately, Phillips produced his highest swinging-strike rate in five years (10.8%) while also recording among the lowest isolated power figures (.135) and BABIPs (.281) of his career. That confluence of miseries might be partially the result of randomness — and Phillips still absolutely has value. Entering his age-33 season, however, his four- and five-win seasons are likely all behind him.

#11 Nationals
Anthony Rendon 490 .263 .339 .413 .331 5.4 0.1 -0.6 2.3
Danny Espinosa 175 .222 .285 .364 .287 -4.1 0.1 1.1 0.3
Jeff Kobernus 35 .263 .300 .333 .281 -1.0 0.1 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .252 .324 .396 .318 0.3 0.3 0.5 2.7
Despite having been drafted over two years ago now, Anthony Rendon’s 394 plate appearances with the Nationals last year represent the largest total by double that he’s recorded at any level of professional baseball. Injuries, are the reason for that. Taken with the sixth pick out of Rice in 2011, he missed the remainder of that season with a shoulder injury. Then, in the first week of the 2012 season, he fractured an ankle, sidelining him for four more months. Accordingly, 2013 was his first opportunity to record a substantial number of plate appearances. The result: he was excellent at Double-A Harrisburg and then almost precisely average with the Nats. Not a bad sequence of events, that. For the moment, health remains the primary concern with regard to Rendon, whose offensive skills remain highly regarded. An injury to Rendon would likely mean the return of Danny Espinosa, whose approach totally broke down in 2013 (and didn’t improve following a demotion to Triple-A) after consecutive three-win seasons in 2011-12.

#12 Pirates
Neil Walker 490 .265 .335 .421 .331 6.8 -0.1 -2.3 2.3
Jordy Mercer 98 .253 .305 .382 .300 -1.0 -0.1 -0.3 0.2
Josh Harrison 35 .265 .304 .391 .305 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Clint Barmes 35 .227 .275 .327 .265 -1.3 0.0 0.4 0.0
Robert Andino 21 .235 .285 .322 .271 -0.7 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Michael Martinez 21 .239 .278 .326 .266 -0.8 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .259 .323 .403 .319 2.8 -0.3 -2.5 2.5
Neil Walker was named both the most athletic and best overall prospect in the Pirates system by Baseball America in 2006 — an exceptional turn of events, that, when one notes that Andrew McCutchen was also employed as a Pittsburgh minor leaguer at the same time. One, in a certain turn of mind, might suggest that Walker had failed to live up to his promise. Perhaps that’s the case. Perhaps, however, that’s what’s implied by rating a prospect so highly, as BA did with Walker. “Even if this doesn’t entirely work out,” such a ranking might suggest, “this guy will still be a slightly above-average regular.” A slightly above-average regular is what Walker has been for three-plus years now — and what he’s most likely to be in 2014, perhaps with the occasional off-day when the club is facing a left-hander and one of Walker’s right-handed-batting teammates is utilized in his place.

#13 Cardinals
Kolten Wong 476 .265 .315 .376 .305 -2.9 0.9 1.6 1.7
Mark Ellis 175 .252 .310 .343 .291 -3.0 -0.1 1.7 0.5
Daniel Descalso 21 .244 .307 .354 .290 -0.4 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Jermaine Curtis 14 .253 .332 .328 .298 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Greg Miclat 14 .235 .299 .296 .270 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .260 .314 .365 .301 -6.9 0.8 3.1 2.2
Per WAR, the best second baseman of 2013 wasn’t Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia or Ben Zobrist, but rather Matt Carpenter — a product, Carpenter, of the Cardinals’ innovative strategy of transforming 13th-round draft picks into MVP candidates.

With the departure of David Freese to Anaheim, however, Carpenter will now attempt to become the majors’ top third baseman, instead. Making that maneuver possible has been the development of Kolten Wong, who enters the 2014 season as the club’s starting second baseman.

Wong’s major-league debut wasn’t fantastic, per se: he slashed just .153/.194/.169 over 62 late-season plate appearances and then got picked off by Koji Uehara to end Game Four of the World Series. His .191 BABIP was certainly to blame for the lack of offensive production, however, and (more importantly) his minor-league resume offers a portrait of a competent all-around player. It wouldn’t be surprising, for example, to find, at the end of the season, that Wong had outplayed Freese, the player whom he’s effectively replaced.

#14 Rangers
Jurickson Profar 630 .255 .325 .395 .318 -4.5 -0.4 1.4 2.1
Adam Rosales 70 .241 .294 .373 .293 -1.9 0.0 -0.5 0.0
Total 700 .253 .322 .393 .316 -6.4 -0.4 0.8 2.1
Profar, so far as the record shows, doesn’t possess a face such as is responsible for the launch of 1,000 ships or even just a single, lonely ship. That distinction rests squarely with sexy Helen of Troy. Profar’s skill as a ballplayer, however, did compel the Rangers to (strained analogy forthcoming) launch veteran Ian Kinsler all the way from Arlington to Detroit, thus clearing the way for the young Curaçaoan. Profar’s first half-season’s worth of plate appearances weren’t an epiphany. Still, he managed to walk and strike out at about league-average rates, and played all three of the four toughest infield positions with something not unlike aplomb. Plus, there’s this to note: he was only 20. And also this: he produced nearly equal walk and strikeout rates (12.7% and 14.5%, respectively) over 166 plate appearances at Triple-A. Again, as a 20-year-old. Did anyone mention that Profar was only 20 last year? He was. Twenty, that is.

#15 Royals
Omar Infante 525 .286 .318 .398 .314 -3.1 -0.1 1.6 1.9
Pedro Ciriaco 126 .257 .282 .344 .274 -4.7 0.2 -0.6 -0.1
Johnny Giavotella 49 .267 .323 .373 .308 -0.5 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .279 .312 .387 .306 -8.3 0.0 0.8 2.0
The hastily made graph below illustrates what many — including the Royals, who signed him to a four-year, $30.25 million deal this winter — already knew: that Omar Infante’s production as a ballplayer is tied directly and positively to his age.


According to this model, which one assumes is infallible, Infante will record nearly an 18-win season when he’s 57. Johnny Giavotella, once regarded as heir apparent to the Kansas City second-base job will have some difficulty in usurping Infante, despite the fact that his bat (i.e. Giavotella) still holds some promise.

#16 Astros
Jose Altuve 616 .283 .324 .385 .311 -3.3 0.6 -4.3 1.7
Marwin Gonzalez 42 .242 .280 .337 .272 -1.5 -0.1 0.0 0.0
Cesar Izturis 42 .237 .275 .310 .258 -2.0 -0.1 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .278 .318 .377 .305 -6.7 0.5 -4.0 1.7
It has become somewhat common for those familiar with the diminutive Astros second baseman — like FanGraphs’ own David Temple, for instance — to express their height in Altuves. By that measure, for example, the average major-league player (ca. 74 inches, according to Bill Petti) is about 1.14 Altuves. “What if,” an idle author might ask to the end of personal amusement, “what if, instead of height, though, Altuves were actually an expression of Wins Above Replacement, instead?” In that case, the average major-leaguer in 2013 would have been not 1.14, but more like 1.54, Altuves. Which is the roundest-about way of saying this: that Altuve was below average last season.

That was just 2013, of course. Indeed, both the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems portend improvement all around for Altuve: in walk rate, in strikeout rate, in BABIP — and, by extension, both wRC+ and WAR, as well. Whatever he produces likely won’t matter — not merely because life is meaningless (it is), but moreso because one win here or there won’t be what separates Houston from playoff contention.

#17 Athletics
Alberto Callaspo 280 .260 .335 .367 .312 -0.6 -0.5 -2.1 0.8
Eric Sogard 280 .255 .315 .351 .297 -4.0 0.0 -0.2 0.7
Nick Punto 105 .229 .308 .299 .276 -3.2 0.0 0.1 0.1
Jed Lowrie 35 .262 .325 .415 .324 0.3 0.0 -0.4 0.1
Total 700 .253 .323 .353 .301 -7.6 -0.6 -2.6 1.6
This is the exact place on these rankings where each club’s second-base position begins to present uncertainties. While Jose Altuve (just above) isn’t expected to cross the two-win threshold for the Houstons, he remains a promising player in a full-time role. What the A’s appear likely to feature is either a pair or triumvirate of known commodities in distinctly part-time roles. That’s not a death knell, of course, but it does create noise. Alberto Callaspo makes lots of contact but is limited as an infielder. Eric Sogard is bespectacled and defensively proficient, but unlikely to produce a league-average offensive mark. Nick Punto, meanwhile, provides the most value by means of his versatility.

The ideal situation for the A’s might ultimately involve promoting very exciting prospect Addison Russell to the majors and then moving Jed Lowrie to second. Service-time concerns and additional development time will prevent that from happening in April. If Russell hits at Double-A, however, he might help facilitate an elegant solution to Oakland’s second-base quandary.

#18 Giants
Marco Scutaro 455 .279 .331 .366 .310 0.2 -0.2 -2.0 1.4
Joaquin Arias 91 .254 .282 .344 .273 -2.5 0.1 0.1 0.1
Tony Abreu 63 .251 .280 .366 .282 -1.3 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Ehire Adrianza 35 .227 .292 .315 .272 -1.0 0.0 0.2 0.0
Total 644 .270 .317 .360 .300 -4.7 -0.3 -1.9 1.6
The 2014 season represents the second of a three-year, $20 million contract Marco Scutaro signed in December of 2012. On the strength of his contact-heavy hitting approach and defensive competence, he’s worth it — provided he plays, that is. Of concern is Scutaro’s durability, however. Indeed, he managed his sixth consecutive season of two-plus wins in 2013; however, the 38-year-old dealt with back pain last year and that’s not the sort of injury to go gently into the good night.

Said Scutaro recently to’s Chris Haft:

“I don’t want to say nothing right now… That’s because backs are tricky. I can tell you right now I feel great and then wake up tomorrow and I can’t even walk. I’m going to go day by day and see how things are going…. It’s driving me crazy. I can’t figure it out.”

Those aren’t the words of a man in the Best Shape of His Life, it wouldn’t seem. Were Scutaro unable to play, Joaquin Arias, Tony Abreu, and Ehire Adrianza all become options to replace him. Of the triumvirate, the most interesting is probably Adrianza — for the combination of his youth and a particularly robust 45 game sample he put together with Triple-A Fresno last year.

#19 Mets
Daniel Murphy 560 .279 .318 .401 .314 1.2 1.1 -8.1 1.4
Wilmer Flores 84 .256 .293 .392 .299 -0.8 -0.1 -0.5 0.1
Omar Quintanilla 56 .231 .299 .324 .276 -1.6 -0.1 -0.4 0.0
Total 700 .273 .314 .394 .309 -1.2 1.0 -9.0 1.6
According to extant models, footspeed appears to be a trait which begins to decline quite early in a ballplayer’s career. It’s not unusual, for example, to find players attempt — and even convert — a number of stolen bases at the minor-league level and then fail to match those rates in the majors. It’s this trend which makes the Daniel Murphy case so curious. Last year, as a 28-year-old, he recorded a stolen-base record of 23-for-26, both figures representing career highs over the entirety of his eight-year professional career. Between those stolen bases and other baserunning acts, Murphy produced 6.4 runs by means of just his feet — which contributed nicely to his 2013 line, but (owing to the volatility of baserunning figures) is one reason why projections systems are less optimistic regarding Murphy’s 2014 season.

However he plays, Murphy will likely hold off Wilmer Flores (i.e. his closest positional challenge) for the most of the season — nor does it appear as though Flores is likely to represent a clear improvement over Murphy for the time being.

#20 Brewers
Scooter Gennett 420 .275 .309 .384 .305 -4.8 -0.2 0.2 1.0
Rickie Weeks 231 .234 .325 .398 .321 0.4 0.1 -3.5 0.5
Jeff Bianchi 35 .244 .285 .332 .274 -1.3 0.0 0.2 0.0
Irving Falu 14 .253 .300 .329 .280 -0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .260 .313 .385 .308 -6.2 -0.1 -3.2 1.5
Were one, availed of a time machine for some reason, to travel back to the 2011-12 offseason and inform the people there that Rickie Weeks would find himself surpassed on the Brewers depth chart by someone named Scooter within the next two years, that would be poor use of a time machine. It would also come as all manner of shock to the people of 2011 and -12. Between his excellent raw power, above-average footspeed, discerning eye, and serviceable glove, Weeks seems to have spent much of his career seemingly on the verge of stardom. Some combination of injuries and contact issues have always conspired to undermine him, however. Nor was this more definitely the case than in 2013.

Weeks’s difficulties allowed an opening for Scooter Gennett, who parlayed a .380 BABIP into a 131 wRC+ and 1.9 WAR in just 230 plate appearances. Those numbers are impressive, but unlikely to be revisited by Gennett in 2014. Ultimately, a Gennett/Weeks platoon might be averagely productive — but still super, super weird for anyone who’s seen Weeks at his best.

#21 Rockies
DJ LeMahieu 420 .291 .326 .384 .311 -8.8 -0.3 2.2 0.8
Josh Rutledge 210 .279 .324 .430 .330 -1.3 0.4 -0.5 0.6
Charlie Culberson 70 .270 .299 .416 .311 -1.5 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .285 .323 .401 .317 -11.7 0.1 1.6 1.5
Second base has been a bit of the metaphorical revolving door for Colorado in recent years. Since 2010, at least two players have recorded 45 or more starts there in every season — nor have any of the players made what might be called an “overwhelming case” for more substantial duties.

Circumstances appear largely unchanged in this regard entering the 2014 campaign. DJ LeMahieu possesses above-average footspeed and defensive acumen, but not so much as to compensate for his shortcomings as a hitter. Josh Rutledge profiles similarly overall, conceding something in the way of contact skills for better power than LeMahieu’s.

In the end, both will likely record a number of starts at second — with LeMahieu perhaps establishing a temporary full-time role at some point if and when Troy Tulowitzki loses time to injury (as he has in recent years) and Rutledge is tasked with replacing him.

#22 Yankees
Brian Roberts 315 .246 .306 .366 .298 -6.1 -0.3 -2.2 0.3
Dean Anna 245 .252 .329 .370 .312 -2.1 -0.3 1.2 0.8
Kelly Johnson 70 .234 .316 .406 .319 -0.2 0.0 -0.5 0.2
Brendan Ryan 35 .221 .286 .306 .266 -1.5 0.0 0.5 0.0
Corban Joseph 35 .244 .314 .385 .309 -0.4 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .246 .314 .370 .304 -10.3 -0.6 -1.2 1.5
It has likely been noted elsewhere, but will also be noted here now, too, that it is an unsual state of affairs indeed when a club with the second-highest payroll in the league finds itself nearly scrambling to identify a starter both for second and third base (i.e. two of the main baseball positions). Such is mostly the case, however, for the 2014 edition of the New York Yankees, who enter the season with Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson as the likely — and somewhat underwhelming, perhaps — favorites at the aforementioned positions, respectively.

Johnson is outside the purview of our concerns here. With regard to Roberts, however, here’s a brief collection of facts:

He’s been quite good at points in his career.
He’s dealt with what one might call a panoply of injuries.
He’s failed to record more than 300 plate appearances every year since 2010.
He’s entering his age-36 season.
He was just about average, on a rate basis, last year.
Steamer and ZiPS, incorporating these facts into number form, both suggest that, while probably something better than replacement-level, the present iteration of Brian Roberts is also probably not quite an average player when he plays — and is probably not likely to play every game.

If and when Roberts finds himself unable to play, an entirely compelling alternative might arrive in the person of Dean Anna. Acquired from San Diego this offseason, the 27-year-old Anna has recorded zero plate appearances in the majors, but produced an excellent all-around season with Triple-A Tucson and has received quite favorable projections. Far be it from the present author to tell than Yankees how to conduct their affairs, but Anna is certainly the most interesting option for the club at second, if only because he’s an unknown quantity.

#23 Twins
Brian Dozier 525 .246 .304 .375 .300 -7.5 0.0 1.1 1.4
Eduardo Escobar 105 .245 .288 .340 .279 -3.3 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Danny Santana 70 .256 .288 .342 .278 -2.2 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .247 .300 .366 .295 -13.0 -0.2 0.8 1.4
It’s an instance both of (a) damning with faint praise and also (b) the truth, to suggest that the Twins have more substantial problems than a slight lack of production at second base. Like a larger lack of production at third base, for example. And also shortstop. And from much of the pitching staff, as well. Brian Dozier probably isn’t the ideal second-base option on a club with intentions of making the playoffs; however, for a club likely to finish fifth in its division, giving starts to Dozier, a cost-controlled player with maybe some development left, is wise.

Of some interest will be to what degree Dozier revisits the power figures he produced in 2013. His 18 home runs last season represented his highest season total by a considerable margin. Both Steamer and ZiPS expect him to retain some of that improvement.

#24 Braves
Dan Uggla 490 .213 .319 .392 .316 0.1 -0.6 -8.2 0.8
Thomas La Stella 119 .276 .339 .402 .327 1.1 0.0 -0.3 0.5
Tyler Pastornicky 35 .260 .306 .353 .292 -0.6 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Phil Gosselin 35 .238 .283 .318 .267 -1.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Ramiro Pena 21 .240 .292 .336 .280 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .229 .319 .386 .313 -1.4 -0.7 -8.6 1.4
Dan Uggla’s career has been populated by curious developments. Rare is it, for example, that a position player acquired via the the Rule 5 draft has become such an asset to his club. Rare is it also that an otherwise healthy player making $13 million is left off his team’s postseason roster. Such is Dan Uggla.

Always on the fringe side of defensive competence at second base, Uggla’s value is tied largely to his bat. Over the past four seasons, unfortunately, he’s recorded wRC+s of 135, 111, 104, and 91, in that order. Here are his strikeout rates over that same four-year interval: 22.1%, 23.2%, 26.7%, and 31.8%. An alarming trend, that.

Probably because of his contract, if nothing else, Uggla appears likely to enter the 2014 season as Atlanta’s starting second baseman. How he performs will directly influence not only how much playing time he receives, but also how much compelling prospect Tommy La Stella receives.

La Stella resembles Uggla in that he’s not a particularly gifted infielder. Unlike Uggla, though, who produced five consecutive 30-home-run seasons, La Stella’s offensive main assets are his contact ability and control of the strike zone. That approach might lend itself to more consistency — and not the great volatility of Uggla’s power-centric approach.

#25 White Sox
Gordon Beckham 420 .252 .313 .379 .306 -5.8 -0.1 -0.5 1.0
Marcus Semien 140 .241 .319 .386 .313 -1.2 0.0 -0.9 0.3
Jeff Keppinger 105 .272 .313 .369 .301 -1.9 -0.3 -1.0 0.1
Leury Garcia 35 .238 .282 .321 .268 -1.5 0.1 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .252 .313 .376 .305 -10.5 -0.3 -2.2 1.4
Were one asked to project Gordon Beckham’s 2010-13 seasons based on his brief but impressive minor-league record and then rookie season in 2009, it’s very likely that the result would be considerably more optimistic than what reality has produced. It’s just generally the case that 22-year-old players who combine a knowledge of the strike zone with reasonable power-on-contact and defensive competence — it’s generally the case that those players don’t then enter a four-year interval of mediocrity. Even with a modestly improved 2013 campaign, that’s what Beckham has done, however.

Of more interest than Beckham for the moment is Marcus Semien, who exhibited an overall skill set in his own age-22 season last year similar to the one Beckham seemed likely to possess, even if he lacks the first-round pedigree. How quickly Robin Ventura et al. would turn to Semien given another ineffective season from Beckham isn’t entirely clear. The oblique injury which has kept Beckham sidelined for a week as of press time, however, might facilitate some early season plate appearances for Semien.

#26 Dodgers
Dee Gordon 245 .249 .303 .314 .277 -6.6 1.2 -1.0 0.2
Alexander Guerrero 315 .251 .310 .394 .312 0.1 -0.8 -0.3 1.0
Justin Turner 105 .258 .310 .363 .298 -1.0 -0.1 -1.2 0.1
Chone Figgins 35 .229 .292 .301 .268 -1.2 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .250 .307 .357 .295 -8.7 0.4 -2.8 1.3
Dee Gordon certainly possesses a number of virtues as a ballplayer relative to the entire living human population. Compared to just other major-leaugers, however, he has fewer — mostly just footspeed and the capacity to play a somewhat challenging defensive position with competence. If he were capable of playing the most challenging defensive position with excellence, then his offensive shortcomings would be acceptable. But there’s no use dwelling on what he can’t do. That’s what spouses are for.

Somewhat mysterious, of course, is how Gordon and not Cuban emigre Alex Guerrero is expected to start for Los Angeles this season. “Well, that’s how the Dodgers handled other Cuban emigre Yasiel Puig,” is one answer, “and look how that turned out.” Puig, of course, was just 22 last year; Guerrero, meanwhile, is 27. Whatever skills he will have, he probably does have already. And even an Alex Guerrero acclimating himself to major-league pitching is probably superior to a Dee Gordon doing whatever it is that Dee Gordon does.

#27 Cubs
Darwin Barney 476 .251 .300 .344 .284 -14.2 1.2 7.4 1.1
Emilio Bonifacio 126 .255 .314 .334 .290 -3.2 0.8 -0.5 0.1
Chris Valaika 49 .237 .277 .340 .273 -1.9 -0.1 -0.3 -0.1
Ryan Roberts 28 .238 .309 .362 .299 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Javier Baez 21 .244 .290 .451 .321 0.0 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .250 .301 .346 .286 -19.8 1.9 6.4 1.3
If ever you were interested in referring to someone as a “little scamp,” Darwin Barney’s probably a reasonable choice. Not to his face, of course — he’s a professional athlete with a grown man’s dignity, after all — but in the privacy of your own home, certainly, after Barney has just performed a particularly mischievous and/or amusing turn.

Apart from his scamp-ish charm, Barney’s utility as the Cubs’ starting second baseman is limited. He’s never recorded a batting line better than 20% below league average. When coupled with the impressive defense and baserunning that Barney has shown at his best, that produces an average major-leaguer. Anything less than excellent by either of those measures, however, conspires to produce less than that.

What eventually becomes of the second-base spot for the Cubs as they slowly ascend to competitiveness remains a question mark. Javier Baez is referred to almost exclusively as a “stud” in scouting reports, and he would certainly seem to have the tools to play second. The graduation of either Mike Olt or Josh Vitters to the majors — to play third, presumably — would also have the effect of crowding the infield. Whatever the case, it’s probably fair to say that Barney isn’t the second baseman of the future.

#28 Marlins
Rafael Furcal 455 .259 .321 .363 .304 -5.2 0.4 -1.3 1.0
Donovan Solano 140 .259 .306 .344 .288 -3.3 0.0 0.1 0.2
Derek Dietrich 35 .237 .293 .392 .301 -0.5 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Ed Lucas 35 .238 .290 .333 .277 -1.1 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Jordany Valdespin 35 .255 .298 .385 .301 -0.5 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .257 .314 .360 .299 -10.6 0.3 -1.7 1.2
“Corpse meditation” is a practice utilized by certain sorts of Buddhist monk, wherein one will contemplate an image or images of dead bodies with a view to internalizing the frailties of the corporeal self.

The Miami Marlins, if regarded correctly, are for the baseball enthusiast more or less the equivalent of these repulsive images. Without training, one finds him- or herself recoiling in disgust at the site of the club’s poor and divisive management. With proper practice, however, meditating on the Marlins becomes an important mechanism for spiritual enlightenment.

In conclusion, Rafael Furcal will probably start the majority of games for Miami this season.

#29 Orioles
Jonathan Schoop 245 .246 .296 .385 .301 -4.3 -0.3 0.0 0.5
Jemile Weeks 210 .252 .322 .345 .299 -3.9 0.1 -2.0 0.2
Ryan Flaherty 175 .235 .289 .394 .299 -3.3 -0.1 0.4 0.4
Cord Phelps 35 .240 .304 .365 .297 -0.7 0.0 0.3 0.1
Ivan DeJesus 35 .220 .280 .330 .272 -1.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .243 .302 .372 .298 -13.7 -0.4 -1.2 1.1
A couple of years ago, Baltimore had an enviable situation: both an above-average shortstop (J.J. Hardy) at the major-league level and two very promising shortstops (Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop) in the minors. At some point in 2014, Baltimore will very probably feature both an above-average shortstop (J.J. Hardy) at the major-league level and two very promising other infielders (Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop) at third and second, respectively, in the majors.

Because most prospects don’t begin their major-league careers with the sort of success that Machado did, Jonathan Schoop also probably won’t begin his major-league career with the sort of success that Machado did. It’s for that reason that the Orioles are unlikely to extract much value from second base this season. Unlike some other clubs taking up residence towards the bottom of these rankings, however, Baltimore has a legitimate prospect in place who’s most likely career path is one towards major-league competence.

#30 Blue Jays
Ryan Goins 350 .240 .279 .334 .271 -13.9 -0.8 1.0 -0.1
Maicer Izturis 175 .258 .314 .352 .297 -3.5 -0.2 -1.6 0.1
Munenori Kawasaki 105 .240 .307 .311 .280 -3.5 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Chris Getz 35 .250 .300 .318 .275 -1.3 0.1 -0.1 0.0
Steve Tolleson 35 .238 .304 .344 .290 -0.9 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .245 .294 .335 .280 -23.0 -0.9 -1.0 0.1
It’s because of their lack of talent at second base that Toronto has been one of the clubs most frequently linked to a possible trade with Seattle for Nick Franklin. Both the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems are pessimistic about any of the Blue Jays’ realistic second-base options producing value much above replacement level. Franklin, on the other hand, is a candidate to play baseball like an average major-leaguer. That’s a possible two-win swing, there — and one in which the Jays might very well need if they’re to compete in the talented AL East.

2014 Positional Power Rankings: Third Base.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Evan Longoria is good at baseball. Evidence:

The third base graph looks more like the first base graph than it does the catcher graph. There’s a thin top tier, and then a pretty large middle tier (that you can break up into two and three win players) and then a hide-your-eyes bottom tier. By and large, the teams in the bottom half have a couple different directions in which they could go, so things could look a touch different at the end of the season, with the Braves being the notable exception. Let’s not expend a lot of words in the intro though, as there are many words expended below!

#1 Rays

Evan Longoria 630 .261 .347 .482 .357 22.0 0.0 11.4 6.1
Logan Forsythe 35 .233 .316 .351 .298 -0.4 0.1 -0.2 0.1
Sean Rodriguez 35 .231 .305 .371 .300 -0.3 0.0 0.3 0.1
Total 700 .258 .344 .469 .351 21.3 0.0 11.6 6.3
Old people are fond of saying that they “don’t make ‘em like they used to,” but Longoria is proof positive that they in fact do make them like they used to. Since 1900, there have only been five third basemen who piled up more WAR than did Longoria through their age-27 seasons, and you’ve heard of all of them. Mostly because all of them are in the Hall of Fame. Longoria doesn’t really steal a lot of bases, but he does just about everything else at a star level. If he suits up for a full season, you can mark him down for at least a six-win season. That’s something that only a few players in the game today can say.

#2 Mets

David Wright 595 .280 .364 .469 .360 22.7 0.9 0.6 4.8
Wilmer Flores 70 .256 .293 .392 .299 -0.7 -0.1 -0.4 0.1
Josh Satin 21 .245 .328 .364 .310 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1
Zach Lutz 14 .231 .305 .370 .300 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .276 .355 .456 .351 21.8 0.7 0.1 5.0
When you face up to things, you find that Wright is one of the best hitters in all of MLB. It would be facetious to deny him that, especially when he’s posted back-to-back six-win seasons in the past two seasons, and he did so last season in roughly two-thirds of an MLB season. After 2011, it looked like Wright was facing the start of his ending, but like every truly great MLB player, he looked his injuries right in the face and didn’t blink. During this MLB season, he will have to face the fact that his hitting statistics are likely to regress, but he should save face if he can suit up for a full MLB season. And even if Flores steals a little MLB playing time at the hot corner, expect Wright to faithfully face the media before and after each MLB game with a smile on his face.

#3 Rangers

Adrian Beltre 595 .296 .343 .498 .361 15.6 -0.8 6.3 4.6
Adam Rosales 105 .241 .294 .373 .293 -2.8 0.0 -0.8 0.0
Total 700 .288 .335 .480 .351 12.8 -0.8 5.5 4.7
What can I say about Beltre that Dave Cameron didn’t say last August? Not much, obviously. Dude is good. Third might be two spots too low here.

#4 Athletics

Josh Donaldson 630 .262 .334 .436 .338 11.3 0.2 7.0 4.5
Alberto Callaspo 35 .260 .335 .367 .312 -0.1 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Nick Punto 35 .229 .308 .299 .276 -1.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .260 .332 .426 .333 10.2 0.2 6.7 4.6
No, Donaldson is probably not going to be worth nearly eight wins this season. Yes, that is perfectly fine, as he isn’t going to turn into a pumpkin again either. By transforming his plate discipline, Donaldson was able to constantly put himself in position to do damage, and he frequently did. He helped carry the A’s to the postseason, picking up the slack for the middling and/or injured Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick. Behind him, he has a pair of decent backups in Callaspo and Punto. Unfortunately, Callaspo doesn’t match up with Donaldson platoon-wise, but he’s still a decent option if Donaldson needs a breather now and then. Hopefully that won’t happen too often, as even a deflated Donaldson projects to be Oakland’s best hitter.

#5 Giants

Pablo Sandoval 630 .282 .341 .456 .344 17.1 -1.3 -1.5 3.8
Joaquin Arias 49 .254 .282 .344 .273 -1.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Tony Abreu 21 .251 .280 .366 .282 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .279 .335 .445 .337 15.3 -1.3 -1.5 3.9
Just like last season, the Giants are incredibly thin behind the newly-thin Sandoval, so the hope will be that he can stay healthy all season. In 2013, he took a step forward in that direction, as he suited up in 141 games, 137 of which he started at third base. Unfortunately, it didn’t help him in the value department. While Sandoval stayed remarkably consistent at the plate, he backslid defensively. Going back to his hitting though, Sandoval has achieved a level of consistency that is pretty admirable — at least as far as his strikeouts are concerned. For five straight seasons, he has struck out between 13.1 and 13.5% of the time. That is all the more incredible when you consider the fact that he has swung between 55.6% and 57.7% of the time. That makes him consistently one of the freest swingers in the game, but yet he is able to maintain a pretty good strikeout percentage thanks to his outstanding plate coverage. This makes Sandoval, to me, a pretty fascinating player. Whether or not he’s a star player will depend on how hard he hits the ball. While his K% has stayed static, his ISO and SLG have vacillated from year to year.

#6 Orioles

Manny Machado 455 .270 .313 .434 .326 1.0 -0.3 13.1 3.3
Ryan Flaherty 140 .235 .289 .394 .299 -2.7 -0.1 0.3 0.3
Michael Almanzar 56 .246 .289 .373 .291 -1.4 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Jonathan Schoop 49 .246 .296 .385 .301 -0.9 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .260 .305 .417 .316 -3.9 -0.4 13.2 3.7
Last season, Machado was a borderline Most Valuable Player Award candidate. A ton of that value though, came from his defensive range. Look at his UZR component stats:

Double Play runs above average (DPR): 0.9
Range runs above average (RngR): 28.6
Error runs above average (ErrR): 1.7
His DPR ranked 14th, and his ErrR ranked 33rd, but his RngR ranked first in baseball by a very wide margin — six runs overall, and 7.2 runs among third basemen. Given Machado’s knee injury, this seems like relevant information. It would be reasonable to think that Machado will be limited when he returns, and that even if he returns for Opening Day, he still won’t play every game, and won’t be as good when he does play. If he wants to maintain that six-win pace then, he’s going to have to hit a lot better. While he has shown a proclivity for doubles, that didn’t help his wRC+ all that much. And let’s be frank, 50 doubles sounds cool, but it’s not all that rare — there have been 40 50-double seasons since 1996.

#7 Blue Jays

Brett Lawrie 560 .267 .328 .440 .336 6.1 0.4 5.1 3.5
Maicer Izturis 126 .258 .314 .352 .297 -2.5 -0.1 -1.2 0.1
Edwin Encarnacion 14 .272 .362 .510 .375 0.6 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .266 .326 .425 .330 4.2 0.3 3.9 3.7
Last season, I wrote that we need to let go of the notion of Lawrie as a superstar, and I think that is still valid. But Lawrie did hit much better following that post, to the point where he almost finished the season as a league-average hitter. It was enough to pump up his projections for this season. I’m still skeptical though. Over the past two seasons, Lawrie’s walk rate has been below average and his isolated power has been either below average or average. His speed dropped back a notch last season as well, particularly in the stolen base department. Again, Lawrie is not a scrub, and there are legions of players who never reach 6.3 WAR in the majors, but I’m not sure Lawrie is going to be good enough to justify the strong position the Blue Jays find themselves in here.

#8 Nationals

Ryan Zimmerman 525 .275 .344 .463 .351 13.8 0.5 -1.6 3.3
Anthony Rendon 35 .263 .339 .413 .331 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.2
Jeff Kobernus 105 .263 .300 .333 .281 -2.9 0.4 0.0 0.1
Brandon Laird 35 .246 .285 .399 .299 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .271 .334 .437 .337 10.7 0.9 -1.7 3.6
For a guy with a fragile reputation, Zimmerman has suited up at least 142 times in four of the past five seasons. However, he has already battled shoulder problems this spring, and he has had trouble throwing the ball to first in recent seasons. If not for Adam LaRoche, Zimmerman would probably be the team’s starting first baseman. He’ll probably slide there full time next season when LaRoche can once again be a free agent, but for this season, he’ll have to find a way to grit out another 250 or so throws. While Zimmerman has not handled his deteriorating defensive abilities well, he has been able to be a plus hitter even with a diminished power profile. It’s been three full seasons since he posted a .200 ISO, but during that time he has still posted a 122 wRC+, good for 10th among qualified third basemen (ninth if you take Hanley Ramirez out of the mix). Expect Zimmerman to keep right on producing this season.

#9 Padres

Chase Headley 595 .255 .342 .408 .330 9.1 -0.4 4.0 3.5
Alexi Amarista 70 .251 .290 .362 .287 -1.3 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Ryan Jackson 35 .234 .290 .314 .271 -1.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .254 .334 .399 .323 6.6 -0.5 3.7 3.6
Headley has been one of my favorite rebound picks this season, as once he got over his injuries last season he hit pretty well. The only problem with that line of thinking though is that he is already playing hurt this season. Headley finally played in two minor league games yesterday, and hopefully will be on track to start the season with the Padres. But the fact that he has already battled an injury and we are exactly zero games into the season isn’t exactly comforting. If he’s out for an extended period, Jedd Gyorko might slide over to the hot corner, but no matter where Gyorko plays, Headley being out of the lineup for an extended period means a whole lot of Amarista in the lineup, and that is cringe inducing.

#10 Rockies

Nolan Arenado 651 .283 .320 .441 .330 -4.0 -0.5 12.7 3.2
Ryan Wheeler 28 .273 .315 .415 .318 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
DJ LeMahieu 21 .291 .326 .384 .311 -0.4 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .283 .320 .438 .329 -4.9 -0.6 12.8 3.3
When he was coming up, the book on Arenado was that he could hit, but the glove might be a problem. A season with 122 RBI will get you praised for your bat, even if it’s in the hitter-friendly California League. That profile didn’t hold up when Arenado finally graduated to the Show, however. He proved a defensive wiz last season, but his bat was suspect. Even in hitter-friendly Coors Field, Arenado managed a below-average HR/FB rate. Arenado was pretty underwhelming offensively throughout his rookie campaign. He posted a better wRC+ in the second half, but it was almost all BABIP-fueled, as his BB/K actually got worse in the second half (and it wasn’t exactly good in the first half). Arenado has a bright future in Colorado, but the only way he gets the Rockies higher up on this list is if he hits better.

#11 Cardinals

Matt Carpenter 469 .278 .358 .418 .342 10.8 0.3 -0.7 2.8
Daniel Descalso 140 .244 .307 .354 .290 -2.5 0.1 -1.2 0.1
Jermaine Curtis 49 .253 .332 .328 .298 -0.6 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Scott Moore 42 .244 .309 .389 .308 -0.2 -0.1 -0.4 0.1
Total 700 .267 .343 .397 .327 7.5 0.4 -2.4 3.1
New year, new challenge for Carpenter. This year, his challenge is to be the full-time starter at third base. After last season, it should be a piece of cake for him, but I suppose you never know. Carpenter does only has 50 starts at the hot corner in the majors. Still, assuming he isn’t a disaster there, he should be a plus. He isn’t going to hit as well as he did last season, but even his 2012 level (126 wRC+) would be pretty valuable over a full season. And Carpenter cut his strikeout rate by nearly five percent last season, and he probably won’t give all of that back. He also has a history of high batting averages on balls in play, so regression there may be lighter than projected as well. The Cards’ lower than you would think rank here is mostly a function of the fact that Carpenter isn’t projected to get all of his playing time at the hot corner.

#12 Diamondbacks

Martin Prado 651 .286 .336 .427 .334 5.1 -0.5 0.9 3.0
Eric Chavez 35 .260 .316 .427 .321 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Matt Tuiasosopo 14 .221 .305 .355 .296 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .284 .335 .425 .332 4.8 -0.6 0.8 3.1
With the Mark Trumbo acquisition, the Dbacks outfield is once again pretty crowded, so Prado should see his left field playing time cut down even more from the 30 games (26 starts) he logged there last season. We are in fact not projecting him for any outfield time this season, as Trumbo, Gerardo Parra, A.J. Pollock and Cody Ross should have things well in hand. That’s good news for Arizona, who can leverage Chavez as a pinch hitter and designated hitter rather than as a starter. That’s not to say he can’t sprinkle in a few games now and then, but even though Chavez hit well last year, the team is best served if he isn’t needed in the lineup. As for Prado himself, the five-win seasons are probably a thing of the past, as he isn’t quite the fielder he is at third base as he is in the left field. He’s still a plus fielder at third, but not enough to make him anything more than a solid regular.

#13 Pirates

Pedro Alvarez 581 .238 .308 .462 .332 8.4 -0.1 -2.8 2.7
Josh Harrison 70 .265 .304 .391 .305 -0.5 0.1 -0.3 0.2
Russell Martin 35 .231 .323 .374 .311 -0.1 0.0 0.4 0.2
Brent Morel 14 .236 .287 .345 .281 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .240 .308 .448 .327 7.5 -0.1 -2.7 3.0
Yes, Alvarez strikes out a lot. No, it doesn’t stop him from being a productive player. In the Wild Card era, Alvarez has two of the eight most productive seasons among qualified hitters with at least a 30% strikeout rate. Would he be more aesthetically pleasing if he put the ball in play more frequently? Maybe. But Alvarez is pretty slow, and he hits more ground balls than fly balls when he does put the ball in play, and he already grounds into a pretty fair number of double plays (three straight seasons with at least 10 GDPs). So, you know, careful what you wish for.

#14 Mariners

Kyle Seager 630 .266 .332 .421 .331 6.2 -0.1 -1.6 3.0
Willie Bloomquist 56 .263 .304 .338 .284 -1.5 -0.2 -0.4 0.0
Carlos Triunfel 14 .246 .283 .340 .276 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .266 .328 .413 .326 4.2 -0.3 -2.0 3.0
This seems low for Seager, but I think I generally overrate Seager because he’s been the only good position player on the Mariners the past two seasons. No, seriously. It’s a job to which he’s ill suited, and with Robinson Cano around this season, he shouldn’t have to wear it again. The projections see him holding the gains that he made last season, when he improved his walk rate and posted a second straight season with a line drive rate over 20%. For a Mariners team that can’t seem to hold onto anything good for very long, that’s a comforting thought.

#15 Indians

Lonnie Chisenhall 490 .255 .305 .419 .316 1.0 0.1 -0.8 2.0
Mike Aviles 105 .255 .286 .373 .289 -2.0 0.0 -0.3 0.2
Carlos Santana 84 .254 .367 .444 .355 2.7 -0.2 -0.3 0.6
David Adams 21 .241 .304 .361 .296 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .255 .310 .413 .316 1.5 -0.2 -1.5 2.8
Here, we begin a string of teams whose starter clocks in with a projected WAR of less than 2.5. The Indians’ starter though, isn’t going to start all season, and that makes Cleveland the most interesting team on this list. In Santana, the Indians have the ultimate wild card. If Chisenhall continues to not hit and Yan Gomes continues to hit, then Santana may find himself in the lineup at the hot corner more frequently than we have him listed here. Santana’s transformation to third baseman has gone smoothly thus far, and it seems like manager Terry Francona will be able to put him out there at least once a week, if not more. Of course, Chisenhall can forestall that plan by consistently hitting the ball with authority for once. Or by consistently getting on base. You know what, we’ve covered this. Either way, the Indians have developed a backup plan, and that’s a good thing.

#16 Brewers

Aramis Ramirez 525 .272 .337 .467 .350 12.4 -3.0 -5.7 2.3
Juan Francisco 105 .241 .293 .449 .321 0.1 -0.1 -0.3 0.3
Jeff Bianchi 49 .244 .285 .332 .274 -1.8 0.0 0.2 0.0
Taylor Green 21 .247 .309 .396 .310 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .265 .326 .452 .339 10.6 -3.1 -5.9 2.7
Problems with his left knee kept Ramirez off the field more than usual last season, which isn’t all that surprising considering it was his age-35 season. When he was in the lineup though, he was still pretty good, as evidenced by his .283/.370/.461 triple-slash line and 132 wRC+. The projections expect some regression this year, but they have been expecting some regression for quite some time. The reality is that Ramirez has posted at least a 125 wRC+ in nine of the past 10 seasons, and at least a 132 wRC+ in three of the past four. His porous defense will always keep him from being a superstar, but expect him to keep hitting as long as he’s healthy. As far as backups go, you could do worse than Francisco — his projected .321 wOBA is better than any of the “regular” backups listed here (ie, minimum 100 plate appearances).

#17 Dodgers

Juan Uribe 560 .240 .294 .384 .297 -6.3 -0.4 12.1 2.6
Chone Figgins 84 .229 .292 .301 .268 -2.8 0.1 -0.5 0.0
Justin Turner 56 .258 .310 .363 .298 -0.6 0.0 -0.6 0.1
Total 700 .240 .295 .372 .293 -9.7 -0.3 11.1 2.6
Hell hath no fury like a Uribear scorned! After two years with a wRC+ in the 50s, Uribe went out and tallied a 116 wRC+, the best mark of his now very long career. He also tallied a career-best 24.0 UZR at the hot corner. In short, he had the best season of his life at age 34. Now, we’d be foolish to assume that he’s going to do this all over again, but Uribe is like a bad penny. Or a good penny if you’re a Dodgers fan. Expect him to keep turning up regularly in the Dodgers lineup, because while Don Mattingly isn’t smart enough to know how to shave his sideburns, he is smart enough to know that Figgins should never get off the bench.

#18 Reds

Todd Frazier 518 .242 .312 .431 .325 2.2 0.5 1.3 2.3
Jack Hannahan 112 .227 .305 .341 .290 -2.6 -0.3 0.4 0.1
Neftali Soto 70 .237 .280 .400 .298 -1.2 0.0 -0.7 0.0
Total 700 .239 .308 .413 .316 -1.6 0.2 1.0 2.5
Frazier was pretty good last season. He improved his walk rate, cut his strikeout rate, and he doubled his stolen base total from the previous season. OK, going from three to six steals isn’t really a big deal. What is a big deal is hitting the ball with authority, especially for a power-producing position such as third base, and unfortunately Frazier didn’t do that at the same rate as he had in 2012. The projections don’t see much of a rebound either, and if they’re right, it may be that Frazier is a little stretched as a big league regular. The Reds need Frazier to rebound though, as his two backups are a 34-year-old who has been worth negative WAR in each of the past two seasons and a 25-year-old rookie who wants to be a third baseman but is really a first baseman.

#19 Red Sox

Will Middlebrooks 490 .255 .298 .443 .322 -1.1 0.1 0.7 1.9
Garin Cecchini 105 .265 .339 .375 .318 -0.5 0.1 -0.3 0.3
Brandon Snyder 35 .242 .289 .391 .299 -0.7 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Brock Holt 35 .266 .321 .341 .295 -0.8 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Jonathan Herrera 35 .250 .307 .322 .280 -1.2 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .256 .306 .419 .317 -4.3 0.1 0.1 2.3
In his first season, Middlebrooks was pretty good. In his second season, Middlebrooks was much less good and stuff. However, much of that badness was localized in the first half. He was hitting just .201/.234/.408 when he was sent down at the end of May, and when he got a brief call-up, he didn’t help himself any, as he hit just .138/.194/.276 in 31 plate appearances. He was once again sent for a ride on the Pawtucket shuttle, and he stayed down with the PawSox for nearly two months. When he returned on August 10, he proceeded to hit .276/.329/.476 in the 158 PA from then until the end of the regular season. That’ll play, and if he can just do that consistently, he might actually lock down the job for a couple of seasons. Of course, he didn’t hit at all in the postseason, so apprehension is still the dominant feeling whenever someone mentions Middlebrooks’ name to me. If he once again can’t hack it though, the team has Cecchini (51st on Marc Hulet’s 2014 top 100 prospects list) knocking on the door.

#20 Royals

Mike Moustakas 490 .255 .308 .419 .317 -1.6 -0.8 4.2 2.1
Danny Valencia 140 .255 .292 .407 .305 -1.8 -0.3 -1.4 0.2
Pedro Ciriaco 35 .257 .282 .344 .274 -1.3 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Cheslor Cuthbert 35 .231 .279 .341 .275 -1.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .254 .302 .409 .311 -6.0 -1.1 2.6 2.3
Moustakas may be have had an up and down career to date, but the projections aren’t ready to give up on him just yet. He still plays good defense, and he if he stops popping up one out of every six balls in the infield, he might just see a power spike as well. Just in case he doesn’t though, the Royals imported Valencia this offseason. One thing I can say, with confidence, about Valencia is that he brutalizes left-handed pitching (PS – check out the cool new splits features!). If he is leveraged properly, the Royals won’t suck at the hot corner this season, and after Moustakas’ showing last season, that’d be a big improvement.

#21 Astros

Matt Dominguez 595 .248 .296 .402 .305 -5.7 -1.1 3.4 2.0
Jesus Guzman 70 .251 .319 .409 .320 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.3
Marwin Gonzalez 35 .242 .280 .337 .272 -1.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .248 .297 .399 .305 -6.8 -1.2 3.3 2.3
Dominguez has been popping up as a sleeper this spring, and with good reason. As Chad Young detailed in his 10 Bold Predictions, Dominguez dramatically cut down on his infield fly balls in the second half, from 20.4% in the first half to 8.6% in the second half of what was his first full major league season. If he can maintain his second-half pace, which was well below league average, he’ll stand a good chance to be much better in 2014. The projections are bullish as well, as they project Dominguez to be twice as valuable as he was last season. As a reminder, the Marlins flipped him for the last 81 games of Carlos Lee’s career. In a related story, you’ll find the Marlins at the bottom of this and just about every other list that deals with the quality of a Major League Baseball franchise.

#22 Tigers

Nick Castellanos 560 .273 .318 .414 .321 -0.7 -0.2 -2.5 1.9
Steve Lombardozzi 140 .267 .307 .359 .294 -3.0 -0.1 -0.2 0.2
Total 700 .272 .316 .403 .315 -3.7 -0.4 -2.7 2.0
Perhaps there should be some extra credit for Castellanos here, as his ascendance (as well as Prince Fielder’s departure) give Detroit the opportunity to move Miguel Cabrera back to first base. Cabrera probably won’t be more valuable by WAR given the positional adjustment, but he might stay on the field longer, and that’s a big plus. As for Castellanos himself, he has seemingly been on prospect lists forever, but he’s only going to be 22 this season. That he’s already projected to be average is pretty sweet.

#23 Cubs

Luis Valbuena 406 .240 .325 .378 .312 -3.4 -0.6 2.9 1.4
Donnie Murphy 175 .235 .296 .421 .313 -1.3 -0.2 -1.5 0.3
Mike Olt 63 .219 .300 .380 .301 -1.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Josh Vitters 35 .254 .303 .409 .311 -0.3 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Chris Valaika 21 .237 .277 .340 .273 -0.8 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .237 .313 .390 .310 -6.8 -0.8 1.1 1.8
“Post-hype sleeper” is a term we toss around a lot, but it is apt for Olt. Olt might never pan out in the majors, but he had carried a bunch of hype with him before concussion and vision problems derailed his 2013 season. Partly because of these maladies, he only posted a 48 wRC+ for the iCubs after he came over in the Matt Garza trade last summer. If he can get past this problem, as well as a shoulder injury in camp, he probably will ad***** to the top job quickly. However, those are two question marks and March isn’t even over and Olt is 25 this year and he wasn’t scheduled to play his first game at third base until today, so for now we’ll keep things conservative. Valbuena and Murphy are nothing more than placeholders, so they won’t stand in Olt’s way. In a best-case scenario, Olt will ascend quickly and lift the Cubs closer to the middle of the third-base pack. But the projections are bearish, and until we see some light at the end of his tunnel, so will our playing time projections.

#24 Angels

David Freese 525 .259 .332 .392 .321 3.4 -1.4 -6.4 1.6
Andrew Romine 70 .238 .294 .304 .269 -2.4 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Tommy Field 35 .225 .290 .340 .281 -0.9 0.0 0.0 0.0
Luis Jimenez 35 .254 .283 .382 .291 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.1
Grant Green 35 .261 .301 .382 .300 -0.4 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .255 .322 .379 .312 -0.8 -1.4 -6.8 1.8
If the projections are accurate, the Angels should stop trading center fielders to the Cardinals. Freese is projected to be worthly nearly a win less than is Peter Bourjos. Then there’s also Randal Grichuk to consider, as over the course of a season, he is projected to be nearly as valuable as Freese. You could do worse than Freese, obviously — otherwise the Angels would rank 30th — but Freese has generally been overrated throughout his career, and he’s also never played a full season. That’s bad news for Anaheim, who has an underwhelming collection of reserves.

#25 Yankees

Kelly Johnson 280 .234 .316 .406 .319 -0.9 -0.1 -1.9 0.8
Scott Sizemore 140 .238 .319 .383 .313 -1.1 -0.1 -1.1 0.3
Eduardo Nunez 140 .259 .306 .363 .295 -3.1 0.4 -1.6 0.1
Dean Anna 70 .252 .329 .370 .312 -0.6 -0.1 0.3 0.2
Brendan Ryan 35 .221 .286 .306 .266 -1.5 0.0 0.5 0.0
Corban Joseph 35 .244 .314 .385 .309 -0.4 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .242 .314 .383 .309 -7.6 0.0 -4.0 1.5
This might be the most fluid position both on the Yankees and among the third-base ranks. No other team has as many players listed here as do the Yankees. Fluid, of course, is not a synonym for pretty. Johnson may be the starter, but he may need to log time at first and/or second base. Sizemore could see time, but he could also end up back in the trainer’s room like he has the past two years. Anna could see time here, but if/when Brian Roberts breaks, he could see plenty of time at second base. And then there’s Nunez, who the Yankees can’t seem to quit. Johnson isn’t horrible, and Sizemore was good for a hot second three years ago, and Anna might be a nice little player, and…And this still might be a disaster.

#26 White Sox

Matt Davidson 280 .232 .306 .400 .311 -2.9 -0.2 -0.7 0.7
Conor Gillaspie 175 .251 .314 .386 .308 -2.3 -0.2 -0.8 0.3
Marcus Semien 140 .241 .319 .386 .313 -1.2 0.0 -0.9 0.3
Jeff Keppinger 105 .272 .313 .369 .301 -1.9 -0.3 -1.0 0.1
Total 700 .245 .312 .389 .309 -8.3 -0.6 -3.3 1.5
The White Sox are building for the future, and Davidson is a solid building block in that regard. In the past five years, there have only been eight seasons of age-23 or younger third basemen who have posted 2.0 WAR (generally a proxy for league average) or better, and two of those seasons were Lawrie. Of course, one of the other seasons came from Gordon Beckham, so the list isn’t exactly infallible. But having a young third baseman, specifically one with power, is a good thing. Davidson might not light the world on fire this season, but he certainly has a chance to be a part of the next good White Sox team.

#27 Phillies

Cody Asche 441 .251 .302 .396 .306 -4.4 -0.2 -1.4 1.0
Kevin Frandsen 119 .265 .309 .363 .297 -2.0 -0.2 0.1 0.2
Freddy Galvis 84 .243 .280 .362 .281 -2.4 -0.1 0.5 0.1
Maikel Franco 56 .259 .295 .432 .316 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.2
Total 700 .253 .300 .389 .302 -8.9 -0.5 -0.9 1.4
Attention: All dedicated readers will now be rewarded with a graph. Conversely, fickle readers who were just scrolling down to the comments will be punished by having to momentarily glance at a graph!

If the title of the graph isn’t clear enough, this is the differences in projected 2014 wOBA between the FANS projections and the combined Steamer/ZiPS projections. In general, the FANS are more optimistic — they’re only more pessimistic on six of the 30 projected starters, and only a little pessimistic in four of those six instances. But one starter who they are most optimistic — at least in comparison — is Asche. Only Headley squeaks past him in this regard, and only by .001. Now, it would be easy to dismiss the FANS as wide-eyed optimists and/or a collection of homers, but as we’ve seen, the FANS projections actually acquit themselves pretty decently. So perhaps we’re being a little hard on Asche, and he’ll do better than his projection here. That would be good news for Phillies fans, especially given the news that Franco is probably headed across the diamond to first base. Or maybe Asche is going to be the same guy who posted a .302 on-base percentage in his major league trial last season.

#28 Braves

Chris Johnson 525 .275 .318 .420 .321 2.1 -0.5 -8.6 1.1
Ramiro Pena 175 .240 .292 .336 .280 -4.9 -0.3 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .266 .312 .399 .311 -2.8 -0.8 -8.6 1.2
Among the reasons to dismiss the Braves’ chances at contention this season would be their handing of the third-base job to Johnson once again. While there is no doubt that Johnson was good last season, he certainly wasn’t elite. Of the 28th third basemen that tallied at least 400 plate appearances last season, Johnson ranked 13th. Middle of the road, to be sure, and the season was propped up by an untenable .394 batting average on balls in play. While Johnson has generally generated an above-average BABIP, it’s probably going to come back down this season, and when it does, so too will Johnson’s production. Johnson also was able to improve his defensive performance last season by limiting the errors he made on the field, which is probably the only way he can since his range continues to decline. In other words, if Johnson can continue to do everything in his power as good as he possibly can, he will be a decent third baseman. But he probably will not continue to do so, and as such will end up being one of the worst.

#29 Twins

Trevor Plouffe 525 .244 .304 .410 .314 -2.0 -1.1 -8.5 0.8
Eduardo Escobar 140 .245 .288 .340 .279 -4.4 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
Deibinson Romero 35 .229 .298 .356 .291 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .243 .300 .393 .306 -7.1 -1.2 -8.8 0.9
In 2012, Plouffe was good, in the sense that his contributions to the Twins were far enough above replacement level that he briefly escaped that tag. This came largely thanks to a seemingly unsustainable power spike, which he shockingly did not sustain last season. Since he’s still cheap — he’ll only earn $2.4 million this season — and the Twins aren’t really trying to compete, they decided that the best thing would be to bring him back for one more spin while waiting until Miguel Sano is ready. That plan blew up in their collective face when they finally succumbed to the fact that Sano needed Tommy John surgery, and it now seems that the declining number of people who spend time attending games at Target Field will be “treated” to seeing either Plouffe or some equally inadequate stand-in for at least the next two seasons, because any time that you can run in place while waiting for a prospect who has not yet reached Triple-A and now has a major injury that could force him across the diamond when he actually returns to playing baseball a year from now to magically save your franchise, you gotta do it.

#30 Marlins

Casey McGehee 420 .245 .308 .383 .305 -4.4 -1.2 -3.0 0.6
Ty Wigginton 210 .221 .291 .339 .279 -6.4 -0.4 -3.4 -0.3
Ed Lucas 35 .238 .290 .333 .277 -1.1 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Donovan Solano 35 .259 .306 .344 .288 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .238 .302 .366 .295 -12.7 -1.6 -6.5 0.3
You’d be forgiven if you thought the principals here had already retired. After last year’s retread — Placido Polanco — didn’t work out, the Marlins moved on to a new group of sure-to-not-work-out retreads. McGehee didn’t even play in the majors last year, and Wigginton was jettisoned before the first half ended. Lucas is still around, and he may be able to contribute defensively and on the bases, but even his meager offensive output last season may have represented a high-water mark. He was a nice story last season, but the story of a 31-year-old rookie is always a better story if the player in question isn’t playing for your favorite team. As a result of this cornucopia of suck, the Marlins rank dead last here for a second-straight season. Sorry, Marlin fan.

2014 Positional Power Rankings: Shortstop.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Eyeballing it — and what else would you use to look, really — shortstop seems to have one of the larger gaps between the top spot and everyone after, failing to lead that list only because Evan Longoria and Mike Trout exist. That’s because while Andrelton Simmons (No.2) is an unmatched fielder, and Hanley Ramirez (No. 3) is an offensive powerhouse, Troy Tulowitzki (No. 1) does a bit of everything, which is why you can see the 1.3 WAR advantage he has here:

I’m starting to wonder why we don’t just have the final team to the right there always labeled “Marlins, probably,” because, spoiler alert: it’s the Marlins here, too.

On to the shortstops!

#1 Rockies

Troy Tulowitzki 595 .298 .372 .524 .385 22.0 -0.3 6.4 5.6
Josh Rutledge 70 .279 .324 .430 .330 -0.4 0.1 -0.2 0.3
Paul Janish 35 .235 .296 .320 .277 -1.7 -0.1 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .293 .363 .504 .374 19.9 -0.2 6.3 5.9
On the strength of Tulowitzki alone, essentially, Colorado had our No. 1 ranked shortstop group entering last season. They were No. 1 entering 2012 as well, and though we didn’t do season previews by position prior to that, it’s easy to say they would have been ranked No. 1 in at least two of the previous seasons as well. So the short, obvious version is this: Troy Tulowitzki is really, really good. When he’s healthy, is almost unarguably the best shortstop in baseball, combining an elite bat with quality defense, and while you can find better defenders and perhaps one other near him with the bat, no one combines the package quite like he does. Colorado probably won’t be very good this year, but any portion of good they are will largely come from their shortstop.

Of course, the story with Tulowitzki is always the same, in that he’s great when he plays, yet you can bet with near certainty that he won’t play a full season. He hasn’t played in even 145 games since 2009, has made it into only 173 over the last two seasons, and recently missed a few days of camp after being hit in the calf by a pitch. Despite that, he’s still coming off arguably his best season — dig that 143 wRC+, which gets him in the top 10 seasons of any shortstop this century — so the Rockies remain atop this list, even though they’ll all but certainly need to put up with some time from Rutledge or Janish during one of Tulowitzki’s regular days off or inevitable absences.

#2 Braves

Andrelton Simmons 630 .266 .314 .398 .312 -1.7 -0.8 18.7 4.5
Ramiro Pena 49 .240 .292 .336 .280 -1.4 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Tyler Pastornicky 21 .260 .306 .353 .292 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .264 .312 .393 .309 -3.4 -0.9 18.7 4.6
As you’ll see in a second, Hanley Ramirez did absurd things to the baseball last year, while Simmons had a mere .296 OBP. And yet, the Braves still rank ahead of the Dodgers, because defense matters. It matters a lot, and Simmons may very well be the best defensive shortstop any of us have seen in many years. The question, as ever, remains with his bat, because even though he popped a surprising 17 homers last year, his slugging percentage actually dropped by 20 points. Considering that he cut his strikeout rate to 8.4 percent while suffering a .247 BABIP, there’s some possibility for his slash line to improve, though I’ll probably take the under on another 17 homers. But with the way the Atlanta starting rotation is imploding so far this spring, the most valuable thing Simmons can do to help his team is to make the replacement starters look slightly better by eating up as many grounders as he can. Anything he adds with the bat is really just gravy.

Were Simmons to miss time, the drop-off behind him would be immense — you can copy and paste that sentiment for the first 20 or so of these teams, by the way — though it should be remembered that Pastornicky was once seen as the shortstop of the future, and represents decent depth once he finishes rehabbing last season’s knee injury.

#3 Dodgers

Hanley Ramirez 560 .276 .342 .472 .352 18.1 0.9 -7.2 3.7
Justin Turner 105 .258 .310 .363 .298 -1.0 -0.1 -1.2 0.2
Chone Figgins 35 .229 .292 .301 .268 -1.2 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .271 .335 .447 .340 15.9 0.8 -8.5 4.0
Lest it be forgotten how insanely dangerous Ramirez was last season at the plate, do note that he finished second (min. 300 plate appearances) in wRC+. Not second among shortstops; second among every hitter, behind only Miguel Cabrera, so ahead of Mike Trout and Chris Davis and every other big name you can fathom. Not that anyone should expect a .345/.402/.638 line and a 40-homer pace over an entire season, of course, but the projections above seem to be a floor for a happy, healthy Ramirez, and even then, we’re talking about a nearly four-win player. But like Tulowitzki, health is an issue: Ramirez missed time last year with various injuries to his thumb, hamstring, shoulder, back and ribs, and while several of those were decidedly of the “fluke” variety, it remains a concern for a team that suffered through Dee Gordon and Justin Sellers without him. For all the ink spilled on Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, Ramirez is the single most important player in the Dodgers lineup.

Of note: If and when Ramirez goes down again, Turner isn’t really going to get 105 plate appearances at shortstop. Not shown here, since he arrived in the United States barely a week ago and doesn’t have a projection yet, is Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena, who is reportedly phenomenal with the glove, enough to carry his considerably below-average bat. Arruebarrena will start the year in the minors, though he is expected to be available to the big club if needed in 2014.

#4 Rangers

Elvis Andrus 630 .274 .338 .355 .311 -8.2 4.4 7.1 3.3
Adam Rosales 70 .241 .294 .373 .293 -1.9 0.0 -0.5 0.1
Total 700 .270 .334 .357 .309 -10.1 4.3 6.6 3.4
Five full seasons into his career, it’s safe to say that we know what Andrus is, and that’s a plus defensive shortstop who adds value on the basepaths and won’t completely kill you on offense. If “eh, he’s not terrible at the plate” sounds like less than high praise, well, he’s still doing enough good things elsewhere to rank No. 4 here. (Related: Just wait until we’re talking about Pedro Florimon or someone below, and then think about how great Andrus looks.) There’s not a ton of projection left here, if any, though it’s worth noting that 2013 was Andrus’ worst offensive season, fueled partially by a decline in both walks and contact rates — and he’s been dogged this spring by right flexor tendon soreness, which has now shut him down for a few days. Even with a .296 wOBA, he was a three-win player; everything else just matters so much.

Were that tendon turn into something major, Jurickson Profar might slide over to short, but if it’s just for a day or two, a backup like Rosales is more likely. If he can just manage to stick with one team for more than 10 minutes at a time, he’ll call it a successful year.

#5 Nationals

Ian Desmond 546 .270 .318 .433 .327 4.3 1.3 -1.2 2.9
Danny Espinosa 133 .222 .285 .364 .287 -3.1 0.1 0.8 0.3
Zach Walters 21 .244 .275 .420 .301 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .260 .310 .420 .319 0.9 1.4 -0.5 3.3
After being worth approximately two wins total in his first two seasons as Washington’s starting shortstop, Desmond broke out with a five-win 2012, then set aside any fluke concerns by backing it up with another five-win 2013. It’s one thing to have a great year; it’s quite another to do it again. And yet! We still project him for only 2.9 WAR in 2014. This is clearly because of our bias against the Nationals, except for when we all pick them to win the NL East every year. (Spoiler alert: with Atlanta’s rotation problems, this year probably won’t be any different there.)

Why? Because as Eno Sarris investigated, there’s still some risk. Desmond strikes out too much and may not be capable of putting up the same power, plus a good portion of the shiny 5.0 WAR last year came from favorably-reviewed defense, since Desmond’s slash line did drop in each of the three categories. The Fans currently have him at a 5.2 WAR projection, and we know the Fans are always a bit optimistic there; if you want to take the 2.9 WAR as a floor, I wouldn’t argue with you, though I’d probably take the under on another five-win season. Either way, we’re still talking about a very good player, which you already knew because this is the No. 5 ranked team in these very rankings. If something does happen to Desmond, there’s at least the opportunity for Washington to look at Espinosa, who was once also very good, before becoming considerably less than that last season.

#6 Rays

Yunel Escobar 525 .254 .322 .350 .301 -4.7 -0.3 3.3 2.3
Ben Zobrist 70 .262 .352 .416 .338 1.4 0.1 0.7 0.6
Hak-Ju Lee 56 .242 .301 .331 .283 -1.3 0.1 0.3 0.2
Sean Rodriguez 35 .231 .305 .371 .300 -0.3 0.0 0.3 0.2
Logan Forsythe 14 .233 .316 .351 .298 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .252 .322 .356 .303 -5.0 -0.1 4.5 3.2
Whenever you read about Yunel Escobar, you inevitably also read, “hey, that guy’s a jerk / bad teammate / attitude issue / etc.” I suppose I haven’t changed that pattern at all just now, but our projections don’t factor “is or isn’t a nice guy” into the numbers. What they do know is that Escobar came back from a down 2012 (.284 wOBA, 1.5 WAR) to provide Tampa Bay with nice value in 2013 (.311 wOBA, 3.9 WAR), that he’s been an average or better hitter in five of his seven seasons, and he’s consistently rated as a plus defensive shortstop. As he moves into his 30s, that won’t last forever, but 31 is hardly too old to continue being useful. That he’s projected for just over 2 WAR here is mostly a function of the projection expecting some defensive regression from last year’s career-best total; all four of our projection systems peg Escobar for roughly the same decent-OBP, low-power, several-homers line he put up in 2013.

#7 Orioles

J.J. Hardy 616 .259 .303 .421 .315 -3.8 -0.7 6.3 3.1
Alexi Casilla 56 .244 .297 .331 .280 -1.9 0.3 -0.5 0.0
Alex Gonzalez 28 .226 .263 .340 .266 -1.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .301 .411 .310 -6.9 -0.5 5.9 3.1
J.J. Hardy hits a lot of homers, 77 over the last three seasons, by far the most of any shortstop. He combines that with consistently excellent defense at a particularly valuable position, and he rarely strikes out, making contact 87.8 percent of the time last season. Those are great attributes for a shortstop to have, and yet he’s never talked about among the truly elite of the game, because getting on base is important, and Hardy is particularly bad at that. He’s a perfect example of a player for whom BABIP is a skill and not just luck, because as someone who isn’t especially fast and hits the ball in the air nearly 40 percent of the time, his BABIP has been below .300 in every year of his career save for one. That’s not luck. That’s who he is. It’s still good enough to be No. 7 on this list, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

#8 Blue Jays

Jose Reyes 560 .288 .341 .427 .334 5.2 1.7 -4.3 2.9
Maicer Izturis 70 .258 .314 .352 .297 -1.4 -0.1 -0.7 0.1
Munenori Kawasaki 70 .240 .307 .311 .280 -2.3 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .280 .335 .408 .325 1.5 1.6 -5.0 3.1
There was a time where the Blue Jays, and particularly Reyes, ranked higher on this list. That time was last season, when he was No. 2. But when you’re over 30 and you’ve just destroyed your ankle in a gruesome injury, just the latest in a history of nagging (though generally not as ugly) leg woes, you can understand why there’s perhaps some slight downgrade in the outlook here. If anything, it’s more a function of playing time than performance, because we’re not comfortable expecting that he’ll get another 700 plate appearances on his own, as he used to regularly do with the Mets. When he played, his offensive performance was right in line with what it had usually been (save for what looks to have been a contract year outlier in 2011), and if anything he showed some surprising power, hitting 10 homers in limited play (seven of which came in Toronto, of course.) Reyes is still very, very good, and that’s important for Toronto, because Izturis was a disaster last year, and Kawasaki is awesome, but only in the ways that don’t involve being on a baseball field.

#9 Mariners

Brad Miller 595 .268 .327 .405 .322 1.7 0.5 -1.6 2.9
Nick Franklin 35 .246 .318 .391 .313 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Willie Bloomquist 56 .263 .304 .338 .284 -1.5 -0.2 -0.4 0.0
Carlos Triunfel 14 .246 .283 .340 .276 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .266 .324 .397 .318 -0.4 0.3 -2.1 3.1
Franklin may or may not be a shortstop. He may or may not be a Mariner. But what he almost certainly will not be is a shortstop for the Mariners, because despite all the lip service Seattle has paid to this being an open competition, this job belongs to Miller. Miller arrived perhaps a bit ahead of schedule in 2013, replacing Brendan Ryan once the veteran was traded to the Yankees, and while he offered little excitement, it was hard to argue with the results, offering a league-average bat and approximately average shortstop defense. Given his age, there’s room for improvement here; given a full season of play, one could easily see double digits in both homers and steals. Assuming continued defensive value, Seattle may have gone from one of the worst middle infield situations last season (Dustin Ackley / Ryan) to one of the better ones this year (Robinson Cano/ Miller). That’s largely because of their newly wealthy second baseman, but not entirely so. Miller’s ceiling is likely south of “star,” but as you can see here, we think he can be a three-win player right away.

If Franklin is still around on the bench or in the minors, he’s a nice Plan B. If he’s not… well, I had to double-check that these charts were right and that both Bloomquist and Triunfel were really the alternatives. I did that knowing full well that Mariners fan Jeff Sullivan does the AL West depth charts and would not have been mistaken. I didn’t believe it then. I barely believe it now. Stay healthy, Brad Miller.

#10 Brewers

Jean Segura 595 .281 .321 .413 .320 0.4 1.6 0.7 2.9
Jeff Bianchi 105 .244 .285 .332 .274 -3.8 0.0 0.5 0.1
Total 700 .275 .316 .401 .313 -3.4 1.6 1.2 3.0
It’s at this point in the proceedings that I feel obligated to point out that tenths of a point in WAR projections carry very little meaning, so while the Brewers are No. 10, they’re only 0.4 WAR behind No. 4 Texas, which is is a big gap in a ranking system, but a very little gap in terms of how the team may be likely to produce. How we think about Milwaukee’s shortstops at this time next year depends greatly on what Segura really is. In the first half, he had a .369 wOBA and 11 of his 12 homers; in the second, it was a mere .258, as his BABIP cratered and an already-poor walk rate declined. His true talent, unsurprisingly, is all but certainly somewhere in between, and the fact that he adds value both on defense (somewhat) and on the bases helps him contribute in other ways. A projection of being a three-win player means he’s expected to be a somewhat above-average player. That sounds about right. It has to be right, because the less you know about Bianchi, the better.

#11 Red Sox

Xander Bogaerts 595 .265 .327 .423 .330 2.4 -0.3 -3.9 2.6
Jonathan Herrera 56 .250 .307 .322 .280 -1.9 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Brock Holt 49 .266 .321 .341 .295 -1.1 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Total 700 .264 .325 .409 .323 -0.6 -0.4 -4.3 2.7
I imagine that no matter where Bogaerts ended up on this list, some would think he’d be too high while others would say too low, so here at No. 11, leading what’s essentially the third tier of shortstops, seems as good as anywhere else. Pretty much everything about Bogaerts says he’ll be a star, though I do wonder if we’ve been unfairly spoiled by Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado — that is, every highly-touted young player doesn’t have to break out immediately, in their first season, at a particularly young age. That’s why, even though Bogaerts tore up the minor leagues last year and didn’t at all look out of his element in the playoffs with Boston, we have him projected at merely “a good major league player” than “a superstar” in 2014. He could easily outdo these projections, particularly on defense, but a mere 50 MLB regular season plate appearances do call for some amount of restraint. There’s probably not a higher amount of variance between what might be anywhere else on this list than with Bogaerts in Boston.

Not shown, obviously: Stephen Drew, who may very well end up back here at some point, and would of course throw a wrench into things, presuming that Bogaerts would then usurp Will Middlebrooks at third.

#12 Angels

Erick Aybar 595 .274 .311 .389 .307 -2.9 1.8 -2.9 2.4
Andrew Romine 63 .238 .294 .304 .269 -2.2 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Tommy Field 42 .225 .290 .340 .281 -1.0 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .268 .308 .378 .302 -6.1 1.8 -3.0 2.5
Considering just how many things went wrong for the Angels last year, the fact that Aybar had a down season flew under the radar somewhat, because who looks at “below average” when you can gawk at “extremely well-paid train wreck,” or even two such disasters? But being out of the spotlight doesn’t change the fact that Aybar’s wOBA sunk to .299 and his WAR to 1.6, as his walk rate continued its descent, his base running value took a nosedive, and his defense was considered below-average for the first time. He offsets all this a bit by posting a very good contact rate, though as nagging leg injuries pile up — he missed nearly three weeks with a heel contusion, and over the last two years, he’s also missed games here and there due to minor issues with his hamstring, quad and big toe — it’s fair to wonder if the 30-year-old Aybar has slowed somewhat after nearly 4,000 professional plate appearances. It would explain the downturn in his defense, his base running, and his BABIP, because he was regularly over .300 when he was at his best. We’ve had Aybar at over three wins three times, so a projection of just over two feels right. The Angels will take it, anyway. A world with Romine or Field is not a world they want to live in.

#13 Athletics

Jed Lowrie 490 .262 .325 .415 .324 3.6 -0.2 -6.2 2.0
Nick Punto 105 .229 .308 .299 .276 -3.2 0.0 0.1 0.2
Eric Sogard 35 .255 .315 .351 .297 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.1
Addison Russell 35 .230 .292 .353 .287 -0.8 0.1 0.0 0.1
Jake Elmore 35 .246 .323 .333 .296 -0.5 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .254 .320 .387 .312 -1.4 -0.3 -6.3 2.5
A year ago, the A’s thought Hiroyuki Nakajima would be their shortstop. Then Jed Lowrie went out and stayed healthy for the first time, well, ever, but a year from now — maybe sooner — this job belongs to Addison Russell. Understandably, no one feels particularly comfortable assuming a great deal of playing time for Lowrie, considering his injury history and the fact that he might be playing second base by the end of the season, and so that makes him perfectly adequate, though with a bit more power (31 homers in just over 1,000 plate appearances over the last two years) than you’d expect from your usual shortstop. No one really loved his defense, and he doesn’t really add much on the bases, however, so no one will complain much when Russell inevitably takes him job.

Punto, by the way, takes endless amount of ridicule for his habit of sliding head-first into first base — quite rightfully so — but ended up being an invaluable piece for the Dodgers last year when Ramirez was injured, providing surprisingly useful defense with a bat that wasn’t quite the zero one might expect. Sogard and Elmore may aspire to be even that, but this team at least has depth at the position.

#14 Cardinals

Jhonny Peralta 560 .260 .317 .398 .314 0.4 -1.8 -0.5 2.3
Daniel Descalso 70 .244 .307 .354 .290 -1.3 0.1 -0.6 0.1
Pete Kozma 35 .221 .279 .307 .259 -1.5 0.0 0.1 0.0
Greg Miclat 35 .235 .299 .296 .270 -1.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .255 .313 .384 .307 -3.5 -1.7 -1.0 2.4
Last year, the Cardinals went into the season sitting at No. 29 on our shortstop rankings, because it seemed like a Kozma / Descalso situation would be a terrible one. It didn’t stop the Cardinals from being very good, but it certainly didn’t help them, as they ended up being one of the very few teams to be below replacement-level. But that was last year’s problem, and this year’s solution is Jhonny Peralta, who annually seems to put up better defensive ratings than anyone cares to give him credit for. (The fielding numbers here are not position-adjusted, so that -0.5 turns into a 3.0 projection when the shortstop bonus is applied.) The major question about Peralta is the fact that he tends to be all-or-nothing — his wOBA scores since 2008 run .347, .307, .309, .356, .301, .356. St. Louis didn’t give Peralta a big contract for a .307 wOBA, or even the .314 mark projected here, but even that worst-case scenario has a silver lining: it’s still better than Kozma or Descalso would do.

#15 Padres

Everth Cabrera 658 .253 .323 .342 .298 -6.5 4.6 -3.8 2.3
Alexi Amarista 28 .251 .290 .362 .287 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Ryan Jackson 14 .234 .290 .314 .271 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .252 .321 .342 .297 -7.4 4.6 -3.9 2.3
After an up-and-down start to his career, Cabrera was in the midst of a fantastic 2013 — 3.6 WAR, 37 steals, 113 wRC+ — before being shut down for the last two months thanks to his involvement in the Biogenesis mess. What he is in 2014 depends on whether he can continue his unexpectedly contact-filled ways (he dropped his whiff rate by a full 10 percent from 2012-13) and get on base enough to provide value with steals and runs ahead of the middle of the lineup. I will easily take the under on the five-win pace he was on last season before he got busted, though he’s only entering his age-27 season, so he’s not exactly old. He’s particularly good at one thing (base running), and somewhat less good at most other things. That’s how you end up ranked No. 15.

#16 Giants

Brandon Crawford 616 .241 .305 .353 .290 -9.5 -0.6 5.1 2.2
Joaquin Arias 56 .254 .282 .344 .273 -1.6 0.0 0.0 0.1
Ehire Adrianza 28 .227 .292 .315 .272 -0.8 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .242 .302 .351 .288 -11.9 -0.5 5.3 2.3
Crawford exists because he has a very good glove at a very important position — you may have seen this recent post of five selected outstanding defensive plays from last year, for added visual evidence — and so there’s only so much you can say about that. Glove-first shortstop uses his glove, first. If you’re looking for some sort of hope on the offensive side of the ball, it’s that he improved both his walk rate and his strikeout rate, while popping nine homers, but the slash line output was more or less the same as it had been in 2013, and as it is likely to be in 2014. As you’ll see below, the bottom half of the shortstop list gets pretty dreadful pretty quickly, so Crawford’s bat is merely poor, not abysmal, as compared to his peers. He still does enough with the glove to be a worthwhile starter for San Francisco, and he has very little to worry about coming up behind him.

#17 Cubs

Starlin Castro 595 .278 .319 .408 .318 -2.1 -0.3 -3.9 1.9
Darwin Barney 56 .251 .300 .344 .284 -1.7 0.1 0.9 0.2
Donnie Murphy 14 .235 .296 .421 .313 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Javier Baez 35 .244 .290 .451 .321 0.0 0.0 -0.3 0.1
Total 700 .273 .316 .406 .316 -3.9 -0.1 -3.5 2.3
Remember the long ago days of, oh, a year ago, when Castro was seen as one of the brighter young shortstop talents in the game? Anyone? That was before an across-the-board decline in pretty much every important metric. Castro got on base less, hit for less power, was a negative on the base paths, and went from 3 DRS to -8. Oh, and he clashed with management amid reported attitude issues. So all in all, it was a pretty great year… and 2014 isn’t going much better, since he’s had all of three plate appearances due to an injured hamstring, and may not be ready for Opening Day. He only turns 24 next week, so it’s far too soon to give up on him considering how valuable he is at his best (and how much money the Cubs have tied up in him), but last year was nothing other than a massive step backwards.

Baez’ future may be at second base, where he’s been playing some this spring, and the Cubs have been giving Barney t look at shortstop, perhaps either to inflate his trade value or prepare for a Castro absence. There’s not zero competition here, but Castro will still get plenty of opportunities to rebound.

#18 White Sox

Alexei Ramirez 616 .268 .304 .374 .298 -12.7 1.1 3.0 2.0
Leury Garcia 49 .238 .282 .321 .268 -2.1 0.1 0.1 0.0
Marcus Semien 35 .241 .319 .386 .313 -0.3 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .265 .303 .371 .297 -15.1 1.2 2.9 2.1
Did you know that Ramirez was at one point one of the better shortstops in baseball? In 2010, he was worth 4 WAR; in 2011, he was worth 4.3 WAR. He never gets talked about that way, but he was, for a period, extremely valuable. Another did you know: Ramirez is older than you think he is, somehow turning 33 years old late in the 2014 season. So when he absolutely fell apart in 2012 — if my math is correct, a 2.6 percent walk rate over 621 plate appearances is something like three-quarters of one walk, so three balls — it was easy to wonder if age was catching up with him. But his defense was still solid, and he rebounded partially at the plate in 2013, even adding a shocking 30 stolen bases, despite a season marred by personal tragedy. Considering that 2013′s offensive performance is basically the mid-point between his solid 2010-11 and his brutal 2012, coming in close to his career averages, it’s fair to project about that in 2014, which makes him roughly a two-win player.

Marcus Semien is mostly notable for making me think of Marcus Stroman. I much prefer thinking about Marcus Stroman.

#19 Indians

Asdrubal Cabrera 518 .258 .318 .411 .320 2.4 0.1 -8.4 1.8
Elliot Johnson 56 .228 .279 .333 .271 -1.9 0.1 -0.2 0.1
Mike Aviles 49 .255 .286 .373 .289 -0.9 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Justin Sellers 49 .222 .284 .336 .275 -1.5 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Jose Ramirez 14 .264 .305 .346 .289 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Francisco Lindor 14 .247 .305 .330 .283 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .252 .310 .394 .309 -2.5 0.2 -8.7 2.1
The FG crew took in an Indians/Cubs game last weekend in Arizona, and Francisco Lindor was playing shortstop. He booted two balls badly, and based on that sample size of “one game” I conclude he is not ready for the majors. That’s obviously said with tongue pressing entirely through cheek, but it remains more likely than not that he will spend the majority, or even entirety, of the 2014 season in the minors. That leaves Cabrera with another season to prove — to some other future team, most likely — that he can still be the very good player we saw in 2011, or at least the solid player we saw in 2012, as opposed to the total disaster he was in 2013.

Never considered a valuable defensive shortstop, Cabrera’s offensive value just disappeared last season, continuing a three-year slide in wOBA from .344 to .332 to .307. That will happen when you walk less, strike out more, are less valuable on the bases, start swinging at five percent more pitches outside the zone, and on and on. Last year, Jeff Sullivan said “shortstop isn’t a problem” for the Indians. That was certainly true at the time, but for a team hoping to get to the playoffs, it absolutely is now. They don’t want to rush Lindor, so Cabrera will get a chance to rebound, but the leash isn’t going to be endless here.

#20 Phillies

Jimmy Rollins 581 .247 .313 .372 .302 -7.5 1.7 -0.3 1.9
Freddy Galvis 77 .243 .280 .362 .281 -2.2 -0.1 0.5 0.1
Kevin Frandsen 21 .265 .309 .363 .297 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.1
Reid Brignac 21 .215 .272 .309 .260 -1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .246 .308 .369 .298 -11.0 1.5 0.2 2.1
At the moment, Jimmy Rollins is still a Phillie, and despite the intrigue of the last week, he’s likely to remain so for most of the season, if only because declining 35-year-old shortstops who are still owed millions of dollars aren’t exactly the most valuable trade assets on the market. Rollins was once in the conversation for “best shortstop in the majors,” but now he’s merely in the conversation for “a shortstop in the majors.” Maybe even that is admirable after how long he’s been in the bigs, but of course the indicators aren’t going in the right direction. Rollins’ power completely deserted him last year, popping only 6 homers a year after hitting 23, and his .348 SLG was inferior to that of even Michael Bourn and Jose Altuve. Combine that with two years of strikeout rates higher than he’s had in a decade, and defense and base running that are both okay but nowhere near where they used to be, and you can see why Rollins’ outlook is only around two wins. That this is still good enough for No. 20 says a lot about what’s left to come.

#21 Pirates

Jordy Mercer 350 .253 .305 .382 .300 -3.6 -0.5 -1.0 1.0
Josh Harrison 280 .265 .304 .391 .305 -1.9 0.2 -1.3 0.9
Clint Barmes 49 .227 .275 .327 .265 -1.9 0.0 0.6 0.1
Alen Hanson 21 .241 .286 .362 .285 -0.5 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .256 .302 .381 .299 -7.9 -0.4 -1.8 2.0
The only “Jordy” in major league history worked his way into a job share with Clint Barmes last season, and now that Barmes has been relegated to a utility role, the job is Mercer’s to lose, for now. Going with Jordy Mercer, as opposed to say, not Jordy Mercer, seems like an odd choice for a team that faces tough odds to return to the playoffs in 2014, but then Mercer showed some ability to play in 2013, hitting eight homers in only 365 plate appearances, along with a .336 OBP and not-objectionable defense. The low-ish ranking here reflects both uncertainty about his true offensive skill — in his minor league career, his OBP was just .326 — and the fact that it’s difficult to assume that he’s going to retain the job for the entire season, though I would take the “over” on the listed 350 plate appearances here. Harrison doesn’t offer much, so the Pirates would certainly love it if he were to play considerably less than we have him for here. Hanson is the future, though he may yet end up as a second baseman.

#22 Reds

Zack Cozart 595 .251 .289 .389 .296 -10.8 0.7 4.2 2.0
Ramon Santiago 63 .237 .301 .327 .282 -1.8 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
Kristopher Negron 42 .208 .261 .313 .257 -2.1 0.1 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .247 .288 .379 .293 -14.7 0.7 3.9 2.0
We’re now getting into the portion of the show where you hope your shortstop can do even one thing well. If he can do two things well, even better, but it’s probably too much to hope for three things, otherwise, you wouldn’t be ranked in the bottom one-third of the league. Cozart does one thing extremely well, and that’s field baseballs. Given that this is shortstop and not, say, first base, that’s enough for him to have a job in the major leagues. He does a second thing somewhat well — 27 homers over the last two years is nice enough out of the shortstop position — and the combination makes him roughly a league-average shortstop. He’s not going to be better than that simply because he has no ability to get on base, thanks to limited plate discipline and a proclivity to hitting grounders without the elite speed needed to turn them into hits. Assuming Bryan Price won’t hit him second like Dusty Baker did, that won’t be nearly so objectionable coming out of the seventh or eighth spot in the lineup.

#23 Diamondbacks

Chris Owings 385 .267 .296 .391 .301 -6.9 0.1 0.1 1.0
Didi Gregorius 280 .258 .312 .379 .303 -4.5 -0.5 1.3 0.8
Cliff Pennington 35 .247 .307 .355 .293 -0.8 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .263 .303 .384 .301 -12.3 -0.4 1.6 1.9
We have now reached the theoretical “Stephen Drew line,” in that every team from here on down is below where Drew would have ranked on his own, since we project him for 2.0 WAR. That doesn’t mean there’s much difference between 1.9 WAR and 2.0 WAR, or that every team from here out is in a situation where they should have went for Drew, but if you were curious, here we are.

I was hoping that maybe Arizona would have cleared up this situation by now, but for the moment, there’s no such luck, so we’ll need to hedge our bets despite the increasing likelihood that one of them ends up in Detroit or Queens or elsewhere. Given the recent talk that Owings is in the lead for the job and the simple fact that Gregorius wasn’t very good last year — he started out white-hot, but after May 15, he hit only .229/.317/.318 in 332 plate appearances –we’ll give Owings the playing time advantage, knowing full well this will change in one way or the other. Gregorius is the better defender, though Owings should at least be capable, and most think that Owings will provide more at the plate, though our projections don’t seem to see it that way just yet.

If you believe in sources, here’s one which claims the Diamondbacks are actively trying to trade Gregorius, but not Owings, to shore up their suddenly leaky rotation. I imagine we’ll look at this situation very differently in the next few weeks.

#24 Royals

Alcides Escobar 581 .259 .294 .347 .282 -18.0 3.0 2.7 1.4
Pedro Ciriaco 84 .257 .282 .344 .274 -3.1 0.1 -0.4 0.0
Christian Colon 35 .258 .305 .345 .289 -0.9 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .259 .293 .346 .281 -22.0 3.1 2.4 1.5
No one ever expected Escobar to be a star, but .234/.259/.300 in a full season of play doesn’t even seem possible. (You have to go all the way back to Jose Lind in 1992 to find a player with at least 500 plate appearances who had a worse wOBA than Escobar’s .249. And now you’ve thought about Jose Lind today.) A three percent walk rate isn’t doing him any favors, anyway, and even the bounceback that we have him projected for gets him just to a .282 wOBA, which is still terrible. Because of his value on the bases and acceptable shortstop defense, Escobar manages to keep himself above replacement level, but Kansas City isn’t going to stomach another season like that again. If he does repeat his 2013, or if the shoulder injury that has sidelined him this spring flares up, Colon may get a look, but 2010′s No.4 overall pick looks to be both a second baseman and a disappointment relative to his draft position.

#25 Mets

Ruben Tejada 525 .254 .309 .326 .285 -11.1 -0.1 0.6 1.2
Omar Quintanilla 105 .231 .299 .324 .276 -2.9 -0.1 -0.7 0.1
Wilfredo Tovar 70 .241 .290 .317 .271 -2.2 -0.1 0.3 0.1
Total 700 .249 .306 .325 .282 -16.2 -0.4 0.2 1.3
This is still not Drew, and it’s still not likely to be Drew, because as we’ve been saying for months, any upgrade Drew may be over Tejada is probably not really worth it to the 2014 Mets. That doesn’t mean it won’t be Franklin or Gregorius, both of whom have been rumored to be the target of Mets interest, though Detroit’s sudden entry into the shortstop market won’t help Sandy Alderson there. Anyway, for the moment, Tejada appears to be the man here, and that is a cause of considerable angst among Mets fans, who remember — accurately — how awful he was in 2013. They maybe don’t remember that he was actually pretty decent in the two seasons before that, and that 2013 was marred by a strained quad and a fractured leg, and that he somehow trails only Joey Votto and Matt Carpenter in line drive rate since 2010. Since he’s still only 24, yes, it makes absolute sense to give him another shot, though the likelihood of him actually holding the job all year is low.

Not shown here is Wilmer Flores, because when it’s questionable that he can even handle third base, the idea of him actually seeing major league time at shortstop seems beyond laughable. Yet the talk of it won’t go away, which probably says more about the other options here than it does about Flores himself.

#26 Yankees

Derek Jeter 385 .269 .328 .364 .308 -4.3 -0.3 -7.6 0.5
Brendan Ryan 245 .221 .286 .306 .266 -10.8 0.2 3.3 0.4
Dean Anna 35 .252 .329 .370 .312 -0.3 0.0 0.2 0.1
Eduardo Nunez 35 .259 .306 .363 .295 -0.8 0.1 -0.4 0.1
Total 700 .251 .312 .344 .293 -16.2 -0.1 -4.5 1.1
This whole situation seems like a complete crapshoot, doesn’t it? The history of 40-year-old shortstops coming off major ankle injuries to be productive is essentially non-existent, but then again, the history of shortstops who have had careers like Derek Jeter is pretty small too. It almost feels like Jeter playing regularly at a mediocre level is the least likely outcome here, because you’d imagine that either he’s rarely playing at all, or he is and he’s playing somewhat well. On offense, anyway, because while you hardly need another review of Jeter’s defense, a major ankle injury doesn’t particularly seem like something that would help his range.

Ryan, of course, is a very known quantity, in that his defense is exquisite and his offense is painful. It will be interesting to see if everyone’s new favorite toy, Dean Anna, actually gets a chance here, though that’s really more dependent on Jeter than anything else. He’s a legend in his final year, so if he’s healthy enough to take the field, he’ll play, and it would take some really historically bad performance — I’m talking 0-for-his-first-100 here — to get him off the field for any other reason.

#27 Astros

Jonathan Villar 490 .236 .296 .355 .289 -11.1 1.9 -4.2 0.9
Marwin Gonzalez 140 .242 .280 .337 .272 -5.0 -0.2 -0.1 0.1
Cesar Izturis 70 .237 .275 .310 .258 -3.3 -0.1 0.4 0.0
Total 700 .237 .291 .346 .282 -19.3 1.6 -3.9 1.0
Villar has contact issues and isn’t a plus defender, and yet this is still better than last year’s Ronny Cedeno / Marwin Gonzalez combo, or that time in 2010 when the Astros actually tried to go with Tommy Manzella. Still, striking out nearly a third of the time is a big problem if you aren’t, say, Chris Davis, and Villar is absolutely not. The tools are there, though, especially if he can improve his decision-making on the base paths and cut down on the errors in the field, and the job is likely to be his for the entire season. Not much longer than that, however: Carlos Correa is coming.

#28 Twins

Pedro Florimon 455 .231 .287 .330 .275 -15.4 0.4 0.9 0.6
Eduardo Escobar 140 .245 .288 .340 .279 -4.4 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Danny Santana 56 .256 .288 .342 .278 -1.8 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Jason Bartlett 49 .246 .310 .330 .287 -1.2 0.0 -0.4 0.1
Total 700 .237 .289 .333 .277 -22.7 0.2 0.2 0.9
For a mere waiver claim, as Florimon was from Baltimore in 2011, anything above replacement is a nice get, so in that sense, Florimon’s 2013 was worthwhile. Unfortunately, Florimon is an all-glove shortstop, without the glove of Brandon Crawford, and also without the bat of Brandon Crawford. He is, as they say, “a guy,” out there because a baseball team requires nine fielders at all times. Maybe that’s somewhat unfair, because he can field, and he can run a bit, and he even popped nine homers, but safe to say, if and when the Twins next have a winning team, Florimon is not likely to be the shortstop there. Escobar isn’t likely more than a utility player, and… is that Jason Bartlett? The Jason Bartlett? No way. It can’t be.

#29 Tigers

Danny Worth 175 .219 .283 .310 .267 -7.5 -0.1 -1.0 -0.1
Steve Lombardozzi 175 .267 .307 .359 .294 -3.8 -0.1 -0.3 0.4
Eugenio Suarez 140 .239 .295 .339 .283 -4.3 -0.4 0.3 0.2
Jose Iglesias 140 .262 .307 .337 .288 -3.8 0.0 1.0 0.4
Francisco Martinez 70 .238 .281 .312 .265 -3.2 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .246 .296 .334 .281 -22.5 -0.7 0.0 0.8
When I learned over the weekend that Iglesias was seriously injured, I was in Arizona on our FanGraphs trip, and I leaned over to whomever was sitting next to me — Eno, I think — and I said, wait, I’m doing the shortstop projections, so Detroit, you have five days to prevent me from having to write about, well, this. No such luck, sadly.

I thought Dave Cameron did a nice job of explaining why Drew isn’t the obvious move here, but I think we can all agree that this depth chart is absolutely not how the 2014 Detroit season is going to play out. Yes, maybe it’s Worth or Suarez or Hernan Perez or whomever for a few weeks or months, but eventually it will be Drew or Franklin or Gregorius or someone else, maybe even Iglesias later in the year. For now, you have a bunch of utility players who can’t hit, and can only sort of field. Thanks to Miguel Cabrera and that starting rotation, Detroit is good enough to overcome this setback and still win the division, but they’ll do something here by the summer. They simply have to.

#30 Marlins

Adeiny Hechavarria 560 .245 .284 .337 .275 -19.1 -1.0 -2.0 0.1
Donovan Solano 91 .259 .306 .344 .288 -2.2 0.0 0.1 0.2
Ed Lucas 49 .238 .290 .333 .277 -1.6 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .246 .288 .338 .277 -22.9 -1.0 -2.2 0.3
Think about all the things I just said about the mess in Detroit, and realize that the Marlins are still a good 0.5 win behind that. I think it’s pretty well-known at this point that Hechavarria simply cannot hit — the Marlins themselves probably wouldn’t argue that strenuously, and even his 11 steals came with 10 times caught — but what’s interesting is that he seems to have this reputation as a glorious defensive shortstop, and the numbers just do not back that up, at all. DRS had him at -3 last year, which isn’t terrible. UZR/150 puts him at -10.0, which is. To carry that bat, his defense needs to be more than a conversation about which stat has him at “somewhat lousy” or “very lousy.” It’s not, which is why he’s a replacement level player, and why the Marlins are ranked No. 30 in yet another depth chart ranking.

2014 Positional Power Rankings: Center Field.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
If you’ve been looking at the scale of these charts and wondering why we set the top end of the range to +9 when the best team is usually closer to +6, here’s your answer. Stupid Mike Trout.

Trout’s dominance actually obscures McCutchen’s own greatness, as the gap between #2 and #3 would be the largest at any position if there wasn’t such a huge gap between #1 and #2 at this same spot. After the two franchise center fielders, things get a little more normal. Because of the strength of CF right now, no one is carrying a total zero at the position, and this group overall is stronger than most. It doesn’t hurt that two of the game’s premier players are carrying the top end either.

#1 Angels

Mike Trout 630 .303 .402 .529 .401 43.1 4.8 2.7 8.0
J.B. Shuck 35 .263 .319 .328 .290 -0.6 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Collin Cowgill 35 .239 .294 .356 .288 -0.7 0.0 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .298 .393 .509 .389 41.8 4.8 2.8 8.1
When a team has the best player at his position, nee, the game, they can afford to roster replacement level talent around him. If anything, Trout serves as an excellent example of the concept of Wins Above Replacement if he were to miss any time. Even Murray Chass would be able to watch a game and finally grasp the concept. None of us, not even Rangers fans, want to see Trout fall short of this projected playing time. In a time when pitchers are dropping like flies due to injuries, we need to see our offensive starts as much as possible.

#2 Pirates

Andrew McCutchen 630 .293 .381 .492 .377 31.3 1.5 0.3 5.9
Starling Marte 49 .271 .321 .430 .328 0.5 0.1 1.0 0.4
Jose Tabata 21 .269 .334 .386 .319 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .291 .375 .484 .372 31.9 1.5 1.4 6.3
Pittsburgh is fortunate enough to have one half of the dynamic duo of center fielders in the National League. McCutchen’s WAR has improved each season he has been in the majors. The 27 year old has three consecutive 20/20 seasons and he continues to create runs for a lineup that relies heavily upon his talented services. It is somewhat surprising that McCutchen has eclipsed the 100 run or 100 RBI mark just once in his five-year career given his skills, but that is more of an indictment of his supporting cast than anything.

#3 Yankees

Jacoby Ellsbury 630 .281 .338 .429 .336 6.6 4.3 5.6 4.3
Brett Gardner 35 .258 .338 .380 .320 -0.1 0.2 0.5 0.2
Ichiro Suzuki 35 .278 .308 .373 .297 -0.7 0.1 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .280 .336 .424 .333 5.8 4.5 6.4 4.6
In his five “full” seasons at the big league level, Ellsbury’s WAR totals have been quite the rollercoaster ride: 4.1, 2.1, 9.1, 1.4, 5.8. If you subscribe to the theory of Saberhagenmetrics, Ellsbury is in for a down year in his first season with New York. In reality, Ellsbury has had some freak injuries that led to his time on the disabled list from colliding with Adrian Beltre in left field to being landed on at second base by Reid Brignac while attempting a head first slide. Ellsbury made noticeable changes last season on how he handled pitches on the outer half, but the temptation of the short porch in right field may lead him to go away from that success in 2014. The Yankees have the luxury of moving Gardner over to center if Ellsbury were to go down and hopefully do not have to rely on Suzuki much if at all out there.

#4 Brewers

Carlos Gomez 630 .256 .309 .447 .328 4.4 3.6 11.5 4.4
Logan Schafer 70 .246 .301 .363 .295 -1.4 0.0 0.5 0.2
Total 700 .255 .308 .439 .325 3.1 3.6 12.0 4.6
Gomez is the Robin to the caped crusader in Pittsburgh. Gomez enjoys the advantage of having a stronger supporting cast around him, and responded well to being moved around the lineup as Milwaukee let him be the hitter he wanted to be. His defensive work in center is worth the price of admission to Miller Park and could be a serious MVP candidate this year as the roster around him will be much improved over last year’s group. Not to mention, only the defensive demigod Andrelton Simmons had a higher Defensive Runs Saved total than Gomez in 2013. His projections are nearly a 3-win drop from last season, which shows the risk in his skill set.

#5 Athletics

Coco Crisp 490 .262 .328 .414 .326 4.1 2.8 -0.5 2.6
Craig Gentry 210 .253 .328 .341 .300 -2.4 1.2 4.7 1.2
Total 700 .260 .328 .392 .318 1.7 4.0 4.3 3.9
Oakland may have the best tandem in the league, which is a good thing given the flaws in both players. Crisp is getting long in the tooth and has been a below average defender each of the past three seasons. He makes up for his shortcomings in the field with strong baserunning and his excellence in stealing bases. Crisp has played as many as 145 games just twice in his career and has exceeded 130 games just twice in the past six seasons. When Chris Young departed, Oakland traded Michael Choice to get Gentry. Gentry gives the team a superior defender, a good baserunner, and someone who hits lefties well. He has fought back issues all spring and those issues can tend to linger for awhile. If Gentry does open on the disabled list, Sam Fuld likely slots in here.

#6 Tigers

Austin Jackson 595 .270 .342 .415 .334 5.5 1.0 0.4 3.1
Rajai Davis 70 .261 .306 .367 .297 -1.4 0.6 -0.2 0.2
Don Kelly 35 .244 .312 .363 .301 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .268 .337 .408 .328 3.5 1.7 0.2 3.4
Jackson’s WAR floor as a major leaguer is 2.4 and he has been a 3-win player in three of his four seasons. Despite some minor injuries, he has eclipsed 600 plate appearances in each of his four seasons as he mostly hit leadoff under Jim Leyland. The addition of new manager Brad Ausmus plus Ian Kinsler may change his spot in the lineup. Perhaps the managerial change will allow Jackson to use his legs more as his stolen base total has dropped each of the past four seasons and last season’s hamstring issue was as much of a factor with that as Leyland’s ultra-conservative approach to the running game. Davis and Kelly are expected to platoon in left field during the first half of the season while Andy Dirks recovers from his back surgery.

#7 Cardinals

Peter Bourjos 441 .253 .308 .403 .312 -0.2 1.4 5.9 2.4
Jon Jay 175 .273 .340 .379 .318 0.7 0.1 -1.0 0.6
Shane Robinson 49 .253 .321 .357 .302 -0.4 0.1 0.2 0.2
Oscar Taveras 35 .282 .326 .435 .329 0.4 0.0 -0.2 0.2
Total 700 .259 .318 .395 .314 0.5 1.6 4.9 3.3
St. Louis fans were hoping that Taveras would be ready to start the season, but that did not happen. The Cardinals were proactive in dealing with this scenario in trading David Freese for Bourjos. It allowed them to improve their infield defense and open up playing time for Kolten Wong, while significantly upgrading their defense in center. Fans that were sour on the way Jay played the position last season will enjoy watching Bourjos range for balls from gap to gap. Hip and wrist injuries have put a dent into his offensive production that he could not afford to lose, but he is still an excellent value defensively. In a perfect world, he gains back some of what he has lost at the plate and allows Taveras to take all of the time he needs to get ready for the role later in the season.

#8 Dodgers

Andre Ethier 210 .266 .344 .417 .332 3.3 -0.3 -1.7 0.9
Joc Pederson 21 .246 .310 .394 .311 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1
Nick Buss 14 .239 .282 .361 .283 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Matt Kemp 455 .273 .340 .467 .346 12.4 0.8 -7.5 2.3
Total 700 .269 .339 .448 .339 15.4 0.5 -9.3 3.3
Take the comments utilized for Bourjos and reverse them for this group. There is not a natural center fielder here, but Ethier and Kemp will be asked to play the position most nights. The hope would be that Ethier faces enough right-handed pitching to continue hitting them well as he quietly has for some time now, and Kemp’s ankle can handle the position most nights. Both will need to provide enough offense to overlook their defensive shortcomings. Kemp is attempting to end a three-year wRC+ slide while Ethier’s wRC+ total has been at least 120 for six consecutive seasons. Perhaps a trade will happen at some point to clear a path for top prospect Pederson, who is rather blocked by the big contracts in the Los Angeles outfield.

#9 Nationals

Denard Span 560 .274 .326 .377 .311 -2.6 1.3 4.6 2.4
Nate McLouth 49 .247 .319 .383 .311 -0.2 0.2 0.0 0.2
Bryce Harper 49 .277 .361 .504 .374 2.2 0.0 0.4 0.5
Jayson Werth 21 .273 .358 .454 .355 0.6 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Eury Perez 21 .278 .305 .355 .292 -0.4 0.0 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .272 .328 .387 .316 -0.4 1.6 5.0 3.2
Span has been one of the better defensive center fielders in recent seasons, which helps make up for the shortcomings in his overall offensive game. The bat is rather empty, but he does run the bases well and uses his speed to excel in the field. The offensive promise he showed earlier in his career is now a distant memory. Span has proven himself somewhat durable with a pair of 150+ game seasons over the past four seasons. The Nationals went across the harbor to grab a capable reserve in McLouth who can man center but is better served in left.

#10 Rays

Desmond Jennings 595 .246 .326 .394 .319 3.3 3.2 -3.3 2.7
David DeJesus 105 .242 .318 .367 .306 -0.5 -0.1 -0.4 0.3
Total 700 .245 .324 .390 .317 2.8 3.1 -3.7 3.0
his is where the precipitous fall begins for the position. Jennings has not quite blossomed into the player he was projected to be in his prospect days. He does not throw well and has issues with balls in front of him in the field. At the plate, right-handed pitchers, especially those with good velocity, handle him rather well. He has added size in the offseason in hopes of doing more at the plate and staying strong throughout the season. DeJesus is a capable replacement when the matchup or health dictates it, but should be locked in a broom closet when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound.

#11 Indians

Michael Bourn 574 .259 .321 .354 .301 -5.8 3.6 5.3 2.6
Nyjer Morgan 91 .249 .306 .334 .287 -1.9 0.1 0.1 0.2
Michael Brantley 35 .275 .331 .388 .316 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .258 .319 .353 .300 -7.7 3.7 5.4 2.9
Bourn’s debut in Cleveland did not go exactly as planned. His stellear defense was lost in his connecting flight from Atlanta to Cleveland, and his stolen base production took a hit as he posted the second-lowest on base percentage of his career. While center fielders can age quickly in their early to mid 30′s, 2013 was not something even the most pessimistic analyst could have projected. He has had a lot of volatility in his offensive value throughout his career as his offensive value has fluctuated from -23 to 16.8 in any given season. Perhaps 2013 was just another one of those cyclical efforts. The Indians hope so given the fact they are on board for another three seasons of his services.

#12 Blue Jays

Colby Rasmus 525 .248 .317 .453 .334 5.1 0.7 0.2 2.7
Anthony Gose 175 .237 .297 .348 .287 -4.8 0.2 -0.5 0.1
Total 700 .245 .312 .426 .323 0.4 0.9 -0.4 2.9
Rasmus had previously showcased his offensive and defensive value, but never in the same season. He was strong defensively in 2009, strong offensively in 2010, but it was not until last season that he had positive value in both areas. 2014 is Rasmus’s final year before free agency as he potentially hits the open market as the best option for team looking for a center field by a considerable margin. Perhaps Toronto can talk him into sticking around for a few more seasons as they do not have a clear option behind him as Gose has been a disappointing prospect who does not look like an everyday outfielder.

#13 Diamondbacks

A.J. Pollock 455 .268 .317 .389 .310 -4.7 0.4 4.9 1.7
Gerardo Parra 210 .272 .331 .406 .321 -0.5 -0.1 3.4 1.1
Tony Campana 35 .251 .299 .311 .274 -1.4 0.2 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .268 .320 .390 .312 -6.6 0.6 8.3 2.8
The Adam Eaton experience in Arizona ended as quickly as it began. As GM Kevin Towers frequently does, he made up his mind to move on and is entrusting the position to Pollock and Parra. Parra is a proven asset in the field and is a low-ceiling/high-floor player at the plate. Pollock has fewer than 600 major league plate appearances, but the 3.6 WAR season as a rookie certainly impressed upper management enough for them to make the change. The strange thing is, the team was impressed with Eaton in 2012 and yet he was out the door just one season later. Pollock should get a longer leash.

#14 Orioles

Adam Jones 595 .277 .317 .471 .342 8.7 1.2 -5.9 2.8
Quintin Berry 70 .220 .297 .296 .270 -2.9 0.5 -0.6 -0.1
Francisco Peguero 35 .264 .289 .365 .287 -1.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .271 .314 .449 .332 4.8 1.7 -6.6 2.8
Only in America can a player win a gold glove with below average defensive metrics. Jones has done it three times in the past four seasons. He has back to back 4-win seasons and rarely misses a day in the lineup. At 28 years old, he shows little signs of wearing down from the workload Buck Showalter puts upon his shoulders as his baseball card stats and other skills have been rather stable in recent seasons. Maybe he can win an MVP some time in the future with below average offensive numbers. Can we seriously rule that out?

#15 Rangers

Leonys Martin 560 .265 .319 .407 .318 -4.0 1.3 4.4 2.4
Engel Beltre 70 .250 .290 .350 .282 -2.5 -0.1 0.3 0.0
Alex Rios 35 .273 .312 .423 .320 -0.2 0.1 0.0 0.1
Michael Choice 35 .268 .334 .412 .329 0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .264 .316 .402 .315 -6.6 1.3 4.6 2.7
Martin flashed his potential in his first full season in the major leagues on the basepaths and in the field, particularly when baserunners tried to take the extra base or tag up on flyballs to center field. Martin has some issues against left-handed pitching that will limit his ceiling until they are addressed, but his defense and baserunning can carry him for the time being. The clean platoon situation he had last season with Craig Gentry is now gone as the Rangers are hoisting more responsibility onto him to see i he can handle it.

#16 Padres

Will Venable 385 .253 .312 .435 .323 3.8 1.6 -2.6 1.7
Alexi Amarista 70 .251 .290 .362 .287 -1.3 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Reymond Fuentes 35 .242 .307 .333 .287 -0.6 0.1 0.1 0.1
Chris Denorfia 35 .264 .321 .384 .311 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.2
Cameron Maybin 175 .246 .311 .375 .304 -1.0 0.9 0.4 0.7
Total 700 .251 .310 .405 .312 0.8 2.5 -2.2 2.7
Venable has flashed his speed and power potential in previous seasons, but it was not until 2013 that he put it all together and had one of the quietest 20/20 seasons in recent memory. He took full advantage of extra playing time afforded to him by Maybin missing most of the season. Venable’s offensive value has increased each of the past three seasons as he has earned more and more playing time. Maybin is already hurt to start the 2014 season, so the playing time should be there once against with Denorfia spelling him for some of the tougher matchups against left-handed pitching.

#17 Astros

Dexter Fowler 560 .243 .348 .378 .326 3.4 1.6 -5.7 2.1
Robbie Grossman 70 .234 .323 .338 .299 -1.0 -0.1 -0.4 0.1
George Springer 70 .241 .320 .439 .332 0.8 0.2 0.0 0.4
Total 700 .242 .342 .380 .324 3.2 1.6 -6.2 2.6
Fowler has played the largest center field in the league throughout his career, so a change to the unique situation in Houston should not be a problem for him. His plate discipline has remained rather constant, as has his career trends of taking full advantage of Coors Field while struggling to hit on the road. He has a career 115 wRC+ at home and a 92 wRC+ on the road. He will be the leadoff man for Houston in 2014 as they wish to leverage his on base skills to help generate runs at the top of the lineup that will see Jose Altuve and Jason Castro hit behind him. Grossman is expected to get most of his time in left field while Springer will come up after the Super Two deadline to assume most of the playing time in right field.

#18 Mets

Chris Young 385 .225 .309 .404 .314 0.7 0.5 2.6 1.8
Juan Lagares 105 .251 .289 .356 .283 -2.4 -0.1 1.9 0.3
Matt den Dekker 70 .227 .277 .355 .279 -1.8 0.0 0.0 0.1
Eric Young 70 .243 .311 .332 .289 -1.2 0.6 0.0 0.2
Kirk Nieuwenhuis 35 .222 .293 .369 .293 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Andrew Brown 35 .231 .296 .402 .306 -0.1 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Curtis Granderson 21 .226 .314 .422 .323 0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 721 .231 .302 .383 .302 -5.2 1.1 4.1 2.6
When you have seven center fielders, you really have none. The Mets will have a clean platoon situation with Young and Lagares getting most of the time, but their value is nearly completely tied up in their defensive abilities. The 30-year old Young does not run as much as he once did, and his K% and BB% are trending in the wrong directions. Lagares showed as much in the field in 2013 as he did little at the plate. Bartolo Colon should love the duo hawing his fly balls in play this season.

#19 Giants

Angel Pagan 525 .271 .324 .396 .315 2.3 2.0 -3.9 1.9
Gregor Blanco 105 .239 .321 .331 .293 -1.4 0.2 0.3 0.3
Juan Perez 70 .254 .289 .368 .289 -1.1 -0.1 0.8 0.2
Total 700 .264 .320 .383 .309 -0.2 2.1 -2.7 2.4
Pagan has been an above league-average offensive player for four of the past five seasons on the strength of his baserunning and ability to make solid contact. His BB%, K%, and slash lines have been remarkably stable, unlike his defensive metrics which have been all over the place. He has played in 150 or more games just twice in his major league career, and a balky hamstring could afford Blanco more time up the middle in 2014. Blanco is the superior player defensively in terms of consistency, but is more limited offensively.

#20 Royals

Lorenzo Cain 490 .257 .313 .373 .304 -6.9 0.6 5.4 1.8
Justin Maxwell 91 .227 .303 .398 .309 -0.9 0.1 0.5 0.3
Jarrod Dyson 70 .247 .308 .327 .284 -2.0 0.8 0.7 0.2
Carlos Peguero 49 .240 .294 .407 .306 -0.6 -0.1 -0.8 0.0
Total 700 .251 .310 .374 .303 -10.4 1.4 5.8 2.4
Cain continues to shine in the field while struggling at the plate. He has the BB% and K% of a power hitter, yet does not hit with power. He has speed, but does not get on base enough to fully utilize it. The defense keeps him in the lineup despite the struggles, as does the fact that the list behind him offers little. Maxwell was decimated by injuries throughout his developmental years and has become a short-sided platoon bat option while Dyson’s main value is to drive pitchers nuts on the basepaths.

#21 Marlins

Marcell Ozuna 455 .251 .295 .413 .310 -3.0 0.4 1.3 1.5
Jake Marisnick 154 .243 .294 .370 .293 -3.0 0.0 0.7 0.3
Brent Keys 49 .284 .336 .352 .308 -0.4 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Christian Yelich 21 .259 .329 .404 .323 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.1
Alfredo Silverio 21 .248 .285 .383 .292 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .252 .299 .398 .306 -6.8 0.3 2.0 2.1
Ozuna is still developing as an offensive player, but the raw skills show what lies ahead for the talented player. He used his athleticism to play solid outfield defense last season, but has yet to show the power at the major league level he repeatedly flashed in the minors. Youth is the name of the game in Miami as they hope athleticism can outweigh inexperience and risk.

#22 White Sox

Adam Eaton 525 .262 .342 .371 .320 -1.9 1.4 -4.1 1.6
Alejandro De Aza 140 .262 .323 .396 .317 -0.8 0.2 -0.2 0.5
Jared Mitchell 35 .178 .267 .297 .255 -1.9 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .258 .335 .372 .316 -4.6 1.6 -4.2 2.0
Eaton should be able to do somewhat better defensively in a smaller ballpark without the deep gaps that Chase Field presented him. He never really got a fair shake last season as an elbow issue put him behind the eight ball all season and did not really show the speed and ability to hit for average that he did all throughout his minor league career. de Aza may not be long for the roster as his name has been tied up in several trade rumors this spring, but Chicago was clearly not satisfied with what he provided last season.

#23 Red Sox

Jackie Bradley 455 .251 .328 .388 .317 -2.5 -0.3 -0.8 1.4
Grady Sizemore 140 .232 .291 .383 .297 -3.0 -0.2 -1.3 0.1
Shane Victorino 70 .271 .333 .423 .332 0.4 0.3 1.3 0.5
Corey Brown 35 .219 .285 .380 .293 -0.9 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .248 .319 .390 .314 -6.0 -0.3 -1.0 2.0
In the 2013 Grapefruit League season, everyone was heaping praises on Jackie Bradley Jr and how he was going to be a big part of Boston’s season. He was not. Fast forward to 2014 and those praises are now being heaped upon Sizemore, and so far, he has not broken apart from the extra weight on his legs. What he will do in 2014 remains to be seen but this quartet of options is quite the step down from what Ellsbury provided last season. Some would say this is the Achilles heel of the defending World Champions.

#24 Cubs

Ryan Sweeney 385 .265 .324 .401 .319 -1.1 -0.2 -1.9 1.1
Justin Ruggiano 105 .251 .316 .429 .327 0.3 -0.1 0.0 0.4
Junior Lake 70 .255 .300 .384 .302 -1.1 0.0 0.4 0.2
Brett Jackson 70 .217 .296 .368 .295 -1.5 0.0 0.0 0.1
Casper Wells 35 .227 .299 .396 .307 -0.4 -0.1 0.1 0.1
Darnell McDonald 35 .235 .298 .357 .291 -0.9 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .254 .315 .398 .314 -4.7 -0.4 -1.4 1.8
It is too bad management cannot just eschew service time concerns and let Javier Baez play center field this season. A Sweeney/Ruggiano platoon has zero upside to it, and simply serves as a way to fill the gap as the team waits for Jorge Soler and Albert Almora to make their way up the organizational ladder. Ruggiano has a .371 wOBA on fastballs for his career and a .273 wOBA on all non-fastballs. Eventually, the league will stop throwing him fastballs.

#25 Mariners

Abraham Almonte 455 .245 .308 .360 .297 -7.8 0.7 -2.3 0.8
Michael Saunders 210 .234 .314 .392 .312 -1.2 0.4 0.5 0.8
Dustin Ackley 35 .256 .331 .373 .312 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .243 .311 .370 .302 -9.1 1.2 -1.8 1.7
This is the one position where the team is expected to play outfielders that will not double as statues in the outfield. Almonte has seen a large share of the Cactus League time and should open the season as the starter for the position. He has posted multiple double-digit walk rates in the minor leagues as well as multiple 20+ stolen base seasons which hints at his potential after resurrecting his career. Saunders has had back to back double-double seasons in with home runs and steals, but is the inferior defender.

#26 Rockies

Drew Stubbs 280 .254 .324 .397 .319 -4.3 1.8 -0.3 0.7
Corey Dickerson 210 .272 .319 .470 .341 0.5 -0.4 -1.1 0.6
Brandon Barnes 140 .253 .301 .394 .306 -3.5 -0.1 0.4 0.2
Charlie Blackmon 70 .268 .318 .408 .318 -1.1 0.1 -0.3 0.1
Total 700 .261 .317 .420 .323 -8.4 1.3 -1.3 1.6
Playing this position in Colorado presents unique challenges because of how much ground must be covered. The center fielder has to play back to defend the gaps, and Stubbs has the athleticism to make it happen. The issue is that he can be very much overexposed at the plate when he has to face too many right-handed pitchers. He and Dickerson would make a clean platoon. The duo will be asked to match what Dexter Fowler himself provided to the Rockies, which will be a tall task for them.

#27 Reds

Billy Hamilton 490 .255 .310 .348 .293 -10.1 4.5 2.0 1.4
Skip Schumaker 119 .255 .317 .335 .292 -2.6 -0.2 -1.6 0.0
Chris Heisey 70 .248 .297 .416 .311 -0.4 0.1 0.1 0.2
Ryan Lamarre 21 .235 .294 .328 .279 -0.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .254 .309 .352 .294 -13.8 4.4 0.5 1.6
This is a tenuous situation, at best. Hamilton is an extreme risk as we are not sure he will be able to hit enough to remain in the everyday lineup. The problem Cincinnati has is that they do not have a clean backup option should the Hamilton experiment fail. None of the others are everyday players, meaning Hamilton will have a very long opportunity to prove his worth.

#28 Phillies

Ben Revere 525 .283 .323 .341 .296 -9.4 2.7 1.1 1.3
John Mayberry 105 .240 .297 .402 .306 -1.0 0.0 -0.6 0.2
Cesar Hernandez 35 .267 .310 .346 .291 -0.7 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Clete Thomas 35 .216 .276 .352 .278 -1.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .272 .316 .351 .296 -12.3 2.6 0.3 1.5
Revere’s defensive value dropped off considerably as he made the switch from the American League to the National League. The foot injury may have had a factor in that as it clearly affected his stolen base production. His defense and steals are what he brings to the table as he is still in search of his first major league home run 1400 plate appearances into his major league career. He is just 25 years old, making him one of the youngest regulars on the team by 19 years.

#29 Braves

B.J. Upton 434 .227 .302 .394 .306 -3.1 1.1 -0.6 1.3
Jordan Schafer 189 .218 .292 .309 .270 -6.7 0.5 -0.5 0.0
Jose Constanza 35 .259 .305 .312 .275 -1.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Jason Heyward 21 .262 .349 .460 .354 0.6 0.0 0.4 0.2
Todd Cunningham 21 .251 .305 .331 .285 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .228 .301 .367 .296 -10.9 1.7 -0.7 1.5
Atlanta has multiple positions where they are strong defensively; this is not one of them. Upton has issues making throws his arm cannot cash and struggles with balls hit in front of him. His struggles at the plate were not injury related as they were earlier in his career as much as they were related to a loss in bat speed. Upton is a habitual tinkerer at the plate and has been working with his coaches on adjustments this offseason. How long they stick is unknown. Upton can’t possibly be as bad as he was last year, but if he is, Schafer could see more time.

#30 Twins

Alex Presley 385 .260 .313 .389 .309 -2.8 0.0 -4.2 0.8
Aaron Hicks 280 .220 .297 .349 .288 -6.7 0.0 -0.2 0.4
Darin Mastroianni 35 .233 .299 .307 .274 -1.2 0.1 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .243 .306 .369 .299 -10.8 0.0 -4.4 1.1
This situation is so bad that the team’s assistant GM publicly bemoaned the effort of Presley and Hicks to the media earlier this week. This is a microcosm of the reasons why the Twins are likely stuck in neutral in the standings in 2014 despite their upgrades to their pitching staff.

2014 Positional Power Rankings: Right Field.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Well, we got through six of these things last week and perhaps the most consistent observation was that the Marlins infield is atrocious, but the outfield is here to buck that trend. At least, right field will, as the Marlins are one of five teams that are nearly indistinguishable at the top, followed by seven next-tier groups, and then the rest of the league is probably engaged in some private grumbling.

The graph says there are no superstars here, but I’ll definitely take the over on at least one of the top five posting a six win season.

#1 Dodgers

Yasiel Puig 630 .286 .354 .489 .364 26.2 -1.8 3.4 4.3
Andre Ethier 49 .266 .344 .417 .332 0.8 -0.1 -0.4 0.1
Scott Van Slyke 14 .245 .325 .411 .324 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Mike Baxter 7 .241 .321 .370 .307 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .283 .352 .481 .361 27.1 -1.9 3.0 4.5
This guy. We’re kicking off right field with one of the most divisive players in the league. Does he showboat too much? Is he too aggressive? Is he a clubhouse cancer? Will Brian McCann assassinate him? These are questions that may interest journalists but not our projection systems. Last season, Puig did two things that would usually cause us FanGraphs-types to cry “luck” – he posted a .383 BABIP with a 16.9 percent swinging strike rate. Our various projections think he’ll repeat some of his high BABIP ways, forecasting a range from .326 to .347. Meanwhile, none of the projection systems worry that he’ll strikeout more this season, despite whiffing at a rate that puts him side by side with noted whiffmasters Ryan Howard, Pedro Alvarez, and Josh Hamilton. Two of those guys typically strike out around 30 percent of the time. The other is Hamilton, who probably provides a fantastic comp for Puig. The current scuttlebutt is that Puig will leadoff for the Dodgers, which seems like a strange way to leverage his mix of aggression and power. He does project to have the best on base percentage on the team, so maybe it’s not so strange.

In case Puig goes radioactive — Dan Mattingly is already grumbling about injuries — the Dodgers have a three win outfielder in Andre Ethier available, or will at least once Matt Kemp returns. Scott Van Slyke is a perfectly capable fourth outfielder too and Joc Pederson is lurking somewhere off the page. Yeah, they’re stacked. The other four teams with high quality right fielders can’t say the same.

#2 Marlins

Giancarlo Stanton 546 .263 .362 .543 .387 29.4 -1.6 2.2 4.4
Marcell Ozuna 21 .251 .295 .413 .310 -0.1 0.0 0.1 0.0
Brian Bogusevic 49 .240 .316 .364 .303 -0.6 0.1 0.3 0.1
Donovan Solano 35 .259 .306 .344 .288 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Jordany Valdespin 35 .255 .298 .385 .301 -0.5 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Brady Shoemaker 14 .246 .314 .370 .305 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .260 .350 .503 .368 27.2 -1.6 2.5 4.5
With a slightly more aggressive playing time projection for Stanton, the Marlins could have actually ranked first in a position. That hardly makes up for their infield rankings, but at least they have one dynamic position player. Shoulder and leg issues have resulted in only 239 games played over the last two seasons. That’s not what you want to see from a player entering his age 24 season. If the injuries keep piling up, we’ll be forced to wonder if he’ll reach age 30 in the majors. He has plenty of time to shake the injury prone label, but it won’t be long until we’re officially “concerned.” Oh, I almost forgot, he projects to hit about 35 home runs with a .280 ISO. This is a case where the Fans projection is actually right in line with the other systems. Since the fans usually run a little hot, does that mean all the systems are too rosy?

There are a bunch of other names on that list. Don’t make me talk about them.

#3 Blue Jays

Jose Bautista 560 .263 .377 .521 .386 28.2 0.2 0.0 4.4
Moises Sierra 70 .243 .295 .391 .301 -1.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Kevin Pillar 70 .259 .294 .375 .294 -1.5 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .260 .360 .491 .368 25.5 0.1 0.0 4.5
Once upon a time, Bautista wrecked all spring training pitches seen. Then he proceeded to do the same during the regular season. That was 2010. In 2009, I watched maybe five Jays games, and always to see the other team. In 2010, I dropped everything to watch as many Bautista plate appearances as possible. With all apologies to Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, I haven’t seen a more dominant hitter since Barry Bonds. Injuries sucked the life out of Bautista the last two seasons, but he’s once again hitting like it’s 2010. Based on reports and that teeny-tiny spring sample, he may finally be fully recovered from his injuries. He’s entering his age 33 season, so even if he’s completely healthy now, he probably won’t be at some point this season.

If we have to talk about Moises Sierra or Kevin Pillar, then it’s a lost season for the Jays. There is no margin for error with this roster.

#4 Brewers

Ryan Braun 560 .295 .365 .527 .382 27.5 1.4 -1.5 4.1
Logan Schafer 140 .246 .301 .363 .295 -2.7 0.1 1.0 0.1
Caleb Gindl 35 .255 .317 .411 .320 0.0 0.0 -0.3 0.0
Sean Halton 21 .243 .298 .392 .303 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Josh Prince 14 .224 .292 .327 .279 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 770 .281 .348 .484 .359 24.1 1.5 -0.8 4.3
Our projections love, love, love Ryan Braun, but our hearts and minds are less certain. After all, this is a guy who was caught using PEDs, somehow got off clean, and then was caught another way. Presumably, Braun is no longer using PEDs (at least the specifically banned kinds), and we’ve never really figured out how to put that in a statistical model. On the one hand, strength gained through the use of PEDs need only be maintained. On the other hand, PEDs can confer a number of competing long term advantages and disadvantages. It’s a confusing picture. In any case, maybe we expect a little less power and fewer stolen bases – he only swiped four last season in 253 plate appearances, a pace of about 10 per 650 plate appearances. He’ll probably be very good if healthy, and maybe he has another seven win season in him.

The Brewers hope they don’t need to ask Logan Schafer or Caleb Glindl to fill in for Braun, because they very much aren’t Braun.

#5 Braves

Jason Heyward 511 .262 .349 .460 .354 15.3 0.8 10.2 3.9
Jordan Schafer 84 .218 .292 .309 .270 -3.0 0.2 -0.2 -0.1
Justin Upton 35 .265 .354 .456 .353 1.0 0.1 -0.1 0.2
Joey Terdoslavich 35 .248 .298 .401 .305 -0.3 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Todd Cunningham 35 .251 .305 .331 .285 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .338 .431 .338 12.2 1.0 9.7 3.9
Last season, Heyward was bad, then pretty good, then banged up. We’re all familiar with Heyward experiencing injuries. He managed a full season in 2012 and flashed his upside with a six win performance. We think he can be better. His career wRC+ is just 119, yet our projections call for a range of 121 to 134. The Fans come in on the high end, but Steamer is right there with a 132 wRC+ projection. When he’s on the field, he’s been fantastic defensively, so that ensures a high floor for the Braves regardless of which hitter shows up.

Of course, there is a very real chance that Jordan Schafer or Joey Terdoslavich will see considerable time. Schafer’s speed offers an actual major league skill, but his defense and bat are somewhat less than incredible (if you enjoy understatements). Perhaps you noticed Justin Upton’s name – he could slide over if the club prefers Evan Gattis in left field in the event of a Heyward injury.

#6 Athletics

Josh Reddick 525 .238 .307 .419 .317 0.7 0.6 9.4 2.4
Craig Gentry 70 .253 .328 .341 .300 -0.8 0.4 1.6 0.3
Michael Taylor 70 .241 .313 .377 .306 -0.5 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Brandon Moss 35 .240 .316 .456 .335 0.6 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .240 .310 .409 .315 0.0 1.0 10.6 2.9
So I bet you weren’t expecting to find Josh Reddick directly behind Heyward? To be fair, the A’s are projected to be a full win behind the Braves whereas the 12th ranked Giants are just four runs back from Oakland. We’re also seeing the Athletics’ depth at work, since four of the next six teams have an outfielder with a higher WAR projection than Reddick. Still, the man is underappreciated. He was recovering from a wrist injury most of last season, which sapped his power at the plate. He posted two consecutive seasons of 108 wRC+ baseball prior to the injury, and a return to that level of production wouldn’t be shocking. He’s an asset on the bases and elite in right field, where his career UZR/150 is over +20 runs. He’s entering his age 27 season, and relative youth is always a good thing. A healthy Reddick probably outperforms this projection.

An unhealthy Reddick is backed by Craig Gentry, who is currently recovering from a back injury. Gentry is another underappreciated player. He’s a deceptively decent hitter despite an utter dearth of power, runs the bases very well, and features elite center field defense. He was worth 3.4 WAR in just 287 plate appearances last season. He’s posted 7.8 WAR in his last 709 plate appearances! Did I mention exclamation point? Part of that is platoon management, but not all of it. We’re talking about a player who has a career 29.5 UZR/150 in center field. It doesn’t matter that he’s 20 percent below league average when batting against same-handed pitchers. I wish we got to see him start through his peak. I promise, I won’t get this excited about any other backups.

#7 Red Sox

Shane Victorino 455 .271 .333 .423 .332 2.8 2.0 8.3 2.5
Daniel Nava 140 .263 .347 .395 .330 0.6 -0.1 -0.8 0.3
Bryce Brentz 70 .246 .289 .409 .304 -1.1 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
Alex Hassan 35 .256 .343 .374 .321 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .266 .332 .414 .329 2.2 1.8 7.1 2.9
Shane Victorino is back in the spring lineup after battling a thumb injury, but he’ll have to get ready for the season quickly. Victorino isn’t a classic right fielder – really he’s a center fielder who was forced to right field by Jacoby Ellsbury rather than any defensive deficiency. He was worth 24 runs in the field over 122 games last season according to UZR (DRS says 23 runs so there’s agreement). The hitting component of Victorino’s game is a little curious. He’s had trouble batting from the left side in recent seasons, but saw some improvement last year. He had even better results as a right-handed batter against righty pitching, but his peripherals were ugly. Any drawn out struggle from the left side could unleash a media storm in Boston.

The Sox will lean on Daniel Nava as the primary backup in case Victorino is injured or forced to take reps in center field. Nava has shown a useful and timely bat in Boston, but his defense is not an asset. He’s a more-than-solid backup, but I’m sure the preference is for Victorino to take more reps than we project.

#8 Reds

Jay Bruce 560 .253 .330 .483 .347 12.3 -0.4 4.5 2.9
Skip Schumaker 42 .255 .317 .335 .292 -0.9 -0.1 -0.6 -0.1
Chris Heisey 21 .248 .297 .416 .311 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Billy Hamilton 21 .255 .310 .348 .293 -0.4 0.2 0.1 0.0
Donald Lutz 21 .232 .277 .381 .287 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Jason Bourgeois 14 .258 .303 .335 .284 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 679 .253 .325 .461 .338 9.9 -0.2 4.0 2.9
I still remember when Jay Bruce reached the majors and promptly refused to make an out. Once he conceded that out-making is part of mortality, he made a lot of them. And that was our first taste of Jay Bruce: Streaky Expletive. Bruce is still playing the streak game, and research shows that consistent production has slightly more value to a team than streaky production. I don’t think the Reds are going to complain. Historically, Bruce has been good at staying on the field, and we like his defense more than you might expect from watching him play.

Skip Schumaker is not a desirable backup, but Chris Heisey is showing signs of a breakout in this apocalyptic post-Dusty world. Five home runs, five doubles, and 14 total hits in 42 spring at bats are good. Of course, he’s also yet to walk, which some might describe as less good. Regardless of sample size arguments, I’d put my money on Heisey as the primary backup if Bruce hits the skids.

#9 Cardinals

Allen Craig 399 .288 .343 .460 .350 11.7 -0.7 -1.2 1.9
Matt Adams 21 .265 .311 .462 .336 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.1
Peter Bourjos 140 .253 .308 .403 .312 -0.1 0.5 1.9 0.5
Jon Jay 70 .273 .340 .379 .318 0.3 0.0 -0.4 0.1
Shane Robinson 35 .253 .321 .357 .302 -0.3 0.1 0.1 0.1
Oscar Taveras 35 .282 .326 .435 .329 0.4 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .277 .333 .434 .336 12.4 -0.2 0.2 2.8
Just from this chart, you might think that we’re really skeptical about Allen Craig staying healthy. We actually project another 140 plate appearances at first base, and if I were a betting man (wait, I am) I would project more time at first and less in the outfield. Craig’s just another fruit of John Mozeliak’s obvious deal with the devil. I’ll point out that Craig was an uncelebrated prospect who is now very much celebrated; just in case you haven’t read that in the last week. He’s not exactly an asset in right field, but he’s also a temporarily passable fielder – at least until he isn’t. Defensively fringy outfielders can crater pretty suddenly, especially if injury intervenes. Perhaps a splinter in the heel or a pebble in the shoe will force a move down the defensive spectrum.

Backing up Craig’s bat is Peter Bourjos — assuming that Mike Matheny won’t want Jon Jay’s arm in right field too often — and he takes the opposite approach to value by swinging softly and carrying a big glove. Our defensive projection of two runs is light, even if he’s only getting 140 plate appearances at the position – that’s because his defensive projection is for center field. Jon Jay and Shane Robinson are perfectly tolerable backup outfielders, but Oscar Taveras is the man to watch if he ever manages to stay on the field.

#10 Rays

Wil Myers 630 .260 .326 .438 .332 9.9 0.2 -0.4 2.6
David DeJesus 35 .242 .318 .367 .306 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Logan Forsythe 35 .233 .316 .351 .298 -0.4 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .258 .325 .430 .329 9.4 0.2 -0.8 2.7
Here we have a budding star projected to play almost every game. Myers was a neutral defender and baserunner last season. It’s his offense that makes him stand out as a prospective franchise player. Last season, he raked in 373 plate appearances with the help of a .362 BABIP. That smells fishy, but he’s always posted high BABIP’s. He’s one of those guys who makes noisy contact and maybe we should expect the BABIPy ways to continue. This season should educate us in that regard. Of particular note is his batted ball profile, which skewed a bit more towards ground balls than I like from a burgeoning power hitter. That might partially explain why his .185 ISO came in below his minor league numbers (he also played in a few high octane environments). Our projections expect more of the same in 2014 but with hefty BABIP regression. There’s scope for a LOT more upside here.

David DeJesus and Logan Forsythe play baseball in case Myers hits the disabled list. We could also see Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, and Brandon Guyer. After all, we’re talking about the Rays.

#11 Nationals

Jayson Werth 455 .273 .358 .454 .355 13.5 0.4 -2.6 2.2
Nate McLouth 154 .247 .319 .383 .311 -0.8 0.6 0.1 0.3
Scott Hairston 35 .246 .292 .449 .320 0.1 0.0 -0.3 0.0
Tyler Moore 35 .242 .292 .433 .315 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Eury Perez 21 .278 .305 .355 .292 -0.4 0.0 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .264 .341 .434 .340 12.4 1.0 -2.6 2.6
It’s been awhile since I’ve felt a strong team allegiance, but there used to be a time when I was a Phillies fan. I was raised that way. I think I really gave up rooting for only the Phillies when they opted to extend Ryan Howard over Jayson Werth. I say that to point out that I really like Werth. Our projection systems do too, picking a full season pace over three wins. Oliver actually calls for a 5.3 win season compared to 3.8 wins from the Fans. There’s a role reversal. The main problem for Werth and the Nationals is that nobody – neither man nor machine – believes that Werth will be healthy for a full season. That’s (partly) why they signed Nate McLouth this offseason. Werth should be great while on the field, even if his defensive value has completely eroded. McLouth should at least outperform replacement level by a win or so. That’s nice for a backup.

#12 Giants

Hunter Pence 644 .266 .324 .431 .329 10.2 0.9 -0.7 2.5
Gregor Blanco 35 .239 .321 .331 .293 -0.5 0.1 0.1 0.0
Juan Perez 21 .254 .289 .368 .289 -0.3 0.0 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .264 .323 .424 .326 9.4 0.9 -0.4 2.5
In my mind, Hunter Pence is inextricably linked with Bruce. Both bashers came up around the same time and mangled the competition. Where Bruce revealed his streaky ways, Pence just kept on hitting. After it looked like he might be done mashing in 2012, Pence turned around to post his best overall season. While he hit better in 2011, last season featured superb baserunning and above average fielding. Our projections don’t expect a repeat of either number, and we’re also expecting his hitting stats to regress to a .329 wOBA (.356 wOBA last season). I guess it takes hefty, three-pronged regression to go from a 5.4 win season to a 2.5 WAR projection. I’m comfortable suggesting that maybe, just maybe, he’ll perform between those two numbers. The Fans agree, they expect a four win season.

Gregor Blanco is a perfectly adequate defense-first backup. The Giants need everything to go right for them if they want to compete. That probably means a full season of Pence if not another career year. Giants fans should hope Blanco gets all of his work spelling Mike Morse and Angel Pagan.

#13 Tigers

Torii Hunter 595 .285 .330 .431 .333 5.0 -0.6 -0.5 1.9
Rajai Davis 70 .261 .306 .367 .297 -1.4 0.6 -0.2 0.1
Don Kelly 35 .244 .312 .363 .301 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .281 .326 .422 .328 3.0 0.1 -0.7 2.0
Torii Hunter “plays the game the right way.” Quip aside, I remember watching this guy in 2008 and thinking he had maybe one more year as a starter – you know, that buffer year where a guy has no right playing full time but has enough name value that he does anyway. Well he proved me very wrong in 2009 and 2010. Then 2011 happened and I said, “surely he’ll be in a part time role soon.” Since then, he’s just gone on hitting and hitting. His peripherals have gotten worse and worse and he just doesn’t care. That’s all a long way for me to say that I’m done betting against this guy. We project him to be a league average outfielder and he’ll probably do it, despite worsening defense and plate discipline. The Tigers better hope he keeps on keeping on because Hunter’s entering his age 38 season and there really isn’t much depth behind him. Rajai Davis, Don Kelly, and (eventually) Andy Dirks are tolerable backups, but they also have to share left field. Everyone’s talking about Detroit’s shortstop problem, but they’ll have an easier time adding value in the outfield.

#14 Royals

Norichika Aoki 588 .289 .349 .380 .325 1.4 -1.0 2.7 1.8
Justin Maxwell 56 .227 .303 .398 .309 -0.5 0.1 0.3 0.1
Jarrod Dyson 35 .247 .308 .327 .284 -1.0 0.4 0.4 0.1
Lane Adams 21 .230 .283 .340 .277 -0.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .280 .341 .378 .320 -0.9 -0.5 3.4 1.9
After last year’s Jeff Francoeur’s related disaster, Kansas City actually has an adequate outfielder in Norichika Aoki. He’ll provide tolerable production as a leadoff hitter, though he gave some value back on the bases; last season he stole 20 bases, but got caught 12 times. Besides that flaw, he plays solid defense and reaches base at a good clip.

Maxwell is a fun platoon bat. He tends to produce “true” outcomes. Jarrod Dyson is the homeless man’s Billy Hamilton. For whatever it’s worth, I think Maxwell will get more platoon work in right field than we currently project.

#15 Diamondbacks

Cody Ross 455 .261 .323 .429 .328 1.6 -0.6 0.9 1.1
Gerardo Parra 210 .272 .331 .406 .321 -0.5 -0.1 3.4 0.7
Alfredo Marte 35 .244 .291 .375 .293 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .263 .324 .419 .324 0.2 -0.7 4.3 1.9
We’re projecting Gerardo Parra to take about 200 plate appearances at every outfield position. On the right side of the outfield, he’ll be sharing time with Cody Ross, who is a wrong-handed platoon bat. Ross is also opening the season on the disabled list as he continues to recover from August hip surgery. He isn’t terrible against right-handed pitchers, but he’s decidedly below average. He’s been unreasonable to left-handed pitchers.

All this was said to point out that Parra may see considerably more time as the club’s right fielder once certain stakeholders realize that Ross has the hips of a man twice his age and a blatantly obvious platoon split.

#16 Indians

David Murphy 490 .260 .322 .407 .319 2.1 -0.2 3.0 1.7
Jeff Francoeur 105 .237 .281 .375 .285 -2.4 -0.2 -0.3 -0.1
Ryan Raburn 105 .237 .300 .413 .312 -0.1 -0.1 -0.5 0.2
Total 700 .253 .313 .403 .313 -0.4 -0.5 2.2 1.8
Hey! I found Francoeur. Actually he was cut 25 minutes ago as of this writing, but we have a freeze on playing time adjustments until these blurbies are all released.

Who we actually find is David Murphy playing the strong side of a platoon with probably Ryan Raburn. Murphy’s coming off the worst year of his career, which was largely driven by a 106 point decline in BABIP (.333 in 2012, .227 in 2013). A little positive regression puts him right in line with his projection. Raburn is a sweet lefty slayer, which should make this a very offensively productive platoon. His defense lacks polish.

#17 Yankees

Carlos Beltran 280 .274 .336 .481 .352 6.4 -0.6 -1.9 1.1
Alfonso Soriano 210 .240 .292 .454 .322 -0.1 -0.6 0.4 0.5
Ichiro Suzuki 210 .278 .308 .373 .297 -4.3 0.4 1.4 0.2
Total 700 .265 .315 .440 .326 2.0 -0.8 -0.1 1.8
The Yankees have a fun mix of old people lining up for right field this year. Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano are expected to share most of the right field duties while the other player hits for the pitcher. Both “outfielders” are injury risks and thus better suited for the bat only role. Ichiro is a shadow of his former self, but I could see him doing a lot of defensive replacement work this season. We have to assume that one of these guys is going to land on the disabled list, which will press the others into a more regular fielding role.

#18 Mets

Curtis Granderson 420 .226 .314 .422 .323 3.7 0.4 -1.1 1.2
Andrew Brown 63 .231 .296 .402 .306 -0.3 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Chris Young 154 .225 .309 .404 .314 0.3 0.2 1.0 0.5
Juan Lagares 35 .251 .289 .356 .283 -0.8 0.0 0.6 0.1
Matt den Dekker 28 .227 .277 .355 .279 -0.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .228 .309 .410 .316 2.2 0.6 0.2 1.8
A couple days ago, I agreed to take over the depth charting for the NL East. I forgot that I was going to have to figure out how to handicap this Mets outfield nightmare. At least Granderson is probably the every day right fielder when healthy, so this part is easy. That fielding projection must be for center field, I expect him to perform well defensively in right. That would move the Mets all the way up to 13th in these rankings. Chris Young and Juan Lagares could steal some reps when they aren’t playing in center.

#19 Padres

Chris Denorfia 350 .264 .321 .384 .311 0.2 0.2 2.0 1.0
Seth Smith 175 .246 .322 .406 .318 1.0 0.1 -0.9 0.4
Will Venable 105 .253 .312 .435 .323 1.0 0.4 -0.7 0.3
Kyle Blanks 70 .233 .301 .394 .306 -0.3 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .255 .318 .398 .314 2.0 0.7 0.1 1.8
Originally, this was a time share between Will Venable and Chris Denorfia, but the injury to Cameron Maybin has opened up more time in center field for Venable. Denorfia is recovering from a sore shoulder, but is publicly “unconcerned.” He is coming off a season that featured a career high in plate appearances and defensive value (+15 UZR, +20 DRS). Defensive metrics consider him inconsistent year-to-year, so it’s hard to set a clear expectation. He’ll platoon with Seth Smith early on. Despite that Smith is the left-handed bat in the platoon, he’ll probably play much less frequently.

#20 Angels

Kole Calhoun 455 .260 .323 .421 .326 4.8 0.3 -2.0 1.4
Collin Cowgill 140 .239 .294 .356 .288 -2.7 0.0 0.8 0.1
J.B. Shuck 70 .263 .319 .328 .290 -1.3 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Josh Hamilton 35 .257 .318 .447 .329 0.4 0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .256 .317 .400 .315 1.2 0.4 -1.5 1.7
For a young player coming out of a weak farm system, it’s shocking that Kole Calhoun was never a well-regarded prospect. He hit very well in the minors and features a well-rounded offensive profile. He has some power, can swipe a few bases, and knows how to work the plate. Not everybody is positive about his defense, but he showed good range in at least one spring game that I observed. If things go sideways in Calhoun’s sophomore season, the club can give more reps to characters like Collin Cowgill and J.B. Shuck. They’re both better suited for background roles.

#21 Twins

Oswaldo Arcia 525 .259 .318 .440 .331 5.2 -0.6 -3.8 1.4
Chris Colabello 70 .250 .314 .420 .323 0.2 -0.1 -0.1 0.2
Chris Parmelee 70 .243 .318 .380 .309 -0.5 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Darin Mastroianni 35 .233 .299 .307 .274 -1.2 0.1 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .255 .317 .425 .325 3.7 -0.6 -4.0 1.6
Oswaldo Arcia showed the plate discipline numbers of Howard without the power. He did a reasonable amount of mashing in the minors, so it’s fair to expect that skill to surface in the majors – eventually. His sophomore season is bound to be filled with hiccups. Since the Twins aren’t playing for anything (except perhaps trying to trade mediocre pitchers at the trade deadline), they can afford to give Arcia all the time he needs to adjust to major league pitching. He was atrocious in the field last season, and I don’t really know what else to say about that. It needs to get better.

There are some other guys on the depth chart, but they don’t matter to the Twins’ future.

#22 Pirates

Jose Tabata 385 .269 .334 .386 .319 1.8 -0.1 0.8 1.1
Travis Snider 175 .246 .307 .392 .306 -1.0 -0.2 -0.2 0.2
Andrew Lambo 21 .231 .288 .404 .302 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Josh Harrison 14 .265 .304 .391 .305 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Gregory Polanco 105 .255 .304 .378 .301 -1.0 0.0 1.0 0.2
Total 700 .260 .321 .387 .313 -0.5 -0.3 1.4 1.5
Hanging out at the bottom of the Pirates list is Gregory Polanco. The right fielder of the future features center field quality defense and a projection for a non-terrible bat. Scouts expect a lot more from the stick, even as early as this season.

The Pirates have some other players on the roster that need to be cleared out first. Jose Tabata is signed through 2017 with a pair of option years tacked on the end. He combines unexciting offense with unexciting defense. His baserunning used to be exciting, but now that too is unexciting. It all adds up to a one win player, which is fine when you don’t have a prospect with a one win floor waiting in Triple-A. A team like the Tigers could use Tabata for depth.

There’s also the matter of Travis Snider. The club snatched him up because he’s destroyed Triple-A pitching but never quite transitioned to the majors. He’s entering his age 26 season so there is still time for a late breakout. The lefty hitter has been solid this spring which could mean a platoon with Tabata while we wait for Polanco’s turn. Snider could also be Gaby Sanchez’s platoon at first base.

#23 Phillies

Marlon Byrd 490 .264 .313 .423 .322 1.2 -0.7 1.4 1.2
Darin Ruf 105 .244 .317 .410 .320 0.1 -0.2 -0.7 0.1
John Mayberry 63 .240 .297 .402 .306 -0.6 0.0 -0.4 0.0
Domonic Brown 28 .269 .331 .477 .349 0.7 0.0 -0.3 0.1
Steve Susdorf 14 .262 .318 .360 .301 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .259 .313 .420 .321 1.2 -0.9 0.0 1.5
The Wheeze Kids 2.0 decided to balance their youthful outfield with a familiar face. Entering his age 36 season, Byrd is also coming off the best season of his career, which included 4.1 WAR and 24 home runs over 579 plate appearances. Byrd’s swinging strike rate spiked with the power output and he also benefited from a friendly .353 BABIP. He usually posts high-ish BABIP’s so that’s not ultra-damning. Our projections expect his wRC+ to drop from 136 to somewhere between 93 and 119. The Fans are on the low end with a 100 wRC+ projection. Whatever way you slice it, Byrd looks like a nice complementary player to a playoff roster, not the starter of a team that needs a lot of help.

Darin Ruf looks like a guy who missed his narrow window. Kudos to him for opening it in the first place, but I’m not sure he’ll ever make the active roster now that he’s out with a rib cage injury. John Mayberry Jr. is being aggressively shopped while the team tries to figure out how to roster Tony Gwynn Jr. and Bobby Abreu. I can feel you out there shaking your heads, I don’t know what to say.

#24 Mariners

Corey Hart 420 .254 .315 .438 .328 3.1 0.0 -4.5 0.9
Michael Saunders 210 .234 .314 .392 .312 -1.2 0.4 0.5 0.5
Abraham Almonte 70 .245 .308 .360 .297 -1.2 0.1 -0.3 0.0
Total 700 .247 .314 .416 .320 0.7 0.5 -4.4 1.4
When we pulled the depth charts, the Mairners were still acting like Corey Hart was an outfielder. Over the weekend, Lloyd McClendon admitted that was probably a pipe dream, and Michael Saunders is the de facto starter at this point. Hart may prove healthy enough to get some right field time in the second half, but a guy coming off two knee surgeries should have never been ticketed for the outfield to begin with. Saunders is nothing special, but at least he can cover some ground and not embarrass himself, which is the bar the Mariners outfield set last year.

#25 Cubs

Nate Schierholtz 504 .259 .313 .441 .326 1.5 0.0 -0.3 1.2
Justin Ruggiano 70 .251 .316 .429 .327 0.2 -0.1 0.0 0.2
Emilio Bonifacio 56 .255 .314 .334 .290 -1.4 0.4 -0.2 0.0
Darnell McDonald 28 .235 .298 .357 .291 -0.7 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Ryan Sweeney 28 .265 .324 .401 .319 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Casper Wells 14 .227 .299 .396 .307 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .313 .426 .321 -0.7 0.2 -0.7 1.3
Last spring, the Phillies dumped Nate Schierholtz to make room for Laynce Nix. It’s easy to mock that move now, but Nix appeared to be 95 percent of Schierholtz for one-third of the cost. In any case, the Cubs said ‘Ooh gimme!” and proceeded to turn Schierholtz into a full time, contributing outfielder. He combined a career best 21 home runs with league average defense and baserunning. That was worth 1.4 wins last season and we project it to be worth another 1.2 wins this year. Again, the Tigers could really use this kind of player.

Lined up in the backfield are Justin Ruggiano, Emilio Bonifacio, and Ryan Sweeney, all of whom are engaged in some kind of platoon at another position. None of these players will be a part of the next Cubs contender, but they could be used to acquire a player who will.

#26 Rangers

Alex Rios 560 .273 .312 .423 .320 -3.5 2.0 0.4 1.2
Engel Beltre 70 .250 .290 .350 .282 -2.5 -0.1 0.3 -0.1
Mitch Moreland 35 .254 .317 .442 .329 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Michael Choice 35 .268 .334 .412 .329 0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .270 .311 .416 .317 -5.8 1.8 0.6 1.3
No we didn’t forget Alex Rios, we just don’t think he’s that good at the real version of baseball (as opposed to the fantasy version in which Rios rates highly in slain dragons and stolen princesses). It’s kind of weird because he’s been worth 7.3 WAR over the past two seasons, but then again he posted negative 1.1 WAR in 2011. Rios could easily outkick our baserunning and fielding projections by a few runs and he’s entirely BABIP dependent on offense. I’ll happily take the over on this projection, but it is fair to point out that he’s not as good as his reputation.

#27 Orioles

Nick Markakis 560 .278 .342 .404 .328 2.2 -0.1 -4.5 1.1
Steve Pearce 49 .248 .333 .408 .326 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Nolan Reimold 49 .232 .297 .398 .305 -0.7 0.0 -0.3 0.0
Francisco Peguero 42 .264 .289 .365 .287 -1.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .272 .335 .402 .324 0.4 -0.1 -4.9 1.2
Ah nostalgia. Nick Markakis was the Stanton of the 2008 Orioles – the one bright spot in a sea of floating crap. Since then he’s been thoroughly mediocre. Last season was his worst, he lost the team one run over 700 plate appearances according to FanGraphs’ team of accountants. His defense is craptastic and his ISO fell below .100 for the first time. We project a rebound in the power department, which will be enough to make him a useful role player. We also expect the Orioles to begin testing the waters on a replacement, with Steve Pearce, Nolan Reimold, and Francisco Peguero (disabled list) possibly seeing some time.

When I searched to remind myself who, exactly, is Steve Pearce, I was greeted with some congressman’s face. Like Congress matters to people searching the internet. As it turns out, Pearce was quietly productive in 138 plate appearances last season, although he failed to put any bills before the House of Representatives (according to Wikipedia not mentioning such). He’s also entering his age 31 season, so no need to get excited. Poor Reimold has shown a stout bat several times in his career, but the injury monster always wins the day. Last season, he did not show a stout bat. I’m not sure how much longer he’ll be an Oriole.

#28 Rockies

Michael Cuddyer 490 .288 .347 .482 .358 7.7 -0.1 -7.9 1.0
Drew Stubbs 140 .254 .324 .397 .319 -2.1 0.9 -0.1 0.1
Charlie Blackmon 35 .268 .318 .408 .318 -0.5 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Corey Dickerson 35 .272 .319 .470 .341 0.1 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .279 .339 .461 .348 5.2 0.8 -8.4 1.2
In 2011, Michael Cuddyer posted a 121 wOBA as part of a nearly three win season for the Twins. Following that season he signed with the Rockies, prompting expectations for further offensive production. Instead, Cuddyer reminded us that he’s in his mid-30′s and the decline phase of his career. Last season was a healthier time for Cuddy (which is not to say healthy), and he produced as we thought he might in Colorado. His career best 140 wRC+ was a bright spot for a mediocre Rockies team. I’m sure they’re praying for similar production this season, but our projection systems are shouting for regression. Meanwhile, he really needs to hit well to overcome his terrible defensive marks.

The good news for the Rockies is that in addition to Carlos Gonzalez, they’ll be rostering three to four center fielders. That leaves plenty of choices for a defensive replacement. Frankly, a +10 defensive right fielder would almost certainly outperform Cuddyer overall. Probably, one of Drew Stubbs, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, and Brandon Barnes are +10 right fielders.

#29 Astros

L.J. **** 420 .266 .333 .360 .310 -2.4 -0.2 -1.3 0.6
Marc Krauss 175 .224 .309 .381 .306 -1.6 -0.1 -1.0 0.1
J.D. Martinez 35 .252 .302 .386 .303 -0.4 0.0 -0.3 0.0
George Springer 70 .241 .320 .439 .332 0.8 0.2 0.0 0.3
Total 700 .252 .324 .374 .311 -3.6 -0.2 -2.6 1.0
L.J. **** seems to be the nominal right fielder while the Astros decide whether or not they care if George Springer becomes Super-Two eligible. That could mean one to four months of starting for ****. In case you’re curious, he profiles as a very fifth outfielder. Marc Krauss hit a bunch of home runs back in 2010, and he’s been channeling Jack Cust in the minors for the past two seasons. I guess that’s worth exploring. I’d rather find out if he has a bat than start ****, but the ‘Stros employ smarter gentlemen than me.

#30 White Sox

Avisail Garcia 560 .275 .310 .413 .316 -3.5 -0.2 -1.5 0.8
Jordan Danks 70 .230 .309 .360 .299 -1.4 0.0 0.3 0.1
Adam Eaton 35 .262 .342 .371 .320 -0.1 0.1 -0.3 0.1
Trayce Thompson 35 .216 .284 .382 .294 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .268 .311 .404 .314 -5.8 0.0 -1.5 0.9
Down here in the lonely basement we find Avisail Garcia – who really isn’t that bad. At least that’s what we say about him, but a walk through his player page is cringe-inducing. Over just half a season, he lost a full win in the outfield according to UZR. DRS says it was only a minus three runs effort, so we can cross our fingers for better. His plate discipline was terrible, that’s no surprise to anyone who watched him. Like a lot of aggressive hitters, he makes loud contact that translates to a high BABIP, a lot of whiffs, but a (barely) tolerable strikeout rate. He’s also entering his age 23 season after already destroying the minors, so he has a lot of time to adjust to major league pitching. Chicago (really either team) is the perfect place for him to develop.

2014 Positional Power Rankings: Left Field.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This time last year, the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were first and second on this list, respectively. This, of course, had mostly to due with the presence of Ryan Braun and Mike Trout. This year, Braun will be in right and Trout is expected to patrol center. This, along with the expected progression/regression of certain players has mixed up the top tier of the left field positional power rankings.

The departure of Braun and Trout from this list also flattens the peak a bit — whereas the Brewers and Angels were projected to receive more than five wins from their left field, the highest-projected left field in 2014 comes in at a shade above four wins. So, who grabbed the top spot?

#1 Nationals

Bryce Harper 518 .277 .361 .504 .374 23.1 0.2 4.2 4.0
Nate McLouth 133 .247 .319 .383 .311 -0.7 0.5 0.1 0.3
Scott Hairston 21 .246 .292 .449 .320 0.1 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Tyler Moore 14 .242 .292 .433 .315 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Eury Perez 14 .278 .305 .355 .292 -0.3 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .270 .349 .474 .358 22.2 0.8 4.3 4.4
Much has been made of Mike Trout’s rise to prominence at such a young age, and rightfully so. However, Bryce Harper has been making quite a name for himself on the senior circuit. Since the beginning of the 20th century, only three players have been worth more wins through their age-20 season than Harper — Mel Ott, Ty Cobb, and Al Kaline. This is not bad company, at least if you are specifically looking at the company of baseball players. Though Harper was limited last season by injuries, his walk rate improved, his strikeout rate decreased, and he saw an uptick in power. When Harper needs to be spelled, Washington has the option of Nate McLouth, who should fill in in an admirable way. If the Nationals are going to compete at a level that many are expecting in 2014, Harper will/should have a big part to play. This is assuming that his sometimes, how would you say, hyper-aggressive style of play doesn’t lead to an extended DL stint.

#2 Cardinals

Matt Holliday 595 .282 .366 .473 .366 24.5 -0.3 -3.9 3.4
Allen Craig 35 .288 .343 .460 .350 1.0 -0.1 -0.1 0.2
Shane Robinson 35 .253 .321 .357 .302 -0.3 0.1 0.1 0.1
Matt Carpenter 35 .278 .358 .418 .342 0.8 0.0 0.0 0.2
Total 700 .280 .362 .463 .360 26.0 -0.3 -3.9 3.8
Matt Holliday seems to be creating his own aging curve. While he has been declining, he hasn’t been declining in a way we may be used to seeing from such a productive player. Holiday is entering his age-34 season, and hasn’t been worth less than 4.5 WAR since 2006. The projections see him dipping below 4 WAR this season. His plate discipline has been pretty dang consistent over the past four seasons, but his power and defense are starting to decline with age. Still, three and a half wins is nothing to sneeze at (it would also be hard to actually sneeze at a win), and when you add some help from Allen Craig, left field should not be a big concern for a Cardinals team that is poised to make yet another deep postseason run.

#3 Royals

Alex Gordon 588 .271 .343 .435 .340 8.6 0.9 8.2 3.3
Justin Maxwell 84 .227 .303 .398 .309 -0.8 0.1 0.5 0.2
Jarrod Dyson 28 .247 .308 .327 .284 -0.8 0.3 0.3 0.0
Total 700 .264 .337 .426 .334 7.0 1.3 9.0 3.6
Timing is everything when trying to build a competitive team from the ground up, and the Royals were hoping that the stars would align when Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas were brought on to compliment Alex Gordon in the hopes of building a big power threat in the middle of the lineup. Hosmer and Moustakas have shown flashes, but they still haven’t perhaps lived up to the hype quite yet. Meanwhile, Alex Gordon continues to decline. Gordon will still be good, just not as good as his 2011 or 2012 seasons. He hasn’t had many problems staying in the lineup, which should bode well for the Royals, as an intriguing but still-unproven Justin Maxwell looks to be Kansas City’s fourth outfielder. A small bounceback in BABIP should help Gordon, who still provides runs on defense and on the basepaths, but he came close to sniffing league-average offensively in 2013.

#4 Rockies

Carlos Gonzalez 560 .289 .356 .530 .379 17.8 2.4 0.9 3.4
Corey Dickerson 35 .272 .319 .470 .341 0.1 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Charlie Blackmon 35 .268 .318 .408 .318 -0.5 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Brandon Barnes 35 .253 .301 .394 .306 -0.9 0.0 0.1 0.0
Drew Stubbs 35 .254 .324 .397 .319 -0.5 0.2 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .283 .348 .507 .367 15.9 2.6 0.6 3.5
When a player can produce nearly five wins in 436 plate appearances, he is doing something right. Based off wRC+, CarGo had his best season at the plate in 2013, hitting 49% better than league average. He also did well on the base paths and had previously-unseen value in the field. These were all good things, but are prime for regression, as the projections show. Gonzalez had a large spike in strikeout rate in 2013, though his walk rate and on-base percentage was fairly consistent. With Gonzalez, it all comes down to power and defense, something that saw large upticks last season. If he can repeat in those areas, he should be able to outplay his projections. If he regresses there, then he becomes simply a very-good outfielder. His health, like always, remains a question as well, and any missed time will lead to some mix of Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon, or Brandon Barnes seeing more playing time.

#5 Rangers

Shin-Soo Choo 616 .272 .388 .438 .366 18.7 -0.2 -2.4 3.2
Engel Beltre 35 .250 .290 .350 .282 -1.2 0.0 0.2 0.0
Michael Choice 28 .268 .334 .412 .329 0.0 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Jim Adduci 21 .250 .310 .354 .295 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .270 .379 .430 .358 17.0 -0.3 -2.4 3.2
With the departures of Nelson Cruz and Craig Gentry, and the addition of Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers outfield has seen a bit of a mixup in 2014. Last season, the Rangers outfield combined for a 99 wRC+, just a hair better than the 97 wRC+ the entire squad achieved. It was clear that the Rangers front office was interested in improving their hitting, as they brought on both Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo. Choo signed for big money, as a player who hit 51% better than the league in his walk year would be expected to do. Choo’s baserunning and defense can be described as poor. Technically, they can be described as outstanding, but that wouldn’t really be accurate. Choo’s value comes from his bat and his ability to get on base. The former will probably regress faster than the latter, but Choo should still provide some good value for Texas in the next few seasons. The projections see some regression, which is to be expected for a player who posted career highs in nearly every category last season. Given Choo’s skillset, he will probably age a little better than your regular left fielder, but will always kind of hang around that 3-4 win area. That is not a bad thing, certainly, and Choo’s presence should help bolster a Rangers lineup that was right around league-average last year.

#6 Pirates

Starling Marte 455 .271 .321 .430 .328 5.1 0.9 9.1 2.6
Jose Tabata 140 .269 .334 .386 .319 0.6 -0.1 0.3 0.4
Travis Snider 70 .246 .307 .392 .306 -0.4 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Andrew Lambo 21 .231 .288 .404 .302 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Jaff Decker 14 .224 .313 .363 .301 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .266 .321 .415 .323 5.0 0.8 9.2 3.0
Projecting a player like Starling Marte isn’t easy. Well, it’s easy for a computer, probably. But it’s hard for us, due to the fact that we really only have one season to go off of. The projections expect Marte’s BABIP to regress a fair bit, as his 2013 mark of .363 looks unsustainable. And while that mark was quite high — good enough for 8th best among qualified hitters — we can’t say for sure it’s totally unsustainable, because we just don’t know. We do know that speed can help with BABIP, and that Marte does have some speed. The rest is fuzzy, and we’ll need more time to make proper hypotheses.

Garrett Jones’ departure should open up some playing time for Jose Tabata as well. He’s still young and showed some promise last season, at least from the plate. He’ll get most of his playing time in right field, most likely, but a combo of him, Marte, and the very muscular Travis Snider should produce well for a Pirates team looking to stay in playoff contention again this season.

#7 Athletics

Yoenis Cespedes 490 .261 .320 .456 .337 8.3 -0.1 1.3 2.2
Craig Gentry 70 .253 .328 .341 .300 -0.8 0.4 1.6 0.3
Michael Taylor 70 .241 .313 .377 .306 -0.5 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Brandon Moss 35 .240 .316 .456 .335 0.6 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Sam Fuld 35 .232 .303 .329 .284 -0.8 0.0 0.3 0.0
Total 700 .256 .319 .431 .327 6.8 0.3 2.8 2.8
Yoenis Cespedes saw a fairly drastic drop in production between 2012 and 2013. His OBP, SLG, BB%, and K% all moved in the wrong direction, and 2013 as seen as a subpar year, at least compared to his rookie season. He did have some nagging injuries, which could certainly have played a part. It could also be that teams have learned how to pitch to him more effectively. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that he will produce the paltry .318 wOBA of last season, and the projections see a bit of a bounceback for him as well.

Craig Gentry will most likely get time in every outfield position, barring injury of a starter. He’ll provide enough defensive value as a fill-in, but won’t and shouldn’t be counted on as a bench bat or long-term replacement in Oakland.

#8 Yankees

Brett Gardner 595 .258 .338 .380 .320 -1.4 3.2 8.7 2.6
Ichiro Suzuki 70 .278 .308 .373 .297 -1.4 0.1 0.5 0.1
Zoilo Almonte 35 .248 .298 .396 .305 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .260 .333 .380 .317 -3.3 3.3 9.2 2.7
Now that Jacoby Ellsbury is a Yankee (pause for Boston fans to dry heave), Gardner will see the majority of his time in left field. He was a valuable center fielder last season, and valuable left fielder before that, so he should be able to still save some runs in left for 2014. He will have to in order to have value for the Yankees, as the projections see him floating down to a league-average or worse hitter this season. He should still be a good base runner, but his lack of power and just-OK OBP will have to be made up for in other areas.

#9 Braves

Justin Upton 490 .265 .354 .456 .353 14.4 1.2 -0.8 2.6
Ryan Doumit 98 .251 .311 .402 .312 -0.3 -0.2 -0.5 0.1
Jordan Schafer 42 .218 .292 .309 .270 -1.5 0.1 -0.1 -0.1
Evan Gattis 21 .252 .302 .464 .330 0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Jose Constanza 21 .259 .305 .312 .275 -0.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
Joey Terdoslavich 14 .248 .298 .401 .305 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Todd Cunningham 14 .251 .305 .331 .285 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .259 .339 .432 .337 11.7 1.0 -1.7 2.6
If Justin Upton’s 2013 season were an Oreo cookie, those two sweet chocolate wafers would have encased a filling that tasted like hot garbage. Despite an easily rememberable cold streak, he still finished the season as a three-win player, but those days might be over. His big spike in strikeout rate was offset some by a rise in power numbers, but those power numbers could be a result of a heightened HR/FB rate. He’s a streaky player to be sure, and still young enough, but it seems as if Justin Upton’s best days may be behind him.

#10 Dodgers

Carl Crawford 525 .271 .315 .413 .317 2.6 1.9 4.2 2.0
Andre Ethier 154 .266 .344 .417 .332 2.5 -0.2 -1.2 0.4
Scott Van Slyke 14 .245 .325 .411 .324 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Mike Baxter 7 .241 .321 .370 .307 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .269 .322 .413 .321 5.1 1.6 3.0 2.5
Los Angeles was thought to try and trade one of their outfielders in the offseason, as Yasiel Puig’s rise to prominence created a bit of a logjam. The Dodgers apparently saw that as a good problem to have, and considering the general health track record of the outfield, that might not be a bad idea. Crawford is now four seasons removed from his last truly productive season, and projects to be a two-win player. This isn’t bad in a vacuum, but it is bad when you consider Crawford’s contract. A combination of age and a proclivity for injury have brought Crawford’s value down considerably, and he’s no longer considered a power/speed threat.

Ethier will see time in both corners, and perhaps even a little center. He’s a streaky player, which could be detrimental depending on which version of Andre Ethier shows up when it’s his turn in the outfield rotation. His hitting should even out to be above-average overall, but his usage might look like a head-scratcher to fans at times if the bad Either rears his head.

#11 Padres

Carlos Quentin 490 .252 .341 .454 .349 14.6 -0.9 -7.5 1.7
Chris Denorfia 105 .264 .321 .384 .311 0.0 0.0 0.6 0.3
Seth Smith 70 .246 .322 .406 .318 0.4 0.0 -0.4 0.2
Kyle Blanks 35 .233 .301 .394 .306 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .252 .334 .435 .338 15.0 -0.8 -7.4 2.2
If science were ever to find a way to keep Carlos Quentin healthy, he’d be a force to be reckoned with. His on-base/power combo is buried by his inability to stay on the field with any consistency — he appeared in less than 120 games in six of his last eight seasons. The Padres, of course, are aware of this, and have prepared for it by loading up on other outfielders to fill in for when Quentin eventually gets hurt. Seth Smith and Kyle Blanks could form a decent platoon, but Blanks hasn’t been a bastion of health himself. It’ll be a game of musical outfielders, and when the music stops, San Diego will hope to have enough bodies left to patrol the outfield.

#12 Angels

Josh Hamilton 490 .257 .318 .447 .329 6.0 1.0 0.4 2.0
J.B. Shuck 105 .263 .319 .328 .290 -1.9 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
Collin Cowgill 70 .239 .294 .356 .288 -1.4 0.0 0.4 0.1
Raul Ibanez 35 .236 .296 .424 .313 0.0 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .255 .315 .419 .318 2.8 0.8 0.4 2.1
With Mark Trumbo gone, and with the Angels finally realizing that Mike Trout should be manning center, Josh Hamilton has been moved to left. To call Hamilton’s 2013 a disappointment would be a bit of an understatement. His power numbers took a dive, and a move from Arlington can’t be all to blame. A career-low in ISO (and a .110 drop from 2012) is indicative of something else affecting his usual power stroke ways. He really struggled against lefties last year, to the tune of a 61 wRC+. J.B. Shuck had more success against lefties than righties, despite hitting from the left side, so he may see more time in a platoon if Hamilton’s struggles continue. Hamilton is now just a good player, not a great player. He should bounce back from a disastrous 2013 season, though he won’t be the superstar of old.

Colin Cowgill hasn’t shown much promise to this point, and if he continues to struggle, he may find himself being optioned sooner than later. If that’s the case, and J.B. Shuck needs to fill in elsewhere, we may see some LF appearances by (gulp) Raul Ibanez.

#13 Phillies

Domonic Brown 560 .269 .331 .477 .349 13.3 -0.4 -5.0 2.0
Darin Ruf 35 .244 .317 .410 .320 0.0 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
John Mayberry 42 .240 .297 .402 .306 -0.4 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Steve Susdorf 35 .262 .318 .360 .301 -0.5 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Freddy Galvis 28 .243 .280 .362 .281 -0.8 0.0 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .265 .326 .459 .340 11.6 -0.5 -5.5 2.0
With Domonic Brown being permanently installed in the Philadelphia outfield, Phillies fans were finally given a chance to see what he could do when given a chance. Brown posted a low BABIP in 2013, but it was actually fairly consistent with his major-league track record. The projections see Brown repeating his 2013 season, more or less, which is not a bad thing at all. Brown was pretty much league-average against lefties last season, so he shouldn’t be a candidate for a platoon.

Mayberry will see the majority of his playing time in center, most likely, and Ruf will probably be used to spell Ryan Howard at first more than anything, so left field is Brown’s job for 2014. And if 2014 Domonic Brown is a decent copy of 2013 Domonic Brown, the Phillies left field situation should be OK. The rest of that team, however …

#14 Diamondbacks

Mark Trumbo 490 .261 .315 .497 .349 9.6 -0.3 -5.0 1.5
Gerardo Parra 105 .272 .331 .406 .321 -0.3 0.0 1.7 0.4
Cody Ross 70 .261 .323 .429 .328 0.2 -0.1 0.1 0.2
Alfredo Marte 21 .244 .291 .375 .293 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Matt Tuiasosopo 14 .221 .305 .355 .296 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .262 .317 .470 .340 8.8 -0.4 -3.2 2.0
Mark Trumbo is now in Arizona where, if history is to be believed, he will continue to strike out and hit home runs. Both his strikeout rate and home run rate were at career highs in 2013, and Trumbo has pretty much nailed down his profile. He is who we thought he was, to borrow a phrase. The projections actually see an uptick in offense for Trumbo this season, but an overall downturn in WAR due to a decrease in playing time. He won’t need to play so much first base as he did in L.A., can’t DH obviously, and it’s likely that he’ll get spelled by Gerardo Parra a fair deal.

Parra provides a tremendous upgrade over Trumbo in defense, and Parra does handle right-handed pitching better as well. In truth, Trumbo and Parra would make for a good platoon pair, but Arizona did not trade away Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton for a platoon bat. Parra will also see action at every outfield position as well, so his time in left will have to be limited. The amount of time Cody Ross sees will have to do with how well and how quickly he recovers from hip surgery. He only saw one plate appearance in Spring Training, and isn’t expected back from the DL until mid-April. Depending on his recovery, he may also spell Trumbo at times, though he wouldn’t be a platoon candidate.

#15 Indians

Michael Brantley 525 .275 .331 .388 .316 0.9 0.7 -0.3 1.4
Ryan Raburn 175 .237 .300 .413 .312 -0.2 -0.1 -0.8 0.3
Total 700 .265 .324 .394 .315 0.7 0.6 -1.1 1.7
Michael Brantley is fine. He’s fine. That’s the best way I can put it. He’s an OK hitter with no power who can steal some bases. He’s a lefty that can hit righties.

Ryan Raburn is also fine. He’s a little-better-than-OK hitter with some power who can’t steal bases. He’s a righty that can hit lefties.

Brantley and Raburn make for good platoon partners, but Raburn will have to fill in in right and perhaps DH as well. Both players are serviceable, and, if used in conjunction, could be better than the sum of their parts. The Indians are looking at a (you guessed it) league-average left field. There are worse things to have.

#16 Marlins

Christian Yelich 490 .259 .329 .404 .323 1.8 0.8 1.9 1.5
Brian Bogusevic 105 .240 .316 .364 .303 -1.2 0.2 0.7 0.2
Kyle Jensen 35 .218 .287 .379 .294 -0.7 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Garrett Jones 35 .244 .306 .426 .319 0.0 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Jordany Valdespin 35 .255 .298 .385 .301 -0.5 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .253 .322 .397 .317 -0.5 0.9 2.2 1.7
Christian Yelich had a fairly impressive debut in 2013, posting a 116 wRC+ and 1.4 WAR in just 62 games. He hit for little power, and struck out nearly 25% of the time, but that’s to be expected from a 21-year old in his first taste of big-league action. Steamer and ZiPS are fairly torn on Yelich, the former seeing him as a 1.2-win player, the latter as a 2.1-win player. Steamer sees his offense declining quite a bit, and his defense dropping off some as well. ZiPS sees a lesser decline in offensive production and a significant increase in defensive prowess. Yelich’s .380 BABIP isn’t that sustainable, so some offensive decline is certainly to be expected. All signs point to him being a promising young outfielder, but it’s unlikely he will make much of an upward move in 2014.

#17 Brewers

Khris Davis 511 .251 .328 .447 .339 7.9 -0.5 -3.0 1.5
Logan Schafer 140 .246 .301 .363 .295 -2.7 0.1 1.0 0.1
Caleb Gindl 28 .255 .317 .411 .320 0.0 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Sean Halton 21 .243 .298 .392 .303 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Josh Prince 14 .224 .292 .327 .279 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Kevin Mattison 14 .203 .267 .317 .260 -0.6 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 728 .248 .320 .423 .326 3.8 -0.5 -2.2 1.6
Jeez, move Ryan Braun to right field, and suddenly the Brewers have a below-average left field. Who would have thought? Oh, you would have. Good job. Khris Davis did his best to replace Braun’s power when Braun “went up north to live on a farm” for much of the 2013 season. Davis posted an unworldly .316 ISO over 153 PA, and owned a 160 wRC+ for the season. Davis did have impressive power numbers in the minors, though not to this extent, and the projections have sniffed that out. He’ll get most of the opportunities in left, mostly due to a lack of other options. Davis is an interesting case in that while his 2013 power is almost certainly not sustainable, the sample is simply too low for us to really say by how much.

Logan Schafer will also see some time in left, but he should only be a defensive replacement at any outfield position. A career .336 SLG won’t turn any heads, but as a late-scratch fill-in, or late-inning replacement, he should fill in fine.

#18 Red Sox

Daniel Nava 280 .263 .347 .395 .330 1.3 -0.2 -1.6 0.6
Jonny Gomes 280 .241 .337 .419 .333 1.8 0.0 -2.8 0.6
Mike Carp 105 .259 .322 .440 .333 0.7 -0.1 -0.6 0.3
Grady Sizemore 35 .232 .291 .383 .297 -0.7 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
Total 700 .252 .337 .410 .330 3.0 -0.4 -5.3 1.4
Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes should make for adequate platoon partners, but none of them will see enough playing time in left field for them to rank any higher on this list. Nava will also play some right and maybe some first, while Gomes will split his time between left and some DH, while also filling a role as a pinch hitter. Gomes has performed well against lefties over his career (136 wRC+), but saw a substantial decline against southpaws in 2013 (115 wRC+). If those struggles continue, he might lose some playing time to Mike Carp, though Carp hasn’t mashed against lefties either. The projections call for Gomes to sustain his production and for Nava to fall off a bit. Add Carp and a sprinkle of Grady Sizemore to the mix, and the left field of the defending champs could be better, but won’t hurt them enough to negate their production at other positions.

#19 Orioles

David Lough 490 .267 .305 .396 .306 -6.6 0.2 4.4 1.0
Nolan Reimold 70 .232 .297 .398 .305 -1.0 0.0 -0.4 0.0
Steve Pearce 70 .248 .333 .408 .326 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.2
Nelson Cruz 35 .256 .314 .465 .338 0.4 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Henry Urrutia 35 .286 .325 .415 .325 0.0 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .262 .308 .402 .310 -6.9 0.1 3.7 1.4
David Lough is a prototypical glove-first fourth outfielder. The Orioles, however, have decided that he deserves a shot in an everyday role in left field. It’s not the worst move, as Lough should provide enough value with his glove to keep his spot, assuming Steve Pearce and his lefty-mashing ways (I know, small sample) force Baltimore’s higher-ups to force a platoon. We have Nelson Cruz projected for 35 LF plate appearances, but that would be 35 too many at this point, though a long season can bring out the crazy in every team sometimes. Lough is a corner outfielder who will bat 7th or 8th in the lineup. What he’ll do seems a whole lot easier to guess than how to actually pronounce his last name.

#20 Mariners

Dustin Ackley 525 .256 .331 .373 .312 -2.6 0.5 -0.6 1.0
Michael Saunders 70 .234 .314 .392 .312 -0.4 0.1 0.2 0.2
Logan Morrison 35 .245 .331 .413 .326 0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Corey Hart 35 .254 .315 .438 .328 0.3 0.0 -0.4 0.1
Abraham Almonte 35 .245 .308 .360 .297 -0.6 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .253 .327 .380 .313 -3.1 0.7 -1.2 1.3
Ooof. Oh boy. I mean … just … yikes. I mean, that basically sums up the bad news. The good news is that Ackley had a fairly-good second half, powered mostly by a strong August, and has continued to hit in Spring Training this season. I know, but I don’t have a lot to work with here. Saunders, too, saw a resurgence in the second half of 2013, and there was some news that perhaps he was playing through some injury problems to start the season. The two aren’t platoon partners, so they will probably begin the season in competition for the job in a race to suck less. Corey Hart will start the season in RF most likely, and Morrison is more of a 1B/DH guy at this point, but then again who isn’t on this team. Happy 2014, Mariners fans.

#21 Twins

Josh Willingham 525 .232 .341 .427 .339 8.4 -1.3 -6.4 1.3
Jason Kubel 84 .232 .306 .391 .304 -0.9 -0.2 -0.5 0.0
Chris Herrmann 49 .221 .288 .317 .272 -1.8 0.0 0.0 -0.1
Darin Mastroianni 42 .233 .299 .307 .274 -1.5 0.2 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .231 .331 .407 .326 4.2 -1.4 -6.9 1.2
Until Ricky Nolasco came along this year, Josh Willingham was the highest-paid free agent in Minnesota Twins history. At the time of the signing, it seemed like a decent move. His power stroke played well in Target Field and he slugged his way to a 3.4-win season in 2012. This all came apart in 2013, as his wOBA dropped by 68 points, his strikeout rate hit a career high, and he only saw 111 games due to injury. The injury probably had some play in his declining stats, as well, and the projections seem to correct for this a bit. Still, neither system see him producing at the levels we’ve known him to in the past.

Jason Kubel will most likely see most of his time at DH, though he could back up Willingham here and there. The Twins also have about a billion mediocre outfielders floating around the minors that could fill in should Willingham succumb to injury again.

#22 White Sox

Alejandro De Aza 385 .262 .323 .396 .317 -2.1 0.5 -0.6 0.7
Dayan Viciedo 280 .262 .311 .432 .324 0.1 -0.4 -1.6 0.5
Jordan Danks 28 .230 .309 .360 .299 -0.5 0.0 0.1 0.0
Adam Dunn 7 .207 .318 .420 .324 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .260 .318 .410 .319 -2.6 0.1 -2.2 1.2
Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo will most likely platoon in left field to start 2014, which is pretty gross if you cheer for the White Sox, but pretty great if you cheer for extremely cool names. Viciedo will most likely only appear versus lefties, which will leave the bulk of the work to De Aza. The projections see De Aza continuing his power/speed ways, but also he him continuing his trend of poor contact skills and bad on-base percentages. Luckily for both, they shouldn’t get any real competition at that position, since Adam Eaton will stick in center and Avisail Garcia should stay in right. In the battle of cool names; two men enter, one man leave, nobody produces.

#23 Blue Jays

Melky Cabrera 490 .288 .331 .432 .332 3.7 -0.2 -4.0 1.1
Kevin Pillar 210 .259 .294 .375 .294 -4.6 0.0 0.3 0.0
Total 700 .279 .320 .414 .320 -0.9 -0.2 -3.7 1.2
Melky Cabrera got good, then great, then busted, then hurt, then crappy. The last two probably have something to do with each other, but until we see how healthy Melky is to start the season, it will be hard to know how much. And even when he is healthy, what Melky will be there? If his 2012 campaign with the Giants wasn’t aided by PEDs, it certainly was aided by a .370 BABIP. The projections see a bit of a rebound for Cabrera, but certainly not near his season with the Giants or even his 2011 effort with the Royals.

Kevin Pillar is a speedy guy who can’t hit or get on base, so he will likely be a fourth outfielder or defensive replacement if he ever makes it back up from the minors. The job is Melky’s for now, and he is having a promising Spring, for whatever that is worth.

#24 Mets

Eric Young 490 .243 .311 .332 .289 -8.7 4.0 0.3 0.5
Curtis Granderson 84 .226 .314 .422 .323 0.7 0.1 -0.2 0.2
Lucas Duda 70 .235 .331 .402 .324 0.7 -0.1 -0.8 0.1
Chris Young 35 .225 .309 .404 .314 0.1 0.0 0.2 0.1
Andrew Brown 21 .231 .296 .402 .306 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .239 .313 .355 .298 -7.3 4.0 -0.6 1.0
Eric Young has two things going for him right now — he’s fast and he’s not Lucas Duda. Both things technically make him valuable, but Young’s speed makes him a bit of a one-hit wonder. If he stays healthy, he’ll do well on the base paths. He will not get on base at a very good (or even decent) clip, and he certainly won’t hit for power. Even his gaudy 48 steals last year came at the price of 11 times caught, meaning he barely broke even when it comes to a productive base-swiping rate. He’ll stick in left for now, as the Mets have no real outfield prospects poised to breach the majors. Young could be swapped for Juan Lagares if the former’s hitting really takes a step back, or Lucas Duda could push Young out if Duda … sorry, can’t finish that sentence.

#25 Rays

David DeJesus 315 .242 .318 .367 .306 -1.5 -0.3 -1.3 0.4
Brandon Guyer 140 .251 .305 .384 .304 -0.9 0.3 -0.5 0.2
Logan Forsythe 105 .233 .316 .351 .298 -1.1 0.2 -0.6 0.1
Matt Joyce 35 .245 .337 .429 .336 0.7 0.0 0.0 0.2
James Darnell 35 .235 .306 .389 .306 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 630 .242 .315 .373 .306 -3.0 0.2 -2.7 0.9
David DeJesus is a perfect kind of player for Joe Maddon and the Rays. He’s a capable, affordable, platoon-able outfielder. The only problem is, it’s not clear who would platoon with DeJesus, since neither Guyer, Forsythe, nor Joyce are all that formidable against lefties. Somebody could come to rele*****, or DeJesus could simply be buried in the lineup against lefties, but the Rays will have to figure something out, and they probably will or probably already have. DeJesus won’t run or hit for power, but his defense and not-terrible hitting is good enough for the cash-strapped Rays at this point.

#26 Cubs

Junior Lake 385 .255 .300 .384 .302 -6.3 -0.1 2.5 0.4
Ryan Sweeney 70 .265 .324 .401 .319 -0.2 0.0 -0.3 0.1
Justin Ruggiano 175 .251 .316 .429 .327 0.6 -0.2 0.0 0.4
Darnell McDonald 70 .235 .298 .357 .291 -1.7 -0.2 -0.2 -0.1
Total 700 .253 .306 .394 .309 -7.7 -0.5 2.0 0.8
Junior Lake looks a lot like Alfonso Soriano on the field — similar build, similar gate, similar swing. There isn’t really anything to take from that, it’s just something I noticed watching him in Arizona. He has speed, but will have trouble translating it since he won’t get on base that much. He strikes out far too much and walks far too little. He did provide adequate defense in Chicago in limited time last year, though he will have to really flash the leather to prove valuable in 2014. Luckily, the Cubs aren’t really looking toward 2014 as a competitive year, so they’ll have the time to watch and work with Lake all season. Though, if he really struggles, he might get sent back down for more seasoning and give up playing time to Justin Ruggiano.

#27 Tigers

Rajai Davis 245 .261 .306 .367 .297 -4.8 2.3 -0.7 0.2
Andy Dirks 140 .265 .321 .400 .317 -0.6 0.1 0.6 0.4
Don Kelly 140 .244 .312 .363 .301 -2.3 0.1 -0.2 0.1
Trevor Crowe 70 .245 .299 .335 .282 -2.2 0.0 -0.1 -0.1
Ezequiel Carrera 70 .254 .304 .333 .285 -2.0 0.2 0.2 0.0
Steve Lombardozzi 35 .267 .307 .359 .294 -0.8 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .256 .309 .366 .299 -12.7 2.6 -0.2 0.6
Rajai Davis is weird. He’s always shown good speed, but could never really parlay that into any defensive value. He hits about as well as a typical speedy guy will, and won’t be worth a whole heck of a lot in 2014. Andy Dirks is going to miss the beginning of the season with a back injury, so that means that the still-somehow-employed Don Kelly could see time in a platoon role with Davis. This is all assuming that the Nick Castellanos experiment at third base doesn’t fail and Castellanos isn’t sent to left field. Right now, left field in Detroit is a bit of a work-in-progress, with the work appearing to be some aggressive finger crossing.

#28 Giants

Michael Morse 490 .253 .305 .419 .316 2.7 -2.0 -8.5 0.2
Gregor Blanco 175 .239 .321 .331 .293 -2.3 0.4 0.6 0.2
Juan Perez 35 .254 .289 .368 .289 -0.6 -0.1 0.4 0.1
Total 700 .250 .308 .395 .309 -0.1 -1.7 -7.5 0.4
Yes, Michael Morse could bounce back to hitting like he did in Washington, or close to it. Yes, Gregor Blanco could continue to improve his on-base skills and crack the average-hitter threshold. But if you’re running a baseball team, do you really want to bet your team’s future on that? If you do, congratulations, you are just as smart as the Giants front office! Morse has trouble staying on the field, Blanco has trouble being worth more than a defensive replacement, and they both have trouble convincing me that the Giants left field situation will turn out any way north of “total dumpster fire.”

#29 Astros

Robbie Grossman 490 .234 .323 .338 .299 -7.3 -0.6 -3.0 0.0
Marc Krauss 140 .224 .309 .381 .306 -1.3 -0.1 -0.8 0.1
J.D. Martinez 35 .252 .302 .386 .303 -0.4 0.0 -0.3 0.0
L.J. **** 35 .266 .333 .360 .310 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .235 .319 .350 .301 -9.2 -0.7 -4.2 0.2
The irrational Astros fan in me thinks Robbie Grossman should be worth at least a fraction of a win, but perhaps the numbers are right. He just looks like he should have more tools than he does. He gets on base OK, doesn’t hit for power, and — at least as far as one year’s worth of data shows — isn’t very valuable on defense. I will continue to hold on to hope, however. As my colleague Carson Cistulli put it in his FanGraphs+ write-up of Grossman, “Imagine David DeJesus, except maybe not quite as good and 10 years younger and also different in a thousand other ways. Maybe you’re thinking of Robbie Grossman.”

Marc Krauss would probably make a better lumberjack than baseball player, but baseball player pays better so I totally understand his reasoning. He has trouble getting on base, but does have some pop in his bat. He is having a fairly good Spring, though if he makes the team it will likely be as a part-time first baseman or backup outfielder.

J.D. Martinez got cut, so those two are about your only two options, though I have heard that Houston is looking to clone George Springer and have the both of him man the corners by the All-Star Break.

#30 Reds

Ryan Ludwick 490 .243 .308 .414 .316 -1.4 -1.1 -4.5 0.2
Chris Heisey 56 .248 .297 .416 .311 -0.3 0.1 0.1 0.1
Skip Schumaker 119 .255 .317 .335 .292 -2.6 -0.2 -1.6 -0.2
Donald Lutz 21 .232 .277 .381 .287 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Thomas Neal 14 .262 .319 .379 .309 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .245 .307 .399 .310 -5.0 -1.2 -6.1 0.1
Ryan Ludwick had some bad luck in 2013 as he separated his shoulder on opening day and wasn’t really the same after that. He’s also unlucky in that he continues to get older, but most of us drew bad cards in that respect. If his power returns, he could still reach 20ish home runs, but he’s a liability both on the basepaths and in the field. He might sniff league-average, but that’s probably his ceiling.

Ludwick and Chris Heisey project to be about the same player at this point, but hey, at least they’re not Skip Shumaker. If both Ludwick and Heisey really stink it up, Donald Lutz could see more playing time. He’s flashed power in the minors, though that came with poor on-base skills. Cincinnati’s outfield is a hot mess right now, save for Jay Bruce and potentially Billy Hamilton, so it’s unclear just what the plan is for 2014, but it probably won’t be very attractive.

2014 Positional Power Rankings: Designated Hitter.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
And now, for the last crop of position players. Or position-less players, I guess.

Given the various uncertainties of projections, there is not much practical separation between the number seven team and the number 13 team on this list. One could even say there is not practical separation between the number five team and the number 15 team. Superstar DHs (in terms of actual value, rather than perception and marketability) are a rarity. It is not impossible for DHs to reach that level. David Ortiz (more on him in a bit) had a couple of superstar seasons years ago, and hitters like Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez made careers as superstar DHs.

Some have argued this is because teams are not utilizing their DH spots properly. While that may be true to an extent, it seems a bit too simplistic. Finding a player who is worth two wins above average (which would make him a roughly average player as a DH) just on offense is hard enough, and finding one on the free agent market who is willing to not play the field (even if he should) is even more difficult. Moreover, even teams who have money often have older players signed to long-term deals who are no longer really able to play the field every day, and thus need some of the time at DH. This makes it impractical to commit to one player at DH. It is an advantage when teams are able to do so, but it is easier said than done.

#1 Red Sox
David Ortiz 560 .290 .380 .529 .383 25.5 -3.2 0.0 2.9
Jonny Gomes 105 .241 .337 .419 .333 0.7 0.0 0.0 0.2
Mike Carp 35 .259 .322 .440 .333 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .281 .371 .508 .372 26.4 -3.3 0.0 3.1
David Ortiz may not tower over his (non-)positional peers as Mike Trout does over center fielders, but he is clearly the best designated hitter in baseball. Part of that is that other teams simply do not use a full-time DH, but Ortiz is clearly still a very good hitter. Indeed, even a .383 wOBA might seem like a stingy projection given that Ortiz has averaged .409 over the last three years, fourth-best in baseball. None of those seasons is particularly BABIP-heavy, his power is still excellent, and perhaps most impressively given his age, his ability to make contact is better than ever. Age is the main concern with Ortiz, and he did manage only 383 plate appearances in 2012 due to injury. Things have to end some time, but after the past few seasons there is little reason to think Ortiz is due for a sudden crash. He has a platoon split, but pretty much everyone does, so he is not a candidate for being platooned. Gomes and Carp will get some playing time, and nobody is a sure thing, but for a big (if not as big as in the old days) guy in his late thirties, David Ortiz is about as sure as they come.

#2 Blue Jays
Edwin Encarnacion 315 .272 .362 .510 .375 13.2 0.0 0.0 1.7
Adam Lind 280 .264 .325 .458 .339 3.8 -0.6 0.0 0.6
Melky Cabrera 35 .288 .331 .432 .332 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.1
Dioner Navarro 35 .259 .321 .411 .320 0.0 -0.1 0.0 0.0
Erik Kratz 35 .234 .295 .415 .308 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .267 .340 .475 .353 16.9 -0.8 0.0 2.3
The top of the Blue Jays’ DH depth chart is strikingly similar to the one for first base, where Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind are also heavily featured. Neither players is sterling at first base, but despite Lind’s resurgence and Encarnacion’s injury (both in 2013), Encarnacion is pretty clearly the superior hitter. If one considers Encarnacion as the primary DH, then the Blue Jays are in great shape here, assuming he can come back from his injury in something like his previous form. If one considers Lind as the main man, the Blue Jays are only okay. What they really need with Lind, wherever he spends most of his time, is a platoon mate, as his split is truly problematic.

#3 Royals
Billy Butler 630 .290 .366 .453 .355 16.5 -2.8 0.0 2.0
Alex Gordon 35 .271 .343 .435 .340 0.5 0.1 0.0 0.1
Justin Maxwell 35 .227 .303 .398 .309 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .286 .362 .449 .352 16.7 -2.7 0.0 2.1
If there is any player in the league other than Ortiz that is a truly competent and truly full-time DH, it is Billy Butler. Butler is not in Ortiz’ class as a hitter, and, at 28, it is very unlikely he ever will be. In 2012 Butler seemed to finally come into his own from a power perspective, with 29 bombs, but he then turned around and hit just 15 in 2013. However, Butler’s critics tend to focus on what he does not do at the expense at what he does do. He makes contact, takes walks, and gets on base. He is not a monster power hitter, but decent power is still in there. His projected wOBA of .355 may not recall vintage Edgar Martinez or Frank Thomas, but looking down this list, it favorably compares to other DHs, and is enough to make him a two-win player despite his lack of value in the field or the bases. Butler also has an excellent track record when it comes to health, an underrated aspect of his value.

#4 Tigers
Victor Martinez 490 .290 .344 .426 .334 4.6 -2.2 0.0 0.7
Don Kelly 119 .244 .312 .363 .301 -2.0 0.0 0.0 -0.1
Miguel Cabrera 91 .321 .409 .584 .420 6.9 -0.2 0.0 0.8
Total 700 .286 .347 .435 .339 9.6 -2.3 0.0 1.4
Here is the cliff, the drop-off point at which teams do not really have anyone slated to be their primary DH who can hit well enough to be an average (roughly two wins over a full season) player while doing so. Victor Martinez managed it in 2011, but he missed all of 2012 due to injury. His power was down when he came back in 2013, but it was already slipping in 2011. Martinez still does an excellent job making contact, and combined with an average walk rate still contributes on offense. He does not project as a sub-replacement player by any means, and Billy Butler shows than one can be a decent DH without incredible power. Martinez, even if he plays a full season, simply does not do enough (other than avoid strikeouts) well enough to be much more than an above-replacement DH. That clearly has value, but the Tigers’ position on this list has far more to do with other teams’ lack of decent personnel to man their DH slot than Martinez’ intrinsic value.

#5 Astros
Chris Carter 455 .227 .320 .454 .338 7.3 -0.7 0.0 1.1
Jesus Guzman 105 .251 .319 .409 .320 0.2 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Jason Castro 70 .250 .331 .416 .328 0.6 0.0 0.0 0.1
Japhet Amador 35 .250 .301 .411 .312 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Jon Singleton 35 .230 .321 .384 .313 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .235 .320 .438 .332 7.8 -0.8 0.0 1.4
Case in point: the rebuilding Astros’ Chris Carter-led mishmash at DH projects to have about as much value as the Tigers’ Martinez-heavy group. Carter is the anti-Martinez at the plate. Martinez is all about contact and batting average and not much power, while Carter takes tons of strikeouts, has a very low average, but makes up for it with excellent power enough walks to make his on-base percentage (and overall production) palatable. Carter is no great shakes a hitter overall, but given what nominally contending teams are paying for roughly equal or inferior production from veterans, the Astros are doing pretty well for themselves. It would not be totally shocking if the Astros traded Carter (who turned 28 during the off-season, so there is not really upside here), in which case the Astros could have a pretty hilarious DH situation.

#6 Orioles
Nelson Cruz 490 .256 .314 .465 .338 5.7 -0.9 0.0 0.9
Henry Urrutia 175 .286 .325 .415 .325 0.2 -0.2 0.0 0.2
Chris Davis 35 .267 .340 .536 .373 1.4 0.0 0.0 0.2
Total 700 .264 .318 .456 .336 7.3 -1.1 0.0 1.3
Nelson Cruz loomed as a pretty big off-season free agent landmine, but when he finally signed with Baltimore, his deal was pretty safe: one year and $8 million. Even with the draft pick, that is pretty safe for a team in the Orioles’ position. Sure, you do not want to see him in the field regularly. His walk rate is average at best, and his contact abilities are clearly below average. There are the injury and PED worries. He is in his mid-thirties. He will not be in Texas any more. But he hits home runs, and it is not as if Camden Yards is Safeco Field when it comes to power. Sure, the Astros are paying Chris Carter a fraction of what the Orioles are paying Cruz for roughly the same projected production, but Carter wasn’t available, was he? If the Orioles are going to make another run at this, they do not want to be wishing on a big year from Henry Urrutia.

#7 Indians
Carlos Santana 231 .254 .367 .444 .355 7.5 -0.6 0.0 0.9
Nick Swisher 133 .248 .342 .419 .336 2.3 -0.3 0.0 0.3
Ryan Raburn 140 .237 .300 .413 .312 -0.1 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Jeff Francoeur 112 .237 .281 .375 .285 -2.6 -0.2 0.0 -0.2
Jason Giambi 84 .214 .311 .369 .303 -0.7 -0.4 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .242 .328 .412 .325 6.3 -1.5 0.0 1.1
You know it may not be Cleveland’s year when an injury to Zombie Jason Giambi throws off their projected DH rotation. Okay, that is not really fair. The team is probably just counting on Giambi for a few DH appearances, a little pinch-hitting, and a whole lot of clubhouse leadership. This picture at this position is muddled for Cleveland because of the ambiguities of Carlos Santana’s role. If he were a full-time DH, Cleveland would rank second or third on this list. However, for some strange reason the team seems intent on winning games rather than doing well in these power rankings. Where are their priorities? Perhaps the team would be better off simply would be better off playing Santana at DH full-time rather than shuffling him between first, third, and catcher as well, but those spots also need to be filled. Still, among teams that appear to plan on shuttling various position players through DH, Cleveland does relatively well, as Santana, Nick Swisher and (against lefties) Ryan Raburn are all credible options.

#8 Athletics
John Jaso 385 .250 .357 .375 .330 4.5 -0.4 0.0 0.8
Coco Crisp 70 .262 .328 .414 .326 0.6 0.4 0.0 0.2
Nate Freiman 70 .246 .302 .386 .303 -0.6 -0.1 0.0 0.0
Alberto Callaspo 70 .260 .335 .367 .312 -0.2 -0.1 0.0 0.0
Yoenis Cespedes 70 .261 .320 .456 .337 1.2 0.0 0.0 0.2
Stephen Vogt 35 .249 .299 .378 .297 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .253 .340 .388 .324 5.0 -0.3 0.0 1.1
Oakland also does relatively well for a team that is mostly shuttling different position players through the DH spot. In the As’ case, it probably has to do with their relatively deep group of position players. John Jaso, like Santana, is not much behind the plate. Despite a lack of power and a horrible 2011 performance with the Rays, Jaso still has the plate discipline to be productive at the plate. A .330 wOBA may not be what one envisions from a DH, but given trends in league run environment and the As’ park, it is not bad, comparatively. Jaso will not DH every day, but, as with Cleveland, Oakland’s other options are not bad, either, especially if they continue to platoon as efficiently as they have the last couple of seasons.

#9 Rays
Matt Joyce 420 .245 .337 .429 .336 7.8 0.2 0.0 1.2
Logan Forsythe 140 .233 .316 .351 .298 -1.5 0.2 0.0 0.0
Wilson Betemit 140 .234 .298 .371 .295 -1.9 -0.3 0.0 -0.1
Total 700 .240 .325 .401 .320 4.5 0.2 0.0 1.1
Matt Joyce is not a terrible choice at DH, particularly given the Rays’ lack of monetary resources. He is okay in the outfield, but with the emergence of Wil Myers and other decisions, the Rays have (at least for now) plenty of outfielders, and Joyce has enough value that he could be just set aside. And again, look at the other primary DHs on this list — Joyce is hardly terrible in comparison. Joyce seems to simply be a low batting average hitter. It is not as if his strikeout rate is especially poor, and he walks at a decent rate. His BABIP has simply always been low, and after more than 2000 major-league plate appearances, it is probabl more than just random variation. The Rays are probably hoping someone like Logan Forsythe will be a productive platoon partner for the left-handed-hitting Joyce. If so, Joyce’s rate of production probably will not be much higher than it already is, as he has already been pretty heavily platooned.

#10 Yankees
Alfonso Soriano 385 .240 .292 .454 .322 -0.1 -1.0 0.0 0.2
Carlos Beltran 245 .274 .336 .481 .352 5.6 -0.5 0.0 0.8
Ichiro Suzuki 35 .278 .308 .373 .297 -0.7 0.1 0.0 0.0
Brian McCann 35 .259 .339 .460 .346 0.6 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .254 .311 .459 .333 5.4 -1.6 0.0 1.0
The Yankees are yet another team who will probably shuffle a number of pretty good position players through the DH spot, even if Soriano seems to be the primary DH going into the season. Soriano basically just hits home runs at this point in his career, but he is remarkable consistent in doing even as every other peripheral declines. Projection systems look at those peripherals and see a looming decline, but if Soriano has not been anything like a star since at least 2008, his bat is still useful. As a full-time DH rather than left fielder, the overall not thrilling, even if one thinks the projections are unfair to him. Still, he will also probably see some time in the outfield, giving better hitters like Beltran and McCann a chance to rest their legs a bit while contributing on offense. It is not a bad setup for the Yankees, given the personnel on hand.

#11 Rangers
Mitch Moreland 420 .254 .317 .442 .329 0.6 -0.5 0.0 0.4
Prince Fielder 105 .283 .384 .502 .381 4.4 -0.5 0.0 0.5
Geovany Soto 35 .225 .307 .399 .312 -0.4 -0.1 0.0 0.0
Adrian Beltre 35 .296 .343 .498 .361 0.9 0.0 0.0 0.1
Michael Choice 35 .268 .334 .412 .329 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
J.P. Arencibia 70 .223 .269 .419 .299 -1.6 -0.1 0.0 -0.1
Total 700 .256 .324 .448 .335 4.0 -1.3 0.0 0.9
Ah, the clubhouse politics of the paycheck. Most observers would probably agree that, objectively, if you have both first base and DH open, and the two players set to fill those spots are Mitch Moreland and Prince Fielder, the best on-field arrangement would probably be Moreland at first and Fielder at DH on most days. Even if Fielder were to see something of a drop off due to hitting off of the bench, it would probably not not be enough to balance the fielding difference. That is an ideal world, not the real world. The difference is not likely to make or break the team in any case. The point is not that Moreland would suddenly be super-valuable as a first baseman rather than a DH — he wouldn’t be. It is simply interesting in simply looking at these rankings in isolation might skew perceptions a bit. If the Rangers could find a platoon partner for Moreland, that could make a difference. Probably not a one win difference, but in matters like these, a few runs is a pretty big difference. Michael Choice might be the guy for that job in the short term sicne the starting outfield spots are all taken at the moment.

#12 Mariners
Logan Morrison 385 .245 .331 .413 .326 2.3 -0.3 0.0 0.5
Corey Hart 140 .254 .315 .438 .328 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.2
Justin Smoak 70 .236 .325 .406 .323 0.3 -0.3 0.0 0.1
Nick Franklin 105 .246 .318 .391 .313 -0.5 0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .246 .325 .414 .324 3.1 -0.5 0.0 0.9
The hope here was probably for Logan Morrison to finally shake off the injury bug and remember how to hit home runs again now that he is out of the Marlins’ home run-killing park, but Corey Hart’s lingering health concerns means that he may spend more time at DH than the Mariners planned, so it isn’t clear how both Hart and Morrison will get regular at-bats on this roster. Positively, Morrison is only 26 and has always had good walk rates and decent strikeout rates. Negatively, 26 is not all that young for a hitter these days and his BABIP has been consistently low over more than 1400 major league plate appearances. And then there’s those pesky injuries. The Mariners are probably hoping for enough decent health and performance to at least get a platoon out of Morrison and Hart at DH while Justin Smoak is adequate at first (this would be a feat in itself). Maybe two of the players will emerge to give them a decent first base and DH set. Morrison has been discussed. Hart has a decent record with the Brewers, and has not played since 2012, and is in this thirties. His main offensive weapon was power, something Safeco will not help. Justin Smoak had a 109 wRC+ last year, not bad in Safeco, but as a first base/DH type it is not amazing, which is sort of sad considering it was his best season to date. This seems to be a case of the team having “if everything goes just right” as their plan.

#13 Angels
Raul Ibanez 455 .236 .296 .424 .313 0.0 -1.4 0.0 0.2
Josh Hamilton 70 .257 .318 .447 .329 0.9 0.1 0.0 0.2
Albert Pujols 105 .278 .348 .494 .357 3.6 -0.2 0.0 0.5
Chris Iannetta 35 .217 .337 .361 .315 0.0 -0.1 0.0 0.0
Hank Conger 35 .243 .303 .380 .301 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .244 .308 .431 .321 4.2 -1.7 0.0 0.9
If there is a team that needs to use their DH spot as a place to give their highly-paid veterans a place to “rest” every once in a while, it is the Angels. Still, Raul Ibanez projects to get most of the plate appearances here. And if Ibanez’ projection does not exactly scream “get this bat in the lineup,” who are we to dismiss him? In 2011, he finally seemed to hit the wall many expected him to hit years before, but in 2012 and 2013 he remade himself into something of a left-handed version of Soriano — home runs and not much else. That is overly simplistic (Ibanez actually has history of a decent plate approach, though his strikeouts spiked alarmingly in 2013), but Ibanez, despite on-base percentage just north of .300, has managed to have above-average offense value each of the last two seasons. This is not to simply dismiss the value of the projections, simply to note with wonder how Ibanez is still plugging away with some sort of usefulness. Maybe the Angels could have done better, and a platoon partner for Ibanez might help, but at just under $3 million, Ibanez is okay as a stopgap. It would not be totally shocking if he outhit Josh Hamilton in 2014 (as happened in 2013), but at this rate, that may not necessarily mean Ibanez had a good year.

This would not necessarily mean disaster for the Angels, though, as Mike Trout might always put up a 20-win season en route to his third straight second place finish in the AL MVP voting.

#14 Twins
Jason Kubel 280 .232 .306 .391 .304 -3.1 -0.8 0.0 -0.2
Chris Colabello 140 .250 .314 .420 .323 0.4 -0.1 0.0 0.2
Joe Mauer 112 .296 .383 .426 .354 3.1 -0.1 0.0 0.4
Josh Willingham 77 .232 .341 .427 .339 1.2 -0.2 0.0 0.2
Chris Herrmann 56 .221 .288 .317 .272 -2.0 0.0 0.0 -0.2
Chris Parmelee 35 .243 .318 .380 .309 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .245 .323 .400 .317 -0.7 -1.3 0.0 0.4
It’s ugly, but at least the Twins are not putting out a bunch of extra money at this position in a rebuilding year. Kubel is on a minor-league deal that is worth only $2 million if he is in the majors, and Colabello, recently of the independent leagues, is making the minimum. Hey, Joe Mauer can only be in one lineup spot per game. Kubel is probably better than he showed during his disastrous 2013, but he was so bad (and is so terrible in the field, too), that it is still fair to ask whether he is ever worth $2 million in the majors. Calabello would be a fun story, but right now he’s far better as a story than hitter.

#15 White Sox
Adam Dunn 350 .207 .318 .420 .324 0.0 -1.3 0.0 0.2
Paul Konerko 280 .261 .333 .408 .326 0.4 -1.9 0.0 0.1
Dayan Viciedo 35 .262 .311 .432 .324 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Conor Gillaspie 35 .251 .314 .386 .308 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .234 .323 .414 .324 -0.1 -3.3 0.0 0.3
If you thought it could not get worse than the Twins at the DH spot, you have the White Sox, who primarily feature a couple of guys who not only are roughly average with the bat (replacement level for a DH), but are both very old and in Dunn’s case, highly paid. Dunn’s deal notoriously went south faster than just about everyone could imagine, and I suppose giving Konerko one last (relatively) inexpensive farewell tour will not kill the team. Jose Abreu is the plan at first base, so Konerko and Dunn have to play somewhere. Practically speaking, the Twins and White Sox are projected to be in pretty much the same boat. The White Sox are paying far more money for roughly replacement level production from the DH slot, though.

2014 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Pitchers (#1-#15).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Because of the length of these write-ups, we’ve broken the starting pitchers and relief pitchers down into two posts apiece. The top half of the rotations are listed below, with the second half coming later this afternoon.

In this post, we deal with the left. You might notice that #15 is exactly even with #16. That’s an example of why the WAR is more important than the rank. Except for rank #1, where the leader is head and shoulders above the runner-up. The gap between first and second is bigger than the gap between second and tenth. So the #1 team probably has the best rotation in baseball, unless the projections end up wrong, which is possible if not probable. I’ll say this much: last year’s projected #1 rotation ended up as the actual #1 rotation. And this year it’s the same rotation!

One other note: our system admittedly doesn’t deal well with starter/reliever role shifts. In that it doesn’t deal with them at all, just plugging in the same projected numbers regardless. I’ll take care to note instances where that’s relevant and where the numbers might be misleading. An important instance is coming soon!

That all being said, let’s have some more be said, below. I’m comfortable with most of what’s to follow.

#1 Tigers

Justin Verlander 213.0 8.9 2.5 0.9 .298 75.8 % 3.26 3.33 5.0
Max Scherzer 201.0 10.0 2.6 1.0 .303 75.9 % 3.32 3.25 4.6
Anibal Sanchez 195.0 8.7 2.5 0.9 .310 73.4 % 3.57 3.35 4.2
Rick Porcello 177.0 6.5 2.2 0.9 .316 68.9 % 4.16 3.68 2.9
Drew Smyly 130.0 8.2 2.9 1.1 .304 72.3 % 3.99 3.86 2.0
Robbie Ray 30.0 7.2 4.7 1.3 .305 70.0 % 5.18 5.17 0.0
Casey Crosby 19.0 7.0 6.2 1.1 .309 70.0 % 5.40 5.34 0.0
Kyle Lobstein 19.0 6.0 4.0 1.1 .312 68.3 % 5.12 4.84 0.1
Total 984.0 8.4 2.7 1.0 .306 73.0 % 3.72 3.57 18.8
In this same exercise last March, we had the Tigers projected for baseball’s best starting rotation. The Tigers subsequently had baseball’s best starting rotation, exceeding our projections by more than 5 WAR. For as much as can be said about the Doug Fister trade, it’s not like the Tigers left themselves with a weakness; they simply didn’t get enough in return. They still have five solid big-league starters, and at least three of them are considerably better than solid. Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez — spread among different teams, they could all conceivably be staff aces. Here they are, united, and supported by talent at No.’s 4 and 5.

If there’s a concern, it’s the same as last year. Last year, the Tigers’ sixth starter was Jose Alvarez. Thankfully, they only needed him six times. Now Alvarez is gone, and the sixth starter might be the main guy they got back for Fister, and most rotations end up needing a lot more than six depth starts. What the Tigers don’t have is depth beyond Porcello and Smyly. It’s a top-heavy situation, where the Tigers’ starting staff is deep, but the organizational pitching isn’t deep. A major injury would deal the Tigers a blow. But then, that’s hardly unique to them.

#2 Red Sox

Jon Lester 207.0 7.7 2.9 0.9 .307 72.3 % 3.87 3.77 3.7
Clay Buchholz 139.0 7.3 3.2 0.9 .301 71.8 % 3.95 3.90 2.2
John Lackey 190.0 7.3 2.3 1.1 .306 71.6 % 4.06 3.96 3.0
Jake Peavy 154.0 7.4 2.0 1.2 .299 73.2 % 3.85 3.87 2.7
Felix Doubront 149.0 8.1 3.7 1.0 .308 71.2 % 4.25 4.05 2.2
Chris Capuano 66.0 7.0 2.4 1.2 .304 72.1 % 4.09 4.00 0.9
Brandon Workman 28.0 7.7 2.9 1.1 .308 72.0 % 4.17 4.06 0.4
Allen Webster 20.0 7.0 4.3 1.0 .306 70.2 % 4.64 4.63 0.2
Anthony Ranaudo 20.0 6.7 4.0 1.1 .305 69.8 % 4.75 4.65 0.2
Total 972.0 7.5 2.8 1.0 .305 71.9 % 4.03 3.94 15.4
One of last year’s very best starting rotations returns everyone, minus a Ryan Dempster, who was largely ineffective over 29 starts. In his stead, there’s more Jake Peavy and a little Chris Capuano. That’s why a strong rotation is projected to remain a strong rotation, because basically the same guys are coming back and none of last year’s performances seemed particularly out of line.

It’s hard to get a gauge on the sex factor, here. Though people love Jon Lester and though this team plays in Boston, I don’t think anyone sees the Red Sox as having a true shutdown ace in the form of a Verlander. But while the front might not be dominant, the rotation also doesn’t really trail off too much, and then unlike with the Tigers, there is depth beyond the five. Capuano is a perfectly reasonable Dempster replacement. After him, there are arms in the bullpen and in the minors. The Red Sox ought to be able to weather some missed time. Which is convenient, because Clay Buchholz makes a habit of missing time, and Peavy’s hardly the most reliable pitcher in the world. Fans don’t fret about rotation depth until it’s needed. The Red Sox were proactive about it.

#3 Rangers

Yu Darvish 199.0 11.2 3.4 0.9 .301 77.0 % 3.15 3.17 5.0
Martin Perez 167.0 6.1 3.4 1.1 .306 70.0 % 4.64 4.56 1.6
Tanner Scheppers 141.0 7.7 2.7 1.0 .303 74.0 % 3.69 3.88 2.5
Robbie Ross 75.0 7.9 2.8 0.8 .308 74.0 % 3.48 3.54 1.6
Joe Saunders 65.0 5.3 2.9 1.2 .308 68.8 % 4.85 4.63 0.5
Colby Lewis 28.0 7.1 2.5 1.6 .299 71.5 % 4.70 4.77 0.2
Matt Harrison 144.0 6.3 3.0 1.0 .304 70.7 % 4.27 4.15 1.9
Derek Holland 96.0 8.0 2.8 1.2 .305 73.1 % 4.00 3.94 1.6
Nick Tepesch 28.0 6.3 2.8 1.2 .309 68.5 % 4.72 4.47 0.3
Tommy Hanson 19.0 7.4 3.5 1.6 .307 70.4 % 5.15 5.03 0.1
Total 962.0 7.7 3.0 1.1 .305 72.5 % 4.01 3.99 15.2
Right away, I need to point something out. I noted earlier that our system doesn’t deal well with relievers converting to the rotation. Here you see Tanner Scheppers projected for a full 2.5 WAR in 141 innings. That’s because the system just plugged Scheppers’ relief projection into the rotation, and, yeah, those numbers are more valuable from a starter. They’re also unlikely to come from Scheppers as a starter. Though his conversion will be an intriguing one, it’s doubtful it’s going to work out this awesomely. You can knock these numbers down by a win. Maybe more. I won’t be mad at you. Oh, and look! You can say almost the exact same thing for Robbie Ross. Interesting starter candidate! Probably not actually this good. Weird things going on in Texas.

But still. Here, we optimistically have the Rangers at 15.2 WAR. Two away are the Nationals, at 13.2 WAR. Even if you penalize the Rangers for the Scheppers and Ross optimism, they still come out with a good-looking group, despite all the issues. Matt Harrison isn’t right. Derek Holland isn’t right. Even Yu Darvish isn’t quite right, and the team’s been reduced to trying Joe Saunders in camp. No matter: the numbers think the Rangers ought to be okay.

In a big way, it’s because Darvish projects to be amazing. He’s my personal choice for the American League Cy Young. And then Harrison should pitch for most of the year, and Holland should be good when he returns, and Martin Perez just took a step forward. The Rangers, right now, appear to be fragile. They’re definitely not anywhere close to 100%. But they’re still okay, and they’re still in position to contend for the AL West title. The situation isn’t as desperate as some people have made it out to be.

#4 Yankees

CC Sabathia 213.0 7.8 2.5 1.0 .309 71.4 % 3.97 3.71 3.7
Masahiro Tanaka 207.0 8.1 1.7 1.0 .308 70.6 % 3.77 3.43 4.4
Hiroki Kuroda 199.0 6.7 2.2 1.1 .299 72.6 % 3.87 3.94 2.9
Ivan Nova 168.0 7.0 2.9 0.9 .305 71.0 % 4.05 3.98 2.2
Michael Pineda 93.0 8.3 3.2 1.3 .300 71.9 % 4.36 4.33 1.0
David Phelps 55.0 7.8 3.5 1.2 .304 70.7 % 4.50 4.40 0.5
Vidal Nuno 38.0 6.5 2.6 1.5 .301 70.0 % 4.83 4.82 0.3
Adam Warren 19.0 6.9 3.4 1.2 .303 71.6 % 4.48 4.53 0.2
Total 992.0 7.5 2.5 1.1 .304 71.4 % 4.03 3.90 15.0
Last year, it was the pitching that managed to keep the Yankees afloat. It is in part on the strength of this rotation that the 2014 Yankees have their sights set back on the playoffs. Of course, there’s all kinds of concern about CC Sabathia, and it’s warranted. His numbers took a step back, and his velocity took a step back, and now he’s getting into his mid-30s. But for one thing, he still managed a double-digit xFIP-. For another, he’s had an encouraging spring. And for a third, this rotation is about more than one guy.

It’s about, I don’t know, six or seven guys. The Yankees are obviously huge believers in Masahiro Tanaka, and if you think the projection above is a bit optimistic, well, the Hiroki Kuroda projection might be a bit pessimistic, given his seeming immunity to age. Ivan Nova was real good last year when he was healthy, and the major unknown here is Michael Pineda. We don’t know how much he has in the tank as he returns from major shoulder surgery. We don’t know how his slider will play with presumably reduced fastball velocity. But as a rookie, Pineda was worth 3.2 WAR, and now he’s back in the bigs. If he’s truly good to go, the Yankees should be in an excellent position. If he has issues, there’s fine depth in the persons of David Phelps and Vidal Nuno.

People want to keep believing in the Yankees’ decline. They might have too much money to decline. For now, they have too much talent.

#5 Nationals

Stephen Strasburg 185.0 9.9 2.6 0.8 .301 75.3 % 3.04 2.98 3.8
Gio Gonzalez 202.0 8.8 3.3 0.8 .299 73.9 % 3.44 3.42 3.2
Jordan Zimmermann 187.0 6.9 1.8 0.9 .298 72.8 % 3.54 3.58 2.6
Doug Fister 149.0 6.9 1.8 0.7 .305 72.2 % 3.30 3.24 2.5
Tanner Roark 113.0 6.1 2.8 1.0 .302 70.5 % 4.19 4.15 0.8
Taylor Jordan 76.0 5.5 2.4 0.8 .304 68.8 % 4.20 4.03 0.5
Ross Ohlendorf 28.0 6.3 3.1 1.3 .301 71.3 % 4.58 4.71 0.1
Chris Young 28.0 5.2 3.1 1.8 .291 70.2 % 5.36 5.59 -0.3
Total 968.0 7.6 2.5 0.9 .301 72.6 % 3.60 3.57 13.2
Look at Doug Fister’s innings count. It’s low because Fister, in camp, was batting some elbow issues. It seems that he’s okay, now, and he’s on track to make his first turn in early April. The last three years, he’s averaged almost 200 innings a season. What happens if we just give Fister the 28 innings slated here to go to Chris Young? Then the Nationals move up to 14.0 projected WAR, and that would make them closer to the Rangers, who, again, have that over-optimistic Scheppers and Ross projections.

So the Nationals are in good shape, even independent of the nightmare situation that’s overtaken the Braves. They added Fister to a quality top three that ought to be just about as good as it was, and Fister, as we’ve talked about, is among the league’s very most underrated starters. Beyond the four, there are options, and this doesn’t even include Ross Detwiler, who for now is bullpen-bound. We know that Detwiler can be fine as a starter. Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan belong in the same boat. This team is deep in quality starters and it’s deep in big-league starters, and that’s a big reason why the Nationals appear to have such a clear path to October. Yeah, the Braves’ bad luck has helped. But the Nationals were already a step ahead.

Aaaaand I’ve just now read that Young is a goner. Released! So you can give his innings to Fister after all. Or you can give them to Detwiler. Won’t really change the picture too much.

#6 Cardinals

Adam Wainwright 221.0 7.9 1.8 0.7 .309 72.9 % 3.20 2.96 4.4
Michael Wacha 174.0 8.0 2.7 0.9 .299 72.9 % 3.63 3.56 2.1
Lance Lynn 171.0 8.6 3.2 0.8 .308 72.6 % 3.64 3.48 2.3
Shelby Miller 155.0 8.8 3.1 1.0 .299 75.3 % 3.50 3.61 2.0
Joe Kelly 113.0 6.2 3.2 0.8 .306 71.2 % 4.03 3.97 0.8
Tyler Lyons 19.0 6.9 2.6 0.9 .304 71.4 % 3.94 3.88 0.1
John Gast 10.0 6.0 3.7 0.9 .305 68.8 % 4.62 4.43 0.0
Angel Castro 9.0 6.0 3.5 0.9 .304 69.6 % 4.44 4.33 0.0
Jaime Garcia 97.0 7.1 2.3 0.7 .313 71.1 % 3.72 3.35 1.3
Total 970.0 7.9 2.7 0.8 .305 72.7 % 3.59 3.47 13.1
Adam Wainwright was great, and he’s back. Lance Lynn was fine, and he’s back. Shelby Miller was good, and he’s back. Joe Kelly was adequate, and he’s back. Michael Wacha was good, and he’s back, and he’s a fixture now. All the Cardinals are really missing is Jake Westbrook, and last season he had more walks than strikeouts. Even before you get to Jaime Garcia, this looks like a good-enough rotation to win the NL Central. And if Garcia’s actually able to make, I don’t know, 20-25 starts, all the better, because Garcia’s good even when he’s short of 100%.

There’s some concern that Wainwright is coming off more than 275 innings. That’s a lot of innings, and it will be something to watch. Lynn can’t really pitch to lefties, and Kelly, famously, pitched beyond his peripherals in 2013. But Garcia is a handy wild card. And I’m a believer that Miller can succeed with two pitches, and it’s been said that Wacha’s curveball is already a quality third pitch. Held to a standard of perfection, the Cardinals have question marks. Held to a more realistic standard, the Cardinals are in better starting-pitching position than most.

#7 Mariners

Felix Hernandez 214.0 9.0 2.2 0.7 .310 73.6 % 3.16 2.89 5.5
James Paxton 149.0 7.5 4.2 1.0 .301 70.8 % 4.42 4.37 1.1
Erasmo Ramirez 138.0 6.7 2.9 1.2 .301 70.3 % 4.43 4.35 1.1
Roenis Elias 66.0 6.0 3.8 1.2 .299 69.5 % 4.83 4.82 0.2
Blake Beavan 66.0 4.4 2.1 1.5 .301 67.4 % 5.18 5.06 0.1
Hisashi Iwakuma 162.0 7.6 2.0 1.0 .293 73.6 % 3.49 3.53 3.0
Taijuan Walker 143.0 8.1 3.9 1.0 .301 71.7 % 4.21 4.18 1.6
Brandon Maurer 38.0 6.8 3.8 1.1 .309 69.4 % 4.73 4.53 0.2
Total 976.0 7.5 3.0 1.0 .302 71.4 % 4.05 3.96 12.9
Let me note that, in the process of writing this post, news came out that Randy Wolf was a free agent again, forcing me to edit the table, which I guess you don’t care about. So he’s no longer a Mariner, and it looks like the fourth and fifth rotation slots will go to Blake Beavan and Roenis Elias. That’s a problem for the Mariners, but it would be a much bigger problem if Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker weren’t just a few weeks away from returning to work. Beavan and Elias are temporary, and losing Wolf does little to hurt the Mariners’ projection.

This goes to show how far you can get with one incredible ace. Felix carries the Mariners, and the next-closest pitcher is projected for just about half of the WAR. But this rotation isn’t entirely top-heavy. Iwakuma is legitimately good, even if he won’t repeat last year’s ERA. Walker projects to be fine as a rookie, and Erasmo Ramirez has a history of some success, and I make a pastime of comparing James Paxton to Erik Bedard. Maybe Paxton’s command will waver. Maybe Walker won’t come far enough along with a breaking ball. Maybe Ramirez will experience a recurrence of his elbow issues. This group’s fairly light on depth, following Scott Baker’s disappointment and release, but plenty of talent is there, and if the Mariners contend for the division title, it’ll probably be because the talent in the rotation translated to performance. And also, you know, good health.

#8 Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw 215.0 9.2 2.2 0.7 .289 78.2 % 2.58 2.79 4.7
Zack Greinke 201.0 8.0 2.2 0.8 .297 74.5 % 3.17 3.20 3.3
Hyun-Jin Ryu 205.0 7.7 2.6 1.0 .295 74.2 % 3.60 3.74 2.0
Dan Haren 153.0 7.5 1.7 1.1 .300 73.3 % 3.69 3.70 1.7
Paul Maholm 39.0 6.1 2.5 0.9 .301 70.7 % 4.00 4.04 0.2
Stephen Fife 30.0 5.9 3.7 1.0 .302 69.4 % 4.63 4.60 0.0
Matt Magill 20.0 8.3 5.3 1.0 .299 71.2 % 4.60 4.57 0.0
Zach Lee 10.0 6.7 3.0 1.3 .293 70.4 % 4.43 4.52 0.0
Josh Beckett 78.0 7.6 2.7 1.1 .296 72.5 % 3.87 3.90 0.5
Chad Billingsley 61.0 7.1 3.2 0.9 .303 71.2 % 4.05 3.94 0.4
Total 1010.0 7.9 2.4 0.9 .296 74.1 % 3.43 3.51 12.7
The Dodgers rank here in the upper third. That’s good, but they also might be the team most likely to beat its projection. Clayton Kershaw is projected to be as good as he was in 2010. The last three years, he’s been much much better. And then Hyun-Jin Ryu should probably be better than league average. He came in at 3.1 WAR a season ago, and after posting fine numbers in the first half, he dropped his second-half xFIP by 83 points. Ryu walked fewer batters down the stretch, and if that continues, then the Dodgers could have one of the great rotations in the league. In the leagues? I don’t know the proper expression. Baseball has two leagues, but is also one league.

I can’t imagine being too worried about Zack Greinke. Dan Haren can at least be all right, and the fifth starter isn’t actually Paul Maholm; it’s Josh Beckett, only Beckett will begin on the disabled list. Maholm is insurance, just like how Chad Billingsley should be insurance if and when he makes a good return from Tommy John surgery. I don’t think the Dodgers have as good a rotation as the Tigers do. I think the Dodgers have a really good rotation. I think the Dodgers have a really good team. I think the Dodgers have a really good shot at the playoffs!

#9 Rockies

Jorge de la Rosa 198.0 6.3 3.3 1.0 .310 69.7 % 4.59 4.35 2.2
Juan Nicasio 174.0 7.0 3.1 1.1 .315 70.2 % 4.53 4.21 2.5
Brett Anderson 140.0 7.5 3.0 0.8 .323 69.4 % 4.17 3.63 2.6
Tyler Chatwood 112.0 6.0 3.6 0.8 .315 69.1 % 4.54 4.19 1.4
Franklin Morales 85.0 8.2 3.9 1.2 .308 73.0 % 4.39 4.49 1.0
Jordan Lyles 55.0 5.9 2.8 1.1 .319 67.0 % 4.90 4.38 0.6
Jon Gray 28.0 6.6 3.6 1.2 .309 68.6 % 4.78 4.67 0.2
Eddie Butler 20.0 6.1 3.9 1.1 .311 69.0 % 5.00 4.79 0.1
Christian Friedrich 10.0 6.7 3.3 1.3 .316 68.8 % 4.97 4.60 0.1
Jhoulys Chacin 136.0 6.2 3.2 1.0 .306 70.8 % 4.33 4.22 1.8
Total 959.0 6.7 3.3 1.0 .313 69.9 % 4.49 4.22 12.5
This could come as a strange ranking to you. The Rockies don’t have a single rotation standout, and the team directly below them here has David Price. But last season, the Rockies ranked 11th in rotation WAR, less than 1 WAR out of sixth. That was in considerably fewer innings. Last season, the Rockies ranked sixth in rotation FIP-, one point out of second. Gone are Jon Garland and Jeff Francis. In is Brett Anderson. Anderson, when healthy, has been one of the more effective starting pitchers in baseball.

Which, yeah — if Anderson were reliable, he probably wouldn’t be on the Rockies, because the A’s wouldn’t have given him up. That’s a question mark. Jhoulys Chacin’s shoulder is a question mark, even though he’s projected to return to the rotation at the beginning of May. And I’ll note that Franklin Morales is getting a boost from having reliever numbers plugged in as starter numbers, and that’s artificial. No one will accuse the Rockies’ rotation of being great, and there’s limited depth despite a probable need for it. But you can envision this working out okay. Getting 150 innings from Anderson would be huge for a Rockies team that really does have a chance to make noise in September.

#10 Rays

David Price 210.0 8.3 2.1 0.8 .296 74.9 % 3.14 3.20 4.4
Alex Cobb 195.0 7.8 3.0 0.7 .299 73.2 % 3.40 3.43 3.1
Matt Moore 171.0 9.0 3.9 1.0 .292 75.5 % 3.57 3.84 2.3
Chris Archer 130.0 7.7 3.7 0.9 .296 72.7 % 3.96 4.11 1.1
Jake Odorizzi 65.0 6.8 3.8 1.2 .293 71.8 % 4.43 4.65 0.2
Nate Karns 38.0 8.4 4.1 1.1 .294 73.2 % 4.11 4.31 0.3
Enny Romero 28.0 7.1 6.0 1.0 .297 70.9 % 4.94 5.11 0.0
Erik Bedard 20.0 7.9 3.9 1.1 .297 72.8 % 4.18 4.28 0.2
Alex Colome 19.0 7.0 4.9 1.0 .295 71.3 % 4.57 4.78 0.0
Jeremy Hellickson 93.0 6.7 2.9 1.2 .288 72.8 % 4.13 4.37 0.6
Total 968.0 7.9 3.3 0.9 .295 73.6 % 3.70 3.84 12.3
All offseason long, we were preparing to evaluate a 2014 Rays team that didn’t have David Price on it. The team still has David Price on it, and it’ll remain that way through the summer, and it’s hard to argue with the effect. Sans Price, the Rays would still be all right, and perhaps better set up for the future. With Price, the Rays are in the argument for best team in the AL East.

For the rotation’s sake, it’s a good thing Price is still around. Not that the situation would be hopeless without him, but Price is a clear No. 1, while Alex Cobb is a more subtle sort. And then it drops off in a hurry, at least so long as you presume Matt Moore isn’t on the verge of a breakout. Some people have maintained that expectation, but Moore’s indicators are going the wrong way. Chris Archer has talent and things to work on, and Jake Odorizzi will try to pitch well enough to fight off Jeremy Hellickson. There’s some depth here, but also concerns, and note that Erik Bedard isn’t Rays property anymore. And Alex Colome’s been suspended!

During the winter, the Rays picked up Ryan Hanigan, to team with Jose Molina. Both Hanigan and Molina are excellent pitch-receivers, so that’s going to give the rotation some help. If it’s too expensive to improve on the arms, make them look better through some other means. I wish I could see the Rays’ 2014 numbers, and then the Rays’ 2014 numbers with league-average backstops. That being impossible, I wish I could see the Rays’ 2014 numbers, so I could place some bets.

#11 Indians

Justin Masterson 198.0 8.0 3.3 0.7 .310 70.4 % 3.84 3.56 3.0
Corey Kluber 180.0 7.9 2.5 1.0 .313 70.2 % 4.05 3.64 2.7
Danny Salazar 161.0 9.7 3.1 0.9 .311 74.5 % 3.53 3.37 3.1
Zach McAllister 156.0 6.7 2.8 1.0 .311 70.1 % 4.33 4.05 1.7
Carlos Carrasco 112.0 6.8 3.2 1.1 .313 68.4 % 4.68 4.28 0.7
Trevor Bauer 76.0 7.5 6.1 1.2 .307 69.4 % 5.46 5.37 -0.2
Josh Tomlin 38.0 5.4 1.6 1.3 .303 68.4 % 4.56 4.33 0.2
Shaun Marcum 28.0 6.7 2.6 1.3 .301 71.1 % 4.42 4.38 0.2
Aaron Harang 9.0 6.5 3.2 1.4 .306 69.9 % 4.91 4.75 0.0
Total 958.0 7.7 3.2 1.0 .310 70.5 % 4.19 3.92 11.5
A year ago, the Indians came as a surprise. Ubaldo Jimenez turned things around. Scott Kazmir didn’t even have any things to turn around, so he built entirely new things. Justin Masterson rocketed his strikeout rate forward. Corey Kluber emerged. This year, the Indians’ rotation might be less surprising, even given Jimenez and Kazmir’s departures. This year, we can see Masterson coming, and we know about Kluber, and I don’t know that anyone had a more electrifying big-league debut than Danny Salazar.

The rotation does trail off, as is the case with all rotations. Trevor Bauer, at this point, is a complete mystery, and Shaun Marcum is forever simultaneously appealing and hurt. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a season-long battle for slot No. 5, but at least in front of that slot, things ought to be fairly secure. It’s an optimistic projection for Salazar. He could also be even better than that. Prepare for a season of comparing Danny Salazar to Yordano Ventura. A final note: how thankful are these guys to be throwing to Yan Gomes instead of Carlos Santana? Don’t you dare discount that minor boost, where by minor I mean probably not actually minor.

#12 Phillies

Cliff Lee 218.0 8.7 1.5 0.9 .305 75.1 % 3.14 3.02 4.4
A.J. Burnett 179.0 8.9 3.3 0.8 .311 71.8 % 3.80 3.53 2.4
Kyle Kendrick 143.0 5.7 2.5 1.1 .302 69.5 % 4.40 4.30 0.8
Roberto Hernandez 76.0 6.4 2.5 1.1 .306 68.6 % 4.46 4.26 0.4
Jeff Manship 47.0 5.4 3.8 1.2 .305 67.7 % 5.15 4.91 -0.1
Jonathan Pettibone 55.0 5.9 3.2 0.9 .305 69.5 % 4.48 4.32 0.3
Jesse Biddle 66.0 8.6 5.2 0.9 .303 71.6 % 4.44 4.37 0.3
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez 41.0 5.6 2.6 1.2 .298 67.9 % 4.71 4.47 0.2
Ethan Martin 19.0 8.0 5.9 1.2 .305 70.9 % 5.13 5.15 -0.1
Cole Hamels 151.0 8.3 2.1 1.0 .298 73.9 % 3.41 3.37 2.6
Total 996.0 7.6 2.7 1.0 .304 71.5 % 3.94 3.80 11.4
Here’s something I learned: last season, Cliff Lee had 35 called strikes in 0-and-2 counts. In second place was David Price, with 18. A fun game I like to play is to go in search of statistical indicators of Cliff Lee’s incredible command. He’s an amazing pitcher, and an amazingly reliable pitcher, and an amazingly watchable and likable pitcher. With Cliff Lee on their side, Phillies fans and Phillies players are lucky. He’s cut from the cloth of the perfect starting pitcher, and he ought to remain an ace for the foreseeable future.

Cole Hamels is probably an ace, too, but he’s an ace working off shoulder discomfort. A.J. Burnett pitched like an ace with the Pirates, despite his ad*****d age. Already this spring, Burnett has hit six guys. So maybe there are questions there. And there are a whole lot of questions after the three proven types.

One of the answers was supposed to be Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, but it’s hard to imagine his stock cratering more than it already has. Roberto Hernandez is of statistical interest, but it sure looks like he just has his own significant home-run problem. You can say this for the Phillies: they sure do have pitchers. Look at all of those pitchers, in the table. They are all, unquestionably, pitchers.

#13 Athletics

Sonny Gray 178.0 7.5 3.4 0.8 .303 71.7 % 3.87 3.75 2.3
Scott Kazmir 163.0 8.5 3.1 1.0 .304 72.3 % 3.85 3.72 2.3
Dan Straily 155.0 7.8 3.4 1.1 .294 74.0 % 3.96 4.22 1.6
Tommy Milone 141.0 7.2 1.9 1.2 .301 73.8 % 3.80 3.86 1.9
Jesse Chavez 94.0 7.0 2.9 1.0 .302 70.7 % 4.20 4.13 0.9
A.J. Griffin 133.0 7.5 2.5 1.3 .289 74.5 % 3.93 4.23 1.4
Drew Pomeranz 66.0 7.8 4.2 1.0 .299 72.2 % 4.21 4.28 0.5
Josh Lindblom 19.0 6.6 3.5 1.2 .293 73.0 % 4.36 4.71 0.1
Total 949.0 7.6 3.0 1.1 .299 72.8 % 3.95 4.00 11.0
The bad news for the A’s is that they’re already without Jarrod Parker for the entire season. The good news for the A’s is that Tommy Milone projects to be just as good, if not even a little better. Yeah, losing Parker moves everyone else up in the depth chart, and that makes the depth chart weaker, but the A’s were in position to be able to deal with that kind of blow. They can’t take more of them, but they remain a legitimate contender, even with Parker sidelined.

I’d be willing to bet the over on the Sonny Gray projection. In ten starts last season, he notched a sub-3 xFIP, and he appears to me to be the ace of the staff. I like Scott Kazmir behind him, and there’s certainly plenty of adequacy here. Of additional encouragement: Drew Pomeranz’s spring. In 11 innings, he’s recorded two walks and 18 strikeouts, and though you never want to care too much about spring-training numbers, your eyes are drawn more to the extremes. On the flip side, Jesse Chavez gets one of those weird starter/reliever projection boosts. Not that his projection is even all that good.

The A’s can deal with being without Parker. They can’t deal with much more pain. It would be of great service if Gray throws 180 innings or so of ace-level baseball. Not many guys out there would be more capable.

#14 Giants

Matt Cain 207.0 7.7 2.5 1.0 .290 74.2 % 3.46 3.66 2.2
Madison Bumgarner 204.0 8.7 2.5 0.8 .293 75.2 % 3.05 3.14 3.5
Tim Lincecum 186.0 8.6 3.5 0.8 .305 71.2 % 3.90 3.59 1.8
Tim Hudson 170.0 6.5 2.5 0.6 .304 70.9 % 3.65 3.48 1.8
Ryan Vogelsong 111.0 6.5 3.0 1.0 .301 70.9 % 4.20 4.17 0.4
Edwin Escobar 66.0 7.4 2.8 0.8 .301 71.8 % 3.72 3.66 0.6
Yusmeiro Petit 38.0 7.4 2.0 1.0 .304 72.6 % 3.71 3.63 0.4
David Huff 19.0 6.1 2.7 1.0 .299 71.0 % 4.17 4.22 0.1
Mike Kickham 10.0 6.8 4.2 0.9 .304 69.4 % 4.63 4.40 0.0
Total 1010.0 7.6 2.8 0.8 .299 72.5 % 3.62 3.58 10.8
You know where the Giants finished last season? Fourth-worst. They finished with the fourth-lowest starting-rotation WAR in all of baseball. But now Barry Zito’s gone! And Ryan Vogelsong is…well we don’t know, but Zito’s gone, and Tim Hudson is the opposite of gone.

The Giants’ rotation still suffers from a lack of quality depth. But the picture is starting to look better with the emergence of Edwin Escobar and with the re-emergence of Yusmeiro Petit. One of them could be needed soon if Vogelsong doesn’t improve, but at least there are options. Toward the front, there’s no question about Madison Bumgarner. Matt Cain is projected for a bit of a bounceback, and Tim Lincecum is projected to be the same, with a lower ERA. If Lincecum finds himself, and if Cain goes back to being an exception to the rules, the Giants will find themselves in the thick of the Wild Card race. If things are as they were, last place in the division is a possibility. (It’s a tight division.) (After the Dodgers.)

#15 Orioles

Ubaldo Jimenez 196.0 8.8 3.9 1.1 .304 72.8 % 4.09 4.01 2.7
Chris Tillman 175.0 7.8 3.2 1.4 .294 73.6 % 4.23 4.42 1.7
Miguel Gonzalez 171.0 6.8 3.0 1.3 .294 72.3 % 4.38 4.58 1.5
Wei-Yin Chen 170.0 7.1 2.6 1.3 .298 73.2 % 4.18 4.32 2.0
Bud Norris 93.0 7.8 3.3 1.2 .304 72.2 % 4.32 4.31 1.1
Kevin Gausman 56.0 7.9 2.4 1.1 .310 70.7 % 4.15 3.83 0.8
Suk-Min Yoon 28.0 6.6 3.6 1.2 .309 68.6 % 4.78 4.67 0.2
Zach Britton 28.0 6.0 4.1 1.0 .309 69.0 % 4.90 4.68 0.2
Dylan Bundy 20.0 7.3 3.6 1.2 .302 71.5 % 4.47 4.52 0.2
Johan Santana 20.0 7.2 3.0 1.4 .296 72.6 % 4.31 4.45 0.2
Total 958.0 7.6 3.2 1.2 .300 72.4 % 4.27 4.32 10.5
Could you ask for two more interesting names at the bottom of the table than Dylan Bundy and Johan Santana? Neither, here, is being counted on for much. Both could make for valuable contributors down the stretch. Not bad wild cards to have tucked away in the back pocket.

But we should talk more about everyone else. The situation, in a word: “fine”. Miguel Gonzalez is fine. Wei-Yin Chen is fine. Bud Norris is fine. Suk-Min Yoon is probably fine. What the Orioles don’t have enough of is better-than-fine. Not that they’re without their hope.

Ubaldo Jimenez is two years removed from a disaster, but he’s coming off a year with better than a strikeout an inning. If he sustains his improvement, he could play the part of a No. 1. Chris Tillman just had a much higher FIP than xFIP, and you know how we feel about that sort of thing. The projection here seems pretty negative. And then there’s Kevin Gausman. Gausman has certain ace potential, and it shouldn’t be too long before the Orioles realize he’s one of their five best starters. If the Orioles make a charge for the playoffs, it could be because Gausman took over the rotation and dominated every five days.

So there’s upside in the Baltimore starting staff. There’s also some depth, and some wild cards of intrigue. No one doubts that the Orioles, overall, are talented. It’s a question of whether they’re talented enough. It wouldn’t surprise me too much if the Orioles won 90 games. It wouldn’t surprise me if they lost 90, either. On this roster, and in this rotation, there’s volatility.

2014 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Pitchers (#16-#30).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Jeff already rolled out the Top 15 this morning, so here’s the second half of the starting pitching list. As with this morning, here’s the chart, though we will talk about the right side of things in this post.

Again, keep the separation in mind more than the ranking itself, as you can see from the graph that there’s a big chunk of teams from #11-#23 that aren’t all that different. And, as Jeff noted, some teams that are transitioning relievers into the rotation will be overrated by the forecasts, which are still going to have relief pitcher projections stretched out to starting pitcher innings totals. These aren’t perfect, and we don’t pretend that they are. Take them as an overview, not gospel, and realize that with this many moving parts, there’s a huge amount of variance around all these forecasts. Projecting pitching is hard.

#16 White Sox
Chris Sale 198.0 9.6 2.3 1.0 .305 74.8 % 3.31 3.23 4.6
Jose Quintana 194.0 7.1 2.9 1.1 .302 71.9 % 4.12 4.09 3.0
Erik Johnson 160.0 7.2 3.8 1.2 .304 70.0 % 4.75 4.65 1.0
John Danks 150.0 6.1 2.8 1.5 .303 69.0 % 4.95 4.82 0.7
Felipe Paulino 92.0 8.6 3.8 1.2 .306 71.9 % 4.44 4.35 1.0
Andre Rienzo 65.0 6.8 4.7 1.2 .306 69.0 % 5.21 5.03 0.1
Charlie Leesman 38.0 6.6 5.6 1.4 .312 67.7 % 5.92 5.65 -0.1
Dylan Axelrod 38.0 5.9 3.4 1.4 .309 68.5 % 5.32 5.10 0.1
Nestor Molina 20.0 5.3 3.0 1.5 .310 66.7 % 5.55 5.24 0.0
Total 953.0 7.5 3.3 1.2 .305 70.9 % 4.44 4.34 10.5
The White Sox rotation is somewhat like the Mariners, just without the same flashy prospects. Sale and Quintana are excellent, with Sale being especially excellent, and they are projected to produce about 70% of the rotation’s total value. The drop-off from #2 to #3 is very steep, however, and unless Don Cooper has figured out how to keep Felipe Paulino’s arm in good working order, there isn’t a lot of upside here.

Erik Johnson put up some flashy numbers in the minors last year, and has generated some excitement based on his and his Triple-A results, but the forecasts are very skeptical about his ability to be a quality big league starter in the short term. In a short stint in the big leagues last year, he didn’t show the same ability to get strikeouts as he had in the minors, and he showed nothing against left-handed hitters to suggest that he can work through a line-up stacked with them on a regular basis. There’s certainly potential for growth, but for 2014, he probably shouldn’t be counted on as an impact guy.

Their best hope to outperform this projection is probably from getting a resurgent Danks to look more like the pitcher he was before his shoulder gave out, and that’s a dicey proposition. His peripherals were actually okay last year, as it was primarily home runs that drove down his value, and some positive regression on the home run rate could make him a decent back-end starter. But shoulder surgery returnees have a terrible track record, and even if Danks does defy the odds, he’s probably mid-season trade bait.

#17 Reds
Johnny Cueto 168.0 7.0 2.4 0.8 .295 73.7 % 3.46 3.66 2.1
Homer Bailey 202.0 7.8 2.3 1.1 .297 73.2 % 3.67 3.70 2.6
Mike Leake 171.0 6.0 2.2 1.1 .297 71.2 % 4.10 4.17 1.2
Tony Cingrani 157.0 10.2 3.8 1.1 .291 77.8 % 3.43 3.80 2.0
Alfredo Simon 38.0 6.9 2.9 1.0 .295 72.8 % 3.87 4.14 0.3
Brett Marshall 38.0 6.7 4.4 1.6 .297 69.7 % 5.34 5.46 -0.3
Jeff Francis 19.0 6.4 2.3 1.2 .300 70.1 % 4.36 4.31 0.1
David Holmberg 9.0 5.9 3.5 1.4 .295 69.9 % 4.91 5.05 0.0
Mat Latos 158.0 8.0 2.5 1.0 .296 73.9 % 3.55 3.59 2.3
Total 960.0 7.6 2.7 1.1 .295 73.5 % 3.75 3.89 10.2
With perfect health, this is probably a top 10 rotation, as there are really no obvious weak spots one through five. Latos, Cueto, and Bailey are a pretty nifty top three, and nobody has yet figured out how to hit Tony Cingrani’s singular pitch. If you give each of these guys 30+ starts, and Mike Leake takes the hill every fifth day to throw strikes, the Reds rotation is a strong one, and they are legitimate playoff contenders.

The problem is that this is not a collection of guys you can write in for 30 starts apiece, and there is basically nothing after the starting five that a contender should want to roll out on a regular basis. Because of the recurring injury problems that Cueto and Latos especially have battled throughout their careers, too many innings are likely to be handed to replacement level fill-ins, dragging down the rotation’s overall performance. And without a true dominating #1 at the top, weaknesses at the back end can turn what should be a good rotation into an average one pretty fast.

#18 Blue Jays
Mark Buehrle 205.0 5.7 2.2 1.2 .303 70.6 % 4.40 4.39 1.9
R.A. Dickey 183.0 7.1 2.6 1.3 .294 72.7 % 4.09 4.26 2.3
Brandon Morrow 161.0 8.7 3.3 1.2 .307 72.8 % 4.14 4.04 2.2
Drew Hutchison 159.0 7.5 3.4 1.2 .306 70.7 % 4.49 4.38 1.5
Dustin McGowan 75.0 8.9 4.1 1.0 .307 73.8 % 3.99 4.07 0.9
J.A. Happ 66.0 7.7 3.9 1.3 .304 71.4 % 4.62 4.54 0.7
Esmil Rogers 47.0 6.8 3.3 1.2 .311 69.1 % 4.81 4.53 0.3
Todd Redmond 20.0 7.3 3.0 1.7 .303 71.2 % 4.97 5.04 0.1
Marcus Stroman 19.0 8.4 2.6 1.4 .306 71.6 % 4.32 4.16 0.2
Ricky Romero 9.0 6.0 4.9 1.2 .305 68.5 % 5.36 5.25 0.0
Total 944.0 7.3 3.0 1.2 .303 71.6 % 4.33 4.31 10.1
I’m not sure there’s a higher variance rotation anywhere in baseball. For nearly every pitcher on this team, you could make a somewhat compelling case for almost any outcome. Mark Buehrle has a long track record of consistently outperforming his peripherals, and his peripherals aren’t terrible; he’s also a 35 year old with an 84 mph fastball in Toronto. R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young two years ago, but he was basically an average pitcher last year and turned 39 at the end of last year. Brandon Morrow is a longtime enigma. Drew Hutchison is a rookie working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Dustin McGowan’s arm is held together with scotch tape; not even the good kind, the cheap generic version you get at the dollar store.

So, yeah, maybe the Blue Jays rotation will be average. Or maybe it will be amazing. Or maybe it will be terrible. I have no idea. This feels like an optimistic forecast, but then again, these guys all have talent and some track record of success. It wouldn’t be that weird if Dickey’s knuckler went back to being incredible, Buehrle outperformed his FIP, and a couple of top prospects finally were healthy enough to show why they were top prospects. It also just wouldn’t be that weird if soft-tossing senior citizens got lit up and broken pitchers stayed broken. This rotation is basically just one big bag of who the hell knows.

#19 Royals
James Shields 214.0 7.9 2.5 0.9 .306 73.1 % 3.66 3.60 3.9
Jason Vargas 191.0 5.8 2.5 1.4 .289 71.0 % 4.52 4.71 1.2
Jeremy Guthrie 171.0 5.0 2.6 1.2 .301 70.1 % 4.65 4.73 1.0
Bruce Chen 157.0 6.1 2.8 1.4 .293 73.0 % 4.36 4.69 1.3
Yordano Ventura 138.0 7.8 3.8 0.9 .304 72.0 % 4.14 4.14 1.6
Danny Duffy 57.0 8.7 4.2 1.0 .303 74.4 % 3.87 4.02 0.7
Kyle Zimmer 28.0 8.2 3.8 1.2 .302 71.4 % 4.40 4.36 0.3
Wade Davis 9.0 7.7 3.1 1.0 .312 73.2 % 3.98 3.96 0.1
John Lamb 9.0 4.8 3.1 1.4 .309 67.6 % 5.43 5.24 0.0
Total 977.0 6.7 2.9 1.2 .299 72.0 % 4.24 4.33 10.0
The projections are relatively high on the young Royals arms, giving solid forecasts to not only Yordano Ventura, but also to Danny Duffy. Duffy, in fact, is forecast to be the team’s second best starting pitcher, or, he would be if he hadn’t been optioned to Triple-A the other day. Still, as a #6 starter with some upside, most teams are expected to do a lot worse, and Duffy’s positive projections have to be taken as a good sign for the organization’s future.

It’s just that the #2-#4 spots are something of a real problem. Between Vargas, Chen, and Guthrie, the Royals have invested a sizable portion of their moderate payroll on veterans to stabilize the rotation, only the forecasts think that they’re basically just all in the way of better hurlers. Yes, they all have some history of posting better ERAs than FIPs, so the WAR forecasts here probably underrate them each a little bit, but even going by ERA, this isn’t exactly a stellar group for a team that has its eyes on a playoff berth. There’s nothing wrong with having a guy like Vargas, Chen, or Guthrie around, but three of them seems a bit like overkill, especially since Duffy will now have to wait for one of them to get injured in order to make the rotation better.

#20 Angels
Jered Weaver 207.0 7.1 2.3 1.2 .287 75.0 % 3.68 4.02 2.7
C.J. Wilson 203.0 7.9 3.5 0.8 .305 72.1 % 3.85 3.73 2.6
Garrett Richards 171.0 6.1 3.4 0.9 .307 68.8 % 4.47 4.18 1.3
Tyler Skaggs 149.0 7.8 3.6 1.0 .300 72.9 % 3.97 4.06 1.7
Hector Santiago 113.0 8.2 3.9 1.0 .296 74.5 % 3.87 4.25 1.1
Joe Blanton 47.0 6.9 1.9 1.3 .314 68.8 % 4.54 4.11 0.4
Jose Alvarez 47.0 5.7 2.8 1.4 .307 68.2 % 5.12 4.95 0.0
Matt Shoemaker 20.0 5.6 2.2 1.3 .308 68.7 % 4.73 4.53 0.1
Michael Roth 19.0 6.3 4.3 1.2 .308 68.7 % 5.09 4.95 0.0
Total 976.0 7.2 3.2 1.0 .301 71.9 % 4.08 4.10 9.7
Over the winter, the Angels identified their rotation as a primary area of concern, and shipped out one dimensional slugger Mark Trumbo in order to acquire a pair of young arms to improve the organization’s present and future supply of hurlers. The team clearly felt that they really needed to dramatically improve the starting pitching in order to live up to expectations and make a run in the competitive AL West.

Good news: the rotation is projected to be better than last year. Bad news? The forecast calls for a minimal +1 WAR improvement, going from 2013′s +8.7 to 2014′s +9.7, and they creep up only from 23rd to 20th after the big off-season trade. With Jared Weaver around, it’s easy to argue that WAR underrates the Angels staff, but then again, Weaver threw 150 innings with an ERA significantly lower than his FIP last year too, so I don’t know how much improvement the Angels can realistically expect at the top of the rotation. Basically, the Angels are betting that the forecasts and Santiago’s peripherals are both wrong, and he’s more of a good starter instead of an overmatched swingman.

There is actual, unqualified good news though: Even with a mediocre rotation, our forecasts still have the Angels as the slight favorite in the AL West. Their offense is just that good.

#21 Cubs
Jeff Samardzija 207.0 8.7 3.0 0.9 .303 72.7 % 3.70 3.55 3.3
Travis Wood 184.0 6.8 3.1 1.2 .288 73.6 % 4.10 4.49 1.3
Edwin Jackson 163.0 7.1 2.8 0.9 .310 70.6 % 4.11 3.80 1.9
Jason Hammel 149.0 6.9 3.2 1.0 .300 71.4 % 4.12 4.10 1.6
Carlos Villanueva 150.0 7.5 3.0 1.1 .294 72.9 % 3.99 4.09 1.3
Chris Rusin 48.0 5.0 3.0 1.1 .300 68.7 % 4.70 4.68 0.1
James McDonald 20.0 7.5 4.3 1.3 .298 71.3 % 4.71 4.75 0.0
Jake Arrieta 20.0 7.6 4.2 1.0 .298 70.6 % 4.44 4.41 0.1
Casey Coleman 19.0 6.3 4.0 1.2 .301 69.7 % 4.85 4.82 0.0
Arodys Vizcaino 9.0 7.9 3.6 1.1 .307 72.8 % 4.14 4.15 0.1
Total 968.0 7.3 3.1 1.0 .299 72.0 % 4.07 4.07 9.7
The Cubs first half rotation is unlikely to look much like it’s second half rotation, so realistically, this is just the group that gets Chicago to the trade deadline; the Cubs actual rotation on the season will probably be a bit worse than this. Samardzija is widely expected to be traded at some point this year, and Hammel could easily be this year’s Scott Feldman, a short-term rehab project who gets flipped for value in July.

But, until those trades occur, the Cubs feature five somewhat effective starting pitchers. Samardzija is the only impact guy, but #2-#5 aren’t complete black holes, and the rotation should likely be the strength of the Cubs roster. Wood won’t repeat his 2013 season, in all likelihood, but he’s likely underrated by his WAR forecast — note the 39 point gap between his ERA and FIP in the table above — while Jackson, Hammel, and Villanueva aren’t far off league average. Since the Cubs are almost certain to be sellers at the deadline, they could very well be the team driving the pitching market this summer, and potentially could end up trading most of the guys listed above before the year is out.

#22 Pirates
Francisco Liriano 197.0 8.6 3.5 0.6 .300 72.8 % 3.42 3.27 3.0
Gerrit Cole 183.0 7.5 3.0 0.7 .303 72.0 % 3.69 3.58 2.1
Charlie Morton 166.0 5.9 3.1 0.6 .309 69.8 % 4.01 3.92 1.2
Wandy Rodriguez 152.0 6.3 2.5 0.9 .295 71.7 % 3.82 3.85 1.5
Edinson Volquez 115.0 7.0 3.9 0.9 .308 68.7 % 4.52 4.13 0.6
Jeff Locke 55.0 6.9 4.0 0.8 .301 71.2 % 4.14 4.14 0.3
***** Worley 28.0 5.9 3.0 1.1 .320 68.1 % 4.93 4.46 0.1
Brandon Cumpton 19.0 5.6 3.1 0.8 .301 69.4 % 4.29 4.24 0.1
Jeanmar Gomez 19.0 5.8 2.9 0.8 .297 70.5 % 3.94 3.95 0.1
Phil Irwin 10.0 5.8 2.4 1.0 .305 68.8 % 4.36 4.19 0.1
Jameson Taillon 9.0 7.0 3.2 0.9 .302 71.3 % 3.99 3.94 0.1
Total 952.0 7.0 3.2 0.8 .303 71.0 % 3.90 3.77 9.0
The 2014 Pirates will be a good test of whether last year’s breakthrough was the result of good pitchers having great years, or whether the organizational context made the arms look better than they were through aggressive shifting and defensive contributions. Replacing A.J. Burnett with Edinson Volquez is a significant gamble, but the Pirates have to be encouraged by their success with rehab projects of late; if they turn Volquez into a quality starter, then we’ll have to shift a good portion of the credit for the 2013 success from Burnett and Liriano to the organization as a whole.

But they’re still going to need Liriano to be excellent again, because the loss of Burnett and Jameson Taillon’s elbow concerns mean that there simply isn’t a depth of top-end arms anymore. If Liriano breaks down, the rotation gets very thin very quickly, especially if Taillon’s current elbow pain is a precursor to something more significant. Gerrit Cole could easily outperform the projection above and become the team’s #1 starter, but the back-end is a pretty big bet on a bunch of question marks, and Liriano isn’t exactly a sure thing himself. I’d take the over on this group’s performance, since ZIPS and Steamer don’t know about the Pirates shifting practices, but there’s some real risk of implosion here as well.

#23 Braves
Julio Teheran 196.0 7.8 2.6 1.0 .299 74.7 % 3.60 3.84 2.2
Alex Wood 179.0 8.2 3.1 0.7 .305 73.6 % 3.39 3.36 2.8
Ervin Santana 189.0 7.3 2.6 1.1 .301 71.4 % 4.11 4.05 1.4
David Hale 94.0 6.1 3.9 1.1 .304 69.8 % 4.74 4.72 -0.1
Aaron Harang 65.0 6.5 3.2 1.4 .306 69.9 % 4.91 4.75 -0.1
Mike Minor 135.0 8.0 2.4 1.1 .295 75.3 % 3.55 3.72 1.6
Gavin Floyd 84.0 7.5 2.7 0.9 .299 72.2 % 3.75 3.76 1.1
Gus Schlosser 10.0 5.8 3.3 1.2 .304 68.6 % 4.81 4.63 0.0
J.R. Graham 9.0 6.2 3.1 0.9 .302 70.2 % 4.17 4.10 0.1
Total 960.0 7.5 2.9 1.0 .301 72.7 % 3.89 3.92 9.0
Behold the power of injuries. This isn’t just about the loss of Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, but also the reduced innings forecast for Mike Minor as well, who will start the year on the DL after off-season issues with his shoulder. If Minor beats the 135 inning projection here, things get a lot better in a hurry, as all of the replacement innings are being forecast at replacement level. The more Minor and Gavin Floyd pitch, the less the team needs to rely on David Hale and Aaron Harang, and simply shifting innings back to quality hurlers would make the Braves rotation just fine. But Minor and Floyd are question marks, and the reality is that any further injuries to the remaining starters will continue to force low quality arms into the rotation.

But, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a chance for the Braves to blow these projections away. Santana’s value is underrated by this forecast because of the timing of when he signed; the ZIPS projection was a league neutral forecast, and that hasn’t been revised into an NL setting yet, so his revised Atlanta projection would push him up closer to league average. Teheran and Wood both have the talent to be +3 WAR pitchers, and Minor/Floyd would make for a solid five if everyone gets healthy and pitches well at the same time. But that’s a lot of ifs, and the fact that the Braves have already dealt with injuries doesn’t exclude them from dealing with more as the season goes on. I’ll take the over on this projection too, but like with Pittsburgh, there’s a lot of risk here.

#24 Diamondbacks
Wade Miley 198.0 6.6 2.6 0.9 .303 71.3 % 3.94 3.84 2.3
Trevor Cahill 197.0 6.6 3.5 0.8 .301 70.6 % 4.07 4.03 1.9
Bronson Arroyo 168.0 5.3 1.7 1.3 .295 70.9 % 4.32 4.43 1.0
Brandon McCarthy 164.0 5.7 1.7 1.0 .306 69.4 % 4.11 3.85 2.0
Randall Delgado 92.0 6.8 3.4 1.3 .297 70.8 % 4.59 4.64 0.4
Archie Bradley 94.0 7.5 4.7 0.9 .300 70.8 % 4.46 4.45 0.5
Zeke Spruill 29.0 4.9 3.5 1.2 .301 68.7 % 5.01 5.00 0.1
Bo Schultz 19.0 5.4 3.9 1.1 .300 69.2 % 4.91 4.92 0.0
Total 959.0 6.3 2.8 1.0 .301 70.5 % 4.22 4.18 8.2
The loss of Pat Corbin hurts a lot, and exposes why the D’Backs spent so much time this winter shopping for an ace. Without Corbin at the front of the rotation, this group is pretty similar to the Brewers, with a lot of good-not-great starters at the top end and some real questions at the back end.

The D’Backs appear to be hoping that top prospect Archie Bradley can be the answer to some of those questions, even though he’s not part of the Opening Day roster. However, for all the stuff and the strikeouts that he managed in the minors last year, the projections simply don’t see a big league impact hurler for 2014. The questions about his command are legitimate, and he simply wasn’t as effective in Double-A as his 1.97 ERA might suggest. The forecasts here suggest that the prospect community may be overrating Bradley’s near term impact, or at least, that his upside isn’t as close to being realized as you might expect from a pitching prospect often rated as the best in the game.

#25 Brewers
Yovani Gallardo 193.0 8.0 3.1 1.0 .306 71.7 % 4.04 3.83 2.0
Kyle Lohse 199.0 6.0 1.9 1.3 .297 71.9 % 4.20 4.29 1.4
Matt Garza 183.0 8.4 2.6 1.1 .305 73.0 % 3.84 3.73 2.2
Wily Peralta 150.0 7.1 4.1 0.9 .307 70.1 % 4.50 4.33 0.7
Marco Estrada 141.0 8.2 2.4 1.3 .297 73.6 % 3.92 3.93 1.6
Tyler Thornburg 28.0 7.8 3.9 1.3 .302 71.9 % 4.54 4.63 0.1
Mike Fiers 19.0 7.8 3.0 1.4 .301 72.1 % 4.39 4.40 0.1
Johnny Hellweg 19.0 6.1 7.1 1.0 .308 67.9 % 5.94 5.86 -0.2
Will Smith 19.0 8.4 2.7 1.1 .306 73.2 % 3.81 3.76 0.2
Jimmy Nelson 19.0 7.6 4.9 1.1 .304 71.0 % 4.67 4.69 0.0
Total 970.0 7.5 2.9 1.1 .303 71.8 % 4.15 4.09 8.2
The Brewers rotation is a bit like the Reds rotation, in that there is a lot of balance from #1-#5, with no huge difference between the team’s best and worst starters. Unfortunately, that lack of separation comes from the fact that none of them are really all that great, with the front of the rotation consisting mostly of pitchers that you’d rather have in the middle or back-end on a true contender. Gallardo, Loshe, and Garza have their strengths, but as a front three on a team that isn’t going to play great defense… well, the Brewers probably aren’t going to lead the league in run prevention.

Especially if anyone gets hurt. As we saw last year, the Brewers don’t have much in the way of upper level pitching depth, and injury fill-ins are unlikely to provide much value. It’s possible that Jonathan LuCroy could frame this rotation into being better than the sum of their parts, but on the other hand, the Brewers have had LuCroy for several years now and their pitching has been mostly lousy in spite of his presence. A lack of high-end starters at the front or depth at the back make this a rotation with a lot of downside.

#26 Padres
Andrew Cashner 198.0 7.2 2.6 0.7 .296 71.5 % 3.57 3.50 2.2
Ian Kennedy 203.0 8.0 2.8 1.1 .297 74.2 % 3.75 3.94 1.6
Tyson Ross 168.0 7.4 3.7 0.7 .302 70.8 % 3.96 3.85 1.1
Eric Stults 168.0 5.8 2.3 1.0 .299 71.0 % 4.06 4.01 1.2
Robbie Erlin 67.0 6.9 3.1 1.1 .300 71.3 % 4.24 4.22 0.3
Matthew Wisler 28.0 7.2 3.2 1.0 .302 70.6 % 4.17 4.07 0.1
Burch Smith 19.0 8.9 2.9 1.1 .300 74.9 % 3.62 3.71 0.2
Joe Wieland 10.0 7.8 2.7 1.1 .298 71.7 % 3.97 3.85 0.1
Jesse Hahn 9.0 5.4 3.4 1.1 .296 69.5 % 4.63 4.64 0.0
Josh Johnson 104.0 8.2 2.9 0.8 .308 71.9 % 3.76 3.51 1.3
Total 975.0 7.3 2.9 0.9 .299 71.8 % 3.86 3.82 8.0
If Josh Johnson is healthy and gives the Padres a full season of performance at his previous levels, this rotation could actually be pretty interesting. And if the Padres could trade Cameron Maybin for Andrew McCutchen, their center field situation would suddenly be amazing. That might actually be more likely than the team getting a full healthy year out of Johnson, especially now that he’s set to miss the first month of the season with arm problems.

But, jokes aside, there are some reasons for hope here. Burch Smith walked the world in his debut last year, but the forecasts buy into his minor league track record and think he’s got a chance to be pretty solid this year. Cashner, Kennedy, and Ross have all shown flashes of upside at times, and it’s not too hard to see a couple of them doing better than the projections listed here. Eric Stults is unoffensively decent enough. And when Johnson is in the rotation, their starting five might actually look pretty good, especially if Smith comes up and proves the projections right. But, as is the theme at this part of the list, it takes a lot of things working right to get to that scenario, and things hardly ever work out exactly as hoped when it comes to pitching. More likely is that Johnson spends good chunks of the season injured and Smith has to replace either Cashner or Ross at some point, giving the team a few interesting arms but never a rotation full of guys living up to their potential.

#27 Marlins
Jose Fernandez 196.0 9.7 3.2 0.6 .297 75.7 % 2.94 2.97 4.1
Jacob Turner 172.0 5.9 3.7 1.0 .302 69.3 % 4.63 4.50 0.4
Nathan Eovaldi 171.0 6.6 3.6 0.9 .306 70.8 % 4.23 4.09 1.3
Henderson Alvarez 159.0 5.1 2.4 0.7 .302 69.5 % 3.99 3.89 1.6
Tom Koehler 141.0 6.4 4.1 1.0 .305 69.8 % 4.69 4.56 0.3
Brian Flynn 27.0 6.4 3.6 0.9 .307 70.1 % 4.38 4.23 0.2
Brad Hand 28.0 7.7 4.9 1.1 .300 72.8 % 4.43 4.61 0.1
Angel Sanchez 28.0 6.3 4.6 1.2 .307 68.2 % 5.35 5.14 -0.1
Kevin Slowey 28.0 6.6 1.9 1.2 .309 71.4 % 4.17 4.09 0.2
Total 951.0 6.9 3.4 0.9 .303 71.0 % 4.11 4.02 8.0
The Marlins rotation throws very hard. There’s actually some growing optimism about their talent level due to the spring training velocities that have been recorded on a daily basis, and it’s not too hard to get excited about Jose Fernandez. But after their ace, the velocities and the performances stop lining up so neatly. Henderson Alvarez still doesn’t miss any bats, and I’m pretty sure we can expect serious regression in his 2.6% HR/FB rate from 2013. Tom Koehler and Nathan Eovaldi have yet to turn their stuff into strikeouts either, and while the power arms are intriguing, the forecasts think both project below average starters for 2014.

The unheralded Brian Flynn is pretty interesting, and if top prospect Andrew Heaney joins the rotation at some point, there absolutely is upside here, but it’s more of a long term hope than a 2014 reality. The Marlins have something very special in Fernandez, but the rest of the group is more flash than reality at this point. Maybe Alvarez becomes Ivan Nova and learns how to miss bats, but until he does, the drop-off from Fernandez to the rest is going to remain quite steep.

#28 Twins
Ricky Nolasco 200.0 6.5 2.1 1.1 .316 68.7 % 4.42 3.97 2.5
Kevin Correia 194.0 4.9 2.5 1.3 .314 67.2 % 5.11 4.67 0.8
Phil Hughes 160.0 7.3 2.5 1.3 .312 71.2 % 4.50 4.31 1.5
Mike Pelfrey 157.0 5.7 2.9 1.1 .318 67.6 % 4.93 4.44 1.4
Kyle Gibson 134.0 6.1 3.5 1.1 .317 67.7 % 5.04 4.61 0.7
Samuel Deduno 47.0 6.3 4.6 0.8 .310 68.5 % 4.86 4.61 0.2
Scott Diamond 47.0 4.7 2.1 1.1 .315 67.5 % 4.77 4.35 0.4
Trevor May 20.0 7.6 4.6 1.2 .313 69.0 % 5.12 4.79 0.1
Total 959.0 6.1 2.7 1.2 .315 68.4 % 4.80 4.40 7.6
It will be better than last year. It can’t be worse, really. The additions of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes will help bring some legitimacy to the team’s pitching staff, though they aren’t exactly rotation saviors themselves. Quite simply, the Twins are going to have to be patient and wait for guys like Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer, and the rest of the arms on the farm before they have a rotation that can compete in the AL Central again.

This is, essentially, a rotation of place holders. Correia and Pelfrey are obviously just eating up innings while the team rebuilds, but even Nolasco and Hughes fit that bill to some extent; the team is transitioning to a new wave of young talent, but those guys aren’t ready yet, so the Twins needed some arms to step in and keep a Major League product on the field while they wait. It’s not a terrible plan, but it’s also not a rotation with much upside. At least, not right now.

#29 Mets
Bartolo Colon 203.0 6.2 1.6 1.0 .306 71.9 % 3.78 3.63 2.2
Zack Wheeler 171.0 8.2 3.8 0.9 .302 72.4 % 3.98 3.98 1.4
Dillon Gee 160.0 6.6 2.5 1.1 .301 70.7 % 4.20 4.15 0.7
Daisuke Matsuzaka 76.0 7.0 4.1 1.3 .299 70.1 % 4.89 4.93 -0.2
Jenrry Mejia 94.0 6.9 3.3 0.8 .308 70.8 % 4.15 3.94 0.6
Carlos Torres 47.0 7.4 2.9 1.1 .298 72.0 % 4.03 4.09 0.2
John Lannan 19.0 5.0 3.6 0.9 .305 68.1 % 4.80 4.63 0.0
Rafael Montero 46.0 7.9 2.1 0.9 .301 73.8 % 3.40 3.40 0.6
Jon Niese 123.0 6.9 2.7 0.8 .305 71.4 % 3.86 3.72 1.1
Noah Syndergaard 20.0 8.7 3.1 0.9 .305 73.3 % 3.72 3.65 0.2
Total 959.0 7.0 2.8 1.0 .303 71.5 % 4.03 3.95 6.9
If the Mets were contenders and made their rotation decision based solely on 2014 expected performance without regard to long term development or service time interests, they might actually have a pretty solid starting five. Noah Syndergaard is projected as a league average starting pitcher right now, and the projections think Rafael Montero is actually their best MLB ready pitching prospect, not Syndergaard. Jenrry Mejia is a solid arm and a huge upgrade over Daisuke Matazuaka. Toss any two of those three in with Colon, Niese, and Wheeler and the Mets would have a staff that is both not terrible and pretty interesting.

But the Mets aren’t contenders, and they should be making rotation decisions based on long term expectations, not trying to maximize their 2014 win potential. So Syndergaard goes to the minors, and Mejia might join him. Dice-K gets to stick around, at least for now, and punish the world with death-through-pausing approach to pitching. What the Mets rotation is and what it could be are two very different things. Maybe just don’t want the games when Matsuzaka pitches, and buy an subscription to watch Syndergaard instead. He’ll be in Queens soon enough.

#30 Astros
Scott Feldman 178.0 6.6 2.7 1.1 .306 69.4 % 4.47 4.21 1.7
Jarred Cosart 155.0 6.6 4.8 0.9 .305 69.8 % 4.74 4.59 0.7
Brett Oberholtzer 113.0 6.4 2.9 1.5 .304 69.4 % 5.02 4.92 0.3
Jerome Williams 112.0 6.1 2.8 1.2 .310 67.9 % 4.91 4.55 0.7
Brad Peacock 112.0 8.0 4.0 1.4 .307 70.0 % 4.99 4.82 0.4
Dallas Keuchel 56.0 6.0 3.0 1.0 .314 68.0 % 4.67 4.22 0.5
Lucas Harrell 56.0 6.0 4.1 1.0 .310 67.9 % 4.96 4.59 0.3
Paul Clemens 47.0 6.0 3.5 1.6 .308 68.2 % 5.53 5.31 -0.1
Alex White 48.0 6.4 4.0 1.2 .310 68.5 % 5.14 4.88 0.1
Asher Wojciechowski 28.0 6.1 3.4 1.3 .310 68.3 % 5.10 4.83 0.1
Mark Appel 28.0 4.8 3.3 1.5 .304 67.0 % 5.55 5.32 -0.1
Anthony Bass 19.0 6.3 3.3 1.2 .311 68.7 % 4.95 4.62 0.1
Total 952.0 6.5 3.5 1.2 .308 69.0 % 4.88 4.64 4.8
And then there’s this. The Astros have a plan in place, and it’s a pretty good; they’re loading up on impact prospects and high draft choices, with a wave of talent coming that will make the Astros pretty interesting in the not too distant future. But that future is not here, and it’s not even all that close yet. So you get Scott Feldman, staff ace. I like Scott Feldman, but when he’s not only your ace but projects for as much value as your #2-#4 starters put together, well, that’s not great.

Of course, this entire rotation is fluid, and guys will move in and out based on their performance, as the Astros season continues to be one giant experiment in throwing things at a wall until they find enough pieces that stick. Eventually, it won’t be like this. Now, though, this is what they have, and this is what they’ll take to the hill. It’s not going to be pretty. It will get better in Houston, but not this year.
post #20399 of 73663
I hate that I can't see spoilers at work. Makes me feel like I have homework when I get off. laugh.gif

Homework that I enjoy though. pimp.gif
post #20400 of 73663
Going to the Giants/A's tonight in SF! Couldn't pass up $12 lower level pimp.gif
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