As we prepare for the start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, the key to success for most teams will be whether their premium players can live up to their high profile and then who will emerge as breakout players in 2015.
ESPN recently ranked their top 100 players across Major league Baseball and as always, there are some definite head-scratchers amongst their picks. They seem to have certain players that they regularly move to the top of their list while others who have registered similar statistics and are just as crucial to their teams are for some reason downgraded.
Below is a look at five players that I believe are rated too high and five others who should be ranked higher.
Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels – ESPN Rating: Number 1
Now don’t get me wrong, Mike Trout is a great player, but it makes absolutely no sense that he is ranked as the number one player in baseball by ESPN and Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles (more on him later) doesn’t crack the top 25. If Trout were truly the best player in baseball, then he would be among the best in the league when his team needed him the most. Yet, in 2014, Trout batted right at the Mendoza line (.200) with runners in scoring position and two outs. He did not have a home run and drove home 15 runs. Conversely, Jones, who is also a much better defensive player, hit .319 with 2 home runs and 22 RBI in the same situation. Others in the top 25, including Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Cabrera and Josh Donaldson were also significantly better than Trout in those tough situations.
Chris Sale – Chicago White Sox – ESPN Rating: 7
Good left-handed pitchers are certainly valuable, but Chris Sale made 26 starts in 2014 and hasn’t started more than 30 games in any of his three seasons as a starter for the White Sox. He certainly deserves to be in the top 25, but is he really more important to his team than Jose Abreu (ranked 12th overall), who played in 145 games last season and hit .317 with 36 home runs and 107 RBIs? Illustrating my total disdain for how these ranking are compiled, Sale was ranked 18th a year ago after going 11-14 during the 2013 season.
Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks – ESPN Rating: 9
Okay, I really need someone to explain to me how someone like Paul Goldschmidt could go from hitting 36 home runs with 125 RBI in 2013 to 19 home runs and 69 RBI in 2014 and actually improve on the ESPN top 50 list from 16th to 9th. I know he was injured and played in only 109 games, but others on the list actually improved their numbers in 2014 without moving up significantly in the ratings. I also don’t understand why Goldschmidt is held in such high regard when he struck out 110 times in 109 games last season and in his career has struck out 438 times in 462 career games.
Carlos Gomez – Milwaukee Brewers – ESPN Rating: 27
There is no question that Gomez is a good player, but is he really better than fellow centerfielder Adam Jones (ranked 40th)? Both players are 29 years old and excellent defensive centerfielders, but offensively there is little comparison. In 2013 and 2014 Gomez had the two best seasons of his career with nearly identical numbers of .284 batting average, 23 HR in 2014 and 24 in 2013 and 73 RBI each seasons. He also struck out 146 times in 2014 and 141 in 2013. For his career, his batting average is .260 and he has an OBP of .314, Slugging Percentage of .420 and .734 OPS. Jones has hit 25 or more home runs in a season four times, including 33 in 2013 and 29 in 2014. He also has driven in at least 82 runs four times, including 108 in 2013 and 96 in 2014. In addition, Jones has hit .280 or better in each of the last five seasons and .270 or better for seven straight years and has a career batting average of .280, OBP of .320, .461 slugging percentage and .781 OPS. How ESPN can say Gomez is significantly better makes absolutely no sense.
Who is the Best Centerfielder in Baseball?
- Mike Trout (44%, 31 Votes)
- Andrew McCutchen (27%, 19 Votes)
- Adam Jones (19%, 13 Votes)
- Jacoby Ellsbury (7%, 5 Votes)
- Carlos Gomez (3%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 70
Bryce Harper – Washington Nationals – ESPN Rating: 34
The baseball PR machine has been desperately trying to push Harper to elite status since before he even played a game at the major league level. The one thing that has hampered their efforts is that while Harper has been pretty good for a young player, he hasn’t been great. His .270 average with 22 home runs and 59 RBI as a 19 year old in 2012 were good, but he has not improved over the last two seasons. Though injuries limited him to only 100 games in 2014, his numbers of 13 home runs, 32 RBI and .273 average were not worthy of a top 50 player. If Harper is healthy in 2015 and doesn’t dramatically improve his statistics maybe the baseball “experts” will finally concede that he isn’t as good as they want us to believe.
Adam Jones – Baltimore Orioles – ESPN Rating: 40
As you can surmise from my summaries of some of the overrated players, I firmly believe that Adam Jones is without question the most under-appreciated player in Major League Baseball. How “experts” can legitimately rank him as the 40th best player in baseball and the eighth best outfielder (4th best centerfielder) in baseball makes no sense to me. As illustrated earlier, Jones is better in the clutch than Mike Trout, has won four Gold Gloves, and over the last six years has averaged 26 home runs, 85 RBI and a .283 batting average. He has been a major reason that the Baltimore Orioles have gone from a decade of losing records to three straight winning records and two playoff appearances, yet over the last three years he has finished 6th, 13th and 14th respectively in the AL MVP voting.
Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers – ESPN Rating: 6
You might think it hard for someone ranked as the sixth best player to be underrated, but given that Cabrera has been without question the best hitter in baseball over the last decade, having him outside the top couple picks seems out of place. The one negative factor for Cabrera is that he is not a positive contributor in the field. However, given that he has hit .313 or better in nine of his 11 full seasons and blasted at least 25 home runs with more than 100 RBI for 11 straight years, he is still a valuable team member. In 2014 his numbers declined slightly from the previous seven seasons, but he still hit .313 with 25 home runs and 109 RBI. If others in the top 25 can move up without having better seasons than the year before, then I think Cabrera should have stayed near his previous ranking of number 2.
Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants – ESPN Rating: 10
Since recovering from his gruesome injury during the 2011 season, Buster Posey has been a key player on two World Series Champion teams and won an MVP Award. Given that he also plays the demanding position of catcher, it seems easy to justify that Posey is more important to the Giants than pitchers who take the mound only 25 times a season or first basemen who have offensive numbers below those of Posey. If Posey duplicates his 2014 numbers of .311 with 22 home runs and 89 RBI this season, he surely should move higher on the list.
Adrian Gonzalez – Los Angeles Dodgers – ESPN Rating: 49
I think the fact that Paul Goldschmidt is ranked 9th and Gonzalez, who in 2014 hit .276 with 27 home runs and 116 RBI is ranked 49th is all you need to know about the legitimacy of this “expert” ranking. Gonzalez has driven home 100 or more runs in seven of the last eight seasons and the one he did not he drove home 99 runs. He also has averaged 29 home runs and a .293 batting average during that time and is a crucial component of the Dodgers offense.
Nelson Cruz – Seattle Mariners – ESPN Ranking: 68
I think the primary reason that someone who hit 40 home runs and drove home 108 runs a year ago is ranked as low as Cruz is that he wasn’t previously included in the rankings. Of course, given that Cruz served a suspension for performance drugs in 2013, that he wasn’t on the list prior to the season can be understood. However, as one of the top power hitters in baseball in 2014, Cruz certainly should be ranked higher entering the 2015 season. If Cruz can have a season similar to what he posted for the Baltimore Orioles a year ago, the Seattle Mariners will be a legitimate contender for a playoff spot in 2015.