In his submission to Top of the Order, a collection of 25 tributes to 25 writers’ favorite players, former Salon and current Bleacher Report sporting columnist King Kaufman (@king_kaufman) celebrates the contributions of Neifi Perez to his (i.e. Kaufman’s) enjoyment of this great and honored game.
Kaufman notes that, while he’s certainly been critical of Perez in the past — in fact, inventing a metric, the Neifi Index, which measures a player’s ability to contribute to his team’s success by expressly not playing — it’s ultimately Perez who helped him realize how good even the worst Major Leaguer is.
The worst player in the major leagues is a hell of a ballplayer.
The worst player in the history of the major leagues, whoever he was, was a hell of a ballplayer.
Neifi Perez was a hell of a ballplayer.
It’s only in the context of the major leagues that the guy with the lifetime OPS of .672 is oh-my-gosh-is-he-playing-again awful.
You see this if you ever watch big-league pitchers, who struggle to hit .100, take batting practice. They drill line drives all over the place. They’re the guys in your muni softball league who hit balls over the houses across the street from the park and everyone says, “He must have played pro ball.”
It’s likely the case that Neifi Perez was/is what we’d call a Quad-A player — one whose skills make him a pretty excellent talent among the affiliated ranks (he twice appeared on BA’s top-100 prospect list) but also the sort of guy who posts a -1.5 WAR in 1403 major-league games.
Of course, not all players of Perez’s abilities (or lack thereof) are able to exercise the sort of psychic control that Perez exercised over Jim Leyland and Felipe Alou and Dusty Baker and then, uh, Jim Leyland again.
Below is a roster of hitters (pitchers will follow in another post) who are better at baseball than basically everybody else in the world. Note that I’ve weighted minor-league longevity rather heavily, so not all these players were necessarily excellent in 2010; however, they’ve all proven to be talented over a pretty substantial period of time.
C: Max St. Pierre, 31
2010 Organization: Detroit
Career MiLB Line: .251/.319/.361
Career Games (MiLB/MLB): 978 / 6
Comment: The career line isn’t fantastic, but did bat .300/.356/.469 in Triple-A Toledo last year with a not-crazy BABIP. Corky Miller would be the other choice here, probably.
1B: John Lindsey, 34
2010 Organization: Los Angeles (NL)
Career MiLB Line: .284/.361/.478
Career Games (MiLB/MLB): 1571 / 11
Comment: Amazingly, spent five seasons (387 games) at High-A. Posted video-game-y .353/.400/.657 in hitter-friendly Albuquerque last season. Might actually not be much worse than James Loney, now that you mention it.
2B: Bobby Scales, 33
2010 Organization: Chicago (NL)
Career MiLB Line: .283/.378/.428
Career Games (MiLB/MLB): 1202 / 61
Comment: Has a .381 OBP in Triple-A. His 2010 zMLE was this: .247/.354/.398. Became beloved contributor to Cubs for like a month in 2009.
3B: Andy Tracy, 37
2010 Organization: Philadelphia
Career MiLB Line: .267/.363/.494
Career Games (MiLB/MLB): 1505 / 149
Comment: Calling Tracy a third baseman might represent wishful thinking. But pretty much anything would’ve been better last year, I think, than replacing Placido Polanco with Wilson Valdez.
SS: Luis Figueroa, 37
2010 Organization: Los Angeles (AL), then Toronto
Career MiLB Line: .282/.341/.366
Career Games (MiLB/MLB): 1507 / 18
Comment: The reason Luis Rodriguez isn’t here is because Luis Rodriguez is a legit major leaguer. Other note: Figueroa is the cousin of Jose Hernandez — or so the Germans Baseball Reference would have us believe.
LF: Chris Richard, 37
2010 Organization: Tampa Bay
Career MiLB Line: .282/.372/.493
Career Games (MiLB/MLB): 1257 / 280
Comment: Has played 280 major-league games, as you can see, but only 13 since 2003. Has actually posted a 1.5 WAR in just over 1000 major-league PAs.
CF: Jorge Padilla, 31
2010 Organization: Toronto, then New York (NL)
Career MiLB Line: .291/.358/.415
Career Games (MiLB/MLB): 1263 / 29
Comment: Don’t actually know that he’s a great center fielder, but played more games there than any other position last year.
RF: Val Pascucci, 32
2010 Organization: New York (NL)
Career MiLB Line: .274/.394/.493
Career Games (MiLB/MLB): 1196 / 32
Comment: Also spent 2006 with Chiba Lotte Marines of Japanese league. Surname in Italian translates to “Giant Hirsute Destroyer.”
DH: Mitch Jones, 33
2010 Organization: Atlanta, then Pittsburgh
Career MiLB Line: .251/.333/.500
Career Games (MiLB/MLB): 1226 / 8
Comment: Just looking at Jones’ stat line — which features 255 HRs and 1297 Ks in 5030 minor-league ABs — my guess is that Jones is a fun player to watch and probably has some pretty excellent power-on-contact skills.