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MLB Trade Deadline Grades Part II

By Connor Pignatello

This is a continuation of a previous post, in which I graded trades that happened before the deadline. In this edition, I will grade trades that happened on deadline day itself.

OF Tommy Pham to the Rays for International Bonus Pool Money, SP Genesis Cabrera, RP Roel Ramirez and RF Justin Williams

Considering they are just one game over .500 and 20 games out of first place in a stacked AL East, no one expected the Rays to be buyers at the trade deadline. In fact, they even traded away two All-Stars, in pitcher Chris Archer and catcher Wilson Ramos. But, the Rays shocked the baseball world by trading for Tommy Pham, the Cardinals 2017 breakout star. In his breakout season last year, Pham batted .306, bashing 23 homers and stealing 25 bags — earning an eleventh place in the NL MVP voting. Pham’s wonderful combination of power and speed led him to a stellar 6.2 WAR — good for fourth among NL position players. However, this year, Pham has struggled to a 0.9 WAR, batting just .248 with 14 home runs and 10 stolen bases. However, Pham’s BABIP of .303 this year shows he has been incredibly unlucky, and a change of scenery to Tropicana Field may turn around his luck. If Pham is able to regain his 2017 form, the Rays just got a major steal, and if he isn’t able to repeat his 2017 season, the cost will not be too high as the Rays did not give up a top-ten prospect to get him. Pham is cheap and under team control for three more years, and this is a great low-risk, high-reward move by the cash-strapped Rays. Outfielder Justin Williams and SP Genesis Cabrera slot in as the Cardinals’ #9 and #14 prospects as St. Louis tries to build up a middling farm system.

Rays Grade: A

Cardinals Grade: B

OF Leonys Martin and SP Kyle Dowdy to the Indians for SS/2B Willi Castro

A deadline acquisition for the second year in a row, Leonys Martin is on his fourth team in the past two years. Solid at bat and in the field, Martin will surely help a Cleveland squad that has gotten awful production from its outfield. The Indians have used Michael Brantley, Brandon Guyer, Tyler Naquin, Rajai Davis, Bradley Zimmer, and Melky Cabrera in the outfield, but those six outfielders have combined for 1.0 WAR. Martin leads all AL outfielders in range factor per game and outfield assists — a sure upgrade over Brantley, Cabrera, and Guyer — who have all been negatives defensively. An above-average hitter, Willi Castro slides in at #10 in Detroit’s prospect rankings, a solid exchange for the tanking Tigers.

Indians Grade: A-

Tigers Grade: A-
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RP Brad Ziegler to the Diamondbacks for RP Tommy Eveld

The 38-year old sidearmer Ziegler returns to the desert — where he pitched from 2011 to 2016 — in hopes of igniting a postseason return for the Diamondbacks. In his six prior years with Arizona, Ziegler pitched in 348 games and notched a 2.49 ERA before being traded to the Red Sox in July of 2016. Ziegler has struggled this year en route to a 3.98 ERA and a 4.59 FIP, but has been lights-out in June and July, recording a 0.93 ERA. With additions like Ziegler, righthander Matt Andriese, and versatile infielder Eduardo Escobar, the Diamondbacks are making a real playoff push, trying to stave off both the Rockies and the Dodgers in the tight NL West. The tanking Marlins have no use for a 38-year old relief pitcher, but were not able to recoup a top-30 prospect in the deal.

Diamondbacks Grade: A-

Marlins Grade: B

C Wilson Ramos to the Phillies for a Player to be Named Later or Cash

Amidst the best offensive year of his career, Wilson Ramos is headed to Philadelphia to provide them with a veteran, middle-of-the-order bat to supplement their playoff push. Current Phils catcher Jorge Alfaro has been solid, slashing .288/.373/.500 over the past month. Ramos has been better though, batting .297 with 14 home runs in 78 games this year. However, there is a catch: Ramos has been out since July 14 with a hamstring injury and will not return until mid-August, meaning he will provide a limited impact with his new team. Trading for an injured player is always risky, but Ramos has been brilliant this year — he would have started the All-Star game if not for his aforementioned injury. The 30-year old Ramos is just a rental, but he was acquired at little cost, and will add much needed pop to the Phillies’ below-average offense. Tampa Bay undoubtedly realized the difficulty of resigning their star backstop, and will be glad to get some value for him.

Phillies Grade: A-

Rays Grade: B

2B Brian Dozier to the Dodgers for OF/1B Luke Raley, SP Devin Smeltzer and 2B/3B/1B Logan Forsythe

Supplementing their infield yet again just two weeks after trading for Manny Machado, the Dodgers added power-hitting second baseman Brian Dozier. Despite having a down year, Dozier is a substantial upgrade over incumbent second baseman Logan Forsythe, who was sent packing to the Twins as part of the exchange. Although Dozier has always prioritized power over contact, he has career-worst .224 batting average this year — much lower than his .269 average the past two seasons. In 2016, Dozier crushed 42 home runs — a single season record for a second baseman — on his way to a top-15 MVP finish. Last year, Dozier turned in another great campaign, hitting 34 homers and earning another top-15 MVP finish, as well as his first Gold Glove. Up to this year, Dozier has averaged 4.4 WAR per season, but his WAR of 1.2 this year shows that the 31-year old may have lost a step. Despite a down year, Dozier will be an immediate upgrade at second base and the Dodgers did not have to surrender much talent to rent him. Logan Forsythe has recorded a -0.6 WAR this year thanks to a measly .207 batting average, and Luke Raley comes in at #19 in a loaded Los Angeles farm system. A 10-year vet in the Twins organization, Dozier is a fan favorite, a veteran mentor to Minnesota’s younger players, and has expressed willingness to stay with Minnesota for the rest of his career, making this a puzzling decision from the Minnesota front office.

Dodgers Grade: A

Twins Grade: C

SP Kevin Gausman and RP Darren O’Day to the Braves for C/RF Brett Cumberland, 3B/SS/1B Jean Carlos Encarnacion, SP Bruce Zimmerman, RP Evan Phillips, and International Bonus Pool Money

The Braves supplemented their starting rotation and bullpen at relatively low cost, again trading bonus pool money they can’t use to the Orioles. Although Gausman’s career ERA of 4.22 is less than stellar, he is one of the best innings-eaters in baseball and has two more years of team control left. Last year, the 6’3” righty led the league with 34 starts and pitched 186 ⅔ innings, good for tenth in the AL. 35-year old Darren O’Day, although out for the rest of the year after hamstring surgery, is a reliable asset out of the bullpen and is under contract for one more year. Jean Carlos Encarnacion and Brett Cumberland were Atlanta’s 14th and 30th best prospects, respectively, so the cost for pitching depth was not too high for the young Braves, who are just a ½ away from first place in the NL East.

Braves Grade: B

Orioles Grade: B+

SP Chris Archer to the Pirates for RP Tyler Glasnow, OF Austin Meadows and a Player to be Named Later

In the day’s only true blockbuster, Rays starter Chris Archer — the subject of trade rumors since his top-5 Cy Young finish in 2015 — moves to Pittsburg as the Pirates make a late playoff push. The Pirates have gone 16-4 in their last 20 games, propelling them back into the Wild Card race. Archer, on one of the most desirable contracts in baseball with three years of team control left, will help the Pirates contend this year and for years to come. Archer owns a career 3.69 ERA and a 3.52 career FIP, and possesses a powerful fastball, devastating slider, a firm changeup, and a blazing fast sinker. However, Archer was not acquired without a heavy price, as Pittsburg was forced to part with two great young players: Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow. Formerly one of the best prospects in the game, Meadows has broken in this year with the Pirates, batting .292 in 49 big league games. Although his overall production this year has been rather pedestrian, Meadows is just 23 and has All-Star potential. Also a former top-ten prospect, Tyler Glasnow has slid into a bullpen role with the Pirates this year, notching a 4.34 ERA over 56 innings. Glasnow is an adept strikeout pitcher, as evidenced by his 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings this year, but his control problems have persisted, resulting in a ghastly 5.5 walks per nine innings this year. After years of trade rumors, Archer will be glad to finally change teams, and the Rays were able to recover significant assets from the Pirates in this swap.

Pirates Grade: B+

Rays Grade: A

2B Jonathan Schoop to the Brewers for SS/2B/3B Jean Carmona, SP Luis Ortiz, SS/2B/3B Jonathan Villar

Adding to their already loaded lineup, the Brewers continued their pursuit of the NL Central title with their acquisition of power-hitting second baseman Jonathan Schoop. Schoop played like a star last year, batting .293, smacking 32 homers, driving in 105 runs, and recording a 5.2 WAR. Schoop parlayed those stats into an All-Star appearance and a 12th-place finish in the AL MVP voting. This year however, Schoop has struggled a bit, batting just .244 but still managing to hit 17 home runs. Schoop’s 1.2 WAR is actually worse than the man he’s replacing, Jonathan Villar, who has notched a 1.4 WAR this year. Milwaukee is obviously banking on the 26-year old Schoop to regain his 2017 form and supplement their already-stacked infield. Villar, already a member of rebuilding squads in Houston and Milwaukee, will join Baltimore’s rebuild for the next three years he’s under contract. The speedy Villar, who led baseball with 62 steals in 2016, is still a very serviceable and versatile infielder at 27 years old. Luis Ortiz, who came to Milwaukee in 2016 as part of the Johnathan Lucroy deal, is the fourth-best prospect in the Brewers’ farm system and is ranked as baseball’s #52 prospect. Ortiz profiles as a potential #2 starter and is a great addition to Baltimore’s newly-strengthened farm system. Although the Brewers gave up valuable assets in Villar and Ortiz, Schoop is one of the better second basemen in the league, and still has a year of team control left.

Brewers Grade: B

Orioles Grade: B

 

Special thanks to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs for these helpful stats, MLB.com for the prospect rankings, and The Sporting News for the transaction list.

You can find more posts like this at my blog, The Full Court Press.


MLB Trade Deadline Grades Part I

By Connor Pignatello

As teams approached MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline at 4 pm on July 31st, many hoped to bolster their squads to make pennant pushes and many sold off valuable assets for young players who can help them in the coming years. Bargain deals, veteran rentals, and blockbusters combined to form one of the most active trade deadlines in recent memory, as stars like Manny Machado, Chris Archer, and Brian Dozier changed uniforms. Here is my breakdown of the most significant moves from the days leading up to deadline day.

SS/3B Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 3B/2B Rylan Bannon, OF Yusniel Diaz, SP Dean Kremer, RP Zach Pop, and 2B/3B Breyvic Valera

On July 18th, the day after the All Star game, the Dodgers kicked off trade season with a blockbuster deal to land Manny Machado, an established star and one of the best players in baseball, for a handful of prospects. Machado is a stellar defender at both shortstop and third base, and has played both so far in his short Dodgers career. Although the Dodgers would love to resign Machado and place him at third for the next several years, Machado will require a lot of money in free agency and has been adamant about his desire to play shortstop, a positio that waspreviously held by 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May. The rebuilding Orioles had no chance to resign Machado on the open market, and received talented outfielder Yusniel Diaz, who immediately slots in as their best prospect in an extremely weak farm system. Even if this is just a rental for Los Angeles, they hope this will get them over the hump and help them defend their National League crown.

Dodgers Grade: A

Orioles Grade: A-

RP Brad Hand and RP Adam Cimber to the Indians for C Francisco Mejia

With their once-dominant bullpen suffering due to injuries and ineffectiveness — Andrew Miller hasn’t pitched since May and once dominant closer Cody Allen is struggling to a career-worst 4.57 ERA — the Indians added some much-needed bullpen help in two-time All-Star Brad Hand, who has three more years of team control left. As every other team in their division is below .500, the Indians have an easy path to the postseason, but as the 2016 AL pennant winners know, a lights-out bullpen is a necessity in the postseason. Hand and Cimber have combined for a 3.01 ERA in 99 ⅓ innings this year, and will be a big boost for the Tribe come October. However, these acquisitions did not come without a price, as the Indians were forced to part with their best prospect and the #21 prospect in all of baseball, Francisco Mejia. Mejia is the best catcher prospect in the minor leagues — a good hitter with a great throwing arm frombehind the plate. The Padres will probably give Mejia a cameo at the end of this season, and he appears to be their future at the catcher position. The Indians acquired vital bullpen help, but Hand and Cimber are unlikely to push them past better teams like the Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees. Mejia seemed to be a great replacement for veteran Yan Gomes, and this move seems a bit shortsighted, despite the three years of team control of Brad Hand.

Indians Grade: B+

Padres Grade: B+

RP Zach Britton to the Yankees for RP Cody Caroll, SP Josh Rogers, SP Dillon Tate

Although Zach Britton has fallen off in recent years, he is still an asset and will supplement a fearsome Yankee bullpen. Britton has struggled with injuries in both 2017 and 2018, but the Yankees are banking on him returning to his pre-injury form. In 2016, Britton was the most feared reliever in baseball, leading the league with 47 saves (and not blowing a single one) and recording an unfathomable 0.54 ERA. Britton got first-place Cy Young award votes in 2016, ultimately finishing fourth on the ballot.  However, the past two seasons have been tough for Britton. In just 56 games in 2017 and 2018, Britton has only notched 19 saves, and allowed more earned runs than he did in the 133 games he played in 2015 and 2016. Britton will probably be a rental for the Yankee bullpen, but this trade is beneficial for both sides. As a rebuilding team, the Orioles do not need a closer like Britton, and did well to get Dillon Tate, who projects to be a solid starter and slots in at sixth in the Orioles prospect rankings.

Yankees Grade: A

Orioles Grade: A

SP Nathan Eovaldi to the Red Sox for SP Jalen Beeks

Despite struggles with injuries, Nathan Eovaldi is now on his fifth team in seven MLB seasons thanks to his great arm and streaky play. In his first eight starts of the year, Eovaldi pitched masterfully to a 3.35 ERA and seemed to have fully recovered from a second Tommy John surgery in 2017. However, for the rest of the first half, Eovaldi struggled, and ended his tenure with the Rays with an ERA well over 4. In Eovaldi’s first and only start for the Red Sox, he impressed, throwing seven shutout innings and allowing just four hits. The backend of the Red Sox rotation has been a mess — 2016 trade deadline acquisition Drew Pomeranz has stumbled to a 6.91 ERA, fill-in Brian Johnson belongs in Triple-A, and knuckleballer Steven Wright has struggled with injuries since his breakout in 2016. With ace Chris Sale going to the 10-Day DL on July 31st, the Red Sox need starting pitching depth now more than ever, and the relatively low price of Jalen Beeks is worth it as the Red Sox progress towards the postseason. Beeks ranks as the Rays 15th-best prospect, and they will hope to develop him into a solid back-end starter.

Red Sox Grade: A-

Rays Grade: B

SP Cole Hamels to the Cubs for SP Rollie Lacy and RP Eddie Butler

In the midst of the worst season of his career, veteran pitcher Cole Hamels was acquired by the Cubs to help them retain their one game lead in the NL Central and make another trip to the postseason. Although Hamels home-road splits have been extreme — 2.93 ERA away, 6.41 at home — Hamels is in the midst of the worst stretch of the worst season of his career, and although it seems he could benefit from a change in scenery, the 34 year old does not have the stuff he used to have. In his last ten games, Hamels has pitched to a ghastly 10.23 ERA which has boosted his ERA for the year to 4.72. And no, Hamels is not the recipient of some bad luck, in fact, it is the opposite — a 5.20 FIP shows Hamels has actually been lucky this year. Although Hamels’ experience will help the Cubs come October — and the Cubs did not part with any significant assets to get him — this is a puzzling move from Theo Epstein. If Hamels can turn it around Epstein just got a great bargain, but if he continues his downward trend, he will be a disappointment for the hungry Cubs. Hamels has a $20 million team option for next season which will most definitely not be picked up, so the Rangers did well to recoup some assets for their aging pitcher.

Cubs Grade: C-

Rangers Grade: B+

3B/SS/2B Eduardo Escobar to the Diamondbacks for OF Ernie De La Trinidad, SP Jhoan Duran, CF Gabriel Maciel

Eduardo Escobar’s newfound power stroke has led to 15 homers, a league-leading 38 doubles, and 65 RBIs — and he’s on pace to easily register career highs in each of those categories. Capable at third base, shortstop, and second base, Escobar represents an upgrade at each of those positions as Arizona tries to make the postseason for the second year in a row. Escobar will be a free agent come year’s end, and after extension talks between Minnesota and Escobar failed, they wisely traded him in a forward-thinking move, which nets them two prospects that fit into their top 30, #17 Maciel and #21 Duran.

Twins Grade: A-

Diamondbacks Grade: A

Asdrubal Cabrera to the Phillies for SP Franklyn Kilome

As the Phillies try to hold onto their ½ game lead in the NL East, they bolstered their infield with a rental of Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera had an pretty good year from the plate with the Mets, batting .272 with 18 homers and 58 RBIs and registering a nice 2.8 WAR on the offensive end through 101 games. However, the 32-year old has been horrendous in the field, notching a -1.6 WAR on the defensive end, as his limited range has proved he can not play second base effectively anymore. His bat will help the Phillies push for the playoffs, but his glove dims his overall production. In a good trade for the Mets, they land yet another pitching prospect, Frankyln Kilome, who has struggled with control in Double-A, but slots in as their #5 prospect.

Phillies Grade: B-

Mets Grade: B+

3B Mike Moustakas to the Brewers for OF Brett Phillips and RP Jorge Lopez

After an All-Star campaign in 2017 in which he smacked 38 home runs, Mike Moustakas settled for a 1 year, $5.5 deal with the Royals, who currently hold the second-worst record in the MLB. Moustakas followed up his stellar 2017 season with another good performance this year — bashing 21 home runs before his trade to the Brewers. A solid defensive presence at the hot corner, Moustakas packs middle-of-the-order pop for a Brewers team that is just one game back from the NL Central lead. Incumbent third baseman Travis Shaw has been taking ground balls at second base, showing the willingness of the Brewers to include both of their power-hitting third basemen in the lineup. Although neither Brett Phillips nor Jorge Lopez had significant playing time this year, both are serviceable young players under team control until 2024. The 29-year old Moustakas was clearly not part of the rebuilding Royals’ plans, and they did well to recover two players for their longtime third baseman. Although Moustakas is a rental, he was one of the best bats on the trade market and was acquired for a relatively low cost by Brewers General Manager David Stearns.

Brewers Grade: A

Royals Grade: B

RP Brad Brach to the Braves for International Bonus Pool Money

From 2013-2017, Brach was excellent in the Orioles bullpen, pitching to a 2.79 ERA in 279 games. He has fallen off a bit this year, recording a 4.85 ERA in 42 games, but if he is able to regain his previous form, this will be an excellent addition for the Braves. To acquire Brach, Atlanta used international bonus pool money which they wouldn’t have been able to use anyway, thanks to a penalty handed down from MLB thanks to the John Coppolella scandal, where the Braves circumvented baseball’s international signing rules. The additional money will give the Orioles the chance to rebuild one of baseball’s weakest farm systems.

Braves Grade: A+

Orioles Grade: A

RP Roberto Osuna to the Astros for SP Hector Perez, RP Ken Giles, SP David Paulino

Osuna is currently serving a 75-game suspension for Domestic Violence, but he is one of the most successful young closers in the game, saving 104 games with a 2.87 ERA in his first four years in baseball. Osuna has only appeared in 15 games this year due to his suspension, but he is eligible for the postseason and will bolster Houston’s bullpen after their disastrous Ken Giles experiment. After pitching to a 1.56 ERA in 113 games for the Phillies, Giles was traded to the Astros and has struggled mightily in his three years in H-town. After amassing a 4.99 ERA in 34 games for the Astros this year, Giles was embarrassingly sent down to the minors three weeks ago, and he will certainly benefit from a change in scenery. On one side, Osuna is an accomplished closer at just 23 and under club control until 2021, but on the other side, his Astro teammates, especially Justin Verlander, have been extremely critical of domestic violence issues in the past, and may not welcome him as the prized deadline acquisition that his ability suggests he is. Perez slots in as the Blue Jays #11 prospect and Paulino will serve as a solid depth addition with back-end starting rotation ability.

Astros Grade: A-

Blue Jays Grade: B+

Adam Duvall to the Braves for RP Lucas Sims, LF Preston Tucker, RP Matt Wisler

After back-to-back 30 homer seasons and an All-Star appearance in 2016, the Reds sent outfielder Adam Duvall to the Braves. Duvall has struggled to a .205 batting average this year, but Statcast metrics show he’s making hard contact more consistently than last year, and his BABIP of .244 — closer to his career average of .245 — suggests he has been unlucky and there is room for him to grow. Duvall is under team control until 2021 and seems like a great replacement for 34-year old Nick Markakis, who will be a free agent this winter. Sims and Wisler have struggled for the Braves, but both pitchers are young and can act as starters or relievers. Tucker has been serviceable for the Braves in 62 games this year, and will slot easily into either a starting or bench role for the Reds. Duvall is a promising player despite his struggles this year, and the Braves have made yet another great acquisition in trading for him.

Braves Grade: A

Reds: C

Ian Kinsler to the Red Sox for RP Ty Buttrey and RP Williams Jerez

Kinsler, the longtime Rangers and Tigers second baseman, has struggled this year with a .239 batting average for the Angels, but is a valuable acquisition at a low cost for the Red Sox, who have struggled to replace Dustin Pedroia’s production at second base. Pedroia has played just three games for Boston this year and is not expected to return to the team this year. His replacements Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt, although solid offensively, have been liabilities defensively. Still a great defensive second baseman at 36 years old, Kinsler has been a plus on the defensive end for his whole career, registering a 1.4 defensive WAR this year against Nunez and Holt, who have combined for -1.2 defensive WAR. Although Kinsler is not his former self anymore, he has rebounded in July, batting .320, hopefully signaling a change. Kinsler will slide into an almost-everyday role with the Red Sox, allowing Eduardo Nunez to slide to third base — where he is much more defensively proficient — while Rafael Devers is injured. Although Buttrey and Jerez have pitched well out of the bullpen in Triple-A, they are not high-level prospects and are easily replaceable by Boston. This trade benefits both sides, especially Boston, where Kinsler will slide in perfectly.

Red Sox Grade: A+

Angels: B+

RP Keone Kela to the Pirates for SP Taylor Hearn, Player to be Named Later

In a deal that will help both sides, Keone Kela heads to the Pirates as they make a heated pursuit of the NL Wild card, and Taylor Hearn heads to the Rangers, immediately becoming a top ten prospect for the Texas farm system. Kela has been excellent this season, converting 24 of 25 save chances with a 3.44 ERA and a 2.97 FIP, suggesting he has been even better than his numbers show. The Pirates have hopefully acquired their closer for the future in Kela, who will not be a free agent until 2022. In return, the Rangers received Taylor Hearn, a lefthander with a great fastball in the high 90s, able to pitch as a starter or a reliever. The Rangers do not need a great closer as they rebuild, but Kela has flourished in his first year of closing and is under team control for three more years. Hearn is less only sixteen months younger than Kela, so the Rangers are not getting much younger with this trade. Although Hearn is a valuable pickup, trading Kela so soon after discovering him could be a mistake.

Pirates Grade: A-

Rangers Grade: C

Thanks to MLB.com for prospect rankings and the Sporting News for a list of the transactions of the trade deadline. As always, many thanks to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs for all these helpful stats. Part II with the trades from deadline day will be released shortly.


Rafael Devers: Boston’s Rising Star

The Red Sox‘s third-base problem was not solved by a veteran rental. No, it was solved by a sweet-hitting 20-year-old Dominican named Rafael Devers.

But before I explain Devers’ spectacular rise, I must set the stage for his entrance.

~~July 24th~~

It’s July 24th and the Red Sox have ground to a halt. Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is just eight days away and nearly the entire baseball community expects the Sox to trade for Todd Frazier.

Frazier, the third baseman for the White Sox, is in the midst of the worst season of his career. He’s hitting just .210 and his contract expires at the end of the year.

The Red Sox haven’t been able to gain traction since the All-Star break, going just 5-6. The Yankees, their ever-present rivals, are creeping up on them in the standings and have swooped in on a trade for Todd Frazier, even though many executives and analysts were sure the slugger would join the Red Sox.

Third base has been a huge issue for Boston, who has used eight (!) different players there. Collectively, Red Sox third basemen are slashing .227/.280/.320, marks that rank 27th, 29th, and 30th in the league, respectively. They have not only been terrible hitters, but they also lead the league in errors.

Dave Dombrowski decides to rectify the Red Sox’ third base issue by promoting top prospect Rafael Devers to the big leagues.

~~A Rafael Devers Profile~~

Rafael Devers was born on October 24th, 1996 in Sanchez, an aging port city in the Dominican Republic. He first started playing baseball at the age of five, inspired by his father, who played amateur ball. Devers grew up with baseball all around him and quickly showed immense talent.

In 2013, Devers signed with the Red Sox at just 17 years old. He was ranked as the number three international prospect in his class, and he signed with the Red Sox, his childhood favorite team, for $1.5 million. Devers entered the Red Sox organization as their 20th ranked prospect in a deep farm system.

Upon joining the Red Sox, Devers was placed in the Dominican Summer League (DSL), a place where new international signings go to work on their skills. Devers took the DSL by storm, batting .337/.445/.538 with three home runs in 28 games. He impressed everyone, by his ability to hit for both average and power, and also by his great batting eye — Devers walked more times than he struck out.

After tearing up the Dominican League, Devers was sent to the States, where he played in the Gulf Coast League. The Gulf Coast League, or GCL, is where first-year minor-league players are sent after being drafted or signed by their teams. Most of the players in the GCL have been drafted out of college or have just finished high school, meaning that at age 17, Devers was one of the youngest players in the league. Devers carved up the GCL, batting .312 with 11 doubles and four homers in 42 games.

After Devers’ wildly successful first year, he was rated as the Red Sox’ sixth-best prospect, and baseball’s 99th-best, all at just 18 years old. This was an incredible accomplishment, as Devers was the youngest player on Baseball America’s top-100 list that year.

In 2015, Devers was promoted to the Red Sox’ Low-A affiliate, the Greenville Drive, where he experienced full-season ball for the first time. There, he was matched up against much older opponents, being one of just seven position players under the age of 19 in the South Atlantic League. Devers played well in Greenville too, batting .288 with 38 doubles and 11 home runs in 115 games. During the 2015 season, Devers was selected to the Futures Game, an event during All-Star weekend that showcases baseball’s best young talent. After a season in Low-A, Devers was ranked as Boston’s second-best prospect, and baseball’s 18th-best. Devers jumped 81 spots on Baseball America’s top-100 in just one year, a remarkable achievement.

In 2016, Devers was promoted to the Red Sox’ High-A affiliate, the Salem Red Sox, at the age of 19. However, Devers hit a bump in the road in Salem. Among players much older than him, it appeared that Devers had finally met his match. In the first half of the season, he scuffled to a .233/.300/.305 line with just four home runs in 63 games.

However, Devers bounced back brilliantly after the All-Star break. He slashed an incredible .326/.367/.539, with seven home runs and 11 steals in 64 games. After this second-half breakout, Devers has not looked back in his meteoric rise to the majors.

In 2016, Devers’ defense finally started to catch up with his offense. Early on in his career, scouts considered moving him to first base, because of his heavy build. But Devers has worked hard on his defense, and has stayed at the hot corner. In High-A, Devers led all Carolina league third basemen in fielding percentage (.960), putouts (104), and assists (258).

After his outstanding second half in High-A, Devers earned a non-roster invitation to 2017 spring training with the Red Sox. This was a big step up for the 20-year-old Devers, but he wasn’t ready for it, batting 3 for 22 against big-league competition. Nevertheless, he earned a promotion to Double-A Portland, where he played for most of this year.

Devers was the Portland Red Sox’ standout player this year, socking 18 homers in addition to achieving an excellent .296/.366/.571 slash line. In 77 games, Devers jumped to number six in Baseball America’s most recent prospect rankings. He was also selected to participate in the MLB Futures Game for the second time.

Devers was promoted to Triple-A on July 14th, and continued to hit for both average and power while in Pawtucket. Devers became the third-youngest player ever to be promoted by the Red Sox to Triple-A, yet another reminder that he was playing extremely well for his age. The Dominican lefty hit an astounding .400 for the Pawtucket Red Sox, and he earned a promotion to the big leagues after just nine games in Triple-A.

When Devers debuted on July 25th, he was the youngest player in the major leagues, but you’d never know it. His first major-league hit was a home run (!), and during his 16 career major-league games, Devers has surprised everyone.

Scouting report

Devers has a very promising future, thanks to his ability to hit for both average and power. He has incredible raw power, and can spray the ball to all fields. His opposite-field power is unsurpassed among players his age. For example, when Devers hit two homers against the Indians on August 14th; one was a laser into the Green Monster seats in left field, and the other was a high drive into the Red Sox bullpen in right field.

Devers also has great bat speed, and he is able to hit pitches very far, and to any part of the field. On August 13th, Devers hit a 102.8 mph pitch into the Yankees bullpen, the fastest pitch ever hit for a home run in the pitch-tracking era.

Devers is not as polished as other recent Red Sox prospects like Andrew Benintendi, but he has a higher ceiling. I project that in his prime years he will hit around .285 with 30 home runs, 40 doubles, and five to ten stolen bases.

He has improved his defensive skills, but don’t expect him to be a Gold Glove-winning third baseman. I believe he will stay at the hot corner, as he is becoming more reliable and is improving his range. Overall, Devers projects to be an All-Star with a dependable glove and a reliable, middle-of-the-order bat.

Conclusion

As of August 15th, Devers is hitting .339 with six home runs, incredible statistics that show his ability is way beyond his years. I don’t mean to read too closely into Devers’ 62 career at-bats, but he has a very promising future.

Pairing Devers with other young Red Sox stars like Mookie BettsJackie Bradley jr. and Xander Bogaerts should help Boston stay at the top of the AL East for years. Devers gives Boston an entirely homegrown lineup, the dream of every major-league team.

 

Special thanks to Baseball Reference, Baseball America, and milb.com for the statistics I used in this post.

I would also like to thank NESN.com, the New Haven Register, and SB Nation’s Minor League Ball blog.

Prospect rankings are from Baseball America

Fenway Park Photo Credit: User: (WT-shared) Jtesla16 at wts wikivoyage [CC BY-SA 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Nick Markakis’ Forgotten 2008 Season

While browsing Baseball Reference’s database, I encountered a strange thing. I was looking at the WAR leaders for each season. WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement, which is a statistic that measures how many wins a team gained by having a certain player instead of a replacement player, who would have a WAR of 0. The leaders were all recognizable names — MVPs, World Series Champions, Cy Young award winners, etc.

Surely the leader in WAR in 2008 finished near the top in the MVP voting. And of course he was an All-Star. And sure, maybe he even won a Silver Slugger or a Gold Glove.

Nope.

Nick Markakis led the American League in WAR with 7.4 and did not receive an MVP vote, make the All-Star team, win a Silver Slugger or take home a Gold Glove.

Markakis is now a veteran outfielder for the Atlanta Braves. But back in 2008, he was a stud for the Baltimore Orioles, and he led his team in hits, walks, batting average, and on-base percentage. Markakis had a reputable slash line of .306/.406/.491, scored 106 runs, drove in 87, clobbered 20 homers and stole 10 bases. These stats are excellent, and Markakis finished near the top of many leaderboards once the season ended.

He finished in the top ten in the AL in batting average, OPS (on-base + slugging), hits, extra-base hits, and Offensive WAR. The right fielder also closed the year in the top five in the AL in on-base percentage, runs, doubles, and walks. Markakis was also a great asset in the field, leading AL right fielders in games played and putouts while leading all AL outfielders in outfield assists.

According to Baseball Reference, there have only been 32 seasons when a player either matched or exceeded Markakis’ WAR, Offensive WAR, Defensive WAR, batting average and on-base percentage.

Markakis’ excellent stats were matched by only 32 players ever, but he was snubbed from every award.

Markakis was not selected as one of the six outfielders to compete in the All-Star Game despite his achievements.

Instead, Ichiro Suzuki, Josh Hamilton, Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Carlos Quentin, and Grady Sizemore were selected. None of them recorded more than 6.0 WAR, while Drew did not even record 3.0 WAR. Markakis was thoroughly robbed of an All-Star appearance.

Looking back on it, it’s an injustice that Nick Markakis had such a standout year and did not even receive a single vote for MVP. His 7.4 WAR outnumbered every other candidate, including winner Dustin Pedroia, who recorded 6.9 WAR.

Markakis had arguably a better year than anyone in the American League in 2008, and yet was not recognized at all.

Markakis was also a standout defensively, and recorded 1.7 Defensive WAR. Yet he was not appreciated for this achievement either, as Torii Hunter (-0.1 dWAR), Ichiro Suzuki (0.8 dWAR), and Grady Sizemore (0.1 dWAR) took home the outfield Gold Gloves in 2008.

Another intriguing aspect of Markakis’ season, besides being slighted from every award, was that this explosion came out of the blue. Markakis’ 7.4 WAR in 2008 soars above his career average of 2.6 and towers above his next-best season, when he recorded 4.2 WAR in 2007.

Markakis’ defensive exploits in 2008 were also very surprising. He has never been a great defender, and he has only two years in his 12-year career in which he has a positive dWAR, 2008 (1.7) and 2016 (0.3). Markakis has a career dWAR of -6.5, which shows that his excellent 2008 season was an anomaly.

Markakis also logged a career high in Offensive WAR in 2008, as he achieved career highs in runs, doubles, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS.

I’ll never know why Markakis could not even come close to matching his exploits from 2008. Markakis was just 24 in his breakout season, but his stats decreased as he headed toward his prime. I can’t find an explanation for his decline, as injuries weren’t a factor — Markakis has played at least 155 games in every season from 2007-2016, with the lone exception of 2012. Markakis was a bit lucky in 2008, as his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was .350, higher than his actual batting average of .306. However, his career year cannot be explained away by luck.

The lack of recognition of Markakis’ magnificent season is puzzling. He did play in one of baseball’s smallest media markets (Baltimore) for a team that stayed in the basement of the AL East, but at a certain point, efforts like his need to be noted.

Markakis never again reached the heights of his 2008 season, and I’ll always wonder two things: why he wasn’t recognized for his achievements, and why he was never able to match his production again.

Special thanks to Baseball Reference for all of these helpful statistics


MLB Dream Team: Active Players Bound for the Hall of Fame, Part II

In a continuation of my article from yesterday, here is part two of the MLB Dream Team. This article will showcase spots six through nine in the batting order as well as the starting pitcher.

Enjoy!

Batting sixth and playing second base…

Robinson Cano

64.4 career WAR / 50.3 7yr-peak WAR / 57.4 JAWS

Average HOF 2B:

69.4 career WAR / 44.5 7yr-peak WAR / 56.9 JAWS

9th in JAWS out of 20 Hall of Fame Second basemen

Accolades: 8x All-Star, 2x Gold Glove, 5x Silver Slugger, World Series Champion (2009)

For many years, Robinson Cano has been in the conversation as the best second baseman in baseball.

He was an integral part of the New York Yankees 2009 championship squad, and he parlayed his five All-Star appearances with the Bronx Bombers into a 10-year, $240-million contract with the Mariners in 2014. Cano hasn’t lost his luster since leaving New York for Seattle, and he has made three All-Star Games (so far) with the Mariners.

Cano had to beat out Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia — two likely Hall of Famers in their own right — to earn his position at the keystone sack in this lineup. Ultimately, Cano received the nod because of his sustained excellence. He has played at least 156 games every year since 2007, a level of health that neither Pedroia nor Utley can match.

Cano has also redefined the second-base position because of his ability to hit for average and power. Among Hall of Fame second basemen, Cano’s average of 25 home runs per season ranks second and his 296 career home runs ranks third. In a few years Cano should hold the record for career long balls by a second baseman, and he should be known as the greatest power hitting second baseman of all time.

Batting seventh and playing center field…

Carlos Beltran

70.3 career WAR / 44.3 7yr-peak WAR / 57.3 JAWS

Average HOF CF:

71.2 career WAR / 44.6 7yr-peak WAR / 57.9 JAWS

8th in JAWS out of 19 Hall of Fame Center Fielders

Accolades: Rookie of the Year (1999), 9x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove, 2x Silver Slugger

Carlos Beltran, always a reliable asset, is now in his 20th season. Beltran has been every archetype an athlete can be: young star (Royals); decisive deadline acquisition (Astros); hero (Mets); scapegoat (Mets again); veteran contributor (Giants, Cardinals, Yankees, Rangers); and experienced old-timer (Astros again). Beltran was the fifth-youngest in the majors when he debuted in 1998, and now he’s the third-oldest player in the league.

Beltran came into the majors as a 21-year-old kid for the Kansas City Royals, and immediately showcased his skills by taking home Rookie of the Year honors.

After seven years in Kansas City, Beltran signed with the New York Mets in 2005. It was in New York that Beltran would spend the prime of his career, making five All-Star appearances and taking home three Gold Gloves. Beltran proved to be one of the best players in the Major Leagues from 2006 to 2008, crushing 37 homers, driving in 124 runs, and scoring 123 (per 162 games).

Beltran has aged well, making All-Star teams as members of the Giants, Cardinals, and Yankees since leaving the Mets in 2011. However, the 40-year-old has shown signs of decline this year, and he may decide to hang up his spikes in the near future. Beltran left a lasting impression on the game of baseball, and his 20 years of service deserve a place in Cooperstown.

Batting eighth and catching…

Joe Mauer

51.4 career WAR / 38.5 7yr-peak WAR / 45.0 JAWS

Average HOF C:

53.4 career WAR / 34.4 7yr-peak WAR / 43.9 JAWS

8th in JAWS out of 15 Hall of Fame Catchers

Accolades: MVP (2009), 6x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove, 5x Silver Slugger

Even though Joe Mauer has not caught a game since 2013, he spent 10 seasons and 920 games behind the dish.

Mauer was truly one of the finest offensive backstops ever, and in 2009 he became only the second catcher since 1980 to win MVP (Ivan Rodriguez was the first in 1999). In Mauer’s MVP season, he led the majors in batting average (.365) and on-base percentage (.444), both of which were records for catchers. He also led the AL in slugging (.587), OPS (1.031) and Offensive WAR (7.6). In addition to his MVP, Mauer was the first AL catcher to win the batting title and he holds the record for most batting titles by a catcher, with three.

As well as being one of the league’s finest hitters, Mauer was a force to be reckoned with behind the plate. His great instincts and fielding prowess earned him three straight Gold Gloves from 2008 to 2010, and his 99.51% career fielding percentage ranks seventh all-time among catchers.

Although Mauer’s body has declined over the years, he has performed well since being moved to first base in 2014, and has not made an error this year in 69 games.

Mauer will leave a legacy as one of the greatest hitting catchers ever, and he has earned his place in the Hall of Fame.

Batting ninth at shortstop…

Troy Tulowitzki

44.0 career WAR / 40.0 7yr-peak WAR / 42.0 JAWS

Average HOF SS:

66.7 career WAR / 42.8 7yr-peak WAR / 54.8 JAWS

26th in JAWS out of 21 Hall of Fame Shortstops

Accolades: 5x All-Star, 2x Gold Glove, 2x Silver Slugger

This is the hardest decision on the roster, because in my opinion there aren’t any Hall-of-Fame-worthy shortstops in the majors right now. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the two best shortstops of this generation, have retired in the past two years.

I ended up choosing Troy Tulowitzki because he has the best chance of any shortstop in the majors to make it to the Hall.

There were a few ways I could have gone with this pick. At first I considered moving Chase Utley to short, and then I looked at the plethora of up-and-coming shortstops (Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor; to name a few).

Ultimately, I chose Tulowitzki — but this would have been a much easier decision if Tulo had stayed healthy during his career. During his prime years with the Rockies between 2007 and 2014, Tulowitzki averaged a respectable 4.8 WAR per season. However, he missed an average of 45 games per year (!) during that period. If you extrapolate his numbers to 154 games (meaning he would miss 8 games per year), he would have recorded 6.7 WAR per season, boosting his JAWS from 42.0 to 50.0.

Although Tulowitzki didn’t stay healthy most of the time, his impact while he was on the field was undoubted, and he deserves Hall of Fame consideration.

And your starting pitcher for tonight…

Clayton Kershaw

58.8 career WAR / 48.7 7yr-peak WAR / 53.8 JAWS

Average HOF P:

73.9 career WAR / 50.3 7yr-peak WAR / 62.1 JAWS

60th in JAWS out of 62 Hall of Fame Pitchers

Accolades: Pitching Triple Crown (2011), MVP (2014), 3x Cy Young (2011, 2013, 2014), 7x All-Star, 1x Gold Glove

Clayton Kershaw, in my opinion, is the best pitcher in the game right now. He has been terrorizing opposing hitters since coming up as a 20-year-old with the Dodgers in 2008.

Kershaw achieved the Pitching Triple Crown in 2011, when he led the league in ERA, wins, and strikeouts. In 2014, Kershaw joined Roger Clemens and Sandy Koufax as just the third player in baseball history to win three Cy Young awards and an MVP.

Kershaw has finished as an All-Star and a top-five Cy Young award finisher in each of the past six seasons, a nearly unparalleled run of dominance, and he has already attained a career’s worth of honors at just 29 years old.

Supposing Kershaw retires at age 37, he has eight years remaining in his career. If we extrapolate his season average of 5.7 WAR to seven more years, then his current WAR of 57.0 jumps to 102.6, which places him as the ninth best pitcher of all time, a very fair assessment.

Kershaw has the lowest career ERA of any starter since 1920* (2.35), and he deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.

*Baseball-Reference defines a starting pitcher as a player whose starts make up 60% of their appearances. Minimum of 50 Innings Pitched.

Special thanks to baseball-reference.com for all of these helpful stats. I could not have written this article without them.


MLB Dream Team: Active Players Bound for the Hall of Fame, Part I

Sports always allow us to ask, what if? What if a baseball lineup — complete with all nine positions and a designated hitter — was composed of all-time greats in their best seasons.

I have composed a lineup filled with the very best active players who I think will make the Hall of Fame.

These players will not be judged on their performance this year; they will be chosen based on how well they performed during their primes.

I have designated a player’s “prime” as the best seven years of their career — not necessarily consecutive — and these selections are based on the player’s likelihood to make the Hall of Fame. Some members of the team will be inducted on the first ballot, and some will take years to make it to the Hall, but ultimately I think that every player on this list has a great shot at being immortalized in Cooperstown.

This article is part one of a two-part set in which I show my Dream Team. Part two will be released tomorrow.

Metrics Explained

Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, is the most commonly used advanced metric in baseball. It is a measure of how many wins a team gained by playing a specific player instead of a replacement player, who would have a WAR of 0. If a player records 2 WAR in a season, he is considered starting material, 4 or 5 WAR is acknowledged to be All-Star value, and 8 WAR is MVP-level production.

The Jaffe WAR score system, or JAWS, is simply the average of a player’s seven-year peak WAR and career WAR. For example, if a player had 100 career WAR and 50 seven-year peak WAR, his JAWS would be 75. This metric gives us perspective on how likely it is for a player to make the Hall of Fame compared to those who played their position.

Fielding Percentage is a measure off how often a player commits an error. For example, a fielding percentage of 97% means the player committed an error on 3% of the plays he made.

Note: This list favors older players because:

  • They have more career WAR
  • They have more years from which to choose their seven-year peak WAR
  • They are closer to entering the Hall of Fame than younger players.

Batting leadoff and playing right field…

Ichiro Suzuki

59.4 career WAR / 43.6 7yr-peak WAR / 51.5 JAWS

Average HOF RF:

73.2 career WAR / 43.0 7yr-peak WAR / 58.1 JAWS

17th in JAWS out of 24 Hall of Fame Right Fielders

Accolades: MVP (2001), Rookie of the Year (2001), 10x All-Star, 10x Gold glove, 3x Silver Slugger

Ichiro was one of the easiest selections for this Hall of Fame Dream Team. He was a trendsetter — the first Asian position player to debut in the Major Leagues.

In his rookie season, Ichiro set the baseball world ablaze, winning MVP and Rookie of the Year, and leading the league in hits, stolen bases, and batting average.

Ichiro was a revelation in the big leagues, and his game was predicated on speed not power, completely opposite to the direction baseball was trending. According to FanGraphs, Ichiro occupies the first seven spots on the list of highest single-season infield hit totals.

Ichiro was the hit king. He holds the records for most hits in a season (262) and most consecutive 200-hit seasons (10). He also tied the record for most 200-hit seasons (10), and led the league in hits seven times.

Recently, Ichiro reached the 3,000 hit plateau, and if you count his hits from his time in Japan, he broke Pete Rose’s record for most hits across all of baseball’s professional leagues.

In his prime, Ichiro was one of the best players in the world. Only Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez accumulated more WAR than Ichiro from 2001 to 2010. On top of being one of the greatest to ever play in the outfield, Ichiro was a cultural icon, and many of the recent advances that Asian players have made are attributable to him.

Batting second and playing left field…

Mike Trout

52.0 career WAR / 52.0 7yr-peak WAR / 52.0 JAWS

Average HOF CF (out of 19):

71.2 career WAR / 44.6 7yr-peak WAR / 57.9 JAWS

14th out of 19 Hall of Fame Center Fielders

Accolades: 2x MVP (2014, 2016), Rookie of the Year (2012), 6x All-Star, 5x Silver Slugger

Trout usually plays center field, but I had to move him over to left in order to accommodate him in the lineup.

Mike Trout is hands-down the best player in baseball right now, and is surely destined for Cooperstown.

Trout has only played five full seasons, but his numbers stack up well next to other center fielders who are enshrined in the Hall. And at just 25 years old, Trout is only entering his prime, meaning that his best years are ahead of him.

Now that’s a stunning thought.

Trout also has the sixth-best seven-year peak WAR out of the 24 center fielders in Cooperstown, in only five seasons!

Here I am talking about how Trout is a generational talent, and I haven’t even mentioned the countless honors that he has collected. Trout has made the All-Star team (for which he has won MVP twice), taken home a Silver Slugger, and been either MVP winner (twice) or runner-up (three times) in every season of his career.

That level of dominance is mind-boggling and completely unprecedented.

Batting third as the designated hitter…

Miguel Cabrera

70.0 career WAR / 44.6 7yr-peak WAR / 57.3 JAWS

Average HOF 1B:

66.4 career WAR / 42.7 7yr-peak WAR / 54.6 JAWS

10th in JAWS out of 20 Hall of Fame First Basemen

Accolades: Triple Crown (2013), 2x MVP (2012, 2013), 11x All-Star, 7x Silver Slugger, World Series Champion (2003)

Miguel Cabrera, still one of the best players in baseball, is a generational talent and already a surefire Hall of Famer. The Venezuelan has been tearing up the big leagues ever since debuting in 2003, and has brought a cheerful smile and a love of the game to wherever he plays.

In the beginning of his career, Cabrera was a young star on the Florida Marlins, one of the youngest teams in baseball. He experienced success early on when the Marlins won the World Series in his rookie year. Then, after a blockbuster trade to the Detroit Tigers in 2007, he continued to amaze in the American League.

From 2011 to 2015, Cabrera was the most feared hitter in all of baseball. During that time, he won four batting titles, took home two MVPs, and racked up five All-Star selections. In 2013, Cabrera captured the Triple Crown (leading the league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs), a feat that had not been accomplished since 1967.

Cabrera already has 2,598 hits and 458 home runs as of July 22nd, so he has a good chance to join Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Alex Rodriguez as the fourth member of the 3,000 hit and 600 home run club. Cabrera’s near-incomparable match of hitting for both power and average have vaulted him into the conversation as one of the best hitters of all time.

Batting cleanup and playing first base…

Albert Pujols

100.1 career WAR / 61.6 7yr-peak WAR / 80.8 JAWS

Average HOF 1B:

66.4 career WAR / 42.7 7yr-peak WAR / 54.6 JAWS

2nd in JAWS out of 20 Hall of Fame First Basemen

Accolades: 3x MVP (2005, 2008, 2009), Rookie of the Year (2001), 10x All-Star, 2x Gold Glove, 6x Silver Slugger,  World Series Champion (2006, 2011)

The easiest choice on the roster, Albert Pujols should make the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Much like Pujols’ overflowing trophy cabinet, I don’t have room enough to praise Pujols, truly one of the greatest players ever.

Pujols has faded since he signed with the Angels on a 10-year, $240-million contract in 2012, but don’t let his struggles of late affect your judgement on his case for the Hall of Fame. He trails only Lou Gehrig in career WAR among first basemen, and is one of only 21 position players to record 100 career WAR.

Pujols’ nickname “The Machine” was an apt description of his time as a Cardinal. His 162-game average stats for his 11 years in St. Louis were: .328/.420/.617 with 127 RBIs, 123 runs, and 43 home runs. Pujols finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting all 11 years, ending up in the top five in ten seasons, and winning the award three times. But Pujols isn’t just a slugging first basemen, he is a very capable defender and has won two Gold Gloves.

Pujols became the ninth member of the 600 home run club earlier this year, and next year he should join the 3,000 hit club (as of July 22nd he has 2,908 hits). Pujols leaves a legacy as one of the best ever, and he deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Batting fifth and manning the hot corner…

Adrian Beltre

91.5 career WAR / 49.7 7yr-peak WAR / 70.6 JAWS

Average HOF 3B:

67.5 career WAR / 42.8 7yr-peak WAR / 55.2 JAWS

5th in JAWS out of 13 Hall of Fame Third Basemen

Accolades: 4x All-Star, 5x Gold Glove, 4x Silver Slugger

Adrian Beltre, still chugging along at the ripe age of 38, has graced baseball with his presence for 20 seasons. From hitting home runs off one knee, to his aversion of people touching his head, Beltre is one of the true characters of the game.

Beltre is third all-time in WAR among third basemen, trailing only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews. He also figures to be the next member of the 3,000 hit club, needing only 15 more hits as of July 22nd. And if he decides to come back and play next year, he has a great chance of overtaking Brooks Robinson for most games played at third base.

Those are just some of the records that Beltre is approaching, and he does not seem to be slowing down.

There is just no debate on Beltre’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Among all third basemen, he ranks in the top five in games played, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, and WAR.

Beltre’s legacy will be as one of the best defensive third basemen of all time, and he trails only Brooks Robinson in Defensive WAR among players who have manned the hot corner. His highlight reel of diving stabs, barehanded picks, and throws from all the way across the diamond make him one of the best ever to play third base.

Special thanks to baseball-reference.com for all of these helpful stats. I could not have written this article without them.

Thanks for reading Part I. Part II will be released at a later date and it will include spots 6-9 in the batting order as well as the starting pitcher.

To be continued…