Tag Archives: 2013

The Nine Best Third Basemen for 2013

Over the last number of Saturdays we have released our lists of The Nine best players at each position and this Saturday will be no different. Today, we unveil our list of the cream of the crop at the hot corner.

This list was actually quite easy compared to some of the others because there were seven obvious choices, leaving just two spots up for grabs. The order in the middle of the list is a bit fluid in my opinion, so don’t take it too seriously if you’re upset that your favorite player is sixth instead of fifth.

Third base is very good at the top, decent in the middle, but really falls off once we get passed the just missed portion of the list.

Apologies to: David Freese, Kyle Seager, Pedro Alvarez, Todd Frazier, Jeff Keppinger, and Pablo Sandoval.

9. Mike Moustakas (Royals)

Moustakas enters his age 24 season in 2013 and has shown himself to be a very good defensive player who can hit for power. His average could be higher, but it’s not terrible for such a young player. His key flaw is relatively weak plate discipline, but I expect that to improve to some degree as he ages. Moustakas is a former top prospect who could really make a leap this season and is coming off of a 3.5 WAR season in 2012, which was, you guessed it, 9th best in all of baseball.

8. Brett Lawrie (Blue Jays)

Lawrie was off the charts incredible in his 43 games stint in the big leagues in 2011, but took a bit of a step back in an injury shortened 2012. Lawrie was a good player last year, but he wasn’t a great player. I think he can be a great player this season given that he’s shown all of the necessary tools – power, speed, defense – at some point in the last eighteen months and is only 23 years old. If he plays like he did in 2011, he’ll be in the top three on this list, but even just a little better than his performance from 2012 should put him right about here on the list.

7. Aramis Ramirez (Brewers)

Even if you don’t believe that Ramirez improved his defense last season, a .300/.360/.540 slash line is impossible to ignore. He’s put together a couple of really nice seasons in 2011 and 2012 after a two year stretch where it looked like his once promising career would be over. He’s the oldest one on this list – already 34 – but he should have a place on it for at least one more season.

6. Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals)

When Ryan Zimmerman is healthy, he is an excellent baseball player. In seven major league seasons, he’s played a full season five times posting between a 4.4 and 7.5 WAR. In his two injury shortened years, he’s been a 2.5 WAR player. He played phenomenal defense early in his career but the injuries might be slowing that down, but injuries haven’t slowed his plate discipline and power. A fully healthy 28 year old Zimmerman could have an MVP type season, but he sits at sixth on this list because it’s getting difficult to believe he’ll be healthy all season.

5. Chase Headley (Padres)

Chase Headley is four seasons into his big league career and has seemingly improved his average and power over the last couple seasons. He is a switch hitter with good plate discipline while playing solid defense at third. The homerun numbers shot up in 2012 and with the fences coming in at Petco, he might have a shot to do it again. If last year didn’t happen, Headley would near the bottom of the list, but it did. I don’t want to put too much weight on one amazing season, but we also can’t ignore it.

4. David Wright (Mets)

Wright has an excellent season in 2012 and has had other excellent seasons in his career. My only concern with Wright is that in the three seasons prior to 2012, his defensive numbers were much worse that they were last season. I’m not sure Wright is a 7 WAR player going forward for that reason and imagine him more as a 5 WAR player for 2013. There’s nothing wrong with David Wright, but there is even less wrong with the next three on this list.

3. Adrian Beltre (Rangers)

Beltre is a great defender and hits for power in a big way. His only wart is that he doesn’t walk nearly enough. He’ll be 34 this season, but three of his best four seasons have come beyond thirty, so I’m not too worried about him falling off out of nowhere. If you want a slugger who can play defense, Beltre is a good way to go.

2. Evan Longoria (Rays)

Longoria’s career WAR/600 PA is 6.5. The only negative thing you can say about Longoria is that he’s only played two full seasons, two other seasons of 120-135 games, and one half season. He’s an elite defender who hits for power and has a great eye at the plate. Oh, and he’s 27. So there’s prime left in his career and has signed two of the most team friendly deals in MLB history. If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of what he does.

1. Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)

If offense was the only thing that mattered here, Cabrera would be the only one near the top of this list. He’s easily the top offensive third baseman in baseball and has been remarkably consistent entering his age 30 season. On defense, he’s no star, but he proved last year he could handle the position well enough to make it work. His best three seasons have been his last three and boasts a career line of .318/.395/.561. That’s probably all that needs to be said.

Sound off in the comments section or to call into your local sports talk radio station and scream at them. Not about this list, but just in general.

The Nine Best Shortstops for 2013

This was a remarkably difficult list to assemble if one accepts that compiling any sort of baseball related list can be difficult. It was difficult because there are many shortstops who cluster around a certain level of value and the one – the one – shortstop who stands above the rest is coming off an injury shortened season.

When crafting my lists of The Nine Best (insert position here) for 2013 I take a piece of paper and write players who I’m certain will be in the top nine in a left hand column and players who I’m considering in a right hand column. My left hand column started at just two names, which is quite low. I eventually decided on nine players for this list, because due to space restrictions on the internet, I can only fit nine names on my Nine Best lists. That said, I want to make it clear to you that I’m not so sure that there is a tremendous amount of difference between #5 on my list and #15 on my list. I’m pretty sure my top four belong on this list, but I really had to think about everyone else.

Like I said, for an activity that included thinking about baseball, this was tough.

Apologies to: Starlin Castro, Hanley Ramirez, Zack Cozart, and Aleixi Ramirez

9. Alcides Escobar (Royals)

Escobar enters his age 26 season in 2013 looking for a breakout. He has stolen more bases, hit for a higher average, gotten on base more, and slugged more in each of his three major league seasons, and if I was a betting man, I’d probably bet on him to take another step forward. While it’s usually not a good idea to look at a trend line and assume it will continue, a young athletic shortstop entering his peak seasons is as likely as anyone to keep it going. He’s already put up two 2+WAR season and he did so last year despite a poor UZR on defense. After watching him play 19 times against the Tiger last year and other times against other clubs, I have to say that I think he’s actually a pretty good defender and like him going into the season. There is a decent chance he’ll regress in 2013, but I’m putting my weight behind a breakout.

8. Derek Jeter (Yankees)

It’s likely that you’re familiar with this particular baseball player given that he plays for the New York Yankees, a baseball team that the national media likes to think is the only baseball team. And on the Yankees, Jeter is one of the more popular and revered players, making him all the more famous. As for his 2013 prospects, he’ll be coming back from a broken ankle suffered in Game 1 of the ALCS, but let’s face it, he hasn’t had good range in years, so it won’t really slow him down. While Jeter’s baserunning skill is fading and his defense is a liability, he’s still one of the better offensive shortstops in the game even at his advanced age. He’s a lock for the Hall of Fame and as long as he remains healthy, he should hit for a high average with moderate power. If he wasn’t being asked to play one of the tougher defensive positions, he’d be a top flight player, but with fading defensive skill, he sits at number eight.

7. Ian Desmond (Nationals)

So I’ll be honest, I have no idea what to make of Ian Desmond. No non-Ben Zobrist SS put up a higher WAR (5.4) in 2012, but it seemingly came out of nowhere. He walked no more than previous years and struck out no less. His BABIP ticked up a bit and UZR liked him better, but he also managed to hit for a lot higher average and more power. That’s generally a good sign, but it’s also a bit strange. He didn’t improve his approach at the plate and his BABIP didn’t shoot up, but he got a lot better. I’m generally favorable toward Desmond, but I just don’t know if we’re going to look back at last year as a fluke or not. I’m not quite ready to buy into him just year, but check back later in the season because he could make me a believer in no time.

6. Jimmy Rollins (Phillies)

Rollins is, I’m assuming, many things to many people, but one of the things is a talented baseball player. Twelve major league seasons into his career, he has had many excellent seasons and no poor ones. The worst thing you can say about him is that he hasn’t been perfectly healthy over the last couple of seasons. But when he’s been on the field, he’s produced well on both sides of the ball. At 34, he’s due to slow down, and he has already done so to some degree off his peak, but I don’t see any reason why he can’t continue to perform at a high level in 2013. After all, by WAR, only Ian Desmond had a better season at shortstop (remember, we never count Ben Zobrist because his position is ALL OF THEM).

5. J.J. Hardy (Orioles)

The Orioles’ shortstop does two things very well. He hits for power and plays great defense. His on base skills vary from year to year, but when you’re asking for a shortstop to do all three of those things well, you’re probably employing Troy Tulowitzki. I like Hardy to have another 20+HR season while playing great defense, which translates to fifth on this list.

4. Andrelton Simmons (Braves)

Simmons is just one of many (two) shortstops in my top four to have played less than fifty games in 2012. If we take his minor league numbers and short big league career and project him forward he seems capable of a .280ish batting average with a .330 or better on base percentage. With slightly useful extra base, but not homerun, power, this puts him in respectable but not top five range among shortstops. But if we take that offensive play and rubber cement him to a phenomenal defender, we get a great player. If Simmons plays a full season in 2013, his defensive numbers alone could push him to the top of this list. In one third of a season, he posted a 10.4 UZR. That is awesome for a full season. He could easily find himself in 3-4 WAR territory with a full season of at bats and defensive chances. I’m betting that he does.

3. Jose Reyes (Blue Jays)

When healthy, Reyes has been a consistent four win or better player in his career and he has the benefit this season of playing for a better team and in a much better ballpark for offense. If he’s moderately healthy, he should be right near the top like has in the past. The only gamble one makes when putting this kind of projection on Reyes is whether or not he will play a full season. I’m basically just guessing at his ability to stay off the DL, but that’s all you can ever do.

2. Elvis Andrus (Rangers)

When you’re 24 and already have four seasons under your belt, you are either Elvis Andrus or Rick Porcello, and given that this is a list of shortstops, I’m inclined to believe you are Elvis Andrus. Andrus hits for average, runs well, and plays great defense. He doesn’t hit for power, but nobody except Mike Trout is perfect. There’s no reason to think a healthy Andrus won’t follow up his back to back four win seasons with another one.

1. Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies)

If we could look into the future and see how many games Tulo plays in 2013, and if that number was a full season’s worth, there would be no need for further discussion. Tulowitzki is an elite defender who hits for power and gets on base. I didn’t even need to qualify those last two things with for a shortstop. He has 30+HR power and plays gold glove caliber shortstop. There is no question, when healthy, he is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the players on this list. The only concern is his health. In seasons in which he has played 120 or more games, he’s been a 5.6 WAR player or better. I’m putting my money on 140 games and a near MVP caliber season for Tulo.

Read the midseason update

Sound off about the list in the comments or elsewhere on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Altavista.

Tigers Quiet at the Winter Meetings…For a Reason

The Winter Meetings are over, but winter isn’t. We’re 77 days from Spring Training in Lakeland and 115 days from Opening Day in Minnesota. There’s still time for the Tigers to tweak the roster, but here’s the rundown of the 2013 Tigers:

C: Avila

1B: Fielder

2B: Infante

SS: Peralta

3B: Cabrera

LF: Dirks

CF: Jackson

RF: Hunter

DH: Martinez

Bench: Holaday, Santiago/Worth, outfielder, utility player

SP: Verlander, Fister, Scherzer, Porcello, Smyly

RP: Benoit, Coke, Alburquerque, Dotel, three other guys

The Tigers have a clear need over the next two months: depth.

The starting lineup is strong, but the bench is up in the air. They need a righthanded outfielder who can platoon or backup Dirks. They need some positional flexibility and might have gotten it by trading in a Don Kelly for another (Jeff Kobernus).

The starting rotation is also among the best in baseball and some of the bullpen slots are locked up. They need to choose another lefty and two righties, one of whom should probably be a long man.

None of these spots are premium spots. The Tigers don’t need impact players, they need role players. This is a star heavy team that needs some solid bench pieces to make it back to the postseason. The Tigers have been quiet this week for a reason.

They’re pretty much set for 2013.

Perspective After a Tough Series

With a Sergio Romo fastball down the middle and with the bat in Miguel Cabrera’s hands, the 2012 MLB season came to a close last night, ending 29 teams’ hopes at a championship and making the San Francisco Giants and their fans very happy.

First off, congratulations to the Giants. They had a great year and played well in October. Well-earned title for a city that loves its team.

For Tigers fans like myself, hold your heads up high. You might have a bad taste in your mouths after a rough series, but allow me to remind you the Tigers had a successful season. I’ve heard a lot of negative talk about the team in the last day or so from national and local personalities, but they are wrong. The Tigers should be proud, but not satisfied.

It’s easy to put too much focus of the World Series because it’s the biggest stage, but any team can slump. The offense only scored six runs in four games, but the pitching (short of Verlander) was great.

The Tigers swept the AL’s best team (by record) in the ALCS and beat the AL’s best story in the ALDS. This was a good season. Big changes are not necessary. The World Series is a small sample. Victor Martinez is coming back. Young players will improve. Other could bounce back. Relax and look back with fondness.

So some parting thoughts on the 2012 Tigers (full 2012 recaps of all 30 teams to come).

The Tigers have a starting rotation worthy of envy. Verlander is the game’s best. Fister is quietly becoming a top 25 starter. Scherzer is somewhat inconsistent but showed some serious improvement this season and has always had take-over-a-game stuff. I’m still a huge believer in Rick Porcello as well. He’s a groundballer with a poor defense so some of his numbers are inflated, but the guy has never been hurt and has four major league seasons under his belt at 23 (23!!!). He’s still three or four years south of his peak. Smyly showed he can easily be a #5 starter in the show this year and could maybe even be more. All of these guys are under team control for at least two more seasons. Not bad, even if they don’t resign Anibal Sanchez, the Tigers will return baseball’s best staff by WAR.

Cabrera and Fielder are a great middle of the order and will be for years to come. Next year, they’ll get backup from Victor Martinez. Jackson took a big step forward this season. Dirks looks like a fourth outfielder or better. Infante can certainly hold down 2B.

Avila, despite what you might think, is actually a very good catcher. He’s a gold glove finalist this year and his OBP was great even if his batting average wasn’t. (Hint: Walks count as much as singles!) The power was down a little, but he had some injuries and still has a year or two til his peak age.

Peralta is also a pretty solid MLB SS. He’s solid on defense (advanced metrics love him), even if he’s unremarkable. At the plate he’s been up and down but is certainly capable of getting hits at the bottom of your lineup.

That only leaves a corner outfield spot and some bullpen spots open for next year. A lot of teams would kill to be in this position.

Refine the bullpen. Sign Torii Hunter. Get back to the playoffs. That’s my simple recommendation if you’re looking toward the next step.

This is a well-built team if you don’t care about defense. But if Dirks and (hopefully) Hunter are manning the corners next season, things get a lot better.

Don’t let anyone get you down. The Tigers have a wide open window toward a title in the near future. In fact, in the first round of World Series odds out today, the Tigers are the favorite to win in 2013.

2012 is over and I’m sad to see it go, but 2013 could be just as bright or brighter. 154 days until Opening Day.

Let’s start counting.

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