Last time, we looked at the top projected National League players with zero-to-three years of service time. Today, the American League.
(Note: Players signed to long-term contracts before they reach arbitration aren’t eligible. These players must all make the league minimum salary, or close to it, without a long-term commitment. Eligible players are those projected on Opening Day 25-man rosters by MLBDepthCharts.com.)
Position: Player – Marcel Forecasted wOBA/FIP
Catcher: Carlos Santana (CLE) – .364 wOBA
First Base: Daric Barton (OAK) – .342 wOBA
Second Base: Gordon Beckham (CHW) – .331 wOBA
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus (TEX) – .320 wOBA
Third Base: Danny Valencia (MIN) – .346 wOBA
Left Field: Brett Gardner (NYY) – .341 wOBA
Center Field: Austin Jackson (DET) – .341 wOBA
Right Field: Matt Joyce (TB) – .347 wOBA
Designated Hitter: Mitch Moreland (TEX) – .347 wOBA
Starting Pitcher: Clay Buchholz (BOS) – 3.91 FIP
Starting Pitcher: Justin Masterson (CLE) – 3.94 FIP
Starting Pitcher: Kyle Drabek (TOR) – 3.95 FIP
Starting Pitcher: Gio Gonzalez (OAK) – 3.96 FIP
Starting Pitcher: Doug Fister (SEA) – 3.96 FIP
A few comments:
–Four A’s make the cut, but just one starting pitcher (Gio Gonzalez) is among them. Blame Marcel not believing Trevor Cahill’s batted ball results were for real (projected 4.31 FIP) and Brett Anderson failing to grab the role of undisputed pre-arb ace (projected 3.45 FIP) because the A’s wisely locked him last April, after just over one season of service time. Oakland is young, and potentially good.
–The Rays get a lot of hype for their young starting pitching, but Marcel’s not buying it, projecting FIP results over 4.00 for both Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson (David Price doesn’t qualify because he signed a major league deal when he was drafted). Any fielding-independent projections are going to necessarily ding Rays pitchers, because much of their pitching success is due to their perennially solid defense. Matt Garza’s move to the Cubs will be an interesting test; NL competition, but no more Rays vacuum cleaners behind him, plus a much tougher park for pitchers.
–Four Rangers make the squad, not counting underrated set-up man Alexi Ogando, who just missed. The lineup, meanwhile, is stacked with players in their prime, including Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, and Adrian Beltre. No Cliff Lee, and the rotation is now terribly shallow. But the Rangers still have a great chance to repeat as AL West champs.
–The team everyone’s picking to win the AL pennant, the Red Sox, places just two players on the team, set-up man Daniel Bard. That’s a testament to the many star players Boston has at or near peak age. Still, it’s always nice to have some youth and upside on the roster, especially as insurance against injuries or regression by older talent. The good news is the Red Sox do have solid hedges for their two biggest lineup risks: Jed Lowrie’s (projected .336 wOBA) standing by in case Marco Scutaro turns into a pumpkin, and Ryan Kalish (projected .338 wOBA) is one of several young outfielders who could spell J.D. Drew if the right fielder’s hamstring problems persist.
Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First -- now a National Bestseller! Follow Jonah on Twitter @JonahKeri, and check out his awesome podcast.