Archive for 2016 Positional Power Rankings

2016 Positional Power Rankings: Relief Pitchers (#1-15)

We’ve reached the end of the actual rankings portion of the Positional Power Rankings, having covered every single position on the field, designated hitter, starting rotations, and now bullpens. Tomorrow, Dave Cameron will wrap it all up. I encourage you to get caught up and ready for the season by reading every single post, starting with Cameron’s introduction. But as your journey has brought you here, please read on for a look at 15 of the best bullpens in the game. Below is a graph showing every bullpen and their projected WAR on the season.


Last season, 375 pitchers recorded at least 10 innings as a reliever last season, an average of of more than 12 per team. As a result, there are a lot of names and projections listed below. Bullpens can change greatly from year to year and even during the season. The Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers remade their bullpens on the fly last season on their way to the playoffs. The Royals have made significant changes since last summer when Wade Davis was not even the closer yet. It helps to have a great reliever at the back end of the pen, but if you want to be ranked first on this list, you need to have three.

#1 Yankees

Andrew Miller 65.0 13.7 3.0 0.8 .309 81.5 % 2.32 2.39 2.3
Dellin Betances 65.0 13.3 3.5 0.7 .301 81.7 % 2.33 2.49 2.0
Aroldis Chapman   55.0 14.3 4.0 0.7 .309 82.3 % 2.35 2.50 1.4
Chasen Shreve 55.0 9.5 3.7 1.1 .303 75.4 % 3.77 3.96 0.3
Branden Pinder 45.0 8.1 3.4 1.3 .301 72.3 % 4.36 4.46 0.0
James Pazos 40.0 8.9 3.9 1.0 .304 72.8 % 3.98 4.02 0.1
Nick Rumbelow 35.0 9.1 3.0 1.2 .306 72.9 % 4.03 3.96 0.0
Bryan Mitchell 30.0 7.3 4.4 1.1 .308 69.6 % 4.82 4.74 -0.1
Kirby Yates 25.0 9.4 3.8 1.4 .305 74.7 % 4.18 4.42 0.0
Nicholas Goody 20.0 9.7 3.7 1.0 .306 73.7 % 3.81 3.82 0.0
Tyler Olson 15.0 6.6 3.1 1.2 .297 71.7 % 4.29 4.54 0.0
Jacob Lindgren 10.0 10.4 4.4 1.1 .305 75.9 % 3.75 3.91 0.0
Johnny Barbato 10.0 8.4 3.8 1.2 .307 72.5 % 4.34 4.44 0.0
Evan Rutckyj 10.0 8.7 4.6 1.0 .296 73.2 % 4.04 4.28 0.0
The Others 19.0 8.2 4.0 1.2 .322 69.5 % 4.73 4.50 0.0
Total 499.0 10.6 3.6 1.0 .305 75.7 % 3.48 3.57 6.0

Within these projections, there are 10 relievers forecast to produce at least 11 strikeouts per nine innings and at least 50 innings pitched. There are five relievers with at least 12 strikeouts per nine innings and at least 50 innings pitched. There are three relievers with at least 13 strikeouts per nine innings and at least 50 innings pitched, and all three are members of the New York Yankees. Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman were the only pitchers in Major League Baseball last season to exceed 14 K/9, striking out roughly 40% of all batters who stepped to the plate against them last year. Miller and Betances combined to lead the Yankees bullpen last season, and this season the team added Aroldis Chapman at a discounted price due to a offseason domestic-violence incident which eventually resulted in a 30-game suspension.

Last season’s Yankees bullpen pitched very well, posting the third-highest bullpen WAR, although with 530.2 innings, the pen was forced to carry a relatively large load due to fewer innings from the starting rotation. The fewer innings a bullpen has to pitch, the greater percentage go to the best pitchers. With three of the very best relievers in baseball, a healthier rotation could push the Yankees to the top spot this season.

The Yankees traded away another lefty in Justin Wilson to the Tigers during the winter. Wilson was perhaps a bit underrated, and limits the improvements the Yankees can make over last season’s very good pen. Chasen Shreve is the forgotten lefty in the Yankees pen with the potential to be this season’s Justin Wilson. He can prpoduce strikeouts, but last season, they came with walks and a few too many home runs.  After Shreve, we have a host of replacement-level pitchers the Yankees can cycle in and out as they see fit, but the top three alone vault the Yankees to the top of Power Rankings by a healthy margin.

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2016 Positional Power Rankings: Relief Pitchers (#16-30)

We continue the 2016 Positional Power Rankings — finish them, in fact — by looking at the sometimes difficult-to-project bullpens of each of the 30 major-league franchises. Here, in this article, we will examine the bottom half of baseball’s relief-pitching corps, with Craig Edwards handling the better half of the bullpen marriage. If this is your first go around, here’s an introduction to help you out. Now here’s a graphic detailing where each of the bullpens stand:


Some really good teams on that graph. Some not-so-good teams on that graph. We turn our attention to the not-so-good ones, who, even though they may have vastly improved (hey, Rockies!), still find themselves performing the metaphorical mop-up duties of the 2016 bullpen power rankings.

Onto the relievers!

#16 Rockies

Jake McGee 65.0 10.3 2.8 0.9 .310 76.8 % 3.15 3.14 1.5
Jason Motte 65.0 7.3 2.6 1.3 .307 72.5 % 4.33 4.33 0.2
Chad Qualls 55.0 7.5 2.1 0.9 .314 71.5 % 3.78 3.56 0.7
Justin Miller 55.0 8.7 3.2 1.0 .309 72.9 % 3.87 3.85 0.4
Boone Logan 45.0 9.9 3.6 1.0 .319 72.9 % 3.91 3.73 0.3
Miguel Castro 40.0 8.3 3.9 1.0 .315 71.3 % 4.38 4.19 0.1
Chris Rusin   35.0 5.4 2.6 1.2 .316 69.0 % 4.81 4.62 0.0
Jason Gurka 30.0 7.3 3.1 1.0 .312 71.2 % 4.27 4.19 0.0
Christian Bergman 25.0 5.3 2.1 1.5 .312 68.4 % 5.10 4.95 -0.1
Scott Oberg 20.0 7.5 4.0 1.1 .309 71.2 % 4.46 4.51 0.0
Adam Ottavino   15.0 9.5 3.1 0.9 .312 74.3 % 3.51 3.51 0.0
Jeff Hoffman 10.0 6.9 3.3 1.2 .312 71.2 % 4.57 4.57 0.0
Carlos Estevez 10.0 8.2 3.1 1.1 .314 71.8 % 4.13 4.01 0.0
The Others 55.0 8.2 4.0 1.2 .322 69.5 % 4.73 4.50 0.0
Total 525.0 8.1 3.0 1.1 .313 71.9 % 4.13 4.03 3.0

What a difference a year makes! Last March, we had this bullpen projected for 0.5 WAR and 28th place. This year, they’ve made it up to 3.0 and 16th. Team sports represent one of the few arenas in which an entity could make so drastic a transformation in one calendar year, and the process, dear readers, was quite simple: fire most everyone and hire new people! It seems primed to work, at least on paper, and before anything has actually happened. That is confidence.

As with anything that happens in relation to pitching half of a season’s games at Coors Field, however, the outcomes of this bullpen could be quite volatile. With a completely revamped back end of Jake McGee, Jason Motte, and Chad Qualls, the Rockies would appear to have three very solid end-of-game options. But that papers over the fact that only one of these pitchers (Qualls) is a solid ground-ball pitcher, and even he has always had his share of home-run issues (career 13.1% HR/FB rate). Even if the batted-ball outcomes might appear slightly scary on the surface in relation to homer-happy Coors Field, the Rockies should at least have a solid bullpen this coming season, and a vastly improved one from 2015.

None of this mentions the hopeful return of Adam Ottavino, one of the darlings of the first month of the 2015 season. Should he return to full health sometime around the All-Star break (he’s just started a throwing program on his way back from Tommy John surgery), he could provide a serious shot in the arm that could elevate the overall production of this bullpen.

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2016 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Rotations (#1-15)

August has already walked you through the rest. Now let us together take a walk through the best! The best, according to our preseason projections. It sounds better to leave out that last part, though. Always gotta remember to think about marketing. By the way, here’s a reminder of what we’re doing. It should be easy enough to figure out even without that link, but I just wanted to cover all my bases, which is a baseball expression. Here are the starting rotations, ranked:


Below, the Mets get the coveted #1. Not that they don’t deserve it, but as you’ll see, or as you can see in that plot, the Mets and the Dodgers are tied. So maybe that’s kind of a bummer, because it’s more fun to have ties broken, but this does leave the door open to arguments. Nothing quite as healthy for a person as Internet arguments. Especially about statistical projections of the unknowable future.

Mainly, the right thing to do here is think about tiers, and less about specific ranks. The Mets and Dodgers are separated from third place by more than a full win. There’s more than a win between fifth and sixth, and there’s a win between sixth and seventh. Then there’s one win between eighth and 14th. There’s a half-win between ninth and 14th. Many of these teams are close to one another, so don’t fret too much about how this is organized. Really, don’t fret too much at all, about anything. I know I just encouraged you to argue earlier in this introduction, but I’ve had a change of heart. Don’t: do that. Do: read what follows! Let’s talk about the 15 best rotations, as we see them.

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2016 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Rotations (#16-30)

And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the Positional Power Rankings of starting rotations before they actually get good.


It should be noted that the Diamondbacks’ rotation at 16 really projects no differently than the Rays’ rotation at 15, which Jeff will be writing up in his More Important post on the 15 best starting rotations. Which, in fact, serves as a useful reminder that, when dealing with the 7-10 moving parts of which these rotation depth charts typically consist, the actual ranking of teams matters far less than the grouping of teams. We can be pretty certain that the No. 16-ranked Diamondbacks rotation, projected for about +13 WAR, is better than the No. 30-ranked Braves rotation, projected for just +7 WAR. It gets a little cloudier in the middle, though, and just because the A’s (+11.3 WAR) are three spots ahead of the Tigers (+11.0 WAR), that shouldn’t be taken as any kind of definitive statements of Oakland’s superiority. A guide, is how these rankings should be used.

#16 Diamondbacks

Zack Greinke 212.0 8.3 1.9 0.8 .294 76.8 % 2.91 3.20 4.6
Shelby Miller 183.0 7.5 3.1 1.0 .296 73.7 % 3.84 4.08 1.9
Patrick Corbin 160.0 7.6 2.3 0.9 .303 73.0 % 3.58 3.65 2.5
Rubby de la Rosa 141.0 7.3 3.0 1.1 .302 71.2 % 4.24 4.26 1.2
Robbie Ray 129.0 8.6 3.7 0.9 .306 72.8 % 3.86 3.89 1.7
Archie Bradley 85.0 7.5 4.5 1.0 .303 70.3 % 4.54 4.56 0.4
Zachary Godley 28.0 7.3 3.5 1.0 .301 70.8 % 4.27 4.31 0.2
Tyler Wagner 19.0 6.2 3.4 1.2 .301 70.1 % 4.67 4.75 0.1
Josh Collmenter 9.0 6.0 2.1 1.2 .292 73.3 % 3.94 4.28 0.1
Total 965.0 7.8 2.9 1.0 .300 73.2 % 3.75 3.88 12.7

So, the team that lost Zack Greinke this offseason is tied for first among projected starting rotations. The team that gained Zack Greinke is hanging around the middle of the pack. This tells us a couple useful bits of information, the first being that that Clayton Kershaw fella is quite good. Kershaw alone accounts for the same projected WAR total as Miller, Corbin, de la Rosa, Ray and Bradley combined, and the Dodgers still have other pitchers, too. As for the Diamondbacks‘ position on this power ranking, it gives us an idea as to why, even with Greinke, many are still skeptical of the organization’s position as a legitimate contender in a competitive National League.

One caveat, in the Diamondbacks’ favor: they have one of the largest differences between their projected ERA and FIP. The sixth-largest, in fact. That is to say, if these rankings were sorted in order of RA9-WAR, rather than FIP-WAR, the Diamondbacks would stand to gain more from it than most every other team. Greinke was worth 10 RA9-WAR last year, and would see his projection increase by a full win if we went with the runs-allowed model. Shelby Miller also has the early signs of being a FIP-beater, and his projection would increase by nearly a win with the RA9 model.

So maybe the top half is a bit underrated, but the bigger issue lies within the bottom half. Rubby de la Rosa is now entering year three of “maybe that 95-mph fastball will miss some bats soon!” and this could be his last chance. Nearly all of Archie Bradley’s prospect sheen has worn off, and at this point the Diamondbacks might be happy if he winds up being a serviceable fourth or fifth starter. Zack Godley had a shiny ERA last year, but still has major command issues and was a 25-year-old who started last year in High-A for a reason. The top three can go pitch for pitch with most trios in baseball — Patrick Corbin looked every bit the budding-ace of 2013 after returning from Tommy John — but if any of them suffer prolonged injury, or de la Rosa pitches his way out of the rotation, Arizona could be handing out less-than-ideal starts in the midst of their playoff hunt.

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2016 Positional Power Rankings: Designated Hitter

And so we come to the end of the positional player positional power rankings (say that three times fast). If you’re not familiar with this series, please read the introduction. Designated hitters are actually a little bit more in vogue this year than last year. At this time last year, I was bemoaning the downfall of the DH. This year, it could be back with a vengeance.

OK, perhaps vengeance isn’t the right word. After all, not a lot of teams actually have good designated-hitter situations. The National League teams, who don’t appear in this PPR but do show up on the DH depth chart, pop in first at sixth place overall. This is a little tough for them to do. For starters, NL teams don’t usually use a DH, so their standing there is part-DH, part pinch-hitter, and to reflect this lighter usage At the time of the piece, only six players were projected to garner 400 or more plate appearances as a DH: Billy Butler, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, Kendrys Morales, Mitch Moreland and David Ortiz. This year, that list has expanded to 13, as every AL team except for the Athletics and White Sox suddenly have full-time DHs. That’s nice to see, even if it won’t last with a couple of teams.
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2016 Positional Power Rankings: Center Field

Time to turn our attention to center field, the eighth position we’ve tackled since Dave Cameron kicked off the series with an informative introduction.

Used to be, you put a fly catcher in center and didn’t worry too much about offense, even if he batted leadoff because he was fast. Willie McGee and Otis Nixon come to mind, though their on-base percentages were decent enough, maybe. They didn’t have power, though. Those years, the position’s isolated power was around 10% worse than league average.

These days, it seems the position has evolved. There are center fielders now who don’t count fielding as their best strength, and their collective power is now closer to average than it used to be. Even Kevin Kiermaier — in some ways a throwback, defense-first burner — has decent power. Maybe down table, around two thirds down the list, you’ll find some guys that would have fit on any 80s squad in center.

But Leonys Martin, Billy Hamilton, and Odubel Herrera are today’s maybes instead of yesterday’s sure things, it seems. Today we wonder if Odubel’s defense is as good as his tools, or if Martin will ever hit lefties, or if Hamilton will ever hit righties. In any case, they provide diversity where some other positions have lacked it. There’s a long way from Yoenis Cespedes to Billy Hamilton.

Let’s separate the burners from the bombers among today’s center fielders!

Looks like two or three stars, a couple clearly above-average guys after that, and then a big bucket of decent. They won’t all get there the same way, but today’s center fielders can swing the stick a bit.

#1 Angels

Mike Trout 658 .300 .405 .580 .414 54.4 3.1 0.6 8.7
Craig Gentry 35 .234 .291 .306 .266 -1.2 0.2 0.5 0.1
Rafael Ortega 7 .237 .299 .318 .275 -0.2 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .296 .398 .562 .405 53.0 3.3 1.2 8.8

This ranking is not built on depth. Should (perish the thought) Mike Trout go down with a season-ending injury, the Angels’ center-field situation would drop down to the bottom of the heap. That may sound like a knock on Craig Gentry — a decent defense-first center fielder when his legs are right — but more it’s just another way to fawn about Trout.

There are so many ways to fawn, though. As August Fagerstrom pointed out in his player cap, he’s already accrued more wins than any player in the history of baseball through their age-23 season. Only Ted Williams, Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, and Ty Cobb were any better with the bat alone, and Trout adds legs and glove to the package. Or you can go the route of Tony Blengino, who found that Trout was better than Micky Mantle through the same age. Or Jeff Sullivan it up, and chronicle the way that Trout has adjusted to every single wrinkle that the league has thrown at him, like handling the high pitch, and now including now taking inside pitches yard to the opposite field.

Or you can just be succinct, as Fagerstrom was when he summed up his player cap on Trout: the best in the world.

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2016 Positional Power Rankings: Right Field

Whatever choices you’ve made in life, they’ve been poor enough to bring you here, a nearly interminable weblog post dedicated to the relative strengths and weaknesses of the league’s assorted right-field units. This, in case you’re unaware, is part of a larger position-by-position investigation being conducted by this site’s authors.

As basically everyone knows, the typical exchange rate between words and pictures is about 1,000 to 1. Due to advanced work being conducted by top scientists, the following image has actually been valued at roughly 6,000 words. Or, at least that’s how many words follow it.

Right Fielders

Right fielders: are they more than just left fielders on the opposite side of the diamond? It’s the question of our time. Let us go then, you and I, and consider it at exhaustive length.

#1 Nationals

Bryce Harper 651 .306 .421 .577 .420 52.8 0.8 1.9 7.3
Clint Robinson 28 .249 .324 .383 .310 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Matt den Dekker 21 .252 .309 .394 .306 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .301 .414 .562 .413 52.4 0.8 1.7 7.3

Whether it’s true or not in every case, accepted wisdom nevertheless suggests that wildly talented ballplayers rarely possess the appropriate temperament to become, later in their careers, wildly talented coaches. The reasoning goes like this: a player who contends with considerably little failure during his active career is unlikely to understand the trials of those who are forced to contend with failure at a much higher rate. Or something along those lines.

It wouldn’t be surprising to find such a phenomenon applying to Bryce Harper, who’s been (to varying degrees) one of Earth’s best hitters since he was 17 or 18 years old and who — at the age of 22 — just produced the top batting line of this young and frightening century among all players who aren’t Barry Bonds. One can imagine a 55-year-old Harper, taking control of club that’s just finished in last place, and wondering why all his players just don’t decide to be the best in the league at hitting.

Because projections are, at the most basic level, regression machines, Harper isn’t forecast to approach the 10-win threshold in 2016 like he did last season. But given his youth and talent and constantly improving approach, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he did that. And it would certainly be even less of a surprise if he recorded the top season among major-league right fielders.

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2016 Positional Power Rankings: Left Field

It wasn’t that long ago that left field was a bastion for sluggers. The position used to be the last refuge for lumbering players who couldn’t find playing time at first base or designated hitter, but things have changed in recent years, opening up left field to a number of well-rounded and glove-first performers. Below we’ll review them all, team by team, in keeping with our positional power ranking ways.

lf ppr 2016

If you wanted to characterize the state of the position, you might lead with the well-rounded players who occupy it, but also the fact that there are very few great left fielders. No team’s left field unit projects for more than 4.0 WAR, joining only second base and DH as positions with such low projections for the top spot. On top of that, there project to be many poor left field units, as no other position comes close to the ten teams which project to produce less than 1.0 WAR at the spot.

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2016 Positional Power Rankings: Third Base

It’s that time of year again, everyone. Read the introductory post detailing what this is all about if this is your first rodeo. If this is not your first rodeo, welcome back! Here’s a graph of projected WAR for third basemen this year — you’ll note that there are no teams with negative WAR, which makes me feel like I’ve won some sort of Positional Power Rankings lottery.


Now, onto the ranks of the hot corner, and the listing of a legion of men who field bunts and throw off balance across the diamond. It’s a three-team party at the top, folks, with Toronto, Baltimore, and Chicago (NL) leading the charge. There’s been some talent drain at the position compared to this time last year, as Ryan Zimmerman (now a first baseman) and Evan Longoria have been left off/downgraded due to a pair of rough campaigns. Still, third base remains one of the most exciting positions on the diamond, as a glut of elite, young talent and a 2015 American League Most Valuable Player count themselves among the ranks. Indeed, it is also one of the most talented positions, as four of the top 20 position players by projected 2016 WAR are third basemen. Now, onto the specifics! Read the rest of this entry »

2016 Positional Power Rankings: Shortstop

This is the latest installment of the power rankings. If you would like an introduction of the power rankings, click here. If you would like to read the power rankings for catcher, click here. If you would like to read the power rankings for first base, click here. If you would like to read the power rankings for second base, click here. If you would like to read the power rankings for shortstop, enough with the clicking. You have come to the right place. Please read on.

Below, you will find a graph of every team’s projected shortstop WAR for the upcoming season based on the FanGraphs Depth Chart Projections.

2016 Shortstop Positional Rankings

The shortstop position is incredibly well-stocked for the future. Six of the top 11 shortstops are 23 years old or younger and the only shortstops older than 26 in the top 13 are 29-year-old Brandon Crawford and 31-year-old Troy Tulowitzki. Even some teams closer to the bottom like the Brewers and Phillies have reason for optimism with young shortstops on the way. Headed by Carlos Correa, shortstop should have a number of great players over the next few years.

#1 Astros

Carlos Correa 630 .274 .340 .475 .349 15.9 1.9 0.3 4.8
Marwin Gonzalez 70 .255 .294 .383 .295 -1.3 -0.2 -0.1 0.2
Total 700 .272 .335 .465 .344 14.7 1.8 0.2 5.0

If one were looking for a word that would describe Carlos Correa’s growth as a player over the past few years, astronomical would be an appropriate word to use. His meteoric rise began in 2012 when the Astros drafted him, in part because he agreed to an under slot signing bonus. Correa rocketed through the system with just 539 plate appearances between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A combined, and just one year ago, he entered the season without a single plate appearance above Single-A ball. The lack of minor league experience did not prevent the 20-year-old from becoming an immediate star.

Now 21, Correa is expected to continue to shine brightly, providing very good offense with at least average defense. Carlos Correa is the only MLB player projected to exceed 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases this season. He is projected for nearly five wins above replacement this season after a 3.3 WAR season last year, but he only needs a more terrestrial 2.3 WAR season for the second-most WAR for a shortstop through Age-21 over the past 50 years (Alex Rodriguez is first with 12.9 WAR). Marwin Gonzalez will get a few starts at multiple positions here and there, but if Correa were to go down for any length of time, it would be a problem.

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