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Baseball’s All Underrated Team

Jan 21, 2011, 2:09 PM EDT

Shin-Soo Choo

Jayson Stark’s latest is what he believes to be baseball’s “All Underrated Team.”  The roster:

C: Carlos Ruiz
1B: Adam Dunn
2B: Ian Kinsler
SS: Starlin Castro
3B: Ryan Zimmerman
RF: Michael Cuddyer
CF: Andrew McCutchen
LF: Ryan Braun
SP: Josh Johnson
CL: Joakim Soria
MR: Mike Adams

It’s not a terrible list, though as many people have noted since it came out a a few minutes ago, there is a serious omission: Shin-Soo Choo in right. He’s both better and less-heralded than Cuddyer. Maybe this is performance art: by not even including him on an underrated list, Stark is showing just how truly underrated he is!

I’m a little skeptical about Carlos Ruiz’s inclusion.  He’s good, but if anything I think that, by virtue of some big hits he’s had during nationally-televised games, people are quite high on him. Maybe even a touch too high.  In some ways he’s the baseball equivalent of basektball’s Ben Wallace: he was underrated for so long, but the minute people began to take notice, he became slightly overrated. At no time has anyone rated him truly fairly.

Fun list, though. Stark’s explanations of all of his inclusions are all illuminating.  It’s certainly a list of guys who don’t tend to get a lot of spotlight and it’s good to read about them even if we debate the severity of their underrating.

  1. BC - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    Add Nick Punto as a utility player, and you’d have the All-Scrappy team.
    PS. Angel Pagan should be on this team.

  2. Old Gator - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    Josh Johnson is hardly underrated. Given who he works for, though, I think Jayson Stark probably meant underpaid.

    • phukyouk - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:23 PM

      what he said.

    • Utley's Hair - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:35 PM

      Gator’s right—or well, maybe “correct” is a better adjective to describe Gator than “right.” Especially after last season, Josh Johnson is not underrated.

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:18 PM

      I saw Gator at a Palin rally.

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 21, 2011 at 4:17 PM

        Damn, Gator!!!! You gonna stand on all fours for that?!?

      • Old Gator - Jan 21, 2011 at 6:19 PM

        He’s right. Just caught the corner of the lens. What he did not see was the paper bag full of shit I was carrying. Unfortunately, she never got close enough.

  3. phukyouk - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    Josh Johnson is not underrated. thats just ridiculous. Either is Soria. they just both happen to play for crap teams. may as well as King Felix on their as well.

  4. rmalmstrom - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    Starlin underrated? Has he even been around long enough to be rated?

    • sdelmonte - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:15 PM

      He was actually the first player on the list whose name made me say “he’s not underrated.” I heard plenty about him last season.

  5. pkiguy22 - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    While I disagree with Braun and Soria, being on this list, the rest are pretty accurate.

  6. Andrew - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    If anything, some Twins fans would tell you that Cuddyer is overrated. Inconsistent bat with terrible defense (don’t even try to tell me his arm makes up for his range, because it doesn’t), I don’t get how that can be underrated. Choo really should be on this list instead.

    • Jeremiah Graves - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:35 PM

      Agreed.

      Cuddy has a cannon for a right arm and can hit hanging fastballs about a mile. He’s also willing to play wherever you ask him to and he’s a good clubhouse guy. That’s where the positives end. He’s never going to be a legit offensive force, his range in the outfield is sketchy and he’s going to be drastically overpaid this year.

      Twins should have moved him after his monster 2009 when the interest in him was pretty danged high.

      • kander013 - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:46 PM

        Second this comment.

      • cintiphil - Jan 22, 2011 at 3:21 PM

        Anyone who thinks fastballs “hang” has never played the game. they may not move (usually rise), but never hang. You are cut off from further discussion on the matter.

  7. Utley's Hair - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    From where I see it, Chooch’s selection is accurate. Just ask Doc about his performance during last season’s perfecto and no-no. I can’t think of another catcher for the list.

  8. Ryan Lansing - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Enough with the overrated/underrated lists. How about an All-Rated Team: players who everyone agrees are about as good as everyone else thinks they are. My guess is that half would be perennial MVP candidates and half replacement-level guys. Everyone in the middle is either overrated or underrated (or both) to some extent.

    A few suggestions:
    1B- Albert Pujols
    SS- Yuniesky Betancourt
    C- Joe Mauer
    SP- Oliver Perez
    RP- Mariano Rivera

    • sdelmonte - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:16 PM

      This will be the only time in human history that Awful Ollie and Mo are on the same list.

    • mwest08 - Jan 22, 2011 at 2:34 AM

      Like the All Rated Team idea. But I would go with Cliff Lee as the starting pitcher. He seems to be the difference everywhere he has went lately, to them making the World Series. Also this years NL MVP Joey Votto should be on there. I’ve heard some say he is underrated. But how can an MVP be underrated. He has arrived in the National spotlight now after putting up big numbers his first 3 years in the league. He has the 3rd best average among all players since he’s arrived in the majors at .314.

  9. pkswally024 - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    Can anyone name me a catcher, underrated, that can call and catch a game as good as chooch. What about his batting line last year? Cmon man..

    • seeingwhatsticks - Jan 21, 2011 at 4:38 PM

      Hi, my name’s Buster Posey. I’m the guy that batted cleanup for the team that beat the Phillies last year (and had a better pitching staff). Nice to meet you.

      • mwest08 - Jan 22, 2011 at 2:37 AM

        Buster Posey is not underrated. People were raving about him almost all season last year. His 1st month or so was slow, but after that he started hitting and everyone was taking notice and talking about him. Benji Molina is a good one to list. He hits in the clutch, has a great arm, and handles a pitching staff excellently.

  10. Jonny 5 - Jan 21, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    CHOOCH!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Utley's Hair - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:46 PM

      And aces: 23 days.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:56 PM

        I can’t wait. How ’bout those Flyers? Dude!

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 21, 2011 at 4:16 PM

        I love it when a plan comes together.

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 21, 2011 at 4:21 PM

        Carter grappling (and the three other smackdowns) and Pronger coming back with a pair of assists last night shows something, doesn’t it? But then again, so did the collapse in Beantown last week. Let’s see more of last night.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 21, 2011 at 4:32 PM

        Now that Pronger’s back. World domination by the Bullies. As long as Briere and Giroux don’t get hurt.

  11. Mark - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    Brutal list. Geovanny Soto has to be the C for most underrated considering he had the highest wOBA for C’s with over 350+ PA. Even his own manager didn’t realize how good he was. I don’t think anybody underrates Ruiz.

    As for SS, I gotta echo the Castro hasn’t been around statement. I think Yunel Escobar could be the best SS in the AL, assuming Jeter’s decline is legit. His only competition is what, Pennington/Hardy/Ramirez/Jeter, and if he hits like he did a few years ago in Atlanta he could easily be a 3-4 WAR guy.

    RF is obviously Choo as you pointed out.

    Braun’s a little overrated considering his power has declined a few years in a row. I don’t know who’d be a good candidate because LF isn’t a strong field. I want to say Josh Willingham.

    Zimmerman is really the only good pick Stark made.

  12. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    Braun is not underrated. Soto is a better pick for C. Castro is appropriately rated. Choo should be included and is the most underrated player in baseball right now. Pie lovin’ for life.

    • Utley's Hair - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:48 PM

      You’re picking fights with a lotta people there, pie boy.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 21, 2011 at 4:13 PM

        “El Bravo” just looks up to Geovanny because he manicures his facial hair better, including his eyebrows. And his name is Geovanny. Don’t mind him.

    • dsmaxsucks - Jan 21, 2011 at 4:44 PM

      Braun starts all star games, that’s how underrated he is.

      Rickie Weeks is the underrated Brewer.

  13. tribescribe - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    “Shin-Soo Choo [is] both better and less-heralded than Cuddyer.”

    Ssssshhhhhhh! We’re trying to sign him to a long-term deal. (Though I’m sure Scott Boras overrates Choo, if that’s even possible.)

    • mwest08 - Jan 22, 2011 at 2:43 AM

      Boras overrates all his players. That’s why all of them, even his best clients get overpaid. Look what he got Jason Werth. Talented player but not worth the something like 80 million he is getting now.

  14. macjacmccoy - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    How is Ryan Braun on this list the guy got a huge contact is talked about being 1 of the best outfielders in baseball and gets the respect he deserves. I dont think anybody underates Braun. The same with Zimmerman but on a lesser scale.

  15. phillydano - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    I am not taking the bait.

    CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOCCHH!

    • Utley's Hair - Jan 21, 2011 at 4:49 PM

      I say again.

      And aces: 23 days…

  16. macjacmccoy - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    Its funny Craig that when catchers are brought up you just focus on there hitting. Is that bc thats the only thing McCann is good at? There’s alot more things that go into being a catcher then hitting the ball which Ruiz does well. The fact that you only talked about his hitting and not the things hes truely good at proves to everybody why hes underrated.

    • seeingwhatsticks - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:07 PM

      Really? Ruiz hits the ball well? As evidenced by the fact that he’s never had double digit HR and his career .260 AVG? Last year was the only time he hit over .259 in his 4 full seasons. Look, he’s a fine catcher but let’s all calm down a little bit.

    • Walk - Jan 21, 2011 at 9:18 PM

      Generally i agree with you about mcann being somewhat one dimensional, mainly an offensive backstop. However i remember jimmy rollins was running wild a few years back stole something like 35-40 bases got caught maybe twice and picked off a few times with large lead and mcann was one of the ones that gunned him down at second base.

    • mwest08 - Jan 22, 2011 at 2:50 AM

      Hitting is probably the least important thing you need from a catcher. Give me a catcher who knows how to pitch to all his opposing batters, knows scouting reports, handles a pitching staff better than anyone, and plays excellent defense, over a offensive catcher any day. It seems in today’s baseball how a catcher calls a game and handles his pitchers is always undervalued.

      • deathtoallpoets - Jan 25, 2011 at 12:03 AM

        agreed. catchers really don’t need to be super great offensively. calling a good game, and tremendous defense far out ways an offensive minded, c- defense catcher.

  17. bobbcronin - Jan 21, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    Most of these players aren’t underrated. What is your definition of underrated? Ian Kinsler – first round draft pick in fantasy baseball, Ryan Zimmerman – seccond round draft pick in fantasy baseball, Ryan Braun – first round draft pick in fantasy baseball, Josh Johnson – one of the first starting pitchers taken in fantasy draft, Soria – one of the first closers taken in fantasy baseball. At least if one plays fantasy baseball, this team is not underrated. If anything, this is a strong fantasy baseball team that is almost unattainable because of how highly people draft these players or value their contributions/statistics (i.e. Dunn dual positions and homeruns, Cuddyer – three positions). If anything, the one that you do not consider underrated – Cather Carlos Ruiz is the most underrated player on this list. I also agree that Castro is underrated.

    This article should be titled, players from small markets or players overshadowed by teammates.

    • seeingwhatsticks - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:16 PM

      Kurt Suzuki is far more underrated than Ruiz. Offensively and defensively (if you’re going to give the catcher credit for calling the pitches that is). The A’s pitchers were younger, less heralded, and statistically better than the Phils last year.

  18. mrfloydpink - Jan 21, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg are underrated. I never heard anything about them last year.

  19. pkswally024 - Jan 21, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    Buster posey was a rookie. He hasn’t had enough time to be considered either under or over rated. I’d say even as a rookie everyone knew who he was. Moron. Chooch is the best defensive catcher in the game. Period.

    • seeingwhatsticks - Jan 21, 2011 at 7:25 PM

      Ruiz threw out just 29% of attempted base stealers which doesn’t place him in the top 5, but you’re right. He’s definitely the best defensive catcher in the game.

      By the way, how’s that dynasty working out for you?

  20. Jeremiah Graves - Jan 22, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    It’s all about perception. You gotta remember that he writes this stuff for Joe Baseballfan, not for fantasy baseball players or obsessed baseball fans who hunt down ever bit of information on the web in the middle of January.

    Yes, an obsessive baseball fan (read: anyone who frequents blogs like this rather than getting their fix from ESPN) are well-aware of all of these players and how good they are and all of their accomplishments.

    Yes, the fantasy baseball crowd (at least anyone who wins at the game) is tuned in to every player on every team–except Ollie Perez, what a non-entity–in baseball and no player will ever be “underrated.” Hell, in fantasy baseball it’s far easier to overrate everyone. I saw a dude take Ellsbury with the fourth pick in the draft last year because he was a lock for 70+ steals, 100+ runs and a .300 average. Needless to say, that dude lost.

    The folks who frequent ESPN for their baseball “news” aren’t generally the obsessive fans or the fantasy crowd. I live in Boston now and I am constantly stunned by how little the average fan knows about players outside of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry. When they landed Adrian Gonzalez, I had half-a-dozen people come and ask me who this guy was and was he any good. I had people ask me who Joey Votto was when the MVP awards were announced. That’s who this list was created for, to give them a little nugget of knowledge outside their baseball comfort zone.

    Additionally, yeah…Kurt Suzuki is the most underrated catcher in all of baseball.

  21. deathtoallpoets - Jan 25, 2011 at 12:05 AM

    adam dunn is seriously over-rated. he strike’s out too much, he basically hits a home run or strikes out. just a more glorified carlos pena. josh johnson rules, not underrated, braun is in the top 5 of outfielders in baseball, and starlin castro has a lot to prove to be even considered underrated. i do agree kinsler is a tad underrated. he’s probably in my top 3 second basemen i’d want on my team.

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