Aug 14, 2013, 12:20 PM EST
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the late 1970s was an amazing time for young baseball players. I’m arbitrarily choosing 23-and-younger as “young” — but with that age in mind, the late 1970s gave us Hall of Famers Eddie Murray, Andre Dawson, Paul Molitor, Gary Carter, Robin Yount, Ozzie Smith and some pretty awesome players like Lou Whitaker, Willie Randolph and the rather outspoken Jack Clark.
All of those players, as young men, posted good seasons in the late 1970s. In 1978 alone, 14 young players posted a 3.0 WAR or better. That remains the record for a single season. You just don’t have seasons when THAT MANY young players are playing that well.
This year, though, there are 13 or 14 young players who COULD, with a nice finish, post a 3.0 WAR. It probably won’t be quite that many in the end — but it certainly could be 10. There are already seven players with a better than 3.0 WAR.
Anyway, we should celebrate the time. Here’s a quick look at the top 12 young players in WAR:
1. Obviously Mike Trout (6.6 WAR).
2. Obviously, Manny Machado (5.3 WAR), who finally stopped hitting doubles like he was Tris Speaker but is still having a fantastic year.
3. Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons (4.6 WAR) is hitting just .239 with a 74 OPS+ — but his defensive statistics at shortstop are not just good but tilt-the-pinball-machine good. Right now, the Dewan Plus/Minus has him at PLUS-FORTY, which is, well, more or less unprecedented. That means — and remember, there is still six-plus weeks left in the season — the stat estimates he has made FORTY MORE PLAYS than the average shortstop can make. That’s like two per week. According to Baseball Reference’s “WAR — Fielding Runs” he has saved 34 runs — already the second-highest total in the archives.* Fangraphs has a slightly more moderate reading of his defense, but still has him as the best defensive player in the National League.
*In 1975, Baltimore’s Mark Belanger saved 35 runs.
4. Milwaukee’s 22-year-old shortstop Jean Segura (4.3 WAR) leads the National League in hits, has stolen 35 bases, hit 12 home runs and seems to be playing very good defense. He came over from the Angels in the Zack Greinke trade — and I’m thinking that will be one they regret in Anaheim for a long time.
5. We’re 62 games into this now, and Yasiel Puig (3.9 WAR) is still hitting .373 and he’s still slugging .589 and the Dodgers are an absolutely obscene 44-18 with him in the lineup (Making them 25-32 when he’s not in the lineup). I realize there’s no way Puig can keep this up, and I also realize that he IS keeping it up.
By the way: It is SO much fun to hear Vin Scully talk about Yasiel Puig. It’s worth a nightly check-in.
6. Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman (3.8) is probably more famous at this point for hugging people, but he’s getting on base, hitting with at least some power and seems to be a at the center of the Atlanta mojo.
7. Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado (3.5) is not hitting much at all. So he’s posting most of his value with apparently spectacular defense. His Dewan Plus/Minus is a spectacular plus-30. Here is an amazing play. Here is another. This might be his best one. Here is a noble effort.
8. Jason Heyward (2.5 WAR) has already been up and down and over and out — it’s his fourth full-season in the big leagues. But he’s still just 23 and he still a solid contributor. Don’t know if he will ever become the big star that seemed certain after his 20-year-old season. You know who he kind of reminds me of? Von Hayes. Tall left-handed bat with some power, some speed, loads of talent, lots of charisma — Hayes was famously traded to Philadelphia for five players in the 1980s. He did have a handful of really good years for the Phillies.
9. I kept waiting and believing that Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer (2.3 WAR) would figure things out after a dreadful sophomore season and an even worse start in 2013. On June 5 — my 15th wedding anniversary, thanks for asking — the Royals did something startlingly smart — startling for those of us who have followed them closely for the last 15 or 20 years.They moved Hosmer into the No. 2 spot in the lineup. There are many studies that show lineup strategies make very little difference when it comes to scoring runs, but they do figure in a player’s head. By putting Hosmer in the No. 2 spot (at least this is my theory) they were telling him: Relax. You don’t have to hit home runs. You don’t have to crush the ball and drive in a million runs. Just put a good swing on the ball, keep things going.
For the next two and a half weeks, Hosmer hit .328/.387/.537. He just LOOKED different. The Royals moved him back to the No. 3 spot for a little bit, he’s hitting second again, but his swing has basically clicked back into place. He’s hitting .292/.336/.432, which isn’t All-Star stuff, but he’s slugging about .500 since the switch to the No. 2 slot, and the numbers climb, and he’s a big reason the Royals are playing their best baseball in decades.
10. Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo (2.2 WAR) just turned 24. He’s hitting just .234, but he’s drawing more walks, he will probably hit 25 homers, and he is EXACTLY the sort of guy (powerful lefty-handed hitter with developing plate discipline) who can develop into a big star more or less overnight. That’s what happened to David Ortiz and Chris Davis among others.
11. I love watching Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez (2.2 WAR) play. His offense has dwindled which is not unexpected — he’s never shown any plate discipline and the offense he flashed his first couple of years was a surprise. But he should improve as a hitter. And defensively — I think he’s the best defensive catcher in the American League.
12. Bryce Harper (2.0) was having the sort of follow-up season everyone expected when he ran into the wall and missed a month. He has looked pretty lost ever since, hitting .235/.331/.417 since his return at the beginning of July. Well, more or less everything has gone wrong in Washington. He’s too talented and too determined to be down for long.
Two other young players worth mentioning are Jose Iglesias, who figures to be Detroit’s shortstop for a good while now, and Tampa Bay’s Will Myers.
Ah, Myers. What is that Fitzgerald quote? “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
1. I think the Royals made a bad trade when they dealt Wil Myers to the Rays. He’s already hitting for average and power, he’s just 22, I think he will be one of the game’s really good hitters for the next decade. I think the Royals will regret the trade many times.
2. I think the Royals made the trade because they felt it was time to start winning — and it is working. Maybe the trade is a big reason. Maybe it isn’t. But, again, it is working. They have starting winning. Their surge has energized a great baseball town that was sunk by 20-plus years of incompetence and awfulness. The main pitcher in the deal, James Shields, has pitched well enough, and the Royals lead the American League in ERA. And so, the trade has been good for Kansas City.
I don’t know if those are exactly OPPOSING ideas, but I believe both.
Dec 8, 2013, 8:53 AM EST
If you read one thing today, make it this Seattle Times profile of the Mariners’ front office. Geoff Baker, the author of the piece, talked to former M’s manager Eric Wedge, former special assistant Tony Blengino and scouts who are still affiliated with the team. What he found wasn’t pretty. A taste: One of those…
Dec 7, 2013, 11:00 PM EST
First baseman James Loney had a career rebirth of sorts in 2013 with the Rays and the team would like to bring him back, but not at his current asking price, reports Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Loney is currently seeking a three-year, $27 million deal. If the Rays have to search for…
Dec 7, 2013, 10:10 PM EST
Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball recently agreed to a new posting system, altering the way Major League teams pursue Japanese talent. One of the changes capped posting fees at $20 million, meaning that if multiple teams are willing to pay the fee, the player can negotiate with them all, with only the winner…
Dec 7, 2013, 9:15 PM EST
After Carlos Beltran signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the Yankees, we learned he had actually been offered more money by the Diamondbacks but declined in order to return to New York. Still looking to fill their corner outfield void, they are showing interest in Angels slugger Mark Trumbo, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA…
Dec 7, 2013, 8:10 PM EST
Per Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti says he has made multiple offers to Juan Uribe, but have yet to hear back. The 34-year-old free agent has spent a majority of his playing time at third base since joining the Dodgers in 2011. Uribe had a career year in 2013, finishing…
Dec 7, 2013, 7:35 PM EST
Billy Hamilton was a weapon off the bench for the Reds in September as the team geared up for a run at the NL Wild Card. In 2014, Hamilton is expected to play full-time as the Reds’ lead-off man and starting center fielder, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Shin-Soo Choo patrolled center for them in 2013,…
Dec 7, 2013, 6:50 PM EST
Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that the Giants have considered free agent Mike Morse to fill their left field vacancy, but they think they can do a better job making a trade. Schulman added that he would not be surprised if the team made a trade over the upcoming winter meetings. Morse…
Dec 7, 2013, 6:05 PM EST
In what has become an annual tradition, rumors have begun to swirl suggesting Reds closer Aroldis Chapman could move into the starting rotation. The lefty has ranked among baseball’s top-five relievers over each of the past two seasons, but he would theoretically provide more value in the rotation. Neither the team nor Chapman is interested…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:32 PM EST
According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Marlins have had “internal discussions” about a trade for Rays utility man Sean Rodriguez. The plan would be to play him at third base, possibly as part of a platoon. The Marlins are reportedly close to a two-year, $7.5 million contract with Garrett Jones, which likely signals that…
Dec 7, 2013, 4:56 PM EST
One day after inking right-handed starter Scott Feldman to a three-year, $30 million contract, the Astros have signed veteran reliever Chad Qualls to a two-year deal with a club option for 2016. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that Qualls will make $6 million guaranteed in the deal while the option is worth $3.5 million. Qualls,…
Dec 7, 2013, 4:34 PM EST
Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the United States into World War II. Murphy’s Bleachers, a popular bar outside Wrigley Field in Chicago, decided to remember that tragic day with this unfortunate and tasteless sign: Not the way to remember a tragedy. http://t.co/JZk8kxFwYM— Paul Sullivan (@PWSullivan) December 07,…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:09 PM EST
With last night’s signing of Carlos Beltran, the Yankees officially have a surplus of outfielders. And more than a few teams are wondering if they would consider cashing in on that depth in order to upgrade in other areas. Source: Yankees receiving significant interest in Brett Gardner and willing to trade him. They're not shopping…
Dec 7, 2013, 2:10 PM EST
It was reported two weeks ago that the Red Sox had checked in on the availability of Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that he remains “in play” as a potential trade target for Boston. A potential match makes sense on paper, as the Dodgers have a surplus of…
Dec 7, 2013, 1:05 PM EST
Now that second baseman Robinson Cano has reportedly accepted a 10-year, $240 million contract to leave the Yankees for the Mariners, we can open the floodgates on some anonymously-sourced bad-mouthing. We have our first such story from the Cano side of things, courtesy of George A. King III of the New York Post: “Robbie didn’t…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:03 PM EST
Athletics’ left-hander Brett Anderson is a very popular name on the trade market and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal hears that the Rockies are the latest team to ask about him. The two teams had discussions about Anderson yesterday, but Rosenthal hears that they were unable to find a match on a deal. Talks are unlikely…
Dec 7, 2013, 11:01 AM EST
UPDATE: Hanley Ramirez‘s agent tells Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that his client posted the photo on Instagram as a joke and was actually flying to the Dominican Republic. In other words, a contract extension is not imminent. Hey, at least we know that Ramirez has an interesting sense of humor. 11:01 a.m. ET: Hanley Ramirez…
Dec 7, 2013, 10:05 AM EST
Attached to draft pick compensation, right-hander Kyle Lohse waited out the entire winter before eventually landing a three-year, $33 million contract from the Brewers in March. A Scott Boras client, he was reportedly aiming for a three-year, $45 million deal at the start of the offseason, but his market was severely limited due to the…
Dec 7, 2013, 8:58 AM EST
Carlos Beltran has reportedly agreed to a three-year, $45 million contract with the Yankees and word is that he took less money for the opportunity to play in pinstripes. According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, the Diamondbacks made a “strong, under-the-radar push” to sign Beltran, offering him more than three years and $45…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:05 PM EST
Beleaguered free agent Joba Chamberlain is drawing interest from the Cubs and Royals, tweets Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. Chamberlain, 28, has been ravaged by injuries over the last three seasons. In June 2011, Chamberlain was knocked out for the rest of the season with an elbow injury, eventually undergoing Tommy John…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:20 PM EST
The Marlins signed Garrett Jones to a two-year, $7.5 million deal this afternoon, effectively squeezing Logan Morrison out. Instantly, rumors began to fly involving Morrison in a potential trade. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that the Red Sox and Brewers have checked in, though nothing is imminent. Morrison has had trouble staying on the…
- Matt Kemp remains “in play” for the Red Sox 45
- Robinson Cano “didn’t want to play” for Joe Girardi 97
- Report: Yankees have agreed to a three-year deal with Carlos Beltran 125
- Mike Napoli agrees to two-year, $32 million deal with Red Sox 36
- Curtis Granderson leaves Yankees for Mets (and $60 million) 68
- Robinson Cano agrees to $240 million deal with Mariners (260)
- Yankees agree to seven-year, $153M contract with free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (160)
- Report: Mariners willing to offer Robinson Cano a 10-year, $240 million deal (143)
- Report: Yankees have agreed to a three-year deal with Carlos Beltran (125)
- Brett Gardner is drawing “significant” trade interest (109)