Which major-league players get too much due among casual fans or national media? On Monday we fielded the All-Underrated Team — to critical acclaim, mind you — and this time around we’ll balance that out with the All-Overrated Team.
As noted Monday:
This is a subjective exercise because when it comes to “overrated” or “underrated,” we don’t really have much substantive evidence. During the baseball season, I watch baseball every single day. I also witness fan and media discussions in person, on Twitter, on Facebook and in comments sections. All-Star voting is one avenue we could use, but there’s plenty of season after that. There’s also the postseason.
Further, we need to point a few things out on this one. When talking about players being “overrated,” there tends to often be a lot of misunderstanding. Overrated doesn’t mean “is terrible.” A player can be overrated and still be very good. A player on the overrated list and be better than a player on the underrated list.
Think about it. If on a 1-10 scale, a player is generally treated like an eight but I think he’s a six, he’s overrated. Meantime, if a player is generally treated like a three but I think he’s a five, he’s underrated … and still worse than said overrated player.
Also, salary is meaningless here. Let’s use Jason Heyward as our example. He has a huge contract, but does anyone in the world who paid any bit of attention actually think he wasn’t awful with the bat last season? He’s not overrated. He was overpaid in 2016, but not overrated. It’s different.
As noted, this is only for the 2016 season.
A final thing to consider: When discussing casual fans, I’m not talking about you. You’re brilliant. We’re talking those who aren’t quite as astute as we are. Who do they overrate? That’s the guiding principle.
Catcher: Salvador Perez , Kansas City Royals
Salvador Perez is a great guy and a good baseball player. He’s not as good as his reputation, though. Think about what he’s good at. He’s a great receiver. He’s outstanding at throwing out opposing basestealers, possibly the best in the league.
Some might say he has good power, after 22 home runs last season, but did you know that 88 players hit at least 22 home runs and 79 hit more than 22?
Perez also makes a ton of outs. He hit .247 last year, which was 120th in baseball and his .288 on-base percentage was 143rd among 146 qualifiers. Yes, only three players with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title got on base at a worse clip than Perez. Given that he actually isn’t all that powerful, relatively-speaking, he’s a black hole on offense.
A great defender who should be an everyday catcher? Absolutely. A no-brainer All-Star on an annual basis? Not even close.
First baseman: Eric Hosmer , Royals
First off, K.C. fans: Yes, I watch the Royals. Yes, I’ve been to Kansas City. No, I don’t hate the Royals. Still, you may hurl your accusations to email@example.com.
While 2015 looks like it might’ve been Hosmer’s career year, he fell back to a .266/.328/.433 (101 OPS+) line in 2016. The 25 home runs are OK, but we’ve already established a ton of homers were hit last year and first base is a slugger position (12 first baseman had more homers). You’re looking at a roughly, overall, league average hitter manning a position that should have a big-time bopper.
Again, Hosmer is good. He’s just not great.
Second baseman: Brandon Phillips , Cincinnati Reds
Amazingly, I still at times get feedback about Phillips that tells me there’s a segment of the fan population that thinks he’s a good player. Earlier this offseason, I broke down why he has very little value left.
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki , Toronto Blue Jays
There’s probably still some superstar residue left over on Tulo, but he’s not that anymore. He hit just .254 with a .318 on-base percentage last season. The 24 home runs were good for a shortstop, but not exceptional in a huge year for middle-infield power. He’s still a well-above average defender, but five shortstops were better in defensive runs saved.
And, yes, I considered Alcides Escobar , but I don’t think any non-Royals fans actually think he’s good. I could be wrong, though. It happens.
Third base: Todd Frazier , Chicago White Sox
OK, so Frazier’s power is great and he can still steal bases, but he’s losing the rest of his game.
Since the 2015 All-Star break, in a far from insignificant 970 plate appearances, Frazier is hitting .224/.293/.441. Again, the 40 homers in 2016 were great, but he only had 21 doubles. His strikeout total rose from 137 in 619 at-bats to 163 in 590 at-bats.
Further, formerly known as a good defender, Frazier dipped below average in defensive runs saved.
It’s rather interesting here to loop in how much of a stigma Adam Dunn carried for being “only good at hitting home runs.” Dunn’s career line was .237/.364/.490 and he hit at least 40 homers six times. Frazier just hit .225/.302/.464 with his first-ever 40-homer season.
Left field: Kyle Schwarber , Chicago Cubs
As a Cubs fan and Indiana grad, this one hurts. I must clarify, of course!
I think Schwarber is going to be a great hitter for a long time. He deserved every bit of praise he got during the World Series because what he did was unprecedented.
I just feel like anything less than a Herculean, Babe Ruth-like career at this point will feel like a disappointment to so many casual fans who have decided that he’s baseball’s superhero. If he hits 30 homers with a .265/.340/.460 line next season, what will the reaction be?
To be certain, that would be an awesome first full season, but I feel like it would be considered a disappointment by a lot of people. Let’s temper expectations a bit.
And, yes, we went off the board here, since Schwarber basically didn’t play in 2016. I’m just saying he’s probably unfairly overrated right now.
Center field: Jacoby Ellsbury , New York Yankees
I don’t think many believe Ellsbury is very good anymore, but it was slim pickings here. With Andrew McCutchen , I feel like it was just a bad year in 2016 and he’ll bounce back. The All-Glove guys ( Kevin Kiermaier , Kevin Pillar ) might get too much love in the saber community, but I don’t consider that mainstream enough to impact things. Adam Jones could stand to get on base more, but I don’t feel like he’s drastically overrated.
So we’re left with Ellsbury, who slashed .260/.324/.361 the past two seasons combined. He only stole 20 bases last year, compared to a career high of 70 and three seasons with 50-plus.
Oh, and if you thought about Mike Trout , please re-examine your life.
Right field: Giancarlo Stanton , Miami Marlins
Stanton’s prodigious power was on full display in the Home Run Derby and it’s no secret Stanton has long had the best raw power in the game. Of course, he’s now 27 years old with seven years of experience under his belt and only twice has he played more than 125 games in a season. If a player can’t stay on the field, it diminishes his impact. Plus, he hit .240 with a .326 OBP last year thanks in part to a season-crippling slump.
Stanton’s still a very good player with the chance to be great thanks to his 80 power. It’s just difficult to see him as the franchise centerpiece of a championship team and that’s probably where he should be given his physical tools.
Left-handed pitcher: Gio Gonzalez , Washington Nationals
I don’t think Gonzalez is very highly-regarded in many circles anymore, but I needed to pick someone. And the 21-game winner who finished third in NL Cy Young voting in 2012 is a distant memory from this version of Gio.
His ERA the past four seasons has gone from 3.36 to 3.57 to 3.79 to 4.57.
Also, Gonzalez was great through his first eight starts last season. In his ensuing 24? 5.58 ERA with the Nationals going 9-15 when he took the hill. He’s better than that, but not much better anymore.
Right-handed pitcher: Marcus Stroman , Blue Jays
Thanks to a good rookie season, a knee injury in the spring, a great return in 2015 and then a very good Game 5 ALDS performance in 2015, Stroman was pretty highly-regarded heading into this season. He again came through with a good outing in the playoffs, as he went six innings and allowed two runs in the Wild Card.
In the regular-season, though, Stroman pitched to a 4.37 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. He allowed at least five earned runs in seven of his 32 outings while coughing up 21 home runs and didn’t miss bats very often (his swinging strike percentage was well below average).
Reliever: Craig Kimbrel , Boston Red Sox
Once one of the most dominant relievers we’d seen in years, he’s now just an ordinary closer.
The trends certainly aren’t encouraging.
That’s a pretty steady climb. Since 2011, Kimbrel only allowed at least two earned runs in a game 13 times and five of those games came in 2016. In that same span, he only gave up at least three four different times and three of those came last year. Through July 1 of last season, he had never given up four earned runs in a game, but he did it twice since then.
Kimbrel’s velocity tumbled post-July last season and September was one of the slowest months of his career.
He’s not the Kimbrel we once knew. Sometimes it takes a while for the reputation to shake.
Man, I didn’t like many of those choices. That is, above you’ll see a lot of players I really like and respect. Please take note of the intro where I note that it’s all relative. This would be a good team overall if it took the field. Just not nearly as good as a lot of people would think.