What About Andruw Jones?

I have always been a big believer in silver linings. Incredibly horrific events can have some positive outcomes. Of course, the positives never outweigh the negatives in these moments, but I choose to look at it from a “lessons learned” perspective. Harold Baines going into the Hall of Fame is not a positive moment for the Hall of Fame. It’s positive for Baines and his family. It’s positive for White Sox fans and fans of Baines. Still, it’s hard to argue that it makes the Hall of Fame a better place.

The lesson learned from the Baines situation is that the present day Veterans Committee has a path forward if it looks at their vote in the correct prism. I could argue for days about whether or not Baines is a Hall of Famer (he’s not), but that misses the point. The point is whether he is the best player not currently in the Hall of Fame. There is no way anyone in their right mind that could argue that.

This is the spot in book preparation where I would do a bit of revising. I have been dedicating the “what about” series to players that people think should be in the Hall of Fame. Usually, these were popular players, that simply came up short for one reason or another. However, this revelation is profound on a number of levels. I certainly am not going to try to identify the single best player not in the Hall of Fame, but I can do it at each position. In this case, we have a player that is already on the BBWAA ballot. Being that this is a web blog, I can simply take this path moving forward.

One of the problems with an overabundance of talent is that way too much is expected. It’s rare, but occasionally we find a Hall of Fame caliber player that is overlooked because more was expected. Some in the Hall of Fame even have that moniker. Certainly Mickey Mantle is among the top four center fielders in the history of the game, but the common refrain from those that watched him is that he could have been more had he been injury free and taken better care of himself. This brings us to the subject of our discussion: Andruw Jones.

Players like Jones get the wrong kind of attention. He started young and so some people felt like he should have put up more counting numbers than he did. His last productive season came at age 30. He was out of the game by the time he was 35. He could have surpassed 500 home runs, 1500 runs, and 1500 RBI. He didn’t do any of those things. However, we could spend forever looking at what he didn’t do and forget about what he did do. Since, we are focused on him along, we can breeze through the index and spend the meat of our time tackling a bigger question.

Hall of Fame Index

 bWARfWARWS/5Total
Career62.866.955.2184.9
Peak55.460.946.2162.5
Total118.2127.8101.4347.4

Jones has the highest index for any center fielder that is not currently in the Hall of Fame. By sheer definition, that makes him the most qualified Hall of Fame candidate at the position. There are others to be sure and we will get to them in due time, but his advantage is significant enough that we can single him out. There are other reasons to single him out and I think most discerning fans know that reason, but let’s take a look at his offensive numbers first.

 OPS+RbaserOW%wRC+wOBA
Jones1119.554111.352

There is a compounding effect that propels players and teams from being merely good to being great. If you are good in more than one facet of the game then you will come out looking very good when you take all-encompassing numbers like WAR and win shares. The same is true for teams when their pitching and hitting is good. Jones was a good offensive player. No one would ever mistake him for a great one, but he did have his moments. Those are the moments that convinced people he should have been better.

Let’s ignore the complex data for a second and consider conventional wisdom. When a player puts up numbers like Jones did and wins ten Gold Glove awards, that’s pretty special. Of course, we don’t concern ourselves with traditional Gold Gloves here. They are often awarded to the best offensive player at the position. What we will do is consider the common defensive metrics over time and compare Jones to other center fielders that had tremendous reputations as a fielder. Let’s see who winds up on top.

 InningsDWSWS/1000RfieldDWARWSGGDWAR1
Willie Mays24426103.64.2418518.2101
Tris Speaker23710117.85.04922.5110
Max Carey2134194.84.3786-0.1100
Willie Davis1987178.33.9410411.161
Andruw Jones1703886.35.0723524.594
Willie Wilson1610567.84.2110810.750
Curt Flood1415475.15.319910.680
Paul Blair1414764.04.5217418.880
Garry Maddox1395558.04.1610011.452

Let’s begin by breaking down our categories. Our sources can be separated into two main categories. We have win shares and baseball-reference. We took the innings, Rfield, DWAR, and DWAR1 from baseball-reference. We took defensive win shares (DWS), win shares per 1000 innings from both, and win share Gold Gloves from win shares as well.

One of the important things to note about fielding analysis is that it is backwards as compared to hitting analysis. Hitting analysis is based primarily on what you do. How many hits do you have? How many runs do you create? How often do you get on base? These are all questions based on positive events. Fielding is almost opposite. For decades people focused and graded fielders based on the number of errors they had. Imagine if that is the way offensive analysis worked. Essentially, you are basing your opinion of someone’s competence based on the amount of times you think they failed. Of course, failure in this regard is subjective. If I take a bad route to a ball and don’t get there it’s not an error. It’s just a ball I didn’t get to. So, I could actually make a better play if I take the correct route to a ball and simply fail to make the catch. That might be ruled an error.

Given these parameters, a large part of fielding analysis is based on perception. Even more advanced metrics attempt to conclude whether you should have gotten to the ball. So, even when we distill out the fact that different metrics use different frames of reference (average vs. replacement level) we still have variance based on someone’s opinion about whether someone should have made a certain number of plays. It’s madness and we have to agree on that beforehand, but we can take the general consensus and go from there.

We include win shares per 1000 innings because comparing pure totals is unfair based on the fact that Mays and Speaker had five or six seasons worth of innings more than someone like Jones. So, we compare them on a per 1000 inning basis and find he comes in second in that regard to Curt Flood. Baseball-reference has him number one by a large margin in their Rfield metric (which is compared to average) and it shouldn’t be a surprise that he was also number according to defensive WAR which is compared to the replacement level fielder on the whole diamond.

This is where the last category (DWAR1) is so remarkable. That is simply an accounting of how many times the player led the entire league in defensive WAR. That’s comparing him to all positions and some positions (notably shortstop and catcher) have a natural advantage because of the distance from replacement (in other words, the replacement level shortstop is much worse than the replacement level center fielder). He still was the most valuable fielder in the entire game four times (four seasons in a row actually).

Granted, a couple of players (notably Mays and Speaker) won more win share Gold Gloves. That’s likely because his career was only 11 or 12 years long in terms of being an everyday player. It’s pretty remarkable being one of the three most valuable outfielders in 9 out of 12 seasons. All in all this means that we could certainly argue that Jones is best fielding center fielder in the history of the game. Naturally, some will push back against that and that’s fine. The numbers make the case though and since he could be called the best doesn’t that merit a spot in Cooperstown?

Center Field: On the Outside Looking In Part One

The new Veterans Committee gives us another compelling reason to separate those on the outside looking into different groups. So, we are essentially breaking the hopefuls in half between those that spent most of their careers before 1990 and those that spent most of their careers after 1990. As you might imagine, there are always players that fit right in between, but for now we will focus on those guys that played between the 1960s and 1980s.

The new committee seems to be focused on players that played in the 1980s and later. We are looking at players that will likely be overlooked by the committee. Should they be considered for the Hall of Fame? Well, we run into issues when we compare them with players already in the Hall of Fame. This is why we stick to the BBWAA list. Even still, some of them will compare favorably with Kirby Puckett. Puckett isn’t the standard. So, we should almost erase him and compare these players with the top eight amongst the BBWAA list. Here is a reminder of where we left off.

 CareerPeakTotal
Ty Cobb444.8257.3702.1
Willie Mays434.7265.5700.2
Tris Speaker390.7226.7617.4
Mickey Mantle335.6243.5579.1
Joe DiMaggio238.6199.5438.1
Ken Griffey Jr239.9187.2427.1
Duke Snider200.2171.7371.9
Andre Dawson192.3137.2329.5

So, we could consider Dawson to be the baseline one has to clear. Naturally, if you have read these articles before you know we are looking for gaps in data. If you come close to Dawson we then get to look at the other factors to determine if you get the support. That will include offensive statistics, fielding statistics, and the MVP test. Sometimes, that’s not even enough. As always, we start with career value.

Career Value

 bWARfWARWS/5Total
Willie Davis60.753.764.4178.8
Jimmy Wynn55.952.861.0169.7
Vada Pinson54.347.364.2165.8
Cesar Cedeno52.849.859.2161.8
Chet Lemon55.652.053.0160.6
Fred Lynn50.249.256.0155.4
Dale Murphy46.544.358.8149.6

The great thing about the index is the addition of the peak value element. It gives each player dimension where strictly going by career value doesn’t give us that. What is also fascinating is how each player comes to their value differently. Davis brings defense and base running (as we will see when we get to the offensive and fielding numbers) while players like Dale Murphy and Jimmy Wynn bring power. WAR and win shares are not necessarily precise. This is why we look at multiple sources of data to make our determinations.

Many reading this will likely be Astros fans and will be keenly interested in where Jimmy Wynn and Cesar Cedeno land. Neither fared well in the BBWAA voting for largely the same reason. They did not enjoy particularly long careers, but when they were good they were very good. The same could be said for Fred Lynn and Dale Murphy. On the other hand, Vada Pinson and Chet Lemon were on the other extreme. Everyone has their preference. Do you want a player to be good for 15 years or great for ten? It’s a hard question. Of course, this brings us to the peak value numbers.

Peak Value

 bWARfWARWS/5Total
Jimmy Wynn49.046.550.2145.7
Dale Murphy47.243.748.8139.7
Cesar Cedeno47.344.846.4138.5
Vada Pinson47.742.548.2138.4
Chet Lemon46.945.139.8131.8
Fred Lynn41.540.242.8124.5
Willie Davis42.738.042.8123.5

We see a larger gap here than we did with the career value numbers. As advertised, both Wynn and Cedeno are near the top. This is because WAR takes in hitting, fielding, and base running but also takes into the account the effects of time and place. There may have been no worse place to hit than the Astrodome in the 1960s and 1970s. They moved the fences in later on before it closed and it became palatable. When Wynn was at his best he was amongst the league leaders in home runs and walks in the best pitcher’s park possibly ever built.

Dale Murphy is one of three position players in baseball history to win multiple MVP awards and not be in the Hall of Fame. Roger Maris and Barry Bonds are the other two. So, it is no surprise that he should be near the top in peak value either. He fell off a cliff following a brilliant 1987 season. Not including the peak value element would not show the player he was throughout most of the 1980s.

In a similar way, when we get past Pinson we notice that the others suffered through a much more ordinary looking peak value. Rest assured, there is nothing ordinary about averaging four wins a season for ten years. Still, it raises the question of whether a merely good player should get into the Hall of Fame. Before we move on to the offensive and fielding numbers let’s add career and peak value together and see what we get.

Hall of Fame Index

 CareerPeakTotal
Jimmy Wynn169.7145.7315.4
Vada Pinson165.8138.4304.2
Willie Davis178.8123.5302.3
Cesar Cedeno161.8138.5300.3
Chet Lemon160.6131.8292.4
Dale Murphy149.6139.7289.3
Fred Lynn155.4124.5279.9

Some people would use a system such as this and make a hard cut off either at Andre Dawson or another arbitrary point like 300 wins. It somehow seems stupid to say yes to Cedeno and no to Lemon based on eight wins. Remember we are looking at three different sources and two different levels. So, the real difference is probably closer to one or two wins. What these numbers are designed to frame the conversation moving forward. If there is a path forward for Kirby Puckett then there could be a path forward for Fred Lynn. We just have to move to the other tests.

Offensive Numbers

 OPS+RbaserOW%wRC+wOBA
Jimmy Wynn12918.651130.362
Fred Lynn129-1.648129.372
Cesar Cedeno12357.610122.353
Dale Murphy1213.630119.357
Chet Lemon121-7.582122.356
Vada Pinson11128.592110.340
Willie Davis10662.536105.321

These numbers are more an illustration to show how the players arrived at their value above. Of course, we are missing the key element of defense. However, the fact that Wynn and Cedeno played much of their career in the Astrodome demonstrates how pedestrian looking numbers can look really good when you consider the negative impacts of their home ballpark. The same could be said for Willie Davis as well.

In a way, seeing such little separation works against all of these guys. This is especially true when compared to the Hall of Famers we saw in previous articles. At first blush, it would appear that Wynn and Lynn look better than the rest and Davis and Pinson look worse than the rest, but we also haven’t seen how they fare in fielding.

Fielding Numbers

 RfieldDWARTZDWSWSGG
Willie Davis10411.110678.36
Chet Lemon939.09663.23
Vada Pinson-8-5.7-669.32
Cesar Cedeno-14-4.3-849.61
Fred Lynn-27-3.1-2751.93
Jimmy Wynn-28-6.4-1844.11
Dale Murphy-33-6.8-445.22

It isn’t the fact that Davis is the best defensive player. It is by what margin he is the best defensive player. The win share Gold Gloves are the first clue. We have eschewed the traditional Gold Gloves because they simply don’t represent fielding excellence. Some might argue these numbers might not either. They represent a cross-section of what the industry had at the time. Some measure fielders against the average while others against the replacement level.

Some don’t agree between one player or another, but all agreed that Davis was a more valuable fielder than the others. So, when you combine an above average offensive player with a great defensive player you get a very good overall player. So, while Davis’ offensive numbers don’t jump off the page, he was a very valuable performer.

The others were not bad fielders, but when compared to the Hall of Fame standard they were underwhelming outside of Lemon. It is important to note the main difference between RField and Total Zone runs. They are sourced the same, but total zone runs count only their time as an outfielder. The Braves tried Murphy at catcher at the beginning of his career and that ended badly. So, if you ignore that experiment, he was probably closer to average. When you consider that all of them played ten to fifteen seasons, being 30 runs or less away from average means you were essentially average overall.

We could sit here and talk about fielding all day and we will pick up Davis’ mantle in a subsequent article, but for now we need to move on to the last leg of our test: the MVP tests. The test is plural because we compare how players did in the real MVP voting along with their actual finishes amongst position players in bWAR. MVP voting was documented through the top 30 in each league. The bWAR rankings only went through the top ten, so our comparison will not be perfect.

MVP Points

 Top 25Top 10Top 5MVPPoints
Dale Murphy320229
Fred Lynn201117
Vada Pinson311011
Cesar Cedeno41007
Jimmy Wynn20107
Willie Davis40004
Chet Lemon00000

MVP points are obviously weighted the closer you get to the MVP award with the MVPs counting ten points each. This does not prove Dale Murphy was the best player in the bunch. It proves that the beat writers thought he was more valuable when he was at his best than the others were when they were at their best. The fact that Chet Lemon had no votes is a bit of a surprise given his value as a player, but considering his value came mainly with his glove you can see why he is where he is.

MVP points help to explain why some players get more support than they should and why some don’t get as much. After all, the group that votes for the MVP award is the same group that votes for the Hall of Fame. It can be interesting comparison their finishes above to their rankings when we look at actual bWAR. The point values are the same, but we don’t have top 25 finishes to count.

bWAR MVP Points

 Top 10Top 5MVPPoints
Dale Murphy13018
Fred Lynn01115
Chet Lemon31014
Willie Davis21011
Cesar Cedeno21011
Jimmy Wynn3009
Vada Pinson1108

One of the best things about the baseball Hall of Fame is that the process allows for debate. I hope the index does the same. I would not be inclined to put any of these players in the Hall of Fame myself, but I could see a credible argument made for some. Murphy fares pretty well in the bWAR MVP points test considering we took away both of his MVP awards. He was still a very good player for several years in a row.

Lynn was really good for a season and great for one. If we follow the fame model of the Hall of Fame that might be good enough for most people. Lemon fares much better, but he was never great, so he probably falls short as well. Davis’ candidacy depends on how much you value his defense. We will end up looking back at his fielding later on, so maybe we should table in.

For most of my readers, that leaves Wynn and Cedeno. The final determination is probably something we already know. They were simply not good enough for long enough. If either had added another all-star level season or two it might have been enough. Sometimes you are just that close.

Hall of Fame Index: Centerfielders Part II

One of the key differences between the current version of the index and the book version is that we are eschewing the Veterans Committee selections. Our stated goal is to measure those out of the Hall of Fame against a Hall of Fame standard. Simply put, the Veterans Committee selections are too idiosyncratic to include in any kind of standard. Imagine comparing a current player to Harold Baines for instance. I’m sure the current committee had reasons for voting for Baines, but clearly they weren’t following the established standards when you look at right fielders.

So, when we look at the remaining center fielders we are ignoring the Veterans Committee selections. There were certainly some good ones that probably eclipse some of the players we will cover here, but adding some and not others really doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Why Earl Averill and not Max Carey? Why go back and add in a Billy Hamilton for instance? It is interesting that the center field list is show short, but we will get to look at those on the outside looking in subsequent articles.

Career Value

 bWARfWARWS/5Total
Joe DiMaggio78.183.177.4238.6
Duke Snider66.363.570.4200.2
Andre Dawson64.859.568.0192.3
Kirby Puckett51.144.956.2152.2

Keep in mind that we are always looking for gaps. DiMaggio may belong with the top group and when we included Ken Griffey Jr. with the top group we certainly created a glaring issue. Of course, we will illustrating an important point about the difference between counting numbers and the value numbers. So, normally we would include Griffey with this group and if that were the case then this grouping would make sense for DiMaggio.

If DiMaggio hadn’t lost those three seasons serving his country the calculus would likely be different. That’s one of the many reasons why we include offensive and fielding numbers in addition to the index numbers. There are any number of ways to categorize players. Naturally, we have a problem on the other end with Puckett. I have always avoided setting a minimum for the index because it is all about the gaps. Puckett is clearly not in the same class as the other three, but that doesn’t mean he should be out necessarily. It means that we need some compelling reasons to look past the above numbers.

Duke Snider and Andre Dawson are comfortably in the middle. How they got there is part of the lore of baseball. Both players didn’t age gracefully for various reasons. Dawson was probably a victim of Astroturf where Snider just wasn’t the same guy once the Dodgers left Brooklyn. However, their career values seem to be enough to give them enough cushion. 

Peak Value

 bWARfWARWS/5TotalIndex
Joe DiMaggio65.570.064.0199.5438.1
Duke Snider58.556.456.8171.7371.9
Andre Dawson48.845.043.4137.2329.5
Kirby Puckett44.439.749.2133.3285.5

To give you some idea of reference, Bryce Harper has amassed about 30 WAR in his first seven seasons. That would come out to about four WAR per season and give him about 42 or 43 WAR over a ten-year period. He wants more than 300 million dollars and still might get it. So, imagine how much a Joe DiMaggio might have been worth in 21stcentury dollars. Heck, even a Kirby Puckett might have broken the bank.

This isn’t to demean Harper. He looks like a future Hall of Famer in the making. It does illustrate a couple of things we have noticed throughout history. First, the gaps between the best players and worst players have shrunk as time has gone on. So, a four-win player is more special today than in the past as the floor has elevated. Secondly, peak value by itself is a terrific barometer of greatness and shouldn’t be overlooked. Most advanced systems use some form of it because it adds so much context to the argument. 

For instance, Dawson and Snider are neck and neck in career value, but the peak value adds a great deal of separation and demonstrates that when Snider was at his best he was a more special player. It also shows that Puckett actually had a fairly strong peak value record. If he had lasted two or three more seasons he might have found himself in Dawson territory. That being said, he falls a little short in the index. As promised, we will take a look and see if we can find other compelling reasons to add him in.

Offensive Numbers

 OPS+RbaserOW%wRC+wOBA
Joe DiMaggio15516.752152.439
Duke Snider14014.707139.404
Andre Dawson11914.595117.350
Kirby Puckett12413.618122.366

Bill James has said that statistics take on the characteristics of language. I certainly don’t have the juice to interview him, but I would assume he is thinking of adjectives. If you think of numbers as describing a player then it would make sense that some adjectives are more descriptive than others. You could also think of them as strokes of paint by a painter. Some of us paint stick figures while others paint a masterpiece.

Numbers like batting average, hits, runs, and RBI are stick figures. Numbers like those above creates the shadows and dimensions that give a painting (or player) life. Take offensive winning percentage (OW%). A team of DiMaggios would win 120 games in today’s schedule. No team ever assembled has ever won 120 games. A team of Snider’s would produce around 110 wins. That’s also historically good. Meanwhile, a team of Dawsons and Pucketts would be good teams, but like teams we’ve seen before. The other numbers tell a similar story, but they do it in their own special way.

For instance, wOBA spits out a number that looks like OBP. A .350 or .366 is pretty good in any era, but an OBP over .400 is special. One above .430 is outrageously good. For Puckett, the numbers show that he was a better offensive player at his best than Dawson was. Dawson just did it for longer. Longevity is certainly part of the grade. The history of the game is littered with guys that would be Hall of Famers if they could have only stayed healthy.

Fielding Numbers

 RfieldDWARTZDWSWSGG
Joe DiMaggio493.24960.58
Duke Snider-22-5.9-2154.84
Andre Dawson701.66962.25
Kirby Puckett-14-0.3-1258.46

Offensive numbers tend to tell the same story in a variety of ways. Fielding numbers seem to compete with each other. One of the reasons is that they compare different things. Rfield and total zone runs compare players with the average while DWAR and defensive win shares compare with the replacement level player. An average or even slightly below average fielder can look good when compared to the replacement level player over a long period of time. Duke Snider and Kirby Puckett fit that description. 

Joe DiMaggio’s career was relatively short because of the lost war seasons, so his DWS doesn’t look at that good. That is one of the reasons why James added a per 1000 innings number in the book version of Win Shares. The win share Gold Gloves show that when each were at their best they were among the most valuable fielders in the league. Of course, value and greatness are sometimes two different things.

The numbers above are enough reason to think Dawson had a leg up on Puckett as an overall player. So, we are at a loss to explain the BBWAA love for Puckett except that his career ended abruptly and we tend to romanticize that sort of thing. Our last test is the MVP vote test and considering that the BBWAA also voted for the MVP awards that could give us a clue. We use MVP points to tally this up with MVP awards counting ten points, top five finishes five points, top ten finishes three points, and top 25 finishes one point.

MVP Points

 Top 25Top 10Top 5MVPPoints
Joe DiMaggio243359
Kirby Puckett243029
Andre Dawson512128
Duke Snider233023

If we follow the general premise that the MVP should be the best player on the best team then DiMaggio’s dominance makes sense. The Yankees lived in the playoffs and he was objectively the best player on the Yankees during that time period. Of course, that is only one way of looking at it. Was he the best player in baseball during those MVP seasons? I think most would agree Ted Williams was, but that’s a different argument for a different day.

The fact that Snider doesn’t have an MVP seems somehow criminal. He was a more valuable player than Roy Campanella in each of his MVP seasons. Jackie Robinson was probably deserving of his award, but Snider should have snuck in there at least once if not twice. This is where we get to Puckett. He got as much love as anyone without actually winning the award. 1987 and 1991 certainly make sense as he helped engineer an improbably title in both seasons, but it’s hard to explain his five other top ten finishes.

This is where we apply the second half of the MVP test. We take the baseball-reference top ten seasons for position players and apply the same point systems. Unfortunately, they didn’t provide top 25 lists, so the finish is not the exact same, but such a test tells us who was overappreciated and who was underappreciated.

B-Ref MVP Test

 Top 10Top 5MVPTotal
Joe DiMaggio36039
Duke Snider13128
Andre Dawson13018
Kirby Puckett02010

What exactly does this prove? Well, it proves there was a sizeable gap between what Kirby Puckett really was and what the writers thought he was. Criminologists are often warning us about how unreliable eyewitness testimony is. Our memories play tricks on us. We see a diving catch in Game 7 of the World Series and develop a picture of a player that may not be accurate. The game is made of up moments. Statistics can tell us the rate that these moments occur, but they can’t tell us exactly when they occur and under what circumstances.

The funny thing is that individual players can’t control the weight of the moments they get to play in. Andre Dawson spent most of his career out of the playoffs. Is that his fault? Some people might say so. It’s funny how some casual fans blame the best player on a team for the team’s shortcomings. If only he did more when he had the opportunity. Somehow the crappy player playing on the other side of the diamond isn’t to blame. We do this in football, basketball, and hockey too. It’s nuts when you think about it.

Puckett had an .897 OPS in postseason play. That came with five home runs, 16 runs, and 16 RBI in just over 100 plate appearances. That came with an ALCS MVP Award in 1991. So, there is little doubt that he performed big in big moments. It is called the Hall of Fame and not the Hall of Stats or Hall of Greatness. Take away his moments in 1987 and 1991 and the Twins may not even be in Minnesota. At the end of the day, it is foolish to boil down the politics of glory down to a number. There is always a context to everything, but what we can say is that comparing any player and using Puckett as a standard will lead us down a bad path. Maybe he does belong, but his index score is not a good argument for him.

Hall of Fame Index: Top Five Centerfielders

As we move to the center fielders it is high-time we do a reset. We have been covering fantasy baseball for a while now and have gotten out of our normal routine of looking at the index. So, we are going to re-eningeer this thing to show why we use something like the index in the first place. So, instead of starting with the index we will start with the conventional numbers and move from there.

A lot of fans use the counting numbers to grade players and determine who the best player of all time at a particular position or period. Some branch out to the rate statistics, but both of those categories bring two major problems. In short, they don’t account for the effects of time and place. Where did those numbers occur and during what time period? That has a dramatic effect on what those numbers mean. We are looking at who many consider the top five center fielders of all time. All five are in the Hall of Fame and no one doubts their place there. Still, how we parcel out their value depends greatly on the methodology we use.

 HitsHR2B+3BRunsRBI
Ty Cobb4189117101922431944
Ken Griffey Jr.278163056216621836
Mickey Mantle241553641616761509
Willie Mays328166066320621903
Tris Speaker3514117101418821531

I’ve talked before about my Facebook “friend” who rates everyone according to hits. Well, in that scenario we would surmise that Mickey Mantle stands in fifth place on this list. The fact that Mantle has more walks than the other four apparently doesn’t matter. Let’s consider each of these numbers as being equal. We will focus our energy on Griffey for reasons that will become obvious later.

Griffey ranks fourth in hits, second in home runs, fourth in extra base hits, fifth in runs scored, and third in RBI. So, no one in their right mind would claim he was the best center fielder of all-time, but he definitely would belong in this group. The problems are all plain to see. First, simply listing the numbers above assumes all numbers carry equal weight. We know they don’t. A simple hit doesn’t have the same value as a home run or even a double or triple. Those don’t carry the same weight as runs or RBI.

Furthermore, we don’t know any context around any of those numbers. Were they accomplished in 12 seasons? 15? 20? How easy was it it to put up numbers during the era they played? How well did they run the bases? How well did they avoid outs? We can begin to answer some of these questions when we look at numbers that distill out the effects of time and place. When we look at those numbers we begin to see some separation between Griffey and some of these other guys.

 OPS+RbaserOW%wRC+wOBA
Ty Cobb16852.809165.445
Mickey Mantle17250.804170.428
Tris Speaker1571.778157.436
Willie Mays15677.748154.409
Ken Griffey Jr.13616.663131.384

One of the beauties of something like this is that you really don’t even need to know what you are looking at it to see the problem. Griffey clearly doesn’t belong in this group. The explanation is easy enough. Each of these numbers compare players to the average player from their era. We distill out the effects of home ballparks as well to give a truly neutral outlook on each player.

As you might imagine, these numbers don’t prove that a player is ranked where he should be overall. These are just the offensive numbers. We know that Willie Mays had quite the reputation as a great defensive player. Cobb has the reputation as the best hitter in the history of the game. Whether either of those reputations are deserved is neither here nor there. The point is that while these breakdowns are helpful, they don’t necessarily tell us much about value in a real sense.

However, before we skip to value we should find out if Mays really is the best defender in this grouping. We can see that Cobb has some competition here from Mantle, but this listing doesn’t show how long they did it for. That is where the value questions comes into play. We will get there eventually, but let’s look at fielding first.

 RfieldDWARTZWSWSGG
Willie Mays18518.2191103.610
Tris Speaker922.591117.811
Ken Griffey Jr.32.2-3760.24
Ty Cobb0-10.8082.63
Mickey Mantle-37-9.6-2855.13

The fielding numbers give us a little clearer picture of value, but even then it depends on which source you are looking at. Rfield and total zone runs are more or less the same thing. The total zone version looks at their performance solely as outfielders. Griffey has the biggest difference because of the switch to universal zone runs (UZR). They are supposedly more accurate than their predecessor and happened to capture him late in his career when he clearly was not the same fielder he was in the 1990s.

The implication is pretty clear though. Mays and Speaker were in a class by themselves defensively. It is important to note that the numbers above don’t absolutely indicate who was the betterdefensive center fielder. They peg who the more valuabledefensive player was. That is done in part by comparing players with their contemporaries. So, we are looking at the gap between each player and the other center fielders and not at an absolute cataloging of skills. There was no way to have Speaker and Mays have a foot race or a skills challenge. Most scouts and historical observers would probably tab Mays as the better of the two, but we are trying to arrive at value.

This brings us to the ultimate question. How does one account for both offensive and defensive value? How do we combine the two to come up with one number? There have been numerous critics of any particular WAR formula or that of win shares. You are taking something that is inexact and placing an exact looking value on it. The numbers were never meant to be gospel, but to give us a general overview of the value of a particular player or group of players.

For those just joining us, the Hall of Fame index was designed to measure the fitness of someone for the Hall of Fame by comparing him to those already in the Hall of Fame. We do that by combining bWAR (baseball-reference WAR), fWAR (Fangraphs WAR), and win shares divided by five. We combine a career value element and a peak value element to come up with the total index. Let’s take a look at the career value breakdown.

 bWARfWARWS/5Total
Ty Cobb151.1149.3144.4444.8
Willie Mays156.4149.9128.4434.7
Tris Speaker134.1130.6126.0390.7
Mickey Mantle110.3112.3113.0335.6
Ken Griffey Jr.83.877.778.4234.9

It’s important that we talk about what these numbers mean. Essentially, they combine the value a player brings with his bat and his glove to give a total amount of wins they were worth over a replacement level (AAA) player. The index is not meant to say that Cobb is better than Mays. After all, different sources disagree here. Each brings their own brand of secret sauce to come to their ultimate conclusion.

The index was never designed to pick Cobb over Mays or vice versa. It is meant to find gaps in data to determine where a player belongs in context. As we will see, Griffey definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame, but he doesn’t belong with this group. He fits better with the Joe Dimaggio’s and Duke Snider’s of the world. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, this is simply looking at career value. Peak value considerations add some context we don’t see here.

For instance, we know Mickey Mantle had a shorter career than the other four. Griffey’s career also was not consistent over the full course of his career. So, what we do is take the best ten year stretch of their careers to see how they fared in terms of value. Then, we can combine the two to get a total look at the player.

 bWARfWARWS/5Total
Willie Mays96.993.675.0265.5
Ty Cobb88.788.080.6257.3
Mickey Mantle82.683.177.8243.5
Tris Speaker78.075.173.6226.7
Ken Griffey Jr.67.767.352.2187.2

So, we can see that some players move around when we count only their best ten seasons. Mantle moves ahead of Speaker in terms of peak value and Mays moves ahead of Cobb as well. However, the results are close enough to keep us from declaring one as better than the other. The key for the index is that we want to find gaps in data. Griffey is well below the other four. That is a significant gap. In point of fact, the index was designed to create gaps, so when we see data this close we would be foolish to start making declarative statements. We can see how close when we combine the career and peak value numbers.

 CareerPeakTotal
Ty Cobb444.8257.3702.1
Willie Mays434.7265.5700.2
Tris Speaker390.7226.7617.4
Mickey Mantle335.6243.5579.1
Ken Griffey Jr.239.9187.2427.1

Anyone willing to pick Cobb over Mays on the basis of less than two wins is deluding themselves. That’s not what the index was designed to do. It essentially says that when all things are considered they are nearly equally valuable in terms of value. How they arrived at that value was wildly different. So, it really has to be a personal preference as to which guy you would ultimately pick.

If you have paid any attention to the previous index articles then you know that all five of these guys are more qualified. The fun is when we get into the next set of players. However, you can see how this list is a more accurate accounting of their value than the simple counting numbers that many rely on. There is just more context in these numbers than the basic ones.

2019 Fantasy Baseball: Right Field Steamer Projection Rankings

We come to the end of our series. We are looking at the Steamer projections for all of the hitters that should be rated for a standard 300 player draft. We have already looked at the three year averages for these players, but because they were rated over three seasons some young players were left out.

So, we are ranking the right fielders according to their projections in the six main categories (walks as the sixth). Projections are not always accurate, so these rankings are flawed just like the other rankings. Hopefully, the combination gives us something to go on.

Mookie Betts– Boston Red Sox

Projection: .303, 30 HR, 117 Runs, 96 RBI, 26 SB, 77 BB

Betts has a credible argument for the top spot in all of baseball. Naturally, Mike Trout has something to say about that. When you include fielding Betts probably has the edge. He plays on the best offensive team in baseball, so that is probably worth something in the counting categories.

Christian Yelich– Milwaukee Brewers

Projection: .297, 27 HR, 96 Runs, 87 RBI, 15 SB, 73 BB

The balkanization of the Marlins is now complete and with all of the hype you would think that J.T. Realmuto was the reincarnation of Johnny Bench. Yelich was probably the best of the lot as evidenced by his MVP. The fact that both MVPs come from right field is an indication of the strength of the position.

Bryce Harper– Free Agent

Projection: .267, 35 HR 95 Runs, 94 RBI, 10 SB, 111 BB

Talk about a guessing game. We don’t even know where he is going yet and the possibilities could change his numbers drastically,. If he winds up in San Diego the numbers will be depressed. If he winds up in Philadelphia it could be a bonanza. So, I’d wait to see where he winds up.

J.D. Martinez– Boston Red Sox

Projection: .297, 36 HR, 94 Runs, 110 RBI, 4 SB, 63 BB

Is the MVP the best player in baseball or is the MVP the guy most responsible for the winning team winning it all? Betts was the best player, but the Red Sox were merely a good team without Martinez. He gave them the extra oomph they needed to go all the way.

Aaron Judge– New York Yankees

Projection: .251, 36 HR, 98 Runs, 93 RBI, 7 SB, 95 BB

Judge took an obvious step back last season, but he is still a very productive guy. In total points leagues he strikes out too often to be an upper echielon player, but in standard leagues he is still very strong.

Giancarlo Stanton– New York Yankees

Projection: .267, 45 HR, 96 Runs, 114 RBI, 3 SB, 67 BB

Stanton is flawed like Judge. The general idea is that hopefully one of them is hot at any one time. Either of them are capable of carrying a team for short bursts. Neither are as good as Betts and Martinez and that is why the Yankees are likely to come up short again.

Yasiel Puig– Cincinnati Reds

Projection: .276, 27 HR, 77 Runs, 87 RBI, 14 SB, 57 BB

The key in these things is never in the rankings themselves, but in the gaps you find. Puig is only next to Stanton in terms of absolute rank. The distance between the two is exceptional. Puig has always been talented. He gets one season to show how talented before becoming a free agent.

Andrew McCutchen– Philadelphia Phillies

Projection: .263, 26 HR, 78 Runs, 78 RBI, 11 SB, 75 BB

If this were the McCutchen from three years ago, there is no telling how far the Phillies would go. As it stands, the Realmuto trade is likely to make them a trendy pick to win the NL East. It remains to be seen how far they will actually go and how much he has left in the tank.

Mitch Haniger– Seattle Mariners

Projection: .259, 23 HR, 82 Runs, 80 RBI, 7 SB, 62 BB

Baseball is a one on one sport, but we cannot deny the effects of time and place. If you placed Haniger in Philadelphia and McCutchen in Seattle the rankings would be reversed and Haniger might even move up a couple of spots.

Nick Castellanos– Detroit Tigers

Projection: .276, 24 HR, 81 Runs, 90 RBI, 3 SB, 48 BB

Make no mistake, the Tigers will be terrible, but they won’t be terrible offensively. There is also the chance that Castellanos could be dealt to a contender once the Harper situation is resolved. That will have a slight effect on these numbers.

Wil Myers– San Diego Padres

Projection: .240, 23 HR, 72 Runs, 71 RBI, 17 SB, 61

If the Padres sign Manny Machado then Myers becomes the right fielder. If they sign Harper he moves to left field or they try him at third. It’s hard to call him the key to their season given the amount of the investment it would take to get either of those two in town, but a healthy season from him makes them competitive.

Brandon Nimmo– New York Mets

Projection: .240, 16 HR, 78 Runs, 55 RBI, 10 SB, 81 BB

Occasionally, you get significant gaps between formats. There is a huge gap between five and six category formats. The walks play a huge role in his value and they do the same for total points formats. He just isn’t a huge power source yet, but he could develop that as time goes on,

Adam Eaton– Washington Nationals

Projection: .283, 10 HR, 76 Runs, 52 RBI, 11 SB, 57 BB

When the Nats acquired Eaton, he was supposed to be the missing piece in the pennant chase. His career has mirrored their relative lack of success. He has been good when healthy, but he just hasn’t been healthy enough. Defense was always a big part of his game, but after numerous injuries who knows how much he has left.

Max Kepler– Minnesota Twins

Projection: .255, 20 HR, 73 Runs, 74 RBI, 7 SB, 61 BB

Kepler belongs in the baseball encyclopedia as the epitome of an average player. Average players have value. Like most average players, he rises and falls with the tide. If the Twins are good then he will be better. If they struggle again then he will not be as good.

Stephen Piscotty– Oakland Athletics

Projection: .261, 21 HR, 76 Runs, 77 RBI, 4 SB, 56 BB

Explanations like above seem pithy, but Piscotty is a perfect example of it. As the A’s gained momentum he gained momentum. Sure, he was a part of that momentun, but boats always seem to rise with the tide.

Randal Grichuk– Toronto Blue Jays

Projection: .243, 30 HR, 71 Runs, 84 RBI, 5 SB, 36 BB

Grichuk came on strong in the second half last year to give the Blue Jays some hope for next season. Add him to a lineup with Guerrero Jr. and Justin Smoak and you might have something. The Jays won’t win anything, but they will be fun to watch.

Nomar Mazara– Texas Rangers

Projection: .271, 21 HR, 65 Runs, 72 RBI, 2 SB, 43 BB

There is a difference between value and production. Mazara puts up numbers because he plays in a great ballpark for hitters and plays every day. It’s overly simplistic to say anyone could do it, but more people could do it than you think.

Nick Markakis– Atlanta Braves

Projection: .274, 11 HR, 63 Runs, 62 RBI, 2 SB, 58 BB

Markakis will be on a Hall of Fame ballot some day. He won’t get much support, but that puts a ranking like this in perspective. He isn’t as good as he was last season, but you could do a lot worse on your fantasy bench.

Kole Calhoun– Los Angeles Angels

Projection: .243, 17 HR, 64 Runs, 57 RBI, 5 SB, 50 BB

The first two months of last year saw injuries derail his entire season, but if you took the numbers from the last four months and extrapolated them to a full season you would see his career norms come through. It’s simplistic to say bet on that for a full season, but it’s worth a late round pick to gamble.

Steven Souza– Arizona Diamondbacks

Projection: .239, 16 HR, 52 Runs, 53 RBI, 9 SB, 48 BB

The Dbacks acquired him to be the missing piece and he ended up missing much of the season Now, they have lost Goldschmidt. Still, Souza is worth a pick at the end of the draft in case he comes back to 2017 form.

2019 Fantasy Baseball: Center Field Steamer Projection Rankings

“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today. Put me coach I’m ready to play. Look at me I can be center field.” — John Fogerty

It is probably no coincidence that center field has arguably the best player in the game today. Go back to when we were children and there were three positions you wanted to play. In some instances you played all three. We’ve already covered shortstops, so now we come to center field.

We’ve already covered the three year rankings and as we have seen, that leaves out any number of young players. So, we are looking at the Steamer projections for the six main categories. These are guesses as well and probably not as accurate as what we have seen, but we must take a look at some young players to give a full picture of the position.

Mike Trout– Los Angeles Angels

Projection: .300, 37 HR, 112 Runs, 100 RBI, 19 SB, 117 BB

Bill James once said of Babe Ruth that no player evaluation system could be legitimate if it didn’t have him as the top player of all-time. Well, the same could be said for modern projection systems and Mike Trout. Of course, that is hyperbole, but while he is in his prime it is also true.

Charlie Blackmon– Colorado Rockies

Projection: .287, 27 HR, 105 Runs, 79 RBI, 13 SB, 56 BB

The trick is not in ranking players, but in determining the distance between two particular players. Trout is head and shoulders above everyone else. Blackmon is also head and shoulders in front of the next man.

George Springer– Houston Astros

Projection: .263, 26 HR, 95 Runs, 75 RBI, 8 SB, 71 BB

Springer was the World Series MVP in 2017 and had another productive postseason last year. It is easy to get carried and extrapolate postseason performance moving forward. You are almost always better off taking a player for what he has done in the regular season.

Lorenzo Cain– Milwaukee Brewers

Projection: .284, 15 HR, 86 Runs, 59 RBI, 22 SB, 59 BB

It’s too bad that WAR isn’t a category. Cain is a gifted defender on top of being a very good offensive player. He isn’t elite in either category, but when you are very good in both you are an elite performer. It’s too bad they don’t count the defense.

Starling Marte– Pittsburgh Pirates

Projection: .282, 17 HR, 79 Runs, 71 RBI, 34 SB, 35 BB

If you are playing in a standard 5×5 format then Marte is a very good play. He gives you a little bit of everything. In more advanced formats his inability to steal first base is problematic, so you can plan accordingly.

Aaron Hicks– New York Yankees

Projection: .248, 22 HR, 80 Runs, 70 RBI, 10 SB, 76 BB

Hicks came of age last season after bouncing around for several seasons. It almost reminds you of David Ortiz. Both players came from Minnesota where they did not realize their full potential. Of course, Hicks isn’t quite as good offensively, but might be of similar value overall.

A.J. Pollock– Los Angeles Dodgers

Projection: .252, 19 HR, 70 Runs, 62 RBI, 15 SB, 41 BB

There is much talk about the economic downturn in the game. He signed a four year and 50 million dollar deal with an option for ten million in a fifth season. This is all for a guy that has played in more than 113 games once since 2013.

Victor Robles– Washington Nationals

Projection: .274, 12 HR, 69 Runs, 59 RBI, 27 SB, 38 BB

Every season brings a new phenom in the fantasy landscape. There are a few if we include guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. it could be a very exciting season for fantasy baseball players. He is the main reason why the Nats aren’t going all in on Bryce Harper.

Odubel Herrera– Philadelphia Phillies

Projection: .267, 18 HR, 66 Runs, 69 RBI, 8 SB, 44 BB

Herrera doesn’t do anything particularly well, but he doesn’t have any major weaknesses either. He is the kind of boat that rises with the tide. The Phillies will be better next season and he should be too.

Mallex Smith– Seattle Mariners

Projection: .263, 6 HR, 78 Runs, 50 RBI, 40 SB, 54 BB

This was another shrewd trade by the Mariners. Mike Zunino is a below average catcher and they were able to get Smith for him. He won’t make anyone forget Mike Trout, but he is definitely above average.

Ender Inciarte– Atlanta Braves

Projection: .274, 9 HR, 67 Runs, 58 RBI, 23 SB, 46 BB

It is ironic that both Inciarte and Andrelton Simmons were in the same organization, but briefly so. They are essentially the same player at different positions. Inciarte plays because of his defense just like Simmons.

Jackie Bradley– Boston Red Sox

Projection: .248, 15 HR, 65 Runs, 63 RBI, 11 SB, 49 BB

Bradley is another version of Springer. He had a brilliant postseason which would lead some to think he has turned the corner as a player. He may be better this season, but it has little to do with last postseason.

Ramon Laureno– Oakland Athletics

Projection: .252, 16 HR, 69 Runs, 56 RBI, 17 SB, 46 BB

There are the halves and the have nots. While the A’s continue to be a have not they have to put some unproven guys in some key spots. Laureno showed some in the last couple of months of 2018 and could be an under the radar pick this season.

Chris Taylor– Los Angeles Dodgers

Projection: .248, 13 HR, 64 Runs, 61 RBI, 11 SB, 52 BB

The Dodgers have quite a few players that can play a number of positions. Taylor is penciled in as the second baseman next season, but both Enrique Hernandez and Max Muncy can play there as well. Taylor can play all three outfield spots in addition to second base.

Harrison Bader– St. Louis Cardinals

Projection: .245, 17 HR, 59 Runs, 62 RBI, 14 SB, 38 BB

Bader is ultimately the reason why the Cards traded Tommy Pham. Like Inciarte and Kevin Kiermaier, he is mainly there for his fielding. Depending on where he hits in the order he could be an interesting late round pick.

Adam Jones– Free Agent

Projection: .266, 18 HR, 62 Runs, 63 RBI, 4 SB, 25 BB

Jones is really not a center fielder anymore. He may not even be an every day player depending on who gets him. It’s the ultimate gut check moment for him. Do you sign with an also ran and play every day or sign with a contender and play part-time.

Byron Buxton– Minnesota Twins

Projection: .244, 15 HR, 59 Runs, 54 RBI, 18 SB, 33 BB

It’s hard to put an entire division race on one guy, but Buxton is the most important guy on the Twins. He was the number two overall pick in the same draft that saw Carlos Correa go to the Astros. There were many then that thought he was more talented. If he can harness that talent he could be huge.

Scott Schebler– Cincinnati Reds

Projection: .240, 19 HR, 53 Runs, 62 RBI, 4 SB, 37 BB

Schebler has some upside, but he also comes with tremendous risk. He may not be the center fielder in Cincinnati. They have Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, and others in line to compete with him. He’s produced more than they have, so he might get the first crack at the spot.

Kevin Kiermaier– Tampa Bay Rays

Projection: .238, 13 HR, 57 Runs, 50 RBI, 15 SB, 38 BB

If only we could count defensive runs saved. Kiermaier will play because they will want his glove in the lineup as often as possible. Last year was a disaster, but he was passable in seasons past. So maybe he will be again.

Billy Hamilton– Kansas City Royals

Projection: .241, 5 HR, 57 Runs, 41 RBI, 36 SB, 41 BB

Someone dig up Whitey Herzog. The Royals will likely steal more than 200 bases this season if everyone is healthy. The Royals will still likely lose more than 100 games, but they will be entertaining while they do it.

2019 Fantasy Baseball: Left Field Steamer Projection Rankings

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. We can rank outfielders as a whole group or we can break them down position by position. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is easier to break them down by position and then adjust back to the generic than to do the reverse, so we are looking at left fielders first.

Theoretically speaking, each position should be relatively equal, but it doesn’t turn out that way. Left field is weaker than the other two spots for one reason or another. We are ranking them by their projection in the six categories (walks are the sixth category).

Juan Soto– Washington Nationals

Projection: .292, 26 HR, 84 Runs, 85 RBI, 6 SB, 82 BB

2019 might turn out to be the best outfield in franchise history for the Nationals and it will be without Bryce Harper. Soto and Victor Robles will be the reason why. The key for Soto is the patience he brings to the plate. It adds to his power and ability to hit for average.

Ronald Acuna– Atlanta Braves

Projection: .279, 28 HR, 95 Runs, 77 RBI, 24 SB, 56 BB

It was a battle back and forth between Acuna and Soto for the top spot in the Rookie of the Year race. It makes perfect sense that it would be that way in fantasy. Soto wins in six categories while Acuna wins in five.

Andrew Benintendi– Boston Red Sox

Projection: .286, 18 HR, 98 Runs, 74 RBI, 18 SB, 69 BB

Benintendi does a little bit of everything and as such has more value than the numbers immediately show. He also plays for the best offense in baseball. That counts for something when it comes to the counting statistics.

Joey Gallo– Texas Rangers

Projection: .225, 40 HR, 86 Runs, 98 RBI, 6 SB, 81 BB

We’ve talked at length about chasing single categories. How about when a single category chases you away. Sure, the batting average is horrendous and if you are playing total points the strikeouts will kill you. In five or six category leagues he is still worth it.

Marcell Ozuna– St. Louis Cardinals

Projection: .288, 26 HR, 75 Runs, 89 RBI, 2 SB, 45 BB

Ozuna had one magical season in 2017, but the rest of them have looked like this. Leave it to the Marlins to trade him after his one great season and they still didn’t get much for him. Adding Goldschmidt may help a little, but this is probably who Ozuna is.

Eddie Rosario– Minnesota Twins

Projection: .277, 24 HR, 77 Runs, 83 RBI, 8 SB, 33 BB

A team that added C.J. Cron, Nelson Cruz, and Jonathan Schoop will have to rely on the holdovers getting better. For most, that is Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. However, watching Rosario take another step forward might be more realistic.

Justin Upton– Los Angeles Angels

Projection: .243, 27 HR, 75 Runs. 84 RBI, 7 SB, 61 BB

Billy Eppler is the Ken Williams of the 2010s. He keeps trying to add that one key piece for a team that needs four or five. Upton is taking up a lot of money and he’s good, but he’s just not good enough. That describes most of the supporting cast for Mike Trout.

Khris Davis– Oakland Athletics

Projection: .240, 38 HR, 86 Runs, 102 RBI, 1 SB, 62 BB

Davis’ spot depends largely on whether you are playing left field specific or generic outfield. He suffers with batting average and stolen bases. Only four left fielders are projected to steal ten or more bases, so his output has to be seen in that context. Compared to other outfield spots that is very low. So, plan accordingly.

Kyle Schwarber– Chicago Cubs

Projection: .241, 28 HR, 69 Runs, 76 RBI, 4 SB, 74 BB

Sooner or later you come to accept players as they are. Schwarber looked like a better hitter than this early on, but he is what he is. He is an average outfielder defensively a little bit better than average offensively. Overall, that makes him pretty solid.

Michael Conforto– New York Mets

Projection: .244, 25 HR, 70 Runs, 75 RBI, 4 SB, 70 BB

Yoenis Cespedes would likely be a top five left fielder if he were healthy. He is a name to watch as he could come back at some point this season. Conforto is not nearly as sexy, but he puts up numbers when given opportunities.

Ryan Braun–Milwaukee Brewers

Projection: .265, 22 HR, 63 Runs, 70 RBI, 11 SB, 41 BB

Supposedly, Braun is altering his swing to work on his launch angle. That’s fancy talk for saying he is trying to hit more fly balls and therefore more home runs. It’s an interesting turn in a career that has seen a number of turns.

David Peralta–Arizona Diamondbacks

Projection: .281, 18 HR, 67 Runs, 62 RBI, 4 SB, 42 BB

Peralta hit 30+ home runs last year, so it is a bit of a surprise to see them knock Peralta down a bit. I guess they are going with overall career norms and he has had trouble staying on the field in the past. I suppose two consecutive healthy seasons is too much to bank on.

Shin-Soo Choo– Texas Rangers

Projection: .254, 17 HR, 73 Runs, 55 RBI, 6 SB, 67 BB

Money changes the perception of things and sometimes for the worse. For the most part, Choo has been a very good hitter. He’s been a crummy fielder, but when healthy he is always good with the bat. He is being paid as if he is a great player. He isn’t but that really hasn’t changed.

David Dahl– Colorado Rockies

Projection: .270, 18 HR, 59 Runs, 64 RBI, 9 SB, 33 BB

Dahl is ready to produce, but he never has been able to stay on the field. He is in a perfect ballpark and a perfect situation. He doesn’t have to produce big numbers because they already have four or five guys that do. He just needs to stay healthy.

Michael Brantley–Houston Astros

Projection: .282, 14 HR, 66 Runs, 61 RBI, 8 SB, 40 BB

If you are playing in a total points universe, he jumps up the rankings. If you are playing on a per game basis he might even be top five. The Astros will limit his exposure to lefties, so he isn’t a great bet on a full season basis, but if you can make daily lineup changes he could be an appealing platoon option.

Trey Mancini– Baltimore Orioles

Projection: .261, 23 HR, 68 Runs, 77 RBI, 1 SB, 41 BB

Mancini is an example of an NBA phenomenom. Even bad teams have to have someone that produces runs. Even if that player isn’t good himself, he will produce runs. He might not be around when the Orioles are good again, but that won’t be for another few seasons.

Tommy Pham– Tampa Bay Rays

Projection: .255, 16 HR, 60 Runs, 53 RBI, 13 SB, 56 BB

The Rays play platoons more aggresively than any team in baseball. It worked enough to get them 90 wins even with a mediocre roster. However, it doesn’t exactly help with fantasy value for guys like Pham. It’s the main reason you haven’t seen a ton or Rays players on this list.

Domingo Santana– Seattle Mariners

Projection: .237, 18 HR, 59 Runs, 60 RBI, 6 SB, 60 BB

There was a lot not to like in the Mariners offseason, but picking up Santana was a stroke of brilliance. He could easily be a 20 HR and 10 SB guy when it is all said and done and they got him for next to nothing.

Corey Dickerson– Pittsburgh Pirates

Projection: .275, 17 HR, 57 Runs, 60 RBI, 5 SB, 25 BB

Dickerson has had a few fascinating chapters in his career. His Pittsburgh chapter has been fun to watch. He is a maximum effort guy and never met a pitch he didn’t like. It makes him a very flawed player, but a very entertaining player to watch.

Brett Gardner– New York Yankees

Projection: .245, 9 HR, 48 Runs, 37 RBI, 9 SB, 39 BB

Gardner has forged himself a nice career. He is still an above average defender, but he used to be a great one. All told, he is a below average offensive player at this point, but he used to be a good one. He probably has one more season as a semi-regular before he gets relegated to the bench.