Every spring training, fans rank their players and get hyped about their favourite players. Reporters produced their positional rankings, and I always find that there are guys that should not be ranked so low.
Without further ado, I present the MLB All Under-Rated team. They aren’t necessarily players who will break out, but guys who will put together a solid season without the fanfare.
C- Matt Wieters
Wieters debuted two seasons ago with the anticipation to be the next Joe Mauer. While he has had some success to this point, his first two seasons have been a let down. He debuted on May 29th 2009, and doubled and tripled in his 2ndcareer game. Unfortunately, this was his only triple of the season, and he didn’t produce his first RBI until June 17th, the same day he hit his first major league home run. In 2010, Wieters hit .249/.319/.377, with 11 HR and 55 RBI, playing in 130 games.
I expect Wieters to prove himself this year and bounce back to what was originally expected out of him. He was drafted 5th overall in 2007 and should eventually grow to the quality of player the Orioles expected. I see him putting together a solid season with a .275/.370/.450 with potential for 20+ home run power and 70+ RBI.
1B- Mitch Moreland
Now that Justin Smoak is out of the mix (as one of the many prospects who have been traded for Cliff Lee and then failed to produce for the new team), and with Chris Davis routinely failing to capitalize on his opportunities to be the Rangers starting first baseman, Moreland has the opportunity to take hold of the 1B duty for the defending AL Champions. Moreland only played in 47 regular season games last year (his first in the majors), and only hit .255/.364/.469 with 9 HR and 25 RBI.
But we all saw Moreland’s game winning 3-run shot off of Jonathan Sanchez in Game 3 of the World Series, and I believe we’ll be seeing more of that Mitch in 2011. In the playoffs, Moreland hit a very nice .348/.400/.500. He did only hit that one HR, but he’s in a lineup where pitchers won’t be able to pitch around him. Moreland hit primarily in the 9-spot during the playoffs, but I expect Ron Washington to move him up to 7th, hitting after Ian Kinsler. That’ll give him way more opportunities to cash in runs, and pitchers will likely be throwing to him after having to avoid some of the stronger hitters in the Rangers lineup. Expect a .290/.380/.490 line from Moreland, and 15 HR with 50+ RBI
2B- Skip Schumaker
We all know that, for fantasy purposes, 2nd base is a very shallow position. After the few top offensive guys, this position drops quickly. Instead of spending big on a 2nd baseman whose name is Dan Uggla, look for the cost-effective option of the Skip. He may not be a flashy option, and he doesn’t produce in most areas, but he hits for a good average and can get on base. Skip hasn’t shown the signs of speed that other Schumaker’s are known for either, yet there is one thing about his situation that interests me: the Cards lineup.
Skip will likely be leading off for St. Louis, a lineup that now includes Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and Albert Pujols. Most successful leadoff hitters will need to hit a .370 OBP, which Skip came close to in 2009 (he was at .364 and .359 in 2008). His 2010 season resulted in much lower numbers with a .265/.328/.338 line. I expect Schumaker to bring his average back up to the .300 mark, which he topped in his 2008 and 2009, hitting .302 and .303, respectively. I don’t see him getting quite to the .370 OBP, but I can easily see him getting back up to .360 and likely even greater. This should lead to 90+ runs scored, and I can see him hitting 5 HR and 40 RBI.
SS- Yunel Escobar
I’ll be honest, this may just be a part of my love for the Jays and Alex Anthopolous, but how did the Jays get this guy in a trade without giving up that much? Flat out, the guy is a stud. In his first season of 94 games, Yunel hit a wopping .326/.385/.451. Sure 319 at bats isn’t the largest of sample sizes, but those numbers are fantastic, never mind for a shortstop. He has regressed since, but there were rumoured issues with Bobby Cox that do not seem to be present since he has joined the Jays. Playing up the middle with Aaron Hill, he made some amazing plays, and looked like he was having a good time.
His stats are not as impressive since his debut season, but I can see them easily bouncing back. His second and third seasons were completed with lines of .288/.366/.401 and .299/.377/.436, both very good numbers. His power started to show also in these seasons hitting 10 HR and 60 RBI in 2008, and 15 HR and 76 RBI in 2009.
And then came 2010. Yunel started the year horribly with the Braves, which led to the trade to the Jays. After not hitting a single homer for the first half of the year with Atlanta, Yunel hit one in his 3rd game with the Bluebirds, also putting together 5 RBI. The rest of the season worked out decently, but a full spring training with Dwayne Murphy will lead to more power, and Yunel has the ability to get on base and do the right things (he’s a wicked bunter). I expect a .300/.369/.415 line with 10 HR and 70 RBI from Escobar in the two spot for the Jays this season.
3B- Casey McGehee
This guy was my sleeper last year, and I managed to buy him for $1 in my keeper fantasy league. Let’s just say I’d pay much more than that for him right now. Since joining the Brew Crew, McGehee has been stellar at the plate. Playing 157 games last year, he hit a line of .285/.337/.464 with 23 HR and 104 RBI. In 2009, his first season in Milwaukee, his line was even better at .301/.360/.499.
To be honest, I don’t know why people aren’t as crazy about this guy as I am. I’d be the first to warn about the potential loss of his value once Prince leaves for greener pastures, but until then McGehee is hitting in a very solid lineup on a team that now boasts a very legitimate rotation and will likely win the NL Central. Expect a line of .285/.355/.495, with 25 HR and 90 RBI.
LF- Delmon Young
This may seem surprising, as Young has been expected for so many years to break out and become a star. Since he was drafted and brought up by the Rays, Young’s poor performance made it seem that everybody was completely overrating him. That is exactly why I believe he is now underrated! Delmon is perceived by many to be a draft bust, after going 1stoverall in 2003, and not living up to what was expected of him for so long. After being traded to the Twins, Young put up decent HR and RBI numbers, while always putting up a consistent line. His batting average has ranged during his career from .284 to .317, and his slugging percentage has bottomed out at .405.
This past season though, Young finally came alive, and yet he managed to do it pretty quietly. After so much fanfare about his failures, his success goes largely unnoticed. Young hit .298/.333/.493 in 2010, as well as 21 HR and 112 RBI. He also hit 46 doubles, a career high. Look for the same Delmon Young in 2011, who should hit about .290/.335/.490 with 25 HR and 110 RBI.
CF- Franklin Gutiérrez
It’s too bad that the Mariners are terrible at baseball. I’m going to put it out there and make the disclaimer that Gutiérrez is easily one of the best defensive centre fielders in the game. I’ve loved this guy since he was a part of the Tribe playing next to Sizemore. But as we see with most players, they leave Cleveland only to prosper (not that Seattle has much of a better track record). Gutiérrez never played more than 134 games for the Indians, but he’s played 153 and 152 games in each of the past two seasons. In 2009, he hit .283/.339/.425 with 18 HR and 70 RBI. This season, Frankie was eventually moved up in the lineup from hitting in the 9-spot to the guy who is fortunate enough to hit behind Ichiro, and he put up very good numbers.
In 2010 Gutiérrez regressed, just like the entire Mariners roster (even Ichiro’s numbers dropped from 2009 to 2010). Gutiérrez hit a meager .245/.303/.363 with 12 HR and 64 RBI. His RBI stayed up as a result of his move to the middle of the lineup, yet his stolen bases also increased to 25 SB, being caught only 3 times. If the Mariners can somehow get bigger, or if they decide to move him back to hitting right behind Ichiro, I expect his numbers to bounce back. Because I don’t see the Mariners getting any better, I don’t see a full recovery in his numbers, so I expect him to hit .270/.320/.375 with 15 HR and 65 RBI with 20 SB.
RF- Hunter Pence
Here’s another case of a good player stuck on a really bad team. It’s weird that players go so under the radar when they play for terrible teams, even though they consistently put up great stats. Case in point: Roy Halladay, who was seen as an ace while with the Jays, but now that he’s on a better more publicized team, he is being mentioned by way more people as the MLB’s best pitcher.
No, I do not think that Hunter Pence is anywhere near Doc’s value, I am not as bad as Luke Scott is a base runner. But his value is being looked over as he plays for a team who deserves to not play at Minute Maid Park, but Enron Field. In each of the past three seasons, Pence put up exactly 25 HR, and 17 in his rookie season before that. This past year, he hit .282/.325/.461 with the 25 HR and 91 RBI, a very solid season for a terrible team. His average in 2009 was also .282, and he hit 72 RBI. Pence may not break out and be the star that is expected, but I would be shocked if he isn’t representing the Astros at the All-Star game in July. Look for him to have another consistent year with a line of .282/.330/.465 with 25 HR and 90 RBI.