The 10 Worst MLB Fielders Among Everyday Players
Though fielding aptitude can be difficult to gauge, these 10 MLB players have distinguished themselves as obvious defensive liabilities. Statistics and good ol' game highlights uncover their specific weaknesses.
UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) from Fangraphs is insightful. It combines range, errors and execution into one number, which in the following cases will always be negative.
Single-season values, however, can be misleading. A player's UZR from, say, 2010 to the present is much more reliable.
Prince Fielder, Alfonso Soriano and the other individuals included here have all started the vast majority of their teams' games in 2013. Their flaws vary from mental and instinctual to physical and technical. The lone, broad commonality? Below-average performance when outfitted with a glove.
Keep in mind, full-time designated hitters like Billy Butler, Travis Hafner and David Ortiz weren't considered. After all, they don't get opportunities to refute the criticisms against their defense.
But rest assured, pathetic examples abound.
*All "bloopers" courtesy of MLB.com.
**All stats accurate as of April 24, 2013.
10. 3B Chris Nelson (Colorado Rockies)
Career UZR: -28.4.
Farmhand Nolan Arenado needs to be called up soon, lest the Colorado Rockies' surprising NL West lead disappears.
Despite a .301/.352/.458 batting line in 2012, Chris Nelson is a sub-replacement-level third baseman. If sharing the left side of the infield with star Troy Tulowitzki can't help his defensive stats, nothing will.
Both of Nelson's errors this season led directly to unearned runs.
9. 2B/OF Emilio Bonifacio (Toronto Blue Jays)
UZR since 2010: -9.6.
At least Emilio Bonifacio is versatile. He has filled in at four different positions during his first month with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Of course, that alone won't keep him in the lineup regularly. Bonifacio has played only one complete game since April 17, as manager John Gibbons fears that he'll add to his league-leading total of four errors.
Though the 28-year-old is relatively sure-handed in the outfield, opposing baserunners disrespect his throwing arm. According to Baseball-Reference.com, they don't hesitate to take an extra base when a ball is hit in his direction (see "held percentage").
8. SS Eduardo Nunez (New York Yankees)
Career UZR: -20.1.
Eduardo Nunez is reasonably athletic with respectable range and the willingness to play various positions.
However, he has committed 30 errors in a relatively brief career for an average of about one every 15 chances. Nunez finds throwing and fielding equally challenging.
Derek Jeter's defense has always been overrated, but there's no doubt that the New York Yankees would be better off with their captain at shortstop.
7. LF Josh Willingham (Minnesota Twins)
UZR since 2010: -17.9.
Too much bulk is always detrimental to one's defense.
Hitting home runs has been Josh Willingham's No. 1 priority. Otherwise, he wouldn't be tipping the scales at 230 pounds.
He posted career-best numbers in a host of offensive categories last season, yet FanGraphs valued him at only 3.6 WAR. Willingham can be seen screwing up the simplest of plays due to a lack of concentration.
Hard to believe this guy used to be a catcher.
6. 2B Rickie Weeks (Milwaukee Brewers)
UZR since 2010: -16.4.
Rickie Weeks lost his offensive mojo around Opening Day 2012. Since then, he embarrassingly ranks among baseball's most strikeout-prone players.
Dating back to his first appearance with the Milwaukee Brewers, however, the one constant fault in Weeks' game has been errors. More often than not, he has led all National League second basemen in that category.
We can't blame everything on his recent double-play partners (e.g. Cesar Izturis, Cody Ransom and Jean Segura). Weeks was equally problematic during his years alongside smooth-fielding shortstop J.J. Hardy.
5. 1B Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies)
UZR since 2010: -19.8.
Ryan Howard serves as a big target at first base.
Then again, height is for naught without sufficient throwing mechanics and sensible decisions. Howard isn't known for either.
He'll surprise us occasionally by starting a double play or making a fancy scoop. All in all though, the Philadelphia Phillies regret overlooking his defensive mediocrity when negotiating his $125 million contract extension a few years ago.
4. 3B Michael Young (Philadelphia Phillies)
UZR since 2010: -17.8.
The Philadelphia Phillies had a void at third base entering this past winter.
All things considered, Michael Young was an adequate acquisition. Even at 36 years old, he's an above-average hitter with decent contact ability.
However, his sluggishness at the hot corner largely negates any run production. Young finished with an ugly UZR in both 2009 and 2010, his only full seasons at the position.
The free-agent-to-be lacks the quick instincts to make plays when standing 90 feet from home plate. Only playing behind the bag made this diving stop possible (via MLB.com).
3. LF Lucas Duda (New York Mets)
Career UZR: -39.3.
The New York Mets have had rotten luck with their outfield.
Jason Bay sorely disappointed during his three-year stint in Queens and the Angel-Pagan-for-Andres-Torres swap backfired. Then, despite expressing interest in Michael Bourn and Justin Upton, the team came away empty-handed.
Fast-forward to this regular season, where Lucas Duda is a fixture in right field. Like everybody else who cracked this list's top five, he honestly belongs as a designated hitter.
The UZR says it all. While Duda possesses plenty of strength, he simply doesn't have the range to track down balls near the foul line or in the right-center gap.
2. 1B Prince Fielder (Detroit Tigers)
UZR since 2010: -14.6.
Virtually all experts awarded the 2012 Detroit Tigers an AL Central title before they stepped on the field. Stellar starting pitching eventually led them deep into the postseason, but maddening defense by the infield almost prevented them from qualifying.
Third baseman Miguel Cabrera fell slightly outside the top 10 while teammate Prince Fielder very nearly claimed the top spot.
He's both undersized and oversized. He's too short to make the standard stretches and reaches for throws while his girth limits his side-to-side movement. Compared to Ryan Howard, he gets more velocity on his throws, though accuracy isn't a given.
Fielder is largely responsible for Rick Porcello's underwhelming stats. The young sinkerballer might never reach his potential in Motown because his ground balls seldom get converted into outs.
1. 1B/DH/LF Adam Dunn (Chicago White Sox)
UZR since 2010: -6.2.
During his first couple years in the Windy City, Adam Dunn was exactly where he belonged—in the dugout when the Chicago White Sox took the field.
That explains why his UZR isn't much more in the negative direction.
Tragically, with Paul Konerko deteriorating and Dayan Viciedo on the disabled list, manager Robin Ventura has often needed to find a position for Big Donkey.
According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, there was a time when Dunn didn't want to sign with an American League club. He has always found fielding to be "fun."
One thing's for sure—the opposition finds reason to laugh .