All 30 MLB Teams' Most Overrated and Underrated Players of 2014
The great thing about sports—about baseball—is the passion that it sparks within us. We get emotional about our favorite teams and our favorite players, and we'll defend both to the death against any and all perceived attacks.
Lest we forget that "fan" is actually short for "fanatic" (and I'm not talking about the furry beast that hangs out in Philadelphia).
This list—and any like it that you come across in your travels around the web—is entirely subjective. It's with that understanding that I say this: You and I...we may not be on speaking terms after you're done reading.
For calling any player overrated or underrated is sure to get a rise out of fans. Some will agree with what follows, but more will not, and heated debates will break out like a rash in the comments section below.
In this exercise, overrated is split into two categories: players who simply aren't as good as their numbers would lead us to believe and players who were hyped coming into the season but have failed to deliver. Underrated is more straightforward. These are the players who either don't get the attention that they deserve or who are far better than people give them credit for.
I'll explain why I believe a player falls into one of those two categories, and in some cases, I'll pull from the history books to make a point.
That said, for all intents and purposes, this is about the most overrated and the most underrated player on every team in 2014—and only 2014. So take a deep breath, count to 10, and let's begin.
Most Overrated: OF/1B Mark Trumbo
It finally dawned on me who Mark Trumbo reminds me of. It wasn't a "Finkle is Einhorn" moment, but things are finally clear.
For those who have no clue who Ron Kittle is, the 1983 American League Rookie of the Year spent the bulk of his 10-year career with the Chicago White Sox. He hit for power—his 114 home runs between 1983 and 1986 was the fourth-highest total in baseball during that period—but did little else.
Kittle didn't hit for average, couldn't get on base with any consistency and was a mediocre fielder at best, whether it was in a corner outfield spot or at first base. Sound familiar?
If that doesn't describe Trumbo perfectly, I don't know what does. What I do know is this: Kittle wasn't all that and a bag of chips, and neither is Trumbo. All-or-nothing players are never quite as good as their gaudy power numbers lead us to believe.
Most Underrated: 1B Paul Goldschmidt
Even after finishing second to the Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen in the 2013 National League MVP race, Paul Goldschmidt remains one of the more overlooked and underrated superstars in baseball.
Consider this: Among players who accumulated at least 1,950 plate appearances over their first four seasons, Goldschmidt's .904 OPS ranks 37th all time. That puts him ahead of some pretty big names, including Hank Aaron (.902), Mickey Mantle (.896), Jim Rice (.866) and Chipper Jones (.864).
Perhaps Goldschmidt is a victim of the market in which he plays. Surely, more people would recognize him as the best first baseman in baseball if he played in, say, Chicago, Los Angeles or New York, right?
Most Overrated: 3B Chris Johnson
After hitting .321 with an .816 OPS for Atlanta in 2013, the Braves rewarded Chris Johnson with a three-year, $27.5 million contract extension at the beginning of the 2014 season.
"Maybe he's not going to hit .320. But we've always felt he was somewhere in the .280 to .300 range as a hitter," Wren told MLB.com's Mark Bowman. "His career will tell you that. As we go forward, we believe that is the kind of player he can be, in that [.280 to .300] range and hit 10 to 15 home runs, drive in 70 and play solid third base."
Wren's not necessarily wrong. Over parts of six major league seasons, Johnson is a .286 hitter who, over a full 162-game season, would average 14 home runs and 77 RBI a year.
Perhaps Johnson feels more pressure now that he's getting paid, but he has taken a step back at the plate. While his batting average is still respectable, he's chasing more pitches out of the strike zone than he ever has before. That's led to the second-lowest contact rate—and highest strikeout rate—of his career.
Additionally, Johnson's defense is far from solid. Among players who have logged at least 4,000 innings at the hot corner since 2009, advanced metrics grade Johnson as the worst defensive third baseman in the game.
Most Underrated: OF Jason Heyward
There's a group of fans that will say Jason Heyward is overrated because he never developed into the slugger many thought he'd become.
Except that he has—sort of.
Over the first four years of his career—his age-20 to age-23 seasons—Heyward hit 73 home runs. That puts him the the top 40 all time among similarly aged players. His .443 slugging percentage? 26th among players of the same age with at least 2,100 plate appearances.
Toss in the fact that he's far and away the best defensive outfielder in baseball, and you've got yourself a pretty good ballplayer. One who's only 25 years old and just getting into the prime years of his career.
Most Overrated: OF/DH Nelson Cruz
Back in November, long before Nelson Cruz signed a free-agent deal with the Baltimore Orioles this past winter, ESPN's David Schoenfield wrote an article titled "Stay Away From Nelson Cruz," offering the following perspective:
Cruz will turn 34 next July and is one of the most overrated players in baseball, as mediocre players on good teams often are. He had one monster season, hitting .318/.374/.576 in 108 games in 2010. He's come up big in the postseason, with 14 home runs and 27 RBIs in 34 games, enhancing his reputation. The things he does well -- hit some home runs, drive in some runs -- are the two skills most often overvalued. The things he doesn't do well -- get on base, play defense -- are still two traits too often overlooked.
He nailed it.
Cruz's ability to hit for power and drive in runs was a key factor in Baltimore's climb to the top of the American League East standings. But the Orioles have stayed atop the division thanks to phenomenal pitching and timely hitting from the rest of the roster—not because of Cruz.
Most Underrated: OF Nick Markakis
Nick Markakis is the anti-Cruz, if you will.
His power and run-producing ability is solid, not spectacular. But he hits for average, gets on base consistently and isn't nearly the defensive liability that his slugging counterpart is—or that fans perceive him to be.
In Markakis' nine-year career, only once—in 2013—has he finished the season with an OPS below .756. The list of players who have pulled that off is a short one—24 to be exact—and only nine have accomplished the feat every year since Markakis debuted in 2006.
Boston Red Sox
Most Overrated: SS/3B Xander Bogaerts
Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe recently summed up Xander Bogaerts' first full season in a Red Sox uniform with perfection: "The Red Sox have no idea if Bogaerts is a shortstop or a third baseman. They have no idea what type of hitter he is."
Between his performance in 12 playoff games for Boston a year ago, in which he hit .296 with a .893 OPS as a 20-year-old, and his status as a highly touted prospect, Bogaerts was pegged by many prognosticators as the favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2014.
He's been shaky defensively, whether it be at third base or shortstop, chases pitches out of the strike zone nearly 30 percent of the time and looks very much like a 21-year-old who isn't quite ready for prime time.
Most Underrated: Mike Napoli, 1B
Despite missing 18 games due to a variety of ailments, Mike Napoli remains Boston's most productive hitter. That might seem odd to say about a player who doesn't lead his team in batting average or home runs, but it's true.
Napoli knows how to get on base—and he doesn't seem to care if he puts himself there or lets the pitcher do the work for him. His 62 free passes rank fifth in the AL, his .385 on-base percentage 11th. For those with an affinity for advanced metrics, Napoli's 144 wRC+ is the 24th-highest mark in baseball—and he's one of only three players in the top 25 who has played in less than 100 games.
Then there's the defense. While he hasn't been quite as sharp as he was a season ago, Napoli remains one of the game's premier defenders at first base, evidenced by his 7.4 UZR/150 (fourth in MLB) and two defensive runs saved (ninth).
Most Overrated: Nobody
The team's prime candidates for this spot—Emilio Bonifacio and Jason Hammel—are now playing on contenders, leaving the Chicago Cubs with some quality pieces (Javier Baez, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo) and not much else.
Players like Junior Lake, Luis Valbuena and Travis Wood are who we thought they were: roster depth and back-of-the-rotation talent, respectively.
Most Underrated: RP Neil Ramirez
The player to be named later in the trade that sent Matt Garza to Texas last year, Neil Ramirez, has not only emerged as Chicago's best reliever in 2014, but as arguably the best rookie reliever in team history.
Among first-year pitchers who made at least 30 relief appearances for the Cubs, nobody beats Ramirez's 1.26 ERA. He doesn't issue many walks, strikes out well over a batter per inning and has held the opposition to a .176/.270/.275 slash line.
Chicago White Sox
Most Overrated: 3B Conor Gillaspie
At the end of July, Conor Gillaspie told Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune that he doesn't pay much attention to statistics: "The more I look into that the more disappointing it gets when you don't do well."
That's a good thing, because for those who are paying attention to Gillaspie's .313/.362/.447 line, well, disappointment awaits. Gillaspie's numbers have jumped thanks to an unsustainable .360 BABIP.
Regression, it's a-coming.
What the White Sox will be left with is a defensive liability at third base who hits .250 and offers little in the power department.
Most Underrated: SP Jose Quintana
Overshadowed in Chicago by Chris Sale—and rightfully so—Jose Quintana has quietly become one of baseball's most consistent and reliable starting pitchers.
The 25-year-old has the AL's 10th-lowest ERA (3.04) and leads the White Sox in both quality starts (17) and innings pitched (148). He's allowed four earned runs or more in only three of his 24 starts on the season and held the opposition to two earned runs or fewer 17 times.
*FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan wrote a terrific piece earlier this year about Quintana's journey to this point in his career and his relative anonymity. Be warned—it's a bit on the long side, but it's a fascinating read nonetheless.
Most Overrated: 2B Brandon Phillips
Before he was sidelined by thumb surgery to repair torn ligaments, Brandon Phillips was on his way to his least productive season in a Cincinnati uniform.
Sure, the 33-year-old remained one of the premier defensive second basemen in baseball, but his bat had fallen silent. Phillips was on pace to hit only 13 home runs (his lowest total since 2006, when he hit 17) and set a new career high with 115 strikeouts.
Throw in an on-base percentage (.308) that was closer to .290 than .350 and an OPS that he could barely keep above .700 (.701), and the All-Star player that people think of when it comes to "Dat Dude BP" no longer exists.
Most Underrated: C Devin Mesoraco
Much of the attention behind the plate has gone to Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy, who is having a phenomenal season, but Devin Mesoraco hasn't exactly been a slouch.
Among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, Mesoraco leads the way with a 161 wRC+, 20 points higher than Lucroy. He leads all major league catchers with 20 home runs, is second to Arizona's Miguel Montero in RBI (62 to 61) and trails only Lucroy and Pittsburgh's Russell Martin in on-base percentage.
Most Overrated: OF/1B/DH Nick Swisher
In the blink of an eye, Nick Swisher transformed into Jason Giambi: a great teammate that you don't want anywhere near the field of play.
Hitting only .208/.278/.331 for Cleveland this season, it's possible that his offensive struggles are a result of a balky knee that just landed him on the 15-day disabled list. Or perhaps it's a continuation of a trend that began last season, when his numbers took a fairly large step in the wrong direction.
What makes matters worse is that Swisher has become a defensive liability, whether it be in the outfield or at first base. That makes him best suited to be a full-time designated hitter, and a DH who doesn't hit is about as useful as conducting batting practice without any balls.
Most Underrated: SP Corey Kluber
It's time to play a little game.
Below, you'll see the second-half stats for two pitchers, both with the initials "C.K." Your job is to figure out which stats belong to the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, and which belong to Cleveland's Corey Kluber.
|C.K. No. 1||4-1 (5)||0.68||0.65||0.70||10.1|
|C.K. No. 2||4-0 (5)||1.80||0.93||1.4||8.3|
If you guessed Kershaw was CK No. 1, you'd be...wrong.
Those gaudy numbers belong to Kluber, who has walked more batters (four) than he's allowed earned runs (three) over his last 40 innings of work.
Here's another game we can play: Think about how insanely ridiculous that is for a second.
Now try and make an argument that Kluber isn't underrated.
Most Overrated: SS Troy Tulowitzki
Make no mistake about it—Troy Tulowitzki is a terrific ballplayer.
But he struggles to stay healthy, with three trips to the disabled list over the past three years. Those periods of inaction wouldn't be so easily overlooked if his numbers weren't padded by the launching pad that is Coors Field.
That last part's the most damning.
Those are some pretty severe splits right there. While his home numbers this season are otherworldly, the disparity in the numbers is something that has been evident throughout his career.
By playing half his games at Coors Field, Tulowitzki is a perennial MVP candidate. Take Coors Field away from him, and he's looked at as being a very good—not great—player.
Most Underrated: SP Jordan Lyles
Much of the focus in Colorado has been on the trade winds that have swirled around Jorge De La Rosa and the development of top pitching prospects Eddie Butler and Jon Gray.
That's too bad, because Jordan Lyles has put together a pretty impressive season for the Rockies, one that has gone largely unnoticed.
Unlike Tulo, Lyles' home/away splits are nearly identical, both finding him with an ERA under 3.90, a WHIP below 1.35 and a total of six home runs allowed—three at Coors Field, three on the road. That's pretty impressive given the way his home park favors hitters.
Most Overrated: OF J.D. Martinez
Some people look at J.D. Martinez and see a long-term fixture in left field for the Detroit Tigers. I look at J.D. Martinez and I see...the right-handed version of Brennan Boesch.
The similarities are uncanny.
|Boesch (2011 First Half)||.306||.851||34 (12)||44||57|
|Martinez (2014 First Half)||.346||1.035||31 (13)||43||27|
|Boesch (2011 Second Half)||.219||.656||8 (4)||10||18|
|Martinez (2014 Second Half)||.203||.609||6 (2)||8||8|
While Martinez still has roughly six weeks to boost his numbers, there's no reason to believe that he's going to suddenly reverse course and go back to his first-half ways.
Most Underrated: SP Anibal Sanchez
Anibal Sanchez had trouble getting the credit he deserved before David Price arrived in Detroit. Now that Price has joined the mix, along with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, Sanchez has become something of an afterthought.
This is the same Sanchez who, last season, led the AL with a 2.57 ERA while striking out 202 batters, the sixth-highest total in the Junior Circuit. Currently on the disabled list, Sanchez has once again put up sold numbers, with a more-than-respectable 3.53 ERA and an average of just under eight strikeouts per nine innings of work.
In any other rotation, Sanchez is a No. 1 or No. 2 starter. In Detroit, he's No. 4.
Most Overrated: C Jason Castro
Jason Castro has seemingly forgotten everything that he learned on his journey from Stanford University to Citi Field in New York, the site of the 2013 MLB All-Star Game.
Plate discipline is a thing of the past. Castro is not only walking less, but he's swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone than he ever has before, leading to a career-high strikeout rate. Among qualified catchers, only New York's Brian McCann (88) has a lower wRC than Castro's 90.
Most Underrated: 2B Jose Altuve
Go ahead and say aloud the names of the five best second basemen in baseball. Chances are that Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips and Chase Utley were the five names that crossed your lips.
You'd be wrong, of course, for you failed to include the man who leads the AL in both batting average and stolen bases—the guy who leads all of baseball in hits.
Jose Altuve, all 5'6" of him.
Sure, he doesn't hit for power, and his defense falls somewhere between bad and awful. But when it comes to producing at the plate, Altuve belongs with the five second basemen you named earlier.
Houston's diminutive dynamo simply doesn't get the credit—or attention—that he deserves.
Kansas City Royals
Most Overrated: 1B Eric Hosmer
Since Eric Hosmer made his MLB debut in 2011, he's one of only two full-time first basemen, along with Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt, to steal at least 40 bases.
But he's not fast enough to be legging out infield singles, which is something that his 53 percent ground-ball rate since 2012—the highest of any qualified first baseman (and 10 percent higher than Goldschmidt's)—makes you believe he's trying to do.
That's not a typo. More than half the time that Hosmer steps to the plate, he's hitting a ground ball. Only Minnesota's Joe Mauer is putting the ball in the air less frequently than Hosmer. It's tough to hit the ball out of the park when it's not in the air.
While he's waiting for his broken hand to heal, perhaps Hosmer can try and figure out how to reverse those numbers—and become the All-Star first baseman people expected him to be by now.
Most Underrated: OF Lorenzo Cain
Versatile and athletic enough to play outstanding defense at all three outfield positions, Lorenzo Cain is one of the more underrated players in all of baseball, not just in Kansas City. Among all qualified outfielders, Cain ranks fourth in defensive runs saved (19) and sixth in UZR/150 (18.8).
Sure, he strikes out more often than you'd like, especially given his lack of power, but Cain still manages to hit for average and get on base frequently enough to cause problems for the opposition with his speed.
Los Angeles Angels
Most Overrated: OF Josh Hamilton
We've seen only brief flashes of the player that terrorized Los Angeles—and the rest of baseball—while with the Texas Rangers. The real Josh Hamilton has yet to make his Angels debut.
Carrying a career .304 batting average with him when he arrived in Los Angeles before the 2013 season, Hamilton has hit only .255 in an Angels uniform. While he's hitting .265 this season, he's making contact less often (61.5 percent of the time) than he ever has before.
In a cruel twist, Hamilton has cut down on the number of pitches that he chases out of the strike zone, yet he's striking out at the highest rate (nearly 31 percent of the time) of his career.
Take all of that and combine it with mediocre outfield defense, and you get an overpaid, overrated slugger on the downside of his career.
Most Underrated: SP/RP Matt Shoemaker
Every team has a guy who bounces between the bullpen and rotation, filling in where needed. For the Angels, that pitcher is Matt Shoemaker.
Second only to New York's Masahiro Tanaka in wins by a rookie with 10, Shoemaker has helped solidify the back end of Los Angeles' rotation. In 13 starts, he's gone 8-3 with a 3.81 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, striking out 73 batters in 75.2 innings of work.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Most Overrated: 2B Dee Gordon
While Dee Gordon's rebirth with the Dodgers has been one of the season's biggest surprises, many of the issues that saw him spend most of 2013 in the minor leagues remain.
He remains allergic to working the count or drawing a walk, limiting his time on base. With Gordon's world-class speed (and MLB-leading 51 stolen bases), he needs to be getting on base more than 33 percent of the time.
Most Underrated: SP Hyun-Jin Ryu
When you share a rotation with a pair of former Cy Young Award winners—including the best pitcher alive, Clayton Kershaw, it's easy to get overlooked.
Everyone knows that Hyun-Jin Ryu has been good, but nobody's paying attention to just how good he is.
Forget about his 13 wins for a second. Ryu has 17 quality starts—as many as Kershaw—tied for the sixth most in baseball. His 3.21 ERA is equal to David Price's and lower than those belonging to the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Ervin Santana and Stephen Strasburg.
Ryu might be a No. 3 starter on the Dodgers, but he'd be an ace on a lesser club.
Most Overrated: 3B Casey McGehee
I hate to say I told you so...but I did.
As the All-Star break arrived, I gave Casey McGehee 50-to-1 odds of being able to continue his hot start to the season, noting:
McGehee has grounded into an MLB-high 16 double plays and posted a .369 BABIP, more than 70 points higher than his career .298 mark. That's simply not sustainable, especially for a player who has had a rough time equaling his first-half success over the course of his career.
Since the Midsummer Classic, McGehee's BABIP has dropped more than 100 points, to .261. Not surprisingly, he is hitting only .233 with a .658 OPS in 23 second-half games.
Most Underrated: SP Henderson Alvarez
Someone needed to step up and take control of Miami's rotation after Jose Fernandez's elbow blew up, ending his season after only eight starts.
Enter Henderson Alvarez.
His 2.48 ERA is the fifth-lowest in the National League, but that's not quite as impressive as this next feat. Alvarez has tossed three complete games this season—all shutouts. No other pitcher can claim the same.
The shoulder injury that has kept him sidelined for two weeks isn't believed to be serious, with Alvarez set to return to action over the team's next few games, according to the Miami Herald's Manny Navarro.
When Fernandez returns to action next season, he'll find a legitimate No. 2 starter waiting to back him up.
Most Overrated: OF Ryan Braun
As noted by ESPN's Buster Olney (subscription required), Ryan Braun's transformation from perennial MVP candidate and superstar slugger to whatever you want to call him now has been swift:
In terms of his hits, Braun has the fourth-highest rate of hits to the opposite field, behind only Everth Cabrera (50.7 percent), DJ LeMahieu (48.2 percent) and Joe Mauer (46.3 percent) -- not exactly the profile of a dynamic power hitter. He ranks 146th out of 163 qualified batters in percent of hits pulled at 30.8 percent.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Braun has become one of the most aggressive hitters in the game. From 2009 to 2013, Braun swung on 45.9 percent of pitches -- this season, he's swinging at north of 51 percent of the pitches he sees. His chase rate -- percent of pitches out of the strike zone that result in a swing -- has skyrocketed from 31.8 percent from 2009 to 2013 all the way to 39 percent this season, one of the highest marks in baseball.
Is Braun still a productive player? You bet.
But after averaging 34 home runs a year from 2007 through 2012, he's on pace for only 19 long balls this season. That relative lack of power, coupled with below-average defense (and the PED cloud that will forever hang over his head), makes Braun an easy choice as Milwaukee's most overrated.
Most Underrated: 3B Aramis Ramirez
With a plethora of high-profile third basemen in the game, it's easy for a player—even one who's been around for nearly two decades—to get lost in the crowd.
Despite making his third All-Star Game appearance earlier this year, Aramis Ramirez has become something of an afterthought. Whether it's on his own team or on a list of the best third basemen in the game, Ramirez's name isn't among the first few that come to mind.
But it should be.
A consistent contributor, both at the plate and in the field, Ramirez's 120 wRC+ ranks ninth among qualified third basemen, ahead of players like Pablo Sandoval (119), David Wright (103), Pedro Alvarez (102) and Evan Longoria (101).
I bet you would have named all of those guys before you got to Ramirez.
Most Overrated: Nobody
On a team that's largely full of underachievers, it's nearly impossible to label anyone overrated. If you want to make a case for Joe Mauer, go right ahead. I'm not about to go down that road, mainly because it leads absolutely nowhere.
Most Underrated: SP Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes arrived in Minnesota with the stigma of being a failure in New York—a highly touted prospect that never panned out. A bust.
Roughly four-and-a-half months into his Minnesota Twins career, Hughes is proving his critics wrong.
His 3.92 ERA doesn't scream "great job!" by any means, but his 2.64 FIP and 3.21 xFIP do. He's allowing fewer home runs than ever before (moving out of Yankee Stadium has that effect on pitchers), but more importantly, he's not walking anyone.
Only Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma (0.75) has a lower BB/9 rate than Hughes does (0.90), while his 19.2 K/BB percentage is the 11th best in baseball. That's a better rate than Cy Young contenders like Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright, among others.
New York Mets
Most Overrated: OF Curtis Granderson
Curtis Granderson is on pace to finish his first season in a Mets uniform with 20 home runs and 63 RBI while playing below-average defense in a corner outfield spot. His 110 wRC+ is tied with part-time outfielder Eric Campbell for the team's fourth-best mark among position players.
Numbers like that certainly weren't what the Mets had in mind after signing him to a four-year, $60 million deal this past winter.
If Granderson was consistently dropping bombs in outfield gaps and bleachers around the NL, his poor defense and inability to hit for average (or get on base with any regularity) wouldn't be an issue.
But he's not, and it is.
Most Underrated: SP Jacob deGrom
It's incredibly difficult to fly under the radar and/or be underrated in New York, but that's exactly what Jacob deGrom has done.
The 26-year-old rookie has been the Mets' most consistent starting pitcher, delivering a quality start in 75 percent of his outings. That trails only crosstown rival Masahiro Tanaka among first-year pitchers, and it puts deGrom in a tie with Doug Fister and Garrett Richards for the 13th-best percentage in baseball.
If he had enough innings to qualify for the NL leaders, he'd have the Senior Circuit's 10th-lowest ERA (2.87) and 10th-best K/9 ratio (8.43).
Yet deGrom isn't discussed as one of the best arms that the National League has to offer.
New York Yankees
Most Overrated: C Brian McCann
Defensively, Brian McCann has been everything that the New York Yankees hoped he'd be. His blocking, game-calling and pitch-framing ability—along with his throwing arm, which has posted baseball's third-highest caught stealing percentage—have been better than advertised.
His bat, however, has not followed suit. Among qualified catchers, McCann ranks last in on-base percentage (.296) and wRC+ (88) and next-to-last in batting average (.241).
Was Terry Pendleton, Atlanta's first base coach, correct when he told the New York Post's Dan Martin that McCann would "never be comfortable" in New York?
Three-plus months isn't enough of a sample size to give a definitive answer. But McCann's performance at the plate has done nothing to make Pendleton look foolish for saying so.
Most Underrated: CL David Robertson
While all the attention in the Yankees bullpen has been focused on Dellin Betances, David Robertson has quietly gone about the business of successfully replacing the greatest relief pitcher the game has ever seen.
Being the guy who replaces Mariano Rivera isn't an easy thing to do, but Robertson has made it look that way.
Among closers with at least 20 saves on the season, only two—Huston Street (96.8 percent) and Greg Holland (94.6 percent)—have converted a higher percentage of their save opportunities than Robertson (93.9 percent).
Most Overrated: 2B Eric Sogard
Scrappy, hard-nosed players like Eric Sogard, guys who leave it all on the field, are easy to root for. It's why Oakland's love affair with the face of the "Nerd Power" movement is understandable.
Unfortunately, what he leaves on the field when he steps to the plate isn't anything that anyone wants.
Of the 32 players who have spent time at second base and made at least 230 plate appearances this season, Sogard ranks 20th in on-base percentage (.301), 28th in wRC+ (68), 30th in batting average (.213) and dead last in slugging percentage (.267).
But being a fan favorite—and a tremendous defensive player—doesn't make Sogard a great ballplayer. It makes him the American League's equivalent of Darwin Barney.
Most Underrated: 3B Josh Donaldson
Maybe it's just me, but it still doesn't seem like Josh Donaldson is getting the attention that he deserves.
While he doesn't hit for average, Donaldson is a run producer in the truest sense. He leads all third basemen in home runs (25) and RBI (84) and ranks fourth in wRC+ (127), landing near the top of the leaderboards in nearly every other offensive category.
Did I mention that he's the best defensive third baseman in baseball?
Most Overrated: SS Jimmy Rollins
It's been seven years since Jimmy Rollins won the National League MVP award, which just so happens to be the last time that he posted an OPS above .800.
Sure, he can still hit the ball out of the park and swipe a base, but Rollins doesn't get on base with any consistency and doesn't hit for average.
He's no longer a perennial All-Star or a middle-of-the-order bat.
But don't tell that to Phillies management, who firmly believe that the year really is 2007 and that all is well with the team's crumbling roster.
Most Underrated: Nobody
When you consider that you could point to roughly half of Philadelphia's roster and label every player overrated, trying to find an underrated gem is an exercise in futility.
Most Overrated: UTIL Josh Harrison
Josh Harrison is a manager's dream. Athletic and versatile enough to play almost any position, Harrison is a high-energy guy who, like Oakland's Eric Sogard, you'll never see take a play off.
But an All-Star-caliber player, he's not. That's not to say that he wasn't worthy of inclusion on the National League roster—he was. But anyone expecting him to make a habit of appearing in the Midsummer Classic is going to be horribly disappointed.
A career .250 hitter with a .648 OPS across parts of three seasons, Harrison's .318 batting average and .864 OPS aren't a sign of things to come.
He swings at nearly 40 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, draws walks less than six percent of the time and has a .356 BABIP that's more than 80 points above his career mark heading into the season (.272).
Most Underrated: 2B Neil Walker
I wonder what sort of odds one could have gotten in Las Vegas on a bet that said Neil Walker would have more home runs, RBI and a higher wRC+ than Pedro Alvarez at this point in the season.
You'd be a fairly wealthy individual if you had found someone to take that bet.
Second only to Andrew McCutchen in home runs and RBI in Pittsburgh and fourth in wRC+, the switch-hitting Walker is poised to record the first 20-home run season of his career.
Among qualified second basemen, only Robinson Cano (142), Jose Altuve and Ben Zobrist (131) have a higher wRC+ than Walker's 130, while only Brian Dozier has gone deep more often than he has.
San Diego Padres
Most Overrated: Nobody
With baseball's most inept offense and a young pitching staff that continues to improve, there's not a player who qualifies as overrated in San Diego.
Most Underrated: RP Kevin Quackenbush
For years, San Diego has done a terrific job of developing relief pitchers, and 25-year-old Kevin Quackenbush looks to be the next one in line to keep that tradition alive.
He uses four pitches to keep batters off-balance, doesn't issue walks and keeps the ball in the park, allowing only one home run over 37 innings of work. Since allowing that bomb May 26, the bearded reliever has pitched to a 1.61 ERA, holding the opposition to a .196 batting average and .515 OPS.
San Francisco Giants
Most Overrated: RP Javier Lopez
Don't be fooled by Javier Lopez's sparkling 1.95 ERA, for he hasn't been nearly as effective as it would lead you believe. His FIP and xFIP, both considered to be more useful statistics than ERA, are nearly three runs higher, at 4.58 and 4.59, respectively.
Lopez has allowed as many home runs this season, two, as he did in 2011, 2012 and 2013—combined. He's also walked as many batters as he's struck out (14), never a good look for a major league pitcher, whether it be a starter or a reliever.
Most Underrated: CF Angel Pagan
While his defense isn't what it used to be, Angel Pagan remains a capable defender at a premium position, despite being hindered by a variety of injuries over the past two years. He still performs at a high level when he's got a bat in his hands, however.
Pagan's name doesn't typically come up when talking about baseball's best leadoff hitters, but that's exactly what he is.
Among the 25 players who have made at least 250 plate appearances hitting atop a team's lineup this season, Pagan ranks fifth in wRC+ (124) and sixth in on-base percentage (.361).
Most Overrated: SP Chris Young
One of the biggest surprises in baseball this season has been Chris Young's resurgence in Seattle. But while his numbers are impressive—11-6 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.14 WHIP—they're also misleading.
For Young is two completely different pitchers depending on where he's pitching.
In spacious Safeco Field, he has pitched to a 2.42 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, allowing six home runs over 74.1 innings of work. Everywhere else? He's got a 4.33 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and has surrendered 13 home runs in 60.1 innings.
That's a pretty big discrepancy.
Most Underrated: RP Yoervis Medina
There's been a lot of talk about how terrific Seattle's bullpen has been this season, but the discussion typically begins and ends with closer Fernando Rodney.
But someone has to get the ball into Rodney's hands, and few players are as adept at bridging that gap as Yoervis Medina.
Fifth in the American League with 18 holds, Medina, who averages nearly a strikeout per inning, has quietly become one of the game's better setup men. He's effective against batters from both sides of the plate and doesn't surrender the long ball, with only two home runs against him in 40 innings of relief.
St. Louis Cardinals
Most Overrated: SP/RP Shelby Miller
That Shelby Miller falls under the overrated umbrella isn't necessarily all his fault, as ESPN's Anna McDonald recently pointed out:
Highly regarded pitching prospects such as Miller are under more scrutiny than ever because the hype begins when they're still in the minors. We forget the context of how pitchers like John Smoltz and Tom Glavine started their careers. Glavine had a 4.29 ERA in more than 400 innings from age 21 to 23. Smoltz averaged 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings in his first full season in 1989, but slid to 5.8 by 1991.
That said, Miller's fall from grace has been swift. He looks nothing like the pitcher who finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting a season ago. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up and he's become overly reliant on his fastball, which he's struggled to command to both sides of the plate.
Maybe it's simply the sophomore jinx rearing its ugly head...or maybe Miller isn't quite as good as everyone thought he was.
Most Underrated: SP Lance Lynn
About a month ago, when I was a guest on The Sports Reporters with Ned Reynolds on Fox Sports' affiliate Jock 98.7 FM in Springfield, Missouri, I was asked whether I'd trade Lance Lynn for another bat if I were running the Cardinals.
My answer was simple: No, and any general manager who heard Lynn was available and didn't make a strong push to acquire him should have his head examined.
Lynn isn't flashy, but he's consistent., giving his team a chance to win every time that he steps on the mound. He ranks seventh in the NL with 12 wins, 10th in ERA (2.97) and 13th in strikeouts (133).
Tampa Bay Rays
Most Overrated: 1B James Loney
James Loney hits for average...and that's about it.
He offers little in the power department and isn't a run producer by any stretch of the imagination; his 102 wRC+ ranked 16th out of 21 qualified first basemen.
Loney's defense, one of the things that he could hang his hat on a year ago, has gone from above average to slightly below average. Advanced metrics grade him as the 14th-best defensive first baseman using DRS (minus-1) and the 15th-best using UZR/150 (minus-0.9).
Most Underrated: CL Jake McGee
It doesn't matter what role manager Joe Maddon asks Jake McGee to fill in Tampa Bay's bullpen, for the 28-year-old has proved that he can handle just about anything.
He's appeared in more games (57) than any other pitcher this season, yet he leads Tampa Bay in ERA (1.33), WHIP (0.85), holds (14) and saves (13-of-14). Over 54 innings of relief, McGee has yet to allow a home run and is averaging nearly 12 strikeouts per nine innings of work.
Most Overrated: SS Elvis Andrus
With nearly half of the roster either sidelined by injury or having recently returned to the field, it's tough to pick anyone in Texas as overrated or underrated. But Elvis Andrus is certainly underwhelming given his lucrative contract, and for our purposes, that's good enough for him to be overrated as well.
You can live with a .272 batting average, but the rest of Andrus' game is a mess. He doesn't get on base, has no power to speak of and his 81 wRC+ is lower than the likes of Alcides Escobar, Yunel Escobar and Jordy Mercer, among others.
Even his speed hasn't been what it once was. While he's stolen 21 bases, he's been caught stealing 12 times, more than anyone else in baseball.
Andrus has regressed defensively as well, going from one of the better defensive shortstops in baseball to a mediocre one at best. His minus-2.5 UZR/150 ranks 14th out of 25 shortstops, his minus-9 DRS 21st.
Most Underrated: Nobody
After Yu Darvish, there's not a whole heck of a lot to work with on the Rangers roster this season. With so many players getting extended playing time and a chance to show that they can be part of a contending club in 2015, you'd hope that someone would raise the level of his game. That hasn't happened.
Toronto Blue Jays
Most Overrated: 1B/3B Juan Francisco
Third on the Blue Jays with 16 home runs and fifth with a 111 wRC+, you'd think that Juan Francisco was a pretty solid ballplayer.
That's simply not the case.
Francisco might have pop and the ability to produce some runs with his bat, but he strikes out nearly 37 percent of the time and is allergic to drawing a walk. Of the 99 players who have made at least 250 plate appearances and have at least a 111 wRC+ on the year, his .297 on-base percentage is the worst.
Defensively, he's a liability at the hot corner and merely adequate at first base.
Most Underrated: 1B/DH Adam Lind
Adam Lind would be the anti-Francisco in this scenario, for aside from having equally shaky hands in the field and power, he does everything that his teammate does not.
Lind hits for average and shows patience at the plate, drawing walks at a nearly 11 percent clip, a major reason why he ranks second on the team in on-base percentage (.383), trailing only Jose Bautista (.404).
Most Overrated and Underrated: OF Bryce Harper
Forever linked with two men, Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout, Bryce Harper will never be considered as anything but overrated by many. Mantle was the player Harper was supposed to emulate, while Trout—who has done a far better impression of the Mick—broke into MLB around the same time that Harper did.
His fellow players voted him the most overrated player in baseball in a preseason poll conducted by ESPN.
Because of that, Harper is the only player on this list who ranks as both overrated and underrated.
Despite his mediocre numbers on the season—much of which can be attributed to his missing more than two months due to thumb surgery—Harper is anything but overrated. While his offense has struggled, his defense has remained solid.
How many players have hit at least 46 home runs with a .810 OPS through their age-21 season?
Besides Harper, only 10, with six of them enshrined in Cooperstown and another (Ken Griffey Jr.) soon to make it seven.
The other three players? Alex Rodriguez, who would be a Hall of Fame candidate if he wasn't such a cheat; Tony Conigliaro, who looked like a future enshrinee before a gruesome injury nearly killed him; and Trout.
That's pretty rarefied air—and it makes the argument that Harper is overrated seem all the more ridiculous.
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