MLB's Worst Players of the 2017 Regular Season

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2017

MLB's Worst Players of the 2017 Regular Season

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    You know what's fun? The All-Star Game, when MLB honors its best players in a glistening midseason exhibition.

    You know what else is fun? The playoffs, when the top teams from both leagues compete in a taut, thrilling tournament to determine who hoists the Commissioner's Trophy and bathes in confetti.

    You know what's a bummer? Ranking the worst players in baseball.

    That's our purpose, however, and there's a morbid fascination to it. To warrant inclusion, a player has to qualify for the batting title (at least 3.1 plate appearances per team games played) or ERA title (at least one inning pitched per team games played).

    That means you won't find any scrubs. Rather, these are guys with enough talent and track record to play consistently, but not enough to perform up to par.

    As for the rankings, we're using FanGraphs' WAR calculations, with ties broken by number of games played. WAR is by no means a be-all, end-all stat; there's some variation between FanGraphs' numbers and those over at Baseball-Reference, suggesting a degree of gray area. Regardless, it's a relatively accurate shorthand for value—or lack thereof.

    Because we're looking only at players who qualified for the batting and ERA titles, our bottom 10 is populated solely by position players, though one qualified (unqualified?) pitcher slipped into the dishonorable mentions.

Dishonorable Mentions

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Ariel Miranda, LHP, Seattle Mariners (0.1 WAR) 

    There have been plenty of bad pitchers in baseball this year; most just haven't thrown enough innings to qualify for the ERA crown. Ariel Miranda gets the ignoble distinction of being the only arm represented here. The Seattle Mariners lefty sports a 5.12 ERA, and his 5.72 FIP suggests he's been a little lucky. The 28-year-old Cuban also leads the majors with 37 home runs allowed in 29 starts for the injury-riddled M's.

       

    Melky Cabrera, OF, Kansas City Royals (0.0 WAR)

    Melky Cabrera swapped uniforms at the non-waiver trade deadline, hopping from the Chicago White Sox to the Kansas City Royals. His numbers dipped after his return to K.C., and overall, the Melk Man has delivered a .751 OPS and career-low minus-8 DRS in left field.

       

    Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers (-0.1 WAR)

    Miguel Cabrera is one of the greatest hitters of his generation and a surefire Hall of Famer. This season, however, he's been slightly worse than your average replacement player. Injuries and age are catching up to the 34-year-old, who's hit .249 with 16 home runs and a .728 OPS, all career full-season lows. And while he's never been a whiz defensively, he's also posted a career-worst minus-8 DRS at first.

       

    Jose Peraza, INF, Cincinnati Reds (-0.2 WAR)

    Jose Peraza's best tool is his speed, as evidenced by the 22 stolen bases he has this year. The Cincinnati Reds infielder has also been caught seven times, which means he's failed on nearly a quarter of his attempts. Additionally, he has an abysmal .295 on-base percentage, virtually no power and a glove that has earned him minus-1 defensive runs saved at second base and minus-6 at shortstop.

       

    Danny Valencia, 1B, Seattle Mariners (-0.3 WAR)

    The Seattle Mariners are mired in yet another disappointing season and will miss the playoffs for the 16th straight year. First baseman Danny Valencia has embodied that mediocrity with a .315 on-base percentage and .414 slugging percentage, unacceptable numbers for a corner infielder. Tack on a minus-3.6 ultimate zone rating at first base and you have the "complete" package.

10. Jose Bautista, RF, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    WAR: -0.3

    If 2017 was the end of Jose Bautista's 10-year Toronto Blue Jays career—which seems likely—it wasn't the exit he would have scripted.

    Bautista, whose power and bat-flipping antics defined Toronto's postseason runs in 2015 and 2016, has hit .204 with a .311 on-base percentage. 

    He has managed to club 22 home runs, but his minus-9 DRS in right field has torpedoed whatever offensive value the 36-year-old slugger provides.

    Jays fans owe a lot to Joey Bats. When they conjure the memories, though, they'll want to forget this season.

9. Carlos Gonzalez, RF, Colorado Rockies

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    WAR: -0.4

    After years of mediocrity, the Colorado Rockies are pushing for a postseason berth. In a cruel twist, they could reach October in spite of three-time All-Star Carlos Gonzalez rather than because of him.

    In 133 games, Gonzalez is hitting .255 with a .407 slugging percentage and only 13 home runs. He's been especially awful away from Coors Field, where he's hitting .203 with a .606 OPS, numbers that would make a backup middle infielder blush.

    His defense, which earned him three Gold Gloves between 2010 and 2013, has also fallen off, as his minus-3 DRS and minus-1.8 UZR attest. 

    "I know what it feels like to be the best player in the game and the worst player in the game," Gonzalez said in early July, per Thomas Harding of MLB.com. "Right now, I feel like I'm the worst player in the game."

    He's isn't statistically the worst, but he's in the running.

8. Hanley Ramirez, 1B/DH, Boston Red Sox

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    WAR: -0.6

    A litany of injuries, including a troublesome shoulder, have plagued Hanley Ramirez in 2017.

    On a recent nine-game road trip from Sept. 14-24, the 33-year-old made just one start, though he did go 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and three RBI in said game.

    Overall, Ramirez is slashing .239/.318/.421, and his average has dipped to .179 in September. He's seen limited action at first base, where his defense is passable at best, but he's a designated hitter with dubious hitting ability at this point of his career.

    The Boston Red Sox are headed back to the postseason. It looks like Ramirez will play a diminished role.

7. Kendrys Morales, DH, Toronto Blue Jays

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    WAR: -0.6

    If you're going to log almost all of your innings as a DH, you'd better hit. As with Ramirez, Kendrys Morales hasn't been up to the challenge.

    Yes, Morales has clubbed 28 home runs, an respectable but not eye-popping total in today's homer-happy MLB. He's also struck out 131 times next to just 43 walks and owns a pedestrian .308 on-base percentage.

    The bottom line: Lumbering sluggers who don't get on base and provide zero defensive value aren't at a premium in today's game.

6. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    WAR: -0.6

    Maikel Franco is hitting .282 with three home runs in September. Those are positive signs for the Philadelphia Phillies third baseman, who looked like a rising star as recently as last season.

    Overall, though, Franco owns a .230/.282/.398 slash line, which spells "ouch" for anyone, especially a corner infielder. 

    The 25-year-old's defensive ratings are also subpar, as he totes minus-5 DRS and a minus-4.4 UZR.

    The rebuilding Phils have reasons to believe in Franco, including his recent resurgence, but 2017 has been a significant step backward.

5. Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    WAR: -0.9

    Rougned Odor wasn't exactly an on-base machine in 2016, as he posted a .296 OBP with 19 walks in 150 games. The Texas Rangers second baseman balanced that, however, with a .271 average and .502 slugging percentage.

    This season, Odor's OBP has plummeted to an unforgivable .253, while his average (.204) and slugging percentage (.400) have also taken a dive.

    Yes, he's hit 30 home runs, an impressive total for a middle infielder. But his lack of plate discipline and suspect defense—he leads all second basemen with 17 errors—outweigh the thump.

4. Carlos Beltran, DH/OF, Houston Astros

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    WAR: -1.1

    Carlos Beltran is a modern postseason legend. Perhaps Beltran, who owns a 1.078 career OPS in the playoffs, can muster one more magical October with the Houston Astros.

    If so, it'll stand in harsh contrast to his 2017 regular season. 

    In 126 games, Beltran has slashed .230/.283/.386. Like Ramirez and Morales, he's seen the bulk of his action at DH. He hasn't helped his case in limited outfield action, posting minus-1 DRS.

    The Astros lineup is stacked with young talent, meaning they don't need Beltran to be more than an ancillary piece. Which is good, because that's clearly his ceiling at age 40.

3. Mark Trumbo, DH/RF, Baltimore Orioles

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    WAR: -1.1

    Remember when we said the market was bearish on one-dimensional sluggers with limited on-base capabilities?

    You're going to meet three more of them, beginning with Mark Trumbo.

    After crushing 47 homers in 2016, Trumbo has clubbed only 23 this season. The Baltimore Orioles bopper hasn't made up for that decline in any other facet, either. His on-base percentage has dropped from .316 to .289, his slugging percentage has fallen from .533 to .398 and he's a liability in right field. 

    Simply put, he's done less of the thing he's good at and more of the stuff he's bad at. That's a nasty combination. 

2. Tommy Joseph, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    WAR: -1.2

    Tommy Joseph had a nice rookie season in 2016, smacking 21 home runs and posting an .813 OPS in 107 games for the Phillies.

    He's cleared the fence 22 times in 140 games this season. Yetcue the familiar musichis OBP has dropped from .308 to .288 and his OPS has tumbled to .720.

    Playing in the National League, Joseph can't be stashed at DH. Unfortunately, the metrics hate his defense at first base, where he owns minus-11 DRS and a -4.6 UZR.

    Unsurprisingly, the 26-year-old's playing time has waned in September. Unless he sips from the OBP fountain this winter, his future could be as a bench bat.

1. Albert Pujols, DH, Los Angeles Angels

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    WAR: -1.7

    As with Miggy Cabrera, Albert Pujols is a no-doubt Hall of Famer. He's also in the twilight of his career.

    His .242 average, .288 OBP and .389 slugging percentage are all career lows. He's matched a career high with 93 strikeouts. His days of providing any value in the field are long gone.

    Yes, the 37-year-old three-time MVP has tallied 100 RBI, thanks in large part to hitting behind Mike Trout. That's a nice, round number and shows Pujols still has his moments. They're getting fewer and further between, though.

    And while it doesn't impact his WAR, it's worth noting the Los Angeles Angels owe Pujols more than $100 million through 2021, his age-41 season.

    In other words, this will get a whole lot uglier in the years to come.

       

    All statistics, including WAR totals, accurate through Tuesday's games and courtesy of FanGraphs