Ranking Major League Baseball's Most Overrated Stars

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2019

Ranking Major League Baseball's Most Overrated Stars

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    "Overrated" is a nebulous concept in sports, because the question is always the same"rated" by whom?

    In ranking this list of the 10 most overrated stars in baseball, we used MLB Network's preseason list of the top 100 players as a jumping off point and juxtaposed players' spot on the list with their 2018 performances and how they've fared thus far in 2019.

    Of course, this is a subjective exercise, though we'll provide each player's place on MLB Network's list and his respective 2018 WAR (via FanGraphs' calculation) for reference.

    Quibble with the rankings if you wish. In some cases, we went with recent results over career bodies of work; in other cases, we factored in injury history, age and so on. What's undeniable is that every guy featured has, for one reason or another, recently fallen short of his star pedigree.

No. 10: LHP Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    MLB Network Rank: No. 13

    2018 WAR: 6.2

    Chris Sale was a highly valuable pitcher last season. His inclusion here could be a knee-jerk reaction.

    Now, the counterpoint: He battled shoulder issues in 2018. And he's been downright dreadful in 2019.

    Through four starts, he owns an 8.50 ERA and only slightly better 6.31 FIP. At least one unnamed scout thinks his shoulder is still bothering him. He turned 30 in March.

    Could this be the beginning of his decline, right after he signed a five-year, $145 million extension with the Boston Red Sox?

    A turnaround is decidedly possible, but the signs aren't great.

No. 9: CF Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    MLB Network Rank: No. 68

    2018 WAR: 4.9

    Aaron Hicks picked up down-ballot MVP votes in 2018 as he hit 27 home runs while playing center field for the New York Yankees. So how is he overrated?

    He can't consistently stay on the field.

    Hicks has yet to play an inning in 2019 as he rehabs a back injury. In six big league seasons, Hicks has played more than 100 games just twice. He's also a career .236 hitter.

    His defense has been generally excellent, and his power broke through last season. However, he has to stay healthy before earning the status of an elite player.

No. 8: 3B Josh Donaldson, Atlanta Braves

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    Tami Chappell/Associated Press

    MLB Network Rank: No. 61

    2018 WAR: 1.3

    Granted, Josh Donaldson has come out of the gate strong with the Atlanta Braves after signing a one-year, $23 million deal. He's got four homers and a .900 OPS through 21 games.

    We need to see a bit more, however, before we're convinced he's prepared to put two injury-shortened seasons behind him and enjoy a career renaissance at age 33.

    He can provide value and a veteran presence for the young Braves as they defend their NL East crown (provided he stays healthy), but we're betting his days as a perennial MVP candidate are over for good.

No. 7: OF Yasiel Puig, Cincinnati Reds

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    MLB Network Rank: No. 90

    2018 WAR: 1.8

    Yasiel Puig hit 23 home runs with an .820 OPS and 15 stolen bases for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018. Then Los Angeles traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in his contract year.

    Was he finally on the verge of that seismic, put-it-all-together season we've been waiting for? So far, not so great.

    Through 19 games, Puig is slashing .164/.186/.299 with 20 strikeouts. He's still only 28 years old, but it's looking less and less likely he'll ever make good on the tantalizing, five-tool potential he flashed in his early seasons with L.A.

No. 6: INF Nicholas Castellanos, Detroit Tigers

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    MLB Network Rank: No. 87

    2018 WAR: 3.0

    Nicholas Castellanos is an undeniably useful player. He hit .298 with 23 home runs last season and could be a decent trade chip for the rebuilding Detroit Tigers at the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

    The problem is that his bat isn't good enough to make up for his defense.

    Over the span of his career, Castellanos has minus-64 defensive runs saved at third base and minus-25 defensive runs saved in right field. 

    Add his modest career .323 on-base percentage and you're looking at a decentbut far from greatplayer.

No. 5: CF Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    MLB Network Rank: No. 38

    2018 WAR: 2.8

    Like Castellanos with the Tigers, Charlie Blackmon brought value to the Colorado Rockies in 2019 when he hit .291 with 29 home runs.

    Also like Castellanos, his glove is the rub.

    In 2018, Blackmon posted minus-28 defensive runs saved in center field. This season, the Rockies slid him to right field, where he's thus far posted a minus-1.2 ultimate zone rating.

    There's value in his bat even with the Coors Field bump, but there's little argument he's a top-50 player at this point.

No. 4: RHP Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    MLB Network Rank: No. 88

    2018 WAR: 0.3

    Kenley Jansen was an All-Star in 2018 and a top-five NL Cy Young Award finisher in 2017. He's among the game's elite closers...right?

    Maybe not for long.

    Jansen's 2018 4.03 FIP was easily the worst of his career. His average fastball velocity dipped from 94.2 mph in 2016 to 92.7 mph last year and 92.1 mph so far this season. That's a concerning trend. 

    None of that is to say Jansen can't provide value for the Dodgers in the late innings, but the 31-year-old appears to be on the decline.

No. 3: C Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    MLB Network Rank: No. 92

    2018 WAR: 2.4

    Buster Posey was the face of the San Francisco Giants' even-year dynasty from 2010 to 2014. He's one of the most recognizable stars in baseball and plays a premium position. He's won Rookie of the Year, a batting title and National League MVP honors. That's quite a resume.

    It's possible, though, that Posey's offense has fallen off a cliff.

    He hit just five home runs with a full-season career-worst .741 OPS in 105 games in 2018. He underwent hip surgery in August. So far in 2019, he's hitting .227 with a .674 OPS.

    He remains among the game's best pitch framers, and his leadership and experience can't be discounted. But because of a swiftly declining hit tool, the 32-year-old's days as an elite backstop might be numbered. 

No. 2: 1B Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

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    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    MLB Network Rank: No. 77

    2018 WAR: 1.2

    Jose Abreu has made a pair of All-Star teams and won American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2014. Last season, however, he just wasn't that great.

    He posted a .798 OPS, by far the worst of his big league career. He also posted career lows in average (.265), on-base percentage (.325), home runs (22) and RBI (78).

    He's in a contract year with the Chicago White Sox and thus far sports a .645 OPS through 20 games. For a once-elite slugger in his age-32 season, that's not a good look.

No. 1: 2B Robinson Cano, New York Mets

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    MLB Network Rank: No. 54

    2018 WAR: 2.9

    Coming off a season in which he was slapped with an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, Robinson Cano had some work to do to reclaim his status as a top-50(ish) player.

    So far, after an offseason trade from the Seattle Mariners to the New York Mets, he's slashing .235/.286/.412.

    It's early, of course. But any hope the 36-year-old Cano would regain his MVP-caliber form or anything close to it in Queens appear to have been dashed.

                    

    All statistics current entering play Monday and courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference