In almost any way you look at it, Manny Machado’s 2017 campaign did not go well. He finished 12th out of 22 third base qualifiers in WAR and 19th out of that same group in Off rating. He ended the year with sizable decreases in just about every respect, ultimately finishing with a park-adjusted offense figure of just 102, painting him as a barely above average offensive player. That’s obviously not the Manny Machado that we’ve become accustomed to, and it’s certainly not the one that we should expect moving forward, as much of that production, or lack thereof, could be attributed to bad luck above all.
In a general and simplified sense, some players take longer to develop (and subsequently break out) than others. But there’s obviously no shortage of examples throughout the sporting world where that breakout never occurred. Is that something that the Philadelphia Phillies should be concerned about in relation to one of their (still) young position players? In a number of different respects, Maikel Franco was the worst third baseman in baseball among qualifiers in 2017. The Phillies third sacker finished with the worst Off rating among the group that features 22 qualifiers, with a -22.4 mark. The second worst figure on the list of qualifiers came from Yolmer Sanchez, at -5.1, and at least he had the defensive game to at least help things balance out a little bit. Within that group, there was only one third baseman that finished with a negative WAR for the season; it was Franco’s -0.5.
There was a lot of hope that Franco would break through in 2017 for a Phillies team that folks see as the next up-and-coming product of a total rebuild. While they didn’t take too large a step forward, some of their young players did, and more are on the way. Which certainly murks up the picture for Franco somewhat moving forward. With the production and some of the trends that we’ve seen from the last two years in regard to Franco, though, it’s probably time for current and prospective owners to call it quits on the Phillies’ third baseman. Read the rest of this entry »
Many of my goals for the offseason, as far as the third base position is concerned, relate to an evaluation of the standing of several players and their roles within their current situation on their current teams. Examining the standing within their organization, perhaps somewhat obviously, should lead us to some insight surrounding their value from a fantasy standpoint. And what better place to start than with the player that has become my personal special boy, of sorts (really in every way possible), in Jake Lamb.
Alex Bregman came into the 2017 with rather large expectations, to the point where I opined that he might end up in the top five third basemen in Major League Baseball by year’s end in my bold predictions at the beginning of the year. As it turns out, that wasn’t too far-fetched an idea, as Bregman rode a strong second half toward finishing 7th at the position in WAR (3.8) and 7th in Off rating (17.7). With that in mind, it’s an exciting prospect to discuss what exactly the Houston Astros, as well as prospective fantasy owners, could expect from him moving forward.
Given my standing as the President of the Jake Lamb Fan Club, I would be remiss in my responsibilities if I did not revisit his 2017 season one final time, in the event that the Snakes are sent home on Wednesday night in order to enjoy the splendid weather in the Valley this time of year. At the beginning of the year, I made some rather nonsensical bold predictions about the third base position. Within that, I declared that Jake Lamb would make the biggest move up the third base leaderboard.
However, Lamb did demonstrate improvement primarily within the fact that his 158 games represented a new career high. Unlike his 2016 season, a good chunk of those were not hindered by injury, either. There were some cold spells sure, but he was able to graduate from 16th in WAR among qualifying third sackers in 2016 to 14th (2.5), while making the move from 12th in Off rating to 10th (9.7). So Off has him as a top ten player at the position, which isn’t a far-fetched idea to consider.
There isn’t a whole lot of figuring things out when it comes to Joey Gallo. We know what he is, and we know what he isn’t. Coming in at 6’5″ and 235, he’s a behemoth of a man with a “dingers first and questions later” skill set, in the simplest sense. He’s shown surprising versatility, even if he doesn’t play any defensive position remarkably well (or even really competently). But just because we were all relatively aware of what Joey Gallo figured to become at the Major League level doesn’t make what he’s done this year any less astounding.
It’s an interesting thing to think about that as far as MVP candidates go, Kris Bryant has managed, in the span of a year, to go from the choice for National League MVP to not even in the conversation. What’s even stranger about such a situation is that it’s not like Bryant has fallen off dramatically from a sophomore campaign that featured a WAR over 8. In addition to the early inconsistencies that his team experienced, some of the changes in his game might be leading to him being somewhat of an overlooked quantity at this point, even with the Cubs serving as one of the best teams in baseball since the All-Star break.
Despite his virtual exclusion from any sort of Most Valuable Player discussion, Bryant has actually managed to improve in a number of ways. Sure, there are a couple of aspects in which he’s taken a modest step back, but overall, we’re still talking about a player that ranks at or near the top of the third base category in a number of ways on the offensive side of things. In fact, as far as his Off rating alone is concerned, Bryant ranks at the top of the 26 qualifying players at the hot corner, with his park-adjusted offense coming in at a 142 mark that trails only Justin Turner. Turner is also the only player that bests Bryant in reaching base overall, as Bryant has posted a .402 mark to date that has been the result of some adjustments he made over the course of last year’s offseason.
Life with the Cincinnati Reds isn’t always the easiest when you’re a standout player. Just ask Joey Votto, a player who doesn’t get anywhere near the credit he deserves for being perhaps the largest on-base threat over the last five or so years. Eugenio Suarez falls into a similar category as far as the element of neglect is concerned. Not only has his August been better than any other individual at the hot corner, but he’s spinning those numbers into another extremely effective campaign as a followup to what was already a career year in 2016.
The last 30 days have been particularly remarkable for Suarez. He leads the position in WAR over that time, but is also leading (or ranking near the top of the pack) in several other essential offensive categories. He’s third in batting average (.349) and reaching base at a .491 clip that’s easily the best among the 28 qualifying players over that span. He’s reaching base in almost half of his 110 plate appearances thus far in the past month. As such, there are some pretty interesting developments that have taken place that lend themselves to the current intrigue surrounding Suarez.
How long did you think you were going to get away with this column not being devoted to Jake Lamb in a given week? Regardless, as I listened to the hyperbolic Arizona sports radio throughout this week, Lamb represented a focal point. With the Diamondbacks hitting the strugglebus since just before the second half of the season began, Lamb was a target for the talking heads, despite this particular instance of discussion taking place a day after he went 3-for-4 against the Chicago Cubs.
With that in mind, it’s probably important to note that there is nothing wrong with Jake Lamb. At least not now.
With the Oakland Athletics deciding to dispatch of seemingly any and all of their near bottom-of-the-barrel veterans, that has made way for some intriguing young talent to grace the tattered remains of the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum. The trade of Trevor Plouffe, and subsequent realization of Ryon Healy’s relative uselessness on defense, has opened up the door for Matt Chapman, who could potentially serve as an impact piece for Oakland to also trade farther on down the line. For now, though, his ability to make an impact at the plate is starting to make him a relatively intriguing commodity in the home stretch, even if his numbers don’t necessarily indicate it.
In fact, Chapman’s numbers through almost 140 plate appearances are relatively paltry in general. His slash features a .223 average, while he’s reaching base at a clip of just .304. Not working in his favor are a BABIP of just .267 and a strikeout rate up near 30%. However, his OPS (.800) and ISO (.273) indicate that his bat has been a bit more impactful than some of the other figures would tend to indicate.
Actually, in the most general sense possible, hits of the extra base variety have sort of become Chapman’s specialty throughout his brief time at the Major League level, far more than any other hit type that finds its way onto the stat sheet.