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April 11, 2014

Pebble Hunting

Your Five Favorite Players of 2014

by Sam Miller

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Just after the World Series last year, I told you who your five favorite players were going to be this season, now that Koji Uehara’s on a major label . A prediction that isn’t revisited is just an opinion, so in the interest of accountability it’s important that we periodically make sure that one of these players has become your favorite player. So, nearly two weeks into the season, is one of these players your favorite player? Yes! One of them is. Here are your New Favorite Player power rankings:

5. Nate Freiman
Crush category: One-skill player deployed to great effect.
Freiman is in Triple-A right now, and as much as you like to have an underground favorite player, only the worst kind of Brooklyn normcore hipster picks a 27-year-old Triple-A first baseman to be his favorite player. At least Freiman is doing what we want to see him do: His OPS against lefties so far is 520 points higher than against righties. (All stats in this article through Wednesday.) Here’s the long-term bad news for Freiman: If left-handers really do live, on average, nine fewer years than right-handers, then over time the number of left-handers as a percentage of the overall population should shrink. Once a right-hander is born, that is, he’ll spend a longer period of time among us; if 1,000 people are born every year and 85 percent of them are right handed, then after 500 years the right-handers would have spent more than 3.2 million extra years on this earth—the equivalent of 55,000 “extra” right-handers walking around. Further, handedness appears to be hereditary, and the longer-living right-handers would have more opportunities to procreate (assuming that the extra lifespan is distributed throughout various demographics). Eventually, Freiman is going to realize he’s living in a world with practically no left-handed pitching to mash. Assuming, of course, that Freiman lives that long, which, considering his handedness, he might.

New contender for this spot: Billy Burns

4. Wily Peralta
Crush category: Young flame-thrower poised to potentially break out as a potential breakout candidate.

Peralta had a wobbly first start of the season, allowing only two earned runs but three unearned. Further, he got just six swinging strikes, or what is known as a Two-Thirds Albers. But that’s okay. We don’t need him to pitch all that well; we just need him to pitch well enough that we might plausibly expect to someday predict that he will pitch well. For that, Peralta’s first start kept him on track. He struck out six in five innings, threw a couple more strikes than his traditional average, and—most importantly—continued to throw hard. At 96.4 mph, his four-seamer was actually a tick faster than it was last year, when he had the 13th-fastest fastball among all starters. His two-seamer—last season’s second fastest—also picked up a tick. Velocity is typically down in April, so it’s encouraging to see Peralta throwing as hard as ever, and maybe even harder. (Each of his fastballs, and his changeup, had more horizontal movement than last year, too, if you need one more thing to keep an eye on.)

Is it relevant that there have been two players in baseball history named Wily, and that they are arguably the least wily players who have ever played their position? Can we imagine, for a moment, a heist movie in which Wily Peralta and Wily Mo Pena have to sneak into a room with motion detectors, surveillance cameras, and alarm triggers? For goodness sakes, this is Peralta just trying to locomote across a flat, open, and unguarded expanse of dirt and grass:

Your fourth-favorite player.

New contender for this spot: Garrett Richards, who (after Yordano Ventura) has the second-fastest fastball this year.

3. Sergio Santos
Crush Category: Relief pitcher with insane FIP.

This one we’re a little ambivalent about. In his first four outings, Santos struck out eight; he’s currently striking out 22 batters per nine. Last year, his slider got the second-best whiff rate among all relievers, at about 30 percent; so far this year, his slider has a 82 percent whiff rate. That’s not whiffs on 82 percent of swings against his slider; it’s whiffs on 82 percent of sliders he has thrown. You are stuck on this guy. But this performance has come with three unintentional walks, and you started to fall in love with Santos because last year he issued two unintentional walks all season. (Or, at least, in all of Santos’ season, which covered 26 innings.) It’s still a 1.30 FIP, of course, so we’re all still on board, but… well, it’s different, that’s all. Here's what that slider looks like, by the way:

It’s a bit of a quirk of history that Santos is still doing this for Canada. The Blue Jays agreed on a three-team trade to send him to Texas last winter, but the deal was undone by Brett Anderson's physical. On the one hand, you generally fall for underappreciated Texas Rangers more than underappreciated Toronto Blue Jays. On the other, the Rangers probably would be forced to use him as a starter right now.

New contender for this spot: Adam Ottavino, who has struck out 10 of the 16 batters he has faced and walked none.

2. Yan Gomes
Crush Category: Catcher who reminds you of your dad.

Gomes is off to a fine start—.269/.355/.538, with his customarily good pitch framing—but what makes him especially stylish this year is the extension that could keep him under team control through 2021. At this point, Gomes is basically 90 to 95 percent of Sal Perez: 90 percent of Perez’s bat, 90 percent of his glove, 90 percent of his youth, 90 percent of his contract bargain, 90 percent of how well he carries himself. Further, when Gomes signed his extension, MLB.com chose this as a highlight to show:

Such a dad. He takes all our crap but does he ever lash out? Nah, he just grits his teeth, squeezes his fists, mutters some cusses and walks out to the garage to be by himself, before he does something he'll regret.

1. Chris Colabello
Crush Category: Good story.

Nailed it. Colabello is your favorite player, my favorite player, all of our favorite player. David Schoenfield wrote about him this week, noting that Colabello had been in the unaffiliated Canadian-American Association for so long that Oil Can Boyd was once a teammate. Parker Hageman went long on him this week, talking to Colabello and his bosses about his approach and development as a hitter. That he turned down the chance to play in Korea for twice the salary makes it all the more delightful that he was the AL’s first Player of the Week this year.

About that Player of the Week: is it possible that Colabello is the least prestigious player to ever win the award? Eyeballing the winners since 2003, here are the least-prestigious winners from each season:

We obviously don’t know what Colabello is going to do from this point on, but he’s 30 years old, a corner player with a career 86 OPS+. Josh Fields is probably the leader on this list, but Colabello has a good shot at knocking him off. This week, though. This week he’s your favorite player in baseball.

*”Before” is all seasons before the player of the week award was won. “After” is the season in which the player won, plus all seasons after.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

5 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

username49

As an Indians fan, I was expecting regression from Gomes with the bat this year, but he looks good so far. His power is definitely real. He won't bat over .280 again, but this guy could hit 25 HRs.

Apr 11, 2014 10:21 AM
rating: 0
 
Ogremace

"Catcher Who Reminds You of Your Dad" was worth the whole subscription.

Apr 11, 2014 15:01 PM
rating: 3
 
Johnston

I have to agree.

Apr 11, 2014 19:12 PM
rating: 0
 
rofldude

Thanks for the accountability, Sam. Being lefthanded, however, has got me worried about extinction, and what I might possibly do to postpone it...

Apr 12, 2014 07:41 AM
rating: 0
 
orlandoca7

Juan Lagares?

Apr 12, 2014 10:17 AM
rating: 1
 
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Baseball ProGUESTus: U... (04/11)
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