April 11, 2014
Your Five Favorite Players of 2014
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
New contender for this spot: Billy Burns
4. Wily Peralta
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.
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
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
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.