Now on our third edition of our MLB top-100 players right now, Mike Mavredakis, Ben Berg and Jorge Eckardt break down 71-80. The rules for this series were outlined in the first article, 91-100, so check that out if you’re curious about how we hammered out the numbers. Buckle up, this time we have multiple Jorge’s and two forms of the name Michael. Oh, and a run on NL and AL Central stars! Take a look at 71-80:
No. 80 – Mitch Garver: Mike 88, Ben 87, Jorge 68
Jorge: After years of searching, it looks like the Twins have finally found their heir apparent for Joe Mauer. Though he did miss some significant time due to injury in 2019 — which is one of the main reasons he’s not higher on the list — when he was playing, Garver was almost unstoppable. With an OPS just five points short of 1.000 and 31 long balls in 311 at-bats for an absurd 10.68 at-bats per home run ratio, Garver managed to bring home the silver slugger award despite playing in just 93 games. Give the man a full season and I’m honestly scared of the damage he could do.
Sure, Mitch Garver is an incredible hitter, but did you know he also leads the league in pitcher encouragement? 🤣
This is all from just one inning. I love his body language behind the plate.#MNTwins pic.twitter.com/NxnmNaDL6z
— Tom Froemming (@TFTwins) September 20, 2019
No. 79 – Miguel Sano: Mike 79, Ben 95, Jorge 69
Mike: Before I get into why I put him here, I just want to say I’m proud I got it bang on. Sano really turned it on in 2019 after struggling with a left knee injury in 2018. He posted a career-highs in OPS, .923, home runs, 34, and RBIs, 79, through 105 games this past season. He has yet to post a season of 120 games played or more in his career, or else he’d likely be higher on this list. He has crazy production for someone who’s played so few games. For instance, projected out to a 150-game season Sano would have posted nearly 46 home runs and 112 RBIs last year. That puts him in the MVP conversation. He needs to stay healthy and then he’ll be dangerous.
No. 78 – Michael Conforto: Mike 78, Ben 74, Jorge 83
Jorge: The second of my Mets to appear on the list so far, Conforto took a big step forward in 2019. His second season in a row with at least 500 at-bats and 150 games played, Conforto has proven himself to be an above-average everyday starting outfielder in the league. His home run total has risen every year, and his 33 last year marked the first time he crossed the 30 home run line in his five-year career. He’ll probably never be a high average guy (put up a .257 last year and his career-best was .277 in 2017), but his on-base percentage is regularly over 100 points higher than his average. If he keeps up the home run pace, he might even be able to make it back to the All-Star game in the near future.
No. 77 – Tim Anderson: Mike 75, Ben 80, Jorge 79
Ben: Say what you will about batting average being an overrated stat (it is), but when you lead the entirety of Major League Baseball in it, you’re probably a good hitter. Enter Tim Anderson, the White Sox shortstop who hit .335 with 32 doubles and 18 home runs in 2019. Add in his 56 RBI’s, 18 stolen bases, 15 walks and 81 total runs, you’ve got an awesome offensive shortstop. He was worth 4.0 WAR in 2019, sixth at the position.
Just another one year anniversary of a Tim Anderson bat flip:
Definitely one of the best games of the year pic.twitter.com/4FU0OvepTX
— South Side Daily (@chitownsportsfp) April 26, 2020
No. 76 – Nick Castellanos: Mike 59, Ben NR, Jorge 57
Mike: It was really a tale of two seasons last year for the Greek. In his time with the Detroit Tigers, he posted a solid, but not super noteworthy .790 OPS with 11 homers through 100 games — although he did post 37 doubles. After being traded to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline, He finished out the year with 16 home runs and a 1.002 OPS in his final 51 games. The change of scenery seemed to give him a huge boost. This offseason he signed with the Cincinnati Reds for four years, $64 million, so it remains to be seen how that will translate to his new team.
No. 75 – Jorge Soler: Mike 83, Ben 69, Jorge 71
Ben: At 28-years-old, the Royals expected their right-fielder, Jorge Soler to improve. What they probably didn’t expect was that he would improve by so much. The Cuban stud mashed 48 homeruns in 2019 with his previous career high being 12. The ridiculous improvement didn’t stop there either. He tallied 117 RBI’s (previous career high was 47) and 73 walks (previous career high was 32). Soler also posted a .922 OPS in 2019, which was the third-highest at the stacked right-field position, behind only Christian Yelich and Charlie Blackmon. Kansas City might really have something with this guy, but it’s up to him to prove 2019 wasn’t a fluke.
No. 74 – Shohei Ohtani: Mike 62, Ben NR, Jorge 46
Jorge: I’m higher on Shohei than most, but can you blame me? I mean, who wouldn’t want someone who can blow a 101 MPH heater past someone and then turn around and hit a ball 400-feet the next inning? The 2018 AL Rookie of the Year (deal with it, Yankees fans) is hitting .286/.351/.883 in 710 at-bats over two years and posted a 3.31 ERA in 51.1 innings pitched in 2018. While he didn’t pitch in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Ohtani should be ready to go whenever baseball picks back up. Oh, and did I mention I hit an absolute TANK with him off Ben in The Show the other day?
Here are Shohei Ohtani's career @MLB stats with comps…
135 OPS+ (1 higher than Mookie Betts)
127 ERA+ (equal to Gerrit Cole)
He is 25 years old. pic.twitter.com/iA3wHsHi58
— Baseball Brit (@BaseballBrit) April 12, 2020
No. 73 – Max Kepler: Mike 69, Ben 71, Jorge 73
Ben: Admittedly, opposing pitchers likely aren’t scared of Max Kepler. That’s also probably just how he likes it. The Twins right-fielder operates comfortably as one of the most underrated in the league, and when pitchers least expect it, he takes them deep, as he did 36 times in the 2019 regular season. His .855 OPS, 90 RBI’s and 60 BB’s ain’t bad either. Keep overlooking Kepler in 2020; That’s probably what he wants.
P.S.: Jorge, be an honorable journalist and tell the whole story. I beat you 6-4 in extras despite the Ohtani Blast.
No. 72 – Lucas Giolito: Mike 33, Ben 99, Jorge 80
Mike: Before you kill me for ranking Giolito at 33, take a second to look at his numbers and potential. First of all, his middle name is Frost, which is sick. Second, I had ranked him pre-season as my Cy Young winner in the AL this year. Giolito was a former MLB.com No. 1 overall prospect with the Washington Nationals before getting traded to the Chicago White Sox for Adam Eaton in 2016. He struggled mightily in his first full year after the trade — he had 7 starts in 2017 where he excelled, with a 2.38 ERA, but spent a majority of the year on the shelf. In 2018, he led the Majors in earned runs, 118, and walks, 90, en route to a 6.13 ERA over 173.1 innings. In 2019, though, he found his magic again, posting a 3.41 ERA, walking just 57, leading the Majors in complete games, three, and shutouts, two. If he’s finally figured out, he’s going to be a problem, and I’m a sucker for turnaround tales.
Lucas Giolito struck out a #WhiteSox single-game record eight consecutive batters this afternoon vs. Kansas City. This is tied for the seventh-longest stretch in @MLB history (10 by Tom Seaver on 4/22/70 vs. San Diego). pic.twitter.com/WDXybVOyMq
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) September 12, 2019
No. 71 – Jorge Polanco: Mike 67, Ben 75, Jorge 67
Ben: I was in attendance for Game 1 of the 2019 ALDS between the Yankees and Twins when Jorge Polanco sent a moonshot over the fence off James Paxton in the first inning. It was in this (traumatizing) moment that I realized Polanco, like the Twins themselves, is extremely dangerous; The numbers tell a similar story. Polanco had the second-highest WAR among shortstops in 2019 (5.7), behind only AL MVP candidate Marcus Semien (8.1). How? Because the guy can swing the bat and play the field. In his age-26 season, Polanco hit .295 (3rd among shortstops) with 22 home runs (4th), 40 doubles (3rd), 7 triples (3rd) and 79 RBI’s (3rd). His overall impressive play almost makes me forgive him for his playoff homer… almost.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of Angels Report on Twitter