Top 100 Right Now (#50-41)

Continuing our countdown of the top 100 players in the majors, we hit numbers 50 through 41 today.  You can find the explanation and origin of our list here.  We will now expand a bit more on each player, with Alex giving his current state and strengths, while I will show weaknesses and hidden strengths.  As a quick refresher, here are 100-51:

T100 – Jordan Zimmermann – SP -WAS
T100 – Michael Bourn – CF – ATL
T98 – Gio Gonzalez – SP – WAS
T98 – Nick Swisher – RF – NYY
97 – Nelson Cruz – RF – TEX
96 – B.J. Upton – CF – TBR
95 – Jayson Werth – OF – WAS
94 – Miguel Montero – C – ARI
93 – Lance Berkman – 1B/RF – STL
92 – Ubaldo Jimenez – SP – CLE
91 – Yunel Escobar – SS – TOR
90 – Corey Hart – RF – MIL
89 – Josh Beckett – SP – BOS
88 – Carlos Beltran – RF – STL
T86 – John Danks – SP – CHW
T86 – David Wright – 3B – NYM
85 – Gavin Floyd – SP – CHW
84 – Alexei Ramirez – SS – CHW
83 – Buster Posey – C – SFG
82 – Matt Garza – SP – CHC
81 – Anibal Sanchez – SP – MIA
80 – Joel Hanrahan – RP – PIT
79 – Jay Bruce – RF – CIN
78 – Howie Kendrick – 2B – LAA
77 – Mat Latos – SP – CIN
76 – Yadier Molina – C – STL
75 – Alex Gordon – LF – KCR
74 – Chris Carpenter – SP – STL
73 – Chase Utley – 2B – PHI
72 – Doug Fister – SP – DET
71 – Desmond Jennings – OF – TBR
70 – John Axford – RP – MIL
69 – Jonathan Papelbon – RP – PHI
68 – Brett Gardner – OF – NYY
67 – Daniel Hudson – SP – ARI
66 – Justin Masterson – SP – CLE
65 – Sean Marshall – RP – CIN
64 – Matt Moore – SP – TBR
63 – Mark Teixeira – 1B – NYY
62 – Rickie Weeks – 2B – MIL
61 – Craig Kimbrel – RP – ATL
60 – Carlos Santana – C/1B – CLE
59 – Yovani Gallardo – SP – MIL
58 – C.J. Wilson – SP – LAA
57 – Jose Reyes – SS – MIA
56 – David Price – SP – TBR
55 – Mariano Rivera – RP – NYY
54 – James Shields – SP – TBR
53 – Madison Bumgarner – SP – SFG
52 – Mike Napoli – C/1B/DH – TEX
51 – Adam Wainwright – SP – STL

50 – Hanley Ramirez – SS/3B – MIA – MLB (24)
Lee (53) – A top 10 player from ’06-’10, Ramirez fell off sharply last season and has stayed in his funk.  His BABIP drop can be explained some by his drop in infield hit%.  His defense was never great at shortstop, posting a -9 UZR/150 and his move to third has not helped much.  His skills are still there, so he can revert back to a great level very soon.

Alex (52) – After the acquisition of Jose Reyes, Ramirez made the move to third, and so far he’s off to a slow start.  While his ISO isn’t as prominent as it was in recent years, he’s still managed to have a .189 ISO through the seasons first month and a half.  His discipline is right around his career average, but his 21% K% is a little high.  Ramirez is also suffering through some bad luck, his BABIP is .231, meaning that he should see his fortunes change in the coming weeks.  He hasn’t had a great defense start so far, and his wRC+ is only 96, but he still has time to turn it around.

49 – Hunter Pence – RF – PHI – MLB (36)
Lee (70) – Possibly the most unorthodox player in the game, Pence has managed to overcome poor mechanics with sheer fast-twitch ability.  He’s a low LD, high GB hitter with average or worse plate discipline and without great speed, yet he’s been well above average in his career.  He has never performed at an elite level, but he has been a consistent 3-4 WAR player the past five seasons, and, at age 29, can be expected to continue for a few more years.

Alex (34) – After posting the best season of his career, Pence is off to another solid start.  His plate discipline is currently hovering around his career average, although his BB% is a little low. His .225 ISO is a career high.  It’s still early though, so he should experience some regression.  His .271 BABIP is less than his .325 career BABIP however and he should see some better luck in the future.  Pence has had some good defensive seasons in the outfield, but the past couple have been subpar.  Offensively he has a 112 wRC+, but that is a number that will certainly go up.

48 – Matt Wieters – C – BAL – MLB (NR)
Lee (67) – Wieters has not been able to live up to his draft-day hype, a switch-hitting “Mauer with power.”  His strikeout rate is much higher, though still only about average, and his .280 BABIP leaves him well behind Mauer in average.  His LD% is a bit below average, he has not hit enough flyballs out of the park, and he’s too slow to reach much on infield hits.  The power may be here now and the defense has been there, however.

Alex (37) – Wieters is off to an incredible start so far in 2012.  His power numbers are elevated, with his ISO currently at .257, a number that has not been sustained in the past.  He’s taking walks at a good rate, and is striking out at a respectable rate.  His wRC+ is at 143, and is likely something that he won’t sustain unless the power spike is legitimate.  His arm strength and accuracy is one of the best among catchers, and he’s showing that off again this season.

47 – Alex Rodriguez – 3B – NYY – MLB (86)
Lee (58) – After two years of a low LD% and HR/FB%, Rodriguez has returned to his pre-2010 levels there, but his GB% has creeped above 50%, not good for an aging player.  Injuries have prevented him from exceeding 600 PA since 2007, though he came close to that total two years.  His defense, despite a fluke year last year, is a bit below average.  He is not worth the $143M left on his contract the next six years, but he is still a consistent 4 WAR player.

Alex (43) – Gone are the days when Rodriguez will post 9 WAR seasons, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a productive player.  His power has been fairly low this season, his ISO being a mere .153.  Even though he isn’t producing the power numbers, he is still maintaining a good BB and K%.  He’s walking 12% of the time, while striking out 18% of the time.  Even with the absence of power, his offensive production is still high, as his wRC+ is currently sits at 141.  So far he has rated average defensively. Overall he has 1.2 WAR, and based on ZiPS he should finish with around 4 WAR.

46 – Brett Lawrie – 3B – TOR – MLB (74)
Lee (52) – Perhaps creating a false sense of skill, Lawrie has not come close to repeating his power production of last year.  His walks are surprisingly low, considering his low swing rate.  While known for his bat and high energy level, Lawrie’s defense sneaks way below the radar.  In his 75 career games, Lawrie has posted a +10.7 UZR and a staggering +28 DRS at third base.  His future talent level depends on where his power level settles, but he’s definitely a bright young star at age 22.

Alex (41) – Lawrie is one of the up-and-coming third basemen in all of baseball, and he’s off to a good start so far this year.  He showed some big power numbers last season, but has struggled to so far this season.  He has a .117 ISO, and a large part of that can be contributed to his 57% GB%.  He isn’t walking as much as last season, but he’s also managed to cut back on the number of strikeouts.  His 105 wRC+ is low, but once his bat gets going he should be in good shape.  He has a 1.3 WAR as of today, and as he becomes one of the better third basemen, it should continue to rise.

45 – Joe Mauer – C – MIN – MLB (80)
Lee (49) – Much like Hanley, Mauer’s place as “best at his position” faded last season, fueled by injuries and below-normal performance.  It looks obvious that ’09 was a complete fluke power spike, not even able to put up half as many homers any other season.  His GB% has risen above 55%, leading to a dip in extra base hits, something Mauer cannot afford.  His defense has not rated as well as it is perceived, totaling to -3 over his career.  While still a very good player, the $23M a year owed until 2018 could bog down the franchise towards the end.

Alex (44) – Like the rest of the Minnesota Twins, Mauer is off to a slow start.  He has virtually no power, as his .088 ISO shows.  On the bright side he’s showing excellent plate discipline, walking just under 15% of the time, and striking out just under 10% of the time.  His .303 BABIP is significantly less than his .348 career BABIP, so there’s still a chance for him to turn it around.  His 117 wRC+ is still a respectable number, while it’s less than what he usually puts up.

44 – Shane Victorino – CF – PHI – MLB (58)
Lee (43) – Aside from last year, Victorino has never been able to be more than an above-average hitter.  His ISO jumped over .200 in ’11, the first time it was ever above .170.  His BABIP isn’t that high due to the high amount of flyballs he hits.  His LD rate has also dropped since ’09.  In his walk year, it will be interesting to see how long a contract the 32-year-old can get with his skills.

Alex (45) – Victorino is one of the more underrated outfielders in baseball, and this year he continues to post good numbers, particularly on the defensive side.  His power has returned to his career average, with an ISO around .156.  He’s not generating a lot of walks, but the strikeouts aren’t piling up either.  He’s run into some bad luck, his BABIP is .246, whereas his career BABIP is generally in the .300 range. Right now he has .9 WAR, on pace for another standard season.

43 – Carlos Gonzalez – OF – COL – MLB (54)
Lee (39) – A prototypical five-tool player, Gonzalez has flourished in Colorado after struggling initially in Oakland.  His plate discipline is finally starting to develop, though his contact rate has dropped sharply so far this year.  It is still an improvement after posting a K/UIBB ratio over 4-1 in his monster 2010 season.  His defense has rated slightly below average in Colorado, after putting up a +11 UZR in his half season with the A’s.

Alex (46) – Gonzalez is on pace to have another solid season in the Mile High City.  He continues to post high power numbers, part of which can be thanked to the environment that the Rockies play in.  One nice thing to see is that his BB% is at 10%, around 3% better than his average, and he’s striking out a bit less.  He’s continuing his high offensive production, posting a 154 wRC+.  He’s struggled defensively, though he has typically rated average in the field.

42 – Brandon Phillips – 2B – CIN – MLB (40)
Lee (45) – Phillips has never been able to put up superb offensive numbers due to his middling power, below-average BABIP, and low walk rate.  The power has been in fairly constant decline since ’07.  His .322 BABIP last season was his first above .300 since ’07.  His Swing% is typically in the 52-54% range, which makes it hard to walk with his decent contact skills.

Alex (39) – After having a career year in 2011, Phillips is off to a very slow start.  He’s showed below-average power, only posting a .116 ISO, and overall has struggled with his offensive production across the board.  His .288 BABIP isn’t far off his career average, however. Defensively he’s one of the best second basemen in baseball, so that should help his overall value.  He only has a 86 wRC+, a number he’ll hope comes up with a boost in power.

41 – Jered Weaver – SP – LAA – MLB (13)
Lee (38) – With his gyroball-type fastball, Weaver has been able to limit home runs on a per-flyball basis, posting numbers around 8% instead of the normal 10%.  However, his sub-35% GB rate means a lot of flyballs are hit, so he allows about one per nine innings, a high number for a pitcher of his caliber.  He has also suppressed his BABIP allowed with the high FB and popup rate.  His contact rate has risen a bit, so I do not expect his spike in strikeouts to last throughout the season.

Alex (42) – After posting another dominant season, Weaver has continued his success.  He’s striking out batters 25% of the time, a number that’s right around his career high.  He’s also doing an excellent job at preventing walks, only walking 4% of the batters that he’s faced, which is a career best.  He isn’t known as a groundball pitcher, but his 37% GB% is a career best up to this point.  His fastball velocity is just above 88 mph, which is right at his career average. He currently has a 2.14 FIP, and a 3.08 xFIP. Regression is expected, but Weaver should still remain dominant.

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