Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 3/26/13
Baseball season is about a week away, and with that come the arguments between fans about whose team’s players are better. In this article I’ll attempt to find the four most overrated and underrated players in baseball, regardless of position. Overrated Miguel Cabrera The list starts off with a shocker. Winning the Triple Crown is no easy feat, and he deserves all the credit in the world for that. However, the Triple Crown measures only three offensive categories, none of which are the most important. On-base percentage and OPS+ (which takes ballpark effects into account) are more telling indicators of offensive production, and while his numbers in those departments were excellent, they weren’t the best in the league. Plus, he was able to tee off on the pitching of the AL Central, the worst division in baseball all of last year. His intangibles weren’t great, stealing only four bases and putting out at best a mediocre performance in the field. His offensive prowess is a major force to be reckoned with, and he certainly ranks among the league’s top players. However, I think the Triple Crown covered up some of his glaring weaknesses last year and was essentially the reason he won the MVP over Mike Trout, who was the more deserving candidate. Ryan Ludwick Ryan Ludwick’s career is a prime example of the unpredictability of baseball. He accomplished next to nothing in his first seven years in the league but had a breakout season in 2008 at the age of 29. He then fell off a bit until last season, which was another renaissance year; he hit 26 home runs with a 128 OPS+ mark. At 34 years old, however, I doubt he can replicate last year’s production. His K/BB ratio was over 2/1, and he only played in about three-quarters of his team’s games. There’s a chance he can regain the magic, but given his inconsistency that has plagued his career, he’ll have trouble meeting the high expectations he’s been given. Hunter Pence The Giants might not have won the World Series last year without Pence’s leadership abilities; there’s no denying his excellence as a teammate. But on the field, Pence just didn’t perform very well. He got on base at a paltry .319 clip and slugged .425; much lower numbers than one would expect from a middle-of-the-order bat. He also was a bit of a liability in the outfield and didn’t do much on the basepaths. Hanley Ramirez The Dodgers’ new ownership hasn’t been shy about acquiring the best talent in the league, but some of their choices have been a little questionable. Ramirez got off to one of the best starts of any career we’ve seen in a while, but for the past two seasons he’s struggled to make consistent contact, batting only .252 in 2011-2012 after hitting .313 in his five years prior. He’s also always struggled in the field and doesn’t seem to have a natural position. He still has plenty to offer the Dodgers if he can turn his trend upward, as he’s only 29 this year, but for now he deserves the title of overrated. Underrated Alex Gordon The top prospect in baseball in 2007, Gordon has panned out very nicely for the Royals. He struggled a bit during his first few seasons in the league, but since his move to the outfield two years ago, he’s become a very reliable presence with his glove, winning the last two Gold Gloves, and has been hitting much better, leading the AL in doubles last year. Unfortunately though, he doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves on the small market Royals. If the team can piece together some of the products of their excellent farm system, Gordon may be able to break through that barrier by finally playing in a pennant race. Martin Prado Prado has gotten his fair share of praise from the experts, but most still don’t see his true value. He’s among the best outfield gloves in the game, and might have deserved a Gold Glove last year. His bat has improved too; his OPS+ has been above 110 for three of the past four years. He also led the league in sacrifice flies last season and had 42 doubles (very underrated stats). His whole game screams “underrated”; he’s a perfect addition to this list. Austin Jackson Leadoff hitters tend to be underrated as a whole, and Jackson is no exception. Last year he really came into his own at the plate, getting on base at a .377 rate and leading the league in triples. He’s also an excellent defender (if it isn’t obvious by now, fielding tends to be an underrated skill). He strikes out a little more often than a leadoff hitter should and doesn’t steal a ton of bases, but his well roundedness has been extremely valuable to the Tigers as he continues to be the primary table-setter for Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Matt Harrison Very few pitchers performed better than Matt Harrison last season, but for some reason he was rarely talked about. His 3.29 ERA doesn’t necessarily pop eyeballs, but when park effects are factored in, his ERA+ is a whopping 1.38, good for fourth in the AL. He also tossed four complete games, which was more than Chris Sale, Kyle Loshe, Jordan Zimmerman, Cliff Lee, Ryan Dempster, and Clayton Kershaw threw combined last year. -Allen
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