Before the season starts, MLB Network likes to go position-by-position and rank the top 10 players at that position going into the season. They call this show “Top 10 Right Now”. This is the first year that I’ve paid attention to them, as it is also the first year that I’ve actually had MLB Network. The writers over at The Brewers Nation have put together the list of all the top 10 at each of the different positions, and it’s interesting to see where the Cardinals rank. You should definitely go give them all a gander.
For a little bit of reference, they put all the numbers for each of the players into “The Shredder” which is supposed to be as un-biased a number cruncher as is possible. It ranks the best player for each position based on its formula. This is still going to be a little biased depending on what it looks at, the weights that it gives to each stat, etc. Brian Kenny, Bill James, who developed a lot of the saber metrics that people look at now, and another analyst give their lists as well.
Well, looking through the outfield, The shredder listed Matt Holliday as the best left fielder, and Craig as the 5th best right fielder. Kenny and Mark DeRosa had Craig at 5th and 7th, and Bill James left him off the list altogether, which surprised me. On Holliday, each of them had in in their top 3. On both of those guys, I think that they’re right on. Holliday is definitely in the top 2 if not the top LF in my opinion, and looking at the company that Craig is in, I’m willing to give that he should be somewhere in-between 5th and 7th. (not surprisingly, the Cardinals didn’t have a center fielder make the list. Maybe if Bourjos has a good season and is healthy, he’ll be up there next year)
Looking at the 4 infield spots, With Adams and Wong being unproven at best, neither of them made the list, but each of the other 2 did. Peralta made it as the 4th best shortstop on the shredder’s list. Kenny had him listed at 5th, and neither of the other two had him on the list. I wonder if that has less to do with his numbers and more to do with his PED suspension, but that’s neither here nor there. I haven’t gotten a chance to see him play yet, but I will say this: if the Cardinals were able to snag the 5th(-ish?) best shortstop in baseball with that contract, without having to give up any players in a trade or lose a draft pick, wow!
The other infielder to make the list was Matt Carpenter. He was ranked as the 3rd best 3rd baseman. Kenny and James both had him at 4th, and the guest had him at 8th. I think that’s fair. The people ranked above him were Wright and Beltre, with Longoria getting above him in the two guys that had him 4th. Carpenter had a great year. But it was only a year. I think that the fact that the other guys have been good for a while makes them better. If Carpenter can come out and have another season like he did last year, he could push up at least 1 spot, if not all the way to the top.
The pitchers really needed a few more spots. They ranked them as starters and relievers. Unlike the other 8 positions, where there is generally only 1 guy for each of the 30 teams, there are about 5 starters and 7 relievers for each team, making these lists a little more crowded. I think both the lists were fair, though. The shredder only listed Wainwright as the 8th best starting pitcher. Kenny had him at 5th and James had him at 4th. On the relief side, nobody from the Cardinals was listed, except by Kenny. He listed Rosenthal as the 6th best reliever in baseball. He was astronomically good, especially when he took the closer role late and in the playoffs. I think that he might be a little less proven as well, but another dominating season from him, and he should be in all their lists next year in my opinion.
Last, but certainly not least, you have the top catcher in the MLB right now: Yadier Molina. The shredder listed him as the best. The guest listed him as the best, but both Kenny and James listed him 2nd behind Posey. I have talked about Molina being better than Posey before, but that was a little bit of angry writing right after Molina got stiffed in the MVP race once again. I honestly don’t know what he needs to do more to be the MVP, but that’s for another conversation. I simply don’t understand the bias toward Posey anymore, especially after last season.
Offensively, they are pretty close, but Yadi has the edge in every category, except that he walks less and hits slightly fewer home runs. Posey did play in more games than Yadi did in 2013, but that was based a lot on him playing some 1B in order to keep his bat in the lineup and the fact that Yadi did spend some time on the DL. Even with that time on the DL, Yadi still caught more innings than Posey. The thing that really sets Yadi apart from Posey is this:
(excuse the video quality, but it was the best I could find)
His arm. The last two years, he has been able to improve his bat so much that he has been near the top of the list for batting average, but he still throws people out at a rate right near 50%. He’s so good that people don’t run at all on him anymore. Molina and Montero (ARI) tied for the least amount of attempts to steal a base on him at 46 tries. Molina threw out 20 of those 46 to Montero’s 15. People ran on Posey nearly twice as much. 90 times to be exact, and Posey only threw out 27 of them, only 7 more than Molina did. Look at what he did in the 2011 World Series against Ian Kinsler, who stole 30 bases in the regular season that year, and was only caught 4 times.
Molina threw him out in the first inning of game 1 and again the first inning of game 7. Kinsler did get caught stealing 1 more time, and Kinsler did steal 2nd in the 9th inning of game 2, which helped them take that game. Yadier Molina is one of the only catchers who can pick people off of first base. It may make him the only one crazy enough to try, but he does it, and does it well. On top of that, he catches people stealing at a very high rate. That is what puts him above and beyond what other catchers can do, makes him the best catcher in baseball, and in my opinion, in the conversation for the best player in baseball.