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Top and Worse starting players in the American League
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in preparation for your 2013 Scoresheet draft

The difference between the best players at each position and the worse starters is probably less now than before Scoresheet baseball was invented. That’s just my general impression, but clearly the difference is smallest at . . .

Shortstop. Unless Marco Scutaro is protected, there will 18 shortstops with starting jobs at the start of the draft. That’s counting cross-over Hanley Ramirez and two starting secondbasemen who will qualify at shortstop: Ben Zobrist and Jamey Carroll. The top five pretty clearly are Hanley Ram, Zobrist, Asdrubal Cabrera, Elvis Andrus, and the former National Leaguer Jose Reyes. Toronto’s previous N.L. shortstop import was easily in the top five last year, so that gives you some idea how quickly even a player in his prime can drop out of the top. I’d have to see what ranges those top five shortstops get to properly rank them – it’s that close. I’m assuming Adrus’s will be excellent, Reyes’s will be very decent, and the others: not so much.  Two of the best prospects in baseball are trying to break in the A.L. as shortstops, but there would have to be a trade or injury for there to be an opening for Jurickson Profar or Francisco Lindor – and I’m not fully sold on Lindor, yet.

The stand-out weakest of these 18 are the two Twins: Carroll and Pedro Florimon.

Second-base. While two starting two-baggers qualify as shortstops, there is one starting thirdbaseman who qualifies at second-base: Jeff Keppinger. Three teams do not have a clear favored starter (Toronto, Kansas City, and Oakland). I am protecting cross-over Aaron Hill, but so that tallies only 12 reliable starting second-basemen. That’s counting the regularly infirmed Brian Roberts as reliable. It is possible the owner of Jean Segura might decide to keep a second x-over second-baseman. Obviously, Cano and Pedroia stand out. Ian Kinsler hasn’t kept up to their echelon. I’d be happy to draft Jose Altruve, if I get the chance. I’m elated with Hill, but I confess I’d rather take my chances with the much younger Jason Kipnis to round out the top five.

It is those guys who are battling for one position who should be at the bottom of your draft list. Will it be Giavotella or Getz? Bonafacio or Maicer Izturiz? Jemile Weeks or Scott Sizemore? Will Brian Roberts be healthy enough to play or will Alexi Casilla get another season in the sun? Is Segura’s job secure? I don’t study the National League.

Third-base. Without Keppinger, we have 14 thirdbasemen. Likely the Yankees will have either Kevin Youkilis or Alex Rodriguez be the primary DH when A-Rod returns. In the meantime Russ Canzler is pencilled in to get the most bats there – and he also qualifies at third-base. Another hot sacker Wilson Betemit will battle Nolan Reimold for the honor of platooning with Danny Valencia at DH. Ryan Roberts is expected to get the most DH at bats for Tampa Bay. My top six includes two superstars (and I own them both!) Miguel Cabrera and Evan Longoria, a guy who has been an MVP candidate the last three years: Adrian Beltre, a guy who was an MVP candidate the two years before that: Youkilis, and two young probable stars of the future: Manny Machado and Brett Lawrie. Perhaps, it is unfair to call Longoria a superstar and not Beltre, but in Scoresheet you tend to look at players’ futures as much as their pasts. Longoria just turned 27. Beltre will be 34 before mid-season.

At the bottom: it might not be fair to say Russ Canzler has a job, which he will lose if A-Rod and Youki are healthy at the same time. Matt Dominguez is just 23 and may not be ready for American League pitching, although a building team would be wiser to give him a try over a Wilson Betemit.

First-base. Adrian Gonzalez will be protected. Seven teams (Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Houston, Texas, Toronto) intend to use a guy who can only play first-base at best, as a DH, so I will list the top seven of these 22 regulars. The top three are easy, although guessing the order is a roll of the dice: Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, and Prince Fielder. Billy Butler and Edwin Encarnacion (my guy) easily bring us to five. Until David Ortiz and incoming Lance Berkman start missing those fastballs, they have to complete the top seven. However, a building team would reasonably prefer Eric Hosmer.

At the bottom of the list is Carlos Pena – a good clubhouse guy, but not a good Scoresheet investment as this stage of his career.

Only two teams are likely to have an outfielder as a regular DH (Anaheim and Oakland). I’m not sure how many cross-overs will be protected, but I’m guessing four: Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Quentin, and B.J. Upton. That gives us 26 regular outfielders to choose from – and I’m counting Wil Myers as a regular, even if he won’t be starting the season as one. Hence, I’ll name the top 17 outfielders. My Mike Trout is no. 1. Veterans Jose Bautista, Holliday, and Josh Hamilton are 2-4. Then it depends on the ranges, but I’d put centerfielders Yoenis Cespedes (was a CF), Curtis Granderson (mine), Adam Jones (mine), and Austin Jackson (not mine, but a Tiger) next. This is about where I’d slot Wil Myers. In the long run, he could well be even higher, but for the short term, he’s not quite what Alex Gordon or Nick Markakis are now. He is already as good as Josh Willingham, Matt Joyce, Nick Swisher, and Carlos Beltran considering all things such as reliable health. I don’t know what to make of PED using Melky Cabrera or inconsistent Nelson Cruz, but that brings us to 17 already and I didn’t have room for another unpredictable outstanding outfielder in Jacob Ellsbury. At least, Cabrera and Cruz have more reliable health.  

As for the worse starting outfielders not counting San Fuld, who will be replaced by Wil Myers in a matter of weeks into the season? At the bottom of my list are Nate McLouth, Darren Mastroianni, two Canadians: Jason Bay and Michael Saunders, and, I hate to say this, because I love how he plays, but, he is slated to be a starter – on the Yankees no less: good old Ichiro.

Shockingly, there are more catchers being used as DHs (Victor Martinez of Detroit, Ryan Doumit of Minnesota, and Jesus Montero of Seattle) than outfielders. In fact, if Mike Napoli signs with some team that will use him as a DH, there will be twice as many. Throw in potentially three cross-overs: Travis d’Arnaud, Wilson Ramos, and Russell Martin and I’ll have to name you seven catchers. That’s just where there is a break in value, so that works out perfectly. The largest break in value comes after the top catcher Joe Mauer. For Scoresheet purposes, I like Carlos Santana second, Jesus Montero third, Alex Avila fourth (the latter two both mine), Matt Wieters fifth (was mine last year), and Victor Martinez (a Tiger) should be good enough as no. 6. Whether Napoli signs in the N.L. or A.L., I assume that he would be protected and get enough playing time to be no. 7.

Jose Molina of the Rays is the second worse starting A.L. catcher in Scoresheet value. That would be a little different if Scoresheet embraced pitch framing as part of their game. Notice how it is mostly Astros, Twins, Mariners, and Yankees that most populate the weakest at each position? The starting catcher expected to be nearly as useless for Scoresheet purposes as Molina is Jason Castro of the Astros. The worse starting catcher in the league, however, I expect to come from the Yankees whether it is Francisco Cervelli or Austin Romine. Poor New York: beaten up by Hurricane Sandy and now the greatest Yankees downfall since the mid 1960s. Hmm. That was during Sandy Koufax’s prime.

John Carter