This week we asked our writers, "Who are the most underrated players in baseball?" There was a bit of agreement, but Chase Utley was the only player to be listed on even four of the eleven ballots. Here are the top five vote-getters, awarding five points for a first place vote down to one point for a fifth place vote:
Steve Sommer: Shin-Soo Choo put up a 5 WAR season last year? Who knew? He's coming off of consecutive years with wOBAs above 0.380.
Adam Darowski: People know Chase Utley is awesome, and yet I still think the general conception is that he's the third best player on the team behind Howard and Rollins.
Peter Hjort: Mike Napoli gets no respect, even though he's probably one of the top 5 or so hitting catchers in the game.
The full results are listed after the jump, with every vote from every voter noted, and a lot more commentary.
|The Padres' Bullpen apart from Heath Bell||1||5|
|Tony Gwynn, Jr.||1||5|
JBopp: I nominate the most-overshadowed guys in the nation: Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. When not over-compensating for the stationary monolith in left (and hurting their UZR in the process), these guys are providing .350+ to.380+ wOBAs and +3 to +5 WAR to the Dodgers at an insanely modest price of $5M-$8M this year.
Imagine how much a team like the Royals (paying Guillen $12M) could benefit from a couple guys at that value.
Satchel: Suzuki has quietly emerged as the best catcher in his division, a solidly above average backstop with plus defensive skills and a solid all-around bat.
Pavano continues to put up impressive numbers since regaining his health last season. Pavano's time in New York sticks out the most in the public's mind, but he's re-emerged as one of the better starters in the league.
Willingham is essentially Jason Bay without the counting numbers and $66M contract. He's a 20+ run bat over the course of a full season.
Ruiz is overshadowed in Philly by the bigger names, but he's continued to prove that he's just another above average regular in a stacked lineup. If he played on a lesser team, people would appreciate this guy more.
He's had some trouble staying healthy, which has prevented him from gaining the reputation as a top of the rotation pitcher. But when he's been healthy, that's exactly what he's been.
Peter: Mike Napoli gets no respect, even though he's probably one of the top 5 or so hitting catchers in the game.
There are maybe 15 starting pitchers in the game that are *clearly* better than John Danks, but he's still often thought of as the #4 starter on the White Sox.
Cole Hamels is the exact same guy he was in '08, yet because his ERA has ballooned for reasons that mostly have nothing to do with him, fans are down on him.
There are three or four guys in the Padres' bullpen just as capable, if not more so, of closing games as Heath Bell is.
Tommy: Despite being four of the top outfielders in the American League, there is a decent chance that three or even all four of [Crawford, Gutierrez, Choo, and Rios] won't be in Anaheim for the All-Start game. Bigger names, although less deserving, win popularity contests. Carl Crawford is is a name people know, but few really know how good this guy is. I guess they'll find out next year.
Adam: There are many, many different ways to approach "underrated". I decided to go the "career value"/"how they rank in the history of the game" approach. So, while some of these guys may not be performing at their peaks any longer, I think their careers are incredibly undervalued.
Daniel: I answered as if it's referring to career underratedness, as opposed to current.
People know Utley is awesome, and yet I still think the general conception is that he's the third best player on the team behind Howard and Rollins.
Stuck mostly to position players since great starters tend to be recognized - even Greinke won the Cy last year despite the relative lack of wins - but Shields is a consistently very good pitcher that I think often doesn't get his due.
Steve: Shin-Soo Choo put up a 5 WAR season last year? Who knew? He's coming off of consecutive years with wOBAs above 0.380.
I also didn't know Martin Prado had been hovering around 3 WAR until I was doing a little research for this specific question.
Wandy and Werth are only underrated because of the teams they play on, one out of the spotlight and one overshadowed.
I've always though Dejesus was solid and the numbers show that with WARs in the 2-3 range every year.
Sky: Shin-Soo Choo's been a top twenty-five player over the past two years. How many people view him like that?
Even if Napoli's skills as a catcher are as lacking as people think, his bat and ability to at least play the position make him quite a valuable commodity.
Suzuki's another catcher who's a bit underrated, but in his case it's because he defense skills are top-notch and his bat has quietly improved into the "causes consistent damage" level.
Everyone knows Utley's pretty good, but few recognize he's Pujols-good.
If it's possible for a Yankee to be underrated Gardner's your guy. His .400 OBP and 17 steals so far in 2010 are starting to get him noticed.
Dan: Despite the Phillies being in the past two World Series, Utley still isn't getting his due. In the view of the masses, he's at-best the third most important Phillie behind Howard and J-Roll.
Adrian Gonzalez is known more for the possible (inevitable?) trade to the Red Sox than for his amazing performance.
Josh Johnson is just another anonymous Florida pitcher - though to be honest, the bland name doesn't help.
Even though Zack Greinke won the Cy last year, he's still overlooked by many.
And Pujols is on this list despite being considered the best player in baseball because I don't think people understand how phenomenal he actually is. He's got a shot at passing Gehrig for best first baseman ever if he keeps it up.
Michael: Jayson Werth is so underrated that I even forgot his name until I checked the FanGraphs WAR leaderboards for the past three years. Werth has 11.5 WAR since 2008, second most on the Phillies. He is probably their third or fourth best player, but is probably considered their sixth or seventh.
J-Doug: It may be difficult to spot Josh Willingham in the highlight reel; he's not even the biggest star on a team that isn't exactly full of them. But the Nats outfielder hasn't cooled off since the second half of 2009, posting an OPS above .900 and ranking top 20 in WPA.
Marlon Byrd is near the top of the MLB in WAR, and his BABIP isn't that much higher than his career mark. He could be in for a huge season.
You think the Mariners are in bad shape right now? Imagine where they'd be without Doug Fister and his 1.71 ERA.
Is it possible that a Yankees center fielder batting .330 can really be underrated? You can be if you're Brett Gardner. Nobody expects him to keep this up, but I'm telling you we have no idea how good this kid can be. Every ground ball is a potential hit, and he's a lot stronger than you think.
Junior Gwynn is the best defender in baseball (by UZR/150) but he hasn't had much of a chance to show off, what with his poor offensive numbers. Expect these to pick up soon as well.