Last week, we introduced our "Best Players for 2015" series with an explanation of the motivation and the methodology. To recap, nine members of our crack staff ranked who they thought would be the best twenty players for the upcoming campaign. They were also asked to approximate those players' WAR totals, but that proved to be superfluous as everyone basically stuck to the same distribution. We'll have individual posts chronicling the players who made the top ten, but for today, let's highlight the guys who received votes but did not place.
We'll reveal the full ballots at the end of our exercise, but we had nine voters who ranked the best twenty players. A first place vote earned you 20 points, a second place vote earned 19, and so on down the line. If you received all nine first place votes, for example, you would earn 180 points. Players were ranked by the sum of their point totals.
The Single Digits -- 45-35
This portion of the list is mostly made up of players who had one real supporter among the electorate. Kris Bryant is the only player who received a vote without a single day of major league service time, while Michael Brantley had just one person list him in their top twenty despite a third-place AL MVP finish in 2014.
There's a lot of diversity at the back end, with some very young players on the list, some established stars, and some high variance types.
Mostly Sure Things -- 33-25
Nothing in baseball is ever certain but there are a lot of players in this part of the list that seem safe from high variance outcomes. Jones, Machado, Gordon, Carpenter, Scherzer, Beltre, and Strasburg all seem like nice, steady picks. Abreu might be a monster ... or might level off after such a smashing debut season. Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey are both coming off Tommy John surgery and their workloads remain up in the air.
Definitely Stars -- 24-16
The only real question about the guys listed here is health. Otherwise, we're talking about elite players with very steady track records. Bumgarner had a huge workload in 2014, Votto had injury problems in his lower half, and Heyward is moving to a new team -- but there's no one on this part of the list that doesn't belong near the top 20. If we had a time machine, it would be interesting to see how our panel would have ranked Darvish-Price-Bumgarner before October.
You Could Make A Case -- 15-11
You're probably starting to mentally check off who's left for the top 10. After 2014, it's hard to say Chris Sale is anything but one of the game's best pitchers and he comes in at 15th overall and fourth among hurlers. Like Sale, Kluber cemented his place among the game's elite arms with a brilliant seven+ WAR campaign -- and if you believe the projections, it wasn't a fluke.
Yasiel Puig is a polarizing player due to his gregarious nature, insane raw ability, and perceived mental lapses, but we think he's the fifth-best outfielder in the game. There are some rough patches to address, but he's averaged 5.1 FanGraphs WAR per 600 PA in his short career and Steamer thinks he'll maintain that pace going forward.
You don't need anyone to remind you about Lucroy's ability. He was one of the best players in the league without his catcher framing numbers in 2014 and if you buy into framing, you have to put Lucroy near the top of this list. He's still not our group's top catcher, but he's one of just two catchers to receive votes.
Finally, there's Tulowitzki. He was among the more polarizing choices we had. Tulo was named on six of the nine ballots, and got the following rankings by those six: 20th, 13th, 11th, 10th, eighth, and fourth. I allowed a comment section for the voters, and more than one expressed their Tulo ranking was difficult because they just don't know how much he'll play.
We'll take the remaining weeks to profile the top 10 one by one, but for now, how do you like the list? Who doesn't belong? Who is missing? How would your top ten look?
Neil Weinberg is the Associate Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score, the Site Educator at FanGraphs, and writes enthusiastically at New English D.