Over the last couple of weeks, we've offered introductions to our Best Players of 2015 series. We set the stage for the whole endeavor, and we then revealed the players who earned landed between 45th and 11th on the list. If you need a refresher on the methodology, nine of our writers ranked players based on how well they thought players would perform during the 2015 season. They ranked them from No. 1 to No. 20, and those players got point values (20 for first, 19 for second, etc) and were ranked by the sum of their points. The highest possible score is 180. We're already told you Anthony Rendon ranked 10th and Jose Bautista finished ninth.
No. 8: Miguel Cabrera, First Base (Detroit Tigers)
Peter Aiken/USA Today Sports
If you had to pick the best player over the last five or six seasons, Miguel Cabrera would be right up at the top of the list. He has his flaws, but his extraordinary ability at the plate makes most of those wash away in a setting like this. We'd argue pretty strongly that over the last three years, Mike Trout was the game's best, but Cabrera was dominating the league while Trout was trying to figure out how to get his dad's car for Friday night.
I think the Cabrera voting was particularly interesting -- and I'll get to that in a bit -- but the man in the middle of the Tigers offense is still gets plenty of respect from our staff despite the age and injuries. And probably for good reason.
Why We Love Him
This one's pretty darn easy. You don't have to finesse an explanation that focuses on his interesting profile because Cabrera is simply an elite hitter. The glove can pass at first base and he's a smart base runner for his size, but realistically, the only thing worth talking about in Cabrera's favor is his ability at the plate.
You don't need a list of statistics, but we're talking about a bat-only player who has probably locked up a place in the Hall of Fame before his age-32 season and can boast a 152 career wRC+ in 7,811 PA.
Cabrera's strength is enough to get your attention, but if you don't watch him every day you might not realize how exception his pitch recognition and hand-eye coordination truly is. If you throw an open cash register at Miguel Cabrera, he could probably square up a single dime.
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The key to the Cabrera projections -- and if they can display some accuracy -- will be playing time, but for now Steamer has him for 5.3 fWAR. ZiPS says 4.8 fWAR. PECOTA says 5.2 WARP.
They're all forecasting a full season of PA to get those numbers, but the injuries he's suffered over the last few years might erode that playing time or diminish his capacity during some of those PAs.
Where He Fits In
Specifically, Cabrera received 81 points and was named on seven of the nine ballots (Lindholm and Perline the two without), making him eighth among all players quite easily and the best first baseman pretty safely. He received votes as high as No. 5 and as low as No. 17.
We're all pretty clear on his ability, and no one doubts what a healthy Cabrera is capable of producing. The question is how much our voters thought about his health when they cast their ballots, as we're talking about an elite player who got a big range of votes.
There are probably four or five players who you expect as consensus votes for Cabrera, and that played out, but clearly some people thought the ankle would be fine and some didn't. He's now been hampered by a serious injury in each of the last two seasons and may or may not wind up seeing the same issues in 2015.
Knowing our staff, Cabrera will probably wind up a touch lower than he deserves as a hitter because of our affinity for glovework, but there's also a big question about his ability to be himself this season. While our voters struggled with it, the Tigers are definitely the ones being kept awake at night pondering that question.
Statistics via FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus.
Neil Weinberg is the Associate Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score, the Site Educator at FanGraphs, and writes enthusiastically at New English D.