Over the last few 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 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, Jose Bautista finished ninth, and Miguel Cabrera landed at eighth.
No. 7: Josh Donaldson, Third Base (Toronto Blue Jays)
Jim Cowsert/USA Today Sports
Josh Donaldson didn't come out of nowhere. He was a high draft pick and had prospect credentials, but that potential looked a long way off when 2012 started. Donaldson was 26 and had 350 below average MLB plate appearances to his name. His career wasn't over, but stardom wasn't on the radar.
Until it wasn't. By the time 2014 ended, Donaldson was getting legitimate MVP consideration after his second consecutive 6+ WAR season. In a division and league with Mike Trout, it was easy to get lost at times, but Donaldson spent the last two seasons as one of the game's best handful of players. This winter, he moved east in a big trade that should have the Blue Jays in the thick of the AL East race in 2015.
Why We Love Him
Donaldson has half a flaw as a player, if you could call it that. His base running is average, or maybe a touch worse, but if you focus on his bat and his glove, there are few better than the new north of the border cornerman. Donaldson gets on base, he hit for power in Oakland, and he is an elite defender at third base.
In 2013, he posted a 147 wRC+. Even with a dip in his BABIP in 2014, he still ended the year at a 129 wRC+. When you take someone with that kind of offensive ability and you put him in the same body as someone on par with an early era Evan Longoria, it's hard not fall in love.
Donaldson is newly 29 and probably won't keep the Brooks Robinson act up for too much longer, but you don't usually accidentally have a couple of MVP caliber seasons by accident.
More from our team sites
More from our team sites
Like most of the players at the top of this list, the projections are buying Donaldson. Steamer likes him for 5.6 WAR in 634 PA. ZiPS has an entirely different take, projecting 634 PA and a paltry 5.1 WAR (read that in the cadence of a joke).
PECOTA is a touch more pessimistic, pegging him for 4.2 WAR in 603 PA.
Where He Fits In
Donaldson fits into our list ahead of Miguel Cabrera, but the gap between seventh and eighth is quite sizable. Cabrera finished with 81 points to Donaldson's 93. Donaldson's also the highest third baseman and infielder on the list.
Our voters named Donaldson on seven of nine ballots, with Chris Teeter and Scott Lindholm clearly making the decision to go to bed before most of the west coast games started over the last two years. The seven people who did vote for Donaldson carried him on their lists between fourth and twelfth, which is a tighter distribution than most of the players so far.
With the Blue Jays looking to make a big move and return to the postseason for the first time in a very long time, Donaldson should be a nice addition. They gave up some talent to get him, but in the short run they are a better team. You can probably guess who the remaining six players are, but the order might give you fits. See if you can guess in the comments.
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.