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2016’s least valuable players

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Mike Trout and Kris Bryant won the 2016 League Most Valuable Player Awards. Here’s a brief look at some of baseball’s Least Valuable Players of 2016.

Positivity is a good thing. People like to read about good players with good stats; in many respects, it’s more fun to read and write about the guys we all put on alert when they come to the plate and frantically grab the remote when they come to the plate in high-leverage situations. This article however is not about those players. It is about the players who were bottom-of-the-barrel in 2016. The players who might have done their teams a favor by simply not showing up to play. Remarkably, a number of teams threw players out there nearly everyday despite knowing pretty much what they were going to get on any given day.

Some of these players used to have skills, they used to be key contributors. One even had a big role as part of a World Series winner. The qualified hitters who finished 2016 with fWARs below zero are as follows:

Name Team G PA HR R RBI BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Def WAR
Alexei Ramirez Padres / Rays 145 506 6 38 48 4.2% 12.5% .092 .265 .241 .277 .333 .264 63 -14.5 -2.4
Yonder Alonso Athletics 156 532 7 52 56 8.5% 13.9% .114 .284 .253 .316 .367 .299 88 -11.0 -0.3
Eric Hosmer Royals 158 667 25 80 104 8.5% 19.8% .167 .301 .266 .328 .433 .326 101 -20.4 -0.2
Yasmany Tomas Diamondbacks 140 563 31 72 83 5.5% 24.2% .236 .310 .272 .313 .508 .345 109 -19.7 -0.1

Literally hundreds of position players ended up with negative values for their team (or in some cases after being traded, teams) over the course of 2016. Of those players however, only the four listed above are ‘qualified’, meaning they averaged enough plate appearances to be eligible for the batting title (it’s a silly way to basically identify a guy is an everyday player).

Alexei Ramirez posted the least amount of value of any major leaguer in 2016. Ramirez was a 3-win player as recently as 2014, and he posted 3.2 wins in 2013 and 2014. He even had two years where he was a 4-win player in 2010 and 2011. How the mighty have fallen!

Ramirez’ power has been trending down for a few years now (from 15 home runs in 2014, to 10 in 2015, and finally six in 2016). With an isolated power under .100, he posted only 30 extra-base hits in over 500 plate appearances.

Splitting his time in two cities, Ramirez saw the most time on the field this year for the Padres, who suited him up and starting him for 128 games. Over 444 plate appearances he managed a meager 62 wRC+ and cost San Diego over two wins. As a shortstop, he could have overcome his offensive ineptitude with decent (or even average) defense up the middle. Instead, he managed a -11 DEF, the worst in baseball in 2016. His dysfunction at shortstop is corroborated by a -17 defensive runs saved per Baseball-Reference.

When the Padres shipped Ramirez to the Rays, San Diego replaced him with another player who finished 2016 with a negative WAR, Seattle’s utility infielder Luis Sardinas. Sardinas actually played decently in his six weeks with the Padres, posting a 105 wRC+ and a 0.5 fWAR -- a vast improvement over Ramirez.

Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Tomas are also on the list, though they are not the most surprising players here. Alonso is a lousy first baseman who neither hits for power nor average. Despite his prospect pedigree and first-round pick status, he has never been a productive player in the majors. Compared to a season ago, his batting average and OBP tumbled nearly 30 and 45 points, respectively.

Unlike Alonso, Tomas actually improved from 2015 by demonstrating decent power. His nine home runs in 2015 paled in comparison to last year’s 31 dingers. He raised his ISO nearly 100 points from .128 to .236 and actually became a better-than-league-average hitter (109 wRC+). Despite the improvement, he still managed to be in the bottom-four in fWAR.

The biggest surprise on this list is Eric Hosmer, who just a year ago became the face of the 2015 World Series Champion Royals. Throughout his career manning first base for Kansas City, his defensive metrics have shown mixed results from average to dreadful. His first base D this past season was his worst defensive season by both DRS and DEF since 2012.

Hosmer did little to justify his $8.25 million 2016 salary. Though he’s still arbitration-eligible, the Royals were hoping for a step forward from the 3.4-win player they got in 2015.

Some really bad players got a ton of time on the field in 2016. While at this point some players are who they appear to be, their respective teams are hoping for a rebound.

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Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano