The Weakest Positions on American League Contenders

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports activities

As Gavin Lux’s season-ending knee damage reminded us, the Dodgers had fairly the free agent exodus throughout the offseason. Practically two months in the past, they led the pack when Ben Clemens examined which groups had been on the extremes by way of manufacturing misplaced and gained through free company. With all however a couple of free brokers of be aware now signed, I believed it will be value circling again to these rankings earlier than transferring on to spotlight some notable holes on contending groups, one thing of an offseason model of my Alternative Degree Killers collection.

When Ben checked in simply after the New Yr, the Dodgers had been runaway leaders by way of internet WAR misplaced to free company, having already parted methods with Tyler Anderson, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Trea Turner and a dozen different gamers in an effort to trim payroll and reduce (if not get rid of) their Aggressive Stability Tax burden. In direction of that finish, solely two of their incoming free brokers (J.D. Martinez and Noah Syndergaard) will make greater than $10 million yearly. To place it one other means, the crew received 111 video games final yr with a payroll simply south of $270 million for CBT functions, however after falling wanting the Nationwide League Championship Collection, they’re hoping to get as far or additional by successful 80-something video games and spending perhaps $25 million much less. Such are the vagaries of postseason baseball that it simply would possibly work.

The Dodgers nonetheless lead the pack by way of internet WAR misplaced, although they did just lately add outfielder David Peralta (who’s coming off a 1.7-WAR season) to the fold, lessening their hit. Right here’s how the 30 groups shake out now:

2022 Web WAR Misplaced in Free Company

Crew 2022 WAR Misplaced 2022 WAR Gained Web
Dodgers 22.5 9.1 -13.3
Braves 8.0 0.2 -7.9
White Sox 12.9 6.8 -6.1
Astros 11.9 6.6 -5.3
Rays 5.8 1.4 -4.4
Mariners 3.9 -0.4 -4.3
Brewers 5.3 1.2 -4.1
Pink Sox 12.7 9.5 -3.2
Yankees 21.3 20.0 -1.3
Cardinals 4.4 3.3 -1.2
Giants 9.0 8.1 -0.9
Rockies 1.1 1.1 -0.1
Tigers 0.6 1.1 0.5
Blue Jays 3.1 4.1 1.0
Royals 1.9 3.1 1.2
Padres 9.0 10.2 1.2
Nationals -0.5 1.3 1.8
Guardians 0.2 1.9 1.8
Reds 0.7 2.7 2.0
Twins 5.0 7.1 2.0
Diamondbacks 0.7 2.8 2.1
Orioles 0.8 3.1 2.2
Athletics 0.0 2.5 2.5
Rangers 5.2 7.8 2.7
Pirates 0.0 2.8 2.8
Phillies 7.9 11.4 3.5
Marlins 0.5 4.1 3.7
Mets 18.2 22.9 4.7
Angels 1.0 8.4 7.4
Cubs 5.1 14.0 8.9

As a result of this offseason was significantly entrance loaded on the subject of the large free brokers, these rankings haven’t modified all that a lot; there’s been some jockeying for place amongst six of the seven groups with the most important losses, with the Mariners crashing the social gathering. After lastly ending their 20-year playoff drought, they upset their followers by not spending huge in free company, then compounded that disappointment prior to now couple of months by solely including Tommy La Stella (-0.8 WAR) and AJ Pollock (0.5 WAR), transferring them from the ninth-lowest internet to the sixth-lowest.

On the different finish of the spectrum, the drama surrounding Carlos Correa notably shifted the image. In Ben’s model, he was counted as a part of the Mets’ 26.1 WAR added, and their internet of 8.0 WAR added ranked them second solely to the Cubs. However lower than every week later, their deal lastly collapsed and he returned to the Twins, which helped to swing Minnesota from a internet of -2.5 WAR (eighth-lowest) to 2.0 WAR (Eleventh-highest) and bumped the Mets — who can nonetheless declare the additions of Justin Verlander and José Quintana plus the returns of Edwin Díaz and Brandon Nimmo — down to 3rd. The Marlins and Phillies joined the highest 5 from 14th and twelfth, respectively; the previous subsequently added Johnny Cueto (2.4 WAR) and Jean Segura (1.7 WAR), whereas the latter inked Josh Harrison (1.4).

What follows right here is the primary installment of a two-part take a look at the weakest positions on contending groups, by which I imply these with Playoff Odds of at the least 10%, a threshold that describes 11 groups within the American League (all however the Orioles, Royals, Tigers, and A’s). It’s value noting that due to the final tendency to overproject enjoying time and maintain even the weakest groups with constructive WARs at every place (in actuality over 10% of them will end within the crimson), our Depth Chart values on the crew degree are inflated by about 20%. That’s to say, as a substitute of getting a complete of 1,000 WAR projected throughout the 30 groups, we have now about 1,200. Thus, I’m discounting the crew values that you simply see on the Depth Chart pages by 20%, and specializing in the lowest-ranked contenders amongst these whose adjusted values fall beneath 2.0 WAR, the final equal of common play throughout a full season. The person WARs cited will stay as they’re on the Depth Chart pages, nonetheless, and it’s value noting that most of the gamers right here — significantly children with shorter monitor information — don’t venture significantly nicely however aren’t with out upside; hope springs everlasting.

With one exception, I’ve restricted myself to a most of two groups at every spot. At two positions, no crew falls beneath the brink, however I’ve made a short be aware in passing. As with the Alternative Degree Killers collection, I’m solely regarding myself with place gamers. I’ll have the Nationwide League version in my subsequent dispatch.


Astros (Ranked twenty ninth, adjusted worth of 1.1 WAR)

I reviewed this example a pair weeks in the past within the context of potential matches without cost agent Gary Sanchez, who’s nonetheless unsigned however isn’t more likely to land right here. The Astros don’t venture nicely through 36-year-old Martín Maldonado (0.8 WAR in 429 PA) and 24-year-olds Korey Lee (0.3 WAR in 160 PA) and Yainer Diaz (0.3 WAR in 51 PA). Astros pitchers love throwing to Maldonado, and the group values his game-calling and management skills even when he can’t hit (72 profession wRC+, 70 in 2022), although to be honest, he performed by means of a broken bone in his proper hand after being hit by a pitch on August 28, then underwent surgical procedure to restore a sports activities hernia after the World Collection. Lee, a 2019 first-round choose who “has a 70 arm and plus energy, however is probably going a 30-grade hitter,” in keeping with Eric Longenhagen’s Prospect TLDR from final yr, and Diaz, a bat-first High 100 prospect with simply 48 video games of Triple-A expertise, are competing for the backup spot.

First Base

Angels (twenty fifth, 1.3 WAR)

Albert Pujols is again solely through a private providers contract, however the Halos nonetheless forecast to get Pujols-like manufacturing from Jared Walsh (1.1 WAR in 476 PA), with Gio Urshela and Brandon Drury presumably seeing time right here as nicely. Walsh hit simply .215/.269/.374 final yr earlier than going beneath the knife in early September to appropriate thoracic outlet syndrome; he had first observed signs in 2019 however had beforehand managed to thrive, hitting a mixed .280/.338/.531 (130 wRC+) whereas totaling 5.4 WAR in ’20-21 and even making the AL All-Star crew within the latter yr. I’ve a whole lot of information displaying the rarity of joyful outcomes in the case of TOS for pitchers, however haven’t studied place gamers who’ve the process; Walsh’s projections are pessimistic nevertheless it’s fairly potential his efficiency received’t be so dire.

Twins (twentieth, 1.5 WAR)

Alex Kirilloff entered 2021 ranked sixteenth on our High 100 Prospects checklist, however proper wrist woes have restricted him to 101 video games prior to now two seasons, every of which ended prematurely on account of surgical procedures. In 2022, he hit simply .250/.290/.361 (86 wRC+) and was value -0.6 WAR earlier than present process surgery to shorten his ulnar bone, which doesn’t sound like a lot enjoyable. Kirilloff initiatives for simply 0.9 WAR in 385 PA, with Donovan Solano, Jose Miranda, Joey Gallo and Kyle Farmer all choices to cowl for him — albeit whereas transferring from positions the place their protection is extra worthwhile. Not preferrred.

Second Base

White Sox (twenty ninth, 1.5 WAR)

As Davy Andrews identified, earlier than the White Sox re-signed Elvis Andrus in late February, ZiPS projected them to obtain 0.9 WAR from a mixture of Romy Gonzalez, Lenyn Sosa, and others. The addition of Andrus successfully doubles that earlier than I apply the low cost. The now 34-year-old Andrus was having a reasonably good — and notably pain-free — season with the A’s earlier than they launched him on August 17 to keep away from paying his $15 million participant choice. He completed the season with the White Sox, and had his finest yr since 2017, hitting .265/.322/.392 with 17 homers and a 105 wRC+. Age and a few ugly performances in these intermediate years (together with a 74 wRC+ over the 2018-21 span) drag his projection down, but when he can replicate final yr’s good well being whereas transferring to second base, he’ll enhance upon this rating.

Angels (twenty third, 1.8 WAR)

The Halos signed Drury to a two-year, $17 million deal after he set profession highs in homers (28), wRC+ (123) and WAR (3.0). He barreled the ball way more constantly than ever (10.4%), however the underlying numbers don’t assist his .492 SLG, and so the projections see a complete lot of regression forward. Supporting solid members David Fletcher and Luis Rengifo don’t increase the bar a lot.


The Angels have the bottom rating among the many contenders (twenty fifth) however at 2.2 adjusted WAR from Rengifo, Urshela and Fletcher, this isn’t their greatest downside.

Third Base

The Rangers rank twenty first at 2.2 adjusted WAR, which isn’t so unhealthy significantly when the lion’s share of the enjoying time is slated to go to Josh Jung, who ranks thirty first on this yr’s High 100 Prospects checklist however performed simply 57 complete video games (26 within the majors) following surgical procedure to restore a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which dampens his projections.

Left Area

Rangers (thirtieth, 0.6 WAR)

However, even after signing lefty-mashing switch-hitter Robbie Grossman late final month, the Rangers rank lifeless stinkin’ final amongst all groups in left subject, and it doesn’t assist that Grossman hit .209/.310/.311 (82 wRC+) with -0.3 WAR in 477 PA in 2022. Ex-Yankee Clint Frazier has a golden alternative to step up, however he’s two misplaced seasons previous his 2020 breakout, with concussion-related woes having loomed giant. The draw for signing with the Rangers was a reunion with hitting coach Tim Hyers, who has recognized him since he was 14 years previous; the pair spent the winter working to get rid of a hitch in Frazier’s swing. Possibly it would assist, but when not, Brad Miller, Bubba Thompson, Josh H. Smith or any individual else will absorb the enjoying time that doesn’t go to Grossman.

Mariners (twenty fourth, 1.2 WAR)

By way of 558 PA within the majors, Jarred Kelenic has hit simply .168/.251/.338 (55 wRC+) whereas hanging out nearly 30% of the time. Nonetheless simply getting into his age-23 season, he’s acquired one other likelihood to safe a full-time job, and on the very least, after a winter spent overhauling his swing and method, he’s homered thrice throughout this younger exhibition season. Possibly he’ll get it collectively, and if not, maybe Pollock has a bounce again to his 2020-21 type in retailer after a dismal ’22 (.245/.292/.389, 92 wRC+).

Yankees (twentieth, 1.4 WAR)

Aaron Hicks was comparatively wholesome final yr, enjoying in 130 video games, however he spent most of them making the Yankees want that they had somebody higher, or at the least cheaper and never signed by means of 2025. Oswaldo Cabrera confirmed some pluck by studying the outfield on the fly upon reaching the majors in mid-August, turning himself into a reputable superutilityman. What might actually elevate the Yankees right here is that if Aaron Judge performs extra left subject than we’re projecting (42 PA) in an alignment that may characteristic wholesome variations of Harrison Bader in heart and Giancarlo Stanton in proper; Yankee Stadium’s configuration leaves the latter with a lot much less floor to cowl than if he had been in left.

Heart Area

Rangers (twenty fourth, 1.7 WAR)

Leody Taveras’s status for elite protection didn’t fairly match up with final yr’s metrics, however after spending the primary two months of 2022 at Triple-A Spherical Rock to shake off a ghastly 28 wRC+ (.161/.207/.270) displaying in ’21, he returned to provide a good 93 wRC+ (.261/.309/.366). He’s nonetheless simply 24, and ZiPS at the least sees near-term two-win potential even when Steamer doesn’t. Thompson, a former first-round choose who stole 18 bases in simply 55 video games even whereas hitting for a 77 wRC+, stands out as the high various for the close to time period, however he’ll need to hit to carry down an everyday job.

Pink Sox (twenty second, 1.9 WAR)

Right here I’ve bypassed the similarly-ranked Astros as a result of I’m puzzled why Chas McCormick initiatives so poorly regardless of 727 PA of above-average work in 2021-22. The Pink Sox’s rating is much less of a thriller on condition that each Adam Duvall and Enrique Hernández have been such risky gamers on a year-to-year foundation; the pair mixed for 58 homers and 6.6 WAR in 2021 however simply 18 homers and 1.4 WAR final yr. The absence of Trevor Story as he recovers from UCL inside brace surgical procedure will imply Hernández shares shortstop duties with Adalberto Mondesi, opening up one other likelihood for 26-year-old Jarren Duran in heart subject after two disappointing huge league stints. Duran has shortened and simplified his swing in an effort to realize traction right here.

Proper Area

White Sox (twenty ninth, 1.0 WAR)

Gavin Sheets hit .250/.324/.506 in a promising 54-game introduction to the majors in 2021, however slipped to .241/.295/.411 in a way more substantial slice of enjoying time final yr, and even that was higher than he deserved given his 6.5% barrel price and .359 xSLG — which isn’t precisely what you’d count on from a 6-foot-5, 230-pound lefty masher. He and a platoon associate (Victor Reyes? Leury Garcia?) are most likely holding the seat heat for 24-year-old Cuban emigré Oscar Colas, who hit .314/.371/.524 whereas rocketing by means of three minor league ranges final yr after spending his ages 18-20 seasons within the Japanese minors. Strikeout-prone however with plus uncooked energy, Colas doesn’t venture significantly nicely given his slim physique of stateside work, and scouting grades on him vary from a forty five FV participant to a 55, however he might wind up higher than marketed right here.

Guardians (twenty second, 1.6 WAR)

As a 24-year-old rookie, Oscar Gonzalez turned a postseason hero final fall due to a pair of game-winning hits on high of a .296/.327/.461 (126 wRC+) efficiency in 382 PA. Nevertheless, Longenhagen’s Commencement TLDR affords a be aware of warning that’s mirrored in his tepid projection for a 108 wRC+ with a 4% stroll price: “Gonzalez’s extraordinarily swing-happy method stored him on the periphery of Cleveland prospect lists regardless of his instruments. His rookie season blew by means of expectations and its sustainability is questionable.” Will Brennan, a contact-oriented 25-year-old rookie who had a scalding cup of espresso final fall, is the highest various.

Designated Hitter

The dearth of protection and low positional adjustment for DHs depart 20 of the 30 groups beneath 2.0 at this spot even earlier than adjustment, with most contenders in that wide-ranging group projected to separate the work amongst a number of gamers. The Rangers (Mitch Garver, Brad Miller, Adolis García, and Jung) rank twenty sixth with 0.7 adjusted WAR and the Mariners (Pollock, La Stella Cal Raleigh, Teoscar Hernández, and Ty France) are twenty second at 1.0, however our time is healthier spent doing one thing in addition to dwelling upon any of the configurations at this juncture.

I’ll be again with the Senior Circuit in my subsequent installment.