With less than two weeks remaining in the MLB regular season, the time is ripe for evaluations of the season and the performance of the league’s best and worst players. What better time than near the end of the season to revisit a preseason poll that was conducted among MLB players who were asked who is the most overrated player in the league.
As most remember, Bryce Harper was named the most overrated player in baseball by his baseball peers as he received 41% of the overall vote. In response to this vote, Bryce Harper went out and had not only the greatest season of his young career, but perhaps the greatest season of any hitter since the days of Barry Bonds. Harper is clearly not the most overrated player in all of baseball, but the conversation provides a good starting point on who actually is the most overrated player.
What better way to start a discussion on the most overrated player in baseball then with the player who came in second in that preseason vote behind Bryce Harper: Yasiel Puig. Being voted the second most overrated player in baseball by his peers wasn’t new territory for Puig as he was also finished second in the voting in 2014 as well. While stories of the Dodgers desire to trade Puig have seemed to only escalate and multiple as the season has progressed, his performance on the field has taken a substantial dive in 2015.
After a 4.1 WAR season in 2013 and a 5.3 WAR season in 2014, Puig has followed an impressive start to his career with the worst year of his career with a WAR of only 1.5 this season. Clearly at least some of this misfortune can be blamed on Puig’s various injury problems (he has played in just over half of the Dodgers total games up to this point), but even when healthy Puig did not look like the same player this year that he did in years past. Whether it be pitchers finally figuring out his weaknesses or perhaps his attitude problem catching up to him, Puig is quickly becoming more fitting of the “most overrated player” moniker and may soon find himself with a new team.
For the sake of this discussion, another player who may fit the bill as the most overrated player in all of baseball is Joe Mauer. Mauer has long been seen as the face of the Minnesota Twins franchise, even more so with their rise back to prominence in 2015. Despite his status as the face of a franchise, and a contract that pays him like one, Mauer is really just an overrated player having one of the worst seasons of his career. He currently sits at a career low 0.2 WAR and has had an immense decline in both offensive performance and defensive performance. While it may be true that Mauer is the mental and emotional leader of the Twins, his on field performance makes him a prime candidate for most overrated player in the league.
In terms of the most underrated players in all of baseball two center fielders spring to mind who both play for teams who are either already eliminated from playoff contention or will soon find themselves eliminated. Those two players are Kevin Kiermaier and A.J. Pollock who play for the Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks respectively.
Let’s start with the season of Kevin Kiermaier. More so than almost any other player in all of baseball, Kiermaier really came out of nowhere with his on field success in 2015 (despite an almost equally successful 2014). A large part of the reason Kiermaier is such an overlooked part of the Tampa Bay Rays roster, despite being 17th in the league with a 4.8 WAR, is due to his poor offensive performance in 2015. According to several advanced batting statistics, Kiermaier is actually producing at a below league average level (wRC+ of just 96 in 2015). This is seemingly offset by his league high production of defense where he leads the league with a defensive value of 28.1 runs above average. Kiermaier defensive is often overlooked due to his below average offensive performance and this alone makes him a prime candidate for the most underrated player in all of baseball.
In comparison, A.J. Pollock is another player who has been overlooked in 2015 despite having a good season in 2014 as well. Pollock has followed a 3.3 WAR, breakout season in 2014 with an even better 5.5 WAR season so far in 2015. Pollock’s defense has taken a bit of a dip but his offensive value has nearly doubled in terms of runs above the league average. Despite being 12th in the entire league in terms of WAR, Pollock still does not garner the same amount of national attention as other players near him on that list. This may be in part due to the team he plays for and may also be partly because he plays with Paul Goldschmidt who tends to steal the spotlight. For whatever reason, this makes Pollock a prime candidate for most underrated player in all of baseball.
If I was forced to choose the most underrated and overrated players in the league, I would have to choose A.J. Pollock as the most underrated and Joe Mauer as the most overrated. Pollock has shined despite a lack of national media attention, and being overshadowed by one of the best players in the league in Paul Goldschmidt, and Joe Mauer has had one of the least productive seasons of his career despite his large contract and his label as the most valuable player for the Twins. Bryce Harper proved everyone wrong with his impressive 2015, perhaps Mauer can do the same in 2016 and, beyond that, maybe A.J. Pollock can finally get the attention he deserves in the coming years.
Patrick Brewer is the Lead National League writer for Call to the Bullpen. You can find him on Twitter @PatrickBrewer93, or join in the conversation @CTBPod, in the comment section below or on our Facebook Page.