Brandon Workman

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 100-76

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 100-76

There was once a time when a list of baseball's top 100 players would've been dominated by men in their 30s or even 40s. In 2004, for instance, the NL MVP was 39-year-old Barry Bonds and the Cy Young went to 41-year-old Roger Clemens. It was the seventh respective award for each.

We now can be almost certain that neither accomplishment was achieved without help, but if any good came from that era, it's that it forced baseball to address its PED problem, which means that a top 100 list now looks very different.

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Our list will reflect that shift. What it won't include are three pitchers guaranteed not to play in 2020 because of Tommy John surgery — Noah Syndergaard of the Mets, Luis Severino of the Yankees, and of course Chris Sale of the Red Sox.

Over the next four weeks, NBC Sports Boston will unveil its top 100 players, 25 at a time, and the list is dominated by youth. Never have young players been so essential to winning, whether it's 20-year-old Juan Soto helping lead the Nationals to last fall's shocking World Series title, or 23-year-old Cody Bellinger being named NL MVP.

Click here for Part 1: Players ranked 100th to 76th on our list.

Ron Roenicke: Brandon Workman 'deserves a shot' to be Red Sox closer after 2019 success

Ron Roenicke: Brandon Workman 'deserves a shot' to be Red Sox closer after 2019 success

In 2019, the Boston Red Sox entered the season without a closer. Alex Cora's closer-by-committee format backfired a bit as guys couldn't settle into their respective roles, which led to some early-season struggles for the bullpen.

But by the middle of the season, the Red Sox found a rhythm in their bullpen. And a lot of that was thanks to Brandon Workman's emergence as a quality closer.

Workman ended up with a career-high 16 saves while going 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA. He averaged an excellent 13.1 K/9 on the season and was one of the team's most consistent pitchers.

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Moving forward, it looks like he'll get a chance to close once again.

On Wednesday, Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke spoke about Workman and endorsed him as the early favorite to be the closer.

"I think with what he did last year, he deserves a shot to be the closer," Roenicke said, per ESPN's Joon Lee.

Of course, things could change if Workman struggles in spring training. Or if another back-end bullpen candidate outshines him. But at least heading into spring training, Workman is the prohibitive favorite.

That said, Roenicke did say that he wouldn't restrict himself to just using Workman in the ninth inning and that he would, on occasion, use him in high-leverage spots.

"I don't think it has to be automatic, but I know mentally, these guys handle things better if they know what's going on," Roenicke said, per Lee. "If I have a discussion with him earlier and say, 'Listen you're the closer, but I may need you to stop an inning in the eighth because it's important,' I think they're fine with that."

That's a perfectly reasonable strategy and it's one that many major-league managers have adopted, especially in the postseason. So long as Workman is ready for that, it should have a shot to work out just fine.

It will be interesting to see if Workman can build on his 2019 success. His 73 appearances were far and away his career high but given that he was consistent all last year and didn't fade down the stretch, the 31-year-old should have a chance to repeat his success at some level.

Dustin Pedroia's sad connection to Jim Rice, and other surprising Red Sox numbers

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Dustin Pedroia's sad connection to Jim Rice, and other surprising Red Sox numbers

Cover the Red Sox for a year and you'll spend a lot of time staring at Baseball-Reference, the pre-eminent site for the kind of stats you would've found on a Topps card in 1986, as well as many of the advanced numbers that have transformed the modern game.

Over the course of a season, some numbers will occasionally jump out at you. Here are five, from lowest to highest, that caught my attention in 2019.

.001 — The difference in OPS between Rafael Devers (.916) in his superstar breakout year and Mookie Betts (.915) in his lackluster MVP follow-up. Anyone who watched the team knows that Devers was the more impactful offensive player, especially from May through July, when the Red Sox still  believed they had a shot at the playoffs. And yet when all was said and done, their numbers were virtually identical. It turns out that context matters.

3 — Hits for Dustin Pedroia since the start of 2018. He's had just 31 at-bats in that span, but that has been enough to drop his lifetime average from .300 to .299. He's almost certain to become a victim of the Jim Rice Effect. The Hall of Fame slugger was a .300 hitter for almost his entire career, dropping below that threshold on May 5, 1989. He played only 29 more games, and finished at .298. Let the record show that Pedroia was still a lifetime .300 hitter (technically .299535, but baseball rounds up), until grounding to short to lead off his penultimate game against Baltimore's Dan Straily. If this is it, he'll finish his career two hits shy of .300.

10 — Wins in Brandon Workman's out-of-nowhere dominant season, which saw him become the first pitcher in history to follow a 1-10 season (in 2014) with a 10-1 campaign. Only 55 pitchers since 1900 have won no more than one game while losing at least 10. Even rarer is the inverse, which has been done 21 times. Workman is the only pitcher to appear on both lists.

15 — Andrew Benintendi home runs since the second half of 2018. Benintendi entered the 2018 All-Star break with 14 bombs and nearly made the All-Star team. He has suffered a mystifying power outage since, managing just two homers in the second half of 2018 and 13 last year. That means he has dropped from 14 homers in the first 91 games of 2018 to 15 in the 195 games since.

21 — Months that Jackie Bradley Jr. has hit under .220 with the Red Sox. Compare that to three crazy outliers that saw him hit over .350 and it becomes clear how misleading it is to call him streaky, a term that suggests roughly equal performance in both directions. Take away August of 2015 (.354), May of 2016 (.381), and June of 2017 (.353) and Bradley's career average dips from .236 to .221, which helps explain why the Red Sox are likely to move on from the defensive whiz this winter.

MLB's Top 20 free agents this offseason>>>>>

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