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Strike Zone

Notes: 2018's Top 10

by Matthew Pouliot
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

The final Strike Zone of the regular season is here, but fear not, I will have postseason columns aplenty. Here’s the current plan:


Oct. 3: Fantasy MVPs/LVPs

Oct. 10: Hitting projections review, part one

Oct. 17: Hitting projections review, part two

Oct. 24: Pitching projections review

Oct. 31: Top 111 Free Agents


Before that, though, a few thoughts…


Top 10 players


Here are this year’s Top 10 players, through Monday’s action, according to Razzball.com’s player rater, along with where they were drafted in Yahoo leagues and where they were listed in my final preseason top 300.


1. Mookie Betts - 9th in Yahoo drafts - 4th in my top 300

2. J.D. Martinez - 21st in Yahoo drafts - 26th in my top 300

3. Jose Ramirez - 26th in Yahoo drafts - 20th in my top 300

4. Christian Yelich - 46th in Yahoo drafts - 23rd in my top 300

5. Francisco Lindor - 21st in Yahoo drafts - 8th in my top 300

6. Javier Baez - 116th in Yahoo drafts - 95th in my top 300

7. Mike Trout - 1st in Yahoo drafts - 1st in my top 300

8. Trevor Story - 104th in Yahoo drafts - 36th in my top 300

9. Manny Machado - 22nd in Yahoo drafts - 9th in my top 300

10. Trea Turner - 6th in Yahoo drafts - 2nd in my top 300


There’s a lot to be happy about here. I was under the consensus only on Martinez and that not by much; I probably weighed the injury risk too heavily given that he was slated to DH the majority of the time. I didn’t project a true breakout for Baez like I did Yelich and Story. I also didn’t end up with any shares of him this spring because I was always drafting Story and Alex Bregman.


Of course, there were some other very good players I was under consensus on... Gerrit Cole, Matt Carpenter and Scooter Gennett to name a few. Much of that ground will be covered in the coming weeks.


American League notes


- The Rangers dismissed manager Jeff Banister last week to conclude a season that was doomed from the start. GM Jon Daniels and company could have been aggressive about trying to contend or aggressive in trying to rebuild last winter. They chose neither path and went into the season with a rather expensive team that had no real hope of winning.


The interesting thing about the Rangers this year is that the hitting (89 OPS+) has been less effective than the much maligned pitching (96 ERA+). Shin-Soo Choo leads the team with a 114 OPS+, which puts him even with the Marlins’ Derek Dietrich. Injuries have likely had something to do with the struggles of Elvis Andrus and Delino DeShields, but the Rangers can’t really complain much about health; they’re going to finish the season with just 11 different players having had 150 at-bats.


It’s easy to forget just how young several of these Rangers hitters are, though. Rougned Odor, Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Jurickson Profar and DeShields have been around for years, but none were older than 25 this season. Odor and Gallo were 24. Mazara was 23. It’s disturbing that the only one of the group really on an upward trajectory is Profar, but then, look at where Profar was a year ago… these things can change quickly.


One problem for the Rangers is that since all of those guys broke in so young, they’re about to start getting a lot more expensive. Gallo will just miss out on arbitration this winter, fortunately for the Rangers, but Odor, Mazara and Profar will go from making a combined $4.5 million to about $15 million next season.


I don’t envy Jon Daniels’ situation right now. Adrian Beltre is up for free agency, Elvis Andrus can opt out and there will probably be some push for wholesale changes this winter, even though it’s really hard to imagine any way to turn the team into a 2019 contender. There’s no one to sell high on except for maybe Profar. Staying the course with the young bats might pay off, but if it does, everyone is going to start getting more expensive -- the kinds of numbers Gallo and Mazara are capable of putting up pay off quite well in arbitration -- and the team is still going to need more pitching. Blowing it up, even if the haul won’t be as fruitful as hoped, still seems like a reasonable plan.


- With still nothing to suggest that Lonnie Chisenhall (calf) is on the way back, it truly looks like Melky Cabrera is going to be the Indians’ starting right fielder in the postseason. While Cabrera had the hot August, he’s back down to .263/.328/.351 this month. His defense is as bad as ever, of course. But with Bradley Zimmer, Chisenhall, Tyler Naquin and Leonys Martin all on the DL, it really doesn’t seem like the Indians can do better. Brandon Guyer isn’t what he was before the injuries started piling up, Greg Allen can’t hit and Rajai Davis is pretty much just his legs at this point.


- When Jose Miguel Fernandez defected from Cuba, I figured his on-base skills would make him an intriguing leadoff candidate in the majors. As it turned out, no one in MLB was that optimistic; he signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers two years ago, hit .306/.367/.496 in the minors and then got released when the team saw no real future for him in the organization. Picked up by the Angels on another minor league contract, he excelled in the minors this year, batting .333/.396/.535, but has merely held his own in the majors, batting .259/.286/.380 in 108 at-bats. I understand the skepticism now. Fernandez’s defense at second base was always a big question mark, and while he’s adept at putting the bat on the ball, most of his contact is of the soft variety. It’s good that he’s getting a chance and he’s not going to embarrass himself as a stopgap, but he’s not a starter in the majors. Maybe he would have been five years ago. That he barely got to play from 2014-16, his age 26-28 seasons, certainly didn’t help matters.


National League notes


- The Diamondbacks undoubtedly had the most disappointing final two months among NL teams, losing out on what certainly seemed to be their best chance of a lengthy postseason run during the Paul Goldschmidt era. Next in line, though, might be the Pirates, who had long shot playoff aspirations at the deadline, gave up the farm for Chris Archer and Keone Kela and then went bust in August. Making things all the bleaker is that they’ve since lost Gregory Polanco (shoulder) for the start of next season and Chad Kuhl (Tommy John surgery) for the entire year.


I look forward to seeing how the Pirates play the offseason now. The rotation seems to be set with Archer, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Ivan Nova and Joe Musgrove. The bullpen is fine. Josh Harrison is expected to have his option declined; Adam Frazier has already supplanted him anyway. Jordy Mercer is gone. They have to decide whether it’s worth it to give Jung-Ho Kang $5.5 million after two years of nothing and whether to pay Corey Dickerson $9 million-$10 million in arbitration in the hopes that he’ll repeat his 2018 (they probably will, since they sent Austin Meadows packing in the Archer deal). Josh Bell and Colin Moran haven’t demonstrated that they’re long-term options at the infield corners. I still have faith in Bell’s bat, but his defensive numbers have been awful. Polanco could miss a couple of months or perhaps even longer. There’s no one on the squad who projects to bounce back next year, since everyone there is playing pretty much at their established levels or better. I don’t know where the upside comes from. The Pirates need a scary bat for the middle of their order, but Meadows was probably their best hope. Maybe they’ll dangle Felipe Vazquez.


- Adam Duvall is hitting .104/.157/.123 with no RBI in 48 at-bats since the Braves gave up Lucas Sims, Matt Wisler and Preston Tucker to acquire him from the Reds. When he started Atlanta’s post-clincher on Sunday, it was his first appearance in the lineup this month. At this point, it’s easy to imagine him getting non-tendered this winter, even though he’s only eligible for arbitration for the first time and thus isn’t looking at more than $3 million-$4 million. He’ll be pretty interesting at that price; the OBP probably isn’t ever coming up, but he can hit 30 homers and play well above average defense in left field. That has some value.


- Eric Thames knows what Duvall’s going through; he’s started just two games in September. Because of Jesus Aguilar’s emergence, Thames would seem to be an obvious trade candidate this winter. However, since first basemen are plentiful and he probably wouldn’t bring much in return, it’s possible the Brewers will keep him at $6 million. After all, they do love their depth. I’d rather see Thames go elsewhere. He hasn’t been able to maintain his fast starts in either year since returning to MLB from Korea, but the overall numbers are fine; he has a 120 OPS+ in 713 a-bats the last two seasons.


- As a glutton for punishment, I’ve been watching some Marlins of late. While wondering what’s happened to Brian Anderson, my main takeaway is that Lewis Brinson still looks overmatched at the plate, even when he manages to flare a ball in for a single. It’s hard to watch him and see the guy who hit .331/.400/.562 in the minors last year. Fortunately, he has an excellent glove working in his favor and it’s not like the Marlins are going to be aiming to contend in 2019 anyway. Still, you probably won’t find him on my sleeper list next spring.

Matthew Pouliot
Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.