All-Star Break Update on MLB’s Most Over and Underrated Players

Way back in February, USA Today’s 2011 MLB Preview Magazine published a lengthy piece by yours truly, whereupon I rendered my thoughts on who the most over and underrated players in the game were as we approached the new campaign.

I figured I might as well do occasional updates — especially here at midseason —  on these “predictions,” so as to capriciously praise or condemn myself.


Miguel Cabrera:

Top 10 in the three major offensive categories, and as a bonus, only 51 strikeouts. That’s what makes a  great ballplayer. And still, few notice him amongst the Jose Bautistas, Paul Konerkos, Adrian Gonzalezes and Curtis Grandersons of the AL world who garner our attention. Cabrera’s a legit MVP contender again — though right now Bautista is the best hitter on earth. {Grade so far on my prediction: PASS }

paul-konerkoPaul Konerko:

After his All-Star snubbing, need I even expound upon how underrated Pauly continues to be? Yes, because there are people who actually think Ryan Howard is a better player, despite Konerko being better in nearly every category, and by a long shot in most. Howard will never get 2000 hits, and 400 HRs is questionable. Konerko, just three years older than Howard, will roll past those milestones later this season. And unlike Howard and most others, the White Sox first baseman somehow gets better with age. {Grade: PASS}

Adam Dunn: 

I often compare the media love for Ryan Howard to Adam Dunn, as I feel they’re basically equal players (same age, same style, Howard higher average, Dunn better power numbers, etc), but if I’m to call out Ryan, Adam needs the same treatment.

You can’t spin this anymore now than you could a month ago: he’s been a disaster!  Another Ken Williams bust (see Rios, Alex too)

Adam’s still hitting well under .200; just nine homers and 34 RBIs in 78 games; leads the league in strikeouts (117), and a startling 2 for 64 versus left-handed pitching. Yes, that’s a .031 clip! {Grade: FAIL}

Ryan Zimmerman and Shin Soo-Choo have missed too much time for evaluation right now. Neither have been extremely productive.


Ryan Howard:

The “centerpiece” of my article, as many expected, was the Phillies’ big first baseman, who’s been at the top of my list (and emails, texts and tweets) of overhyped ballplayers for years. I don’t see anything in 2011 to change my mind; in fact, even if the media still think he’s “having a typically excellent year,” I’m more confident in my views than ever.

Though his RBIs remain relatively high, his homerun numbers (and overall power categories like slugging, OPS and OBP) continue to fall, while his strikeouts remain 3rd in the National League (98, therefore on pace for nearly 200).  He has yet to homer off a lefty in 110 at bats this season. Howard’s OPS — the most relevant category for a power guy — is an abysmal 25th in the NL.

The local Philly media naturally lauds Howard for “ceding the limelight,” but to me, unless you’re looking for a player on the back-end of his career, who doesn’t get on base much, whiffs a lot, is slow, suspect with the glove, but will get you 30 HRs with 100 RBIs and a .255 average, he’s not your man. I’m just stating obvious facts. His backers are getting desperate.

{Grade so far on my prediction that Howard is overrated: PASS}

Carlos Pena:  

The Cubs first baseman has 19 bombs, but he’s still at his customary .225 and a putrid .110 off lefties; yet this overpaid 33-year old is a lifetime .240 hitter, so what do we expect? He doesn’t strikeout quite as much as Howard or Dunn, but that proves little. He’s still overrated. I hope the Pirates don’t trade for him. {Grade: PASS}

BJ Upton: Upton rightly doesn’t get the love he once received, but still, when you think of the Rays, after Longoria, BJ’s name comes up. Why?  You like .239 hitters who strikeout too much, with mediocre power and bad attitudes? Until his average improves…{Grade: PASS}

Jeff Francoeur:

Has expectedly cooled considerably after a surprisingly hot start. Jeff’s still at .265/12/56, but he’s around .235 since April ended. I don’t expect him to get hotter as the summer approaches either. {Grade: MIXED}

Mark Reynolds:

His average has risen all the way to .227, which is apparently impressive for a guy coming off a .198 season. “Only” 96 whiffs in 87 games, but Reynolds is on pace for close to 40 homers and 100 RBIs. The Orioles aren’t winning, so I’m really not sure what he brings to Baltimore, but I could say the same about Pena, Dunn and many others right now. {Grade: PASS}

So I’m looking at decent grades (75-80% or so)…

Agree/disagree? Bring facts, not conjecture nor ad hominem attacks. Thanks.

About AJ Kaufman

A former schoolteacher and military historian, A.J. now works in public relations. As an MSF columnist since 2009, he supports anything baseball-related. Raised in San Diego, A.J. has since resided in numerous parts of America, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and Washington State. After departing the coasts in 2005, he's traveled the back roads of all 50 states and prefers the Heartland. Married to Maria, A.J. is the author of three books and enjoys reading presidential biographies.


  1. right on, keep up the good work

  2. Good stuff but why is Dunn in the underrated category? I follow the Dodgers and I think even with the monster season he is having, because the Dodgers suck, Matt Kemp is not getting the pub he should get. I mean his first half splits are just sick: .313-22-67-27. He's going to hit 30-30 easily. There's an outside chance for 40-40. No one is talking about the special season he is having. I think overrated, even though he made the AS team, is Andre Ethier. Yes he's hitting .311 and he had a 30 game hitting streak earlier in the year. But on a team with very little power, he's asked to produce power numbers and he's hit 9 HRs, 44 RBI. That's not going to cut it on this team. If he's not going to drive in runs, who is, Dioner Navarro?

  3. jim ward says:

    AJ, you need to read this incredible article by Israeli peace activist (and former Irgun member) Uri Avnery. Will really open your eyes and change the way you think for sure!

  4. jim ward says:

    AJ, here is a great quote from the legend, David Ben-Gurion. I am sure you have heard of him?
    “If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti – Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?”

  5. I put him there in January. This year I was wrong. Overall, he's had a very good career without 1% the recognition a Ryan Howard's gotten.

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