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 monthly updates on these “predictions,” so as to capriciously praise or condemn myself.



Miguel Cabrera

Here is a real superstar. Top 10 in the three major offensive categories, and as a bonus, only 72 strikeouts in 123 games. Cabrera is second in OPS, the most telling category in baseball, and second in On Base Percentage thanks to 80 walks (also 2nd in the AL).

Miguel CabreraThat’s what makes a great ballplayer: consistently good all around. And still, few notice him amongst the Jose Bautistas, Paul Konerkos, Adrian Gonzalezes, Mark Teixeiras, Robinson Canos and Curtis Grandersons of the AL world who garner our attention. Cabrera’s a legit MVP contender again. {Grade so far on my prediction: PASS }

Paul Konerko: 

Pauly continues to be under-appreciated, even in his own city considering Carlos Quentin has reverted back to stellar 2009 form. I will keep praising Paul — even though I despise the ChiSox — 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 the Philly first baseman, will likely roll past that first milestone this weekend, and the other next month. And unlike Howard and most others, the White Sox first baseman somehow gets better with age.  He’s now top 5 in all major offensive categories, sans average and RBIs, where he’s 6th. {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! 

Adam’s still hitting well under .200; just 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 102 games; leads the league in strikeouts (149), and a startling 3 for 80 versus left-handed pitching. Yes, that’s a .038 clip! {Grade: FAIL}

Ryan Zimmerman and Shin Soo-Choo have missed too much time for evaluation right now. Neither have been extremely productive, though Zimmerman is hitting .300; and Choo, fresh off the DL this week, shall be a necessary contributor if Cleveland wants a shot at the playoffs. He had five hits in three games during the Indians’ just-completed series win in Chicago.


Ryan Howard:

The “centerpiece” of my article 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’ve see absolutely nothing in 2011 to change my mind; in fact, no matter what ESPN or the media says, I’m more confident in my views than ever.

There was a devastating critique of Howard’s absurd $25 million/year salary and declining stats in Yahoo Sports last month. It hit every angle statistically and factually. While some commenters applauded, most called the writer names and used profanity. It was classic to read his backers getting so desperate.

Ryan Howard

Though his RBI and home run numbers remain relatively high, vital categories (and overall power categories like slugging, OPS and OBP) continue to fall, while his strikeouts remain 2nd in the National League (on pace for over 180 again).

Ryan has TWO homers off a lefty in 143 at bats this season, and no clutch hits that anyone can recall. (I won’t get into past postseason futility since I covered it last fall)

Howard’s OPS — the most relevant category for a power guy — is an abysmal 23rd in the NL. Despite his power numbers, he’s still a distant 20th in Slugging. His On Base Percentage barely cracks the top 50 on the Senior Circuit. Very telling.

Unless you’re looking for a player on the back-end of his career; less durable than in the past; is quite replaceable; who doesn’t get on base enough; whiffs a lot; is slow; suspect with the glove, but will get you 30-35 HRs with 100 RBIs and a .250 average, he’s not your man.

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

Carlos Pena:

The Cubs first baseman has 23 bombs, but that’s around his career average. He’s still at his customary .225 and a putrid .141 off lefties; yet this overpaid 33-year old is a lifetime .239 hitter, so what do we expect? Losing player, losing teams. He doesn’t strikeout quite as much as Howard or Dunn, but that proves little. He’s still overrated. {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 .230 hitters who strikeout WAY too much (5th in AL), 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 .275/15/66, but he’s not an old player; KC expected him to produce, which is why they extended him through 2013 yesterday. That said, I don’t expect him to get hotter as the summer winds down. Twelve of his 15 dingers and 56 of his 66 RBIs were pre All Star Break. {Grade: MIXED}

Mark Reynolds:

His average has dropped back down to .214, which is apparently impressive for a guy coming off a .198 season. “Only” 142 whiffs in 120 games, but Reynolds is technically on pace for close to 40 homers and 100 RBIs. The Orioles aren’t winning at all, 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 (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. Disagree completely on Francoeur. You can skew the stats any way you want to but at the end of the day, he's going to have a 20-20 season with an average (likely) north of .270, 80+ RBIs, and gold glove caliber defense. I'm not really sure why he was overrated to begin with because only one team deemed him worthy of a guaranteed contract this spring (the Royals) and as evident by his two year extension, they rewarded him handsomely.

    I equally disagree with Reynolds. The Orioles didn't sign Reynolds to hit .300 — they signed him to hit 30+ bombs, around 100 RBIs, and play stellar defense. His average notwithstanding, he has exceeded those expectations. Based on what the Orioles paid him, if he finishes with an OPS north of .800, I'd say the Orioles got there money's worth…

  2. You may have a point on Jeff.

    As to Mark, I'm looking at overall picture. He does one thing well, and it hasn't helped the O's avoid a VERY disappointing season.

    I guess I'm still 75-80% either way though–nailing it on Konerko, Howard, Cabrera, Pena and Upton for certain.

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