For baseball fans, the month of January can seem like it moves at a glacier pace, compared to any other month of the year, at least. The winter meetings are done, the hot stove trade/free agent market is usually cooled off, awards have been announced, and we’re left counting the days until pitchers and catchers report.
But one fun thing to keep our baseball minds occupied at times like these are lists. Who doesn’t like a good baseball list to get all riled up and/or excited about? For instance, we had Keith Law’s farm system rankings hit the web yesterday, which actually brought some good news this year. Good stuff, right there.
Buster Olney is also in the mix, too, as he’s been releasing his Top 10’s at every position, along with Top 10 rotations, bullpens, lineup and defenses. So, the first thing we all want to know: where are the Angels at?! Well, we actually see the Halos show up on four different categories, which ain’t too shabby.
The most obvious is Top 10 Centerfielders. Mike Trout is the cream of that crop, naturally. Olney gives us a few bullet points on why Trout is numero uno (as if you needed any convincing). Here’s a little sample:
The difference between Trout and the second-best center fielder in WAR the last three seasons is 10.6. The last time there was a WAR gap that big among center fielders occurred 1964 to 1966 with Mays at 31.2 WAR and Willie Davis at 13.6.
The next Angels player we see show up is Andrelton Simmons, who Olney has just barely making the cut at the #10 spot in his Top 10 Shortstops list. I’m a total homer and card-carrying member of the I Love Simba fanclub (which I just made up right now), so obviously I would have him at #1. Olney has Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager and Carlos Correa in the #1-3 spots, which is tough to argue against, but I still love me some Simba. Here’s what Olney had to say about Andrelton Simmons:
One evaluator summed up the industry’s view on Simmons: "Below-average offense," he wrote, "with way above-average defense." Way above. Since Simmons broke into the big leagues at the outset of 2012, these are the MLB leaders in defensive runs saved:
Simmons - 131
Jason Heyward - 92
Nolan Arenado - 84
Alex Gordon - 78
Manny Machado - 75
The next-best shortstop on that list is Brandon Crawford at 61.
That's way, way above average. And Simmons will chip in some hits -– he batted .281 last season -– and some occasional pop.
The Top 10 Right Fielders also has one of our favorite Angels making an appearance, and just like Simmons, it’s at the #10 spot. Yep, Kole Calhoun, who just got his first big $$$ contract yesterday, is Olney’s 10th best RF in MLB. This is why he is now getting the big bucks:
He has been a steady player in the big leagues, and last year, he had a .786 OPS, scored 91 runs and had a higher fWAR (4.0) than Harper, Polanco, Mark Trumbo or Martinez did.
That’s pretty much it for individual position players, but the Angels showed up in one more category, and that’s Top 10 Defenses. We all know that Billy Eppler weighs defense rather heavily when making personnel decisions, and he’s got some absolute studs in his arsenal. The Maybin and Maldonado acquisitions bolster up their respective spots on the diamond, and with Danny Espinosa now teaming up with Andrelton Simmons, I dare any hitter to try and sneak one through the middle of the infield.
The Angels show up at #5 on that list, and Olney mentions all the right factors:
General manager Billy Eppler has made defense a high priority time and time again since taking over the Angels. He traded for shortstop Andrelton Simmons last winter, and this winter he added Danny Espinosa to play second, as well as Cameron Maybin, who will shift from center field to left. The Angels also swapped for catcher Martin Maldonado and now have two catchers who ranked among the best 11 in the league in defensive runs saved in 2016.
The best CF in the game, a RF and SS that make the top 10 and an overall team defense that is in the top 5 of all MLB? Man, I want to see this squad on the field ASAP. The season can’t come soon enough.