There were seven players who managed to get the necessary 502, or more, plate appearances to qualify for the batting title that posted negative WAR values this past season. I’m going to take a look at each one and make a determination as to whether we can expect better things from them in 2013 or not. For some of these players their teams will be relying heavily on them to help turn them into contenders. Whether they can come through or not will largely depend on two things: whether those players play at a higher level than the previous season and whether their respective team will actually be utilizing their skill-sets appropriately.
Those two reasons are why I’m going to indicate whether I trust the player being able to up his game, so-to-speak, and then whether I trust his team to utilize their talents in the best possible way. Now on with the seven worst players of 2012 and what we can expect in 2013.
Jesus Montero, C/DH, Seattle Mariners, -0.2 WAR
Montero’s first full season in the big leagues, and with the Mariners, ended up being a bag of mixed results in my opinion. His batting line of .260/.298/.386 isn’t all that impressive when you look at it all together, but the .260 average and the 15 home runs are pretty decent for a rookie catcher. By all accounts he fit in well with the clubhouse and his teammates really liked him. He worked well with the pitching staff but the 3.80 ERA the pitchers posted with him behind the plate indicates, to me at least, that he still has a few things to figure out about calling a game – which I’m sure will come with a bit more experience.
Now that his first full season is out of the way I imagine he’ll come into 2013 better prepared, physically and mentally, for the challenges that await him in his sophomore year. The real question that needs to be answered is whether he will fall prey to the devious “sophomore slump” or not.
I think with Montero we’re safe to assume he’ll be able to perform at a higher level in 2013 than he did in 2012, even though his performance wasn’t that bad for a rookie at his position. He comes into this new season with the knowledge that the Mariners intend to use him as their starting catcher, and that’s a good thing. He knows what is expected of him on both sides of the plate and the Mariners seem intent on giving him every opportunity to succeed or fail based on his performance and pace of development.
Montero should be able to at least marginally improve his defensive ability to be about average, maybe just a tick below, next season and with the fences being moved in I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit 25 home runs. I’m going to say that I TRUST the player and that I also TRUST the team in this case.
Justin Smoak, 1B/DH, Seattle Mariners, -0.3 WAR
There are two reasons why Smoak has been able to hold onto a starting job in the big leagues for nearly three seasons now and those reasons are his potential with the bat and his plus defense at first base. However, after 355 games and 1,421 plate appearances in those three years he has managed to put up a .223/.306/.377 batting line with 47 home runs and having struck out twice as many times as he has walked. He has been worth exactly zero WAR in his time at the big league level and the Mariners no longer seem content with allowing him to figure it out anymore.
With the additions of Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse it now appears that Smoak no longer has the inside track on the first base job and even if he somehow is given the opportunity this spring his leash will be very, very short.
As much as I would love to say that I trust Smoak to put it all together in 2013, because I do believe his bat could play at the major league level, I simply can’t do it. After 1,400+ plate appearances in the big leagues I’m starting to think he is what he is at this point and I DO NOT TRUST him. To make matters worse, even if Smoak somehow did begin to play at a high level offensively I don’t think the Mariners would even pay attention at this point. That is why I have to say that I DO NOT TRUST the Mariners to utilize him properly in 2013.
Delmon Young, OF/DH, Philadelphia Phillies, -0.7 WAR
What has Delmon Young done for his teams lately? Not a whole lot when you take into consideration his, and the organization he’s signed with, dealing with alcohol and behavioral related issues over his career; from throwing his bat at an umpire who ejected him from a game in the minor leagues back in 2006 to saying hatful things to a Jewish person while drunk this past season. You never really know what kind of person is going to show up each day with Young and that’s a truly unfortunate thing. He could be a very useful bat off the bench or even a decent enough semi-regular DH for a team that needs one.
However, his paltry 4.1% walk rate over his career and atrocious fielding make him someone who should feel very fortunate to even have a paying job in the big leagues – and that’s before you even take into to consideration the migraines that his potential behavioral issues could cause.
His .284 career batting average looks real pretty and the fact that you’re almost guaranteed he’ll hit at least 15 or so home runs for you, but once you dig a little deeper you’ll see that he’s really not all that great of an offensive talent when he doesn’t know how to take a walk, is a fan of hitting into the double-play, and has cost his team’s 39 runs defensively since 2006.
I DO NOT TRUST Young and I DO NOT TRUST the Phillies, and neither should you.
Eric Hosmer, 1B/OF, Kansas City Royals, -1.1 WAR
Hosmer’s rookie season in 2011 was something that raised a few eyebrows because he provided something as a first baseman that traditional players at that position simply do not – speed. Hosmer stole 11 bases over 128 games in 2011 while also putting together a .293/.334/.465 batting line with 19 home runs, 27 doubles, and three triples. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and it appeared that he was on to greater things in 2012. That unfortunately was not the case and many were left scratching their heads as to what happened to him.
A .232/.304/.359 batting line in 2012 has led some to believe that opposing pitchers have figured him out and have expressed concern as to whether Hosmer will be able to make the necessary adjustments to counter that. I’d be curious to hear the pessimist’s response when asked what adjustments pitchers made to Hosmer that baffled him so much. I’m sure there would be some fairly canned responses lobbed my way.
The fact of the matter is that Hosmer didn’t really appear all that overmatched this past season. As a matter of fact, he had an even better recognition of the strikezone in 2012 than he did in 2011 and his peripheral stats remained relatively constant and unchanged. The only thing that really changed for him was luck; that’s right – I said luck.
His BABIP in 2011 was a solid .314 but it fell all the way down to .255 in 2012 and that’s really the only explanation for his down performance. I’m sure a part of that was due to the fact that he hit a few more groundballs this past season then in 2011 but his line drive remained constant and his walk rate actually went up. I expect a big rebound from him in 2013 and I TRUST Hosmer and the Royals in a big way heading into this season.
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Kansas City Royals, -1.2 WAR
Is 2013 an odd numbered year? It is you say? Well then, that clearly indicates that Francoeur is due for a big season. Francoeur is a very frustrating player because he has the tools but his performance seems to be greatly tied to his BABIP. In odd numbered years it tends to be higher than league average and as a result his batting line tends to trend upwards.
After putting together a solid bounce-back season in 2011 (odd number) he fell back down to earth in 2012 by slumming it with a .235/.287/.378 batting line and 16 home runs. As much as I would like to believe in this whole odd numbered phenomenon that Francoeur has going for him I can’t bring myself to do it. It’s fun to entertain the thought that there’s something about odd numbers and Francoeur’s performance but maybe it’s simply a matter of him realizing he expect to keep a starting job in the big leagues with back-to-back poor showings.
His strikeout rate has been trending upwards for three straight years now and his walk rate isn’t exactly flattering. Even at 29 years of age he’s starting to feel old to me and I’m not sure if I want to take my chances on a player whose performance seems to be greatly intertwined with balls falling in or finding holes in the infield. I DO NOT TRUST Francoeur but I DO TRUST the Royals to do everything they can to at least take advantage of his defensive prowess (even though it was nowhere to be seen in 2012) and hope that he somewhat bounces back in 2013.
Brennan Boesch, OF, Detroit Tigers, -1.3 WAR
Boesch has been a fairly consistent outfielder over his three years in the big leagues; he’s consistently decent on offense and consistently so-so on defense, it really just depends on if he’s playing left or right field. He’s a good left fielder but an atrocious right fielder and as long as the Tigers put him in left field for the 2013 season then his value will go up quite a bit.
Unfortunately for Boesch it doesn’t appear that he’ll seeing much time in left field with the emergence of Andy Dirks in that spot last season and with the addition of Torii Hunter he may not see a lot of time in right field either. That only leaves room for him as the fourth outfielder and part-time DH behind Victor Martinez, which actually isn’t all that much of a bad thing.
Boesch has the tools to be a very good bat off the bench and extra outfielder/designated hitter type of player and I believe he could succeed in that role as long as he maintains a positive outlook on things. Obviously every player, especially one who previously held down a starting job, wants to be in the starting lineup on a daily basis but sometimes that’s just not the best thing for you. I DO TRUST Boesch to keep himself in a good frame of mind and embrace his newfound role and I DO TRUST the Tigers, more specifically manager Jim Leyland, to get the most out of Boesch in that role.
Michael Young, IF/DH, Philadelphia Phillies, -1.4 WAR
Young became a bit of a problem for the Texas Rangers over the last two seasons as he was asked to shift around on the field and did so begrudgingly. Even worse is that manager Ron Washington made every effort to find regular playing time for Young in 2012 even though it was really to the detriment of the team overall.
This is a player well past his prime and no longer offers the kind of reliability on offense, or the positive attitude in the clubhouse, that causes you to overlook the fact that he has never been a particularly good defender over the course of his career and hasn’t exactly gotten any better with age. Since 2002, when Young became a full-time player, he has cost his team the fifth most runs on defense among ALL positions in baseball and one of those players, Manny Ramirez, isn’t even playing any longer so he’s really fourth.
The only real benefit of having Young on your roster is that he’s durable and can play all over the infield, albeit not very well. Some analysts like to say that a change of scenery can do a player well but I don’t believe that will be the case in this instance. Young was the worst full-time player in 2012 and I DO NOT trust him to be much better than that in 2013, just as the Phillies lost all credibility with me when they traded for him which is why I DO NOT trust them either.