Cubs Sign Yu Darvish

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NOW we get into the juicy stuff. After a long while, Yu Darvish has signed a 6-year $126M contract with the Chicago Cubs after 5 and a half years with the Rangers and half a season with the Dodgers, where he helped them on a World Series run (even if his actual World Series performance left a lot to be desired). Darvish is one of the most talented pitchers in the game but hasn’t been able to realize a lot of his potential due in large part to injury, namely Tommy John surgery which cost him much of 2014, all of 2015, and much of 2016. Darvish was finally healthy in 2017 and he had a solid year, going 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA and 209 strikeouts between the Rangers and Dodgers. He looks for a fresh new start with a talented Cubs rotation that underperformed in 2017 but looks to get back on track to try and return to their championship glory from 2016.

Here’s how the Cubs’ rotation is expected to look with Darvish in the mix and the now expected departure of former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, whom I will get to in a moment:

1. Jon Lester

2. Yu Darvish

3. Kyle Hendricks

4. Jose Quintana

5. Tyler Chatwood/Drew Smyly

That’s a pretty formidable rotation provided everybody pitches to their ability. Couple that with an extremely potent lineup and the Cubs have all the makings of a World Series favorite. Though pitching to their ability is the big concern here. Lester is coming off his worst season since 2012, as he went 13-8 with a 4.33 ERA and 180 strikeouts. He turned 34 last month so one has to wonder if his skills may be on the decline. Quintana was very inconsistent last season. His month-by-month ERA was a big indicator to that. Starting in April, Quintana’s monthly ERA’s were 5.22, 5.91, 1.78, 3.45, 5.73, 2.51. So of those 6 months, 3 were really bad and 3 were either solid or excellent. It all averaged out to an ERA of 4.15, which is a far cry from what we know he’s capable of. Hendricks was probably Chicago’s most consistent starter in 2017 as he went 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA and 123 strikeouts during an injury-plagued season. When healthy, Hendricks is capable of being the ace of this loaded staff but if Chicago is going to make another run at the World Series, they’re going to need him on the mound every five days.

Which brings me to Jake Arrieta. The 2015 NL Cy Young winner seems to not be returning to Wrigley with the signing of Darvish, however I expect now that Darvish has signed, Arrieta will soon follow. I think the main reason it’s taken this long for either guy to sign was because they were waiting each other out, trying to see what the other would get so that they could use it as a comparison in their negotiations. Now that Arrieta has seen that Darvish is valued by the Cubs at $21M per year, he can use that to his advantage to make even more. All he has to say to teams that want to pay him comparable money to Darvish is “Yu is valued at $21M, he’s injured all the time, he doesn’t even have a Cy Young award and he sucked in the World Series. I have a Cy Young Award and a 2.38 ERA in the 2016 World Series.” Immediately that’s going to land him at least $25M. So Arrieta ought to send Darvish a thank you card for signing first, though this for sure means that Arrieta won’t be returning to the Cubs.

However this presents an interesting conundrum for the Cubs and it has everything to do with next offseason. Bryce Harper has made it known, whether intentional or not, that his first choice to sign in the 2018 offseason would be with the Chicago Cubs. He’s childhood friends with Cubs superstar third baseman Kris Bryant and he named his dog “Wrigley.” The writing is on the wall for that one. However, Harper will be just 26 years old when he hits free agency and many have speculated he may command Major League Baseball’s first ever $400M contract. Will the Cubs be able to afford that with the current payroll they have? Not likely. So there will need to be some work done on the salary front and many potentially key players needing to be moved in order to afford that deal. It can be done, though, and I do expect we’ll be seeing Harper in Cubby blue starting in 2019.

That’s going to do it for this piece on the Yu Darvish signing. Let me know what you think this does for the Cubs’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Angels sign Shohei Ohtani

Finally, the first domino of the MLB offseason has fallen. After the Marlins traded Dee Gordon to the Mariners for a bunch of prospects, it seemed like only a matter of time before the floodgates opened. Well, they have, as the Anaheim Angels have signed Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani just a day after Gordon was traded. Ohtani is probably the most intriguing player to come out of Japan since Ichiro mainly because of the prospect of his being a 2-way player. Not only can he hit 100 mph with his fastball on the mound, but he is also very capable of hitting a baseball a very long way.

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Ohtani has been a professional baseball player for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League since he was 18 years old. When he wasn’t pitching, he was playing the outfield there. His best all-around season was easily his 2016 season, as he hit .322 with 22 home runs and 67 RBI, while on the mound he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and struck out 174 batters over 140 innings. So naturally, when it was made public that he had intentions to play overseas in the United States, Major League Baseball got interested.

It was a very interesting signing process, as Ohtani would tell several high profile teams that he didn’t want to play for them, most notably the Red Sox, Yankees, and Twins, all of whom made the postseason in 2017. He even put the Phillies in a bodybag with this comment.

There was some backlash from fans and some members of the media, many of whom criticized Ohtani for being arrogant and seeming to not care so much about winning. Eventually, he narrowed his list down to 7 teams: the Angels, Mariners, Padres, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and Giants. Last I had heard, it appeared that the Mariners were the frontrunners to acquire the talented star, which didn’t surprise me as the Mariners had always been a preferred destination for Japanese players, as it is the closest team to their home country (Ichiro and Kenji Johjima come to mind as well as a few others whose names I’m spacing on). This was as recently as Friday morning, just hours before it was reported he was signing with Anaheim.

Earlier Friday afternoon, Ohtani had made his decision and will be signing with the Anaheim Angels (I refuse to call them the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after all these years because that’s stupid. They’re in Anaheim. They’ve been called the Anaheim Angels. What’s the point of putting Los Angeles in front?). Reportedly one of the deal makers for Ohtani was a Facetime call with Angels superstar outfielder Mike Trout, who couldn’t meet in person because his wedding is today. It’s unknown what Trout said, but it must have been really convincing because the Angels were never really considered to be favorites to land Ohtani. The most in international bonus money they can offer is around $2.3 million, which is significantly less than what the Mariners and Rangers could have offered. Ohtani’s booking fee is less than the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, luckily for the Angels, as it’s only around $20 million, whereas the former two had booking fees of around $50 million each. As of right now, we don’t know what his actual contract is going to be, but I doubt it’s going to be anywhere near what other Japanese superstars have gotten based on the most recent CBA.

So where does Ohtani fit in with the Angels? It’s hard to say, really. They’d be fools not to give him a chance to be a two-way player so it will certainly be intriguing to see how manager Mike Scioscia decides to use him. He’s battled injuries throughout his career in Japan so he’s a guy they may want to keep a close eye on health-wise. I have a feeling that being a two-way player may have something to do with his injury history and it could impact him greatly in the Major Leagues. I think after enough DL stints, Scioscia will decide enough is enough and have him stick to one or the other. But for the beginning of the year, at least, he will more than likely do both. It’s likely that he will be in the starting rotation for much of the year and in games he doesn’t pitch in, we could see him DH for the Halos, allowing him to go through a normal regimen for a starting pitcher while also getting a few hacks in. I doubt he’ll see much time in the field, as the Angels already have one of the better outfields in baseball, with Mike Trout in centerfield, Justin Upton in left, and Kole Calhoun in right. Albert Pujols is currently the DH but the only reason he’s still on the roster right now is because of that monstrous contract. If Scioscia really wants to keep him in the lineup, that will likely bump the incumbent CJ Cron from his duties at first base. It seems that Cron is the odd man out in this situation and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded sometime in the near future. Cron is only 27 years old and is making the Major League minimum right now, so you can bet there will be teams calling GM Billy Eppler about him. Here’s what the Angels lineup would look like with Otani:

1. Andrelton Simmons-SS

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

4. Albert Pujols-1B

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Kole Calhoun-RF

7. Luis Valbuena-3B

8. Martin Maldonado-C

9. Jefry Marte-2B

That has the potential to be a very formidable lineup. It’s also worth mentioning that on days that Ohtani is pitching, the Angels could decline their option to use a DH and have him bat for himself. People often forget the DH in the AL isn’t mandatory, it’s an option that’s given to each team, but naturally they use it because most pitchers aren’t exactly Shohei Ohtani with a bat in hand. As for the starting rotation, it would look something like this:

1. Garrett Richards

2. Shohei Ohtani

3. Matt Shoemaker

4. Tyler Skaggs

5. Andrew Heaney

Not as formidable-looking, but it has the potential to be very good if these guys can stay healthy (which has been a MAJOR issue for this bunch the last couple years). Personally, I think Ohtani is better as a pitcher, as his fastball can hit as high as 102 mph with a splitter/sinker that just falls off the table at the end. He was also most consistently good as a pitcher in Japan, as his highest batting average outside of his 2016 season is .274, while his ERA has consistently been under 3 since his rookie year. The main issue for this kid has been health, as he missed a large chunk of his 2017 season due to injury. But when healthy, this is what he can do (just a heads up, it’s long as shit, about 22 minutes).

So that ends one of the more interesting free agent sagas of recent memory. Once the details of his contract are finalized, we can get back into focusing on what other high profile players will do, which I’m chomping at the bit for because the highest-profile free agent to sign with a new team so far is Doug Fister with the Rangers. Not exactly what I’d call earth-shaking.

Also, what is the deal with the spelling of his last name? Every site I go to that talks about this guy, they either spell his last name “Otani” without the ‘h’ or “Ohtani” with the ‘h.’ For this blog, I went with the ‘h’ because that was how it was spelled on the back of his jersey in the video I embedded. But seriously, try googling both spellings. Google doesn’t correct you for the wrong one. If anybody knows why that is, PLEASE tell me, because it is so confusing to me.

So this is what a Saturday is like without college football picks. I know, I did promise I would do a whole Army-Navy segment before, but when I got to writing it, I came to the realization that I don’t know nearly enough about them to do the kind of blog I wanted to do. Then Ohtani signed and I felt that would take precedent. Fear not, I will still pick that game.

Projected Score: Navy 20 Army 17

Sorry West Point, but the Midshipmen regain bragging rights after losing last year for the first time since 2001. But it’s going to be a quick game as neither team commits many penalties and there is a LOT of running the football and very few reasons to stop the clock.

That’s my semi-double-blog for this week. What do you think of the Ohtani signing? How about your thoughts on the Army-Navy game? Let me know in the comments section below and on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

MLB Top 10 Players by Position for 2017

This is the next segment in my MLB postseason series. Here, I will be ranking the top players by position for this baseball season. 2017 performance won’t be the sole deciding factor, however it will be the biggest. Guys that missed significant time due to injury will not be considered, so guys like Noah Syndergaard, Michael Brantley, and Yoenis Cespedes will not be considered for these rankings even though they would rank highly when healthy. Also, if a player played at multiple positions throughout the year, I may have taken a little liberties by either putting them where I thought they were at their best or where they played the most. I also considered defense more heavily for some positions (shortstop, catcher) than others (first base).

Starting Pitcher

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Despite injury, Clayton Kershaw was still as dominant as ever (photo credit: Scout.com)

1.Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2.Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3.Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4.Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5.Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6.Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

7.Luis Severino-New York Yankees

8.Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

9.Marcus Stroman-Toronto Blue Jays

10.Jimmy Nelson-Milwaukee Brewers

While he did miss a good chunk of time due to injury, Clayton Kershaw nevertheless dominated when he was on the mound and he pitched enough (175 innings) for me to keep him in the rankings. His 2.31 ERA was second in the majors and tops in the NL. Robbie Ray was a guy I had high hopes for going into the season. He did have an ERA of 4.90 in 2016, but his FIP was more than a full run lower (3.76) which suggested he was in for an uptick in production. He did not disappoint, posting an ERA of 2.89 in 2017. Jimmy Nelson was a guy who was under the radar for the entire season. Despite his performance, he was overshadowed by Milwaukee’s prolific offense. Nevertheless, Nelson finished with the 5th best FIP (3.05) in the Majors, even better than Kershaw’s (3.07).

Non-Closing Relief Pitchers

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Andrew Miller continues to thrive in a unique role with the Indians (photo credit: USA Today)

1.Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

2.Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

3.Pat Neshek-Colorado Rockies

4.Chad Green-New York Yankees

5.Tommy Kahnle-New York Yankees

6.Anthony Swarzak-Milwaukee Brewers

7.Alex Claudio-Texas Rangers

8.Matt Albers-Washington Nationals

9.Ryan Madson-Washington Nationals

10.Dellin Betances-New York Yankees

This is a position that’s always in flux, as you never know what you’re going to get out of your relievers in any given year. For example, Matt Albers makes this list despite the fact that he had an ERA of 6.31 in 2016, his age-33 season. Dellin Betances surely would’ve topped this list at the start of the season had this blog been around at that time. His stuff was as good as ever but he seemed to have lost a bit of his command. But the Yankees don’t need him this season like they have in years’ past, as they have a plethora of reliable bullpen options, such as Chad Green and midseason acquisition Tommy Kahnle and the return of David Robertson.

Closing Pitchers

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Kenley Jansen has locked down the 9th inning for the Dodgers all season (photo credit: DodgerBlue.com)

1.Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2.Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3.Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

4.Wade Davis-Chicago Cubs

5.Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

6.Ken Giles-Houston Astros

7.Raisel Iglesias-Cincinnati Reds

8.Alex Colome-Tampa Bay Rays

9.Brad Hand-San Diego Padres

10.Felipe Rivero-Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer is hard to predict as well as relievers, but I find that typically the top few spots tend to remain roughly the same. I said this before in yesterday’s blog, but the difference between Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel this season is razor-thin, however I give a slight edge to Jansen mainly for the far lower walk rate.  Roberto Osuna ranks at #3 despite an ERA of 3.38 (relatively high for a good closer) in large part due to the fact that the majority of that damage was done in April and he didn’t get a lot of help from his defense (his FIP was 1.74)

Catchers

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Despite the Giants’ struggles, Buster Posey continued to put up big numbers (photo credit: Sportsnaut.com)

1.Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2.Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3.Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4.Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5.JT Realmuto-Miami Marlins

6.Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

7.Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

8.Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

9.Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

10.Christian Vazquez-Boston Red Sox

Catcher is a hard position to rank right now because it’s so top-heavy. There are only 3 catchers I consider to be elite at the position while the rest have a lot of flaws (in Yadi’s case, it’s just simply aging). I tend to value defense more at this position, which is why you see guys like Tucker Barnhart and Christian Vazquez on this list. If you go by Defensive Runs Saved, which I do, Barnhart was #1 by a large margin at 21. The next closest catcher was Martin Maldonado of the Angels at 10.

First Basemen

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Joey Votto may be the most under-appreciated player in the history of the game (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

1.Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2.Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3.Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4.Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5.Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6.Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

7.Eric Hosmer-Kansas City Royals

8.Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9.Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

10.Justin Smoak-Toronto Blue Jays

To be honest, you could probably rearrange the top 3 or 4 guys on this list in any order and I probably wouldn’t fight you too much over it. But I have to give the nod to Joey Votto this season just because of how absurd some of the numbers he puts up are. For example, his infield fly percentage, or basically how frequently he hits a lazy popup, was 0.5%, second only to Freddie Freeman, who didn’t hit a single one. But Votto’s been doing things like this for a long time now and that’s without getting into how patient he is at the plate. But I’ll delve more into Votto tomorrow for the top 100 overall players list. Spoiler alert, he’s on it.

Second Basemen

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Jose Altuve may be the smallest MVP since Bobby Shantz at 5’6 (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

1.Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2.Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

3.Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

4.Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

5.Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

6.Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

7.Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

8.DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

9.Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10.Starlin Castro-New York Yankees

I had a hard time with this one, mainly because second base was a lot deeper than I thought going in. I ended up having to leave guys like Ian Kinsler and Brandon Phillips off this list just because I simply couldn’t find a place for them. It was obvious to put Jose Altuve at the top of this one, given the year he’s had that I’ve talked about ad nauseam during this postseason MLB series of blogs about. In fact, I’d probably say the top 7 or 8 guys was pretty easy. It was rounding out this list that was difficult. In the end, I went with Kipnis and Castro over the other guys based simply on the idea of who I’d rather have at the plate with the game on the line this year, or in the field in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 7 of the world Series.

Third Basemen

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Kris Bryant has been one of the faces of the new Chicago Cubs dynasty (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

1.Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2.Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

3.Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

4.Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5.Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6.Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7.Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

8.Travis Shaw-Milwaukee Brewers

9.Kyle Seager-Seattle Mariners

10.Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

Third base is absolutely loaded, especially when a guy like Manny Machado finds himself at number 7. Machado would normally be higher, but he had a down year, hitting only .259 and being worth 2.8 WAR. He was heating up by the end of the season, though, as he was hitting .334 in July and August. The Milwaukee Brewers committed highway robbery of the Red Sox by acquiring Travis Shaw in exchange for Tyler Thornburg. Shaw hit cleanup in a dangerous lineup, batting .273 with 31 homers and 101 RBI while Thornburg did not appear in a game this season due to injury and the Red Sox struggled mightily at third base until calling up Rafael Devers and trading for Eduardo Nunez in July.

Shortstop

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Francisco Lindor has been one of the most exciting players in the game since debuting in 2015 (photo credit: USA Today)

1.Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2.Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3.Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4.Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

5.Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

6.Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7.Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

8.Zack Cozart-Cincinnati Reds

9.Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10.Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Like first base, you could rearrange the top 3 in any order you want and I wouldn’t argue with your decision. Lindor, Correa, and Seager are superstars in this league and will be for at least the next decade. Xander Bogaerts was a tricky one to place. When he’s hot, you can’t get him out. When he’s not, he couldn’t get on base if you threw at him. His below average defense didn’t help either, which was a big factor for shortstop, which I consider to be the most important defensive position. But he seemed to be picking it up after a move to the leadoff spot, batting .284 in the month of September. Zack Cozart has struggled with injuries the last few years but when he’s been healthy he’s quietly been one of the better offensive shortstops in the game.

Left Fielders

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Marcell Ozuna has been one of the more under-the-radar stars thanks to teammates he shares an outfield with (photo credit: Sun Sentinel)

1.Marcell Ozuna-Miami Marlins

2.Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

3.Michael Conforto-New York Mets

4.Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

5.Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

6.Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

7.Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8.Eddie Rosario-Minnesota Twins

9.Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

10.David Peralta-Arizona Diamondbacks

This is probably the thinnest position in baseball right now. While I am a big fan of Ozuna’s, he’s probably the third best outfielder on his own team and would be in the middle of these other outfield top 10s. But getting back on track, there were a lot of breakout players at left field so we could see this position grow more prominent in the next couple of years. Michael Conforto, Tommy Pham, Andrew Benintendi, and Chris Taylor all had big breakout years after either underwhelming in the last couple seasons (Conforto), being primarily a utility guy (Pham and Taylor) or just simply being a prospect (Benintendi).

Center Fielders

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No surprise here, Mike Trout has been among the all-time greats since 2012 (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

1.Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2.Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3.George Springer-Houston Astros

4.Christian Yelich-Miami Marlins

5.Lorenzo Cain-Kansas City Royals

6.Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7.Andrew McCutchen-Pittsburgh Pirates

8.Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

9.Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

10.Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

Mike Trout is the Khal until he can no longer sit his horse and he’s been sitting the crap out of that horse. Despite missing a month and a half due to injury, Trout still belted 33 home runs , stole 22 bases, and hit .306 while exhibiting his usual great defense in center field. Byron Buxton FINALLY exhibited his potential late this season as his bat finally caught up to his stellar defense and base running. He hit .387 in July and .324 in August and if this kid can put it all together for an entire season, Mike Trout’s going to have to start looking over his shoulder.

Right Fielders

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Since debuting at age 19, Bryce Harper has been well worth the hype for the Nationals (photo credit: Sporting News)

1.Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2.Giancarlo Stanton-Miami Marlins

3.Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

4.Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

5.JD Martinez-Arizona Diamondbacks

6.Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

7.Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

8.Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

9.Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

10.Jay Bruce-Cleveland Indians

This was REALLY hard. As much as I wanted to put Judge or Stanton at the top of this list, I just have to give it to Harper, who likely would have coasted to NL MVP had he not stepped on a wet base wrong and missed the last month of the year. But Harper was back to his usual phenom self this season after a rough 2016, batting .319 with 29 home runs and 87 RBI with an OPS of 1.008. While I do think Judge is lurking, that July-August stretch he went through where he couldn’t even hit air is still too fresh in my mind. And 59 home runs is nice, but Stanton’s defense is nowhere near Harper’s. Yasiel Puig finds himself back into relevance after a quietly solid year after disappointing the last couple seasons. He hit .263 with 28 homers, 74 RBI, 15 stolen bases, and ranking first among NL right fielders in DRS.

Those are my top 10s. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.