My 2017 IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

As a card carrying member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA), one of the great honors each year is the opportunity to vote for our inductions into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I generally lean toward more honorees than less, as the town of Cooperstown desperately counts on induction weekend as a major part of their economy; plus no one is ultimately hurt by a fringe candidate earning their way into this museum.

Considering the backlog of qualified candidates, I would have a full ballot of 10 players and would select several others if that number was extended.  However, within the 10 player limit, these are my choices for my 2017 Hall of Fame ballot. {Editor’s Note: The BBWAA only allows 10 selection per ballot, the IBWAA allows 15.}

Jeff Bagwell

My favorite player as a child and my vote for the most underrated player in recent baseball history. Bagwell finished his 15-year career with a .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs, 202 stolen bases, and 80.7 WAR – that’s a Hall of Famer!

Barry Bonds

Perhaps the best offensive player in my lifetime, Bonds’ induction will 100% come down to how the voters feel about “steroids”, as his .298/.444/.607 batting line and 164.4 WAR make him a top-5 player in baseball history.

Roger Clemens

Probably a top-5 pitcher in baseball history, Clemens won an astonishing 354 games and produced 170 more wins than losses over his 24-year career. I understand the steroid “issues” but how can there legitimately be a Hall of Fame without Roger Clemens? I am curious which team cap his plaque would have if he achieves enshrinement, as Boston, Toronto and New York each has a claim.

Vladimir Guerrero

Perhaps the franchise player for the Montreal Expos organization, Guerrero is one of the most exciting and dynamic players in baseball history.  There was nothing he could not do, as he was an elite defensive right fielder, an asset on the bases and a legitimate cleanup hitter.  Over his 16-year career, Guerrero hit .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs, 1,496 runs batted in and 181 stolen bases.  A 9-time All-Star, Guerrero struggled with injuries in his 30s which hindered his total numbers and caused him to retire at 36.  Nonetheless, this first-time eligible candidate should earn induction to Cooperstown on his debut appearance on the ballot.

Edgar Martinez

If Mr. Griffey had the sweetest swing in his generation, then Martinez is my vote for the 2nd purest swing and the best right-handed swing I have ever seen. Spending the majority of his career as a designated hitter and in a small media market hinder his candidacy, but any hitter with a career .312/.418/.515 batting line and 823 extra base hits should be in the Hall of Fame.

Mike Mussina

Growing up an Orioles’ fan as a kid, Mussina was my favorite pitcher and co-favorite player as a child. That bias stated, Mussina is criminally underrated, as his 270-153 career record reflects. Even more impressive to me, Mussina has a higher winning percentage for the Orioles (.645%) than for the Yankees (.631%) as he pitched for some poor teams in Baltimore. Mussina never won a Cy Young award and “only” made five All-Star appearances in his 18-year career, but if Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer, Mussina should also be enshrined. It might take several years, but “Moose” should one day join teammate Cal Ripken Jr. in Cooperstown.

Tim Raines

Likely the second greatest leadoff hitter ever in baseball, Raines has become one of the most discussed candidates of all-time for the Hall of Fame. His detractors say he was only a superstar for a short time and compiled his impressive statistics due to playing for 23-years. First I think it is impressive to play for 23 years as an outfielder and I believe if he played in a larger media market during his prime, he would already be in Cooperstown.

Manny Ramirez

Lost among his eccentric personality, Ramirez was a 12-time All-Star over his 19-year career and is one of the best right-handed hitters in the past 50 years.  For his career, Ramirez hit .312/.411/.585 with 555 home runs and 1,831 runs batted in.  Sure his defense was suspect in the outfield but few have ever possessed the balance and skill at the plate Manny Ramirez did.  He’s a no-doubt selection for me.

Ivan Rodriguez

One of the best catchers in baseball history, Rodriguez made 14 All-Star appearances and earned 13 gold glove awards during his 21-year career.  In addition to being one of the elite defensive backstops in history, Rodriguez was also an impact hitter, batting .296/.334/.464 with 311 home runs and 127 stolen bases.

Also, I had the pleasure to watch for two seasons in Washington and the impact his leadership, moxie and smarts had on several key members of the organization.  Rodriguez is one of the best 10 catchers in baseball history and without a doubt, a Hall of Famer.

Curt Schilling

Certainly his win total feels a little light for Cooperstown, but it should be noted that Schilling was 70 games over .500 for his career (216-146). That said, his career 3.46 ERA, 79.7 WAR and key role in leading three separate teams to the World Series gives him more than enough credentials for enshrinement.

Get Me Outta Here – 2016 Change of Scenery Candidates

The historic World Series Game 7 is now completely in the rearview mirror and front office personnel has turned their attention toward the forthcoming offseason.  Executives are scouring other rosters and free agent lists in search of players who could breakout if they played in a new environment.  Perhaps it is a former top prospect who has not yet seen his talent emerge or a journeyman player who fits perfectly elsewhere.

A prime example of this would be Arizona 2B Jean Segura, who was involved in a somewhat overlooked swap last winter before hitting .319/.368/.499 for the Diamondbacks in 2016.  An all-star in 2013, Segura struggled through two subpar seasons with Milwaukee before rebounding in Arizona last year.

After examining each team’s roster, here are five ideal Change of Scenery candidates this winter.

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Yasiel Puig                                         OF          Los Angeles Dodgers

Remember back to 2014 when Meghan Trainor was “All About That Bass” and Yasiel Puig was a 23-year-old 2nd-year outfielder coming off a season where he hit .296/.382/.480 with 16 home runs?  Only 24 months have passed and ever since Puig has scuffled through two injury-riddled, mediocre seasons, including a demotion to the minors last summer.  Still only 25-years-old, Puig is a possible middle-of-the-order hitter capable of playing all three outfield positions and under contract through 2019.

There are some injury issues and questions (right or wrong) surrounding his character, but there are few players in the majors with his talent level.  If he lands in the right situation and stays healthy for 140+ games, he has All-Star, 20-20 potential.

Trevor Rosenthal                             RHP        St. Louis Cardinals

Much like his teammates in St. Louis, Rosenthal struggled through a disappointing, injury-plagued 2016, posting a 4.46 ERA, 3.72 FIP and 56 strikeouts against 29 walks in only 40.1 innings.  Prior to 2016, Rosenthal had established himself as one of the top relievers in the National League, with two consecutive seasons of 45+ saves and an all-star appearance in 2015.  St. Louis appears to be moving forward with Seung-hwan Oh as their closer plus Kevin Siegrist and Matthew Bowman working as the primary set-up men – perhaps they could seek to move Rosenthal and his projected $6.3 million salary this winter to shore up other roster weaknesses.

Jurickson Profar              SS/2B    Texas Rangers

Only 4 years ago, a then 19-year-old Jurickson Profar was the top prospect in baseball and was poised to be one of the top middle infielders in baseball for the rest of the decade.  Unfortunately a combination of injuries and the emergence of other players, Profar now finds himself about to hit salary arbitration with only 184 career major league games played.  The Rangers are well positioned in the infield with Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre for the foreseeable future, leaving Profar on the outside looking in.

Understandably the Rangers will be hesitant to trade Profar, as it would be selling low on a tremendously talented 23-year-old.  However, in the best interest of his development and long-term career, Texas should trade Profar this offseason to an organization that can provide him the playing time to blossom.

Shelby Miller                     RHP       Arizona Diamondbacks

After being the centerpiece in one of the most controversial trades in years last winter, Miller struggled through a nightmarish 2016 in Arizona, posting a 6.15 ERA and 1.673 WHIP over 101 innings pitched. However, prior to last year, Miller had posted three consecutive impressive seasons with 30+ starts each and an ERA south of 3.75.  Quite frankly, Miller had quietly emerged as one of the top young starters in the National League.

The Diamondbacks are likely to shake up their roster this winter with the arrival of a new front office, and trading Miller to give him a fresh start might be the best thing for the talented 26-year-old.

Michael A. Taylor            OF          Washington Nationals

Nationals CF Michael Taylor

Washington’s toolsy outfielder finds himself on this list because he has the defensive ability, speed and occasional home run power to be an asset to many teams, especially as part of a creative outfield platoon.  Taylor is an asset at all three outfield positions and owns 20 home run & 20 stolen base potential.  Unfortunately, it does not seem like an opportunity exists in D.C. for sufficient playing time, making him a potentially intriguing gamble and Change of Scenery candidate.

Will The Washington Nationals Offer Ben Revere Salary Arbitration?

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On Episode #80 of THE NatsGM Show, guest Dan Rozenson and I were hypothesizing about possible Washington Nationals’ offseason moves – one particular comment Dan made, namely that Ben Revere would return in 2017, caught me off-guard.  After Revere was left off Washington’s postseason roster, I had made the assumption that Revere would not be offered salary arbitration this winter, making him a free agent.

Considering how shrewd Dan is, I started re-thinking my assumption and decided to revisit the Nats’ decision – Will Washington offer Ben Revere arbitration?

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The 28-year-old Revere suffered through the worst year of his 7-year career in 2016, missing the first 30+ games of the season with an injured right oblique muscle.  When Revere returned, he hit only .217/.260/.300 with 18 extra base hits and 14 steals over 103 games played.   These numbers are not simply awful, they made him one of the worst full-time players in baseball last season.  According to MLBTradeRumors, Revere is expected to command $6.3 million in his final season of arbitration.  Without question, these numbers do not warrant $6.3 million for 2017.

However, prior to 2016 Revere had been one of the more consistent hitters in baseball, batting above .294 each year from 2012-2015.  Even including last season’s woeful numbers, Revere is still a career .285/.320/.342 hitter with 190 stolen bases over 748 games.  Therefore, it is easy to ponder if last season was an aberration or the beginning of a steep career decline?

One must immediately question if Revere was fully healthy last season, as the right oblique is the lead side for a left-handed hitter.  Although his average exit velocity was relatively stable from 2015 to 2016, one must wonder why his velocity dropped so severely on off-speed pitches, going from 83.06mph to 78.41.  A further look into his numbers also shows that Revere’s line drive rate dropped significantly from 2015 to 2016 (26.4% to 18.1%) and his fly ball percentage spiked, going from 18.9% in 2015 to 26.5%.  Certainly these numbers could be a one year abnormality, but this does have me wondering if he was ever healthy last season.

Additionally, Revere struggled through a year with a BABIP of .234, 60 points below league average and 80 points below his career .314.  Furthermore, only Ryan Howard had a lower BABIP in 2016 (.205) than Ben Revere.  Normally players with Revere’s profile, namely very fast runners with good contact skills, do not see their BABIP decline so drastically, so there is good reason to expect this number to normalize in 2017.  Finally, his BB% and K% percentages remained in line with his career averages, and Fangraphs graded him as a positive baserunner and defensive outfielder.

In conclusion, the Washington Nationals have a legitimately difficult decision with Ben Revere.  If the team is convinced he was injured much of last year and/or believes he will rebound next season, it is a slam-dunk to offer him arbitration.  The Nationals have long coveted a 4th outfielder capable of serving as a starter if injuries occur, and prior to 2016, Revere was an ideal major league 4th outfielder.

However, if the Nationals are worried Revere’s disastrous season was not due to injury, but the first sign in a career decline, Washington should obviously redistribute those funds toward other options.  If Revere were to reach free agency, I do think he would have a large list of suitors gambling on an intriguing buy-low option in the outfield.

In the end, I believe Washington will offer Revere arbitration, as it gives the team tremendous positional flexibility and $6.3 million is the going rate for a quality backup outfielder.  With the market rather limited this winter with free agent outfielders, keeping Revere provides Washington with a potentially strong 4th outfielder, a possible platoon option in either center field or left field, and allows the front office to seek additional offensive upgrades from a position of strength.

My 2016 IBWAA Baseball Awards Ballot

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Several years ago the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) graciously invited me to join their illustrious group, one of many humbling moments I have had since creating NatsGM.  One of the perks of this organization is each year at the end of the season they contact each of their members to help select winners for the various major baseball awards.

While the overall vote totals should be released shortly, I thought I should share my ballot, along with a brief explanation for my choices.  Without further ado, here is my 2016 IBWAA Baseball Award selections.

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AL MVP :              1) Mike Trout  2) Jose Altuve  3) David Ortiz  4) Josh Donaldson 5) Mookie Betts

For me, Trout is the clear winner and the best player in baseball.  The next four players could have gone in any order, but being a middle infielder gave 2nd place to Altuve and sentimentality forced me to choose Ortiz third.

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AL CY :                  1) Corey Kluber 2) Justin Verlander 3) Rick Porcello

Again, Kluber seemed like the obvious choice for me as the CY Young in the American League.  The decision between Verlander and Porcello was a coin flip, but the slight nod goes to Verlander for the larger strikeout total and importance to his team.

AL ROY :               1) Gary Sanchez  2) Michael Fulmer  3) Edwin Diaz

This was a difficult decision, as Fulmer pitched well this season before getting shut down.  I gave my vote to Sanchez because of the his outstanding offensive numbers compared to his peers, along with carrying the Yankees to a respectable record this season.

{* Editors Note – Fulmer was NOT shut down, he has failed to reach the 162 innings requirement for the ERA title.  I/We did not explain ourselves properly.  H/T to Dave Hogg @Stareagle for identifying our error.}

AL Manager  :    1) Terry Francona  2) Joe Girardi  3) Jeff Banister

Easy choice here, as Cleveland dealt with plenty of injuries and still ran away with the American League Central.  Francona did a fantastic job getting 94 wins from this roster.  Girardi takes 2nd as his front office sold at the deadline and he still got 84 wins from his aging club.  Finally, Jeff Banister gets 3rd as he quietly got 95 wins and a division title from a team several predicted to finish in 3rd place before the season.

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AL Reliever  :      1) Zach Britton    2) Andrew Miller  3) Dellin Betances

All three pitchers were outstanding this season, but Britton’s complete dominance gives him my vote, with Miller’s numbers giving him the nod over Betances.

NL MVP :             1) Kris Bryant  2) Anthony Rizzo 3) Daniel Murphy  4) Nolan Arenado  5) Corey Seager

If this ballot was cast on September 15th, I would have chosen Murphy 1st, but missing the last two weeks of the season has him fall to third.  Bryant is the best player on the best team, making him my choice, with Rizzo a close 2nd.  If Arenado’s team had been better this year, he might have merited more consideration, but 4th feels about right, with Seager’s magnificent rookie season capturing 5th.

NL CY  :                 1) Max Scherzer  2) Jon Lester  3) Kyle Hendricks

I know wins should not matter, but 20 victories, plus all the innings and strikeouts made Scherzer my sentimental choice for this award.  Lester’s advantage in wins, innings and strikeouts gives him 2nd over his teammate Kyle Hendricks.

NL ROY  :              1) Corey Seager  2) Trea Turner  3) Trevor Story

Another slam-dunk choice, as Seager’s .308/105/26/72 stat line from a shortstop is one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory.  Turner’s energy and impact for the Nationals barely gives him 2nd place over Story’s 27 home runs this year.

NL Manager  :   1) Terry Collins  2) Joe Maddon  3T) Dave Roberts and Dusty Baker

Considering all the injuries the Mets suffered through this season, it is miraculous they won 87 games and have home field advantage in the NL Wild Card game.  Even fully acknowledging recency bias, Terry Collins job this season is one of the best I can ever remember.

Joe Maddon’s ability to manage expectations and the hype placed on the Cubs gives him 2nd place.  We should not overlook Dave Roberts’ effort with the Dodgers, who suffered through injuries and a mediocre bullpen to win the NL West.  Finally I had to include Dusty Baker, who reunited a divided clubhouse and helped the Nationals achieve 95 wins this year.

NL Reliever  :      1) Kenley Jansen  2) Seung Hwan Oh 3) Mark Melancon

One of the best relievers in baseball, Jansen had a tremendous season for the Dodgers in spite of a lackluster relief corps in front of him.  I wanted to include Oh in the rookie of the year award, as he has stabilized St. Louis’s bullpen and replaced the suddenly mediocre Trevor Rosenthal.  I guess he will have to “settle” for 2nd place in the reliever category. Finally Melancon quietly had another fantastic season, posting 47 saves and resolving Washington’s major hole at closer this summer.

* Any issues with my choices?  Post your thoughts in the comment’s section!