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MLB Top 10s: Even hopeless teams have great players like Tulo, Sale

by | Baseball Writer
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Giancarlo Stanton keeps putting on a power show while the Marlins continue to flounder. (USATSI)
Giancarlo Stanton keeps putting on a power show while the Marlins continue to flounder. (USATSI)

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In the Eye on Baseball Top 10, here's what we do: Rank players according to criteria. Those criteria change depending upon week and whim, but the Top 10 will always be informed by some angle or another, painfully contrived or otherwise.

And that brings us to this week's guiding query: Who are best players on "hopeless" teams?

What constitutes a hopeless team in 2014? For our purposes we're saying any team that, per the playoff odds reports available at FanGraphs, has less than a 5.0 percent chance of making the postseason, at this writing. That means those who toil for the Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Astros, Rangers, Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Cubs, Padres, Diamondbacks and Rockies are eligible for inclusion. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!

We list these players with no regard for their pre-2014 histories and no regard for whether or not these performances are sustainable. This is about performance in 2014 to date and nothing else. As for position players, defense and base-running are very much part of the calculus.

Omissions? It was hard to leave off names like Tyson Ross, Brian Dozier, Starlin Castro, Phil Hughes and maybe others I don't feel like mentioning at this time.

Anyway, let us now recite baseball names for the dual purposes of SEO and making you angry. Feel free to brandish your incorrect opinions and make idle threats in the comments section.

Weapons-grade complaints and spleen-venting? By all means, reach out to the author at hotmail@hotmail.jpg.

Batters
1. Troy Tulowitzki, SS - Colorado Rockies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Chris Sale This season, Tulo's 2014 WAR ranks second only to that of Mike Trout, who's the best player in baseball. That is to say, Tulowitzki -- the slick-fielding shortstop who hits like an All-Star first baseman -- is having one heck of a year.
Key Stats: 315 AB, 21 HR, .340 AVG, 52 RBI, 71 R, 1 SB
2. Giancarlo Stanton, RF - Miami Marlins
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 3
Yu Darvish Needless to say, Stanton ranks high on this list. The Marlins' 24-year-old slugger (yes, Stanton is still just 24) boasts a career-best .390 OBP, and he's on pace for 35 homers and 37 doubles -- all while playing his home games in a run-suppressing environment.
Key Stats: 393 AB, 23 HR, .290 AVG, 69 RBI, 67 R, 9 SB
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B - Arizona Diamondbacks
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Jon Lester Goldschmidt last season established himself as one of the best hitters in baseball, and that's exactly what he is again this season. He's batting .305/.399/.546, and he leads the majors with 39 doubles.
Key Stats: 394 AB, 18 HR, .305 AVG, 67 RBI, 73 R, 9 SB
4. Jose Abreu, 1B - Chicago White Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 5
Jake Arrieta Abreu isn't much with the glove or on the bases, but he very quickly announced himself as a devastating power hitter. The 27-year-old rookie is slugging .619, and he leads the majors with 30 homers despite having spent time on the DL. He'll make a run at 50 bombs.
Key Stats: 360 AB, 30 HR, .294 AVG, 79 RBI, 54 R, 1 SB
5. Jose Altuve, 2B - Houston Astros
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 3
Cole Hamels What a wonderfully well-rounded season Altuve is putting together. He's batting .343/.377/.449, he has struck out in just 8.4 percent of his plate appearances, he has stolen 42 bases in 47 attempts, and he mans a key up-the-middle position. Altuve is not a novelty act; he's a darn good baseball player.
Key Stats: 434 AB, 4 HR, .343 AVG, 32 RBI, 56 R, 42 SB
6. Anthony Rizzo, 1B - Chicago Cubs
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 10
Dallas Keuchel Rizzo has arrived. In 103 games, he's batting .283/.388/.525 with an NL-leading 25 homers. What do you want out of an offense-first position like 1B? Power and on-base skills. Rizzo is proving to have the Cubs covered on both fronts.
Key Stats: 381 AB, 25 HR, .283 AVG, 58 RBI, 71 R, 2 SB
7. Adrian Beltre, 3B - Texas Rangers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Jose Quintana Beltre continues to cobble together a Hall of Fame case. While he's past his prime with the glove, he's still a capable defender at third. With the bat, he's still going strong: .323/.368/.518 with 15 homers and 22 doubles. Beltre might notch career homer No. 400 later this season.
Key Stats: 353 AB, 15 HR, .323 AVG, 56 RBI, 54 R, 1 SB
8. Chase Utley, 2B - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 12
Henderson Alvarez Utley's age-35 season is turning out to be a nifty one: .291/.354/.433 (119 OPS+) with 26 doubles. Utley's also still a valuable defender at the keystone, and he's also on pace to play in 156 games, which would be his highest total since 2009.
Key Stats: 395 AB, 8 HR, .291 AVG, 50 RBI, 54 R, 4 SB
9. Seth Smith, LF - San Diego Padres
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 76
Koji Uehara Smith has long been a useful hitter, at least in platoon-advantaged situations, but this year he's gone "next level." In 89 games this season, he has hit .299/.396/.518. Bear in mind, Smith calls Petco Park home, which helps his OPS+ check in at an impressive 163.
Key Stats: 288 AB, 11 HR, .295 AVG, 31 RBI, 42 R, 1 SB
10. Lucas Duda, 1B - New York Mets
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 41
Jonathan Papelbon Duda has been a quiet producer this season, as he has batted .260/.358/.498. In matters related, he's on pace for 28 homers and 34 doubles.
Key Stats: 319 AB, 18 HR, .260 AVG, 57 RBI, 45 R, 3 SB
Pitchers
1. Chris Sale, SP - Chicago White Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 7
Chris Sale Even though Sale lost more than a month of the season to an elbow strain, he tops all "hopeless" comers. Sale leads the AL with an ERA of 1.88, and he has allowed exactly one unearned run in 110 innings. Over that same span, he has struck out 122 against just 19 unintentional walks. What a pitcher.
Key Stats: 110.0 IP, 10-1 W-L, 0 SV, 1.88 ERA, 122 Ks, 19 BB
2. Yu Darvish, SP - Texas Rangers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 6
Yu Darvish Darvish remains the best bat-misser in the game today. This season, he has pitched to a 2.90 ERA and has struck out 30.4 percent of opposing hitters. He's also on pace to top 200 innings for the second straight season.
Key Stats: 133.1 IP, 10-6 W-L, 0 SV, 2.9 ERA, 167 Ks, 43 BB
3. Jon Lester, SP - Boston Red Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 16
Jon Lester Trade rumors swirl about Lester, who has followed up a strong 2013 postseason run with perhaps a career year in 2014. This season, he checks in with an ERA+ of 155 (career high) and a K/BB ratio of 4.66 (also a career high) through 21 starts.
Key Stats: 143.0 IP, 10-7 W-L, 0 SV, 2.52 ERA, 149 Ks, 32 BB
4. Jake Arrieta, SP - Chicago Cubs
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 17
Jake Arrieta Arrieta has always had filthy stuff, and this year it has all come together for the 28-year-old right-hander: 2.18 ERA, 180 ERA+, only one unearned run allowed in 91 innings of work. His 3.81 K/BB ratio constitutes vast improvement over his pre-2014 career mark of 1.72.
Key Stats: 91.0 IP, 5-2 W-L, 0 SV, 2.18 ERA, 99 Ks, 26 BB
5. Cole Hamels, SP - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 10
Cole Hamels Hamels didn't make his first start of the season until April 23, and then it took him a handful of starts to round into form. Since May 6, though, he has lowered his ERA from 7.02 to 2.72. As well, Hamels has struck out more than a batter per inning, and he's working on the lowest home run rate of his career.
Key Stats: 122.1 IP, 5-5 W-L, 0 SV, 2.72 ERA, 125 Ks, 39 BB
6. Dallas Keuchel, SP - Houston Astros
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 37
Dallas Keuchel Breakout season! Increased use of the sinker has certainly paid off for Keuchel. This season, he has shown greatly improved command, and he has notched a 3.11 ERA while giving up just six homers in 127 1/3 innings. Keuchel also leads all qualifiers by a wide margin with a ground-ball/fly-ball ratio of 3.23.
Key Stats: 127.1 IP, 9-7 W-L, 0 SV, 3.11 ERA, 99 Ks, 30 BB
7. Jose Quintana, SP - Chicago White Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 72
Jose Quintana Quintana continues to improve and to establish himself as one of the most under-appreciated hurlers in the game today. This season, he has logged a 3.15 ERA (125 ERA+) and career-best 3.11 K/BB ratio in 131 1/3 innings. He ranks fifth in the AL in quality start percentage.
Key Stats: 131.1 IP, 5-7 W-L, 0 SV, 3.15 ERA, 118 Ks, 38 BB
8. Henderson Alvarez, SP - Miami Marlins
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 54
Henderson Alvarez Alvarez doesn't strike out many batters, but he has been outstanding at managing contact this season. In 130 2/3 innings, he has given up just eight homers and walked just 20 batters unintentionally. That has helped him log an ERA of 2.62.
Key Stats: 130.2 IP, 7-5 W-L, 0 SV, 2.62 ERA, 79 Ks, 23 BB
9. Koji Uehara, RP - Boston Red Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 4
Koji Uehara Uehara is again doing Uehara things this season: 1.51 ERA, no unearned runs allowed, a K/BB ratio of 10.5 (!). When it comes to keeping runs off the board, Uehara has been the best reliever in baseball over the past three seasons.
Key Stats: 47.2 IP, 5-2 W-L, 21 SV, 1.51 ERA, 63 Ks, 6 BB
10. Jonathan Papelbon, RP - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 23
Jonathan Papelbon Papelbon, like him or no, deserves to be remembered as one of the great closers of his era. This season, he has been in vintage form: 1.83 ERA (his lowest mark since 2006), 40 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings against just 10 unintentional walks, opponents' SLG of .219.
Key Stats: 44.1 IP, 2-2 W-L, 25 SV, 1.83 ERA, 40 Ks, 11 BB
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