Houston Astros: MLB Top 100 list reaction
MLB released their Top 100 players list this month and now us baseball nerds can consume and discuss. There was little surprise at the top, where Mike Trout was ranked #1 for the sixth straight year, followed by Mookie Betts and Jacob DeGrom. The Dodgers dominated with 9 players making the list, and all of them in the top 50. The New York Yankees got 7 players on the list and the New York Mets, despite not making the playoffs the last four years, got 6 players on the list. The Houston Astros only had 4 players on this year’s list, down from 8 players the year before.
With Verlander out for the season and George Springer off to play in Canada (or Florida with COVID restrictions), a drop off in players on the list was somewhat to be expected. Often times lists like these turn into criticism or praise on if they got it right. So, let’s play Goldilocks with these Astro player rankings – are they too high, too low, or just right?
The Astros had four players rank in MLB Network’s Top 100 , where did they go right and where did they go wrong?
Carlos Correa: #56 (2020- #43)
Verdict: TOO LOW
Correa is coming off a 2020 season where he posted a career-low batting average (.264) and OPS (.709) – however, he was still one of the best defensive shortstops in the game (he was robbed of a Gold Glove, but that’s for another post) and posted a 1.8 WAR in a short season. Correa was injured for parts of the season and seemingly lost his power at the plate was the season waned on. However, once the lights went on for the playoffs, Correa became Superman again — hitting .362 with 6 homers and 17 RBIs with an OPS of 1.221 in 13 games.
This ranking is way too low for someone of Correa’s talent and abilities. Correa proved in October that he’s the best defensive shortstop in the game and that he can rise to the occasion at the plate when it matters most.
Correa certainly had a down year at the plate, but so did other guys – Yasmani Grandal (#49) posted his career-worst batting average and WAR in 2020. Matt Olson (#43), a great defensive first baseman, was also ranked higher than Correa despite hitting .195 for the season and .130 in the playoffs. Olson was essentially a non-factor in the ALDS while Carlos Correa was crushing A’s pitching that entire series.
I think Correa’s ranking is partially due to Astro fatigue or Astro hater-ade. Correa’s outspokenness last season when other teams took potshots at Houston for the scandal perhaps factored into this drop. If Correa can replicate what he did in the postseason for 2021, they’ll have no choice but to put him in the top 30 next year where he belongs.
Jose Altuve: #55 (2020 – #17)
Verdict: TOO LOW
Look, we all know Jose Altuve did not have a good 2020. He had a career-low batting average .219 and just didn’t look like himself for the short season. But he wasn’t the only player that struggled last season.
Christian Yelich (#9) hit .205 and slugged .430, yet he managed to stay in the top 10. Nolan Arenado (#13) had his worst season statistically with a .230 BA and a huge drop-off in his power, yet he’s in the top 15. Anthony Rizzo (#43) had his worst season as a Cub, hitting .222 with a .750 OPS – but MLB rankings kept him about the same year over year. Once again, I think Astro hate factored in somewhat with this ranking.
All this being said, Altuve was great in the postseason at the plate. The Astros second baseman hit .375 in those 13 games with 5 HRs, 11 RBIs, 11 walks and a dominant 1.229 OPS. He was the same old Jose Altuve when it mattered the most. How can you have a guy like Will Smith (#50) ahead of Jose Altuve? Smith is a terrific young player, but he’s only a second-year guy and who hit sub .200 at the plate in the playoffs (.130 if you take out his one great game vs. Padres). Altuve is a former MVP who’s always been great in the playoffs. What am I missing?
Some of this ranking might rightfully be due to his age, but I think it’s also a sign of disrespect to Jose. I hope Altuve uses this as fuel to come back sharp this season puts together and remind us fans just how great he is.
Michael Brantley: #36 (2020- #44)
Verdict: JUST RIGHT
Michael Brantley is the consummate pro and seems to be someone who gets better with age. Brantley is widely regarded as one of the best pure hitters in the game has a smooth swing and a great approach. Last year Brantley was one of the few Astros that didn’t struggle, hitting .300 with a .840 OPS and posted a 1.7 WAR. He’s been everything as advertised since signing with Houston in 2019 – been the clutch hitter who’s anchored one of the best offenses in the game hitting in the 3-spot.
To be honest, I think Brantley’s ranking is fair. I do have some qualms with guys like Michael Conforto (#34) and Jeff McNeil (#35) being ranked ahead of Brantley, guys that aren’t as good offensively as he is and have just been good players on a bad team. But then again, he’s ahead of guy like Marcell Ozuna (#37) who hit .338 with 18 HRs last season. Brantley might not have a higher ceiling than this, but he’s consistently been one of the 50 best players in the game for almost a decade.
Alex Bregman: #17 (2020- #5)
Verdict: JUST RIGHT
Alex Bregman was just not right after that Hamstring injury last year. Bregman finished the season hitting .242 and could never find that power at the plate once he came back from the IL. His exit velocity on hart hit balls was a career low, and you could say he was just not comfortable when he stepped into the batter’s box. But let’s not forget that he’s one of the three best defensive third baseman in the game and is only a year removed from finishing second in MVP in 2019 where he had 41 bombs and 114 RBI. He’s only 27 years old and expect a few more 2019-like seasons from the kid.
Bregman is just too good with his power and plate discipline and defensive versatility too be ranked anywhere outside the top 20. His drop from last year’s ranking of #5 is steep, but I think it’s valid considering the class of players he’s with. Once again, I’m confused why Arenando and Yelich weren’t punished as much for their poor seasons – However, Bregman is still ahead of players like Aaron Judge (#21) and Corey Seager (#24), so it’s hard to argue against the ranking. I expect a bounce-back season that’ll catapult Bregman back into the top 10.
Yordan Alvarez: NR (2020 – #65)
Verdict: WAY TOO LOW
This by far is the most baffling omission to this list. Yordan Alvarez put together one of the best offensive seasons ever for a rookie in 2019. He posted a 3.6 offensive WAR as a primary DH, and OPS of 1.016, and has a current 162-game average of .317, with 51 home runs in 149 RBIs. He’s essentially David Ortiz/Ryan Howard 2.0 at age 23 … and he’s not in the list?
Alvarez is perhaps the best young pure power hitter at only the age of 22. His 162-game average beats out other great young players like Fernando Tatis Jr (162-game average – .301, 44 HRs, 111 RBIs), Ronald Acuna Jr. (162-game average – .281, 42 HRs, 100 RBIs) and Eloy Jimenez (162-game average .276, 41 HRs, 110 RBIs). And yet he can’t crack the top 100?
I understand injury concerns and him being a zero defensively thus far in his career hurts him, but Alvarez’s offense alone should merit a spot on this list. If you think I’m being too much of an Astro fan, ask around. Call up your Oriole friends and ask: would they rather have Alvarez or Trey Mancini (#99)? Dial up a Royal Fan and say: If you had to pick one player – Alvarez or Whit Merrifield (#77)? Talk to a Red Sox fan at a socially-distant bar and ask would you rather have Alvarez, who hits the ball wicked-faaah, or Alex Verdugo (#88)? If they don’t say Alvarez, they’re lying.
Alvarez isn’t just some minor leaguer, he’s a known commodity – a power hitting fiend that’s a force to be reckoned with. Just because he was hurt last year doesn’t mean he should be off the list. Come on MLB Top 100, be better.