Over the weekend, Sports Illustrated dropped their top 100 players rankings *for the 2019 season* and it’s a pretty fun list to investigate. But before we do, note that these rankings are NOT meant to be a representation of overall value (i.e. who you’d rather have over the next five years, or whose contract is better for the long-term, or whatever), but rather who’s likely to provide the most value next season, alone.
The Cubs, you’ll be happy to learn, landed four players on the list, though you could certainly debate the placements:
Kris Bryant – 17th
Anthony Rizzo – 33rd
Javy Baez – 39th
Kyle Hendricks – 53rd
According to the team at SI, Bryant is just the 17th most valuable player in baseball heading into next season. Now, because that includes pitchers, I don’t actually have that much of an axe to grind with his relative positioning. Without the hurlers, Bryant ranks as the 12th best position player, behind the usual suspects (Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, etc.) and some other guys I definitely . wouldn’t take above him (but whatever). Though I gotta say, I was a bit taken aback by the first two sentences of their explanation of his rankings: “Higher than you were expecting? That’s fair.”
SI thought people would expect LOWER? Wuh?
Since his debut in 2015, Bryant’s 23.1 WAR ranks FOURTH in all of baseball, behind only Trout, Betts, and Altuve. And that’s INCLUDING a season he lost almost entirely (time and production) to injury. I know I’m splitting hairs here – it’s not like anybody they chose to place ahead of him was egregious – but it just bothers me that the we’ve already gotten to a point where the default position is “Yeah we know this is probably too high.” Nah, man. At WORST, it’s just about right. Don’t let one injured season erase the memory of three dominant ones.
But whatever. The Cubs have a cost-controlled 27-year-old third baseman who’s – at least – among the top-20 players in baseball. I’ll take it. Kris Bryant Revenge SZN.
And how about that love for Anthony Rizzo? Without the pitchers, Rizzo ranks as the 22nd most valuable position player heading into next season and he gets showered with plenty of love for it: “Ever wonder what it’s like to roll out of bed and produce a .280/.370/.500 slash line with 30 homers and 100 RBIs in an MLB season? Ask Anthony Rizzo.” Rizzo has indeed become a model of consistency over the years and has been an absolutely rock for the Cubs lineup for more than half a decade.
Javy Baez ranks as the 39th most valuable overall player next season and the 27th most valuable position player. That’s obviously a far cry from that top-5 finish we saw the other day (remember not to create mythic expectations!), but is probably fair. Baez was a stud last season, but as we explored in that post, he was really more of a top-20ish player, depending on how his defense and base running are rated. With a little longer track record, he’ll continue to climb these rankings, but let’s take that one season at a time.
And finally, you’ll find Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ only pitcher in the top-100. Hendricks may have found himself on the bottom half of the top-100, but among pitchers he ranks 16th(!) overall. And given the hurlers ahead of him (Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom, Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, Aaron Nola, Carlos Carrasco, Clayton Kershaw, Luis Severino, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, Trevor Bauer, Stephen Strasburg, Blake Snell, Noah Syndergaard), I think that’s a perfectly fair landing spot. In fact, it’s probably a slight touch high, given his thin margin for error, but then again, he just keeps doing it. And SI believes in his second-half dominance and thinks Hendricks can continue being the ERA darling he has been for all of his career (so long as he can keep the ball in the ballpark). I’d actually say that keeping his fastball in the upper-80s, so that it can better play off his change-up, is the more important issue, but it’s all interrelated.
Ultimately, I think the Cubs were treated fairly and that each ranking is likely to be justified by the end of the season. Hopefully, then, with a little luck, guys like Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana, etc. might even sneak up into the conceptual top-100 picture before all is said and done. In fact, I’d bet at least one of those guys does (to say nothing of veterans like Cole Hamels and Jon Lester), but we’ll have to wait and see.
Sports Illustrated has a little bit of an explanation on each of the players they ranked – including more on each Chicago Cub you see above – so be sure to head over there to check out the full list.