The 2017 MLB season has come and gone, and it was memorable for many reasons. The World Series once again came down to a seventh and deciding game. This time, the high-priced Dodgers once again failed to capture a championship as the plucky Houston Astros, motivated partly by bringing some good to their city after it was devastated by Hurricane Harvey, won their first World Series in franchise history.
It was a season full of great performances at the plate, from established players like Jose Altuve and Joey Votto, as well as rookies such as Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger. On the mound, Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer had Cy Young worthy seasons, while the Dodgers Kenley Jansen put his name in the conversation by being lights out in relief.
However, there were just as many dubious performances from well paid and previously successful players. Some managers, too, just couldn’t get it done with teams that could contend. Here are 20 of the most disappointing position players (some in both fielding and batting categories) as well as managers, in no particular order.
20. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Colorado Rockies – Batting And Fielding
In 2016, the Texas Rangers, who were heading to the post-season, decided to trade some of their future to shore up their catching situation. That player was Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, while the players going the other way were top outfield prospect Lewis Brinson and pitcher Luis Ortiz. Lucroy did help down the stretch and got the Rangers to the post-season. However, this season was a disaster at the plate and in the field. His homers, between Texas and Colorado, dipped to just six from a high of 24 during the 2016 campaign, when he was an All-Star. Behind the plate, Lucroy had the worst DWAR of all qualified catchers at -0.2 and he threw out 12 percent fewer runners than he did in 2016. Not a good year, all around.
19. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers – Batting
The Tigers tied the awful San Francisco Giants for the worst record in baseball this season at 64-98. For the most part, just about every player underwhelmed, including Tigers two-time MVP and 11-time All-Star Miguel Cabrera. For $28 million this year, the Tigers got Miggy’s worst performance at the plate in his 15-year major league career. The third highest (on average) paid player in baseball hit just 16 homers in 130 games and drove in a meager 60 runs while batting a personal low .249. This from a guy who averaged 32 homers and 111 RBI in his previous 14 campaigns. Every number he had this year was sub-par, from on-base percentage (.329) to slugging (.399), OPS (.728). Most telling is the fact his offensive WAR went from 4.9 in 2016 to -0.8 this year.
18. Tommy Joseph, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies – Fielding
Drafted in the second round of the 2009, the robust Tommy Joseph is a hit or miss guy at the plate who has slugged 43 homers in his first two seasons in the big leagues with Philly. We say it’s a good thing he was being paid just $543,000 this season, since his fielding leaves much to be desired. Among all qualified first basemen he had the worst DWAR at -1.0 and made eight errors on just 1,014 total chances for a fielding percentage of .992. To add to that, Joseph last his first base job on a bad club late in the season when his offence started to dry up. So even with a very friendly contract, Joseph’s prospects look bleak heading into the 2018 season.
17. Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers – Batting And Fielding
From our count, Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor was the most disappointing at his position both at the plate and in the field. Batting wise, the Venezualan saw his batting average dip to a career low .204 and his strikeouts topped out at a walloping 162 (or one per game). The only redeeming factor were his homers, with 30. His offensive WAR went from a high of 2.4 in 2016 to a dismal -0.8 this year, which was near dead last among all major league second basemen. Defensively, he made the most errors in the major leagues with 19 (.975 fielding percentage) and while his DWAR wasn’t the worst by far, it was a mediocre 0.3. Making matters worse, Odor was on the first year of a six-year, $49.5 million contract.
16. Chase Headley, 3B, New York Yankees – Batting
Third base is supposed to be a “power” position. Too bad there was an outage at the hot corner in the Big Apple this season. Yes, the Yanks made the playoffs and Chase Headley did contribute, but consider that the Yanks were so confident in his abilities at third that they traded for 3B Todd Frazier at the deadline. On a per-game basis, Headley was the lightest hitter in the major leagues among all third sackers. He hit just 12 homers in 512 at bats, tying Pittsburgh’s David Freese at one homer every 43 at bats. He would have also been one of the worst fielding third basemen too, given that in the 86 games he did play there, he made 13 errors and had a DWAR of -0.7 and fielding percentage of .947. But we’ll spare him that dubious distinction.
15. Nicholas Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers – Fielding
Good thing Detroit slugger Castellanos can hit, because he is surely ham-handed at the hot corner. The Tigers everyday third sacker the last four years running posted the worst fielding percentage among his peers (.936), made the most errors (19 on just 298 total chances) and had the worst DWAR at -2.1. What helped his cause was a hot bat, no doubt, as he slugged 36 doubles, 10 triples and 26 homers while driving in 101 runners. But, on a bad team like Detroit, that offensive prowess rings a little hollow. That fielding percentage, by the way, was 14 points lower than his rookie season number and had a hand in him getting starts in the outfield. He’s rumored to be trade fodder for a rebuilding Tigers squad.
14. Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox – Batting And Fielding
While Tim Anderson wasn’t the worst batting shortstop in baseball — he was close — there is no disputing he was the most disappointing overall, given that he was the worst fielder at his position. Much was expected of the 2013 first round pick (17th overall) in his second major league season and so little was delivered. At the dish, Anderson should have improved on a decent 2016 season that saw him finish seventh in AL Rookie of the Year voting. That wasn’t the case as his batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS and WAR all went down and his strikeouts went way up (162 in 146 games). In the field Anderson made the most errors (28), had the worst fielding percentage (.952) and the lowest DWAR at -0.8.
13. Alex Gordon, LF, Kansas City Royals – Batting
It wasn’t that long ago that four time Gold Glove winner Alex Gordon was also a decent hitter. A three-time All-Star and former second overall pick of the Royals, Gordon could do it all, including leading the American League in doubles with 51 in 2012. This past season, though, Gordon was AWOL at the plate, finishing the season with a career worst .208 batting average, while hitting just nine homers (he has never hit below double digit HRs in a full season) and driving in 45 runs in 148 games. His ugly 2017 season at the plate saw his WAR dragged down to a dismal 0.4, which has been in decline for three years running and what used to be one of the highest in all of baseball. The most disappointing thing for the Royals has to be the fact that he is on just the second year of a lucrative four-year, $72 million contract.
12. Kyle Schwarber, LF, Chicago Cubs – Fielding
Schwarber nearly had the daily double in this category if not for the egregious batting by K.C. left fielder Alex Gordon. Schwarber’s troubles at the dish (.211 batting average, 150 strikeouts and 30 HR in 129 games) were more than eclipsed by some shoddy fielding in left. Among qualified players at his position, Schwarber had the fewest total chances at 153, but still made the third most errors with five for a major league worst .967 fielding percentage. His -0.9 DWAR was second worst to Oakland’s Khris Davis who logged a -1.3. Now involved in yet another post-season series, Schwarber’s brutal outfield play very nearly cost the Cubs in game 3 of the NLDS against Washington when he made two errors on the same play. The Cubs did win 2-1 and little wonder he was lifted for a defensive replacement in the seventh.
11. Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds – Batting
For a lead off hitter, Cincinnati Reds centerfielder Billy Hamilton struck out way too many times in 2017. It wasn’t bad enough that he had the second lowest batting average among his confreres at that position at .247, and worst on base percentage of .299, but he also whiffed 133 times against just 44 walks. He also had the fewest homers at four, or seven less than the next guy in line, Atlanta’s Ender Inciarte. The only thing that saves Hamilton from being a total disappointment is the fact that he stole 59 bases, the fourth year in a row that he has eclipsed 50. He has to learn to be more selective at the plate, if he is ever going to be a premier lead-off man.
10. Denard Span, CF, San Francisco Giants – Fielding
Things have gotten pretty fugly for star centerfielder Denard Span in the past few seasons, at the plate and especially in the field. It was no secret, then, that the horrid Giants were shopping him and his $11 million average salary (eighth among all CFs) at the deadline. While he only made two errors in 279 chances this season, Span’s DWAR was by far the worst at his position. Add to that his poor range and weak arm, that opposition hitters took advantage of to get extra bases (he had one lone assist all season). His below average defence, coupled with hitting that has slipped considerably, won’t get him traded anywhere anytime too soon.
9. Jose Bautista, RF, Toronto Blue Jays – Batting And Fielding
Yes, Jose Bautista 23 homers this season, but in terms of that $18.5 million contract he was on, they weren’t near enough to warrant the Jays picking up the option on it for 2018. The fourth highest paid rightfielder in baseball was easily the most disappointing, whether he was batting or in the field. His 2017 numbers were a far cry from his glory years for Toronto, with a slash line that included a career worst .203 batting average and 170 strikeouts, which is a Blue Jays record. And his 65 RBI were four fewer than the 69 he knocked in during the 2016 season, when he played 41 less games. He was also the only major league rightfielder to have a negative WAR at -0.9. Defensively, Bautista’s stock sunk with a major league worst -0.8 DWAR for his position, despite the fact he tied for the lead in assists with 10. His arm, once vaunted, isn’t what it used to be.
8. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies – Batting And Fielding
We reserved one spot here for utility outfielders and at the money the Colorado Rockies were paying Car-Go, he didn’t deliver. Though used primarily as a right fielder this season, Gonzalez has played left and center before. On the last year of a seven-year, $80 million contract that paid him over $20 million this season, the three-time All-Star was tepid at the plate. He hit 65 homers and drove in 197 between 2015 and 2016, but mustered just 14 homers and 57 RBI this season for the resurgent Rockies. The free swinger had his lowest batting average in a full season at .262 and his OPS was also a career low .762. In the field, he had all of three assists and was one of seven right fielders to have a negative DWAR (-0.3). That kind of production at the plate and mediocre outfield play won’t earn him another fat contract.
7. Mark Trumbo, DH, Baltimore Orioles – Batting
There is a reason Mark Trumbo is now pretty much a full-time designated hitter — he’s not much of a fielder. And after a sub-par effort at the dish in 2017, he’s not near as feared as he was in 2016, when he led the AL in homers with 47. Which leads us to believe that that prolific output was a one-off. It was probably a good thing, then, that the Orioles got away with signing him to a three-year, $37.5 million contract last off-season, instead of caving and giving him close to the money that a guy like Edwin Encarnacion commanded ($20 million per season). Across the board, Trumbo didn’t earn his paycheque, hitting just 23 homers and driving in 65, while hitting a moribund .234 and seeing his WAR dip from 1.6 in 2016 to just 0.5 in 2017. American League pitchers figured him out, for the most part.
6. Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves – Rookie
A first overall pick by the Diamondbacks just two years ago, Dansby Swanson was supposed to be the next big thing. The Atlanta Braves swung a deal for the slick shortstop in late 2015 and after plowing his way through two levels of minor league ball earned a late-season call-up to the big club in 2016. He continued his hot-hitting ways in 38 games, hitting .302 with 11 extra base hits and 17 RBI, while being fairly predictable as a freshman in the field with six errors on 129 chances (.953 fielding percentage). This season should have seen him break through as a full-time shortstop, however, he fell flat. Instead of Andrew Benintendi like numbers, Swanson struggled to a rookie worst .232 batting average, as well as qualified rookie lows in homers (6), RBI (51, second lowest), OBP (.312), slugging (.324), OPS (.636) and WAR (-1.0, only negative for first-year players). His .965 fielding percentage, -0.7 DWAR and 20 errors were nothing to write home about, either.
5. Johnny Cueto, P, San Francisco Giants – Starting Pitcher
Two-time All-Star Johnny Cueto was the 12th highest paid starting pitcher (on average) in baseball this season. Too bad he didn’t pitch like it. In just the second year of a rich six-year, $130 million contract, Cueto pretty much stunk the joint out. It was his worst campaign since his rookie season of 2008, when he could be given credit for being a greenhorn. In 25 starts, the 2015 World Series champion had a 8-8 record, 4.52 ERA, no complete games and just 136 strikeouts in 147.1 innings. His WHIP was a career worst 1.446 and his homers per nine innings (1.3) and walks per nine innings (3.2) were only slightly better than in his rookie debut. Cueto, along with Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija, formed likely the worst starting pitcher core in the bigs.
4. Mark Melancon, P, San Francisco Giants – Relief Pitcher
There was just way too much disappointment to go around in the Bay Area this season, so we figured we would just pile it on. Once one of the National League’s premier closers, Melancon saved 131 games between 2014 and 2016, with Pittsburgh and Washington. Which led the Giants to believe that signing him to the sixth best average salary contract among relievers (four years, $62 million) was a good thing this past off-season. But, before an forearm injury scuttled his miserable 2017 campaign, Melancon did not provide elite level closing for the Giants. In 32 games, he saved just 11 and had five blown saves, which is a horrible ratio. He had an unGodly WHIP of 1.433 and surrendered a career worst 11.1 hits per nine innings. The Giants better hope the surgery he had on that bad wing takes.
3. Tyler Glasnow, P, Pittsburgh Pirates – Rookie Pitcher
At 6’8″ and throwing a fastball in the upper 90s, Tyler Glasnow should be one of the most imposing starters in baseball. Too bad he has yet to fulfill any of the promise the Bucs had hoped he would. Sure, it’s early in his career, but the Pirates have given their big prospect much rope to hang himself with. The 24-year-old debuted with Pittsburgh in 2016, going 0-2 with a 4.24 ERA in four starts, along with 24 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. Not bad, all things considered. He made the club out of spring training this year, but quickly pitched his way out of the starting rotation. The final straw as a loss that dropped him to 2-6 on June 9, when he gave up a season high 10 hits in just four innings of work, including six earned runs and two homers against. They promoted him again in September, but he wasn’t any better in mostly a relief role. Overall, Glasnow finished 2-7 with a 7.69 ERA, 2.016 WHIP, 1.9 HR/9 and 6.4 BB/9.
2. John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays – Manager
In the “what have you done lately for me” category among baseball bench bosses there is Toronto’s John Gibbons. A lightning rod for social media criticism, the laid back Montana native did himself no favors this year by mismanaging a former playoff club. The team swung 13 games to the negative in 2017 (89-73 in 2016 to 76-86), missing the post-season by a wide margin. Injuries to key personnel certainly played a part in the reversal, but there was no excuse for that horrid 8-17 mark in April, which pretty much sunk the season. What we noticed about Gibby was the fact he only really started managing when his team was all but out of it in September. That was when he did play well with the deck he was handed, instead of the hands-off approach he used early on, especially in April. Not a banner year for the club, nor Gibbons.
1. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants – Manager
Like the Blue Jays, the Giants were also a playoff ball club in 2016, getting to the NLDS before losing to the Chicago Cubs. Guiding them there was Bruce Bochy, who had won three World Series with the franchise between 2010 and 2014 and who has now coached 11 seasons in the Bay Area. With the same basic line-up as 2016, along with the addition of big closer Mark Melancon, Bochy had more than enough to work with, at least early on. Yet, the season would quickly go off the rails for the long-time manager and the formerly great team, which finished dead last in the NL with a 64-98 mark. An injury to staff ace Madison Bumgarner didn’t help, as did the sub-par seasons from every other starter. Not much could be pinned on Bochy for that, or the fact the team brought back the rotund Pablo Sandoval. What we think, though, is that maybe after 11 years, his message was getting lost and that if the team is to re-build, he may not be the best to manage youngsters.