A couple days ago, we looked at wide receivers who would have much better seasons than the year prior. Today, let’s look at some receivers who will do the opposite: have a much worse season than expected.
Allen Hurns, Dallas Cowboys
After being released by the Jaguars, the Cowboys signed Allen Hurns to a two year, $12 million deal. The expectation seems to be that with no clear cut #1 receiver on the roster, Hurns would become Dak Prescott’s main target. However, there are some things getting in the way of that. Hurns peaked in 2015, with 1031 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Despite doing this with a below average quarterback in Blake Bortles, Hurns was in a good situation to succeed. He didn’t have to be the #1 guy, as Allen Robinson emerged as Bortles’ #1 guy with 1400 receiving yards. Since then, Hurns has failed to reach 500 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons and has failed in a combined 21 of 32 games, struggling with injuries. His 46.1 yards per game the last two seasons is also much lower than his 68.7 yards per game in 2015. The most notable thing that changed in those two seasons was Robinson’s drop in production. Robinson fell to 883 receiving yards in 2016 and then got hurt in the first game last season. This suggests that Hurns is a #2 receiver at best, as he needs a true #1 receiver opposite of him to attract all the attention away from him. Therefore, he is likely to fail to meet expectations as a #1 receiver next season for the Cowboys.
Jordy Nelson, Oakland Raiders
For years, Jordy Nelson was one of the game’s best receivers. However, after a strong start with quarterback Aaron Rodgers last year, Nelson’s production fell off a cliff without him. He finished the year with only 482 receiving yards and six touchdowns and all six touchdowns were with Rodgers. Green Bay saw this downtrend in production and decided it was best to go ahead and release him. Despite all of the red flags previously mentioned, Jon Gruden saw something in Nelson, as Oakland signed him to a two year, $13 million contract. Oakland released wide receiver Michael Crabtree to sign Nelson, so the expectation has to be to have a better season than Crabtree had last year. That means eclipsing 706 receiving yards (Crabtree had 618 in 14 games) and 9 touchdowns (Crabtree had 8 in 14 games). Considering Nelson had just 252 receiving yards in 11 games without Rodgers, putting him on pace for 367 receiving yards, these may be too high of expectations for him. Expect him to continue to regress without Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football.
Danny Amendola, Miami Dolphins
After trading away star receiver Jarvis Landry to the Browns, the Dolphins desperately needed to acquire some receiver help. They settled on Danny Amendola, signing the 32-year-old to a two year, $12 million contract. Despite just starting in 8 games and being part of a crowded Patriots receiving corps, Amendola still put up 659 receiving yards and two touchdowns last season. Therefore, in an extended role, Amendola can be expected to put near Landry’s 987 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns, right? Wrong. Amendola goes from a perfect situation in New England- having Tom Brady as his quarterback with attention on their other offensive weapons- to an awful situation in Miami, where his quarterback will be Ryan Tannehill and he’ll be one of the main weapons. Add in the fact he’s entering the normal age of regression at 32 and probably isn’t at the point of his career to be a normal starter, and this looks like a recipe for disaster.
Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers
After releasing Jordy Nelson, the Packers decided to replace him by signing tight end Jimmy Graham to a three-year deal worth $30 million. The expectation is that Graham will give Rodgers an elite red zone threat with Nelson gone and will be Rodgers’ first good tight end since JaMichael Finley. However, Rodgers doesn’t have a very good history with tight ends. Last year, Green Bay signed Martellus Bennett to be a red zone threat for Rodgers. Instead, he averaged 38.8 yards a game with Rodgers and didn’t have a single touchdown. How about Richard Rodgers, who peaked with 510 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns, but then regressed heavily with just 431 receiving yards over the next two seasons with 3 touchdowns. In fact, Finley had one great season, where he had 767 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns, but he never came close to that type of production again. It seems to be that while Rodgers can take a mediocre tight end and turn him into a pleasant surprise, he can’t take a known commodity to the next level. There’s also question marks with Graham. After a dominant stretch with the Saints where he averages 1099 yards and 12 touchdowns between 2011 and 2014, Graham went on to average just 663 yards and 6 touchdowns as a Seahawk the next three seasons. He also is now 31 years old and looks to be simply a red zone threat. Considering the Packers already have a better red zone threat in Davonte Adams, Graham will likely disappoint and not produce as one of the game’s best tight ends like his contract would indicate.
DJ Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars
Drafted in the second round by the Jaguars, DJ Chark has a chance to be a very solid receiver with his blazing speed and 6’3” frame. However, he’s not in a great situation to do so. Chark is far from the finished product, as he currently has a very limited route tree, isn’t very physical, and isn’t a great ball tracker. He needs an offensive minded coach and a good quarterback to help him develop. Instead, he’s stuck in Jacksonville, with their outdated offensive scheme, and with Blake Bortles as his quarterback. Needless to say, it may take Chark longer to develop as a Jaguar than it would as a Saint or an Eagle. He could eventually overcome this poor situation and become a solid #2 receiver, but the time isn’t now.
The great thing about baseball is that unlike basketball, the best players aren’t always the ones that have the biggest moments in the postseason. Whereas LeBron James always will take the last shot, Mike Trout and Mookie Betts may not have the opportunity to get the clutch hit to win it. Let’s take a look at one overlooked player on each contender (5 games back or less) who could end up playing a pivotal rule in the playoffs. We’ll go from worst record to best record.
Pittsburgh Pirates: IF/OF Adam Frazier
The obvious choice would be David Freese, who is a postseason legend for his heroics in the 2011 world series for the Cardinals. Instead, let’s look at Adam Frazier, who is doing a lot of things right. After a hitting just .239/.323/.355 in the first half, he is hitting .435/.438/.696 in the second half. He also is extremely flexible, as he can play every infield and outfield spot. That means it will be easy to get him playing time while also mixing and matching depending on matchups. He’s also been solid versus both righties (.286 AVG) and lefties (.300), which will be big in the postseason as opposing managers won’t be able to match up against him with various relievers. Adam Frazier may not be an everyday starter, but his flexibility will help out the Pirates out a lot. Plus, he’s getting hot at the right time and may sneak his way into an everyday role.
Washington Nationals: RP Greg Holland
Once a big-time closer, Greg Holland faded after signing with the Cardinals on a one year/$14 million contract. With the Cardinals, he had a 7.92 ERA, 2.24 WHIP, and an atrocious 7.9 BB/9. He signed with the Nationals after being released by St.Louis and is now a reclamation project for Washington. So far, the results have been a little more promising. He’s thrown three scoreless innings for the Nationals, is striking batters out well *15.4 K/90> granted, it’s a very small sample size, and his 2.25 FIP shows that he has been a little lucky. He also has issued 2 walks in 3 innings, keeping up the pace he had with the Cardinals. However, if Holland can finally regain his command with the Nationals, then he could be a useful asset. It’s important to remember that despite this season, Holland still has a career 2.92 ERA and 2.58 FIP. He also signed on opening day and didn’t get the luxury of having a spring training so he may need some time to “get right”. if he does get back on track though, then he could be a valuable late-inning reliever to a Nationals team that could use some extra help in their bullpen, as closer Sean Doolittle and set up man Kelvin Herrera are hurt and they traded away relievers Brandon Kintzler and Shawn Kelly.
St.Louis Cardinals: INF Jedd Gyroko
Jedd Gyroko is not a perfect player by any means. His plays below average defense at second base (-1 drs) and struggles vs righties (.224 AVG). However, he does a lot of things well, as he plays above average defense at third base (7 drs) and rakes vs lefties (.329 AVG). He probably won’t ever be an everyday player, but he is still an excellent platoon option vs southpaws. That’s important, considering most of the top contenders rely on strong lefties. Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, Patrick Corbin, Kyle Freeland, and Sean Newcomb are all lefties the Cardinals may have to face if the Cardinals make the playoffs. Rather than play Matt Carpenter at third and Kolten Wong at second, St.Louis could move Carpenter to second and Gyroko to third. That would upgrade their offense while not losing out on defense despite not having Wong’s stellar fielding at second since Gyroko is an above average defender at third. Even in pinch-hit situations, Gyroko could come up with big at-bats vs tough lefty relievers. In the postseason, having an excellent platoon or pinch hit options are critical, and Gyroko provides that for the Cardinals vs lefties while also providing some versatility and solid defense at the hot corner.
Colorado Rockies: SP Jon Gray
Coming into this season, Jon Gray was expected to improve upon his 3.67 ERA and officially become the ace of the Rockies. Instead, he’s flopped with a 4.81 ERA. Or has he? Gray’s 3.22 FIP suggests he’s been an extreme victim of bad luck this season. It’s also unclear what’s quote on quote “wrong with him”. His walk rate is excellent (2.62 BB/9), as his strikeout rate (10.46 K/9) and his home run rate (.99 HR/9). He’s also forced a lot of ground balls at a 1.67 FB/BB rate, so his .337 batting average balls in play suggest he’s inducing a lot of ground balls that are finding holes for base hits. That bad luck is starting to wear off, as he has a 2.57 ERA in the second half. Assuming Gray continues to put together quality outings, he could once again become Colorado’s top starter. Therefore, he may be the guy called upon to start the wild-card game or a Game 1.
Atlanta Braves: SP Kevin Gausman
When the Braves traded for Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, they strictly did it for his potential, not the current pitcher he is. While he has always had excellent stuff, he’s never been able to put it together and had a 4.43 ERA with the Orioles. Gausman may be tapping into that potential sooner than expected, as he has given up four runs in 13 innings with a 10-2 K-BB ratio. Gausman suffered from a high batting average balls in play ( and a high homerun rate with Baltimore. With Atlanta, both of those issues are fixed. Gausman’s high ground ball rate (1.45 GB/FB) suggest that he, like Jon Gray, may have been inducing a lot of ground balls with eyes. They likely were finding holes due to Baltimore’s below average infield defense, but with Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman, Atlanta’s infield defense is much better. As for his high home run rate, Gausman is going from having one of the most hitter-friendly parks in Camden Yards being his home (6th highest HR rate this season) to one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in Sun Trust Park (28th highest HR rate this season). With those two red flags being easily fixed, Gausman could become a frontline starter for Atlanta right away. While he may not be ahead of all-star Mike Foltynewicz or Sean Newcomb, he still could start in Game 3, which would put him in line to start Game 7. Expect him to thrive if given the opportunity.
Philadelphia Phillies: OF Roman Quinn
In the postseason, outfielders with great speed and defense tend to thrive. Just ask Jarrod Dyson, who made a name for himself by proving to be a very useful asset for the Royals in their World Series runs in 2014 and 2015. Now, Roman Quinn has a chance to make that same impact. Quinn’s 80-grade speed makes him one of the fastest men in all of baseball. His 205 career steals in the minor leagues indicates that he’s a prolific base stealer, while his excellent on-base skills give him the opportunity to constantly steal bases. Quinn’s 60-grade fielding and 55-grade arm also give him to chance to make an impact as a defensive replacement to Nick Williams (-9 drs) or Rhys Hoskins (-16 drs). Due to Phillies’ lack of speed and outfield defense, Quinn may be called upon to fix those two things late in the game. Whether it’s stealing a base or making an outstanding play in the field, he’ll definitely make an impact in the postseason.
Arizona Diamondbacks: INF Daniel Descalso
With third baseman Jake Lamb out for the season, the Diamondbacks need someone to replace him. Sure, they can insert newly acquired Eduardo Escobar in there, but that still leaves them with a weak hitting middle infield with second baseman Ketel Marte (.250/.320/.422) and shortstop Nick Ahmed (.244/.299/.457). Insert Daniel Descalso. The 31-year-old is in the midst of a breakout season with an excellent .844 OPS, so he’s an offensive upgrade over both of these two. He’s versatile, as he’s played second base, third base, first base, and outfield. That makes it easy to get his bat into the lineup, where second base may be the best place to put him, as he’s been fine there (1 drs). While Marte provides value as a switch-hitter, he’s only been good vs lefties (.303 AVG). Descalso could at the very least be a platoon option with Marte, as he’s a left-handed hitter with solid power. However, Desclaso has actually been better vs lefties (.269 AVG) and therefore could end up as an everyday player due to being less of a platoon player and more consistent than Marte. It wouldn’t hurt to add a lefty in the lineup to truly replace Lamb’s lefty power as well. The last thing on Desclaso’s side is that he has a track record of being excellent in the postseason, as he’s hit .333 for his career in the playoffs. With a track record of coming through in the clutch, excellent on-base skills and power, and versatility, Desclaso should be a big part of Arizona’s playoff push.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RP Scott Alexander
While the Dodgers certainly have the offensive firepower and excellent starting pitching, but their lackluster bullpen may be holding them back from being the clear-cut best team in the National League. The trouble most of the year has been getting the ball to closer Kenley Jansen, but now Jansen is out for at least a month with health issues. Therefore, it’s safe to say that they need someone in their bullpen to step up. Could Scott Alexander be that guy? The 29-year-old lefty has had an excellent season, posting a 3.42 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and a 3.33 FIP. With a power sinker in his arsenal, he is inducing ground balls at a 71.4% rates, while also inducing more soft contact (27.9%) than hard contact (24.3%), and rarely gives up home runs (0.34 HR/9). He also could be called upon to get some of the game’s best left-handed hitters out (Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Christian Yelich), as lefties are hitting just .189/.277/.243 vs him this year. In the playoffs, teams need relievers to be able to get lefties out, force double play balls, and not give up home runs. Alexander checks all of those boxes.
Milwaukee Brewers: RP Corbin Burnes
There’s no question that the Brewers have a lineup capable of going up against top-tier pitching in the postseason. There is a question, however, if they have enough pitching to make a World Series run. Top pitching prospect Corbin Burnes could definitely help. As a reliever this season, he has a 3.86 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 3.01 FIP. He possesses a deadly cut fastball that helps him hold lefties to a .150/.200/.151 slash line and has a solid K-BB ratio of 15-4. While he could help the rotation tremendously, manager Craig Counsell has said multiple times that Burnes will stay in the bullpen for the rest of the year. Since the rotation is a weak-link, Burnes may be called upon to come into games earlier than expected and pitch multiple innings. In the wildcard game, Milwaukee may choose to rely on their bullpen with no clear ace on their staff and Burnes will likely be the first person called upon. Therefore, he may end up being the most used and most impactful pitcher for the Brewers. Believe or not, Milwaukee’s faith could rely on a 23-year-old rookie who started the year in the minors.
Cleveland Indians: RP Oliver Perez
A midseason pickup for the Indians, Oliver Perez has been a tremendous surprise. The 36-year-old left-hander has a 1.37 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, and 1.79 FIP this season. His 10.32 K/9, 0.92 BB/9, and 0.46 HR/9 make him a very complete reliever right now. He also hasn’t been just a lefty specialist, as he’s dominated righties (.074/.138/.074) as well as lefties (.171/.171/.275). With Cleveland’s bullpen struggling so much, Perez could end up being one of the main relievers used. If he continues to pitch at this rate, he’ll be vital in a postseason run.
Seattle Mariners: 1B Ryon Healy
Ryon Healy has been far from a perfect player this season for the Mariners. He has a -0.4 WAR, -9 drs, and only a .271 OBP. However, more can be expected to come soon for Healy. Remember, Healy had a .305 average and .271 average in his two previous seasons with the A’s (was traded to Seattle this offseason). His .252 batting average balls in play doesn’t go along with his career-high 34.6% hard contact rate. That suggests that he may the victim of some bad luck. At the very least, he’s still a major power threat (.448 SLG) who actually hits righties better than lefties, as he has a .246 average with 16 home runs vs right handers. When Seattle needs a homer when trailing late vs righty relievers such as Blake Treinen, Lou Trivo, Jeurys Familia, Craig Kimbrel, Cody Allen, and Hector Rondon, Healy could be the guy who comes through.
Chicago Cubs: RP Jesse Chavez
When Jesse Chavez was traded for the Cubs, most people ignored the news. Now, he’s turned into a dominant reliever for the Cubs. Since joining the Cubs, he has a 1.42 ERA in 12.2 innings (9 appearances). He also has a 9.9 K/9 and 0.7 BB/9 since joining Chicago. His ability to pitch multiple innings is also important, as he could be an insurance plan if their inconsistent rotation fails to eat innings. Chavez’s ability to not surrender free passes, induce more ground balls than fly balls (1.32 GB/FB), and still strike batters out at a respectable rate makes him a great option as a multi-inning reliever.
Oakland Athletics: OF/1B Mark Canha
One of the main reasons that the A’s have exceeded expectations this season and currently hold the second AL Wildcard is that a lot of their developed players have produced at a high rate this season. This year, Canha is hitting .256/.331/.450 with 14 home runs this season. His main tool is his ability to crush lefties, as he’s hitting .293 with 11 home runs against them. He’s also versatile, as he can play all three outfield spots and first base. These two things are very important, considering that if Oakland were to win the wildcard game, their opponent would be the Boston Red Sox. Boston relies heavily on their lefty starters (Chris Sale, David Price), so it’s important that Canha would be in there to face them and jumpstart the A’s offense. His versatility will give him the opportunity to just that vs lefties, and he won’t disappoint.
Houston Astros: RP Collin McHugh
When you think of the Astros, you think of their dominant rotation, outstanding lineup, and the new additions in the bullpen. The player who continues to get overlooked, however, is Collin McHugh. The 31 one-year-old right-hander has an incredible 0.98 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and 2.49 FIP. He’s striking out batters at an excellent rate (11.45 K/9) and limiting the free passes (2.13 BB/9), which gives him an unbelievable 5.38 K-BB ratio. He’s been pretty much unhittable vs righties (.100/.168/.192) AND lefties (.186/.263/.291). Also as a former starter, he has the ability to pitch at a high level for multiple innings, which becomes useful in both extra innings and if anyone in the rotation somehow fails to go deep into a start. After pitching six innings in the entire 2017 postseason and being an afterthought, Collin McHugh is on the verge of becoming Houston’s most reliable reliever for the postseason.
New York Yankees: SP Lance Lynn
Most people were confused when the Yankees decided to trade for Lance Lynn. The 31-year-old had a 5.10 ERA as a member of the Twins and was walking batters at an atrocious rate (5.5 BB/9). However, Lynn has been excellent for the Yankees. After being inserted in the rotation to replace the struggling Sonny Gray, Lynn hasn’t disappointed. In three appearances (two games started) he has a 0.54 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 1.24 FIP. Even more important, his walks are way down (2.2 BB/9), while his strikeouts are way up (11.9 K/9). A change of scenery seems to be all Lynn needed to regain his form as a solid #3 starter. Considering that the Yankees rotation outside of ace Luis Severino seems to be the weak link, they need as much rotation help as possible if they want to make a playoff push. Lynn may have been the missing piece for a championship, assuming he continues to produce like a #3 starter.
Boston Red Sox: CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
The Boston Red Sox have two AL MVP candidates (JD Martinez and Mookie Betts), a Cy Young candidate (Chris Sale), arguably the best closer (Craig Kimbrel), and three rising stars (Xander Boegarts, Andrew Benintendi, and Rafael Devers). Therefore, it can easy to overlook Jackie Bradley Jr. The 28-year-old is only hitting .218/.308/.388, but Statcast suggests he’s actually performing much better than that. His expected batting average is .266, while his expected slugging is .493. His average exit velocity is higher than ever before (91.6), he has a higher barrel percentage this year (11.0%), and his hard hit percentage is a career-high 47.8%. At some point, his bad luck is going to wear off, and luckily for Boston, that’s going to be in the postseason at this point. Even if it doesn’t wear off for whatever reason, Bradley can still make an impact with his baserunning (12 stolen bases) and with his stellar fielding (career 45 drs). With so many ways to make an impact and with the stats showing that he may on the verge of an offensive breakout, Jackie Bradley Jr. may play a huge role for the Red Sox in a World Series run.
Wide receivers tend to see their production go up and down through years. Besides Antonio Brown, every receiver needs to have a good situation to succeed. Whether it be a better offensive scheme, better quarterback, or better health, certain changes for the better are what help receivers go from mediocre production to elite production. Let’s look at five receivers who will have better seasons this year.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Julio Jones is the exception on this list. Unlike the other receivers on this list, he had no major changes to his supporting cast, outside of rookie Calvin Ridley. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will also be calling the plays once again for Atlanta. Jones also already has the reputation as an elite receiver and had 1444 receiving yards last year. However, Jones only had three touchdowns last year and struggled in the Red Zone. Atlanta struggled as a whole, as they only had a 49.18% Red Zone Touchdown Scoring Percentage. “It’s very important for me and Matt (Ryan) to be on the same page down there in the red zone,” Jones said to Vaughn McClure of ESPN. As Jones looks to improve his Red Zone production and Sarkisian looks to improve Atlanta’s Red Zone efficiency, the common denominator is Jones getting more opportunities in the Red Zone. That should all lead to Jones seeing his touchdown total go back up and once agin living up to the hype of one of the game’s receivers.
Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
Drafted #5 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, Corey Davis struggled with injuries last season and failed to make a big impact. However, Davis should have a much better sophomore season. Davis did miss some practice time with a hamstring injury, but the injury looks to be minor. As long as he stays healthy during the season, he has a clear line to being the top receiver in a receiving corps that currently lacks a #1 caliber receiver. In a divisional round loss to the Patriots last year, Davis had two touchdowns. Therefore, it’s safe to conclude that Davis and quarterback Marcus Mariota already share the chemistry needed to succeed. As Mariota looks to take a step forward this season, expect for him to rely on Davis to be his main target. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that meant a 1000 yard season for Davis.
TY Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
Last year was the first year that TY Hilton didn’t eclipse 1000 receiving yards since his rookie season. The main reason for that was that quarterback Andrew Luck missed the entire season with a shoulder injury. With Luck back in training camp, it’s looking more and more likely he’ll be cleared to play this season. Assuming he stays healthy, Hilton’s production should skyrocket this season. Luck and Hilton’s chemistry seems to have not taken a beat, as according to new coach Frank Reich, “they’re completely in sync.” As Luck tries to get back in the groove and shake off the rust, he may even rely on Hilton a little more as his safety target. Remember, Hilton led the league in receiving in 2016 with Luck, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he did agin this year with Luck back healthy.
Jake Butt, Denver Broncos
During this series, there has been a rookie considered in each one of these articles. Since Broncos tight end Jake Butt missed his entire rookie year with a knee injury, we’ll consider him a rookie. Butt’s great hands and potential as an elite receiving tight end would’ve made him a first round pick, if not for him suffering a Torn ACL is his last ever college game at Michigan. According to Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, Butt looks “totally healthy”. That’s great news for the Broncos and for Butt, as he should become the team’s top tight end. There’s not much competition for the spot, as he should easily beat out Jeff Heurman for the starting job. Butt has already earned praise for new quarterback Case Keenum, who was quoted saying that Butt “wants the ball and I love that. He’s hungry right now for knowledge, for how to run routes, for how to maneuver with leverage “. If Butt can earn Keenum’s trust, which is seems like he has, he could be in line for an excellent 2018 campaign.
Evan Engram, New York Giants
Drafted in the first round in the 2017 draft, tight end Evan Engram had an excellent rookie season, with 722 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. He did all of that amidst ll the chaos with former head coach Ben McAdoo and with an offense that had no running game or threats around him. That’ll change in 2018. Former Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmer takes over as the head coach, and has already made an impact in putting stability in place in the locker room. The Giants drafted running back Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick, which opens it up for Engram, who could be a major threat in play action. Barkley has also lined up at receiver, which is critical. If a safety has to switch to Barkley, than that leaves Engram lined up in a mismatch with a linebacker, which Engram will surely take advantage of Engram won’t be the only receiving threat this year, as star reciever Odell Beckham Jr. is set to return from an ankle injury he suffered in Week 5 last season. With so many weapons to concentrate on with the Giants offense, Engram may be the overlooked one by defenses, and will likely have a monster season as a result.
On MLB Network “MLB Tonight”, host Brian Kinney made his claim for why Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain should win the NL MVP. Analysts Harold Reynolds and Joe Girardi then responded by claiming that Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs should win that award. Their not the only ones, as fans (especially Cubs fans) are proclaiming Baez as the MVP front-runner. They point to his excellent base running, his flashy defensive plays, and his power to why he is deserving of the award. However, fans and analysts have ignored several red flags from Baez. These red flags show that Baez is not only undeserving of the MVP award, but he’s nothing more than a serviceable starter.
Sure, Baez’s .300 average, 25 home runs, and 88 home runs look excellent at first glance, but there’s more to it than that. He only has a .333 on-base percentage(OBP). That OBP is good enough to rank tied for 82nd in the MLB. It’s also lower than Denard Span (.348), Derek Dietrich (.349), and Jurickson Profar (.338). These guys are role players at best, and if you’re an MVP candidate, role players can’t even be in the same conversation as you. Baez’s .300 average is better than Span’s (.268), Dietrich’s (.285), and Profar’s (.252). However, one’s batting average only shows how often a player gets a hit. One’s on-base percentage, on the other hand, shows how often they get on base, whether it be a hit or walk. That means that Baez gets out more than all of those three role players, which shows how one dimensional of a hitter he is. His 3.8% BB rate is the main cause of this substantially low OBP, and it has haunted him his entire career (career 4.5 BB%). As a hitter, the primary goal should be to get on base in any way they can. Baez’s low walk rate shows that he doesn’t do that, which means he isn’t as valuable of a hitter as people give him credit for.
Let’s continue with Baez’s issues as a hitter and take a look at his high strikeout rate. He’s striking out in 23.8% amount of his plate appearances this season. To add onto that, he is swinging at almost half of the pitches thrown to him outside the zone (49.1%). This explains the low walk rate and further shows Baez’s one dimensional way of hotter than is borderline selfish. He’s not giving his team any better of a chance to score runs by not taking his walks. Yoan Moncada leads the league in strikeouts but has nearly three times the amount of walks as Baez. So whereas most high strikeout hitters take their walks when given the opportunity, Baez doesn’t do that. Because of that, Baez is incapable of hitting at the top of the order, where a high OBP is a must. Constantly relying on a pitcher to make mistakes over the middle of the plate is a bad habit, and it will come back to bite Baez when facing top-tier competition in the playoffs.
Now, on to another overrated part of Baez’s game, which is his fielding. Despite being considered one of the game’s best fielders, he only has 4 defensive runs saved (DRS) and 1.4 ultimate zone rating (UZR) at second base. At short, those numbers don’t any better, with 1 DRS and 0.3 UZR. In comparison, Francisco Lindor (11 DRS, 8.7 UZR), Andrelton Simmons (15 DRS, 13.2 UZR), Brandon Crawford (10 DRS, 2.9 UZR), and Ian Kinsler (11 DRS, 7.7 UZR) are just a few of the many middle infielders that are better defenders than Baez. Just because Baez makes some flashy plays defensively doesn’t mean he is a good defender, as he definitely isn’t the most consistent.
One thing I’ll give Baez is that he’s fearless as a base runner. He isn’t afraid to go for the extra base, no matter what the situation. However, his aggressive base running can sometimes become too aggressive, which results in unnecessary outs being made. Plus, he’s not as good of a base stealer as people give him credit for. For baserunning to be one of your main cases for MVP, you should rank Top 5 in stolen bases. Instead, Baez is tied for 14th in the MLB. So let’s drop the case that Baez is an elite base stealer. Yes, he’s flashy, but being flashy doesn’t mean he is productive.
Not only is Javier Baez the most overrated player in the MLB, it isn’t even close. He’s not close to an MVP-caliber player and is nothing more than a serviceable starter. So, let’s slow down with the hype and acknowledge players who actually help the team and don’t just try to look flashy.
For many reasons, running backs tend to regress harder than any other position. Whether it comes from wearing down, changed offensive scheme, or offensive line changes, there is a lot that can go wrong for them from year to year. Here are five running backs that will disappoint this season.
Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins
After the Dolphins traded lead back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles during midseason last year, Kenyan Drake exploded onto the scene. The Alabama product rushed for 644 yards and 4.8 yards per attempt, and also had 239 receiving yards. Since he only was the lead back for half a season, it’s easy to imagine Drake’s numbers spiking up as the lead guy for a whole season. However, there are some things that get in the way of Drake continuing to produce at such a high level. For starters, Miami released center Mike Pouncey during the offseason. Pouncey is one of the game’s better centers, and his presence will be missed when the offensive line needs to open up holes for Drake to get into open space. The Dolphins signed running back Frank Gore in the offseason, which means Drake will go back to being a complimentary back rather than the main guy. Expect Gore to get a lot of short yard and goal-line carries, which could hurt Drake’s touchdown numbers. Since Drake came out of nowhere last year, it was hard at first for defenses to adjust and have a game plan to stop him. Most of Drake’s production came in a two-week stretch vs the Broncos and Patriots in Weeks 13 and 14, where he rushed for 214 yards and had 100 receiving yards. This shows Drake may be just a product of a couple good games, considering his production tailed off before and after that two-week performance. Drake’s inconsistency will hurt him as he tries to put up the production of an elite running back, especially considering Miami has done almost everything possible to put him in a bad situation to succeed in.
LeSean Mccoy, Buffalo Bills
Sticking with the AFC East, LeSean McCoy is set to have a down year for multiple reasons. For starters, it’s unclear that he’ll be able to even play. The NFL is currently investigating McCoy’s role in an alleged home invasion of his ex-girlfriend. If they conclude that he was involved, he could face serious discipline that could cost him at least most of the season. Even if they find him not guilty and he can play, there’s no guarantee that McCoy will have a good season. For starters, his yards per attempt went down from 5.4 in 2016 to 4.0 in 2017. It took him 287 carries to get 1138 last year when it only took him 234 to get 1267 the year before. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor helped open up the running game for McCoy, as he was constantly a threat to run as a dual-threat quarterback. Now, he’s with the Browns after the Bills traded him for a third-round pick. That means McCoy will either be taking handoffs from q career backup in AJ McCarron, a rookie in Josh Allen, or Nathan Peterman, who threw five interceptions in the first half of his first career game. Think it couldn’t get worse for McCoy? It does. The offensive line is much worse than it was a year ago, with both center Eric Wood and guard Richie Incognito retired. Buffalo wasn’t able to find suitable replacements for either of them, which means a 30-year-old McCoy will have to create holes and make plays for himself. Add in the fact he has to learn a new scheme with Brian Daboll taking over as offensive coordinator, and this has the makings of a disaster season for McCoy.
Carlos Hyde, Cleveland Browns
After signing with the Browns, Carlos Hyde will be a part of a running back by committee that involves rookie Nick Chubb and receiving back Duke Johnson Jr. Together, the three could form a lethal trio, but that doesn’t mean that Hyde will have a successful season. Only averaging 4 yards per carry, Hyde is more of a bell cow than a complementary piece. In other words, his best trait is his ability is to take on at least 15-25 carries a game, which is being wasted in a running back by committee. In San Francisco, Hyde was the main back and still wasn’t able to eclipse 1000 yards. Therefore, he may not even break 500 yards in a running back by committee. Chubb and Hyde share very similar traits as inside runners. Since Chubb is the younger options with higher upside and the Browns will almost certainly not be in the playoff race, Cleveland may be inclined to give Chubb the bulk of playing times on rushing plays. That could hurt Hyde, especially since he still has at least 2-4 years left of his prime self before he regresses as he ages.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Part of a two-headed rushing attack with rookie Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram had his best season as a pro last year. He rushed for 1124 yards, had 4.9 yards per carry, and added on 418 receiving yards. However, he almost certainly won’t be able to put up those kind of numbers again. Ingram is suspended for the first four games of the season due to violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. Once he comes back, it could take him a while to get going, as Ingram is a notoriously slow starter. Usually, it’s okay for Ingram to take some time to get in his groove because he finds usually by Week 5 or 6, and doesn’t look back. Last season, he didn’t have a performance with 100 combined yards until Week 6, but he had six more after that. However, by the time he’s in his groove, it will already be Week 11 or 12. The Saints won’t be able to let Ingram get back into the groove slowly if he struggles until then so they may turn to other backs such as Kamara, or newly signed Terrance West to fill the void. The Saints have already started to look past Ingram, as he’s in a contract year. This suspension and the struggles that may follow may speed up that process.
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
Drafted in the second round, Kerryon Johnson is expected to the be the Lions’ running back of the future. That should eventually happen, but it may take longer than one would expect. Johnson was the bell cow for the Auburn Tigers last year, as he had 24 carries a game. However, that likely won’t be the case with the Lions. Detroit is notorious for being a pass first team, especially since offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter took over. Last season, they ranked 31st in the NFL and last in the NFC in rush attempts, with only 363. That’s only 22-23 carries a game, which is less than what Johnson alone received at Auburn last year. Detroit will split carries with Johnson, newly signed LeGarrette Blount, and former second-round pick Ameer Abdullah. Receiving back Theo Riddick also will be used on passing downs, meaning Johnson will mostly be a one-dimensional complementary piece for the Lions. Considering that the Lions haven’t had a 100-yard rusher in a game since Reggie Bush four years in 2013. Johnson could break that curse if given the chance to be the bell cow, but since he’ll be a complementary piece in a pass-first offense, the drought will live on past 2018.
Every year, there are the teams that do exactly what they wanted to at the trade deadline. Then, there are the teams that completely fall flat on their face at the deadline. The former would qualify as a winner, while the latter qualifies as a loser. Let’s take a closer look at the winners and losers from the trade deadline.
Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
When you land the best player on the trade market, you’re automatically a winner at the trade deadline. When you land that player without trading any of your main prospects, that’s just unfair. That’s what happened for the Dodgers, who landed superstar Manny Machado for a package centered around prospect Yusniel Diaz. Diaz is a solid prospect with high upside, but the Dodgers could afford to lose him. They have lots of young outfielders, with Alex Verdugo, Joc Pederson, DJ Peters, Jeren Kendall, Yasiel Puig, among others. What they couldn’t afford to do was part with either of their top catching prospects, Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith. Ruiz has the potential to be an excellent two-way catcher while Smith has the versatility to play pretty much anywhere. They also held onto top pitching prospect Dustin May and didn’t have to offer either of their top pitching prospects in Mitchell White or Yadier Alvarez to complete this deal. That would’ve been enough to be satisfied, but the hungry Dodgers made more moves. They bought low on second baseman Brian Dozier, who’s only slashing .232/.310/.425. However, he already has two home runs in two games as a Dodgers and is notorious for dominating in the second half. Because they bought low on Dozier, they didn’t give any of their top 15 prospects to get him. That makes this trade a low risk-high reward type of move. If Dozier goes on a there, the Dodgers lineup will be unstoppable. If he doesn’t, they move on while still maintaining all their top prospects. To top it off, they added John Axford to provide bullpen depth. The Dodgers now have the best lineup in the National League and are the by far the best team in National League. The potential reward for making all these moves to improve their lineup? A World Series title, which they haven’t had in 29 years.
Loser: Baltimore Orioles
Now, let’s look at Manny Machado’s former team. The Baltimore Orioles came into the trade deadline with a chance to add premier young talent in exchange for their top players (Machado, 2B Jonathan Schoop, SP Kevin Gausman, RP Zach Britton, OF Adam Jones). Instead, they failed miserably and accomplished close to nothing from their firesale. Sure Diaz is a solid prospect, but he isn’t good enough to be the only main piece in return for a super star in Machado, who has coveted by several teams. (Full Analysis on Machado Trade) They then failed miserably in trading Zach Britton, settling on a deal that didn’t even net them a top five prospect in their farm system. The three guys they got in the Britton trade are all 24 or olders, which doesn’t match their window of contention, which is at least 5-10 years away. If things couldn’t get any worse, they traded arguably their best pitcher in Kevin Gausman, who has lots of upside and three years of control, for nothing more than four prospects who all earned a 45 overall grade from MLB.Com. That means all of these prospects aren’t likely to develop into anything beside role players. The Rays got three significant pieces for Chris Archer, who’s ERA isn’t much lower than Gausman. The Orioles should have been able to get at least one significant piece for Gausman, and they didn’t have to trade him if they weren’t getting thosetype of offers. The last trade they made, which they also screw up, was a trade that sent Jonathan Schoop to Millwaukee. They got two prospects, pitching prospect Luis Ortiz and infield prospect Jean Carmona, as well 2B Jonathan Villar. Ortiz will be nothing more than a #4 starter, Carmona will never hit .240, and getting Villar doesn’t matter because they won’t contend any way. Schoop was controlled through next year, so once again it doesn’t make sense that they’d settle on such a bad return.
Winner: Atlanta Braves
The Braves may have not filled immediate needs as well as they could have, but they continued to set themselves up for a bright future. They acquired two controllable players in OF Adam Duvall and Kevin Gausman. Now, neither are having good seasons, as Duvall is hitting .204 and Gausman has an ERA of 4.43. However, there is hope for both. Duvall’s expected average should be .245, meaning he an extreme victim of bad luck. He also is a great defender who already has 10 defensive runs saved this season and still has great power, as had over 30 home runs in both 2016 and 2017. Gausman’s high ground ball rate and low hard contact rate means he needs a good infield defense to succeed, which Baltimore didn’t have. Fortunately for him, Atlanta’s infield is one of the better ones defensively with Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman. He also had to play in the very tough AL East, so a move to the National League should help him tremendously. Because neither of these guys are having subpar seasons, Atlanta didn’t have to part with any of their top 10 prospects, so there isn’t any risk in acquiring these guys. The reward is tremdous though, as Duvall could be a middle of the order bat that helps the Braves outfield defense, while Gausman could be a front-line starter if his potential gets tapped into. They also added two relievers in Jonny Venters and Brad Brach, and only had to give up international bonus money that is insignificant to them. (They are barred from spending over $300K)
Loser: Houston Astros
When you’re the defending champs, 20+ games over .500, and have no glaring needs, who don’t need to make uneccesary trades. That’s exactly what the Astros did, as they acquired closer Roberto Osuna from the Blue Jays. Osuna is currently suspended for violating the league’s domestic policy, something that may not sit well with an Astros clubhouse that has zero tolerance for domestic violence. Despite all of their talent, the best thing the Astros have going for them is their excellent chemsitry. That chemsitry is getting put to jeopardy with this trade for Osuna. They also traded away two solid prospects for Ryan Pressly, who adds depth, but how much depth do you need in the bullpen when it ranks 3rd in the MLB with a 3.15 ERA. The only move they made to improve the offense was acquiring Martin Maldonado, who plays excellent defense but has a .215 average. He’s pretty much a clone of Brian McCan, but a worse hitter, who will be of no use come playoff time when he’s the third catcher on their depth chart behind McCann and Max Stassi. It feels strange to say this, but Houston should’ve looked to help their lineup, as they’ve gotten limited production from left field (.236/.314/.367) and could use some depth with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa on the disabled list. Instead they decided to try to upgrade an already outstanding bullpen my making a contreversal trade that could deteriate the club’s chemistry that has built the foundation of their success.
Winner: Pittsburgh Pirates
When the Pirates traded their franchise player in Andrew McCutchen to the Giants and ace Gerrit Cole to the Astros, they looked like they were heading towards a long and grueling rebuild. Instead, a recent hot streak put them in the race for the second wildcard, which prompted them to be buyers at the trade deadline. They added two controllable pitchers in starter Chris Archer and reliever Keone Kela. Archer is a two-time All Star and Kela has 2.98 FIP. Both also have three years control, so they’ll be a big part of the Pirates past this season. When you’re a small market team like the Pirates that want to contend, you need the acquire pitching at a low cost because you don’t have the money to sign a big name pitcher in free agency. They gave up four signifcant pieces for Kela and Archer, as they had to give up their #7 ranked rospect in LHP Taylor Hearn for Kela and OF Austin Meadows, SP Tyler Glasnow, and a significant player to be named later for Archer. However, all have their red flags that made it reasonable for the Pirates to use them to get their coveted targets. Hearn only has two effective pitches, and coule be headed towards being stricly a reliever. Meadows has injury history, barely walks, and plays below average defense, while Glasnow has flopped and has career 5.7 BB/9. Unless the player tob be named later is either of their top pithcing prospects Mitch Keller or Shane Baz, or either of their top position player prospects 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes or OF Travis Swaggerty, they also did a tremdous job in the Archer trade. The Pirates acquired the two most coveted pitchers at the trade deadline that are both cheap and controlled for a more than reasonable price, which sets them up excellent for this year and beyond.
Loser: Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies have a legit chance to make the playoffs, as they’re two games outof the NL West and 2.5 games back of the second NL Wildcard. They’re also running out of time, with Nolan Arenado set to be a free agent after next season, Charlie Blackmon starting to regress, and DJ LeMahieu set to be a free agent after this season. They also have a strong enough farm system to add an elite reliever, an extra bat, or a front-line starter. Therefore, it would make sense for the Rockies to make a big trade at the deadline right? Not if you ask Rockies general manger Jeff Bridich, as the only move they made was acquiring RP Seungwhan Oh from the Blue Jays to add depth. That’ll help fix a bullpen that ranks 29th in the MLB with a 5.23 ERA, but it doens’t fix it. Closer Wade Davis already has five blown saves this season, so adding closer Keone Kela would’be been a great move. Kela has experience pitching in a hitters ballpark with the Rangers and doesn’t rely on his breaking ball. That’s important consdeirng how hard it use to use your breaking ball in the altidue in Denver. Instead, Kela was sent to the Pirates for an average pitching prospect. The Rockies also could use some help in the lineup at catcher (.202/.290/.339) and first base (.231/.317/.426). They were several solid options at catcher, with Wilson Ramos headling the group. Ramos was sent to Philadelphia for cash or a player to be named later, an offer Colorado surely could’ve matched. At first base, they could’ve pursued a trade for Justin Smoak of the Blue Jays, Jose Abreu of the White Sox, Justin Bour of the Marlins, or even a rental such as Danny Valencia of the Orioles. Instead, Colorado chose not to add any offensive firepower to their lineup. Lastly, they could’ve used some help in a young rotation that has just a 4.25 ERA, good for 19th in the MLB. There were several solid options out there. JA Happ uses his fastball alot, so he would’ve been a great fit. Instead, the Yankees acquired him in a deal the Rockies could’ve matched. If they wanted to pay the price, Chris Archer, Zack Wheeler, or even star pitcher Jacob deGrom woud’ve instantly become the ace of the Rockies pitching staff and would’ve come with years of control if Colorado wanted to pay the price. Even if the price proved to be too high, rentals such as Matt Harvey or Nathan Eovaldi would’ve helpe their rotation. Colorado has four glaring holes (bullpen, catcher, first base, rotation) and they didn’t fix any of them despite having an excellent chance to make the playoffs as they’re running out of time to make a playoff push. Colorado will regret not making a significant move at the trade deadline, as they may have washed away their last chance to make a World Series run.
On Tuesday, the Vikings gave wide receiver Stefon Diggs a five year, $72million extension. This extension has $40 million in guarantees and can go up to 5 years, $81 million. Diggs is now the fifth highest paid receiver in the league and the former fifth-round pick will now be expected to be one of the game’s elite receivers. Now, did Diggs deserve this contract and what does this mean for the Vikings? We’ll explore both of these things in this article.
Diggs, 24, had 849 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns, and 60.6 yards per game. His 83.3% contested catch rate was the best in the NFL, and Viking quarterbacks had a 119.2 QB rating when targeting him last year, which ranked 4th in the NFL. He only had two drops last season, which is less than Julio Jones (7), DeAndre Hopkins (4), and Antonio Brown (3). He hasn’t played a full season yet, but he’s hasn’t suffered a significant injury that would be alarming before giving him this extension.
Now, Diggs may not be the fifth best receiver, but he’s arguably a top ten receiver. His high contested catch rate and lack of drops show he’s not reliant on his quarterback. In most cases, a receiver is a product of a good quarterback, but instead, Diggs makes his quarterbacks better. In his three seasons, Diggs has played with a different quarterback in each of his three seasons. He went from a run-first quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, to an inconsistent pocket passer in Sam Bradford, to a journeyman in Case Keenum. With Kirk Cousins as his quarterback, Diggs should finally eclipse 1000 yards, and he should be Cousins’ go-to target this season and beyond.
With this extension, the Vikings have now extended all of their young core besides linebacker Anthony Barr. However, they can always use the franchise tag on him if the two sides can’t come to an agreement on a new deal. Besides Barr, they don’t have any significant free agents until 2021, when Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen are up for new contracts. That’s a long ways away, however, which means the Vikings are set for the future at least for three seasons. This is an amazing young core the Vikings have, and now they are almost all apart of the Vikings’ future.
Stefon Diggs may not currently be a top-five receiver, but he’s arguably top ten and could be top five in a couple years. By then, receivers such as Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, and AJ Green will likely have new deals. That means that Diggs may end up being underpaid in a couple years considering how fast the wide receiver market value is rising. This is a great move by the Vikings and one they needed to make.