RAR has Longoria, Ibanez as MVPs through May

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Fan Graphs is a site that I couldn’t live without and has a great stat called Runs Above Replacement
(RAR) that combines offensive and defensive contributions while
comparing players to “replacement-level” guys at the same position.

For example, how many runs would the Cardinals lose if they had to
replace Albert Pujols with a random first baseman called up from the
minors? Last year the answer was 89.2 runs, which led baseball.

While not perfect, Runs Above Replacement is an excellent way to
examine all-around contributions and can be used to determine the top
MVP candidates based strictly on their between-the-lines performance.

Now that May is in the books I thought it would be interesting to update the RAR leaders through the season’s first two months:

AMERICAN LEAGUE        RAR          NATIONAL LEAGUE        RAR
Evan Longoria 33.1 Raul Ibanez 28.7
Joe Mauer 27.1 Albert Pujols 26.6
Jason Bartlett 27.1 Mike Cameron 26.5
Ian Kinsler 25.6 Ryan Zimmerman 26.3
Marco Scutaro 25.3 Hanley Ramirez 26.1
Kevin Youkilis 25.0 Adrian Gonzalez 26.0
Nelson Cruz 23.9 Matt Kemp 25.2
Victor Martinez 23.3 Chase Utley 23.0
Aaron Hill 23.2 Justin Upton 22.1
Torii Hunter 22.2 Ryan Braun 20.8

Evan Longoria ranked as the best player in baseball through the end of April
and he’s still atop the RAR leaderboard a month later, hitting
.327/.396/.623 with 13 homers, 20 doubles, 55 RBIs, and excellent
defense in 51 games overall. Through his first 173 career games,
Longoria has been 86.7 runs better than a replacement-level third
baseman.

Joe Mauer has amazingly vaulted into the No. 2 spot among AL
position players despite spending all of April on the disabled list,
which shows just how spectacular he was in May. Mauer hit
.414/.500/.838 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 28 games while logging 176
innings at catcher last month, guiding Twins pitchers to a 4.19 ERA
with him behind the plate after the staff posted a 5.26 ERA in April.

Raul Ibanez ranked second among NL position players in RAR through
the end of April and barely slowed down in May, hitting .312/.366/.661
with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 28 games to take over the top spot from
Mike Cameron. Of course, Ibanez is having by far the best season of his
14-year career, topping his previous high OPS by nearly 200 points, yet
has been all of 2.1 runs better than Albert Pujols.

At the other end of the RAR spectrum, Garrett Atkins (-13.3) and Delmon Young (-12.2) rank as the least valuable all-around players in their respective leagues, with Brian Giles (-10.5) and David Ortiz (-11.8) not far behind.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.