Jayson Stark’s latest is what he believes to be baseball’s “All Underrated Team.” The roster:
C: Carlos Ruiz
1B: Adam Dunn
2B: Ian Kinsler
SS: Starlin Castro
3B: Ryan Zimmerman
RF: Michael Cuddyer
CF: Andrew McCutchen
LF: Ryan Braun
SP: Josh Johnson
CL: Joakim Soria
MR: Mike Adams
It’s not a terrible list, though as many people have noted since it came out a a few minutes ago, there is a serious omission: Shin-Soo Choo in right. He’s both better and less-heralded than Cuddyer. Maybe this is performance art: by not even including him on an underrated list, Stark is showing just how truly underrated he is!
I’m a little skeptical about Carlos Ruiz’s inclusion. He’s good, but if anything I think that, by virtue of some big hits he’s had during nationally-televised games, people are quite high on him. Maybe even a touch too high. In some ways he’s the baseball equivalent of basektball’s Ben Wallace: he was underrated for so long, but the minute people began to take notice, he became slightly overrated. At no time has anyone rated him truly fairly.
Fun list, though. Stark’s explanations of all of his inclusions are all illuminating. It’s certainly a list of guys who don’t tend to get a lot of spotlight and it’s good to read about them even if we debate the severity of their underrating.
The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.
In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.
The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report:
Catcher Welington Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Friday, making him one of 35 additional players to enter the free agent pool. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Castillo was drawing interest from the Rays, among a bevy of major league clubs, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien added that the Braves have “some interest” as well.
The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.
Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.