As the players continue to work their way into regular-season form for a second time ahead of Thursday’s Opening Day, Stats Perform is breaking down each club’s outlook for the 60-game sprint using our own proprietary metrics and advanced analytics.
After analyzing the National League last week, we’re turning our attention to the American League – which also has its share of elite talent and World Series contenders. And let’s face it, several surprises could also arise during this unprecedented shortened season.
Each team’s leader in Command+ (minimum 486 batters faced), RV+ (min. 502 plate appearances) and FRM/1000 based on his 2019 rating is listed below. FRM/1000 measures a catcher’s Framing Runs per 1,000 framing chances, with the MLB average being zero. A positive figure represents runs saved per 1,000 chances, while a negative figure represents runs given up per 1,000 chances.
In order to highlight top defensive performers, we’ve also included all players who ranked in MLB’s top 10 in Clean Fielding Percentage (CF%) at their position. To standardize the statistic across positions, we only observed catchers with at least 700 chances and first basemen with at least 500. For all other positions, we looked at players with at least 200.
Here are our brief capsules on the AL clubs:
Command+: Wade LeBlanc (115)
FRM/1000: Austin Wynns (-0.09)
CF%: Rio Ruiz (91.7, 8th 3B); Jose Iglesias (94.3, 1st SS)
Mancini was one of the best Orioles last season, hitting .291 and leading the team with 35 homers and 97 RBIs. But he’s expected to miss the season after undergoing colon cancer surgery in March. Baltimore’s pitching was horrendous in 2019, allowing the most home runs (305) in major league history and finishing with an MLB-high 5.59 ERA. John Means is set to be the Opening Day starter after posting a 103 Command+ last season. The signing of Iglesias should help defensively as he had the best CF% among all shortstops.
BOSTON RED SOX
Command+: Eduardo Rodriguez (111)
FRM/1000: Kevin Plawecki (1.79)
CF%: Christian Vazquez (99.3, 4th C); Mitch Moreland (98.5, 4th 1B); Andrew Benintendi (95.9, 6th LF); Kevin Pillar (96.1, 10th CF)
One of the biggest stories of the offseason was Boston’s trade of 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox, though, still have Martinez, who hit .304 with 36 home runs and 105 RBIs while ranking seventh in the majors in RV+. Rodriguez was a huge bright spot during an otherwise disappointing season for Boston as he finished third in the majors with 19 wins and ninth in the AL with 213 strikeouts. He’s moving closer to rejoining the team after testing positive for COVID-19.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Command+: Dallas Keuchel (115)
FRM/1000: Yasmani Grandal (1.22)
CF%: James McCann (99.1, 6th C); Eloy Jimenez (95.3, 10th LF); Adam Engel (98.6, 2nd CF); Nomar Mazara (96.1, 8th RF)
The White Sox are one of the more exciting, up-and-coming clubs in baseball. The 24-year-old Moncada is one of the faces of the franchise’s rebuild after a breakout 2019 season in which he hit .315 with 25 home runs and 79 RBIs. Chicago is hoping Keuchel can provide a steady, veteran presence in the rotation after joining the club via free agency from the Atlanta Braves. The left-hander has the best 2019 Command+ of any hurler on this year’s roster after posting a 3.75 ERA over 19 starts.
Command+: Shane Bieber (107)
FRM/1000: Sandy Leon (1.41)
CF%: Roberto Perez (99.3, 3rd C); Francisco Lindor (92.6, 8th SS); Tyler Naquin (97.9, 2nd RF)
The Indians are trying to reach the playoffs for the fourth time in five years after missing out last season despite finishing 93-69. Santana put together the best season of his career with a 4.6 Stats Perform WAR. Bieber figures to lead the rotation after Corey Kluber was dealt to the Texas Rangers. The right-hander led the Tribe with 15 wins, ranked third in the majors with 259 strikeouts and second in the majors with 214 1/3 innings. Cleveland should be solid behind the plate defensively with Leon and Perez.
Command+: Jordan Zimmermann (115)
FRM/1000: Austin Romine (1.04)
CF%: Jeimer Candelario (91.4, 10th 3B)
The rebuilding Tigers had the worst record in the majors (47-114) and Cabrera remains their top RV+ guy despite no longer being an everyday player. Detroit hopes C.J. Cron (130 RV+ in 497 PA) can add some pop after hitting 25 home runs with the Twins, who chose to non-tender him in December. Zimmermann has the top 2019 Command+ on this year’s team, but the former 19-game winner certainly doesn’t have the stuff he once had. He could be fighting for a job this spring after going 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA last season.
Command+: Zack Greinke (115)
FRM/1000: Martin Maldonado (-0.07)
CF%: Yuli Gurriel (98.2, 6th 1B); Carlos Correa (94.2, 2nd SS); Michael Brantley (96.7, 1st LF); George Springer (99.1, 1st CF); Josh Reddick (96.8, 5th RF)
Houston lost 20-game winner Gerrit Cole from last year’s 107-win team, but Justin Verlander and Greinke are more than capable of leading the rotation after combining for 39 wins last season. The Astros hope to move past a cheating scandal offensively, and Bregman, Springer, Jose Altuve, Gurriel, Yordan Alvarez, Brantley and Correa each hit at least .279 and 21 homers. The Astros should be strong defensively again with five players in the top 10 in CF% at their respective positions.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Command+: Jorge Lopez (103)
FRM/1000: Cam Gallagher (1.07)
CF%: Ryan O’Hearn (98.0, 8th 1B); Nicky Lopez (93.6, 9th 2B); Hunter Dozier (91.5, 9th 3B); Alex Gordon (96.2, 4th LF)
Soler’s breakthrough performance was one of the few highlights of Kansas City’s 59-103 finish in 2019. Soler was finally able to overcome the injuries that had plagued him throughout the early portion of his promising career. He surprisingly led the AL with 48 home runs and tied for second with 117 RBIs while playing in all 162 games. Lopez, who has gone 5-12 with a 6.51 ERA in 25 starts over the past two seasons, is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Command+: Julio Teheran (107)
FRM/1000: Max Stassi (3.14)
CF%: Jason Castro (98.9, 9th C); Albert Pujols (97.9, 10th 1B); Anthony Rendon (91.8, 7th 3B); Andrelton Simmons (93.3, 4th SS)
We wouldn’t have much faith in our RV+ metric if Trout wasn’t No. 1. The AL MVP is showing no signs of slowing down as he hit a career-high 45 home runs. With the addition of Rendon, the Angels have two players who finished in the top three in RV+ last season. Andrew Heaney will be the Opening Day starter after striking out 118 over 95 1/3 innings last season, and the club added Teheran from Atlanta to help solidify the rotation. With Joe Maddon as their new manager, the Angels are a team to watch in 2020.
Command+: Jose Berrios (117)
FRM/1000: Alex Avila (0.99)
CF%: Max Kepler (98.3, 3rd CF); Byron Buxton (96.8, 6th CF); Kepler (96.74, 6th RF)
The Twins slugged their way to the AL Central title, setting an MLB record when eight players hit at least 20 homers. Cruz finished second only to Mike Trout in RV+ after tying for third in the AL with 41 homers. C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop signed with Detroit, but Minnesota responded by inking Josh Donaldson. The club hopes Berrios can continue to improve after earning his second All-Star appearance in 2019. Kepler qualified as a top outfielder in both center and right in our CF% rankings.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Command +: Masahiro Tanaka (132)
FRM/1000: Kyle Higashioka (5.98)
CF%: LeMahieu (96.0, 1st 2B); Mike Tauchman (95.6, 9th LF); Aaron Judge (96.9, 4th RF)
Tanaka led the majors in Command+ and went 6-4 with a 3.03 ERA with just 10 walks over his last 11 starts, including the playoffs. Tanaka, James Paxton and new addition Gerrit Cole will have to carry the rotation after Luis Severino had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Tanaka, however, could miss a start or two after taking a liner to the head during summer camp and closer Aroldis Chapman’s status is uncertain after testing positive for the coronavirus. LeMahieu, the top-ranked second baseman in CF%, may have to play a leading role offensively if Judge and Giancarlo Stanton continue to battle injury.
Command+: Mike Fiers (98)
FRM/1000: Austin Allen (0.14)
CF%: Matt Chapman (92.3, 4th 3B); Mark Canha (96.4, 9th CF); Stephen Piscotty (96.0, 10th RF)
As they seek a third straight playoff berth, the Athletics face a tougher AL West after the Texas Rangers and Angels made moves to improve in the offseason. After hitting 36 home runs apiece, Olson and Canha lead a potent offense that welcomes back six of its seven batters who belted at least 20 homers last season. Should Olson have won a second straight Gold Glove Award in 2019? No, according to our CF%. He was 16th among all first basemen who qualified last season.
Command+: Marco Gonzales (115)
FRM/1000: Tom Murphy (1.10)
CF%: Kyle Seager (92.0, 5th 3B); Mitch Haniger (98.5, 1st RF)
The Mariners are rebuilding in what looks to be a competitive AL West. Haniger topped all right fielders in CF%, but he hit .220 with 15 home runs in 63 games last season and remains sidelined following multiple groin surgeries. Manager Scott Servais has tabbed Gonzales as the Opening Day starter after he won 16 games and posted a 3.99 ERA over 203 innings in ’19. Big Dan Vogelbach hasn’t hit for average, but he’s looking to build on his first 30-homer season.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Command+: Ryan Yarbrough (110)
FRM/1000: Mike Zunino (1.96)
CF%: Manuel Margot (96.4, 8th CF)
It’s been less than two years since the trade of Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Meadows and Tyler Glasnow, but the deal already has to be one of the best in team history. Meadows had a breakthrough 2019 with 33 homers and 89 RBIs, but the Rays could be without him for a while after he recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Glasnow went 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 12 starts over an injury-shortened 2019 season, while Yarbrough should own a rotation spot on what has quietly become one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Rays starters finished with a 3.65 ERA last season – second only to the Los Angeles Dodgers (3.37).
Command+: Kyle Gibson (110)
FRM/1000: Jose Trevino (-0.43)
CF%: Elvis Andrus (92.9, 6th SS)
The Rangers, who have moved into a new ballpark, were one of the more active teams in the offseason as they aim to finish above .500 for the first time in four seasons. They added Corey Kluber, Gibson and Jordan Lyles in an effort to overhaul a rotation that ranked 25th in the majors with a 5.37 ERA. Texas also brought in veteran slugger Todd Frazier to help the lineup. Choo has been a model of consistency, batting between .261-.265 with 21-24 home runs over the past three seasons.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Command+: Hyun-Jin Ryu (112)
FRM/1000: Reese McGuire (1.62)
CF%: Danny Jansen (99.1, 5th C); Cavan Biggio (93.9, 8th 2B); Randal Grichuk (98.3, 4th CF); Teoscar Hernandez (96.6, 7th CF); Joe Panik (93.9, 7th 2B)
The Blue Jays look to be on the rise after sons of MLB stars Guerrero Jr., Biggio and Bo Bichette made their debuts last season. Guerrero had a better 2019 RV+ than anyone else on this year’s roster, though it was only slightly above average. Toronto averaged just 4.48 runs – fewer than even Baltimore, Kansas City, Miami and Detroit. Veteran left-hander and prized free-agent acquisition Ryu should immediately improve Toronto’s rotation after posting an MLB-best 2.32 ERA last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Advanced analytics and data analysis provided by Stats Perform’s Lucas Haupt