We are currently smack-dab in the middle of the MLB playoffs, but this post in mostly concerned with the 2017 regular season. After all, it is regular season performance that most directly influences my card collection. As I spell out in What I Collect (I), only players who accumulate 49.0 or more Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement (bWAR) are eligible for inclusion into my personal card collection. For active players still under this threshold, I review their performance on a yearly basis to help me determine if they stay or go from my collection.
Let’s see how players fared in 2017. For each player, I list Date of Birth, bWAR through the 2016 season, and bWAR through the 2017 season. As you can see below, I have sorted players by age, starting with the oldest. To be clear, I am only providing evaluations of players who I had at least one card of at some point during 2017.
- Joey Votto 9/10/83; 47.3; 54.8 (+7.5). Votto had an excellent 2017 campaign. He is a walk machine who delivers high on-base-percentages year after year. With 7.5 bWAR this year, he smashed through the 49.0 threshold. He is now permanently eligible for inclusion into my collection.
- Evan Longoria 10/7/85; 46.4; 50.0 (+3.6). As long as he plays in Tampa, Longoria will be under the radar of most collectors. That is a shame becuase Longoria has crafted his way to a wonderful career. While he has not generated a bWAR of over 4.0 since 2013, Longoria’s consistent play and good health allowed him to surpass the 49.0 threshold in 2017. Still only 32 years old, Longoria is having one the most underrated careers of this generation.
- Andrew McCutchen 10/10/86; 37.5; 40.0 (+2.5). I wrote about McCutchen earlier this year. His career took a nose dive in 2016, and while a much better player in 2017, McCutchen still only managed a bWAR of 2.5. He is 31 years old now, and I give him less than a 50% chance of reaching 49.0 bWAR during his career. I am a huge McCutchen fan, and I hope he proves me wrong. But objectively speaking, I can no longer support his inclusion into my collection. I am now in the process of selling my single McCutchen card. I’ll be first in line to reacquire his cards if McCutchen has a couple more great seasons.
- Buster Posey 3/27/87; 33.5; 37.5 (+4.0). Posey was one of the few bright spots for the Giants in 2017. Catchers in their 30s tend not to age well, but Posey’s health and overall consistent play make me think he has enough left in the tank to reach bWAR 49.0 for his career.
- Paul Goldschmidt 9/10/87; 29.0; 34.8 (+5.8). Goldschmidt had another terrific season in 2017. Compared to a lot of other names on this list, Goldy started his MLB career relatively late. Now 30 years old, the next couple of years will tell us much about how prodigious Goldschmidt’s career will ultimately be. His talent is off the charts.
- Chris Sale 3/30/89; 31.1; 37.1 (+6.0). Sale had a great first year in Boston. For example, he led the league in both innings pitched (214.1) and strikeouts (308). Pitchers are never a sure thing when it comes to having long careers, but Sale’s outstanding track record and relative youth make me think he will soar past bWAR 49.0 before it is all said and done.
- Giancarlo Stanton 11/8/89; 27.5; 35.1 (+7.6). Stanton’s 59 homers immediately stick out, but playing in 159 out of 162 games is really what made his season. Stanton’s power has always been there, but 2017 marked only the second season of his career where he managed to play at least 150 games. As I write this, Stanton is still just 27 years old. One of the most fun guys in the game to watch.
- Nolan Arenado 4/16/91; 20.2; 27.4 (+7.2). Arenado is a hitting machine: he led the NL in total bases in both 2015 and 2016. And then in 2017, he set a career high in OPS+ at 132. It was only this year did I realize how good a player he is.
- Mike Trout 8/7/91; 48.5; 55.5 (+6.7). Trout joins Votto and Longoria as a player who is now permanently eligible to be included into my collection. Of course, the big difference with Trout is that he is still only 26 years old. It is hard to overstate his greatness. As the 2017 season suggests, perhaps injuries are the only thing that can slow this man down. Stud.
- Kris Bryant 1/4/92; 13.6; 19.7 (+6.1). I thought Bryant was a little bit underrated this year. He got off to a slow start, and his power numbers were down slightly. Still, his improvement in on-base-percentage bodes well for a long and productive career. He is one of my top five favorite players in the game right now. It boggles my mind that he is only five months younger than Trout.
- Manny Machado 7/6/92; 24.4; 27.9 (+3.5). Machado had a down year in 2017, and his career on-base-percentage (.329) is unsightly. Still, Machado is only 25 years old and already has 27.9 bWAR. Machado stays in my collection without much hesitation, but I will be very curious about how he plays in 2018. He needs to be better.
- Mookie Betts 10/7/92; 17.7; 24.1 (+6.4). It is a testament to Mookie’s all-around game that he remained one of the most valuable players in the American League, even while sporting a .264 batting average. He speed, defense, and ability to draw walks make him a great overall talent. Still, Betts can be better than he showed in 2017, and I hope we see that during the 2018 campaign.
- Bryce Harper 10/16/92; 21.4; 26.1 (+4.7). Once again, Harper was bit by the injury bug in 2017. But when healthy, Harper remains a force to be reckoned with. Harper’s career numbers are amazing considering his relative youth. But I think he has left all of us wanting more. Another early playoff exit for the Nationals is not going to help Harper’s standing in ollecting circles.
- Francisco Lindor 11/14/93; 10.3; 15.8 (+5.5). I thought Lindor was having a pretty nondescript 2017 for the first four months of the season. But he came on strong and finished with a nice-looking 5.5 bWAR. He has a long way to go before 49.0 bWAR becomes reality, but Lindor’s youth provides him ample time to get there.
- Corey Seager 4/27/94; 7.9; 13.5 (+5.6). Seager played under the radar this season, especially with Cody Bellinger taking some of the spotlight off. Still, anytime a shortstop hits over 20 homers, something special has happened. Seager will still only be 23 when next season starts, so he definitely has room to grow.
- Carlos Correa 9/22/94; 10.0; 16.3 (+6.3). Correa only played in 109 games, yet still managed to generate 6.3 bWAR. And he was only 22 years old for most of the season. Between Lindor, Seager, and Correa, it is Correa that I like the most as a player.
All in all, it was a good season for this group of players (and in turn, my baseball card collection). Of the 16 players evaluated in this post, here is the final breakdown:
- Three players (Votto, Longoria, Trout) are now permanently eligible for inclusion into my collection.
- I have decided to part ways with Andrew McCutchen cards for now. Still, it would not surprise me if he eventually finds his way back into my collection. He still has time to pass the 49.0 bWAR threshold, but he needs to be more consistent. I am rooting for him.
- The remaining 12 players discussed above all remain in my collection. Most of these guys are still quite young, and a lot can happen as their careers progress. Still, as I see it, these 12 guys all have a good chance to reach 49.0 bWAR.
I am a die-hard Kansas City Royals fan, but my general love of baseball extends to all teams. I wish all sixteen players a happy and healthy off-season, and can’t wait to see what they have in store for 2018.
Word of the Day
conflate – bring together; fuse; confuse; be careful not to conflate gossip with real news; the movie conflates documentary footage and dramatized reenactments