Revisiting AL East Position Rankings: Infield - Page 2 of 6 -

Paul Folkemer

Revisiting AL East Position Rankings: Infield

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon


April rankings:

  1. Russell Martin, Blue Jays
  2. Gary Sanchez, Yankees
  3. Welington Castillo, Orioles
  4. Sandy Leon, Red Sox
  5. Wilson Ramos (injured)/Derek Norris, Rays

We’ve only just begun, and already my April rankings are laughably wrong. The Blue Jays, who I thought would get the most production from their catching spot in 2017, instead got the least. Their .185 average and .604 OPS from catchers were the worst marks in the AL. Martin, who missed a month with a strained left oblique, was one of six players to start at catcher for Toronto (including former Orioles prospect Michael Ohlman for three games). Three of them had averages below the Mendoza line.

Sanchez took the mantle as the top catcher in the division, blasting 27 home runs as a backstop (and six more homers at other positions) to build on his impressive 2016 rookie season. The Yankees weren’t thrilled with Sanchez’s pitch-blocking ability, but his potent offense covered up his deficiencies with the glove.

Speaking of offense-first catchers, Castillo was a hit in his first — and possibly only — season with the Orioles, hitting 20 homers (19 as a catcher) and posting an .813 OPS. He also threw out 49 percent of attempted base stealers, leading the league. A knock on Castillo, though, is that most Orioles pitchers had a much higher ERA with him behind the plate than backup Caleb Joseph.

In my April rankings, I wrote that Boston’s Leon would need to prove his breakout 2016 season wasn’t a fluke. Well, he didn’t, crashing to a .225 average and .644 OPS. Christian Vazquez ended up with more playing time than Leon and did a solid job, and both were good defenders.

For the Rays, Norris was a black hole for the first half of the season, but Ramos restored order once he came off the DL in late June. Unremarkable backup Jesus Sucre had almost as many starts as each of them.

End-of-season rankings:

  1. Sanchez, Yankees
  2. Castillo/Joseph, Orioles
  3. Leon/Vazquez, Red Sox
  4. Ramos/Norris/Sucre, Rays
  5. A bunch of people, Blue Jays



  1. OsFanStuckInNY

    October 17, 2017 at 7:59 am

    How would you rate them according to fielding? Any comments on the number of errors the Os’ infield amassed this year? Number of potential errors Davis saved?

    • OsFanStuckInNY

      October 17, 2017 at 8:03 am

      Machado had, by far, his worst defensive year:

    • Paul Folkemer

      October 17, 2017 at 9:44 am

      I tried to take fielding into account as part of the overall rankings. It’s a little tricky to analyze the defense of the non-Orioles, though, since we only see them in a handful of games each year. Error totals don’t really tell us much, either, and advanced defensive stats (no matter how much stock you put into them) can be a little shaky in a one-year sample.

      Overall I’d say the Orioles might have had the best defensive infield in the division as a group. The outfield is a different story.

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 17, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Well Paul, let me be the 1st to accuse you of being smart. Anybody that truly understands some of the metrics that you pushed on us this year … well that person just HAS to be smart.

    Now Davis as the top pick at 1st base … that’s another story.

    What were you thinkin’? If there were one guy I could have axed from this team this offseason … it’s Crush. And I know, I know … he ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. Sigh….

    • Paul Folkemer

      October 17, 2017 at 9:31 am

      Thanks, Boog. I’ll take the compliment!

      And yeah, the Davis pick looks bad now. But on paper, the crop of AL East first basemen entering the season just wasn’t impressive. Moreland, Smoak and Morrison had been career-long mediocrities, and the Yankees were trying a platoon between a flawed Carter and a rookie Bird. Davis had the best track record of any of those guys, so I ranked him first. I also thought there was a chance he’d have one of his odd-year breakouts like he did in 2013 and 2015.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 17, 2017 at 10:25 am

        And to be fair it’s not Davis I’d like axed so much as it is his contract.

  3. Stacey

    October 17, 2017 at 9:31 am

    Should have extended Schoop before this season, I think…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 18, 2017 at 6:47 am

      I’ll second Stacey on this one.

  4. TxBirdFan

    October 17, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    Paul – where would you put Sano in your closing ratings? He looks to be an up and coming 3rd baseman who the Twins missed in the playoffs.

    • Jbiglen49

      October 18, 2017 at 1:13 am

      Certainly not as qualified as Paul. But, Sano is a strong hitter who should only get better but he’s built like a tractor trailer. More of a hitter who needed a position. They stuck him in the outfield for awhile last season but that didn’t work out. Needs to cut down on the K’s too, he’s at a Crush like level. As long as he does that he ought to be a very good player. Strong arm but, being 6’4 240, he’s never going to have great range at 3rd.

      • Jbiglen49

        October 18, 2017 at 1:19 am

        *260. Sano’s not pushing 240 on his best days.

    • Paul Folkemer

      October 18, 2017 at 9:18 am

      As a 3B only, Sano wouldn’t rank very high for 2017. He only started 79 games at 3B this year. And as Jbiglen mentioned, he’s not a very good fielder. I’d probably rank him behind Machado, Donaldson, and Longoria overall for the season.

      But again, that’s just for this year. Going forward, I’d love to have Sano on my team. If he can play adequate defense at 3B, his bat will more than make up the difference. The Twins are lucky to have him.

    • TxBirdFan

      October 18, 2017 at 10:14 am

      Thanks all. You confirmed my thoughts as well.

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