By the Numbers: Below Replacement Level Position Players

by: Andy Zsiga @zsiga_andy

The concept of replacement level players is interesting, and the purpose of this article is to take a look at the players who have been performing below replacement level. 

If you are confused on what is replacement level, a replacement level is a production you could expect of a minor league contract player; if you want a more in-depth explanation, take a look at this article from FanGraphs.

The following statistics were pulled from Baseball Reference (follow the link to play with the table yourself) on June 3, 2018, and the statistics represent the ten guys, who at that time had earned at best a WAR of negative one.

For starters, you will notice that three of the players here are getting paid at or near the league minimum. The age of these players range from twenty-four to twenty so we will let them toil and hope, for their sake, they play well enough to keep earning a big league check. 

On this table, there is only one guy not earning the minimum that is younger than thirty years old and he really packs a punch. Rougned Odor is still comparatively a baby in this bunch. While it may seem that he is not getting paid all that much, he just signed a contract extension last year guaranteeing him $41.8 million over the next four years. There is a team option for a fifth year at a cool $13 million.

The Texas Rangers definitely hope he can get his act together, injuries might play a little into Roogie’s struggles. He played every game of the season last year and earned a whopping -2.4 WAR. This contract seems to be a bust and the Rangers will not be able to allow him to play as often while he continues to perform worse than a below average player would.

Ian Desmond is another interesting player on this list because he earned -1.1 war last year as well, and still has a chunk of money coming to him. The Colorado Rockies at least frontloaded his contract, and he will earn $38 million over the next three years with a fourth year, $15 million option. At the age of thirty-two, it seems that Demond’s production is on the decline making the decision by the Rockies to sign him last year a very costly one. I do think it is important to point out this contract always seemed to be an odd overpay.

While the previous two players were arguing about whose contract was worse, Chris Davis and the Baltimore Orioles said, “Here, hold my beer!” 

Davis is owed $92 million over the next four years. There is hope the thirty-two-year-old will regain some of the production he once had, but he had roughly a replacement level year last year as well earning -0.1 war. Davis seems to be among the first to popularize the craze of low batting average, lots of power and lots of strikeouts; this year his power has seemed to leave him, but he is still currently in second place in strikeouts with 75 (behind Joey Gallo’s 85).

Pigs will probably fly before low power, low average, and lots of strikeouts become a fad in the majors.

I would guess that Dexter Fowler and Kole Calhoun will right the ship at some point since their numbers this year do not match their career numbers. If I am wrong Fowler would end up with an albatross of a contract in St. Louis. 

It is also notable it only took Jose Reyes 77 plate attempts to reach -1 war, and if he keeps getting at-bats, I would expect he will continue to play much worse than a replacement level player.

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