Who is the most underrated position player in baseball? If you were to ask random people at your job this question you might here some household names like Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia. You might even have that co-worker who is an avid fan of baseball and he or she may give you a less common name like Adrian Beltre or Chase Utley.
Each of those names, in their own right, has a case for being underrated. But I am not looking for a player who is simply underrated, I am looking for the most underrated position player in the game.
But, to first determine who the most underrated position player in the game is, we must determine what statistic we will use to measure all players by. A player can impact the game in three main ways: at the plate, in the field, and on the base paths. Lucky for us, Fangraphs has a stat that includes all three of these stats into one metric: Wins Above Replacement, or WAR. Fangraphs explains the stat like this:
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic. You should always use more than one metric at a time when evaluating players, but WAR is pretty darn all-inclusive and provides a handy reference point. WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?”
The WAR statistic is a measure of the player’s contributions across all three levels of play that they can impact and is giving as a single number. WAR also adjusts for position. This is key because two players can have the same positive contribution across the board but the player doing it while playing a tougher position gets credit over a player playing an easier position.
WAR tries to add up every aspect of the game and give us one number to go by to evaluate a player’s worth or value. While WAR is not perfect it may be the best measure we currently have to determine a player’s worth on the field.
Got it? Good. So who is the most underrated player in the great game of baseball? I will give you a hint: He ranks third in WAR since he became a starter in 2009.
Since 2009, American League MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera leads all players in WAR with +25.9. Probably not a surprise to even the most novice fan. The player who ranks just behind Miggy is Albert Pujols with +25.4 Wins Above Replacement. Again, no big surprise. The players who rank 4th-7th in WAR are Ryan Braun, Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, and Evan Longoria. All of which are household names.
Not only are these six named players household names and superstars on and off the field, but four of the top five players in WAR since 2009 have won an MVP award while our mystery man has never finished above 8th in MVP voting in any one season.
The most underrated position player in all of baseball has posted a +25.1 WAR since he became a starter in 2009. The most underrated position player in baseball has no set position because he has played every position on the diamond outside of catcher and pitcher since 2009. The most underrated position player in baseball has flown under the radar because he plays his home games in an old dome that is rarely on the plus side of 20,000 in attendance.
The most underrated position player in baseball has flown under the radar likely because he never makes the news because of contract disputes, DUIs, or any negative outcome. In fact, the most underrated player in baseball is more likely to be seen at a local church, hospital, or school.
If you have not figured it out by now, then you will be shocked to know that the most underrated player in the game is Tampa Bay Rays second baseman/right fielder/shortstop Ben Zobrist. According to WAR, Ben Zobrist has been the third most valuable position player in the majors since he became a starter in 2009 and it is about time he got the some of the recognition he deserves.