Melancon and Watson Rank Among the Top Relievers, Harrison Ranks Fifth at 2B

Tonight at 9pm on MLB Network, they will rank the top relievers and top second baseman in the game right now. We’re posting a discussion thread early so you get a chance to follow along with both shows and discuss the rankings, or you can just talk about anything Pirates related in the comment section.(Results have been added below)

Last year, both Tony Watson and Mark Melancon made the list of the top ten relievers, though they didn’t get the same praise from the five hosts/guests on the show. Melancon ranked seventh and Watson ranked tenth by “the Shredder”(computer/analytic ranked process), but no one from the show even mentioned them among their top ten or players who just missed.

In 2015, Watson went on to post similar numbers to his strong 2014 season. His ERA rose slightly from 1.63 to 1.91 and his strikeout rate declined, but he also lowered his WHIP from 1.02 to 0.96 and he finished third in the league with 77 relief appearances. Putting up those stats for two years in a row should get him more notice than last year’s show.

Melancon also saw a slight spike in his ERA and a dip in his strikeout rate from 2014 to 2015. His WHIP went from 0.87 to 0.93, but the difference from 2014 to 2015, which should help his ranking, is that he led the NL with 51 saves and made a career high 78 appearances. So while he wasn’t quite as good overall in 2015, he should still rank high due to the workload and save total.

Following the top relievers show, they will then move on to ranking the top second baseman at 10pm. Josh Harrison ranked third among all third baseman last year, but then had a down year in 2015. Between a slow start and time missed with an injury, his overall stats paled in comparison to 2014. Harrison did however finish up strong with an .819 OPS in Sept/Oct. With Neil Walker gone, Harrison now takes over second base in 2015, though he could begin the year at third base if Jung-Ho Kang isn’t ready by Opening Day. It will be interesting to see how far Harrison drops off from last year’s ranking at a different position. If someone thinks his 2014 season and 2015 finish are closer to his potential for 2016, then he could rank in the top ten.

The strength of the positions will also factor into the rankings, so a strong/down season one year, might not help/hurt as much if the strength of the position changes. We will post results from the rankings below as they are announced.

So far, the Pirates have had four players rank among the best at their position. Last week, Starling Marte ranked second, while Jung-Ho Kang was rated seventh overall for third baseman. Andrew McCutchen ranked fourth for center fielders and Gerrit Cole was ranked in the top ten by multiple guests on the show, though he didn’t make the Shredder’s list. Next week, the series wraps up with right fielders and catchers, which should add two more to the tally for the Pirates.

Update 9:05 PM: Nice start for Watson and Melancon at the top of the show. According to WPA(Win Probability Added), which Brian Kenny said is a better way to judge relievers as opposed to using WAR, Melancon(5.5) and Watson(4.4) held the top two spots among last year’s top ten. That should get them ranked near the top.

9:14 PM: Tony Watson gets ranked eighth by the Shredder, ahead of Darren O’Day and Craig Kimbrel.

9:21 PM: Mark Melancon moved up one spot to sixth. We will have more rankings from the hosts/experts on the show.

9:45 PM: Bill James, Vince Gennaro, who is the president of SABR, and Mike Petriello, who is a baseball analyst for MLB.com, were the expert panelists and all three submitted their own list. Brian Kenny and Dan Plesac hosted the show and had their own list.

Petriello has Melancon tenth and Watson didn’t make his list.

Gennaro didn’t have either Pirate reliever on his list.

James has Melancon fifth.

Kenny has Melancon seventh and Watson ninth.

Plesac has Melancon eighth.

10:22 PM: Josh Harrison ranked surprisingly high at fifth overall. I was not expecting that after his season last year, but looking at the list of second baseman, I thought he could be in the 8-10 range. Just for the record, Neil Walker ranked seventh.

10:47 PM: Harrison didn’t make the top ten for any of the guests/hosts, but two of them did say they didn’t consider him a second baseman because he didn’t play there enough in 2015. So it’s tough to gauge where he ranks when at least two people didn’t even think to rank him.

  • These lists, just like all ranking lists, are nothing more than a person’s opinion. Even the “shredder”, is simply someone’s opinion, and therefore very subjective. They are done to give hopeless tools such as ourselves something to talk about leading up to Spring Training and build excitement for baseball after a long layoff.
    Personally, I can see arguments for and against Watson, Melancon and Harrison at their respective positions. In all honesty, I would find it difficult to have multiple relievers from any team on the list, outside of the Yankees. But I also must admit, that other than the Pirates and Yankees, I would have a hard time naming two relievers on the same team.
    Looking forward, Cervelli should be an easy pick to be on the catcher list, if it is solely based off of last year, but if it is based off of his career and projecting forward, it is quite possible that he could miss the list. Realistically, he should be in the 8-10 range.
    Polanco in RF is a whole different story. I am really not sure that he will make the list. He rates as average to poor defensively from what I have seen, and other than SB, he really hasn’t provided much offensively since he was called up. He may sneak in to the back end, depending on the strength of the position, but I think it is premature to say it is a foregone conclusion that he will be on the list.

  • Isn’t Watson one of the nastiest LH relievers in the game? Add that to him being an elite set up guy. I would think he would make everyone’s top 10 lists. I didnt see the show, but I’m guessing that they would be better off separating closers from the rest of the relievers.

  • If we traded Melancon what are the chances that Caminero becomes the closer? It seems like he has the highest upside of all our relievers due to his 100 MPH fastball. It seems like he has the upside to be a dominant closer in the future.

  • If Harrison lives up to the #5 ranking……that would be unbelievably great! Not sure if it’s realistic, but we can hope!

    • Pretty much agree with John’s write-up. 5th seems too high, but after Kipnis/Zobrist/Altuve/Gordon/Pedroia/Odor/Panik (off the top of my head, no particular order), maybe Kinsler, I think you could make valid arguments for just about the next 5-6 guys.

      • Surprised you forgot Cano. But of the list the only ones I would take before JHay are Altuve, Kipnis,Panik,Gordon. Zobrist is headed for age related decline. They could never afford Cano. Pedroia’s best days are behind him, Odor is young, but not yet demonstratively better than JHay. Your welcome to your opinion. But you seem to have a slightly anti-Bucs point of view.

        • HAHAHAHAHAHA….

        • I’ve been a Pirate fan for 30 years, stuck through the dark times, defended Huntington & Co through the rebuild…only a shameless homer would see me as even slightly anti-Pirates.

          Pedroia’s “decline” was still worth 2.5 wins in just over 400 PA, Odor did just about the same *as a 21 year old*, and Zobrist *still* far outperformed Harrison in a year in which they both battled injuries.

          I won’t argue about positioning on this list for anyone projected to be within half a win of each other, but give me a break with this “anti-Bucs” garbage.

          • “shameless homer”:::: fan (contraction for fanatic)

          • NMR, You`re not anti- Bucs, but you`re overbearingly ‘glass is half empty’ in your outlook. You are very knowledgable and certainly entitled to your opinion, but your consistent negativity is annoying to say the least. I`m giving this front office the benefit of the doubt now until they prove otherwise with a noncompetitive team on the field. Please lighten up a little bit will you?

  • I was disappointed NMR was not on the panel, but later found out by leaving the state it would have been a parole violation.

    • State Penn alum, Class of 2012

      • So, if Harrison is better at 2B than Walker, Kang is better at 3B than Harrison, Niese is equal to or better than Morton and Kang comes back healthy, then the Walker for Niese trade that you so despised ends up benefiting the Pirates, right?

        • Absolutely not.

        • None of that spin even comes close to answering the two primary flaws in the deal.

          1. The Pirates gave up more value than they got.

          2. Harrison was *already* expected to add this sort of value to the team. His value didn’t replace Walker’s. They simply moved it from one box to another. Robbed Peter to pay Paul.

        • BuccosFanStuckinMD
          February 5, 2016 11:50 am

          Not really – Morton wasn’t our #3 last year, Burnett was. So, went from Burnett to Niese as our #3 starter….big dropoff – even though Burnett was almost 40…

          • Valid point if indeed you want to look at Niese as the #3. I don’t. I see that slot currently unfilled. My hopes of filling by FA signing or trade before the start of ST are fading. If they don’t sign someone then essentially they are running w/o a #3 until Glasnow or Taillon step up to fill that spot. I see the September rotation as being Cole/Liriano/Glasnow/Taillon/ Niese. So in six months Niese will be a #4 quality in the #5 slot.

  • Regardless of whether Harrison or Hanson play 2B, the Pirates will have a strong defensive player at that position in 2016. Interesting that Harrison ranked #5 by the Shredder, above Ben Zobrist, Neil Walker, Dustin Pedroia, and Dee Gordon.

  • Seems really bizarre for a host discussing top 10 2Bmen to just not consider someone because he didnt play there last year but clearly is the 2Bmen going forward.

    Which isnt even me saying he should be 5th or 8th or anything, but it seems lazy to just go “oh yeah him, well he wasnt there last year so this ranking of this spot going forward doesnt have him.”

    • Sounds like the whole thing lacks guidelines. Second Base has always been the natural position of Josh Harrison ever since being drafted by the Cubs in the 6th Round in 2008, but I can see where the SME’s may not know where he will play in 2016.

    • You find it odd for an analyst not to rank a player at a position he doesn’t play?

      • Weird that the guy who doesnt play 2B was called the 2Bmen by his GM.

        So i guess we are gonna rank Jaso at catcher during any discussion this offseason of rankings? Doesnt seem inherently stupid?

        I think a reasonable mind can easily go “he hasnt played there full time, but is clearly the OD 2Bmen so he’s germane to this discussion of 2Bmen.”

        • Just like the GM called him a third baseman last year, right?

          • Pretty much, that’d be the spot where he got 57 starts (more than double the next position he started at most) and received most of his playing time.

            Just like last year, the GM outlined where he’s gonna play a lot.

            • Ha! Luke, easy question: is Josh Harrison this team’s third baseman?

              Christ, was Josh Harrison this team’s third baseman for even half a year?

              • At this time last year, and on OD, yes.

                So the GM going “he’s our guy for X spot” is truthful. Harrison was 3B to start last year, and the only way he got pushed off 3B was by someone else outplaying him.

                So yes, he’s out 2Bmen. Here’s hoping he gets pushed to the bench again because someone like Hanson starts throwing out stats you cant put on the bench.

    • It didn’t seem to affect their ability to put Jason Heyward in the CF rankings.

  • Just throwing out some other stuff, MLB Network will have live games from Australia over the next nine days. The Australian League finals will be on, best two-out-of-three series. That will be followed on the 11th-13th with World Baseball Classic qualifiers. Gift Ngoepe was a late addition to the South Africa roster, as he waited for the Pirates to give him permission to play. That’s the good news, either six or seven games live.

    The bad news? They are in Australia and all the games start around 3am EST, except the WBC final, which will be on at 10pm on the 13th. First game is at 3am Friday(as in a few hours from now). My DVR will be put to good use. Check here for the listings: http://m.mlb.com/network/tv-schedule/#date=2016-02-05

    • Thanks John. I will be watching the South Africa/New Zealand game with people from each country. It should greatly add to the entertainment factor. THe NZ/SA game is 9pm ET by the way…at least according to WBC site.

      • That game isn’t listed as being televised on MLB Network. They have four of the six games, so they might not being showing that game. Basically one each day, though two end up being on the 13th here due to the time difference. They probably have just one tv crew there, so they had to pick games.

      • freddylang Hope you have a case of Vegemite on hand.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    February 4, 2016 8:41 pm

    IMHO, Watson is the best LH reliever in MLB who is not a closer (so, excludes guys like Britton, Chapman, A. Miller). I know Jake McGee is pretty good and there are some other good ones, but I’ll take Watson for his consistent excellent performance year after year.

    Now, Melancon has been great with the Pirates – and he had a great year closing last year. But, I just don’t have as much confidence in him as I do with Watson. Probably because Melancon isn’t a big strikeout pitcher, like some closers, and he sometimes pitches himself into trouble before closing a game out. Which is why I would have liked to see the team trade him, as his value – whatever it is – may be at its zenith right now. But, realizing we really don’t have another strong closer prospect on the team, I think they were better not to have traded him. Watson could close, but the pen is thin on LH and that would thin it even more.

    • I agree I think trading Melancon at his zenith is smart but the only problem is that of we trade him right now our bullpen takes a huge hit. If we were able to bring in a another quality lefty and Feliz and Nicasio return to form then we will be fine.

    • Watson would also, as a closer, have many of the same traits that you mentioned not loving about Melancon. Mainly, he wont have a greater K rate than Melancon and its a tad light in todays “hi i throw 100 with ease” elite closer field.

      In fact, i might be more worried about Watson right now. Walk rate climbed a tad again last year, and he aint generating the GBs that Melancon is. Melancon at 10 isnt someone i want longterm for market value, but Watson’s stats could use some bounceback before i hand him the 9th.

      • I was ready to stick a fork in Melancon at the beginning of last year, but he fought his way all the way back and earned his ranking. He will become a FA after 2016, so trade him now or trade him later – it all depends on what is being offered and by whom. With the money being spent on SP’s these days, that seems to be the new “gold standard” in MLB. The Pirates have a lot, but never enough, and if MM can bring in 1 or 2 more Top Prospect SP’s right now, it would have to be seriously considered.

      • Melancon will continue to be the most valuable piece in this bullpen. Shut down closer with an exciting ability to put men on base and drive me nuts then K the last guy. I love it.

        • It drives me crazy when I see teams in our division who have
          seen Melancon a lot just take his pitch and poke it into
          right field for a single. Then I say to myself, sooner or later
          more teams will be doing this, but then they don’t.

      • Agree with you on this. There were times last year when Watson’s fastball to right handed batters looked ripe and was treated as such. Melancon’s breaking ball is impossible to square up when he keeps it down and induces swings.

    • I know Mark is not a flame thrower, but he gets outs. And, I would like to see his hard hit ball %. He gets a lot of weak ground balls and very few loud outs. Watson is not just a set up man, but it doesn’t matter what side of the plate the batter is on. I really can’t see two relievers that do there job as well. I guess you have to throw in the upper 90’s to be good. They finish games…case closed.

      • fangraphs – Soft, Medium, Hard

        2013 17.5% 56.5% 26.0%
        2014 22.4% 53.1% 24.5%
        2015 27.0% 47.4% 25.6%

        Hard hit balls stays relatively the same, but nice increases in soft hit balls inversely reflecting nice decreases in Medium hit balls. Definitely going in the right direction, and like you indicate, he gets the job done just as well as anyone throwing upper 90’s. He’s just a bulldog out there.

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