There are 750 players on major league rosters at any given time in MLB. That number jumps quickly when we add in the daily promotions and demotions of players between the minor and major leagues. While not all the players will ever become regular players, there was a lot of young talent who emerged in 2017. With all the focus on the select group of players who shone brightly in 2017, we decided it would be best to swerve to the right and instead conduct an incredibly non-scientific study of the worst players in MLB.
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is now a measure most people use to get an idea of the value an individual player provides to their team. The higher the number, the more valuable the player is. While this is a valuable tool for assessing the worst players on each MLB roster, and it was taken into consideration, it was not the only thing used in our very non-scientific assessment. The player’s statistical line is compared to the expectations placed on the player by the organization.
In writing this article, a few trends emerged. Many of the poor performers on this list are over the age of 30. Many of them are also on large contracts that are paying the players way more than they are worth. In short, teams are still giving expensive contracts to players over the age of 30 only for those contracts to become burdensome to the team when the players begin to decline.
These 30 players all struggled greatly in 2017 yet occupied a spot on their respective team’s 25-man roster for most or all of the season. From the Arizona Diamondbacks at the top of the list to the Washington Nationals at the bottom, let’s take a look at the worst player on every team’s 2017 roster.
30. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS: DANIEL DESCALSO
Daniel Descalso was the Arizona Diamondbacks’ worst player in 2017. While he is a useful bench piece because of versatility (he even pitched 1/3 an inning in 2014), Descalso is not that good of a player. He batted .233/.332/.395 in 2017, which is consistent with the way he’s performed in his 8-year career in which he has accumulated only a 0.9 WAR. While he may not be the worst hitter on their roster, someone like Jeff Mathis should get some credit for his defensive skills and his knack for helping pitchers in-game. Descalso is supposed to be able to play at multiple positions, but he also wasn’t a terrific defender in 2017 either (.966 fielding percentage).
29. ATLANTA BRAVES: EMILIO BONIFACIO
Somehow, Emilio Bonifacio still has a job in the major leagues. As the Atlanta Braves’ worst player in 2017, Bonifacio sported an ugly .132/.150/.211 batting line. In fairness, he seldom played which means it was through a small sample size of just 38 games. Not playing Bonifacio is probably best, however. Atlanta has some good infield prospects who are far more deserving of regular playing time than Bonifacio at this stage of his career. He has not shown an ability to be a consistent offensive producer in recent years, either. In fact, Bonifacio has a woefully bad 1.1 WAR since the 2013 season. Moreover, Bonifacio is not an above average defender at any of the positions he can play. This leaves Atlanta with a player who provides minimal value both at the plate and on the field.
28. BALTIMORE ORIOLES: CHRIS TILLMAN
Entering the 2017 season, Chris Tillman was supposed to be the ace of the Orioles’ rotation. He was never really “ace” material but he was the Orioles’ best starter and was a perfectly solid pitcher for them for consecutive years. He was even an All-Star in 2013, and pitched a quality game during the 2016 AL Wild Card game against Toronto. Nobody would have expected Tillman to have an absolute disaster of a year in 2017. He only registered a single Win in the stats column and finished the season with an atrocious 7.84 ERA through 24 games, and a -2.2 WAR. The entire Orioles rotation was bad in 2017, but Tillman was by far the worst among them. It will be interesting to see how he fares in free agency.
27. BOSTON RED SOX: DAVID PRICE
Okay, maybe you can argue this one isn’t fair. He was injured for most of 2017, true enough. It’s not like he could help getting hurt. It’s the combination of his struggles in Boston on the whole that warrant his inclusion as the Red Sox’ worst player in 2017. He has had multiple highly publicized spats with the Boston media and was infamously involved in altercation with legend Dennis Eckersley in June. Price was criticized by the media for berating the legend and refusing to apologize. That type of behaviour detracts from the team and draws unwanted negative attention towards the club and its players, an added burden the younger players could do without.
Price is one of the league’s highest paid players and surely Boston envisioned the first two years of his tenure going much differently. As for his 2017 season, Price was not as solid as he once was. In a small sample size, he had a 3.38 ERA but his strikeout numbers were down and his hits and home runs allowed were way up.
26. CHICAGO CUBS: JON LESTER
This one might also be a bit harsh, but it’s true. Veteran starter Jon Lester struggled for a large part of the 2017 season and was the worst player on the Chicago Cubs 2017 roster. For a long time, Lester was one of the most reliable starters in baseball and could be counted on for 200+ innings a year. 2017 was quite different for the 33-year-old. He did pitch 180.2 innings over 32 games but pitched to an uncharacteristic 4.33 ERA. He struggled early on in the season and did not get much better as the season progressed; he was pretty much unable to provide many quality starts for the defending champs when they needed it. He pitched well in the 2017 postseason, but Lester’s struggles often hurt the team in its quest to get there.
25. CHICAGO WHITE SOX: JAMES SHIELDS
I will never understand why the Chicago White Sox traded for James Shields in 2016 for two young players, when they ought to have started the rebuild then. Obviously, Chicago now has a top farm system regardless, but Shields is taking up a large part of the payroll to be their worst performing player in 2017. As the apparent #1 starter in the White Sox rotation following the Quintana trade, Shields pitched to a poor 5.23 ERA in 117.0 innings, with a 0.2 WAR. Fortunately for the White Sox, Shields is only under a guaranteed contract through 2018. They have him for one more year before they can cut ties with him and more promising, younger players can step in and help lead the future White Sox clubs to the playoffs.
24. CINCINNATI REDS: BRONSON ARROYO
The Cincinnati Reds seem to be on the precipice of being a very good team, but their pitching needs an overhaul of some sort. The first pitcher to go should be Bronson Arroyo, as he has been the worst player on the Reds’ roster in 2017. To his credit, he is 40 years old and was sidelined by Tommy John surgery in recent seasons. The fact he is still pitching in the majors is commendable. Unfortunately for Arroyo, to put it lightly, he has been throwing batting practice. Though he only appeared in 14 games, he sported an ugly 7.35 ERA or 58 earned runs in 71 innings. No matter which metric you use to look at it, you know that’s not pretty. The home run has been his foe as he allowed home runs at a rate of 2.9 per nine innings. Father time has not been kind to Arroyo.
23. CLEVELAND INDIANS: JASON KIPNIS
Jason Kipnis is one of the clubhouse leaders and veterans on the Cleveland Indians roster. The problem is that Kipnis has had considerable difficulty staying on the field. When he was on the field in 2017, Kipnis was far from the productive player the Indians needed him to be. The exit velocity on balls hit by Kipnis as well as his launch angle are far below Kipnis’ career average, indicating that something is amiss with him in 2017. His abysmal performance (.232/.291/.414 in 90 games) and health has affected the way Indians manager Terry Francona set up his lineup and roster.
It’s a shame Kipnis underperformed at the plate because he is so valuable to the team but could not come through for the Indians in 2017. The emergence of some young players, namely Jose Ramirez, forced the Indians to try Kipnis in the outfield. His defense let the team down on a number of occasions, further causing some to speculate on his future with the team.
22. COLORADO ROCKIES: CARLOS GONZALEZ
It was a tough call between Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Desmond for the unfortunate spot on this list. Both players were being counted on to provide offense in the middle of the lineup for the Colorado Rockies. Neither were able to do that, but CarGo has been their worst player this season. He had a horrible first half, and Gonzalez even admitted it himself. It did not get much better after the All-Star Break, as his exit velocity on balls hit in play was well down.
The former bright spot in the Rockies’ offense couldn’t muster much production for any prolonged stretch, and even his glove let him down this season. He hit 14 home runs, but batted .262/.339/.423 and committed 3 errors in right field, for a .986 fielding percentage.
21. DETROIT TIGERS: JORDAN ZIMMERMANN
A lot went wrong for the Detroit Tigers in 2017 and there were a number of candidates here. Jordan Zimmermann is the unfortunate candidate for the Detroit Tigers on this list (Miguel Cabrera just barely gets a pass because of his injuries). He was signed a few years ago with the idea that he would serve as a top of the rotation starter behind Justin Verlander. Zimmermann has pretty much been fool’s gold ever since he signed that contract. He has not been the pitcher the Tigers thought they were getting, and badly needed, and his 2017 statistics are reflective of that. In his arguably his worst season, Zimmerman pitched to a 6.08 ERA in 29 starts and allowed an average of 11.48 hits per 9 innings.
20. HOUSTON ASTROS: TONY SIPP
A championship team doesn’t really have many flaws among its active roster. The bullpen was the Houston Astros’ weakness all season, and Tony Sipp is evidence of that. His disastrous 5.79 ERA across 46 games is enough to warrant being named the worst player on a 100-win team. Sipp was expected to serve as a quality late-inning reliever, but he quickly faltered, and it became difficult for manager A.J. Hinch to trust him in high-pressure situations.
For a team that had other relievers struggling, the veteran Sipp was badly needed to be able to turn in quality outings. Sipp not being able to do that only made the Astros bullpen look all the weaker. Sipp takes the fall here because, as bad as the bullpen as a whole was, the veteran Sipp consistently performed well below his career average and league average this season.
19. KANSAS CITY ROYALS: BRANDON MOSS
Brandon Moss was signed to a 2-year/$12 million contract last offseason, with the idea that he would bring more power to the Kansas City Royals’ lineup. It was a good idea in theory, since he had a strong season in 2016. Moss had a poor second half in 2016 (.191/.248/.392) and those significant struggles continued throughout all of 2017. In 118 games, Moss only hit .207/.279/.428 and was worth -1.0 WAR. To make matters worse, Moss served almost exclusively as the DH meaning all his values lies in his bat. When that bat is only helping the opposing team pick up an out, that is enough to warrant being included on this list. All the Royals can do is hope Moss figures something out in 2018 as the Royals will likely lose at least one or two of their best hitters to free agency.
18. LOS ANGELES ANGELS: ALBERT PUJOLS
The Los Angeles Angels surely knew they were paying Albert Pujols a lot of money for his declining years. Even still, they most likely did not expect it to come this soon and for him to be this terrible. Sure, Pujols is still a feared hitter and will be a Hall of Famer regardless of how terrible he plays. He was an elite hitter for over a decade, but that elite hitter is now merely average. He’s hitting well below his career average and most of his stats are either below or at league average. That’s all well and fine but this is a player who is getting paid handsomely to provide major offense in the Angels lineup.
17. LOS ANGELES DODGERS: ADRIAN GONZALEZ
The Los Angeles teams seem to have issues with their struggling and expensive veteran first basemen. The L.A. Dodgers’ worst player in 2017 is Adrian Gonzalez. While part of his issues can be blamed on his injuries, the fact remains that he was far from the player he used to be. His power is zapped and managed to bat a meager .242/.308/.355 and was worth -1.2 WAR. While Gonzalez arguably means a lot to the organization, he has not done much to contribute to their winning ways this season.
Fortunately, rookie sensation Cody Bellinger provided offense for the Dodgers this season. Bellinger also supplanted Gonzalez at first base, leaving Gonzalez possibly relegated to the bench in 2018. Based on how poor his play has been, there likely will not be a suitor for Gonzalez via trade.
16. MIAMI MARLINS: JUNICHI TAZAWA
It’s astonishing that a player with a 5.69 appeared in 55 games and pitched 55.1 innings out of the bullpen for the 2017 Miami Marlins. That player happens to be reliever Junichi Tazawa, and he is the Marlins’ representative on this list of poor performers in 2017. Initially signed in 2016 to help stabilize the back end of a volatile Marlins bullpen, Tazawa has done anything but that in his first season in Miami. If anything, the Marlins bullpen has been even more volatile and unstable because of Tazawa’s struggles.
Most relievers prefer to be able to settle into their specific roles; they can settle into a routine. When their late-inning reliever consistently fails to get the job done, it forces everyone else to be jumbled and pitch in roles and situations they may be unfamiliar with. This is certainly not what the Marlins envisioned when they inked Tazawa to a 2-year/$12 million deal last year.
15. MILWAUKEE BREWERS: WILY PERALTA
For two straight seasons, the Milwaukee Brewers had to demote their opening day starter, Wily Peralta, to the minor leagues. That is never good news for the player or the team. The Brewers need to find a better pitcher to place at the top of the rotation. Peralta needs to figure out what’s going wrong because after yet another terrible season in 2017, he is the worst player on the Brewers’ roster.
A 7.85 ERA in 19 games, or 50 earned runs in only 57 innings, will do that to a guy. It’s amazing that the Brewers still put him in their rotation after a terrible 2016 season as well. The pile of runs Peralta surrendered in the first half of the season led to his demotion to their Triple-A affiliate in July.
14. MINNESOTA TWINS: CHRIS GIMENEZ
Chris Gimenez is somehow still in the major leagues regularly as a backup catcher, and actually made it into 74 games for the Minnesota Twins. The 34-year-old has a career OPS of .631 in 820 appearances, which is not good. He was pretty much within his career average in 2017 (.220/.350/.382) so the Twins know what they’re getting with Gimenez. He is a catcher who is likely only in the big leagues for that reason, because it’s also not like he is above average behind the plate either. The Twins should be looking for upgrades behind the plate, especially if they want to return to the playoffs again in 2018.
An interesting fact about Gimenez that tells you about his hitting prowess is that he has more career games as a pitcher (5) than as a designated hitter (4). Perhaps a transition to the mound is in order?
13. NEW YORK METS: MATT HARVEY
Not much went right for the New York Mets in 2017. Their usually solid rotation was a mess this year especially since Syndergaard missed much of the season. You know it’s bad when most of your pitching staff has an ERA over 4.00. Matt Harvey, though, was arguably the Mets’ worst player. The former All-Star and Cy Young candidate pitched to a ghastly 6.70 ERA across only 92.2 innings. Harvey, who used to be nicknamed “The Dark Knight” by Mets fans, surrendered more than 5 runs in most of his starts. Though injuries shortened his season, those types of numbers are never good and are reflective of Harvey’s precipitative decline.
Perhaps Harvey pushed himself too much in his earlier seasons and he is feeling the long-term ramifications of it now. One thing is for certain, 2017 was a tenuous season for Harvey and the Mets and Harvey’s odds at getting a significant deal in free agency have gone out the window.
12. NEW YORK YANKEES: JACOBY ELLSBURY
Jacoby Ellsbury had a surge in late-September to improve his numbers somewhat and force his way into a playoff role. While that may bode well for him in 2018, it does not hide the fact that he was awful for pretty much all of 2017. Where were those timely hits when the Yankees needed it most throughout most of 2017? The $153 million outfielder has come nowhere close to earning his annual salary of roughly $22 million. His late surge improved his numbers somewhat, but his final stat line of .264/.348/.402 leaves much to be desired. He still has some respectable power, albeit aided by the homer friendly Yankee Stadium, but his speed and defense have declined rapidly. Ellsbury is essentially just another guy off the bench and has not done much to help contribute to the Yankees’ 2017 success.
11. OAKLAND ATHLETICS: SANTIAGO CASILLA
The Oakland Athletics have now fully embraced their rebuild and shipped away pretty much everyone locked down a guaranteed contract for prospects. Reliever Santiago Casilla is signed for another season at $5.5M and was one of the few players the Athletics didn’t trade. Probably because they couldn’t trade him. Despite the number of contenders looking for bullpen help, not many would be interested in someone who ended up finishing the year with a 4.27 ERA in 57 innings and a 0.6 WAR. Of course, Casilla is the not only who struggled – most of the Athletics’ pitching staff did. The difference here is the A’s were relying on Casilla to provide a stable hand at the back end of the bullpen while their younger arms develop.
10. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: MAIKEL FRANCO
Maikel Franco had a strong September this year, which helped to salvage his season stat line – somewhat. For the season, Franco had a .230/.282/.398 stat line. Those are not particularly good numbers, especially since the standards for third baseman are quite high (Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Adrian Beltre). It also doesn’t help Franco’s case that he is a very subpar defender, finishing the season with a -5 DRS and -4.4 UZR. While the Phillies can remain hopeful that his late-season resurgence will carry forward towards a productive 2018, they cannot count on him being a consistent producer. Franco had a merely average season in 2016 with a .255/.306/.505, only marginally better than how he was in 2017. Franco has regressed each season since 2015, his first full season. The pitchers have adjusted to him and Franco has yet to show he can adjust back.
9. PITTSBURGH PIRATES: JOHN JASO
In a year where not a lot went right for the Pittsburgh Pirates, John Jaso is their representative as the worst player on their 2017 roster. The 34-year-old took a big step backwards offensively from his production levels over the past few years. Jaso batted a paltry .211/.328/.402 in 2017 in 126 games, and gave the Pirates minimal offense (10 homers, 35 RBIs). He will be a free agent this offseason and it is unlikely there will be much interest in a player whose only tool, offense, seems to have abandoned him.
Interestingly, he has speculated he might retire and live life on his sailboat and travel the world! That sounds like an adventure, and if true, he would finish his 9 year career with a batting line of .258/.356/.407 with 55 homers and 281 RBIs.
8. SAN DIEGO PADRES: JERED WEAVER
There used to be a time when Jered Weaver was an elite starter for the Los Angeles Angels. He was feared on the mound and was a perennial All-Star and Cy Young candidate. Recent years have not been as kind to the righty, and 2017 was no exception. Weaver allowed 14 homers this season in 9 games which is never good, but it is made even worse when most of those starts came in the Padres’ pitcher-friendly ballpark. Weaver finished the 2017 season with a 7.44 ERA in 42.1 innings pitched, and was worth -1.4 WAR. Weaver ended up retiring in August, and it’s a shame his once stellar career numbers have been hampered by his string of terrible seasons.
7. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: JOHNNY CUETO
A season ago it seemed likely that Johnny Cueto would opt out of his contract after the 2017 season. He had an All-Star season and finished 6th in Cy Young voting, exactly what the San Francisco Giants thought they were getting with Cueto. The 2017 version of Johnny Cueto changed everything. He pitched to a 4.52 ERA in 147.1 innings, making him worth merely 1.7 WAR. That is not the type of player you’d pay $21M a year to. The Giants should, understandably, be very concerned about how their long-term investment will pan out in the coming seasons. He went from one of the best pitchers in the National League to suddenly one of the very worst. If the Giants want any hope of turning their fortunes around in 2018, they will need Cueto to turn back time and revert back to his 2015/2016 form.
6. SEATTLE MARINERS: YOVANI GALLARDO
I’m really not sure why Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto thought trading for starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo was a good idea. It’s not like Gallardo was particularly good in 2016 for Baltimore – he had his worst career season. That is, until 2017 happened. Gallardo, expected to be a mid-rotation starter, pitched to a 5.72 ERA over 130.2 innings in 28 starts. He averaged about 4 innings per start, which is an incredibly small amount of innings pitched considering he made 28 starts. This means added work for a bullpen that also saw its fair share of struggles. After suffering through consecutive terrible seasons, the Mariners cannot afford to count on Gallardo to provide them much value, if any.
5. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: ADAM WAINWRIGHT
Once upon a time, Adam Wainwright was regarded as one of the game’s top pitchers. Wainwright was an All-Star as recently as 2014, and was even an effective top of the rotation starter in 2016. Whether it be injuries or age catching up to him (turned 36 in August), or a combination, Wainwright suffered the worst season of his pro career in 2016. And by his worst season, we mean bad enough to merit inclusion on this list. He made 24 starts in 2017 but finished the season with an uncharacteristically high ERA of 5.11 across 123.1 innings. Given the lack of quality pitching the Cardinals have received from the rest of the starters, they badly need Wainwright to turn back time for at least one more season.
4. TAMPA BAY RAYS: WILSON RAMOS
On the surface, Wilson Ramos’ stats don’t appear to be too awful. His stat line of .260/.290/.447 is far from the worst on this list, and not even the worst on the Tampa Bay Rays. However, as his 0.1 WAR suggests, Ramos has not been effective at helping his team pick up wins. Every win is crucial in the competitive AL East. Catchers are supposed to be the backbone of the team, controlling the pace of the game and working with the pitching staff. His contract jumps to $10.5M which is a lot for the small-market team.
The Rays were counting on Ramos to jolt their offense and to use his veteran leadership behind the plate to work with their young pitchers. He failed to do either in 2017 and, therefore, he was the worst member of the 2017 Tampa Bay Rays’ roster.
3. TEXAS RANGERS: ROUGNED ODOR
This is another case where a few players could have merited inclusion on this list. Rougned Odor just has to be the choice here, primarily because he was expected to be such a big offensive producer in the Rangers lineup. In 2017, he regressed significantly and therefore let the Rangers down in a big way. He batted a terrible .185 with runners in scoring position (RISP) and struggled to maintain a batting average above the Mendoza line (.200). His defense seemed to fall by the wayside for stretches of time in 2017 as well. While he did display some good power in 2017 – he did hit 30 homers after all – his all-around play in 2017 left much to be desired. In short, his level of production fell way short of expectations.
2. TORONTO BLUE JAYS: LUKE MAILE
Luke Maile appeared in 46 games for the Blue Jays in 2017, second most to starting catcher Russell Martin. He was apparently the Jays backup catcher for most of 2017 and contributed minimally to the Blue Jays during the season. He batted .146/.176/.231 during those 46 games, good for a -0.2 WAR. Even for a defensive minded catcher, that offensive production is far from good. The problem is, Maile is also not a good defender either. That leaves us with a backup catcher who is not particularly good either offensively or defensively. This was not a pretty sight for the Blue Jays in 2017. You know it must be bad if Blue Jays fans prefer to see Josh Thole hit instead of Maile. Hopefully the Blue Jays front office find a better backup catcher to Martin because, in 2017, Maile was the worst player on their roster.
1. WASHINGTON NATIONALS: MATT WIETERS
Remember back when the Nationals signed Matt Wieters to be their starting catcher and let go of Derek Norris, who they had just recently signed at the time? That did not turn out so well for the Nationals. In fairness, Norris also turned to be pretty bad for the Rays. While we will never know how Norris would have fared in Washington, Wieters turned out to be a horrible signing. He contributed nothing offensively after appearing in 123 games in 2017, managing to only bat .225/.288/.344. For a player whose primary value lies in his offense that makes it look especially bad. Washington will have to reassess who they want behind the plate in 2018 as they look to finally make it to the NLCS.
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