Becoming a player in Major League Baseball is one of the hardest things to accomplish. Consider that all 30 of the MLB teams split between the American League and National League have 40-man rosters for most of the season. That makes up a total of 1,200 positions for the 162-game season that goes from late spring to early fall.
In addition to those MLB roster spots, there are several thousand more players trying to stand out as potential prospects in various minor league affiliates. Those in Triple-A are considered the most likely to receive a call-up request to their big league affiliate. But there are just as many hungry youngsters trying to make an impression at Double-A and Single-A level baseball.
Don’t forget that there are more playing collegiate and high school baseball who are also being considered for the annual MLB Amateur Draft. It can be difficult to maintain a position on one of those 30 MLB rosters. It’s also not a guarantee that everyone is going to be considered a success at any given season.
From youngsters trying to find their niche at the MLB level to veterans who are struggling to maintain the consistency they had throughout a long career, the following are the worst players from each of the current MLB rosters – from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Washington Nationals.
30 Arizona Diamondbacks – Shelby Miller, SP
Pitching has not been one of the strongest parts of this season’s Arizona Diamondbacks. Even the recent free agent signing of Zack Grienke had his shares of struggles with an ERA of 4.37. But Shelby Miller had one of the worst seasons of any starting pitcher in MLB. In 20 starts this season, he finished with a record of 3-12 with an ERA of 6.15 and a WHIP of 1.673.
There was only one game where he threw into the seventh inning with plenty of nights where he was pulled after five innings or less. One of his worst starts was early in the year on April 16 at San Diego where he gave up three walks and two runs in less than two innings of work. Miller also averaged allowing an average of one home run per game.
29 Atlanta Braves – Aaron Blair, SP
Similar to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Atlanta Braves had a lot of pitching struggles. This would explain why they also lost more than 90 games for the 2016 season. While it might be somewhat mean to pick on a rookie pitcher as a big part of the blame, Aaron Blair certainly wasn’t able to help his case. His first 14 starts at the major league level were extremely rough as he finished 1-7 with an 8.02 ERA.
Looking at the numbers, Blair gave up 13 home runs through the games as a big chunk of the 57 earned runs for those 14 games. He also had nearly just as many walks (33) to his strikeouts (36). The worst start of his career was when he gave up nine runs before being pulled early in the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 17.
28 Baltimore Orioles – Nolan Reimold, LF
The Baltimore Orioles had their share of offense from plenty of dependable sources like Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo. But there have been a few disappointing players who were not able to take advantage of the opportunities they were given at the plate. Nolan Reimold played in 103 games this season and was only able to come up with a batting average of .222. Reimold hasn’t been a big known as a big name hitting, but he’s usually good for mid-200s.
Eight seasons in MLB and it feels like his numbers have gone down over the last few years. The 2016 season was not the worst year of his career as he had a .195 average in 40 games for the Orioles in 2013. That might explain why he found himself moving from Toronto to Arizona in 2014. With the numbers he had in 2016, Reimold might not return to Baltimore in 2017.
27 Boston Red Sox – Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Fans of the Boston Red Sox had a lot of reasons to be happy in 2016. They were able to go from worst to first in the American League East Division as part of the swan song for veteran David Ortiz. But one slugger who had one of his roughest seasons in baseball was Pablo Sandoval. He’s only appeared in three games all season and struck out four times in his six at-bats.
It might seem unfair considering he’s been on the DL most of this season due to shoulder surgery, but he was replaced by Travis Shaw during training camp after struggling in 2015. Sandoval came to Boston as a dominant hitter who had a .294 average in seven seasons with the San Francisco Giants, where he also had 106 home runs and 462 RBI.
26 Chicago Cubs – Jason Heyward, RF
The Chicago Cubs have had one of their best seasons in team history. It has been their first 100-win season since 1935 and a lot of happy fans in Wrigleyville. With a lot of great players like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, one of the more disappointing players in the 2016 Cubs roster is easily Jason Heyward.
Similar to the situation with Pablo Sandoval in Boston, Heyward came to the north side of Chicago with a lot of promise after having five really good years in Atlanta and a .293 batting average with the St. Louis Cardinals the previous season. Having played for most of the season, a .230 batting average seems a little underwhelming. Heyward’s seven home runs are the lowest in his career, as well as his .325 slugging percentage.
25 Chicago White Sox – James Shields, SP
Long gone are the days when starting pitcher James Shields found himself third in the voting for the AL Cy Young Award. That was back when he was an ace-quality pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 when the team was a playoff contender. But he started the 2016 season originally with the San Diego Padres and went 2-7 with an ERA of 4.28.
But the White Sox made a trade to acquire Shields in hopes that a change in scenery would help the former All-Star pitcher. Apparently, Chicago wasn’t a good place for him either as he struggled even more. While wearing the white and black with the White Sox, Shields lost another 11 games as a starter with an ERA of nearly 7.00 through 22 starts.
24 Cincinnati Reds – Alfredo Simon, SP
Remember when Alfredo Simon was an All-Star pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds? He’s had his share of ups and downs in his nine seasons in MLB, but he had a good year in 2014 with a 15-10 season and a 3.44 ERA. But his numbers would begin to take a fall after that with a 5.05 ERA in 2015 with the Detroit Tigers.
The Reds were hoping he would be a serviceable member of the rotation in a season where they struggled to keep starting pitchers healthy. In the time he was healthy, his ERA ballooned well above 9.00 with a big portion coming from his start May 17 against the Cleveland Indians. Simon gave up 10 earned runs on 14 hits in only 4.1 innings in that game.
23 Cleveland Indians – Yan Gomes, C
The Cleveland Indians have a lot of players on their roster that led to them winning the American League Central this season. But not everything went exactly as expected within the clubhouse. Veteran catcher Yan Gomes was someone who was likely expected to have a decent season based upon the 2014 seasons when he had 21 home runs and 74 RBI in 135 games. His 2015 season wasn’t necessarily terrible, but he was dealing with some injuries.
For most of the first half of 2016, Gomes was underperforming as he finished the year with a miniscule .167 batting average with nine home runs and 34 RBI. He did fracture his wrist earlier in the season, but he returned just in time for the playoffs this season.
22 Colorado Rockies – Cristhian Adames, SS
Playing at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado is usually considered a good place where you can truly boost your hitting numbers. But for shortstop Cristhian Adames, his first three seasons making an appearance in the major leagues have been pretty disappointing. The 2016 season provided him plenty of opportunities as he appeared in nearly 120 games with 256 plate appearances. Having only two home runs and 17 RBI seems depressing.
Adames actually had 46 strikeouts with an on-base percentage of .304 and a slugging percentage of just .302. It’s likely that his time in the majors is mostly attributed to his defensive abilities, but he only helped turn 20 double plays all season long. Again, it seems rather low many teams usually getting close to one turned per game.
21 Detroit Tigers – Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Yan Gomes wasn’t the only catcher within the American League Central who was a bit of a disappointment for the lack of offensive production. Veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn’t do well for the Detroit Tigers with a batting average that fell to .171. It was one of his worst seasons in MLB in a 10-year career.
Only one home run for more than 90 games was a far cry from when he had some of his best seasons as a catcher – a position that isn’t known for having a lot of power hitters. Back in 2012, he had a career high of 25 home runs with the Boston Red Sox. But his numbers actually started to fall in 2015 where he had a combined .225 batting average between the Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks.
20 Houston Astros – Dallas Keuchel, SP
It can be pretty difficult to have a season that replicates a Cy Young Award. The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel had a lot of expectations to help the Houston Astros build upon their first playoff appearance since losing in the 2005 World Series. But Keuchel began to struggle in the month of May with poor outings that included eight runs on 10 hits in an 11-1 loss to Boston on May 12.
The month of April was his best set of games with four out of five games with a game ERA being under 4.00. But the number continued to climb through the season as the former 20-game winner only managed to win nine of his 26 starts for 2016. A big part of that was his the loss of his command decreasing his strikeout totals from 216 in 2015 to less than 150 this season.
19 Kansas City Royals – Edinson Volquez, SP
Having played in back-to-back World Series can set the bar pretty high for the 2016 Kansas City Royals. But this was a down year as the team barely finished with more than 80 wins after winning the championship in 2015. Starting pitching was a big thorn that plagued the Royals throughout the season and Edinson Volquez was a huge disappointment in the mound for Kansas City.
The former All-Star who once had 17 wins with the Cincinnati Reds in 2008 had fallen since then, but was still a decent pitcher for the Royals the previous two seasons with a combined ERA of 3.30. But in 2016, his ERA went up to 5.37 with a career high in earned runs (110) through his 12 years in MLB.
18 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Jered Weaver, SP
The 2016 season was one that Jered Weaver would like to forget ever happened. Usually, Weaver has been a consistent starting pitcher that earned the right to be the ace for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim since he was a rookie star in 2006 and also earned a spot in the top five of Cy Young Award voting for three seasons. But his numbers have taken a huge hit starting with the 2015 season – a 7-12 record with a 4.64 ERA. The 2016 season was much worse that puts his future effectiveness into question.
Weaver’s record improved to 12-12, but his ERA went north of 5.00 for the first time in his career. His strikeouts were still low compared to the 233 he had in 2010; Weaver only had 103 strikeouts in 2016. Weaver also allowed a career high mark of 37 home runs on his worst statistical season of his career.
17 Los Angeles Dodgers – Enrique Hernandez, OF
The Los Angeles Dodgers are having a memorable year with another reign as the National League West Champions. It’s looking like a potential year destined to provide a perfect sendoff for long-time broadcaster Vin Scully. But not everything has been perfect along the lineup. One player who had a big drop in production is outfielder Enrique Hernandez.
After finishing 2015 with a batting average of .307 in 218 plate appearances, Hernandez saw an increase in playing time of 106 games. But his batting average fell to a depressing .190 with only seven home runs and 18 RBI. This season also saw a career high strikeouts with 64. Hernandez is only in his third season playing in MLB, so there might be some hope for him moving forward. Just not this season.
16 Miami Marlins – Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
The 2016 season has not been too kind to the Miami Marlins organization. From the tragic death of ace pitcher Jose Fernandez to slugger Giancarlo Stanton losing a step in his production, the Marlins are going to have some work to do preparing for the 2017 season. The team might want to consider looking for a new shortstop after a tough season with Adeiny Hechavarria having struggles at the plate and on the field.
Offensively, Hechavarria had a .236 batting average with less than 40 RBI through more than 150 appearances in 2016. Defensively, he had committed the most errors playing a pivotal position inside the infield. His fielding percentage went down from last season to .977 – not an ideal number for any shortstop.
15 Milwaukee Brewers - Ramón Flores, OF
While the Milwaukee Brewers were able to improve from their 94-loss season in 2015, they were still unable to compete in the extremely tough National League Central Division. While many players on the team had put up some good numbers, players like Ramón Flores were unable to perform at a respectable level. In 104 games with the Brewers this year, the young outfielder struggled to hit above a .200 batting average.
He also had a few home runs and less than 20 RBI. Sure, it’s only his second season playing in the major leagues. The only redeeming quality was being able to earn a good number of putouts with 134 out of 139 chances during his time in the outfield. However, defensive abilities can only take a player so far in the professional ranks.
14 Minnesota Twins – Byung Ho Park, DH/1B
With more than 100 losses accumulated through the 2016 season, there are plenty of options to choose from on the Minnesota Twins roster. One of the more disappointing players was rookie Byung Ho Park. He had built up quite an impressive resume playing for the Korea Baseball Organization that included at least 50 home runs in 2014 and 2015. The hope was that he would translate into a decent slugger in the U.S.
In 62 games this season, his batting average was .191 with 12 home runs and 24 RBI. He struck out 80 times in his 244 plate appearances to finish with an on-base percentage of under .300. Park also dealt with a wrist injury that kept him on the shelf in the second half of the season.
13 New York Mets – Wilmer Flores, IF
As the New York Mets were looking to make another deep run in the postseason, there were a few players who saw a big decline in their overall production. Wilmer Flores was usually a dependable defender in the 2015 season as the team made a run to the World Series. Last season, Flores had a fielding percentage of .965 playing shortstop and a 1.000 percentage at second base.
But this year, he committed more errors that brought his numbers down to having a percentage of .938 at third base and .944 at shortstop. Combined with his not-so-stellar offensive numbers - .267 batting average and .319 on-base percentage – Flores could be very expendable when it comes to the offseason meetings. It’s a shame because, as some fans saw late last season, he has an emotional attachment to playing for the Mets organization.
12 New York Yankees – Mark Teixeira, 1B
The honor of the worst player in the New York Yankees organization this season could have been veteran slugger Alex Rodriguez. While his performance has continued to fall over recent years after a lengthy suspension, he retired in the middle of the season as he was unable to perform at a level that resembled what his career numbers dictated. But Mark Teixeira is more than deserving of the title this season.
Once a great slugger who had 144 RBI with the Texas Rangers in 2005 and also 122 RBI in 2009, Teixeira’s numbers have declined since that 2009 season. This year, he had career lows with 15 home runs and only 44 RBI while batting .204 this season. Now 14 years into his career, the once powerful first baseman might have to start thinking of hanging up the cleats as well.
11 Oakland Athletics – Daniel Mengden, SP
For the second consecutive season, the Oakland Athletics lost more than 90 games in a season. The 2016 campaign was filled with a lot of terrible moments, including their usual ace Sonny Gray having a terrible year with a 5-11 record with a 5.69 ERA. Gray wasn’t the worst starting pitcher who entered the A’s rotation this year. That distinction belongs to Daniel Mengden.
Mengden split his time between the major leagues and Triple-A this year, so one has to consider that he this was his first time pitching against MLB batters. Especially against powerful hitters in the American League West like Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre. But a 2-9 record with a 6.50 ERA is still not a good number for any professional baseball pitcher.
10 Philadelphia Phillies – Ryan Howard, 1B
Believe it or not, there was once a time when Ryan Howard looked like he could have slugged his way into Cooperstown early in his career. He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2005. Howard also had six consecutive seasons with 30 or more home runs, including a career high 58 home runs and 149 RBI in the 2006 campaign. But Howard has slowed down.
While he still hit more than 20 home runs in the 2016 season, Howard’s batting average was under .200 for the first time in his 13-year career. When his numbers started to drop in 2012 and 2013 due to injury issues, his numbers still dropped as he played in more than 100 games in each of the last three seasons with the Phillies.
9 Pittsburgh Pirates – Jeff Locke, SP
After three consecutive playoff seasons, the fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates were frustrated to see their team hold a record below .500 for a good portion of the 2016 season. Fingers were pointed around the pitching rotation that was once a big strength for the Pirates. But struggling pitchers like Francisco Liriano and Jon Niese were traded away to other clubs in MLB to gain young developmental players.
Jeff Locke was someone who stayed on the roster and wasn’t able to perform at a respectable level as a starting pitcher. While he has a record of 9-8 through 19 starts, his ERA was well above the 5.00 mark. Part of that is because he allowed more earned runs (77) than he collected strikeouts (73) for the 2016 season.
8 San Diego Padres – Derek Norris, C
The San Diego Padres roster is a group of frustrating players. One of the worst offenders that fans are likely tired of seeing play is catcher Derek Norris. The veteran had put up decent numbers when playing for the Oakland Athletics with a .270 batting average in 2014 during his one and only All-Star nomination. But his numbers started to fall last season with only 14 home runs and a .250 average.
Those numbers continued to decline this year as he had an average of .186 with a little more than 40 RBI. This was despite the fact that he had the same home run totals. Granted, most players on the Padres batting order were barely able to get on the base to provide scoring opportunities for each other.
7 San Francisco Giants – Matt Cain, SP
The San Francisco Giants are known for having some dominating pitchers that have helped them win three World Series championships since 2010. However, this season might not be one of their strongest rotations. Aside from Madison Baumgarner’s 15-9 record and Johnny Cueto’s 18-5 record, the Giants have struggled to find consistency to round out the starting pitching rotation.
Matt Cain is a former All-Star who might also be nearing the end of his career with consecutive seasons with an ERA above 5.00. This season, his ERA climbed to 5.64 as he only had four wins in the 17 games he started in 2016. Fans are hoping that he will return to his older form in time for a postseason push. But after 12 seasons in the major leagues, he might be leaving the team sooner rather than later.
6 Seattle Mariners – Pat Venditte, RP
Some credit should be given to someone like Pat Venditte. It’s hard to make it to the MLB level of baseball being either a left or right-handed pitcher. But to be able to throw well enough with both hands to play professionally is still worth some sort of consolation. But that sort of merit doesn’t really help his case with such a high career ERA. His time with the Mariners was brief in 2016 after being traded from Toronto.
Venditte pitched with an ERA above 7.00, but it wasn’t much better with the Blue Jays as he finished the 2016 season with an ERA above 6.00. There’s a good chance he will still have a chance to develop in the minor leagues because of his talents as an ambidextrous pitcher – not the amphibious pitcher a viral newspaper headline accidently said about him.
5 St. Louis Cardinals – Trevor Rosenthal, RP
Trevor Rosenthal had established himself as one of the more dominating closing pitchers in the 2014 and 2015 season with the St. Louis Cardinals. Between those two seasons, he had a total of 93 saves. That earned him quite the raise from a little more than half a million to $5.6 million. But he was unable to keep the job as a closer after allowing bases loaded walks for losses May 12 against the Angels and again on June 3 against the Giants.
He actually finished with nearly 30 walks through about 37 innings in the season. Rosenthal finished the season with an ERA close to 5.00, but it was closer to 6.00 when he lost the closer role to rookie relief pitcher Seung-hwan Oh, who had an ERA under 2.00 in 75 games this season.
4 Tampa Bay Rays – Brad Miller, IF
There’s a reason why the Seattle Mariners were more than willing to trade away Brad Miller to the Tampa Bay Rays. While Miller did have some respectable numbers offensively with 30 home runs and 81 RBI, his batting average was only .243. But that’s obviously not why he is considered the worst player for the Rays in the 2016 season. His defense made him the worst on the team.
Miller committed a total of 19 errors on defense between playing several positions on the field – shortstop, first base and also in the outfield. This hasn’t been a new problem that popped up in Tampa Bay. He had committed a total of 39 errors in his first three professional seasons with the Seattle Mariners. You can score a lot of runs, but you hurt your team when you make so many mistakes on the field.
3 Texas Rangers – A.J. Griffin, SP
The Texas Rangers certainly have one of the more talented pitching rotations with powerful arms like Cole Hamels, Colby Lewis and Yu Darvish. But A.J. Griffin also had a decent start to the beginning of the 2016 season; winning three of his first four starts. It was looking like the beginning of a great comeback story after not being in the MLB for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
But as the season wore on and Griffin dealt with a couple of injuries that sent him to the DL, Griffin was unable to maintain the momentum to remain at a competitive level. At the end of the season, Griffin’s ERA climbed to 5.07 with a 7-4 record in his 23 starts for the year. His worst game came on Sept. 7 at Seattle when he gave up eight earned runs to the Mariners’ inconsistent offense.
2 Toronto Blue Jays – Justin Smoak, 1B
Justin Smoak is an interesting case. He was often criticized for his inconsistent offensive numbers during his five seasons with the Seattle Mariners. While he showed signs of brilliance, many fans were wanting him gone. But he would end up in Toronto in 2015 and have some moderate success with 18 home runs last season.
But Smoak’s numbers continued to be an issue in 2016. Through 126 games and more than 340 plate appearances, Smoak was only able to come up with 14 home runs and wasn’t able to score 40 RBI in the season for one of his worst seasons other than a 30 RBI run in 2014 with the Mariners. Smoak’s batting average was a very miniscule .217 with the Blue Jays this year.
1 Washington Nationals – Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
The Washington Nationals definitely had one of their better runs within the 2016 season. They could have been the best team in the National League if it weren’t for the Chicago Cubs. But the Nationals didn’t have a lot of terrible players. What they did have were some big names that had some disappointing performances for the 2016 season.
Ryan Zimmerman was someone who had a few Silver Slugger Awards during his 12-year career with big numbers. But the 2016 season was one of the worst of his career with a batting average barely above .200 and a big dip in production with 15 home runs and less than 50 RBI. His lack of offense didn’t impact the Nationals too much when players like Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy were picking up the slack.