With the baseball season nearing the 50 game mark for most teams, I figured now would be a good time to start diving into some of the early WAR leaders in the majors. When I was doing research for this article I was pleasantly surprised and reminded of how much sabrmetrics truly define a player on his overall game. Of course we all know that Troy Tulowitski is the top of his class and naturally is leading the WAR department, there are quite a few players that I would bet the average fan would have no idea would be near the top of the WAR list. Lets dive in.
1. Troy Tulowitski. 4.2 WAR
Tulo got off to one of the quickest starts that I can ever remember this season. He has cooled off a bit lately, but still was hot enough early to have a commanding leader in the WAR department. He leads Mike Trout by a whole game. Tulo has started the season at .375/.480/.725 with a 215 wRC+. He has played in 48 games and scored 45 runs while driving in 36.
His defense has been just as good as his offense threw his first 48 games. Tulowitzki has already amassed 11 defensive runs saved, and has made 23 plays out of a normal shortstops range. Compared to last year he only had 6 defense runs saved and made 51 out of zone plays. Tulo is the complete two way player and is the best player in baseball right now. Period.
2. Mike Trout 3.2 WAR
I was surprised that Trout was still in the top 5 in WAR this season due to his incredibly high strike out rate (he leads the American League in whiffs), and his slash line is not up to his normal par, .280/.370/.543. Well below his career marks – .310/.400/.544. He has scored 32 runs, drove in 34, swiped 5 bags and hit 10 home runs. His wRC+ is 155 and that would finish below his career 162 mark.
While most everybody would take those numbers to the bank, Trout is well below his normal numbers, but more than makes up for the offense in the defensive category. He has 5 defensive runs saved so far this season, and like Tulo, has made an incredible 22 plays out of normal range already. Trout continues to be a force on both sides of the ball and even if his offensive numbers have “reached level”, he still is one of the best players in the game.
3. Giancarlo Stanton 3.1 WAR
Giancarlo sure is fun to watch. He checks in with a 3.1 WAR and has really had a nice 51 game start to the season. He is a pure masher but also has started to use the whole field when at bat. That is clearly evident in his .307/.398/.599 slash line to start the year. Giancarlo already has 14 home runs, 47 RBI and has scored 35 times himself. He is on pace for a 169 wRC+ and most importantly he may be one of the few players in the league that you should literately stop what you are doing to watch his at bats.
When looking over Stanton’s defensive metrics, I was blown away by how good of a defensive player his metrics suggest that he is. He has 9 Defensive Runs Saved and has made 47 plays out of normal range already. For a offensive first player those numbers can not be over looked.
4. Yasiel Puig 3.0 WAR
That brings us to the enigma known as Yasiel Puig. Like him or not, the dude can just flat out play on both sides of the ball. He is a true 5 tool player and that is made evident in all of his amazing metrics. Offensively he is at a .349/.438/.623 and 199 wRC+ pace. Puig has scored 27 times, driven in 38 and has 10 home runs to go along with 5 steals. Complete player on offense.
We have all seen the incredible plays he has made in the outfield, most notably the play he made this past week that I’m sure everybody reading this saw on sportscenter 100 times. With all of the good in the outfield with Puig, he does have a few brain farts every know and then, which has resulted in a -3 Defensive Runs Saved. He has made 24 plays out of range however which speaks to his effort and hustle.
5. Josh Donaldson 2.7 WAR
Donaldson is easily one of my favorite players to watch play the game. The former catcher has absolutely excelled at third base for the Athletics and has been a force on both sides of the ball. The casual fan has no idea just how much of an impact he has made, Thankfully sabrmetrics can remind us just how good Donaldson really is.
Josh is raking at a .268/.364/.505 / 144 wRC+ clip, which is well below the 4 players mentioned about him, but he has scored 41 times and driven in 36 with 11 home runs. He also walks at a 13% clip. Donaldson got off to a really slow start but has really picked it up in the month of May and is the leader of the first place Oakland Athletics.
Where Josh Donaldson really excels is his gold glove level of defense. Josh already has 11 Defensive Runs Saved which actually equals his output from 2013. He has also made 15 plays out of range which is a real indicator of just how good he is at the hot corner.
That rounds out the top 5 so far this season in Wins Above Replacement. I would have loved to give a top ten list but for the sake of this piece not being much longer than it should be, here are the remaining players on the list. – Carlos Gomez 2.4 , Jose Bautista 2.4 , Justin Upton 2.3 , Andrew McCuthchen 2.2 and Chase Utley 2.1.
I will revisit this topic a little bit later in the season and I’m sure some players that I would have assumed would be on the list, like Miguel Cabrera (1.8) and Evan Longoria (1.4), will be creeping their way into the top ten. It will be fun to watch and see if Tulowitzki can continue his dominance , and if Giancarlo Stanton can continue his outstanding production on a Marlins team that has taken a turn south since the Jose Fernandez injury. I would also look for players like Carlos Gomez and Ian Kinsler to make their moves into the top of the WAR list based on their outstanding play.