With its unveiling of the top 500 players in baseball, ESPN.com is launching Triple Play, a weekday feature that will run throughout the season and include three ESPN contributors answering three topical questions. For now, the feature will focus on the top 500 rankings, but Triple Play's concentration will shift to the daily MLB buzz once the season begins.
Today we'll look at Part 2 of our ESPN 500 series, which focuses on players who rank from 351 to 400. Feel free to chime in on Twitter with the hashtag #ESPN500.
1. Who in this range got a raw deal?
Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand), ESPN New York
Erik Bedard (No. 379) got a raw deal. The guy is quirky and he maybe he has failed to totally honor his talent level. But here are three numbers: 3-6-2. That was Bedard's ERA in 2011, 3.62. He struck out 125 and walked 48. Yes, he was just 5-9, but he pitched with Seattle most of last year. You put that 3.62 ERA on the Yankees and he wins 12 games. Well, at least, that is what Freddy Garcia's 3.62 translated into last season.
Christina Kahrl (@ChristinaKahrl), SweetSpot
While I'm going to give props to Dayan Viciedo (No. 380) because I think he'll pop for power in the Cell, I'm going with Clint Barmes (No. 374) of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a premium defender at shortstop who isn't entirely useless with the stick the way the similarly slick Brendan Ryan of the Seattle Mariners is. This group's an interesting mix of fading vets and some premium defenders.
Jason Wojciechowski (@jlwoj), Beaneball
If Daniel Murphy (No. 352) is healthy, he's better than everyone around him on this list. He can play second and third while hitting for average (though not .320 again) with solid secondary skills: some walks, a little power, even a couple of steals. The ability to handle skill defensive positions with above-average offense should not be underrated.
2. Next year Adam Dunn (No. 372) will rank _____?
Marchand: By this time next year, Dunn will be at 250. He will bounce back this season. I mean, how can he not? It is almost inconceivable to be worse than he was last season, when he hit .159 in almost 500 plate appearances. So he should be better. He still won't be great, but he will be serviceable, at least on offense.
Kahrl: At 272, which is about average. He'll rebound to have a more Dunn-like season, and more closely fulfill the standard of an average DH; of course, he deserves skepticism after a year so bad Harold Baines might have unretired and taken his old job back, but if Dunn belts 25 homers and delivers an OPS around .780, he'll be forgiven.
Wojciechowski: I would not be surprised to see Dunn hit precisely what he did in 2010. Factoring in that he's either a terrible defender or a designated hitter, I think he's in the correct portion of the list right now. If the bat does bounce back, he should be right around No. 350 next year. If it does not, he should consider retirement.
3. Kevin Correia (No. 383) is the lowest-ranking 2011 All-Star. Who here is the best bet to be a 2012 All-Star?
Marchand: I'll go Ruben Tejada (No. 378), because even the Mets will have a representative in the All-Star Game. David Wright is the obvious choice; however, if he struggles, then maybe someone like Tejada can sneak in. I'm not saying Tejada is truly an All-Star, just that he could be because he is from Flushing.
Kahrl: Bartolo Colon (No. 364). Let's face it, it's just because the rules require someone from the Oakland Athletics be selected. It's going to be easier for a journeyman pitcher to slip in -- as Correia did -- than for something weird to happen, like a half-dozen catchers getting doses of three-day All-Star flu at the break just to get Kurt Suzuki in there.
Wojciechowski: Shortstop in the National League is a tough nut to crack, but if Jed Lowrie (No. 398) hits in the first half like he did in 2010 (.287/.381/.526, albeit in just 197 plate appearances), he could get the Houston Astros' token All-Star spot, shooting past Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal and Starlin Castro in the race to back up Jose Reyes and Troy Tulowitzki.