As other baseball writers will tell you, finding a subject to write about during the offseason is pretty tough. It’s especially difficult during that period of time between the end of the World Series and the beginning of the hot stove. So, I enlisted the help of my Twitter followers for the subjects of this post. I simply asked them to name a random baseball player. The only criteria beyond that was that it had to be a current player. I got a lot of interesting answers, but I picked the five most random and lesser known. Full disclosure: I did get players like Mike Trout and Noah Syndergaard, but didn’t want to include them in this exercise. They’ve been written about enough.
Anyway, without further ado, here are the players I’ll be writing about in this post: Cheslor Cuthbert of the Royals, Matt Szczur of the Cubs, Jon Gray of the Rockies, Martin Maldonado of the Brewers , and Gregory Polanco of the Pirates.
First up, Cheslor Cuthbert. My first introduction to Cuthbert was during a game at Yankee Stadium this past May. The Yankees were playing the Kansas City Royals and when Cuthbert came up to bat, my friend and I deduced that Cheslor Cuthbert was not a real name and therefore, he was not a real person. But he is, and this is how he performed in 2016.
Cheslor, a third baseman, had a pretty nice season for the Royals. He played in 128 games, batted .274/.318/.413 in 475 at bats and hit 12 home runs, 28 doubles and drove in 42 runs. He’s currently playing in the Nicaraguan League and is taking reps at second base. A couple of weeks ago, after Kendrys Morales signed with the Blue Jays, Royals’ GM Dayton Moore suggested that Cuthbert could be a floating DH in 2017.
Next we have Matt Szczur of the World Champion Cubs. Szczur, whose name I finally learned to pronounce in September, played in 107 games for the Cubs and hit .259/.312/.400 with five home runs and 24 runs batted in. He also hit nine doubles and a triple. He played all three outfield positions in 2016, and he also revealed that he was a bone marrow donor at 20 years old, and helped saved the life of a 15-month old girl named Anastasia Olkhovsky of Ukraine. That’s pretty cool. Oh, and in case you still don’t know how to say his last name, it’s pronounced like the Roman dictator who was stabbed to death by 60 conspirators, and like his salad. The alphabet is fun, isn’t it?
Our third random player is Jon Gray of the Rockies. I actually had to look him up because I didn’t know which team he was on, which is kind of embarrassing but we’re all friends here, and I can admit that to you. I also, for a brief moment, confused him with Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. Don’t ask, my brain is a frightening place at times. They both inhabit mountainous frozen wastelands. Anyhow, Jon Gray is a right handed pitcher who made his major league debut in August 2015. He pitched a full season for the first time in 2016 and was 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA. He finished the year ninth in fWAR in the NL with a 3.7.
In August, Eno Sarris of Fangraphs profiled Gray and his pitches. At the time of the piece, Gray was working on manipulating his slider against lefties. He wanted to pitch his slider differently to lefties than he was to righties. Unfortunately Gray had some trouble down the stretch, going 3-7 after Sarris’ article was published on August 4, but he had the strongest start of his career on September 17 against the Padres. Gray pitched a complete-game shutout and struck out 16 Padres en route to a 8-0 Rockies win. He threw 113 pitches that day. According to Brooks Baseball, they were 63 fastballs, one changeup, 26 sliders and 23 curveballs. All four hits came off the fastball and he got nine whiffs off his slider. That’ll do.
Number four on our list is Martin Maldonado of the Brewers, who had been the backup for Jonathan Lucroy at catcher since 2012. When I first saw the name in my Twitter replies, I immediately thought of Candy Maldonado, who played for seven different teams from 1981-1995. Martin Maldonado has only been with the Brewers so far and is known more for his defense than his offense—he has a 73 OPS+ and a 75 wRC+ for his career. In 2016, he had a CSAA of .003 and his adjusted FRAA is 4.3.
With Lucroy going to Texas, Maldonado will more than likely remain Milwaukee’s secondary catcher. They have a couple of options—Andrew Susac and Manny Pina—to fight for the starting catcher’s role in 2017, as well as a glut of perfectly mediocre candidates to choose from on the free agent market.
And finally, the last player on this list, is Gregory Polanco whose nickname is El Coffee. It’s even his Twitter handle. I had no idea about this. so big thanks to Baseball-Reference for that bit of information because I’ll definitely sleep better knowing it.
Polanco had a pretty strong 2016 for the Pirates. He batted .258/.323/.463 with 22 home runs and 34 doubles in 144 games. He more than doubled his home run output of 2015 (9) and had a wOBA of .331 and a wRC+ of 108. His legs are approximately a kilometer long. Polanco only turned 25 in September, so we could see him improve even more when he hits his prime, which bodes well for Pittsburgh.
And there you have it. Five random players who all exist and who all play Major League baseball. Isn’t the offseason great?
Stacey Gotsulias is a contributor to Beyond the Box Score. You can follow her on Twitter @StaceGots.