MLBPro100 #1: Copeland Atop List Raises Value Debate

The inaugural MLBPro100 kicked off yesterday, with MLBPro fans, players, insiders…even administration…voting DH Gary Copeland, currently a free agent (and reporting demanding upwards of $40m/year),

Full disclosure: I have a vote. This column will explain my process in the vote, and anything else that pertains to it. It should be noted that the Keepers of the Vote have decided NOT to disclose any other players receiving a vote at this time, in an effort to not tilt any future votes in any direction. I understand and respect that; honestly, having an aura about this thing makes it a bit more interesting.

All that said…I did not vote for Copeland.I considered voting for Copeland. I considered voting for maybe five different players. The Keepers of the Vote didn’t give any guidelines for how to vote, which is how it should be. Player value is in the eye of the beholder.

In this case, this particular person, at this particular spot, raises an interesting debate:

Does Copeland’s singular ability to hit the ball outweigh the multifaceted talent of other players?

Copeland’s hitting ability is not up for debate, of course. His .322 career average is nine points higher than Gus Lopez, who sits second. (Only three qualifying players on the career leaderboard sit over .310; Jose Gonzalez is at .312.)

(Sidenote: Amazingly, Copeland has only led the league in batting twice: a .330 mark in 2016, and a .333 mark in 2022. He has finished second four times, and third once, and never lower than fifth. But it’s odd that he only has two batting titles to his name.)

Where Copeland really shines, of course, is with his eye. He has led the league in OBP every single year he has been in the league, giving him nine straight titles since 2015.

Also among his crowns: 

8x BB (15-21, 23)

3x IBB (17, 19-20)

2x SLG (20, 22) 

6x RC (16, 18-’22)

7x RC/27 (15-16, 18-22)

7x wOBA (15-16, 18-22)

6x OPS (16, 18-22)

6x wRC+ (16, 18-22)

3x WAR (16, 18, 21)

6x GS (16-18, 21-23)

5x PA (16-17, 21-23)

3x H (16, 18, 22)

2x TB (16, 22)

He is the best hitter of this generation. That is not for dispute. But best player, in my humble opinion, encompasses defense, baserunning. (Obviously, this is different for pitchers, but I have my own criteria for them.) 

Copeland last played regular defense in 2020; he wasn’t a disaster, in that he oly had two errors. He also only had 44 assists, which as a first baseman, is not ideal. Copeland registered a -19.8 zone rating, which definitely seems like the worst possible such stat for anyone who registered 1000 innings in the field.

Amazingly, Copeland HAS registered four stolen bases in his career in five attempts. He registered one in each of the last three seasons. And he does not strike out, routinely notching a 2:1 BB/K ratio, at the very least.

The other end of this, and why he didn’t get my vote: The Seattle Experience didn’t go particularly well. It went FINE, sure. But, for the first time, he hit under .300 (.294/.403/.458 in 244 PA). The power fell off (just ten doubles, and seven home runs; he did put up a triple, though). Statistically-speaking, his 2023 season was the second-worst of his career (his 2017 season is likely the worst).

He’s also 32, and he sizes in at 6’1, 260 pounds. (That 260 is most likely conservative.) He does not have a body archetype that historically ages well.

So, how could I put an aging player, who doesn’t field and doesn’t run well, atop my list? He was a top-ten player for me, sure. He wasn’t a top-five player for me, though.

For those who voted him #1, I understand it to a point. But is Gary Copeland the top overall player in baseball, as it stands, on Opening Day 2024?

I do not. But that’s just me.

2025 MLBPro100 Prediction: Only place to go is down, right? So much will depend on where he signs, and how much his new home ballpark is tailored to his skills. I don’t expect him to fall far, but if I had to give a range…I would say 16-20. We’ll see how true that is in a year.

(NOTE: I will divulge who I voted for when that player comes up on the list.)

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