Jerseys and other team apparel seem to be the topic of choice on baseball internet this week. It’s taken over here at Over the Monster and at SB Nation at large, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I like jerseys just fine and ones without player names and numbers have their place, but my favorite team apparel is the player shirt. So, in honor of this revitalized interest in jerseys, its time to bring back the player shirt power rankings.
A lot has changed since we last did this. The roster looks quite different, particularly after the Mookie Betts and David Price trade. You’ll also notice a change in the rankings themselves. I’ll be highlighting the top 10 rather than the entire roster.
As a reminder, this is not a ranking of the best players, but a ranking of whose player shirt would be the best investment right now. That means I’ll be incorporating tangible factors (player performance, service time, contract length, etc.) and qualitative factors (overall fan appeal, how fun they are on and off the field, memorable moments). Obviously, that second part will bake in my own bias, so feel free to let your own preferences be known in the comments.
Honorable Mention: Mookie Betts
You can get a Mookie Betts player shirt on the cheap and what if, and hear me out, some time in the future, the Red Sox sign him as a free agent after trading him? Okay. That is supremely unlikely, but even if the odds are long, it could be a worthy gamble. Plus, worst comes to worst, you have a cool throwback shirt. It’s not Betts’ fault the front office traded him.
10. Nathan Eovaldi
Eovaldi has maintained an elevated spot on this list in large part because of what he did during the 2018 World Series. Anyone who guts out inning after inning like he did in game three, even if it came in a loss, will always be celebrated. Those memories are doing a lot the heavy lifting right now, however. The right-hander struggled was injured for a large chunk of last season and wasn’t as light’s out as the Red Sox would have hoped when he was healthy. He’ll have time to bounce back and he’ll have to, both to keep this spot and to help the Red Sox.
9. Christian Vazquez
Catchers who can really bop are some of my favorite players. Before 2019, Vazquez was a perfectly solid platoon catcher, but after he smashed 23 long balls and took control of the starting role entirely last season, its clear that he is the team’s answer behind the plate. What he might not know is that the position comes with a spot on this list as well.
8. Andrew Benintendi
Congratulations to Benny for being in the top 10, but this is actually a lower ranking than Red Sox fans were expecting just a year or two ago. Benintendi was a much hyped prospect who became a four-win player in 2018. He also made this catch that year. Unfortunately, he regressed heavily in 2019, ending up with a perfectly average 100 wRC+. He’s still just 25 and has all the tools to be a star, so its far from time to jump ship, but maybe use some caution when finalizing your shirt order.
7. Jackie Bradley Jr.
As long as Bradley Jr. continues to be a defensive superhero in center field, he could hit .100 for all I care.
6. Chris Sale
This is tough. The only current player shirt I own has Sale’s name on the back. I got the shirt as soon as I could after the Red Sox traded for him. He has not given me any reason to regret the decision either. Sale has a 2.57 FIP and 763 strikeouts across 519 2⁄3 innings with the Red Sox. When he’s been on the mound, he’s been as good as advertised, if not better.
If you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, here it is. Sale is coming off the worst season of his career and he’s recovering from surgery. He will have plenty of time to rest with baseball still on hold, but we don’t know how effective he’ll be when he does return. If he comes back and dominates, his shirt is a great purchase since he’s signed through 2025. If he never returns to form, then its a less solid investment.
5. J.D. Martinez
If you like dingers, then you love Martinez. He has already hit 79 in two full seasons in Boston, making the All-Star Game in both of those campaigns. He is a legitimate superstar and one of the best power hitters in baseball. So why isn’t he any higher? That would be due to the opt-out clauses in his deal in 2020 and 2021. If I could guarantee Martinez would stick around to the end of his contract, then I’d be telling you to buy now. With how it stands, I still am, but there’s an inkling of doubt.
4. Michael Chavis
Chavis likes The Office and clearly thinks about it a lot. I like The Office and also think about it a lot. As if that wasn’t enough, and it most certainly is, Chavis is also a 24-year-old multi-position infielder who can hit for power and hasn’t even realized his full potential yet. I’ll take two, please.
3. Eduardo Rodriguez
Is... is Rodriguez the ace of the Red Sox staff? With Sale injured, Eovaldi attempting to bounce back and the rest of the rotation lacking the credentials to challenge for the throne, the answer is yes. Rodriguez went 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA (3.86 FIP) last season and came in sixth in AL Cy Young voting. He’s also only 27 and won’t be an unrestricted free agent until 2022. That’s plenty of good shirt wearing time.
2. Xander Bogaerts
Bogaerts just gets better and better. He was at his absolute best in 2019, slashing .309/.384/.555, hitting 33 home runs and producing nearly six wins above replacement by Baseball-Reference’s reckoning. He came in fifth in AL MVP voting, won a Silver Slugger and made the All-Star team. He’s the best shortstop the Red Sox have had since Nomar Garciaparra and if you don’t already have his name on a shirt, you are missing out.
*Checks closet. Sees I don’t have a Bogaerts player shirt. Rethinks life choices.*
1. Rafael Devers
It’s really a coin flip between Devers and Bogaerts. We’ll give a slight edge to Devers because of his age. At 23, he’s got his whole career in front of him, and what a career it could be. Devers displayed real potential in 2017 and 2018 and then broke out in 2019, smashing 32 home runs and slashing .311/.361/.555. As if that wasn’t enough, he led all of baseball total bases (359) and topped the AL in doubles (54). If you buy a Devers shirt now, you might not have to buy a new one again for a decade or more.