Earlier this week, Houston Astros right fielder Hunter Pence won a precedent-setting arbitration case against his career-long club, earning a record $6.9 million award as a second-time-eligible position player. On the face of it, Pence's payout might not seem surprising: the 27-year-old netted an All-Star nod in 2009 and offers an alluring combination of power and speed, having hit exactly 25 home runs to go along with at least 10 steals in each of the past three seasons.
The problem with Pence is that he's, at best, a complementary player in a good lineup. Most clubs would be happy to have him audition for a supporting role, but he would be miscast as the leading man in a championship-caliber production. From 2008 to 2010, NL right fielders as a group produced a .266/.341/.443 triple-slash line, comparable to Pence's .278/.330/.466 performance, although the Astros' unremarkable offense was bolstered by his above-average work in the field and on the bases.
Unfortunately for Houston, PECOTA (Baseball Prospectus' signature projection system), pegs Pence as the 2011 team's presumptive MVP. That's more an indictment of the Astros than an endorsement of Pence -- even the worst teams have to have a best player. But who are the worst of baseball's best players, and what can they tell us about their teams' chances of success?
For reference, here's the list of 2010's worst "best" players -- in other words, the worst players to qualify as the class of a 25-man roster, as judged by the wins above replacement player (WARP) metric.