I am going to ask three questions that I would bet not many people could come up with an answer to. What I would like for you to do, as the reader, is do your best to answer each question individually before even reading the next question. Remember, all three questions that I ask will relate to the concept of Wins Above a Replacement player - or WAR.
1st overarching question: What does a "League Average" player look like?
When I think of this player, I see someone who maybe has plenty of "50" scouting tools on the 20-80 scale. They have average range for their position, an average arm for their position, an average bat for their position (pop/contact), and average speed for their position.
Statistically what I see, however, is a player who gets a team about 2 WAR.
Which players at each position in the last few years was "League Average"?
C - 2011 Kurt Suzuki
1B - 2012 Chris Davis
2B - 2012 Jamey Carroll
3B - 2012 Alex Rodriguez
SS - 2013 Zack Cozart
LF - 2011 Josh Willingham
CF - 2011 Drew Stubbs
RF - 2013 Carlos Beltran
SP - 2013 R.A. Dickey (220+ IP division)
SP - 2013 Wade Miley (200+ IP division)
SP - 2013 Edwin Jackson (175+ IP division)
Could that team give you a chance to win game in and game out? It might be able to. Keep in mind, it's ARod and Beltran way past the prime of their careers. It's Chris Davis a year before he breaks out. It's career backups or platoon players in Jamey Carroll, Kurt Suzuki, and Drew Stubbs. It's also Zack Cozart and R.A. Dickey who have been good for 2 years. Lastly, it's a starting pitcher a year after he's a CYA type pitcher.
2nd overarching question: What does a "Replacement Level" player look like?
When I think of this player, I think of a player on the downside of their career, a player who is average who is hurt but playing, or a player coming up from the minors to take the place of someone (but not a superstar prospect).
Statistically what I see, however, is a player who gets a team about 0 WAR.
Which players at each position in the last few years was "Replacement Level" for over 500 PAs?
C - 2011 Miguel Olivo
1B - 2011-2012 Mark Reynolds
2B - 2007 Felipe Lopez (I had to go back further than 3 years...)
3B - 2011 Casey McGehee
SS - 2013 Starlin Castro (WOW!)
LF - 2011 Ryan Ludwick
CF - 2009 Alex Rios (I had to go back further than 3 years...)
RF - 2013 Nick Markakis
SP - 2012 Clayton Richard (200+ IP division)
SP - 2012 Ubaldo Jimenez (175+ IP division)
SP - 2011 James McDonald (170+ IP division)
This team really has very little chance of competing game in and game out unless they're facing the 51-win, 111-loss 2013 Houston Astros.
3rd overarching question: What does "Below Replacement Level" look like?
This player is putrid during the season in question. This is a minor leaguer coming up who is way out of his league. This is a platoon player having to play an entire season and not being good at baserunning or defense.
Statistically, these are the worst players in the league at their positions. Who are they (minimum 350 PAs)
C - 2013 JP Arencibia
1B - 2011 Adam Dunn
2B - 2011 Orlando Cabrera
3B - 2011 Chris Johnson
SS - 2013 Adeiny Hechavarria
LF - 2011 Raul Ibanez
CF - 2011 Alex Rios (Wow, made the list twice!)
RF - 2012 Jeff Franceour
SP - 2011 Bronson Arroyo (~200 IP division)
SP - 2012 Ervin Santana (~180 IP division)
SP - 2013 Lucas Harrell (~150 IP division)
This team would have had trouble keeping up with the 51-win, 111-loss 2013 Houston Astros. Well, I retract a portion of that. 2013 Lucas Harrell would simply take 2013 Lucas Harrell's spot - except he'd go from being their 5th worst starter by WAR to their 3rd worst...because 2011 Arroyo and 2012 Santana were worse.