MLB 100: The Top 100 Players in Baseball – Part Two
The second part of MLB 100 features the rankings for the top fifty players in the game.
Note: “Position Rank” indicates a player’s ranking relative to players at the same position (first base, third base, outfield, etc.). For players with multiple positions listed, the one that is ranked is the first – with the exception of Shohei Ohtani.
50: Tommy Pham, OF, San Diego Padres (Position Rank: #13) – Pham is another late bloomer that has become an All-Star caliber performer seemingly out of nowhere. From 2006 until 2014, he bounced around the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league system, and finally made his MLB debut in 2014. Three years later, in ‘17, Pham broke out with a 6.2 fWAR campaign. He has since been traded twice, to the Tampa Bay Rays and most recently to the Padres.
49: DJ LeMahieu, 2B, New York Yankees (Position Rank: #3) – Fans questioned the Yankees’ signing of LeMahieu before the ‘19 season, doubting that he would replicate his production outside of hitter-friendly Coors Field in Colorado. LeMehieu did not recreate the numbers that he posted for the Rockies; he instead demolished his previous career-highs in nearly every statistical category in his first year in Yankee pinstripes. He reached career-highs in homers (26), RBI (102), slugging percentage (.518), wRC+ (136), and fWAR (5.4).
48: Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets (Position Rank: #4) – Alonso was NL Rookie of the Year in 2019, setting the all-time record for homers by a first year player, with 53. He was also tenth in all of baseball with a 143 wRC+.
47: Matt Olson, 1B, Oakland Athletics (Position Rank: #3) – Olson is a defensive stud at first base. According to Statcast’s brand-new Infield Outs Above Average, Olson was the best defensive first-baseman in MLB in 2019. Olson is a formidable power hitter for Oakland as well; he has hit at least 24 homers in each of the last three seasons.
46: Shane Bieber, P, Cleveland Indians (Position Rank: #9) – Bieber is a control artist who rarely walks a batter. He ranked sixth in baseball among qualified pitchers in both walk rate (4.7%), and walks per nine innings (1.68). He hilariously chose the nickname of “Not Justin” for last season’s Players’ Weekend.
45: Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs (Position Rank: #2) – Rizzo has become the heart and soul of a Cubs franchise that has seen a renaissance in the years since 2015. He was stolen away from the San Diego Padres in a 2012 trade; the Friars received Andrew Cashner in return for the future star first baseman. Rizzo has been the epitome of consistency during his time in Chicago. He has hit at least 23 homers in every season since 2013, and has recorded an OPS of at least .846 in each of the last six seasons.
44: Yoán Moncada, 3B, Chicago White Sox (Position Rank: #10) – Moncada finally tapped into his much-hyped potential in 2019, as he posted a massive 5.7 fWAR campaign. He will be a centerpiece of the young core that Sox fans hope will lead the club to contention in 2020 and beyond.
43: Joey Gallo, OF, Texas Rangers (Position Rank: #12) – Gallo is a polarizing figure among baseball fans. He has struck out 517 times since 2017, the third highest figure in MLB. Yet, he has been extremely productive in that time, as his isolated power (ISO) was the second best in baseball, at .316.
42: Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (Position Rank: #9) – Seager has not been fully healthy since 2017, when he was an MVP candidate after he put up 6.0 fWAR. His only other full season was his rookie year, when he reached 6.9 fWAR in ‘16. He played through injuries for most of ‘19, yet was still able to accumulate 3.3 fWAR. When Seager is healthy, he is an elite shortstop.
41: Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves (Position Rank: #2) – Albies progressed in 2019, as he improved his overall game by reducing his strikeout rate by 1%, raising his walk rate by 2.4%, and by setting career-highs in slugging percentage (.500) and wRC+ (117). Albies’ development further strengthens a stacked Braves lineup.
40: Marcus Semien, SS, Oakland Athletics (Position Rank: #8) – Semien has turned out to be yet another star player that got away from the Chicago White Sox (see Fernando Tatis, Jr. below). Semien finished third in AL MVP voting in ‘19, and was worth 7.6 fWAR (fifth in MLB and tops among all shortstops).
39: Giancarlo Stanton, OF, New York Yankees (Position Rank: #11) – In the time since he was traded from the Miami Marlins to the Yankees, Stanton has been oft-scrutinized for failing to live up to the massive expectations that fans have placed on him. Prior to the 2019 season in which Stanton appeared in just eighteen games due to injury, he had tallied at least 22 homers in each of his nine Major League campaigns, along with a career OPS north of .900. Stanton is a prime bounce back candidate in 2020.
38: Chris Sale, P, Boston Red Sox (Position Rank: #8) – Sale, like the aforementioned Stanton, is an elite player that is set to rebound in 2020. The lanky lefty has drawn constant comparisons to the legendary Randy Johnson, as his unconventional delivery plays into the deceptive nature of his signature slider. Sale has struck out at least 200 batters in each of the last seven seasons, and his career mark of 11.12 strikeouts per nine innings is tied for the second best all-time among starting pitchers.
37: Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox (Position Rank: #9) – Devers, in his age 22 season, had a sensational 2019. His 5.9 fWAR was tied with Nolan Arenado for the fourth-greatest total of any Major League third basemen. Devers also ranked in the 90th percentile or above in both average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage.
36: Ketel Marte, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (Position Rank: #10) – In Marte’s entire career up until 2019, he had accumulated a total of 3.7 fWAR and 22 homers. In ‘19 alone, he accounted for 7.1 fWAR and crushed 32 long balls.
35a: Walker Buehler, P, Los Angeles Dodgers (Position Rank: #7) – Buehler’s electric stuff is some of the nastiest in the game, and at just twenty-five years old, his arsenal can only improve. Buehler’s 96.5 MPH average fastball velocity was the fifth-highest of any Major League starting pitcher, and the spin rate of his curveball placed in the 96th percentile in baseball.
35b: Jack Flaherty, P, St. Louis Cardinals (Position Rank: #6) – Flaherty’s incredible second half of 2019 saw him lead the Majors with a 0.91 ERA in the second part of the season. For the campaign as a whole, Flaherty’s exit velocity and hard hit percentage against were both in the 91st percentile of MLB pitching.
34: Manny Machado, 3B, San Diego Padres (Position Rank: #8) – Machado has seen his fair share of criticism over the years due to his lack of hustle and occasionally questionable antics. Nonetheless, he is a stellar ballplayer; the former Baltimore Oriole has hit at least 32 homers in every season since 2015.
33: Josh Donaldson, 3B, Minnesota Twins (Position Rank: #7) – The Twins signed Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million deal on January 14th, as the Atlanta Braves were unable to retain the star third baseman. Donaldson rebuilt his value with a fantastic 2019 season after he had dealt with a series of injuries in the years prior. He hit 37 homers and amassed 4.9 fWAR in ‘19, and his underlying peripheral statistics were encouraging as well.
32: Fernando Tatis, Jr., SS, San Diego Padres (Position Rank: #7) – At age twenty-one, Tatis is already an all-star caliber performer at the MLB level. In an infamous 2016 trade, the Chicago White Sox sent Tatis to the Padres in exchange for an aging and ineffective James Shields. In his first Big League season, Tatis posted 3.6 fWAR in just 84 games played.
31: Bryce Harper, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (Position Rank: #9) – Harper is one that many fans love to hate. He departed the Washington Nationals last offseason and accepted a thirteen-year, $330 million deal to join the division rival Phillies. Harper has not come close to replicating the 9.3 fWAR that he achieved in his MVP 2015 season, but he has still been a productive player in recent years. He has mashed 24 or more homers in each season since ‘15.
30: Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals (Position Rank: #6) – Part of the reason that the Nationals allowed Harper to walk was their faith in the talented Trea Turner. The speedy shortstop is an excellent base runner and has sneaky power, and his .850 OPS, 117 wRC+, and .497 slugging percentage were all career-highs for a full season.
29: Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros (Position Rank: #5) – In the years since the Astros selected him first overall in the 2012 draft, Correa has been an outstanding player and a key contributor to a club that won the ‘17 World Series (although, that comes with an asterisk). However, he has not appeared in more than 110 contests since 2016 due to a strange array of injuries. Based on talent alone, he is a top ten player in baseball; he needs to show more durability in order to truly earn that status.
28: Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves (Position Rank: #1) – Freeman is the top first-basemen in the game, and is a stalwart in the Braves’ feared lineup. Freeman’s reputation has been built upon durability and consistency, as he has appeared in 147 or more games in seven of the last nine seasons, and hit at least 18 homers in each year since 2011. Also, the Braves should probably be looking into signing Freddie’s son Charlie to a futures contract.
27: Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies (Position Rank: #4) – The first week of Story’s Major League career was unlike any in the history of the sport. He homered seven times in his first six games played, a feat which had never before been accomplished. Remarkably, he has only gotten better since his strong rookie season. He set consecutive career-highs in fWAR in 2018 (5.1) and ‘19 (5.8).
26: Stephen Strasburg, P, Washington Nationals (Position Rank: #5) – Strasburg was virtually unhittable in the 2019 playoffs, and has been in previous postseasons as well. His career postseason ERA is a miniscule 1.46, and he has struck out 71 batters in 55.1 playoff innings pitched. Strasburg received a sizable raise this winter, as he agreed to a seven-year, $245 million deal to remain in Washington D.C. for the foreseeable future.
25: Yasmani Grandal, C, Chicago White Sox (Position Rank: #2) – Grandal followed his forgettable 2018 postseason with a terrific ‘19 campaign after he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. This winter, he cashed in on his success from ‘19, as he inked a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox. Grandal is known for his pitch-framing, and is also a fantastic power hitter – especially for a catcher. Grandal is the only backstop in baseball that has recorded at least 15 homers in each of the last six seasons.
24: J.T. Realmuto, C, Philadelphia Phillies (Position Rank: #1) – Realmuto’s unique skill set and well-rounded game make him the top catcher in baseball. Along with his elite pitch-framing abilities and strong throwing arm, Realmuto is also among the best base runners in MLB – nearly unheard of for a catcher. His 5.7 fWAR in 2019 was easily the highest total of any Major League catcher.
23: José Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros (Position Rank: #1) – Altuve’s lovable short-guy persona and infectious smile combine to make him one of the most recognizable faces of baseball. The 2017 AL MVP also has a special clutch gene. In fifty career playoff games, the five-foot-six second baseman has hit 12 homers (including three in Game One of the ‘17 ALDS) and has an OPS of .872. However, once again, this all may come with an asterisk.
22: Javier Báez, SS, Chicago Cubs (Position Rank: #3) – Baez’s flair and style are matched only by his talent and ability. In 2018, his 5.3 fWAR led him to finish second to Christian Yelich in NL MVP voting, and he followed up his breakout season with a 4.4 fWAR effort in ‘19. If he can improve his plate discipline, he has the potential to become a top-five player in baseball.
21: Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox (Position Rank: #2) – “The X-Man” has been an excellent shortstop since his debut in 2013, and took a step even further in ‘19. His 6.8 fWAR led the Red Sox, and was the second highest mark of any Major League shortstop (see Marcus Semien at number 40 on this list).
20: Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals (Position Rank: #8) – Make no mistake, Juan Soto is a Hall of Fame talent. He made the leap to the Major Leagues at just 20 years old, and has immediately become an elite hitter, with a veteran-like approach and tremendous opposite-field power. Soto is one of only five Major League lefties that had an OPS better than .850 versus left-handed pitching (minimum 200 plate appearances). He has irritated some with his patented “Soto Shuffle”, yet this is the brand of fun and joy that MLB should be promoting as much as possible.
19: José Ramírez, 3B, Cleveland Indians (Position Rank: #6)– A man who is known to love hitting “The Home Run Pitch”, Ramírez is a versatile infielder and disciplined hitter. From 2016 through ‘18, Ramírez was spectacular; he slashed .300/.375/.533/.908, and hit 79 homers. In the first half of ‘19, he struggled mightily (.652 OPS), but he returned to form (1.105 OPS) in the second part of the season.
18: George Springer, OF, Houston Astros (Position Rank: #7) – Springer has been with the Astros since the dark days of 2011, and has been a significant contributor to the franchise’s sustained success since ‘15. He has homered 16 or more times in each of his six Major League campaigns.
17: Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics (Position Rank: #5) – Chapman is a stud defender who is a solid all-around hitter as well. He has accumulated 12.7 fWAR over the last two seasons combined, which ranked third among all Major League third-baseman.
16: Justin Verlander, P, Houston Astros (Position Rank: #4) – Verlander was already quite possibly on the Hall of Fame track before he was traded to the Astros in 2017, but he has solidified his case with his career revival in Houston. The ‘19 AL Cy Young Award winner has gone 42-15 as an Astro (73 starts), and has recorded a 2.45 ERA (3.00 FIP) along with 633 strikeouts in 471.0 innings pitched.
15: Shohei Ohtani, DH/P, Los Angeles Angels (Position Rank: N/A) – Ohtani is one of the most unique talents that baseball has ever seen, outside of Babe Ruth. He exceeded expectations during his rookie season in 2018, as he performed as both an excellent starting pitcher and DH. Despite being shut down as a pitcher for ‘19 due to Tommy John Surgery, Ohtani appeared in 106 as a DH, and slashed .286/.343/.505 with 18 homers. His jaw-dropping power as a batter and impressive arsenal as a pitcher will make Ohtani a fascinating player to watch so long as he is healthy. Further, new manager Joe Maddon will certainly not shy away from maximizing his talents.
14: Max Scherzer, P, Washington Nationals (Position Rank: #3) – Scherzer’s demeanor and passion for the game are that of a champion, and the fiery righthander became just that when his Nationals won the 2019 World Series. His contract is a testament to the possibility of a free-agent megadeal (seven-years, $210 million in 2015) that ends up being worth every penny. Since ‘15, Scherzer leads Major League pitchers with 32.6 fWAR, and has won two NL Cy Young Awards (‘16 and ‘17).
13: Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves (Position Rank: #6) – Acuña’s flair has triggered some old-timey baseball folks, yet he could not care less – and neither should any baseball fan. The gifted 22 year old has totaled 67 homers and 9.3 fWAR over his first two seasons combined. Acuña’s vibrant energy and fearless personality work to make baseball far more enjoyable, and much more appealing to a younger generation of fans.
12: Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs (Position Rank: #4) – Bryant is the best position player that the Cubs have been blessed with since Ryne Sandberg, and it is a shame that many fans on the North Side of Chicago do not recognize this. The 2016 NL MVP has accumulated the third-most fWAR (27.8) of any Major Leaguer since his rookie season of 2015, behind only Mookie Betts (35.4) and Mike Trout (44.2).
11: Gerrit Cole, P New York Yankees (Position Rank: #2) – Cole was drafted number one overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011, and had spurts of dominance as well as periods of struggle during his time in the Steel City. His immense talent was mismanaged by the dysfunctional Pirates, and before 2018, he was traded to the Astros for a minimal return. The Astros tinkered with the flame-throwing righty and guided his use of the high fastball as opposed to his traditional sinker or two-seam fastball. With Houston from 2018-19, his numbers were otherworldly: he went 35-10 in 65 starts, with a 2.68 ERA (2.67 FIP) in 412.2 IP, while striking out 602 batters (13.1 strikeouts per nine innings to lead qualified MLB starters). Earlier this offseason, Cole signed the richest contract ever for a MLB pitcher, as he agreed to join the Yankees for $324 million over nine years.
10: Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies (Position Rank: #3)– Arenado may be on track to become the best defensive third basemen in baseball history. His bat is not all that horrible, either. Arenado has posted at least 4.5 fWAR and blasted 37 or more homers in every season since 2015. Despite everything that he has accomplished to this point, the Rockies seem oddly inclined to trade Arenado, with rumors circulating that have connected him to the St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, and Chicago Cubs, as well as some other teams.
9: Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees (Position Rank: #5) – Judge is the larger-than-life face of the most iconic franchise in baseball. His classiness and humble nature are respected around the game, and he is a perfect representative of everything that MLB should stand for. His rookie season in 2017 was truly magical, as he finished second in AL MVP voting and mashed 52 homers, including this mammoth 495-foot shot against the Baltimore Orioles. Judge has dealt with injuries in the years since, and will look to put together another full season in 2020. If he can, he will again be in the running for MVP honors with a Yankees team that has a World-Series-or-bust mentality.
8: Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians (Position Rank: #1) – Lindor’s name has been tossed around in trade rumors this offseason due to widespread speculation that the Indians will not be able to retain him long-term. Regardless of his uncertain situation, Lindor is the top shortstop in MLB; his 27.2 fWAR since 2015 leads all Major Leaguers at the position. The nickname of “Mr. Smile” befits a player who radiates a fun-loving energy at all times, even after he took a tumble rounding first base while recording his first Big League hit.
7: Cody Bellinger, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (Position Rank: #4) – Bellinger was named NL MVP in 2019 after his 47-homer, 7.8-fWAR campaign in 2019. Bellinger was fourth in MLB with a .324 ISO in ‘19, and he finished in the 100th percentile in both xBA and xwOBA. As a side note, the 2017 contest versus the Philadelphia Phillies in which Bellinger hit his first two career homers was one of the more memorable regular-season affairs in recent history.
6: Jacob deGrom, P, New York Mets (Position Rank: #1) – The two-time defending NL Cy Young award winner is the best pitcher in baseball. deGrom’s combined numbers over the last two campaigns (sixty-four starts) are absurd: 2.05 ERA (2.32 FIP), 524 strikeouts in 421.0 IP, and 16.0 fWAR. He also represents a perfect case against wins and losses for pitchers, as he went just 21-17 from 2018-19.
5: Anthony Rendon, 3B, Los Angeles Angels (Position Rank: #2) – Rendon, the former Washington National (and 2019 World Series Champion), signed a lucrative seven-year, $245 million pact with the Angels earlier this winter. The superstar third baseman has reached at least 6.2 fWAR in each of the last three seasons, all while playing the game that he calls “boring”.
4: Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (Position Rank: #3) – It was expected that Yelich’s production would see an uptick after his trade to the Brewers, as he would move from pitcher-friendly Marlins Park to the launch pad of Miller Park. It can be safely assumed that nobody saw this level of improvement coming, as Yelich has become one of the most feared hitters in baseball. Yelich has hit the third-most homers (80), has recorded the second-highest slugging percentage (.631), and the fourth-highest fWAR (15.4) in MLB across the last two seasons.
3: Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros (Position Rank: #1) – Bregman’s monster 2019 season led him to challenge Mike Trout for the AL MVP award. He ranked in the top ten in all of baseball in fWAR, wRC+, slugging percentage, homers, walk rate, and on-base percentage. While he does benefit from playing in the hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park, he is certainly one of the very best players in the game.
2: Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox (Position Rank: #2) – The 2018 AL MVP slowed down a bit in ‘19, as he “only” totaled 6.6 fWAR. Betts will be a free agent after the 2020 season, which is the reason that he has been the subject of swirling trade rumors this winter.
1: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (Position Rank: #1) – Not only is Mike Trout currently the number one player in baseball, he is the best player in the history of the sport.