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Ranking the 50 Best Players on Current MLB Playoff Contenders

Rick WeinerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 3, 2017

Ranking the 50 Best Players on Current MLB Playoff Contenders

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    While every MLB team might have a star player, not every star player can say that their team winds up in contention for a playoff spot.

    Yet you can be sure that each of the teams contending for a playoff berth has more than one star player, whether it be two bats or a bat and a pitcher.

    There's no way we'll agree on who the top 50 players on these contenders are. Chances are, we won't agree on who the contenders are, either.

    But we'll not only look at what these players are doing in 2012, we'll take a look back at how some of these players have performed in prior postseasons as well.

     

    While the Brewers, Diamondbacks and Phillies are technically still alive in the playoff picture, all three were not considered for this article due to how many teams they need to pass by in order to get in.

    Unless noted otherwise, all statistics are prior to any games being played on Sept. 11.

No. 50: Ben Zobrist, IF/OF, Tampa Bay Rays

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    2012 Stats: 135 G, .262/.370/.462, 16 HR, 60 RBI, 14-for-23 SB

    One of the more underrated players in the game, Ben Zobrist doesn't put up gaudy statistics. He doesn't contend for batting crowns and home run titles.

    But he gets on base. All the time. And he's versatile, willing to play wherever Rays manager Joe Maddon needs him on a given day.

    There's no skewing the numbers, though; Zobrist hasn't been good in the postseason.

    A .229 batting average to go along with only three extra-base hits (one home run) and two RBI over 16 postseason games is unacceptable for anyone, much less a player who has the ability to produce like Zobrist does.

No. 49: Josh Reddick, RF, Oakland Athletics

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    2012 Stats: 134 G, .250/.316/.477, 28 HR, 75 RBI, 10-for-11 SB

    The A's leader in home runs and RBI, most expected Josh Reddick to have much more impressive power numbers at this point in the season after an excellent first half.

    Reddick, 25, had 20 home runs and 43 RBI under his belt by the time the All-Star break rolled around, but he has struggled mightily in the second half of the season, hitting .228 with only eight home runs and 32 RBI.

    He's been especially poor in September, hitting .086 with two RBI and getting on base only six times. Oakland is going to need Reddick to get back on track quickly if it has any thoughts about making a run in the playoffs.

No. 48: Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves

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    2012 Stats: 95 G, .297/.376/.484, 14 HR, 59 RBI, 1-for-1 SB

    Entering the final leg of his Hall of Fame career, 40-year-old Chipper Jones is certainly playing at a high enough level where he's probably got a few more productive seasons in him, especially if he moved to the American League and became a designated hitter.

    But Jones is set on retiring following the 2012 season, and the Braves are looking to extend his time in the game this October with a deep run in the postseason.

    Chipper's postseason numbers aren't much worse than his career marks in the regular season: a .288/.411/.459 batting line with 13 home runs and 47 RBI over 92 playoff games.

No. 47: Fernando Rodney, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

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    2012 Stats: 66 G, 2-2, 0.69 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 65.1 IP, 39 H, 9.09 K/9, 42-for-44 SV

    When Fernando Rodney signed with the Rays this past winter, he was viewed as another bargain-bin addition for the frugal Rays.

    He was expected to be part of a closer committee along with Joel Peralta and the incumbent closer in Tampa Bay, Kyle Farnsworth.

    Instead, Farnsworth got injured, and Rodney emerged as not only the best closer in Tampa Bay, but the best closer in baseball in 2012.

    While Adam Dunn is sure to win the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award, he has returned to doing what he's done for his entire career: serve as a run producer who strikes out a ton and doesn't hit for a high average—an all-or-nothing type of guy.

    Considering that Rodney hasn't had an ERA under 4.00 since 2006, I'd say his season is by far the more remarkable comeback story.

    Over 7.2 postseason innings in his career, Rodney has a 2.35 ERA and 1.44 WHIP.

No. 46: Wei-Yin Chen, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

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    2012 Stats: 28 GS, 12-9, 4.06 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 168 IP, 157 H, 7.38 K/9

    About 75 percent of the time, 27-year-old southpaw Wei-Yin Chen is awesome.

    Seven of his 28 starts on the season have seen him allow five or more earned runs.

    But in the other 21 starts, Chen has been outstanding, going 11-3 with a 2.39 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 107 strikeouts over 131.1 innings of work.

    A rookie, Chen has obviously never pitched in the postseason, but it's interesting to note that his numbers over the 21 starts previously mentioned are virtually identical to the numbers Chen put up while pitching in Japan.

    In more than 600 innings of work over four seasons, Chen posted a 2.48 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, striking out 500 batters.

No. 45: Yoenis Cespedes, CF, Oakland Athletics

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    2012 Stats: 107 G, .286/.341/.470, 16 HR, 66 RBI, 15-for-18 SB

    He hasn't quite lived up to the incredible hype that surrounded him this winter, but 26-year-old Yoenis Cespedes has been a solid addition to the middle of the A's lineup.

    Cespedes missed most of May due to injury and has hit a wall in September, but he remains the A's leader in both batting average and on-base percentage.

    There's little question that by the time his four-year, $36 million contract is up, his numbers will prove that the A's got themselves a bargain.

No. 44: Jarrod Parker, RHP, Oakland Athletics

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    2012 Stats: 25 G (25 GS), 10-8, 3.56 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 154.1 IP, 141 H, 6.65 K/9

    With staff ace Brandon McCarthy likely out for the rest of the season after suffering a fractured skull and a brain contusion that required emergency surgery (the result of getting hit in the head with a line drive), 23-year-old rookie Jarrod Parker will be looked upon to lead the A's pitching staff into the postseason.

    The biggest part of the trade that sent Trevor Cahill to Arizona this past winter—which has already made A's GM Billy Beane look like more of a genius than people thought before the deal was made—Parker has recovered since running into trouble during the middle of the season.

    Still years away from reaching his full potential, Parker is the future ace of what figures to be a very young and very talented A's starting rotation.

No. 43: Austin Jackson, CF, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Stats: 117 G, .303/.385/.481, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 11-for-20 SB

    He might not be the slugger that Curtis Granderson is, but it's fair to say that the Tigers are quite pleased with 25-year-old Austin Jackson, the biggest piece that they received in return for their former star.

    Aside from playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field, Jackson has been the table-setter and an on-base machine for the Tigers offense in 2012, ranking among the league leaders in OPS, batting average and runs scored.

    Jackson got his first taste of the postseason last year and struggled, but he's a far superior player today compared to what he was a year ago. Big things will be expected of him should the Tigers make the playoffs in 2012.

No. 42: Carlos Beltran, RF, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2012 Stats: 132 G, .262/.333/.492, 29 HR, 87 RBI, 13-for-18 SB

    He might not be the five-tool player that he once was after years of wear and tear (and a few knee surgeries thrown in for good measure), but 35-year-old Carlos Beltran has been a solid contributor for the Cardinals in 2012.

    Beltran has been a shell of the player we saw in the first half of the season, barely keeping his average in the second half over the Mendoza Line (.209 with nine home runs, 22 RBI and a .695 OPS).

    Yet the Cardinals remain in the thick of the National League wild-card race, and if Beltran wakes up, he'll only make them a stronger club in October.

    The postseason might be exactly what Beltran needs to wake up, as his playoff numbers are outstanding (even though he didn't move the bat off of his shoulder and took a called third strike to end the 2006 NLCS).

    Rewind back to the 2004 NLCS when he put the Houston Astros on his back and almost carried the team to the World Series. Over 12 games, Beltran hit .455 with eight home runs, 14 RBI, 21 runs scored and an OPS of 1.560.

No. 41: Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Atlanta Braves

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    2012 Stats: 53 G, 1-1, 1.18 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 53.1 IP, 22 H, 16.50 K/9, 35-for-37 SV

    Last year during a Bleacher Report Roundtable podcast among B/R's MLB writers, I said that Craig Kimbrel was reminding me an awful lot of Mariano Rivera when he first broke into the majors—a statement that made more than one of my colleagues raise their eyebrows.

    Yet Kimbrel, 24, has been one of the three most dominant closers in baseball this season, ripping through lineups whenever the chance presents itself.

    Kimbrel appeared in four postseason games for the Braves back in 2010, pitching to a 2.08 ERA and 0.46 WHIP while striking out seven batters over 4.1 innings of work.

No. 40: Andre Ethier, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2012 Stats: 129 G, .288/.357/.466, 17 HR, 80 RBI, 2-for-4 SB

    Notorious for hot starts and cool finishes, 30-year-old Andre Ethier has been the model of consistency in 2012. A first-half batting line of .291/.357/.491 has been followed up with a .284/.357/.431 mark thus far in the second half.

    While his power numbers are lower than you'd expect, the 31-year-old seems to be getting the pop back in his bat, with three home runs and four RBI over his past eight games.

    His postseason numbers are solid but not spectacular. In 18 postseason games, Ethier has a .266 batting average, an .856 OPS, three home runs and six RBI.

No. 39: Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Stats: 124 G, .310/.380/.497, 22 HR, 66 RBI, 0-for-0 SB

    Back in 1998, the White Sox traded outfielder Mike Cameron to the Cincinnati Reds for a relatively unknown first baseman named Paul Konerko.

    Cameron was an enigma for most of his career, never fully living up to the hype that surrounded his arrival in the big leagues, while Konerko has become one of the more consistent players in baseball.

    A six-time All-Star, an average season for Konerko since 1999 has been a .286 batting average with 29 home runs and 93 RBI.

    While his postseason batting line of .243/.300/.554 doesn't look great, he's driven in 17 runs in the 19 postseason games he's played as a member of the White Sox. 

No. 38: Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals

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    2012 Stats: 125 G, .286/.354/.479, 21 HR, 82 RBI, 5-for-7 SB

    If Ryan Zimmerman had produced in the first half of the season as he has since the All-Star break, he would serve as stiff competition for the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen in the voting for the National League Most Valuable Player award.

    In 56 games since the All-Star break, the 27-year-old Zimmerman has a .341/.406/.592 batting line with 13 home runs and 42 RBI. Over the course of a full season, we'd be looking at 40 home runs and 120 RBI.

    Now in his eighth season, 2012 will mark the first time that Zimmerman has participated in playoff baseball.

No. 37: Jake Peavy, RHP, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Stats: 27 G (27 GS), 10-10, 3.22 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 187 IP, 166 H, 7.80 K/9

    Able to stay healthy all season for the first time since he won the National League Cy Young Award with the Padres in 2007, 31-year-old Jake Peavy has paired with Chris Sale to form a devastating one-two punch at the top of the White Sox rotation in 2012.

    His four complete games are the third most in the American League, and he's among the leaders in innings pitched, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.

    Peavy was a part of two playoff teams with the Padres and was downright terrible, going 0-2 with a 12.10 ERA and 2.38 WHIP, allowing 19 hits and 13 earned runs over only 9.2 innings of work.

No. 36: Jay Bruce, RF, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Stats: 136 G, .265/.342/.552, 33 HR, 96 RBI, 7-for-9 SB

    On the verge of putting together the first 100-RBI season of his career, 25-year-old Jay Bruce has become a potent slugger in the middle of the Reds lineup.

    Selected to his second consecutive All-Star game in July, Bruce has already set new career highs in doubles and home runs, with RBI the next category on his list. 

    He's played in one postseason series—the 2010 NLDS against the Phillies—where he hit .250 with an OPS of 1.025 in three games, smashing a solo home run off of then-Phillies starter Roy Oswalt in the fourth inning of Game 2.

No. 35: Curtis Granderson, CF, New York Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 138 G, .235/.324/.482, 35 HR, 86 RBI, 8-for-11 SB

    Curtis Granderson might not approve of being called a power hitter (via ESPN), but that's exactly what he's become.

    His numbers across the board are down from 2011, but Granderson continues to produce, leading all center fielders in both home runs and RBI.

    Since joining the Yankees prior to the 2010 season, Granderson has played in 14 postseason games, hitting .313 with nine RBI and seven extra-base hits (three doubles, two triples and two home runs).

No. 34: C.J. Wilson, LHP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 30 G (30 GS), 12-9, 3.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 183 IP, 162 H, 7.57 K/9

    Part of the Angels' shopping spree this winter, 31-year-old southpaw C.J. Wilson has been an excellent fit behind Jered Weaver in the starting rotation.

    After a first half that saw him go 9-5 with a 2.43 ERA and earn him his second consecutive All-Star selection, Wilson has since been the complete opposite, going 3-4 with a 5.65 ERA over his last 12 starts.

    His last three starts have been much better (3-0 with a 2.41 ERA), and it looks as if Wilson is getting himself righted just in time for the Angels to make their final push toward clinching one of the two wild-card spots in the American League.

    Wilson made nine postseason starts as a member of the Rangers, and the results were not great. He went 1-5 with a 4.84 ERA, allowing 10 home runs over 51 innings of work.

No. 33: Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Stats: 130 G, .292/.331/.446, 16 HR, 72 RBI, 13-for-14 SB

    Few second basemen have been as consistent as 31-year-old Brandon Phillips over the past seven seasons.

    An excellent defensive second baseman, Phillips' average season in a Reds uniform is a .281/.331/.448 batting line with 30 doubles, 20 home runs, 80 RBI and 21 stolen bases.

    In the 2010 NLDS against the Phillies, Phillips hit .333 with a double, home run and RBI in three games. 

No. 32: Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Washington Nationals

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    2012 Stats: 28 G (28 GS), 10-8, 2.99 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 171.2 IP, 163 H, 6.90 K/9

    Stephen Strasburg's loss in the playoffs is somewhat mitigated by the presence of Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann in the Nationals rotation. Either pitcher can slide into the role of staff ace with little issue.

    Zimmermann, 26, has found the road to the playoffs filled with bumps and potholes in the second half of the season. His ERA is 3.67 in 11 starts—up from 2.61 in 17 first-half starts.

    As with his Nationals teammates on this list, Zimmermann has never played in the playoffs, but he's going to need to get himself going in the right direction before October with Stephen Strasburg shut down for the rest of the season.

No. 31: Jason Heyward, RF, Atlanta Braves

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    2012 Stats: 139 G, .276/.347/.494, 25 HR, 70 RBI, 19-for-27 SB

    One of the brightest young stars in the game, 23-year-old Jason Heyward has rebounded from his sophomore slump to lead he Braves in home runs this season while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field.

    Poised to notch the first 20-20 season of his career, Heyward went 2-for-16 with one walk and eight strikeouts for the Braves going up against the Giants in the 2010 NLDS.

    You can be sure that he'll have drastically different numbers in the 2012 postseason as he continues to mature.

No. 30: Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 138 G, .324/.367/.449, 15 HR, 50 RBI, 9-for-13 SB

    Talk of Derek Jeter's demise was grossly exaggerated.

    The 38-year-old captain of the Yankees is about to reach the 200-hit plateau for the eighth time in his career. He will also have 100 runs scored for the 14th time. Another outstanding season for the future Hall of Fame inductee.

    Owner of five World Series rings, Jeter has played in 152 career postseason games, 10 games shy of a full 162-game regular season.

    He holds eight career postseason records, he lands in the career top 10 in five other categories, and his name is prominently featured in the single-series record books as well.

No. 29: Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers

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    2012 Stats: 136 G, .316/.352/.550, 30 HR, 89 RBI, 1-for-1 SB

    Without question, the Rangers would like to thank whoever woke Adrian Beltre up at the beginning of August, because the 33-year-old has has been on fire since the non-waiver trade deadline.

    Over his past 38 games, Beltre has a .331/.374/.669 batting line with 24 extra-base hits (10 doubles, two triples, 12 home runs) and 28 RBI.

    He also had three home runs in the first four innings of a game against the Orioles on Aug. 22. He followed that performance up by hitting for the cycle two days later.

    In 17 postseason games with the Rangers, Beltre has nine RBI and a mediocre .264/.303/.542 batting line—mediocre when compared to his current regular-season performance for sure.

No. 28: Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Stats: 53 G, 1-1, 1.18 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 53.1 IP, 22 H, 16.50 K/9, 35-for-37 SV

    While a number of people, including Aroldis Chapman himself, believe that the southpaw is best served by being a starting pitcher, there's no arguing with the success that he's had as the Reds closer.

    Leading the National League in saves, Chapman doesn't just shut down opposing offenses; he dominates them. Batters are hitting .038 when there are runners in scoring position and two outs this season.

No. 27: Zack Greinke, RHP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats (With Angels): 9 G (9 GS), 5-2, 4.15 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 60.2 IP, 57 H, 7.57 K/9

    The only premier pitcher who will hit the open market as a free agent this winter, 28-year-old Zack Greinke has gotten himself righted after starting out rough as an Angel after his midseason trade from Milwaukee.

    Undefeated over his past four starts, Greinke has allowed only 19 hits and six earned runs over his past 28.2 innings of work while striking out 23 batters.

    Greinke made three postseason starts for the Brewers in 2011, and none of them went quite as planned. He sits with a postseason career mark of 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA and 1.62 WHIP.

No. 26: Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, New York Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 28 GS, 13-10, 3.14 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 189.1 IP, 169 H, 6.56 K/9

    He won't win the award, but Hiroki Kuroda is going to be among the pitchers to garner support for the 2011 American League Cy Young Award.

    Not including a recent start against the Red Sox, Kuroda has made 11 starts since the All-Star break. He's gone 5-3 with a 2.66 ERA and 0.92 WHIP while allowing only 80 baserunners in 81.1 innings pitched.

    Kuroda made three postseason starts while with the Dodgers and was excellent in two of them. In the 2008 postseason, Kuroda faced the Cubs and the Phillies, winning both starts by allowing only two earned runs over 12.1 innings of work, good enough for a 1.28 ERA.

No. 25: Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays

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    2012 Stats: 53 G, .289/.364/.510, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 2-for-5 SB

    Since Longoria's return to the lineup from a three-month absence on Aug. 7, the Rays have gone 19-11 and put themselves right back in the thick of the pennant race in the AL East.

    Coincidence? I think not.

    While he's not yet fully returned to form, Longoria is one of the best third basemen in baseball when he's healthy. He has given the Rays offense the run-producing bat they desperately needed, driving in 21 runs over his last 30 games.

    Longoria's postseason batting line of .194/.255/.490 is far from acceptable, but he does have eight home runs and 18 RBI in 25 postseason games.

No. 24: Adam Jones, CF, Baltimore Orioles

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    2012 Stats: 140 G, .288/.314/.514, 29 HR, 74 RBI, 13-for-19 SB

    It certainly looked as if Adam Jones was going to enjoy his breakout season after a scorching first half, but both his power and speed have escaped him since the All-Star break.

    Power numbers or not, Jones continues to perform in the middle of the Orioles lineup.

    Having worked out a six-year, $85.5 million contract extension with the Orioles earlier this season, Jones will continue to be a part of the Orioles resurgence for years to come.

    That resurgence could take a huge step forward if it results with Jones playing meaningful October baseball for the first time in his career.

No. 23: Michael Bourn, CF, Atlanta Braves

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    2012 Stats: 141 G, .281/.351/.402, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 39-for-50 SB

    One of the preeminent leadoff hitters around and the best defensive center fielder in the National League, 30-year-old Michael Bourn has been the table-setter for the Braves offense in 2012.

    Bourn, the NL leader in stolen bases, is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and he will command significant interest on the open market.

    Retaining Bourn and keeping him away from the Phillies and Nationals should prove to be an expensive undertaking.

    2012 will mark the first time Bourn plays in the postseason as a starter getting regular at-bats. He served as a spare part for the Phillies in 2004, getting into two games but taking only one at-bat.

No. 22: Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Stats: 28 G (28 GS), 14-10, 3.15 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 188 IP, 158 H, 8.30 K/9

    While his last three starts have not gone well (0-3 with a 6.48 ERA), 23-year-old Madison Bumgarner has put together a very good 2012 campaign for the Giants and is one of the up-and-coming big-time pitchers in the game.

    His name dots the National League leaderboards in virtually every pitching category, including wins, innings pitched, WHIP and strikeouts.

    In Game 4 of the 2010 World Series, the Texas Rangers were looking to tie the series at two games apiece against the Giants' then-20-year-old rookie southpaw. Bumgarner stepped up big-time, shutting down a potent Rangers attack by throwing eight innings of shutout baseball, allowing only five baserunners (three hits, two walks) while striking out six.

No. 21: Chris Sale, RHP, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Stats: 26 G (25 GS), 16-6, 2.88 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 169 IP, 139 H, 8.95 K/9

    Everyone knew that 23-year-old Chris Sale was a talented pitcher, but nobody was quite sure what to expect when it was announced that the White Sox were converting him from a reliever to a starter.

    It's safe to say that nobody, not even the White Sox, expected results quite like this.

    Sale not only made his first All-Star team, but he is second in the league in wins, fourth in both ERA and WHIP and eighth in strikeouts.

    He's shown no ill effects from the massive jump in the amount of innings that he's pitched this season, and he looks primed to continue his success in the postseason.

No. 20: Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Stats: 128 G, .330/.404/.538, 21 HR, 89 RBI, 1-for-2 SB

    Buster Posey has bounced back from the nasty injury that ended his 2011 season prematurely, putting together a season for the Giants that is sure to garner some MVP votes.

    The 25-year-old is third in the National League in batting average, fourth in OPS, fifth in slugging percentage and walks and eighth in RBI.

    During the drive to the 2010 World Series title, Posey posted a batting line of .288/.354/.390 with four extra-base hits, five RBI and six runs scored in 15 games.

No. 19: Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Washington Nationals

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    2012 Stats: 29 G (29 GS), 19-7, 2.93 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 181.1 IP, 136 H, 9.50 K/9

    There's no question that the Nationals paid a steep price to acquire 26-year-old southpaw Gio Gonzalez from the A's this past winter, but in 2012, he's been worth every penny and every prospect.

    Tied for the National League lead in wins and allowing the fewest hits per nine innings of any other National League pitcher, the argument could be made that it's been Gonzalez, and not Stephen Strasburg, who has truly been the ace of the Nationals pitching staff in 2012.

    With Strasburg done for the year, Gio will be looked upon to take the reins of the starting rotation in the postseason—a tall order considering that Gonzalez has never played in playoff baseball. But he's certainly capable of filling the role given his dominance against batters all season long.

No. 18: Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2012 Stats: 119 G, .319/.372/.501, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 11-for-13 SB

    Yadier Molina is arguably the best catcher in baseball, and he continues to put up numbers that make that argument one-sided.

    A career .279 hitter, Molina raises his average by at least 20 points with runners in scoring position, regardless of how many outs there are, as well as when the game is late and close.

    This season, Molina has really stepped up his game, batting over .320 and well on his way to setting new career highs in virtually every offensive category.

    The 30-year-old has 50 postseason games under his belt with a .309/.354/.417 batting line, two home runs and 23 RBI.

No. 17: CC Sabathia, LHP, New York Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 24 GS, 13-5, 3.56 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 169.1 IP, 165 H, 8.82 K/9

    CC Sabathia hasn't finished a season with an ERA this high since 2005, but that's not a knock on him. A 3.56 ERA ranks 12th among American League starters, and Sabathia remains one of the premier left-handed starters in the game.

    He missed time with an elbow injury in August, and that time off will likely lead to him not logging 200 innings of work for the first time in a Yankees uniform. Two-hundred innings or not, Sabathia is the unquestioned leader and workhorse of the Yankees starting rotation.

    Sabathia made five postseason starts for the Yankees in 2009, and without his efforts, they would not have made it to the World Series, much less won it.

    In five postseason starts that season, Sabathia went 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA, holding the Twins, Angels and Phillies to a combined .209/.264/.363 batting line and striking out 32 batters in 36.1 innings of work.

No. 16: Matt Holliday, LF, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2012 Stats: 137 G, .304/.379/.524, 26 HR, 94 RBI, 4-for-7 SB

    With the exception of 93 games spent with the Oakland A's in 2009, Matt Holliday has been about as consistent a player as you can find in baseball.

    An average season for Holliday has been a .314 average with 25 home runs, 96 RBI and a .926 OPS over the course of his career—solid numbers from a player who often seems to fly under the radar.

    He's having an MVP-caliber season in 2012, ranking in the top 10 among National League batters in batting average, OPS, runs scored, walks, slugging percentage and RBI.

    During last year's march to the World Series title, Holliday put up a .294/.419/.412 batting line over 16 games, though his one home run and five RBI left something to be desired. Of course, the Cardinals won the series, so his lack of run production throughout the playoffs made little difference in the big picture.

No. 15: Jered Weaver, RHP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 25 G (25 GS), 16-4, 2.86 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 160.1 IP, 127 H, 6.79 K/9

    One of the premier starting pitchers in baseball, 29-year-old Jered Weaver has battled a shoulder injury as of late—something that could explain the precipitous drop in his strikeout rate this season.

    While he's not striking out batters with nearly as much frequency as he has in the past, it hasn't made Weaver any less effective. He leads the American League in both WHIP and winning percentage and is second in wins, third in ERA and fourth in complete games.

    He's made three postseason starts for the Angels, going 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA in just over 20 innings of work, walking 10 batters while striking out 22.

No. 14: Matt Cain, RHP, San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Stats: 28 G (28 GS), 13-5, 2.96 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 194.1 IP, 161 H, 8.10 K/9

    Signed to the most lucrative contract extension ever given to a right-handed starter, 27-year-old Matt Cain has rewarded the Giants with a season that is sure to garner him significant support for the National League Cy Young Award.

    His perfect game earlier this season was an amazing performance no doubt, but if you're looking for real proof of Matt Cain being a big-time pitcher, you only need to look at the 2010 postseason.

    Cain would make three starts for the Giants in the 2010 playoffs, one in each round.

    Not only did he win all three of his starts, but in the 21.1 innings that he pitched, Matt Cain never allowed a single run while allowing only 13 hits.

No. 13: Prince Fielder, 1B, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Stats: 140 G, .310/.408/.520, 25 HR, 95 RBI, 1-for-1 SB

    While Prince Fielder hasn't put up the gaudy home run totals that his father Cecil did in his first season with the Tigers in 1990 (51 home runs, 132 RBI), his 2012 campaign certainly isn't a disappointment.

    He's been on fire since the All-Star break, with a .328 batting average and 1.001 OPS. He's walked more than he's struck out, while also knocking 10 home runs and 35 RBI.

    Fielder has four home runs and eight RBI in 15 postseason games, but his .192 batting average leaves plenty to be desired.

No. 12: Johnny Cueto, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Stats: 29 G (29 GS), 17-8, 2.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 192.2 IP, 180 H, 7.20 K/9

    The biggest snub at this year's All-Star game and a candidate for the National League Cy Young Award all season long, Johnny Cueto is a major reason for the success of the Reds in 2012.

    There's no question that Cueto has been a different pitcher over the past two seasons than he was at the beginning of his career, and he has a real shot at breaking the 20-win plateau for the first time in his career.

    Cueto is third in the National League for both ERA and wins, fourth in complete games, fifth in innings pitched and eighth in WHIP.

    The 26-year-old has only made one postseason appearance, holding the Phillies to two runs (one earned) and five hits over five innings during the 2010 NLDS.

No. 11: Matt Kemp, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2012 Stats: 85 G, .315/.382/.548, 18 HR, 56 RBI, 9-for-12 SB

    A sizzling start to the season had people thinking Triple Crown for Matt Kemp, but the 27-year-old has been felled by injuries and inconsistency throughout the 2012 season.

    At the end of April, Kemp had a .417 batting average, 1.383 OPS, 12 home runs and 25 RBI over the season's first 23 games.

    He injured himself in mid-May, and while he attempted to come back at the end of the month, he was not ready.

    Since returning to action on July 13, Kemp is hitting .290 with six home runs and 28 RBI over 49 games played. Those numbers are good, but they don't come near the numbers that we've come to expect from the perennial MVP candidate.

    Over 16 games in the postseason, Kemp's numbers fail to reach even mediocre levels, with a .226/.284/.371 batting line to go along with two home runs and five RBI.

No. 10: Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Stats: 91 G, .342/.471/.594, 14 HR, 49 RBI, 5-for-8 SB

    A perennial MVP candidate and the best first baseman in the National League, Joey Votto picked up where he left off after missing nearly two months with a knee injury.

    While his power stroke has yet to return, Votto is 5-for-15 with seven walks in the five games he's played since returning from the disabled list, only proving that he truly is an on-base machine. It doesn't hurt that he brings with him Gold Glove defense at first base.

    His one postseason series—the 2010 NLDS against the Phillies—didn't go so well; he went 1-for-10 with an RBI in three games.

No. 9: Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 139 G, .303/.370/.540, 29 HR, 74 RBI, 3-for-5 SB

    Even in a down year, Robinson Cano puts up numbers that most would be very happy to call their own, regardless of their position on the field.

    Without question the best second baseman in baseball, Cano is on pace to stroke at least 30 doubles and score at least 100 runs for the fourth consecutive season, not to mention set new career highs in home runs and walks, something that the 29-year-old is not known for taking.

    A member of the 2009 World Series championship team, Cano's postseason numbers are not all that great, and the Yankees have failed to advance past the ALDS in either of the past two seasons.

    But the fault for that does not lie with Cano, who has hit .333 with 10 runs scored, 16 RBI and 10 extra-base hits—three doubles, a triple and six home runs—over his last 14 postseason games.

No. 8: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2012 Stats: 29 G (29 GS), 12-8, 2.79 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 199.2 IP, 154 H, 9.10 K/9

    The reigning 2011 National League Cy Young Award winner and one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, Clayton Kershaw has put up Cy Young-worthy numbers once again in 2012.

    His rather unimpressive win-loss record is partly due to a lack of offense, as the Dodgers have scored two runs or less in seven of the eight losses that the 24-year-old has suffered in 2012.

    When it comes to pitching against the best teams in baseball, Kershaw raises his game.

    He has a career 30-19 record with a 3.09 ERA and 1.20 WHIP against teams with a sub-.500 record.

    Against winning teams, he's 29-17 with a 2.67 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.

    Kershaw has started only two postseason games, in which he's gone 0-1 with a 5.56 ERA.

No. 7: Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 134 G, .287/.345/.531, 29 HR, 94 RBI, 8-for-9 SB

    One of the great players that the game has ever seen, 32-year-old Albert Pujols has clearly put his rough first month in Anaheim behind him and returned to form.

    After hitting .217 in April with no power whatsoever, Pujols has a batting line of .301/.361/.579 with 29 home runs and 90 RBI.

    The future Hall of Famer was an absolute stud for the Cardinals in the playoffs. In 74 career playoff games, Pujols is hitting .330/.439/.607 with 18 home runs and 52 RBI. Should the Angels make it to the postseason, they'll be expecting Pujols to pull his weight and lead the team to victory.

No. 6: Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Stats: 29 G (29 GS), 13-8, 2.91 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 210 IP, 168 H, 9.07 K/9

    The reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner, Justin Verlander remains one of the elite pitchers in all of baseball and has a good chance of winning the Cy Young Award once again in 2012.

    2012 marks the sixth consecutive season that he's thrown at least 200 innings, and both his 210 innings pitched and six complete games lead all of baseball. 

    For all of his regular-season success, the 29-year-old has been downright awful in eight postseason starts, going 3-3 with a 5.57 ERA and 1.55 WHIP over 42 innings of work.

No. 5: David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays

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    2012 Stats: 27 GS, 17-5, 2.54 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 180 IP, 148 H, 8.72 K/9

    My pick for the AL Cy Young Award, David Price has bounced back from a mediocre 2011 campaign to reestablish himself as one of the premier pitchers in the game.

    His 17 wins and 2.54 ERA lead the American League and, this season, Price has saved his best for last.

    In 16 starts against teams with a record over .500, Price is 10-3 with a 2.29 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, striking out 109 batters over 110 innings of work.

    Price's introduction to the postseason came in 2008 when he was used exclusively in relief, pitching to a 1.59 ERA over 5.2 innings of work, allowing two hits and walking four while striking out eight.

    As a postseason starter, the results haven't been nearly as good, as he's gone 0-3 with a 4.66 ERA. But Price has never been better than he is now, and he's one pitcher that nobody wants to face in the 2012 postseason should the Rays advance.

No. 4: Josh Hamilton, CF, Texas Rangers

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    2012 Stats: 132 G, .287/.356/.583, 40 HR, 119 RBI, 7-for-10 SB

    Baseball's leader in home runs and RBI, Josh Hamilton has been able to stay relatively healthy in 2012, something nobody expected that he'd be able to since missing an average of more than 40 games a year since the 2009 season.

    Hamilton has cooled off after a monstrous start to the season, hitting only .257 since the All-Star break, but he remains one of the most feared sluggers in baseball.

    While he's had his moments in the postseason, Hamilton has largely disappointed with a batting line of .234/.303/.438 with six home runs and 22 RBI over 33 postseason games.

No. 3: Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    2012 Stats: 135 G, .341/.409/.563, 26 HR, 85 RBI, 16-for-27 SB

    Most people knew that Andrew McCutchen was a very good baseball player entering 2012, but not even the most ardent Pirates fan could have predicted the season that McCutchen has put together.

    The favorite to take home National League MVP honors at the end of the season, he leads the NL in runs scored and hits. If all goes well, he'll overtake the suspended Melky Cabrera for the National League batting crown as well.

    McCutchen has had big hit after big hit for the Pirates in 2012, posting a batting line of .339/.439/.551 with runners in scoring position. He sits with an OPS over 1.000 in games that are late and close, tied up or separated by only a run.

No. 2: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Stats: 139 G, .326/.391/.587, 35 HR, 116 RBI, 4-for-5 SB

    It seems as if he's been in the league forever, but Miguel Cabrera has yet to celebrate his 30th birthday—an event that doesn't take place until April.

    One of the five best players in baseball, 2012 marks the ninth consecutive season that Cabrera has driven in at least 100 runs, and he leads the American League in slugging percentage, OPS and total bases.

    Cabrera's postseason numbers are very good, though his average is below what we've come to expect from the perennial MVP candidate. Over 28 postseason games, Cabrera has a .282/.383/.573 batting line with eight home runs and 22 RBI.

No. 1: Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 118 G, .328/.393/.570, 27 HR, 77 RBI, 45-for-49 SB

    We've only seen something like Mike Trout once, and his name was Willie Mays.

    The 20-year-old leads the American League in batting average, runs scored and stolen bases, while having the second-highest slugging percentage and OPS around.

    Trout plays excellent defense and is not only the front-runner for the AL MVP award, but he has quickly emerged as the best player in baseball today.

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