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Top 100 Players in MLB Today

Doug MeadCorrespondent IDecember 31, 2012

Top 100 Players in MLB Today

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    Trying to rank the top 100 players in MLB today is akin to ranking the top movies—so much depends on a list of variables.

    In movies, the cast of characters, film genre and subject matter all come into play. In baseball, skill sets, recent performance and career trends factor into the equation.

    There simply is no easy formula.

    This list will take a look at the rankings provided by MLB Network in a five-part series that aired earlier this year, Top 100 Right Now, with updated rankings based on 2012 performance.

    Factors to be considered include each player's statistics over the past few seasons, with emphasis placed on the 2012 season along with career accolades and awards.

    Keep in mind that the list is not based solely on last season's performance. While some players on this list may have experienced regression of some sort in 2012, the list will reflect that regression accordingly.

Just Outside the Top 100: Eric Hosmer: Kansas City Royals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 73

    The Kansas City Royals are fortunate to have a young group of position players primed to carry the team offensively for next several seasons.

    First baseman Eric Hosmer is definitely among that group.

    Hosmer experienced the dreaded sophomore slump in 2012, hitting just .232 with 14 HR, 60 RBI and a .663 OPS.

    Still, at just 23 years of age, Hosmer is one of the rising stars in the American League.

    Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward experienced the same kind of slump in his second year and bounced back in fine fashion—no reason to think Hosmer can't do the same.

Just Outside the Top 100: Dan Haren: Washington Nationals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 37

    Starting pitcher Dan Haren was well-known for his durability before the start of the 2012 season. However, that's now somewhat in question.

    Haren had made 256 consecutive starts since 2005 until being shelved by a back injury in July. The back issues certainly had a negative effect on his performance, as he finished the season with a 12-13 record and 4.33 ERA in 30 starts.

    It was the first season Haren hadn't thrown at least 200 innings since the streak started in 2005, and the back issues prompted the Los Angeles Angels to decline his 2013 option for $15.5 million.

    Haren will look to reassert his dominance next season with the Washington Nationals, signing a one-year, $13 million contract.

100. Bryce Harper: Washington Nationals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Washington Nationals teen sensation Bryce Harper made what can only be called a successful debut in 2012.

    Earning a call-up to the big leagues on April 28, Harper hit .270 with 22 HR, 59 RBI, 18 stolen bases and an .817 OPS. He also earned an All-Star selection and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

    Not a bad start for a kid who didn't turn 20 years old until Oct. 16.

99. Tim Hudson: Atlanta Braves

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 71

    Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Tim Hudson may be 37 years old, but he's still very much alive and kicking.

    Hudson posted a 16-7 record and 3.62 ERA last season for the Braves while missing almost the entire first month of the season recovering from offseason back surgery.

    Back surgery can always be risky, especially for an aging pitcher. However, Hudson recovered nicely and once again established himself as the ace of the Braves' staff.

98. Mark Teixeira: New York Yankees

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 55

    New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira was felled by a left calf injury that limited him to just one game in the month of September last season.

    The injury may have affected his performance in the postseason as well, as he contributed no home runs and just one RBI in nine games overall.

    Teixeira averaged 37 home runs and 114 RBI in his first three seasons in pinstripes. If fully healthy next season, there's no reason to think that he can't once again be an offensive force for the Yankees.

97. Aaron Hill: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Second baseman Aaron Hill bounced back in a major way in 2012 for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Hill was clearly trending downwards after two years of regression following a career year in 2009 (.286 BA, 36 HR, 108).

    He hit .302 in 2012 with 26 home runs, 85 RBI and a career-high .882 OPS. Hill also hit for the cycle twice in the month of June, becoming only the second player in Major League Baseball since 1900 to achieve the feat twice in the same season.

96. Michael Bourn

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 94

    Center fielder Michael Bourn is still looking for a team to play for in the 2013 season and beyond. But that's more a case of economic issues than a reflection based on his abilities.

    Bourn was excellent at the top of the lineup for the Atlanta Braves last season, hitting .274 with nine home runs, 57 RBI, 10 triples and 42 stolen bases.

    In addition, Bourn's defensive UZR rating of 22.4 was easily the highest of any center fielder in the majors.

95. Billy Butler: Kansas City Royals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler may not have been included in the Top 100 Right Now list earlier this season, but it would be hard to keep him out of the list after his 2012 campaign.

    Butler continues to mature as a hitter, hitting .313 with 29 home runs, 107 RBI and an .882 OPS. He earned an All-Star selection for the first time and won his first-ever Silver Slugger Award in recognition of his efforts.

94. David Freese: St. Louis Cardinals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 67

    St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese garnered plenty of national attention with his heroics in the 2011 World Series.

    Freese is indeed developing into one the better corner infielders in the league, hitting .293 last season with 20 home runs and 79 RBI. He earned his first-ever All-Star selection as well.

    Freese will continue climbing this chart as long as he remains healthy and continues producing.

93. Chris Carpenter: St. Louis Cardinals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 56

    St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter didn't make his first start last season until Sept. 21. Carpenter tried to rehab a sore right shoulder before finally having surgery to repair Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in July.

    At the time, the surgery was thought to be season-ending. Just about everyone but Carpenter believed that to be true.

    However, Carpenter returned in time to make three regular season starts followed by three more in the postseason, including a gutsy 5.2 inning scoreless performance in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals.

    Carpenter clearly proved that he should never be counted out.

93A. Ryan Vogelsong: San Francisco Giants

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    After being out of the majors for four seasons, San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong has come back to be an integral part of the Giants starting rotation.

    Vogelsong backed up an excellent return season in 2011 with another solid year in 2012, posting a 14-9 record, a 3.37 ERA and 1.228 WHIP in 31 starts.

    He was outstanding in the postseason as well, posting a 3-0 record and 1.09 ERA in four starts.

     

    Note: Vogelsong was mistakenly omitted from the original list, hence the "A" designation.

92. Ichiro Suzuki: New York Yankees

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 100

    Just when everyone was seemingly ready to write off the career of Ichiro Suzuki, he goes to the big city and proves everyone wrong.

    Following his trade from the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees, Suzuki hit like the Suzuki of old. He hit .322 in 67 regular season games for the Yankees.

    Suzuki was one of the best hitters for the Yankees in the postseason as well, hitting .275 with one homer and five RBI.

    Suzuki will continue doing all he can to help the Yankees, recently signing a two-year, $13 million contract.

91. Starlin Castro: Chicago Cubs

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 97

    The Chicago Cubs thought so highly of young shortstop Starlin Castro that they locked him in to a seven-year, $60 million contract back in August.

    Castro earned his second straight All-Star selection, hitting .283 with 14 home runs, 78 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .753 OPS.

    Still just 22 years of age, he has already become the face of the Cubs franchise and a player whom the Cubs will continue to build around.

90. Chase Utley: Philadelphia Phillies

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 96

    Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has had to battle through painful knee issues that have led him to miss 38 percent of his team's games over the past three seasons.

    However, there's no question the Phillies are a much better team with Utley's bat in the lineup.

    By all accounts, Utley is healthy this offseason, and the Phillies will closely monitor him during spring training in order to keep him healthy and in the lineup on a full-time basis.

    A healthy and productive Utley clearly makes for a better and more well-balanced lineup overall for Philadelphia.

89. Carlos Beltran: St. Louis Cardinals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 82

    St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran started the 2012 season with a bang, but ended up with a bit of a whimper.

    Beltran hit .296 with 20 homers and 65 RBI before the All-Star break, but struggled with a .236 average, 12 homers and 32 RBI in the second half.

    Still, a second straight healthy season that produced 32 home runs and 97 RBI is nothing to sneeze at, and Beltran will be counted on to continue aiding the Cardinals' offense in 2013.

88. Jon Lester: Boston Red Sox

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 50

    Prior to the beginning of the 2012 season, Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Lester had the highest winning percentage of any pitcher with at least 50 decisions in MLB history.

    However, after last season, Lester will have some work to do to reclaim that honor.

    He posted a 9-14 record and 4.82 ERA in 33 starts—by far the worst season of his career.

    The 2013 season brings a level of familiarity for Lester, as new manager John Farrell rejoins the Sox. Lester’s best years were with Farrell as his pitching coach.

    If that familiarity breeds success, Lester can once again establish himself as one of the premier left-handers in the American League.

87. Ian Kennedy: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 49

    After a fabulous 2011 campaign in which he posted 21 wins, a 2.88 ERA and a fourth-place finish in NL Cy Young Award balloting, Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Ian Kennedy wasn't quite as dominant in 2012.

    Kennedy struggled to a 6-7 start and 4.26 ERA in the first half. He rebounded after the All-Star break, posting a 9-5 record and 3.75 ERA.

    Kennedy will lead a Diamondbacks staff that now features Brandon McCarthy as the team looks to bounce back from a disappointing finish in 2012.

86. Alex Gordon: Kansas City Royals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 69

    Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon just continues to get better and better, both offensively and defensively.

    While the home run and RBI production slipped somewhat in 2012, Gordon hit .294 with a major league-leading 51 doubles. He picked up his second straight Gold Glove Award as well—not too shabby for a converted third baseman.

85. Yovani Gallardo: Milwaukee Brewers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 72

    Yovani Gallardo took a back seat in the Milwaukee Brewers' starting rotation with Zack Greinke in the fold.

    However, Gallardo is once again the established ace.

    Following Greinke's trade to the Los Angeles Angels, Gallardo is once again perched atop the Brewers' rotation. He backed up that standing with a solid 2012 campaign, posting a 16-9 record and 3.66 ERA in 33 starts.

    Gallardo was outstanding in the second half, posting a 9-3 record and 3.57 ERA after the All-Star break, including a perfect month of August (5-0, 2.02 ERA).

84. Ryan Howard: Philadelphia Phillies

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 59

    A recovery from a torn Achilles tendon put a damper on the 2012 season for Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.

    Howard appeared in just 71 games, hitting .219 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI.

    The return of Howard and Chase Utley wasn't quite enough to help the Phillies in their push for the postseason, missing out for the first time since 2006.

    Howard has seen his production dip each season since 2006, and his window of opportunity at the age of 33 is getting smaller and smaller.

    Still, a healthy Howard can still easily produce a 30 HR/100 RBI season, and the Phillies will need that production in 2013.

83. Jonathan Papelbon: Philadelphia Phillies

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 61

    Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon enjoyed a solid first year in the City of Brotherly Love.

    Papelbon posted his seventh straight season with at least 30 saves, finishing with 38 saves in 42 chances with a 2.44 ERA and 11.8 K/9 rate.

    If Papelbon had more support from a shaky bullpen, it could have been an even more productive campaign. The rest of the Phillies' bullpen blew 15 saves and were tied for the third-worst percentage for inherited runners who scored.

82. Asdrubal Cabrera: Cleveland Indians

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 32

    Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera took a step back after a career year in  2011.

    After hitting 25 home runs with 92 RBI in 2011, Cabrera hit just 16 homers with 68 RBI this past season. He was selected to his second All-Star team nonetheless.

    Defensively, Cabrera's -9.0 UZR rating was the third-worst among all qualified shortstops in baseball last season.

    I was more than a little surprised at Cabrera's fairly high ranking earlier this year by MLB Network. While he's a top-100 player, I still don't see him among the very elite at this point.

81. Mike Napoli

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 34

    Mike Napoli was another player given a very generous rating by MLB Network earlier this year, presumably based on a terrific 2011 season.

    He was slowed by ankle, knee and quad issues in 2012, hitting just .227 with 24 home runs and 56 RBI in 108 games. His strikeout rate soared to 30.0 percent as well.

    Napoli is a very dangerous hitter when healthy, and if his current preexisting hip condition proves to be a non-factor, he could be plastering the Green Monster at Fenway Park for the foreseeable future.

80. Miguel Montero: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 48

    Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero supplied another effective offensive season after signing a five-year, $60 million contract extension.

    Montero hit .286 with 15 home runs and 88 RBI. Defensively, he was no slouch either, throwing out 42 percent of runners attempting to steal.

    The MLB Network ranking again seemed a bit generous, but I have no issue with Montero's standing as a top-100 player in MLB.

79. Mark Trumbo: Los Angeles Angels

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Los Angeles Angels outfielder/designated hitter Mark Trumbo followed up a solid rookie campaign with a productive second season in 2012.

    His second half wasn't spectacular, but hit's hard to argue against 32 home runs and 95 RBI with an .808 OPS.

    Trumbo earned his first All-Star selection as well, and in 2013, he'll likely fill the role of full-time designated hitter following the trade of Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners.

    Trumbo's versatility will also give manager Mike Scioscia options with his ability to play first base, third base and both corner outfield positions.

78. Aroldis Chapman: Cincinnati Reds

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    After posting a 15.3 K/9 rate and 1.51 ERA in 68 appearances, it would be foolish to leave Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman off this list.

    Dominance is the word to describe Chapman's performance in 2012 for the Reds. Taking over as closer in mid-May, Chapman notched 38 saves and played an integral role in the Reds' march to the NL Central Division title.

    Chapman's role will change next season as the Reds look to transition him to the starting rotation.

77. Austin Jackson: Detroit Tigers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson emerged as a force in the leadoff role in 2012.

    He hit .300 with 16 home runs and 66 RBI with an .856 OPS. And he led the American League in triples for the second straight season as well.

    Jackson also reduced his strikeout rate while drawing more walks, resulting in a .377 on-base percentage—good for second behind Mike Trout in the American League for leadoff hitters.

76. Joe Mauer: Minnesota Twins

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 80

    The addition of free-agent catcher Ryan Doumit not only helped the Minnesota Twins, by extension, it helped catcher Joe Mauer as well.

    Mauer played in a career-high 147 games in 2012. More importantly, he caught only 74 of those games, as his balky knees were protected with Doumit's addition.

    With Mauer playing more often at first base and serving as a designated hitter, manager Ron Gardenhire was able to pencil him into the lineup almost every day. Mauer hit .319 with a league-leading .416 on-base percentage.

75. Josh Willingham: Minnesota Twins

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    After a second outstanding offensive season, Minnesota Twins outfielder Josh Willingham is certainly worthy of mention on this list.

    Willingham led the Twins with 35 home runs and 110 RBI. His .890 OPS was a career-high, and he captured his first-ever Silver Slugger Award.

74. B.J. Upton: Atlanta Braves

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    New Atlanta Braves center fielder B.J. Upton will be putting a new uniform in his ninth season in Major League Baseball next season.

    Upton hit a career-high 28 home runs for the Tampa Bay Rays last season while swiping 31 bases—the fifth straight season Upton has topped the 30-stolen bases mark.

    He will now add a solid power-hitting right-handed bat to a lineup that already features lefty sluggers Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman.

73. Carlos Gonzalez: Colorado Rockies

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 54

    Colorado Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez captured the second Gold Glove Award of his career this past season. Offensively, Gonzalez contributed a .303 batting average with 22 home runs and 85 RBI.

    He would likely rank higher on this list if his home/road splits were more balanced. On the road, Gonzalez hit just .234 with nine home runs, 27 RBI and a .706 OPS. At Coors Field, he hit .368 with 13 home runs, 58 RBI and a 1.046 OPS.

    His career home/road splits reflect a similar trend as well.

72. Hanley Ramirez: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 24

    Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Hanley Ramirez brought the power back to his game last season, hitting 24 home runs with 92 RBI between the Miami Marlins and Dodgers.

    However, his slash line of .257/.322/.437/.759 remained well below his career marks of .298/.371/.495/.866.

    Hitting all season with the likes of Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez should continue to benefit Ramirez as he looks to continue producing at the levels regularly produced in the late-2000s.

71. Justin Upton: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 28

    For now, right fielder Justin Upton remains a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    For how long, however, is anyone's guess.

    Long the subject of trade speculation, Upton saw his power numbers drop significantly in 2012. After hitting 31 home runs with 88 RBI in 2011, Upton hit just 17 homers with 67 RBI last season.

    With the Diamondbacks adding Cody Ross to a crowded outfield in Arizona, Upton could well be suiting up for a new team in 2013.

70. Ian Kinsler: Texas Rangers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 31

    After hitting 32 home runs with 77 RBI in 2011, Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler took a bit of a step back in 2012. He hit .256 with 19 homers and 72 RBI.

    A 30/30 man a year ago, Kinsler was nonetheless selected to his third All-Star team in 2012.

69. Brian McCann: Atlanta Braves

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 47

    A frayed labrum and cyst in his throwing shoulder limited Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann last season.

    McCann hit just .230 with 20 home runs and 67 RBI. His streak of six straight All-Star Game selections ended as well.

    McCann had surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder in October and will likely miss the start of next season. However, if the surgery proves to be successful, he will well reclaim his status as the top-hitting catcher in the National League.

68. Ian Desmond: Washington Nationals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Even after missing a month with an oblique injury, Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond set new career highs in every major offensive statistical categories.

    Desmond hit .292 with 25 home runs, 73 RBI, an .845 OPS and 21 stolen bases.

    In capturing his first career Silver Slugger Award, Desmond has clearly established himself as one of the elite-hitting shortstops in all of baseball.

67. Rafael Soriano

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Another man who's searching for an employer next season, Rafael Soriano reestablished himself as one of the premier closers in baseball.

    After a torn ACL rendered Mariano Rivera inactive for the rest of the season, Soriano took over and dominated. He collected 42 saves with a 2.26 ERA.

    It was reminiscent of his final year with the Tampa Bay Rays, when he posted a league-leading 45 saves with a 1.73 ERA.

    Soriano may one day rue his decision to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Yankees, but that doesn't affect his standing as a top-100 player in MLB.

66. Alex Rios: Chicago White Sox

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    After a dismal 2011 campaign, Chicago White Sox right fielder Alex Rios came back with a vengeance in 2012.

    Rios hit .304 with 25 home runs, 91 RBI, an .850 OPS and 23 stolen bases. He even garnered MVP votes for his efforts.

    After a season in which Rios, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy took their share of blame for the White Sox's dismal showing, Rios answered his critics with action.

65. Alex Avila: Detroit Tigers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 39

    Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila dealt with some nagging injuries last season, including a hamstring injury and patellar tendinitis.

    As a result, Avila hit just .243 with nine home runs and 48 RBI a season after setting career highs with a .295 average, 19 homers and 82 RBI.

    Avila will be heavily counted upon next season as the Tigers look to defend their American League pennant.

64. Nelson Cruz: Texas Rangers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 35

    Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz once again put up solid numbers in 2012, posting a fourth straight season with at least 20 home runs and 70 RBI.

    Cruz hit .260 with 24 homers and 90 RBI last year. With Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli missing from the offense in 2013, Cruz will be expected to continue delivering his consistent production.

63. Hunter Pence: San Francisco Giants

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 36

    Hunter Pence didn't get the World Series title he was hoping for when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies last season.

    He just had to wait a year and collect it with another team.

    Pence's midseason trade to the San Francisco Giants certainly paid off for him personally in that regard.

    He hit a combined .253 with 24 home runs and 104 RBI between the Phillies and Giants last season. Pence also turned in respectable .286 average in his first World Series action.

    The Giants are well-positioned to repeat in 2013, and Pence will be expected to be an offensive leader as they make another run at a possible third World Series title in four seasons.

62. Kyle Lohse: St. Louis Cardinals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Starting pitcher Kyle Lohse backed up a solid 2011 season with an even better 2012 campaign.

    And he's still left without a team—for now.

    Lohse posted a 30-11 and 3.16 ERA over the past two years for the St. Louis Cardinals. One would be hard-pressed to find many pitchers with better results over that time frame.

    Lohse doesn't have the flashy fastball and a dazzling array of secondary pitches. He lives on his impeccable control and the ability to throw the right pitch at the right time.

    It certainly served him well over the past two seasons for sure.

61. Madison Bumgarner: San Francisco Giants

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 90

    Speaking of key performers for the San Francisco Giants...

    Starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner continued to establish himself as a top left-handed pitcher in the National League during the regular season. Bumgarner posted a 16-11 record and 3.37 ERA for the Giants in 2012.

    After bombing in his first two postseason starts, he worked with pitching coach Dave Righetti to correct some mechanical flaws and delivered a seven-inning, two-hit masterpiece against the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the World Series.

    At just 23 years of age, Bumgarner clearly has a bright future as he continues to assert himself as one of the dominant southpaws in MLB.

60. Paul Konerko: Chicago White Sox

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 33

    Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko hit his 400th career home run early in the 2012 season. However, there was a decline in production for him last season.

    Konerko hit .298 with 26 home runs and 75 RBI. Certainly not a steep decline, but a decline nonetheless.

    He will continue as the everyday first baseman as the White Sox—he's certainly earned that right. But at 36 years old, it's safe to assume the natural regression will continue.

59. Yoenis Cespedes: Oakland Athletics

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Considering he had never played organized baseball other than for the Cuban national team, Oakland Athletics left fielder Yoenis Cespedes performed well beyond expectations in his debut season in MLB.

    Cespedes finished the season with a .292 average, 23 home runs, 82 RBI, 16 stolen bases and an .861 OPS.

    If it weren't for the exploits of one Mike Trout, Cespedes would be cradling the American League Rookie of the Year trophy in his hands.

58. Chris Sale: Chicago White Sox

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Making the transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation isn't always the easiest thing to do.

    Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale made it look like child's play.

    After posting a 2.79 ERA in 58 relief appearances in 2011, Sale moved to the rotation last season and became a stalwart for the White Sox. He posted a 17-8 record, a 3.05 ERA, 1.135 WHIP and a 9.0 K/9 rate.

    Sale's efforts garnered him a sixth-place finish in Cy Young Award balloting, along with his first All-Star selection.

58A. Hiroki Kuroda: New York Yankees

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda put up very respectable numbers during his four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, posting a 3.45 ERA during his time on the West Coast.

    He did pretty darn well on the East Coast as well.

    Kuroda led the New York Yankees with 16 wins while posting a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts. The Yankees weren't about to let him get away after one season, re-signing him to a one-year, $15 million contract.

     

    Note: Kuroda was mistakenly omitted from the original list, hence the "A" designation.

57. David Ortiz: Boston Red Sox

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 53

    Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz showed his worth even in an abbreviated season.

    Ortiz hit .318 with 23 home runs, 60 RBI and a 1.026 WHIP in just 90 games last season. He missed almost the entire second half of the year with a strained Achilles tendon.

    The Red Sox don't seem worried about Ortiz's condition, signing him to a two-year, $26 million contract that could take him to the end of his stellar career.

56. Freddie Freeman: Atlanta Braves

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    After finishing second to teammate Craig Kimbrel in National League Rookie of the Year Award balloting in 2011, first baseman Freddie Freeman put together an even better season in 2012.

    Freeman hit .259 with 23 home runs, 94 RBI and a .796 OPS last season. Along with right fielder Jason Heyward, the Braves will be well-represented on the left side of the plate for the foreseeable future.

55. Curtis Granderson: New York Yankees

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 23

    New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson put together back-to-back 40-home run seasons, but the 2012 season came with some troubling trends.

    Granderson struck out 195 times, obliterating his previous Yankees record, set the previous year.

    His strikeout rate of 28.5 percent was indeed disturbing, but that was surpassed by a 48.5 percent strikeout rate with a .100 batting average during the postseason. That included a hitless performance during the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

    Granderson is in the final year of his contract with the Yankees, so he'll need to tighten up and offer up more plate discipline, along with the power numbers, if he hopes to continue his career in the Bronx.

54. Brandon Phillips: Cincinnati Reds

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 40

    Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips signed a six-year, $72.5 million extension back in early April, then went out and backed it up with another solid season.

    He hit .281 with 18 home runs, 77 RBI, 15 stolen bases and stellar work at second base once again. Phillips drew far less walks (28), and his OPS slipped 60 points from the previous season.

    However, you won't find any Reds fans complaining much about what he provided last season.

53. James Shields: Kansas City Royals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 45

    James Shields wasn't quite as dominant in 2012 as he was the previous season, but the Kansas City Royals thought more than enough of him to give up their top prospect.

    Shields posted a 15-10 record and 3,52 ERA with the Tampa Bay Rays, along with three complete games—a 1.168 WHIP and an 8.8 K/9 rate.

    Shields will now anchor a Royals starting rotation that has undergone much change as it looks to become more competitive in the AL Central Division.

52. David Wright: New York Mets

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    After an injury-shortened 2011 campaign, New York Mets third baseman David Wright returned with a vengeance in 2012.

    Wright hit .306 with 21 home runs and 93 RBI, providing stellar defense at third base once again and finishing sixth in voting for NL MVP honors.

    Wright signed an eight-year, $138 million contract extension that will keep him in a Mets uniform for the duration of his career.

51. Adam LaRoche

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche is still without a team, but that likely won't last much longer.

    LaRoche battled back from labrum surgery on his left shoulder and produced in a big way for the Washington Nationals, hitting .271 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI.

    LaRoche also won his first-ever Gold Glove Award, his first Silver Slugger Award and finished sixth in NL MVP Award balloting.

    The length of his new contract is currently what's holding things up for LaRoche and the Nationals. However, no matter where he plays next season, LaRoche will likely continue to mash.

50. Aramis Ramirez: Milwaukee Brewers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 66

    Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez turned in a fine performance in his first year with his new team.

    Ramirez hit .300 with 27 home runs, 105 RBI, a .901 OPS and a league-leading 50 doubles. He formed a potent power combination for the Brewers alongside left fielder Ryan Braun.

    Ramirez continues to show year after year that he can consistently provide solid production, and there's no reason to think he'll slow down anytime soon.

49. Zack Greinke: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 64

    Now armed with the richest contract for a right-handed pitcher in baseball history, Zack Greinke has no worries about his future.

    Greinke compiled a 15-5 record and 3.48 ERA last season between the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels.

    He first spurned a Brewers contract offer made during the season and then waited as the Angels, Texas Rangers and Dodgers attempted to land him during the offseason.

    The Dodgers won that war.

    Few players have lived up to a $100 million contract. Only time will tell if Greinke joins that elite few.

48. Chase Headley: San Diego Padres

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley didn't just emerge in the 2012 season—he became a star.

    Headley got off to a decent start in 2012, hitting .267 with eight home runs and 42 RBI.

    His second half, however, was nothing short of outstanding. Headley hit .308 with 23 home runs, 73 RBI and a .978 OPS after the All-Star break, finishing the season with 31 home runs and 115 RBI.

    He picked up his first-ever Gold Glove Award, his first Silver Slugger Award and finished fifth in balloting for the NL MVP Award.

    All that previous trade talk has suddenly and quickly gone away.

47. Fernando Rodney: Tampa Bay Rays

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Is there any doubt about the Tampa Bay Rays and their ability to go bargain-shopping?

    Last January, the Rays signed reliever Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $1.75 million contract with an option for $2.5 million for the 2013 season.

    Rodney had gone through two dismal seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and was looking to resurrect his career.

    A bargain doesn't describe what the Rays got from Rodney. He posted a minuscule 0.60 ERA while collecting 48 saves, with a 0.777 WHIP and 9.2 K/9 rate.

    After two years of relative obscurity, Rodney put himself on top of the heap among closers in the American League.

46. Pablo Sandoval: San Francisco Giants

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 44

    After his World Series performance, San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval is certainly enjoying his offseason.

    Sandoval suffered through injuries that limited him to 108 games during the regular season, hitting .283 with 12 home runs and 63 RBI.

    The postseason, however, was Sandoval's personal playground—he totaled six home runs and 13 RBI through the playoffs, including a record-tying three-home run performance in Game 1 of the World Series.

    Sandoval's power from both sides of the plate will be a key for the Giants next season as they prepare their defense of their World Series title.

45. Jason Heyward: Atlanta Braves

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward experienced the dreaded sophomore slump in 2011.

    He rebounded in a big way last season.

    Heyward hit .269 with 27 home runs and 82 RBI and collected his first-ever Gold Glove Award.

    The future is indeed bright in Atlanta, with Heyward, Freddie Freeman and new center fielder B.J. Upton providing the power for many years to come.

44. Adam Jones: Baltimore Orioles

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 70

    The Baltimore Orioles nearly climbed to the top of the AL East Division title last season and made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

    They have center fielder Adam Jones to thank for his terrific contribution.

    Jones has become the face of the franchise, and his star continues to rise in the majors. He hit .287 with 32 home runs, 82 RBI, 16 stolen bases and an .839 OPS.

    Jones captured his second overall Gold Glove Award and finished sixth in MVP Award balloting.

    While the names of Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. will forever be remembered for their achievements in Baltimore, Jones is making a case to join those local legends as well.

43. Michael Young: Philadelphia Phillies

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 29

    After spending his first 13 years with the Texas Rangers, Michael Young is setting out on a new beginning.

    Young will be the starting third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies next season following his trade from the Rangers. The Phillies will be counting on his consistent bat to provide production from the right side of the plate.

    Young slumped a bit last season, hitting just .277 with eight home runs and 67 RBI. At 36 years of age, the Phillies certainly hope that's not a sign of a natural regression due to age.

42. Mariano Rivera: New York Yankees

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 27

    New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is definitely looking to close out his career in a different way than what transpired last year.

    Rivera looked like the Rivera of old to start last season, posting five saves and a 2.16 ERA through his first nine appearances.

    But his daily routine of shagging fly balls at batting practice took a nasty turn when he landed painfully on the warning track at Kauffman Stadium in early May. A torn ACL rendered Rivera's season prematurely over.

    Rivera will come back in 2013 to attempt a more successful ending to a sensational career.

    Considering all he's achieved thus far, I'm not going to be the one to say he won't succeed.

41. Jose Reyes: Toronto Blue Jays

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 25

    Shortstop Jose Reyes certainly thought that he would achieve much success in South Florida after signing a six-year, $106 million contract with the Miami Marlins.

    Now, after just one season, he'll be trying for the same north of the border.

    Reyes was a workhorse in Miami last season, playing in 160 games and compiling a .287 batting average with 11 home runs, 57 RBI and 40 stolen bases.

    He was clearly one of the key centerpieces in the mega-deal between the Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays, and he'll likely hit leadoff in a lineup now loaded with the likes of Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

40. Edwin Encarnacion: Toronto Blue Jays

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter/first baseman Edwin Encarnacion might have had trouble cracking any "top" lists of any kind before this past season.

    No worries about that now, however.

    Encarnacion put up a career year last season for the Blue Jays, hitting .280 with 42 home runs, 110 RBI and a .941 OPS.

    Encarnacion and fellow slugger Jose Bautista will have plenty of run-scoring opportunities next season with newcomers Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera hitting ahead of them.

39. Stephen Strasburg: Washington Nationals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 98

    Even with a team-imposed innings limit, Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg takes a huge leap on this list.

    Strasburg posted a 15-6 record, a 3.16 ERA, 1.155 WHIP and 11.1 K/9 rate in 28 starts before being shut down in early September.

    He showed no signs of wear and tear after Tommy John surgery, and the kid gloves will definitely come off for Strasburg next season.

38. Johnny Cueto: Cincinnati Reds

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    I was mildly surprised that Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto was not included on MLB Network's Top 100 Right Now list earlier this year.

    That has been corrected on this list.

    Cueto delivered once again in 2012. After posting a 9-5 record and 2.31 ERA in 24 starts in 2011, he followed up with a 19-9 record, 2.78 ERA and 1.171 WHIP in 33 starts.

    Cueto's ERA+ of 152 was tops in the National League, and he finished fourth in Cy Young Award balloting. He is clearly the ace of the Reds' staff and, at just 26 years of age, has yet to even reach his prime years.

37. Jacoby Ellsbury: Boston Red Sox

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 17

    Jacoby Ellsbury was bound to drop significantly on this list after the injury bug once again crept up and dogged him.

    Ellsbury is now going to have to clearly show that he is not brittle.

    His spectacular 2011 season led to a runner-up finish in AL MVP Award balloting.

    A three-month stint on the disabled list with a separated shoulder limited Ellsbury to just 74 games in 2012, hitting .271 with four home runs, 26 RBI and 14 stolen bases.

    There's no question the talent is there for Ellsbury—the question lies in his durability.

36. Evan Longoria: Tampa Bay Rays

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 21

    A torn hamstring limited Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria to just 74 games in 2012. But the production was still there, as Longoria hit .289 with 17 home runs and 55 RBI.

    The Rays are without question a much better team with Longoria in the lineup—47-27 when he played and 43-45 without him in the lineup.

    The Rays recognized that as well, rewarding Longoria with a six-year, $100 million contact extension.

35. Tim Lincecum: San Francisco Giants

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 19

    Tim Lincecum suffered through the worst regular season of his career in 2012 for the San Francisco Giants. However, it's difficult to quantify his value after what he delivered during the playoffs.

    Lincecum was incredible in a relief role, picking up after his fellow rotation mates faltered and delivering huge performances. He also provided 4.2 innings of scoreless relief in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers.

    The 10-15 regular season record and 5.18 ERA were certainly a cause for concern. The performance delivered during the postseason was indeed invaluable.

34. Cliff Lee: Philadelphia Phillies

72 of 105

    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 18

    A quick look at Cliff Lee's peripheral numbers in 2012 simply doesn't tell the full story.

    Lee's 6-9 record belied the underlying numbers. He posted a 3.16 ERA, 1.114 WHIP, 8.8 K/9 rate, a major league-leading 1.2 BB/9 rate and 7.39 K/BB rate and provided durability with 211 innings.

    It just goes to show that the win-loss record doesn't even come close to showing the overall picture for the pitcher, so to speak.

33. Dustin Pedroia: Boston Red Sox

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 12

    Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was bothered last season by a right thumb injury. He was still able to hit .290 with 15 home runs and 65 RBI in 141 games despite obvious pain.

    A healthy Pedroia means so much to a Red Sox offense that will see plenty of new faces next season.

32. Matt Holliday: St. Louis Cardinals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 43

    With an offense missing the production of Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday helped deliver in a big way.

    He hit .295 with 27 home runs, 102 RBI and an .877 OPS—his third straight season of solid production in a Cardinals uniform.

    Holliday also earned his sixth overall All-Star selection and finished 11th in MVP Award balloting.

31. Ryan Zimmerman: Washington Nationals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 22

    Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman shook off lingering shoulder pain in the 2012 season. He played in 145 games, hitting .282 with 25 home runs and 95 RBI with an .824 OPS.

    Zimmerman provided an excellent bookend to fellow corner infielder Adam LaRoche in giving the Nationals a potent combination.

30. Troy Tulowitzki: Colorado Rockies

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 4

    Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki played in only 47 games last season courtesy of a groin injury that finally required surgery in June to remove scar tissue.

    After three seasons that showed tremendous promise as a slugger, the 2012 season was certainly a disappointment. However, Tulowitzki is still a hitter worth fearing when fully healthy.

29. Gio Gonzalez: Washington Nationals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 88

    Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez takes a huge leap on this list after a tremendously successful 2012 campaign.

    His first year in the nation's capital was a huge success. He posted a major league-leading 21 wins, an NL-best 9.3 K/9 rate and a 2.89 ERA in 32 starts.

    Gonzalez earned his second consecutive All-Star selection and finished third in Cy Young Award balloting.

28. Yadier Molina: St. Louis Cardinals

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 38

    After winning his fifth consecutive Gold Glove Award, there should be no question that Yadier Molina is the best defensive catcher in all of baseball.

    He's not too shabby at the plate either.

    In 2012, Molina posted career highs in batting average (.315), home runs (22), RBI (76), OPS (.874), and stolen bases (12).

    Molina has clearly become an elite player in the major leagues on both sides of the ball.

27. R.A. Dickey: Toronto Blue Jays

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    R.A. Dickey didn't crack MLB Network's top 100 list earlier this season. However, after winning a Cy Young Award, it would be a bit difficult to keep him off this list.

    Dickey's tremendous season wasn't rewarded in kind by the New York Mets, who chose to trade him to the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Dickey will now anchor a staff that includes Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.

    He'll likely have a much better chance of postseason glory as well.

26. Roy Halladay: Philadelphia Phillies

80 of 105

    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 7

    Starting pitcher Roy Halladay was a top-five finisher in Cy Young Award balloting for six straight seasons before 2012.

    The two-time Cy Young Award-winner struggled to an 11-8 record and 4.49 ERA, missing a large chunk of time with a strained lat.

    Considering his incredible offseason workout regimen and tremendous desire to succeed, don't expect a regression to continue in the 2013 season.

25. CC Sabathia: New York Yankees

81 of 105

    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 26

    New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia was another who got hit by the injury bug. Sabathia missed time with elbow pain and had offseason surgery to remove a bone spur.

    Still, he posted a 15-6 record and 3.38 ERA in 28 starts and still managed to throw 200 innings for the sixth consecutive season.

24. Cole Hamels: Philadelphia Phillies

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 68

    Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels was another who deserved a much higher spot on this list.

    Hamels posted a 17-6 record, a 3.05 ERA, 1.124 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 rate in 31 starts.

    Hamels and the Phillies agreed on a six-year, $144 million contract extension in late July, making him the second-highest paid southpaw in the majors behind CC Sabathia.

23. Adrian Gonzalez: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 14

    First baseman Adrian Gonzalez was the centerpiece of the mega-deal between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox in August.

    Gonzalez did see his numbers decline in 2012, hitting .299 with 18 home runs and 108 RBI with an .806 OPS. However, he should be a whole lot happier now that he's away from the troubled Red Sox clubhouse and back at home in Southern California.

22. Derek Jeter: New York Yankees

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 52

    Any questions that anyone had about Derek Jeter's production were clearly answered in 2012.

    He led the majors with 216 hits, posting a .316 average with 15 home runs and 58 RBI.

    Jeter's season ended with a fractured ankle in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. While others may doubt his ability to bounce back and be effective, I'm simply not even close to writing off Jeter just yet.

21. Felix Hernandez: Seattle Mariners

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 20

    If it weren't for a rough final month of the season in 2012, Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez would likely have been in contention for a second Cy Young Award.

    Hernandez still finished with a 13-9 record, 3.06 ERA and 8.7 K/9 rate in 33 starts that included a perfect game. And he won't even be 27 years of age until the start of next season.

20. Giancarlo Stanton: Miami Marlins

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 41

    Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton is now sitting alone on an island in South Florida.

    After the Marlins' fire sale, Stanton will be tasked to pony up a huge chunk of the offense next season. Stanton hit .290 with 37 home runs and 86 RBI in 2012, leading the majors with a .608 slugging percentage.

    At just 23 years of age, there's no telling where the ceiling lies for Stanton.

19. Matt Cain: San Francisco Giants

87 of 105

    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 46

    San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain was the author of the second perfect game in the majors last.

    He wrote a script for a pretty successful season as well.

    Cain signed a five-year, $112.5 million contract and then backed it up with a stellar season. He posted a 16-5 record, a 2.79 ERA and a 1.040 WHIP in 32 starts.

    With Tim Lincecum going through a rough 2012 campaign, Cain stepped up in a major way and certainly appears primed to be the ace of the Giants' staff for years to come.

18. Jered Weaver: Los Angeles Angels

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 13

    Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver finished in the top five in Cy Young Award balloting for the third straight season, cementing his status as one of the premier right-handed pitchers in the American League.

    He cracked the 20-win barrier for the first time, posting a 2.81 ERA, a major league-leading 1.018 WHIP and an AL-leading 7.0 H/9 rate.

    Weaver isn't flashy and doesn't impress with a blazing fastball. In fact, more often that not, he barely cracks 90 MPH. However, the secondary pitches are what put Weaver near the top of the class.

17. Andrew McCutchen: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 42

    Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen continues to step up his game.

    After stepping up with an All-Star year in 2011, McCutchen upped the ante in 2012. He hit .327 with 31 home runs, 96 RBI, a league-leading 194 hits, a .953 OPS, his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards and a third-place finish in NL MVP balloting.

    McCutchen has clearly established himself as one of the premier hitters in the National League.

16. Adrian Beltre: Texas Rangers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 16

    Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is like a fine wine—he keeps getting better with age.

    Beltre collected his fourth overall Gold Glove award in 2012, validating his status as one of the best defensive third baseman in the majors.

    Offensively, he hit .321 with 36 home runs, 102 RBI and a .921 OPS, finishing third in AL MVP balloting.

    With the departures of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli, Beltre will be tasked with being the offensive leader for the Rangers in 2013.

15. Jose Bautista: Toronto Blue Jays

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 6

    A left wrist injury and surgery to repair a tendon hampered Jose Bautista's production in 2012.

    He hit .241 with 27 home runs and 65 RBI in 92 games. The home run production was easily on par with his previous two seasons in which he led the majors each year.

    Provided there are no setbacks, Bautista will be at 100 percent when spring training starts. He's likely chomping at the bit as well with new additions Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera hitting ahead of him in the lineup.

14. Craig Kimbrel: Atlanta Braves

92 of 105

    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 93

    Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel took a giant leap on this list, and deservedly so.

    He was the unanimous winner of the National League Rookie of the Year after a pretty terrific first season.

    Kimbrel topped that in 2012.

    He posted 42 saves to lead the National League for the second straight season. He also added a 1.01 ERA, a 0.654 WHIP, a ridiculously low 3.9 H/9 rate and a record-setting 16.7 K/9 rate.

    Kimbrel is clearly the top closer in the majors, bar none.

13. David Price: Tampa Bay Rays

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 63

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price defeated Justin Verlander for the American League Cy Young Award in the closest vote in the American League since 1969.

    Price posted a 20-5 record with a league-leading 2.56 ERA along with a 1.100 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 rate.

    Price will now be the unquestioned ace of the Rays' staff with the trade of James Shields. Judging from the way he dominated in 2012, he'll have no problem adjusting to that role.

12. Prince Fielder: Detroit Tigers

94 of 105

    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 10

    Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder had very few problems adjusting to his new league in 2012.

    Fielder hit a career-high .313 with 30 home runs, 108 RBI and a .940 OPS. He became an All-Star for the fourth time and won a Silver Slugger Award for the third time as well.

    Fielder and Miguel Cabrera give the Tigers one of most potent 3-4 combinations in the majors.

11. Mike Trout: Los Angeles Angels

95 of 105

    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: N/A

    Mike Trout wasn't on MLB Network's list earlier this year for good reason—there was virtually no body of work to analyze.

    There is now.

    Trout put together a rookie season for the ages and seriously challenged Miguel Cabrera for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, despite Cabrera's Triple Crown achievement.

    At just 21 years of age, it's not a leap to think that Trout can't actually get better. Considering what he achieved in 2012, that would be fun to watch each and every day.

10. Joey Votto: Cincinnati Reds

96 of 105

    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 15

    Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto missed 51 games during the regular season, but he still put up numbers that any player would envy.

    Votto hit .337 with 14 home runs, 56 RBI, 44 doubles, a major league-leading .474 on-base percentage and a 1.041 OPS.

    He earned a third straight All-Star selection and finished 14th in MVP Award balloting despite his abbreviated season.

    Votto is clearly worthy of top-10 status on this list.

9. Albert Pujols: Los Angeles Angels

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 11

    Albert Pujols started out his first season with the Los Angeles Angels just a wee bit late.

    It wasn't until mid-May that Pujols finally showed up offensively. But by the time he was finished, he collected 30 home runs and 105 RBI, topping the 30 HR/100 RBI mark for the 11th time in 12 seasons.

    Pujols' slash line of .285/.343/.516/.859 was considerably lower than his career marks of .325/.414/.608/1.022.

    However, now that Pujols has a full year of adjusting to American League pitchers under his belt, he could very well work his way back close to his career numbers.

    He'll also have new teammate Josh Hamilton providing plenty of protection as well.

8. Josh Hamilton: Los Angeles Angels

98 of 105

    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 30

    New Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton took over two months off in 2012.

    He was there, but not there, in a manner of speaking.

    Hamilton slumped badly in June and July, yet still managed to hit 43 home runs with 128 RBI. Imagine what those numbers could have been had he not hit a wall.

    Hamilton will now be in an offense alongside Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

    Watch out, American League West foes.

7. Robinson Cano: New York Yankees

99 of 105

    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 8

    New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano hit .313 with 33 home runs, 94 RBI and a .929 OPS.

    Certainly numbers worthy of MVP consideration—he finished fourth in balloting.

    Cano also won his third straight Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, along with his fourth All-Star selection.

    That's a resume worthy of a top-10 status on this list.

6. Buster Posey: San Francisco Giants

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 60

    Winning a second World Series title in three years, along with an MVP Award and a batting title, launched San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey into the top 10.

    Posey is the clear leader of the Giants, and he certainly leads by example, hitting .336 with 24 home runs, 103 RBI and a .957 OPS. His OPS+ of 172 led the majors as well.

    After just three seasons, Posey has already become not only a leader on his own team, but a player well-respected throughout baseball for his talents and abilities.

5. Clayton Kershaw: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 5

    Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw nearly put together back-to-back Cy Young Award seasons. Had it not been for a certain knuckleball pitcher, he would have achieved the feat.

    He posted a 14-9 record and led the majors with the lowest ERA (2.53) for the second straight season.

    Kershaw's 6.7 H/9 rate also led the majors, and his 1.023 WHIP led the National League as well.

    He even battled through hip issues in the final month of the season, and even that didn't slow Kershaw down.

4. Matt Kemp: Los Angeles Dodgers

102 of 105

    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 1

    Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp was an iron man before the 2012 season. However, his streak of 399  consecutive games played came to an end in mid-May when he was sidelined with a hamstring strain.

    Kemp would go back on the disabled list again later in the season with the same issue. He played in just 106 games, hitting .303 with 23 home runs and 69 RBI.

    Kemp will look to bounce back in 2013 with a Dodgers team bolstered with several new players to help out and provide additional protection in the lineup.

3. Ryan Braun: Milwaukee Brewers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 9

    Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has gotten used to MVP consideration—he's received votes in each of his six years in the majors, including winning in 2011 and finishing second last season.

    Braun's 2012 season in many ways was better than his 2011 MVP season. He hit .319 with 41 home runs, 112 RBI and led the National League with a .987 OPS and 108 runs scored.

    There's no question that Braun is the best right-handed hitter in the National League—his resume clearly reflects that.

2. Justin Verlander: Detroit Tigers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 2

    The Detroit Tigers are certainly blessed—they have the top pitcher and top hitter in baseball.

    Justin Verlander, much like Clayton Kershaw in the National League, came close to repeating as the AL Cy Young Award, losing to David Price in the closest vote since 1969.

    Verlander posted a 17-8 record, a 2.64 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 7.3 H/9 rate and 9.0 K/9 rate. He led the majors for the second straight season with 239 strikeouts as well.

    Verlander possesses the ability to throw stronger as the game progresses, often throwing fastballs in the high-90s in the eighth and ninth innings.

    In building a team, he is easily one of the first players that many would select to build their team around.

1. Miguel Cabrera: Detroit Tigers

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    MLB Network Top 100 Right Now Rank: No. 3

    After winning the American League MVP Award and becoming the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera is more than worthy of No. 1 status.

    Cabrera had captured a batting title, home run title and an RBI title in separate seasons, but in 2012, he put it all together to win the Triple Crown for the first time since Carl Yastrzemski achieved the feat in 1967.

    Cabrera will almost assuredly find his way to the Hall of Fame after his playing days are over, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.

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