As evidenced by the 2013 version of MLB Network's annual Top 100 players list, trying to rank the best in baseball is no easy feat. With so many different stars with different skill sets at different points in their careers, every opinion on such lists will be, well...different.
Bleacher Report's own MLB Lead Writer Zachary Rymer compiled a fantastic, comprehensive, sabermetric-heavy list of his top 100 players earlier this month. But I wanted to take a poll of many separate rankings, much like MLB awards are tabulated, to create a more concise list of the top 10 hitters and pitchers in baseball today.
I anonymously surveyed 32 other B/R MLB Featured Columnists and asked them to rank their top 10 hitters and top 10 pitchers, then added up all the vote totals (10 points for being ranked first, nine points for being ranked second, etc.) to come up with the following results. I asked each voter to comment on a couple of their choices to provide further context.
Everyone is encouraged to comment, debate and argue away. However, please keep in mind that this is a compilation of many different opinions, so pinning a selection you don't like on any writer whose comments are on that player's slide may not be representative of their personal overall rankings.
Here are B/R's top 10 hitters and pitchers in baseball right now.
Stats taken from Baseball-Reference.com.
Before we jump into the top 10 for hitters and pitchers, let's take a minute to acknowledge the 44 players who received at least one vote but fell short of cracking the final lists. Included under the chart are a couple comments by writers who included these players on their ballots.
In order of vote total, with points in parentheses:
Prince Fielder, Tigers (36)
|Cliff Lee, Phillies (47)|
|Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins (30)||Gio Gonzalez, Nationals (38)|
|Adrian Beltre, Rangers (26)||R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays (37)|
|David Wright, Mets (23)||Johnny Cueto, Reds (29)|
|Joe Mauer, Twins (18)||Roy Halladay, Phillies (29)|
|Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies (17)||Mariano Rivera, Yankees (25)|
|Derek Jeter, Yankees (16)||Zack Greinke, Dodgers (19)|
|Yadier Molina, Cardinals (13)||Madison Bumgarner, Giants (6)|
|Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (12)||Matt Harrison, Rangers (6)|
|Jose Reyes, Blue Jays (10)||Yu Darvish, Rangers (5)|
|Evan Longoria, Rays (8)||Kris Medlen, Braves (5)|
|Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers (6)||Adam Wainwright, Cardinals (5)|
|Jose Bautista, Blue Jays (5)||Chris Sale, White Sox (4)|
|Bryce Harper, Nationals (5)||Aroldis Chapman, Reds (3)|
|Jason Heyward, Braves (5)||Max Scherzer, Tigers (3)|
|Ian Kinsler, Rangers (4)||Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals (3)|
|Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (4)||Jim Johnson, Orioles (2)|
|Chase Headley, Padres (3)||Jason Motte, Cardinals (2)|
|Adam Jones, Orioles (3)||James Shields, Royals (2)|
|Billy Butler, Royals (2)||Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies (1)|
|Michael Young, Phillies (2)|
|Matt Holliday, Cardinals (1)|
|Pablo Sandoval, Giants (1)|
|Ben Zobrist, Rays (1)|
Dickey: "After taking home the NL Cy Young award last season, some may say that Dickey should be at or near the top of these rankings. However, with only a season of elite status under his belt, it will take time for Dickey to surpass the superstars up top. A move to the AL should be a worthy challenge for the knuckleballer. If he can continue to build upon his previous success while pitching in the AL East, Dickey deserves the top spot." - Peter Woolverton
Carlos Gonzalez: "Carlos Gonzalez is a radically underrated player. In his three full seasons, Gonzalez has three 20-20 seasons, a batting title, a third-place finish in MVP voting and two gold gloves. Outside of Braun and Trout, nobody is a more complete five-tool player. Say what you will about him playing at Coors field, but CarGo is a monster."
Lee: "Laugh me out of the room all you want, but Lee belongs on this list. Win-loss record aside, Lee had a case as one of the best pitchers in the NL in 2012. He was in the top 10 in the NL in WHIP, ERA, IP and SO and had the league's lowest walk to strikeout ratio handing out only 28 free passes to 207 strikeouts. Plus, Lee led the majors with 11 quality start no-decisions and 15 non-win quality starts. Make no mistake, the wins will come back and Lee will continue to dominate as one of the best lefties in the game." - Marilee Gallagher
Stanton: "Giancarlo Stanton crushed 37 homers last season, but it only took him 123 games. He's known as the most ferocious power hitter in baseball with the potential to hit 50 long balls, but he's not too shabby defensively, either. Stanton registered a 9.1 UZR in 2012, according to FanGraphs, and still possesses room for improvement at age 23." - Andrew Gould
Wainwright: "After missing a season due to Tommy John surgery in 2011, people have forgotten how good Wainwright really is. He finished top three in Cy Young voting in both 2009 and 2010, going 39-19 with a 2.53 ERA, 11.9 WAR and 425 strikeouts. Following a poor beginning to his 2012 season coming off the surgery, Wainwright recorded a 3.50 ERA from his fourth start on. Two years removed from his injury in 2013, expect Wainwright to have his third top-five finish in the National League Cy Young Voting." - Stephen Sikora
Kinsler: "Kinsler's 162-game averages: .272, 25 HR, 81 RBI, 21 SB, 115 R. If we are talking about the 'best hitters' then we have to put them on even ground (meaning we can't count injuries against their hitting ability), and if they all played a full season, Kinsler would be hard to beat." - Nathan Palatsky
Gio Gonzalez: "He is one of the most underrated starters in baseball and is generally overshadowed by his teammate, Stephen Strasburg. Gonzalez had 21 wins in 2012, an ERA of 2.89 and had a 9.35 K/9 ratio, which was the third-best in MLB. Gonzalez also held batters to the lowest BAA in the major leagues with a .206."
Jeter: "Derek Jeter won't be a popular choice, but at 38 years old he led the league in hits. He struck out less than Braun, Cabrera, Trout, Cano and McCutchen despite far more plate appearances than any of them. A career .313 hitter with 3,304 hits, it's hard to leave him off a list of the best hitters." - Nathan Palatsky
Cueto: "Johnny Cueto has gone under the radar for far too long. Only Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander recorded an ERA below Cueto’s 2.58 mark over the last two seasons. The 27-year-old from the Dominican Republic thrives off his ability to induce ground balls and limit home runs; his 50.9 percent ground ball rate from 2011-2012 ranks ninth in the majors, and his .55 home runs per nine innings is the top mark among qualified pitchers. Despite getting little love from the sabermetric community because of his low strikeout rate, Cueto deserves mention among the game’s elite." - Stephen Sikora
Zobrist: "One of baseball's most underrated players, Zobrist provides as much value on the field as most other players on this list. He combines an impressive knack for getting on base with speed, solid defense at multiple positions, and surprising power. From 2009-2012, Zobrist ranks third in the MLB in wins above replacement, behind only Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. He's an elite baseball player who is treated like a utility man throughout the baseball world." - Peter Woolverton
2012 stats: .285 average, 43 home runs, 128 RBI, .930 OPS, 3.4 WAR
The Angels' $125 million man joins a loaded lineup with fellow bashers Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo to form one of the most fearsome lineups in baseball. When healthy, the 2010 AL MVP has proven himself to be a powerful presence in any lineup.
Hamilton's lifetime .260 average at Angel Stadium may worry some fans, but that 38-game sample size can be taken with a grain of salt. Being sandwiched between Pujols and Trumbo should mean another prosperous season for the former first overall pick.
"Hamilton's 162-game career averages: .304, 35 HR, 122 RBI, 104 R. He's a career .306 hitter before the All Star Break and .301 after, .315 at home and .292 away." - Nathan Palatsky
2012 stats: 15-6, 3.38 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 197 K, 3.3 WAR
The Vallejo, CA native has been one of the most consistent, dependable starters over the last decade between three teams. In 2012, he finally suffered an injury, which cost him a few starts in the summer and slowed him down a bit the rest of the way. Still, his numbers were very good and he remains the best pitcher in New York.
Sabathia averages about 230 innings pitched and 200 strikeouts every season and can be counted on for north of 15 wins most years. But, as he climbs the wrong side of 30, will the southpaw face the inevitable decline of a hardworking starting pitcher? Time will tell, but the 2007 Cy Young winner still has some gas left and definitely deserves a spot on this list.
"C.C. Sabathia makes the list largely because of his track record. He's netted at least 200 innings pitched and 197 strikeouts in six consecutive seasons, with an ERA no higher than 3.37." - Andrew Gould
2012 stats: .303 average, 23 home runs, 69 RBI, .906 OPS, 2.3 WAR
Kemp's numbers in only 106 games last year are pretty staggering. The rest of the National League was put on notice in 2011, when he played a full, healthy season and fell one home run shy of going 40/40, as well as about eight hits shy of winning the Triple Crown.
Granted, a downward slide in the rankings is warranted after an injury-plagued season, especially when the hitters ahead of him have great track records as well. As multiple voters mentioned in their explanations, Kemp could move up significantly if he plays a full season in 2013.
"If Matt Kemp could stay healthy, he could easily be #1 [sic] on this list." - Drew Reynolds
2012 stats: 20-5, 2.81 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 142 K, 3.7 WAR
Weaver was on his way to a top three finish in the AL Cy Young vote last year, before a late-season slide and chronic back problems that forced him to miss a few starts. But he still led the league in wins and had very good numbers otherwise.
Undoubtedly the ace of a stacked Angels team, Weaver has a chance to improve upon his 20-win mark. The only concerning thing for him is the back injury last year, and his decrease in strikeouts that came with it (he posted his lowest strikeouts-per-nine in five seasons last year).
"Before his injury, Weaver looked like a Cy Young favorite in the AL. If he stays healthy all season, he could win 20 games again and shoot up this list. But he's definitely one of the best 10 pitchers in baseball today." - Kelsey Shea Weinrich
2012 stats: .285 average, 30 home runs, 105 RBI, .859 OPS, 4.6 WAR
Believe it or not, those numbers qualify as a "down year" for Pujols. In 2011, he failed to hit .300 or drive in 100 runs for the first time in his entire career, instead settling for .299 and 99, respectively. That being said, the 33-year-old slugger is still a machine at the plate and could be even better with Hamilton in the lineup this year.
There is a reason Pujols has won three MVP awards, but placing him on this list is not simply a token of respect. It's an acknowledgement by B/R's writers that Pujols is still one of the best hitters in baseball, despite declining stats over the last two seasons.
"Even in an off year, Pujols still finished in the top 10 in the AL in both RBI and slugging. He still maintains a career .325 average and has never hit less [sic] than 30 home runs and 99 RBI a season in his 12-year career." - Marilee Gallagher
2012 stats: 42 saves, 1.01 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 116 K, 3.2 WAR
Let's all forget about the rough ninth inning Kimbrel had against the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. After all, that's not what he is paid to do. The 24-year-old flamethrower makes his living shutting the door in the ninth for the Atlanta Braves, and there is nobody better. Now, he has the distinction of being the only closer on this list.
Wrap your heads around this: In just two full major league seasons, Kimbrel has accumulated 89 saves and averaged nearly 16 strikeouts per nine innings. With the big moves in Atlanta this winter, you can expect even bigger save numbers for Kimbrel, as he continues his torrid march toward the record books.
"Kimbrel's first two seasons have been nothing short of legendary. Opposing batters hit just .126 against him last year, and he became the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out half the batters he faced. At 24 years of age it's way too early to start comparing Kimbrel to Mariano Rivera, but he's certainly dominating just as much." - Doug Mead
2012 stats: .336 average, 24 home runs, 103 RBI, .957 OPS, 7.2 WAR
What more do you want? Posey has played in two full major league seasons (he only played in 45 games after breaking his leg in 2011) and won an MVP, Rookie of the Year, NL batting title and two World Series rings. If he continues to improve offensively, Posey will be absolutely insane.
Many think he will see a dip in production, but our panel clearly disagrees. Posey can hit for power and average and is one of the smartest hitters in the league, at just 25 years of age. Giants fans will agree—the trophy case in San Francisco would be a lot more lonely without Posey's services over the last few years.
"[Posey has] excellent plate discipline, can both pull the ball and hit to the opposite field, makes great adjustments, and is more than just purely a "good hitter." He's a highly intelligent hitter." - Keely Flanagan
2012 stats: 17-6, 3.05 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 216 K, 4.2 WAR
Hamels had a very solid season in 2012, but it was quiet. His more famous teammates, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, had their problems with injuries as the Phillies struggled to stay in contention. But the one constant on the staff was Hamels, who is an eternally underrated southpaw for the Phils.
Even if Halladay and Lee return to form in 2013, an argument can be made that Hamels will be the team's best starting pitcher. The 29-year-old hasn't posted an ERA higher than 3.06 since 2009, and he's good for 220 innings pitched and 200 strikeouts most years.
"Cole Hamels is the Rodney Dangerfield of the MLB hurlers when it comes to his place among the best—he gets little respect. But his numbers deserve more attention. His stuff is better—not faster—than lefties David Price and Clayton Kershaw. He has the mental side of the game—that will keep Felix Hernandez from ever being a dominant playoff pitcher. And, yes, there is that ring he got back in 2008." - Rick Suter
"Cole Hamels is the most underrated left-handed starter in the game. Hamels has logged 200-plus innings, 190-plus strikeouts and 30-plus starts in each of the last three seasons. In the same time frame, Hamels has an ERA of 2.97, a WHIP of 1.10 and a quality start percentage of 72 percent. Consistency is key to any successful starting pitcher and the fact that he's left-handed doesn't hurt either."
2012 stats: .327 average, 31 home runs, 96 RBI, .953 OPS, 7.0 WAR
With a bit of a slide in September, and his team out of contention, McCutchen may have lost out on an NL MVP award last year. But even if he had pulled off the upset, there's a very good case to be made for his 2012 season, as he seemed to single-handedly keep the Pirates relevant.
Such is life for the slick center fielder in Pittsburgh, who has been improving in almost every category since he broke into the league four years ago. Last season was the first time he got on base at a .400 clip, and 2013 should see more improvement from the 26-year-old.
"Andrew McCutchen is the prototypical five-tool player, and if not for Mike Trout, there might be no player with a higher ceiling in all of baseball. 'Cutch' is an elite athlete with a great feel for the game, and his all-around play will give Pittsburgh fans hope for years to come." - Andrew Kaufman
"Behind Trout and Cabrera, the best hitter in all of baseball is Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen may not get all the attention he deserves, but he's a complete player, capable of exciting with his power and speed, along with the ability to hit for a high average." - Matt Powers
2012 stats: 15-6, 3.16 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 197 K, 2.7 WAR
Everyone knows the nation-crumbling story of Strasburg being "shut down" last season to preserve his arm for the future. Without delving too far into the issue, I'll mention two things: First, the Nationals are his employer, and I therefore support whatever personnel decisions they make for their own good.
But secondly, that the 24-year-old posted numbers like that in his first full season (one in which he was limited, no less) is mind-boggling. If Strasburg stays healthy, he could legitimately become the most dominant pitcher of this generation. He's already on the right track.
"After being shelved once he hit 160 innings of work, Strasburg was all but forgotten. The gloves should come off in 2013, however, as Strasburg will be free to mow down hitters through September and beyond. Strasburg's electric stuff played up very nicely last year, so I'd expect him to fly up to the top of the rankings this time next year." - Peter Woolverton
"Stephen Strasburg has the natural ability to compete with Justin Verlander as the top starting pitcher in the game. If he can piece together a full season, while now being unrestricted, his numbers could stun a lot of people. He without a doubt has Cy Young capabilities." - Andrew Rocco
2012 stats: .337 average, 14 home runs, 56 RBI, 1.041 OPS, 5.6 WAR
After suffering a knee injury in 2012, Votto's season was all but over. It's a shame any time baseball fans don't get to see an entire season from a player like Votto, who has set the standard for consistency among hitters in the National League.
Even in limited time last year, Votto put up huge numbers. If he stays healthy throughout the whole 2013 campaign, I have a feeling that fans in Cincinnati won't be the only ones remembering why Votto won an MVP award three seasons ago. At age 29, Votto still has plenty of time left to become one of the truly great hitters of our generation.
"I gave Votto the nod over Cabrera because of his outstanding plate discipline along with the ability to hit for power and average. Votto's 94 walks and .474 on-base percentage led the league last year despite missing nearly two months of action. In addition, Votto has the ability to spray the ball all over the field, and he offers up outstanding defense to boot." - Doug Mead
"When you think Votto, you think consistency. Votto is known for his ability to get on base posting a career .415 OBP (.474 in 2012). His strikeout totals are routinely under 130 and in each full season since 2008, he has hit at least 32 doubles." - Marilee Gallagher
2012 stats: 16-5, 2.79 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 193 K, 3.5 WAR
With seven full seasons already under his belt and just entering his prime (age 28), Cain is one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball. Last season, Cain had arguably his best campaign, capped off by one of the most dominant perfect games of all time.
Even with a tendency to string together a few bad starts, Cain has been absolutely ridiculous over the last four seasons, and emerged as the unarguable ace of the pitching-rich Giants. If he continues to improve, Cain could find himself in the top three on this list next year.
"Cain seems to get glossed over when assessing the top pitchers in baseball[,] but he is an easy selection for the top 10. Over the past four years, Cain has compiled a 55-35 record with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He tends to let up the long ball a little too often (78 over the last four years) but he still manages to keep his ERA low and gain consistent Cy Young Award consideration."
"Matt Cain seems to be the forgotten ace in Major League Baseball. He is a rock-solid 200 innings man with low walk totals that can get the strikeout when necessary. If I were building a starting rotation, Matt Cain would be on the short list of whom [sic] I would name 'staff ace.'" - Gavin Andrews
2012 stats: .313 average, 33 home runs, 94 RBI, .929 OPS, 8.2 WAR
If the World Baseball Classic has taught as anything, it's that the Yanks' second baseman and Team Dominican MVP is very good at baseball-related activities.
But we already knew that, didn't we?
Cano's 2012 was one for the ages, as he also racked up a career-best .992 fielding percentage.
Unless the Yankees extend him this season, Cano is going to hit the free-agent market as a 31-year-old and will probably pull in a fat contract somewhere. This is all assuming that the four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner becomes a five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner after 2013. I'll take my chances.
"Robinson Cano is an all-around offensive threat, at a defensive-minded position. He can hit for power, average and he has speed." - Jason Lempert
"Not only does Robinson Cano annually hit .300 with with nearly 30 homers a season, he does it at second base. No other second baseman can rival what he does." - Eric Matula
2012 stats: 13-9, 3.06 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 223 K, 4.6 WAR
Is anyone else baffled at how Hernandez is still just 26 years old? If he continues to pitch this well through his prime, there is no doubt in my mind that he will eventually earn a plaque in Cooperstown. That being said, he did have an injury scare this spring. It was overblown, but still a scary prospect for the Seattle organization, especially after signing their ace to a huge extension.
Hernandez arguably threw a better perfect game than Cain in 2012, which is really saying something. And the consistency with which he eats innings and strikes out opposing batters is incredible. The 2010 Cy Young winner has averaged 212 strikeouts per season over his career, and the last time he pitched fewer than 190 innings in a season was his rookie year in 2005.
Some voters believe Hernandez's resumé is hurt by the team he pitches for. But with the Mariners making moves this winter, all that hard work might pay off if Seattle makes a sneaky playoff run in 2013.
"Put Felix Hernandez on the Tigers and he'd be better than Verlander. Put him on any quality team and he'd be the best pitcher in the AL. But, he's in Seattle."
"The best pitcher in baseball is open for debate, only because there are a few candidates who can benefit from how their clubs perform. If Felix Hernandez was playing for consistent winning teams, he may be top of the list."
2012 stats: .319 average, 41 home runs, 112 RBI, .987 OPS, 6.8 WAR
Everyone (myself included) talks about how amazing the early years of Buster Posey's career have been. Aside from the two rings, which are team efforts, Braun has been a superior player. He, too, has won a Rookie of the Year and MVP award (2007 and 2011, respectively) and the five-time All-Star has won five straight silver sluggers.
Last season was just business as usual for Braun, who set a career high in home runs and reached the 30/30 plateau for the second straight season. He was runner-up to Posey for MVP in 2012, but the 29-year-old Braun has a great chance to snag the honor back in 2013 as he continues to reach his peak, while smashing National League pitching along the way.
"As a Reds' fan, it pains me to say it, but Ryan Braun is the best hitter in the game. Mike Trout may be the sexy pick for No. 1 but the truth of the matter is that Braun has been doing much of what Trout does for the last six seasons. Consistency is everything and with Braun you know you'll be getting 35-40 HR to go along with 30 steals and a stellar slash line."
"Braun continues to impress in almost every facet of the game. His dubious PED allegations aside, Braun can flat out play. He can hit, mash, field, throw, and run with the best of them. The 29-year old should continue to lead the Brewers' offense for years to come." - Peter Woolverton
"As for Ryan Braun, his body of work over the course of his career is pretty astonishing. He's a model of consistency and has had back to back 30-30 seasons. Not an easy feat. He's a perennial gold glove outfielder on almost a yearly basis, not to mention he's a terror on the basepaths. Braun is the true definition of a five tool player." - Andrew Rocco
2012 stats: 20-5, 2.56 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 205 K, 6.4 WAR
The speed at which last year's AL Cy Young winner has ascended to the elite ranks of starting pitchers in baseball fascinates me. At age 26, and entering just his fifth full season in the big leagues, Price will be the best pitcher in the toughest division in baseball for years to come, and the ace of a very good Tampa Bay rotation.
Since an average rookie year in 2009, Price has been selected to three straight All-Star games and been completely dominant. His tall, long, southpaw delivery and very good command of the strike zone has made him a pain for hitters over the last couple seasons. Rays fans can be happy with this placement, but it's my opinion that Price trails the top two pitchers by less than most people might think.
"I put Price above Kershaw only because he pitches in a harder division and had similar numbers." - Drew Reynolds
"You could easily argue Verlander or Kershaw for the top spot, but Price gets the nod due to his complete body of work."
"David Price is a key piece to Tampa's consistent success on a yearly basis. He is a true ace and is still young. Coming into 2013, the reigning Cy Young award winner will look to build on his impressive career thus far." - Andrew Rocco
2012 stats: .326 average, 30 home runs, 83 RBI, .963 OPS, 10.7 WAR
Last year's rookie sensation was supposed to be Bryce Harper. But the now 21-year-old Trout had different ideas. Not only did Trout put up numbers that have never, ever been seen from a rookie before, but he played fantastic defense in center field. Many sabermetricians believe Trout should have won the MVP and Gold Glove awards last season (won by Miguel Cabrera and Adam Jones, respectively).
Instead, he just ran away with the AL Rookie of the Year vote, to nobody's surprise. The big question this season for Trout is is he can duplicate or improve upon (that's a scary thought) his success in 2012. If last year was any indication, opposing pitchers will be in for even more trouble and catchers will be even more terrorized than they already have been. I think Trout can definitely leap Cabrera in these rankings with another stellar season.
"Trout is the entire package. So much has already been written about his five-tool skills and the records set last year. The fact that Trout didn't win the Gold Glove Award was simply a travesty—his UZR of plus 11.4 was easily the best among AL center fielders. No player in baseball has the all-around abilities of Trout. He is indeed deserving of the top ranking among hitters in baseball right now." - Doug Mead
"Taking into account defense and speed, Trout is clearly one of the best hitters in baseball. He scored 129 runs, 182 hits and 27 doubles in 2012 while averaging .326 and topping out at a 10.7 WAR. And then there is the matter of 49 stolen bases. Sure his strikeout totals are high, but with the power and production he provides, you can live with that." - Marilee Gallagher
"Some may say it's too early to crown Trout the best player in baseball, but the man can hit for average, hit for power, take a walk, steal a base, and play outstanding defense. He's the most well-rounded player in the league and if he even plays 80 percent as well as he did last year, he's still the best player in the league." - Gavin Andrews
2012 stats: 14-9, 2.53 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 229 K, 6.2 WAR
The scariest part about those stats? His Cy Young-winning 2011 season was even better. Kershaw narrowly missed leading the league in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts for the second consecutive year (Dickey finished with 230 strikeouts), and pitched through foot and hip injuries for a large part of the season. Yet he still dominated in a fashion only conceivably topped by one other pitcher in all of baseball.
In 2013, Kershaw will start the season with a clean bill of health, a lot more offensive support and another year of experience under his belt. If that doesn't make opposing hitters shiver, there's something wrong. Compared by some to Sandy Koufax, the 25-year-old lefty who averages a 2.79 ERA and 221 strikeouts per season should be a force for the Dodgers for years. He is, hands-down, the favorite to win the Cy Young again in the National League this season.
"Kershaw simply dominates with all of his pitches at any given time, refusing to back down and showing off a grit and determination that's reminiscent of former Dodger Sandy Koufax."
"Clayton Kershaw, meanwhile, has established himself as the best young lefty in California since Sandy Koufax."
"Clayton Kershaw is the pitcher equivalent to Ryan Braun. He is dominant and will put up great numbers across the board. Oh yeah, plus he's only 25 years old." - Eric Matula
2012 stats: .330 average, 44 home runs, 139 RBI, .999 OPS, 6.9 WAR
It seems the B/R community agrees with the MVP voters on the great debate of 2012: Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball.
While many were divided between him and Trout last season, it's hard to argue against the first Triple Crown since 1967, and consistent mashing that propelled the Tigers to the World Series.
This isn't a one-year thing, however. Cabrera, who has seemingly been in the league for decades (he debuted as a 20-year-old in 2003 for the Florida Marlins), is just reaching his prime at age 29. In his ten seasons, Cabrera has averaged a line of .318, 34, 120, and an on-base percentage just under .400.
For a man his size, Cabrera could probably hit more than 40 home runs every season, but that's the majesty of his abilities—he can spray the ball with power to any field, but instead aims to hit line drives every time he's at bat.
Young right-handed batters should all model their swings after this guy, because when he finally does hang up the spikes, chances are Cooperstown will be calling Cabrera's name if he continues at this torrid pace.
"You don't win the Triple Crown for nothing. Without a doubt, Miguel Cabrera is baseball's best hitter entering 2013. Since his second year in the league in 2004, Cabrera has been one of the best. He has a career .318 average and has topped 180 hits, 30 doubles, 30 home runs and 100 RBI in all but his rookie season. And to top it all off, he averages just 110.7 strike outs a season. The guy gives you power, speed, production and rarely misses a game. You can't ask for much more in a hitter." - Marilee Gallagher
"Two words: Triple Crown. Cabrera is the most complete hitter in baseball."
"Miguel Cabrera is ALWAYS dangerous at the plate, possesses incredible raw power, and his swing is a thing of beauty."
2012 stats: 17-8, 2.64 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 239 K, 7.6 WAR
I hope Tigers fans realize how lucky they are. Not only do they have the best hitter in baseball playing third base for them, but the most dominant pitcher in baseball, according to this article and many others, anchors the rotation in Detroit. Verlander, the 2011 Cy Young and MVP winner, is a lock for 220 strikeouts and a minuscule ERA in any given season.
He's 30 years old, so he may have another half-decade of dominance left at the most, but it will be fun to watch no matter how long it lasts. Since day one, it was evident that Verlander had filthy stuff and the right kind of make-up to be a powerful ace. But the way he's refined his control and harnessed his strikeout potential is amazing.
Rarely do you see a pitcher who can throw 100 miles per hour into the eighth inning, and then turn around and blow out a hitter's knee with a ridiculous curveball. He has speed, finesse and intelligence—and that is why Verlander is B/R's best pitcher in baseball right now.
"I like Justin Verlander atop the list of top pitchers in the game—and the choice has little to do with MPH or a sabermetric love of statistical boredom. At the end of the day, if I were to have an up-and-coming pitcher watch tape, Justin Verlander would be the best option out there to study. His sound mechanics produce that repetitive motion to the dish, pitch after pitch, making his stuff nearly impossible to decipher early." - Rick Suter
"Although the Cy Young went to Price, it can easily be said that Verlander was just as deserving. Coming off of a 2011 season that saw him win MVP and AL Cy Young, Verlander was just about as good in 2012. In each of the past four seasons, he has bested 215 strikeouts and has continued to reduce his ERA and home runs given up in that time as well. If there is anyone you want anchoring your staff, Verlander is the guy."
"He is the best pitcher in baseball. In 2012, he arguably had a better year than in 2011, when he won the AL MVP and Cy Young. Verlander is the definition of an ace. He had the most innings pitched at 238.1, had the best WAR of any other pitcher at 7.6 and had the most strikeouts with 239."
There you have it. The Bleacher Report rankings for the top 10 hitters and pitchers in baseball right now. Below you'll find the final tally for those lucky 20, with their vote totals and first place votes in parentheses. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the season!
|1. Miguel Cabrera (20) -- 302||1. Justin Verlander (24) -- 312|
|2. Mike Trout (7) -- 232||2. Clayton Kershaw (5) -- 282|
|3. Ryan Braun (2) -- 231||3. David Price (1) -- 220|
|4. Robinson Cano (1) -- 160||4. Felix Hernandez (1) -- 206|
|5. Joey Votto (1) -- 149||5. Matt Cain -- 130|
|6. Andrew McCutchen -- 133||6. Stephen Strasburg (1) -- 122|
|7. Buster Posey (1) -- 118||7. Cole Hamels -- 84|
|8. Albert Pujols (1) -- 109||8. Craig Kimbrel (1) -- 69|
|9. Matt Kemp -- 84||9. Jered Weaver -- 65|
|10. Josh Hamilton -- 46||10. C.C. Sabathia -- 54|
You can follow Jeremy Dorn @Jamblinman.