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The Best Current MLB Player Wearing Each Number from 1 to 25

Ben BerkonContributor IAugust 23, 2013

The Best Current MLB Player Wearing Each Number from 1 to 25

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    With just a little over a month of baseball left, it’s a fair time to evaluate players’ 2013 production.

    While there are many analytical pieces detailing the best players at each position—or even who would comprise a hypothetical second-half All-Star team—breaking down the best players by jersey number is a uniquely fun task. 

    Players will be evaluated on a wide range of criteria, specifically position scarcity, advanced hitting metrics like park-adjusted OPS+, defensive tools like Baseball-Reference.com’s dWAR (defense WAR) and FanGraph’s UZR/150, as well as the all-encompassing bWAR.

    Below is the best current MLB player wearing each number from 1 to 25.

     

    All statistics sourced (through Aug. 22) from Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com.

1: Jose Iglesias

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    Few expected Jose Iglesias to even get playing time this season. The former Boston Red Sox infielder was handed playing time after shortstop Stephen Drew and third baseman Will Middlebrooks struggled to stay healthy and productive, respectively.

    Between the Red Sox and his recent trade to the Detroit Tigers, Iglesias has combined for a .324 batting average, a park-adjusted 109 OPS+ and two home runs over 302 plate appearances.

    The 23-year-old’s true asset, however, is his glove. Despite gloving a putrid minus-11.9 UZR/150 at third base, the natural shortstop has posted a Gold Glove-worthy 13.2 UZR/150 up the middle in 2013.

2: Troy Tulowitzki

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    Even though Jacoby Ellsbury is enjoying a nice comeback season, Troy Tulowitzki is still the best player wearing No. 2.

    Tulo has posted a career-best park-adjusted 145 OPS+, a .316 batting average, 9.7 percent walk rate and 22 home runs to go along with it. The shortstop, who already has two Gold Gloves to his name, should be a contender for it again in 2013, gloving a dynamic 13.3 UZR/150 over 783 innings at the position.

    The 28-year-old has struggled a bit since returning from his injury on July 11 (.785 OPS), but Tulowitzki is still a cornerstone player.

3: Evan Longoria

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    Evan Longoria is enjoying yet another banner season for the Tampa Bay Rays. The third baseman has posted a .270 batting average, 10.7 percent walk rate, a park-adjusted 137 OPS+ and 25 home runs.

    Aside from powering the second-place Rays, the 27-year-old also plays eye-popping defense at the hot corner. Longoria has gloved a 20.4 UZR/150, which ranks third behind fellow third basemen Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado.

    Even with his combined offensive and defensive skills, Longoria has little chance of winning the MVP award with players like Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout in the way.

4: Yadier Molina

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    Yadier Molina has long been a top defensive receiver, but now the catcher has emerged as an elite hitter too. Molina is currently leading the league with a .332 batting average while also sporting a park-adjusted 141 OPS+ and 10 home runs.

    Even though Molina’s home run total is down from 22 dingers in 2012, the 31-year-old already has seven more doubles now than he did all of last season. 

    Predictably, Yadier has accumulated a Gold Glove-caliber 1.5 dWAR in 2013, which should be enough for the catcher to win his sixth honor.

5: Carlos Gonzalez

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    Carlos Gonzalez has bumped it up a notch in 2013. Despite always being labeled as a product of Coors Field (on account of his career road .774 OPS), CarGo has actually done more damage on the road than he has at home this season.

    Gonzalez has posted a .987 OPS away from Coors in 2013, compared to his .930 OPS at home. The combined production has resulted in a very fruitful season, with the 27-year-old posting a .302 batting average, park-adjusted 145 OPS+ and 26 home runs.

    The outfielder has even gloved a stellar 8.0 UZR/150 in left field, making him an all-around stud.

6: Starling Marte

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    Andrew McCutchen tends to get most of the credit for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ success in 2013. Even though McCutchen is certainly deserving of the spotlight, fellow outfielder Starling Marte has also been a big reason why the Pirates are en route to their first playoff berth since 1992.

    Marte, in his first full season in the major leagues, has posted a .282 batting average, park-adjusted 121 OPS+, 11 home runs and 35 stolen bases. While the 24-year-old has a tendency to strike out a lot (127) and not walk often (4.6 percent walk rate), Marte’s knack for extra-base hits (e.g. his league-leading 11 triples) has propelled his season.

    Also, with a 19.7 UZR/150 in left field, it would be surprising if Marte didn’t win his first Gold Glove Award.

7: Joe Mauer

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    Joe Mauer may never hit 28 home runs again like he did in 2009, but it almost doesn’t matter. The Minnesota Twins catcher has posted a .324 batting average, 12.0 percent walk rate, park-adjusted 142 OPS+ and 11 home runs so far in 2013.

    But it might not be long until Mauer, who recently suffered a concussion, is moved from his familiar position. According to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, the Twins are seriously considering a permanent position change for their star catcher.

    Without all the bumps and bruises of playing catcher, it’s possible Mauer will produce at an even higher offensive level in 2014 (and beyond).

8: Justin Upton

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    Justin Upton has endured an inconsistent season at the plate, but it finally looks like the outfielder is turning things around. After posting a 1.136 OPS and 12 home runs in April, the 25-year-old combined for just a .676 OPS and four home runs through July.

    But so far in August, Upton has bounced back. The right-handed batter has hit to the tune of a 1.240 OPS with eight home runs for the Atlanta Braves this month.

    And with eight games left in August, it’s possible Upton could tie his first-month home run total.

9: Jean Segura

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    It’s a toss up between Domonic Brown and Jean Segura, but considering the latter is a shortstop and plays terrific defense, the Milwaukee Brewers star wins out.

    The Brewers originally acquired Segura from the Los Angeles Angels in the Zack Greinke deal. Even though Segura was a big prospect then, few expected the right-handed hitter to emerge as a star so quickly.

    Over 525 plate appearances this season, the 23-year-old has posted a .306 batting average, park-adjusted 114 OPS+, 12 home runs and a league-leading 37 stolen bases. In addition, Segura has gloved a stellar 1.0 dWAR.

    Between his offensive and defensive outputs, Segura has been worth a combined 4.3 bWAR in 2013.

10: Edwin Encarnacion

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    Over the past four seasons, Edwin Encarnacion has steadily improved each year. Now as an elite power hitter, the Toronto Blue Jays first baseman has posted a .273 batting average, 12.3 percent walk rate, park-adjusted 141 OPS+ and 31 home runs.

    But perhaps Encarnacion’s biggest improvement has been cutting down on strikeouts. Despite a career 16.7 percent strikeout rate, the 30-year-old has witnessed that figure drop to a mere 10.0 percent in 2013.

    Under contract through 2016 (with a $10 million team option), Edwin Encarnacion will be powering the Blue Jays lineup for at least another three years.

11: Yu Darvish

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    The Texas Rangers have to be pleased with how Yu Darvish has produced in 2013. Since signing the Japanese pitcher to a six-year, $56 million deal before the 2012 season, Darvish has owned a 3.35 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 129 ERA+), 1.16 WHIP, 3.02 K/BB and 28 personal wins.

    Walks were a bit of an issue for Darvish in 2012 (4.2 walks per nine innings), but the 27-year-old has curbed that issue this year. Darvish has actually cut down his walk rate by 1.1 walks per nine innings—and has even seen a bump in strikeouts (from 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings to 12.0) too.

    With a 157 ERA+ and league leading 214 strikeouts, it wouldn’t be outlandish if Darvish’s name popped up in the Cy Young Award conversations.

12: Juan Lagares

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    Sure, Alfonso Soriano has been tearing the cover off the ball since being acquired by the New York Yankees, but perhaps Juan Lagares has still been the best player to don No. 12.

    Lagares, a center fielder for the New York Mets, isn’t much of a hitter. The 24-year-old has posted a mere .257 batting average, 3.1 percent walk rate and a park-adjusted 90 OPS+.

    But what Lagares may lack with the stick, he more than makes up with the glove. Lagares ranks as elite in both defensive metrics, gloving a 28.7 UZR/150 and 2.5 dWAR.

    The outfielder’s combined 2.9 bWAR is obviously defense heavy, but it's still superior to Soriano’s 1.9 bWAR.

13: Manny Machado

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    How is it possible that Hanley Ramirez and his .348 batting average and park-adjusted 181 OPS+ aren’t good enough to win “best player who wears No. 13?” The only man standing in his way is Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado.

    Machado has posted a comparatively pedestrian .294 batting average and 107 OPS+, but the third baseman is also arguably the finest defensive infielder in the game. With a 29.8 UZR/150 and 3.8 dWAR, only shortstop Andrelton Simmons comes close.

    In addition, Machado is also leading the league with 44 doubles, making him a menace on both sides of the ball.

14: David Price

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    Compared to his career statistics, David Price has struggled in 2013. The southpaw has posted a 3.29 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 116 ERA+)—which is a far cry from his 2.56 ERA (versus a 150 ERA+) in 2012.

    Price has still been a very productive pitcher, however. The 27-year-old is leading the league in both walks per nine innings (1.3) and K/BB (5.58). The hurler has also spun a 2.25 ERA in the month of August.

    Being only a game out of first place, the Tampa Bay Rays need their stud hurler to continue pitching like one.

15: Dustin Pedroia

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    Dustin Pedroia’s wish of being a Boston Red Sox lifer came true this season when he signed a six-year, $85 million extension. The 30-year-old deserves every cent of it, too, as he’s posted a .294 batting average, park-adjusted 113 OPS+, eight home runs and 16 stolen bases over a league-leading 581 plate appearances.

    The second baseman is also an elite defender, owning an 11.3 UZR/150 and 2.0 dWAR at the position.

    With stud shortstop prospect Xander Bogaerts getting the call, Red Sox fans are finally seeing a glimpse of what the team’s middle infield will look like for at least the next eight seasons.

16: Jose Fernandez

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    The lowly Miami Marlins desperately added star prospect Jose Fernandez to their rotation to begin the season—a move that many critics panned. But Fernandez has proved to be ready for major league hitting.

    The 21-year-old has pitched to the tune of a 2.41 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 162 ERA+), 1.02 WHIP, 3.08 K/BB and nine personal wins. His inclusion on the All-Star team was also a big accomplishment for a player who, prior to 2013, had yet to pitch above Advanced-A.

    Needless to say, Fernandez has emerged as one of the best young starting pitchers in baseball.

17: Shin-Soo Choo

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    Shin-Soo Choo was acquired by the Cincinnati Reds in one of the most highly publicized offseason trades. To date, the 31-year-old has been an incredible asset for the Reds lineup. Choo has posted a .283 batting average, 14.5 percent walk rate, a park-adjusted 135 OPS+, 16 home runs and 14 stolen bases.

    The Reds have primarily used Choo in center field, a position the outfielder had barely played at the major league level. The transition has been a rough one, as suggested by defensive metrics. The southpaw has gloved a horrendous minus-18.9 UZR/150 in 2013—making him the worst defensive center fielder in baseball.

    Defensive woes aside, Choo’s offense has balanced out his bWAR, which stands at a mighty 3.1. The impending free agent will undoubtedly garner plenty of suitors, but teams will likely revert him back to a corner outfield slot.

18: Hisashi Iwakuma

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    Hisashi Iwakuma has quietly been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball this season. The 32-year-old has posted a 2.98 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 123 ERA+), 4.55 K/BB and 12 personal wins. Iwakuma has also overcome stamina concerns by starting a league-leading 27 games.

    Even though the Japanese native’s fastball averages just 89.5 mph, Iwakuma keeps hitters off balance with a four-pitch arsenal, including a devastating split-fingered fastball. In fact, the pitch has been worth 10.3 runs above average in 2013.

19: Chris Davis

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    Even with the likes of Joey Votto, Anibal Sanchez and Jose Bautista nipping at his heels, Chris Davis is still the best player wearing a No. 19 jersey.

    The Baltimore Orioles slugger has posted a MVP-caliber season in 2013, hitting .306 with a park-adjusted 185 OPS+, 46 home runs and 116 RBI. Davis currently leads the league in runs scored (91), home runs (46), slugging percentage (.689) and total bases (313).

    It goes without saying that the 2011 trade that landed Davis in Baltimore (for reliever Koji Uehara) is looking pretty historically lopsided.

20: Josh Donaldson

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    After posting a mere park-adjusted 90 OPS+ in 2012, few people thought Josh Donaldson would be able to produce like a corner infielder should. But in 2013, Donaldson has turned some heads.

    The 27-year-old has posted a .295 batting average, 10.7 percent walk rate, 139 OPS+ and 18 home runs. Donaldson has done his part defensively, too, gloving a stellar 9.0 UZR/150 at third base.

    As the sole remaining asset of the deal that sent Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs in 2008, it looks like the Oakland Athletics have officially won that trade.

21: Zack Greinke

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    One of the ongoing jokes in the offseason was about how much pitching depth the Los Angeles Dodgers were acquiring. Critics felt the six-year, $159 million deal the Dodgers handed Zack Greinke was a bit risky, considering the pitcher’s past mental issues.

    However, Greinke hasn’t let the team down. The 29-year-old has posted a 2.91 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 123 ERA+), 1.18 WHIP, 2.78 K/BB and 12 personal wins.

    It’s unlikely Greinke will ever be able to replicate his 205 ERA+ from 2009. But if the pitcher continues to spin a 123 ERA+ throughout the length of his contract, one has to think the Dodgers would be pleased.

22: Clayton Kershaw

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    It’s tough to pick anyone over Andrew McCutchen, but if there was one player who gets those honors, it would have to be Clayton Kershaw. Simply labeling Kershaw as an “ace” barely scratches the surface of his contributions.

    The southpaw leads the league in ERA (1.72), games started (27), shutouts (2), innings (198.1), strikeouts (188), park-adjusted ERA+ (207), WHIP (0.85) and fewest hits per nine innings (5.8).

    If the Los Angeles Dodgers plan on extending Kershaw in the offseason, the pitcher will likely command a record-setting contract.

23: Adrian Gonzalez

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers landed Adrian Gonzalez in an unprecedented blockbuster, acquiring the first baseman as well as Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto from the Boston Red Sox.

    While Beckett and Crawford haven’t exactly been as advertised, Gonzalez has provided the type of first base production the Dodgers craved during the James Loney years. The 31-year-old has posted a .299 batting average, a park-adjusted 125 OPS+ and 16 home runs in his first full season in blue and white.

    Even though Yasiel Puig has captured most of the spotlight, Adrian Gonzalez also deserves some credit for the Dodgers’ winning ways.

24: Miguel Cabrera

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    Miguel Cabrera is easily the best hitter in baseball. The Detroit Tigers' third baseman leads the league in hits (162), RBI (123), batting average (.354), on-base percentage (.447), OPS (1.123) and park-adjusted OPS+ (199).

    And if those statistics aren’t enough to convince you of Miggy’s abilities, Jonah Keri and William Cohen of Grantland illustrated how the slugger can hit almost anything an opposing pitcher throws at him.

    The reigning MVP and Triple Crown winner is a favorite to double down on his mammoth achievements—that is, assuming Chris Davis slows down in the home run department.

25: Carl Crawford

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    With little competition, Carl Crawford is arguably the best player to wear the No. 25.

    Despite missing all but one game in June, Crawford has been a relatively solid contributor in 2013. The left-handed hitter has posted a .289 batting average, a park-adjusted 111 OPS+, five home runs and 11 stolen bases over 360 plate appearances.

    Even though the 32-year-old has been better than expected, Crawford is still a far cry from his 2010 levels, when he boasted a 135 OPS+ with 19 home runs and 47 stolen bases.

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