MLB Position-by-Position Player Power Rankings for September

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2013

MLB Position-by-Position Player Power Rankings for September

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    At the All-Star break and heading into the month of August, I wrote a pair of articles breaking down my position-by-position power rankings. With the calendar turning over to September and the postseason push heating up, now seems like a good time to update those rankings.

    I've made updates as to who I feel have been the 10 best players at each position based on their performance in this season. I've taken into account their all-around offensive production, their defensive contributions and then what they have meant to the success of their respective teams so far this season.

    Also included in my statistics is each player's FanGraphs WAR. While WAR is a useful stat in gauging a player's value, it's not the be-all, end-all stat that some view it to be. As such, don't expect this to simply be a list of the top 10 in WAR at each position.

    This time around, rather than separating relievers by "middle reliever" and "closer," I have broken them up by right-handed reliever and left-handed reliever. In the past, it was hard to peg where guys like Koji Uehara, Mark Melancon and Joaquin Benoit fit into these lists, so this allowed them to be included.

    With that out of the way, let's take a position-by-position look at the updated player power rankings entering the final month of the season.

     

    Note: There is no slide for DH, but it bears mentioning that David Ortiz (.951 OPS, 24 HR, 82 RBI) is the best DH in baseball by a decent margin. Billy Butler (.804 OPS, 14 HR, 69 RBI), Victor Martinez (.771 OPS, 11 HR, 73 RBI) and Kendrys Morales (.778 OPS, 17 HR, 69 RBI) also deserve mention, but after those four, there's not much to speak of.

Catcher

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    RankNameBA/OBP/SLGHHRRBIRWAR
    1Yadier Molina (STL).329/.367/.488 138  10  61 56  4.9
    2Joe Mauer (MIN).324/.404/.476 144 11 47 62 5.1
    3Buster Posey (SF).308/.376/.476 139 14 69 52 4.5
    4Russell Martin (PIT).243/.345/.403  91 13 51 48 4.5
    5Jason Castro (HOU).278/.354/.493 118 18 54 62 4.2
    6Brian McCann (ATL).271/.344/.495  82 19 51 37 2.8
    7Carlos Santana (CLE).266/.372/.455 119 17 60 59 2.8
    8Jonathan Lucroy (MIL).290/.346/.478 125 17 73 45 3.5
    9Salvador Perez (KC).279/.314/.407 114  9 60 38 2.4
    10Wilin Rosario (COL).294/.319/.495 121 20 72 58 2.0

     

    Position Overview

    He may not have the prolific offensive statistics of some other MVP candidates, but Yadier Molina is as vital to the success of his team as any player in baseball. He is undoubtedly the best all-around catcher in baseball today, as he is in contention for a batting title and remains the premier defensive backstop in the game.

    Not far behind Molina are veterans Joe Mauer and Buster Posey, who are the best offensive players on their respective teams and top-tier offensive players regardless of position.

    Veteran Russell Martin has been a terrific offseason signing for the Pirates, anchoring their much-improved pitching staff and providing some pop at the plate. Fellow veteran Brian McCann missed time early, but he returned to form after recovering from shoulder surgery and has set himself up for a nice payday this offseason.

    Youngsters Jason Castro, Salvador Perez and Wilin Rosario are on the rise and all have bright futures ahead of them, while Carlos Santana and Jonathan Lucroy are just entering their prime offensively and putting up career-best numbers this season.

First Base

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    RankNameBA/OBP/SLGHHRRBIRWAR
    1Chris Davis (BAL).298/.381/.667 145  47  122  95  6.4
    2Paul Goldschmidt (ARI).297/.400/.543 148 31 104 88 5.4
    3Joey Votto (CIN).306/.431/.494 152 20  63 88 5.5
    4Edwin Encarnacion (TOR).274/.370/.533 138 34  99 82 4.0
    5Freddie Freeman (ATL).306/.385/.475 141 17  88 70 3.2
    6Allen Craig (STL).319/.378/.464 159 13  97 71 2.8
    7Adrian Gonzalez (LAD).293/.340/.462 147 19  86 62 2.6
    8Brandon Belt (SF).278/.352/.474 116 15  52 65 3.0
    9Prince Fielder (DET).269/.357/.442 143
     21  92 70 1.4
    10James Loney (TB).305/.354/.433 136 11  60 44 2.4

     

    Position Overview

    If not for the season that Miguel Cabrera is having, Chris Davis would be the talk of the MLB this year, as he's built off of a breakout 2012 in which he hit 33 home runs by taking his game to another level entirely. He's all that's standing between Cabrera and a second straight Triple Crown, but he'll likely have to settle for a second-place MVP finish.

    Paul Goldschmidt is another player who enjoyed a breakout season in 2012, but has been even better this year, as he's been the top run producer in the NL. If the Diamondbacks come back and make the playoffs, he still has a chance at MVP honors himself.

    Veterans Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder have been their usual steady selves this season, while Edwin Encarnacion has proven that last year's breakout performance was no fluke.

    Freddie Freeman and Allen Craig are on the cusp of super stardom themselves, while Brandon Belt has used a big second half (.320/.394/.544) to start to live up to his vast potential. The surprise of the group, though, is James Loney, who signed a one-year, $2 million deal in the offseason and has benefited greatly from a change of scenery.

Second Base

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    RankNameBA/OBP/SLGHHRRBIRWAR
    1Robinson Cano (NYY).306/.385/.510 154 25 89  72 5.2
    2Matt Carpenter (STL).312/.382/.473 163  10  66 102  5.4
    3Jason Kipnis (CLE).281/.365/.461 133 16 75  68 4.1
    4Dustin Pedroia (BOS).300/.377/.416 163  8 76  77 4.7
    5Ben Zobrist (TB).273/.354/.408 137 10 63  64 4.2
    6Chase Utley (PHI).269/.338/.475 106 16 52   62 3.3
    7Howie Kendrick (LAA).301/.341/.437 126 11 47  48 2.5
    8Brandon Phillips (CIN).270/.319/.420 139 17 99  72 2.6
    9Marco Scutaro (SF).298/.358/.372 134  2 28  55 2.5
    10Ian Kinsler (TEX).276/.345/.413 119 11 58  66 2.0

     

    Position Overview

    Second base has quietly become one of the deeper positions in all of baseball this season, but Robinson Cano remains the premier player at the position. The Yankees lineup has been decimated by injuries this season, and he has had far less protection as a result, but he's still managed to put up MVP-caliber numbers through it all.

    Just below Cano are a pair of breakout stars in Matt Carpenter and Jason Kipnis, both of whom have provided their lineups with a big spark in different roles. Carpenter stepped into the leadoff spot in St. Louis and has thrived in his first season as a starter, while Kipnis leads the Indians' improved offense in batting average and RBI.

    Steady veterans Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips and Ian Kinsler remain top options at the position, while Howie Kendrick has proven he belongs in that group as well after bouncing back from a poor 2012 season.

    The versatile Ben Zobrist earned an All-Star nod this year, and he's spent 97 of his 129 games this season at second base. Many questioned the Giants' decision to give Marco Scutaro a three-year, $20 million extension after his postseason heroics, but he's avoided a disappointing falloff in his first full season with the Giants.

Third Base

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    RankNameBA/OBP/SLGHHRRBIRWAR
    1Miguel Cabrera (DET).358/.449/.681 173  43  130  95  7.6
    2Adrian Beltre (TEX).326/.380/.536 172 28  82 79 5.2
    3David Wright (NYM).309/.391/.512 126 16  54 60 5.7
    4Evan Longoria (TB).265/.340/.502 134 28   72 76 5.8
    5Manny Machado (BAL).298/.328/.451 171 12  65 80 6.0
    6Josh Donaldson (OAK).292/.369/.479 144 19  77 69 5.7
    7Kyle Seager (SEA).277/.348/.460 144 21  62 74 3.7
    8Pedro Alvarez (PIT).232/.293/.479 109 32  86 59 2.4
    9Chris Johnson (ATL).333/.368/.471 141 10  58 46 2.7
    10Martin Prado (ARI).289/.340/.428 150 13  72 63 2.3

     

    Position Overview

    There is no two ways about it—Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter on the planet right now, and he looks like a lock to repeat as AL MVP. He may also have a chance at becoming the first back-to-back Triple Crown winner, provided he can catch Chris Davis in the home run race.

    Right behind Cabrera, the veteran trio of Adrian Beltre, David Wright and Evan Longoria remain elite players in the league on both sides of the ball and are all arguably the faces of their respective franchises. Not far off from joining that group is 21-year-old Manny Machado, who leads the MLB with 46 doubles and has played Gold Glove-caliber defense at the hot corner.

    Josh Donaldson and Chris Johnson have been among the biggest surprises of the season, with Donaldson fitting the bill of late bloomer as a 27-year-old and Johnson proving to be the best player involved in the Justin Upton trade this offseason.

    Versatile veteran Martin Prado was also involved in that trade, and he's climbed onto this list with a strong second half (.368/.420/.564), while up-and-coming stars Pedro Alvarez and Kyle Seager continue to show they belong among the position's elite.

Shortstop

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    RankNameBA/OBP/SLGHHRRBIRWAR
    1Troy Tulowitzki (COL).317/.390/.558 117  22  68 62  5.3
    2Hanley Ramirez (LAD).340/.387/.624  85 15 46 50 4.1
    3Ian Desmond (WSH).286/.337/.480 144 20 68 69 5.2
    4Andrelton Simmons (ATL).247/.294/.373 128 12  44 64 3.9
    5Jean Segura (MIL).301/.335/.436 161 12 45 69 3.4
    6J.J. Hardy (BAL).256/.300/.442 127 24 70 54 2.9
    7Jed Lowrie (OAK).293/.352/.441 149 10 58 64 3.3
    8Yunel Escobar (TB).267/.336/.374 115  8 52 51  3.8
    9Jose Iglesias (DET).319/.367/.395  97  2 24 36 1.7
    10Brandon Crawford (SF).263/.322/.384 115  8 40 46 2.6

     

    Position Overview

    After playing just 47 games last season while battling a groin injury, Troy Tulowitzki has returned to form this year as the top all-around shortstop in baseball. He's missed some time with injury again this year, but he still leads all NL shortstops in home runs and RBI.

    Were it not for the fact that he's played only 70 games this season, Hanley Ramirez would no doubt find himself in the top spot on this list. He's emerged as the leader of the Dodgers' offensive attack, and he could emerge as a dark horse in the NL MVP discussion if he can finish the season with a big final month.

    Andrelton Simmons, Yunel Escobar, Brandon Crawford and Jose Iglesias are all better known for their defensive prowess than their offensive game, but they've all held their own at the plate this season as well. Simmons in particular looks like a star in the making and is the premier glove man at the position.

    Steady veteran J.J. Hardy continues to provide a plus glove and some of the best pop around at the position, and Jed Lowrie has built off of a strong season last year and proven to be a great pickup for the A's. Ian Desmond has entered the upper tier of offensive shortstops this season, while Jean Segura remains one of the year's biggest breakout players despite a second-half slump.

Outfield

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    RankNameBA/OBP/SLGHHRRBIRWAR
    1Mike Trout (LAA).334/.431/.577 168  23  82 93  9.2
    2Andrew McCutchen (PIT).317/.395/.501 159 17 74 82 6.5
    3Carlos Gonzalez (COL).302/.367/.591 118 26 70 72 4.8
    4Carlos Gomez (MIL).286/.341/.508 129 19 57 69 6.3
    5Jose Bautista (TOR).259/.358/.498 117 28 73 82 4.2
    6Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS).299/.356/.420 165  7 50 87 5.5
    7Michael Cuddyer (COL).328/.389/.540 136 18 71 65 2.3
    8Adam Jones (BAL).295/.324/.506 164 28 98 90 3.8
    9Shin-Soo Choo (CIN).284/.415/.460 140 18 44 91 4.0
    10Carlos Beltran (STL).310/.343/.522 146 23 71 72 2.0
    11Starling Marte (PIT).282/.343/.443 136 11 33 79 4.3
    12Matt Holliday (STL).284/.367/.467 126 18 73 85 2.5
    13 Yasiel Puig (LAD).351/.409/.566 106 14 32 54 3.7
    14Jayson Werth (WSH).323/.399/.534 120 21  65 68 3.4
    15Marlon Byrd (PIT).288/.333/.525 128 22 76 65 3.8

     

    Position Overview

    There likely won't be any MVP controversy this time around, but Mike Trout has already reached superstar status in just his second big league season. His triple-slash numbers are actually up across the board, and he's added 29 steals and plus defense.

    While Trout seemingly won't take home MVP honors, Andrew McCutchen has a very real chance of doing so as the driving force behind the Pirates offense. He's hit .362/.446/.591 since the break, and if the Pirates win the NL Central, he has to be considered the front-runner.

    Carlos Gonzalez has put together another 20/20 season, while Carlos Gomez has emerged as a terrific power/speed threat as well. It's been more of the same for veterans Jose Bautista, Adam Jones, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday, while fellow veterans Jayson Werth, Michael Cuddyer and Marlon Byrd have exceeded expectations.

    Shin-Soo Choo has provided the Reds with exactly what they hoped he would as an on-base threat, Starling Marte has been the answer in left field and atop the lineup in Pittsburgh, and rookie phenom Yasiel Puig continues to captivate the league with his energy and skill set. Jacoby Ellsbury is not back to his 2011 form, but he's set himself up for a nice payday and leads the AL with 51 steals.

Right-Handed Starting Pitcher

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    RankNameIPW-LERAWHIPKWAR
    1Max Scherzer (DET) 183.1  19-1  2.90 0.93 201 5.4
    2Matt Harvey (NYM) 178.1    9-5 2.27  0.93 191  6.1
    3 Yu Darvish (TEX) 174.2
      12-6 2.73 1.02 236 4.5
    4Adam Wainwright (STL) 200.2  15-8 2.96 1.07 184 5.6
    5Felix Hernandez (SEA) 187.2  12-8 2.97 1.13 194 5.5
    6Jose Fernandez (MIA) 158.2
      10-6 2.33 1.00 173 3.9
    7Zack Greinke (LAD) 148.2  14-3 2.78 1.14 119 2.1
    8 Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) 171.1 11-10 2.89 1.10 123 3.4
    9Bartolo Colon (OAK) 159.1  14-5 2.94 1.19  84 3.0
    10Justin Masterson (CLE)  188.1  14-9 3.49 1.21 188 3.3

     

    Position Overview

    Wins and losses are not always the best indication of how well a pitcher has performed, but in the case of Max Scherzer, his 19-1 record is impossible to ignore. He has the peripheral numbers to rank as the top right-handed starter in the league right now.

    A partially torn UCL will likely spell the end of what has been a phenomenal season for Mets ace Matt Harvey, but he proved this season that he'll be among the top arms in the game for the foreseeable future atop the Mets staff.

    Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez remain among the few bona fide aces in baseball, while Yu Darvish and Justin Masterson have taken big steps forward and belong in that category as well. Zack Greinke was given ace money to be the Dodgers' No. 2 starter, and he's turned things on after missing time early.

    Hiroki Kuroda (38) and Bartolo Colon (40) have shown they still have something left in the tank at an age where most starters have already hung it up, while 21-year-old Jose Fernandez represents the other extreme and has looked like a future superstar as a rookie.

Left-Handed Starting Pitcher

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    RankNameIPW-LERAWHIPKWAR
    1Clayton Kershaw (LAD) 204.0   13-8  1.72  0.88 197  5.7
    2Francisco Liriano (PIT) 133.0  15-6 2.57 1.19 135 3.1
    3Patrick Corbin (ARI) 182.2  13-5 2.96 1.07 160 3.8
    4Madison Bumgarner (SF) 176.1  11-9 2.91 1.04 168 2.9
    5Chris Sale (CWS) 180.1 10-12  2.99 1.06 193 4.4
    6Mike Minor (ATL) 172.2  13-5 3.08 1.07 153 3.2
    7Cliff Lee (PHI) 183.2  11-6 3.09 1.08 168 3.7
    8Derek Holland (TEX) 180.0   9-6 3.00 1.24 167 4.7
    9 Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) 167.0  13-5 3.02 1.22 139 2.8
    10Matt Moore (TB) 121.1  14-3 3.41 1.23 115 1.8

     

    Position Overview

    What Miguel Cabrera is to hitting, Clayton Kershaw is to pitching, as he has simply been in a league of his own this season. Still just 25 years old, he's line to win his third straight NL ERA title and looks like the clear front-runner in the NL Cy Young race right now. He may even receive some NL MVP consideration in a relatively wide-open field.

    The Pirates signed Francisco Liriano to a one-year, $1 million deal in the offseason (with incentives) after he went an unimpressive 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA in 2012. He's been the steal of the year, emerging as the ace of the staff and absolutely dominating at times.

    Behind those two are four young arms that look like they'll anchor their respective staffs for years to come in Patrick Corbin (24), Madison Bumgarner (24), Chris Sale (24) and Mike Minor (25). Bumgarner and Sale have built off terrific 2012 campaigns, while Corbin and Minor have been breakout stars.

    Veteran Cliff Lee has been one of the few bright spots in Philadelphia, while Derek Holland has bounced back from a disappointing 2012 to lock down the No. 2 spot in the Rangers rotation. Korean native Hyun-Jin Ryu has proven well worth the six-year, $36 million deal he received in the offseason, while Matt Moore has battled injury of late but looks like the real deal after a disappointing rookie season relative to expectations.

Right-Handed Reliever

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    RankNameGW-LSVHLDERAK/9WAR
    1Craig Kimbrel (ATL) 57  3-2 43   0 0.95  12.9  1.9
    2Greg Holland (KC) 54 2-1 36  1 1.36 14.1 2.6
    3Joe Nathan (TEX) 56 5-2 38  0 1.51  9.9 1.9
    4Mark Melancon (PIT) 61 2-1  9 26 0.90  8.5 1.9
    5 Kenley Jansen (LAD) 66 4-3 24 16 1.86 13.3 2.3
    6Edward Mujica (STL) 56 2-1 35  4 1.85  6.6 0.6
    7Mariano Rivera (NYY) 53 4-2 39  0 2.16  7.9 1.0
    8 Koji Uehara (BOS) 61 3-0 16 13 1.17 12.2 2.6
    9Grant Balfour (OAK) 56 0-3 35  0 2.52 10.2 0.5
    10Joaquin Benoit (DET) 55 4-1 17  9 2.13  9.8 1.1

     

    Position Overview

    Consistency at the closer position is hard to find, but that's exactly what Craig Kimbrel has brought to the table since first assuming the ninth-inning role in 2011. If not for a hiccup in early May in which he blew two saves in three chances, he'd have just one blown save and an ERA of 0.49 in his other 54 appearances.

    Veterans Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan have been among the best in the business for years now, and even in what will be his final season, Rivera remains an elite ninth-inning option.

    Grant Balfour has built off a fantastic second half last season to once again be a lights-out option in Oakland, while Greg Holland has arguably been the most dominant closer in the AL in his first full season as a closer. Kenley Jansen didn't open the season as the closer in L.A., but his strikeout stuff has made him a dominant closer since moving to that spot.

    Edward Mujica turned around what was a horrible Cardinals bullpen when he moved into the ninth-inning spot early this season, while Mark Melancon, Koji Uehara and Joaquin Benoit have all moved into the closer role after fantastic starts to the season in a setup spot.

Left-Handed Reliever

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    RankNameGW-LSVHLDERAK/9WAR
    1Glen Perkins (MIN) 53 2-0 32  0 2.18 11.4 1.7
    2 Aroldis Chapman (CIN) 58  3-5 33   0 2.87  15.2  1.1
    3Rex Brothers (COL) 61 2-0 14 12 1.56  9.8 1.1
    4Paco Rodriguez (LAD) 65 3-2  2 19 1.85 10.5 1.5
    5Drew Smyly (DET) 52 5-0  2 13 2.23  9.3 1.5
    6Javier Lopez (SF) 58 2-2  0 12 1.87  8.6 0.8
    7Neal Cotts (TEX)  44 5-2  1 10 1.20 10.6 1.4
    8Luis Avilan (ATL) 64 5-0  0 22 1.41  4.7 0.5
    9Alex Torres (TB) 30 4-1  0  4 1.31 10.1 1.1
    10Kevin Siegrist (STL) 31 2-1  0  8 0.62 12.4 0.5

     

    Position Overview

    Left-handed closers are something of a rarity in the MLB, but there are a pair of good ones this season in flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman and former setup man Glen Perkins. Both were named to the All-Star team this year and put up great all-around numbers on the season.

    Rex Brothers had a 0.91 ERA and 10 holds in the first half of the season and ranked among the bigger All-Star snubs when rosters were announced in July. He's taken over at closer with Rafael Betancourt injured and looks like he'll be a staple in the ninth inning for the foreseeable future.

    A trio of rookies in Paco Rodriguez, Alex Torres and Kevin Siegrist have all emerged as dominant southpaw middle relievers and all find themselves filling key roles in the bullpens of contenders this season.

    Veteran Javier Lopez is likely headed for a nice payday in free agency, while second-year guys Drew Smyly and Luis Avilan have taken a step forward this season. The biggest surprise of this group has been Neal Cotts, who had not pitched in the majors since 2009 and was a long shot to even make the Rangers roster after signing a minor league contract in the offseason.