The 25 Best MLB Players of 2013
The 2013 MLB regular season is behind us, but that doesn't mean we're done talking about baseball.
After months of guessing how baseball's top stars would perform, it's now time to sift through the numbers and determine who played this game better than everybody else this season.
This isn't about who should take home MVP and Cy Young accolades. I just want to find out which players are the best.
This list meshes an assortment of big boppers, defensive wizards and premier hurlers. All creeds are welcome, unless of course you're a relief pitcher. Sorry, even the most dominant closers do not compile enough innings to warrant consideration here.
Which young phenoms cemented their status as future stars? Which unheralded veterans worked their way back to the top? And for the 7,546th time, who do you got: Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera?
Let's settle the score by ranking this season's top performers.
Before jumping right in, let's set some parameters.
- Players are judged by their value this season, which means stars with an off year will sit this one out while potential one-hit wonders will get their due. Whether this production carries over to 2014 is not our concern here.
- Defense is weighed for position players. Just remember that when a guy with sturdier offensive stats is overlooked for a Gold Glover.
- Operating under the "Best Players" title allows us to properly praise excellent performers on poor teams while not awarding guys simply for earning the privilege of playing for a contender.
- Advanced data, unless otherwise noted, was obtained from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. Each player's Win Above Replacement (WAR) under each site's calculations will be provided as fWAR (FanGraphs) and rWAR (Baseball-Reference).
- Players are listed based on their overall accomplishments throughout the season. While some players did enough while healthy to earn a spot despite missing some times, guys like Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez could not make up for substantial lost time.
- Disagree? Of course you do. Feel free to share differing opinions in the comments or reach out to me on Twitter.
These players fell short of making the cut:
David Ortiz (.309/.395/.564, 30 HR, 103 RBI, 84 R, 3.8 fWAR, 4.4 rWAR) - His bat is more than fruitful enough to earn him a spot, but playing as the designated hitter and missing the first few weeks keeps him outside the ranks.
Adrian Beltre (.315/.371/.509, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 88 R, 5.2 fWAR, 5.5 rWAR) - The veteran drew less walks and wasn't as sharp as usual at the hot corner, but Beltre is still the best position player standing out in the cold.
Jose Fernandez (2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) and Anibal Sanchez (2.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) - These aces were both tough exclusions despite falling short of pitching 200 innings. Were it not for injuries, innings limits and Clayton Kershaw's existence, they'd be bonafide Cy Young contenders. That's not even counting other aces in Yu Darvish and Chris Sale that couldn't crack the Top 25 code.
Jason Kipnis (.284/.366/.452, 17 HR, 84 RBI, 86 R, 30 SB, 4.5 fWAR, 5.9 rWAR) - His minus-4.2 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) causes Kipnis to take a hit on FanGraphs, but his combination of power and speed has allowed him to emerge as a top-five second baseman.
Hisashi Iwakuma (219.2 IP, 14-6, 2.66 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 185 K, 44 BB, 4.2 fWAR, 7.0 rWAR) - The ERA and WHIP say he's a legit Cy Young contender, but I just can't get past the 3.44 FIP that ranked 33rd behind the likes of Ricky Nolasco and Andrew Cashner.
Troy Tulowitzki (.312/.391/.540, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 71 R, 5.6 fWAR, 5.3 rWAR) - Dude, just stay healthy and no shortstop could touch you.
Andrelton Simmons (5.4 defensive WAR) - Simmons' amazing glove at shortstop is enough to put him in the conversation, but he could not overcome his .296 on-base percentage.
25. Freddie Freeman
2013 Stats: .319/.396/.501, 23 HR, 109 RBI, 89 R, 4.8 fWAR, 5.5 rWAR
Despite his defensive shortcomings, Freddie Freeman's massive offense is too much to ignore.
Freeman posted career bests across the board, exceeding his prior fWAR high by three wins. While a .371 BABIP helped him finish sixth in batting average, Freeman still delivered commendable numbers for the Atlanta Braves.
The traditional fan will love him for his 109 RBI and .411/.542/.625 slash line with runners in scoring position. That sample size of 56 at-bats with runners on second and/or third is awfully small, but his .396 on-base percentage over six months is the real deal.
For the third-straight season, the first baseman slashed his strikeout rate (19.2 percent) while drawing more walks (10.5 percent). His 26.7 percent line-drive rate, which ranks 11th in MLB, also helps explain the higher BABIP and support his legitimacy as a .300 hitter.
24. Matt Harvey
2013 Stats: 178.1 IP, 9-5, 2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 191 K, 31 BB, 2.00 FIP, 6.1 fWAR, 5.2 rWAR
Matt Harvey was originally featured in the Honorable Mentions section alongside Fernandez and Sanchez. But the more I looked at those numbers, the more it become impossible to leave him out of the mix.
Harvey's stellar 2.00 FIP trumps every other pitcher in the land, including the magnificent Clayton Kershaw. The sophomore also possesses better strikeout and walks rates, which should have made the NL Cy Young race interesting had the world not have collapsed on New York with a news of a torn UCL.
With a 6.16 K/BB rate, Harvey joins Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright as the only pitchers with a ratio higher than 6.00. David Price is the only other pitcher with a rate higher than 5.00.
The only blemish on Harvey's rookie season was his 3.94 BB/9 rate, but his 1.56 BB/9 ratio this season was lower than the strike-throwing master Lee obtained.
Keep your fingers crossed that Harvey can return from his injury as the same man. If he can improve this much in first full season, just imagine what Harvey could become at his peak.
23. Shin-Soo Choo
2013 Stats: .285/.423/.462, 21 HR, 54 RBI, 107 R, 20 SB, 5.2 fWAR, 4.2 rWAR
Shin-Soo Choo is not the fleetest of foot in the outfield. In fact, his minus-16.9 UZR rates last among all fielders. His woes in center field certainly hurt his stock, but do you know what he can do?
That's right, he gets on base. Only teammate Joey Voto drew more walks and garnered a higher on-base percentage in the National League. Offensively, Choo served as a perfect leadoff hitter for the Cincinnati Reds.
Choo's 120.7 runs created ranks sixth in MLB, and everyone above him will pop up much later in this slideshow. He can credit the Great American Ballpark some for the power hike, but the 31-year-old is simply too good at reaching base to ignore.
And yes, he has been hit by more pitches (26) than anyone else in baseball, but it still gets him to first base. We can't punish Choo for taking 26 for the team.
22. Shane Victorino
2013 Stats: .294/.351/.451, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 82 R, 21 SB, 25.0 UZR, 5.6 fWAR, 6.1 rWAR
What a signing for the Boston Red Sox.
Remember when a three-year, $39 million deal felt like a massive overpay for Shane Victorino coming off a treacherous season that spawned a .321 on-base percentage? Me neither.
Victorino erased memories of a lost season by hitting a career-high .294 for Boston. His offensive numbers justify the contract, but his defense makes the Flyin' Hawaiian an absolute steal.
His 25.0 UZR trails Gerardo Parra for the best mark among outfielders. His lockdown patrol of right field represents one element of Boston's premier defense, with some more Gold Glove candidates coming momentarily.
Months ago, Victorino looked like the worst deal of the offseason. For this season, it just might have been the best.
21. Felix Hernandez
2013 Stats: 204.1 IP, 12-10, 3.04 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 216 K, 46 BB, 2.61 FIP, 6.0 fWAR, 5.2 rWAR
Although the less touted Iwakuma can strike a claim for this spot, Felix Hernandez remains the king of the Seattle Mariners' rotation.
The season felt like business as usual for Hernandez, but the ace showed no signs of deterioration after bearing a bulking workload for seven seasons. In fact, King Felix quietly pitched better than in previous seasons.
Hernandez set career bests with a 9.51 K/9 ratio and 2.03 BB/9 rate. His 2.61 FIP is also the paramount mark of his illustrious career.
In an era where pitchers are kept under wraps and guarded profusely, Hernandez has logged at least 200 innings in each of the past six seasons, amassing more than 200 strikeouts in each of his past five campaigns.
Hernandez's throne is rock-solid, and the 27-year-old looks a ways away from abdicating his crown.
20. David Wright
2013 Stats: .307/.390/.514, 18 HR, 58 RBI, 63 R, 17 SB, 6.0 fWAR, 5.9 rWAR
Had David Wright stayed healthy, he would held a cushy spot in the top 10 while making the NL MVP discussion uncomfortable for voters compelled to a pick a player on a winning club.
Wright only played 112 games, as demonstrated by his lackluster counting numbers. Nevertheless, both FanGraphs and Baseball-Referenced pegged his worth at around six wins despite missing 50 games of the 2013 slate.
That just shows how valuable Wright was to the New York Mets when he was around. Once called out by his own boss as not looking the part of a superstar player, Wright has spent the past two years proving Fred Wilpon wrong.
Along with a more consistent glove at the hot corner, Wright lessened a strikeout rate that swelled as high as 24 percent all the way down to 16 percent this year. His days of hitting 30-plus homers dissipated once the Mets unveiled Citi Field, but his .514 slugging average represents his highest rate since 2008.
Had he not strained his hamstring early in August, Wright could have became a serious player in MVP talks.
19. Cliff Lee
2013 Stats: 222.2 IP, 14-8, 2.87 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 222 K, 32 BB, 2.82 FIP, 5.1 fWAR, 7.6 rWAR
Cliff Lee struck out 54 batters and walked one during September.
A 54.00 K/BB ratio. Sorry, I have to ask: Is Cliff Lee even human?
No pitcher goes through a stretch where opponents are absolutely helpless against his offerings quite like Lee. During periods like that five-start stretch of beauty to close the season, hitters might as well just go home.
Lee became a sacrificial lamb last season by enduring such a horrid streak of bad luck that even baseball fans without Internet access had to start questioning the validity of pitchers' individual win totals. Despite generating a 3.16 ERA, Lee won six games.
The tides turned a bit this year, but he could have easily won much more than 14 contests were the Philadelphia Phillies not experiencing such rough times at the plate.
But let's not waste our precious moments on this earth fuming over a meaningless stat. Instead, let's just stare admirably at his 6.94 K/BB ratio and wonder how the mound artist paints such beautiful strokes.
18. Jacoby Ellsbury
2013 Stats: .298/.355/.426, 9 HR, 55 RBI, 92 R, 52 SB, 10.0 UZR, 5.8 fWAR, 5.8 rWAR
There aren't many guys like Jacoby Ellsbury still hanging around.
Fewer and fewer athletes are wreaking havoc on the basepaths, as only Ellsbury notched 50 or more stolen bases this season.
Before discrediting the stolen base as a meaningless activity, remember that it is only a risky endeavor when a player does not succeed enough to warrant the gambit. A player who converts more than 75 percent of his attempts is doing right by his squad by running.
Ellsbury was only caught four times, giving him a 92.9 percent success rate. That helped him score 92 runs in just 134 games, which helped Boston lead the league in runs scored.
So while Michael Bourn didn't do the Cleveland Indians any favors by swiping 23 bags in 35 tries, Ellsbury's prowess in moving to scoring position along with his plus glove have allowed him to flourish despite proving his 32-homer 2011 season a one-time occurrence.
17. Dustin Pedroia
2013 Stats: .301/.372/.415, 9 HR, 84 RBI, 91 R, 17 SB, 10.9 UZR, 5.4 fWAR, 6.5 rWAR
Starting to understand why the Red Sox are so good?
Dustin Pedroia is not much of a sight to behold in the power department, but the scrappy second baseman makes up for it everywhere else.
He reached base at a fine clip, allowing Ortiz to reap the rewards in the RBI category. None of Pedroia's counting numbers are particularly impressive, but his sturdiness and glove maintain his seat among the league's elite.
The 30-year-old missed just two games this season, and while on the field, he played defense befitting a Gold Glove winner. Only Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs recorded a higher UZR at second base, and he plays in the other league.
Once known for their power, Pedroia is one of three Red Sox on this list that have formed the AL's best team with plate discipline, speed and defense.
16. Yadier Molina
2013 Stats: .319/.359/.477, 12 HR, 80 RBI, 68 R, 5.6 fWAR, 5.7 rWAR
From a fantasy baseball drafter's prospective, many fears associated with drafting Yadier Molina came true. His career-high 22 homers took a tumble and his heavy workload sent him to the disabled list.
But he holds up just fine in the real world. Even with the loss of fence-clearing shots, Molina maintained his power with a .477 slugging percentage, smashing his previous career high with 44 doubles.
He took 15 days off in August, but Molina still logged 136 games, which is standard stuff for a catcher that doesn't succumb to any injuries.
The only possible negatives to draw from the 31-year-old's season are his 10.2 percent strikeout rate and 5.5 walk percentage, both lower figures than anything he has accrued in the past five years.
Despite that drop, Molina hit enough while providing such a formidable presence behind home plate that he would have collected quite a few MVP votes if not for the DL stint.
15. Adam Wainwright
2013 Stats: 241.2 IP, 19-9, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 219 K, 35 BB, 2.55 FIP, 6.2 fWAR, 6.2 rWAR
Adam Wainwright looks fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.
The St. Louis Cardinals ace faltered at times last season, but he still finished with a 3.10 FIP after missing a full season of action. With another year to build back his strength, Wainwright delivered arguably the best season of his phenomenal career.
His pinpoint control was an exceptional feat worth celebrating. At the All-Star break, Wainwright started more games (20) than walks issued (15) through them. He didn't allow his first free pass until his fifth start of the season.
This is all from the man who threw the most innings out of any pitcher this season.
With a 2.55 FIP that rates fourth in baseball, Wainwright deserves recognition as one of the sport's finest pitchers.
14. Manny Machado
2013 Stats: .283/.314/.432, 14 HR, 71 RBI, 88 R, 31.2 UZR, 6.2 fWAR, 6.5 rWAR
And third base isn't even his natural position.
Upon his major league arrival, Manny Machado shifted from shortstop to fill the Baltimore Orioles' void at third base. Safe to say he has the hot corner all figured out.
Machado's ridiculous 31.2 UZR is 6.6 points higher than Andrelton Simmons' tally, and most onlookers believe Simmons possesses the best glove this generation has ever seen at shortstop.
Look at the video above to grasp his uncanny range and rapid delivery to first base. No baseball or baserunner is safe when a hitter directs one near Machado's zip code.
While the 21-year-old has some work to do at the plate, he led the American League with 51 doubles. That .314 on-base percentage is ugly, but his defense propels him up the ladder.
13. Max Scherzer
2013 Stats: 214.1 IP, 21-3, 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 240 K, 56 BB, 2.74 FIP, 6.4 fWAR, 6.7 rWAR
The only thing sillier than automatically handing Max Scherzer the AL Cy Young solely because of his 21-3 record is enviously poking holes into his season to protest the win.
Scherzer received the third-best run support at 5.59 runs per game, and that played a monumental role in solidifying his status as a 20-game winner. Hernandez, Iwakuma, Yu Darvish or Chris Sale could have easily won as many games with that much help from their friends, but that's not how the cookie crumbled.
Move past his record, and Scherzer still leads the AL with a 0.97 WHIP and .583 opposing OPS. Only Sanchez and Hernadez have registered a lower FIP.
He has always brandished the swing-and-miss stuff, but Scherzer finally realized his ace upside by limiting his walks. While a low .259 BABIP helped him out a bit, last year's .333 average sat way too high.
12. Evan Longoria
2013 Stats: .269/.343/.498, 32 HR, 88 RBI, 91 R, 14.6 UZR, 6.8 fWAR, 6.3 rWAR
After two years of incessant visits to the disabled list, Evan Longoria stayed on the field for the duration of the season. Although the results did not dazzle as some might have hoped, Longoria demonstrated his great power and defense.
It was a bit alarming to see the third baseman end 23.4 percent of his plate appearances with strikeouts. If that trend persists, forecasters can give up on planning an MVP campaign for the 27-year-old, as his long swing relegates him to making little leeway on that .269 average.
But Evan Almighty still shot 32 blasts over the fence, including one in Monday night's 163rd game of the season against the Texas Rangers. Few third basemen can match his .498 slugging percentage, so you'll take the bad with the good, knowing a star still emerges from the other side.
If not for Machado's development as a defensive wizard, Longoria would garner some Gold Glove votes for his play at third. Perhaps his superior bat will keep him in the running among those who don't pay much attention to defensive metrics.
11. Joey Votto
2013 Stats: .305/.435/.491, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 101 R, 6.2 fWAR, 6.4 rWAR
I hear the complaining now. But Joey Votto only drove in 73 runs! He hit a measly .162 with runners in scoring position and two men out! How does he remain this high?
He didn't drive in many runs because he was too busy drawing 135 walks, the most from any batter. That gives him baseball's second-best on-base percentage behind Miguel Cabrera, and the name of the game is to avoid outs.
As for him shrinking in critical situations, that previous number came in 37 at-bats, and he registered a .415 on-base percentage in that compulsively specific scenario.
Had more than seven of Votto's homers come with men on base, he would post a more prestigious RBI total that would fling misguided critics off his back.
Yes, his .491 slugging percentage resides well below his career .541 clip, but an inferior Votto model still manufactures elite production.
10. Robinson Cano
2013 Stats: .314/.383/.516, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 81 R, 6.0 fWAR, 7.6 rWAR
That should be enough to get Robinson Cano paid. Maybe not the $300 million he wants, but Cano will be a very wealthy man this winter.
The true sign of a veritable star is when he records exceptional numbers and nobody even raises an eyebrow. Attached to any other second baseman, Cano's stats would whip the baseball community into a frenzy.
But that's just what Cano provides on an annual basis.
This marks the fifth-straight season he has orchestrated a .300 average and .500 slugging percentage. Over the past three seasons, only Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen and Mike Trout have earned a higher fWAR than Cano. (Yes, this was only Trout's second season in the majors. The kid is pretty good.)
A beacon of dependability, Cano has played 159 games in every season since 2007. As the entire New York Yankees lineup fell apart, he missed just two games this year. That reliability gets a man paid, and establishing that steadiness at a scarce second base lifts Cano into the top 10.
9. Matt Carpenter
2013 Stats: .318/.392/.481, 11 HR, 78 RBI, 126 R, 7.0 fWAR, 6.6 rWAR
I never thought I'd type this sentence, but picking between Cano and Matt Carpenter was one of the toughest decisions to make.
Cano sports the obvious edge in power, but Carpenter reached base more while leading the league in runs scored batting leadoff for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Baseball-Reference likes Cano more, but FanGraphs prefers the less heralded Carpenter. Here I am firmly in the middle, stammering as both eager parents wave at me to crawl their way.
While Cano's weighted on-base average (wOBA) stands three points higher, Carpenter's weighted runs created plus (wRC+) leads all second basemen. Carpenter may lag well behind in homers, but he atones for those 11 homers with 55 doubles and seven triples.
In the end, I'm giving the the slightest of nods to Carpenter after FanGraphs quantified a growing criticism of Cano: He's not the best baserunner.
While fans moan about his reluctance to hustle to first base, his minus-2.0 baserunning score entails more of his inability to effectively take an extra bag and put himself in a better situation to score.
Given the choice to take one of them going forward, Cano is still the easy selection. Nevertheless, Carpenter temporarily captured the crown as baseball's top second baseman during his first season as a starter.
8. Paul Goldschmidt
2013 Stats: .302/.401/.551, 36 HR, 125 RBI, 103 R, 15 SB, 6.4 fWAR, 7.0 rWAR
Going by the traditional stats, Paul Goldschmidt is your NL MVP.
He boasts the gaudy slash line, a bevvy of homers and more RBI than anyone in the NL. He also swiped 15 bags, making him a fantasy manager's dream at first base. His 160 adjusted on-base percentage (OPS+) is also tops in his side of the circuit.
And he's not just for the old-school fans. Those of us who appreciate patience in the box will admire Goldschmidt's career-high 13.9 percent walk rate. The 26-year-old took a leap into superstar territory with a demonstrative offensive campaign.
If defense didn't count, Goldschmidt would handily snatch a spot among baseball's top-five hitters. But throw in defense and baserunning and some guys with less impressive numbers surpass him on the leaderboard.
7. Chris Davis
2013 Stats: .286/.370/.634, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 103 R, 6.8 fWAR, 6.4 rWAR
What does a guy have to do to get to the top of this list?
Chris Davis, formerly perceived as the proverbial Quadruple-A archetype, stepped into the limelight with an MLB-high 53 homers and 138 RBI. Not bad for a guy toiling in the minors as recently as two years ago.
In terms of pure power, only Cabrera can touch Davis's output. That ridiculous .348 ISO rate is truly a sight to behold, but it also proves that Davis does not have the elite base-reaching ability to match his raw muscle.
His .370 on-base percentage ranks 25th among qualified batters, and his 29.6 strikeout percentage is among the league's ugliest marks.
Davis also didn't flash much leather, posting a minus-1.2 UZR. A small price to pay for so much game-changing offense, but it's just enough to move him down a couple ticks.
Going solely off WAR, he's on even ground with Longoria according to both differing measures. Those power numbers are too overwhelming to shackle him that far down the list though.
6. Clayton Kershaw
2013 Stats: 236 IP, 16-9, 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 232 K, 52 BB, 2.39 FIP, 6.5 fWAR, 7.9 rWAR
Through 33 starts, Clayton Kershaw allowed 48 earned runs.
No starting pitcher has posted a sub-two ERA since Roger Clemens earned a 1.87 clip for the Houston Astros in 2005. Those unwilling to acknowledge Clemens' achievements must travel back to 2000, when Pedro Martinez recorded a 1.74 ERA in what still stands as the best season from a pitcher in recent memory.
While this is the first time since 2008 that Kershaw failed to strike out more than a batter per inning, the Los Angeles Dodgers ace bolstered a career-high 11.4 swinging strike percentage. His microscopic 1.98 BB/9 rate (a career low) also alleviates the slight dip in punchouts.
While Baseball-Reference touts him as baseball's clear-cut premier ace, FanGraphs suggests the distance is closer than you may think. Anibal Sanchez matched Kershaw's 2.39 FIP while Harvey generated more strikeouts, less walks and a lower FIP before being forced to sit out the final month.
Kershaw is the top pitcher here, and the only one belonging in the top 10. Nothing personal, but working once every fifth game makes it awfully difficult for a starting pitcher to claw much closer to No. 1.
5. Carlos Gomez
2013 Stats: .284/.338/.506, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 80 R, 40 SB, 24.4 UZR, 7.6 fWAR, 8.4 rWAR
I'm picking a guy with a .338 on-base percentage over a dude with 53 homers and an ace with a 1.83 ERA. Time to see a shrink?
Perhaps, but those are different issues for another day on a different venue. Despite that one glaring deficiency, Carlos Gomez was a stud this season.
He's not the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder you would have expected to occupy the No. 5 spot during spring training, but Gomez did all he could to get everyone to forget about Ryan Bower. Wait, that's not right. Brewer? Brown? Oh yeah, Braun.
He's hardly the traditional slugger in the mold of Braun, but Gomez hit for power, wreaked havoc on the bases and played sensational defense in center field.
While he hardly displayed the traditional power numbers to keep up with Davis and Goldschmidt, Gomez slapped 10 triples, which puts him in great position to score. It's not his fault the Brewers were reeling with Braun suspended and Aramis Ramirez injured for a majority of the season.
As he spent years trying to discover his bat, Gomez stuck in the majors because of his lightning quickness manning the outfield. His UZR exceeds all other outfielders, and he also leads the league in insane home-run robberies.
Both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference backs his legitimacy as a top-five player. In fact, FanGraphs has him at No. 4 while Baseball-Reference tabs him at No. 3. He lacks plate disciplined and tailed off during the later months, but the final portrait depicts Gomez as a superstar contributor.
4. Josh Donaldson
2013 Stats: .301/.384/.499, 24 HR, 93 RBI, 89 R, 9.9 UZR, 7.7 fWAR, 8.0 rWAR
The Oakland Athletics arguably possess the better third baseman than their ALDS opponent. The A's are facing the Detroit Tigers.
No matter which site you visit, Josh Donaldson posted a higher WAR than Miguel Cabrera. No household names don the Oakland uniform, but that doesn't mean the team is devoid of a star.
Following a season in which he hit .241/.289/.398 through 75 games, Donaldson guided Oakland to its second-consecutive AL West title. He may have come from nowhere, but Donaldson is the real deal.
There are no gaps in Donaldson's game. He hit over .300 with a 20.6 percent line-drive rate, walked in 11.4 percent of his at-bats and fell just shy of a .500 slugging percentage while playing high-caliber defense.
Think of him as David Wright without the stolen bases. If you're still scratching your head wondering who Josh Donaldson is and why this unknown commodity sits pretty at No. 4, let's hope he can clear up those questions in the postseason.
3. Miguel Cabrera
2013 Stats: .348/.442/.636, 44 HR, 137 RBI, 103 R, 7.6 fWAR, 7.2 rWAR
Miguel Cabrera produced better results than during his 2012 Triple Crown campaign.
Cabrera improved each element of his slash line by a sizable amount while offering the same 44 homers and just two less RBI. Chris Davis simply interfered with history this time around.
Even the fiercest WAR supporters were ready to throw in the white flag and hand the star slugger another AL MVP over Mike Trout. Then he limped to the finish line with one homer and a .333 slugging percentage during September.
From on-base percentage to slugging percentage to OPS+ to wOBA to RC+, Cabrera leads most offensive metrics. That's how ridiculously good he hit leading up to the final weeks, as he was able to virtually take the final month off and still boast crazy numbers.
But with the offensive gap somewhat lessened, it's harder to ignore Cabrera's awfulness on the field when allotting him a ranking.
With a minus-16.8 UZR (trailing just Choo), Cabrera is one of baseball's worst defensive players. While he has no business patrolling third base, we can't turn away and pretend it's not happening.
The Detroit Tigers should thank their lucky stars that Cabrera is batting in the heart of their order, but the follow two players delivered more overall value during 2013.
2. Andrew McCutchen
2013 Stats: .317/.404/.508, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 97 R, 27 SB, 8.2 fWAR, 8.2 rWAR
Andrew McCutchen's spreadsheet won't wow you anywhere, but the center fielder did everything at a well above-average level for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Doubters were reasonable to wonder how he would match last year's incredile 31-homer breakout campaign. While the power slipped a bit, he avoided an anticipated average drop by upping his line-drive rate to 24.5 percent.
He walked even more to boost his on-base percentage above .400 while stealing seven more bases. He also garnered a 6.9 UZR a year after recording a minus-8.8 mark.
Luckily for McCutchen, MVP voters unimpressed by his 21 homers and 84 RBI will instead drink up the star leading Pittsburgh to its first postseason appearance (and season above .500) since 1992. His path would look bumpier if Molina played the entire season or Goldschmidt belonged to a division winner, but McCutchen should have everyone's support as the NL's premier player this season.
If you didn't believe in McCutchen as a legitimate superstar after 2012, it's now time to buy in.
1. Mike Trout
2013 Stats: .323/.432/.554, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 109 R, 33 SB, 10.4 fWAR, 9.2 rWAR
Everyone bow down to Mike Trout, the ruler of baseball sent to this universe to shatter every record in sight.
Trout posted one of, if not the best season we've ever witnessed from a rookie. He could have easily let us down with a sophomore slump, especially considering how nearly impossible it is to improve upon a 10-win season.
Well, Trout found a way. While he stole 16 less bases and didn't produce as many Web Gems in center field, the 22-year-old got better offensively, which should scare the living daylight out of every team other than the Los Angeles Angels.
His average and slugging percentage each lost a few points, but he more than made up for it by raising his on-base percentage from .399 to .432. While mere mortals often need years to develop a responsible plate approach, Trout jumped his walk rate from 10.5 to 15.4 percent while cutting his strikeouts down from 21.8 to 19.0 percent.
His .383 BABIP last season felt completely unsustainable, but here he is with a .376 mark. Considering how fast he jumps out of the batter's box, Trout should have no trouble continually hitting above .300.
As per FanGraphs' calculations, Trout now has engineered two 10-win seasons in as many major league seasons. Barry Bonds is the only other person to reach a double-digit fWAR season in the past decade, and those sterling, likely tainted numbers arrived after playing for 15 years. After posting a 10.3 fWAR during his rookie campaign, Willie Mays didn't approach that mark again until 10 years later.
It's hard not to become a prisoner of the moment when discussing Trout. He has posted historic numbers before most people even graduate college. If he plays this well over a long, fruitful career not hampered by injuries or a significant aging decline, Trout could become the greatest player ever.
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