Spring training is officially underway, as all 30 MLB teams have reported to their respective spring homes and full-squad workouts have already begun.
The first games of the spring will kick off next Wednesday, when fans will get their first chance to see their favorite team in action in 2014.
There is still a lot to be done before the start of the season, but we already have a good idea of who each team's star players are and who will make a run at leading the league in various categories and filling out the MLB All-Star Game rosters.
So with that in mind, what follows is my take on the top 100 players in the MLB right now. The following was taken into account when compiling the list:
- 2013 Performance: How a player performed last season carried the most weight, but this was not simply a list of the best players in 2013.
- Track Record: While recent performance carried the most weight, a player's track record was also taken into account as well. As such, guys like Albert Pujols and Justin Verlander still rank in the top 50 despite down seasons in 2013.
- Age/Injury History: The rankings were largely based on past performance, but young players on the rise did get the nod over aging players on the decline in most cases. Also, players with a lengthy injury history or with minor injury concerns entering the season had their ranking adjusted accordingly.
- My Opinion: At the end of the day, a certain amount of subjectivity goes into a list like this. I don't expect everyone—or anyone, for that matter—to completely agree with me, and I look forward to defending my selections.
With that, let's kick things off with some notable omissions before jumping right into the list. Also worth noting, after the No. 1 player, you'll find team-by-team and position-by-position breakdowns of the Top 100.
*All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
First of all, it should be noted that rookies were not considered for this list. That includes international free-agent signings Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu. Beyond that, the following players received serious consideration but missed the cut in the end.
3B Pedro Alvarez (PIT), SS Elvis Andrus (TEX), 1B Brandon Belt (SF), C Jason Castro (HOU), LF Yoenis Cespedes (OAK), SS J.J. Hardy (BAL), 1B Eric Hosmer (KC), RF Torii Hunter (DET), C Jonathan Lucroy (MIL), C Russell Martin (PIT), DH Victor Martinez (DET), 3B Aramis Ramirez (MIL), CF Colby Rasmus (TOR), 3B Kyle Seager, SS Jean Segura (MIL), 2B Chase Utley (PHI), RF Jayson Werth (WSH)
SP Clay Buchholz (BOS), SP A.J. Burnett (PHI), SP Andrew Cashner (SD), SP Alex Cobb (TB), SP Bartolo Colon (NYM), SP Patrick Corbin (ARI), RP Jason Grilli (PIT), SP A.J. Griffin (OAK), SP Hiroki Kuroda (NYY), SP John Lackey (BOS), SP Kris Medlen (ATL), SP Ivan Nova (NYY), SP Jarrod Parker (OAK), RP David Robertson, (NYY), RP Sergio Romo (SF), RP Trevor Rosenthal (STL), SP CC Sabathia (NYY), SP Danny Salazar (CLE), SP Chris Tillman (BAL), SP Jered Weaver (LAA), SP Zack Wheeler (NYM)
Major injury questions/Expected to miss significant time in 2014
SP Matt Harvey (NYM), SP Derek Holland (TEX), CF Matt Kemp (LAD), 1B Mark Teixeira (NYY)
100. RP Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
After beginning his career as a starter and spending time as a setup man, Perkins has emerged as one of the better closers in baseball since taking over the job midway through the 2012 season. The left-hander was 36-of-40 on save chances last season with a 2.30 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 11.1 K/9.
99. LF Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
Taken with the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft, Gordon was originally labeled a bust after a rough first four seasons of his career. He finally turned potential into production in 2011, though, and he's hit .287/.357/.459 over the past three seasons while also emerging as one of the best defensive outfielders in the game.
98. RF Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants
Few play with the energy and enthusiasm that Pence does, and the Giants rewarded him with a five-year, $90 million extension at the end of last season. He posted his first 20/20 season last year, leading the team with 99 RBI and posting a terrific .822 OPS.
97. SP Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado Rockies
Shoulder inflammation limited him to just 14 starts in 2012, but Chacin was healthy and productive for an improved Rockies rotation in 2013. The right-hander was 14-10 with a 3.47 ERA (127 ERA+) over 31 starts, and the best may still be ahead for the 26-year-old.
96. 2B Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers
A 30/30 player in 2009 and 2011, Kinsler has failed to even reach 20/20 the past two seasons, but he's still an impact bat atop the lineup with some of the better pop at the second base position. Traded to the Detroit Tigers in the Prince Fielder deal, he'll give a solid Tigers lineup the true leadoff hitter it's been missing.
95. SP Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
After an inauspicious debut in 2012, Kluber broke out in a big way last season, going 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA over 26 games (24 starts), and he could take another big step forward in 2014. Throw out a trio of rough first-half starts in which he allowed 20 runs in 14 innings of work, and he was 11-2 with a 2.95 ERA in his other 21 starts.
94. RF Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies
After a disappointing first season in Colorado saw him hit just .260/.317/.489, Cuddyer turned things around last year and walked away with the NL batting title. He finished the year with a .331/.389/.530 line, and the three-year, $31.5 million deal he signed prior to 2012 went from a bust to a bargain.
93. SP Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves
Taken with the No. 7 pick in the 2009 draft, Minor debuted in the Braves rotation midway through the following season, and he took a big step forward in the second half of the 2012 season. The left-hander was 6-4 with a 2.16 ERA after the All-Star break, and he followed that up by going 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA this past season. Still just 26, he's part of a terrific young Braves core.
92. SP Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
Something of a question mark after signing a six-year, $36 million deal out of Korea last offseason, Ryu gave the Dodgers the strong No. 3 starter their rotation desperately needed. His stuff translated well to the MLB game, and he finished his rookie season 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA to claim fourth place in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
91. SS Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
After posting a combined 2.6 WAR in his first two years as the Nationals' everyday shortstop, Desmond has posted a 3.4 and 3.7 WAR the past two seasons. The 28-year-old has set himself up for a nice extension, hitting .286/.333/.480 since the start of 2012 with back-to-back 20/20 seasons to his credit.
90. SP C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels
For as big of a disappointment as the Angels have been the past two years, Wilson has not missed a beat since coming over from the Texas Rangers. The left-hander was 17-7 with a 3.39 ERA last year while reaching the 200-inning mark for the fourth straight season. He has been as durable as anyone since moving from the bullpen to the rotation back in 2010.
89. RF Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
He didn't make his debut until June 18 last season, but Myers still managed to capture AL Rookie of the Year honors with a .293/.354/.478 line that included 23 doubles, 13 home runs and 53 RBI in just 335 at-bats. He has all the makings of a perennial 30-home run, 100-RBI bat alongside Evan Longoria in the Rays lineup, and he could be in for a big sophomore campaign.
88. SP Doug Fister, Washington Nationals
In perhaps the biggest steal of the offseason, the Nationals managed to land Fister in a four-player trade with the Detroit Tigers. The big 6'8" right-hander has gone 32-20 with a 3.29 ERA over the past two-and-a-half seasons with the Tigers, and he should make an already talented Nationals rotation that much better in 2014.
87. RF Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
Heyward took the league by storm as a 20-year-old rookie back in 2010, hitting .277/.393/.456 with 18 home runs and 72 RBI. He's hit just .253/.335/.438 since, topping the 400 at-bat mark just once in the past three seasons, but the tools are still there for him to be a star. A 20/20 man in 2012, he missed time last year with a broken jaw, and if he can stay healthy, another 20/20 season is well within reach with potential for more.
86. C Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
Perez missed a good portion of 2012 with a torn meniscus in his left knee, but he picked up right where he left off this past season. The 23-year-old is well ahead of the developmental curve for most catchers, and he looks like a legitimate star in the making. As things stand, he's already awfully good, hitting .292/.323/.433 with 13 home runs and 79 RBI and winning his first Gold Glove last season.
85. SP Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves
Part of a tremendous class of rookie pitchers in the NL this past season, Teheran finished the season 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 170 strikeouts in 185.2 innings of work. Take away a rocky first three outings that saw him give up 13 runs in 16 innings, and he had a 2.81 ERA over his final 27 starts. The Braves saw enough in the 23-year-old to lock him up with a six-year, $32.4 million deal this offseason.
84. C Brian McCann, New York Yankees
McCann took over as the Braves' everyday catcher in 2006. Since that time, he leads all catchers in home runs (171) and RBI (638). His average has been down over the past two seasons, but he is still one of the top offensive options at his position, and he could make the most of the short porch in Yankee Stadium. The 29-year-old inked a five-year, $85 million to join the Yankees as a free agent this offseason.
83. SP Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
The unquestioned ace of the Giants staff entering last season, Cain struggled in the first half, going just 5-6 with a 5.06 ERA. He looked like the ace of old in the second half, though, turning things around to post a 2.36 ERA over his final 11 starts. He'll need to avoid another slow start, as he'll be counted on to live up to the six-year, $127.5 million deal he agreed to prior to the 2012 season.
82. 2B Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
Arguably the most versatile player in the game, Zobrist was the Rays' primary second baseman last season, but he also saw time at shortstop and at all three outfield positions. He does not do any one thing great, but he is the kind of player all 30 teams would love to have. He made his second All-Star appearance in 2013, hitting .275/.354/.402 with 36 doubles, 12 home runs, 71 RBI and 11 steals.
81. SP Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals
One of the best left-handed starters in the game over the past four years, Gonzalez has gone 63-37 with a 3.15 ERA and 8.7 K/9 since the start of the 2010 season. His ERA jumped from 2.89 in 2012 to 3.36 this past year, and he won 10 less games in the process, but he remains a solid No. 2 starter on a terrific Nationals staff.
80. SP Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
Ranked by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball entering the 2012 season, Moore was something of a disappointment his rookie season. He was by no means bad, going 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 177.1 innings, but more was expected of the left-hander. Though he dealt with some injuries this past season, he seemed to take a step forward, lowering his ERA to 3.29
79. DH Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
Though he's hit just .253 over the past three seasons, Santana has some of the best plate discipline in the league, averaging 94 walks per season over that span to give him a solid .364 on-base percentage. Yan Gomes took over as the team's regular catcher down the stretch, so he'll likely split time between first base, DH and perhaps some third base this coming season. Regardless of where he plays, though, he's an impact bat in the middle of the Indians lineup.
78. SP Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals
Miller was a non-factor once the playoffs rolled around, as the Cardinals opted against making him part of their postseason rotation. But that does nothing to take away from his fantastic rookie season. The 23-year-old went 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 173.1 innings over 31 starts, and he'll join Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright atop at very good Cardinals rotation in 2014.
77. RF Carlos Beltran, New York Yankees
He's not the base-stealing threat he was in his prime, and his range in right field is limited, but Beltran still brings an impact bat to the lineup. Fresh off a two-year, $26 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals that proved to be a steal, the 36-year-old agreed to a three-year, $45 million deal with the Yankees this offseason. His Hall of Fame case is an interesting one right now, and a few more good seasons under the microscope that is New York could put him over the top.
76. SP Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates
The No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, Cole was chosen more on stuff than polish, as he can dial his fastball up to triple digits and backs it with a slider, curveball and changeup. He joined the Pirates rotation at midseason last year and went 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 17 starts. He could be the ace of the staff by the end of 2014, and his future looks incredibly bright at this point.
75. RF Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox
Some (myself included) questioned the Red Sox's decision to give Victorino a three-year, $39 million deal last offseason after a down year in 2012. He proved he still has plenty left in the tank, though, hitting .294/.351/.451 out of the No. 2 spot and posting a career-best 6.2 WAR thanks to his terrific defense in right field.
74. SP Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds
It took some time for him to round into form after being taken with the No. 7 pick in the 2004 draft, but Bailey has been among the best hurlers in the National League the past two seasons. After a breakout 2012 season that saw him go 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, the free-agent-to-be lowered his ERA to 3.49 this past season while raising his strikeout rate from 7.3 K/9 to 8.6 K/9.
73. SS Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
An easy choice for Gold Glove honors this past season, Simmons is the game's premier defensive shortstop by a landslide. He had a ridiculous 41 defensive runs saved with a 24.6 UZR, which was good for a 5.4 defensive WAR. Anything he produces at the plate is just icing on the cake, and there was more icing than expected last year, as he hit a respectable .248/.296/.396 with 27 doubles and 17 home runs.
72. SP Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
The 2013 season was an injury-plagued one for Cueto, as a right shoulder strain limited him to just 11 starts. He remains the ace of the staff, though, and the team made that clear when it gave him the ball for its Wild Card Round game. All told, the right-hander is 33-16 with a 2.61 ERA in 68 starts over the past three seasons. Provided he's healthy, he is one of the best pitchers in the National League.
71. RP Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers
With Mariano Rivera calling it a career, Nathan is now the active saves leader with 341, and that mark is also good for 10th all-time. The 39-year-old is still going strong, coming off one of the best seasons of his career in 2013, as he went 43-of-46 on save chances with a 1.39 ERA and 10.2 K/9. He now joins a good Detroit Tigers team, as he is still seeking a World Series ring before he hangs it up himself.
70. SP Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians
The Indians rotation was among the biggest surprises of 2013, and Masterson led the way, going 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA while throwing an AL-best three shutouts. That makes two times in the past three years that the right-hander has posted an ERA under 3.50 while throwing at least 190 innings. His elevated strikeout rate last year is what moves him so far up this list, as he entered the year at 7.1 K/9 for his career and wound up with 195 strikeouts in 193 innings of work.
69. LF Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves
After years of rumors, the Arizona Diamondbacks finally pulled the trigger on trading Upton last offseason, and the Braves jumped at the chance to acquire him. He started off the season on fire, and while it was an up-and-down season as a whole, he finished with a .263/.354/.464 line to go along with 27 home runs and 70 RBI. Upton already has seven big league seasons under his belt, and he is entering his age-26 season, so the best may still be ahead.
68. LF Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates
One of a handful of exciting young players on the Pirates roster right now, Marte used a strong late-season showing in 2012 to claim the everyday left field job entering last season. The 25-year-old did a little bit of everything hitting atop the Pirates lineup last season, posting a .280/.343/.441 line with 26 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs and 41 stolen bases.
67. SP Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals
Though he has just 64.2 big-league innings under his belt, Wacha introduced himself as an elite pitcher during the playoffs last year. He won NLCS MVP honors by out-dueling Clayton Kershaw twice and allowed just one earned run in 29.2 innings of work over a four-start span that included his final regular-season start.
The 22-year-old will likely open the season as the No. 2 starter, and on the strength of his fantastic fastball/changeup combination, he could quickly become one of the game's best.
66. RP Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox signed Uehara to a one-year, $4.25 million deal last offseason and after their first three closer options faltered, he stepped into the role and thrived. He finished last season with 21 saves, a 1.09 ERA and 12.2 K/9, and at one point he retired an impressive 37 consecutive batter. That was capped off with a seven-save postseason that included ALCS MVP honors.
65. RF Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Puig took the baseball world by storm last season, helping spark the Dodgers' turnaround and ruffling a few feathers along the way with his all-out style of play and a confidence that bordered on cocky at times. Love him or hate him, his numbers speak for themselves: He hit .319/.391/.534 with 42 extra-base hits in 382 at-bats to finish second in NL Rookie of the Year honors.
64. SP Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals
The clear third starter behind Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez entering last season, Zimmerman wound up being the best starter on the team. The 27-year-old finished the year 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA to finish seventh in NL Cy Young voting, as he continues to establish himself as one of the game's best. Over the past three years, he's 39-28 with a 3.12 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 90 starts.
63. LF Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
For as poorly as megadeals often turn out in the MLB, the seven-year, $120 million contract Holliday signed prior to the 2010 season has never been questioned. In his four full seasons with the Cardinals, he's hit .301/.386/.511 and averaged 25 home runs and 94 RBI per season. He's a consistent producer in the middle of a terrific Cardinals lineup and will be counted on once again in 2014.
62. RF Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
The No. 1 prospect in baseball back in 2007, according to Baseball America, Bruce has piled up 164 home runs over the first six seasons of his career. Over the past four years, he's hit .262/.337/.489, and he blasted 30 home runs last season while driving in a career-high 109 runs. He's won back-to-back Silver Slugger awards, and entering his age-27 season, he could be in for his best numbers yet.
61. 2B Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
Kipnis took over as the Indians' everyday second baseman in 2012, and he has quickly emerged as the team's best all-around hitter and one of the top offensive second basemen in all of baseball. He hit .284/.366/.452 with 17 home runs and 30 steals while posting a 5.9 rWAR last season, finishing 11th in AL MVP voting. And the 26-year-old could improve on those numbers across the board in 2014.
60. SP James Shields, Kansas City Royals
The definition of a workhorse, Shields has topped the 200-inning mark each of the past seven seasons, including throwing an AL-high 228.2 inning in his first year with the Kansas City Royals last season. The right-hander was 13-9 with a 3.15 ERA to finish 11th in AL Cy Young voting, and he is likely headed for a major payday when he hits free agency next offseason.
59. SS Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays
After winning the NL batting title with a .337 average in 2011, Reyes cashed in by signing a six-year, $106 million deal with the Miami Marlins. He wound up being a victim of their fire sale last offseason, though, and he was dealt to the Blue Jays. An ankle injury cost him 66 games, but he provided a clear spark upon returning and remains one of the premier table-setters in the game.
58. RP Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
A setup man for his first two seasons in Cincinnati, Chapman has emerged as a lights-out closer for the Reds over the past two seasons. He's gone 76-of-86 on save chances with a 2.00 ERA and a video game-like 234 strikeouts in 135.1 innings of work. The team may yet look to move him to the rotation at some point, but for 2014 at least, he'll again be asked to dominate in the ninth.
57. SP Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates
It's been an up-and-down career for Liriano, and he didn't find many interested teams last offseason coming off of a season in which he went 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA. The Pirates took a chance on him with a one-year, $1 million deal, and he wound up being perhaps the biggest steal of the offseason.
He started the season on the DL but returned to go 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 161 innings of work. He's the ace of a good, young staff entering 2014, and on the back of his dominant slider, he should be able to repeat.
56. RP Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jansen may have the best cut-fastball since Mariano Rivera, and he has used it to emerge as one of the best closers in all of baseball. The 26-year-old threw the pitch 85.9 percent of the time last season, and opponents hit just .159 against the pitch, according to Brooks Baseball. All that was good enough for Jansen to rack up 28 saves with a 1.88 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 76.2 innings of work.
55. 3B Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
One of the breakout stars of 2013, Donaldson hit .301/.384/.499 with 24 home runs and 93 RBI in his first full season in the majors last year. The 28-year-old finished fourth in AL MVP voting, and his plus plate discipline and solid peripheral numbers suggest he can at least make a run at matching those numbers in 2014.
54. RF Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
After winning back-to-back home run titles in 2010 and 2011 when he hit an impressive 97 long balls, Bautista has struggled to stay on the field the past two seasons. A wrist injury held him to 92 games in 2012, and a hip injury limited him to 118 games last year. Still, he's one of the most dangerous hitters in the game with a terrific eye and elite power, and a healthy season could mean another big year.
53. RP Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Craig Kimbrel is widely regarded as the best closer in the game. He ranks that way here, but Holland was every bit as good as him last season. In what was his first full season in the closer's role, the 28-year-old went 47-of-50 on save chances with a 1.21 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 67 innings of work.
52. 1B/OF Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals
After thriving as a super-utility player in 2011, Craig stepped into the everyday first base job in 2012 and quickly became one of the best run producers in all of baseball. Injuries limited him down the stretch and in the playoffs last season, but he still finished the year with 13 home runs and 97 RBI thanks to a league-best .454 batting average with runners in scoring position.
He will open the season in right field but could move back to first base once top prospect Oscar Taveras arrives.
51. CF Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees
He may never repeat the 2011 season that saw him hit .321/.376/.552 with 32 home runs and 39 steals, but Ellsbury proved he can still make a major impact atop a team's lineup last season. In a contract year, he hit .298/.355/.426 with an AL-high 52 steals, helping lead the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title. That was enough to earn him a massive seven-year, $153 million deal from the Yankees.
50. SP Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers
More than a few people questioned the Tigers' decision to shell out $80 million over five years to re-sign Sanchez last offseason, but he proved the doubters wrong. He finished the season 14-8 and won the AL ERA title with an impressive 2.57 mark, giving the team a third ace-caliber arm in the process.
49. 1B Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers
His power was down the past two seasons after joining the Detroit Tigers, as he had 30 home runs in 2012 and 25 this past season, but Fielder did a great job protecting Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the lineup. He now goes to the hitter's paradise that is the Ballpark in Arlington, and he could be primed for a big season as a result.
48. 3B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
After serving as a utility player in 2012, Carpenter made the move to second base so the team could get his bat into the lineup on an everyday basis. The results were better than anyone could have dreamed, as he hit .318/.392/.481 and led all of baseball in hits (199), runs (126) and doubles (55) to finish fourth in NL MVP voting.
He'll now slide over to third base, and while he does not have prototypical power for the position, he should remain a valuable weapon.
47. 3B Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
A gruesome knee injury cost Machado the final month of the season last year, but he enjoyed a breakout season nonetheless. The 21-year-old established himself as a weapon at the plate with a .283/.314/.432 line and an AL-high 51 doubles while also playing a phenomenal defensive third base and winning Platinum Glove honors.
46. SP Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
Iwakuma opened the 2012 season in the Mariners bullpen, but he joined the rotation in the second half and thrived, going 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 16 starts. The team wisely re-signed him to a two-year, $14 million deal last offseason, and he rewarded it by going 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA and 1.01 WHIP to finish third in AL Cy Young voting. As long as his dominant splitter keeps splitting, he should once again thrive.
45. 1B Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels
It's been a rough first two seasons with the Angels for Pujols, who left St. Louis to sign a backloaded, 10-year, $240 million deal with the team prior to the 2012 season. That does not simply erase what was a dominant decade of baseball, though, and there is plenty of reason to think a healthy Pujols can once again be a force. He stays in the top 50 and gets the benefit of the doubt for now.
44. SP Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
The top arm on the market last offseason, Greinke got ace money to be the Dodgers' No. 2 starter behind Clayton Kershaw, agreeing to a six-year, $147 million deal. Things started poorly, as he was hurt during spring training and then missed over a month with a broken clavicle. He turned things around from there, though, finishing the year 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA, thanks to a dominant second half that saw him go 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 14 starts.
43. SP Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
Like much of the Red Sox roster, Lester suffered through a down season in 2012, going 9-14 with career-high 4.82 ERA. That snapped a streak of four straight seasons in which he won at least 15 games and had an ERA below 3.50. He got things back on track last season, though, proving to be the ace of the staff once again during the regular season and backing it up by going 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts.
42. 1B Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
A top prospect when he was coming up through the Cincinnati Reds system, it was not until the age of 29 during his 2012 campaign that Encarnacion finally lived up to his vast potential with a huge all-around season. The slugger hit .280/.384/.557 with 42 home runs and 110 RBI, and he followed that up with another big season last year, hitting .272/.370/.534 with 36 home runs and 104 RBI. He's poor defender and probably best served as a DH, but he can flat out hit.
41. SP Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds
With Johnny Cueto sidelined for much of the 2013 season, Latos stepped into the role of staff ace for the Reds last year and more than held his own. The 26-year-old already has 137 career starts under his belt, and he's 55-40 with a 3.35 ERA in five big league seasons. The big right-hander has proven to be a huge pickup for the Reds, and he could find his way to a hearty extension in the near future.
40. CF Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
It took him parts of five big league seasons to finally put it all together, but Gomez finally enjoyed a breakout season in 2012 and he took his game to another level this past season. Flashing power, speed and a terrific glove, the 28-year-old hit .284/.338/.506 with 27 doubles, 10 triples, 24 home runs and 40 steals on his way to an 8.4 rWAR. Entering the prime of his career, a similar season could be on tap for 2014.
39. 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
From his time in San Diego, to his year and a half with Boston and on to the Dodgers, Gonzalez has been as consistent as they come for several years now. He's topped the 100-RBI mark in five of the past six seasons, tallying 99 in 2009 despite hitting a career-high 40 home runs that season. Oddly, his power numbers have been down since he left the Padres, but he is still a dangerous run producer and a plus defender at first base to boot.
38. SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
Signed to a six-year, $144 million extension midway through the 2012 season, Hamels was just 1-9 with a 4.86 ERA through the first two months of the season last year. He looked like the Hamels of old from there, though, going 7-5 with a 2.96 ERA over his final 21 starts. Alongside Cliff Lee, the Phillies still have as good a one-two punch as any in baseball.
37. LF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Some prefer to call Harper overrated, but it's important to remember that he played all of last season as a 20-year-old. Various injuries limited him to 118 games, and if nothing else, that made it abundantly clear just how much he means to the Nationals, as the team was 65-53 with him in the lineup and just 21-23 without him. He's just scratched the surface of his vast potential at this point, and he could easily be a top-20 player by the end of 2014.
36. RP Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
The word "dominant" doesn't quite do justice just how good Kimbrel has been since taking over as the Braves' closer in 2011. The flame-thrower has converted 138 out of 153 save chances with a 1.48 ERA and 341 strikeouts in 206.2 innings. He ran into a slight hiccup last season, allowing five runs and going 2-of-5 on save chances over a five-game stretch. But that rough patch aside, he went 48-of-49 on saves with a 0.57 ERA in his other 63 appearances.
35. SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
His 8-9 record was certainly not where he would have liked it to be last year, but the peripheral numbers were all there for Strasburg. He reached career highs with 30 starts and 183 innings pitched, posting a 3.00 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP and 191 strikeouts in 183 innings of work. With Tommy John surgery now well behind him, Strasburg appears ready to break out and join the ranks of the game's elite in 2014.
34. RF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
Stanton has already piled up 117 career home runs, the 25th-highest total in MLB history prior to a player's age-25 season, and he has done it in just 1,749 at-bats. Injuries have curtailed his production the past two seasons, but he still has some of the best raw power in all of baseball, and a 50-home run season remains well within reach. He's not just a one-dimensional slugger, either, as he has solid on-base skills and a rocket arm in right field as well.
33. CF Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
After steadily improving each season since coming to the Orioles in a trade with the Mariners, Jones broke out as a bona fide star in 2012, backing it up with another terrific season in 2013. He topped the 100-RBI mark for the first time last season, hitting a career-high 33 home runs and swiping 14 bases while winning his third Gold Glove.
32. SP Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
The Giants starting rotation was a major disappointment in 2013, but Bumgarner remained a bright spot, as the 24-year-old continued to climb the ranks of the game's top hurlers.
By all accounts, he enjoyed the best season of his young career in 2013, going 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 201.1 innings of work to finish ninth in NL Cy Young voting. The 24-year-old has reached the 200-inning mark in three straight seasons and still has room to improve moving forward.
31. LF Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers
Choo proved to be exactly what the Reds hoped he would last season. They plugged him in atop the order and he posted a terrific .285/.423/.462 line that included 21 home runs and 20 stolen bases. His .389 career OBP is ninth among active players with at least 3,000 career plate appearances, as his ability to get on base is his most valuable weapon. He turned that into a seven-year, $130 million deal with the Rangers in free agency.
30. CF Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
Injuries are the only thing keeping Gonzalez out of the top 25 at this point, as he has averaged 124 games over the past three seasons following his breakout 2010 campaign. He remains a force on the field nonetheless, hitting .302/.367/.591 with 26 home runs and 21 stolen bases in just 391 at-bats lats season. Perhaps most importantly, he put behind him the notion that he is a product of Coors Field, hitting .332/.381/.606 on the road.
29. SP Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
Fernandez needs only to back up his phenomenal rookie season with a strong sophomore campaign to climb into the top 25, and even with some expected regression in 2014, he could still be one of the game's best. After only breaking camp with the big league team due to a pair of injuries, the 21-year-old went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 172.2 innings while leading the NL with a 5.8 H/9 mark before being shut down after 28 starts.
28. DH David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Remember back in 2009 when Ortiz hit .238 and it was pegged as the beginning of the end for the slugger? Well, he's hit .300/.392/.560 while averaging 28 home runs and 90 RBI in the four years since. He'll make a serious run at Edgar Martinez for the title of best DH of all time before all is said and done, and his postseason heroics may very well be enough for his ticket to be punched to Cooperstown.
27. RF Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
After a season that ended with a 65-game PED suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, Braun falls out of the top-25 for the time being. He was a consensus top-five player entering last season, and rightfully so, as he led the NL with 41 home runs and a .987 OPS in 2012 while also hitting .319/.391/.595 and stealing 30 bases.
26. SP Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Mentioned alongside Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw in the debate for the title of best pitcher in baseball entering 2012, Verlander suffered through a down season by his standards, going 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA while throwing just 218.1 innings. That, along with offseason core surgery, bumps him out of the top 25. But a strong finish to the regular season and impressive postseason point to a bounce back in 2014.
Viewed as a sure thing to be traded entering the offseason, David Price instead finds himself in Tampa Bay Rays camp set to make his third Opening Day start.
The big left-hander got off to a rough starts last season, posting a 5.24 ERA over his first nine starts before landing on the DL and missing 44 games with a triceps strain. He was back to ace form upon returning, though, going 9-4 with a 2.53 ERA and five complete games over his final 18 starts.
Limited by injuries once again in 2013, Troy Tulowitzki is still the best all-around shortstop in the game when he's on the field, and his production over 126 games last year bested most at the position.
Over 446 at-bats, he managed to hit .312/.391/.540 with 27 doubles, 25 home runs and 82 RBI to post a 5.3 rWAR. If the 29-year-old can stay healthy enough to see 550 at-bats, he's a legitimate NL MVP candidate, regardless of where the Colorado Rockies finish.
After he missed the final month of the 2013 season following a concussion, Joe Mauer will officially make the full-time move from catcher to first base as the Minnesota Twins look to get the most out of the five years and $115 million remaining on his contract.
He's managed just 33 home runs in 1,786 at-bats the past four seasons after hitting 28 during his MVP season in 2009. Eliminating the wear and tear of catching could mean some of that power returning, but regardless, he remains one of the game's best pure hitters, coming off of a .324/.404/.476 season in 2013.
After watching Jose Reyes depart following the 2011 season, the New York Mets locked up the face of their franchise in David Wright on an eight-year, $138 million deal prior to last season. It may still be another year before the team is ready to make a legitimate run at contention, but he's expected to be at the center of the team's rebuilding efforts.
Despite missing 45 games with a strained hamstring, it was still another solid all-around season for the 31-year-old in 2013. He hit .307/.390/.514 with 23 doubles, 18 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 430 at-bats and posted a 5.8 rWAR.
After playing just 74 games in 2012, Evan Longoria proved durable once again this past season, playing in 160 games, and the Rays reaped the rewards of having their star in the lineup on an everyday basis.
He finished the season with 32 home runs and 88 RBI while playing his usual stellar defense at third base, and all of that was good for a 6.3 rWAR. The 28-year-old is one of the faces of the MLB and a bona fide superstar, posting an OPS over .840 each year of his career and coming up with the big hit time and time again.
There were legitimate questions about his future after Buster Posey saw his 2011 season end with a broken ankle, but he put those questions to rest with an MVP season in 2012, winning the NL batting title with a .336 average and helping the Giants reach the World Series.
His numbers were down a bit this past season, but he still hit .294/.371/.450 with 15 home runs and 72 RBI. He'll be counted on once again to carry the Giants' offense in 2014, and he remains a plus defensive backstop as well.
Dustin Pedroia's power was down in 2013, as he failed to reach double digits in home runs for the first time since his rookie season. But it was another fantastic all-around year for Pedroia nonetheless, as he helped lead the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title.
He finished the season with a .301/.372/.415 line and managed to drive in 84 runs despite hitting just nine home runs. He added 193 hits, 42 doubles, 17 stolen bases and a third Gold Glove award, on his way to a 6.5 WAR and a seventh-place finish in AL MVP voting.
The 2012 season was a strange one for Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, as he went just 6-9 on the year and didn't record his first win until July 4. That despite a 3.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 207 strikeouts in 211 innings of work over 30 starts.
Things were back on track this past season, as the 35-year-old was 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 222 strikeouts in 222.2 innings. If the Phillies ever decide to start rebuilding, a move they desperately need to make, Lee will be an interesting trade candidate. There will no doubt be more than a few teams interested, even with two years and $62.5 million left on his deal (with $12.5 million buyout for 2016 included).
Entering his age-35 season, third baseman Adrian Beltre has been an absolute beast since joining the Texas Rangers. He could be in for a huge season thanks to the team's additions of Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder, and this may finally be the year he takes home MVP honors.
He hit .315/.371/.509 last season with 30 home runs and 92 RBI, leading the AL in hits with 199. The .371 OBP represented the second-best mark of his career, as he walked 50 times in 631 at-bats while striking out just 78 times. Throw in his Gold Glove-caliber defense, and Beltre earns his spot as the top third baseman in these rankings.
Had he played a full season, Hanley Ramirez may very well have walked away from 2013 as your NL MVP. Thumb and hamstring injuries sidelined him for most of the first two months of the season, however, and he wound up playing just 86 games.
He more than made his mark over that span, though, playing a major part in the team's turnaround while hitting .345/.402/.638 with 25 doubles, 20 home runs and 57 RBI in just 304 at-bats. That was still enough for him to finish eighth in NL MVP voting, and he looks like the Ramirez of old entering a contract year.
The Atlanta Braves offense as a whole was a roller-coaster ride throughout the 2013 season, as the Braves were as streaky as any team in baseball at the plate. They struck out a ton and batted just .249 as a team, but they also finished fourth in the NL with 688 runs scored.
Though all the ups and downs, the one constant was first baseman Freddie Freeman in the middle of the order. The 24-year-old hit .319/.396/.501 with 23 home runs and 109 RBI to finish fifth in NL MVP voting, and that landed him an eight-year, $135 million extension despite the fact that he was pre-arbitration.
Taken with the No. 13 pick in the 2010 draft, Chris Sale made his big league debut less than two months after being drafted. He served as a dominant setup man in his first two big league seasons before moving to the rotation in 2012, where he didn't miss a beat.
The big left-hander has gone a combined 28-22 with a 3.06 ERA and 418 strikeouts in 406.1 innings of work over the past two seasons, and he is at the center of the Chicago White Sox's current rebuilding efforts. The team locked him up with a five-year, $32.5 million deal last offseason, and that looks like a brilliant move now.
By all accounts, the 2012 season was a breakout year for Chris Davis. He had finally found an everyday job in Baltimore after struggling to establish himself in Texas, and he made the most of it by blasting 33 home runs and posting an .827 OPS.
He took things to another level in 2013, though, hitting .286/.370/.634 and leading the AL with 53 home runs and 138 RBI. A 29.6 percent HR/FB ratio likely means he's in for at least some regression in 2014, but another 40-home run, 100-RBI season is not out of the question.
Always a promising pitcher with plus-plus stuff, Max Scherzer turned a corner at the All-Star break in 2012. After a subpar first half saw him go 8-5 with a 4.72 ERA, he emerged as a second ace in the second half, going 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 90.1 innings.
That carried over into last season, where the right-hander went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 214.1 innings to win AL Cy Young honors. The 29-year-old is entering a contract year, and the Tigers' offseason trades of Prince Fielder and Doug Fister were likely made with an eye on locking up Scherzer on a long-term deal.
The most productive second baseman in the game since Chase Utley began to decline, Robinson Cano has hit .314/.369/.530 and averaged 28 home runs and 103 RBI over the past five seasons while playing for the New York Yankees.
His time in the Bronx is over, though, as he agreed to a massive 10-year, $240 million deal to join the Seattle Mariners this offseason. Whether or not he's the missing piece in Seattle remains to be seen. His production could drop a bit with the move out of Yankee Stadium, but he's an elite player regardless of where he is.
The Texas Rangers shelled out $51.7 million just for the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish prior to the 2012 season before agreeing to a six-year, $56 million deal to officially bring the Japanese right-hander to the MLB.
His debut was a success, as he went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 191.1 innings, but he took a huge step forward this past year. He lowered his ERA over a run to 2.83 and struck out a whopping 277 batters in 209.2 innings. He also led the AL with a 6.2 H/9 mark. It was simply an all-around dominant season.
Darvish enters 2014 as one of the few legitimate aces in the game, and the money the Rangers spent seems like a bargain.
His penchant for taking a walk has led some to dub him as overly patient, but Joey Votto remains as valuable an offensive weapon as any in baseball. He has led the NL in on-base percentage each of the past four seasons, and he walked a career-high 135 times last year.
All told, he finished 2013 with a .305/.435/.491 line while adding 30 doubles, 24 home runs, 73 RBI and 101 runs scored. As long as the 30-year-old continues to get on base, he'll be one of the game's elite hitters. And in a solid Cincinnati Reds lineup, he doesn't need to try to hit 40 home runs.
After going 39-19 with a 2.53 ERA in 2009 and 2010 combined, Adam Wainwright missed the entire 2011 season with Tommy John surgery. He returned to kick off the 2012 season, but his numbers were less dominant, as he finished the year 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA.
Wainwright was back to his workhorse staff ace form this past year, though, going 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA and 219 strikeouts in an NL-high 241.2 innings. He threw a gem in the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS, and despite coming up short in the World Series, he remains one of the top five starting pitchers in baseball.
Had he played for a team that reached the postseason in 2013, Paul Goldschmidt would have been a shoo-in for NL MVP honors. Even on an Arizona Diamondbacks team that went 81-81, he managed to finish second in the voting.
The 26-year-old had a monster second full season in the majors, hitting .302/.401/.551 and leading the NL with 36 home runs and 125 RBI for a 7.1 WAR. Given the contract Freddie Freeman signed this winter, the five-year, $32 million deal Goldschmidt got last offseason looks like one of the best bargains around.
The face of a Pittsburgh Pirates team that finally broke through and reached the postseason for the first time since 1992, Andrew McCutchen walked away with NL MVP honors thanks to monster second half that helped ensure the team would avoid a third straight second-half collapse.
The 27-year-old hit .339/.441/.561 after the All-Star break to finish the season with a .317/.404/.508 line that included 38 doubles, 21 home runs, 84 RBI, 97 runs and 27 stolen bases. He's a legitimate five-tool player and one of the faces of the MLB today.
There may be no player in baseball who means more to the success of his team than St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. An elite defensive catcher since he first broke into the league, Molina has emerged as one of the top offensive threats at the position as well the past few seasons.
He hit .319/.359/.477 last year with 44 doubles, 12 home runs and a career-high 80 RBI this past year, thanks in large part to a fantastic .373 average with runners in scoring position. He also nabbed his sixth straight Gold Glove, gunning down 20-of-46 would-be base stealers.
A big leaguer since the age of 19 back in 2005, Felix Hernandez has gone 110-86 with a 3.20 ERA over his nine-year MLB career. He showed his loyalty to the Seattle Mariners when he signed a then-record seven-year, $175 million deal last offseason, and the team is finally filling in the roster with some talent around him.
The 27-year-old was 13-12 with a 3.04 ERA last season, posting a career-best 9.5 K/9 with 216 strikeouts in 204.1 innings. It marked the sixth straight season he has eclipsed the 200-inning mark, and with an much-improved offense to back him in 2014, he could be in for a big year.
Were it not for a groin injury that limited him to one home run and seven RBI in the month of September, Miguel Cabrera very well could have become the first player to ever win back-to-back Triple Crowns. He still managed to make it back-to-back AL MVP awards, as he won the AL batting title for the third straight year.
A .348/.442/.636 line led the AL across the board, and he finished second to Chris Davis with 44 home runs and 147 RBI. Cabrera could see even less pitches to hit with Prince Fielder traded to Texas, but the deal also allows him to move back to first base, where he should be able to better avoid injury. He's still the best hitter on the planet, but he's not the best all-around position player...
That honor belongs to Mike Trout, who followed up his historic rookie season with perhaps a better all-around year last year. His 20.1 WAR over the past two seasons is nothing short of amazing, and it's scary to think the 22-year-old may actually get better in the years to come.
Trout's biggest step forward this past year came in the plate discipline department, as he followed up a .326/.399/.564 line his rookie season with a .323/.432/.557 line in 2013. He improved his walk total from 67 to an AL-high 110, showing unbelievable patience for a 21-year-old. He also managed 27 home runs and 33 steals, remaining one of the best power/speed threats in the game.
It's only a matter of time before Trout wins the first of what could be many AL MVP awards.
Few will argue that Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game today. He earns the top spot on this list because of the simple fact that he is that much better than everyone else taking the mound in today's game.
The seven-year, $215 million deal he signed is absurd, but it's hard to argue he's not worth it in today's market. After all, Kershaw will be just 26 on Opening Day, and he's coming off a season in which he went 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA and 0.92 WHIP while striking out 232 in 236 innings. That earned him his second NL Cy Young award and third straight NL ERA title, and he should add to both of those totals in the years to come.
Arizona Diamondbacks (1): 1B Paul Goldschmidt
Atlanta Braves (7): 1B Freddie Freeman, RP Craig Kimbrel, LF Justin Upton, SS Andrelton Simmons, SP Julio Teheran, RF Jason Heyward, SP Mike Minor
Baltimore Orioles (3): 1B Chris Davis, CF Adam Jones, 3B Manny Machado
Boston Red Sox (5): 2B Dustin Pedroia, DH David Ortiz, SP Jon Lester, RP Koji Uehara, RF Shane Victorino
Chicago Cubs (0)
Chicago White Sox (1): SP Chris Sale
Cincinnati Reds (6): 1B Joey Votto, SP Mat Latos, RP Aroldis Chapman, RF Jay Bruce, SP Homer Bailey, SP Johnny Cueto
Cleveland Indians (4): 2B Jason Kipnis, SP Justin Masterson, DH Carlos Santana, SP Corey Kluber
Colorado Rockies (4): SS Troy Tulowitzki, CF Carlos Gonzalez, RF Michael Cuddyer, SP Jhoulys Chacin
Detroit Tigers (6): 1B Miguel Cabrera, SP Max Scherzer, SP Justin Verlander, SP Anibal Sanchez, RP Joe Nathan, 2B Ian Kinsler
Houston Astros (0)
Kansas City Royals (4): RP Greg Holland, SP James Shields, C Salvador Perez, LF Alex Gordon
Los Angeles Angels (3): CF Mike Trout, 1B Albert Pujols, SP C.J. Wilson
Los Angeles Dodgers (7): SP Clayton Kershaw, SS Hanley Ramirez, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SP Zack Greinke, RP Kenley Jansen, RF Yasiel Puig, SP Hyun-Jin Ryu
Miami Marlins (2): SP Jose Fernandez, RF Giancarlo Stanton
Milwaukee Brewers (2): RF Ryan Braun, CF Carlos Gomez
Minnesota Twins (2): 1B Joe Mauer, RP Glen Perkins
New York Mets (1): 3B David Wright
New York Yankees (3): CF Jacoby Ellsbury, RF Carlos Beltran, C Brian McCann
Oakland Athletics (1): 3B Josh Donaldson
Philadelphia Phillies (2): SP Cliff Lee, SP Cole Hamels
Pittsburgh Pirates (4): CF Andrew McCutchen, SP Francisco Liriano, SP Gerrit Cole, LF Starling Marte
San Diego Padres (0)
San Francisco Giants (4): C Buster Posey, SP Madison Bumgarner, SP Matt Cain, RF Hunter Pence
Seattle Mariners (3): SP Felix Hernandez, 2B Robinson Cano, SP Hisashi Iwakuma
St. Louis Cardinals (7): C Yadier Molina, SP Adam Wainwright, 3B Matt Carpenter, RF Allen Craig, LF Matt Holliday, SP Michael Wacha, SP Shelby Miller
Tampa Bay Rays (5): 3B Evan Longoria, SP David Price, SP Matt Moore, 2B Ben Zobrist, RF Wil Myers
Texas Rangers (4): SP Yu Darvish, 3B Adrian Beltre, LF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Prince Fielder
Toronto Blue Jays (3): 1B Edwin Encarnacion, RF Jose Bautista, SS Jose Reyes
Washington Nationals (6): SP Stephen Strasburg, LF Bryce Harper, SP Jordan Zimmermann, SP Gio Gonzalez, SP Doug Fister, SS Ian Desmond
First Basemen: 10
Second Basemen: 5
Third Basemen: 6
Left Fielders: 6
Center Fielders: 6
Right Fielders: 12
Designated Hitters: 2
Starting Pitchers: 37
Relief Pitchers: 7