Ranking the Top 100 MLB Players Through the 1st Quarter of 2014

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2014

Ranking the Top 100 MLB Players Through the 1st Quarter of 2014

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    I urge you to read the following for a better understanding of my thought process and why guys are ranked where they are on this list.

    Imagine, if you will, that every player in baseball was thrown into a pool to be selected fromfantasy draft style. The goal of this draft would be to build a team for the remainder of the 2014 season, but no further.

    What follows can be thought of as my big board for the top-100 players in this hypothetical draft.

    Given the premise of only focusing on this season, certain questions have to be asked:

    • How much weight do you put on 2014 performance versus a player's track record?
    • How much stock do you put in a hot start from an unexpected player or a cold start from an established star?
    • How much do injury concerns and early-season injuries hurt a player's stock, especially considering that this article is only focusing on this season's performance?
    • Do you rank a stud rookie (e.g., Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu) over a struggling star who has established himself as one of the game's best in the past (e.g., David Price and Prince Fielder)?

    What follows is my best attempt to answer those questions. For reference, I've included a look at where I had each player ranked in my preseason top 100 for reference, and I also included a look at all of the players who made my initial list before things were trimmed down to 100 on the next slide.

    There is obviously a good amount of subjectivity that goes into a list like this, so I don't expect anyone to agree with me 100 percent. I ask only that you keep things civil in what promises to be a fun comments section.

     

    All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted. All injury information courtesy of MLBDepthCharts team pages.

Notable Exclusions

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    *Number in parenthesis indicates player's preseason top-100 ranking.

     

    Pitchers (+=player excluded due to injury)

    Jose Fernandez (29)+, Mat Latos (41)+, Kenley Jansen (56), Francisco Liriano (57), Shelby Miller (58), Justin Masterson (70), Joe Nathan (71), Homer Bailey (74), Gerrit Cole (76), Matt Moore (80)+, Gio Gonzalez (81), Matt Cain (83), Doug Fister (88), Mike Minor (93), Corey Kluber (95), Jhoulys Chacin (97), Glen Perkins (100)

    A.J. Burnett, Steve Cishek, Alex Cobb+, Yovani Gallardo, Dillon Gee, Jason Hammel, Matt Harvey+, Tom Koehler, John Lackey, Kyle Lohse, Jordan Lyles, Jake Peavy, Martin Perez+, Michael Pineda+, David Robertson, Sergio Romo, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rafael Soriano, Chris Tillman, Jered Weaver, Alex Wood

     

    Position Players (+=player excluded due to injury)

    Bryce Harper (37)+, Prince Fielder (49), Allen Craig (52), Jose Reyes (59), Jay Bruce (62)+, Starling Marte (68), Shane Victorino (75), Carlos Beltran (77), Carlos Santana (79), Brian McCann (84), Jason Heyward (87), Wil Myers (89), Ian Desmond (91), Michael Cuddyer (94)+, Ian Kinsler (96), Hunter Pence (98), Alex Gordon (99)

    Matt Adams, Pedro Alvarez, Brandon Belt+, Michael Brantley, Starlin Castro, Yoenis Cespedes, Brian Dozier, Todd Frazier, Josh Hamilton+, J.J. Hardy, Eric Hosmer, Juan Lagares, Adam LaRoche, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Lucroy, Miguel Montero, Michael Morse, Brandon Moss, Anthony Rendon, Alex Rios, Jimmy Rollins, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kyle Seager, Seth Smith, Yangervis Solarte, Mark Teixeira, Neil Walker, Matt Wieters+

     

    First 10 Out

    Michael Brantley
    Gerrit Cole
    Todd Frazier
    Kenley Jansen
    Ian Kinsler
    Justin Masterson
    Michael Morse
    Jarrod Saltalamacchia
    Kyle Seager
    Rafael Soriano

     

    For what it's worth, Jose Fernandez was No. 5 on this list prior to the announcement that he was lost for the season to an elbow injury.

    Also worth noting, with Bryce Harper out until July following thumb surgery and his production likely to be limited once he returns, he was not included in these rankings either.

Nos. 100-96

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    100. 1B Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201438.329/.355/.5874711830190
    Career1,341.279/.348/.4851,3853042298936945

    The 32-year-old Morneau is enjoying a career renaissance in Colorado after signing a two-year, $12.5 million deal in the offseason to replace the retired Todd Helton. He's been a nice complimentary piece for the team's stars, and he gives them yet another proven run producer. 

     

    99. RP Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9
    20141615.10-111/121.760.9782.98.2
    Career543576.133-27297/3382.391.0342.310.5

    His first two years in Philadelphia were a mixed bag, but Papelbon has looked great so far this season, as he is again one of the top closers in the game. He's signed for $13 million next season, and he could become an interesting trade chip come July if the Phillies are willing to eat some salary.

     

    98. 2B Daniel Murphy, New York Mets (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201436.320/.369/.4714912314278
    Career666.292/.335/.4277041654228931450

    The Mets offense has not matched their solid starting pitching this season, and Murphy has been one of the few bright spots at the plate. The 29-year-old has hit .298/.337/.423 since the start of the 2011 season, and he's quietly emerged as one of the top offensive second basemen in the game.

     

    97. SP C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels (Previous: 90)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014853.24-33.693.711.1743.29.1
    Career4001,176.177-553.603.711.3043.78.0

    The Angels may regret the monster contracts they handed Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, but the five-year, $77.5 million deal they gave Wilson prior to the 2012 season has actually worked out. He's 34-20 with a 3.61 ERA in 75 starts since joining the team and remains one of the better left-handed starters around.

     

    96. OF Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201436.271/.342/.5363871030230
    Career840.268/.328/.49781217816751942765

    After declining a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Rangers at the start of the offseason, Cruz wound up settling for a one-year, $8 million from the Orioles just before the start of spring training. He's been an absolute steal at that price so far, and any concerns that his power numbers could drop off following a PED suspension have been put to rest.

Nos. 95-91

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    95. 2B Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201438.305/.386/.4374610218269
    Career962.293/.332/.4291,0692267344447590

    Kendrick has been a perennial threat to hit .300 since becoming an everyday player, but he's never walked more than 33 times in a season and never posted an OBP higher than .338 in a full-time role. He already has 17 walks in 151 at-bats this year, spiking his OBP to .386 and making him a bigger all-around offensive threat.

     

    94. SS Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201441.327/.357/.491527527247
    Career955.280/.317/.4081,00916689433451104

    Considering that his .351 BABIP is by no means outrageous, there is some legitimacy to the red-hot start Ramirez has gotten off to this year. It will be interesting to see if the White Sox shop him, provided they fall out of contention, as he is signed through 2015 and no doubt has some trade value.

     

    93. SP Jon Niese, New York Mets (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014745.22-22.173.031.0732.07.1
    Career126749.245-423.883.701.3582.87.3

    Niese seemed poised for a breakout season after going 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA in 2012, but he took a step backward last season and then dealt with a hyperextended elbow this spring, which sidelined him to open the year. He's been terrific since returning, though, and he again finds himself in the role of staff ace while Matt Harvey recovers from Tommy John surgery.

     

    92. 2B Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201438.322/.362/.4344981112424
    Career218.269/.313/.3362082734510590

    After hitting just .229 in 397 at-bats over the past two seasons and spending some time in the minors, Gordon was essentially a forgotten man heading into 2014. However, when the Dodgers decided that Cuban import Alex Guerrero was not ready for the everyday second base job, Gordon seized the opportunity and is off to a fantastic start this year. He leads the league with 24 steals on just 27 attempts.

     

    91. SP Jesse Chavez, Oakland Athletics (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014851.23-12.443.141.0062.18.9
    Career199286.112-164.934.391.3833.27.9

    Chavez spent last season in the Oakland bullpen, posting a 3.92 ERA in 57.1 innings of work over 35 appearances. However, injuries this spring forced him into the rotation, and he's done a fantastic job. He rebounded from a rough outing by going eight innings and allowing two runs his last time out, and he looks like the real deal at this point.

Nos. 90-86

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    Associated Press

    90. LF Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201439.329/.365/.515559617274
    Career1,111.286/.338/.4141,1462107846455290

    Cabrera had his 2012 All-Star campaign cut short by a PED suspension, and it cost him a lot of money in free agency, as he wound up settling for a two-year, $16 million deal from the Blue Jays. Knee problems limited him to just 88 games last year, and he hit just .279 with a .682 OPS when he was on the field. He's back to his All-Star form this season, though.

     

    89. RP Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals (Previous: 53)

    StatsGIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9
    201415140-19/102.571.0001.313.5
    Career211226.214-876/862.421.1073.212.4

    In his first full season in the closer's role, Holland went 47-of-50 on save chances with a 1.21 ERA, 0.866 WHIP and 13.8 K/9 last year. He's not been quite as dominant in the early going this season, but he's still been solid, and he has undoubtedly emerged as one of the game's best closers.

     

    88. SP Scott Kazmir, Oakland Athletics (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014851.15-12.282.730.9741.67.4
    Career2171,231.181-714.084.011.3813.98.7

    Kazmir went from pitching in the independent league in 2012 to securing a minor league contract from the Indians last season to landing a two-year, $22 million deal from the Athletics this past winter. He's putting up the best numbers of his career right now and has done a great job of stepping in for the departed Bartolo Colon as the elder statesman of the Oakland staff.

     

    87. C Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (Previous: 86)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201435.267/.322/.4443612412131
    Career288.297/.330/.45031761311511191

    Still just 24, Perez is already one of the best all-around backstops in all of baseball, and the potential is there for him to be the game's best a few years down the road. He posted a .757 OPS with 13 home runs and 79 RBI last season on his way to his first All-Star appearance, and while he's off to a relatively slow start at the plate this year, he's worthy of consideration here based on his defense alone.

     

    86. SP Nathan Eovaldi, Miami Marlins (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014850.12-12.862.941.1131.88.6
    Career5831.0211-223.683.781.3653.46.6

    Jose Fernandez gets the bulk of the national attention among Marlins pitchers, and understandably so, but they have a solid young staff from top to bottom, and Eovaldi has a chance to be something special as well. The 24-year-old throws hard, averaging 95.9 mph on his fastball this year, per FanGraphs, and he has the secondary stuff to make him a plus starter for years to come.

Nos. 85-81

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    85. 1B Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201438.275/.396/.464383721241
    Career334.242/.333/.418293664615814812

    After posting an .805 OPS with 15 home runs in 337 at-bats in 2012, Rizzo took a step backward in his first full season last year, posting a .233 BA, .742 OPS and 23 home runs in 606 at-bats. He's back on track this season, though, and remains an integral building block in the Cubs efforts to return to contention.

     

    84. SP Dan Haren, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014850.25-12.842.961.1841.66.8
    Career3352,097134-1123.723.661.1861.97.6

    Despite going just 22-27 with a 4.50 ERA over the past two seasons, Haren managed to land a one-year, $10 million deal from the Dodgers this past offseason, thanks in part to his strong finish with the Nationals last season. The 33-year-old has looked like the Haren of old so far this year, making an already great Dodgers rotation that much better.

     

    83. 2B Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays (Previous: 82)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201439.258/.352/.36439739243
    Career957.262/.354/.43290020210746850695

    Is it possible for a guy to be called underrated so many times that he in fact becomes overrated or at the very least properly-rated? Regardless, Zobrist is a valuable player for the Rays given his defensive versatility and nice mix of power and speed. He's been good for 32.3 WAR over the past five years, which is good for third among all position players over that span.

     

    82. SP Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20147453-02.802.741.1114.09.2
    Career9127514-134.163.931.3783.46.6

    The No. 42 pick in the 2009 draft and the No. 83 prospect, per Baseball America, in baseball heading into the 2012 season, Richards finally broke through in the second half in 2013. He was 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 13 starts down the stretch last season after finally joining the rotation full time, and he's built off of that with a fantastic start to the 2014 season. Still just 25, he looks like he could be the ace of the Angels staff in the very near future.

     

    81. 2B Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Previous: 61)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201427.234/.354/.394226312124
    Career364.268/.349/.422371734119120870

    Kipnis slides down this list a bit due to a slow start at the plate and an oblique injury that currently has him on the sidelines, but he remains one of the game's best second basemen. He truly broke out last season, finishing 11th in AL MVP voting and making his first All-Star team. The 27-year-old looks like he'll be the face of the Indians for the long term after signing a six-year extension back in April.

Nos. 80-76

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    80. LF Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 63)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201439.267/.362/.367409223181
    Career1,473.310/.386/.5271,721384253989967102

    For as often as $100 million-plus contracts fail, rarely have you heard a bad thing said about the seven-year, $120 million deal Holliday signed with the Cardinals back in 2010. He's not an elite offensive player, but he's as consistent as they come and always a safe bet for something in the neighborhood of a .300 BA, 25-HR and 100-RBI campaign each year.

     

    79. RP Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds (Previous: 58)

    StatsGIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014220-11/14.501.5009.022.5
    Career206199.215-1478/912.421.0274.514.7

    A liner off the bat of Royals catcher Salvador Perez this spring resulted in a gruesome injury for Chapman, as he had to have a plate inserted above his left eye to repair a fracture in his skull. He's back dialing his fastball up to triple digits in Cincinnati now, though, and there is no ignoring his 329 strikeouts in 200.2 career innings.

     

    78. SP Tim Hudson, San Francisco Giants (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014860.14-22.093.000.8120.65.7
    Career4352,874209-1133.423.751.2242.76.1

    The Giants took a chance on signing the 38-year-old Hudson to a two-year, $23 million deal this offseason to replace Barry Zito in the rotation, as the veteran was coming off of ankle surgery after his 2013 season ended prematurely when he broke his ankle covering first base. He's been fantastic so far, though, helping the Giants rotation get back on track as a clear upgrade over the much-maligned Zito.

     

    77. 3B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 48)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201440.256/.359/.314406114271
    Career318.299/.378/.44732784181381975

    In his first full season as a stater last year, Carpenter filled a major void atop the Cardinals lineup and emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate. He led the league in hits (199), runs (126) and doubles (55), and he wound up finishing fourth in NL MVP voting. He's not quite as valuable offensively now that he's moved from second to third, but he remains a high-OBP bat atop the lineup.

     

    76. SS Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 73)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201435.260/.284/.4093343990
    Career241.257/.301/.4022313923871027

    The game's top defensive shortstop, and perhaps best defensive player period, Simmons is still refining his offensive game at this point in his career. His 27 doubles and 17 home runs were a pleasant surprise last season, even though he had an OPS of just .692. Regardless, he is a top-100 player based on his defense alone, and he is one of the most exciting players in the game today.

Nos. 75-71

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    75. CF Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (Previous: 33)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201437.270/.285/.421416521183
    Career983.279/.320/.4581,02918014550253177

    While Jones has certainly established himself as a star in the middle of the Orioles lineup, his inability to draw a walk keeps him from being one of the game's truly elite offensive players. He has an OBP of just .322 since becoming an everyday player in 2008, and with a slow start at the plate here in 2014, he slides down the list a decent amount.

     

    74. 2B Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201434.338/.399/.5594615320211
    Career1,357.289/.374/.4991,457313220828873130

    Utley topped the 130-game mark for the first time since 2009 last year and proved that he can still be one of the game's top offensive second baseman in the process, hitting .284 with an .823 OPS. He got off to a red-hot start this year, and while he's likely due for some regression with a .368 BABIP, he remains a top-100 player as long as he's healthy.

     

    73. SP Mark Buehrle, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20148537-12.043.251.2452.95.3
    Career4622,935.2193-1433.814.121.2782.15.2

    The definition of the word consistent, Buehrle has made 31-plus starts, pitched 200-plus innings and won double-digit games in each of his 13 seasons as a starter. He's off to a great start this year, and even with some regression he's still one of the more reliable arms in the American League. The 35-year-old is just seven wins away from 200 for his career.

     

    72. CF Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201433.286/.353/.437348212185
    Career603.279/.344/.4176751234421341374

    With Prince Fielder gone, Jackson was one person the Tigers clearly needed to step up in the middle of the lineup, and he's done just that so far this season. Moving out of the leadoff spot, where his high strikeout rate was a hindrance, may be the best thing that could have happened to him from an offensive standpoint.

     

    71. SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies (Previous: 38)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014423.20-25.323.561.7323.89.1
    Career2491,620.199-763.403.541.1502.28.5

    The victim of some terrible luck last year, when he went 8-14 despite a 3.60 ERA (3.26 FIP), Hamels missed the first 20 games of this season while dealing with shoulder tendinitis. His numbers don't look great since he returned, but he finally looked to be rounding into form his last time out, when he allowed one run and struck out 10 in seven innings of work against the Mets.

Nos. 70-66

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    70. SP Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014742.12-22.343.381.1103.29.4
    Career1057.22-32.653.901.1453.38.6

    The hard-throwing Ventura won a rotation spot out of spring training, and the 22-year-old has given the Royals' rotation a big boost after the team lost Ervin Santana to free agency in the offseason. There were some questions as to whether he would stick as a starter, but he has certainly looked the part so far.

     

    69. 1B Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles (Previous: 13)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201425.239/.349/.364215213142
    Career621.265/.328/.50658012613237332313

    Some regression was to be expected from Davis after his monster 53-HR, 138-RBI season last year, and a strained oblique that cost him a 15-day DL stint has not helped matters either. The 28-year-old has legitimate power, but he's probably more likely to hit .250 with 30-plus home runs than he is to hit .286 with 53 longballs like he did last year.

     

    68. RP Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9
    201421211-016/170.430.6191.711.6
    Career751788.142-36320/3792.641.1623.810.9

    Signed to a one-year, $3.25 million deal to rejoin the Brewers in the offseason, presumably to pitch in the eighth inning and set up Jim Henderson, K-Rod has instead seized the closer's job and been nearly perfect so far. The 32-year-old converted his first 15 save chances before finally blowing one, and he's been as big a reason as any for the Brewers hot start.

     

    67. SP Ian Kennedy, San Diego Padres (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20148492-43.122.341.0822.010.3
    Career151914.155-443.963.981.2593.08.0

    After going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 2011 while pitching for the Diamondbacks, Kennedy has gone 22-22 with a 4.43 ERA over the past two seasons, and the Padres bought low on him at the trade deadline last year. That is looking more and more like a brilliant move, as he is pitching at a high level once again and still has a year of team control left next year.

     

    66. 3B Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics (Previous: 55)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201439.261/.341/.4724210827301
    Career286.274/.348/.462287644215715410

    Donaldson struggled to the point of demotion in 2012, but he came back strong in the second half that season and seemingly used that as a springboard for a breakout 2013 season. He hit .301/.384/.499 with 24 home runs and 93 RBI last year to finish fourth in AL MVP voting, and while he may not quite reach those numbers again this year, he has emerged as one of the game's better all-around third basemen.

Nos. 65-61

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    65. SP Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals (Previous: 64)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014842.22-13.593.051.3831.78.9
    Career121735.145-363.413.471.1832.07.3

    Once a largely overlooked third starter behind Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, it has been Zimmermann who has been the Nationals' most consistent start for the past year-plus. He was 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.088 WHIP last year to finish seventh in NL Cy Young voting, and he's off to a solid start once again this year.

     

    64. RP Huston Street, San Diego Padres (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9
    201417171-012/120.530.8242.610.1
    Career53254935-27246/2872.901.0292.39.1

    Currently ranked fifth on the active saves list with 246 for his career, Street is a dazzling 67-for-70 on save chances since joining the Padres in 2012, and he's been perfect so far this season. The 30-year-old is signed through this season with a $7 million option for next year, and it will be interesting to see if the Padres make a move to re-sign him or opt to deal him.

     

    63. CF Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201439.342/.375/.597519929348
    Career190.304/.334/.4601843518689321

    With a .331 BABIP, the hot start that Blackmon has put together looks to be at least somewhat legit. Regardless, a quarter of the way into this season, there is no ignoring just how good the 27-year-old has been. He's made the Rockies look brilliant for dealing Dexter Fowler to the Astros, as that move netted them a plus arm in Jordan Lyles, and Blackmon also has better numbers than Fowler by far.

     

    62. SP Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers (Previous: 50)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20145230-23.132.451.1304.39.4
    Career1791,07462-613.543.531.3093.28.0

    More than a few people questioned the Tigers' decision to give Sanchez a five-year, $80 million extension last offseason, but he responded with the best season of his career, winning the AL ERA title with a 2.57 mark and effectively giving the Tigers a third ace. Blister problems have landed him on the DL this season, but he's expected back soon, and he's still one of the AL's top arms when healthy.

     

    61. 1B Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201436.266/.401/.445348521150
    Career902.259/.359/.50075015917449346527

    Napoli played a huge role in the Red Sox's worst-to-first turnaround last season, as he posted an .842 OPS with 23 home runs and a team-high 92 RBI while playing surprisingly good defense at first base. The team rewarded him with a two-year, $32 million extension in the offseason, and he's again been a major contributor in the middle of their lineup.

Nos. 60-56

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    60. SP James Shields, Kansas City Royals (Previous: 60)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014960.15-32.543.161.0771.88.4
    Career2611,743.2105-853.753.771.2202.27.8

    The Royals pulled the trigger on a huge trade when they acquired Shields last offseason, shipping a prospect package built around Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to the Rays in order to acquire the workhorse right-hander. The 32-year-old is 94-74 with a 3.71 ERA over the past seven seasons while averaging 223 innings per year, and he's set to hit free agency at the end of the season.

     

    59. RP Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox (Previous: 66)

    StatsGIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9
    20141615.20-19/91.151.0211.713.8
    Career246301.29-1144/502.360.8391.210.6

    Uehara was the Red Sox fourth option to close games heading into last year, but he took the job and ran with it, going 20-of-22 on save chances with a 0.41 ERA after transitioning to the ninth-inning role. His breakout season included a stretch in which he retired 37 straight batters and ALCS MVP honors, and he's been lights out once again this year.

     

    58. LF Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 69)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201436.286/.364/.549386919214
    Career916.275/.356/.47692418014445255392

    It's almost impossible to believe that Upton is still only 26 years old, as this is already his eighth big league season. And while he has still not established himself as a superstar, he remains one of the game's better offensive outfielders. His 49 strikeouts in 133 at-bats are troubling, but the power is still there, and when he's hot he's capable of single-handedly carrying an offense.

     

    57. 3B Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles (Previous: 47)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201412.191/.255/.255901140
    Career219.274/.306/.4252485922981168

    Machado is still shaking off the rust after missing the first 24 games of the season while recovering from knee surgery, but he's simply too talented to fall any lower in the rankings. Still just 21, he emerged as the game's top defensive third baseman last year while also taking a big step forward offensively.

     

    56. SP Ervin Santana, Atlanta Braves (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014640.24-01.992.291.0082.09.5
    Career2741,727.1109-904.144.321.2742.87.1

    Still without a home late in spring training, Santana finally signed with the Braves on a one-year, $14.1 million deal that matched the qualifying offer he declined from the Royals at the start of the offseason. The Braves really had no choice but to sign him after three-fifths of their projected rotation landed on the DL to open the season, but the move has already paid huge dividends, as the 31-year-old has been one of the NL's top starters.

Nos. 55-51

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    Ralph Freso/Getty Images

    55. 1B Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: 42)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201440.245/.328/.4653812627222
    Career1,119.264/.347/.4791,04523120163358351

    The most impressive statistic that Encarnacion posted last season may have been the fact that he walked more than he struck out (82 BB, 62 K), a rare feat for anyone, let alone one of the game's top power hitters. He's gotten off to a relatively slow start this year after posting an OPS over .900 the past two seasons, but he remains as feared a hitter as any in the AL when he's hot.

     

    54. SP Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners (Previous: 46)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014322.22-01.592.480.6620.46.0
    Career66367.225-112.773.691.0772.17.4

    A strained tendon in the middle finger on his throwing hand cost Iwakuma the first 27 games of the season, but he's picked up right where he left off since returning. On the strength of one of the best splitters in the game, he was 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA to finish third in AL Cy Young voting last year, and he's been a real find for the Mariners.

     

    53. SP Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014957.12-52.672.801.2212.77.4
    Career133343.217-243.403.571.2253.17.5

    After opening the season in the bullpen last year, Cashner eventually joined the Padres starting rotation, and he wound up going 5-4 with a 2.14 ERA in 11 starts after the All-Star break. That was enough to make him the Padres' Opening Day starter heading into this season, and despite what his record may suggest he has actually been one of the NL's best pitchers. He looks like the face of the franchise at this point.

     

    52. SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (Previous: 35)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014954.13-33.482.361.3252.511.6
    Career84488.232-223.022.741.1012.510.6

    Strasburg went just 8-9 in 30 starts last season despite a 3.00 ERA and 1.049 WHIP, but his peripheral numbers are down this season, as he's off to a somewhat disappointing start. He still has all the talent in the world, and it still seems like only a matter of time before everything falls into place and he has a monster season, but for now he's simply a very good starter.

     

    51. CF Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201438.322/.371/.445479315188
    Career804.283/.335/.42480416349310420141

    The importance of Pagan to the Giants' success can't be overstated, as the team was 39-32 (.549) with him in the lineup last year compared to just 37-54 (.407) without him. He's healthy once again and has been a dynamic catalyst atop what is an all-around improved Giants offensive attack.

Nos. 50-46

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    50. DH Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201435.336/.384/.603448923161
    Career1,343.304/.369/.4681,5223191668476695

    After leading all of baseball last season with a .361 batting average after the All-Star break, Martinez has stepped into the role of protecting Miguel Cabrera in the Tigers lineup after Prince Fielder was dealt to the Rangers. He's off to a fantastic start this season and is putting up significantly better numbers than Fielder at this point, as he's setting himself up for a nice payday in free agency next offseason.

     

    49. SP Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 85)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20148582-21.713.840.8101.76.5
    Career45269.217-113.073.841.1122.27.6

    Teheran had a rocky first month as a rookie last season, posting a 5.08 ERA through his first five starts, but he was 13-8 with a 2.86 ERA over 25 starts the rest of the way to finish fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. He essentially had the role of staff ace thrust upon him this season after Kris Medlen and Mike Minor both went down with injuries, but he has looked the part through eight starts.

      

    48. 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 39)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201440.261/.335/.5034010928231
    Career1,373.293/.367/.5011,5123202448787636

    His 40-homer days look like a thing of the past, but Gonzalez remains one of the game's most consistent run producers, having driven in at least 99 runs in each of the past seven seasons. On top of that, he's a legitimate threat to hit .300 each season while playing plus defense at first base, as he just a solid all-around player.

     

    47. SP Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20148544-12.173.341.1483.07.2
    Career201189-42.442.991.1272.98.4

    The de facto ace of the Athletics staff after Jarrod Parker went down with an injury and Bartolo Colon departed in free agency, Gray has built off of a strong showing as a rookie with a great start to the 2014 season. With a plus fastball and one of the best curveballs in the game, the 24-year-old has all the tools to anchor the Oakland staff for years to come.

     

    46. SP Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 67)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014847.12-32.852.651.2042.710.8
    Career231126-42.812.811.1432.79.8

    It's easy to forget that Wacha had just 64.2 big league innings under his belt when the postseason rolled around last year, but he came up huge in October when he was 4-1 with a 2.65 ERA in five starts and won NLCS MVP honors. Now the clear No. 2 starter behind Adam Wainwright on a very good Cardinals staff, Wacha is already on his way to a great first full season in the majors.

Nos. 45-41

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    45. CF Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201435.276/.350/.4803410512185
    Career1,001.292/.350/.4931,067187162571591167

    Slowed by myriad injuries over the past couple seasons, including a serious ankle injury, Kemp finally looks to be healthy. He's been red hot at the plate of late, and when he's right he remains one of the most dynamic all-around players in the game.

     

    44. SP Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20148560-31.452.921.2481.09.7
    Career19761429-383.943.851.1632.68.2

    Samardzija has been the victim of some terrible luck so far this season, as the Cubs have managed just 15 runs of support in his eight starts. Still, his peripheral numbers are great across the board, as he looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 season. All signs point to him being moved at the deadline, and he could wind up being the market's top arm.

     

    43. SP Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 44)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014845.16-12.383.411.0542.67.2
    Career3081,715112-832.623.431.3273.78.5

    An ace on most teams, Greinke has given the Dodgers the big second arm they were looking for behind ace Clayton Kershaw, and that six-year, $147 million deal he signed is looking more and more reasonable. He's done a nice job stepping up here in the early going with Kershaw sidelined, and with the staff back at full strength, the Dodgers may have the best rotation in baseball.

     

    42. 1B Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201441.272/.322/.61143111438270
    Career41.272/.322/.61143111438270

    The White Sox took a major risk by signing Abreu to a six-year, $68 million deal this winter, as no one was quite sure how his power bat would translate to the big league level after he put up huge numbers in Cuba. The early returns have been better than anyone could have imagined, though, as he won AL Player of the Month in April. He's in line for some regression, as a 37.8 HR/FB% is not sustainable, but his power is for real,  and he looks like the clear front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year honors at this point.

     

    41. 3B Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (Previous: 17)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201426.242/.312/.404247312170
    Career2,302.282/.334/.4772,4505023791,3191,194116

    Beltre is off to a slow start, and considering he's in his age-35 season, that can't simply be overlooked. However, he's still earned the benefit of the doubt after a string of terrific seasons. He's quietly established himself as one of the best all-around third basemen of all time, and he could have a legitimate Hall of Fame case with a couple more productive seasons.

Nos. 40-36

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    40. RP Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 36)

    StatsGIPW-LSVERAWHIPBB/9K/9
    20141514.10-010/122.511.1864.417.6
    Career24624.1215-7149/1661.450.9193.315.2

    He's blown two saves in the early going, and his 2.51 ERA is well above his career mark, but Kimbrel remains the game's premier closer at this point and should be just fine over the long term. His fastball/slider combination is nothing short of devastating, as his 409 strikeouts in 241.2 innings of work can attest.

     

    39. SP David Price, Tampa Bay Rays (Previous: 25)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014962.24-34.023.061.1650.910.1
    Career1611,035.275-423.243.371.1592.58.2

    The Rays rotation as a whole has been a tremendous disappointment so far this season, and Price has failed to step up with the staff being hit hard by injuries. He still gets the benefit of the doubt at this point, and while he was great his last time out, he does slide down the rankings some. One has to wonder if the Rays will revisit the idea of trading him should they continue to struggle.

     

    38. DH David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (Previous: 28)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201436.287/.384/.537397923190
    Career2,005.287/.381/.5482,0625274401,4521,22715

    Remember back in 2009 when Ortiz hit just .238 and was written off as washed up? Four-plus seasons and 123 home runs later, he's certainly gotten the last laugh there, as Big Papi is still going strong at the age of 38. At some point, he's going to drop off, and it will likely be a swift one when it happens, but for now he remains one of the game's most consistent sluggers.

     

    37. 3B Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (Previous: NR)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201441.315/.339/.5124914626231
    Career174.279/.310/.432179431678723

    No position player climbed higher in these rankings than Arenado, as he has taken a huge step forward at the plate in his second season after already proving that he was an elite defender by taking Gold Glove honors as a rookie. He has already put together a 28-game hitting streak this season and is well on his way to making his first All-Star appearance. He looks to be establishing himself as one of the game's best third basemen.

     

    36. RF Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 65)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201435.326/.417/.563447730194
    Career139.321/.398/.5421662826728515

    You can call him overrated (I have), and you can point to his high BABIP as a cause for concern (I have also done that, as it's a hefty .383 for his career), but Puig just continues to produce, and it's hard to argue with production. He's currently riding a career-best 13-game hitting streak, and while I still think the league and luck will catch up to him at some point, it's hard to rank him any lower than this.

Nos. 35-31

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    35. CF Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees (Previous: 51)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201437.291/.365/.41841111142110
    Career752.297/.351/.43890616666328497295 

    He may never duplicate the power numbers he showed in 2011 (46 2B, 32 HR), but Ellsbury remains one of the game's elite table-setters, and his Yankees career is off to a very nice start. Whether or not he's worth the seven-year, $153 million deal he got this offseason is debatable, but his place among the game's top outfielders is not.

     

    34. SS Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 16)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201440.256/.337/.4494015519193
    Career1,135.300/.372/.5041,316283183602777250

    Had he not missed significant time at the beginning of last season with thumb and hamstring injuries, Ramirez may very well have walked away with NL MVP honors. He wound up hitting .345 with 20 home runs and a 1.040 OPS in 86 games, and once the Dodgers decided to extend him he should be in line for a huge payday.

     

    33. 1B Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (Previous: 23)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201432.302/.399/.373383212231
    Career1,210.322/.405/.4661,45228510764671144

    Many predicted a spike in Mauer's power numbers when he made the full-time move to first base this season, and while we have not seen that yet, he remains one of the best pure hitters in all of baseball. He does lose some value moving out from behind the plate, but it should help prolong his career as the Twins look to get the most out of their star.

     

    32. 3B David Wright, New York Mets (Previous: 22)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201438.296/.341/.3954810225192
    Career1,412.301/.381/.5031,606355224901872185

    The face of the Mets franchise and one of the best third baseman in the game, Wright is off to a slow start this season, but he is capable of putting up MVP-caliber numbers as long as he's healthy. Look no further than last season, when he hit .307/.390/.514 with 18 home runs in 430 at-bats but was limited to just 112 games due to a hamstring injury.

     

    31. SP Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees (Previous: NR)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20147495-02.573.081.0001.310.7
    Career7495-02.573.081.0001.310.7

    So far, so good as Tanaka makes the transition from being the top arm in Japan to pitching in the Bronx. Expectations were certainly high after the team gave him a seven-year, $155 million deal, but he has pitched like an ace so far, and the Yankees have needed him to with the rest of the staff battling injuries and inconsistency.

Nos. 30-26

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    30. LF Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (Previous: 30)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201438.263/.309/.4804010725242
    Career729.298/.354/.527806161132444472109

    Despite the fact that he's currently one of the least productive regulars in a loaded Rockies lineup, Gonzalez remains an elite talent and one of the best all-around outfielders in the game. He's had some trouble staying healthy, which keeps him out of the top 25, but he's put together four straight 20/20 seasons and hit .311 in the process.

     

    29. SP Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies (Previous: 18)

    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014961.13-43.232.661.2551.28.5
    Career3242,136.2142-903.503.451.1911.97.6

    Lee had a rough Opening Day start in which he allowed eight earned runs in five innings of work, but he has a 2.24 ERA in his eight starts since that time, and he remains one of the most consistent starters in the game. He's still due $25 million next season and has a $12.5 million buyout on a $27.5 million contract in 2016, but the Phillies could consider moving him at the deadline if they decide to rebuild.

     

    28. 1B Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels (Previous: 45)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201438.260/.327/.5134091026242
    Career1,996.320/.408/.5972,3875335021,5241,44995

    Healthy once again after missing 61 games last season with a foot injury, Pujols is once again producing at a high level, and he reached a milestone in April when he launched his 500th career home run. He's not the MVP-caliber star he once was, but a .275 BA, 35-HR, 110-RBI season seems well within reach.

     

    27. LF Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers (Previous: 31)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201435.328/.457/.504397411203
    Career888.290/.392/.466939204108438517108

    One of the game's premier on-base threats, Choo signed a seven-year, $130 million deal with the Rangers in the offseason, and he currently leads the AL with a .457 on-base percentage. He's back to playing a corner outfield spot, where he is better suited defensively after playing center field last year, making him that much more valuable overall.

     

    26. 3B Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (Previous: 21)

    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201440.271/.327/.406427421210
    Career837.274/.356/.50785920716656549237

    Longoria remains the face of the Rays franchise, and if I had to pick one third baseman to have on my team right now, he would be my guy. He's come up with clutch hits, is a proven run producer, has plus power and is one of the better defensive third baseman in the game to boot.

25. SP Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants (Previous: 32)

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014847.24-32.833.141.4062.810.2
    Career12678353-423.073.181.1632.38.4

    The Giants starting rotation was a major disappointment last season, and it was a big reason why they came up well short of expectations, but Madison Bumgarner continued to climb the ranks of the game's top arms, going 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA and 199 strikeouts to finish ninth in NL Cy Young voting.

    Still just 24, he has a bright future ahead of him, and he should anchor the Giants staff for the foreseeable future.

24. 2B Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (Previous: 19)

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201437.287/.356/.4144514212262
    Career1,053.302/.369/.4521,263301101505677121

    Year in and year out, Dustin Pedroia is a solid producer for the Red Sox, whether he's hitting leadoff and setting the table or hitting third and serving as a run producer.

    A thumb injury last season and a wrist injury early on this year have sapped his power, but he remains one of the best offensive second basemen in the game. Throw in his plus defense and the intangible leadership qualities he brings to the clubhouse, and he's undoubtedly a top-25 player.

23. SP Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox (Previous: 43)

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    Jim Cowsert/Associated Press
    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014855.24-42.752.131.0782.110.7
    Career2291,432104-603.723.641.2953.28.2

    Jon Lester cemented himself as one of the game's top starting pitchers last year with a bounce-back regular season and a fantastic postseason, capped off by a pair of wins in the World Series in which he allowed just nine hits and one run in 15.1 innings of work.

    The 30-year-old is a free agent at season's end, and after declining a four-year, $70 million extension offer in the offseason, it will be interesting to see if he not only sticks around in Boston but also what he winds up earning with the ever-climbing cost of starting pitching.

22. 2B Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners (Previous: 11)

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201439.307/.357/.392478122172
    Career1,413.309/.355/.5011,69638320584481640

    It's not often that a team manages to sign someone away from the Yankees, but the Mariners did just that when they shelled out a massive 10-year, $240 million deal for Robinson Cano in free agency this winter.

    The power has not been there in the early going for Cano, but he remains one of the best offensive players in all of baseball and the game's top second baseman. The back end of his contract will almost certainly be an albatross, but for the time being he's well worth it.

21. CF Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers (Previous: 40)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201439.290/.369/.5554510921277
    Career862.257/.308/.41567912077292398177

    After a breakout season of sorts in 2012, during which he hit .260 with 19 home runs and 37 stolen bases, the Brewers gave Carlos Gomez a three-year, $24 million extension. That looks like an absolute steal now after he took his game to another level entirely last season on his way to an 8.9 WAR.

    One of the best power/speed threats in the game, Gomez also showed improved plate discipline last season while continuing to play some of the best defensive center field in all of baseball. The health of Ryan Braun is key for the Brewers, but the production of Gomez is equally important at this point.

20. SP Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (Previous: 14)

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press
    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014427.13-02.302.330.8412.39.5
    Career14352835-252.933.141.0892.49.5

    An elbow strain that currently has him on the 15-day DL slides Chris Sale down these rankings a bit, but he remains one of the top pitchers in the game. Furthermore, the injury does not look to be serious, as he is set to begin a rehab assignment on Thursday, per Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times.

    There are legitimate concerns about his long-term health given his funky, max-effort delivery, but he has been lights out over the past two seasons, and until a serious injury occurs he has to be considered one of the top pitchers in baseball.

19. LF Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (Previous: 27)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201423.311/.360/.578284618173
    Career967.312/.374/.5641,184241217699661133

    The Brewers led the National League in scoring in 2012, but slipped to eighth last year. The fact that Ryan Braun played in just 61 games while battling injury and serving a 65-game PED suspension is a big reason why.

    He was just recently activated from the DL after suffering an oblique injury, and he's also dealt with some thumb issues this season, so injuries are a legitimate concern. When he has been in the lineup, though, he has proved once again to be an elite offensive threat and someone capable of making the Brewers serious contenders.

18. 1B Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (Previous: 9)

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201437.262/.414/.462348612191
    Career927.312/.419/.5381,03323516354254848

    Patience may be a virtue, but it has led to some criticism for Joey Votto over the past few seasons, as many would like him to be more aggressive at the plate as opposed to walking so much. Still, it's hard to argue with a guy who has led the NL in on-base percentage in each of the past four seasons and is over .400 once again this year.

    He's never going to be a prototypical masher at the first base position, but Votto is an incredibly valuable hitter, and the team's decision to move him to the No. 2 spot in the lineup maximizes his on-base skills.

17. RF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (Previous: 34)

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201440.312/.398/.59748111142274
    Career529.269/.357/.54051211812833628821

    With 117 home runs before his 24th birthday, it's hard not to get excited about the potential Giancarlo Stanton had shown through his first four big league seasons, but injuries had kept him from putting it all together for one huge season.

    He's healthy now though, and that huge season may be in the works, as he currently leads the NL with 11 home runs and 42 RBI through his first 154 at-bats. He has the best raw power in baseball and plus on-base skills. A .300/.400/.500 season with 40-plus home runs is by no means out of the question.

16. SP Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds (Previous: 72)

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press
    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20148633-21.433.150.7302.39.7
    Career1681,027.268-503.403.961.2162.87.2

    Injuries limited Johnny Cueto to just 11 starts last season, and that was reason enough for me to rank him fairly low at No. 72 in my preseason rankings. But he has shown no lingering effects this season and is once again one of the game's elite starting pitchers.

    The 28-year-old was 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA to finish fourth in NL Cy Young voting back in 2012. The Reds are counting on a similar showing this year as their staff has not been nearly as effective with Homer Bailey struggling and both Mat Latos and Tony Cingrani dealing with injuries.

15. SP Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers (Previous: 26)

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press
    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20148544-22.672.911.3153.57.2
    Career2741,826141-793.393.381.1942.88.4

    It's fair to say that Max Scherzer has been the ace of the Tigers' staff since the start of last season, and remains the team's top starter today, but Justin Verlander has gotten things back on track after a subpar 2013 campaign and again looks like one of the game's best.

    Things finally seemed to click for the 31-year-old in September and on into the postseason last year, and after a dominant showing in spring training he is off to a great start to the 2014 season. He has turned in a quality start in seven of his eight outings, and has not allowed more than three runs in any start. 

14. C Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (Previous: 20)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201437.297/.392/.477382719170
    Career493.307/.378/.486541103682822326

    After winning the batting title and NL MVP honors in 2012, Buster Posey took a step back offensively in 2013, but he was still one of the most productive catchers in baseball and the most dangerous hitter in the Giants' lineup.

    He's putting up elite numbers once again this season, and could be in for career highs in home runs and RBI thanks to an improved offense around him that is the best he's ever been part of. At some point he'll likely move out from behind the plate, but until he does he remains one of the most valuable players in the game.

13. RF Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: 54)

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    USA TODAY Sports
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201440.299/.433/.5564371028331
    Career1,135.255/.364/.49096119422160463445

    An injury-plagued 2013 season in which he played just 118 games and put up relatively pedestrian numbers kept Jose Bautista out of the top 50 in my preseason rankings, but he is back to hitting at an elite level in the early going this season.

    He currently leads the AL with 34 walks, and has reached base in all but one game so far this year, as his ability to get on base is just as valuable as his light-tower power and run production skills. As long as he stays healthy, which has been an issue the past couple seasons, he's a shoo-in to be a top 20 performer.

12. 1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 15)

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201438.308/.382/.5214510723220
    Career509.287/.360/.471526103753032727

    Handed the everyday first base job as a 21-year-old in 2011, Freddie Freeman took a huge step forward at the plate last year after a solid first two seasons, hitting .319/.396/.501 with 23 home runs and 109 RBI and giving the Braves' wildly inconsistent lineup a bat they could count on.

    His impressive season earned him an eight-year, $135 million deal in what was just his first year of arbitration eligibility, so he'll be an anchor in the middle of the Braves lineup for the foreseeable future. He finished fifth in NL MVP voting last year, and may very well win one in the next couple years.

11. SP Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 8)

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    Jason Getz/Associated Press
    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20149646-22.112.710.9692.17.9
    Career2571,378.2105-593.073.151.1742.37.7

    Adam Wainwright proved he was all the way back from 2011 Tommy John surgery last year, going 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA in an NL-high 241.2 innings of work to finish second in NL Cy Young voting.

    The definition of a workhorse, the 32-year-old was at 276.2 innings by the time the postseason wrapped up, and he is one of the few true staff aces in the game today. He's had a tough time with the Cubs this year, allowing 24 hits and 12 runs in 18 innings, but he's been lights out against everyone else and looks to be a serious Cy Young contender once again.

10. SP Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers (Previous: 10)

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014746.13-12.332.581.0792.510.5
    Career68447.132-193.243.211.1623.711.1

    Following a very good rookie season in 2012, Yu Darvish took a huge step forward last year, lowering his ERA from 3.90 to 2.83 and striking out a whopping 277 hitters in 209.2 innings to finish second in AL Cy Young voting behind Max Scherzer.

    He has some of the best stuff in all of baseball, and the six-year, $56 million deal the Rangers signed him to after ponying up a $51.7 million posting fee is an absolute steal. The 27-year-old lost a no-hitter with two outs in the eighth last time out, the second time in his career that has happened, and it seems like only a matter of time before he twirls one. 

9. CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous: 6)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201437.312/.428/.4964410419194
    Career771.297/.383/.489858172107398478129

    The reigning NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen has been counted on to carry the Pirates' offense the past few seasons. A huge second half last year was a big reason why the team was able to snap their 20-year postseason drought.

    He's off to a terrific start once again this year, as the full toolbox has been on display once again. He's capable of contending for a batting title while making a run at 30/30 and winning a Gold Glove, not something many players in the game today can say.

8. SP Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers (Previous: 12)

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    20148535-12.042.801.0192.711.2
    Career1821,07278-463.593.481.2182.99.5

    Things finally all fell into place for the supremely talented Max Scherzer last season, as he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 214.1 innings of work, claiming AL Cy Young honors and assuming the role of staff ace with Justin Verlander battling through a down season.

    A free agent at season's end, the 29-year-old turned down a six-year, $144 million extension in the offseason, and there is a good chance he receives substantially more if he keeps pitching like he has. A big reason for the Tigers' decision to deal Prince Fielder and Doug Fister was to free up money for a Scherzer extension, so expect the Tigers to do whatever it takes to bring him back.

7. 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (Previous: 7)

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201442.324/.371/.5415516726303
    Career395.293/.376/.5204231047125924340

    If he were playing for a contender last season, Paul Goldschmidt would have been an easy choice for NL MVP honors, as he hit .302/.401/.551 while leading the NL with 36 home runs and 125 RBI.

    Still just 26, Goldschmidt has quickly gone from opening eyes in his first full season with 20 home runs, 18 steals and an .850 OPS to being perhaps the most feared hitter in the National League. The five-year, $32 million extension the team got him to sign last year looks like borderline robbery at this point. 

6. C Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 5)

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    Gene Puskar/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201435.308/.338/.448448419151
    Career1,253.285/.339/.4051,2272349356542641

    Already the top defensive backstop in the game for a number of years, Yadier Molina has emerged as one of the best hitters in the National League over the past few seasons, regardless of position.

    He set career highs with 44 doubles and 80 RBI in 2013, hitting over .300 for the third straight season and winning his sixth consecutive Gold Glove. There may be no one in baseball who means more to the success of his team than Molina, as he does a fantastic job handling the Cardinals' talented young staff. 

5. SP Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (Previous: 4)

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014959.14-13.032.491.1121.89.1
    Career2781,884114-873.193.201.2002.68.4

    Felix Hernandez has pitched at least 200 innings and posted an ERA of 3.50 or lower in each of the past six seasons, as he remains one of the game's elite starting pitchers and the face of a rebuilding Mariners team.

    He's not the same electric pitcher he was when he broke into the league as a 19-year-old, but it's because he does not need to be anymore. He's refined his stuff and gets by more on location and the ability to mix his pitches than he does on pure stuff. It's hard to believe he's still just 28 years old. With an improved team around him perhaps he can finally rack up some wins this year.

4. SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 1)

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press
    StatsGIPW-LERAFIPWHIPBB/9K/9
    2014320.22-01.741.451.0650.410.9
    Career1871,200.279-462.592.861.0923.09.2

    The back issues that cost him the first 31 games of the season are enough for me to bump Clayton Kershaw from the No. 1 spot in these rankings, but he remains the game's best pitcher and considering it was his first trip to the DL it's not a huge cause for concern.

    Expectations have been bumped up a notch after the 26-year-old agreed to a record seven-year, $215 million extension in the offseason, and he does have something to prove after a rough showing in the NLCS last year. With three straight NL ERA titles and two Cy Young awards in three years, he's already built himself quite a resume. 

3. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies (Previous: 24)

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201438.394/.497/.75650111133370
    Career908.299/.373/.5181,01119816658558054

    Injury questions will always be part of the conversation for Troy Tulowitzki, as he played just 173 games the past two years and has topped the 150-game mark just twice in his career. As things stand right now though, he's your NL MVP and a huge reason why the Rockies are off to such a great start.

    Tulowitzki remains the best all-around shortstop in baseball and is the best hitter in the National League when he's at 100 percent. If I'm building a team for the rest of the year, which is what these rankings reflect, I still take the next two guys on this list ahead of him because of the injury questions. Based on 2014 production alone, though, he's been the best player in the game.

2. 1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (Previous: 3)

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201435.298/.342/.5044211633200
    Career1,695.320/.398/.5662,0374233711,2931,08436

    Were it not for a groin injury that limited him to one home run and seven RBI in September last year, Miguel Cabrera may very well have won another Triple Crown. As it was, he still managed a third straight batting title and second consecutive AL MVP.

    He got off to a relatively slow start this year, but has begun heating up of late, hitting .340/.385/.681 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 12 games this month. When the dust settles on 2014, another batting title and AL MVP award is a very real possibility for what remains the best hitter on the planet.

1. CF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (Previous: 2)

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press
    StatsGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    201438.270/.354/.5134110724254
    Career374.309/.399/.540440826922028390

    Yes, he's struck out 48 times in 152 at-bats. Yes, just 6-for-42 in the month of May. Yes, his OPS is down 121 points right now from where it was last year.

    All that said, 38 games this season are not reason enough for me to call anyone but Mike Trout the best all-around player in baseball. If he's still struggling come midseason that could be a different story, but at this point what he did over his first two seasons in the league far outweighs his struggles in the early going this year.

     

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Breakdowns

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Team-By-Team

    Arizona Diamondbacks (1): 1B Paul Goldschmidt

    Atlanta Braves (6): 1B Freddie Freeman, RP Craig Kimbrel, SP Julio Teheran, LF Justin Upton, SP Ervin Santana, SS Andrelton Simmons

    Baltimore Orioles (4): 3B Manny Machado, 1B Chris Davis, CF Adam Jones, LF Nelson Cruz

    Boston Red Sox (5): 2B Dustin Pedroia, SP Jon Lester, DH David Ortiz, RP Koji Uehara, 1B Mike Napoli

    Chicago Cubs (2): SP Jeff Samardzija, 1B Anthony Rizzo

    Chicago White Sox (3): SP Chris Sale, 1B Jose Abreu, SS Alexei Ramirez

    Cincinnati Reds (3): SP Johnny Cueto, 1B Joey Votto, RP Aroldis Chapman

    Cleveland Indians (1): 2B Jason Kipnis

    Colorado Rockies (5): SS Troy Tulowitzki, LF Carlos Gonzalez, 3B Nolan Arenado, CF Charlie Blackmon, 1B Justin Morneau

    Detroit Tigers (6): 1B Miguel Cabrera, SP Max Scherzer, SP Justin Verlander, DH Victor Martinez, SP Anibal Sanchez, CF Austin Jackson

    Houston Astros (0)

    Kansas City Royals (4): SP James Shields, SP Yordano Ventura, C Salvador Perez, RP Greg Holland

    Los Angeles Angels (5): CF Mike Trout, 1B Albert Pujols, SP Garrett Richards, 2B Howie Kendrick, SP C.J. Wilson

    Los Angeles Dodgers (8): SP Clayton Kershaw, SS Hanley Ramirez, RF Yasiel Puig, SP Zack Greinke, CF Matt Kemp, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SP Dan Haren, 2B Dee Gordon

    Miami Marlins (2): RF Giancarlo Stanton, SP Nathan Eovaldi

    Milwaukee Brewers (3): RF Ryan Braun, CF Carlos Gomez, RP Francisco Rodriguez

    Minnesota Twins (1): 1B Joe Mauer

    New York Mets (3): 3B David Wright, SP Jon Niese, 2B Daniel Murphy

    New York Yankees (2): SP Masahiro Tanaka, CF Jacoby Ellsbury

    Oakland Athletics (4): SP Sonny Gray, 3B Josh Donaldson, SP Scott Kazmir, SP Jesse Chavez

    Philadelphia Phillies (4): SP Cliff Lee, SP Cole Hamels, 2B Chase Utley, RP Jonathan Papelbon

    Pittsburgh Pirates (1): CF Andrew McCutchen

    San Diego Padres (3): SP Andrew Cashner, RP Huston Street, Ian Kennedy

    San Francisco Giants (4): C Buster Posey, SP Madison Bumgarner, CF Angel Pagan, SP Tim Hudson

    Seattle Mariners (3): SP Felix Hernandez, 2B Robinson Cano, SP Hisashi Iwakuma

    St. Louis Cardinals (5): C Yadier Molina, SP Adam Wainwright, SP Michael Wacha, 3B Matt Carpenter, LF Matt Holliday

    Tampa Bay Rays (3): 3B Evan Longoria, SP David Price, 2B Ben Zobrist

    Texas Rangers (3): SP Yu Darvish, LF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Adrian Beltre

    Toronto Blue Jays (4): RF Jose Bautista, 1B Edwin Encarnacion, SP Mark Buehrle, LF Melky Cabrera

    Washington Nationals (2): SP Stephen Strasburg, SP Jordan Zimmermann

     

    Position-By-Position

    Catchers: 3

    First Basemen: 13

    Second Basemen: 8

    Third Basemen: 7

    Shortstops: 4

    Left Fielders: 6

    Center Fielders: 9

    Right Fielders: 4

    Designated Hitters: 2

    Starting Pitchers: 37

    Relief Pitchers: 7