MLB Position-by-Position Player Power Rankings, June Edition

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2014

MLB Position-by-Position Player Power Rankings, June Edition

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    Position-by-position MLB power rankings will once again be a staple this season, and with two months of the season officially in the books it is time for an updated look at where things stand.

    My preseason rankings were put out March 7, with the first updated rankings done on April 17. It is fair to say a lot has changed in the past month and a half, so there was plenty of shakeup in the rankings.

    So what follows is a look at the 10 (or 15 in the case of outfielders) best players at each position based on the numbers they have put up, up to this point.

    I have taken into account players' all-around offensive abilities, their defensive contributions and what they have meant to the success of their respective teams.

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

    So with that, here is a two-month look at the top players at each position. Expect these rankings to be drastically different from my preseason picks, and there is a good chance there will again be some significant changes the next time I put this together. Still an awful lot of baseball to be played here in 2014.


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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Top 10 Catchers

    1. Jonathan Lucroy, MIL203.325.87721324222.6
    2. Yadier Molina, STL107.305.79012523221.5
    3. Devin Mesoraco, CIN89.3511.0778825151.9
    4. Derek Norris, OAK128.289.8678525171.5
    5. Evan Gattis, ATL143.252.82841124170.8
    6. Carlos Ruiz, PHI159.283.79113110231.6
    7. Chris Iannetta, LAA110.255.8357517161.2
    8. Yan Gomes, CLE172.262.7368619241.5
    9. Kurt Suzuki, MIN162.290.74810228130.9
    10. Buster Posey, SF174.264.7423726241.1

    Position Overview

    A strong case can be made for Jonathan Lucroy being the most underrated player in baseball right now. The 27-year-old hit .280 with 25 doubles, 18 home runs and 82 RBI last season, and he has been even better in the early-going this season. It is not likely that he will edge out Yadier Molina in NL All-Star voting, but he certainly deserves to make his first Midsummer Classic appearance this year.

    Speaking of Molina, he has been terrific once again this year, as he remains the leader on the St. Louis Cardinals roster and the best all-around catcher in the game today.

    Behind those two, a trio of guys seeing everyday action for the first time in Devin Mesoraco, Derek Norris and Evan Gattis are all thriving offensively in expanded roles. Mesoraco has missed 22 games to injury this year, but is still among the statistical leaders at the position.

    Yan Gomes is one of the better defensive backstops around and has some pop, while veterans Carlos Ruiz, Chris Iannetta and Kurt Suzuki are all off to better-than-expected starts.

    Buster Posey edges out Matt Wieters for the final spot, as Wieters has the better numbers but may be out for the season with a shoulder injury. Posey has not been as good at the dish this year, but with an improved lineup around him he has not needed to be.

First Basemen

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Top 10 First Basemen

    1. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR221.271.974151950402.7
    2. Miguel Cabrera, DET 195.325.928181049302.0
    3. Brandon Moss, OAK185.276.934111346282.2
    4. Freddie Freeman, ATL 209.297.90016931350.9
    5. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI234.299.875221038421.8
    6. Jose Abreu, CWS 177.260.915111644301.1
    7. Albert Pujols, LAA 221.253.820141433331.4
    8. Adam LaRoche, WAS137.321.9346727221.1
    9. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD216.269.841131238311.1
    10. Justin Morneau, COL197.299.876141034231.0

    Position Overview

    After hitting just two home runs in April, Edwin Encarnacion exploded for 16 long balls and 33 RBI in May, helping propel the Toronto Blue Jays to the top of the AL East standings in the process. Alongside Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays have perhaps the most dangerous duo in the game.

    Miguel Cabrera has also caught fire after a slow start to the season, and with Victor Martinez putting up great numbers behind him, he has not missed Prince Fielder nearly as much as many predicted. It looks like he will again be in the mix for AL MVP honors.

    A late-bloomer, Brandon Moss, has quietly emerged as one of the better power hitters in baseball, as he ranks 18th in the MLB, with 64 home runs since the start of the 2012 season.

    Cuban defector Jose Abreu got off to a red hot start this season, winning AL Player of the Month in April, but landed on the disabled list with an ankle injury. He is back healthy now, and he picked up right where he left off, with a home run in his return to the lineup on Monday.

    Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman are two of the game's budding superstars, while veterans Adam LaRoche, Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Morneau are showing they still have plenty left in the tank.

Second Basemen

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Top 10 Second Basemen

    1. Chase Utley, PHI207.319.89523427312.1
    2. Ian Kinsler, DET224.304.77419423382.1
    3. Jose Altuve, HOU245.318.78817217301.9
    4. Robinson Cano, SEA205.327.79011231241.1
    5. Brian Dozier, MIN221.235.76091128451.7
    6. Howie Kendrick, LAA221.294.77110324321.8
    7. Dee Gordon, LAD218.280.7029114301.3
    8. Neil Walker, PIT222.279.80381032270.7
    9. Dustin Pedroia, BOS227.273.72818217321.7
    10. Daniel Murphy, NYM235.294.75414321350.8

    Position Overview

    A healthy Chase Utley has been head and shoulders above the rest of the National League second base crop this season, as the 35-year-old continues to show why he is one of the best offensive second basemen in the history of the game.

    In the American League, the field is incredibly deep this season, as staples Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia will have some competition for All-Star spots from Jose Altuve, Brian Dozier, Howie Kendrick and Ian Kinsler.

    Cano and Kinsler both joined new teams in the offseason, and while Cano has not shown much power to this point, both have provided their new offenses with a significant boost.

    Behind Utley, the NL crop is fairly thin, though Dee Gordon has turned some heads with his speed as he leads the league with 34 stolen bases on 37 attempts and has done a great job after entering spring training without a clear-cut everyday job.

    Neil Walker and Daniel Murphy round out the list here as they continue to be plus offensive options at the position, with Walker leading NL second basemen with 10 home runs and Murphy still one of the more overlooked bats in the league.

Third Basemen

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Top 10 Third Basemen

    1. Josh Donaldson, OAK222.284.927121548484.6
    2. Todd Frazier, CIN201.269.827141029301.9
    3. Nolan Arenado, COL190.305.82317628271.8
    4. Kyle Seager, SEA220.272.85712936241.9
    5. Trevor Plouffe, MIN213.249.74920534281.4
    6. Yangervis Solarte, NYY181.298.83012626231.2
    7. Matt Carpenter, STL231.286.74014118371.1
    8. Adrian Beltre, TEX165.291.79610520271.0
    9. David Wright, NYM243.296.74814432271.1
    10. Anthony Rendon, WAS217.263.75111627351.4

    Position Overview

    Arguably the biggest All-Stars snub of 2013, Josh Donaldson is currently leading the AL voting at third base this season by a sizable margin, and rightfully so as he has been fantastic once again this season after a fourth-place finish in AL MVP voting last year.

    Nolan Arenado was on his way to a breakout season for the Colorado Rockies before going down with a fractured finger, leaving Todd Frazier as the clear standout at the hot corner in the NL.

    Behind those three, the position has been relatively weak as a whole, with staples like David Wright, Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria off to relatively slow starts and Miguel Cabrera sliding over to first base this year.

    Trevor Plouffe has been part a key part of a better-than-expected Minnesota Twins' offense, while Matt Carpenter continues to be a spark plug atop the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup after moving over from second base.

    Yangervis Solarte remains the biggest out-of-nowhere player of the year, Kyle Seager remains a quiet contributor in Seattle and Anthony Rendon has started to break out after supplanting Ryan Zimmerman at third. He played primarily second base last year, but is a third baseman by trade.


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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Top 10 Shortstops

    1. Troy Tulowitzki, COL180.3501.111121437454.5
    2. Alexei Ramirez, CWS224.326.8368736322.7
    3. Xander Bogaerts, BOS203.300.83415415281.7
    4. Jhonny Peralta, STL201.229.73012924242.1
    5. Hanley Ramirez, LAD211.261.80517932280.9
    6. Jimmy Rollins, PHI199.251.7497622281.4
    7. Erick Aybar, LAA213.277.73414431271.9
    8. Chris Owings, ARI175.263.7011039171.5
    9. Brandon Crawford, SF182.236.73110626211.4
    10. Starlin Castro, CHC217.272.75413726240.7

    Position Overview

    When healthy, Troy Tulowitzki remains the best all-around shortstop in the game, and he has been on an absolute tear to open 2014. A ridiculous .521/.600/.959 line at home has certainly helped his overall offensive numbers, but he also leads all shortstops with 12 defensive runs saved and is second with a 16.9 UZR/150, according to FanGraphs.

    Tulo is in a class of his own at this point, but a trio of veterans in Alexei Ramirez, Jhonny Peralta and Jimmy Rollins are all having plus seasons at the plate in their own right.

    Hanley Ramirez was an absolute stud after finally getting healthy last season, and after a slow start he has finally started to pick things up at the plate this year. He is playing for his next contract, and is likely headed for a huge pay day.

    Boston Red Sox phenom Xander Bogaerts will slide over to third base following the signing of Stephen Drew, but the 21-year-old still qualifies as a shortstop at this point, and his offensive game has been as good as advertised.

    Chris Owings is among the front-runners for NL Rookie of the Year honors, Brandon Crawford is providing some offense along with his plus glove, the speedy Erick Aybar has been a catalyst for the Los Angeles Angels and Starlin Castro is enjoying a nice bounce back season for the rebuilding Chicago Cubs.


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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Top 15 Outfielders

    1. Giancarlo Stanton, MIA211.3131.022131651414.2
    2. Yasiel Puig, LAD203.3401.036151140322.7
    3. Nelson Cruz, BAL204.3141.055132052392.3
    4. Carlos Gomez, MIL205.312.954151132362.8
    5. Jose Bautista, TOR206.3111.00091440433.2
    6. Mike Trout, LAA204.294.929111138343.3
    7. Justin Upton, ATL193.301.955121333291.7
    8. Andrew McCutchen, PIT207.304.89415525282.3
    9. Seth Smith, SD155.310.96813621232.6
    10. Angel Pagan, SF199.327.81313317311.9
    11. A.J. Pollock, ARI177.316.92016615283.1
    12. Ryan Braun, MIL157.318.93810928281.4
    13. Michael Brantley, CLE215.302.86613940371.7
    14. Mike Morse, SF183.295.925161138281.3
    15. Charlie Blackmon, COL203.310.85991038361.9

    Position Overview

    A case can be made for Giancarlo Stanton, Yasiel Puig or Nelson Cruz for the top spot on these outfielder rankings. Puig has them both beat in batting average by a decent margin, Cruz leads all of baseball in home runs and RBI but it's Stanton at No. 1 as he also ranks second among outfielders with 13 defensive runs saved, according to FanGraphs.

    Behind those three, Carlos Gomez has continued his ascension to stardom with a hot start to this season, a healthy Jose Bautista has been an absolute beast at the plate once again and even with his strikeout rate up and batting average down Mike Trout is still one of the best all-around players in baseball.

    The streaky Justin Upton is off to a hot start once again, though there are legitimate questions as to whether he can keep it up based on his track record. Andrew McCutchen is once again shouldering the offensive load for the Pirates, while the return of Ryan Braun to the lineup has certainly made a difference for the surprise Milwaukee Brewers.

    Long one of the best platoon outfielders in baseball, Seth Smith has been a revelation in his first season in San Diego. He is not the only breakout candidate among outfielders, as Michael Brantley looks like a good bet to make his first All-Star appearance, A.J. Pollock was off to a phenomenal start before suffering a fractured right hand and Charlie Blackmon has taken the vacant center field job in Colorado and run with it.

    Finally, there is the San Francisco Giants duo of Angle Pagan and Mike Morse. The former is a spark plug atop the lineup and as important to the team's success as anyone, and the latter has been one of the steals of the offseason, providing some much needed pop out of what had been an anemic left field situation.

Right-Handed Starting Pitchers

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Top 10 Right-Handed Starting Pitchers

    1. Johnny Cueto, CIN91.05-41.680.76.15121923.2
    2. Masahiro Tanaka, NYY78.28-
    3. Adam Wainwright, STL85.18-32.320.91.19817812.4
    4. Yu Darvish, TEX69.15-
    5. Tim Hudson, SF77.16-21.750.87.2098502.6
    6. Julio Teheran, ATL83.25-31.830.93.19520662.6
    7. Felix Hernandez, SEA91.08-12.571.03.22916911.9
    8. Zack Greinke, LAD72.08-22.501.13.23816831.9
    9. Sonny Gray, OAK80.26-12.451.15.22427651.8
    10. Corey Kluber, CLE80.06-

    Position Overview

    When the groundwork for this article was being laid over the weekend, Adam Wainwright looked like the clear choice for the top spot here, but a rough start last time out against the San Francisco Giants opened things up for Johnny Cueto and Masahiro Tanaka to pass him.

    If the season were to end today, those two would likely take home Cy Young honors in their respective leagues, as it is fair to say Cueto is all the way back from the injuries that plagued him last year and Tanaka has been worth every penny of the monster deal he received in the offseason.

    Yu Darvish improved his stock with a terrific start last time out on Sunday, and he remains one of the game's true aces. The same can be said for Felix Hernandez, while youngsters like Julio Teheran and Sonny Gray represent the next wave of elite arms.

    Tim Hudson has been arguably the best signing of the offseason after agreeing to a two-year, $23 million deal and Corey Kluber may still be the most underrated starter in all of baseball, as he ranks second in the AL with a 2.22 FIP and first with 95 strikeouts.

    Andrew Cashner, Jeff Samardzija, Max Scherzer, Kyle Lohse, Jason Hammel, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Michael Wacha, Jesse Chavez, Stephen Strasburg, Josh Beckett, Wily Peralta, Garrett Richards, Nathan Eovaldi and Aaron Harang all cracked the preliminary list here, but alas there were only 10 spots and they did not make the cut.

Left-Handed Starting Pitchers

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Top 10 Left-Handed Starting Pitchers

    1. Mark Buehrle, TOR81.110-
    2. Dallas Keuchel, HOU76.26-32.701.02.22715643.0
    3. Scott Kazmir, OAK68.26-22.360.96.21213531.7
    4. Chris Sale, CWS45.15-01.590.60.1268522.4
    5. C.J. Wilson, LAA76.26-
    6. Jon Niese, NYM70.13-32.691.17.23820511.4
    7. Madison Bumgarner, SF72.27-32.851.25.26918851.0
    8. Jon Lester, BOS80.06-
    9. Cliff Lee, PHI68.04-
    10. Clayton Kershaw, LAD43.14-23.321.08.2417550.9

    Position Overview

    Heading into the season, veterans Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, Cliff Lee and Jon Lester sat atop the left-handed starting pitching ranks and were all legitimate candidates to be considered among the top 10 starting pitchers in baseball.

    While all five still crack this list, Sale ranks the highest at No. 4, as he has the best numbers of any southpaw starter right now, but has to be docked for the month he missed with an elbow strain.

    Supplanting that group from the top three spots is the unlikely trio of Mark Buehrle, Dallas Keuchel and Scott Kazmir.

    The 35-year-old Buehrle has an average fastball clocking in at 83.3 MPH, according to FanGraphs, but has managed to use his command and savvy to become the first 10-game winner of the season. Keuchel was 9-18 with a 5.20 ERA entering the season for the Houston Astros, while Scott Kazmir has continued his career renaissance after joining the Oakland A's on a three-year deal.

    Rounding out the group are C.J. Wilson and Jon Niese, both of whom have been the best pitchers in their respective rotation, which is saying something with the Angels ranking 10th in starter's ERA and the Mets coming in at 13th.

Non-Closer Relievers

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Top 10 Non-Closer Relievers

    1. Dellin Betances, NYY233-061.380.7315.42.51.3
    2. Jean Machi, SF265-060.330.777.72.01.4
    3. Zach Britton, BAL233-070.910.915.82.71.4
    4. Wade Davis, KC224-181.420.7915.33.61.1
    5. Will Smith, MIL290-0120.351.1512.53.81.3
    6. Pat Neshek, STL271-070.730.539.91.11.2
    7. Jake McGee, TB272-061.050.7410.22.11.3
    8. Sean Doolittle, OAK 251-252.770.7713.20.40.5
    9. Drew Storen, WAS232-171.370.719.21.20.8
    10. Fernando Abad, OAK260-251.990.799.13.20.4

    Position Overview

    Ranked as high as the No. 43 prospect in baseball heading into the 2011 season, Dellin Betances never quite panned out as a starter, but he has found a home at the back of the New York Yankee bullpen this season. With David Robertson moving to closer, his emergence in the eighth inning role has been huge.

    Another pair of failed starters in Zach Britton and Wade Davis are also enjoying breakout seasons as late-inning relievers, with Britton recently stepping into the closer's role for the Baltimore Orioles after Tommy Hunter was shelved with an injury.

    The San Francisco Giants got a breakout season from Jean Machi last year, when he posted a 2.38 ERA over 51 appearances, but the 32-year-old has taken things to another level this season with the best ERA among anyone with over 10 innings pitched.

    Left-handers Will Smith and Fernando Abad were both acquired via trade in the offseason. Pat Neshek caught on with a minor league deal in St. Louis, and all three have been integral pieces of their respective bullpens.

    Jake McGee and Sean Doolittle entered the season as two of the better setup men in the game and have kept it up, and former closer Drew Storen looks to have gotten his career back on track after dealing with injuries in 2012 and posting a 4.52 ERA last year.


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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Top 10 Closers

    1. Huston Street, SD221-017/171.230.779.82.91.0
    2. Craig Kimbrel, ATL220-115/171.771.0316.44.00.5
    3. Koji Uehara, BOS241-111/110.760.8012.91.11.4
    4. F. Rodriguez, MIL272-117/192.330.9310.32.00.8
    5. Greg Holland, KC220-115/161.741.0613.12.60.8
    6. Rafael Soriano, WAS221-011/120.821.
    7. Joakim Soria, TEX211-211/122.250.7012.21.40.6
    8. Casey Janssen, TOR100-08/90.000.805.40.90.7
    9. Sergio Romo, SF243-117/193.520.877.42.00.1
    10. Glen Perkins, MIN242-014/162.960.9912.21.10.7

    Position Overview

    Craig Kimbrel still has some of the nastiest stuff in baseball, evidenced by his 37 strikeouts in 20.1 innings, but veteran Huston Street has been the best closer in baseball so far this season. The San Diego Padres hold a very reasonable $7 million option on him next season, but he could be a valuable trade chip come July.

    Behind those two, Koji Uehara and Greg Holland have been dominant once again this year after terrific seasons in 2013. Their respective teams have been somewhat disappointing so far, but through no fault of their own.

    Francisco Rodriguez re-signed with the Milwaukee Brewers on a one-year, $3.25 million, presumably to be a setup man, but he has instead thrived in the ninth inning role for a terrific Brewers bullpen.

    Rafael Soriano, Sergio Romo and Glen Perkins have all been plus options once again, as each have made the All-Star team at one point or another in their career.

    Joakim Soria has returned to elite form after spending last season as a setup man for Joe Nathan in Texas. Casey Janssen has been a clear X-factor for the Toronto Blue Jays, with the team going 16-4 since he returned from a back injury that cost him the first 37 games of the season.

    Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted, and updated through Monday, June 2nd.

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