MLB

Position-by-Position MLB Player Rankings Heading into the All-Star Break

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2014

Position-by-Position MLB Player Rankings Heading into the All-Star Break

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    Position-by-position MLB power rankings will once again be a staple this year, and as we head for the All-Star break, it's time for another update.

    My preseason rankings came out March 7, with subsequent updates coming on April 17June 3 and July 4.

    What follows is a look at the best players at each position based on their performance this season. Past reputation and future projections mean nothing here; it's all about what these guys have done in 2014.

    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.

    Included in my statistics is each player's Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement or WAR. 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.

    With that said, here is a look at the best players each position has to offer heading into the All-Star break. With so much change from the first rankings to midseason, it will be interesting to see how different these are by season's end.

     

    *Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and cover games through Thursday, July 10.

Catchers

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    Top 10 Catchers (All-Star selections in bold)

    NameBAOPS2BHRRBIRWARPrev
    1. Jonathan Lucroy, MIL.323.89731944434.31
    2. Devin Mesoraco, CIN.305.974141543303.02
    3. Derek Norris, OAK.302.89512837272.53
    4. Salvador Perez, KC.282.766171135373.25
    5. Evan Gattis, ATL.290.900101639292.04
    6. Yan Gomes, CLE.260.732121133362.38
    7. Buster Posey, SF.279.75815942331.96
    8. Miguel Montero, ARI.265.765131152321.57
    9. Kurt Suzuki, MIN.307.75918235252.210
    10. Yadier Molina, STL.287.75116730301.79

     

    Position Overview

    Though he was not voted to start the All-Star Game on the NL side, Jonathan Lucroy remains the best all-around catcher in baseball this season. He flew under the radar to hit .280 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI last year, and he's finally starting to get the recognition he deserves.

    A trio of guys who are 26 years old or younger follow the 28-year-old Lucroy on the list in Devin Mesoraco (26), Derek Norris (25) and Salvador Perez (24), as the future of the position certainly looks to be in good hands. Mesoraco in particular has put up huge offensive numbers this season, despite missing 22 games due to injury early on this year.

    Slugger Evan Gattis has helped the Braves make a seamless transition to the post-Brian McCann era, while Kurt Suzuki has been phenomenal in taking over for Joe Mauer on a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Twins.

    Yan Gomes and Yadier Molina are both elite defensive options who can swing it as well, though the Cardinals will be without Molina for 8-12 weeks after the team announced that he would need thumb surgery.

    Buster Posey is not on an MVP pace, but he is still putting up solid numbers in a vastly improved Giants offense. Miguel Montero has rebounded nicely from a disappointing .662 OPS last season and is again one of the better offensive backstops in the National League.

First Basemen

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 First Basemen

    NameBAOPS2BHRRBIRWARPrev
    1. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI.312.962351661664.32
    2. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR.277.959212670573.01
    3. Miguel Cabrera, DET.315.926341473573.13
    4. Anthony Rizzo, CHC.277.892142049592.86
    5. Jose Abreu, CWS.287.966202871482.54
    6. Brandon Moss, OAK.272.879171963432.85
    7. Matt Adams, STL.336.886221038292.610
    8. Freddie Freeman, ATL.299.890271350622.38
    9. Adam LaRoche, WAS.289.867111247392.17
    10. Justin Morneau, COL.313.855201359361.99

     

    Position Overview

    The first base position has been even deeper than normal this season, making for a number of notable All-Star snubs at the position. That said, there's no doubt the top spot currently belongs to Paul Goldschmidt, who is again having a monster season in the middle of the Diamondbacks lineup.

    Edwin Encarnacion slides in just ahead of Miguel Cabrera thanks to a big first half in the power department. Cabrera is not quite putting up the monster power numbers he has the past few years but is well on his way to another MVP-caliber campaign, nonetheless.

    The city of Chicago has a pair of good ones in Anthony Rizzo and Jose Abreu, as they head the second tier of first basemen. Rizzo is enjoying a breakout year for the Cubs, while Abreu has taken the league by storm after signing a six-year, $68 million deal with the White Sox following his defection from Cuba.

    Brandon Moss and Freddie Freeman are again having big seasons after ranking among the best at the position last year, while Matt Adams has been the Cardinals' best hitter this season in his first opportunity at everyday at-bats.

    Veterans Adam LaRoche and Justin Morneau round out the list, as they are both putting up better numbers than expected and were notable All-Star snubs. Albert Pujols (.810 OPS, 20 HR, 62 RBI) just misses the cut, though he may be the front-runner for AL Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Second Basemen

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 Second Basemen

    NameBAOPS2BHRRBIRWARPrev
    1. Ian Kinsler, DET.305.816261149643.81
    2. Jose Altuve, HOU.339.81527227473.32
    3. Robinson Cano, SEA.327.83421652473.43
    4. Chase Utley, PHI.294.80424846503.14
    5. Brian Dozier, MIN.234.750141640662.65
    6. Daniel Murphy, NYM.297.76523737551.97
    7. Dee Gordon, LAD.298.75814225502.38
    8. Dustin Pedroia, BOS.279.72625434492.89
    9. Scooter Gennett, MIL.301.81021729361.46
    10. Howie Kendrick, LAA.286.73217442492.2NR

     

    Position Overview

    This one is awfully close at the top, as a case can be made for Ian Kinsler, Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano all being the top second baseman in the league right now.

    With all of them residing in the American League, snubbing was inevitable, and Kinsler wound up left off the AL All-Star roster. He claims the No. 1 spot here though, as he has made the Tigers decision to deal Prince Fielder look like a stroke of genius.

    Altuve is essentially No. 1A for the sake of this argument, as he leads the AL in hits (127) and steals (41) as the star of the rebuilding Astros. Cano has struggled to find his power stroke but is still a big reason why the Mariners are in the thick of things in the AL playoff picture.

    Chase Utley is having a solid season once again despite cooling off a bit following his red-hot start, while Brian Dozier is well on his way to a 20/20 season and could challenge for 30/30 while playing plus defense.

    Daniel Murphy is tied for the NL lead in hits (112), Dee Gordon leads the NL in steals (42) and Scooter Gennett led all of baseball with a .397 average in June. Veterans Howie Kendrick and Dustin Pedroia round out the list, and they have similar numbers across the board, though Pedroia has the edge on intangibles. 

Third Basemen

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    Beck Diefenbach/Associated Press

    Top 10 Third Basemen

    NameBAOPS2BHRRBIRWARPrev
    1. Josh Donaldson, OAK.241.781132065604.61
    2. Adrian Beltre, TEX.341.930201350503.54
    3. Todd Frazier, CIN.289.842171748553.32
    4. Kyle Seager, SEA.276.834211461373.83
    5. Anthony Rendon, WAS.285.830221352633.15
    6. Lonnie Chisenhall, CLE.324.90420940371.86
    7. Casey McGehee, MIA.320.77920153351.610
    8. Matt Carpenter, STL.286.76722433582.87
    9. Aramis Ramirez, MIL.282.790101141300.69
    10. Pablo Sandoval, SF.264.728141037392.58

     

    Position Overview

    Despite a nasty June slump (.181 BA, .509 OPS), Josh Donaldson remains the top third baseman in baseball this season. He's well on his way to career highs in home runs and RBI, and he currently sits tied for second in all of baseball with 17 defensive runs saved (Jason Heyward leads with 26), according to FanGraphs.

    Adrian Beltre has caught fire after a slow start and is again one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball, while Todd Frazier and Kyle Seager have established themselves as two of the better all-around options at the hot corner this year.

    Anthony Rendon is back playing second base now, but he has still played far more games at third base this season. He's taken a big step forward after a promising rookie season, cashing in on the potential that made him so highly regarded when the Nationals took him with the No. 6 pick in the 2011 draft.

    The chance at an everyday job appeared to have slipped away from Lonnie Chisenhall heading into this season, but instead he currently sits sixth in the AL with a .324 average. Behind him is veteran Casey McGehee, who has been as big a surprise as anyone after spending last season playing in Japan, ranking fourth in the NL in batting average and eighth in RBI.

    Matt Carpenter, Aramis Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval round out the list, slotting just ahead of Rays star Evan Longoria (.262 BA, .735 OPS, 2.1 WAR).

Shortstops

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Top 10 Shortstops

    NameBAOPS2BHRRBIRWARPrev
    1. Troy Tulowitzki, COL.3501.057172049705.71
    2. Hanley Ramirez, LAD.275.836231148451.92
    3. Starlin Castro, CHC.280.773261152411.33
    4. Jhonny Peralta, STL.242.760241340333.55
    5. Erick Aybar, LAA.282.73422648463.06
    6. Chris Owings, ARI.277.77115621262.27
    7. Ian Desmond, WAS.241.722131655351.4NR
    8. Alexei Ramirez, CWS.283.72015841452.34
    9. Alcides Escobar, KC.283.71124228411.89
    10. Brandon Crawford, SF.241.73113736351.68

     

    Position Overview

    You can't praise Troy Tulowitzki this year without mentioning his drastic home/road splits, as the Rockies star is raking at home (.433/.514/.767, 13 HR) while posting just mediocre numbers on the road (.265/.367/.463, 7 HR). That said, he's still been by far the best all-around shortstop in baseball this season.

    Hanley Ramirez is not putting up the same monster offensive numbers he did a year ago, but he still ranks (a distant) second to Tulowitzki in OPS among shortstops.

    Starlin Castro, Jhonny Peralta and Ian Desmond have all provided plus power for their respective lineups. Castro in particular has been terrific, bouncing back from a minus-0.6 WAR season last year to once again look like a cornerstone piece for the rebuilding Cubs.

    Veterans Erick Aybar and Alexei Ramirez are both first-time All-Stars this season and are deserving of some recognition after years of consistent production for the Angels and White Sox, respectively.

    Chris Owings was a factor in the NL Rookie of the Year race before going down with a shoulder injury and will look to return with a strong second half. Glove-first guys Alcides Escobar and Brandon Crawford have both put up respectable offensive numbers this season, earning them the final two spots here.

Outfielders

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Top 15 Outfielders

    NameBAOPS2BHRRBIRWARPrev
    1. Mike Trout, LAA.3101.003242168635.31
    2. Andrew McCutchen, PIT.318.954261458514.04
    3. Giancarlo Stanton, MIA.299.943212163614.92
    4. Jose Bautista, TOR.292.922161752573.63
    5. Michael Brantley, CLE.327.911221462613.97
    6. Yasiel Puig, LAD.306.911251250523.08
    7. Carlos Gomez, MIL.299.871231446533.35
    8. Alex Gordon, KC.268.77224944473.69
    9. Hunter Pence, SF.304.841201233653.012
    10. Adam Jones, BAL.304.821191654533.010
    11. Seth Smith, SD.281.892201027353.315
    12. Ryan Braun, MIL.291.848181149452.014
    13. Justin Upton, ATL.277.845171750431.613
    14. J.D. Martinez, DET.3351.021171241262.0NR
    15. Corey Dickerson, COL.327.981141134371.8NR

     

    Position Overview

    The foursome of Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Bautista represent the cream of the outfield crop this season. All four are bona fide superstars and rank in the top 12 in all of baseball in OPS.

    Just behind that group is a budding star in Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley, who has earned himself a four-year, $25 million extension with a strong season last year and has taken his game to another level in 2014.

    Yasiel Puig and Carlos Gomez remain dynamic all-around talents, though Puig has slumped of late, failing to homer in June. Defensive-whiz Alex Gordon hits enough to warrant a spot in the top 10, as he is one of the most complete outfielders in baseball.

    The scrappy Hunter Pence and Orioles star Adam Jones round out the top 10, as both are once again having strong seasons and rightfully earned All-Star nods.

    Seth Smith has managed to put up impressive numbers despite being surrounded by baseball's worst offense in San Diego, and the Padres locked him up with a two-year, $13 million extension. He's followed by a pair of consistent offensive contributors in Justin Upton and Ryan Braun, who are both having their standard strong seasons.

    While they have both only moved into everyday roles relatively recently, J.D. Martinez (176 AB) and Corey Dickerson (202 AB) have the numbers to earn the final two spots on this list, and they could continue to climb.

Designated Hitters

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Top 5 Designated Hitters

    NameBAOPS2BHRRBIRWARPrev
    1. Nelson Cruz, BAL.291.939172874552.96 (OF)
    2. Victor Martinez, DET.328.991192155452.7NR
    3. David Ortiz, BOS.258.844171958351.3NR
    4. Adam Dunn, CWS.226.800141334320.4NR
    5. C.J. Cron, LAA.283.8188927220.0NR

     

    Position Overview

    This time around, we add a DH slide to these rankings, as it's only fair that those guys get their due as well. With only one league featuring the DH, we'll keep things to a top five, but there are some big names here.

    Nelson Cruz was previously featured among the outfielders, but he has technically played more games at DH (42) than left field (40) or right field (8), so he moves to the DH category.

    It's essentially a coin toss as to who belongs in the top spot, but Cruz gets the nod thanks to his AL-leading 28 home runs and 73 RBI. For what it's worth, Victor Martinez ranks second in the AL in OPS (.991) and has been huge hitting out of the cleanup spot for the Tigers this year.

    David Ortiz is having a down year from a batting average standpoint but is still among the leaders in home runs and RBI here in his age-38 season.

    Adam Dunn will likely never hit over .250 again, but the power is still there, and the free-agent-to-be could be moved at the deadline. Rookie C.J. Cron rounds out the group here, as he has provided a similar game to what Mark Trumbo did for the Angels the past few seasons.

Right-Handed Starting Pitchers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 Right-Handed Starting Pitchers

    NameW-LERAWHIPBAAKWARPrev
    1. Adam Wainwright, STL11-41.790.924.2011114.72
    2. Johnny Cueto, CIN9-62.030.879.1801343.41
    3. Felix Hernandez, SEA10-22.110.895.2011454.04
    4. Masahiro Tanaka, NYY12-42.511.005.2311354.23
    5. Jake Arrieta, CHC5-11.781.019.209793.110
    6. Julio Teheran, ATL8-62.571.028.2221103.15
    7. Garrett Richards, LAA10-22.711.066.1961193.1NR
    8. Zack Greinke, LAD11-52.731.171.2571273.08
    9. Henderson Alvarez, MIA6-32.271.243.274703.09
    10. Yu Darvish, TEX8-52.971.214.2331423.06

     

    Position Overview

    Until Clayton Kershaw rattled off his phenomenal 41-inning scoreless streak, the title of best pitcher in the National League looked like a two-man race between Adam Wainwright and Johnny Cueto. Cueto was the stud early on and still leads all of baseball with a .180 BAA, but it's Wainwright who has the better all-around numbers at this point.

    Just behind those two is Felix Hernandez, who is in the middle of the best season of his fantastic career. He hasn't had an ERA under 3.00 since his Cy Young season in 2010, but he looks to be well on his way to doing that this year.

    Masahiro Tanaka looked like a shoo-in for AL Rookie of the Year honors (all due respect to Jose Abreu) and a serious candidate to push Hernandez for AL Cy Young, until general manager Brian Cashman announced in a Thursday conference call with the media that Tanaka has a partial tear of his UCL. He'll attempt to rehab the injury, a six-week process, but could still wind up needing Tommy John surgery.

    Jake Arrieta rounds out the top five as perhaps the biggest surprise of any starting pitcher this season. In his last seven starts, he's gone 4-0 with an 0.99 ERA, 0.750 WHIP and 10.5 K/9.

    Garrett Richards joins the list after being the first man out last time around, and after losing out the Final Vote to Chris Sale he may be the biggest All-Star snub among pitchers. Zack Greinke has again given the Dodgers a bona fide second ace, while Henderson Alvarez has stepped in the lead role for the Marlins after Jose Fernandez went down.

    Yu Darvish takes the final spot over the likes of Corey Kluber, Jeff Samardzija, Rick Porcello, Alfredo Simon, Sonny Gray, Josh Beckett, Tim Hudson, Max Scherzer and Chris Young.

Left-Handed Starting Pitchers

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Top 10 Left-Handed Starting Pitchers

    NameW-LERAWHIPBAAKWARPrev
    1. Clayton Kershaw, LAD11-21.780.830.1911264.21
    2. Chris Sale, CWS8-12.080.842.1901024.22
    3. Scott Kazmir, OAK11-32.380.980.2061083.03
    4. Jon Lester, BOS9-72.651.140.2431342.59
    5. David Price, TB8-73.421.088.2441591.66
    6. Dallas Keuchel, HOU9-53.201.188.256873.14
    7. Mark Buehrle, TOR10-62.601.245.260704.07
    8. Cole Hamels, PHI3-52.871.226.2401012.610
    9. Madison Bumgarner, SF9-73.361.235.2541231.25
    10. Jon Niese, NYM5-42.961.210.250741.88

     

    Position Overview

    Really, what can you say about Clayton Kershaw at this point? He finally gave up a run on Thursday night, snapping his scoreless-inning streak at 41, but still went out and threw a complete game with just three hits allowed and 11 strikeouts. He's somehow found a way to get even better this year, and that's a terrifying proposition for the rest of the league.

    As good as Kershaw has been, Chris Sale is not as far behind as some might think in the conversation for best left-hander in baseball. He leads the AL in ERA, WHIP and BAA, as he has put any concerns about an early season elbow strain to rest.

    Behind those two studs, Scott Kazmir has been the best of the rest. After spending the 2012 season pitching in the independent league, he was one of baseball's best stories last year, and he is now throwing the ball better than he ever did in his prime with the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Veterans Jon Lester, David Price, Cole Hamels and Madison Bumgarner have again been the aces of their respective staffs, while 35-year-old Mark Buehrle is having the best season of his career right now atop the Blue Jays rotation.

    Despite currently residing on the disabled list, Jon Niese takes the final spot, edging out Danny Duffy, Jose Quintana and Jason Vargas.

Non-Closer Relievers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Top 10 Non-Closer Relievers

    NameGW-LHLDERAWHIPK/9WARPrev
    1. Dellin Betances, NYY394-0121.520.73113.72.21
    2. Pat Neshek, STL423-0130.730.5418.81.83
    3. Wade Davis, KC355-2161.190.82314.31.92
    4. Tony Watson, PIT435-0220.840.93810.31.97
    5. Jonathan Broxton, CIN324-0130.870.8065.81.46
    6. Joaquin Benoit, SD373-1151.910.74310.31.14
    7. Jake McGee, TB443-0111.560.89310.71.75
    8. Darren O'Day, BAL402-1141.111.0089.32.0NR
    9. Neil Ramirez, CHC281-181.090.89212.01.18
    10. Zach Duke, MIL424-081.230.92711.51.4NR

     

    Position Overview

    Considering that at any given time there are roughly 180 non-closer relievers active in the big leagues, narrowing that field down to just 10 is not easy. That said, there is little question that Dellin Betances has been the best of the group so far. The 6'8" rookie has reinvented himself in the bullpen and has been absolutely lights out as one of the few bright spots on the Yankees' staff.

    Pat Neshek and Tony Watson join Betances as middle relievers to earn a trip to the All-Star Game, and both were certainly deserving of the honor. A strong case can be made for Wade Davis belonging in Minnesota as well, but getting three of these guys onto the rosters is fairly rare in itself.

    Jonathan Broxton has had a nice bounce-back season after missing significant time last year, while Joaquin Benoit has proven to be a great signing for the Padres after many questioned the move this offseason.

    Veterans Jake McGee and Darren O'Day remain two of the better late-inning arms in the American League, with many feeling McGee was more deserving than David Price of being the Rays' All-Star representative.

    Cubs rookie Neil Ramirez, who was acquired in the Matt Garza trade last year, has been the best arm in what's been a surprisingly good bullpen for the North Siders. Zach Duke rounds out the list, as he has completed the transition from starter to reliable reliever.

Closers

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Top 10 Closers

    NameGW-LSVERAWHIPK/9WARPrev
    1. Huston Street, SD321-023/241.120.7819.31.51
    2. Greg Holland, KC351-224/251.871.01013.91.43
    3. Koji Uehara, BOS425-218/201.650.75611.82.02
    4. Rafael Soriano, WAS361-021/231.000.8338.31.85
    5. J. Papelbon, PHI372-122/241.240.8537.92.16
    6. Zach Britton, BAL403-115/171.330.8877.01.89
    7. A. Chapman, CIN260-219/212.280.83117.60.88
    8. F. Rodriguez, MIL433-227/302.280.87710.41.34
    9. Craig Kimbrel, ATL370-128/321.960.90015.01.27
    10. Sean Doolittle, OAK411-313/162.980.68513.00.710

     

    Position Overview

    With just one blown save each, Huston Street and Greg Holland have been the most effective closers in their respective leagues so far this season. While Holland was named to the All-Star team along with five others on this list, Street ranks as one of the biggest snubs in either league.

    Koji Uehara blew his second save of the year on Thursday, or he would have challenged for the top spot on this list. His peripheral numbers are fantastic, and he has certainly proven that his breakout season last year was no fluke.

    A trio of arms from the NL East in Rafael Soriano, Jonathan Papelbon and Craig Kimbrel remain among the best in the business. Kimbrel has more blown saves (four) than anyone on this list, but he has converted 12-of-13 and is again putting up video game-like strikeout numbers.

    Aroldis Chapman has returned strong from a gruesome head injury during spring training, while Francisco Rodriguez has been a steal on the one-year, $3.25 million deal the Brewers gave him. The 32-year-old is an All-Star this year for the first time since 2010.

    Much like Joaquin Benoit, Koji Uehara and Edward Mujica last season, the duo of Zach Britton and Sean Doolittle both began the season in setup roles before necessity pushed them into ninth-inning duties. They've both been great, and Doolittle is a deserving All-Star if for no other reason than his 61-2 K/BB ratio.

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