Updating MLB's Top 100 Players at 2014's Three-Quarter Mark
We have reached what can be considered roughly the three-quarter mark of the 2014 MLB season, and that means it's time for an updated look at the top 100 players in the game.
That formula was changed for the midseason rankings, as we had a big enough sample size to base those solely on what has happened this season.
The three-quarter mark rankings will follow that same, simple formula, as only the numbers put up in 2014 were considered.
It's not about reputation—it's about production this season. Nothing else.
*When putting together the following rankings, I first went team by team and made a preliminary list of players to consider, including everyone who made the list last time around. I then whittled it down to 100 from there. The following guys made that preliminary list but did not crack the final 100.
Starting Pitchers (previous ranking in parenthesis)
Stephen Strasburg (26), Anibal Sanchez (37), Andrew Cashner (43), Mark Buehrle (54), Michael Wacha (57), Jesse Chavez (59), Phil Hughes (61), Jon Niese (72), Kyle Lohse (85), Alfredo Simon (93), Danny Duffy, Charlie Morton, Wily Peralta, Jose Quintana, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chris Tillman, Yordano Ventura, Jered Weaver, Zack Wheeler, Chris Young
*It's worth noting, I probably value relief pitchers lower than many others would. It's just hard for me to justify picking someone who will only play in less than 5 percent (assuming 70 IP) of his team's innings over a starting pitcher or position player who will make a significantly bigger impact. As such, a grand total of just 10 relievers made the cut for the top 100.
Sean Doolittle (45), Francisco Rodriguez (70), Joakim Soria (71), Rafael Soriano (73), Steve Cishek (77), Zach Britton (91), Jean Machi (94), Joaquin Benoit, Brad Boxberger, Jonathan Broxton, Tyler Clippard, Jeurys Familia, J.P. Howell, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, Andrew Miller, Darren O'Day, Glen Perkins, Neil Ramirez, David Robertson, Fernando Rodney, Trevor Rosenthal, Tony Watson
Evan Gattis (39), Yadier Molina (95), Buster Posey, Kurt Suzuki
Brandon Moss (31), Adam LaRoche (46), Lonnie Chisenhall (56), Justin Morneau (76), Nolan Arenado, Erick Aybar, Ian Desmond, Scooter Gennett, Conor Gillaspie, Brock Holt, Howie Kendrick, Manny Machado, Casey McGehee, Albert Pujols, Aramis Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Neil Walker, Ben Zobrist
Charlie Blackmon (44), Michael Morse (53), Angel Pagan (60), Alex Rios (74), Yoenis Cespedes (84), Ryan Braun, Marlon Byrd, Lorenzo Cain, Kole Calhoun, Jacoby Ellsbury, Billy Hamilton, Juan Lagares, Nick Markakis, Marcell Ozuna, Denard Span, George Springer, Jayson Werth, Christian Yelich
First Five Out
- Mark Buehrle
- Brock Holt
- Brandon Moss
- Wily Peralta
- Jose Quintana
100. RP Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 89)
There are closers with better numbers this season, but as far as lights-out stuff, Kimbrel is still as dominant as any late-inning reliever in the game. He has led the NL in saves each of the past three seasons and is currently tied for third in the NL in that category.
99. SP Josh Beckett, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 79)
After going a combined 7-19 with a 4.76 ERA in 36 starts over the past two seasons, Beckett had been one of the better comeback stories of 2014. We used past tense here because he's been lost for the season to a torn labrum, but he earned his place in the top 100 with what he did pre-injury, including a no-hitter.
98. DH David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (Previous: 97)
The .245 batting average and .338 on-base percentage are certainly not what fans are used to seeing out of Big Papi, but the 38-year-old is still an elite run producer. His 84 RBI are fourth in the AL, as he looks to top the 100 mark for the eighth time in his illustrious career.
97. RP Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals (Previous: 99)
Davis turned in an ugly season last year, going 8-11 with a 5.32 ERA in 31 games (24 starts) in his first season with the Royals. He's found a home at the back end of the bullpen, though, putting together a dominant season bridging the gap to All-Star closer Greg Holland.
96. SS Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox (Previous: 100)
A deserving first-time All-Star this year, Ramirez has quietly been one of the most consistent shortstops in the league since debuting in 2008. His 21.4 WAR over that span trails only Troy Tulowitzki (31.4) and Hanley Ramirez (26.2), and he is having the best season of his career this year.
95. SS Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 82)
He's not the MVP candidate he was last year, and he's currently sidelined with an oblique injury, but Ramirez has still been the most productive offensive shortstop not named Troy Tulowitzki. The 30-year-old is a free agent at the end of the year, and even with a drop in production, he's headed for a huge payday.
94. RP Pat Neshek, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 98)
One of the better stories of the year, Neshek turned a non-roster invite from the Cardinals into a trip to the All-Star Game. He has the same overpowering stuff that a lot of the team's young bullpen arms do, but he's undoubtedly been the Cardinals' most productive setup reliever.
93. SP Jacob deGrom, New York Mets (Previous: NR)
Entering the season, prospects like Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard received far more fanfare, but it's deGrom who has taken the NL by storm as a rookie this season. The 26-year-old has a 1.55 ERA in his last six starts, and he looked to be emerging as the NL Rookie of the Year front-runner, before landing on the DL with rotator cuff tendinitis.
92. C Derek Norris, Oakland Athletics (Previous: 66)
The Athletics have employed a three-headed monster at the catcher's position this year, and Norris has been the best of the bunch that also includes Stephen Vogt and John Jaso. The team has produced a combined .292/.368/.461 line with 14 home runs and 70 RBI at the position on the season.
91. RP Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays (Previous: NR)
One of the better setup relievers in the game over the past several seasons, McGee moved into the closer's role this season when free-agent addition Grant Balfour faltered. Since assuming ninth-inning duties in the middle of June, he is 12-of-13 on save chances with a 1.14 ERA, 14.1 K/9 and a .195 opponent batting average.
90. LF Corey Dickerson, Colorado Rockies (Previous: 92)
It was Charlie Blackmon who was the breakout story of the Rockies offense early on in 2014, but here in August it's Dickerson who has emerged as the surprise offensive contributor of the season. He moved into the everyday lineup when Michael Cuddyer went down, and he's been terrific ever since.
89. SS Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs (Previous: 55)
Castro has bounced back nicely from a terrible 2013 season that saw him hit .245 with a .631 OPS and post a minus-0.6 WAR. The 24-year-old again looks like a key piece of the Cubs' rebuilding plans and one of the better offensive shortstops in the game.
88. SP James Shields, Kansas City Royals (Previous: NR)
"Big Game James" continues to be the definition of a workhorse, as he's on his way to an eighth straight 200-inning season. The free-agent-to-be has been the ace of a Royals rotation that ranks fourth in the AL with a 3.70 ERA.
87. RP Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds (Previous: NR)
The 2014 season could not have started off worse for Chapman, as he suffered a gruesome injury when he was caught in the head with a line drive during spring training, costing him the first 34 games of the season. The flame-throwing left-hander quickly returned to dominant form upon returning, though, as he continues to strike batters out at a ridiculous rate.
86. CF Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (Previous: 78)
Jones is never going to post a high on-base percentage, as he's not much for taking a walk, but that doesn't stop him from being an offensive force in the middle of a good Orioles lineup. He's on his way to a third straight 30-homer season, as he's certainly played a significant role in the Orioles leading the AL East.
85. 3B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 87)
His numbers are not quite on par with his MVP-caliber 2013 season, but Carpenter remains a terrific table-setter atop the Cardinals lineup. He's made a seamless transition from second to third base this season, and his .378 OBP currently ranks eighth in the National League.
84. LF Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: 58)
After posting a .682 OPS and playing just 88 games in his first season with the Blue Jays, Cabrera has bounced back with a terrific 2014 campaign. The 30-year-old is a free agent again at the end of the season, and he's likely headed for a significant raise over his current two-year, $16 million deal.
83. SP Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: NR)
The beneficiary of some of the best run support in baseball the past two years when he went 33-17 with a 3.88 ERA, Lynn has taken a big step forward this season. With Michael Wacha on the shelf, Shelby Miller struggling with consistency and deadline pickups John Lackey and Justin Masterson faltering, he's become the clear No. 2 starter in St. Louis.
82. 2B Daniel Murphy, New York Mets (Previous: 88)
Since the start of the 2012 season, Murphy ranks eighth in the MLB with 501 hits, trailing only Andrew McCutchen (507) among NL players. A first-time All-Star this year, he's having the best season of his career and has been one of the few consistent offensive producers in the Mets lineup.
81. RP Dellin Betances, New York Yankees (Previous: 80)
Once a top prospect as a starting pitcher, Betances has re-invented himself as perhaps the most dominant eighth-inning arm in baseball. The 26-year-old has electric stuff, with a fastball that can touch triple digits and a wipeout slider that opponents are hitting just .074 against on the year, per Brooks Baseball.
80. CF Adam Eaton, Chicago White Sox (Previous: NR)
Eaton missed time early with a hamstring injury and is currently sidelined again with an oblique strain, but he's been spectacular when he has been on the field. He's established himself as one of the best defensive center fielders in the game and was hitting .434 in 20 games after the All-Star break before going down.
79. SP Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros (Previous: 40)
After going 9-18 with a 5.20 ERA in his first two big league seasons, Keuchel has been one of the out-of-nowhere stars of 2014. He opened the year 8-3 with a 2.38 ERA in his first 13 starts, and while he has come back to earth a bit since, he's still been a legitimate front-line arm for the rebuilding Astros.
78. 3B Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants (Previous: NR)
He got off to a slow start, but Sandoval is hitting .313/.357/.446 since the beginning of June, as he looks to cash in on a contract year for the Giants. He's a plus defender at third base, and when he's swinging the bat well, he's capable of carrying an offense.
77. SP Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals (Previous: 63)
Zimmermann went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA in a breakout season last year, and while his record doesn't necessarily indicate it, he's been just as good, if not better this year. He was named to his second straight All-Star team, and his 2.68 FIP is second-best in the National League.
76. 1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 35)
A breakout season in 2013 earned Freeman an eight-year, $135 million extension this past offseason, and while he has not put up the same MVP-caliber numbers he did a year ago, he's still been a consistent producer in the Braves lineup. There's a good chance he eclipses his previous career highs in doubles (33) and home runs (23) before the year is up.
75. C Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous: NR)
A hamstring strain cost Martin the first 21 games of the season, but he's been an on-base machine since returning, as his .413 OBP leads all catchers. He's also done a great job of handling the Pirates staff once again this season, and the two-year, $17 million deal they gave him prior to last season now looks like a steal.
74. RP Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies (Previous: 81)
After converting just 29 of 36 save chances with a 2.92 ERA a year ago, Papelbon is back to pitching at an elite level this season, putting up his best numbers since his early days in Boston. The 33-year-old is still owed $13 million next season with a vesting option at the same total for 2016, but he is a candidate to be moved here in August after clearing waivers.
73. LF Seth Smith, San Diego Padres (Previous: 50)
The Padres are last in the MLB in batting average (.225), OPS (.633) and runs per game (3.23), but Smith has been a bright spot after coming over in a trade with the Oakland A's this past winter. His consistent production earned him a two-year, $13 million extension at the beginning of July.
72. 2B Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins (Previous: 49)
Dozier currently leads all of baseball with 83 runs scored, and his 20 home runs are tops among all second basemen as well. He's one stolen base away from becoming just the 14th second baseman ever to post a 20/20 season.
71. SP Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: NR)
After kicking off his big league career with a 12.79 ERA in five relief appearances, Stroman joined the Blue Jays starting rotation and has gone 6-3 with a 2.59 ERA and 1.050 WHIP in 13 starts since making the move. The 23-year-old was once viewed as a reliever long term due to his undersized frame, but he's shown front-line stuff here as a rookie.
70. 1B Lucas Duda, New York Mets (Previous: NR)
First base looked like a glaring hole for the Mets when the season began, but Duda has taken the job and run with it, after the team shipped Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates in an early-season trade. The 28-year-old already has career highs in doubles, home runs, RBI and runs scored.
69. SP Tim Hudson, San Francisco Giants (Previous: 47)
There was some obvious risk in signing Hudson this past offseason, as he was a 38-year-old starter coming off a broken ankle, but the two-year, $23 million the Giants gave him looks like a steal here in August. He's the active leader with 213 career victories, and he made his fourth All-Star team this year.
68. 2B Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies (Previous: 42)
Utley has cooled considerably after hitting .355/.408/.570 with 11 doubles and three home runs in the first month of the season, but he is still one of the more productive second basemen in the game. In fact, Utley is one of the most productive players the position has ever seen, ranking among the leaders in WAR (61.6, 13th), home runs (228, 10th) and OPS (.865, fourth).
67. SS Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: NR)
The Cardinals gave Peralta a four-year, $53 million contract largely because of his offensive abilities, and while he's been one of the more productive shortstops at the plate this year, it's his defense that has been the biggest surprise. He ranks among the position leaders in defensive runs saved (12, third) and more surprisingly UZR/150 (13.1, third).
66. 3B Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds (Previous: 33)
Frazier slides down the list a bit due to a .244/.289/.300 line and one home run since the All-Star break, but he is still having a strong all-around season after taking a step back last year. He's been the Reds' top offensive producer in 2014, with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips all dealing with injuries or ineffectiveness.
65. 1B Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 67)
One of the few bright spot in an underperforming Cardinals lineup, Adams has been terrific in his first season as an every-day player. He has not flashed the same raw power he did last year, but he's become a much better contact hitter. He's also statistically the best defensive first baseman in baseball with 9 DRS and and 9.8 UZR/150, both tops at the position, per FanGraphs.
64. RP Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox (Previous: 64)
Since taking over the closer's role on June 26 of last season, Uehara has converted 45 of 49 save chances with a 0.91 ERA, 0.586 WHIP, 11.7 K/9 and 0.8 BB/9. The Red Sox opted not to move him at the trade deadline, as they'll make every effort to re-sign the 39-year-old this winter.
63. RP Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals (Previous: 75)
A case can be made that Holland was the best closer in baseball last year, when he converted 47 of 50 save chances with a 1.21 ERA and 13.8 K/9. He's been equally dominant this season, and alongside setup man Wade Davis, he forms half of the most overpowering late-inning duo in baseball this season.
62. RF Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves (Previous: NR)
Heyward makes this list on the strength of his phenomenal defense in right field, where he has an outstanding 31 DRS and a 29.3 UZR/150, according to FanGraphs. He's also hitting .321/.379/.420 since the beginning of July.
61. SP Jeff Samardzija, Oakland Athletics (Previous: 41)
Samardzija was 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.204 WHIP in 17 starts with the Chicago Cubs prior to being dealt to the Athletics, and he's gone 3-1 with a 3.08 ERA and 0.906 WHIP in seven starts so far in Oakland. Top prospect Addison Russell was a steep price to pay for him, but the A's will have him back for one more season of team control next year.
60. SP Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers (Previous: NR)
Largely overlooked as the fifth starter on some terrific Tigers rotation the past couple of years, Porcello is making his case to be part of the postseason rotation this time around. It's easy to forget he's still just 25 years old, and he already has an impressive 74 career wins to his credit.
59. SP Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 30)
After a spectacular start to the season, Teheran has gone 2-4 with a 5.24 ERA in his last seven starts, dropping him down these rankings a bit. The 23-year-old still looks to be the long-term ace of the Braves rotation, but they need him to return to his previously dominant form for the stretch run.
58. C Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (Previous: 86)
With Yadier Molina currently on the disabled list, a strong case can be made for Perez being the best defensive catcher in the game at this very moment. He leads the position with 9 DRS and a 1.9 dWAR and has put up plus offensive numbers to boot, leaving him pushing for a top-50 spot in these rankings.
57. SP Henderson Alvarez, Miami Marlins (Previous: 52)
Losing young phenom Jose Fernandez was an obvious blow to the Marlins, but Alvarez stepped nicely into the role of staff ace, and he's having a breakout season in 2014. Shoulder inflammation has him on the disabled list at the moment, but it's not expected to be serious, and his numbers speak for themselves. He was a first-time All-Star, and he leads the NL with three shutouts.
56. LF Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves (Previous: 65)
Upton is on his way to his best all-around numbers since 2011 (.898 OPS, 31 HR, 88 RBI), and he has been the Braves' best all-around hitter this season in his second year with the team. He doesn't run like he used to, and he still strikes out a ton, but he's developed into one of the more consistent power threats in the National League.
55. SP Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals (Previous: NR)
Roark entered camp battling with Taylor Jordan and Ross Detwiler for the No. 5 starter spot, and he has taken the job and run with it this season. The 27-year-old was 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA in 14 games (five starts) last year, and he has paired with Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann to help the Nationals overcome subpar seasons from Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.
54. 2B Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: NR)
A forgotten man after hitting just .229/.289/.285 the past two seasons and spending a good portion of 2013 in the minors, Gordon won the Dodgers' second base job in spring training and turned it into an All-Star performance. He leads the NL with 10 triples and 51 stolen bases, as his blazing speed is a serious weapon.
53. RP Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels (Previous: 51)
Since the start of the 2012 season, Street has converted an impressive 86 of 90 save chances, and he's blown just one so far this year. He's actually been even better since being traded from the Padres to the Angels in July, going a perfect 7-of-7 on saves and allowing just five hits in nine scoreless innings.
52. SP Doug Fister, Washington Nationals (Previous: NR)
Fister missed the first 34 games of the season with a shoulder strain, but since returning he's been the stud pickup the Nationals were hoping he'd be when they acquired him in the offseason. Since the beginning of June, he's 8-2 with a 2.16 ERA and has turned in nine quality starts in 11 games.
51. SP Tyson Ross, San Diego Padres (Previous: NR)
After spending most of the first half of 2013 in the bullpen, Ross turned in a 2.93 ERA in 13 second-half starts for the Padres. He has built off that strong finish this season, earning an All-Star nod and stepping into the role of staff ace with Andrew Cashner sidelined.
50. LF J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers (Previous: NR)
Martinez was released by the Houston Astros on March 22, and he landed with the Tigers two days later, as they looked to help ease the loss of Andy Dirks. He quickly played his way into everyday at-bats, and he's been a key piece of the Tigers' offensive attack alongside Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
49. 2B Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (Previous: NR)
Pedroia may never reach 20 home runs again, but he's still one of the better offensive second basemen in the game and a Gold Glove-caliber defender to boot. His 19.3 UZR/150 leads all second basemen, and his 12 DRS are third-best, according to FanGraphs.
48. 2B Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers (Previous: NR)
The Tigers' move to unload the contract of Prince Fielder this past offseason was a great one, and the production they have gotten from Kinsler in his first season with the team has only made it that much better. He's among the AL leaders in hits (sixth), runs (ninth) and doubles (fourth) and has also turned in a terrific 1.9 dWAR at second base.
47. SP Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants (Previous: 34)
Bumgarner has been a bit more hittable of late, going 4-4 with a 3.88 ERA since the beginning of July, but he's still a bona fide staff ace and one of the better pitchers in the National League. With Matt Cain out for the season, the Giants will lean even more heavily on Bumgarner down the stretch as they look to secure a playoff spot.
46. C Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians (Previous: NR)
After posting a 4.2 WAR as a part-time player last year, Gomes has been terrific as the Indians' primary backstop this season. On top of his fantastic receiving skills, he's also hitting .378/.410/.662 in the second half, giving him some of the best all-around numbers of any catcher.
45. SP Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners (Previous: 83)
Iwakuma actually out-pitched teammate Felix Hernandez last season, going 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA and 1.006 WHIP to finish third in AL Cy Young voting. He missed time early with a finger tendon issue, but he's been lights out once again since return. He's one of just five pitchers this season with at least 100 innings pitched and a WHIP less than 1.000.
44. LF Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles (Previous: 19)
A .165/.255/.318 line since the All-Star break drops Cruz well out of the top 25 on this list, but his first-half exploits were more than enough to keep him in the top 50. Even with his recent struggles, he is still tied for the AL lead with 31 home runs. The Orioles have already gotten their money's worth several times over on the one-year, $8 million deal they signed him to.
43. SP Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs (Previous: NR)
The Cubs picked up Arrieta in the deadline deal that sent Scott Feldman to the Baltimore Orioles last July, and the change of scenery has worked wonders for the former top prospect. A rough outing on Aug. 6 in which he allowed 13 hits and nine runs in five innings skewed his numbers, as he's actually been even better than his ERA and WHIP indicate, with 11 quality starts in his last 12 games.
42. LF Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (Previous: 24)
Gordon is the game's premier defensive left fielder, evidenced by his position-best 20 DRS and 34.2 UZR/150, according to FanGraphs. The former No. 2 overall pick back in 2005 also has plus on-base skills and is one of the few Royals hitters with some power in his bat.
41. SP Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers (Previous: 21)
After a strong showing as a rookie in 2012, Darvish trimmed a full run off his ERA last year, going 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA and an MLB-best 277 strikeouts to finish second in AL Cy Young voting. He's not been quite as dominant this year, but he still leads the AL with an 11.3 K/9 mark, and he's been pitching in a tough situation for the injury-ravaged Rangers.
40. RF Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants (Previous: 36)
The Giants locked Pence up with a five-year, $90 million deal before the 2013 season even ended, and he's been a steady performer for them once again this season. His 80 runs scored are second in the NL, and he stepped into the leadoff role for the Giants for a time while Angel Pagan was sidelined.
39. UT Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous: NR)
Guys like Ben Zobrist and Martin Prado have made a living on being plus offensive players with tremendous defensive versatility, and that is exactly what has made Harrison so valuable to the Pirates this season. He's spent time at 3B (35), LF (26), RF (26), 2B (15) and SS (2) this season, posting a combined 0.6 dWAR in the process, and he's hit everywhere he's played.
38. C Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds (Previous: 62)
Mesoraco has put up elite power numbers this season for a catcher, and he's done it in just 79 games played and with just 276 at-bats under his belt. The 26-year-old is in his first year as the Reds' primary catcher, and he has also put up above-average defensive numbers while raking at the plate.
37. SP Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees (Previous: 12)
Tanaka has not pitched since July 8 when he was shelved with a small tear in his UCL, but he still earns a place inside the top 50. He's working toward a late-season comeback, but even if he doesn't pitch again in 2014, what he did over 18 starts and 129.1 innings of work is enough to make him one of the top pitchers of the year.
36. 2B/3B Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals (Previous: 69)
Rendon was a potential No. 1 overall pick heading into his final season at Rice, but injuries slowed him, and he wound up slipping to the Nationals at No. 6 overall in the 2011 draft. His advanced bat moved quickly, and after showing signs as a rookie last season, he's broken out as a legitimate star this year. He's bounced between second and third base defensively, flashing Gold Glove-caliber skills at the hot corner.
35. SP Scott Kazmir, Oakland Athletics (Previous: 25)
After pitching in the independent league in 2012, Kazmir returned to the MLB with the Indians last year and surprised the league by going 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA over 29 starts. The A's scooped him up in free agency on a two-year, $22 million deal, and he's putting up even better numbers than he did during his time in Tampa Bay, where he was viewed as one of the best young starters in the game.
34. SP David Price, Detroit Tigers (Previous: NR)
Leave it to general manger Dave Dombrowski to add Price to an already pitching-deep Tigers roster, as the big left-hander was acquired just before the trade deadline. After putting up a 4.27 ERA through the first two months of the season, he's 7-4 with a 2.32 ERA over his last 13 starts, as he has again looked like one of the best in the business.
33. LF Brett Gardner, New York Yankees (Previous: NR)
An elite defensive outfielder with plus speed and solid on-base skills, Gardner has added some power to his game this year, and he's having his best all-around season as a result. He entered the season with just 23 home runs in 1,932 career at-bats, but he already has 15 in 431 at-bats this year.
32. SP Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers (Previous: NR)
The reigning AL Cy Young winner, Scherzer is putting up dominant numbers once again this year. While he leads the league in wins, his 182 strikeouts are fourth, and his 2.88 FIP is good for eight. It will be interesting to see whom the Tigers turn to for Game 1 of a playoff series with David Price now on the roster, but first they need to get to the postseason.
31. SP Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 68)
The Dodgers gave Greinke ace money with a six-year, $147 million prior to last season, and he's given them the second front-line starter they were looking for to pair with Clayton Kershaw. The right-hander ranks in the top 10 in the NL in wins (12, seventh), ERA (2.84, eighth), FIP (2.98, sixth) and strikeouts (164, third).
30. 1B Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (Previous: 28)
Big things were expected from Rizzo in his first full season last year, but instead he hit just .233 with a .742 OPS. Turns out the breakout season just came a year later than expected, as he's emerged as the Cubs' biggest offensive weapon. He currently ranks second to Giancarlo Stanton in the NL home run race with 25.
29. SP Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics (Previous: 48)
After a strong showing debut last year in which he went 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 12 games (10 starts), Gray has emerged as a front-line arm for the A's this season, serving as the team's ace prior to the trades for Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester. The 24-year-old was 5-0 with a 1.03 ERA in July, and in the long term he still profiles as the ace of the Oakland staff.
28. CF Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers (Previous: 17)
Far removed from his top prospect days in the New York Mets organization, Gomez has emerged as a five-tool threat for the Brewers, turning himself into one of the best all-around outfielders in the game. He finished ninth in NL MVP voting a year ago and is a candidate to receive some consideration again this year thanks to the Brewers' standing as a first-place team.
27. SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies (Previous: 38)
After missing time early with shoulder tendinitis, Hamels pitched to a 4.43 ERA through the end of May. He's been nothing short of dominant since, though, going 5-3 with a 1.44 ERA and turning in 13 quality starts in 14 games. The Phillies kicked around the idea of trading him after the Cubs claimed him via waivers, and it will be interesting to see if he's moved this winter.
26. 3B Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners (Previous: NR)
Seager quietly turned in back-to-back strong seasons the past two years, but he has legitimately broken out this year, as his .274/.343/.472 line represents career highs across the board. The addition of Robinson Cano to the lineup has taken some pressure off him offensively, and he has once again proved to be solid with the glove, turning in a 1.5 dWAR.
25. 1B Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: 13)
Edwin Encarnacion hasn't played in more than a month after going down with a quad injury on July 6, but his numbers up to that point are still good enough to earn him a spot in the top 25.
He won Player of the Month in May, posting a 1.132 OPS and tying an AL record with 16 home runs, and he's one of just five players this year with at least 300 at-bats and an OPS over .950.
24. SP Jon Lester, Oakland Athletics (Previous: NR)
The Athletics solidified what was already one of the best rotations in baseball with the acquisition of Jon Lester at the deadline, and he gives them a proven postseason ace to lean on come October.
He's 2-0 with just 12 hits and three runs allowed in 15.2 innings in his two starts since joining the A's, and he takes the third spot among left-handed starters behind Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw.
23. DH Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers (Previous: 20)
There were some concerns about protecting Miguel Cabrera after the Tigers traded Prince Fielder in the offseason, but Victor Martinez has answered those questions several times over with the best season of his career.
He's well on his way to topping his previous career high of 25 home runs, and his .940 OPS is roughly 80 points higher than the best mark he's ever posted. He's actually walked (44) more times than he's struck out (35)—a rare occurrence these days, especially for a power hitter.
22. SP Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels (Previous: 32)
A quick look at his 2013 stats would have made it hard to predict a breakout from Garrett Richards, as he was 7-8 with a 4.16 ERA in 47 games (17 starts). However, a 3.66 FIP and four quality starts in his last four games proved to be the first signs of big things to come.
The 26-year-old has already reached a career high with 159.2 innings, so there are some concerns about him running out of gas down the stretch. The Angels can't afford for that to happen, though, as he's become the unquestioned ace of their staff and one of the best pitchers in baseball.
21. SP Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (Previous: 96)
Corey Kluber was 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA last season, but his peripheral numbers told a different story, as he had a 3.30 FIP and improved both his walk rate (2.6 BB/9 to 2.0 BB/9) and strikeout rate (7.7 K/9 to 8.3 K/9) from the previous season.
He opened the season 2-3 with a 4.14 ERA in April, but he's been an absolute stud since, going 11-3 with a 2.00 ERA and 10.2 K/9. The 28-year-old is 15-of-19 on quality starts over that span, and he's thrust himself into the AL Cy Young conversation as a result.
20. 1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (Previous: 14)
On reputation and career production, Miguel Cabrera is still challenging for the title of best player in baseball. However, based solely on 2014 production, he has been a notch below the elite this season.
He's currently on pace for a .875 OPS with 23 home runs and 118 RBI. Those are still terrific numbers, but considering he's averaged a .976 OPS with 35 home runs and 120 RBI over the past 10 seasons, it's fair to say this constitutes a down year.
19. 3B Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (Previous: 90)
He may not turn in a fourth straight 30 home run season, but Adrian Beltre continues to produce at an elite level, as he is improving an already strong Hall of Fame case on a daily basis at this point.
His .321 average is good for fifth in the AL, and he has found his power stroke after hitting just five home runs over the first two months of the season. Add in his still elite defense at third base, and Beltre remains one of the best all-around players in the game. He is a bright spot in what has been a horrible season for the Rangers.
18. 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (Previous: 6)
Paul Goldschmidt will no doubt slide down these rankings between now and the end of the season, as a fractured hand on a hit-by-pitch ended his season at the beginning of this month. However, since these rankings are based on production to this point, he still earns a spot in the top 20.
His power numbers are down after he led the NL with 36 home runs and 125 RBI in 2013, but he is still producing at an elite level. His 39 doubles lead the NL, and his all-around game is enough to earn him the No. 2 spot in these rankings among first basemen.
17. 2B Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Previous: 29)
His small 5'6" frame has become more of a side note than a hindrance at this point in his career, as Jose Altuve has emerged as a bona fide superstar for the Houston Astros this season.
Still just 24 years old, Altuve made his second All-Star appearance this season, and he is putting up by far the best numbers of his career across the board. He currently leads the AL in batting average (.336), hits (162) and stolen bases (46).
16. 2B Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners (Previous: 23)
For the time being, Robinson Cano still ranks ahead of Jose Altuve, as he trails him by just .003 in the batting title race and provided more power and better defense than his undersized counterpart.
It's fair to assume the Seattle Mariners were expecting more in the home run department when they signed Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal, but there is no question he has been a big reason for their drastic turnaround this season.
15. 3B Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics (Previous: 18)
The triple-slash numbers may not be at the elite level, but Josh Donaldson has been the best run producer at this position and the best defender at the hot corner by a substantial margin, earning him a spot in the top 15.
His 17 DRS and 13.9 UZR/150 are both tops at the position, and the same goes for his 23 home runs and 80 RBI. As the top offensive player on the best team in baseball, he's earned a spot among the game's elite this season.
14. RF Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: 5)
After missing significant time to injury the past two seasons, Jose Bautista is finally healthy in 2014, and he's back to putting up impressive power numbers while getting on base at an AL-best .412 clip.
He's been counted on to do most of the heavy lifting since Edwin Encarnacion went down with a quad injury, and he's held his own without Encarnacion's bat for protection. He's hitting .289/.388/.509 with 21 RBI in 31 games since Encarnacion went down.
13. LF Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians (Previous: 22)
If the 2013 season was a breakout year for Michael Brantley, then 2014 has been nothing short of an offensive explosion. The 27-year-old has taken a huge step forward, raising his OPS from .729 to .902 and already setting career highs in home runs and RBI.
The Indians' decision to lock him up with a four-year, $25 million extension this past offseason looks like a stroke of genius now. The deal also includes an $11 million option for 2018, as the team essentially bought out the prime of his career for $36 million.
12. C Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers (Previous: 16)
Hands down the best all-around catcher in baseball this year, Jonathan Lucroy has finally received the recognition he deserves after ranking as one of the most underrated players in baseball the past few seasons.
On top of his impressive offensive numbers across the board, he also has a 1.3 dWAR and leads NL catcher with 7 DRS, via FanGraphs, as he's done a terrific job of handling a better-than-expected Brewers pitching staff.
11. SP Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 8)
He's not been nearly as dominant here in the second half, with a 4.88 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break, but Adam Wainwright is still one of the few legitimate aces in the league today.
His 2.28 ERA is still substantially lower than the 2.94 mark he posted while going 19-9 and finishing second in NL Cy Young voting a year ago. He is currently a distant third behind Clayton Kershaw and Johnny Cueto in the Cy Young race this season, but a strong finish could make him a serious contender.
10. RF Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 10)
When you consider that he hit .248/.330/.327 with zero home runs in the month of June, the numbers Yasiel Puig has put up overall this season are that much more impressive.
The 23-year-old remains one of the most polarizing figures in the game today, but there is no denying his fantastic toolbox of skills. On top of his offensive prowess, he's also moved to center field for the past month or so, adding to his defensive significance for a Dodgers team eyeing another NL West crown.
9. SP Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds (Previous: 7)
After a nagging lat injury limited him to just 11 starts a year ago, Johnny Cueto is once again one of the game's elite starting pitchers. He was 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA to finish fourth in Cy Young voting back in 2012, and he's on pace to put up better numbers across the board this year.
The 28-year-old is a free agent at the end of next season, and with Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon all set to hit the open market at the same time, it will be interesting to see how the Reds handle their pitching situation moving forward.
8. 1B Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox (Previous: 27)
Jose Abreu is still a tick below the game's best players, due to his subpar defense and some work that still needs to be done in the plate discipline department (31/102 BB/K). That being said, what more could you ask from a rookie slugger?
He's done nothing but produce from Day 1, and he still has a shot at breaking both the White Sox record (1998, Albert Belle) and the overall rookie record (1987, Mark McGwire) for home runs, as both currently stand at 49.
7. CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous: 4)
Andrew McCutchen is another player who could slide down this list between now and the end of the season, as he's currently on the disabled list with a fractured rib, but based on his production to this point, he's made a strong case to repeat as NL MVP.
The 27-year-old is the heart and soul of a Pirates team that has made a return to relevance in recent years, and he's one of the game's few legitimate five-tool talents.
6. SP Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (Previous: 15)
Chris Sale missed 32 games with a left elbow strain at the beginning of the season, but he's been lights out since returning and belongs just below Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw for the title of best starting pitcher in 2014.
The 25-year-old went a combined 28-22 with a 3.06 ERA and 9.3 K/9 over the past two seasons, finishing sixth and fifth in AL Cy Young voting, respectively, but he's raised his game to an elite level in 2014. It's hard to believe the White Sox have him locked up for $53.15 million through 2019, including option years.
5. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies (Previous: 1)
Missing time due to injury, coupled with his extreme home/road splits, knocks Troy Tulowitzki out of the top spot. That begin said, he's still the best all-around shortstop in baseball by a landslide and one of the most productive hitters in the game this season.
Tulo has been out of his mind at Coors Field, hitting .417/.497/.748 with 14 home runs and 35 RBI in 44 games. Compare that to .257/.364/.447 with seven home runs and 17 RBI in 47 road games, and it's hard to say he's the best player in the game. He's still an awfully good one, though.
4. RF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (Previous: 3)
Finally healthy for a full season, Giancarlo Stanton has turned his tremendous overall talent and ridiculous raw power into serious production in the middle of a surprisingly good Marlins lineup this season.
His 31 long balls have averaged an MLB-best 418.8 feet, according to ESPN Home Run Tracker, with seven of those blasts eclipsing the 450-mark. He's not just a one-trick pony, though, as he leads the NL in walks (73), has swiped 10 bases and has an absolute cannon for an arm in right field.
3. SP Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (Previous: 11)
Since winning AL Cy Young honors in 2010 when he had an AL-best 2.27 ERA, Felix Hernandez has posted a somewhat pedestrian 3.20 ERA over the past three seasons—at least pedestrian relative to his standing as one of the game's elite starters.
There's been little question he deserves the title of "elite" this season, though, as he leads the AL in wins (13), ERA (1.95), FIP (2.07), WHIP (0.860) and H/9 (6.1) and ranks second in strikeouts (194). If the season ended today, he'd deserve to be the unanimous choice for AL Cy Young honors.
2. SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 9)
As good as Felix Hernandez has been this season, Clayton Kershaw has been even better, as the 26-year-old has somehow found a way to improve after going 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA a season ago.
Dating back to his no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies on June 18, he's gone 8-0 with a 1.00 ERA, 0.728 WHIP, 11.4 K/9 and .172 opponent batting average in 10 starts. He's well on his way to a fourth straight ERA title and his third Cy Young award in four years.
We're witnessing history here, folks; just enjoy it every time he takes the mound.
1. CF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (Previous: 2)
We could spew a whole bunch of stats here about how Mike Trout opened the season poorly (44 G, .263 BA, .867 OPS, 56 K) but has been his usual self since (72 G, .318 BA, 1.019 OPS, 73 K). We could point to his MLB-best 6.2 WAR and his tremendous all-around skill set.
Really, though, what's the point? If you don't think Mike Trout is the best player in baseball already, a few numbers are not going to convince you. Short of a personal dislike for the man himself, there's really no argument for calling anyone but Trout the game's top talent in 2014.
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