100 Best Players In Baseball Today (Part 1: #100-81)
A year after I wrote the original list, I figured it was time to update it.
While I was happy with the first list all in all, I feel I did a much better job this time around. The biggest difference you'll find is that I gave struggling veterans with impressive track records less slack and tried to concentrate more on who the best players in the game this season are.
A few notes about the list...
* Of the 100 players, 61 were on last year's list.
* The list features 52 American League players and 48 National League players.
* The team with the most players on the list are the Yankees with eight. The Phillies and Red Sox both have seven players on the list.
* The only teams without a representative on the list are the Astros and Cubs.
Before we get to the list, 20 players considered who just missed the cut:
Bobby Abreu, Elvis Andrus, Jonathan Broxton, David DeJesus, Aubrey Huff, Phil Hughes, Adam Jones, Colby Lewis, Brett Myers, Carl Pavano, Jake Peavy, Placido Polanco, Scott Rolen, Ricky Romero, Max Scherzer, Grady Sizemore, Brian Wilson, Andres Torres, Shane Victorino, Ben Zobrist
Without further ado, the top 100 players in baseball today...
#100. Heath Bell
Unfazed by the arduous task of replacing the iconic Trevor Hoffman, Heath Bell has locked down the closer role in San Diego and developed into one of the premiere closers in baseball.
The Padres boast a deep, lights-out pen, and as such Bell's future with the franchise is uncertain. No matter where he pitches in the future, though, he has the stuff and the mindset to sustain the success he's enjoyed the last two years.
#99. Brian Roberts
2010 has been a lost year for Brian Roberts. Injuries have led to substandard numbers for the speedy second baseman.
When healthy though, Roberts is still an extra-base machine, hitting more than 50 doubles in both 2008 and 2009. He is exactly the kind of steady veteran the young Orioles will need in coming years.
#98. Chris Young
In what has been a thoroughly miserable season for the Diamondbacks, Chris Young has been a beacon of light, rebounding from a horrible 2009.
He's on pace for career highs in RBI, BB, SB, AVG, and OPS. With change coming to the desert, it looks as though the Snakes have a standby in centerfield.
#97. John Danks
John Danks has been the White Sox' best pitcher this year in the absence of Jake Peavy and played a key role in the team's midseason revival.
Among the AL leaders in innings pitched, the 25 year old southpaw is just starting to come into his prime and should combine with Peavy to form a fine one-two punch on the South Side for years to come.
#96. Ted Lilly
A bulldog in the mold of David Wells and Kenny Rogers, Ted Lilly has developed into one of the steadiest southpaws in the game since coming to the National League in 2007. Since then, Lilly has gone 52-37, posted a SO/9 ratio of 7.7, and consistently been among the league leaders in WHIP.
The long ball has been Lilly's nemesis most of his career, and he's coughed up 30 in 2010 as well. But by otherwise limiting traffic on the bases (1.10 WHIP, .232 BAA), Lilly has continued to blossom into his mid 30's.
#95. Magglio Ordonez
Magglio Ordonez's 2010 season was sadly cut short when he fractured his ankle sliding into home plate in late July, but not before he proved his at-times miserable 2009 season was a fluke.
A lifetime .312 hitter, Ordonez caught fire in August 2009 and kept that up into 2010. He rediscovered his power stroke as well, collecting more extra base hits in 84 games than he did all last year and posting a noticeably higher slugging percentage. Whether he stays in Detroit or not, Maggs clearly isn't at the end of the line just yet.
#94. C.J. Wilson
After years in the Texas bullpen, C.J. Wilson insisted on the Rangers giving him another shot at starting. He talked the talk, and proceeded to walk the walk.
Wilson has responded with a breakout campaign, going 14-7 in 188 innings, with a 3.21 ERA and 1.24 WHIP (despite leading the AL in walks). Cliff Lee is the biggest name on Texas' staff, but clearly he isn't their only southpaw to be reckoned with.
#93. Buster Posey
On June 30th, the Giants traded away veteran Bengie Molina, feeling the highly regarded young Buster Posey was ready to handle full time catching duties. The timing of the deal is enough to make you wonder if Brian Sabean has his hands on a crystal ball.
The very next day, Posey began a monster July in which he posted a .417/ .466/ .699 line with 7 home runs and 24 RBI. He deservedly took home both NL rookie and player of the month honors. The 23 year old is already one of the most feared hitters on a Giants team on the brink of their first postseason berth since 2003.
#92. David Ortiz
Big Papi has rebounded from a disastrous 2009 to re-establish himself as one of the most formidable power hitters in the game today. His 30 HR and .886 OPS are his best totals since 2007.
He put his impressive power on display in Anaheim midseason, winning the Home Run Derby. As many executives start changing their attitudes towards the DH, viewing it more as an opportunity to rest aging position players, Ortiz remains one of the best traditional full time DHs in the game.
#91. Andy Pettitte
It's unfortunate that a groin injury cost Andy Pettitte two months of the 2010 season because he was on pace for possibly the best season of his Yankee career. The winningest pitcher of the 21st century thus far remains a reliable left-hander into his late 30's.
As the Yankee rotation behind CC Sabathia has been maddeningly inconsistent, the Bombers are counting on Pettitte to rediscover the first half form (11-2, 2.70 ERA) that got him to the All-Star game. Even if this is the southpaw's last hurrah, his resume is plenty impressive already to warrant serious consideration for the Hall of fame.
#90. Chad Billingsley
Don't let his 4-7 post All-Star break record fool you; Billingsley has been pretty stingy the last two months. In 88.2 IP since the Mid-Summer classic, Billingsley has struck out 73, surrendered just one home run, and opponents are batting just .224 against him.
While he's been inconsistent at times, he is still just 26 years old. As almost all of their other starters get set to hit free agency this fall, the Dodgers have the makings of a potentially dominant 1-2 punch in Clayton Kershaw and Billingsley.
#89. Adrian Beltre
In a year where virtually all their regulars have been afflicted by injuries, Adrian Beltre has steered clear of the injury bug to be Boston's team MVP. Fenway Park has treated him much better than Safeco Field did, as the third baseman is putting up his best year since his monster 2004 campaign with the Dodgers.
Skeptics will say beware, as Beltre followed up that 2004 season by promptly regressing, and finds himself in a contract year yet again. But even if he's not quite a .319/ .365/ .552 hitter, he remains one of the game's best third basemen on both sides of the ball.
#88. Shaun Marcum
With Roy Halladay long gone, Shaun Marcum has stepped up as the new ace of a young and talented Blue Jays rotation. After missing the entire 2009 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, the 28 year old has responded with a career season, setting new career highs in W, IP, and SO.
Marcum's success is largely due to pinpoint control, and his 3.74 K/BB ratio is among the best in MLB. With young studs like Marcum, Ricky Romero, and Brandon Morrow supported by a dynamic lineup, perhaps the Blue Jays are finally poised to start challenging the beasts of the AL East.
#87. Joakim Soria
There is no shortage of exciting, electric young closers in the game today, and the best of them all might be the man known around baseball as "The Mexicutioner" (for my money, the best nickname in the majors today).
More than three years since his major league debut, hitters are still having trouble just getting on base against Soria. In 249.1 major league innings he has a lifetime .99 WHIP and .197 BAA. Most importantly, his career save percentage is better than 91%. Uncertain as the Royals' future may be, there is no question who they'll be counting on to close games in the coming years.
#86. Delmon Young
The first overall pick in the 2003 draft, the Twins were willing to part ways with Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to acquire Young. Almost three years later, he's finally showing why they coveted him that much.
The left fielder is having a career season across the board, posting career highs in doubles, home runs, RBI, AVG, and SLG. He has been a huge part of the Twins' run to yet another division title, as his excellence with the bat has allowed the club to withstand two months without their longtime cleanup hitter Justin Morneau. If the Twins enjoy a lengthy playoff run this year, you can bet Young will be a big reason why.
#85. Nick Swisher
After a trying 2008 season with the White Sox, after which he was traded to the Yankees for basically nothing, Nick Swisher has flourished in the Bronx, becoming a key component of the Yankee lineup and a fan favorite.
Strikeouts have been a part of Swish's game dating back to his days in Oakland (up until this season, walks were as well), but he does damage when he's making contact, as his .512 SLG is good for 10th in the AL. His constant presence in the 2nd spot in the Yankee lineup speaks volumes to how far he has come as a contact hitter. A fine player, in addition to being one of the great personalities in the game today.
#84. Tommy Hanson
Another live young arm in an organization rich in pitching history, 24 year old Tommy Hanson got to the majors in 2009 and looked like he belonged right from the get-go. He ended the year with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 127.2 IP.
Much like Chad Billingsley, Hanson has actually been better in the 2nd half, but has been victimized by poor run support since the All-Star Break. He is 2-6 in that time despite a 2.77 ERA with a .97 WHIP. Tim Hudson is still getting it done, but undoubtedly Hanson stands to one day assume the distinction of staff ace.
#83. Paul Konerko
With Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye having moved on, Paul Konerko has not only continued to mash in the middle of the White Sox lineup, but is having arguably the best season of his impressive career. The MVP candidate is on pace to establish new career highs in OBP and SLG.
Revered in the clubhouse for his leadership, it is no wonder so many of his teammates are pushing Kenny Williams to bring back Konerko for 2011. Honestly, I can't picture him in another uniform, and the future success of the White Sox likely depends on them retaining this veteran slugger.
#82. Brandon Phillips
2010 hasn't been a great year for Phillips, as his home run and stolen base totals are way down. Fortunately, that hasn't stopped the Reds from winning, and his unimpressive stat line is more indicative of a brutal start (.691 April OPS) and end (.416 in September) to the season than an all-around off year.
Phillips has not allowed his batting woes to affect him on the other side of the ball, however, as he has remained one of the best second baseman in the league, ranking in the top 10 at that position in fielding %, range factor, and zone rating. An exceptional two-way player at his best.
#81. Trevor Cahill
Hailed as one of the crown jewels of the A's farm system, Trevor Cahill had a rollercoaster rookie season in 2009. At the age of 22, he has put it all together in 2010.
In contrast to his teammates Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez, Cahill relies more on control and location than velocity and stuff. Limiting traffic on the basepaths has been key to his success, as he boasts a 1.11 WHIP and .220 AVG against. With a superb feel for pitching in his early 20s, Cahill has become the ace of a young A's rotation not short on talent.