MLB Power Rankings: Albert Pujols and the Top 100 Players in MLB Right Now
With another season in the books, I figured it was a good time to come up with another list of the 100 best players in the game today.
In evaluating and ranking players, I considered several stats, ranging from traditional counting stats to sabermetrics. Stats I placed particular emphasis on include OBP, SLG, wRC+, ERA, K/BB, FIP, Fld, and Fangraph's WAR. In compiling the list, I mostly considered stats since the start of the 2009 season, with a slight emphasis on stats from this past season.
For the sake of listing who the best players in the game right now are, you won't find players who suffered season-ending injuries early in 2011 such as Josh Johnson, Buster Posey, or Adam Wainwright on the list, even if they undoubtedly would've made the list had they stayed healthy.
Without further ado, the top 100 players in Major League Baseball today.
100. J.J. Hardy
The hard-nosed, gritty shortstop enjoyed a breakout campaign, hitting .269/ .310/ .491 with 30 home runs and 80 RBI (despite only playing in 129 games), all while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense.
99. Yadier Molina
A steady contact hitter most of his career, 2011 saw Yadier Molina take a step forward as a power hitter, as his 14 HR and .465 SLG were both career highs.
That said, the Cardinals' backstop makes this list because of his work behind the plate, as he is probably the best catcher in the game today. Renowned for his throwing arm and ability to handle a pitching staff, Molina already has three Gold Gloves on his mantle and hasn't won his last.
98. Mat Latos
While Mat Latos couldn't repeat the success of his stellar 2010 campaign, the 24-year-old nonetheless enjoyed a very solid sophomore season. His 8.57 K/9, 1.18 WHIP, and 3.16 FIP were far more representative of the caliber of pitcher he is than his 9-14 record.
While Latos is moving from pitcher's paradise Petco Park to the far more hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, his ability to rack up strikeouts and minimize traffic on the basepaths should help him remain successful going forward.
97. Corey Hart
Hitting amongst such all stars as Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart often goes unnoticed but has been an integral part of the Brewers since his first full season in 2007.
A staple in the middle of the Milwaukee lineup at one time, 2011 saw Hart move to the top of the lineup, where he flourished (15 HR, 36 RBI, .301/ /.366/ .551 in 256 AB hitting first).
96. Brett Gardner
Since becoming their full-time left fielder in 2010, Brett Gardner has brought an element of explosive speed to the Yankees' lineup. His 96 SB in that time frame are the second most in baseball, behind only Atlanta's Michael Bourn.
As his tenure in New York has coincided with those of such established table-setters as Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, and Curtis Granderson, Gardner has actually gotten the majority of his AB the past three years out of the ninth spot, giving the Yankees enviable speed at the bottom of the order.
95. Pablo Sandoval
2010 was a lost season for the "Kung Fu Panda," though it didn't stop the Giants from winning the World Series. The young Venezuelan put that season behind him though and looked like a player reborn in 2011 (23 HR, 70 RBI, .909 OPS).
While he doesn't walk as much as you'd like to see from a power-hitting corner infielder (career 7.4 BB%), he still manages to get on base at a very respectable rate (career .356 OBP).
94. Matt Garza
After three productive seasons in Tampa Bay, the highlight being a superb 2008 ALCS that merited him series MVP honors, Matt Garza was traded to the Cubs last Winter. While he got off to a rather pedestrian start, the second half of the 2011 season saw him rebound to post sparkling numbers (2.45 ERA, 6-3, 3.27 K/BB) for a losing team.
In the end, he finished 13th among all starting pitchers with a WAR of 5.0. If the Cubs do decide to move him this off season, they're sure to fetch a handsome return.
93. Nick Swisher
Since the White Sox inexplicably traded him to the Yankees, Nick Swisher has become a key cog in the Bombers' lineup, hitting 81 HR with 256 RBI and an .854 OPS in three seasons in the Bronx. Such production has helped Swisher, one of the most likable players in the game, become a fan favorite in the Bronx.
While he'll rack up his fair share of strikeouts (career 21.2 K%), the former Athletic has always had a knack for getting on base (career .360 OBP).
92. Roy Oswalt
2011 saw age finally start to catch up with Roy Oswalt, as the 6.02 K/9, .275 AVG, and 1.34 WHIP he posted were all career worsts. His 3.44 FIP and 0.65 HR/9 (despite his home park being a bandbox) suggests the veteran still has something left in the tank though.
While the Phillies don't appear to have much interest in bringing him back, Oswalt figures to draw plenty of interest, as several teams could benefit from his presence in the middle of their rotation.
91. Heath Bell
Heath Bell took over the ninth inning duties in San Diego following the departure of Trevor Hoffman and hasn't looked back since. His 132 saves since the start of 2009 are the most in baseball, and he ranks seventh among relievers in WAR (4.8) in that same time frame.
Bell will no longer call the pitcher's paradise that is Petco Park home, as he is now a member of the Marlins. While it remains to be seen how Miami's new stadium will play, Bell's career 3.07 K/BB and 48.3 GB% suggest he should have continued success whether the park favors pitchers or not.
90. Alex Gordon
Written off by many after failing to live up to an unfair billing as the next George Brett, Alex Gordon finally put it all together in 2011, hitting .303 with 23 HR, 87 RBI and an .879 OPS.
In addition to the strides he's made at the plate, Gordon has flourished since moving from third base to left field, as his 20 assists in 2011 were by far the most in MLB among left fielders. In light of his breakthrough campaign, you have to think the 27-year-old has played his way back into Kansas City's long term plans.
89. Jimmy Rollins
While his days as an MVP-caliber player are long behind him, Jimmy Rollins remains one of the game's better shortstops. Having topped 30 stolen bases in nine of 11 seasons, he's the Phillies' catalyst and an invaluable part of their lineup.
While his defense is not what it used to be, he remains a serviceable shortstop. Rollins recently re-upped with the Phillies, which should help Ruben Amaro sleep better at night, as he'd have been hard-pressed to replace him.
88. Shin-Soo Choo
After two seasons of remarkable consistency, 2011 saw Shin-Soo Choo take a step back in no small part due to injuries (he played in only 85 games). Though he was limited to just 47 AB after the All-Star break, he at least looked like his former self in those AB (3 HR, 8 RBI, 1.000 OPS).
When healthy, Choo is not only Cleveland's best player but one of the best right fielders in the game. His 11.1 WAR between 2009 and 2010 was 14th best among all hitters in MLB in that time frame. If he avoids the injury bug, expect a return to that form in 2012.
87. Alex Avila
One of the breakout stars of 2011, Alex Avila came from out of nowhere to assert himself as one of the best catchers in the game. The Tigers' backstop finished eighth in the AL in OPS (.895) and was the starting catcher at the All-Star game.
On top of his offensive prowess, Avila is a fine catcher, as his CS% of .320 was fourth best among all catchers in 2011. While the addition of Victor Martinez may have put Avila's role in doubt at first, there's no doubt now that he's the Tigers' man behind the plate going forward.
86. Mark Buehrle
Not gifted with typical ace stuff, Mark Buehrle nonetheless has carved out a fine career for himself by doing all the little things that lead to success on the mound. His career BB/9 is a splendid 2.05 and the three time Gold Glover is one of the best fielding pitchers in the game today.
Few pitchers exemplify durability like Buehrle, as he has topped 200 innings each of the past 11 seasons. The veteran southpaw opted to follow Ozzie Guillen to South Florida this Winter, and he should prove to be invaluable to an otherwise young Marlins' rotation.
85. Tommy Hanson
One of the most promising young arms in an organization loaded with young pitching, Tommy Hanson burst onto the scene in 2009, living up to his hype as Atlanta's top prospect. That season, he went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 127.2 IP, good for a third place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Injuries limited him to just 22 starts in 2011, but he did show ace potential when he was on the mound, posting an 11-7 record, 1.17 WHIP, and 3.09 K/BB. With good health, 2012 could very well be the year Hanson fulfills that potential.
84. Mike Napoli
Traded from the Angels to the Blue Jays in a deal involving Vernon Wells, Mike Napoli was then flipped to the Rangers in a deal that garnered little fanfare. As if Wells' putrid season didn't make the deal look bad enough, Napoli rubbed salt in his old team's wound by helping their division rival win the AL pennant.
Despite playing in just 113 games, Napoli set career highs in HR (30) and RBI (75) among other offensive categories and posted a gaudy 1.045 OPS. Had Texas won the World Series, he surely would've been named series MVP (2 HR, 10 RBI, 1.164 OPS). Is it any wonder Tony Reagins is no longer the Angels' GM?
83. Carlos Quentin
Carlos Quentin has established himself as a power bat to be reckoned with since arriving on the South Side of Chicago prior to the 2008 season. Were it not for a self-inflicted wrist injury down the stretch that year, he may well have won AL MVP, as his 36 HR, 100 RBI, and .965 OPS were all among the best in the AL.
While he hasn't approached those gaudy totals since, he's still topped 20 HR each of the past three seasons. Were it not for his injury proneness and simply awful right field defense (career -31.9 Fld), his run-producing ability would probably merit him a higher place on the list.
82. Gio Gonzalez
Though injuries and inconsistency have plagued Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill the past few seasons, Gio Gonzalez has developed into a legitimate top of the order starter for the A's. His 8.56 K/9 since the start of 2009 is the eighth best mark among all starters.
What keeps him from ranking higher on this list is that he has the highest BB/9 in the majors (4.29) over that same time frame. If he can ever harness his control, there's no telling what he's capable of.
81. Elvis Andrus
Since his arrival spurred the controversial decision to move Michael Young from shortstop (neither the first or last time Texas has moved the veteran), Elvis Andrus has validated the decision by developing into one of the game's best shortstops.
Having learned under the great Omar Vizquel his rookie season, Andrus has become a defensive wizard, as his 19.2 Fld since 2009 is third best among all shortstops with at least 400 games played. He's no slouch offensively either, as his speed and baserunning instincts make him an effective catalyst.
80. Asdrubal Cabrera
After showing great potential his first four years in the majors, 2011 saw Asdrubal Cabrera put it all together. The young Venezuelan finished second only to Troy Tulowitzki among all shortstops in HR (25) and RBI (92), and his .792 OPS was fifth best among all players at that position.
His defense has been the subject of much debate lately. The more traditional fan will tell you no one in baseball had more web gems in 2011, while the sabremetric community will tell you he finished last among all shortstops in UZR in 2011. It's a contentious debate that isn't ending any time soon.
79. Ricky Romero
Since Roy Halladay was traded to Philadelphia, Ricky Romero has asserted himself as the ace of a promising young Toronto rotation. Since debuting in 2009, the Jays' former first-round pick has gone 42-29 with a 3.60 ERA and has gotten better with each passing season.
His career GB% is a very strong 54.6 percent, and while he's not a dominant strikeout pitcher, his career 7.12 K/9 suggests he can rack them up on occasion. Prone to wildness early on in his career, his BB/9 has been going down each year (3.20 in 2011). We've yet to see the best from this young southpaw.
78. Michael Morse
Singled out by many for years as a breakout candidate, Michael Morse finally put it all together in his age 29 season, albeit not without a stroke of fate. After starting the season in a left field platoon, he took over as Washington's starting first baseman after a shoulder injury ended Adam LaRoche's season.
Morse made the most of the opportunity, finishing fourth in the NL in SLG (.550), eighth in OPS (.910), ninth in HR (31), and tenth in RBI (95). Whether his future is at first base or in the outfield, it's clear he's worked his way into the Nationals' plans.
77. Ubaldo Jimenez
It's hard to know what to make of Ubaldo Jimenez. In 2010, he took a 0.93 ERA into the month of June and was 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA at the All-Star break. Though he stumbled down the stretch, he still managed to finish third in the NL Cy Young vote and looked like one of the game's up-and-coming young starters.
However, his stock in Colorado fell so much after a rocky start to 2011 (6-9, 4.46 ERA, 1.37 WHIP) that the Rockies jumped at the opportunity to move him before his stock could fall even more, trading him to the Indians for an impressive return. While he ended 2011 with an unsightly 4.68 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt given his age and a solid 2011 FIP of 3.67.
76. Shaun Marcum
After losing the 2009 season to Tommy John surgery, Shaun Marcum resurfaced in 2010 to make 31 starts for the Blue Jays with impressive results (13-8, 3.64 ERA, 3.84 K/BB). His stock rose so much, Toronto was able to net prized prospect Brett Lawrie when they traded him to the Brewers.
Many gushed at the thought of Marcum, who'd had success pitching in the AL East, pitching in the NL, and he did not disappoint. In his first season with Milwaukee, the right-hander set career bests in innings pitched (200.2), ERA (3.54), and FIP (3.73) and played a key role in getting the Brewers to the postseason.
75. Michael Bourn
Though All-Star caliber center fielders haven't been easy to come by the past few seasons, Michael Bourn has been one of the best at the position since his breakout season in 2009. His 13.8 WAR since 2009 is second only to Matt Kemp among center fielders, and he leads all players with 174 SB in that time period.
Such speed makes it easier to cope with the fact that he has basically no power (career .087 ISO). That speed translates into strong defense in center field as well, as his 22.9 Fld since 2009 is third best among all center fielders, and he won back-to-back Gold Gloves in 2009 and 2010 with Houston.
74. Brian Wilson
Though his celebrity did not explode until the second half of the 2010 season, when he started sporting his now trademark black beard, Brian Wilson actually has been one of the game's best closers since 2009. He trails only Heath Bell for the most saves since the start of that season (122).
Injuries marred his 2011 campaign, as he started the season on the DL with an oblique injury and struggled to find his rhythm when he returned (5.07 BB/9, 1.47 WHIP). Despite the lost season, he'll be just 30 on Opening Day 2012. So long as he's healthy, there's still plenty of reason to "fear the beard."
73. Chase Utley
This may have been the toughest call I had to make throughout the entire list. On one hand, Chase Utley simply has not been able to stay healthy the past two seasons, averaging just 109 games played. Injuries clearly effected his on field performance in 2011, as his .259/ .344/ .425 line was well below his career average.
On the other hand, since the start of 2009, Utley is eighth among all hitters in WAR (17.6). This is why I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Each year from 2005 to 2009, he finished with at least 20 HR, 90 RBI, and an OPS north of .900. With a strong finish to his career, Utley could very well find his way to Cooperstown.
72. Alex Rodriguez
Though no longer a franchise player (even though he'll be getting paid like one the next six years), Alex Rodriguez remains an offensive force when healthy. That said, as he's gotten older, staying healthy has become an issue with A-Rod, as he hasn't played in more than 150 games since his MVP season in 2007.
That didn't stop him from topping 30 HR and 100 RBI in both 2009 and 2010 though. 2011 did prove to be a lost season for him, as he was limited to just 99 games and his .823 OPS was the worst mark of his career. Fortunately for him, he has the DH role to help him stay healthy and maximize his production the next six years.
71. Tim Hudson
The Braves' rich inventory of young pitching is getting a lot of attention these days and with good reason, but their best pitcher right now remains Tim Hudson. Plagued by injuries in 2008 and 2009, Hudson has bounced back nicely since, making 67 starts, winning 33 games, and posting a 3.03 ERA over the past two seasons.
Though 2011 saw a spike in his K/9 (6.6), that's never really been his bread and butter. Instead, Hudson gets by with the ground ball, as his career GB% is a robust 59 percent. Though he's getting up there in age, Hudson's pitching know-how should help him remain an effective pitcher as he nears age 40.
70. Jonathan Papelbon
After a disappointing 2010 season, Jonathan Papelbon rebounded to post one of the strongest seasons of his career in 2011, as his 1.53 FIP was easily his best mark in six big league seasons. After posting a rather unhealthy 3.76 BB/9 in 2010, he cut that mark down to 1.40 in 2011, which had a lot to do with his microscopic WHIP of 0.93.
Since taking over the ninth inning job in Boston in 2006, few closers have been better than Papelbon. The best closer in Red Sox history, 2012 will see the eclectic flamethrower take his talents to Philadelphia. While I doubt he's worth $50M over four years, look for "Paps" to remain one of the game's elite closers going forward.
69. Andre Ethier
After showing glimpses of his ability his first two seasons, 2008 saw Andre Ethier put it all together (20 HR, 77 RBI, .885 OPS). He put up even better totals the following season, hitting 31 HR with 106 RBI (both career highs). Perhaps his most impressive feat that season was the four walk-off home runs he hit, tying a single season major league record.
2011 wasn't as kind to Ethier, as his SLG plummeted to .421 (58 points below his career average). Playing through a knee injury surely didn't help though, and while he'll likely never outdo his performance from 2009, there's hope Ethier's 2012 stats will be more in line with his career averages (18 HR, 74 RBI, .843 RBI).
68. Jay Bruce
Hyped for years while in Cincinnati's farm system, Jay Bruce debuted in the majors in 2008 and made a splash from the get go, hitting .254/ .314/ .453 with 21 HR with 52 RBI. Though he's become a fixture in the Reds' lineup since, the sweet-swinging slugger is still just 24 and seems to just be scratching the surface of his potential.
Though 2011 saw his OPS (.815) drop 31 points from the year prior, he did set career highs in HR (32) and RBI (97) and made his first All-Star team. Though there are doubts about Joey Votto's future in Cincinnati, fans in the Queen City can take comfort in knowing Bruce is in the fold through 2016.
67. Carlos Beltran
After fading into obscurity thanks to two injury-plagued seasons, Carlos Beltran was able to play 142 games this past season. While he's no longer the player who nearly carried Houston to the World Series by himself in 2004, it's clear now he's still an All-Star caliber player when healthy.
Beltran got off to such a hot start for the Mets (15 HR, 66 RBI, .904 OPS), Sandy Alderson was able to net top prospect Zack Wheeler when he traded him to San Francisco. Though the Giants didn't make it back to the postseason, that can hardly be pinned on Beltran (7 HR, 18 RBI, .920 OPS after the trade).
66. Aramis Ramirez
Much like Beltran, injuries plagued Aramis Ramirez in 2009 and 2010, and his production suffered so much that many doubted he'd ever regain his 2004-2008 form. With his OPS sitting at .742 on May 31, 2011 was looking like a lost season for Ramirez as well. From that point on though, he went on a tear.
Over the next four months, Ramirez hit .315 with 22 HR and 74 RBI, re-establishing himself as one of the game's best third basemen. 2012 will see the veteran move about 90 miles North and suit up for the Brewers. While his defense has gotten worse in recent years and speed has never been an asset of his, his bat should prove to be quite the asset to a Brewers team trying to get over the loss of Prince Fielder.
65. Lance Berkman
When word came out that the Cardinals had signed Lance Berkman to be their everyday right fielder, many (including me) thought the move would backfire completely, the thinking being that Berkman was washed up and couldn't handle right field. Berkman's 2011 season goes to show why John Mozeliak is GM of the Cardinals and why people like me are not.
Not only was the deal not a bust, it proved to be one of the best, most impactful moves of the 2011 off season. Berkman showed flashes of his pre-2010 form, hitting .301/ .412/ .547 with 31 HR and 94 RBI, putting the Cardinals' offense over the top (they scored the most runs in the NL) and ultimately helping them win the World Series.
64. Josh Beckett
After the worst year of his career in 2010, Josh Beckett bounced back nicely in 2011. The right hander set new career bests in ERA (2.89) and WHIP (1.03) and finished in the top five in the AL in both categories. Such production makes the four-year, $68M deal Beckett signed in April 2010 look a lot better than it did this time last year.
While there's never been any doubting Beckett's ability when healthy, staying healthy has often been easier said than done, as he's topped 200 innings just three times in ten big league seasons. At age 31, he's starting to exit his prime, but there's no reason Beckett can't remain a very solid number two starter going forward.
63. David Ortiz
The traditional DH has become something of a dying breed in recent years, with several teams opting to rotate several players in that spot to give them a breather. That hasn't been the case in Boston though, as David Ortiz has remained productive well into his 30's, assuring himself plenty of at-bats despite bringing basically no defensive value to the table.
It seemed Big Papi was headed for a steep decline after a lackluster 2009 season in which he posted the worst OPS (.794) and ISO (.224) of his tenure in Boston. Since then however, he's bounced back nicely, ranking in the top 10 in the AL in OPS each of the past two seasons. That kind of production merits him a place on the list regardless of whether or not he's allergic to leather.
62. Dan Uggla
Through the end of June, Atlanta's much-lauded acquisition of Dan Uggla was looking like a total bust. As the calendar flipped to July, he boasted a revolting .587 OPS (almost 250 points below his career mark) with just 12 HR and 28 RBI. He returned to form after the All-Star break though, as he hit 21 HR with 48 RBI, a .948 OPS, and enjoyed a 33-game hitting streak (the longest streak in Atlanta Braves' history).
Uggla is the only second baseman in baseball history to hit at least 30 home runs in four straight seasons. Such a feat would merit him a higher place on the list if not for the fact that he is a horrendous second baseman (his -29.7 Fld since 2009 is the worst mark among all second baseman). As long as he's hitting moonshots, it seems the Braves are content to live with his defense.