Can Braun supplant Pujols atop the list?
I'm not ashamed to admit it...
The early, pulse-pounding action of the MLB postseason has given me a textbook case of "baseball fever."
In fact, my fever is so intense that I feel compelled to rank baseball's top 100 players, position players and pitchers alike.
Please note that these rankings are not based entirely upon the 2011 season, and that '10 and '09 will be given some consideration.
That being said, allow me to open the door to debate...
Big JJ was leading in ERA when he went down.
These players were not considered due to injury:
Infielders: Brian Roberts, Bal; Kendry Morales, LAA; Joe Mauer, Min; Stephen Drew, Ari; Ike Davis, NYM; Ryan Zimmerman, Was.
Starters (did not qualify for league leaders): Josh Johnson, Fla; Adam Wainwright, Stl; Stephen Strasburg, Was; Tommy Hanson, Atl; Jair Jurrjens, Atl; Johan Santana, NYM; Clay Buchholz, Bos; Johnny Cueto, Cin; Jonathan Sanchez, SF.
I cannot believe the poise this kid has exhibited.
These kids could break into the top 100 next year (in no particular order):
Infielders: Mark Trumbo, LAA; Eric Hosmer, KC.
Starters: Jeremy Hellickson, TB; Madison Bumgarner, SF; Ivan Nova, NYY; Bud Norris, Hou; Max Scherzer, Det; Michael Pineda, Sea; Daniel Hudson, Ari.
Relievers: Neftali Feliz, Tex; Daniel Bard, Bos; Jonny Venters, Atl; Sergio Santos, ChW.
These Royals teammates were close to making the top 100.
Close but no cigar for the following guys:
Infielders: Billy Butler, KC; Jhonny Peralta, Det; Elvis Andrus, Tex; Adam Lind, Tor; Emilio Bonifacio, Fla.
Outfielders: Drew Stubbs, Cin; Alfonso Soriano, ChC; Carlos Quentin, ChW; B.J. Upton, TB; Alex Gordon, KC; Torii Hunter, LAA; Carl Crawford, Bos; Nick Swisher, NYY; Nick Markakis, Bal; Melky Cabrera, KC; Andre Ethier, LAD; Vladimir Guerrero, Bal (DH).
Starters: Hiroki Kuroda, LAD; Anibal Sanchez, Fla; Kyle Lohse, Stl; Wandy Rodriguez, Hou; Shaun Marcum, Mil.
Relievers: JJ Putz, Ari; Ryan Madson, Phi.
A feisty young closer with the right mentality for the job.
This nasty right-handed fireman should be closing games for Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann for quite some time.
Reminds me a lot of Hanley Ramirez.
This immensely-talented and entertaining kid is one of the few bright spots remaining on the Cubs' loser-laced roster.
I actually like his stroke better from the right side.
What isn't he capable of doing on the diamond? He's a productive switch hitter who runs well and plays 2B, SS, 3B, 1B, RF, LF and even CF when necessary.
His lack of improvement is disappointing.
It seems as if he may never make the transition from "home run hitter" to "run producer." Frustrating.
It's feast or famine with this guy.
He's a legitimate, pure power hitter, but his low batting averages and ridiculously high strikeout totals are off-putting on a yearly basis.
Not the player he once was.
Once a top-10 player, this veteran second baseman has been continually hindered by injuries.
Is the juice better than the squeeze?
He's an electric, eye-catching talent who gets a lot of hype, but he only hit .259 this year.
What a surprising breakout season.
You know that this guy, a catcher, had a higher OPS than Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, Robinson Cano, Evan Longoria, Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard...right?
This guy demolishes baseballs.
After an embarrassing month of April, this big boy was one of the best hitters in baseball for the remainder of the long regular season.
Really came into his own in Pittsburgh this season.
A fearless, flame-throwing closer who racked up 40 saves with a sparkling 1.83 ERA.
More people need to take note of this guy.
An excellent two-way catcher who is easily one of the most underrated players in the NL.
He deserves a ton of credit for his offensive improvement.
He's been considered the best defensive catcher in the bigs for a long time, but now, he's also a .300 hitter.
Soon to be a consistent 40-homer slugger.
A raw, mesmerizing talent with infinite power potential.
One of the feel-good stories of the 2011 season.
This journeyman came out of nowhere to finish fourth in the NL in ERA, ahead of star teammates Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Go figure.
A very tall, polished right-handed starter.
This burgeoning beanstalk was the piece that allowed Jim Leyland's Tigers to run away with the AL Central.
He was Johnny on the Spot for the O's this year.
This long, lanky, enigmatic shortstop became a fan favorite in Baltimore with 30 surprising homers.
The man, the myth, the legend.
I suppose this is a bit of a Career Achievement Award, but I couldn't really rank JJ Hardy ahead of "The Captain"...could I?
Another successful deal for the Rangers.
This potent, power-hitting catcher had a ridiculously monstrous second half. He's a player I've always enjoyed watching.
This young, poised left-hander was robbed of the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2010, but he didn't allow the snub to phase him throughout a solid sophomore season.
The premier home-run hitting second baseman in the history of the game.
Few realize that he's one of the greatest closers ever.
Did you know that "Coco" is second among active pitchers (Rivera) on the all-time saves list?
Beautiful mechanics on display here.
A valuable two-way outfielder who always seems to find a way to get his.
Safe as usual.
The world's best base stealer also tends to hover around a .300 batting average. He's a Gold Glove center fielder as well.
A leaguewide afterthought this year.
This young, right-hander was the talk of the town a season ago, but his "down" year (3.47 ERA, 185 Ks) has quieted some of the chatter.
Could approach superstardom next season.
An immensely talented, versatile center fielder who is certainly one of the smoothest players in the game.
He wasn't doing this after Robert Andino's GW hit.
He's been an elite closer for more than a handful of years now, but sometimes, he's overly reliant upon his fastball. Dare I say...macho?
The move to Cleveland helped him rewrite his '11 script.
Normally showcases very sound mechanics.
A solid, reliable innings eater who trusts his stuff and aggressively attacks the opposition.
Is the beard more famous than the player?
This bearded wonder was the story of the year at the closer position in 2010. He wasn't spectacular this season due to injury, but he was still intimidating and relatively effective.
The runaway Web Gem king this season.
This entertaining shortstop was a legitimate AL MVP candidate throughout the first third of the season. His overall numbers were superb relative to his position.
He couldn't hit .300 because I drafted him in fantasy.
It was an obvious down year for Ichiro, but he's been the premier bat control hitter for quite some time. Still near the top of the league in stolen bases as well.
Always seems to be havin' a good time out there.
A stabilizing force in center field for the successful Phillies. "The Flyin' Hawaiian" is a valuable all-around performer.
This year that's probably a swing and a miss.
Injuries and clubhouse turmoil turned 2011 into a disconcerting campaign for the usually unshakable "Youk."
Is he a true ace?
I'm not a big believer in this guy as a long-term lefty ace, but his sensational 2011 statistics are undoubtedly undeniable.
Probably wishes he was back on the Rays.
This aggressive, confident right-hander had some of the worst luck in the league this year but still managed a 3.32 ERA and 197 strikeouts.
An electric young left-hander.
This impressive lefty is easily one of my favorite starters in the AL. He combines outstanding stuff with a refreshing willingness to learn and improve.
A battle-tested warrior.
"J-Roll" goes on cruise control at times during the long, grueling regular season, but he's always prepared to shine at crunch time. Though he's advancing in age, he's still an incredible fielder at the most important defensive position.
Better with the bat than he is with the glove.
I'm certain that "Nellie" is a top-50 talent, but injuries and inconsistency always seem to keep him on the outside looking in.
A forgotten man when the Cubbies struggle.
He's an excellent run producer, but injuries typically suck some of the life out of his final numbers (.306, 26 HRs, 93 RBI). They could be spectacular, but they end up solid.
Left Barry Zito and Mark Mulder in the dust.
See No. 54. (Just change Mike Scioscia to Fredi Gonzalez).
One of the most underappreciated arms in the AL.
This kid is a tremendous competitor who never backs down, regardless of the fact that he pitches in the toughest offensive division in the MLB.
Injury hindered his play down the stretch.
The elite offensive catcher in the bigs.
Blazer on the way, no doubt.
This ferocious flamethrower was one of the top three closers in the game this year.
Typical Mets suffering.
He has standout numbers for his career, but—coming from a diehard Mets fan—he's been nothing but a disappointment under pressure. True superstars rise to the occasion.
Still a beautiful player to watch.
This sweet-swinging right fielder (and former world-class center fielder) remains one of the top switch hitters in the business.
I love his quick hands and short stroke, but Kinsler needs to improve his outer-half plate coverage to crack my top 50.
As solid as they come as a No. 2 starter.
His stuff isn't quite what it used to be, but Haren is a workhorse who remains highly effective for manager Mike Scioscia.
Gee, I wish my Mets hadn't given up on him.
Arguably the most consistent, active closer after the legendary Mariano Rivera.
It wasn't pretty in his last playoff start.
A tough-minded, veteran "ace" who would actually play second fiddle to a healthy Adam Wainwright.
He may have the best stuff in the world.
A rookie with 46 saves and 127 strikeouts in 77 innings?
Are you kidding me?
An unlikely, unflappable ace.
Welcomed with open arms in Philly.
A solid, spunky, sparkplug of a ballplayer. He's fitting nicely with his new teammates.
What a free agent signing for the Redbirds.
An absolute lock for the Comeback Player of the Year award. What an impressive career turnaround.
Looking over his shoulder at the prime of his career.
Everyone keeps expecting "Big Papi" to taper off into retirement, but this gritty hitter finished fourth in the AL in OPS.
Always athletic and acrobatic in the field.
A fun-loving, fun-to-watch, versatile second baseman.
He had a rough go of it in his postseason start.
There is no question that Shields was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball this season, but his two preceding years (5.18 ERA, 4.14) were hardly superstar caliber.
I'm glad he found a home with a competitive club.
After a slow start in a new setting, this electric right-hander settled in nicely, evoking vivid memories of his Cy Young season with the Royals.
A professional hitter on both sides of the plate.
This switch-hitting standout (.330 BA) would be higher on the list if he spent more time as a catcher than a DH.
Freight train coming through.
This bulldog's filthy stuff never seems to deteriorate.
An eccentric wild man on the hill.
In my opinion, there are certainly closers with better repertoires—Craig Kimbrel, Neftali Feliz and Brian Wilson to name a few—but this maniac earns the No. 2 spot because he went 49-of-49 this season. Absolutely incredible.
An admirable all-around competitor.
This kid is aggressive, tough, durable and has the stuff to complement his make-up. He's also respected as a dangerous hitting pitcher.
The superior Upton brother.
He's widely considered an NL MVP candidate, but the ultra-talented Upton only had 88 RBI on a first-place team.
A rare, explosive lefty wing.
Price has one of the most dominant left-handed fastballs you'll ever see, but he needs to refine and trust his secondary offerings to ascend the ranks.
How clutch was this guy down the stretch?
A strong final third of the season salvaged a nearly disastrous campaign for the Rays' franchise position player.
If the Yankees reach the ALCS, I see him breaking out.
There was a time when he was a lock for the top four; now, he's good enough for the top 40.
An underrated big-game pitcher.
A breathtaking postseason followed by a superb regular season (2.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP).
Not one...not two...but three Philly aces.
Sometimes overlooked because of top-tier teammates Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, this outstanding young lefty continues to improve and thrive.
I can see the sadness.
It was an alarmingly poor and injury-riddled season for this once-invincible shortstop of the Marlins. In past years, he was a lock for the top 10; this year, he falls a few spots outside of the top 30.
We always know what to expect from him -- success.
This consummate professional hitter finished at .338 this season. Ho hum; another year in the consistent career of "Forever" Young.
A cool customer in Colorado.
He played in only 127 games due to injury, but the man they call "Cargo" followed up an MVP-caliber '10 season with a .295 BA, 26 HRs and 20 SBs this year.
He's a magician during the offseason.
Teixeira has been one of the premier power hitters in the AL the past few seasons, but his batting average continues to drop steadily. He has more holes now than ever.
A ferocious high-ball hitter.
The second-best (all-around) second baseman in the game.
He's pissed about being underappreciated.
Quietly one of the most reliable and productive offensive players in the league.
Celebrating the Wild Card.
Various ailments shortened Holliday's regular season, but he still provides the valuable and scarce combination of high average and power.
This photo is not from a recent playoff game.
It was an underwhelming year for this normally superlative left-handed ace, but he still managed a solid record with a 3.47 ERA and 187 strikeouts.
A fun player to watch offensively and defensively.
Though he played for two different, top-tier teams, Beltre produced back-to-back excellent seasons—especially relative to a position marred by down years (David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman).
High five for the top 25!
This fantastic, high-flying center fielder was one of the true breakout performers of the 2011 season. If he had more of a track record of this (.321 BA, 32 homers, 105 RBI, 39 steals, 119 runs) kind of success, I'd definitely get him into the top 20.
Do not pitch this guy inside with hard stuff.
This congenial class act is a legitimate AL MVP candidate who outshined superstar teammates including Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.
The far better Weaver brother.
A funky delivery and a disorienting array of pitches make Weaver (Volume II) one of the premier right-handed starters.
Is he the best all-around SS in the game?
Quietly had another sensational season at the shortstop position.
Always smiling...sometimes when he shouldn't be.
This spectacular speedster added a batting title to his already impressive statistical resume, but his recurring injury issues keep him out of my top 15.
No longer the best lefty out there.
Sabathia's still a solid, workhorse of an ace, but that air of invincibility was clearly lacking this season.
Never seems too stressed on the bump.
"King Felix" is one of my favorite starters to watch (and certainly one of the most talented), but his 3.47 ERA was awfully mundane in a year flooded with standout, individual pitching statistics.
Live bat comin' through.
Last year's AL MVP was sidetracked by injury this season, but "Hambone" still found a way to leave his mark when it mattered.
Will we get this kind of production every year?
This explosive and gifted player nearly won the Triple Crown in the NL, but effort and accountability have been concerning issues in the past.
He has a flair for the dramatic.
It was a bit of a down year for Howard (.253 BA, .275 lifetime), but he still managed 33 homers and 116 RBI and has been a consistent power force for quite awhile.
I don't believe he is human.
When the following question is posed, "Who is the best closer in baseball?"
Is there ever any doubt about the answer?
One of the top two starters in the game this year.
This lights-out lefty managed to earn the NL pitching Triple Crown despite a lethargic and lackluster season for the storied Dodgers franchise. Sky's the limit for this kid.
Last season's NL MVP is an elite all-around hitter.
Votto's Reds were a disappointment this season, but his individual success continued convincingly (.309, 29 homers, 103 RBI).
First-pitch strike machine.
He's the best lefty in the bigs because he works fast, establishes a rhythm, attacks the strikezone, utilizes both sides of the plate, commands and uses all of his pitches and has the numbers to back it all up.
Free agency here he comes...
A sweet-swinging, potent power hitter with the ability to surprise people with his batting average (.299).
With the open market on the horizon, can you say, "Payday?"
Tremendous two-way player.
"A-Gone" is a rare breed: a Gold Glove fielder who hits for both power and average.
Sweetest swing in the game.
One of the most naturally gifted ballplayers I've ever had the pleasure to witness.
How can we overlook this "Freak?"
He didn't receive much media attention in the NL this season because of Philly's fantastic aces, but Lincecum yawned his way to a 2.74 ERA and 220 more mesmerizing strikeouts.
Absolutely ridiculous stuff.
This complete freak of nature was the best and most dominant pitcher in the universe this year.
National League MVP?
I value versatile, consistent hitters and only two in the world are better than the Brewers' pride and joy.
Possibly the most feared hitter in the game these days.
This out-of-nowhere superstar has emerged as the most complete power hitter in the bigs.
Bautista dominated the walks category (132) and his 1.056 OPS blew everyone out of the water except the stud at the No. 2 spot.
The modern-day master of the complete game.
This one is simple: "Doc" is the best starting pitcher of his generation, and he's still going strong.
Baseball shouldn't look this easy.
He's not in phenomenal athletic shape, but Miggy is a jaw-dropping natural hitter with absolutely no weaknesses at the plate. If he comes away with the AL MVP trophy, he'll be a deserving winner.
Still the best.
Injury limited him to less than 150 games played for just the second time in his illustrious 11-year career, but "The Machine" still managed to mash 37 homers, good for third in the NL.
His unparalleled consistency earns him the top spot on my list. Well-deserved, King Albert.