Latest MLB Position-by-Position Rankings, September Edition

Joel ReuterSeptember 1, 2022

Latest MLB Position-by-Position Rankings, September Edition

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    Aaron Judge (Michael Owens/Getty Images)

    Who are baseball's 10 best players at each position with one month remaining in the 2022 season?

    That's the simple question we set out to answer, and it required casting aside past performance, expectations and long-term projections.

    In other words, name recognition and previous success don't mean anything here. We're just looking at how players are performing in 2022.

    For consistency, players are ranked at the position where they have played the most innings this year.

    Let the debate begin!


    Note: Included in parentheses after each player's name is their ranking in last month's version of this article, which can be found here.

Catchers

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    J.T. Realmuto (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

    Top 10 Catchers

    1. J.T. Realmuto, PHI (6)
    2. Willson Contreras, CHC (2)
    3. Alejandro Kirk, TOR (1)
    4. Will Smith, LAD (3)
    5. Adley Rutschman, BAL (7)
    6. Sean Murphy, OAK (8)
    7. Cal Raleigh, SEA (NR)
    8. Jonah Heim, TEX (5)
    9. Jose Trevino, NYY (4)
    10. William Contreras, ATL (10)


    No. 1 Spot: With a .319/.381/.602 line since the All-Star break, J.T. Realmuto now has a 122 OPS+ on the year, and coupled with his usual stellar defensive work, he now leads all catchers with 4.6 WAR.

    Rising: Rookie Adley Rutschman is making a serious push in the AL Rookie of the Year race, and the 3.7 WAR he has racked up in 80 games since making his MLB debut on May 21 is tied for second among catchers. The 24-year-old has a 125 OPS+ with 35 extra-base hits in 332 plate appearances.

    Biggest Snub: Veteran Travis d'Arnaud just missed the cut with a 114 OPS+ to go along with 19 doubles, 14 home runs and 50 RBI. His platoon behind the plate with William Contreras in Atlanta has been one of the most productive catching tandems in baseball.

First Basemen

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    Paul Goldschmidt (Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Top 10 First Basemen

    1. Paul Goldschmidt, STL (1)
    2. Freddie Freeman, LAD (2)
    3. Pete Alonso, NYM (4)
    4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR (5)
    5. José Abreu, CWS (7)
    6. Luis Arráez, MIN (8)
    7. Josh Bell, SD (3)
    8. Nathaniel Lowe, TEX (NR)
    9. Matt Olson, ATL (NR)
    10. Christian Walker, ARI (NR)


    No. 1 Spot: With runner-up finishes on his resume in 2013 and 2015, Paul Goldschmidt looks poised to finally take home NL MVP honors. The St. Louis Cardinals star leads the NL in batting average (.333) and RBI (105), and his 33 home runs are just three behind Kyle Schwarber for the Triple Crown lead. He is also one of just five players this season with at last 7.0 WAR.

    Rising: Since the All-Star break, few hitters have been more productive than Nathaniel Lowe. The Texas Rangers first baseman is hitting .358/.398/.629 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI in 38 games during the second half, and he has a 138 OPS+ with 22 home runs and 2.3 WAR on the year.

    Biggest Snub: All-Stars C.J. Cron (142 PA, .203 BA, .577 OPS) and Ty France (124 PA, .209 BA. .629 OPS) have both seen a significant drop-off in production since the break, and both fall out of the rankings at a deep position as a result.

Second Basemen

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    Andrés Giménez (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

    Top 10 Second Basemen

    1. Andrés Giménez, CLE (2)
    2. José Altuve, HOU (3)
    3. Jeff McNeil, NYM (6)
    4. Tommy Edman, STL (1)
    5. Gavin Lux, LAD (7)
    6. Jake Cronenworth, SD (4)
    7. Jorge Polanco, MIN (NR)
    8. Marcus Semien, TEX (NR)
    9. Gleyber Torres, NYY (8)
    10. Ketel Marte, ARI (10)


    No. 1 Spot: If there were a Most Improved Player award in baseball, Andrés Giménez would be a strong contender. The 23-year-old had a 74 OPS+ in 68 games last season, and he wasn't even guaranteed a starting job in 2022. Now, he's batting .304/.367/.492 for a 144 OPS+ with 22 doubles, 15 home runs, 60 RBI, 15 steals and 5.5 WAR in 114 games.

    Rising: Former top prospect Gavin Lux continues to steadily climb the second baseman rankings in a breakout season. The 24-year-old is hitting .296/.372/.434 with 31 extra-base hits and 2.9 WAR in a career-high 113 games.

    Biggest Snub: Despite being sidelined since June 28 with a stress fracture in his lower back, Jazz Chisholm Jr. still ranks in the top 10 among second basemen with 2.5 WAR. However, it was impossible to keep him ranked ahead of guys who have played nearly twice as many games.

Third Basemen

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    Nolan Arenado (Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Top 10 Third Basemen

    1. Nolan Arenado, STL (3)
    2. Manny Machado, SD (5)
    3. José Ramírez, CLE (4)
    4. Austin Riley, ATL (1)
    5. Rafael Devers, BOS (2)
    6. Alex Bregman, HOU (NR)
    7. DJ LeMahieu, NYY (6)
    8. Matt Chapman, TOR (7)
    9. Yandy Díaz, TB (8)
    10. Eugenio Suárez, SEA (NR)


    No. 1 Spot: The biggest threat to Paul Goldschmidt in the NL MVP race right now might be his own teammate Nolan Arenado. The 31-year-old leads the league with 7.1 WAR, and he's hitting .307/.370/.566 with 35 doubles, 27 home runs and 87 RBI while playing his usual Gold Glove defense.

    Rising: Since the All-Star break, Alex Bregman is hitting .336/.410/.642 with 14 doubles, nine home runs and 31 RBI in 37 games. It's been an up-and-down past few seasons for the 2019 AL MVP runner-up, but he is once again performing at an elite level.

    Biggest Snub: Under-the-radar breakout star Brandon Drury is hitting just .202/.240/.362 in 100 plate appearances since he was traded to the San Diego Padres at the deadline. That was enough for him to slide out of the top 10, but he's still having a strong overall season.

Shortstops

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    Trea Turner (Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

    Top 10 Shortstops

    1. Trea Turner, LAD (2)
    2. Xander Bogaerts, BOS (3)
    3. Dansby Swanson, ATL (1)
    4. Francisco Lindor, NYM (4)
    5. Corey Seager, TEX (5)
    6. Carlos Correa, MIN (7)
    7. Nico Hoerner, CHC (8)
    8. Willy Adames, MIL (NR)
    9. Amed Rosario, CLE (9)
    10. Jeremy Peña, HOU (10)


    No. 1 Spot: Free-agent-to-be Trea Turner has been a model of consistency all season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he has once again been one of the best power-speed threats in baseball. The 29-year-old has 33 doubles, 18 home runs and 21 steals in 23 attempts en route to a terrific 4.4 WAR in 128 games.

    Rising: Very little has gone right for the Chicago Cubs this season, but they do appear to have a rising star on their hands in Nico Hoerner. The 25-year-old is hitting .289/.336/.406 with 29 extra-base hits, 15 steals, 13 DRS at shortstop and 4.2 WAR in his first full season.

    Biggest Snub: With multiple injured list stints this season, Tim Anderson has played just 79 games, and his lack of extra-base hits has left him with a middling 108 OPS+ despite a solid .301 batting average.

Left Fielders

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    Steven Kwan (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

    Top 10 Left Fielders

    1. Steven Kwan, CLE (8)
    2. Ian Happ, CHC (4)
    3. Andrew Benintendi, NYY (5)
    4. Randy Arozarena, TB (NR)
    5. Kyle Schwarber, PHI (2)
    6. Jurickson Profar, SD (1)
    7. Joc Pederson, SF (7)
    8. Christian Yelich, MIL (9)
    9. Mark Canha, NYM (10)
    10. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., TOR (3)


    No. 1 Spot: There is no clear-cut top left fielder this season, and the No. 1 spot on this list has been a revolving door as a result. Rookie Steven Kwan leads the position in WAR (3.9), and he has a 121 OPS+ with more walks (48) than strikeouts (46) in 481 plate appearances as one of the game's elite contact hitters.

    Rising: With a .323/.422/.613 line in 109 plate appearances in August, reigning AL Rookie of the Year Randy Arozarena is once again anchoring the Tampa Bay offense. With 18 home runs and 26 steals, he's on track for his second straight 20/20 season.

    Biggest Snub: After a terrific first half, Austin Hays is hitting just .209/.267/.355 with three home runs and eight RBI in 120 plate appearances since the All-Star break. With a 108 OPS+ and 2.0 WAR overall, he still nearly cracked the list.

Center Fielders

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    Aaron Judge (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Top 10 Center Fielders

    1. Aaron Judge, NYY (1)
    2. Julio Rodríguez, SEA (2)
    3. Mike Trout, LAA (3)
    4. Byron Buxton, MIN (4)
    5. Michael Harris II, ATL (10)
    6. George Springer, TOR (6)
    7. Brandon Nimmo, NYM (5)
    8. Luis Robert, CWS (7)
    9. Bryan Reynolds, PIT (8)
    10. Cedric Mullins, BAL (NR)


    No. 1 Spot: With more games started in center field (61) than right field (42), Aaron Judge is an easy choice for the No. 1 spot on this list. The AL MVP front-runner has a 199 OPS+ and 7.7 WAR, and after hitting his 51st home run of the season Tuesday, he is now on pace for 64 long balls.

    Rising: Rookie Michael Harris II continues to look right at home in the big leagues, and he's now giving teammate Spencer Strider a serious run for his money in the NL Rookie of the Year race. The 21-year-old is hitting .296/.341/.512 for a 133 OPS+ with 21 doubles, 13 home runs, 16 steals and 3.8 WAR in 83 games.

    Biggest Snub: Despite his middling offensive production (366 PA, 98 OPS+, 17 XBH), Michael A. Taylor is still a 2.9-WAR player thanks to his elite defense (13 DRS, 9.8 UZR/150). The 31-year-old is on track to win his second straight Gold Glove award.

Right Fielders

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    Mookie Betts (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    Top 10 Right Fielders

    1. Mookie Betts, LAD (2)
    2. Juan Soto, SD (1)
    3. Kyle Tucker, HOU (3)
    4. Starling Marte, NYM (4)
    5. Adolis García, TEX (9-CF)
    6. Hunter Renfroe, MIL (6)
    7. Taylor Ward, LAA (5)
    8. Ronald Acuña Jr., ATL (10)
    9. Anthony Santander, BAL (8)
    10. Teoscar Hernández, TOR (7)


    No. 1 Spot: With a .333/.388/.686 line over 116 plate appearances in August, Mookie Betts might be the one player capable of crashing the St. Louis Cardinals party in the NL MVP race. The 2018 AL MVP now has a 147 OPS+ with 31 home runs, 100 runs scored and 5.8 WAR in 110 games.

    Rising: After a late start to the season while he continued to recover from last year's torn ACL and a quiet month of July, Ronald Acuña Jr. finally seems to be rounding into form with a .319/.410/.451 line in 105 plate appearances in August.

    Biggest Snub: Lars Nootbaar has a .272/.403/.509 line with 14 extra-base hits in 144 plate appearances since the All-Star break, and he has taken over as the St. Louis Cardinals' primary leadoff hitter. Despite playing only 77 games, he just missed the cut.

Designated Hitters

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    Yordan Álvarez (Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Top 10 Designated Hitters

    1. Yordan Álvarez, HOU (1)
    2. Shohei Ohtani, LAA (2)
    3. Bryce Harper, PHI (3)
    4. Albert Pujols, STL (NR)
    5. Daniel Vogelbach, NYM (9)
    6. Giancarlo Stanton, NYY (4)
    7. Trey Mancini, HOU (6)
    8. J.D. Martinez, BOS (5)
    9. Luke Voit, WAS (NR)
    10. Charlie Blackmon, COL (7)


    No. 1 Spot: The Houston Astros locked Yordan Álvarez up with a six-year, $115 million extension in June, and that's already looking like a steal as he puts together an MVP-caliber season. The 25-year-old is hitting .294/.398/.597 for a 181 OPS+ with 31 home runs and 5.0 WAR, and he has also held his own defensively over 43 starts in left field.

    Rising: Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols has found the fountain of youth in his pursuit of 700 home runs. The 42-year-old hit .393/.460/.875 with eight home runs in 63 plate appearances in August, and he began September just six homers shy of the milestone.

    Biggest Snub: With a 122 OPS+ in 200 plate appearances, rookie Vinnie Pasquantino looks like a keeper for the Kansas City Royals. The 24-year-old had a .948 OPS with 18 home runs and 67 RBI in 69 games at Triple-A before he was promoted to the big leagues at the end of June.

Right-Handed Starting Pitchers

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    Justin Verlander (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Top 10 Right-Handed Starting Pitchers

    1. Justin Verlander, HOU (1)
    2. Sandy Alcantara, MIA (2)
    3. Tony Gonsolin, LAD (7)
    4. Dylan Cease, CWS (3)
    5. Max Scherzer, NYM (6)
    6. Zac Gallen, ARI (NR)
    7. Alek Manoah, TOR (5)
    8. Shohei Ohtani, LAA (10)
    9. Corbin Burnes, MIL (4)
    10. Spencer Strider, ATL (NR)


    No. 1 Spot: The season that 39-year-old Justin Verlander has put together in his return from Tommy John surgery is nothing short of remarkable. The AL Cy Young front-runner has gone 16-3 with a 1.84 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 154 strikeouts in 152 innings, and he has 19 quality starts in 24 outings.

    Rising: In eight starts since the All-Star break, Zac Gallen has gone 6-0 with an MLB-best 0.69 ERA and a .145 opponents' batting average in 52 innings. Overall, the 27-year-old is 10-2 with a 2.53 ERA in 145.2 innings, and he leads the NL in WHIP (0.94) and hits per nine innings (6.1).

    Biggest Snub: Since the list of snubs here is a long one, let's just lay out the next 10 in alphabetical order: Shane Bieber (CLE), Luis Castillo (SEA), Gerrit Cole (NYY), Cristian Javier (HOU), Merrill Kelly (ARI), Joe Musgrove (SD), Drew Rasmussen (TB), Logan Webb (SF), Zack Wheeler (PHI) and Kyle Wright (ATL).

Left-Handed Starting Pitchers

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    Shane McClanahan (Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Top 10 Left-Handed Starting Pitchers

    1. Shane McClanahan, TB (1)
    2. Julio Urías, LAD (5)
    3. Max Fried, ATL (2)
    4. Framber Valdez, HOU (7)
    5. Nestor Cortes, NYY (3)
    6. Tyler Anderson, LAD (8)
    7. Martín Pérez, TEX (4)
    8. Carlos Rodón, SF (6)
    9. Clayton Kershaw, LAD (9)
    10. Jordan Montgomery, STL (NR)


    No. 1 Spot: After a couple of shaky starts at the end of July and beginning of August, Shane McClanahan is back to dominating with a 1.89 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 19 innings over his last four appearances. The All-Star Game starter has a 2.20 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 182 strikeouts in 147.1 innings on the year.

    Rising: Since the All-Star break, only Zac Gallen has a lower ERA than the 1.05 mark Julio Urías has posted over seven starts and 43 innings. The 26-year-old has gone 14-7 with a 2.32 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 137 strikeouts in 139.2 innings, and he looks poised to improve on last year's seventh-place finish in NL Cy Young voting.

    Biggest Snub: Here are the next 10 left-handed starters in alphabetical order: Reid Detmers (LAA), Cole Irvin (OAK), Eric Lauer (MIL), Jose Quintana (STL), Robbie Ray (SEA), Patrick Sandoval (LAA), Tarik Skubal (DET), Jeffrey Springs (TB), Justin Steele (CHC) and Ranger Suarez (PHI).

Relief Pitchers

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    Edwin Díaz (Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

    Top 10 Relief Pitchers

    1. Edwin Díaz, NYM (1)
    2. Emmanuel Clase, CLE (3)
    3. Ryan Helsley, STL (2)
    4. Jason Adam, TB (6)
    5. Félix Bautista, BAL (NR)
    6. Evan Phillips, LAD (NR)
    7. Devin Williams, MIL (4)
    8. Jhoan Duran, MIN (NR)
    9. Brock Burke, TEX (9)
    10. Jordan Romano, TOR (NR)


    No. 1 Spot: New York Mets closer Edwin Díaz has struck out 99 of the 198 batters he has faced this season, converting 28 of 31 save chances with a 1.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 17.4 K/9 in 51 appearances. A record-setting contract likely awaits this offseason.

    Rising: The Baltimore Orioles traded All-Star closer Jorge López at the deadline, but the bullpen hasn't missed a beat thanks to rookie Félix Bautista. The 27-year-old has a 1.58 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 12.0 K/9 in 57 appearances, and he has converted 10 of 11 save chances, including all seven opportunities in August.

    Biggest Snubs: With more than 200 active relievers across the league at any given time, narrowing the list to just 10 inevitably left a ton of deserving snubs. Here are the next 10 in alphabetical order: Daniel Bard (COL), Anthony Bass (TOR), Alexis Díaz (CIN), Seranthony Domínguez (PHI), A.J. Minter (ATL), David Robertson (PHI), John Schreiber (BOS), Paul Sewald (SEA), Ryne Stanek (HOU) and Erik Swanson (SEA).


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Tuesday's games.

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