Ranking the Top 100 MLB Players at the Start of Spring Training

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2015

Ranking the Top 100 MLB Players at the Start of Spring Training

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    Spring training officially kicks off this week as pitchers and catchers start to make their way to the sunnier parts of the map, and before we know it, Cactus and Grapefruit League action will be underway.

    Granted, there is still a lot to be done before the start of the season, but it's fair to say we already have a good idea who each team's star players are and who will make a run at leading the league in various categories.

    So with that in mind, here are MLB's top 100 players heading into the 2015 season. The following factors went into compiling the list:

    • 2014 Performance: How a player performed last season carried significant weight, but don't confuse this for a list of the top 100 players of 2014.
    • 2015 Outlook: While 2014 performance was the starting point, the goal is to identify the top 100 players for the 2015 season. That meant considering things like...
    • Regression Indicators: In relation to a player's 2014 numbers, the list takes into account signs of potential regression. Things like batting average on balls in play, home run-to-fly-ball ratio and walk percentage factored in for hitters, while FIP and BABIP were the telling stats for pitchers.
    • Track Record: While recent performance carried the most weight, a player's track record was a factor. Guys like Joey Votto, Dustin Pedroia and David Wright, who battled through injury-plagued seasons in 2014, are still top 100 players.
    • Age/Injury History: The rankings are based largely on past performance but have an eye on how guys will perform in 2015. As a result, young players on the rise got the nod over aging players on the decline in most cases. Also, those with a lengthy injury history or minor physical concerns entering the season had their ranking adjusted accordingly.

    Let's kick things off with some notable omissions before jumping into the list. Also worth mentioning, after the No. 1 player, you'll find team-by-team and position-by-position breakdowns of the top 100.

Full List of Honorable Mentions

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    All of the following players made my preliminary list before I trimmed things down to 100 from there:

    Excluded Due To Injury Questions

    These players have significant enough physical question marks heading into 2015 that they don't factor into the rankings at this point. They could all be top-100 guys by the end of the season, but they need to prove themselves first.

    Sean Doolittle, Jose Fernandez, Prince Fielder, Matt Harvey, Manny Machado, Jake McGee, Matt Moore, Garrett Richards, Matt Wieters

    Honorable Mentions: Catchers/Infielders

    Matt Adams, Elvis Andrus, Erick Aybar, Chris Carter, Alcides Escobar, Todd Frazier, Scooter Gennett, Dee Gordon, J.J. Hardy, Josh Harrison, Chase Headley, Eric Hosmer, Chris Iannetta, Howie Kendrick, Adam LaRoche, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Daniel Murphy, Mike Napoli, Derek Norris, Joe Panik, Jhonny Peralta, Salvador Perez, Trevor Plouffe, Alexei Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Pablo Sandoval, Carlos Santana, Danny Santana, Justin Turner, Chase Utley

    Honorable Mentions: Outfielders

    Charlie Blackmon, Ryan Braun, Marlon Byrd, Melky Cabrera, Lorenzo Cain, Kole Calhoun, Yoenis Cespedes, Carl Crawford, Nelson Cruz, Corey Dickerson, Adam Eaton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dexter Fowler, Brett Gardner, Evan Gattis, Carlos Gonzalez, Billy Hamilton, Austin Jackson, Leonys Martin, J.D. Martinez, Wil Myers, Marcell Ozuna, Angel Pagan, Steve Pearce, A.J. Pollock, Denard Span, George Springer

    Honorable Mentions: Starting Pitchers

    Henderson Alvarez, Chris Archer, Mark Buehrle, Andrew Cashner, Gerrit Cole, Jarred Cosart, Jacob deGrom, R.A. Dickey, Danny Duffy, Doug Fister, Yovani Gallardo, Matt Garza, Drew Hutchison, Hisashi Iwakuma, Dallas Keuchel, John Lackey, Mat Latos, Cliff Lee, Collin McHugh, Jon Niese, James Paxton, Wily Peralta, Rick Porcello, Tanner Roark, Ervin Santana, Matt Shoemaker, Marcus Stroman, Chris Tillman, Michael Wacha, Taijuan Walker, Zack Wheeler, Alex Wood

    Honorable Mention: Relief Pitchers

    Cody Allen, Joaquin Benoit, Brad Boxberger, Zach Britton, Jonathan Broxton, Brett Cecil, Steve Cishek, Tyler Clippard, Ryan Cook, Jeurys Familia, Ken Giles, Luke Gregerson, Kelvin Herrera, Yoervis Medina, Jenrry Mejia, Mark Melancon, Pat Neshek, Darren O'Day, Jonathan Papelbon, Glen Perkins, Kevin Quackenbush, Neil Ramirez, David Robertson, Fernando Rodney, Hector Rondon, Joe Smith, Koji Uehara, Tony Watson

Toughest Omissions

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    Nelson Cruz

    The 40 home runs Nelson Cruz hit last season were great, but they were the only real value he brought to the table. If that total drops down to the 25-30 range as most expect with the move to spacious Safeco Field, he's not a top-100 player. It's also worth noting that he hit just .249/.306/.463 after the All-Star break last year.

    Jacob deGrom

    Jacob deGrom should to be a solid pitcher in the Mets rotation for years to come, but he needs to prove his NL Rookie of the Year performance was for real before he cracks the list. His peripheral numbers were solid, but nothing in his minor league track record (3.62 ERA, 7.4 K/9) spoke to anything but a middle-of-the-rotation arm. In the end, it came down to guys with a longer track record getting the nod.

    Dallas Keuchel

    Here's another case where pitchers with a lengthier record of success got the nod. Dallas Keuchel was 9-18 with a 5.20 ERA in two big league seasons prior to breaking out last year. His 3.21 FIP and 1.175 WHIP were both solid in 2014, so don't be surprised if he jumps into the rankings by the next time this is updated.

    Justin Morneau

    Remember when Chipper Jones hit .364 to win the batting title as a 36-year-old back in 2008 then saw his average drop 100 points the following season? That's sort of the vibe coming from Justin Morneau heading into 2015. He had hit just .256/.319/.406 in the three seasons prior to winning the batting title last year, and outside of his average, the rest of his numbers were fairly mediocre in 2014.

    Salvador Perez

    Literally No. 101 on this list, Salvador Perez was by far the toughest person to exclude. But there are some legitimate reasons. Pitch framing continues to become a more prevalent stat, and it's not a strong point in his game, as he ranked among the worst in all of baseball, according to StatCorner. The 24-year-old also posted a rough .289 on-base percentage last season, though he did set career highs with 28 doubles and 17 home runs.

    Rick Porcello

    Rick Porcello turned in a career year last season, going 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA and three shutouts in 204.2 innings of work. It was a legitimate step forward, but he's still nothing more than a low No. 2/high No. 3 starter on a good team. Let's put it this way: 34 starting pitchers made the top 100, so Porcello can still be labeled as a top-40 starter, but that was not quite enough to make the cut.

    Notable Players Omitted Due To Significant Expected Regression

    These players would have cracked the list if this was simply a rundown of the top performers of 2014. However, for one reason or another, they look to be headed for significant regression in 2015:

    Zach Britton (3.13 FIP, .215 BABIP)
    Lorenzo Cain (.380 BABIP, 4.8 BB%)
    Doug Fister (3.93 FIP, .262 BABIP)
    Josh Harrison (.353 BABIP, 4.0 BB%)
    J.D. Martinez (.389 BABIP, 19.5 HR/FB)
    Danny Santana (.405 BABIP, 4.4 BB%)

Nos. 100-96

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    100. SP Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels

    Jered Weaver is not the same pitcher who led the AL with 233 strikeouts back in 2010, but he has done a nice job learning how to pitch with lesser stuff. He was 18-9 with a 3.59 ERA last season, and while it's fair to say Garrett Richards was the team's best pitcher, Weaver was still the anchor atop the rotation.

    99. RP Andrew Miller, New York Yankees

    Andrew Miller became the highest-paid non-closer reliever this offseason when the Yankees signed him to a four-year, $36 million deal. In a career-high 73 appearances last season, he recorded 22 holds with a 2.02 ERA, 0.802 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 62.1 innings for the Red Sox and Orioles.

    98. 2B Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Tasked with protecting Andrew McCutchen out of the cleanup spot in the Pirates lineup, Neil Walker led all NL second basemen with 23 home runs and an .809 OPS. The 29-year-old took home Silver Slugger honors for the first time in his career as a result, and the Pirates will again count on him to carry a big portion of the offensive load.

    97. RP Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

    Santiago Casilla took over for Sergio Romo as the Giants' closer at the beginning of July and converted 19 save chances overall. He followed that up with four saves in 7.1 scoreless innings of work during the postseason. The ninth-inning job should be his from the get-go in 2015.

    96. CF Juan Lagares, New York Mets

    Juan Lagares may not ultimately make it as a leadoff hitter, but there is little question he's the game's premier defensive center fielder, and that's enough to earn him a spot. He's piled up a ridiculous 56 Defensive Runs Saved the past two seasons and has a 29.9 UZR/150 and 21 outfield assists, per FanGraphs.

Nos. 95-91

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    95. LF Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins

    Christian Yelich turned in a solid 62-game debut in 2013, and he proved he was for real this past season. The 23-year-old hit .284/.362/.402 with 45 extra-base hits, 94 runs scored and 21 stolen bases. He also won the first of what could be many Gold Gloves, thanks to a 14.1 UZR/150 and 13 DRS in left field, per FanGraphs.

    94. SP Derek Holland, Texas Rangers

    An offseason knee injury kept Derek Holland sidelined until Sept. 2 last season, but he returned strong with a 1.46 ERA in 37 innings of work down the stretch. Prior to 2014, the 28-year-old had quietly become one of the better lefty starters in the league, and he should be back to full strength for 2015.

    93. SS Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs

    After a disastrous 2013 (.245 BA, .631 OPS), Starlin Castro bounced back nicely, as he was again among the most productive shortstops in the league. Despite missing the final 23 games with an ankle injury, he still managed 33 doubles, 14 home runs and 65 RBI with a solid .777 OPS. Castro now has 846 career hits entering his age-25 season.

    92. LF Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals

    It's been a busy offseason for Jayson Werth, as he underwent shoulder surgery and served a five-day prison sentence. But with those things behind him, he should again be a reliable contributor in 2015. After a subpar first year in Washington, the outfielder has hit .303/.394/.479 over the past three seasons, earning MVP votes the past two years.

    91. DH David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

    Stuck in a tough situation in Boston last year, David Ortiz saw his triple-slash numbers drop to .263/.355/.517, but he still managed 35 home runs and 104 RBI for his eighth career 30 HR-100 RBI season. With better protection around him in the lineup, he could very well be in for a bounce-back performance, even as he enters his age-39 season.

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    90. RP Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals

    After going 31-32 with a 4.57 ERA in 88 career starts, Wade Davis has found a home in the bullpen as a setup man. In 71 appearances last year, he was 9-2 with a 1.00 ERA, 0.847 WHIP and 109 strikeouts in 72 innings, allowing just five extra-base hits and finishing eighth in AL Cy Young voting.

    89. SP Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

    One of the most underrated pitchers around, Jose Quintana went 9-11 with a 3.32 ERA (2.81 FIP), 1.243 WHIP and 178 strikeouts in 200.1 innings. That marked the second straight season the left-hander reached the 200-inning barrier, and entering his age-26 season, the best may be yet to come from the White Sox's No. 3 starter.

    88. RF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

    It's important to remember that Bryce Harper is still just 22 years old and has already been good for a 9.6 career WAR, so calling him overrated or a disappointment is a stretch. That said, he's been injury-prone in the early stages of his career, and until the breakout season we've all been waiting for comes, it's hard to rank him any higher than this.

    87. 2B Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins

    Only 14 second basemen in MLB history have tallied a 20-20 season. Brian Dozier joined that club in 2014. The 27-year-old posted a .762 OPS with 23 home runs and 21 steals, also leading all second basemen with 89 walks and 112 runs scored. All of that was good for a 5.2 WAR, and entering the prime of his career, he should be a solid producer once again.

    86. LF Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates

    A .348/.408/.567 second-half line could be a sign of big things to come for Starling Marte, but it doesn't completely erase a .256/.324/.383 first-half showing that included a 30.5 percent strikeout rate. He has the tools to be a legitimate star alongside Andrew McCutchen, and he's still just 26 years old; it's just a matter of putting it all together for a full season.

Nos. 85-81

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    85. 1B Lucas Duda, New York Mets

    The April trade of Ike Davis was a sign the Mets were ready to commit to Lucas Duda as their everyday first baseman, and he rewarded them with a breakout season. The 29-year-old posted an .830 OPS with 27 doubles, 30 home runs and 92 RBI, and with the walls moving in at Citi Field, he could be in for an even bigger year in 2015.

    84. SP Ian Kennedy, San Diego Padres

    San Diego bought low on Ian Kennedy at the 2013 trade deadline, and it paid huge dividends this past season. The 30-year-old went 13-13 with a 3.63 ERA (3.21 FIP), 1.289 WHIP and 207 strikeouts in 201 innings of work. He's disappeared a bit after his breakout 2011 season, but he again looks like a front-line arm for what should be a vastly improved Padres team.

    83. 1B Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels

    One of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen, Albert Pujols proved he still has plenty left in the tank with a nice bounce-back season last year. The 35-year-old had a .790 OPS with 37 doubles, 28 home runs and 105 RBI to help anchor the highest-scoring offense in baseball alongside Mike Trout.

    82. LF Hanley Ramirez, Boston Red Sox

    When healthy, Hanley Ramirez remains one of the most dynamic offensive players in the sport, but he's missed a total of 110 games over the past two seasons with myriad injuries. He'll be shifting from shortstop to left field after signing with the Red Sox in the offseason, and it looks as though he'll be penciled into the cleanup spot behind David Ortiz.

    81. RP Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels

    Huston Street was nearly untouchable during his time with the Padres last season, and he didn't miss a beat when San Diego traded him into the heat of a tight AL West playoff race just before the deadline. All told, he converted 41 of 44 save chances with a 1.37 ERA and 0.944 WHIP in 2014, and he's now an impressive 97-of-103 (94.2 percent) on save opportunities over the past three years.

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    80. SP Drew Smyly, Tampa Bay Rays

    The Tigers shipped Drew Smyly to the Rays in the David Price trade last July, and he did not disappoint upon arriving, going 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA and 0.755 WHIP in seven starts with his new team. David Schoenfield of ESPN recently called him a "sleeper Cy Young candidate," so it's fair to say he's one to watch in 2015.

    79. UT Ben Zobrist, Oakland Athletics

    Even in a down offensive season, Ben Zobrist was a 5.0 WAR player last year, as his mix of speed, power and defensive versatility continues to make him one of the most valuable players in the league. The 33-year-old moved to Oakland as part of the latest Billy Beane overhaul, and he'll be looking to cash in with a big contract year.

    78. SP Tyson Ross, San Diego Padres

    A strong finish to the 2013 season (13 GS, 2.93 ERA) proved to be a sign of bigger things to come for Tyson Ross, as he turned in a breakout performance. An All-Star for the first time, Ross went 13-14 with a 2.81 ERA (3.24 FIP) and 1.211 WHIP to emerge as the ace of the Padres rotation.

    77. RP Dellin Betances, New York Yankees

    Once a top prospect as a starting pitcher, Dellin Betances finally found big league success last season, but in a late-inning relief role. The big 6'8" right-hander made 70 appearances, posting a 1.40 ERA, 0.778 WHIP and 135 strikeouts in 90 innings, good for third in AL Rookie of the Year voting. With David Robertson gone in free agency, the closer's job is all his heading into 2015.

    76. LF Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals

    Matt Holliday has been as consistent as any player in the league during his time with the Cardinals, hitting .295/.383/.496 and averaging 24 home runs and 93 RBI in five full seasons in St. Louis. He helped get the Cards offense on track with a big second half last season, posting an .882 OPS with 14 home runs and 45 RBI after the break.

Nos. 75-71

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    75. 2B Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

    Slowed by a wrist injury suffered during the Red Sox's home opener, Dustin Pedroia hit just .278/.337/.376 with seven home runs last season before finally undergoing surgery on the wrist Sept. 11. He was still a 4.8 WAR player thanks to his defense, but with the wrist problems behind him, he could return to elite production offensively.

    74. 3B David Wright, New York Mets

    Another superstar slowed by injuries last year, Wright played through nagging shoulder issues for most of the season. He hit just .269/.324/.374 with eight home runs and 63 RBI in 535 at-bats, but with an offseason of rest and lofty expectations for the Mets this season, he could bounce back big in 2015.

    73. SP Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

    With James Shields departing in free agency, Kansas City will ask Yordano Ventura to step into the role of staff ace this coming season, and it's a spot he's more than capable of filling. The 23-year-old went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 183 innings as a rookie last season, while averaging a blistering 97.0 mph on his fastball, per FanGraphs.

    72. RF Matt Kemp, San Diego Padres

    After back-to-back injury-shortened seasons, Matt Kemp finally managed to stay healthy in 2014, and he looked like the Kemp of old in the second half when he hit .309/.365/.606 with 17 home runs and 54 RBI. Spacious Petco Park is not the ideal place for a hitter, but it's not like Dodger Stadium was exactly a hitter's paradise, either.

    71. SP Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates

    The Pirates got one of the better bargains of the offseason when Francisco Liriano agreed to a three-year, $39 million extension during the winter meetings. The left-hander has gone 23-18 with a 3.20 ERA (3.26 FIP) in his two seasons in Pittsburgh, and he'll again front the team's staff this coming season.

Nos. 70-66

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    70. C Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians

    After posting a 4.2 WAR in just 88 games in 2013, Yan Gomes took over as the Indians' everyday catcher last season. He proved his 2013 performance was no fluke, posting a .785 OPS with 21 home runs and 74 RBI to win Silver Slugger honors, while continuing to be one of the better defensive catchers in the league as well.

    69. RP Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

    Possessor of the best cutter in the game now that Mariano Rivera is retired, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen continues to dominate hitters with his one overpowering pitch. He now has a 2.25 ERA and 14.0 strikeout-per-nine rate in five big league seasons, and he saved a career-best 44 games in 49 chances last season.

    68. SS Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves

    Despite the fact that he's a borderline liability offensively, Andrelton Simmons remains the best defensive player in the game, and that earns him a spot comfortably on this list. The 25-year-old actually took a step back at the plate last year, hitting .244/.286/.331 with just 29 extra-base hits, but there is still time for his offensive game to round into form.

    67. SP Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals

    The beneficiary of some great run support in the first few seasons of his career, Lance Lynn proved he's a legitimate front-line arm with a breakout season in 2014. The 27-year-old went 15-10 with a 2.74 ERA (3.35 FIP), 1.262 WHIP and 181 strikeouts in 203.2 innings. That earned him a three-year, $22 million extension that looks like another great deal for the Cardinals.

    66. 3B Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

    A fractured finger halted what was a breakout season for Nolan Arenado in 2014, costing him 37 games, including the entire month of June. The 23-year-old still managed to hit .287/.328/.500 with 34 doubles and 18 home runs in 432 at-bats, while also winning his second straight Gold Glove award. The best is yet to come from Arenado, as he looks like a superstar in the making.

Nos. 65-61

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    65. SP Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers

    A strong rookie season answered any questions about how well Hyun-Jin Ryu would handle the move from the KBO to MLB, and he was even better in 2014. The left-hander finished 14-7 with a 3.38 ERA (2.62 FIP) and 1.191 WHIP, and there is little doubt he's one of the best No. 3 starters in the game.

    64. C Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds

    No longer blocked by Ryan Hanigan for starting catcher duties, Devin Mesoraco showed why he was such a highly regarded prospect coming through the Reds farm system. The 26-year-old had an .893 OPS with 25 doubles, 25 home runs and 80 RBI in just 384 at-bats last season, making it scary to think what he might be capable of over 500-plus plate appearances.

    63. RP Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

    Flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman was his usual dominant self last season, converting 36 of 38 save chances with a 2.00 ERA, 0.833 WHIP and a career-high 17.7 K/9 mark as he punched out 106 batters in just 54 innings. If the Reds fall out of the NL Central race early, he could be a hot commodity on the trade block.

    62. SP Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins

    The Twins took a chance on Phil Hughes with a three-year, $24 million deal last offseason, and he rewarded them with a seventh-place finish in AL Cy Young voting. He finished the year 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.130 WHIP, and he set the MLB record for K/BB ratio at a ridiculous 11.63 (186 K/16 BB). That earned him a three-year, $42 million extension tacked onto the remaining two years of his previous deal.

    61. 3B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

    As expected, Matt Carpenter regressed a bit from his phenomenal 2013 numbers, but he was still a consistent on-base threat atop the Cardinals lineup. He hit .272 with a .750 OPS, scoring 99 runs and leading the NL with 95 walks. And he did it while making the defensive transition from second to third base.

Nos. 60-56

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    60. C Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays

    The two-year, $17 million deal the Pirates gave Russell Martin prior to the 2013 season wound up being one of the best signings in team history. Martin produced a 9.8 WAR and helped lead Pittsburgh to back-to-back playoff appearances in his brief stay with the team. His ability to handle a pitching staff, coupled with his .290/.402/.430 line at the plate this past season, earned him a five-year, $82 million payday from the Blue Jays.

    59. SP Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers

    A finger laceration and a chest strain limited Anibal Sanchez to just 21 starts last season, but the 2013 AL ERA leader was still awfully good when he was on the mound. The 30-year-old finished 8-5 with a 3.43 ERA (2.71 FIP) and 1.095 WHIP in 126 innings. With Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello gone, the Tigers will be counting on him to step up alongside David Price this season.

    58. LF Justin Upton, San Diego Padres

    It's hard to believe the 2014 season was the first time Justin Upton eclipsed the 100-RBI mark, as he posted an .833 OPS with 34 doubles, 29 home runs and 102 RBI in what was his age-26 season. He now joins a revamped Padres lineup, where he'll be one of the primary run producers alongside Matt Kemp.

    57. 1B Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

    The 2014 season was one to forget for Joey Votto, as a pair of quad injuries cost him a total of 99 games. That said, he's still one of the game's elite offensive players when healthy, and someone who is capable of climbing back into the top 25 with a bounce-back season. He led the NL in on-base percentage each year from 2010 to 2013, piling up a 25.5 WAR over that four-year span.

    56. SP James Shields, San Diego Padres

    It took him nearly the entire offseason to find a new home, but James Shields wound up joining what figures to be an exciting Padres team on a four-year, $75 million deal. Yes, he struggled in the playoffs, but he's been an absolute horse in the regular season, topping 200 innings in each of the past eight seasons and logging a 3.64 ERA and 1.205 WHIP during that span.

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    55. 2B Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers

    The Prince Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler trade looked like a win for the Tigers from the start, but it wound up being an absolute slam dunk when Fielder missed most of the season with a neck injury. Kinsler, on the other hand, was his usual productive self, posting a .727 OPS with 40 doubles, 17 home runs and 92 RBI on his way to a 5.5 WAR.

    54. 3B Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

    A lack of protection and talent around him in the Rays lineup limited his production last season, but Evan Longoria remains one of the best all-around third basemen in the league. His 22 home runs and 91 RBI were both tops on the Rays by a significant margin, and he should again pace the team in those categories with the lack of a second impact bat.

    53. SP Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs

    A small sample size and short track record of success keeps Jake Arrieta out of the top 50 for now, but he's knocking on the door. In 25 starts last year, the Orioles castoff went 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA (2.26 FIP), 0.989 WHIP and 167 strikeouts in 156.2 innings. He flirted with a no-hitter more than once and wound up finishing ninth in NL Cy Young voting, and there's nothing in his peripherals to suggest he can't do it again.

    52. RP Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

    The best closer in the AL once again last season, Greg Holland has converted 93 of 98 save chances with a 1.32 ERA, 0.889 WHIP and 13.4 K/9 rate since taking over as the Royals' full-time closer in 2013. He capped things off with a brilliant postseason, saving seven games and allowing just four hits and one run while striking out 15 in 11 innings of work.

    51. RF Jason Heyward, St. Louis Cardinals

    The fact that Jason Heyward has yet to fully deliver on his vast potential, but still ranks just outside of the top 50, is exactly why the Cardinals were willing to part with Shelby Miller to acquire him. His offensive game may not be where many expected it to after his 2010 rookie season, but he's established himself as a terrific on-base threat, solid base stealer and the best defensive right fielder in baseball. His 6.3 WAR last season was good for 11th-best among all position players.

50. RF Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants

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    It's not always pretty, but Hunter Pence continues to be one of the most productive outfielders in the game, doing a little bit of everything for the San Francisco Giants.

    There are other guys with better overall numbers, but in terms of his importance to the success of his team, it's hard to argue Pence doesn't belong inside the top 50.

    He hit .277/.332/.445 with 29 doubles, 10 triples, 20 home runs, 74 RBI, 106 runs scored and 13 stolen bases last season, and he did it while spending significant time hitting leadoff, second and fifth in the lineup.

49. SP Jeff Samardzija, Chicago White Sox

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    A pitcher with front-line stuff but susceptible to the big inning, Jeff Samardzija finally put it all together last season to emerge as a bona fide top-of-the-rotation arm.

    He finished the season 7-13 with a 2.99 ERA, 1.065 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 219.2 innings, splitting the year between the rebuilding Cubs and an Athletics team in the middle of a pennant race. He put up solid numbers in both places.

    The big right-hander now joins the Chicago White Sox, where he'll be slotted between Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.

    He may be entering his age-30 season, but he has a lot less mileage on his arm than most pitchers his age. Not only did he begin his career as a reliever, but he also spent significant time playing football in college, so he should be able to continue to pitch at a high level for the foreseeable future.

48. 3B Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners

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    The Mariners' best hitter prior to the signing of Robinson Cano, third baseman Kyle Seager continued to produce at a high level last season and finally started to get some of the recognition he deserves.

    The 27-year-old hit .268/.334/.454 with 27 doubles, 25 home runs and 96 RBI, earning his first All-Star nod and garnering some AL MVP votes in the process.

    He also shone with the glove, tallying 10 DRS and a 9.2 UZR/150, per FanGraphs, to take home Gold Glove honors for the first time in his career.

    That steady production, coupled with his age, made the seven-year, $100 million extension the Mariners handed him this offseason a no-brainer.

47. SP Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Despite the July trade of David Price, the Tampa Bay Rays still had one of the best starting rotations in baseball during the second half last season, and they have an enviable stable of good young arms.

    That being said, someone will need to step into the role of staff ace for the upcoming campaign, and right-hander Alex Cobb looks like an easy choice.

    The 27-year-old has gone 21-12 with a 2.82 ERA, 1.143 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 mark in 49 starts over the past two seasons, and he certainly looked the part of an ace down the stretch

    In 11 starts after Tampa shipped Price to Detroit, Cobb went 3-3 with a 1.94 ERA, holding opponents to a .226 average and .580 OPS.

46. RP Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

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    Others may have had better numbers, but Craig Kimbrel is still the most dominant closer in the game today.

    It's not as though he struggled in 2014, either, converting 47 of 51 save chances with a 1.61 ERA, 0.908 WHIP and 13.9 K/9 to take home top reliever honors in the NL for the third straight season.

    He's signed through 2017 with an option for 2018, and the Braves have given no indication that they intend to move him. But it's not out of the question to think they could at least test the waters at the deadline.

45. 1B Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

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    After scuffling to a .747 OPS with just two home runs in the first month of the season, Edwin Encarnacion exploded for 23 long balls, 50 RBI and a 1.065 OPS in May and June combined.

    Well on his way to a monster season, he suffered a quad injury on July 6 that wound up costing him 33 games, cooling off arguably the hottest bat in baseball.

    He hit just .250/.333/.457 with nine home runs and 33 RBI in 45 games upon returning, leaving him with totals of 34 home runs, 98 RBI and a .901 OPS.

    That's obviously top-tier production, but the second-half troubles and the fact that he doesn't bring anything to the table other than his bat slides him down the rankings a bit.

44. CF Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

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    A general disinterest in drawing walks (195 in 4,487 career plate appearances, just 19 in 682 PA last year) will always keep Adam Jones from being a truly elite player, but as it stands, he's still a really, really good one.

    Over the past four seasons, he's hit .283/.321/.484 while averaging 32 doubles, 30 home runs, 92 RBI and 90 runs scored, posting a 15.8 WAR over that span.

    He's also a solid defender in center field, winning his third straight Gold Glove in 2014. But it's worth noting that defensive metrics don't exactly love him, as he had 2.0 DRS and an 8.7 UZR/150 in 2014, per FanGraphs

43. SS Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals

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    Working on a string of three straight 20-20 seasons, Ian Desmond might be the best all-around shortstop in baseball right now, outside of a healthy Troy Tulowitzki.

    Entering the final year of his contract in 2015, Desmond turned down a seven-year, $107 million extension offer from the Nationals last offseason, according to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post.

    That's a lot of money, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him top that figure next winter, especially if he matches his 2014 production, when he posted a .743 OPS with 26 doubles, 24 home runs, 91 RBI and 24 stolen bases.

42. SP Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics

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    Sonny Gray dazzled down the stretch and into the postseason for the Oakland Athletics in 2013, and after Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin went down with injuries during the preseason, he stepped into the role of staff ace in 2014.

    The 25-year-old went 14-10 with a 3.08 ERA, 1.192 WHIP and 183 strikeouts in 219 innings, though he did seem to run out of gas down the stretch, going 2-6 with a 4.07 ERA over his final 11 starts.

    That kind of thing is to be expected when a pitcher sees 200-plus innings for the first time in his career, and moving forward, Gray still looks to be one of the game's brightest young arms.

41. SP Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves

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    After going 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA to finish fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013, Julio Teheran officially announced himself as the ace of the Atlanta Braves staff with an even better sophomore campaign.

    The 24-year-old went 14-13 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.081 WHIP and 186 strikeouts in 221 innings, posting a 4.0 WAR and earning his first trip to the All-Star Game.

    The Braves locked him up with a six-year, $32.4 million deal that runs through 2020 with option years, and alongside Alex Wood and Shelby Miller, he figures to anchor the team's rotation through its current rebuild.

40. C Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers

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    The best all-around catcher in the game last season, Jonathan Lucroy set the single-season record for doubles by a catcher with an NL-best 53.

    He also hit .301/.373/.465 with 13 home runs and 69 RBI and posted a 2.0 dWAR to give Yadier Molina a serious run for his money for NL Gold Glove honors.

    A bit of regression is to be expected with a .324 BABIP, as noted by FanGraphs, but he should continue to be one of the most complete backstops in the game.

39. RF Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    If not for a few prolonged slumps, Yasiel Puig would rank quite a bit higher on this list. And with Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp departing this offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers will bank on Puig finding more consistency at the plate.

    The polarizing 24-year-old was hitting .309/.393/.522 with 12 home runs and 52 RBI at the All-Star break, but he inexplicably went without a home run over a 33-game stretch from May 29 to July 3.

    He also hit just .216 with a .544 OPS in August, after hitting .351 with a 1.114 OPS in July. So, again, consistency remains the elusive part of his game.

    All of that being said, he still wrapped up 2014 with a .296/.382/.480 line that included 37 doubles, 16 home runs and 69 RBI on his way to a 5.4 WAR.

38. DH Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers

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    Arguably the best pure hitter in the game today, Victor Martinez enjoyed the best season of his career in 2014.

    The 36-year-old hit .335/.409/.565 with 33 doubles, 32 home runs and 103 RBI to finish second in AL MVP voting, as he led the league with a .974 OPS and 28 intentional walks.

    His batting average is for real as long as he stays healthy, but after his HR/FB percentage spiked from 7.3 and 7.2 the previous two seasons to 16.0 last year, it's fair to expect his career-high home run total to come back to earth.

    He also recently underwent knee surgery to repair a torn left meniscus. It's only expected to sideline him for four to six weeks, but given his age and history with knee injuries, it's a cause for at least mild concern.

37. LF Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians

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    The Cleveland Indians saw enough out of Michael Brantley in 2013, when he hit .284/.332/.396 with 26 doubles and 10 home runs, to offer him a four-year, $25 million extension last offseason.

    That turned out to be one of the best moves of the winter, as Brantley broke out in a big way, hitting .327/.385/.506 with 45 doubles, 20 home runs, 97 RBI and 23 stolen bases, finishing third in AL MVP voting.

    A .333 BABIP and a HR/FB percentage that jumped from 6.8 to 12.7, per FanGraphs, is at least reason to pause, but he looked more like a 27-year-old player finally putting it all together than a regression candidate amid a fluke year.

36. SP Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees

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    If his health were not a question and he had pitched the entire 2014 season, there's a good chance Masahiro Tanaka would be comfortably inside the top 25 of these rankings.

    However, the partially torn UCL he suffered last season that cost him 65 games has the potential to turn into a complete tear and Tommy John surgery at any time, and that has to be taken into account.

    In some cases the injury does not pop back up for years, as it was five years from his original injury that Adam Wainwright went under the knife again.

    For the Yankees' sake, they need Tanaka healthy and fronting the staff. He certainly proved capable of being an ace when healthy last year, going 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA, 1.056 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 in 20 starts. 

35. 2B Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

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    There is little doubt Jose Altuve can flat-out hit, but expecting him to duplicate his ridiculous 2014 numbers may be asking too much out of the Houston Astros spark plug.

    Altuve won the AL batting title with a .341 average, while also leading the league in hits (225) and stolen bases (56). His 225 hits also set a franchise record, surpassing the previous mark of 210 by Craig Biggio in 1998.

    However, even with his speed, the .360 BABIP mark he posted last season, per FanGraphs, is simply not sustainable. Expect his batting average to come back down to the .300 neighborhood.

    That's terrific production, especially coupled with his base-stealing prowess, but it's not enough for him to break into the top 25.

34. LF Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals

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    He's not your conventional superstar player, but Alex Gordon has become the face of the Kansas City Royals and one of the best all-around outfielders in the game.

    The No. 2 overall pick back in 2005 has thrived since moving from third base to left field, quickly becoming the premier defender at the position. He won his fourth straight Gold Glove in 2014 on the strength of 27 DRS and a 22.6 UZR/150, per FanGraphs.

    He also hit .266/.351/.432 with 34 doubles, 19 home runs, 74 RBI and 12 stolen bases, with all of that adding up to a 6.6 WAR, good for sixth-best among position players.

33. 1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

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    Stuck in the dysfunctional offense that was the Atlanta Braves last season, Freddie Freeman saw his production take a step back from his breakout 2013 numbers. But he remains one of the game's top young hitters.

    As it was, Freeman still hit .288/.386/.461 with 43 doubles, 18 home runs and 78 RBI, earning his second trip to the All-Star Game in the process.

    He'll be one of the centerpieces of the Braves' rebuild after signing an eight-year, $135 million extension last offseason.

32. SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

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    Stephen Strasburg has yet to deliver the truly dominant season everyone has been waiting for since he entered the league as one of the most hyped pitching prospects of all time back in 2010.

    But he's still undoubtedly one of the best pitchers in the game today, and there is still time for him to take his game up a notch as he enters his age-26 season.

    He reached 200 innings for the first time in his career last year with 215 and went 14-11 with a 3.14 ERA (2.94 FIP), 1.121 WHIP and an NL-high 242 strikeouts.

    A free agent after the 2016 season, Strasburg is headed for a huge payday in the near future. It's just a matter of whether or not it will come from the Nationals.

31. 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    As far as consistent, durable run producers are concerned, it doesn't get much better than Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

    The 32-year-old has played in at least 157 games in each of the past eight seasons, hitting .293/.368/.503 and averaging 29 home runs and 108 RBI per season.

    He's topped 100 RBI in all but one campaign during that span, with the lone exception coming when he hit a career-high 40 home runs in 2009 but only drove in 99 runs in the middle of a bad Padres lineup.

    Gonzalez led the NL with 116 RBI last season, and he really picked up his production in the second half, hitting .314/.368/.561 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI in 65 games.

30. SP Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    He may play second fiddle to Clayton Kershaw on his own team, but there is little question that Zack Greinke is one of the best pitchers in the game.

    The 31-year-old ranked in the top 10 in all three pitching Triple Crown categories last year, going 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 202.1 innings.

    He followed that up with seven shutout innings of two-hit, seven-strikeout ball against the St. Louis Cardinals in his lone postseason start and capped off his campaign with a seventh-place finish in NL Cy Young voting.

    Greinke can opt out of his current contract at the end of the 2015 season, which would mean leaving three years and $77 million on the table. However, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't be able to find more money and years on the open market.

29. 3B Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Josh Donaldson came out of nowhere to become the Oakland Athletics' best all-around player in 2013, and he followed it up with another solid season last year.

    That didn't make him immune to the offseason wheelings and dealings of GM Billy Beane, though, and he was shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package of four players headlined by Brett Lawrie.

    On top of hitting 53 home runs and driving in 191 runs over the past two seasons, he's also been the best defensive third basemen around, with 20 DRS and a 13.3 UZR/150 in 2014, per FanGraphs.

    Joining an offense that already features Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, he looks like a legitimate 30-HR, 100-RBI threat heading into 2015, and one who is also capable of winning a Gold Glove.

28. SP Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs

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    The prize of what has been a busy offseason for the North Siders, Jon Lester signed a six-year, $155 million deal to become the ace of a rapidly improving Cubs team.

    Lester was 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA (2.80 FIP), 1.102 WHIP and 220 strikeouts in 219.2 innings last season, splitting the year between Boston and Oakland. Now he'll get his first taste of life in the National League.

    Not only does he provide the Cubs with an ace to lead their staff in the regular season, but he also has one of the best postseason track records around.

    He's 6-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 12 playoff starts (14 games), including 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in three World Series games. The Cubs are no doubt hoping he adds to those numbers in the near future.

27. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

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    It's tough to figure out exactly where to put someone like Troy Tulowitzki in these rankings.

    When healthy, he's easily the best all-around shortstop in the game and one of the most dynamic offensive players in baseball.

    Look no further than his .340/.432/.603 line that included 18 doubles and 21 home runs through just 91 games last season. At that point he was the odds-on favorite for NL MVP, even with the Rockies struggling.

    However, injury struck from there, as hip surgery cost him the final 64 games of the season. That marked the second time in three years he has failed to play 100 games, and the laundry list of career injuries continues to grow.

    So with all of that in mind, where do you rank someone like Tulowitzki? I landed on just outside of the top 25 but still among the game's top talents.

26. 1B Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

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    Any questions as to how the offensive game of Jose Abreu would translate from Cuba to the big leagues were quickly answered with a monster first month of the season.

    The 28-year-old hit 10 home runs and drove in 32 before the calendar flipped to May, and he didn't slow down from there, running away with AL Rookie of the Year honors on the strength of a .317/.383/.581 line that included 35 doubles, 36 home runs and 107 RBI.

    While he should continue to be a dangerous slugger, especially in an improved White Sox lineup, a decent amount of regression can be expected.

    His .356 BABIP is not sustainable, nor is his 26.9 percent HR/FB rate, as listed by FanGraphs. It's just a question of how well he adjusts to the league adjusting to him.

    He could very well be a top-20 guy again, but he falls just outside of the top 25 for the time being.

25. 3B Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

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    At some point Adrian Beltre has to start declining, right?

    Even in a Rangers lineup that was decimated by injury last season and lacking any real protection for him, the 35-year-old managed to hit .324/.388/.492 with 33 doubles, 19 home runs and 77 RBI.

    That equaled the highest on-base percentage of his career and was good for the second-highest average, albeit with a relatively high .345 BABIP, per FanGraphs.

    Beltre has a $16 million vesting option for 2016, at which point he'll become a free agent and the Joey Gallo era will likely begin in Texas. There's no reason to think he can't turn in another strong season in 2015, though.

24. CF Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Carlos Gomez has steadily improved since becoming an everyday player for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012, and at this point, there is little doubt he's one of the most dangerous all-around major leaguers in the NL.

    He hit .284/.356/.477 with 34 doubles, 23 home runs, 73 RBI, 95 runs scored and 34 stolen bases last season on his way to a 4.8 WAR.

    His defensive metrics came back to earth after a ridiculous showing in 2013, but he is still a plus glove in center field and capable of making the spectacular play.

    The 29-year-old is owed $17 million over the next two seasons, at which point a massive payday will likely be awaiting him.

23. SP Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers

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    Elbow issues limited him to just 22 starts last season, but when he was healthy, Yu Darvish was again one of the most dominant pitchers in the league.

    He finished the year 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA (2.84 FIP), 1.261 WHIP and 182 strikeouts in 144.1 innings of work, good for an 11.3 K/9 mark.

    Back healthy this season, and with a healthy Derek Holland and newcomer Yovani Gallardo helping shoulder the load, he could be in for the best year of his career.

22. 3B Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals

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    After showing flashes of the talent that made him such a highly regarded prospect in 2013, Anthony Rendon broke out in a big way in his first full season in the majors.

    Despite shuffling between second and third base, he still managed to hit .287/.351/.473 with 39 doubles, 21 home runs, 83 RBI, 17 steals and an NL-high 111 runs scored.

    That offensive production, along with his plus defense at both positions, was good for a 6.5 WAR and a fifth-place finish in NL MVP voting.

    It's safe to say we haven't seen the best of the 24-year-old Rendon yet, either.

21. SP Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds

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    Johnny Cueto turned in a performance in 2014 that would have won him Cy Young honors in almost any other year, but alas, he found himself pitching in the same league as Clayton Kershaw.

    With an injury-plagued 2013 in the rear-view, Cueto went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA, 0.960 WHIP and 242 strikeouts in 243.2 innings of work.

    So why isn't he ranked higher?

    Let's start with an outrageously low .238 BABIP, the lowest mark among qualified starters, per FanGraphs. If that regresses back toward the mean (.300), his ERA will climb with it, perhaps closer to the 3.30 FIP he posted.

    Expect Cueto to be an ace-caliber arm once again in 2015—just one with an ERA about a run higher than it was a year ago.

20. 1B Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

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    If I'm building a team for 2015, I still want Miguel Cabrera as my first baseman. If I'm building a team long-term, I'll take Paul Goldschmidt. If both of those guys are off the board, give me Anthony Rizzo.

    After a disappointing .233/.323/.419 line in 2013, Rizzo delivered on his vast upside with a breakout season this past year, hitting .286/.386/.527 with 32 home runs and 78 RBI.

    So what changed?

    Well, first off, he figured out how to hit left-handed pitching, raising his average against southpaws from .189 to .300, as he actually posted a higher OPS against lefties (.928) than righties (.907).

    His BABIP also climbed from an unlucky .258 in 2013 to a sustainable .311, per FanGraphs.

    With his solid walk rate (11.9) and impressive strikeout rate for a power hitter (18.8), there is no reason he can't be a consistent .900-OPS, 30-HR, 100-RBI producer for the foreseeable future.

19. SP Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals

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    For all of the hype surrounding Stephen Strasburg, it's Jordan Zimmermann who has been the Washington Nationals' best pitcher the past three seasons.

    The 28-year-old has gone 45-22 with a 2.96 ERA and 1.109 WHIP during that span, including 14-5 with a 2.66 ERA and 1.072 WHIP this past season.

    A free agent next offseason, Zimmermann is just hitting his stride after posting full-season career bests in both BB/9 (1.3) and K/9 (8.3) this past year along with a 2.68 FIP.

    It remains to be seen if the Nationals will find a way to re-sign him, but as it stands, few pitchers are better heading into 2015.

18. SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies

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    The source of seemingly endless offseason speculation, Cole Hamels is still a member of the Philadelphia Phillies with spring training set to kick off.

    That's due in large part to the hefty price tag GM Ruben Amaro has slapped on his ace, and understandably so, as he is one of the best in the business and a relative bargain at up to $114 million over the next five years.

    In 30 starts this past season, he was 9-9 with a career-best 2.46 ERA, 1.148 WHIP and 198 strikeouts in 204.2 innings. He has now topped 190 innings in seven straight seasons, showing impressive durability on top of everything else.

    Chances are Hamels won't be in Philadelphia for the duration of 2015, and whoever winds up pulling the trigger on trading for him will get a game-changing arm.

17. SP Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

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    After an absolutely dominant first half last season in which he went 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA, Adam Wainwright finally started to show signs of his heavy workload over the past few years catching up with him.

    He was just 4-5 with a 4.82 ERA in the nine starts immediately following the All-Star break, but he finished strong with just 23 hits and two runs allowed in 33 innings over his final four starts.

    The big right-hander was rocked in the postseason, though, and questions about just how healthy his oft-used right arm was popped up as a result.

    He underwent minor elbow surgery in October to trim a small piece of cartilage and is expected to be 100 percent for the start of the campaign.

    The late-season struggles and elbow surgery are certainly small red flags, but Wainwright has been too good the past few years to be ranked any lower.

16. 2B Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners

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    The Seattle Mariners were probably hoping for more than 14 home runs out of Robinson Cano in his first season with the team after signing him to a massive 10-year, $240 million deal, but it was a solid debut nonetheless.

    The 32-year-old finished the season hitting .314/.382/.454 with 37 doubles and 82 RBI, production right in line with his final campaign with the Yankees outside of the lack of power.

    That along with his solid defense made him a 6.4 WAR player, and the addition of Nelson Cruz to protect him this coming season should make for even better production in 2015.

15. SP Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

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    With the addition of Max Scherzer, the Washington Nationals have a starting rotation that rivals any in baseball history on paper, but as we all know, games are not played on paper.

    Still, the decision to sign Scherzer to a massive $210 million contract shows that the Nationals are committed to getting over the hump in October.

    Now past the inconsistency that plagued him early in his career, Scherzer has gone 39-8 with a 3.02 ERA, 1.074 WHIP and 492 strikeouts in 434.2 inning over the past two years.

    Is that worth $210 million? In today's market, it just might be.

14. SP David Price, Detroit Tigers

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    Despite some early-season struggles and a July trade to the Detroit Tigers, when the dust settled on the 2014 season, David Price was once again one of the best pitchers in the game.

    The upcoming free agent went 15-12 with a 3.26 ERA (2.78 FIP) and 1.079 WHIP, while leading the AL in innings pitched (248.1) and strikeouts (271).

    His 9.8 K/9 rate represented the best mark of his career by a wide margin, and his 1.4 BB/9 rate was again among the best in baseball.

    As he enters his age-29 season, Price is still very much in the prime of his career, and someone is going to spend an absurd amount of money to get a really, really good pitcher next offseason.

13. 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Paul Goldschmidt was well on his way to another MVP-caliber season in 2014 when an errant pitch resulted in a fractured hand and effectively ended his season on Aug. 2.

    In 109 games prior to the injury, Goldschmidt hit .300/.396/.542 with 39 doubles, 19 home runs and 69 RBI, earning his first All-Star Game start and second appearance.

    That was right on pace with his 2013 numbers, when he hit .302/.401/.551 with 36 doubles, 36 home runs and 125 RBI to finish second to Andrew McCutchen in MVP voting.

    Provided there are no ill effects of the hand injury—and there are not expected to be—the 27-year-old should again be an elite run producer in 2015.

12. C Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

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    The trophy case is already getting pretty full for Buster Posey, as he has three World Series rings, NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2010, NL MVP honors in 2012, an NL batting title and two Silver Slugger awards in five big league seasons.

    A so-so first half kept him off of the NL All-Star roster, but he caught fire after the break, hitting .354/.403/.575 with 43 RBI in 62 games.

    All told, it was another banner season for the 27-year-old backstop, as he hit .311/.364/.490 with 28 doubles, 22 home runs and 89 RBI to finish sixth in NL MVP voting.

    He's not quite the all-around catcher Yadier Molina is, which is why he's still ranked slightly lower for the time being, but there is no question he's one of the game's true superstars.

11. SP Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

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    Corey Kluber showed signs of better things to come in 2013, going 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA (3.30 FIP) and 136 strikeouts in 147.1 innings, but no one could have predicted just how good he'd be in 2014.

    The 28-year-old not only emerged as the ace of the Cleveland Indians rotation after Ubaldo Jimenez departed and Justin Masterson struggled, but he also broke out as one of the best arms in the game on his way to AL Cy Young honors.

    After going 9-6 with a 3.01 ERA in the first half, he was absolutely dominant following the break, finishing the season 9-3 with a 1.73 ERA and 0.962 WHIP in his final 14 starts.

    That all adds up to 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA, 1.095 WHIP and 269 strikeouts in 235.2 innings.

    An AL-best 2.35 FIP and a very reasonable .316 BABIP, per FanGraphs, all point to the breakout being for real. We can again expect Kluber to be one of the game's best in 2015.

10. C Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Yes, his production was down offensively, and yes, he missed 40 games with a thumb injury, but there is still no player who means more to his team than Yadier Molina does to the St. Louis Cardinals.

    A legitimate NL MVP candidate in 2013 when he hit .319/.359/.477 with 44 doubles and 12 home runs in 505 at-bats, Molina saw those numbers drop to .282/.333/.386 with 21 doubles and seven home runs in 404 at-bats this past year.

    However, he still nailed 21 of 44 would-be base stealers (48 percent) to win his seventh straight Gold Glove award and was a 2.4 WAR player despite the time he missed.

    You want proof of just how much he means to the team? Let's turn to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

    "The numbers will reveal that Molina is as valuable to his team as any player in baseball," wrote Nightengale. "The Cardinals were 60-46 with a 3.19 ERA with Molina in the lineup this year, compared to 30-26 with a 4.07 ERA without him."

    Maybe the No. 10 spot is too high, but there are few players I'd rather have on my team than Molina.

9. SP Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

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    Aside from The Condor owning perhaps the best MLB nickname, White Sox ace Chris Sale is also a phenomenal pitcher who is just now entering the prime of his career.

    After spending his first two seasons in the bullpen, the 25-year-old has quickly emerged as one of the game's elite starters, going 40-26 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.061 WHIP and 9.7 K/9 mark over the past three seasons.

    He took his game to another level in 2014, though, going 12-4 with a 2.17 ERA (2.57 FIP), 0.966 WHIP and 208 strikeouts in 174 innings to finish third in AL Cy Young voting.

    Sale did miss 32 games with a left elbow strain, and his funky mechanics could cause further arm problems in the future, but until that happens, he looks like a top-five starter heading into 2015.

8. RF Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

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    After missing a combined 114 games in 2012 and 2013, Jose Bautista finally stayed healthy this past season, and he was again one of the game's elite offensive players as a result.

    The 34-year-old hit .286/.403/.524 with 27 doubles, 35 home runs and 103 RBI, and he did that while walking more times than he struck out, with 104 free passes compared to just 96 punchouts.

    He's a slightly below-average defensive outfielder from a metrics standpoint with minus-6.0 DRS and a 3.0 UZR/150, per FanGraphs, but he did lead all AL right fielders and rank fourth among all outfielders with 12 assists.

    The additions of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin should give the Blue Jays one of the most potent offensive attacks in all of baseball, and it will be Bautista who is at the center of it all once again.

7. SP Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

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    With his postseason heroics very much coming into consideration, Madison Bumgarner earns the No. 7 spot in these rankings, the third-highest among pitchers.

    Somehow still only 25 years old, Bumgarner went 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA (3.05 FIP), 1.090 WHIP and 219 strikeouts in 217.1 innings to finish fourth in NL Cy Young voting.

    That was followed by a dazzling postseason display, as he went 4-1 with one save and a 1.03 ERA in 52.2 innings of work.

    That included 2-0 with a save in the World Series, when he allowed just nine hits and one run in 21 innings and slammed the door with five shutout innings to close out Game 7.

    There are some legitimate concerns that those 270 innings he threw last year could catch up to him at some point in 2015, but Bumgarner has the workhorse build to make it a nonfactor.

    I'm not quite ready to slot him ahead of Felix Hernandez, but I have the utmost respect for what he accomplished in 2014. He remains a player on the rise.

6. 1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Coming off of a down year by his standards and recovering from offseason foot surgery, Miguel Cabrera has still earned the right to be called one of the best players in the game entering his age-32 season.

    It’s not as though he struggled in 2014, either, hitting .313/.371/.524 with 52 doubles, 25 home runs and 109 RBI. Those are just not the numbers we had grown accustomed to seeing during his run of five straight top-five AL MVP finishes.

    His health will be worth keeping an eye on this offseason, but there’s no reason to think he won’t again be one of the league’s most productive hitters, slotted alongside Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes in the middle of the Tigers lineup.

5. SP Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

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    He may have lost AL Cy Young honors to Corey Kluber, but Felix Hernandez still gets the nod as the second-best pitcher in baseball heading into the 2015 season.

    King Felix enjoyed one of the best campaigns of his career last year, going 15-6 while leading the AL with a 2.14 ERA and 0.915 WHIP and a fanning a career-high 248 batters in 236 innings of work.

    The 28-year-old also got his first real taste of a late-season pennant chase, as the Mariners finished one game out of the final AL wild-card spot.

    With an improved team, the M's are expected to be legitimate contenders in 2015, and that means we may finally get to see Hernandez in October.

4. RF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

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    Already perhaps the most feared power hitter in baseball heading into 2014, Giancarlo Stanton finally turned in the breakout offensive season he’d been flirting with for the past several years.

    A gruesome injury caused by a fastball to the face cost him the final 17 games of the season, but he still managed to hit .288/.395/.555 with 37 home runs and 105 RBI to finish second in NL MVP voting.

    He’s not going to win any Gold Gloves, but he does have an absolute cannon in right field, and he managed positive defensive metrics with 7.0 DRS and a 1.5 UZR/150, per FanGraphs. Throw in 13 steals in 14 attempts, and he's far from just a one-trick pony.

    Outside of Mike Trout, there might not be more of a sure thing for long-term production in the league today.

    The Marlins made it clear they felt the same way when they locked him up with a record 13-year, $325 million extension, and they set to work from there building a contender around him.

3. CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    After winning NL MVP honors in 2013, Andrew McCutchen was a legitimate candidate once again this past season, hitting .314/.410/.542 with 38 doubles, 25 home runs, 83 RBI and 18 stolen bases

    That earned him a third-place finish in the voting, with teammate Josh Harrison joining him in the top 10, as McCutchen had more offensive support than in years past.

    His .952 OPS paced the National League, despite the superior power numbers of Giancarlo Stanton, and the full toolbox was on display once again for the Pirates' superstar center fielder.

    Anyone remember that six-year, $51.5 million deal he signed back in 2012? Looks awfully good now.

2. CF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    For most players, an increased strikeout rate and a drop in batting average and on-base percentage would be signs of a down year.

    For Mike Trout, it still landed him AL MVP honors, after finishing second to Miguel Cabrera each of the previous two seasons.

    Stepping into more of a run production role, Trout set career highs with 36 home runs and 111 RBI while hitting .287/.377/.561 on the year. Even with the drop in OBP, his .939 OPS was still good for third-best in the AL.

    Add in 39 doubles, 16 steals and AL-leading totals of 115 runs scored and 338 total bases, and Trout was once again the most dynamic all-around offensive player in the game.

    Still just 23 years old, expect plenty more terrific seasons out of him before it’s all said and done.

1. SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Already the consensus best pitcher in the game heading into 2015, Clayton Kershaw somehow found a way to get better, turning in one of the best individual pitching seasons of all time.

    The 26-year-old wrapped up 2014 at 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA (1.81 FIP), 0.857 WHIP and 239 strikeouts in 198.1 innings of work. That won him his third Cy Young Award in the past four years and was also good enough to claim NL MVP honors.

    As good as Mike Trout is and will continue to be moving forward, if there's one player to build a team around in 2015 it’s Kershaw. At a time when offense is down and pitching is dominating the MLB landscape, Kershaw is head-and-shoulders above the rest.

    A popular argument for why a pitcher does not deserve MVP honors, or the top spot in these rankings, is to say that he only impacts the game every fifth day.

    But that doesn't hold much weight.

    When someone like Kershaw can be counted on for a quality start game-in and game-out, it changes the way a manager is able to utilize his bullpen leading up to and immediately after his start.

    It's also worth pointing out that Kershaw faced 749 batters last year, while Mike Trout made 705 plate appearances. So are the two players' respective impact on the course of a season really that different?

    Just something worth thinking about, and why Kershaw takes the No. 1 spot.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted. Contract information and injury notes via Baseball Prospectus player pages.


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    Arizona Diamondbacks (1): 1B Paul Goldschmidt

    Atlanta Braves (4): 1B Freddie Freeman, SP Julio Teheran, RP Craig Kimbrel, SS Andrelton Simmons

    Baltimore Orioles (1): CF Adam Jones

    Boston Red Sox (3): 2B Dustin Pedroia, LF Hanley Ramirez, DH David Ortiz

    Chicago Cubs (4): 1B Anthony Rizzo, SP Jon Lester, SP Jake Arrieta, SS Starlin Castro

    Chicago White Sox (4): SP Chris Sale, 1B Jose Abreu, SP Jeff Samardzija, SP Jose Quintana

    Cincinnati Reds (4): SP Johnny Cueto, 1B Joey Votto, RP Aroldis Chapman, C Devin Mesoraco

    Cleveland Indians (3): SP Corey Kluber, LF Michael Brantley, C Yan Gomes

    Colorado Rockies (2): SS Troy Tulowitzki, 3B Nolan Arenado

    Detroit Tigers (5): 1B Miguel Cabrera, SP David Price, DH Victor Martinez, 2B Ian Kinsler, SP Anibal Sanchez

    Houston Astros (1): 2B Jose Altuve

    Kansas City Royals (4): LF Alex Gordon, RP Greg Holland, SP Yordano Ventura, RP Wade Davis

    Los Angeles Angels (4): CF Mike Trout, RP Huston Street, 1B Albert Pujols, SP Jered Weaver

    Los Angeles Dodgers (6): SP Clayton Kershaw, SP Zack Greinke, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RF Yasiel Puig, RP Kenley Jansen, SP Hyun-Jin Ryu

    Miami Marlins (2): RF Giancarlo Stanton, LF Christian Yelich

    Milwaukee Brewers (2): CF Carlos Gomez, C Jonathan Lucroy

    Minnesota Twins (2): SP Phil Hughes, 2B Brian Dozier

    New York Mets (3): 1B Lucas Duda, 3B David Wright, CF Juan Lagares

    New York Yankees (3): SP Masahiro Tanaka, RP Dellin Betances, RP Andrew Miller

    Oakland Athletics (2): SP Sonny Gray, 2B Ben Zobrist

    Philadelphia Phillies (1): SP Cole Hamels

    Pittsburgh Pirates (4): CF Andrew McCutchen, LF Starling Marte, SP Francisco Liriano, 2B Neil Walker

    San Diego Padres (5): SP James Shields, LF Justin Upton, SP Tyson Ross, RF Matt Kemp, SP Ian Kennedy

    San Francisco Giants (4): SP Madison Bumgarner, C Buster Posey, RF Hunter Pence, RP Santiago Casilla

    Seattle Mariners (3): SP Felix Hernandez, 2B Robinson Cano, 3B Kyle Seager

    St. Louis Cardinals (6): C Yadier Molina, SP Adam Wainwright, RF Jason Heyward, 3B Matt Carpenter, SP Lance Lynn, LF Matt Holliday

    Tampa Bay Rays (3): SP Alex Cobb, 3B Evan Longoria, SP Drew Smyly

    Texas Rangers (3): SP Yu Darvish, 3B Adrian Beltre, SP Derek Holland

    Toronto Blue Jays (4): RF Jose Bautista, 3B Josh Donaldson, 1B Edwin Encarnacion, C Russell Martin

    Washington Nationals (7): SP Max Scherzer, SP Jordan Zimmermann, 3B Anthony Rendon, SP Stephen Strasburg, SS Ian Desmond, RF Bryce Harper, LF Jayson Werth


    Catchers: 6

    First Basemen: 10

    Second Basemen: 7

    Shortstops: 4

    Third Basemen: 8

    Left Fielders: 8

    Center Fielders: 5

    Right Fielders: 7

    Designated Hitters: 2

    Starting Pitchers: 34

    Relief Pitchers: 9

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