MLB Position-by-Position Player Power Rankings, April Edition
Last season, I wrote a series of articles breaking down my position-by-position power rankings as the season progressed, and that will again be a monthly staple in 2015.
My preseason rankings came out on March 3, but an updated version seemed appropriate to establish the baseline for our May edition. Those will be the first rankings that take into account solely 2015 performance.
For now, what follows will be a look at the 10 best players at each position, based largely on how they performed last season but also on their overall track record of success.
I've taken into account their all-around offensive abilities, their defensive contributions and what they have meant to the success of their respective teams.
One important thing to note is that players who have already missed significant time this season or are expected to miss significant time moving forward have been removed from the rankings for the time being.
If they likely won't have the numbers to earn a spot come May due to time missed, it just made sense to remove them now and open up a spot for someone else.
Now again, this is meant mostly to be a jumping-off point for the next version of these rankings that comes out at the beginning of May. Those will be based on 2015 production.
Also included at each position is "one to watch," a player who falls outside the top 10 right now due to a lack of experience or recent injury issues, but who could make a serious push for a spot in the rankings come May.
Top 10 Catchers
|1. Yadier Molina, STL||.282||.719||21||7||38||40||2.4|
|2. Buster Posey, SF||.311||.854||28||22||89||72||5.2|
|3. Jonathan Lucroy, MIL||.301||.837||53||13||69||73||6.7|
|4. Russell Martin, TOR||.290||.832||20||11||67||45||5.5|
|5. Salvador Perez, KC||.260||.692||28||17||70||57||3.3|
|6. Devin Mesoraco, CIN||.273||.893||25||25||80||54||4.8|
|7. Brian McCann, NYY||.232||.692||15||23||75||57||1.8|
|8. Chris Iannetta, LAA||.252||.765||22||7||43||41||2.1|
|9. Miguel Montero, CHC||.243||.699||23||13||72||40||0.7|
|10. Mike Zunino, SEA||.199||.658||20||22||60||51||0.6|
One to Watch: Travis d'Arnaud, NYM
He's coming off of a down season offensively, but Yadier Molina is still the best all-around catcher in baseball. His impact on the St. Louis Cardinals' roster stretches well beyond what he does in the batter's box, and he's the gold standard defensively.
Buster Posey is probably the best offensive backstop in the game, while Jonathan Lucroy could give him a run for his money if he can repeat his breakout 2014 production.
Russell Martin should make his presence felt leading a young pitching staff in Toronto and hitting out of the No. 2 spot in a stacked lineup, and his back-loaded contract makes him a bargain this year at $7 million.
Still just 24 years old, Salvador Perez is essentially the AL version of Molina given his all-around skill set, and he still has plenty of room to improve offensively.
Veterans Brian McCann and Chris Iannetta earn a spot here for their offensive abilities, while the same goes for 2014 breakout star Devin Mesoraco.
Miguel Montero also provides a veteran presence and some run production skills, while also ranking as the best pitch-framer in the league last year, according to StatCorner.
Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino rounds out the list, as he has some of the best power at the position, and is capable of taking a big step forward in his age-24 season.
Yan Gomes is excluded for the time being, as he's set to miss six-to-eight weeks with an MCL sprain in his right knee. By all accounts, he was the best catcher in the American League last season, and should again challenge for a spot on here once he returns.
Top 10 First Basemen
|1. Miguel Cabrera, DET||.313||.895||52||25||109||101||4.9|
|2. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI||.300||.938||39||19||69||75||4.5|
|3. Anthony Rizzo, CHC||.286||.913||28||32||78||89||5.1|
|4. Jose Abreu, CWS||.317||.964||35||36||107||80||5.5|
|5. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD||.276||.817||41||27||116||83||3.9|
|6. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR||.268||.901||27||34||98||75||3.6|
|7. Joey Votto, CIN||.255||.799||16||6||23||32||1.9|
|8. Freddie Freeman, ATL||.288||.847||43||18||78||93||3.1|
|9. Lucas Duda, NYM||.253||.830||27||30||92||74||3.7|
|10. Albert Pujols, LAA||.272||.790||37||28||105||89||3.9|
One to Watch: Prince Fielder, TEX
A down season for Miguel Cabrera is a career year for most players, and while there is plenty of competition for the top spot here, the two-time AL MVP still gets the nod for the time being.
Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo are two of the game's best young offensive stars, and the same goes for Freddie Freeman, though he may not see many pitches to hit in what is left of the Atlanta Braves lineup.
There is no reason to think Jose Abreu can't again be a 30 HR-100 RBI guy for the Chicago White Sox, especially with an improved lineup around him, including Adam LaRoche hitting in the cleanup spot.
No one has started the 2015 season hotter than Adrian Gonzalez, and he remains one of the most consistent players in the game with a .293 average, .871 OPS and at least 99 RBI per year over the past eight seasons.
After hitting 34 home runs last year, Edwin Encarnacion could be in for even better numbers this season with Josh Donaldson now slotted behind him in the lineup. He also missed time with a quad injury, so if he can stay on the field he could make a run at the AL home run title.
A healthy Joey Votto will look to again be a force in the middle of the Cincinnati Reds lineup after missing 99 games last season with two separate quad injuries of his own.
Lucas Duda and Albert Pujols round out the list here, but they could be pushed by the likes of Prince Fielder, Ryan Zimmerman, Carlos Santana and bounce-back candidate Pedro Alvarez by the time the next set of these rankings comes out.
Top 10 Second Basemen
|1. Robinson Cano, SEA||.314||.836||37||14||82||77||6.4|
|2. Jose Altuve, HOU||.341||.830||47||7||59||85||6.0|
|3. Ian Kinsler, DET||.275||.727||40||17||92||100||5.5|
|4. Dustin Pedroia, BOS||.278||.712||33||7||53||72||4.8|
|5. Brian Dozier, MIN||.242||.762||33||23||71||112||5.2|
|6. Neil Walker, PIT||.271||.809||25||23||76||74||3.6|
|7. Howie Kendrick, LAD||.293||.744||33||7||75||85||5.4|
|8. Dee Gordon, MIA||.289||.704||24||2||34||92||2.4|
|9. Daniel Murphy, NYM||.289||.734||37||9||57||79||2.0|
|10. Joe Panik, SF||.305||.711||10||1||18||31||1.1|
One to Watch: Jason Kipnis, CLE
Even with a drop in his power numbers, Robinson Cano still enjoyed a terrific first season with the Seattle Mariners last year after signing that huge 10-year, $240 million deal last offseason. He should be in for even better numbers this season with Nelson Cruz now protecting him in the lineup.
Close behind him is the dynamic Jose Altuve, who led the AL in batting average (.341), hits (225) and stolen bases (56) last season. His peripheral numbers point to some regression, but he should again be a .300 hitter and a spark plug atop the Astros' lineup.
Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia have ranked among the game's elite second basemen for years now, and after dealing with a nagging wrist injury for much of last season, Pedroia underwent offseason surgery and could be primed for a big year.
Brian Dozier was the rare 20/20 second baseman last year, Neil Walker did a terrific job protecting Andrew McCutchen in the Pirates' lineup and Daniel Murphy continued to pile up the hits.
Howie Kendrick and Dee Gordon were both traded during the winter meetings, with Kendrick actually replacing Gordon in the Dodgers' infield. Kendrick is a consistent contact hitter and Gordon is an elite speed threat coming off of a 64-steal season.
Rounding things out is 24-year-old Joe Panik, who impressed over 73 games as a rookie last season, and will be counted on to make an impact out of the No. 2 spot in the Giants' lineup.
Ben Zobrist is currently playing right field for the Oakland Athletics with Josh Reddick sidelined, but he could earn a place here eventually. Also keep an eye on young guys like Kolten Wong and Scooter Gennett, as they could push for a spot as well.
Top 10 Third Basemen
|1. Adrian Beltre, TEX||.324||.879||33||19||77||79||7.0|
|2. Josh Donaldson, TOR||.255||.798||31||29||98||93||7.4|
|3. Kyle Seager, SEA||.268||.788||27||25||96||71||5.8|
|4. Nolan Arenado, COL||.287||.828||34||18||61||58||4.1|
|5. Evan Longoria, TB||.253||.724||26||22||91||83||3.4|
|6. Matt Carpenter, STL||.272||.750||33||8||59||99||3.0|
|7. David Wright, NYM||.269||.698||30||8||63||54||2.8|
|8. Manny Machado, BAL||.278||.755||14||12||32||38||2.4|
|9. Todd Frazier, CIN||.273||.795||22||29||80||88||5.3|
|10. Josh Harrison, PIT||.315||.837||38||13||52||77||5.3|
One to Watch: Mike Moustakas, KC
Anthony Rendon would have been in the running for the No. 1 spot after a breakout season last year, but alas he is currently sidelined with a left knee injury with no clear timetable to return. So for the time being, he's excluded from the rankings here.
Instead, it's 36-year-old Adrian Beltre who headlines the position. The veteran is still producing at an elite level, as he looks to further bolster his Hall of Fame resume in the years to come.
"If there's any justice in this world, Adrian Beltre's head will one day adorn a plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame," wrote Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com.
Close behind him are a pair of newly dubbed stars in Josh Donaldson and Kyle Seager, both of whom are solid middle-of-the-lineup bats and Gold Glove-caliber defenders at the hot corner.
The one to watch here is soon-to-be 24-year-old Nolan Arenado, who already has a pair of Gold Glove awards to his credit and looks to be coming into his own offensively. He's proven capable of producing away from Coors Field, can hit for average and power and could wind up being the breakout star of 2015.
Evan Longoria and David Wright remain the face of their respective franchises, while Matt Carpenter is an on-base machine atop the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup.
Manny Machado is looking to get back on track after a pair of knee injuries have cut short the previous two seasons for him. He's already an elite defender, but is capable of a lot more offensively.
Two NL Central players and breakout stars from a year ago in Todd Frazier and Josh Harrison round out the list, ahead of Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley, at least for the time being.
Top 10 Shortstops
|1. Troy Tulowitzki, COL||.340||1.035||18||21||52||71||5.5|
|2. Ian Desmond, WAS||.255||.743||26||24||91||73||3.8|
|3. Andrelton Simmons, ATL||.244||.617||18||7||46||44||3.5|
|4. Starlin Castro, CHC||.292||.777||33||14||65||58||2.0|
|5. Jose Reyes, TOR||.287||.726||33||9||51||94||3.1|
|6. Jhonny Peralta, STL||.263||.779||38||21||75||61||5.8|
|7. Jimmy Rollins, LAD||.243||.717||22||17||55||78||3.9|
|8. Erick Aybar, LAA||.278||.700||30||7||68||77||3.9|
|9. Alexei Ramirez, CWS||273||.713||35||15||74||82||3.0|
|10. Alcides Escobar, KC||.285||.694||34||3||50||74||2.4|
One to Watch: Xander Bogaerts, BOS
If he can stay healthy, there is little question Troy Tulowitzki is the best all-around shortstop in the game today. However, that's been a big "if" over the past several years.
He was the odds-on favorite for NL MVP honors when he went down with a season-ending torn labrum in his left hip last July, and he's missed a total of 213 games to injury over the past three seasons.
Behind him is Ian Desmond, who is working on a run of three straight 20/20 season and playing in a contract year for the Washington Nationals. The 29-year-old is likely headed elsewhere this coming offseason, and a big year could mean a $100 million-plus contract.
His offensive game is still a work in progress, but there is little doubt Andrelton Simmons is the premier defensive shortstop in the game, and his glove work alone is enough to earn him the No. 3 spot.
Starlin Castro bounced back nicely last season after posting a .631 OPS and minus-0.6 WAR in 2013, and he heads a group of steady if unspectacular producers that includes Jose Reyes, Jhonny Peralta, Jimmy Rollins, Erick Aybar and Alexei Ramirez.
The final spot goes to Alcides Escobar, who really sparked the Royals' offense last season when he moved to the leadoff spot. He's a plus defender, is capable of hitting for a solid average and stole 31 bases in 37 chances in 2014.
That said, keep an eye on Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. He looks like the definition of a post-hype breakout candidate after a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign last season.
Top 10 Left Fielders
|1. Michael Brantley, CLE||.327||.890||45||20||97||94||7.0|
|2. Alex Gordon, KC||.266||.783||34||19||74||87||6.6|
|3. Justin Upton, SD||.270||.833||34||29||102||77||3.3|
|4. Starling Marte, PIT||.291||.808||29||13||56||73||5.1|
|5. Hanley Ramirez, BOS||.283||.817||35||13||71||64||3.5|
|6. Matt Holliday, STL||.272||.811||37||20||90||83||3.4|
|7. Christian Yelich, MIA||.284||.764||30||9||54||94||3.6|
|8. Yoenis Cespedes, DET||.260||.751||36||22||100||89||4.1|
|9. Melky Cabrera, CWS||.301||.808||35||16||73||81||3.1|
|10. Brett Gardner, NYY||.256||.749||25||17||58||87||4.0|
One to Watch: Dustin Ackley, SEA
Left field is a tough position to peg, as the top two guys on this list are both dealing with minor injury issues at the start of the season.
Michael Brantley has been in and out of the lineup with a back issue, while Alex Gordon is still working his way back from December wrist surgery and is off to a slow start at the plate.
That said, those two still look like the elite options as the position, so for the time being they remain in the top two spots in these rankings.
Four of the next six players in these rankings are suiting up for a new team in 2015, with Justin Upton (Padres) and Yoenis Cespedes (Tigers) traded in the offseason and Hanley Ramirez (Red Sox) and Melky Cabrera (White Sox) signed as free agents. All four of those players earn a spot here on the strength of their offensive skills, though Cespedes does have one of the better outfield arms in the league.
Veteran Matt Holliday remains a model of consistency for the Cardinals, while 26-year-old Starling Marte and 23-year-old Christian Yelich are two of the most underrated players in the game and emerging stars at the position.
Yelich ranked second only to Gordon among left fielders with a 14.1 UZR/150 and 13 defensive runs saved, while Marte had a 2.9 UZR/150 and 10 DRS, according to FanGraphs.
Brett Gardner rounds out the list with his solid defense, good speed on the bases and surprising power (17 HR) last season. That spot likely would have gone to Jayson Werth, but he was just activated from the DL on Monday after spending the preseason recovering from shoulder surgery, and could take some time to round into form.
Top 10 Center Fielders
|1. Mike Trout, LAA||.287||.939||39||36||111||115||7.9|
|2. Andrew McCutchen, PIT||.314||.952||38||25||83||89||6.4|
|3. Carlos Gomez, MIL||.284||.833||34||23||73||95||4.8|
|4. Adam Jones, BAL||.281||.780||30||29||96||88||4.9|
|5. Juan Lagares, NYM||.281||.703||24||4||47||46||5.5|
|6. Lorenzo Cain, KC||.301||.751||29||5||53||55||5.0|
|7. Jacoby Ellsbury, NYY||.271||.747||27||16||70||71||3.3|
|8. Marcell Ozuna, MIA||.269||.772||26||23||85||72||4.4|
|9. Adam Eaton, CWS||.300||.763||26||1||35||76||5.2|
|10. Billy Hamilton, CIN||.250||.648||25||6||48||72||2.5|
One to Watch: Mookie Betts, BOS
Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen are absolute no-brainers for the top two spots here. They are arguably the two best all-around position players in the game right now, and should be perennial MVP front-runners for the foreseeable future.
Behind them, it has to be Carlos Gomez and Adam Jones in some order. Both are plus defenders, but Gomez gets the nod thanks to his advantage in on-base skills and base stealing, though Jones has him beat in the power department.
From there it really depends on what you value, as there are a handful of different skill sets among the remaining crop of center fielders.
The elite defense of Juan Lagares earns him the No. 5 spot, as he led all outfielders with a 25.3 UZR/150 and his 28 DRS trailed only Jason Heyward (32), according to FanGraphs.
Another terrific defensive center fielder in Lorenzo Cain (20.4 UZR/150, 24 DRS) follows him, and from there we get into the more offensive-minded players at the position.
Jacoby Ellsbury might not be worth $21 million, but he's a solid all-around hitter and one of the best base stealers in the game with 39 thefts last season.
Meanwhile, Marcell Ozuna (24), Adam Eaton (26) and the speedy Billy Hamilton (24) are all just finding their footing at the big league level, but all three have already made their presence felt on the offensive side of things in one way or another.
Thanks to his speed, Hamilton is also a terrific defender, posting a 21.7 UZR/150 and 14 DRS last season, according to FanGraphs. His offensive game outside of his speed still has a ways to go, though, before he's a plus leadoff option.
Since 2014 production played a big part here, Mookie Betts doesn't crack the list just yet, but it would be something of a shock if he's not on here come May.
Top 10 Right Fielders
|1. Giancarlo Stanton, MIA||.288||.950||31||37||105||89||6.5|
|2. Jose Bautista, TOR||.286||.928||27||35||103||101||6.0|
|3. Yasiel Puig, LAD||.296||.863||37||16||69||92||5.4|
|4. Jason Heyward, STL||.271||.735||26||11||58||74||6.3|
|5. J.D. Martinez, DET||.315||.912||30||23||76||57||4.2|
|6. Bryce Harper, WAS||.273||.768||10||13||32||41||1.0|
|7. Matt Kemp, SD||.287||.852||38||25||89||77||1.1|
|8. George Springer, HOU||.231||.804||8||20||51||45||2.0|
|9. Carlos Gonzalez, COL||.238||.723||15||11||38||35||-0.7|
|10. Kole Calhoun, LAA||.272||.776||31||17||58||90||4.1|
One to Watch: Jorge Soler, CHC
Giancarlo Stanton showed enough in a healthy season last year to pass Jose Bautista for the title of top right fielder heading into the 2015 season, but it's awfully close at the top.
From there, an argument can be made for taking the defense of Jason Heyward (20.5 UZR/150 and 32 DRS, per FanGraphs) over the dynamic but inconsistent all-around game of Yasiel Puig. Both players have room to improve offensively, but Puig probably has the higher overall ceiling at this point.
J.D. Martinez came out of nowhere last season, and while his .389 BABIP certainly raises some red flags, he's off to a hot start this season and has the benefit of hitting in the middle of a stacked lineup.
Bryce Harper and George Springer could easily challenge for spots in the top five before the season is over, as both players are capable of far more than they showed last season.
After a handful of injury plagued seasons, Matt Kemp proved last season he's still capable of carrying an offense when healthy. The 30-year-old had a .971 OPS with 17 home runs and 54 RBI in 64 games after the All-Star break.
Health has also been an issue for Carlos Gonzalez, but when healthy he's consistently been a .300-plus hitter and has four 20/20 seasons to his credit.
Kole Calhoun rounds out the list for the time being, but young guys like Jorge Soler, Gregory Polanco and Avisail Garcia could certainly climb their way into the rankings.
Hunter Pence and Josh Reddick will also be in the discussion at some point, though both have missed significant time to begin the season.
Top 5 Designated Hitters
|1. Victor Martinez, DET||.335||.974||33||32||103||87||5.3|
|2. David Ortiz, BOS||.263||.873||27||35||104||59||2.9|
|3. Nelson Cruz, SEA||.271||.859||32||40||108||87||4.7|
|4. Adam LaRoche, CWS||.259||.817||19||26||92||73||2.2|
|5. Billy Butler, OAK||.271||.702||32||9||66||57||-0.3|
One to Watch: C.J. Cron, LAA
With Victor Martinez and David Ortiz both surrounded by a ton of talent in their respective lineups, both figure to put up big offensive numbers once again in 2015.
V-Mart could see a bit of a drop-off from what were career-best power numbers at the age of 35, but he remains arguably the best pure hitter in the game, so another run at the batting title could be in order.
Meanwhile, Ortiz just keeps plugging along entering his age-39 season, and a 34-homer campaign would get him into the 500 home run club.
Nelson Cruz led all of baseball in long balls last season with 40, but a move to pitcher-friendly Safeco Field could take a bite out of those numbers. That said, he should still be a solid run producer in the middle of an improved Mariners lineup.
Adam LaRoche and Billy Butler also changed teams this offseason, and they earn the final two spots based largely on their track records.
Keep an eye on Kendrys Morales after he joined the Royals on a two-year deal this winter, while C.J. Cron looks like the closest thing to a breakout candidate at the position in his first full season in the Angels' lineup.
Right-Handed Starting Pitchers
Top 10 Right-Handed Starting Pitchers
|1. Felix Hernandez, SEA||15-6||2.14||0.915||.200||248||6.8|
|2. Corey Kluber, CLE||18-9||2.44||1.095||.233||269||7.4|
|3. Max Scherzer, WAS||18-5||3.15||1.175||.238||252||6.0|
|4. Johnny Cueto, CIN||20-9||2.25||0.960||.194||242||6.4|
|5. Adam Wainwright, STL||20-9||2.38||1.031||.222||179||6.1|
|6. Jordan Zimmermann, WAS||14-5||2.66||1.072||.244||182||4.9|
|7. Matt Harvey, NYM*||9-5||2.27||0.931||.209||191||5.2|
|8. Zack Greinke, LAD||17-8||2.71||1.152||.247||207||4.3|
|9. Stephen Strasburg, WAS||14-11||3.14||1.121||.245||242||3.5|
|10. Sonny Gray, OAK||14-10||3.08||1.192||.232||183||3.2|
One to Watch: Archie Bradley, ARI
Corey Kluber may have edged him out for AL Cy Young honors last season, but Felix Hernandez remains the top right-handed starter in the game, as he's been doing it for far longer than Kluber and probably deserved the award last season anyway.
That said, there is nothing in the breakout performance of Kluber to suggest he can't do it again, and if the Indians are going to live up to expectations they will again need him at the top of his game.
Max Scherzer, Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright can really be slotted in any order to round out the top five, but they seem like the most logical choices to do so given their performances last season and their overall history of front-line production.
Jordan Zimmermann is coming off of a fantastic season and is pitching for a new contract, while his teammate Stephen Strasburg also earns a spot here as well despite opening the season as the Nationals' No. 3 starter.
It would still be wise to temper expectations with Matt Harvey, as it's a long season coming back from Tommy John surgery, but his stuff looks to be right back where it was and that's reason enough to earn him a spot at No. 7.
Zack Greinke would be an ace almost anywhere else, but instead he's a rock-solid No. 2 starter behind Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers.
The final spot came down to Sonny Gray and Julio Teheran, and you really can't go wrong with either guy. Gray putting up his numbers in the American League wound up being the tiebreaker, but don't be surprised if both young righties crack the list next time these rankings are published.
Left-Handed Starting Pitchers
Top 10 Left-Handed Starting Pitchers
|1. Clayton Kershaw, LAD||21-3||1.77||0.857||.196||239||7.5|
|2. Chris Sale, CWS||12-4||2.17||0.966||.205||208||6.6|
|3. Madison Bumgarner, SF||18-10||2.98||1.090||.240||219||4.0|
|4. David Price, DET||15-12||3.26||1.079||.240||271||4.6|
|5. Cole Hamels, PHI||9-9||2.46||1.148||.235||198||6.6|
|6. Jon Lester, CHC||16-11||2.46||1.102||.236||220||4.5|
|7. Dallas Keuchel, HOU||12-9||2.93||1.175||.252||146||5.0|
|8. Francisco Liriano, PIT||7-10||3.38||1.300||.218||175||1.5|
|9. Alex Wood, ATL||11-11||2.78||1.142||.239||170||3.7|
|10. Jose Quintana, CWS||9-11||3.32||1.243||.257||178||3.5|
One to Watch: James Paxton, SEA
It has not been quite the dominant start to the season most have come to expect out of Clayton Kershaw, but with the focus of these rankings being on 2014 performance and track record, he's still an easy choice for the No. 1 spot.
The postseason heroics of Madison Bumgarner are hard to ignore, but Chris Sale was still the better pitcher for the first six months of last season, so he gets the No. 2 spot in these rankings as a result.
David Price, Cole Hamels and Jon Lester have consistently been among the best left-handed starters in the game for years now.
Price is pitching for his next contract, Hamels is the most talked about trade chip on the market and Lester is looking to prove himself after signing a six-year, $155 million deal with the Cubs.
Dallas Keuchel entered the 2014 season with a career 5.20 ERA over 239 innings, and exited as the unquestioned ace of a young Astros rotation.
The Pirates were wise to bring back Francisco Liriano on a three-year, $39 million deal, as he has enjoyed a career renaissance in Pittsburgh, going 23-18 with a 3.20 ERA and 9.4 K/9 over the past two seasons.
Alex Wood and Jose Quintana both earned a spot on my recent list of "under-the-radar stars that deserve more hype" and they round out the rankings.
Hyun-Jin Ryu and Drew Smyly both began the season on the disabled list and are expected to miss more time moving forward, so they've been excluded for the time being.
Top 10 Non-Closer Relievers
|1. Wade Davis, KC||71||9-2||33||1.00||0.847||13.6||3.7|
|2. Andrew Miller, NYY||73||5-5||22||2.02||0.802||14.9||1.8|
|3. Darren O'Day, BAL||68||5-2||25||1.70||0.888||9.6||2.3|
|4. Brad Boxberger, TB||62||5-2||19||2.37||0.835||14.5||1.8|
|5. Ken Giles, PHI||44||3-1||13||1.18||0.788||12.6||2.0|
|6. Pedro Strop, CHC||65||2-4||21||2.21||1.066||10.5||1.6|
|7. Kelvin Herrera, KC||70||4-3||20||1.41||1.143||7.6||2.8|
|8. Pat Neshek, HOU||71||7-2||25||1.87||0.787||9.1||2.3|
|9. Tony Watson, PIT||78||10-2||34||1.63||1.022||9.4||2.5|
|10. Jordan Walden, STL||58||0-2||20||2.88||1.200||11.2||0.9|
One to Watch: Jim Johnson, ATL
No list will change more than this one once these rankings are based on 2015 performance, but that's just the nature of middle relievers, as year-in and year-out consistency is hard to find.
Having said that, don't be surprised if it is still Wade Davis who occupies the No. 1 spot, as he was historically good last season as the eighth inning guy in a terrific Royals bullpen. His teammate Kelvin Herrera also earns a spot here, as those two team with closer Greg Holland to shorten a lot of games.
Andrew Miller turned his terrific 2014 numbers into a four-year, $36 million deal, and he could actually wind up on the closer's list moving forward depending on how the team decides to use him.
He might not have the gaudy strikeout numbers of some of his peers, but Darren O'Day is as consistent as they come, posting a 2.18 ERA and 0.961 WHIP while averaging 60 appearances per season over the past six years.
Pat Neshek and Tony Watson were both All-Stars last season, while the young trio of Brad Boxberger, Ken Giles and Pedro Strop enjoyed breakout seasons and solidified themselves in late-inning roles for the year ahead.
Jordan Walden rounds out the list after joining the Cardinals in the Jason Heyward-for-Shelby Miller trade this offseason. He replaces the aforementioned Neshek in the eighth inning role, and the team already gave him a two-year, $6.6 million extension that includes a $5.25 million option for a third year.
With at least six non-closer relievers on each team, there are no less than 180 players to choose from for these 10 spots. That will mean plenty of shuffling next time these rankings are posted, but for the time being these 10 guys have earned their spots.
Top 10 Closers
|1. Craig Kimbrel, SD||63||0-3||47/51||1.61||0.908||13.9||2.5|
|2. Greg Holland, KC||65||1-3||46/48||1.44||0.914||13.0||2.5|
|3. A. Chapman, CIN||54||0-3||36/38||2.00||0.833||17.7||1.9|
|4. Huston Street, LAA||61||2-2||41/44||1.37||0.944||8.7||2.7|
|5. Santiago Casilla, SF||54||3-3||19/23||1.70||0.857||6.9||2.0|
|6. Mark Melancon, PIT||72||3-5||33/37||1.90||0.873||9.0||2.4|
|7. F. Rodney, SEA||69||1-6||48/51||2.85||1.342||10.3||0.8|
|8. Hector Rondon, CHC||64||4-4||29/33||2.42||1.058||9.0||1.6|
|9. Steve Cishek, MIA||67||4-5||39/43||3.17||1.209||11.6||0.9|
|10. Glen Perkins, MIN||63||4-3||34/41||3.65||1.184||9.6||0.5|
One to Watch: Jeurys Familia, NYM
The Craig Kimbrel vs. Greg Holland debate for who deserves the title of top closer in baseball is a compelling one, but for my money Kimbrel is still the most dominant bullpen arm in the game, and moving to Petco Park certainly won't hurt.
Kimbrel is 185-of-204 on save chances with a 1.51 ERA, 0.880 WHIP and 436 strikeouts in 268.1 innings over the past four seasons, leading the league in saves each year.
Holland is an equally impressive 93-of-98 on saves with a 1.32 ERA, 0.889 WHIP and 193 strikeouts in 129.1 innings over the previous two years.
In terms of pure stuff, Aroldis Chapman probably has them both beat, and his strikeout numbers certainly show a pitcher who is every bit as dominant.
Meanwhile, Huston Street may not light up the radar gun, but he's only blown 10 saves over the past four seasons, nailing down 126 and posting a 2.49 ERA in the process.
Santiago Casilla and Mark Melancon both began the 2014 season in a setup role, but finished the season as two of the most dominant closers in the game. Given the teams they pitch for, they should see plenty of save chances again in 2015.
It's not always pretty, but Fernando Rodney gets the job done in the ninth, evidenced by his AL-best 48 saves in 51 chances last year.
Hector Rondon emerged last year as the leader of a surprisingly good Cubs relief corps, while Steve Cishek and Glen Perkins have both proven to be reliable, under-the-radar options over the past few seasons.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted.