Ranking the Top 50 MLB Players Through the 1st Quarter of 2015

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2015

Ranking the Top 50 MLB Players Through the 1st Quarter of 2015

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    We are a little less than two months into the 2015 MLB season, and while there is still a lot of baseball to be played, we've now reached a point where the "small sample size" argument starts to lose some steam.

    That means a little more attention can now be paid to extreme starts to the season on both ends of the spectrum, as a hot start begins to turn into a breakout year and a cold start begins to look like something more serious.

    This article will focus on the positive side of things, as we attempt to name the top 50 players through the first quarter of the season.

    The rankings will be based on the following:

    • 2015 Season Only: Forget everything players have accomplished in the past, as track record means nothing here. We're simply looking for the top 50 players based on 2015 production.
    • Offense and Defense: While offensive production will always garner more attention, elite defensive play deserves its time in the spotlight as well. As such, you will see defensive metrics like defensive runs saved and UZR/150 referenced fairly often.
    • Relief Pitchers: Only five relief pitchers cracked the list, and none of them broke the top 25. Why? Most closers have yet to break the 20-inning mark this season, and I have a hard time ranking those guys ahead of everyday position players or starting pitchers who have made bigger impacts.
    • Future Success as a Tiebreaker: The goal here was to name the 50 best performers so far, so future projections didn't play much of a role. However, they did serve as tiebreakers of sorts. For example, if two pitchers had similar numbers but one had a much higher FIP, the one with the more sustainable start got the nod.

    With the specifics out of the way, let's kick things off with a look at some notable players who did not make the cut before we dive into the top 50.

The Next 25

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    The following were the final 25 players trimmed from my initial list to get things down to 50, so they would make up Nos. 51-75 if these rankings were expanded.


    Buster Posey (SF)


    Jose Abreu (CWS), Zack Cozart (CIN), Prince Fielder (TEX), Ian Kinsler (DET), Mike Moustakas (KC), Jimmy Paredes (BAL), Joey Votto (CIN), Kolten Wong (STL)


    Andre Ethier (LAD), Brett Gardner (NYY), Alex Gordon (KC), Giancarlo Stanton (MIA)

    Starting Pitchers

    Johnny Cueto (CIN), Ubaldo Jimenez (BAL), Scott Kazmir (OAK), Corey Kluber (CLE), Francisco Liriano (PIT), Nick Martinez (TEX), Garrett Richards (LAA)

    Relief Pitchers

    Brad Boxberger (TB), Jeurys Familia (NYM), Glen Perkins (MIN), Trevor Rosenthal (STL), Drew Storen (WAS)

Nos. 50-41

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    50. SS Brandon Crawford, SF (EDIT: Previously Zack Cozart, CIN)

    I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong...Brandon Crawford deserves this spot over it's previous inhabitant Zack Cozart. Crawford, who has been known more of his glove than his bat during his time in the bigs, is currently hitting .298/.387/.511 with eight doubles, six home runs and 26 RBI for a 2.2 WAR.

    49. C Yasmani Grandal, LAD

    In his first season with the Dodgers, Yasmani Grandal has proved to be a huge upgrade over A.J. Ellis, hitting .287 with an .867 OPS. He also ranks first in the league in pitch-framing, according to Stat Corner.

    48. RP Joakim Soria, DET

    A disaster last season, the Tigers bullpen has actually been a strength this year, and Joakim Soria is the primary reason why. He's a perfect 13-for-13 on save chances with a 1.00 ERA and 0.667 WHIP.

    47. SP Michael Wacha, STL

    With Adam Wainwright sidelined for the season, the Cardinals will need Michael Wacha to fill the role of staff ace, and so far he's done just that. Through seven starts, he's 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA and 1.046 WHIP, though his strikeout rate is down (5.5 K/9) and his FIP (3.76) is relatively high.

    46. 2B Logan Forsythe, TB

    A spring injury to Nick Franklin opened up an everyday role for longtime utility man Logan Forsythe, who has made the most of it. He's currently hitting .301/.377/.485 and playing plus defense.

    45. SS Freddy Galvis, PHI

    The offseason trade of Jimmy Rollins opened up the Phillies' everyday shortstop job for Freddy Galvis, and the 25-year-old has been one of the team's few bright spots. He's hitting .324/.386/.374 with a 1.3 WAR.

    44. RP Aroldis Chapman, CIN

    Aroldis Chapman has only seen seven save chances so far this year but has converted all of them, and he is once again putting up video game-esque strikeout numbers: 29 punchouts in 17.1 innings for a 15.1 K/9 mark.

    43. SP Aaron Harang, PHI

    Despite a solid 2014 season, Aaron Harang had to settle for a one-year, $5 million deal with the Phillies this past offseason, which has been one of the biggest steals of the year so far. The 37-year-old is 4-3 with a 1.82 ERA and 0.978 WHIP in eight starts.

    42. SS Andrelton Simmons, ATL

    The game's elite defensive player at any position, Andrelton Simmons has finally started to contribute with the bat this season. He's hitting .260/.319/.420 with 16 extra-base hits for a 101 OPS+.

    41. 3B Kris Bryant, CHC

    It took him a little while to find his power stroke, but Kris Bryant has shown some discipline at the plate throughout his brief time in the majors. He finally flashed some pop with three home runs last week and is currently hitting .291/.416/.464 with 25 RBI and 24 walks in 31 games.

Nos. 40-31

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    40. CF Joc Pederson, LAD

    His .236 average leaves something to be desired, but Joc Pederson has more than made up for it with his ability to get on base and his plus power. With a .391 on-base percentage and 10 home runs, he'd probably be NL Rookie of the Year if the season ended today.

    39. CF Adam Jones, BAL

    Adam Jones has slowed down a bit after a red-hot start but has still been one of the best hitters in the American League. He's slashing .343/.385/.538 with six home runs and 25 RBI while playing his usual great defense.

    38. SS Jose Iglesias, DET

    The Tigers sorely missed Jose Iglesias last season when he was sidelined for the entire year with a shin issue. He's back healthy this season, and on top of his plus glove, he's hitting .328/.386/.422 on the year.

    37. RF Josh Reddick, OAK

    One of the longest-tenured players on the Athletics roster, Josh Reddick has been one of the team's few consistent hitters. After an up-and-down 2014 season, he's hitting .305/.381/.527 with six home runs and 29 RBI.

    36. RP Andrew Miller, NYY

    The Yankees shelled out $36 million over four years to sign Andrew Miller, and he's been worth every penny to this point. The left-hander has converted all 13 of his save chances and allowed just four hits and two earned runs while striking out 31 in 18.1 innings of work.

    35. RP Wade Davis, KC

    After a breakout season in the setup role, Wade Davis has dazzled again, as he's yet to allow an earned run in 19 innings of work. He was also a perfect 7-for-7 on save chances while filling in for the injured Greg Holland.

    34. RP Dellin Betances, NYY

    Dellin Betances has again served primarily in the eighth inning for the Yankees this season and has been lights out, allowing just eight hits and two unearned runs while striking out 35 hitters in 23 innings.

    33. CF Jacoby Ellsbury, NYY

    The Yankees offense has been healthier than expected this season, but they will be without Jacoby Ellsbury for the foreseeable future after he suffered a knee sprain. He's been their best hitter, batting .324/.412/.372 and leading the AL with 14 stolen bases.

    32. C Russell Martin, TOR

    The Blue Jays spent big to add Russell Martin during the offseason, signing him to a five-year, $82 million deal. While his presence has not done much for the team's struggling rotation, he's been terrific with the bat, hitting .297/.383/.555 with 10 doubles, seven home runs and 23 RBI.

    31. 3B Todd Frazier, CIN

    Todd Frazier has been the Reds' best hitter again this season, posting a .898 OPS with 12 home runs and 23 RBI. He's also been one of the best defensive third baseman in the league, with a 14.6 UZR/150, according to FanGraphs.

Nos. 30-26

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    30. 1B Eric Hosmer, KC

    Eric Hosmer was one of the biggest stars of the 2014 postseason, hitting .351/.439/.544 with 12 RBI in 15 games, and it looks like he may finally be approaching bona fide stardom in the middle of the Royals lineup.

    Hosmer is currently hitting .321/.395/.545 with 10 doubles, seven home runs and 30 RBI for a 1.8 WAR, and his 161 OPS+ is good for seventh in the American League. 

    29. SP Jake Odorizzi, TB

    With Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Matt Moore all sidelined, Jake Odorizzi has stepped up in the Tampa Bay Rays' rotation this season.

    After a strong rookie season last year, he's gone 3-4 with a 2.43 ERA, 0.961 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 59.1 innings for a 1.7 WAR that ranks fifth among AL pitchers.

    28. 3B Josh Donaldson, TOR

    With Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion both off to slow starts, Josh Donaldson has been the Blue Jays' best hitter so far this year.

    He's currently batting .309/.374/.537 with 10 doubles, nine home runs and 28 RBI, and he's doing it as an extreme bargain thanks to a $4.3 million salary in his first year of arbitration.

    27. LF Michael Brantley, CLE

    A sore back cost Michael Brantley some time and robbed him of some pop at the beginning of the season, but he's back healthy now and once again showing why he's one of the best outfielders in the game.

    The 28-year-old is leading the AL with a .331 batting average, .404 on-base percentage and .535 slugging percentage. He has 14 doubles, four home runs and 25 RBI.

    26. SP A.J. Burnett, PIT

    After two terrific seasons with the Pirates, A.J. Burnett bolted for Philadelphia last season and wound up going 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA.

    He declined his end of a mutual option and rejoined the Pirates on a one-year, $8.5 million deal during the offseason, and the 38-year-old rediscovered the fountain of youth. He's currently 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA (3.07 FIP), 1.154 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 52 innings.

25. LF Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    Since signing a seven-year, $120 million deal prior to the 2010 season, few hitters in all of baseball have been as consistent as St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday.

    Five-plus years into that deal, he's averaged a line of .295/.383/.496 with 24 home runs and 93 RBI, and he's well on his way to similar numbers here in 2015.

    The clincher for his securing a spot inside the top 25 right now is his ridiculous .500 batting average with runners in scoring positionhe's been the definition of clutch so far this year.

24. SP Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    Shoulder issues during spring training limited Jake Arrieta to 25 starts last season, but he turned out to be one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball, going 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA and 0.989 WHIP to finish ninth in NL Cy Young Award voting.

    With big offseason signing Jon Lester struggling early and only recently finding his groove, Arrieta has been the upstart Chicago Cubs' best pitcher so far this season, proving his breakout was no fluke.

    A 2.23 FIP says his numbers could even be a little better than they currently are, and he's been particularly good his last two starts, allowing eight hits and two runs while striking out 17 in 15 innings of work.

23. 2B Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    Already the best player on the Houston Astros heading into last season, Jose Altuve went on to lead the American League in batting average (.341), stolen bases (56) and hits (225, a team record).

    A high BABIP (.360 via FanGraphs) last year makes duplicating that average something of a long shot, but he's still a safe bet to hit comfortably over .300.

    With a better lineup around him, Altuve has also flashed some added run-production ability this year. Despite all of his at-bats coming out of the top two spots in the lineup, he leads the Astros with 24 RBI and already has five home runs after entering the season with a career-best of seven.

22. SP Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    With David Price gone and Alex Cobb sidelined, the Tampa Bay Rays turned to Chris Archer for their Opening Day starting honors this season. He used the opportunity as a springboard for a red-hot start.

    The 26-year-old finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013 and was rewarded with a six-year, $25.5 million extension. He had a successful sophomore season, going 10-9 with a 3.33 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 194.2 innings.

    Archer wrapped up the month of April at 3-2 with an 0.84 ERA, and while he ran into a bit of a hiccup at the beginning of May, he's back on track with consecutive quality starts. If the Rays are going to have any chance of sticking around in the AL East, he'll need to keep pitching at a high level.

21. 2B Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    A legitimate AL MVP candidate in 2013 when he helped lead the Cleveland Indians to a surprise postseason appearance, Jason Kipnis looked like a superstar in the making heading into last season.

    Instead, he suffered a strained oblique at the end of April, which wound up nagging him for much of the season. The result was a .240/.310/.330 line with just six home runs in 500 at-bats.

    Healthy again this season, Kipnis is back to being one of the game's elite offensive second basemen and has been on fire since the calendar flipped to May: He's 34-for-74 (.459 BA) with 13 extra-base hits in 18 games so far this month.

20. CF Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    The 2014 season was a coming-out party for Lorenzo Cain, who had a career-high 502 plate appearances and responded by hitting .301 and stealing 28 bases.

    He didn't, however, make himself a household name until the postseason. His offense landed him ALCS MVP honors, but it was his consistently phenomenal defensive play in center field that really endeared him to fans around the country.

    While he's hitting at an impressive clip again so far this season, Cain's defense has played a big part in his AL-best 2.8 WAR.

    According to FanGraphs, he's been the most valuable defensive player in baseball on the strength of 13 defensive runs saved and a 37.0 UZR/150.

19. SP Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    His lofty status as the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, burly 6'4", 230-pound frame and power arsenal that includes a fastball that can touch triple digits all painted Gerrit Cole as the future ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    The 24-year-old showed plenty of flashes over his first two seasons in the big leagues but has taken a step forward this year. He figures to be a staple atop the Pittsburgh rotation for the foreseeable future.

    According to FanGraphs, Cole is throwing his slider more (from 12.1 percent of the time last year to 17.3 percent this year) and his curveball far less (from 16.2 to 8.2 percent), and the result has been an increased strikeout rate and more consistent all-around stuff.

18. SP Michael Pineda, New York Yankees

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    The talent has always been there for Michael Pineda; it was simply a matter of getting healthy and staying healthy.

    He finally made his debut with the New York Yankees last season after being sidelined for the previous two seasons while recovering from shoulder surgery. He landed back on the DL with a back issue, but in the 13 starts he did make, he had a 1.89 ERA and 0.825 WHIP over 76.1 innings of work.

    With Masahiro Tanaka sidelined, the 26-year-old has been the clear-cut ace of the Yankees staff so far.

    His 3.31 ERA is higher than anyone else's in the top 25 but comes with an AL-best 1.99 FIP, so expect him to climb even higher in these rankings by midseason.

17. 3B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    Matt Carpenter set the bar awfully high in 2013 when he hit .318 and led the National League in hits (199), doubles (55) and runs scored (126) on his way to a fourth-place finish in NL MVP voting.

    That made last season something of a letdown, as he hit .272 with 162 hits, 33 doubles and 99 runs scored. He was still one of the game's elite table-setters, however, posting a .375 on-base percentage on the strength of an NL-high 95 walks.

    Back to producing at an elite level this season, he ranks in the top 10 in the National League in runs, doubles, extra-base hits, slugging percentage and OPS.

    He's well on his way to a new career high in home runs and is batting .450 with runners in scoring position to boot.

16. CF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    After leading all of baseball in runs scored a year ago, the Los Angeles Angels offense has been a mess this season beyond outfielders Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun.

    The team's runs per game have dropped from 4.77 in 2014 to 3.68 this year, but Trout has managed to once again post impressive numbers across the board, employing a more aggressive approach and showing a bit more pop as a result.

    He's been less susceptible to high fastballs this season, as Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs broke down in detail, and as a result his strikeout rate has dropped from 26.1 percent to a more respectable 21.6 percent.

15. SP Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    A so-so start his last time out (L, 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 4 BB) bumps Felix Hernandez down these rankings a few spots, but he remains one of the game's truly elite pitchers.

    Somehow still only 29 years old, King Felix probably should have taken home his second AL Cy Young Award last season, as he led the league in ERA (2.14) and WHIP (0.915), but Corey Kluber edged him out in the voting.

    There are other AL pitchers ranked ahead of him here, but when all is said and done, don't be surprised if Hernandez is statistically the best the league has to offer once again.

14. 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    After a strong first full season in the majors in 2012, Paul Goldschmidt broke out in a big way the following year, hitting .302/.401/.551 and leading the NL with 36 home runs and 125 RBI to finish second in NL MVP voting.

    The 27-year-old was well on his way to similarly dominant numbers last season when he was hit by a pitch and fractured his hand, abruptly ending his season at the beginning of August.

    He's shown no lasting effects of that injury so far this season and is again among the game's truly elite middle-of-the-order threats.

13. SP Matt Harvey, New York Mets

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    Questions as to whether or not Matt Harvey would return at full strength this season were probably answered when he came out firing in the upper-90s in his spring debut.

    Any remaining doubters have to be convinced eight starts into the season, as the 26-year-old has tallied seven quality starts and played a major part in the New York Mets looking like legitimate contenders.

    Harvey enjoyed his best outing of the season Monday, limiting the St. Louis Cardinals to six hits while striking out nine in eight scoreless innings. The bullpen cost him the win in the ninth inning, but there could be even better things to come, as he's shaken off what remaining rust there might have been.

12. SP Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    The Oakland Athletics looked to have something special on their hands when after just 10 regular-season starts as a rookie, Sonny Gray matched Justin Verlander pitch-for-pitch in Game 2 of the 2013 Division Series, allowing four hits over eight shutout innings.

    After Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin went down with season-ending injuries last spring, Gray was asked to step into the role of staff ace and responded by going 14-10 with a 3.08 ERA, 1.192 WHIP and 183 strikeouts in 219 innings.

    Now the 25-year-old has taken another step forward, going from staff ace to one of the game's truly elite arms. Dallas Keuchel has probably been the best pitcher in the AL so far this year, but Gray is not far behind.

11. C Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    Last season, it was Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy who emerged from relative obscurity outside his hometown to put up the best all-around numbers of any catcher in baseball.

    This time around, it's Stephen Vogt.

    Part of a three-headed monster behind the plate for the Oakland Athletics last season, Vogt was the last man standing after the team traded both Derek Norris and John Jaso during the offseason and has thrived in an expanded role.

    Regression is likely coming, at least in the power department, as his HR/FB rate (22.5 percent, according to FanGraphs) is not sustainable.

    The rest of the breakout has a very real chance of being legit, however, and with these rankings based solely on performance in 2015, Vogt has no doubt earned a spot in the top 10.

10. 1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    What would be a career year for most players constituted a down season for Miguel Cabrera in 2014, as he hit .313/.371/.524 with 52 doubles, 25 home runs and 109 RBI to finish ninth in AL MVP voting.

    The 32-year-old is back to his usual slugging this season, though, and recently joined the 400 home run club with a shot off St. Louis Cardinals starter Tyler Lyons last weekend.

    Cabrera has a massive eight-year, $248 million extension set to kick in next season, so seeing him return to an elite level of production has to be comforting for the Detroit Tigers.

9. RF Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

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    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    The Seattle Mariners opted against signing Nelson Cruz prior to last season and wound up kicking themselves when he led all of baseball with 40 home runs. They then jumped at a second chance to add the slugger this past offseason, signing him to a four-year, $57 million deal and slotting him behind Robinson Cano in the order.

    While Cano is off to a slow start, it's by no means Cruz's fault, as he has again been one of the most dangerous sluggers in the game. He leads the AL in home runs, RBI and slugging percentage.

    Cruz has mashed 12 of those home runs away from spacious Safeco Field, but he is still hitting a solid .309/.371/.494 at home.

8. SP Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    It's hard to say anyone is worth $210 million, but Max Scherzer has given the Washington Nationals zero reason to regret throwing down some serious cash to sign him during the offseason.

    In fact, with Doug Fister on the disabled list, Jordan Zimmermann struggling early and Stephen Strasburg struggling all season, it's hard to imagine where the Nationals would be without him right now.

    "Scherzer has been a rock for a Nats team that has made their expected surge up the NL East standings the last three weeks, and the stability he provides is all the more important as the rotation endures the Fister flexor frustration," wrote Anthony Castrovince of Sports on Earth.

    Only five pitchers in MLB history have won the Cy Young Award in both leagues: Gaylord Perry, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Roy Halladay.

    Having already won the AL honor with the Detroit Tigers in 2013, Scherzer could make it six.

7. SP Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    Dallas Keuchel entered spring training last year far from a lock for the Opening Day roster, as the left-hander had gone 9-18 with a 5.20 ERA in 38 starts and nine relief appearances over his first two seasons in the bigs.

    But he managed to secure the team's No. 5 starter job with a solid spring and quickly emerged as the ace of the staff, ranking as one of the biggest breakout stars of 2014. All told, he finished the year 12-9 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.175 WHIP and an AL-high five complete games.

    Even with solid peripheral numbers, there were more than a few people who questioned the legitimacy of his breakout, but he's silenced the doubters with another brilliant start here in 2015.

6. SP Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    While Clayton Kershaw (2-2, 4.24 ERA) has struggled early, fellow Los Angeles Dodgers starter Zack Greinke has been an absolute stud.

    Though largely overshadowed by his teammate, the 31-year-old has been terrific in his own right since joining the Dodgers, going 32-12 with a 2.68 ERA and 1.134 WHIP over the past two seasons.

    Greinke can opt out of his contract after this season, and he is setting himself up for another big payday.

    Like the aforementioned Max Scherzer, Greinke has also previously won Cy Young honors in the American League, doing so with the Kansas City Royals back in 2009.

5. 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    No one started the 2015 season as hot as Adrian Gonzalez, as he went 10-for-13 with five home runs in his first three games. He hit .523/.580/1.045 over an 11-game hitting streak to kick off the season and has remained productive since.

    To his credit, the impressive run production is not a huge surprise, as Gonzalez has been as consistent as they come in that department. Having spent time with the Padres, Red Sox and Dodgers, the first baseman has at least 99 RBI in each of the past eight seasons.

    Since Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp have taken their talents elsewhere and Yasiel Puig is dealing with a hamstring injury, Gonzalez's steadying presence in the middle of the Dodgers lineup has been that much more important.

4. 1B Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

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    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    Anthony Rizzo took a huge step forward last season after a disappointing first full year in the majors in 2013 and is now the cornerstone of a talented, young Chicago Cubs team that is making plenty of noise in the early going.

    The 25-year-old improved his OPS from .742 in 2013 to .913 last season and finished second in the National League with 32 home runs despite receiving less-than-stellar protection in the lineup.

    Already viewed as an elite on-base threat, Rizzo has taken that to the next level this season. He currently has more walks (22) than strikeouts (19), a rare feat for a power hitter, and has also added 12 hit-by-pitches thanks to his preference to crowd the plate.

    Trading Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres for Rizzo prior to the 2012 season was one of the first moves Theo Epstein made after taking over as president of baseball operations, and it may well be his best when all is said and done.

3. SP Shelby Miller, Atlanta Braves

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    Looking to upgrade in right field, the St. Louis Cardinals pulled the trigger on the first big trade of last offseason, shipping right-hander Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins to the Atlanta Braves for Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden.

    The trade looked like a win for the Cardinals at the time, but things have since swung decidedly in the Braves' favor, at least for the time being.

    While he struggled with consistency during his time in St. Louis, the 24-year-old Miller also showed plenty of flashes of bigger things to come. Look no further than a one-hit, 13-strikeout shutout of the Colorado Rockies during his rookie season or a 1.48 ERA in five September starts last year.

    As the current NL leader in ERA and WHIP with two complete-game shutouts already under his belt, Miller is an easy choice as the top pitcher so far this season.

2. 2B Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins

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    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    Dee Gordon is probably not going to pull a Ted Williams and hit .400 this season, as there is some steep regression to come, but that doesn't take away from what he's accomplished to this point.

    Even with his wheels, a .444 BABIP (via FanGraphs) is completely unsustainable and bound to level out as the season goes on.

    That said, a higher line-drive percentage (from 21.3 last year to 25.7 this year), lower fly-ball rate (from 19.1 to 15.4 percent) and increased infield-hit rate (from 11.3 to 18.8 percent) are all signs that Gordon is using his speed to his advantage.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise has been his defense, as Gordon currently leads all second basemen with 9 DRS and a 25.8 UZR/150, according to FanGraphs.

    And that's after he checked in negatively in both metrics last season, with minus-5.0 DRS and a minus-3.5 UZR/150.

1. RF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    2015 Stats


    Player Overview

    There is little doubt about who belongs in the No. 1 spot in these rankings, as Bryce Harper has been hands-down the best player in baseball up to mid-May.

    Patience has been the key.

    After walking 38 times in 395 plate appearances last season, the 22-year-old already has an NL-high 37 walks in his first 176 plate appearances this year.

    The result of that improved patience, aside from a spike in his on-base percentage, has been more power, as Harper is well on his way to shattering his previous career high of 22 home runs.

    "I think the improved walk rate will lead to those better power numbers. It suggests better plate discipline, and thus the more likely scenario that he's swinging at a pitch he can drive," wrote David Schoenfield of ESPN SweetSpot.

    This is the Bryce Harper we've been waiting for, folks. Enjoy him.

    Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and accurate as of games played through Wednesday, May 20. Bolded stats indicate league leader.