Ranking the Top 100 MLB Players at the Start of 2018 Regular Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2018

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 06:  Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels smiles while warming up for the spring training game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 6, 2018 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Over the past month, we've taken a position-by-position run through MLB with our preseason positional power rankings.

It's now time for an all-encompassing look at baseball's 100 best players. 

This is meant to be a look at the cream of the crop heading into 2018. Think of it as a big board for if every MLB team was doing a redraft for one all-or-nothing season in 2018.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Let's get to it.

 Top 100 Players 
1imgMike TroutOF/1
2img Jose Altuve2B/1
3img Joey Votto1B/1
4img Clayton KershawSP/1
5img Nolan Arenado3B/1
6img Francisco LindorSS/1
7img Kris Bryant3B/2
8img Carlos CorreaSS/2
9img Bryce HarperOF/2
10img Paul Goldschmidt1B/2
11img Corey KluberSP/2
12img Max ScherzerSP/3
13img Buster PoseyC/1
14img Anthony Rizzo1B/3
15img Freddie Freeman1B/4
16img Corey SeagerSS/3
17img Chris SaleSP/4
18img Mookie BettsOF/3
19img Josh Donaldson3B/3
20img Aaron JudgeOF/4
21img Charlie BlackmonOF/5
22img Anthony Rendon3B/4
23imgGiancarlo StantonOF/6
24img Cody Bellinger1B/5
25img Justin VerlanderSP/5
26img Manny MachadoSS/4
27img Luis SeverinoSP/6
28img Jose Ramirez3B/5
29img Noah SyndergaardSP/7
30img Andrelton SimmonsSS/5
31img George SpringerOF/7
32img Justin Turner3B/6
33img Gary SanchezC/2
34img Stephen StrasburgSP/8
35img Craig KimbrelRP/1
36img Kenley JansenRP/2
37img Marcus StromanSP/9
38img Jonathan Schoop2B/2
39img Andrew MillerRP/3
40img Dallas KeuchelSP/10
41img Trea TurnerSS/6
42img Adrian Beltre3B/7
43img J.D. MartinezOF/8
44img Carlos CarrascoSP/11
45img Zack GreinkeSP/12
46img Christian YelichOF/9
47img Brian Dozier2B/3
48img Kyle HendricksSP/13
49img Jacob deGromSP/14
50img Willson ContrerasC/3
51img Jose Abreu1B/6
52img Felipe RiveroRP/4
53img Aroldis ChapmanRP/5
54img Kevin KiermaierOF/10
55img Robbie RaySP/15
56img Robinson Cano2B/4
57img Marcell OzunaOF/11
58img Archie BradleyRP/6
59img Byron BuxtonOF/12
60img Jon GraySP/16
61img Yu DarvishSP/17
62img Carlos MartinezSP/18
63img Justin UptonOF/13
64img Lorenzo CainOF/14
65img Daniel Murphy2B/5
66img Chris ArcherSP/19
67img Alex Bregman3B/8
68img Chad GreenRP/7
69img Corey KnebelRP/8
70img Yasiel PuigOF/15
71img Travis Shaw3B/9
72img Wade DavisRP/9
73img Didi GregoriusSS/7
74img Aaron NolaSP/20
75img Jose QuintanaSP/21
76img Masahiro TanakaSP/22
77img Roberto OsunaRP/10
78img Aaron HicksOF/16
79img Andrew BenintendiOF/17
80img Cody AllenRP/11
81img Brett GardnerOF/18
82img Nelson CruzDH/1
83img Edwin EncarnacionDH/2
84img Ender InciarteOF/19
85img Steven Souza Jr.OF/20
86img Kyle Seager3B/10
87img J.T. RealmutoC/4
88img Brandon CrawfordSS/8
89img Matt Chapman3B/11
90img Zack Cozart3B/12
91img Brad HandRP/12
92img Raisel IglesiasRP/13
93img Starling MarteOF/21
94img Rhys HoskinsOF/22
95img James PaxtonSP/24
96img Elvis AndrusSS/9
97img Salvador PerezC/5
98img Sean DoolittleRP/14
99img Chris TaylorOF/23
100img Yadier MolinaC/6

      

The Young Guns

Cody Bellinger
Cody BellingerNick Wass/Associated Press

Twelve players under the age of 25 earned a spot in our rankings, headlined by the superstar shortstop trio of Francisco Lindor (24), Carlos Correa (23) and Corey Seager (23).

The youngest player from the group is Cody Bellinger (22), who posted a 142 OPS+ last season while slugging 39 home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers, an NL rookie record.

Luis Severino (24) of the New York Yankees and Aaron Nola (24) of the Philadelphia Phillies are the only starting pitchers in the group, and both took a significant step forward last season to emerge as the ace of their respective staffs.

Despite his age, Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna (23) already has three seasons and 95 saves under his belt.

Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (24) won his first Gold Glove last season, and there could be many more to follow. Matt Chapman (24) also has a chance to be an impact two-way player manning third base for the Oakland Athletics.

Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman (23) is just scratching the surface of his offensive potential. The same goes for AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Andrew Benintendi (23), who will again be manning left field for the Boston Red Sox.

Speedy Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner (24) rounds out the under-25 group. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance for 50-plus steals while setting the table for a stacked Nats lineup.

     

Aging Like a Fine Wine

Adrian Beltre
Adrian BeltreTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Elder statesmen also forced their way into the rankings, with a total of 11 players over the age of 32 making the cut.

Joey Votto (34), Max Scherzer (33) and Justin Verlander (35), who have two MVP awards and four Cy Young trophies split among them, all ranked inside the top 25.

Adrian Beltre (38) and Nelson Cruz (37) are the only players over the age of 35, but both sluggers have shown no signs of slowing down at an age where most players are long retired. Beltre looks like a surefire Hall of Famer with 93.5 career WAR, while Cruz has racked up 323 home runs and 914 RBI.

Slugger Edwin Encarnacion (35) and former non-tender casualty turned star Justin Turner (33) both cashed in as free agents last offseason, and each proved to be well worth the money in the first year of their respective new deals.

After a rocky first season under his massive six-year, $206.5 million deal, Zack Greinke (34) rebounded well for the Arizona Diamondbacks to finish fourth in NL Cy Young voting.

Brett Gardner (34) joined the 20/20 Club for the first time last year while continuing to play stellar outfield defense.

And while they've both lost a step at this point in their careers, Robinson Cano (35) and Yadier Molina (35) are still among the game's top players.

     

Offseason Movers

Yu Darvish
Yu DarvishGregory Shamus/Getty Images

Nine players from our list changed teams during the offseason.

Sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and J.D. Martinez will now go head-to-head in the AL East after launching a combined 104 home runs last season.

The Yankees acquired Stanton from the Miami Marlins in exchange for Starlin Castro and two prospects, while Martinez signed a five-year, $110 million deal with the Red Sox as the top bat on the free-agent market.

Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna were both traded as part of the Marlins' fire sale, and each player landed in the NL Central. Ozuna will anchor the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup, while Yelich joins free-agent signing Lorenzo Cain in the Milwaukee Brewers' new-look outfield.

The Chicago Cubs replaced Jake Arrieta by signing Yu Darvish to a six-year, $126 million deal. They also waved goodbye to Wade Davis, who joined the Colorado Rockies on a hefty three-year, $52 million contract.

Steven Souza Jr. had an under-the-radar 30-homer, 4.2 WAR season in 2017, and he'll serve as Martinez's replacement in Arizona.

And finally, we have Zack Cozart, who will be shifting from shortstop to third base after joining the Los Angeles Angels on a three-year, $38 million deal. He'll team with Andrelton Simmons to form a dynamic defensive left side of the infield, and he'll try to replicate the 141 OPS+ he posted in a career year.

      

Breakout Position Player: 89. 3B Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Matt Chapman #26 of the Oakland Athletics in action against the Seattle Mariners in the top of the first inning at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on September 27, 2017 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Im
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Matt Chapman might stand out as an oddity on a list chock full of established stars.

The 2014 first-round pick has just 84 big league games under his belt. He remains somewhat anonymous to the casual fan, in part because he plays in Oakland.

That should change in 2018.

Along with his considerable power—he tallied 23 doubles and 14 home runs in 326 plate appearances—he's also an elite defender at the hot corner.

His 19 DRS ranked second among all third basemen, trailing only Nolan Arenado (20), who played nearly twice as many innings. A 30-homer season and a Gold Glove Award is well within reach.

      

Breakout Pitcher: 60. SP Jon Gray, Colorado Rockies

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Jon Gray quietly emerged as one of the league's most dominant starters after an injury-plagued start to the 2017 season.

Over the final two months, he went 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 66 strikeouts in 66.1 innings.

The No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft, Gray has always had the stuff to be a front-line starter. It looks like he's now ready to live up to that ceiling.

Aside from his impressive finish to the season, he also showed well at Coors Field, going 5-1 with a 3.13 ERA in eight starts at home. Few pitchers have been able to succeed at altitude, but Gray looks like he's up to the task.

      

Upcoming Free Agents

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado
Bryce Harper and Manny MachadoRob Carr/Getty Images

The 2018-19 free-agent class has been hailed as a landscape-altering group for several years, so it should come as no surprise that 12 players from our list will be hitting the open market next winter.

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are the headliners. Both will be just 26 years old when they reach free agency, making them each prime candidates for record-breaking deals.

MVP candidates Josh Donaldson (144 OPS+, 33 HR) and Charlie Blackmon (142 OPS+, .331 BA, 86 XBH) should also cash in, albeit on shorter deals than the aforementioned duo. There's at least a chance both players wind up staying put, though it's far too early to make any such predictions.

Adrian BeltreBrian DozierDaniel Murphy and Nelson Cruz will also be available for teams looking to add some offensive punch.

As for the pitching side, the relief pitcher market is flush with Craig KimbrelAndrew Miller and Cody Allen all likely to command big money.

The starting pitching market is significantly thinner. Dallas Keuchel is the only rotation option to crack our list. However, that could change if Clayton Kershaw decides to opt out of the final two years of his current contract to test the open market.

Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus can also opt out following the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He'd be leaving four years and $58 million on the table if he pulled the trigger next winter.

     

Teams Who Got Shut Out

Michael Fulmer
Michael FulmerTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The only team without a representative on our list is the Detroit Tigers.

Young right-hander Michael Fulmer (25 GS, 10-12, 3.83 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 164.2 IP) was the closest to inclusion, and he'll look to prove he belongs among the game's top starters after taking a minor step backward last year.

Meanwhile, it feels unwise to write off Miguel Cabrera. Yes, he's entering his age-35 season and is coming off of a 92 OPS+ and minus-0.8 WAR campaign, but we're talking about one of the greatest hitters ever to play the game.

Outfielder Nicholas Castellanos (110 OPS+, 26 HR, 101 RBI) and reliever Shane Greene (71 G, 9 SV, 14 HLD, 2.66 ERA, 9.7 K/9) also made the preliminary list.

     

Baseball's Most Stacked Team: New York Yankees

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton
Aaron Judge and Giancarlo StantonLynne Sladky/Associated Press

The Yankees led the way with an impressive 10 representatives on our list: Aaron Judge (20), Giancarlo Stanton (23), Luis Severino (27), Gary Sanchez (33), Aroldis Chapman (53), Chad Green (68), Didi Gregorius (73), Masahiro Tanaka (76), Aaron Hicks (78) and Brett Gardner (81).

Let's take this one step further.

Heading into the 2018 season, seven teams appear to be MLB's top contenders—the Astros, Cubs, Dodgers, Indians, Nationals, Red Sox and Yankees.

A whopping 48 of the 100 players featured here call one of those seven teams home.

Best of luck to the other 23 teams.

     

Other Interesting Notes

  • Players born in the United States (65), Dominican Republic (10), Venezuela (7), Cuba (4), Netherlands (4), Canada (3), Puerto Rico (3), Japan (2), Colombia (1) and Mexico (1) appeared on the list.
  • There are 34 first-round picks, including four No. 1 overall picks—Justin Upton (2005), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Bryce Harper (2010) and Carlos Correa (2012).
  • Conversely, seven players were drafted after the 10th round—Chad Green (11th), Robbie Ray (12th), Daniel Murphy (13th), Lorenzo Cain (17th), J.D. Martinez (20th), Cody Allen (23rd), Kevin Kiermaier (31st).
  • Of the 100 players, 36 never appeared on a Baseball America preseason top 100 prospect list—including Jose Altuve (2), Paul Goldschmidt (10), Corey Kluber (11), Josh Donaldson (19) and Charlie Blackmon (21) among players ranked inside the top 25.
  • A whopping 28 players have never made an All-Star Game appearance—including Anthony Rendon (22), Andrelton Simmons (30), Marcus Stroman (37), Trea Turner (41), Carlos Carrasco (44), Christian Yelich (46), Kyle Hendricks (48) and Willson Contreras (50) among players ranked inside the top 50.

       

All standard stats and WAR totals courtesy of Baseball Reference, while advanced stats come via FanGraphs.

Positional ranking articles can be found here: Catchers, First Basemen, Second Basemen, Shortstops, Third Basemen, Outfielders, Starting Pitchers, Relief Pitchers

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