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|
|85||Steven Souza Jr.||OF/20|
The Young Guns
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
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.
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
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
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
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 Beltre, Brian Dozier, Daniel 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 Kimbrel, Andrew 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
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
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.