MLB Superstar Power Rankings: How All 30 Teams' Top Stars Stack Up at Midseason
Let's welcome the second half of the 2019 Major League Baseball season by sizing up the star power of each team's biggest superstar.
The selection process could have been as simple as picking the best player from each team so far, but it wasn't. Although we did consider first-half performances, we also weighed players' track records and name recognition and came up with what we think is a who's who in baseball.
In arranging the rankings, we tried to balance each player's 2019 production with his general appeal based on things like playing ability, reliability, contract size and showmanship.
Which is to say that these rankings were a decidedly subjective exercise and are therefore highly debatable. Nevertheless, it's on with the show.
30-21: Miguel Cabrera-Paul Goldschmidt
30. Miguel Cabrera, DH/1B, Detroit Tigers
WAR Average: 0.4
With respect to Matthew Boyd, Shane Greene and Nicholas Castellanos, two-time American League MVP and 11-time All-Star Miguel Cabrera still looms as the Detroit Tigers' resident superstar.
Alas, he no longer looms as an elite hitter. There's nothing wrong with his .304 average, but his five homers and fallen slugging percentage tell the truth about what's become of his power. Without his name, he'd be just another guy.
29. Sandy Alcantara, RHP, Miami Marlins
WAR Average: 1.0
The Miami Marlins had to be represented by somebody at the All-Star Game, and Sandy Alcantara earned the honor by way of a 3.82 ERA over 17 starts. He may only be beginning his stardom, as someone who sports a 95.8 mph average fastball can certainly be better.
Then again, maybe that won't happen if he can't achieve a strikeout rate more befitting of his stuff. If so, the 2019 All-Star break may prove to be the peak of his stardom.
28. John Means, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
WAR Average: 2.7
There was a case for Trey Mancini, but John Means snagged the right to be the lone All-Star from a moribund Baltimore Orioles squad. And to his credit, his 2.50 ERA looks darn good to the naked eye.
But between his 91.9 mph fastball and below-average strikeout rate, Means doesn't have the profile of a budding ace. Much to the chagrin of Orioles fans, he was also denied a chance to grow his star power by being left on the bench in the All-Star Game.
27. Daniel Vogelbach, DH/1B, Seattle Mariners
WAR Average: 1.8
Injuries to Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger and the trade of Edwin Encarnacion opened the door for Daniel Vogelbach to be the Seattle Mariners' lone All-Star for 2019. Like that, he went from being a "Large Adult Son" cult favorite to a proper star.
Vogelbach earn his way to Cleveland and the Midsummer Classic, as his .881 OPS and 21 homers make him one of the AL's top hitters. He's been declining since an early peak, however, so his stardom is to be enjoyed while it lasts.
26. Whit Merrifield, INF/OF, Kansas City Royals
WAR Average: 2.4
Whit Merrifield first came out of nowhere to become an under-the-radar star in 2017, and he finally became a proper All-Star this year. He earned the distinction with an .850 OPS, 11 homers and 13 stolen bases.
Granted, as far as names go, his is still far from being of the household variety. But it isn't his fault. He'd almost certainly be a bigger star if he played in, say, New York or Boston instead of Kansas City.
25. Jose Abreu, 1B/DH, Chicago White Sox
WAR Average: 1.1
The Chicago White Sox have seen Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada blossom into stars this year, but Jose Abreu is still an All-Star and his team's heart and soul. Judging from his 21 homers, he's also still a dangerous power hitter.
But after declining in 2018, Abreu's OBP has gone down yet again to a below-average .316. If not for his name recognition and a general lack of talent at first base across the American League, he likely wouldn't have been an All-Star for the third time this year.
24. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants
WAR Average: 1.2
Madison Bumgarner's reputation as a top-tier ace and a historic big-game pitcher are still backed up by his four All-Star selections and three World Series rings.
Nowadays, however, he's following two injury-marred seasons with a modest 4.03 ERA and a whole bunch of hard contact. He's still the top star on a largely old, broken-down San Francisco Giants roster, but that could change come the July 31 trade deadline if his club becomes a seller.
23. Blake Snell, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
WAR Average: 1.4
Blake Snell's 4.70 ERA is nearly three runs higher than the 1.89 ERA that guided him to the American League Cy Young Award last season. He's also fresh off a five-start stretch in June wherein he coughed up 24 runs.
But don't shout "Fluke!" just yet. Snell has been largely outstanding on either side of that dismal run of starts, and his 63.5 overall contact percentage leads qualified hurlers. The dude isn't going to be one-and-done as an ace.
22. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
WAR Average: 2.2
We may ultimately remember the 2019 Home Run Derby as the moment Vladimir Guerrero Jr. officially arrived. He launched a million dingers (well, 91 to be exact), and his swagger while doing so was somewhere in the realm of "Maximus from Gladiator."
But lest anyone forget, it was Marcus Stroman who was the Toronto Blue Jays' lone All-Star this year. He's no slouch as a showman or a pitcher, as he has a 3.18 ERA through 18 starts. The only question—which seems to be even on his mind—is how much longer he'll remain a Blue Jay.
21. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
WAR Average: 1.1
Paul Goldschmidt averaged a .947 OPS and 30 homers per year for the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2013 to 2018. He was an All-Star each season, not to mention a Gold Glover three times and a Silver Slugger four times.
In 2019, however, the St. Louis Cardinals have gotten just a .769 OPS and 16 homers out of him. One bad half-season doesn't entirely dismantle his star power, but there's a conspicuous dent in it.
20-11: Joey Votto-Mookie Betts
20. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
WAR Average: 0.7
Even amid an alarming power outage, Joey Votto led the National League in on-base percentage for the seventh time in 2018. But this season, he has just a .360 OBP to go with his .411 slugging percentage and eight homers.
Still, don't count out the 2010 National League MVP. Votto has been hot with a .344/.416/.511 batting line since May 24. He also continues to be a fan favorite on social media for his merciless treatment of hecklers.
19. Josh Bell, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
WAR Average: 2.9
There wasn't a lot to say about Josh Bell in the first three seasons of his career. He was a well-regarded prospect when the Pittsburgh Pirates called him up in 2016, but he struggled to establish himself as a hitter worth watching.
Suddenly, however, Bell is a destroyer of baseballs. His 27 home runs don't even comprise the bulk of his league-best 60 extra-base hits, and he's also hitting a cool .302/.376/.648. All this got him his first All-Star selection, and he should stick in the NL MVP race if he keeps it up.
18. Joey Gallo, CF/LF, Texas Rangers
WAR Average: 3.4
Before this year, Joey Gallo invited Pedro Cerrano comparisons because of his combination of prodigious power and a cringe-worthy tendency to swing and miss.
Now look at him. Gallo has become an on-base machine, and he didn't have to sacrifice any power to make that happen. He's racked up 20 homers and blasted fly balls and line drives at an absurd average of 101.7 mph. The 111.5 mph laser he hit in the All-Star Game was business as usual for him.
17. Nelson Cruz, DH, Minnesota Twins
WAR Average: 1.6
Nelson Cruz isn't solely responsible for carrying the Minnesota Twins to the top of the AL Central. Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario frankly deserve more attention, and Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have quietly been reclaiming their former hype.
But while Cruz has hit "only" 16 home runs, his .279/.367/.554 batting line qualifies him as the Twins' best hitter. Throw in how he just turned 39 years old on July 1, and he also has a good claim to being baseball's resident ageless wonder.
16. Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees
WAR Average: 1.6
It's taken DJ LeMahieu and a veritable village to carry the New York Yankees through their many injuries, including an oblique strain that knocked out Aaron Judge for two months. As a result, the 6'7", 282-pound Judge is now a giant man with an oddly small profile.
However, the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Star remains the Yankees' biggest draw on account of his pre-2019 fame. He's also healthy now, and his .917 OPS and overall hard-hit rate suggest he's still got it.
15. Bryce Harper, RF, Philadelphia Phillies
WAR Average: 1.7
For $330 million, the Philadelphia Phillies surely hoped they would get the same Bryce Harper who won an NL MVP and made six All-Star teams for the Washington Nationals. What they've gotten is a guy with a good-not-great .839 OPS and 16 homers, plus an upward-trending strikeout rate.
Throughout it all, Harper has become oddly invisible. The signing of his contract begat a huge surge in ticket and merchandise sales. But during the All-Star selection process, he didn't even make the cut for the final round of voting for the NL's outfield.
14. Zack Greinke, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
WAR Average: 3.5
Zack Greinke may be more of a cult hero than a true superstar, but his latest All-Star nod (his sixth) proves that his cult following is a big one.
As per usual, Greinke deserves his followers. He boasts a 2.73 ERA and a 7.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 122 innings as a pitcher, yet he might prefer us to play up his hitting accolades. He has an .867 OPS and three homers, including one off fellow pitching great Clayton Kershaw.
13. Manny Machado, 3B, San Diego Padres
WAR Average: 2.1
Manny Machado isn't having anywhere near as good a year as Mike Trout, but at least he's doing better than the other two members of the $300 million club: Harper and Giancarlo Stanton.
The four-time All-Star started slow, but he's been rewarding the San Diego Padres' faith with an .892 OPS and 16 homers since May 1. True to form, he's also been playing a good third base. His debut with the Friars is on track to be a typical Machado season after all.
12. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
WAR Average: 2.6
Ankle and calf injuries delayed the start of Francisco Lindor's season until April 20, and it took him some time to find his footing. Meanwhile, the general decline of the Cleveland Indians by way of cost-cutting and injuries hasn't helped keep Lindor's spotlight nice and bright.
Sure enough, however, Lindor earned his fourth All-Star nod with an .866 OPS, 14 homers and 13 steals. As per usual, he's also playing slick defense. Just as there was in 2016, 2017 and 2018, there may yet be a place for him in this year's AL MVP race.
11. Mookie Betts, RF, Boston Red Sox
WAR Average: 3.2
Mookie Betts was a joy to watch in 2018, wherein he posted a 1.078 OPS, 32 homers and 30 steals and collected an All-Star nod, a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove and the AL MVP. And according to Baseball Reference, he still has the most WAR of any non-Trout player since 2015.
But while Betts has been good enough in 2019 to earn another All-Star selection, it's hard not to be disappointed by his .859 OPS, 13 homers and 10 steals. Any more of this, and he might soon cede his crown as the Boston Red Sox's biggest star to Rafael Devers or Xander Bogaerts.
10. Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics
WAR Average: 4.0
Matt Chapman spent the All-Star break playing second fiddle to brighter stars.
On Monday, his solid 13-homer performance in the first round of the Home Run Derby was immediately overshadowed by Guerrero's 29-homer explosion. On Tuesday, he came off the bench in relief of Alex Bregman, who had been voted in by the fans as the AL's starting third baseman.
All the same, the fact that Chapman was involved in both events shows he's finally getting his due as one of baseball's brightest stars.
Per Baseball Reference, the Oakland Athletics' 26-year-old third baseman is tied for fourth in WAR since 2017, a season in which he played in only 84 games. His ever-improving offense is now resulting in an .887 OPS and 21 homers. His spectacular defense, meanwhile, has put all other third basemen to utter shame.
Chapman's all-around skill set made him a dark horse in last season's American League MVP race. If the A's continue to climb the ladder in the AL postseason picture, he may be more than just a dark horse in this year's race.
9. Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets
WAR Average: 3.8
Whereas the 2019 Home Run Derby merely teased Guerrero's superstardom, it cemented Pete Alonso's.
Although Alonso hit 34 fewer dingers than Guerrero throughout the entire Derby, he didn't luck into winning the whole thing. He faced off against Toronto's 20-year-old wunderkind in the final round and did the improbable of overcoming Guerrero's 22 blasts with 23 of his own.
To anyone who was introduced to Alonso for the first time during the Derby: Now you know what you've been missing.
Through his first 89 games with the New York Mets, the 24-year-old rookie has accumulated a 1.006 OPS and launched 30 home runs. And we truly mean "launched." His homers have averaged 108.2 mph in exit velocity and 412 feet in distance.
Granted, it might be a stretch to anoint Alonso as one of baseball's top superstars after one great half and an exciting round of batting practice. But since he has a chance of breaking the Mets' single-season home run record (41) and Judge's rookie home run record (52), we're inclined to allow it.
8. Ronald Acuna Jr., CF/LF, Atlanta Braves
WAR Average: 3.2
Ronald Acuna Jr. authored a hell of an act to follow in his rookie season with the Atlanta Braves in 2018.
He was considered baseball's best prospect when he got the call on April 25 and, after struggling initially, he eventually caught fire in the second half en route to a .917 OPS, 26 homers and 16 stolen bases. That earned him National League Rookie of the Year honors over Washington Nationals slugger Juan Soto.
Yet following that opening act is precisely what Acuna is doing in 2019.
His OPS is a rock-solid .882, and he's clubbed 21 homers and stolen 13 bases. In tandem with the second half of 2018, he's now a .304/.388/.556 hitter with 40 homers and 27 steals over his last 158 games.
The fans saw fit to vote Acuna—who notably got more votes in the final round than fellow Braves superstar Freddie Freeman—into the NL's starting All-Star outfield. He went 0-for-2 in the game itself, but he made a strong impression the night before by blasting 44 home runs in two rounds of the Home Run Derby.
Given that Acuna is still just 21 years old, all this is still merely the beginning of his superstardom.
7. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
WAR Average: 3.2
It must be a day ending in "Y," because Nolan Arenado is still arguably the best at what he does.
The "arguably" is necessary because of the respective skills of two other third basemen (including a former high school teammate of Arenado's) in this top 10. Yet Arenado has been doing his thing at the hot corner since 2013, and he's still going strong.
The .939 OPS and 20 homers that Arenado has this season are very much in line with the .931 OPS and 40 homers he averaged from 2015 to 2018. His defensive metrics leave some room for debate as to whether his glovework is past its prime. The eye test, however, tells a different story.
None of this is lost on fans, who made Arenado the runaway winner in the voting for the NL's starting All-Star gig at third base. Perhaps some of them noted that there hasn't been a better player in the National League since 2015, at least according to Baseball Reference WAR.
In short, there are good reasons the Colorado Rockies were willing to sign Arenado to a $260 million contract.
6. Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
WAR Average: 3.5
The Chicago Cubs still have Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo under their employ. But if this year's All-Star voting is any indication, Javier Baez has easily leapfrogged both as the Chicago Cubs' biggest star.
Baez always had the talent to do so. His first four seasons in the majors were loaded with an impressive variety of hitting, baserunning and defensive highlights. He was only missing consistency in between said highlights.
He finally achieved it last year on his way to collecting his first All-Star nod and finishing second in the NL MVP voting. He upped his OPS to .881 with 34 homers, 21 steals and an NL-high 111 RBI.
This season has often seemed like more of a struggle for the 26-year-old, in part because he's struck out 89 more times than he's walked. Yet his OPS is once again .881, and he's managed 22 homers, all while playing an excellent shortstop.
The theatricality of El Mago, meanwhile, remains intact. His greatest hits for 2019 include a Matrix-esque tag elusion, a no-look tag of his own and a 460-foot homer. Routine for him. Fun for everyone else.
5. Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros
WAR Average: 4.0
There might be more stars on the Houston Astros than there are literal stars in the sky. And there's no wrong answer as to which player is the biggest. You just have to, you know, pick one.
For our money, it's Alex Bregman.
The 25-year-old was only a supporting character alongside Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Justin Verlander when the Astros won 101 games and the franchise's first World Series in 2017. He's blossomed into their leading man by way of a .926 OPS and 121 extra-base hits since the start of last season.
This is merely part of Bregman's plan to become the "LeBron James of baseball." As much (or more) than any player in MLB, he's quick to flaunt his talent, speak his mind and generally just be visible for fans.
4. Max Scherzer, RHP, Washington Nationals
WAR Average: 5.5
Max Scherzer is an exception to the rule.
In this case, the rule is that pitchers don't stay on top for very long. Kershaw had his time, but it's over now. Ditto for Corey Kluber, and the likes of Snell, Jake Arrieta, Dallas Keuchel, Rick Porcello and Jacob deGrom seem doomed to be one-time Cy Young Award winners.
But Scherzer? He already owns three of the darn things, and it doesn't look like anyone is going to keep him from winning a fourth this year.
The 34-year-old has seemed to peak multiple times since he joined the Washington Nationals in 2015, including when he posted a 2.53 ERA and struck out 300 batters last season. So far this year, however, he's climbing toward yet another peak with a 2.30 ERA and an MLB-high 181 strikeouts through 129.1 innings.
It's also as much a joy to watch Scherzer do his thing as it's always been. All five of his pitches are outright nasty, and you never know when he might do something like steal a base or pitch through a broken nose.
Right now, Scherzer is the king of all aces and the most underpaid $210 million man on the planet.
3. Cody Bellinger, RF/1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
WAR Average: 6.2
Following a star-making rookie season in 2017, Cody Bellinger regressed to be merely quite good in 2018. And as 2019 goes along, his offensive returns are diminishing somewhat.
Now that the nit-picks are out of the way, we can grant that there hasn't been a better player this season than the Los Angeles Dodgers' 23-year-old slugger.
What Bellinger has done at the plate is a huge part of it. He may never repeat the 1.397 OPS and 14 homers that he posted in March and April, but his overall .336/.432/.692 batting line and 30 homers still make him arguably the top hitter in baseball.
It's a crime, however, that the other aspects of Bellinger's game have gone largely unnoticed. Specifically, he's a fantastic defender. He leads all outfielders with 18 defensive runs saved in right field, which isn't even his natural position.
This time last year, it was easy to wonder if Bellinger's 2017 season—in which he cranked an NL rookie record 39 homers on his way to winning the Rookie of the Year—would prove to be an outlier. Now that he's an All-Star starter and the favorite for the NL MVP, maybe not so much anymore.
2. Christian Yelich, RF, Milwaukee Brewers
WAR Average: 5.0
Never mind just a great season. Christian Yelich has had a great year.
After five seasons with the Miami Marlins, Yelich joined the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018 as a hitter who was obviously good but not quite great. So it went through the first half of last season, which he finished with an .823 OPS and 11 homers.
In 147 games in the year (roughly) that's passed since then, Yelich is a .346/.440/.736 hitter with 56 homers and 29 stolen bases.
It might seem like this Ruth-ian version of Yelich has come out of nowhere, but it was always just under the surface. It was clear during his time with Miami that he had an enhanced understanding of the art of hitting. He merely needed to drive to ball more often. His downward-trending ground-ball rate speaks to how well he's done exactly that.
1. Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels
WAR Average: 6.1
At least until up is down and left is right, Mike Trout will remain the superest superstar in Major League Baseball.
For the most part, coming to this conclusion has meant telling a WAR story. Trout has been an annual standout in that department throughout his nine-year career with the Los Angeles Angels, and he ended last season with more career WAR through his age-26 season than any player in MLB history.
To this end, 2019 has been business as usual for the 27-year-old. Factor in his 5.9 WAR, and he now boasts more WAR than all but six Hall of Fame center fielders collected throughout their entire careers.
But now more than ever, one doesn't really need WAR to appreciate Trout. One can simply appreciate that he's one of baseball's great hitters. He posted a 1.080 OPS with 72 homers across 2017 and 2018. He's right there again with a 1.098 OPS and 28 homers this season.
After becoming the first $400 million man in professional sports history in March, Trout also finally has the contract he deserves. He's also finally where he should be in MLB's marketing machine: front and center.
In short, welcome to Peak Mike Trout.