We’ve run through 60 of MLB’s up-and-coming and fringe stars, now we begin to turn the page toward the game’s elite with our top-31 to 40 players in MLB. In this set of 10 players, we have our two final relievers as well as our final catcher on the list. There are a few New York infielders, a couple aging stars and one of the game’s premier rising stars. It’s all up form here, so let’s get into it.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 20, 2020
No. 40 – Gleyber Torres: Mike 60, Ben 32, Jorge 47
Ben: The Yankees’ 23-year-old middle-infielder enjoyed a sophomore non-slump in 2019, hitting .278 with 38 homers, 90 RBI’s and an OPS of .871 to improve upon his impressive rookie campaign. While many of those home runs were against the lowly Baltimore Orioles (16 to be exact), Torres’ 2019 playoff performance proved he’s blossoming into a star. In nine postseason games against the Twins and the Astros, Gleyber hit .324 with 3 home runs, 10 RBI’s and an OPS of 1.078 while playing like New York’s best player. If he improves defensively, which he can and should, then the Yankees will have a cornerstone in their infield to build around.
No. 39 – Kirby Yates: Mike 42, Ben 43, Jorge 53
Jorge: A first-time All-Star at age 32 last season, Kirby Yates was easily the best relief pitcher in baseball last season. With a minuscule ERA of 1.19 in 60.2 innings pitched, he blew all other relievers out of the water. If you’re thinking that maybe he just got lucky, think again — His FIP of 1.30 was still by far the best in the league. His 41 saves led the league, which is really crazy considering his Padres won just 70 games last season. He did that while blowing just three save opportunities which is also just amazing, though I suppose his mind-boggling ERA reflects that. While I don’t think he will ever repeat this type of year, it was his second-straight great season (2.14 ERA in 2018), so he’s established himself as one of the top pen arms in the game.
No. 38 – Jeff McNeil: Mike 48, Ben 38, Jorge 42
Jorge: Jeff McHits is just so flat out good at the plate. He finished the year with a .318 average which was good for No. 6 in the MLB. He also hit 23 home runs, proving that while power isn’t his main game, he can still take pitchers deep from time to time. His OPS of .916 was No. 20 of all qualified hitters, better than players like Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant and Jose Altuve. He’s also very versatile in the field, playing at least 150 innings at second and third base and at least 300 innings in left and right field. He’s not going to wow you with his defense but he won’t cost you either. He’s just an all-around good player.
No. 37 – Josh Donaldson: Mike 44, Ben 35, Jorge 36
Jorge: Donaldson got PAID this offseason — well, relative to his age. The Twins gave him $92 million over four years, which seems like a lot for a player who is entering his age-34 season. However, you can’t say his production didn’t earn it. The former AL MVP hit .259/.379/.521 last season with 37 home runs and 94 RBIs in his first and only year in Atlanta. It was the fourth time in five years his OPS was .900 or greater, with the only exception being when he put up an .801 in 2018 with the Blue Jays and Indians. The Twins, who won 101 games last season, are clearly trying to capitalize on their window and try to win now. That means paying for the production that Donaldson will hopefully bring immediately while accepting they might have to eat a year or two of bad play when the dropoff inevitably happens. But hey, if it gets them a ring, it will easily be worth it.
No. 36 – Zack Greinke: Mike 31, Ben 67, Jorge 16
Jorge: As you can see by where we each ranked him, I am clearly much higher on Greinke than Mike, Ben and probably a lot of others. But hey, why shouldn’t I be? He’s only been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball for the last decade and a half, and his 2019 showed he has no plans of slowing down any time soon. I know what you’re thinking — “aren’t you the same person who just talked about how old Donaldson was when he’s two years younger than Greinke?” Yup, but let’s be honest, pitchers, especially the really good ones, have a much longer shelf life than hitters. Justin Verlander is 37. Max Scherzer is almost 36. The only starters who were in the top-10 in ERA last season who aren’t 30-plus were Mike Soroka (22), Gerrit Cole (28) and Sonny Gray (29). So yeah, you get my point. Long story short, Greinke had a 2.93 ERA last year in 200-plus innings between the Diamondbacks and the Astros. He’s had a 3.18 ERA in nearly 2,000 innings over the past decade, and expect to see him still at the top of the game for at least two to three more years, if not more.
No. 35 – Eugenio Suarez: Mike 40, Ben 41, Jorge 30
Mike: Simply put, this man hits absolute tanks in Cinncinatti. Suarez has been steadily improving at the plate for the last four seasons now, increasing his OPS by at least 38-points season-over-season since 2016, including an 100-point jump from 2016 to 2017. At the same time, his power production has gone up every year he’s been in the league, with a sudden boom in the last two seasons. His 49 home runs last year were by far a career-high, and he was able to sustain his incredible consistency in other offensive categories. He has hit exactly two triples each of the last five seasons, and hit exactly 22 or 25 doubles in the last four. His strikeout numbers did take a massive leap last year, leading the majors with 189, but that’s a tradeoff for his added power.
No. 34 – Josh Hader: Mike 47, Ben 29, Jorge 34
Ben: Josh Hader has the tools to get anyone out at any time, and in 2019, he pretty much did. In his first year as the Brewers full-time closer, Hader had 37 saves in 61 appearances, tying him with Aroldis Chapman for third among closers. Furthermore, he had a slim 2.62 ERA, behind only Chapman and Kirby Yates. Most impressively, though, he struck out a ridiculous 138 batters, 37 more than Yates, 52 more than Chapman and 64 more than Roberto Osuna, the game’s other top-notch closers. Good luck hitting this guy when he’s on.
No. 33 – JT Realmuto: Mike 30, Ben 48, Jorge 32
Mike: In his first season removed from the depths of the hell hole that is the Miami Marlins, Realmuto put up career-highs in games played, at-bats, runs scored, home runs, doubles, RBIs, walks, strikeouts, slugging percentage, total bases and tied his career-high in bWAR. The two-time All-Star earned his first Gold Glove and second Silver Slugger award’s this past season. Now that he has a legitimate lineup around him in Philadelphia and some semblance of hope of a postseason on the horizon, Realmuto has found his place. He will be a free agent this offseason, however, so his time there could be short-lived for all we know.
No. 32 – DJ LeMahieu: Mike 26, Ben 34, Jorge 39
Ben: Coming into the 2019 season, Yankees’ Manager Aaron Boone said he didn’t expect to have an everyday spot for LeMahieu, but would use him as a utility player in various roles as necessary. By about 15 games into the season, LeMahieu had already proven to be the Yankees best player, though perhaps not the most exciting. From there he hit .327 with 26 HR, 102 RBI’s, 33 doubles, five stolen bases and an OPS of .893 while playing all infield positions admirably and being one of a small handful of Yankees to never hit the IL. Now that’s what I call a pleasant surprise.
No. 31 – Fernando Tatis Jr.: Mike 29, Ben 33, Jorge 37
Mike: Right before we start to leak into the game’s elite players we have a player just on the cusp of greatness. Tatis is the next big thing in baseball, mark my words. In an injury-shortened 2019, Tatis lost the last half of the season to a stress fracture in his back. Through 84 games, though, he was an MVP-caliber player. He hit 22 home runs and drove in 53 runs through 372 plate appearances He also slashed .317/.379/.590 in that time. Projected out through an 150-game season, Tatis would have hit about 39 home runs, drove in nearly 95 runs, stole approximately 29 bases and produced about 7.3 bWAR. A certified stud, who’s only 21-years-old. Just give him time and he’ll be top-10 soon enough.