This is where we get into the really top-echelon of players. I’m talking MVP candidates, home run title winners and just overall some of the best players in the game. This 10 is mostly a bunch of young, up-and-coming stars, but there are a couple of grizzled vets thrown in there as well.
No. 30 – Marcus Semien: Mike 34, Ben 30, Jorge 33
Ben: I know Yankee fans (definitely not me) were clamoring for surprise standout DJ LeMahieu to be the third AL MVP candidate behind Alex Bregman and Mike Trout, but that honor deservedly went to A’s shortstop Marcus Semien. This under-the-radar stud had 33 HR, 92 RBI’s and 87 walks. Add in his .285 BA, .892 OPS and solid play in the field you’ve got a player worth 8.1 wins-above-replacement, good for fourth in the MLB, behind Bregman, Trout and Cody Bellinger.
— MLB (@MLB) August 1, 2017
No. 29 – J.D. Martinez: Mike 24, Ben 31, Jorge 41
Mike: There are few people in the majors that I would consider a professional hitter, and Martinez is at the top of that list. Of course, since he is largely a designated hitter, people devalue his production. This man can flat out rake, and he makes your team better for having him. He has completely shifted the hitting culture in Boston over the past two seasons with his expertise and hitting approach.
Over the past five seasons, Martinez has hit a combined .305/.376/.585 slash line with 184 home runs and 509 RBIs. There are only two players that have an OPS of over .950 while playing in each of the last five seasons: J.D. Martinez (.961) and Mike Trout (1.041). Of course, Trout is the better player, but when it comes to pure hitting Martinez is not far off.
No. 28 – Matt Chapman: Mike 41, Ben 24, Jorge 31
Jorge: Would you believe me if I told you there’s a third baseman who rivals Nolan Arenado in the field? He might not be well known to the casual fan due to playing in Oakland, but he should quickly be becoming a household name. In his two full seasons in the MLB, he’s won two Gold Glove Awards at third, and not only that, but he also won the Platinum Glove Award each year. While he still trails Arenado in platinum gloves, with the Rockies star winning each of the past three in the NL, Chapman is as close to his equivalent in the AL as you can get. In fact, Chapman actually leads Arenado in dWAR over the past two seasons 7.5 to 3.0, so there’s definitely an argument for him being the better fielder of the two. While he’s not quite as good a hitter, he’s still well above average, hitting .249/.342/.506 with 36 homers in 2019. Expect him to have a monopoly over the AL Gold Glove for third base and be a regular fixture in the All-Star Game for years to come.
— Oakland A’s (@Athletics) April 7, 2018
No. 27 – Jack Flaherty: Mike 21, Ben 27, Jorge 25
Mike: Honestly I am surprised Flaherty is this low on the list. I have him as the sixth-best pitcher in baseball and I expect him to stay in that range for a long time. After a very good 2018 campaign, when he posted a 3.34 ERA with a 1.104 WHIP. Of the pitchers I listed ahead of him – which include Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler – Flaherty had the fourth-best pitcher bWAR, win probability added, OPS allowed and ERA as well as the third-best hits allowed per nine.
There is a case to be made that he could be put over Buehler and Scherzer, despite being the youngest of the three. At just 24-years-old Flaherty likely has another decade or so of true production and I cannot wait to see what he does.
No. 26 – Walker Buehler: Mike 18, Ben 26, Jorge 29
Ben: Walker Buehler is why, even after seeing Clayton Kershaw mildly implode in the playoffs and Hyun-Jin Ryu depart for Toronto in free agency, the sky isn’t falling in Los Angeles. The 25-year-old had a breakout season in 2018, pitching in 24 games and collecting a 2.62 ERA, .96 WHIP and 151 K’s for the National League Champion Dodgers. In 2019, he proved it was no fluke as he went 14-4 with a 3.26 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 215 strikeouts. Sorry NL West, the Dodgers just have a knack for finding high-end starting pitchers.
— MLB (@MLB) October 10, 2019
No. 25 – Javier Baez: Mike 22, Ben 21, Jorge 28
Mike: Like Matt Chapman, much of Baez’ value rests in his sheer brilliance on the defensive side of the ball. He brings very similar value, but at a premium position with more versatility, hence the advantage over Chapman.
Despite finishing 2nd in the MVP race in 2018 in the NL, Baez actually increased his overall bWAR from 5.8 in 2018 to 6.0 in 2019, largely from his defensive improvements. Over the last 50 years, there have been just 61 seasons of shortstops with a defensive bWAR of 3.0 or better. In that time, Baez’ 2019 season ranked fourth in OPS among them, behind two seasons from Cal Ripken Jr. and John Valentin’s 1995 season. That’s the kind of impact he has on the game. For reference, the only player in MLB history to ever have a 4.0-plus defensive bWAR season with a .800-plus OPS was Frankie Frisch in 1927.
No. 24 – Jose Altuve: Mike 32, Ben 13, Jorge 24
Ben: Since clobbering a 2-run HR off Aroldis Chapman to send the Astros to the World Series, the buzz surrounding Altuve has been… well, you know. And after five straight seasons of hitting at .313 or above, Altuve finally fell below his own preposterous standard. But if hitting .298 with 31 home runs and 74 runs batted in is a DOWN year, then the player in discussion is probably pretty decent. That’s what Altuve did in 2019, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t match that effort or better it in 2020 (or 2021 potentially). I don’t like the sign stealing either, but let’s not act like the Astros aren’t absolutely stocked with superstars, and on a good day, Altuve is the biggest of them all.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) December 24, 2019
No. 23 – Ketel Marte: Mike 20, Ben 28, Jorge 21
Jorge: Ketel Marte had been OK in the beginning of his career, making his debut in 2015 for the Seattle Mariners but never really playing a full season until 2018, his second season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Then, in 2019, he absolutely exploded. After having an OPS of .712 through the first four years of his career, he put up a slash line of .329/.389/.592 with 32 home runs in 2019. His OPS of .981 was No. 7 in the MLB and his OPS+ 149 was No. 8, so it’s not a stretch to say he was one of the best hitters in the MLB. He can also play almost anywhere in the field. While he’s never played either of the corner outfield positions, he has played 701.2 innings in center, so it’s safe to assume he can handle left and right. He’s also spent over 2,200 innings at shortstop, over 1,400 innings at second base and exactly 11.1 innings at third, so he ~technically~ has experience at three of the four infield spots. The only reason he’s not higher on the list is this season really came out of nowhere, so if he proves it wasn’t a fluke whenever the next season is, he’ll go shooting up the list, maybe even into the top-10.
No. 22 – Pete Alonso: Mike 28, Ben 22, Jorge 18
Jorge: All-Star. Home Run Derby Champion. National League Rookie of the Year. All-Time Rookie and 2019 MLB Home Run king (what juiced balls?). Pete Alonso burst onto the MLB scene in 2019 and pretty much instantly became a star, smacking 53 home runs over the course of the season and breaking all sorts of records in the process. Aside from taking the top-spot in homers, he also took No. 4 for RBIs, No. 11 for OPS and No. 9 for OPS+. He was far from perfect though — striking out the third-most of anyone in the MLB with 183, but that’s something that is generally excused for power hitters (see Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, etc.). He also isn’t great in the field, and his 12 errors were third in the MLB at first base behind only Josh Bell and Eric Hosmer. But he’s one of the most electric players in the MLB, the definition of a slugger and the new face of baseball in New York.
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) June 11, 2020
No. 21 – Rafael Devers: Mike 16, Ben 23, Jorge 27
Mike: Before you call me absolutely insane for having Devers in my top-20 players in the league, keep reading. In 2019, Devers took about the largest step forward possible from one season to the next. The now 23-year-old had one of the best seasons for someone his age in the last 50 years. His 359 total bases were the fourth-most of any age 22-or-under season since 1969, trailing behind two seasons of Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols’ rookie season. His 54 doubles and 90 total extra-base hits led the majors last year. The main concern in his game is his 5.0% walk rate and tendency to swing at pitches out of the zone – at nearly a Vladimir Guerrero Sr.-type level as they both have career outside swing rates falling just under 39%.