We’re starting to reach the best of the best. The elite class of baseball players who have the ability to be a cornerstone for any MLB franchise.
They’re the cream of the crop. Perennial All-Stars. MVP Candidates.
They are “THE” guy.
No. 20 – Francisco Lindor: Mike 27, Ben 16, Jorge 22
Ben: Francisco has everything you want in a modern day shortstop: Speed, skill, power, contact and leadership. Without watching him play he’ll likely slip off your radar a little bit, but this guy can flat out play. In his four full seasons in the majors, Lindor has two Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers and has finished no less than top 15 in AL MVP voting. In 2019, he hit .284 with 32 home runs, 74 RBI’s, 22 stolen bases, and an OPS of .854 to go along with a Gold Glove. 2019 was also considered a relative down year for the 26-year old. Wow. Lindor’s bat is the backbone of the Cleveland Indians offense and his glove is the glue of their defense. His remarkable consistency is rivaled only by his sheer electrifying talent.
No. 19 – George Springer: Mike 22, Ben 15, Jorge 20
Jorge: The pride of UConn baseball and one of the most likable guys in the MLB became a lot less likable this offseason because of a certain scandal involving a trash can. However, despite this, until it’s proven he only put up MVP-caliber numbers because of the bangs, he has to be in the top-20. Springer had a phenomenal 2019 campaign, slashing .292/.383/.974 with 39 home runs and 96 RBIs almost completely out of the leadoff spot. His OPS was ranked No. 8 in the MLB and his OPS+ was No. 7, winning him a Silver Slugger Award and finishing No. 7 in the AL MVP race. How much of this was on an even playing field? We’ll probably never know, but as of right now, he’s a top-20 player in the MLB.
No. 18 – Aaron Judge: Mike 23, Ben 14, Jorge 23
Ben: The only reason Aaron Judge is not higher on this list (or lower) is that his health remains a question mark going into the shortened 2020 season. When the big guy plays, he’s excellent. He’s a Gold Glove favorite in right field for the Yankees and he’s got as much power as anyone in the big leagues. The key phrase there is ‘when he plays,’ because the 6’7” outfielder has missed 117 games in his first three full seasons. But despite missing out on almost a quarter of his playing opportunities, Judge has still put up monster numbers along the way. In 396 career games, Judge has 110 home runs, 246 RBI’s and an OPS of .952. Hopefully for his team Judge put the extended offseason to good use and is ready to go for a full 60 games in 2020, because his success is the difference between the Yankees being good and being a true World Series contender.
No. 17 – Xander Bogaerts: Mike 19, Ben 19, Jorge 17
Mike: Bogaerts really is one of a kind and not just because he’s the only Xander in baseball history. He is the second-best shortstop in baseball in my opinion, after Story – who we’ll get to in a bit. He is coming off the best year of his career, finishing fifth in the AL MVP in 2019. Aside from an injury-affected 2017 year in which he struggled mightily in the second half, Bogaerts has been a relative lock for a .290 average and at least 35 doubles throughout his career. Over the past two years, he has really started to add power to his game. At just 27 years old, Bogaerts could be on his way to a Hall of Fame career if he continues his production.
No. 16 – Stephen Strasburg: Mike 17, Ben 17, Jorge 19
Ben: Though Stephen Strasburg is the second starting pitcher on the Nationals depth chart behind Max Scherzer, he’d probably be starting on opening day for any other team not named the Astros, Mets or Yankees. The reigning World Series MVP cashed in on a dream-like 2019 to score a seven year deal worth $245 million that he earned every penny of. After being drafted #1 overall in 2009, Strasburg has never had a season with an ERA over 3.74 and at the spry age of 31 he’s looking to keep that streak alive. If Strasburg can match his 2019 production (18-6, 251 K’s, 3.32 ERA), for the first 4-5 years of his new contract, Washington will be very pleased to keep this guy in the fold.
No. 15 – Trevor Story: Mike 9, Ben 25, Jorge 15
Mike: As my No. 1 shortstop in the game, Story is simply a different breed. The Rockies have had impact offensive players at the six for more than a decade now. His game is just as good, if not better than Troy Tulowitzki – which as a Tulo stan, hurts quite a bit to say. 2017 must have been a down year for elite shortstops because Story struggled even more than Bogaerts that year. Other than that, though, Story has put up three .900-plus OPS seasons and has hit 24 or more home runs in each season of his career. Not only is he an absolute force at the dish, but he’s had 23 or more stolen bases in each of the past two seasons. He is one of my favorites in the game, easily.
No. 14 – Freddie Freeman: Mike 14, Ben 20, Jorge 14
Jorge: Being a fan of an NL East team that’s not the Braves, I’ve had the misfortune of watching Freddie annihilate my squad seemingly every single game. But in doing so, I’ve gained a respect for what an absolute monster of a player he is. 2019 was no different, hitting .295/.389/.549 with 38 home runs and 121 RBIs, the last of which was No. 3 in the MLB. He’s just been an All-Star caliber player pretty much every year since 2013, a consistent force in the league and one of the best hitters there is for years. Whenever the season starts, if he’s fully recovered from COVID-19, he will still hold the mantle of the best first basemen in the league.
No. 13 – Max Scherzer: Mike 12, Ben 17, Jorge 9
Jorge: Remember what I just said about Freeman in regards to being a fan of an NL East team and watching someone dominate your team for years, therefore gaining huge respect for him? Well yeah, same goes for Mad Max. While he’s only been with the Nationals since 2015, the past five seasons have undoubtedly been the best of his career. With two Cy Young Awards (top-five finishes every year) and a 2.74 ERA in over 1,000 innings pitched, this run of dominance from Scherzer has established himself as probably the second-best pitcher of his generation (see Kershaw, Clayton). His 2019 was probably the worst of the past five years, posting an ERA of 2.92 in 172.1 innings pitched — the only time he didn’t throw at least 200 innings. He still finished No. 3 in the NL Cy Young race though, so I think it’s safe to say he’s not going away just yet. Heading into his age-35 season (he’s almost 36 at this point so whenever baseball does start it will really be age-36 season), one naturally has to wonder if the true decline is going to start soon, but the true superstar pitchers in history have shown an ability to continue their dominance in their advanced age. If I were to take a guess, I think he can still be extremely effective at-least until age-40, and I wouldn’t put winning another Cy Young Award past him. He’s just that good.
No. 12 – Juan Soto: Mike 13, Ben 12, Jorge 13
Ben: No Bryce Harper? No problem, Nationals Fans. Juan Soto’s got you covered. Not only did the 21-year-old phenom spark a rally in the bottom of the 8th inning of the NL Wildcard game against the Milwaukee Brewers, but he sparked an entire championship run with his sweet swing and larger-than-life attitude. Throughout the 2019 season, Soto hit .282 with 34 homers, 110 RBI’s and an OPS of .949. To top it off he hit another five bombs to go along with 14 RBI’s throughout the playoffs. Despite losing Harper and Anthony Rendon in back-to-back offseasons, Juan Soto is the beating heart of that lineup and should have the Nationals in contention as long as Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg can pitch.
No. 11 – Ronald Acuna: Mike 15, Ben 11, Jorge 11
Mike: Acuna may be the most exciting player in the majors, even more so than Mike Trout. At 22 years old, he has already established himself as an MVP-caliber player, finishing 5th in the NL voting last year. His major hole at this point is his tendency to strikeout, but other than that he is as complete of a player as they come. He led the NL in steals last year with 37, nearly capping off the first 40-40 season since Alfonso Soriano did it in 2006. This kid is a star and will be for a long, long time.