Updating the Top 100 MLB Players at 2014's Midseason
We have reached what can be considered roughly the midway point of the 2014 MLB season, and that means it's time for an updated look at the top 100 players in the game.
Now that there is a big enough sample size to get an idea of who everyone really is here in 2014, this time around, the rankings will simply be a reflection of 2014 performance.
Guys like reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, recent 500-home run club member Albert Pujols and living legend Derek Jeter? Nowhere to be found on the following list.
It's not about reputation, it's about production in 2014. Nothing else.
*When putting together the following rankings, I first went team-by-team and made a preliminary list of players to consider, then whittled it down to 100 from there. The following guys made that preliminary list but did not crack the final 100.
Chris Archer, Jake Arrieta, Gerrit Cole, Bartolo Colon, Danny Duffy, Roenis Elias, Nathan Eovaldi, Kyle Gibson, Jason Hammel, Aaron Harang, Dan Haren, Drew Hutchison, Ian Kennedy, John Lackey, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, Lance Lynn, Collin McHugh, Charlie Morton, Wily Peralta, Rick Porcello, Tanner Roark, Tyson Ross, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura, C.J. Wilson, Chris Young
Fernando Abad, Cody Allen, Joaquin Benoit, Jonathan Broxton, Joba Chamberlain, Aroldis Chapman, Zach Duke, Luke Gregerson, LaTroy Hawkins, Kenley Jansen, Casey Janssen, Dan Jennings, Jake McGee, Mark Melancon, Glen Perkins, Chad Qualls, David Robertson, Fernando Rodney, Will Smith, Drew Storen, Adam Warren, Tony Watson
Nolan Arenado, Erick Aybar, Xander Bogaerts, Marlon Byrd, Shin-Soo Choo, Brandon Crawford, Coco Crisp, Khris Davis, Rajai Davis, Ian Desmond, Adam Dunn, Eduardo Escobar, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dexter Fowler, Brett Gardner, Scooter Gennett, Conor Gillaspie, Adrian Gonzalez, Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton, Jason Heyward, Matt Holliday, Ian Kinsler, Juan Lagares, Brett Lawrie, Nick Markakis, Russell Martin, Casey McGehee, Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli, Chris Owings, Marcell Ozuna, Dustin Pedroia, Jhonny Peralta, A.J. Pollock, Buster Posey, Albert Pujols, Kyle Seager, Yangervis Solarte, George Springer, Kurt Suzuki, Mark Teixeira, Luis Valbuena, Neil Walker, David Wright
First 10 Out
100. SS Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
He has cooled after a red-hot start to the season, but Ramirez has still been the most productive all-around shortstop in the American League. He may not catch Derek Jeter for the starting spot, but he will likely make his first All-Star appearance one way or another.
99. RP Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals
After posting a 4.57 ERA in 88 career starts, Wade Davis has found a home setting up Greg Holland in the Kansas City Royals bullpen. The 28-year-old has three years and $25 million worth of option years on his contract after this season, so it will be interesting to see how the Royals handle his future.
98. RP Pat Neshek, St. Louis Cardinals
Signed to a minor league contract, Neshek pitched his way into the Opening Day bullpen picture as a non-roster invitee to spring training. His unorthodox mechanics and off-speed stuff are a great complement for the Cardinals' stable of hard-throwing young arms.
97. DH David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
His OPS is down 127 points from where he finished last season, but Ortiz is still one of the most feared sluggers in all of baseball. His ability to draw a walk has helped keep his dip in batting average from hurting his value too much, and as long as he is launching home runs, the 38-year-old will have a place in the Red Sox lineup.
96. SP Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
One of the most underrated starters in baseball last season, Kluber has been the ace of the Cleveland Indians staff this season and is finally starting to get some much-deserved recognition. His 114 strikeouts are good for sixth in the American League, and he could have an outside shot at earning an All-Star nod.
95. C Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
It feels strange ranking Molina this low, but with these rankings based solely on 2014 performance, a number of catchers are slotted ahead of him. Molina is still the best all-around catcher in the game, and there's no reason his numbers can't be right back where they've been by season's end. For now, he sits at No. 94, though.
94. RP Jean Machi, San Francisco Giants
Machi posted a 2.38 ERA in 51 appearances as a 31-year-old rookie last season, and he has been lights-out in stepping into a bigger role this season, with Santiago Casilla missing significant time. It's a case of the rich getting richer, as Machi is just another plus arm in a very good Giants bullpen.
93. SP Alfredo Simon, Cincinnati Reds
After pitching exclusively out of the bullpen last year and posting a 2.87 ERA in 63 games, Simon was forced to move to the rotation when Mat Latos opened the season on the disabled list. His 4.41 FIP is higher than any other pitcher on this list, as he has certainly benefited from some good luck, but his surprise performance can't be overlooked entirely.
92. RF Corey Dickerson, Colorado Rockies
A fourth outfielder entering the season, Dickerson has seen more playing time than expected with Michael Cuddyer dealing with injuries. He has responded better than anyone could have hoped, and while Charlie Blackmon has been the breakout star for Colorado, Dickerson is not far behind.
91. RP Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
It was originally supposed to be Tommy Hunter who assumed closer duties for the Baltimore Orioles, but when he went down with an injury, Zach Britton was next in line, and he has taken the job and run with it. Out of options entering spring training, this was likely his last chance in Baltimore, and he's made good on it.
90. 3B Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
An early-season trip to the DL with a quad injury slowed Beltre in April, and he has yet to really find his power stroke this season after three straight 30-homer seasons. The 35-year-old is still putting up solid numbers, though, as he looks to add to a potential Hall of Fame resume.
89. RP Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
The best closer in the game the past three seasons, Kimbrel has already blown the same numbers of saves (four) that he did all of last season. The most concerning stat is his walk rate, which has climbed from 3.2 BB/9 entering the year to 4.3 BB/9. He still has filthy stuff, though, and is striking guys out at a video game-like rate.
88. 2B Daniel Murphy, New York Mets
Murphy quietly posted a .733 OPS with 13 home runs and 23 steals last season while ranking second in the NL with 188 hits, and he is on a similar pace this season. His 92 hits are tops in the NL, and he has been one of the few productive hitters in a disappointing Mets lineup.
87. 3B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
The 2013 season was a huge one for Carpenter, as he hit .318/.392/.481 and led the NL in hits (199), doubles (55) and runs (126) to finish fourth in NL MVP voting. His numbers are not quite as good this season, but he's still getting on base at a solid clip atop the Cardinals lineup, and he has taken the move to third base in stride.
86. C Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
The AL version of Yadier Molina, though his game is not nearly as polished at just 24 years old, Perez may already be the best catcher in the American League. He won the first of what will be many Gold Glove awards last season, and he has raised his OPS from .757 to .793 this year as he looks to take another step forward at the plate.
85. SP Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers' best starter last season, when he went 11-10 with a 3.35 ERA over 32 starts, Lohse has been their top arm once again, though the rest of the staff has been significantly improved around him. The 35-year-old currently has a career-best 1.065 WHIP and has been a steal on the three-year, $33 million deal he signed last offseason.
84. LF Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics
He's probably never going to be a high-OBP guy, but Cespedes is still a dangerous weapon in the middle of the Athletics lineup. He has made some progress in his plate discipline, lowering his strikeout rate (23.9 percent to 19.2 percent) and raising his walk rate (6.4 percent to 7.5 percent), and he remains one of the AL's top power threats.
83. SP Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
One of the breakout stars of 2013, when he out-pitched teammate Felix Hernandez to finish third in AL Cy Young voting, Iwakuma has thrown the ball well after missing time early with a finger injury. He makes just $6.5 million this season with a $7 million option for next year, and his signing has been one of the best in franchise history.
82. SS Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers
Despite playing in just 86 games last season, Ramirez finished eighth in NL MVP voting, as he hit .345/.402/.638 with 25 doubles and 20 home runs in just 304 at-bats. He got off to a slow start at the plate this season but has an .828 OPS in June and could be much higher on this list next time it's updated.
81. RP Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
His time in Philadelphia has been rocky at best, but Papelbon is back to pitching like an elite closer this season. He could be one of the first pieces moved if the Phillies finally pull the trigger on a desperately needed rebuild, and there are more than a few contenders he could help out.
80. RP Dellin Betances, New York Yankees
Betances never panned out as a highly touted starting rotation prospect, but a move to the bullpen has rejuvenated his career. The 26-year-old has helped ease the loss of Mariano Rivera in the Yankees bullpen, assuming eighth-inning duties with David Robertson moving to closer. His 70 strikeouts in 42 innings are the most by a non-starter this season.
79. SP Josh Beckett, Los Angeles Dodgers
A no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies back on May 25 has been the highlight of his season, but the renaissance of Josh Beckett goes well beyond that start. The 34-year-old had gone 7-19 with a 4.76 ERA in 36 starts the past two seasons, and he now finds himself among the NL ERA leaders. His 3.84 FIP suggest some regression is in order, but he's earned his spot here.
78. CF Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
Teammate Chris Davis has taken a step back after his monster 2013 season, but Jones continues plugging away as a proven star in the middle of the Orioles lineup. He set career highs with 33 home runs and 108 RBI last year and is in line for similar numbers once again.
77. RP Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins
Cishek may be the most underrated closer in baseball, as he converted 34 of 36 save chances last year and had a 2.33 ERA in what was his first full season in the ninth inning. He's posted better peripheral numbers across the board this season and is under team control through the 2017 season and looks like a key piece of the Marlins' future success.
76. 1B Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies
Morneau was signed to a two-year, $12.5 million deal to replace the retired Todd Helton, and that has been one of the better signings of the offseason so far. The 33-year-old posted a .752 OPS and averaged 18 home runs and 77 RBI the past two seasons, and he is on pace to blow past those numbers this year.
75. RP Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
The best closer in the AL last year when he converted 47 of 50 save chances with a 1.21 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 67 innings, Holland has been an anchor at the back of the Royals bullpen once again. He made $4.68 million this year in his first arbitration year and could quickly price his way out of Kansas City.
74. RF Alex Rios, Texas Rangers
Rios was acquired for the stretch run last season, and while he did not help the Rangers make the postseason, he has been perhaps their best hitter so far this year. He currently leads the AL in triples (8) but also in caught stealing (8) and double plays (16). Do what you will with that puzzling information.
73. RP Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals
More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Nationals coughed up a draft pick and shelled out $22 million over two years to sign Soriano last offseason. He was 43-of-49 on save chances last year with a 3.11 ERA, and he's been even better this year, with peripheral numbers similar to his dominant 2010 campaign.
72. SP Jon Niese, New York Mets
Niese has shown flashes of being a front-line arm in the past, including a 2012 season that saw him go 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA. The injury to Matt Harvey has forced him into the role of staff ace once again this year, and he has responded with the best numbers of his career.
71. RP Joakim Soria , Texas Rangers
After he missed all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Soria signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Texas Rangers last offseason. He was used as a middle reliever last year, posting a 3.80 ERA in 26 appearances, but he's back in the closer's role this year after Joe Nathan departed in free agency. His numbers have been fantastic, and he finally appears to be back to his pre-injury form.
70. RP Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers
When the Milwaukee Brewers brought K-Rod back on a one-year, $3.25 million deal this past winter, it was originally believed that he would be setting up Jim Henderson. Instead, he has been closing games for one of the best bullpens in the NL, and he currently leads the league with 25 saves.
69. 2B/3B Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
Rendon showed flashes of the offensive potential that made him the No. 6 pick in the 2011 draft as a rookie last year, and he followed it up with a bona fide breakout campaign here in 2014. He will likely move back to second base once Bryce Harper returns and forces Ryan Zimmerman to third base, but he could win some Gold Gloves at the hot corner down the line.
68. SP Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
Greinke proved to be every bit the second ace the Dodgers hoped he'd be last year, when he went 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA, and he's been a terrific No. 2 starter once again this year. Allowing 11 hits and five runs in 5.2 innings his last time out dropped him down this list a bit, and he could be much higher next update.
67. 1B Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals
Adams has not put up the kind of power numbers many expected him to when afforded everyday at-bats, and he has walked just six times in 232 at-bats, but he has still been arguably the Cardinals' best hitter this year. He has taken more of an opposite-field approach this year, resulting in a healthy spike in his batting average.
66. C Derek Norris, Oakland Athletics
A big spring training (17-for-45, 5 2B, 3 HR, 12 RBI) proved to be a sign of bigger things to come for Norris, as he has established himself as the Athletics' primary catcher and one of the best offensive backstops in all of baseball. With leading vote-getter Matt Wieters injured, Norris could wind up starting the All-Star Game next month.
65. LF Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves
He's undoubtedly one of the streakiest hitters in the game today, but when he's hot, Upton is capable of carrying the Atlanta Braves offense. His number are about in line with what he did last year, and while that is certainly solid production, he has still never lived up to his "future superstar" billing.
64. RP Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
Uehara was spectacular after taking over as the Red Sox closer midway through last season. That carried on into the playoffs, where he saved seven games and won ALCS MVP honors. He blew his first save of 2014 on Monday, picking up the win instead—a rare hiccup for a guy who has become one of the best in the game.
63. SP Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals
Zimmermann was the Nationals' best starter last season, when he went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and finished seventh in NL Cy Young voting. He has taken a backseat to Stephen Strasburg this year but remains one of the better starters in the NL and actually has better peripheral numbers than last season.
62. C Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds
Mesoraco has missed a total of 22 games this season with oblique and hamstring injuries, but when he has been on the field, he has been an absolute beast at the plate. His 1.035 OPS trails only Troy Tulowitzki and Corey Dickerson among players with 100-plus plate appearances, and he has also been a plus defensive backstop.
61. SP Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins
Looking to upgrade the worst starting rotation in baseball, the Twins added a handful of arms this offseason, including Hughes on a three-year, $24 million deal that was the second-largest free-agent contract in team history. A move away from the bright lights of New York seems to have done him a world of good. With just nine walks in 95.1 innings, he leads the AL with 0.8 BB/9.
60. CF Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants
Last season, the Giants were 39-32 (.549) with Pagan in the lineup, compared to just 37-54 (.407) without him, which speaks to how much he means to the team's success. He's been a terrific table-setter once again this year, atop a vastly improved Giants lineup.
59. SP Jesse Chavez, Oakland Athletics
Forced into the rotation after Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin were lost for the year, Chavez has responded better than anyone could have dreamed. The 30-year-old journeyman posted a 3.92 ERA in 35 appearances out of the bullpen last year, and the A's are his seventh organization.
58. LF Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays
A flop in his first season in Toronto, Cabrera has landed somewhere between his 2012 All-Star form and his disappointing 2013 numbers this year, but that is all the Blue Jays were hoping for when they signed him to a two-year, $16 million deal. He could wind up earning an All-Star start if the voting holds up.
57. SP Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals
A postseason hero for the Cardinals last year, Wacha entered the playoffs with just 15 games (nine starts) under his belt at the big league level. Still just 22, the right-hander was taken with the No. 19 pick in the 2012 draft, and he looks to have an incredibly bright future ahead of him.
56. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians
Apparently, it took a position change from Carlos Santana to finally light a fire under Chisenhall. He entered the season without a starting job to call his own, but he's quickly played his way into everyday at-bats. He does not currently qualify for the batting title, but even with the necessary number of hitless at-bats added to his total, he still sits in the top spot ahead of Jose Altuve.
55. SS Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
After back-to-back All-Star nods in 2011 and 2012, Castro took a step back last season. His slash line fell to .245/.284/.347, and he actually posted a negative WAR at minus-0.6. The 24-year-old is back on track this season, though, and he's well on his way to career-best numbers across the board offensively.
54. SP Mark Buehrle, Toronto Blue Jays
He's not exactly lighting up radar guns, with an average fastball velocity of 83.4 miles per hour (via FanGraphs), but Buehrle is the definition of a savvy veteran, and he knows how to get the most out of his stuff. He has won double-digit games and thrown at least 200 innings each of the past 13 seasons, and he was the first AL pitcher to 10 wins this year.
53. 1B/OF Michael Morse, San Francisco Giants
Free-agent interest in Morse was minimal after the slugger hit just .215/.270/.381 last season, but the Giants took a chance on him with a one-year, $6 million deal. The hope was that he could provide some much-needed pop in their lineup, and he has done just that as arguably the biggest steal of the offseason.
52. SP Henderson Alvarez, Miami Marlins
If I had asked you to tell me who would be leading the MLB in shutouts at the midway point of the season back in February, chances are Henderson Alvarez would not have been one of the first 50-100 names out of your mouth. Yet he has done just that, with three of them so far this year. The 24-year-old has stepped into the role of staff ace after Jose Fernandez went down.
51. RP Huston Street, San Diego Padres
He may not have eye-popping stuff or ridiculous strikeout totals, but Street has been the best closer in baseball so far, and he's a perfect 20-of-20 on save chances. The Padres carry a very reasonable $7 million team option on him for next season, so he's by no means a sure thing to be moved at the deadline, but he'll be a hot commodity if he is made available.
50. RF Seth Smith, San Diego Padres
The Padres acquired Smith from the Oakland Athletics this past offseason for setup man Luke Gregerson, hoping he could provide some pop as a left-handed platoon option in right field. He's wound up being their best hitter by a long shot, and while the Padres are the worst offense in baseball, Smith ranks 13th among qualifiers with a .922 OPS.
49. 2B Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins
Power/speed guys are becoming more and more rare around the big leagues, but Dozier has quietly turned himself into one of the better ones for the Minnesota Twins. The 27-year-old had 18 home runs and 14 steals during a breakout 2013 season, and he is on pace to go 30/30 this season. Add in a plus glove and good on-base skills, and he's one of the more underrated players in the game.
48. SP Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics
Following the departure of Bartolo Colon and injury of Jarrod Parker, much more was expected of the 24-year-old Gray and he has stepped his game up for the AL's best team. He entered the season with just 12 games (10 starts) under his belt, but he's looked like a seasoned veteran atop the Athletics rotation.
47. SP Tim Hudson, San Francisco Giants
Some wondered if a broken ankle last July would be the end of the line for Hudson. However, he has not only made his way back from that injury, but he is throwing the ball better than he has in years. The Giants added him on a two-year, $23 million deal to replace Barry Zito in the rotation, and he has prove to be an infinitely better option than the much-maligned lefty.
46. 1B Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals
Were it not for the fact that he missed 15 games with a quad injury, LaRoche may rank even higher on this list. A big 2012 season (.853 OPS, 33 HR, 100 RBI) earned him a two-year, extension in Washington, but those numbers plummeted (.735 OPS, 20 HR, 62 RBI) last season. His fantastic on-base percentage has been a pleasant surprise, as he has raised his walk rate from 12.2 percent to 16.9 percent.
45. RP Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics
Ranking Doolittle at No. 45 may be a bit high, but that ridiculous 50/1 K/BB ratio is impossible to ignore and represents uncharted territory among pitchers of any role. The previous record for highest K/BB ratio with at least 30 innings pitched was 18.33 by Dennis Eckersley in 1991. Doolittle has nearly tripled that at 50.00 to this point.
44. CF Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies
Blackmon has cooled off a bit after his ridiculous first month (.374 BA, 1.034 OPS), but he is still putting up solid numbers across the board as a legitimate breakout start for the Rockies. He hit .309/.336/.467 in 246 at-bats last season, so there is some precedent to think he can keep it up for the entire season.
43. SP Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres
After opening the 2013 season in the bullpen, Cashner went 5-4 with a 2.11 ERA and 0.952 WHIP in 11 second-half starts last year to establish himself as the Padres ace moving forward. His record so far this year does not reflect it, as his supporting cast has been bad, but Cashner has established himself as one of the game's best young arms.
42. 2B Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Utley showed he still had plenty left in the tank when healthy last season, hitting .284/.348/.475 in 476 at-bats, and he has been even better this year. The 35-year-old will go down as one of the best offensive second basemen the game has ever seen, and he is putting the finishing touches on what could be a Hall of Fame career.
41. SP Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs
The 2013 season was a step backward for Samardzija after a breakout campaign in 2012, but he has taken his game to another level this season. He figures to be one of the most sought-after chips of the trade deadline, and with another year of team control beyond 2014, he should net the rebuilding Cubs a huge return.
40. SP Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
Keuchel was battling for a roster spot when spring training opened, having gone 9-18 with a 5.20 ERA in 47 games (38 starts) through his first two big league seasons. Things have clicked this season, though, and the 26-year-old looks like he could be a cornerstone piece of the Astros' rebuild.
39. C Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves
The decision to let Brian McCann (.218 BA, .634 OPS) walk in free agency looks like a brilliant one by the Atlanta Braves, as Gattis has been one of the best offensive backstops in the game this year. His OPS has climbed from .771 last year to .912 this season, and he has shown much better plate discipline with regular at-bats.
38. SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
Left shoulder tendinitis cost him 20 games at the beginning of the season, but Hamels is back to pitching like an ace atop the Phillies rotation now that he's healthy. He has a 0.73 ERA in five June starts and has been a big reason for the Phillies' improved play of late.
37. SP Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers
The AL ERA leader last season when he posted a 2.57 mark to go along with a 14-8 record, Sanchez has been the Tigers' best pitcher so far this year. That five-year, $80 million deal he signed prior to last year was questioned by more than a few pundits, but it looks like a bargain here a year-and-a-half later.
36. RF Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants
The Giants wasted no time locking up Pence last season, giving him a five-year, $90 million deal at the end of September. It's not always pretty, but Pence has proved to be a consistent producer over the past several seasons, and he is having a great all-around year so far in 2014.
35. 1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Freeman has been a rock in an otherwise wildly inconsistent Atlanta Braves lineup the past two seasons, and after establishing himself as one of the game's best young hitters last year, he has backed it up with another strong performance so far this season. He may never be a prolific power guy, but he should continue to post solid OBP and run production numbers for years to come.
34. SP Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
Slotted behind Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain at the beginning of his career, Bumgarner is now the unquestioned ace of the Giants rotation. He had the best season of his career last year, going 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA, and it's hard to believe he is still only 24 years old.
33. 3B Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
Frazier followed up a surprising 2012 season that saw him finish third in Rookie of the Year voting with a disappointing sophomore campaign last year. Now, he's taken that next step forward that many predicted last year—it just came a season later than expected—as he's been the best all-around third baseman in the NL.
32. SP Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels
Richards showed flashes of what was to come last year, turning in seven quality starts over an 11-start span. The former top prospect has made huge strides this season, and while he may still be behind veterans Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson in the rotation, he's been far and away the Angels' best starter.
31. 1B Brandon Moss, Oakland Athletics
Since the start of the 2012 season, Moss has quietly ranked 17th in all of baseball with 68 home runs. He is listed on the All-Star ballot as a DH and buried behind the likes of Victor Martinez, David Ortiz and Edwin Encarnacion as a result, but he has earned an All-Star spot with his performance this season.
30. SP Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves
Thrust into the role of staff ace after Kris Medlen and Mike Minor opened the season on the DL, Teheran has built off of a terrific rookie season and established himself as one of the top arms in the National League. His 3.38 FIP indicates he has had some good luck, but the 23-year-old is still improving and is talented enough to overlook that.
29. 2B Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
The diminutive Altuve has been a force in the Astros lineup this season, as he leads the AL in hits and stolen bases and ranks second in batting average. He could wind up making just $23 million over the next five years if his option years are exercised, as his extension looks like a brilliant move by Houston.
28. 1B Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
Rizzo's regression was one of the most disappointing parts of a long 2013 season for the Cubs. His OPS dropped from .805 to .762 and he batted just .233 on the year. It's fair to say he has turned a corner in his development now, though, as he has been one of the best hitters in the NL. He once again looks like a key piece of the future puzzle for the North Siders.
27. 1B Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
Any question about how quickly Abreu would adjust to the MLB game were answered when he won AL Player of the Month honors in April with a .953 OPS, 10 home runs and 32 RBI. A stint on the DL cost him some time after that, and there are some legitimate concerns about his plate discipline (15/69 BB/K), but his power is for real, and he could challenge for the home run crown this year.
26. SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
We are all still waiting for a truly dominant breakout season from Strasburg after he entered the league with more hype than any pitching prospect in recent memory. Whether or not this is the year remains to be seen, but he does currently lead the NL with 121 strikeouts, 10.9 K/9 and a 6.05 K/BB mark.
25. SP Scott Kazmir, Oakland Athletics
After pitching in the independent league in 2012, the Cleveland Indians took a flier on Scott Kazmir last season and he rewarded them by going 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA and 9.2 K/9 in 29 starts.
Opting to let someone else pay him big money in hopes he'd repeat that performance, Kazmir left in free agency and signed a two-year, $22 million deal to replace Bartolo Colon in the Oakland A's rotation. As the current AL leader in ERA and WHIP, it looks like another wise allocation of resources by the Oakland front office.
24. LF Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
Alex Gordon does not always get the recognition he deserves, as evidenced by his current standing outside of the top 15 vote-getters among AL outfielders for an All-Star spot, but he has become one of the best all-around players in the American League.
Winner of three straight Gold Glove awards, Gordon is a force in left field, and he has caught fire at the plate of late as well. He's hitting .301/.393/.589 with five home runs in June and will be a major snub if he's not among the reserves chosen on the AL side.
23. 2B Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
Yes, Robinson Cano has hit only four home runs, and yes, the Seattle Mariners were probably hoping for a few more than that by now when they handed him that 10-year, $240 million contract this offseason.
That said, he has still been among the most productive hitters at his position and by far the best hitter in what has once again been a subpar Mariners offense. With the team on the fringe of contention right now, his impact has been apparent here in the first half.
22. LF Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians
With the megadeals being handed out to Robinson Cano, Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera and others, not much attention was paid to the four-year, $25 million extension that the Cleveland Indians handed outfielder Michael Brantley.
Now, a little over four months after that extension was signed, that could wind up being the best contract handed out this past offseason. After hitting .284/.332/.396 with 10 home runs, 73 RBI and 17 steals last year, Brantley has been among the best all-around offensive players in baseball this year.
21. SP Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
For a while, it looked like Yu Darvish could make a run at 300 strikeouts last season. But while he finished with 277 in 209.2 innings, what he did do is establish himself as a bona fide ace atop the Texas Rangers rotation.
His ERA and FIP are both down from where they were at last season, and he is again punching batters out at an AL-best 11.0 K/9 rate. It's been a long season for Rangers thanks to all of the injuries they've suffered, but Darvish has been a bright spot once again.
20. DH Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
With Prince Fielder traded this offseason, the job of protecting Miguel Cabrera in the Detroit Tigers lineup fell to Victor Martinez, and he has done a phenomenal job out of the cleanup spot.
Martinez led all of baseball with a .361 average in the second half last year, and he has been one of the best contact hitters in the game once again this season. He has struck out just 22 times in 273 at-bats, compared to 28 walks.
19. LF Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles
Nelson Cruz turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers at the beginning of the offseason, instead opting to take his chances on landing a multiyear deal somewhere else. When nothing materialized, he was forced to settle for a one-year, $8 million contract from the Baltimore Orioles.
That has been perhaps the steal of the offseason, as any questions about his performance post-PED suspension have been answered with 23 home runs and 60 RBI. That production has been even more important for the Orioles with Matt Wieters out for the year and both Manny Machado and Chris Davis producing well below last year's levels.
18. 3B Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
He may be in a slump of late, hitting just .175/.214/.288 in the month of June, but Josh Donaldson remains one of the top players in the American League and the WAR leader at 4.7.
The 28-year-old was arguably the biggest All-Star snub of all last season, but he has run away with the voting at third base this year. On an Athletics roster that lacks a true superstar, face-of-the-franchise type talent, he may be the closest thing they have.
17. CF Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
Carlos Gomez went from failed top prospect to useful outfielder in 2012, earning a three-year, $24 million extension in the process. That was followed by a breakout season last year, in which he led the NL with an 8.9 WAR, and he has been even better this year.
The 28-year-old may be the most dangerous power/speed threat in the game not named Mike Trout, and his big start to the season has helped lead the Milwaukee Brewers to the best record in the National League.
16. C Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
In his first shot at everyday at-bats last season, Jonathan Lucroy quietly hit .280/.340/.455 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI as one of the more productive backstops in all of baseball. He entered the year as one of the most underrated players in the game, and he may stand atop that list now.
There is little debate that Lucroy has been the best all-around catcher in baseball so far this year, and the fact that he will likely be relegated to a reserve spot behind Yadier Molina on the NL All-Star lineup is one of the bigger oversights on the part of the voters this year.
15. SP Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
A left elbow strain cost Chris Sale a total of 32 games earlier this season, and with his funky mechanics, there could certainly be more arm troubles down the road. He has shown no ill effects since returning, though, and is again one of the best arms in the game.
Still just 25, Sale has been nothing short of dominant since moving from the bullpen to the rotation in 2012. He was 11-14 with a 3.07 ERA and 1.073 WHIP to finish fifth in AL Cy Young voting last year, and he could be in line for an even better finish if he stays healthy the rest of the way.
14. 1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Before you grab your torches and pitchforks, keep in mind that these rankings are a reflection of 2014 performance alone.
A pedestrian .277/.320/.415 line over the first month of the season put Miguel Cabrera a step behind the guys ahead of him on this list. But he has looked very much like the reigning AL MVP since. His 26 doubles lead the American League and match his total from a year ago, but even with fewer long balls, he is still as feared as any hitter in the game today.
13. 1B Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
Much like the aforementioned Miguel Cabrera, the first month of the season was not a great one for Edwin Encarnacion, as he hit just .250/.333/.413 with two home runs.
However, he exploded from there for 16 home runs and 33 RBI in May alone, and he currently leads the AL in home runs, RBI and total bases (175). He's never going to be a .300 hitter and his defense is subpar, but there is no question about his ability to drive in runs and hit the ball out of the ballpark.
12. SP Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
Investing $175 million in a relatively unknown commodity was certainly a risky move by the New York Yankees, but it's paid huge dividends so far, as Masahiro Tanaka has been arguably the best pitcher in the American League.
After going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last season, Tanaka has made MLB hitters look silly with a splitter that may be the best pitch in baseball right now. His 4.1 WAR leads all pitchers and puts him in "really good position player" territory, as that shows just how valuable he has been for a pitching-starved Yankees team.
11. SP Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
An absolute horse since he broke into the league as a 19-year-old back in 2005, Felix Hernandez is off to a great start this year and is putting up his best numbers since winning AL Cy Young honors back in 2010.
Still just 28 years old, Hernandez is currently putting up a career-high 9.6 K/9 while also leading the AL in WHIP, FIP and innings pitched. If the Mariners are going to make a serious run at the playoffs, expect them to lean heavily on King Felix in the second half.
10. RF Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Any questions about a potential sophomore slump or off-field distractions for Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig have been put to rest, as he has carried a relatively disappointing offense to this point.
Notable improvements in his strikeout rate (22.5 percent to 19.7 percent) and walk rate (8.3 percent to 11.5 percent) have helped him take the next step and adjust to a league that seemed to be figuring him out down the stretch last year. The question now is, how much better can the 23-year-old get in the years to come?
9. SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
After signing a record-setting seven-year, $215 million extension during the offseason, Clayton Kershaw missed significant action for the first time in his career, spending 31 games on the disabled list with back inflammation.
A no-hitter last time out was the highlight of his season so far, and he has looked like the dominant Kershaw of old since returning to action. He will be right in the hunt for a fourth straight NL ERA title and third NL Cy Young in four years.
8. SP Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
After missing the 2011 season with Tommy John surgery and struggling at times to find his form in 2012, Adam Wainwright was back to dominating opposing hitters last season, going 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA and finishing second in NL Cy Young voting.
His current 0.914 WHIP and 6.5 H/9 represent the best marks of his career, and his 2.40 FIP is the best in the National League among qualified starters. Clayton Kershaw has come back strong from injury and Johnny Cueto has looked great, but Wainwright is certainly in the mix for NL Cy Young honors.
7. SP Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
After going 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA in 2012 to finish fourth in NL Cy Young voting, Johnny Cueto was limited to just 11 starts last season due to a late injury. He returned with a handful of strong starts down the stretch before losing in the Wild Card Round playoff game.
Clearly back to 100 percent this season, he currently leads all of baseball in ERA (1.86), WHIP (0.84) and BAA (.173), and he looks like the front-runner for NL Cy Young honors and the All-Star Game start here at the midway point.
6. 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
If he played for a contending team, Paul Goldschmidt likely would have run away with NL MVP honors last year. He led the league in home runs (36), RBI (125), OPS+ (161) and total bases (332) but did it playing for the 81-81 Arizona Diamondbacks.
It has been more of the same from the budding superstar this year, as he leads the league in hits, doubles and total bases (165). He looks to be well on his way to his first All-Star Game start, and the 26-year-old could be a staple there for years to come.
5. RF Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Bautista was an absolute monster in 2010 and 2011, but injuries cost him a total of 115 games the past two seasons and took a bite out of his overall production.
Healthy once again this year, he is back to performing at an elite level, and his ability to get on base may be his greatest asset, as he leads the AL with 59 walks and a .433 on-base percentage. With Bautista hitting in front of Edwin Encarnacion in the Blue Jays lineup, the team features arguably the best one-two punch in the game today.
4. CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
The reigning NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen has once again been a man among boys in the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup. The 27-year-old is a true five-tool talent, and he should rank among the game's best for the foreseeable future.
An improved walk rate this season (11.6 percent to 15.3 percent) has led to an NL-high 52 walks and a 20-point bump in his on-base percentage. It's little improvements like that that separate the good players from the great ones, and he has certainly been great the past few seasons.
3. RF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
For the past several years, Giancarlo Stanton has flashed his immense raw power and dynamic overall game, only to miss significant time with injury and see that cut into his overall production.
Even with the time he missed, though, Stanton entered his age-24 season this year with a whopping 117 home runs, and he figures to add plenty more to that total in the years ahead. He missed the Home Run Derby last season but looks poised to participate this year in a contest that was truly made for his skill set.
2. CF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
A month or so ago, everyone was asking what was wrong with Mike Trout. His strikeouts were up, his triple-slash numbers were down and he looked downright average through the first couple months. Funny how those rough patches have a way of working themselves out with great players.
A .344/.442/.734 month of June has put Trout right back where he was expected to be, and he currently leads the AL in OPS (.988) and ranks second to Josh Donaldson in WAR (4.5). The 22-year-old is human, we've learned that much this season, but he's still one of the game's best.
1. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
Sure, you can point to a ridiculous home/road split as a big reason for the terrific numbers Troy Tulowitzki has put up so far, as he's hitting an otherworldly .460/.537/.815 at Coors Field compared to just .252/.355/.465 on the road.
At the end of the day, though, the numbers are still terrific and impossible to ignore. Finally healthy, Tulo leads all of baseball in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS+, runs and WAR, and he remains the best all-around shortstop in the game and a true superstar.
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