Continuing our countdown of the top 100 players in the majors, we hit numbers 40 through 31 today. You can find the explanation and origin of our list here. We are now expanding a bit more on each player, with Alex giving his current state and strengths, while I show weaknesses and hidden strengths. As a quick refresher, here are 100-41:
T100 - Jordan Zimmermann - SP -WAS
T100 - Michael Bourn - CF – ATL
T98 - Gio Gonzalez - SP – WAS
T98 - Nick Swisher - RF – NYY
97 - Nelson Cruz - RF – TEX
96 - B.J. Upton - CF – TBR
95 - Jayson Werth - OF – WAS
94 - Miguel Montero - C – ARI
93 - Lance Berkman - 1B/RF – STL
92 - Ubaldo Jimenez - SP – CLE
91 - Yunel Escobar - SS – TOR
90 - Corey Hart - RF – MIL
89 - Josh Beckett - SP – BOS
88 - Carlos Beltran - RF – STL
T86 - John Danks - SP – CHW
T86 - David Wright - 3B – NYM
85 - Gavin Floyd - SP – CHW
84 - Alexei Ramirez - SS – CHW
83 - Buster Posey - C – SFG
82 - Matt Garza - SP – CHC
81 - Anibal Sanchez - SP – MIA
80 – Joel Hanrahan – RP – PIT
79 – Jay Bruce – RF – CIN
78 – Howie Kendrick – 2B – LAA
77 – Mat Latos – SP – CIN
76 – Yadier Molina – C – STL
75 – Alex Gordon – LF – KCR
74 – Chris Carpenter – SP – STL
73 – Chase Utley – 2B – PHI
72 – Doug Fister – SP – DET
71 – Desmond Jennings – OF – TBR
70 – John Axford – RP – MIL
69 – Jonathan Papelbon – RP – PHI
68 – Brett Gardner – OF – NYY
67 – Daniel Hudson – SP – ARI
66 – Justin Masterson – SP – CLE
65 – Sean Marshall – RP – CIN
64 – Matt Moore – SP – TBR
63 – Mark Teixeira – 1B – NYY
62 – Rickie Weeks – 2B – MIL
61 – Craig Kimbrel – RP – ATL
60 – Carlos Santana – C/1B – CLE
59 – Yovani Gallardo – SP – MIL
58 – C.J. Wilson – SP – LAA
57 – Jose Reyes – SS – MIA
56 – David Price – SP – TBR
55 – Mariano Rivera – RP – NYY
54 – James Shields – SP – TBR
53 – Madison Bumgarner – SP – SFG
52 – Mike Napoli – C/1B/DH – TEX
51 – Adam Wainwright – SP – STL
50 – Hanley Ramirez – 3B/SS -MIA
49 – Hunter Pence – RF – PHI
48 – Matt Wieters – C – BAL
47 – Alex Rodriguez – 3B – NYY
46 – Brett Lawrie – 3B – TOR
45 – Joe Mauer – C – MIN
44 – Shane Victorino – CF – PHI
43 – Carlos Gonzalez – OF – COL
42 – Brandon Phillips – 2B – CIN
41 – Jered Weaver – SP – LAA
40 – Matt Cain – SP – SFG – MLB (46)
Lee (27) – The DIPS defeater, Cain posts great numbers without any great skills. His walk rate has improved to a better-than-average level, while his K rate has stayed nearly constant the past five years. His low GB rate is usually considered risky, but it suppresses BABIP. Also, playing half his games in San Francisco has led him to a consistent HR/FB% below league average. He is the rare pitcher who cannot be evaluated on his FIP and xFIP numbers alone.
Alex (51) - After having a career year Cain is off to another good start. He’s currently striking out 25% of the batters that he’s faced, which would be a career best. He’s also doing a great job limiting walks, walking just under 5% of batters that he’s faced. His GB% is a bit lower than his career average, and his velocity is also about 1 MPH slower than average. His FIP is sitting at 2.94, and his xFIP is at 3.34. Some regression is expected but he should still continue to be really good.
39 – Tim Lincecum – SP – SFG – MLB (19)
Lee (31) – After putting up two elite seasons, Lincecum has been declining the past couple years. His control is slipping for the third straight year, while his strikeouts slipped in ’10 and ’11. His velocity has bounced up and down, but mostly down, since ’08. Overall Lincecum is still very good, but I don’t think he can return to his ’08-’09 form.
Alex (47) - Lincecum has always been a strikeout pitcher, and that pattern is continuing this year as his 24 K% shows. He’s having trouble with his command though, with his BB% at a career high 11%. His 46% GB% is right around where you’d expect him to be as well. One thing that’s concerning is sharp decrease in his fastball velocity. Last year it was just above 92 mph and this year it’s at 90 mph. His 2.93 FIP looks really good, but his xFIP is 3.46. He should finish with numbers similar to 2010.
38 – Giancarlo Stanton – RF – MIA – MLB (41)
Lee (42) – One of the most freakish athletes in the game, Stanton uses his enormous strength and very good speed as the prototypical right fielder. His HR/FB% is consistently above 20%, an elite level. He’s posted above-average UZRs his first two seasons, largely due to good range, though his arm is also very strong. His once-poor plate discipline is continually improving. At age 22, Stanton is already a top OF with a consistent track record.
Alex (35) – After a slow start to the season Stanton is really turning it on. He’s managed to cut his K% by 4%, only striking out 23% of the time. On the downside his BB% has gone a bit from 11.5% to 9% in the process. His ISO has jumped from .062 to .244 in just under three weeks. He has a career high .282 average, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he only faced minimal regression, because he is at his career BABIP of .322.
37 – Jon Lester – SP – BOS – MLB (50)
Lee (41) – After tremendous ’09 and ’10 seasons, Lester has lost his strikeouts after posting 26-27% rates those two years. His walk and groundball rates have stayed fairly consistent, while his velocity has only shown a small, steady decrease the past few years. He has been able to get high popup rates the past couple seasons, likely due to his good cutter. His success has been mirrored by his ability to get righties out, while he’s consistently gotten lefties out.
Alex (36) - So far in 2012 Jon Lester has seen his K% take a huge dip. Right now it’s 16%, over 6% less than last year and 10% less than ’09-’10. His walk rate hasn’t changed much though, with his 8% BB% is right in line with what you’d expect. Lester gets groundballs at a high rate, about 49% of the time. Lester’s 3.51 FIP is a little better than what you’d expect, but his 3.97 xFIP is slightly worse. 2012 is lining up closely to his 2008 season.
36 – Cole Hamels – SP – PHI – MLB (68)
Lee (44) – Owning one of the most baffling changeups in the game, Hamels has used primarily that pitch and a four-seamer to great success. Aside from last year, when his cutter was effective for a 52% GB rate, Hamels has been a flyball pitcher. He’s also had a tendency to give up an above-average HR/FB% in his career, dangerous for a flyball pitcher but okay for one with such a low walk rate.
Alex (31) - Hamels is on his way to a career year, striking out more batters along the way. He’s punching out batters 26% of the time, and is only giving up a walk 4% of the time. His average fastball is sitting at 91 mph, which is exactly where his career fastball velocity sits at. He’s inducing groundballs 41% of the time, a little below his 43% GB% . His 2.28 FIP is outstanding, and his 2.88 xFIP backs up the fact that he can remain dominant, just in time for a huge free-agent contract.
35 – Kevin Youkilis – 3B/1B – BOS – MLB (87)
Lee (34) – After three straight years of .300/.400/.550 production, Youkilis dropped a bit last year, mostly due to BABIP. He is a high-walk, average-strikeout hitter with very good power. His defense is underrated, with his UZR + Pos. Adj. staying the same despite moving up the defensive spectrum to third base last year. As a very intense player, his body may have been grinding too much, making him seem older than 33. An aging player with his skills can age fast, which may be the case here.
Alex (40) - Youkilis is off to a horrible start to the season, and it’s hard to tell if he will improve. He’s striking out an abysmal 27% of the time, while only walking 7% of the time. He’s showing hardly any power, his ISO is a paltry .125. His BABIP is currently .279, compared to his .328 career BABIP so there may still be hope. Offensively his wRC+ is pretty bad, he’s producing 28% worse than league average.
34 – Jacoby Ellsbury – CF – BOS – MLB (17)
Lee (24) – Always known as a burner with good contact skills, Ellsbury took his game to a whole new level last year. The power spiked, quadrupling his homers and almost doubling his doubles. With the current injury to his front shoulder, the power may not come back completely. His defense has also been very good, though it’s all range since his arm is very poor. He doesn’t walk much, and his baserunning value is not what one would expect from someone with such great speed.
Alex (48) - Ellsbury got hurt 7 games into the 2012 season and is expected to be out until the All-Star break. Before his injury, Ellsbury was looking to build on from his incredible 2011 season. At the plate he has a very good eye, he only strikes out 13% of the time, and gets a walk 7% of the time. Until last season he didn’t show a ton of power, but last season he exploded, posting an ISO of .230. When he comes back it will be interesting to see how much of that power returns.
33 – Josh Johnson – SP – MIA – MLB (NR) ?????
Lee (33) – Despite injuries playing a big role in his career so far, Johnson has developed into one of the best pitchers in baseball. Since ’08, he has harnessed all areas of FIP: K%, BB%, and GB%. He has also consistently allowed a low HR/FB%, an indication of his great stuff. If he can stay healthy and build his velocity back up towards 95 MPH, he won’t stay unrated by anyone for long.
Alex (38) - When he’s healthy Johnson is one of the best pitchers in the game. His strikeout numbers are slightly down, at 19%, compared to a career rate of 22%. His walks are slightly better than career average at 7%. He’s inducing groundballs at a very high rate so far, 52% at the moment. While his ERA looks really bad, he’s actually been much better than it indicates. He has a 2.91 FIP to go along with a 3.33 xFIP. As long as he remains healthy he should have an excellent season.
32 – Brian McCann – C – ATL – MLB (47)
Lee (37) – One of the most consistent players in the game, McCann has become an All-Star Game fixture behind the plate. Weaknesses are tough to find, though one of them is his lack of speed, even for a catcher. He has been affected a lot by the shifts being employed, as his current BABIP would suggest. He doesn’t throw out basestealers well, though his framing values have been very good. His home runs have stayed constant, though his doubles have dropped sharply after 2009.
Alex (32) - Brian McCann is regarded as arguably the best catcher in baseball. His plate discipline is always great, but now it’s even better, walking 12% of the time and only striking out in10% of his plate appearances. The power is still there, but he’s suffering mightily from BABIP. His BABIP is .237, compared to his career .298 BABIP. As the season goes on McCann’s luck should change its course and he should become more efficient offensively. His production isn’t terrible, with a wRC+ of 111 but like I said that should only improve.
31 – Stephen Strasburg – SP – WAS – MLB (98)
Lee (35) – In terms of raw talent, Strasburg is in the top 3, but his presumed innings limit knocks him down to here. That is his only weakness, though his GB rate is about average at 45%. His offspeed pitches don’t have quite the depth they had in 2010, but they are still plus-plus pitches. It will be interesting to see how Washington handles him while they are in contention, because it will be very hard to shut him down when he posts a 2.50 FIP over the entire season.
Alex (29) – Healed from Tommy John surgery, Strasburg has been absolutely unhittable. He’s striking out batters at an unbelievable 29% of the time, and walking only 6% of batters. The velocity on his fastball looks really good at 95 mph, slightly lower than his pre-surgery average, but dominant nonetheless. His FIP is an eye-popping 2.37 and his 2.64 xFIP suggests that his performance is sustainable.