Continuing our countdown of the top 100 players in the majors, we hit numbers 30 through 21 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 100-31:
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
39 – Tim Lincecum – SP – SFG
38 – Giancarlo Stanton – RF – MIA
37 – Jon Lester – SP – BOS
36 – Cole Hamels – SP – PHI
35 – Kevin Youkilis – 3B/1B – BOS
34 – Jacoby Ellsbury – CF – BOS
33 – Josh Johnson – SP – MIA
32 – Brian McCann – C – ATL
31 – Stephen Strasburg – SP – WAS
30 – Josh Hamilton – OF – TEX – MLB (30)
Lee (30) – Well, we all missed the boat here. Hamilton has been the best player in the league so far this year, but regression is surely coming. Known for having prodigious power, Hamilton has a career HR/FB% of 19.3%, you can expect home runs at half his current rate in the future. He has continued his below-average plate discipline, having three times as many Ks as UIBBs. A lot of this is contributed to his near 60% swing rate, one of the highest in the league. His overall defense is fairly average, below average in center and above average at the corners. His biggest if is staying healthy, and if he does that, he could be in line for his second MVP and a huge payday.
Alex (33) - Hamilton is on his way to one of the best seasons of his career. The highlight of his season so far is from May 7th to May 12th, hitting 9 HR in that span. His power has been unreal, with his ISO at an absurd .382. That’s a number that likely will decrease, but enjoy it while it lasts. His 9% walk rate is right around his average, and his 20% strikeout rate is slightly higher. He’s definitely getting help from his .383 BABIP, but his career BABIP is .341. While regression is expected as a result there’s a chance it may not be very significant.
29 – Pablo Sandoval – 3B – SFG – MLB (44)
Lee (32) – Besides a down 2010, Sandoval has shown very consistent skills in his short career. He’s a free-swinger, much like Hamilton, but he makes more contact. The switch-hitter has good HR power and hits a ton of gaps. His weight is a wild-card, affecting both defense and injuries. His defense was great last year, but he gained all the weight he lost back, so it’s unlikely he can rate +10 again. He’s also had the same hand injury on each side the past two seasons, definitely concerning for a switch-hitter.
Alex (30) - Before his injury Sandoval was continuing right where he left off last season. He’s always had great plate discipline, and in 104 plate appearances that continued. He walked 7% of the time, and only struck out in 9% of the time. The power also returns, as his .221 ISO shows. He had a .313 BABIP, which shows that his current performance was sustainable. The Giants will need him to return as soon as possible, which is likely around mid-June.
28 – Zack Greinke – SP – MIL – MLB (64)
Lee (29) – Owner of some of the best peripherals in the league, Greinke has ran into some bad luck the past couple years. His ERA has been over three-quarters of a run higher than FIP, mostly due to an inflated BABIP. He has allowed a high LD% the past couple years, which explains the high BABIP. He throws the kitchen sink at you, with a four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter, slider, changeup, and 2-3 speeds on the curveball. While he’s getting a lot of strikeouts this year, his whiff% is similar to 2010, when he only struck out 20% of all batters.
Alex (27) – Greinke is off to another sensational start to the season. He’s striking out 26% of the batters that he faces and is only walking 5%. His average fastball sits at 92 mph, a tick below his average but nothing to get concerned about. He hasn’t been known as a groundball pitcher, but the last three seasons he’s seen his GB% increase, currently sitting at 50%. He has a 1.75 FIP, but that’s likely to increase eventually. There’s a chance that it goes above his 2.34 xFIP, but he should still have a great season.
27 – Curtis Granderson – CF – NYY – MLB (23)
Lee (36) – Since the second half of 2010, Granderson has re-established himself as a top-flight offensive outfielder. His home runs have shot up, at the expense of many skills however. His K rate is near 25%, a combination of his low swing rate and decreasing Contact%. His BABIP has dropped with the addition of flyballs, though his batted ball profile is much closer to normal this year. His defense is probably his most concerning trend. After starting his career great in center, he’s been well below average since ’08, even posting a -10 UZR so far this year.
Alex (18) - After an outstanding season, Yankee outfielder Granderson, has continued his run. He’s still showing top of the line power, as his .280 ISO suggests but he’s hitting more groundballs. His 13% BB% is higher than his average, but so is his 25% K%. His .282 BABIP is about 30 points below his career average, so there’s a good chance that he sees some improvement, especially with his 24.4% LD rate. He has essentially become a Three True Outcomes hitter, odd for a center fielder.
26 – Prince Fielder – 1B – DET – MLB (10)
Lee (26) – Fielder is a tremendous offensive player, but lacks ability in nearly every other area of his game. He is a horrible defensive first baseman, with UZR being the kindest, rating him at -6.5 runs per 150 games. He is a base clog, consistently costing the team at least 5 runs a year with his baserunning. His power numbers have been affected by the change from Milwaukee to Detroit, going from a HR-friendly park for lefties to a HR-suppressing park. He’s also been hurt by the move to the superior American League.
Alex (26) – Fielder’s first season in Detroit hasn’t turned out the way Detroit had hoped, but it hasn’t been terrible. His .180 ISO is a cause for concern, and eventually he’ll need that to rediscover that power. He’s only walking 8% of the time, 5% less than what you’d expect. The 17% K% is right about what you’d expect, so that’s not concerning. Fielder should find his swing sooner than later, but he doesn’t have it yet.
25 – Adrian Beltre – 3B – TEX – MLB (16)
Lee (28) – One of the best defensive third basemen in the game, Beltre has finally found consistent offense to become an elite player. Aside from his historic 2004 season, he never posted a wRC+ above 120, but he has done that the past two years and is on pace for that so far this year. He doesn’t walk, but he’s compensated for that by not striking out much now. This leaves his OBP lower than expected, but his SLG is well above .500. He’s never shown great speed, leading to average baserunning value. If he can keep his injuries to a minimum, he could be on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Alex (22) - Beltre revitalized his career in Boston during the 2010 season. He’s on pace to have another good season, albeit not as good as the past two. His 3.6% BB% is concerning, but for his career he only walks 6.7% of the time. On a positive note he’s striking out 6% less than his career average. He’s still showing that he has good power, an ISO of .237 and a great 133 wRC+. His defense and baserunning have been hurt by playing through a strained hamstring injury the past couple weeks.
24 – Dan Haren – SP – LAA – MLB (37)
Lee (25) – Haren has been a consistent 4-6 WAR pitcher since 2005 without much publicity. He’s been a strike-throwing machine, rarely exceeding a 5% BB rate. He saw a spike in his K rate while in the NL with Arizona, but they have come down since joining the Angels. He’s also slowly progressed into a flyball pitcher, which has led to a higher HR/9 rate than most pitchers this high on the list. As long as he keeps walks at a minimum and strikes out a good amount, those solo homers won’t hurt him too badly.
Alex (23) - After posting a solid 2011 season, Haren has run into some struggles. His 19% K% is right around where it was last season, but he’s walking slightly more batters. His 88 MPH fastball is 2 mph slower than average, and that may be a cause for concern. He has allowed about as many flyballs as groundballs, while his 22.4% LD rate has given him the most problems. He has a 3.79 FIP and 3.69 xFIP, not bad numbers but a big jump from last year’s numbers.
23 – Ian Kinsler – 2B – TEX – MLB (31)
Lee (23) – Kinsler has been one of the more consistent players the past few years, though he has found many different ways to achieve success. He’s had a couple years of great power, along with a below-average power year. He’s had batted ball profiles ranging from line drive machine to high flyball rates to standard rates, with the corresponding BABIP fluctuations. His plate discipline has always been good, ranging from 9%/12% BB/K to 12%/9%. His defense went from poor to good, starting in the 2009 season.
Alex (25) – Last year was an MVP caliber season for Kinsler. While his production isn’t as good as last season, he is still doing very well. He’s always had great plate discipline, and this year is no exception. He’s walking at a 9% clip, and only striking out 12% of the time. His .170 ISO is below his career average, mostly due to his low FB%. His .292 BABIP is below his career average, but his 28% LD rate warrants a BABIP much higher.
22 – Matt Holliday – LF – STL – MLB (43)
Lee (19) – Posting a wRC+ between 140 and 155 the past five seasons, Holliday has become an elite hitter. He doesn’t excel in any specific component on offense, showing good power, good plate discipline, and a high BABIP. Despite being known for defensive gaffes, he has rated a bit above average the past few years in left field. His baserunning value has turned to average since hitting age 30. It seems like he’s been labeled as a second-level player not worth the big contract, but that couldn’t be further from the truth in reality.
Alex (28) - Holliday is one of the better outfielders in baseball, and this year he continues to show the league why. He draws walks at a 9% rate and strikes out at an 18% rate, right around his career averages. His .211 ISO is a little low, but at age 32, it’s possible that his power is beginning to decline. His current BABIP is .291, well below his .344 career mark and his .330 mark since leaving Colorado. He should see a jump over the rest of the season.
21 – Andrew McCutchen – CF – PIT – MLB (42)
Lee (21) – A bright spot in a poor organization, McCutchen is finally starting to get his deserved recognition. He’s been very consistent, posting OBPs around .360 and SLGs around .460, while stealing around 25 bases a year. He’s been average defensively in center, aside from a poor 2010. At 25 years old, the Pirates have him locked up for another 5-6 years for $50-65M, making him one of most team-friendly commodities in the game.
Alex (24) - Since McCutchen made his major league debut in 2009, he has been one of the best young outfielders in the game. His 8% BB% is a significant drop when you look at 11% career BB%. This is due to his 11% increase in Swing%, likely trying to make up for the rest of the team’s ineptitude so far this year. He continues to see his ISO improve, currently sitting at .205. His .379 BABIP has aided him in other areas, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it regress towards his .315 average BABIP. His 157 wRC+ likely isn’t sustainable, but McCutchen will still remain elite.