Top 100 Right Now: #5-1

We have finally hit the end, showing the Top 5 players in the game.  You can find the explanation and origin of our list here.  After this post, there will be one last wrap-up post, showing how many players are on each team, position, and age.  As a (not-so) quick refresher, here are 100-6:

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
29 – Pablo Sandoval – 3B – SFG
28 – Zack Greinke – SP – MIL
27 – Curtis Granderson – CF – NYY
26 – Prince Fielder – 1B – DET
25 – Adrian Beltre – 3B – TEX
24 – Dan Haren – SP – LAA
23 – Ian Kinsler – 2B – TEX
22 – Matt Holliday – LF – STL
21 – Andrew McCutchen – CF – PIT
20 – Ryan Zimmerman – 3B – WAS
19 – Ben Zobrist – 2B/RF – TBR
18 – Clayton Kershaw – SP – LAD
17 – Justin Upton – RF – ARI
16 – Felix Hernandez – SP – SEA
15 – CC Sabathia – SP – NYY
14 – Robinson Cano – 2B – NYY
13 – Ryan Braun – LF – MIL
12 – Adrian Gonzalez – 1B/RF – BOS
11 – Cliff Lee – SP – PHI
10 – Matt Kemp – CF – LAD
9 – Dustin Pedroia – 2B – BOS
8 – Albert Pujols – 1B – LAA
7 – Jose Bautista – RF – TOR
6 – Justin Verlander – SP – DET

5 – Roy Halladay – SP – PHI – MLB (7)
Alex (7) – Roy Halladay was taken with the Blue Jays’ first round pick in the 1995 draft and was a relatively poor pitcher until 2001. His first dominant season was in 2002, after 4 seasons in the big leagues. He wasn’t quite the strikeout pitcher that he has been the last few seasons but he was dominant nonetheless. He ended the year with a 2.97 FIP and 7.8 WAR. During his time with the Blue Jays he was one of the games best pitchers, from 2001-2009 his 53.9 pitcher WAR was the best in all of baseball. In 2010 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and has continued his dominance. He’s ranked second in pitcher WAR with 16.3 and his 2.70 FIP ranks number three. Halladay has been hurt this year and hasn’t been quite as effective, but if he can return healthy he should have a few more years left in him.

Lee (5) – Very few pitchers have rebounded from such a poor start to put up decent numbers, much less Hall-of-Fame credentials. Rick Sutcliffe is the only other one to win a Cy Young Award after posting a -2.5 WAR season or worse. Jesse Burkett also had a horrible season on the mound before becoming a HOF outfielder. Halladay’s run from 2002-2011 was one of 18 pitchers to post at least 55 WAR in their age 25-34 seasons. I believe his best comp is Bob Gibson, based on career path, not style. Neither one of them started out their careers flying, but slowly progressed, each becoming the best pitchers of their era in their early 30’s. Gibson posted three more very good seasons before retiring at age 39. Halladay’s shoulder problems and heavy workload could send him down a similar path, but I don’t think anyone would ever complain after posting a HOF career.

4 – Miguel Cabrera – 3B/1B – DET – MLB (3)
Alex (4) – The Florida Marlins signed then 3B Miguel Cabrera out of Venezuela in 1999 for close to $2 million dollars. From 2003-2004 he had a couple decent seasons, but nothing to get overly excited about. He exploded in 2005 as just a 22 year old, posting a .323/.385/.561 line. He ended the season with 5.7 WAR and has been a stud since. The Marlins dealt him in 2007 to the Detroit Tigers, and received outfielder Cameron Maybin as the center piece. Needless to say that didn’t quite work out. Cabrera is coming off a career year where he posted a steller line of: .344/.448/.586. He showed his typical power by posting a .238 ISO and also showed some of the best plate discipline to his credit. He’s off to another stellar start, even if it’s doubtful that he does as good as last years. He’s currently on pace to have a similar season to the 2005 season. If he can stay healthy he should remain one of the games better offensive players.

Lee (4) – While Cabrera lacks any sort of speed and defense, he has become an elite player with his all-around offensive game. He is one of 70 or so players to amass at least 35 WAR through age 28, with only about five ahead of him that are not HOF players. As far as comps go, Frank Thomas and Hank Greenberg showed similar WAR totals and styles, but had far fewer PA, so they produced at a higher rate. The best comp I found for a consistent great hitter with below average speed and defense was “Steady” Eddie Murray. Murray really tapered off, posting around 5 WAR total after his age-34 season. With his “old man” skills at a young age, Cabrera is bound for a similar fate.

3 – Joey Votto – 1B – CIN – MLB (15)
Alex (3) – Taken in the second round of the 2002 draft out of high school, Joey Votto’s first few seasons of professional baseball weren’t anything to write about. During the 2008 and 2009 seasons Votto showed that he could potentially become of the games best first baseman. In 2010 he made that a reality by posting his best season to date. He always showed power, but in 2010 his ISO spiked from .245 all the way t0 .276. His .439 wOBA was also a career mark. Besides the offensive production he also began to show that he can be one of the better defenders at first baseman. While his 1.6 UZR wasn’t anything to get excited over, it was a glimpse of what was to become. This year he’s taken it to an all new level. Through 312 plate appearances he already has 4.8 WAR and is on pace to shatter his 7.3 mark from 2010. Votto should be a joy to watch for years to come.

Lee (2) – Well at least we were a lot closer on Votto’s ranking than the MLB Network… He did not make the big leagues until age 23, and since that next season, he’s progressed into this year’s best player. A concurrent comp for him is Braun, each of whom got late-ish starts and dominating in their age-28 seasons this year. Wally Berger also had a consistent stretch starting his career at age 24, before falling off fast at age 33. Votto’s best comparison is probably Todd Helton. Each of them got a cup of coffee at age 23 before becoming the full-time starter at age 24. Helton maintained his elite peak through age 30, until back injuries starting catching up to him. If Votto can avoid debilitating injuries, he can maintain a longer peak, much like Johnny Mize (without the military service).

2 – Troy Tulowitzki – SS – COL – MLB (4)
Alex (1) – Troy Tulowitzki was taken out of Long Beach State with the seventh pick in the 2005 draft by the Colorado Rockies. He had a short stint in the majors in 2006 but in 2007 he had a big breakout year. He showed average plate discipline and posted above average power. He finished with 5.6 WAR and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Ryan Braun in the closest finish since the current system was created in 1980. The past two seasons were nearly identical so it’s hard to say which was his best year. He’s posted 6.5 and 6.3 WAR respectively and has been nearly identical in every major category. This season he’s been hurt and was on his way to another solid year. If he can get back to being healthy he should be continue to be the games top shortstops in baseball.

Lee (3) – Easily the best shortstop in the game, Tulowitzki has already produced four 5.5 WAR seasons by the age of 26, something only 32 other position players have done in history. His playing style has been constantly compared to Cal Ripken. They are both imposing figures for the shortstop position, showing power while still playing elite defense at the position. Ripken was a better hitter and the durability isn’t even close. The closest career path I found for Tulowitzki was Bobby Grich. Playing the other side of the middle infield, Grich posted great defensive numbers to go along with above-average offense. Grich is one of the best players not in the HOF, and I see Tulo having a similar career, if the injuries don’t become chronic.

1 – Evan Longoria – 3B – TBR – MLB (21)
Alex (2) – Like Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria was also taken out of Long Beach State but in 2006. Since his debut he’s been one of the games best players. In 2009 he posted his first of consecutive 7.6 WAR seasons. He showed more power in 2009, he had a .245 ISO compared to a .213 ISO the following year. He’s always had great plate discipline at the plate and has been one of the best defensive third baseman in the game. This year he was off to another good start, but got injured early on and has been out since. Once he gets healthy he should continue to be the premiere player in baseball.

Lee (1) – Unbelievably, former Long Beach State teammates take the top two spots. Since his callup in April 2008, Longoria has been the second-best player in the league behind Pujols. He is one of 35 position players in history to have three 6 WAR seasons by age 25. His defense early on has been better than any other third baseman in history. He has been close to Mike Schmidt, only lacking the elite power. Like Tulowitzki, Longoria has battled his fair share of injuries so far. This makes me believe he’ll have a career similar to Scott Rolen, his career WAR in the 60-70 range, a good chance at the HOF, but not automatic.

One Response

  1. How is Konerko not a top 100!?

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