As I did last year, and the year before, and the year before that, I’ll be keeping a running list of the Top 100 Players Right Now as they are revealed on MLB Network, eventually compiling the entire list.
They will have revealed all 100 by the end of Friday, February 27th. I’ll update this same space as they reveal the remaining entries.
As always, I will understandably highlight the Brewers players on the list. The Brewers had six players on the list entering 2012. Rickie Weeks was 83, John Axford was 77, Yovani Gallardo was 72, Aramis Ramirez was 66, Zack Greinke was 64, and Ryan Braun was too low at number 9. Entering 2013, the Brewers only had three players featured on the list (at the time it was revealed). Yovani Gallardo repeated his position at 72, Aramis Ramirez jumped all the way up to 32, and Braun settled in at 6. Kyle Lohse made last year’s list as well. As for 2014, just three players once again. Jean Segura checked in at 60, Carlos Gomez debuted at 44, and Ryan Braun dipped to 24.
The criteria for the list remains the same:
- Emphasized stats from the last three (3) seasons, weighting 2014
- Projected 2015 performance
- Defensive position
Here now are the Top 100-1* Players as listed by MLB Network:
100. Joe Mauer – 1B – Minnesota Twins
99. Albert Pujols – 1B – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
98. Justin Verlander – SP – Detroit Tigers
97. Prince Fielder – 1B – Texas Rangers
96. Yordano Ventura – RP – Kansas City Royals
95. Pablo Sandoval – 3B – Boston Red Sox
94. Ben Zobrist – 2B – Oakland Athletics
93. Adam Eaton – OF – Chicago White Sox
92. Gerrit Cole – SP – Pittsburgh Pirates
91. Devin Mesoraco – C – Cincinnati Reds
90. Russell Martin – C – Toronto Blue Jays
89. Jake Arrieta – SP – Chicago Cubs
88. Lance Lynn – SP – St. Louis Cardinals
87. Kenley Jansen – CL – Los Angeles Dodgers
86. Jose Reyes – SS – Toronto Blue Jays
85. Andrelton Simmons – SS – Atlanta Braves
84. Nolan Arenado – 3B – Colorado Rockies
83. Chris Carter – 1B – Houston Astros
82. Jeff Samardzija – SP – Chicago White Sox
81. Starling Marte – LF – Pittsburgh Pirates
80. Jose Fernandez – SP – Miami Marlins
79. Christian Yelich – LF – Miami Marlins
78. Julio Teheran – SP – Atlanta Braves
77. Alex Cobb – SP – Tampa Bay Rays
76. Jayson Werth – LF – Washington Nationals
75. J.D. Martinez – RF – Detroit Tigers
74. Todd Frazier – 3B – Cincinnati Reds
73. Neil Walker – 2B – Pittsburgh Pirates
72. Carlos Santana – 1B – Cleveland Indians
71. Salvador Perez – C – Kansas City Royals
70. Sonny Gray – SP – Oakland Athletics
69. Stephen Strasburg – SP – Washington Nationals
68. Doug Fister – SP – Washington Nationals
67. Freddie Freeman – 1B – Atlanta Braves
66. Nelson Cruz – DH – Seattle Mariners
65. Alex Gordon – LF – Kansas City Royals
64. Josh Harrison – 3B – Pittsburgh Pirates
63. Ryan Braun – RF – Milwaukee Brewers
62. Yasiel Puig – CF – Los Angeles Dodgers
61. Aroldis Chapman – CL – Cincinnati Reds
60. Matt Harvey – SP – New York Mets
59. Masahiro Tanaka – SP – New York Yankees
58. Adrian Gonzalez – 1B – Los Angeles Dodgers
57. Kyle Seager – 3B – Seattle Mariners
56. Yan Gomes – C – Cleveland Indians
55. Matt Kemp – RF – San Diego Padres
54. Jacoby Ellsbury – CF – New York Yankees
53. Anthony Rizzo – 1B – Chicago Cubs
52. Dustin Pedroia – 2B – Boston Red Sox
51. Evan Longoria – 3B – Tampa Bay Rays
50. Cole Hamels – SP – Philadelphia Phillies
49. Edwin Encarnacion – 1B – Toronto Blue Jays
48. Hunter Pence – RF – San Francisco Giants
47. Hisashi Iwakuma – SP – Seattle Mariners
46. Matt Holliday – LF – St. Louis Cardinals
45. Yu Darvish – SP – Texas Rangers
44. Jason Heyward – RF – St. Louis Cardinals
43. Jon Lester – SP – Chicago Cubs
42. Carlos Gonzalez – RF – Colorado Rockies
41. Jhonny Peralta – SS – St. Louis Cardinals
40. Greg Holland – CL – Kansas City Royals
39. Wade Davis – RP – Kansas City Royals
38. Carlos Gomez – CF – Milwaukee Brewers
37. Justin Upton – LF – San Diego Padres
36. David Ortiz – DH – Boston Red Sox
35. Jordan Zimmermann – SP – Washington Nationals
34. Craig Kimbrel – CL – Atlanta Braves
33. Victor Martinez – DH – Detroit Tigers
32. Joey Votto – 1B – Cincinnati Reds
31. Anthony Rendon – 3B – Washington Nationals
30. Jose Altuve – 2B – Houston Astros
29. Ian Desmond – SS – Washington Nationals
28. Zack Greinke – SP – Los Angeles Dodgers
27. Hanley Ramirez – LF – Boston Red Sox
26. Madison Bumgarner – SP – San Francisco Giants
25. David Price – SP – Detroit Tigers
24. Bryce Harper – RF – Washington Nationals
23. Jonathan Lucroy – C – Milwaukee Brewers
22. Adam Jones – CF – Baltimore Orioles
21. Michael Brantley – LF – Cleveland Indians
20. Adrian Beltre – 3B – Texas Rangers
19. Yadier Molina – C – St. Louis Cardinals
18. Josh Donaldson – 3B – Toronto Blue Jays
17. Troy Tulowitzki – SS – Colorado Rockies
16. Johnny Cueto – SP – Cincinnati Reds
15. Corey Kluber – SP – Cleveland Indians
14. Adam Wainwright – SP – St. Louis Cardinals
13. Paul Goldschmidt – 1B – Arizona Diamondbacks
12. Jose Bautista – RF – Toronto Blue Jays
11. Max Scherzer – SP – Washington Nationals
10. Robinson Cano – 2B – Seattle Mariners
9. Jose Abreu – 1B – Chicago White Sox
8. Buster Posey – C/1B – San Francisco Giants
7. Miguel Cabrera – 1B – Detroit Tigers
6. Andrew McCutchen – CF – Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Chris Sale – SP – Chicago White Sox
4. Giancarlo Stanton – RF – Miami Marlins
3. Felix Hernandez – SP – Seattle Mariners
2. Mike Trout – CF – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
1. Clayton Kershaw – SP – Los Angeles Dodgers
Ryan Braun has been revealed as the 63rd best player in Major League Baseball “Right Now” entering 2015. As the criteria for the rankings weights 2014 the most and pretty much only relies on the last three years of stats at all, this is an understandable position for Braun right now. I have a feeling though that at this time next year Braun will have rebounded a bit.
Carlos Gomez moves up six spots from 44 last year to check in at 38. I’d rather have Gomez than Justin Upton at 37.
And due to a Twitter tease, we know (or at least Brewers fans do) that Jonathan Lucroy will be number 23 when they get there.
I’ll update more once I see who is around the Brewers, but that’s the only three I expect to make the list.
Let’s get this out of the way at the top. Thank you, San Francisco Giants! Thank you, NLCS MVP Madison Bumgarner. Thank you, Hunter Pence. Thank you, Santiago Casilla. Thank you, Pablo Sandoval. Thank you, Yusmeiro Petit. Thank you (and congrats), Tim Hudson. Thank you even to Buster Posey.
Thank you, Michael Morse for tying that one game.
Thank you, Travis Ishikawa for walking the birds off the field.
I wouldn’t be as happy as I am today without the efforts and success of the San Francisco Giants. You can drop the #EvenYear hashtag on social media. You can thank a blossomed ace in Bumgarner. You can shower praise on Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff. It’s all deserved. It’s all warranted. “THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT!”
And as happy as I am today that the senior circuit representative in this year’s Fall Classic plays its home games outside the state of Missouri, my desire for Giant victories ended when that ball left Ishikawa’s bat.
So why am I rooting against them starting tonight? I like the Giants just fine. I like most of their players. Only Angel Pagan really gets my dander up, and he’ll miss this series with injury anyway. So this isn’t about the Giants.
As far as leagues go, I absolutely prefer the National League game to that of its younger brother. The Designated Hitter should be done away with (though I realize it never will be). The strategy and timing of the NL game makes for a beautiful, and sometimes sickening, dance where decisions feel like they loom larger. You can’t always just pitch a guy until he’s done. Maybe you have to lift a pitcher early because of a key offensive spot. Maybe you try to stretch a guy farther because his spot is due up next half inning. Et cetera. There is so much more that goes into it. It’s more interesting and more fun, in my ever so humble opinion.
I’m a stump for the NL way of life. My team plays in the National League, for what that’s worth.
So, again, I ask: Why am I rooting against the Giants?
Well, to be fair it’s about rooting for Kansas City more than it is about rooting against San Francisco.
Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Norichika Aoki. All former Brewers. All good guys who I enjoy watching succeed. But pulling for the Royals is deeper than just that connection. Doug Henry and Dale Sveum. Both former Brewers. Both members of KC’s coaching staff. I like that, and personally like Sveum as a coach, but certainly wouldn’t use that as a reason to cheer for one team over another. Ned? Not even a little bit.
So instead of continuing to tell you why I’m not rooting for them, even though they are fine reasons should you choose to use them, here’s why I am.
I look at the 2014 Kansas City Royals and I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers.
It’s not a perfect 1:1 on the field, of course, but the similarities even at that micro level are interesting. It’s more about how they go about their business on the field, the lights out bullpen, trading away young and controllable talent for a shot at the brass ring, the payoff of a long-term plan. You can take it one step farther and compare to 2008 in Milwaukee where the Brewers faltered down the stretch while trying to hold off other teams for the Wild Card. In 2008 there was only the one Wild Card spot available, but the Brewers held off the Mets to win it by just one game. In 2014, Kansas City got the home game by just one game over Oakland (who held off Seattle by just one game).
Kansas City rode years of awfulness to amass a bunch of young talent in their system. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon (drafted the same year as, and ahead of, Ryan Braun, by the way), Wil Myers, the list goes on. In fact, you could almost mark the 2005 draft which got the Brewers the final “homegrown” piece to their playoff runs in Braun as the start of the Royals turnaround. In that way, they’ve been a few years behind the Brewers’ blueprint. Get a bunch of young, talented guys in the system with a goal to hit the Majors at roughly the same time, supplement with free agents, and when the moment is right, make a big trade (or two) at the big league level by sending out minor leaguers to go for it.
Let’s break that down, in case you aren’t agreeing with me.
Milwaukee: Drafted Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Yovani Gallardo, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun. Traded away Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley (and more)) for CC Sabathia in 2008. Traded away Cain, Escobar, Jake Odorizzi (and more) for Zack Greinke in 2011. Traded Brett Lawrie for Shaun Marcum in 2011. Supplemented with veterans: 2011 -Mark Kotsay, Craig Counsell, Jerry Hairston, Takashi Saito. 2008 – Gabe Kapler, Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall, Ray Durham, (ironically) Counsell.
Kansas City: Drafted Gordon, Hosmer, Moustakas, Billy Butler, Greg Holland. They scouted international amateurs like Salvador Perez, Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura. Traded away Zack Greinke to acquire several young pieces. Flipped Odorizzi with Wil Myers to acquire James Shields and Wade Davis. Supplemented with veterans like Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Josh Willingham, and Jason Frasor.
I think I’ve made my point.
Their offensive games differ, to be sure, as the Brewers hit home runs at a great pace in 2011 and the Royals are more about speed and getting hits that raise the ol’ BABIP. But the rotations were similarly solid from top to bottom, but the real crux of what sent me down this comparison exercise are the late inning relievers.
- Closer: John Axford (1.95 ERA / 2.41 FIP / 46 saves / 1.140 WHIP / 10.5 K/9)
- Setup man: Francisco Rodriguez (1.86 ERA / 2.23 FIP / 1.138 WHIP / 10.2 K/9)
- “7th inning guy”: LaTroy Hawkins / Takashi Saito (Combined: 2.28 ERA / 1.200 WHIP / 6.1 K/9)
- (the Brewers used two veterans so as to keep them fresh)
- Closer: Greg Holland (1.44 ERA / 1.83 FIP / 46 saves / 0.914 WHIP / 13.0 K/9)
- Setup man: Wade Davis (1.00 ERA / 1.19 FIP / 0.847 WHIP / 13.6 K/9)
- “7th inning guy”: Kelvin Herrera (1.41 ERA / 2.69 FIP / 1.143 WHIP / 7.6 K/9)
Six inning games are easier to win than nine inning games. Both of these teams had/have that game-shortening bullpen that general managers are yearning to cobble together each and every off-season.
I won’t lie to you though. The former Brewers being on the Royals certainly helps me root for them. In fact, it led to a series of tweets (@BrewerNation) with commentary how the team with the most former Brewers on it was winning every series (and even every game for a while) in the 2014 Postseason.
Market size, payroll relative to MLB’s elite, a fan base desperate for a winner after more than 25 years of missing the playoffs, that their last pennant was won in the 1980’s — these are all comparisons between the two franchises that help me see them in such a similar light.
But when it comes down to it, when all the dust has settled, at the end of the day, when all the clichés have been dropped…
I’m rooting for the 2014 Kansas City Royals because I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers and what might have been.
The comparisons can stop there, though, because this Kansas City team won the two games which that Milwaukee team didn’t. The Royals won their pennant and now have a chance to win another World Series, while the Brewers still seek their first championship.
But if these Royals can get the job done, it offers renewed hope that my team can one day get back and accomplish the same.
And that’s worth rooting for more than anything.