Yesterday the countdown began of the top 100 baseball players of 2015, and as the list has already shown, quite the diverse offerings of players are jockeying for position against each other as the list dwindles down.
But exactly what position holds the most talent of all on this year’s Top 100? Here is where the power lays ahead:
- Starting Pitchers—28
- Third Basemen—11
- First Basemen—11
- Left Fielders, Right Fielders—8 each
- Catchers & Relief Pitchers—7 each
- Center Fielders & Shortstops—6 each
- Second Basemen—5
- Designated Hitters—3
Pitching continues to reign supreme, with a total of 35 appearing overall between the starting staff and the bullpen. The usual depth at first base is followed by an upswing in talent across the diamond at third. The field balances out after that between the outfield positions, and then the supremely important positions of center field, shortstop and catcher each yield a small but mighty selection for the list as well.
Beyond that point, there is a diverse swath of teams represented as well. 29 of the 30 MLB franchises cracked the Top 100, with only the Minnesota Twins failing to place at least one of their members on the list. The decline of franchise cornerstone Joe Mauer saw him narrowly miss this year’s list.
All this spells out to a clear sign of the diverse and balanced nature that guides the world of Major League Baseball, where the sum of the parts plays a larger role than in any other game.
However, today is about highlighting the best of the parts, specifically the 75th through 51st finest ones …
75. Julio Teheran, Braves: The 24-year-old righty leads the way for an Atlanta rotation that is short on years (only one starter over 25) but high on talent. And none is better than Teheran, who is on the heels of two straight 14-win campaigns, as well as All-Star debut last year.
74. Jayson Werth, Nationals: There’s nothing that Werth can’t do on the field, although he should probably reduce his speed factor off of it. Hard time aside, the Nats' right fielder continues to do whatever is needed to keep his club atop the National League East, which has included posting a .303 average across the past three years.
Your browser does not support iframes.
73. Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees: Who is he really? Is the dominant starter that broke out to the 10-win first half and befuddled American League hitters with a brilliant arsenal of sharp-diving pitches? Or is he the worn-down vet whose workload got the best of him and has left him fighting to avoid Tommy John surgery entering 2015? Either way, Tanaka is an alluring presence who could just as easily have a huge impact on the AL East race as he could be out of it.
72. Francisco Liriano, Pirates: After a first half where injuries slowed his impact on integrating into the season, Liriano reaffirmed the point he proved the previous year that he has regained his status as one of the top lefties in the biz. The Pirates' top option turned in a 2.20 ERA and six victories in the second portion of the season and in the process firmly landed the Pirates a second consecutive Wild Card berth.
71. Yan Gomes, Indians: This should be the summer when all of the things Gomes is accomplishing in Cleveland finally get him the due that should come along with them. His steady assent over the past few years has made him an invaluable asset behind the plate, as well as a Silver Slugger winner at the plate, as he launched 21 home runs as well.
70. Ryan Braun, Brewers: It is tough to know where to put the blame on Braun’s downturn a year ago. The easy math points to the chronically injured wrist that left him barely capable of swinging a bat by mid-season. Yet, it also could just as easily point toward him coming back to earth after getting away from the performance enhancers that both ended his 2013 and perhaps were the stilt to his previous stature. At any rate, this summer is a line in the stand for where Braun finds himself in the game’s hierarchy headed forward.
69. Starling Marte, Pirates: The Bucs' multi-skilled outfielder made major strides in turning his talents into results last year. At 25, he has stolen 70 bases over the past two years, hit 25 home runs, worked for a .286 average and played a rangy left field as well. He is a huge part of why the Pirates’ year to truly break through could be about to take off.
68. Ben Zobrist, Athletics: The game’s ultimate utility man will move west to join a team that will likely not be shy at all about using him any and everywhere to assist its ever-changing image. Regardless of which glove he takes out of the dugout any given day, Zobrist’s three-year averages of 36 doubles, 14 home runs, 66 RBI and an all-always strong .362 on-base percentage assure he’ll give Oakland a steady overall producer across the board.
67. David Wright, Mets: The leader of the Metropolitans has had a tough run with injuries over the past two years, but due to having such a well-rounded talent for impacting so many different parts of the game, it still feels too early to turn the page on him. The seven-time All-Star is still very strong in the field and with a steadily improving lineup in Queens should be able to drive in more runs than he has in years (if his shoulder cooperates).
66. Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals: He put together one of the best under-the-radar seasons of anyone in the majors last year and in the process, underscored where the value is in the WAR stat. Peralta’s 5.8 figure (sixth-best in the NL) was highlighted by a 21-home run, 75-RBI campaign that was underscored by a better-than-acknowledged defensive impact as well.
65. Russell Martin, Blue Jays: He is the quintessential glue guy that does enough of everything behind the plate above average to become indispensable. Martin’s presence played a huge part in propelling the Pirates to two consecutive postseasons, and Toronto paid him $82 million to work the same type of magic to break through the glass ceiling they have faced in the AL East in recent years.
64. Matt Holliday, Cardinals: The ever-steady bat at the middle of the St. Louis lineup got off to a slow start last year, bringing many to question if his best days are behind him. Yet, he still managed to connect for 20 home runs for the 9th consecutive year and finished in the top 15 in MVP voting for the third time in the last five years.
63. Jose Fernandez, Marlins: The brilliant encore to his astonishing rookie year was cut short by an elbow injury that called for Tommy John surgery in May. However, before heading under the knife he extended his career beginning to a 2.25 ERA over 36 starts and notched over 12 strikeouts per nine innings in 2014. If everything goes right he should be back by the second half of this summer to play a part in propelling the rising Marlins club to the postseason.
62. Matt Kemp, Padres: He made his way to the field more times than he had since his MVP runner-up season of 2011 and in the process, proved that his bat still had some substantial punch to it. Kemp topped 25 home runs for the fourth time overall, with 17 coming in the second half, which was tops in NL. San Diego is hoping for him to be the leader of its aggressive resurfacing this summer, where he will be charged with bringing some life to the game’s worst offense from a year ago.
61. James Shields, Padres: While Kemp was the biggest name that headed down to Ron Burgundy’s town, it was Shields who was biggest piece to rounding out the Padre puzzle. Nobody has pitched a more consistently heavy load in recent years. He has averaged 233 innings at a 3.17 ERA since 2011 and provides a much needed frontline presence to have on hand in a division that features Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner.
60. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees: He played his usual superb center field (he is the active career fielding percentage leader for all outfielders) while remaining a persistent threat on the base paths as well, swiping at least 39 bases for the fifth time in eight years. While an upswing in his offensive production could be rightfully asked for, Ellsbury’s 16 home runs and 70 RBI a year ago are still enticingly good indicators that he already set in place in the Bronx.
59. Jered Weaver, Angels: He is proof positive of why results flat out matter as much as style and metrics do. Weaver remains one of the most consistent winners in the game, despite the fact that his velocity continues to drop annually. He has twice led the AL in wins in the past three years, winning at least 18 games in three out of the past four years, while averaging 15 wins a year for his career.
58. Anthony Rendon, Nationals: What he did last year was set the table for what could be the new David Wright with everything he brings to the plate. In his first full season, he played both second and third base at a very high level, while leading the NL in runs scored and hitting 21 home runs and 39 doubles. Rendon was the most important player for the Nationals and will be a centerpiece of what should be the best team the Nationals have ever put forth this season.
57. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals: Carp made his second All-Star team in as many seasons and at as many positions, shifting over from second to third base. The Cardinals’ table setter remained one of the most effective leadoff hitters in the game, leading the NL in walks with 95 and finishing in the top 10 in on-base percentage for the second year in a row as well, while making over 700 plate appearances.
56. Salvador Perez, Royals: It could be argued that while he is not the Royals' best player, he is easily the most important. The 24-year-old already owns two Gold Gloves, two All-Star appearances, carries a career .285 batting average and reached a new career-best with 17 home runs a year ago. This solidifies the fact that he is one of the best at his position in the game, while he is still rounding out his overall game. His potential is frighteningly good.
55. Andrelton Simmons, Braves: It is not hyperbole to say that he is one of the best defensive talents to ever pace the dirt at shortstop. And while at 25 he still has some ways to go before he is mentioned in the Ozzie Smith/Omar Vizquel class of all-time standard bearers, he is off to an incredible start. Between his cannon arm capable of firing 90-plus mile per hour assists across the diamond and the length his athletic 6’2 frame that provides him the power to attack the ball off the bat, there is no one who makes a bigger defensive difference in the game, as his incredible 9.3 defensive Wins Above Replacement over the past two years alone proves.
54. Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox: No matter where he plays in the field, his bat fits right in. The newly returned Red Sox star will take his considerable talents from shortstop to left field this season, which is sure to be a learning process, especially with the Green Monster looming over his shoulder. But if Hanley hangs around his career averages of a .300 average and .873 OPS, any adjustments in the field will be accepted.
53. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals: The prodigious righty is a curious case to take a look at. Due to the unmatched hype he brought to the mound when he was drafted, there are some rumblings that he is underachieving thus far in his career. However, he is coming off a season in which he led the NL in strikeouts, games started and still is yet to have a season with an ERA north of 3.16. His demise is overrated and at the same time, his rise is underrated.
52. Nelson Cruz, Mariners: Coming off of a PED suspension-shortened 2013, the Orioles were able to ink Cruz to a very reasonable $8 million deal to re-establish his place in the game. Cruz replied by leading the Majors in home runs with 40 and silencing even the most determined of doubters about his skill. This winter, he was rewarded with a nearly $50 million raise and a new home in Seattle to apply his now affirmed craft.
51. Ian Desmond, Nationals: He is the three-time defending NL Silver Slugger winner, over such more lauded talents such as Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez, and for good reason. Desmond has hit 69 home runs and driven in 244 runs since 2012, while averaging 20+ stolen bases over the time span as well. For shortstops who show up in the lineup 150+ times a year, he’s the best in the business today.
I'm a firm believer that the closest I've gotten to Heaven is Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. In the meantime til we cross paths again, I'll pass along the gospel of the Field of Dreams here, Cheap.Seats.Please, I70 Baseball, and 'Live From The Cheap Seats'.