It’s getting close to the real now. In the first two parts of CSP’s ranking of the Top 100 players in baseball today, there’s been a mixture of giving props to up and comers, some rehabbing stars, as well as some generally solid All-Star caliber players.
No more of that now.
It’s time to crack the Top 50 now, and it’s about to get personal. These are the all-time greats that are still solidifying their legacies, along with the franchise players that are the building blocks of their teams, and even a few guys who are putting the finishing touches on redefining the MLB record books. This is the definition of bleacher talk; of really kicking up the debate in the Cheap Seats.
From here on out it’s all about MVPs, Cy Young’s, World Series heroes and crème de la crème of young, future franchise cornerstones. Speaking of which, let’s get right into a few of those right now….
50. Eric Hosmer, Royals: Is it too early for the Royals first baseman to be this high up, even after a rookie year with a .293 average, 19 homers & some sharp D? Well, watch him play for a bit and you’ll figure it out. This is more prediction than review, so check this again in September and it will make obvious sense.
49. Buster Posey, Giants: Let’s define valuable really quick. In 2010, before he came up, the Giants were lodged in third place in the NL West. After Posey was promoted to the Show, they won the World Series. Last year, up until his season was ended due to a broken leg in May, the Giants were in first place…only to finish eight games with him out from behind the plate. This, my friends, is value.
48. Adrian Beltre, Rangers: With his cannon arm & super reflexes, Beltre is the best defensive third baseman in the game and a thief of anything hit in general area. He’s also a destroyer of anything left over the plate from his stomach up; he’s launched 82 doubles & 60 homers over the last two summers.
47. Ian Kinsler, Rangers: Few players can do more than he can when he’s right. After an odd power outage in 2010, he cracked an extra 23 homers over the fence last summer to hit a career high 32. For good measure, he added 32 stolen bases too and joined the 30-30 club for the second time in three years.
46. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals: Tommy John surgery kept Waino off the mound after the first week of Spring Training last year. Before that, the most devastating curveball in the game didn’t see a win total south of 19 or an ERA north of 2.66 over the past two years.
45. Brian Wilson, Giants: The Beard and the over the top personality get headlines, but forget all of that: this guy can bring it on the field way better than off, and that’s saying something. He went over 35 saves for the fourth straight year, despite two trips to the Disabled List.
44. Carl Crawford, Red Sox: His debut in Boston was underwhelming and winter surgery will keep him down for the beginning of ’12, but don’t let that cloud the truth: this is the best athlete in the game. There’s something about the five seasons over 50 steals and .293 career average that tell me he’ll be back and just fine.
43. James Shields, Rays: Shields went vintage a year ago, and a season the guys from the 60’s had to approve of. He finished what he started 11 times, with four shutouts in the mix as well. All along the while “Complete Game James” held down a 2.82 ERA. Somewhere Gibson, Seaver & Carlton are getting some hope for the youngsters.
42. Chase Utley, Phillies: Injuries have taken away some of the dynamic that made him one of the best overall in the game a few years back, but there are still few that can do what he does at second base. This year with Ryan Howard out for most of the year he’ll have a chance to pull right back into the league’s elite by keep the Phil’s offense going.
41. Yadier Molina, Cardinals: He’s been the unquestioned best defensive catcher in the game since Pudge Rodriguez for years now, but in 2011 with his .305 average and even a bit of power, he’s beginning to make legit claim to be the best overall backstop today as well.
40. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: The scrappy heart of the Red Sox does a bit of everything to beat you. He had the best fielding rating of any second baseman in the game, swatted 21 homers & put together a 25 game hitting streak and knocked in a career-high 91 RBI. Not bad for a guy barely scraping 180 pounds.
39. Brian McCann, Braves: He’s been steadily moving along the path to this truth for a few years, but now it’s finally official: McCann is the best hitting catcher in the game. He’s topped 20 homers five of the last six years, and made an All-Star visit each year as well.
38. Mike Stanton, Marlins: Of all the young power hitters in the game, none are in Staton’s class. In his 250 games he’s hit 56 out of the park. That’s good for a rate of one per every 15.6 times at-bat. And he just turned 22 in November.
37. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: One of the smoothest gloves and purest bats in the game (also the owner of both a 30 game hit & a 43 game on-base streak). For a long time, they were put to no use due to prolonged struggles of the Nationals. Now the team is on the rise, and his talents will finally see some competitive spotlight.
36. David Wright, Mets: He’s one of the sole survivors of the Cash Money Mets of the late 2000’s, but despite a few injuries, few can do what Wright does all over the field. He’s bested 100 RBI in five of his eight years, and is only the second third baseman to enter the 30/30 club.
35. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals: Carp had a slow starting season (didn’t get his first win until June), but I’d say it’s pretty fair to say he made up for it. In elimination games in regular season, Divisional Series & World Series: his line? 24 innings, 2 runs, 19 strikeouts. 3 wins, a 0.83 ERA and two complete games.
34. Michael Young, Rangers: The year started off with him being forced off third base and into the DH role. How did one of the classiest players in the game respond? By leading the AL in hits in route to a career-best .338 average, as well as passing the 2,000 hit plateau.
33. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: He’s done everything there is to do, and is apparently coming into the year in the best shape he’s been in in some years. Right on time too, as he’s paced to become the third player to pass 650 homers as well as 2,000 RBI this year.
32. Brandon Phillips, Reds: He’s a bit of talker, but he backs it up on repeat. The complete package, he’s been an nearly equal amount of trouble with the bat (130 HR) as he’s been on the bases (139 steals) & who’s took home the last two Gold Gloves at his spot as well.
31. Matt Holliday, Cardinals: He battled every injury possible last season, but Holliday is still among the best hitting outfielders in the game, and proved it again last year. A career .315 hitter, he’ll inherit the #3 spot in the Cardinals lineup this year and could be prime for a career year.
30. Jared Weaver, Angels: He raced out to MLB record six wins in April, and really never looked back. He finished that year .1 runs away from an ERA championship and begins this one atop the rotation for the retooled Angels. Not that he needed too much help as it was.
29. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: Cargo netted an $80 million contract for one & a half year’s work. Why? Because there aren’t many better overall talents than the 26 year old outfield, who has a batting & hits title, along with a Gold Glove while splitting time at two outfield positions, to his credit already.
28. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks: Isn’t it great when potential becomes real? Upton treated the D’Backs to such a reality last year, where after years of “if’s”, “when’s” & “maybes” turned into 31 homers, 21 steals, 39 doubles & leading a last-to-first NL West championship.
27. Jose Reyes, Marlins: The game’s most dynamic leadoff hitter took his talents to a new level a year ago, winning his first batting title, while doing it with a familiar style (16 triples, 31 doubles & topping 35 steals for the seventh time). Now he’ll take that style to South Beach and try to bring the new look Marlins up to his speed.
26. Curtis Granderson, Yankees: If I showed you a season that reads “41 homers, 119 RBI, 136 Runs, 25 steals & 10 triples” then told you to name the New York centerfielder who owns that performance, a reasonable answer is Willie Mays. But you don’t need to go that far back to match the incredible performance to its owner, who mans the Yankee outfield here & now.
Next week, we’re bring it around third and breaking down the Top 25 players in the game today. Until then, follow me go completely crazy over spring training starting over on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.