Over the past few seasons, left field has been a position that has undergone a lot of overhaul. Former cornerstones of the position such as Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton and Shin-Soo Choo have moved on to other positions, while others who were holding the torch have seen declines in their value. There are also new presences at the position due to further relocations and emergent youngsters as well.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Arizona Diamondbacks

Overall, it is the most varied position in all of the outfield, where there are elements of bat-first presences, defensively-minded contributors, speed threats and then the blend of a bit of them all. But one thing that is for certain is that each of these players play a major part in the balance of their specific club and the potential of their team’s hangs in the balance of their singular play.

No pressure though, huh?

1. Alex Gordon, Royals (#2 in 2014): His impact on the game is more complete than it really appears at first look. First of all, no outfielder makes a bigger defensive impact on the game. A winner of four consecutive Gold Gloves, Gordon saved 25 runs in left last year, nine more than any other player at his position and saved 37 in full over the past two years. He also has 25 outfield assists as well, which is a right field caliber impact that changes the game with right-handed batters at the plate. Add on the fact that he hit 19 home runs and reached base at a .351% clip, and it seals the fact that he is one of the most uniquely impactful players in the game.

2-year average: .266 average/.765 OPS/20 home runs/78 RBI/30 doubles/11 stolen bases/.995 Fld%

2. Michael Brantley, Indians (Not Ranked): He had the biggest everyday breakout of 2014, as he put together all of the tools he had shown in flashes to become one of the best all-around performers in the game. Brantley finished second in the AL with 200 hits, while finishing in the top five in doubles (45), batting average (.327), on-base percentage (.385) and added in a 20 home runs, 23 stolen bases and 97 RBI for good measure as well. This was all good for a 7.0 WAR figure and a heighted expectation of epic proportions for 2015.

2-year average: .307 average/.813 OPS/15 home runs/85 RBI/36 doubles/20 stolen bases/.993 Fld%

3. Starling Marte, Pirates (#7 in ’14): He shook off a dreadfully slow start to pull together a fantastic all-around year. The 26-year-old outfield hawk (who is playing out of position in left due to who is the centerfielder on his team) set career-high marks at the plate nearly across the board. His .291 average, 144 hits, 56 RBI, 13 home runs and .808 on-base + slugging % were all high water marks. And considering he hit .348 after the All-Star break, those totals are far from fairly representative of the level he could be at this summer.

2-year average: .286 average/.796 OPS/12 home runs/46 RBI/28 doubles/36 stolen bases/.968 Fld%

4. Jayson Werth, Nationals (#10 in right field in ’14): Werth continued his pivotal all-around effort for the Nationals a year ago, topping a .290 average for the third straight year, while driving in 82 runs, scoring another 85 himself and providing some solid pop as well. He will swap spots with Bryce Harper on the corners of the DC outfield for the upcoming year, which will suit each player’s particular skill set even better.

2-year average: .304 average/.887 OPS/20 home runs/82 RBI/30 doubles/10 steals/.986 Fld%

5. Justin Upton, Padres (#5 in ’14): The Padres needed to find someone that could create an offensive spark at the core of their lineup, and Upton fits that bill perfectly. An owner of four seasons of 25 or more home runs and fresh off the heels of a career-best 102 RBI effort, it seems strange that he is still only 27-years-old. But he won his second Silver Slugger in 2014 for his wall banging feats, and is the type of hitter who’s power

2-year average: .267 average/.826 OPS/28 home runs/86 RBI/30 doubles/8 stolen bases/.975 Fld%

6. Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox (#2 at shortstop in ’14): He is one of the toughest players to peg his positional value down to this year, because a) his health is always a factor in his potential impact and b) he has never played outfield before. But all things considered, Hanley remains one of the game’s most impactful talents when he is firing on all cylinders. After resisting permanent change from shortstop for so many years, it became necessary for him to cash in on his total free agent value, which he did with the Red Sox. The Green Monster should vibe well with propensity for line drives, so Hanley could have a huge impact on AL race this year—pending on availability, of course.

2-year average: .308 average/.907 OPS/16 home runs/64 RBI/30 doubles/12 stolen bases/.960 Fld% (SS)

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7. Matt Holliday, Cardinals (#1 in ’14): It was a tale of two halves for Holliday in 2014, who struggled to a very un-Holliday like .263 average during the first three months of the year. He rebounded for a solid finish to the year, and posted some more familiar totals of 20 home runs, 90 RBI and 37 doubles however. While Holliday is showing some signs of decline, he has far from passed his days as an above-average presence in the Cardinal attack.

2-year average: .285 average/.843 OPS/21 home runs/92 RBI/ 34 doubles/5 stolen bases/.983 Fld%

8. Yoenis Cespedes, Tigers (#6 in ’14): He continued to be a source of terrifying power in 2014, winning a second Home Run Derby, while making his All-Star debut. Between Oakland and Boston, Cespedes hit 22 home runs and drove in a career-best 100 runs. He also made a home on highlight reels for some incredible throws from outfield, many of which contributed to the MLB-best 16 outfield assists he totaled as well.

2-year average: .251 average/.744 OPS/24 home runs/90 RBI/28 doubles/7 stolen bases/.978 Fld%

9. Melky Cabrera, White Sox (Not Ranked): He had a statement year in his final one spent north of the border, hitting .300 for the third time in four years. Cabrera also connected for 16 home runs, 73 RBI and 35 doubles, all runner up numbers to previous career bests. He will join the White Sox resurgence this year and be a vital part of a potentially exciting top of the order with Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu.

2-year average: .293 average/.761 OPS/10 home runs/52 RBI/25 doubles/4 stolen bases/.992 Fld%

10. Christian Yelich, Marlins (Not Ranked): The freshly minted 23-year-old began the process of living up to his touted potential in his second season on South Beach. He announced his presence as a fantastic glove wielder, winning the NL left field Gold Glove, working up the most wide-spanning range factor at the position in the league and contributing six outfield assists as well. In addition, he hit .284 and put his speed on display offensively swiping 21 bases while connecting for six triples as the Marlins’ leadoff man.

2-year average: .285 average/.765 OPS/6 home runs/35 RBI/21 doubles/16 stolen bases/.998 Fld%

Runners Up: Corey Dickerson, Brett Gardner, Khris Davis, Evan Gattis

For more on the best of the best in baseball, stay tuned here. For more in the moment words, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

The shortstop position is undergoing a renaissance of sorts currently. While it is still showing higher levels of offensive potential than it has in many other eras of the past, it has also begun to turn back to defense first position where a limited offensive output is okay in favor of covering acres of land in return.

Troy-Tulowitzki-739

The guard is changing in regards to the faces at the position as well. Gone is Derek Jeter to retirement and Hanley Ramirez to left field in Boston. But while the long-time top of the market guys are out, there are more team than not that will run out very strong shortstop play on a day-to-day basis, proving the fact that it is one of the deepest pools to access talent within the game today.

While there are easily 15+ names that could make a legit case to be featured in the top 10, the ones that made it are all excelling at the art of making a high-end contribution at some part of the game. But be wary of the field, because just like there are four new faces in this year’s top 10 six-holers, there could be even more that breakthrough a year from now. It is truly a great time to see some superb shortstop play.

 

1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (#1 in 2014): Tulo has this spot on reserve, and for good –but frustrating— reasons. He proved last year that he far above reproach from any other shortstop (and potentially any other position, period) in the game….when he is out there. His ability as an overall contributor is nearly unparrelled in the game today, as his nearly 6 Wins Above Replacement in just 91 games shows. Before his season ended in August due to hip issues, the now 30-year-old was preparing to run away with the National League MVP. But despite the fact he just cannot stay on the field from start to finish, what he does when he is there is both so brilliant and so much better than anybody else at the position today, Tulowitzki remains the easy choice for best in the biz.

2-year average: .323 average/.974 OPS/23 home runs/67 RBI/72 runs scored/1 stolen base/.988 Fld%

2. Ian Desmond, Nationals (#2 in ‘14): Desmond continues to put on a brilliant all-around display of talents for the Nats. He won his third consecutive NL Silver Slugger after hitting 24 home runs and driving in a career-best 91 runs. He added on 24 stolen bases as well and registered his third consecutive 20-20 season. He is entering his walk season and is in great position to cash in in a major way.

2-year average: .267 average/.764 OPS/22 home runs/86 RBI/75 runs scored/22 stolen bases/.967 Fld%

3. Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals (#9 in ’14): He was the most constantly productive bat for the Cardinals a year ago, leading the team in home runs and finishing second among NL shortstops in RBI as well. Peralta also turned in a better than advertised season in the field, which when combined with his expected offensive impact saw him finish with an impressive 5.8 WAR figure.

2-year average: .280 average/.794 OPS/16 home runs/65 RBI/56 runs scored/3 stolen bases/.986 Fld%

4. Andrelton Simmons, Braves (#7 in ’14): He’s an unparalleled defensive maestro up the middle. Long and instinctive presence, blessed with a power arm and uncanny accuracy as well, he can range from third base to well onto the second base side with equal ease. While Simmons’ offensive game took a slight step backwards in 2014, it really is of no effect to his value simply because he is so great of glovesmith. He is the cornerstone of the Braves team going forward and the type of talent that easily holds down a Gold Glove spot for a decade.

2-year average: .246 average/.657 OPS/12 home runs/52 RBI/60 runs scored/5 stolen bases/.979 Fld%

5. J.J. Hardy, Orioles (#5 in ’14): The Orioles knew that they did not want for Hardy to see the free agent market this winter and locked him in early to a $50 million extension smartly. That is because Hardy has been one of the most consistently productive shortstops in the game since reaching B-More in 2011. He took home his third Gold Glove in as many years last summer and is only two years removed from a Silver Slugger as well.

2-year average: .265 average/.712 OPS/17 home runs/64 RBI/61 runs scored/1 stolen base/.980 Fld%

Jose-Reyes1

6. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays (#3 in ’14): It seems like he’s not doing the things he actually is because he is not tearing up the bases for 70 steals or taking home batting titles anymore, but in reality Reyes has remained a very productive player, when healthy. And that was exactly that in 2014, playing 143 games and notching 175 hits, 30 stolen bases and a .287 average.

2-year average: .290 average/.747 OPS/10 home runs/44 RBI/76 runs scored/22 stolen bases/.969 Fld%

7. Alcides Escobar, Royals (Not Ranked): He has been one of the best defenders up the middle for years, but struggled with consistency at the plate. He found that regular, traditional-style of shortstop stroke in 2014, hitting for a .285 average and stealing 30+ bases for the second time as well. His glove work was a major reason for the Royals’ success, and entering his age 28 season, Escober looks primed to rise among the AL’s elite at SS.

2-year average: .259 average/.625 OPS/4 home runs/51 RBI/66 runs scored/26 stolen bases/.977 Fld%

8. Starlin Castro, Cubs (Not Ranked): Castro seemed to rediscover his way last year and played an expectedly vital role in the Cubs uptick in success as a result. The he raised his average up past .290 and made his third All-Star visit in five years as well. While his future at the position could be time sensitive, with the Cubs deep farm system pushing at his back, Castro certainly has reaffirmed his place among the team’s most vital presences for the time being.

2-year average: .265 average/.696 OPS/12 home runs/54 RBI/58 runs scored/6 stolen bases/.970 Fld%

9. Erick Aybar, Angels (Not Ranked): Despite being a past Gold Glove winner and a 2014 All-Star, Aybar has somehow remained regularly underrated. However is contributions to the Halos last year played a major part in the success of the team taking the AL West. He reached double digits in steals and 30 doubles for the fourth straight year, while leading all AL shortstops in WAR at 3.9.

2-year average: .275 average/.692 OPS/6 home runs/61 RBI/72 runs scored/14 stolen bases/.977 Fld%

10. Brandon Crawford, Giants (Not Ranked): He is one of the best rhythm players in the game, meaning that for what his stat line may lack, he makes up for in the bottom line of team productivity. Crawford is a supremely talented defender that is the engine that pushes the Giants’ team-first output across its infield. The 28-year-old became a more diverse offensive presence as well in 2014, driving in 69 runs with 20 doubles, 10 triples and 10 home runs, along with a career-high .304 World Series batting average.

2-year average: .247 average/.693 OPS/10 home runs/56 RBI/53 runs scored/3 stolen bases/.970 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Alexei Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, Elvis Andrus, Jimmy Rollins

James Shields’ run along the free agent road has begun to reach a marathon-like duration at this point. The durable righty sits as the last of the premiere open air options from a winter that is quickly turning towards spring. He has watched the other top shelf pitchers that joined him in this year’s free agent party take home a combined haul of over $360 million over the past few months, while he has remained the question without a clear answer now into February.

Shields_

At this point he is all but assured that he will not get that same caliber of contract for himself, but as Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse and Ervin Santana have proved in recent years, a late stay on the market does not mean that a worthwhile check and home cannot await still.

But at this point, the favor is in the hands of the teams that get serious in pursuit. Shields has proven that he is not a true staff ace, in form of one that carries the weight of a creating a win every fifth day in the form of a Kershaw, Hernandez or Wainwright. But he still is a very good second option for any number of rotations or being a de facto #1 in a deep rotation, such as he has in Kansas City and Tampa over the course of his career.

The 33-year-old has averaged 14 wins a year with a 3.17 ERA and just a hair over 200 strikeouts per season over the past four years. But his calling card has been his incredible durability. He has made at least 31 starts over the past eight years and has logged an average of 223 innings person, while totaling 22 complete games and nine shutouts along the way. In a world where high-volume pitcher health is a constant source of worry, Shields has proven to be a high-volume exception to that source of worry.

So for whatever the reason may be for Shields still being homeless for the time being, whether it is a refusal on his side to drop his price to an intriguing level for his suitors, or there not being any teams left that want to cut a substantial commitment at this point in the offseason, he remains a potentially pivotal acquisition for many teams.

With the clock counting down on the offseason, here are a few intriguing options that should look into Shields working out a pact to acquire one of the game’s top workhorses for the immediate future.

Boston Red Sox: Boston has been aggressive this offseason, making nine acquisitions over the winter to pull themselves out of the cellar of the American League East. Three of those additions have been Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson to their starting rotation, which is a substantial commitment to a win-now team’s shot at getting back to October, but still feels a bit short. Shields is the type of top half of the rotation presence that would pull up the potential of their current ensemble significantly and affirm their buzzing status as a fifth-to-first candidate team.

Chicago Cubs: They are the team that is carrying the most expectations out of the offseason into the spring, and while they have done exceptional work, signing Shields would be resoundingly loud finish to their shopping spree. A Lester-Shields one-two punch gives them one of the most formidable rotation in the National League and an invaluable weapon against the deep NL Central lineups.

Chicago White Sox: The Sox have been just as active as their National League neighbors to the North, but in many ways, their moves could have a more immediate impact in the weaker AL Central. Adding Shields to a rotation with Chris Sale, Jeff Samardijiza and Jose Quintana pushes them from players to perhaps favorites in their division.

New York Yankees: Anytime the Yankees say they are going to sit out the big name market in any given year, it is immediately disregarded as posturing simply because, well, they are the Yankees. They can have anything they want. But Brian Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner have been men of their frugal (by Yankee standards) word this year thus far, passing on more than a few high dollar, solid fit free agents. But if Shields price and contract length demands drop, he becomes nothing short of a must-have for a Yankee team that is short on dependable options in its starting rotation, but carrying its usual high expectations.

San Diego Padres: The Padres have been rumored to be in on checking on Shields, which is not surprising considering they have been the hungriest team in the league all winter. But despite having a very talented pitching staff as is, they still lack a pure top talent that can match wits with the likes of Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner, both of whom their tightest division rivals wield. An addition of Shields would solve a big problem, although it could present a problem in bidding for the cost conscious Pads if Shields is still in position to demand $16MM+ per year.

Seattle Mariners: The M’s have been aggressive in the open market over the past two years, and it paid off last year with them pushing for a postseason spot until the season’s final day. While they have a strong pitching staff already in tow, adding Shields gives them a clear cut powerhouse staff. Plus they would not have to surrender a first round pick as compensation, as they have already sent that to Baltimore for

St. Louis Cardinals: They have been a part of everybody’s dot connecting with big name starting pitching this year, due to the fact that they have a competition in place for the fifth starter role. Naturally Shields has been a part of that association as well, and while there is an intriguing mix of need and fit in the mending Cardinal rotation, the team has not shown much interest in involving itself in the big money free agent market.

Toronto Blue Jays: Toronto has made some smart moves in attempting to close the elusive postseason they have been aimed on for the past two years. However their pitching staff overall leaves much to be imagined in making that a reality. The addition of Shields to anchor the staff perhaps overplays his potential impact as a top of the rotation presence, but he adds a much need talent to a team that is still a few pieces away.

 

For more on the MLB race to spring training in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @cheapseatfan.

The scene at third base around the Major Leagues has undergone an extreme amount of overhaul over the past few seasons. Many impact players such as Ryan Zimmerman, Martin Prado and Miguel Cabrera (who moonlighted for two years on the hot corner) have relocated to other spots. At the same time, multi-tooled infielders such as Matt Carpenter, Anthony Rendon and Josh Harrison have settled in on a full-time basis at the position as well. Add this in with a few mainstays that have long been considered among the premiere properties at the position and you have a melting pot of names manning the position.

A_Beltre

It has also been a position that has seen many emergent talents, as well as breakthrough youngsters hit the position as well. All of these things combined have made it the ranking that has seen the most shakeup from last year headed into the next. Even contention for the top spot has gotten tighter and tighter over the past 12 months.

But all players here make a diverse contribution to their team, from being dynamic leadoff hitters to being the face of the organization—and hitting at the heart of its lineup. There is something for everybody on the hot corner these days.

 

1. Adrian Beltre, Rangers (#1 in 2014): He remains largely underappreciated, while putting up the type of numbers that others get more shine for doing much less. Beltre is a year removed from hitting .324, his third consecutive year of at least a .315 average. He also crossed over the 500 double and 2,500 hit marks for his career, one that is on the way to hitting multiple Hall of Fame worthy totals. He finished in the AL top three in average, on-base percentage and Wins Above Replacement, where he put up a well-rounded split of 5+ offensive Wins and 1.5 defensive as well. He’s remains a stunningly complete, sleeper of a star.

2-year average: .319 average/.880 OPS/24 home runs/84 RBI/32 doubles/84 runs scored/.963 Fld%

2. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays (#6 in ’14): Very few players can see their average drop by nearly 50 points, but not see their value take much of hit, but then again everyone can’t do what Donaldson can. He followed up his 2013 breakout campaign by hitting 29 home runs and driving in 98 runs. In addition to his often jaw-dropping pop, he also led all MLB third basemen in defensive Runs Above Replacement, at a stunning 2.7, while still sporting the second widest range factor in the game.

2-year average: .277 average/.840 OPS/26 home runs/96 RBI/34 doubles/91 runs scored/.956 Fld%

3. Evan Longoria, Rays (#2 in ’14): After annually battling injuries for a couple of years, Longoria has become a mainstay in Tampa again and replied with a solid 2014 effort. He hit 22 home runs and drove in 91 runs, while playing in all 162 games. Over the course of these feats he became the Rays all-time leader in homers and RBI, as well as doubles.

2-year average: .261 average/.783 OPS/27 home runs/90 RBI/32 doubles/87 runs scored/.969 Fld %

4. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals (#5 in ’14): He did not duplicate the eye popping numbers he did at second base in 2013, but Carpenter remained one of the game’s better leadoff hitters during his shift back to the hot corner all the same. The ever-patient catalyst reached base at .375 clip, while leading the NL with 95 walks, to go along with 162 hit and 99 runs scored. Along the way he made his second All-Star team in as many years and at as many positions.

2-year average: .296 average/.813 OPS/10 home runs/68 RBI/44 doubles/112 runs scored/.958 Fld%

5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals (Not ranked): He did everything the Nationals needed last year, from being a fill in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman to being a plus producer as a second baseman as well. By the time it was all said and done, Rendon had led the National League in runs scored (111), while hitting 21 home runs, 39 doubles and stealing 17 bases, good enough for a Silver Slugger and a top-5 MVP finish.

2-year average: .279 average/.788 OPS/14 home runs/59 RBI/31 doubles/76 runs scored/.913 Fld%

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6. David Wright, Mets (#4 in ’14): He is at a crossroads entering 2015, as both of his last two seasons have been cut short by injury. The difference is that one was a very productive one (2013), while last year was not by any means. But it is still too early to write off Wright, who at age 32 still has a lot of baseball ahead of him. It is show and prove time for the Mets captain.

2-year average: .286 average/.791 OPS/13 home runs/60 RBI/26 doubles/58 runs scored/.963 Fld%

7. Kyle Seager (Not ranked): 2014 represented a coming into his own for Seager, as he set career highs in each of the triple crown categories (.268/25/96) and won the AL Gold Glove as well. He’s just entering his prime and is slated to play a big part in the Mariners recent aggressive rebuild project for a long time, as he was inked to a seven-year, $100 million extension coming out of his breakout campaign.

2-year average: .264 average/.776 OPS/24 home runs/82 RBI/30 doubles/75 runs scored/.972 Fld%

8. Nolan Arenado, Rockies (Not ranked): He’s a defensive wizard; winner of two Gold Gloves in his first two seasons and his bat is beginning to follow in fine suit as well. Arenado ran up a 28-game hit streak early in 2014, and also grew his home run total by 8 and his batting average by 20 points. This is what a star in the making looks like.

2-year average: .277 average/.764 OPS/14 home runs/56 RBI/32 doubles/54 runs scored/.966 Fld%

9. Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox (Not ranked): The Panda had a record breaking October, setting a World Series record of hits in route to his third championship and followed it up with a big check to take his talents to Boston. The steady swinging switch hitter should transition nicely to Fenway, and should see his best days ahead of him.

2-year average: .279 average/.748 OPS/15 home runs/76 RBI/26 doubles/60 runs scored/.955 Fld%

10. Todd Frazier, Reds (Not ranked): He became a first-time All-Star in 2014 as he carried the injury ravaged Reds offense. He connected for 29 home runs, drove in 80 runs and even stole 20 bases as well. Also a solid hand in the field, Frazier is more valuable than ever in Cincy.

2-year average: .254 average/.760 OPS/24 home runs/76 RBI/26 doubles/76 runs scored/.970 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Aramis Ramirez, Manny Machado, Josh Harrison, Trevor Plouffe

 

Second base is always home to diverse spread of talents. From speedsters, to glove-first space swallowers and a few outright power conduits, there is something for everybody on second.

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With all things considered however, the position is experiencing a deeper than normal talent pool around the league. There will be several players that are both major award winners and even All-Stars from a year ago that struggled to make the final cut for this year’s top 10 or missed it altogether. Yet most likely, when I turn my attention to the overall Top 100 players in the game in March, there could be 10-13 second basemen that make it. It is just that deep of a talent pool right now.

So without any further delay, here are the top 10 second basemen in the game. With plenty of shake up, but still starting in the same place it annually does….

1. Robinson Cano, Mariners (#1 in 2014): He has been the best in the business at his position for the last half-decade, and one year into his tenure in Seattle and there are no signs of that changing yet. While his power numbers took the expected Safeco dip, Cano turned in his usual outstanding overall offering at the plate. He turned in his sixth-straight year over .300, while stealing a career high of 10 bases as well. He annually makes a 6+ level of Wins Above Replacement impact and shows no signs of wavering at age 32.

2-year average: .314 average/.868 OPS/20 HR/94 RBI/39 doubles/188 hits/.989 Fld%

2. Ian Kinsler, Tigers (#6 in ’14): He has long been one of the most productive second basemen in the game, but Kinsler turned in one of his finest performances to date in 2014. Atop the potent Tiger lineup, he set new career-highs in hits (188) and RBI (92), while scoring 100 runs, hitting 17 home runs and 40 doubles. Tack on a fantastic defensive campaign as well, and he solidly reaffirmed himself as the best non-Cano second sacker in the game.

2-year average: .276 average/.740 OPS/15 HR/82 RBI/36 doubles/15 stolen bases/.983 Fld%

3. Jose Altuve, Astros (#10 in ’14): The Houston’s mighty mite leader had a huge breakout campaign in 2014, leading the MLB in batting average (.341) and hits (225), while topping the AL in stolen bases with 56. He played a part in pulling the Astros out of the abyss they had sat in over the past three years and made his second All-Star Game over the span as well.

2-year average: .313 average/.756 OPS/6 HR/56 RBI/39 doubles/46 stolen bases/.986 Fld%

4. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (#2 in ’14): While his offensive took a slide in ’14, he remains perhaps the best infield defender in the game today. The rangy and fearless Pedroia took home his second Gold Glove in as many years, raising the overall total to four for the former MVP, Rookie of the Year and two-time World Champ. If he can uptick his batting average back up closer to his career average of .299, the BoSox will be in a much better place.

2-year average: .290 average/.752 OPS/8 HR/68 RBI/38 doubles/12 stolen bases/.995 Fld%

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5. Ben Zobrist, Athletics (#5 in ’14): The ultimate utility man has made his frequent home at second base over the past two years, so he’ll check in here once again. And while he does not have one particular area that he produces an eye popping result in, he does everything at a steady pace. He reached 150 hits, 30 doubles, 10 home runs, 50 RBI, 10 stolen bases and a .350 on-base percentage for the fourth straight year, and will bring a much needed steadying presence to his new home in Oakland.

2-year average: .273 average/.753 OPS/11 HR/62 RBI/35 doubles/10 stolen bases/.986 Fld%

6. Howie Kendrick, Dodgers (#8 in ’14): He will be switching sides of town from Anaheim to Chavez Ravine this summer, but it would be a safe bet to count on Kendrick to keep up the same steady—and annually underrated—level of play. He set a career-high in hits (181) and tied-RBI (75), while topping .290 for the second straight year.

2-year average: .295 average/.758 OPS/10 HR/64 RBI/27 doubles/10 stolen bases/.983 Fld%

7. Neil Walker, Pirates (Not Ranked): He swings a bat that is border line out of place at his position. Walker connected for 23 home runs and taking home the National League second base Silver Slugger. He became the Pirates cleanup hitter over the course of the year in response to his more powerful bat, and is also one of the most effective fielders in either league up the middle as well.

2-year average: .262 average/.784 OPS/20 HR/64 RBI/24 doubles/2 stolen bases/.990 Fld%

8. Chase Utley, Phillies (Not Ranked): He put the game on notice some a year ago that he still had it, and turned in the sort of well-rounded performance that is befitting of himself at this point in his career. Playing in the most games he has since 2009, Utley drove in 78 runs, posted 36 doubles and rebounded well from a horrendous 2013 in the field. In the process he reaffirmed the fact that while he no longer is the MVP-candidate he was early in his career, he still is at an All-Star caliber level.

2-year average: .276 average/.781 OPS/14 HR/74 RBI/30 doubles/9 stolen bases/.978 Fld%

9. Jason Kipnis, Indians (#4 in ’14):Injuries stole much of Kipnis’ thunder he carried coming in last season, but he remains a diverse talent capable of impacting a game in many ways. He has stolen 83 bases over the past three years and if he gets his power stroke back, Kipnis could be the final piece the emergent Indians need to return to the postseason.

2-year average: .263 average/.735 OPS/12 HR/62 RBI/30 doubles/26 stolen bases/.985 Fld%

10. Brian Dozier, Twins (Not Ranked): Dozier followed up a noticeable jump forward in his second season with a major one in year three. He joined the 20/20 club by taking 23 balls over the fence and swiping 21 bases, while scoring 112 runs as well. All in all, he is on the verge of beginning to push for All-Star notice, even within the current crowded second base scene in the AL.

2-year average: .243 average/.745 OPS/20 HR/68 RBI/33 doubles/18 stolen bases/.986 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Dee Gordon, D.J. LeMahieu, Brandon Phillips, Daniel Murphy

Picking the top first baseman in the game is always a tough equation, simply due to the fact that there are so many of them that a team’s lineup is built around. Ideally, it is the prime source of power on a club, but in many cases it is also the home of a team’s top overall bat.

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That is the case here again, as the group that falls in as my selections for the top 10 1B’s in the game is so deep that in couldn’t include winners of a Gold Glove or batting title at the position just a year ago. With the exception of starting pitcher, there is no position where the standard is higher to be considered an elite, top 10 level performer. The average return among the upper half of this list alone is a season of turning in a .300 average, with 31 home runs, 107 RBI and a .921 OPS, which is a stunning level of production to be regularly tied to in more than one category.

Yet that is what it takes to walk among the best at the position, which puts less of a premium on anything other than raw production than any other place that requires a glove in the game. So with no further delay, CSP’s selections for the top 10 first baseman in the game headed in the spring of 2015.

 

1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (#1 in 2014): Miggy’s average is far above what most anybody else alive—or dead—is capable of reaching in their best years. And it turns out that even his down years are also a cut above what most others are capable of. He battled a bone spurs and a fracture in his foot all year, but still made it to the field 159 times. And in the course of it all he led the American League in doubles with 52, while finishing in the top ten in 11 different categories and second in extra base hits with 78. The game’s best bat has proven itself slump proof.

2-year average: .329 average/.983 OPS/34 HR/123 RBI/192 hits/73 extra-base hits

2. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (#2 in ’14): A freak hand injury ended his 2014, but in just over 100 games he was on pace to shatter what he had achieved the year before when he finished second in the National League Most Valuable Player vote. There is no better overall first baseman in the game than Goldschmidt, who is capable of swiping a bag and is a Gold Glove fielder as well. If he can string together a few more full years at the level he is at now, he’ll be the quick answer to best first baseman in the game.

2-year average: .302 average/.946 OPS/28 HR/97 RBI/152 hits/68 extra-base hits

3. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers (#9 in ’14): Gonzalez quietly is one of the most regularly productive run producers in the game. He has topped 100 RBI in five consecutive years and led the NL for the first time in the category a year ago. Add in the deft fielding that brought him a fourth Gold Glove as well last year, and he is one of the game’s most complete properties.

2-year average: .284 average/.810 OPS/24 HR/108 RBI/167 hits/64 extra-base hits

4. Jose Abreu, White Sox (Not Ranked): He blew up on the scene as a rookie, becoming an All-Star, Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger winner and the AL leader in slugging percentage in his first go around. Abreu checked in among the top five in all of the Triple Crown categories and set quite a high expectation for his curtain call this year.

5. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays (#8 in ’14): No one has averaged more home runs over the past two years than Encarnacion has. The 32-year-old Dominican has kept his on-base + slugging figure north of .900 each of the past three years and has also stayed in the top three of home runs-per-at bat since 2012.

2-year average: .270 average/.903 OPS/35 HR/101 RBI/136 hits/65 extra-base hits

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6. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs (Not Ranked): No player made a stronger statement of arriving on the scene than Rizzo did a year ago. He pulled his average up by 50 points and hit a career-best 32 home runs, figures which were impressive enough to net him a top 10 finish among NL MVP voting. He also covers a stunning amount of ground in the field, making him one of the rare first basemen that can impact the game with his legs, glove and arm as well. All of this and he does not turn 26 until August.

2-year average: .258 average/.822 OPS/28 HR/79 RBI/146 hits/64 extra-base hits

7. Joey Votto, Reds (#2 in ’14): He is coming in off of a down year where he only made it to the field 62 times due to a quadriceps injury, and it is the second time in three years his season has been clipped. But when he is healthy he is one of the most productive batters in the game, having been the most frequent baserunner in the National League from 2010-13, sporting a .434 OBP during the stretch.

2-year average: .291 average/.891 OPS/15 HR/48 RBI/116 hits/40 extra base hits

8. Freddie Freeman, Braves (#7 in ’14): He took a step back from the huge step forward he took in 2013, but Freeman still is one of the most productive young hitters in the game and the now clear cornerstone of the Braves franchise. He finished second in the NL in doubles (43) and has reached 175 hits each of the past two years.

2-year average: .303 average/.871 OPS/20 HR/94 RBI/176 hits/58 extra base hits

9. Prince Fielder, Rangers (#6 in ’14): It is a turning point season for Fielder, who never got off the ground in his first year in Arlington. He was one of the many Rangers who lived on the disabled list, and on the heels of a severe downturn towards the end of his Detroit tenure, it is reasonable to wonder if he is more name than performance value now. But considering he has never had a full season where he did not hit at least 25 home runs, he has earned a bit more benefit of doubt.

2-year average (’12-’13): .295 average/.878 OPS/28 HR/107 RBI/178 hits/62 extra base hits

10. Albert Pujols, Angels (Not Ranked): It’s not fair to call it a comeback, but Pujols settled into a groove that showed he far from out of gas in 2014. He hit 28 home runs, 37 doubles and drove in 100 RBI for the 12th time in his 14 year career, while also hitting his 500th home run at age 34. He is not the St. Louis model of himself that assured himself a plaque in Cooperstown, but he is still an impact bat for the Halos.

2-year average: .267 average/.781 OPS/22 HR/84 RBI/136 hits/50 extra base hits

 

Runners Up: Justin Morneau, Eric Hosmer, Adam LaRoche, Joe Mauer

 

Catcher is a position that is tough to define in terms of what makes one particular player more valuable than the next, simply because so much goes into making up a great catcher. Is it how he handles a bat or how he handles his pitching staff? Is it the impact he makes on cutting down base runners or his glove work? Do inherent leadership intangibles play into it or is it just raw production?

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There is much to be considered when checking the stock of the position around the game, but for certain there is a plethora of types of catchers making their impact around the game currently. The best of which make an elite contribution in at least two different areas, followed by a group that may be elite in one and then another that specializes in doing one better than the others.

Headed into 2015, there are seven players that appeared on this list a year ago, which shows the fact that it is a cornerstone position. Basically, when a team gets a good catcher, it is smart to hang on to them. Of the three debuting backstops, each is coming out of his third full season and is on the heels of a breakout season.

Here are the top 10 players behind the dish headed into 2015 for CSP, with their rank from the previous year included:

 

1. Buster Posey, Giants (#2 in 2014): It has been and ebb and flow for who is the top backstop in the game between Posey and Yadier Molina over the past few years, but Buster inched forward to the top again in 2014. The glue to game’s most cohesive unit in San Francisco, when Posey turned it on, his team rode the momentum all the way to a third World Series in his six year career. He hit .354 after the All-Star break and finished fourth overall in the National League with a .311 mark.

2-year average: .303 average/.838 OPS/18 HR/80 RBI/162 hits/.993 Fld%/30% CS

2. Yadier Molina, Cardinals (#1 in ’14): His defensive capabilities at this point have hit legendary levels. Yadi won his seventh consecutive Gold Glove and second Platinum Glove awards in 2014, when he cut down an MLB-best 48% of would-be base stealers. Only Ivan Rodriguez and Johnny Bench have taken home more of the honors than him at this point. Since 2007 with his presence in tow, the Cardinals have experienced 50% less stolen base attempts than the MLB average. That is the mark of an elite game-changing presence.

2-year average: .303 average/.784 OPS/10 HR/59 RBI/138 hits/.997 Fld%/45.5% CS

3. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers (#7 in ’14): He broke out in a major way last summer and firmly entrenched himself as arguably the best offensive catcher in baseball. He led the MLB in doubles with 53, and in the process set a single-season record for catchers, with the 46 that came while he was behind the plate. Overall he hit .301 on the year and finished fourth in the NL MVP vote.

2-year average: .291 average/.817 OPS/16 HR/76 RBI/161 hits/.993 Fld%/23.5% CS

4. Salvador Perez, Royals (Same in ’14): His walk-off single that started the Royals record run through the postseason was his highlight moment of the year, but Perez was the most important mainstay for the Royals in 2014. He led all catchers in games started behind the plate with 143, and won his second Gold Glove in as many years in the process. He also drove in 70 runs for the second straight year and hit .333 in the World Series.

2-year average: .275 average/.722 OPS/15 HR/74 RBI/148 hits/.992 Fld%/33% CS

5. Russell Martin, Blue Jays (#10 in ’14): He was one of the most sought after properties on the free agent market this year simply for the fact that he is the quintessential multi purpose catcher. He does a bit of everything well: he makes a staff better, plays at a Gold Glove-level with the glove, provides clubhouse leadership and swings a dependable bat. If he can work the same magic in Toronto that he did in Pittsburgh, the Jays will have finally found their elusive missing piece to get into the American League East race.

2-year average: .256 average/.764 OBP/13 HR/61 RBI/104 hits/.996 Fld%/28% CS

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6. Matt Wieters, Orioles (#5 in ’14): He was off to his best year as a pro before elbow surgery shortcut his 2014, hitting .308 over 26 games. Now he faces a return behind the plate on the mend from Tommy John surgery, but with a pedigree that includes three-All-Star appearances and two Gold Gloves by the age of 28, it is not a bad bet to make that Wieters will be able to rediscover his way.

2-year average (’12-’13): .247 average/.726 OPS/22 HR/81 RBI/127 hits/.995 Fld%/37% CS

7. Brian McCann, Yankees (#3 in ’14): It would be fair to say that he had a down year in first season in pinstripes due to the fact that he posted a career-lows in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS, but in reality he still had a solid season. He led all American League catchers in home runs (23) and RBI (75) and an upswing is reasonable to expect in 2015.

2-year average: .242 average/.735 OPS/22 HR/66 RBI/103 hits/.996 Fld%/30.5% CS

8. Yan Gomes, Indians (Not Ranked): Probably the member of this list that flies the furthest under the radar, Gomes is credited as calling one of the best games behind the plate in the American League and was a major reason for the success of the understated Indian rotation. In addition, he led all AL catchers in WAR at 4.4 and was second in both home runs (21) and RBI (74) at the spot as well.

2-year average: .284 average/.801 OPS/16 HR/56 RBI/110 hits/.993 Fld%/36.5% CS

9. Devin Mesoraco, Reds (Not Ranked): He had been touted as their catcher of the future for a few years now, and Mesoraco came into his own in 2014. The 26-year-old connected for 25 home runs and worked a .359 on-base percentage in his first year as a full-time starter, despite missing time in early in the year due to injury. He also made his All-Star debut and recently notched a $28 million dollar extension as incentive to keep it up.

2-year average: .257 average/.782 OPS/17 HR/61 RBI/91 hits/.995 Fld%/27% CS

10. Derek Norris, Padres (Not ranked): Although he was a part of a time share with John Jaso a year ago, Norris turned in some very respectable figures in his third year. He reached All-Star status while sporting a .270 average and connecting for 10 home runs in just over 442 plate appearances. He also carried the lowest catcher’s ERA in the AL at 3.14, and will inherit a talented new staff in San Diego to work with as well.

2-year average: .260 average/.760 OPS/10 HR/42 RBI/84 hits/.993 Fld%/21.5% CS

 

Just Outside: Miguel Montero, Cubs. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies. Kurt Suzuki, Twins.