Coming into 2015, “rebound field” may be the better way to view the group that inherits this list, as much of its population is in flux in one way or another. Whether it be an injury rehab, a positional relocation or simply reestablishing some stock that had taken a shift over the past few years, the position is far from solid in terms of determining its hierarchy.

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But with so many different factors weighing in, how does a true ranking really get determined? There are some clear impact players that register on any board, such as the NL’s MVP runner up, a pair that finished 1-2 in a prior MVP race that are now retooling their respective games, the game’s most brimming potential talent, and finally, the biggest defensive difference maker in the game. But each has a caution flag and point to prove entering the year as well, making it as difficult to decipher group as there is in the game.

But all things considered, it is an enticingly talented group that IF most of its inhabitants can perform up to their billing; it will be a complexity of a much different type to readdress around this time next year.

 

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins (#8 in 2014): He unleashed nearly his full potential a year ago, in route to establishing himself as the game’s top power threat. His 37 home runs led the National League, as did his .555 slugging percentage and 299 total bases. Stanton’s unfortunate run in with a Mike Fiers’ fastball to his face stopped him short of running his output even higher, but that did not stop the Marlins from rewarding their 25-year-old cornerstone with the largest contract in sports history.

2-year average: .271 average/.904 OPS/30 home runs/84 RBI/28 doubles/7 stolen bases/.975 Fld%

2. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays (#5 in ’14): For the first time in three years, Bautista was truly back to full strength in 2014, and he returned to stand among the top of the American League hitter’s food chain. His 35 home runs were the fifth most in the league and he took home his third career Silver Slugger as a result. One of the underrated parts of his game is the impact his arm makes as well, as his 12 outfield assists were tops among all MLB right fielders.

2-year average: .274 average/.896 OPS/32 home runs/88 RBI/26 doubles/6 stolen bases/.981 Fld%

3. Bryce Harper, Nationals (#4 in left field in ’14): Again plagued by injuries throughout the regular season, Harper played a career-low 100 games a year ago. As a result his numbers dipped across the board and even made a few people question his still sky high potential. But the then 21-year-old was one of the few live wires in the Nats Division Series versus the Giants, clubbing three huge home runs and instantly reminding everyone of why he carries the rep he does. And he’s only 22 and settling into a new position—while finding his way.

2-year average: .273 average/.815 OPS/16 home runs/45 RBI/17 doubles/6 stolen bases/.987 Fld%

4. Hunter Pence, Giants (#9 in ’14): As well, due to his quirky mannerisms and awkward style, Pence’s play is one of the most underrated parts of what sets the Giants apart. His 106 runs scored were the second most in the NL, while his 180 hits were the third most in the league. Pence turned in a .444 World Series average to top it all off as well. He has also been stunningly consistent—and therefore regularly agitating for opponents and rival fans alike—playing in all 162 games each of the past two seasons.

2-year average: .280 average/.799 OPS/24 home runs/86 RBI/32 doubles/18 stolen bases/.983 Fld%

5. Jason Heyward, Cardinals (Not Ranked): The multi-talented corner outfielder has spun between heart of the lineup presence and back up to patient table setter over the past few years while looking to develop an offensive identity. But one thing that has remained intact is that he arguably makes the biggest defensive outfield impact in the game. In route to winning his second Gold Glove, he counted for 30 runs saved in the field and cut down nine base runners from right as well.

2-year average: .264 average/.752 OPS/12 home runs/48 RBI/24 doubles/11 stolen bases/.998 Fld%

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6. Matt Kemp, Padres (#6 in center field in ’14): There was so much discussion about how long he would stay in LA last year, as well as how long he could stay healthy, that it was lost in the mix that he put up his best season in years along the way. Kemp made the transition to the corner outfield and hit 25 home runs, drove in 89 runs and tied a career-high with 38 doubles. Now his encore season will be cast as the the center attraction in the Padres aggressive facelift effort.

2-year average: .281 average/.810 OPS/16 home runs/61 RBI/26 doubles/8 stolen bases/.971 Fld%

7. Ryan Braun, Brewers (#1 in ’14): Braun slipped to career-low levels for a majority season’s work during his return to the field from the despicable season-ending suspension. But considering what he was before his two injury and suspension filled 2013-14 campaigns, along with some solid, yet unspectacular numbers a year ago (19 home runs, 81 RBI, 30 doubles) he still deserves some benefit of the doubt for a revival.

2-year average: .275 average/.805 OPS/14 home runs/60 RBI/22 doubles/8 stolen bases/.993 Fld%

8. J.D. Martinez, Tigers (Not Ranked): He figured it all out in a major way after making it to Detroit last year, hitting 23 home runs, turning in a .315 average and filling a much needed void in offense in the evolving Tiger lineup. His rapid ascension could cause some skepticism, but Martinez only hit south of .340 during one of the year’s final four months, when he turned in a .265 August mark….only to return with a season-high .354 in September. So he passes the smell test for now.

2-year average: .289 average/.808 OPS/15 home runs/56 RBI/24 doubles/4 stolen bases/.985 Fld%

9. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies (#5 in center field in ’14): 2014 was a total loss for Cargo, hitting .238 and missing over half of the season’s games after finally succumbing to a bad knee that required August surgery. But he stays relevant simply because of what he is capable of when right, which has included Gold Gloves in two of the last three years and four consecutive years of 20 homer/20 stolen base seasons.

2-year average: .276 average/.864 OPS/18 home runs/54 RBI/19 doubles/12 stolen bases/.986 Fld%

10. Torii Hunter, Twins (Not Ranked): Consistency pays out big after a while, and the recent late career groove that Hunter has been in is a remarkable one to watch. The now 39-year-old has refused to decline, and his offensive production is at nearly the same level it was a decade ago. And now as he returns back to his original home with the Twins, it should not be a surprise that does far more than just be a veteran influence on his young teammates.

2-year average: .295 average/.783 OPS/17 home runs/84 RBI/35 doubles/4 stolen bases/.982 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Michael Cuddyer, Jay Bruce, Carlos Beltran, Kole Calhoun

As it has for as long as the game has existed, center field is the home of some of the best-rounded talents in the game. It takes a blend of being able to do it all to be truly considered one of the elite players at the position, and currently there is an especially gifted group manning the position.

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In each of the past two seasons, a center fielder has won a league Most Valuable Player nod. And it would be fair to say that there are multiple favorites to bring yet another MVP to position this year. Due to this surplus of talent, ten spots are nowhere near enough to capture all of the significant players at the heart of the outfield. Even an All-Star from a year ago that had a downturn in the second half of the season failed to make his way onto the list. Thus is the nature of one of the game’s most competitive spots.

Yet with that being said, let us take a look at the players that did make the cut. Starting with a duo that most likely populates the top five of the best players in the game, regardless of position.

 

1. Mike Trout, Angels (#1 in 2014): He won his elusive MVP –or as elusive as one can be for a 22-year-old – a year ago, and did it by attacking the season in a completely different way than he had in his previous two years. Trout played the part of heart of the order producer instead of all-world table setter that he had in his first two seasons, and the results lead to yet another stunning display of complete dominance. He connected for a career-best 36 home runs and 111 RBI, while leading the AL in runs scored for the third consecutive year. When coupled with his 39 doubles, 9 triples, superb base running and solid outfield play, there is no wonder why he is now firmly entrenched as the game’s top talent.

2-year average: .305 average/.964 OPS/32 home runs/104 RBI/39 doubles/24 stolen bases/.994 Fld%

2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (#2 in ’14): He followed up his MVP 2013 year with another comprehensively brilliant year. He led the NL in a varied platter of measures including on-base % (.410), on-base + slugging % (.952), total runs created (130), extra base hits (69) and offensive Wins Above Replacement level (7.8). Toss in the fearless range he shows defensively and the leadership model he puts on, and there is perhaps on one more complete player than him—maybe.

2-year average: .316 average/.931 OPS/23 home runs/84 RBI/38 doubles/22 stolen bases/.981 Fld%

3. Adam Jones, Orioles (#4 in ’14): Mr. Consistency was at his usual high standard again last season, right in the 30 home run, 100 RBI, .280 average neighborhood again (a true split of .281/29/96, to be exact), while playing to a third straight Gold Glove in the field as well. Jones is the understated MVP of the O’s, who drove them towards their American League East Title on the strength of his dependable everyday output.

2-year average: .283 average/.795 OPS/31 home runs/102 RBI/32 doubles/10 stolen bases/.989 Fld%

4. Carlos Gomez, Brewers (#7 in ’14): The ever-excitable Gomez has continued to round into one of the game’s top all-around talents, with a rare blend of power and speed that is unleashed at a moment’s notice. He topped 20 home runs for the second consecutive year, while swiping 30 bases for the third straight campaign. He remains on the short list of best defensive outfielders alive as well, capable of reaching any part of his mid-field terrain with the same ease.

2-year average: .284 average/.838 OPS/24 home runs/73 RBI/30 doubles/37 stolen bases/.987 Fld%

5. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers (#4 in Right Field in ’14): Puig made the shift over from right out of necessity last season, and for the time being he profiles to stay there. But with his freakish athletic gifts, there is really nothing he can’t do, as his diverse offering across the board showed last year. He turned in 37 doubles, 9 triples, 16 home runs and 11 stolen bases, as well as 15 total outfield assists with his cannon of an arm (8 from center). While the process of him finding harmony in using all of his gifts is a work in progress, the talent is undeniably tantalizing.

2-year average: .305 average/.888 OPS/18 home runs/56 RBI/29 doubles/11 stolen bases/.949 Fld%

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6. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees (#3 in ’14): His first year in pinstripes did not necessarily live up to the lofty standards that his contract may have brought on, but at the same time it was far from a lost year as well. He played his usual lockdown center field, leading the AL in range factor at the position. Offensively, his batting average dropped to a personal full-season low, but he still swiped 39 bases, hit 16 home runs, which contributed to his AL-best power x speed ratio (most home runs multiplied by stolen bases).

2-year average: .285 average/.764 OPS/12 home runs/62 RBI/29 doubles/46 stolen bases/.994 Fld%

7. Lorenzo Cain, Royals (Not Ranked): Cain’s defensive contributions played a huge part in the overall success of the Royals, and he was mostly robbed of a Gold Glove by Jones’ reputation this past year. But he made his talents clearer than ever before, topping both .300 and 20 stolen bases for the first time in his career, then revving it up to a sensational .333 postseason average as well. A star may be being born.

2-year average: .278 average/.708 OPS/4 home runs/50 RBI/25 doubles/21 stolen bases/.996 Fld%

8. Marcell Ozuna, Marlins (Not Ranked): The middle portion of the Marlins dynamic young outfield had a powerful first full-season in 2014. He popped 23 home runs and drove in 85 runs, while playing a very solid defensive campaign as well. Ozuna contributed eight outfield assists, and while he is the least decorated of his outfield mates, his potential is just as exciting.

2-year average: .268 average/.746 OPS/13 home runs/58 RBI/22 doubles/4 stolen bases/.988 Fld%

9. Denard Span, Nationals (Not Ranked): The always steady leadoff man and uber-consistent defender had perhaps his most notable season to date a year ago. He turned in a .302 average and 31 stolen bases, as well as a career-best 39 doubles and .416 slugging %. In addition, he tied as the NL leader in hits with 184, although that was the lowest full-season league leading total since 1988.

2-year average: .290 average/.739 OPS/4 home runs/42 RBI/34 doubles/26 stolen bases/.995 Fld%

10. Juan Lagares, Mets (Not Ranked): He is the most exciting outfielder to watch in all of the game and perhaps since Jim Edmonds and Andruw Jones roamed MLB outfields a decade ago. Lagares can flat go get it and has one of the most impressive CF arms the game has seen in years, so the 25-year-old was correctly honored with his first Gold Glove a year ago. While his offensive output is still developing (his on-base% increased by 40 points last year), he is talented enough in his specialty to have made a 5.5 WAR figure based mostly on his defense alone.

2-year average: .262 average/.669 OPS/4 home runs/40 RBI/22 doubles/10 stolen bases/.983 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Charlie Blackmon, Adam Eaton, Jon Jay, A.J. Pollack

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.

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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%

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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.

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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.

Cano14

 

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%

zobrist-ben

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