Posts Tagged ‘Alex Gordon’

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In recent years, the left field position has been a blend of what makes the other two spots across the outfield significant. It is home a variety of legit corner outfield power threats, but also features a stash of defensively significant, speed based threats as well.

This year is no different, as the position is home to a grouping of diversely talent players capable of changing the game at any part of it. There are standard bearers who change the game defensively first, to an extent that is shockingly impactful from the spot. There is also a blend of true power conduits, who’s first and foremost goal is to punish the seats beyond the wall. There are also extents of true Five-Tool players, who do a little bit –as well as a lot— of everything across all nine innings.

This all adds up to say there are a lot of ways to make it among the elite at a position that calls upon so many different types of players to make their mark for their respective clubs. But it is also a spot that calls for much from its top-tier producers to stand out amongst each other. So with that, let’s have a look at the best of the best at the very diverse position.

To see last year’s rankings of the position, click here.

 

10. Kyle Schwarber, Cubs (Not Ranked in 2015)

2015: .246/.355/.487, 16 HR, 43 RBI, 6 doubles, 52 runs scored, 3 stolen bases, .842 OPS

He made as big of a late season impact as any rookie in the game. After his late season promotion to Chicago, Schwarber made a habit of launching tape measure shots, launching 13 bombs over the final two months of the season. While he did have some adjustment difficulties once the league got a look at him, hitting .143 versus lefties and .214 over the final two months, his ability to change the game instantly was invaluable.

He played his best ball in the postseason, as he hit .333 and connected for 5 home runs, becoming the Cubs’ all-time postseason leader in the process (dwell on that). And as the currently converted catcher continues to get comfortable in left field, he should embark on the currently carved course of becoming one of the most feared power threats in the National League.

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9. Matt Holliday, Cardinals (#7 in ’15)

2015: .279/.394/.410, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 16 doubles, 24 runs scored, 2 stolen bases, .804 OPS

Last 3 Years: .284/.382/.455 15 HR, 73 RBI, 28 doubles, 70 runs scored, 4 stolen bases, .837 OPS

Injuries severely limited Holliday a year ago, as he twice was sent to the disabled list with a quadriceps that limited him to 73 games. And even before the injury hit, his power numbers were drastically down and stayed low on the other side of his late season return, as hit connected for a career-low four home runs at

What did remain elite for Holliday was his on-base percentage however. He had a very strong first half in that regard before his first injury took him out. He posted a .394 mark on the year, which was fueled by his National League-record setting 45 game streak. If Holliday can re-emerge with a strengthened lower body again, he could remain a solid lower middle of the order presence, even if his elite power days are permanently behind him.

 

8. Christian Yelich, Marlins (#10 in ’15)

2015: .300/.366/.416, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 30 doubles, 63 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, .782 OPS

Last 3 Years: .290/.365/.406 7 HR, 38 RBI, 24 doubles, 64 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, .771 OPS

He overcame a very slow start to 2015 to post improvements across the board for a third consecutive year. This included career best in batting average and on-base percentage, while keeping his extra base hit, stolen base and runs scored levels consistent. He is rounding into becoming one of the more talented top of the lineup hitters in the National League, while continuing to play one of the best defensive left fields in the game.

A player that is entering his age-24 season and has continued to increase his power ratios, while not sacrificing his speed and continuing to increase his contact rate and batting average is a dangerously complete player. He matched his Wins Above Replacement level from his strong 2014 in 18 fewer games a year ago.

 

7. David Peralta, Diamondbacks (Not ranked in ’15)

2015: .312/.371/.522, 17 HR, 78 RBI, 26 doubles, 61 runs scored, 9 stolen bases, .893 OPS

Last 2 Years: .301/.351/.492, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 50 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .842 OPS

Peralta made an understated impact at the core of the Diamondback lineup and played a major part in why they became one of the biggest sleeper successes in baseball a year ago. Peralta took full advantage of his first opportunity as a full-time starter, totaling 53 extra base hits, good enough to finish in the NL top 10 for slugging percentage and on-base + slugging. Add in the fact that he also led the circuit in triples as well, and the sudden intrigue that is Peralta is complete—almost.

Peralta’s late emergence as a hitter is due to the fact that he spent most of his early career as pitcher before converting to an everyday outfielder. With A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt hitting ahead of him, Peralta should continue to be fed plenty of at-bats with ducks on the pond to knock in.

 

6. Ryan Braun, Brewers (#7 in right field in ’15)

2015: .285/.356/.498 25 HR, 84 RBI, 27 doubles, 87 runs scored, 24 stolen bases, .854 OPS

Last 3 Years: .279/.346/.479 18 HR, 68 RBI, 24 doubles, 62 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, .825 OPS

Braun will be returning to the position where he originally rose to prominence in 2016, and will also be doing so on the heels of a renaissance year of sorts. Braun’s production had noticeably dipped post-PED suspension and was also fueled by a string of hand injuries. However, he showed a year ago that he still has plenty of hits left in his bat, and more.

Braun pulled his slugging percentage back up to the doorstep of .500, hitting 25 homers and driving in 84 amid a mostly injured and traded away Brewer lineup. He was a presence on the base paths once again as well, swiping 24 bags and scoring 87 runs.

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5. Justin Upton, Tigers (#5 in ’15)

2015: .251/.336/.454 26 HR, 81 RBI, 26 doubles, 85 runs scored, 19 stolen bases, .790 OPS

Last 3 Years: .262/.344/.470 27 HR, 84 RBI, 29 doubles, 85 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, .814 OPS

Despite being saddled with the daunting task of Petco Park for a year, Upton proved that his power was Petco-proof, as he hit 15 of his 26 home runs at home. While never a ‘leading man’ in the sense of driving an offense single-handedly, Upton has been one of the most consistent power sources in the National League since breaking in as a 19 year old with the Diamondbacks. He has hit north of 26 home runs in four of the past five years, and reinserted the speed element back into his game last year as well, swiping 19 bases, his most since 2011.

As he relocates to Detroit this season, he will be hitting in one of the most enviable positions in the game: in front of Miguel Cabrera. An uptick in fastballs should come his way as a result, combined with having Ian Kinsler roaming the bases in front of him, should prove that his decision to bide his time and land with the Tigers could be a very healthy decision for him.

 

4. Starling Marte, Pirates (#3 in ’15)

2015: .287/.337/.444 19 HR, 81 RBI, 30 doubles, 84 runs scored, 30 stolen bases, .780 OPS

Last 3 Years: .286/.345/.446 15 HR, 57 RBI, 28 doubles, 80 runs scored, 34 stolen bases, .790 OPS

Marte’s varied attack upon a game of baseball continued to reach new heights last summer. In addition to his standard issue 30 stolen bases, wide-spanning defensive exploits (for which he netted his first Gold Glove) and .780+ OPS, Marte expanded his pure power and run production numbers as well. He clubbed career-highs in home runs, hits and RBI, while playing a career-best 153 games.

In the Pirates’ relentless offense, Marte has become an indispensable keystone atop the Pirates lineup. However, with the departures of Neil Walker and emergence of Gregory Polanco, Marte will be able to continue his growth as a run producer from the cleanup spot this season. With Polanco, Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen among those that will be ahead of him on a daily basis, Marte could stand to see yet another 20+ runs batted in attached to his 2016 total.

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3. Alex Gordon, Royals (#1 in ’15)

2015: .271/.377/.432 13 HR, 48 RBI, 18 doubles, 40 runs scored, 2 stolen bases, .809 OPS

Last 3 Years: .267/.348/.428 17 HR, 68 RBI, 26 doubles, 72 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .776 OPS

All in all, Gordon, who came in at the number 1 spot on this list a year ago, had a season that mostly lived up to his standard offering last year. He made his third consecutive All-Star Game, was playing the tremendous defensive that has become his calling card and was actually having his best offensive year overall in some time (44 defensive runs saved since 2013). He carries a strong career on-base percentage of .348, and the .377 mark he posted last year would have been a new career high if held over a full season.

However, a nasty groin injury took him out for a month and a half mid-summer, and it took him some time to get back into form. While his defense slid some (he missed out on a fifth consecutive Gold Glove) and his average dipped as well, that was to be expected as he essential rehabbed while still returning to the lineup. Gordon still remains one of the most versatile presences in all of the game, capable of both setting the table and regularly driving in runs as well (87+ runs scored as well as 70+ RBI in each of his past four full seasons). He was worth every penny of the Royals-record contract he inked to remain the face of the franchise and second greatest player in franchise history, and should continue to remain at the All-Star level he has made his custom.

 

2. Michael Brantley, Indians (#2 in ’15)

2015: .310/.379/.480 15 HR, 84 RBI, 45 doubles, 68 runs scored, 15 stolen bases, .859 OPS

Last 3 Years: .308/.366/.462 15 HR, 85 RBI, 39 doubles, 76 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, .828 OPS

Brantley proved that his breakout 2014 season was no fluke, as he continued to hit at an elite level in all of the game last summer. His 45 doubles led the American League, and overall, only Miguel Cabrera and Jose Altuve have hit for a higher average than his .319 since the start of 2014.

Brantley has quietly become one of the best hitters that (cliché time) “nobody talks about”. But over the past two seasons, his effectiveness at the plate has been at an irreproachable level at the position. A patient hitter who gets the most out of his at-bats, Brantley walked nine more times than he struck out last year, while also cutting his K’s while raising his walk total for the third straight year. He also has made the most of his time on base, by also leading the AL in overall doubles and being successful in 38 of his last 40 stolen base attempts. Brantley has 563 total bases over the past two seasons, as he is just a year removed from a 200-hit campaign and a top three finish in the 2014 AL MVP vote.

 

1. Yoenis Cespedes, Mets (#8 in ’15)

2015: .291/.328/.542 35 HR, 105 RBI, 42 doubles, 101 runs scored, 7 stolen bases, .870 OPS

Last 3 Years: .265/.309/.481 28 HR, 95 RBI, 33 doubles, 88 runs scored, 7 stolen bases, .789 OPS

From day one since he broke in with the Oakland A’s, Cespedes has been one of the most freakish athletes in the game, looking better suited to be strong safety in the NFL than a multi-tooled Major League outfielder. But the latter is what he is and few players have the buffet of abilities that Cespedes puts on display on a nightly basis. Whether it be launching the long ball over the fence at a break neck speed, hawking down a ball in the gap or letting loose a laser beam throw to cut down a runner, Cespedes is one of the rare players that can change the game in every aspect possible.

But what he did in he did in his breakout 2015 was a coming of age of sorts for Cespedes turning those tools into an every night impact. After a deadline deal that sent him to the Mets over from the Detroit Tigers, Cespedes produced full-season type numbers in the course of eight weeks. In 57 games, he hammered National League pitching to the tone of a 17 home runs, a .604 slugging % and .942 on-base + slugging percentage. Over course of his time in New York, the Mets’ offensive production increased by three runs per game, the majority reason why they were able to run away with National League East title. MVP’s are not won in two months’ time, but Cespedes certainly made enough people consider it as a rational possibility.

 

Just A Bit Outside: Brett Gardner, Yankees; Khris Davis, Athletics; Melky Cabrera, White Sox.

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

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When you traditionally think of a leftfielder, the first though is most likely overwhelming power. The names of Bonds, Williams and more recently, Belle jump ahead of the pack, however, the today’s game features a more overall balance of producers at the position, more in the vein of Musial or Ramirez from days past. It is a position with some elite line drive hitters, and run creators that do so not just by hitting the ball over the fence, but by destroying outfield alleys as just as much as giving souvenirs away.

The grouping in left is also undergoing a change as well, with two perennials at the position in Ryan Braun and Carlos Gonzalez manning new positions for the upcoming season. Also, there is a new addition to the Rangers lineup that will impact the rankings as well. Regardless, it is a unique mix of producers, that is so balanced across the board that the same ten players could be picked again next season and for the most part, come across in a completely different order, yet still be justified in their standing.

Here are the top 10 players of the day in the outfield corner on the left corner of the field…

10. Mark Trumbo, Diamondbacks: GM Kevin Towers made it a point to add more non-Goldschmidt based pop to his lineup, and he made a solid choice. Trumbo has hit 29, 32 and 34 home runs his first three seasons, while continually climbing his RBI total each campaign as well.

9. Brett Gardner, Yankees: An elite defender and presence on the basepaths, he led the AL in triples a year ago and has stolen 40 bases in two of his last three full seasons. Another centerfielder playing left, he routinely makes the difficult look easy in the outfield.

8. Josh Hamilton, Angels: He had his worst season last summer, seeing his full-season numbers drop across the board. However, he hit 43 home runs just two years ago and in September of last year, the ice finally cracked, as he finished the year with a .323 average.

7. Starling Marte, Pirates: He’s a centerfielder forced into a left fielder’s role due to his MVP counterpart to the side of him. However, the rangy and athletic 25-year-old ran up 41 stolen bases and 10 triples in his first year as a full-time starter.

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6. Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics: He took the Home Run Derby by storm, rapping moonshot after moonshot out of Citi Field, showing the elite power that he uses to make even the massive o.Co Coliseum look small.

5. Justin Upton, Braves: He shot out of a cannon in 2013 like a ‘bat’ out of hell (literally). And while he slowed down considerably, he still finished with 27 home runs and 70 RBI in his Atlanta debut. The talent package keeps coming in flashes, but few are capable of more than he is.

4. Bryce Harper, Nationals: While he has to continue to reel in his effort some to preserve himself, when he’s is all the way there, few are more exciting than Harper. The 21-year-old already has  42 career homers and has topped 20 doubles, 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases in each of his first two seasons—and at ages when most players are in Single or Double A.

3. Shin-Soo Choo, Rangers: He will play his third outfield spot in as many years in his third home in just as many as well. In his one season visit to the National League, he finished second in on-base percentage, where he reached .423% of the time. He versatile Korean has career averages over the past two seasons of 38 doubles, 18 homers, 20 steals and 98 runs scored.

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2. Alex Gordon, Royals: He is by and far the best defensive left-fielder in the game, winner of the past two Gold Gloves for his field exploits, and sporting a gaudy 34 outfield assists since 2012. He is one year removed from an AL-best 51 doubles season and has topped 20 homers and 80 RBI two of the last three seasons.

1. Matt Holliday, Cardinals: He’s been one of the most consistent hitters in the game over his career, and is the hammer in the Cardinals balanced offering. While his defense is taking some noticeable steps back, he makes up for it has a line drive, run producing regular. 2013 marked the eighth straight year he offered at least a .295 average, 30 plus doubles and 20 plus home runs.

 

Just A Bit Outside: Domonic Brown, Curtis Granderson, Daniel Nava

 

For more on the upcoming season, follow me in real time on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more content, head to The Sports Fan Journal and I-70 Baseball.

Super Bowl’s over, so that means its baseball season again. With a week until pitchers and catchers are due in Florida & Arizona, it’s like a holiday around here in the CHEAP SEATS. I can’t wait. So, in order to ring in the year right, I’m ringing it in with the best, 100 best at that. This is pretty straight forward, no?  This is a rundown of the top 100 players in the game for 2012. This breaks down as one part best player/another part biggest impact. It’s going down in four parts over the next week, all leading into the big preview-diction of each division coming into next year.

So no delay, this will explain itself. Here’s numbers 100 down to 76 of the best players in baseball, according to CHEAP.SEATS.PLEASE. Any debate, agreements, oversights, undersights (that can be a word for now), hit the comment box below, let’s get this as “right” as a subjective blog listing can be.

 

100. Stephen Strasberg, Nationals: Probably no player has a chance to appear higher on this same list year as the returning phenom in DC (and not just because the list caps at 100, you know what I mean). The skill to be not just among the best (116 strikeouts in 92 career innings), but THE best is there. He just has to stay on the field now.

A full season of Strasburgmania could be the last step to the Nationals becoming a big deal in the standings as well.

99. Andre Ethier, Dodgers: Last year was a roller coaster for the Dodgers’ right fielder. In the first half, he knocked around a 27-game hitting streak & an All-Star nod. In the second half, he was slowed by a controversial knee injury in the second half, only to still grab his first Gold Glove.

98. Tyler Clippard, Nationals: Perhaps the most versatile pitcher in baseball; he can be an effective starter, a shutdown middle reliever and a late inning door slammer as well. (Numbers)

97. Nick Markakis, Orioles:  His arm gets most of the press, but he top 180 hits for the 5th straight year, and gathered in his first Gold Glove as well.

96. Josh Beckett, Red Sox: The Sox bulldog ace toughed out a train wreck of a season, and he still posted his best ERA of his career and stands to still be the lone dependable starter on the staff again.

95. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays: The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year pitches with the maturity of a man much more seasoned. As a 24 year old, he kept his ERA south of 3.00 over 190 innings, and is a big part of what could be the league’s best rotation.

94. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: After playing in free agency for a while, he landed back in Philadelphia and with a much bigger role. With Ryan Howard out for most of the season & Chase Utley still rounding back into form, his production and consistency will be crucial to Phils staying in the mix in the new look NL East.

93. Josh Johnson, Marlins: The stuff is all there, the team is forming around him and now all the Marlins’ ace needs is his health to rejoin the party as well. He was lights out the first nine starts last year, posting a 1.64 ERA before a shoulder injury took him down.

92. BJ Upton, Rays: All the tools (23 homers, 36 steals), but just as many lows (.243 avg/161 strikeouts) as highs. He’s at the age (26) where it could all come together, and this promise is what keeps Tampa’s faith in him so strong. If he finds a way to put it all together, he could have a vintage Alfonso Soriano-type run.

It's no secret that Upton has the tools. He's at the age where the mental could match them.

91. Heath Bell, Marlins: Had yet another 40 save year in his last summer in San Diego, reaching 43 a year ago. The Marlins are hoping he can be an anchor for a team that is gear towards competing right away, and that he extends a prime that has seen him be an All-Star the last three years a bit longer.

90. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians: Injuries kept Choo from ever really making a huge impact in the Indians’ revival last summer, but if he can regain his 2009-10 form, which he averaged a .300 average and 20 homers with 21 steals, the Indians may close the gap.

89. Joakim Soria, Royals: His ERA rocketed up over two runs from the year before, but I’m taking that as an anomaly and that Soria will be back to his usual dominant self this season. That would mean a 38 save year with a 1.86 ERA, his three-year average before last year.

88. Jay Bruce, Reds:  Votto & Phillips get the headlines, but Bruce is making history in right field in Cincinnati. He became the 3rd fastest player in MLB history to reach 100 home runs in September.

87. Pablo Sandoval, Giants: The Panda got his kick back last year, and is back on pace to become one of the truly complete hitters in the game again. He rebounded from a rough 2010 & a broken hand early in 2011 to hit .315 and a first trip to the All-Star game.

86. Derek Jeter, Yankees: He isn’t what he used to be, but he’s far from washed up as well. The Captain made his biggest headlines for his 3,000th hit, but in the midst of it all he still swung the stick at a .297 pace for the other 161 hits he got last year.

He's not the same Derek Jeter that built the legend he is now, but this incarnation isn't too bad either.

85. Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies: As a new Phillie, Pap will take on the job of cleaning up any mess that baseball’s best rotation may leave on the table for him. Having the fastest pitcher to ever reach 200 saves is a bonus to any club.

84. David Ortiz, Red Sox: Big Papi followed up his renaissance season by both hitting over .300 and topping 100 RBI for the first time since ’07. He’s another guy that’s playing for both a contract and even a bit of respect this year after settling on a one year deal to hang around Boston.

83. Hunter Pence, Phillies: Steady does it here: he hit exactly 25 homers for three consecutive years before dipping to 22 last year. To pick up the difference, he hit a four year high of .314 and cut down 11 runners, showing off one of the best arms in the business.

82. Carlos Beltran, Cardinals: He’s lost some speed, but at the plate he’s still an all-around (and balanced) threat. He’s found new life as a right fielder, and will be yet another weapon to the World Champions in St. Louis.

81. Jonny Venters, Braves: In his first two years in Atlanta: a 1.89 ERA & an average of 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings are his resume. And he’s doing this with maximum exposure: his 85 appearances led the Majors in 2010.

80. Alex Gordon, Royals: The long wait for the coming of age of Gordon finally ended in 2010. In first full year in leftfield, he led the MLB in outfield assists with 20 and brought home a Gold Glove. At the plate, he raked in 45 doubles, 23 homers and picked his batting average up 88 points to .303.

In the course of one summer, Gordon went from near bust prospect, to all-world. At a new position no less.

79. John Axford, Brewers: He proved he was no fluke, and led the NL in saves with 46 in first full season. Overall, he’s locked down 71 of his 76 save chances over his first two years, and will bring a streak of 43 consecutive closed into 2012.

78. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals: Mike Rizzo traded a boatload of prospects to Oakland for the young lefty, and for good reason. Over the past two seasons, he’s averaged 16 wins and 201 innings despite not yet turning 26 and playing for some subpar A’s teams.

77. Matt Cain, Giants: No premier pitcher gets less support than Cain does annually (just over 3 runs a night last year), but he still turned in his second year of a ERA under 3.00 in the last three years. Yet still could only net 13 wins out of 33 starts.

76. Mike Napoli, Rangers: Few players turned it up like Napoli did last year. He went from afterthought trade piece to perhaps the best hitter in the World Series. Overall, he hit .320 and knocked out 30 homers. He’s arguably the best hitting catcher in the game now.

75……

 

I’m back with #75 thru 50 bright and early next week, so get your debating minds together and get ready to walk it down to #1 right here. Follow me on Twitter in the meantime if you just can’t wait at @CheapSeatFan.

For the third consecutive week there is a change at the top as the young season sorts itself out, yet three of the top five spots feature teams that have remained there from the beginning of the season still. In a surprising turn, the AL Central remains the top division by representation in the top half of the poll, with 4 of it’s 5 teams ranked 12 or better, while it’s defending champ is nowhere to be found for quite a while. The ever-changing AL West is on the rise as well, while the NL Central continues to be a mess that changes it’s look daily.

Behind the combined effort of guys like Astrubal Cabrera (and his AL leading 14 RBI), the Indians are cruising.

Enough with the intros though, here’s how all 30 MLB teams are looking from the CHEAP SEATS, and which hitters and pitchers are the best at what they do currently below. (Sorry for the lack of pics, technical difficulties set in. Be better again next week)

1. Rockies (5): The hottest team in baseball makes a play to move to the top of the charts this week, which is what six wins in one week will do for you. Troy Tulowitzki is picking up right where he picked up last year, and what is most scary is that their ace Ubaldo Jimenez was on the DL the entire time. He returns this week, so their reign at the top may not be short lived.

2. Phillies (2): Cy Young…er…Roy Halladay is cruising along, and now Cliff Lee (3 hit, 12 strikeout shutout on less than 100 pitches vs. the Nationals) is getting into the act as well. However, will their advantage continue to be as potent as it is if Roy Oswalt’s back injury forces him to join the numerous other out of action Phils?

3. Yankees (4): Another weekend, another big series for the Bombers. This time they took some revenge out on the Rangers from last year’s ALCS loss, taking 2 of 3 last weekend. However, Alex Rodriguez had his first injury flare up of the season, so stay tuned to them as well.

4. Indians (7): The keep winning (an AL-high 11 wins), and thus remain as the biggest surprise of the young season. And now they sit upon the top of the AL Central, with their biggest talent in Grady Sizemore, returning to the lineup finally.

5. Angels (12): Dan Haren and Jared Weaver seem to have forgotten how to lose, and the Halos took  5 of 6 match ups with the White Sox and Indians this past week as a result.

6. Rangers (1): They fall from #1 after a tough week on the road against the Yanks and Tigers, losing both series. What’s more is than losing any of those games is that they lost MVP Josh Hamilton to a broken arm in the process. They have to rally to ensure this past week isn’t the constant result with him out the mix.

7. Royals (8): Is it too early to say what’s happening in Kaufmann is legit? After thumping Felix Hernandez around (5 runs in 5 innings) this weekend, and still not having lost a series yet this season, the time may be now for the Royals already.

8. Reds (6): They remain atop the bland NL Central, but after an easy early slate, tussle with the Cardinals (maybe literally…) and another showdown with the D’Backs await. An early proving ground is on deck for this club.

9. Giants (14): The steady rise of the champs continues, as they haven’t lost a series since the season opener vs. the Dodgers. They took 2 of the 3 against their old rivals last week in a rematch of that series for good measure.

10. White Sox (3): Home isn’t always where the heart is apparently. The Sox dropped 5 of 6 six games at the Cell last week, including two extra inning affairs with the A’s, before being swept by the red hot Angels over the weekend.

11. Marlins (18): The Fish stood their ground in matchups within the East last week, taking 3 of 5 against the Phillies and Braves, and showing they won’t be an easy out this year.

12. Tigers (24): Fortunes swung in the Tigers favor finally this season, and they won the close ones, building a four game winning streak of games decided by 2 or less runs.

13. Orioles (9): Ugly week for the O’s, dropping all five contests they took the field for, albeit against some tough comp in the Yanks and Indians. But 5 L’s is still 5 L’s.

14. Athletics (17): Their bats woke up some finally, and gave their pitchers a chance to win some games. They don’t need much support, and when they get it they don’t waste it.

15. Cardinals (26): Their west coast swing continued last week, with much better results overall in Arizona and LA. Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols combined for 10 homers to fuel a 5 win week, as they move into second place in the NL Central.

16. Nationals (23): A weekend sweep of the Brewers took the Nats over .500 and continued their early season success that’s made them one of the more surprising NL teams early.

17. Blue Jays (10): They had back-t0-back showdowns with struggling Boston and Seattle clubs, yet only 2 wins to show from it. Their pitching has the wake up, and in a hurry.

18. Brewers (13): What gives? After rounding into shape after a slugging start, the Brewers are right back where they began. A weekend sweep at the hands of the Nationals leaves them as one of the biggest question marks in baseball.

19. Braves (20): Freddi Gonzalez’s club can’t pull it together for any consistency so far, with a pair of two game winning streaks being the most the frequent efforts they’ve been able to muster so far.

20. Padres (19): San Diego is struggling to find their identity so far this year. They traded wins and losses all week after dropping their first two contests of the week against the Reds.

21. Dodgers (11): Matt Kemp’s walk-off home run on Sunday saved them from a four game sweep at home at the hands of the Cardinals, but they tumbled down the NL West standings last week during a five game losing streak.

22. Rays (30): After as bad of a start as can be imagined, with no offense to be spoken of, the Rays blew up on the scene last week. After a 16 run Monday in Boston, they began a 5 game winning streak that was sparked by a 3-homer week from Johnny Damon.

23. D’Backs (15): They lost and won slugfests vs. the Cardinals early in the week that more resembled an NFC West showdown between the two cities than National League baseball. That same offense alluded them in the weekend however, losing a series vs. the Giants.

24. Cubs (25): Scored an impressive win on Saturday, ending the Rockies 7-game winning streak, but it came in the midst of more inconsistency from the club. They alternated wins and loses all week, and continued to struggle to find an identity early on.

25. Red Sox (16): The Sox continued to try to find a way to remedy their early season woes, which even included benching Carl Crawford and hitting Jed Lowrie and J.D. Drew lead off. It’s still too early to panic, but it’s definitely time for some concern on what exactly is going on here.

26 . Pirates (21): The Bucs continue to spring some surprising victories (such as winning their weekend series against the Reds), but continue be just as liable to do that as they are to not show up entirely (outscored 10-1 in two L’s vs. the Brewers early in the week).

27. Mariners (29): They ended their 7-game skid with two wins versus the Jays, but then handed 3 of 4 to the Royals over the weekend as a follow up.

28. Astros (28): Still have managed to land consecutive victories all season, which explains why they remain in the cellar of the NL Central.

29. Mets (25): The 7-game losing streak the rode through most the week is the longest in the NL all year, and their offense could desperately use Jason Bay right about now, as he continues his minor league rehab work.

30. Twins (27): Paging Joe Mauer, Paging Joe Mauer….your Twins need you badly. They served as the “Get Right” match up for the Rays, who were in this spot last week, and have already bumped closer Joe Nathan from the ninth inning, after he has blown three games already with an ERA that’s over 8.00.

M-V-ME: The best of both Leagues thus far

N.L.: Troy Tulowitzki: The Rockies have taken off once again in the same style he finished last season in. His 7 home runs lead the Major Leagues, and he has been the catalyst in a seven-game win streak that has made Colorado the standard bearer in the West by 5 games.(Runners Up: Joey Votto, Matt Kemp)

A.L.: Alex Gordon: Is this what we’ve been waiting for here? After years of being heralded as the savior for the Royals, the second coming of George Brent even, Gordon is having a tremendous season. He is one of several KC bats that is filling up box scores nightly, but he gets the nod over all others because he is top 5 in average, FBI & runs scored, and leading in doubles. Considering he’d all but been left for dead coming into this year, this is a great sign for the guys in blue.(Runners Up: Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera)

KINGS OF THE HILL

N.L.: Roy Halladay. More of the same from Doc. He carried a shutout into the ninth inning against the Nationals before surrendering a few runs, but still held on for his first complete game victory of the year. Coming into play today his 1.23 ERA tops the NL.(Runners Up: Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw)

A.L.: Jared Weaver. More of the same from Weaver, who is pairing with Dan Haren to be the most intimidating 1-2 punch in all of baseball so far. He became the first pitcher to reach 4 wins, and is in the top 5 of virtually every significant pitching stat.(Runners Up: Dan Haren, Josh Beckett)