Posts Tagged ‘Josh Donaldson’

 

May 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) throws to first base in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Third base has been a position that has been fairly set for the past few years. The elite have been elite and have kept their head firmly in the clouds of the position. However, it is now a spot that is under siege from a new generation of stars. It could be argued that no position has seen more top end impact from the new blood of the league than third base, which has led to a redefining of the Top 10 list this season.

However, those mainstays are not going down without a fight. While injuries have taken the starch out of some formerly great players such as David Wright, while others like Aramis Ramirez have retired and even more have peaked and declined such as Ryan Zimmerman, Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval, there is a strong veteran core that is mixed in among the upstart prodigies in the group.

So how does it all sort out? One thing for sure, there has been a hostile takeover within the top 5 of players far south of seeing their 25th birthday.

To see where the full list stacked up last season, click here.

 

10. Evan Longoria, Rays

2015: .270/.328/.435, 21 HR, 73 RBI, 35 doubles, 74 runs scored, .764 OPS

Last 3 Years: .264/.331/.446, 25 HR, 84 RBI, 33 doubles, 83 runs, .776 OPS

Longoria’s production is not once what it was, this is blatantly true. He has not hit 30 home runs since 2013, nor has he driven in 100 runs nor has he been an All-Star since 2010. It also seems like he has been around a lot longer than it would seem for a guy that is just preparing to enter his age 30 season.

But with all of those things considered, what Longoria still does is show up every day (he has played in 476 of a possible 480 games since 2013) and produce at a more than respectable level both at the plate and in the field. 2015 marked seventh time he has topped 20 home runs in season, having hit a total 205 in his 20’s. He may not be the megastar he was on course to be, but Longoria is still a force to be approached cautiously amid the Rays lineup.

 

9. Todd Frazier, White Sox

2015: .255/.309/.498, 35 HR, 89 RBI, 43 doubles, 82 runs scored, .806 OPS

Last 3 Years: .255/.320/.457, 28 HR, 81 RBI, 31 doubles, 78 runs scored, .777 OPS

Even five years into his career, every season The Toddfather has done something better than the year before. Last year it came in the form of 35 home runs, 89 RBI and 43 doubles, all of which represented new career highs. The 35 long balls marked the second straight year that he finished in the top 5 in the National League in homers, a fitting place for a guy that won the All-Star Home Run Derby in front of his (then) hometown crowd.

Now he will call the Southside of Chicago his new home after being at the core of a three-team trade this offseason between the Reds, Dodgers and White Sox. And his new lineup home should be quite hospitable as well, as he’ll be paired with another elite power threat in Jose Abreu.

 

8. Kyle Seager, Mariners

2015: .266/.328/.451, 26 HR, 74 RBI, 37 doubles, 85 runs scored, .779 OPS

Last 3 Years: .265/.333/.444, 24 HR, 80 RBI, 32 doubles, 78 runs scored, .777 OPS

If one word could be used to describe Seager, it should be consistency. Over the past four years, the Mariners have been able to call on the now 28-year-old for:

20 Home Runs? Check. 150 hits? Check. Staying within a rock’s toss of a .260 average, 75 RBI and a .450 slugging percentage? Check, check and check. Toss in the fact that he plays Gold Glove caliber defense, makes it into the lineup nearly every day and carries the versatility to hit anywhere throughout the heart of the ever-changing Mariner lineup, and you have one of the most quietly valuable players in the American League.

Check.

 

 

7. Mike Moustakas, Royals

2015: .284/.348/.817, 22 HR, 82 RBI, 34 doubles, 73 runs scored, .817 OPS

Last 3 Years: .246/.305/.403, 16 HR, 59 RBI, 27 doubles, 53 runs, .707 OPS

There was a collective sense of “finally” around the coming of age of the Moose last year. After years of falling well short of the type of hefty expectations that he carried on his shoulders since arriving in Kansas City in 2011, he broke through the glass ceiling over his career with an All-Star campaign in his age 26 season.

Moustakas set career highs in over 10 offensive categories during his breakout year, and continued the pace into the offseason, as he hit .300 (7-for-24) in route to helping to guide the Royals to taking the World Series crown. The Moose chats that ring out of the confines of “The K” throughout the summer stand as proof of the fact that Moustakas’ impact is felt on a nightly basis.

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6. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

2015: .272/.365/.505, 28 HR, 84 RBI, 44 doubles, 101 runs scored, .871 OPS

Last 3 Years: .288/.378/.453, 16 HR, 74 RBI, 44 doubles, 109 runs scored, .831 OPS

Nobody in the game works an at-bat harder than Carpenter does at the top of the Cardinal lineup. The MLB leader in most pitches per at-bat again last season, Carpenter added a new trick his offensive arsenal, as he launched a career-best 28 home runs, 19 of which came after the All-Star break. His evolution as a power hitter went to an extent that his 2015 total was three more than he had hit in his entire career entering the season.

Otherwise, he led the National League in doubles for the second time in three years, which saw him finish seventh in the NL in extra base hits with 75. In each of his three seasons as a starter, three times he has finished in the top 10 for most times on base, reaching base 280, 265 and 243 times, respectively.

 

5. Kris Bryant, Cubs (Not ranked in ’15)

2015: .275/.369/.488, 26 HR, 99 RBI, 31 doubles, 87 runs scored, .858 OPS

In the year of the rookie, none made a more potent debut than Bryant did. It seemed unlikely that he could possibly match the buzz around him not being immediately a member of the Cubs out of spring training, but he still somehow managed to exceed the buzz.

Bryant smashed his way towards the All-Star Game and the National League Championship Series and ended up as a runaway selection for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Of course it came with the pitfalls of also leading the NL in strikeouts with 199, but that is a pardonable offense for a player that forecasts as being at forefront of power hitters in baseball for the next decade.

 

4. Adrian Beltre, Rangers (#1 in ’15)

2015: .287/.334/.453, 18 HR, 83 RBI, 32 doubles, 83 run scored, .788 OPS

Last 3 Years: .309/.365/.485, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 32 doubles, 83 runs scored, .850 OPS

Beltre is essentially the fine wine of elite producers in the game today. He is under 300 hits away from 3,000 and 600 doubles are within his sights as well. He’s a young 36; still capable of reaching into his considerable stockpile of offensive skills even at the age of 36. Take into evidence his 2015 campaign, where it appeared that he may be over the hill, he turned it on netted his third top 10 finish in the AL MVP race within the last five years.

Beltre’s bat came alive in the second half, hitting .318, driving in 61 runs, reaching base at a .376 clip and slugging an impressive .509%. Those numbers are in line with the rate he swung at in 2013, when he led the AL in hits. It should come as no surprise that this mid-season renaissance also sparked the Rangers’ rise back into competitive prominence in the AL West, as they came from behind to take the AL West crown.

Mar 7, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) at bat against the Boston Red Sox at a spring training baseball game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 7, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) at bat against the Boston Red Sox at a spring training baseball game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

3. Manny Machado, Orioles

2015: .286/.359/.502, 35 HR, 86 RBI, 30 doubles, 102 runs scored, .861 OPS

Last 3 Years: .283/.334/.459, 20 HR, 63 RBI, 32 doubles, 76 runs scored, .793 OPS

Another year and another new trick for the precociously talented (yet still miscast) Orioles shortstop that is still amid his matinee performance as an elite defensive third baseman. Yet between being the most athletic 3B in the game and a multiple time All-Star by the age of 22, Machado is steadily expanding his offensive rapport as well.

He began the time tested developing power hitter process of converting doubles to home runs season, dropping his doubles total to 30 (down from 51 two years ago) to home runs, of which his 2015 total were two more than his career total to date (33 from 2012-2014, 35 from April to October of 2015). Toss in the 20 stolen bases that came as well, and there could be a 30-30 season in the works from Manny soon as well. Never count out anything from this prodigy come true.

 

2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies

2015: .287/.323/.575, 42 HR, 130 RBI, 43 doubles, 97 runs scored, .898 OPS

Last 3 Years: .281/.318/.500, 23 HR, 81 RBI, 35 doubles, 68 runs scored, .818 OPS

Firmly entrenched as the best defensive third baseman in the National League (and it is a rather fun debate about whether him or Machado’s glove reigns supreme in all of baseball), Arenado went about the business of putting to bed any doubts about who is the best overall NL third baseman as well a year ago too.

Arenado launched 42 home runs a year ago, tying with MVP Bryce Harper for the league lead. He also drove in 130 runs, which was far and away the best total in the NL (by 20 over Paul Goldschmidt) and was good for the top total in all of the game as well. Of his 177 hits, 89 went for extra base hits and he totaled 354 bases overall. As a three-time Gold Glover, Silver Slugger and All-Star, Arenado stands to be among the elite overall talents in the game for years to come.

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1. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays (#2 in ’15)

2015: .297/.371/.568, 41 HR, 123 RBI, 41 doubles, 122 runs scored, .939 OPS

Last 3 Years: .284/.366/.508, 31 HR, 105 RBI, 36 doubles, 101 runs scored, .874 OPS

Donaldson has gone from a part-time catcher in his mid-20’s in Oakland five years ago, to bringing home the American League MVP as a Blue Jay last season. Donaldson’s coming of age has been quiet noticeable over the past three years, as over that time period he has been good for a mind-numbing impact of 24.2 Wins Above Replacement level over that time period. However, he took that buffet of talents to a new level in his first year as a Blue Jay, and it played the primary role in breaking their two decade postseason deficit.

Donaldson hit 20 home runs and bested 60 RBI in each half of the season. While the Jays were making their push down the stretch to win the East, he picked his batting average up to north of .300. Has has been his calling card in recent years, Donaldson was a terror with runners in scoring position, hitting .353 when the stakes were highest. He scored one less run himself than he drove in, accounting for a part of 245 runs on the year.

The MVP can be variously defined, but nobody created a more diverse high-level impact last season. As well, there is no one playing a better third base than Donaldson is today.

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.

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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

 

The boys came to play in the American League this summer. Plenty of strong cases were made for the league’s top honor, with a mixture of standard bearers, returns to form and breakout campaigns. But in the end It was the coming of age proved to be undeniable in deciding who was the top gun in the junior circuit. And when all things are considered, it really ended up not being that close. Because the unstoppable force simply refused to be denied any longer.

2014 American League Stan Musial Player of the Year—Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels

 mike-trout-600x399

The coming of age has come to be. The rise of Mike Trout has been far from a secret; he has been baseball’s hottest commodity for the past three summers. However, before this summer is that there has always been a caveat to his status as the prime property in the game. Whether it was Miguel Cabrera’s undeniable run at the plate or the struggles of the Angels in light of their expectation, there has consistently been something that has stood in the way of crowning the game’s most precociously best talent with its premier prize.

But the summer of 2014 saw the irresistible force breakthrough completely. What Trout has done most remarkably in his young career is answer the task that

His ever maturing game took another turn this year, as he embraced more of the run-producing element of his game this year. Trout muscled up and hit a career-best 36 home runs, the third best total in the AL this year. He added another career-high with 111 RBI, as well as total bases with 338, both ranking as the top totals in the AL. In addition, he paced the league in runs scored for a third straight year with 115 and finished in the top 10 in doubles with 39 and second with 9 triples.

Yet at the cost of power, some of the categories that he had previously dominated took a slight dip. His averaged finished at .287, the first time he posted a full-season total below .300 (although it still finished in the top 15 in the league) and his stolen bases clipped down to 16. Also, his strikeouts jumped up to a league-high 184.

Those factors could be seen as it being a down year of sorts for Trout. Or perhaps a return to the mean after an unbelievably overwhelming start to his career. However, there was still no more important player in all aspects of the game for his team than Trout, as while he dipped in some areas, he morphed his game into exact what the Angels needed most this year.

With Josh Hamilton out of the mix with injuries, the need for a middle of the lineup run producer was needed much more than a table-setting spark plug at the top of the lineup. So when call was made for help there, Trout answered and channeled his talents into fueling one the AL’s most potent offenses. He drove in 20 runs in three separate months and hit at least five home runs in each month. While his overall average slid some, he hit .321 in April and .361 in June.

Measuring him at the plate alone still limits the overall contributions he made. He is still the glue that holds together the Angels outfield, covering the confines of centerfield easily with some athleticism to burn. On the base paths, he puts pitchers on alert and eats extra bases for any ball that either finds a gap or a step too slow outfielder. That is why is he the visual explanation to the mystery of the Wins Above Replacement figure—which he has led the Majors in each full year of his career, including the 7.9 indispensable wins he created this time around—there is simply nothing that is outside of his reach.

He plays the game hard every time out, puts on a the full buffet of talents seemingly on-demand and for the first time, is playing it to win, as the Angels took home the AL’s best record at 98-64. When the most talented player in the game also does all of the small things more consistently than anyone else, there is not much that can be done to stop him. And that is what makes Trout so special.

And the best part about it all: it’s only beginning. Trout Version 3.0 is the MVP, just as Versions 1.0 and 2.0 laid legit claim to, albeit in completely different fashions. It is fairly certain that Version 4.0 will take the same path, but I am already looking forward to how he goes about it.

Runners Up

  1. Victor Martinez, Tigers: He was a hitting machine this year for the Tigers, often being the team’s top bat, which is saying a lot when Miguel Cabrera is a part of your lineup. He led the AL in on-base percentage (.409) and finished second with a .335 batting average, and connected for a career-best 32 home runs. He only struck out in 6% of his 641 plate appearances (42 times).
  2. Jose Altuve, Astros: Houston mighty mite posted the top average in the game at .341 and led the AL with 56 stolen bases. He also ran up a club record 225 hits while becoming the first Astro to win a batting title.
  3. Michael Brantley, Indians: It all came together for Brantley this year, as he posted one of most well-rounded campaigns in the game this year. His .327 average was third in the AL, while he also hit 20 home runs, 45 doubles, stole 23 bases and 200 total hits.
  4. Adam Jones, Orioles: Jones carried the weight both at the plate and in the field for the beat up, yet still division champion O’s. He hit 29 home runs and drove in 96, while playing perhaps the best defensive center field in the league.
  5. Josh Donaldson, Athletics: The intense leader of the A’s played his usual brilliant two-way game, driving in 98 runs and playing a far and away best third base in the game with the glove (2.7 dWAR).
  6. Nelson Cruz, Orioles: He led the AL with 40 home runs during his comeback season, and drove in 108 runs as well.
  7. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: Joey Bats health stayed faithful to him, and he got back to destroying baseball to the tone of 35 homers, 103 RBI and scored 101 runs scored.
  8. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: A “down year” for Miggy has basically become one where he doesn’t win at least a batting title, and while he did not reach that mark this year, he did lead the Majors with 52 doubles and crossed 100 RBI for the 11th straight year.
  9. Robinson Cano, Mariners: The home runs weren’t as high, but his Seattle debut was definitely a success. He hit .314 with 82 RBI while reviving competitive baseball in the northwest.

Past CSP Votes

2013: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

2012: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

2011: Justin Verlander, Tigers

Adrian+Beltre+2011+World+Series+Game+5+St+9_pDhh0yTYul

It does not get spoken to very often, but the lay of the land in baseball right now at the hot corner is perhaps the best the position has ever been. There is a deep collection of dual threat bat/glove performers, with many in the middle of their primes right now. There are the perennial great performers that are getting pushed by the up-and-comers….who are in turn getting pushed by a prodigy or two at the spot.

The game’s silent, but deadly collection annually factors in the MVP race, and 2012 was no exception. With the exclusion of Miguel Cabrera, who has collected the last two AL MVPs, but has since moved back to first base, the current collection of third basemen has three members who finished in the top 5 of their league last season, with another who rightfully should have—but will get more than his due at the top of this list later (and no, that is not an excuse to jump ahead. Patience.)

Yet, with that let’s get into it—the top third basemen in the game today (even if a few are just coming and another could be going soon enough)

10. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates: There’s nothing wrong with being a one trick pony if you can do that trick really, really good. Alvarez’s thing is home runs, and he tied for NL-led with 36 last year, albeit while topping strikeouts by himself with 186.

9. Martin Prado, Diamondbacks: He drove in a career-best 82 runs in his first season in the desert, and 36 doubles as well. While he continued to be a slight utility man (notching 25+ starts in left field and second base, respectively), he committed only six errors in 113 games at third.

8. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers: Injuries limited him last year, but he just a season removed from a 50 double/27 homer/105 RBI campaign. He’s been one of the most quietly consistent performers in baseball over the past 10 years and his return to full health plays as big a part of the Milwaukee revival as the Ryan Braun’s comeback could.

Ryan Zimmerman

7. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: Coming off shoulder surgery, he continued to be a steady producer in DC, despite being a part of the across-the-board Nats downturn last year. He’s topped 25 homers in four of the past five years, and a three-homer game in July.

6. Josh Donaldson, Athletics: He became the backbone of Oakland’s second consecutive run to the top of the AL West. After driving in 93 runs, hitting 24 homers and a .301 average, he won the AL Player of the Month in the A’s clinching effort in September—for a fourth place finish in the AL MVP vote.

5. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals: He returns to his native third base for 2014 after slugging his way to a second base Silver Slugger a year ago. He led the NL in hits (199), runs scored (126) and doubles (55) in his first full season as a starter, while hitting .318 overall.

4. David Wright, Mets: The man the Mets have rightfully built their empire around continues to prove why he’s among the faces of the game. Despite missing over a month to injury, he hit .307, hit 18 home runs, stole 17 bases and made his seventh All-Star Game in 10 years.

Manny Machado

3. Manny Machado, Orioles: The lifetime shortstop became a phenom last year, all while playing out of position. While the 20-year-old’s 51 doubles led the AL, it was with the glove where he truly showed some jaw dropping excellence. His defensive WAR reads to a level that says he won nearly 4.5 games with his glove alone for the O’s. And all with the type of ease that has not been seen in B-More since Brooks Robinson.

2. Evan Longoria, Rays: Tampa’s franchise player played in a career-best 160 games a year ago, and knocked out 32 homers, drove in 88 runs and 39 doubles. A perennially good defender as well, he committed the least errors of any full-time AL third baseman, while having the third best range rating.

1. Adrian Beltre, Rangers: He’s been the most productive hitter at the position over the last four years, finishing in the top 10 of the AL MVP three times. Across that span he’s at least .315 three and drove in 100 runs, respectively three times as well. He has the best arm from the hot corner in the game as well, and is among the most underrated all-around talents today—as well as a growing dark horse Hall of Fame candidate.

Just A Bit Outside: Kyle Seager, Pablo Sandoval, Nolan Arenado

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

Each award in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is named after a player that portrays the values best exemplified by the award. Appropriately, the Most Valuable Player in each league receives the Stan Musial Award for their exploits. Musial is easily within the conversation for greatest hitter of all-time; his not a pure power hitter, but still topped 400 home runs. He attacked in volume, topping over 3,600 hits and the second most total bases ever.

The current owner of best hitter in the game has all of these things in common with Musial, as well as a few more. He’s a multiple-time batting champ, that has power to burn, but wastes no at-bats by reaching for the home run only. The best approach to facing Musial, as described by Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe was to “Throw him four wide and try to pick him off first base”. And judging by the success that AL pitchers have had against Miguel Cabrera over the last few years, this tactic may be one worth dusting off next summer.

2013 American League Stan Musial Most Valuable Player: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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The Numbers: .348 avg, 44 HR, 137 RBI, 193 hits, 103 runs, 26 2B, 3 SB, 1.078 OPS, 7.2 WAR

For Miguel Cabrera, 2012 could have easily been the crown jewel of his career. He took home the first Triple Crown in 45 years, won his first MVP and reached another World Series as a capper. However, it was clear by mid-April that last season may have just been a warm up, because Cabrera arguably played better baseball than he ever had before. If not for a superhuman season from Chris Davis aligning with an annoying hip injury, he was running away with adding another Crown to his head.

And while this didn’t finish with a repeat of that rare feat, in 13 less games, Cabrera equaled his home run total from the previous year and came within two RBI and eight hits of his 2012 numbers. He hit an MLB-best .348 (18 points better than 2012) to win his third consecutive batting title. He hit over .360 in three separate months, and .356 in another. Led the AL in on-base and slugging percentage, while striking out only 94 times. He finished in the top two in the MLB in six separate categories.

He’s in the midst of one of the classic runs of excellence at the plate in MLB history, and it actually is tough to blame pitchers for challenging him, because they did it less this time around. He drew 24 more walks in 2013, but he responded by striking out less and making his hits matter more (a career best 1.078 on-base + slugging percentage). All in all, over the last three MLB seasons, his average season has been a .340 average, with 39 home runs, 38 doubles, 127 RBI and a batting title a season. And the way things are going, these ridiculous numbers are a substandard effort for what he’s really doing—and unfortunately for those cunning AL pitchers, there is no sign of any let up soon.

The Rest:

2. Chris Davis-Orioles: .286 avg, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 167 hits, 103 runs, 42 2B, 4 SB, 1.004 OPS, 6.4 WAR

It takes an extraordinary performance to reach the altitudes that Cabrera is living at now, and that is exactly the right word to sum up what Crush did this summer. He led the Majors in home runs, RBI and total bases, and became one of three players to ever hit 50 homers and 40 doubles in the same season.

3. Mike Trout-Angels: .323 avg, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 190 hits, 109 runs, 39 2B, 33 SB, .988 OPS, 9.2 WAR

The most talented player in the game put his buffet of skills on full display again, leading the AL in runs scored and walks, while topping .320 yet again. He set career highs in hits, doubles, RBI and on-base percentage…and continued to reach Wins Above Replacement levels that only that only a player that can do literally everything as well as him can find.

4. Robinson Cano-Yankees: .314 avg, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 190 hits, 81 runs, 41 2B, 7 SB, .899 OPS, 7.6 WAR

The Yankees were far from their usual form this year, but Cano decided not to include himself in that mix, as he put up yet another strong season. He finished in the top five in hits, doubles, average, RBI and played another superb year in the field.

5. Josh Donaldson-Athletics: .301 avg, 24 HR, 93 RBI, 174 hits, 89 runs, 37 2B, 5 SB, .883 OPS, 8.0 WAR

The leader of the Oakland ensemble became Donaldson, who in his first full season in the Majors proved to be a formidable presence in the Oakland lineup. He had 56 multi-hit games on the year and saved his best for last, winning AL Player of the Month honors in September, hitting .337 with 17 extra base hits while helping the A’s to close out another improbable AL West Championship.

6. David Ortiz-Red Sox: .309 avg, 30 HR, 103 RBI, 160 hits, 84 runs, 38 2B, 4 SB, .959 OPS, 4.4 WAR

7. Adrian Beltre-Rangers: .315 avg, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 199 hits, 88 runs, 32 2B, 1 SB, .880 OPS, 5.5 WAR

8. Evan Longoria-Rays: .269 avg, 32 HR, 88 RBI, 165 hits, 91 runs, 39 2B, 1 SB, .842 OPS, 6.3 WAR

9. Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox: .301 avg, 9 HR, 84 RBI, 193 hits, 91 runs, 42 2B, 17 SB, .787 OPS, 6.5 WAR

10. Adam Jones-Orioles: .285 avg, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 186 RBI, 100 runs, 35 2B, 14 SB, .811 OPS, 4.4 WAR

The Awards run is almost complete, but there are is still just a ways to go…and one final big splash with the National League Most Valuable Player to close things out.

November 6: NL/AL Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the YearKoji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel

November 7: NL/AL Willie Mays Rookie of the YearWil Myers and Jose Fernandez

November 8: AL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the YearMax Scherzer

November 11: NL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the YearClayton Kershaw

November 12: NL/AL Connie Mack Manager of the Year

November 13: NL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player

matt-carpenter-

Every season, there is a player that blows up on the scene out of seemingly nowhere. And while the focus hits the rookie class of the year, there is always a class of players that takes the step up from “good” contributor to game changer, seemingly out of nowhere.

Here at the end of the year, most of these names have become regulars on the highlight reels and Fantasy leaderboards, but before awards season pulls some permanently to the mention among the league’s elite, here my take on those that made the farthest leap forward in the year that was.

9. Edward Mujica: While he curbed down badly at the end of the season, the fact that he was able to save the Cardinals rapidly defaulting bullpen early in the season was impressive and a huge reason the club rebounded into the race early in the first half. He finished with 37 saves in his first year anchoring the ninth inning in his career and made his first All-Star team.

8. Chris Johnson: He went from a throw in portion of the deal that brought Justin Upton to Atlanta, to the most consistent part of the deal in Atlanta. Johnson hit a career-best .321, good for second in the NL this year and added some fire to the team that could have easily gotten detached from the race while running away and hiding in their dominant NL East Championship run.

7. Justin Masterson: The up and down Masterson reached a new peak for the Tribe in their heist of the AL Wild Card upper-hand. His mastery of his sinker/fastball saw him run up 14 wins and a career-best 195 strikeouts, and more importantly, become a legit number one arm for a team in need of one.

6.  Andrelton Simmons: A sneaky WAR impacter, the Braves young shortstop stepped into his own last year, and became a force in the field. He had the large range factor (4.92) and his defensive WAR was an absurd 5.4, which breaks out to 3.2 more games saved with his glove than any other shortstop in baseball. Add in his 17 home runs and 59 RBI, all things considered, he changed 12.1 games in the Braves favor.

5.  Josh Donaldson: The A’s third baseman is the perfect presence for the perennially underrated A’s. Donaldson flew beneath the radar all year, and didn’t even get an All-Star nod, but went on to hit .301, drove in 93 and doubled 37 times in route to becoming the leader in A’s run to defend their AL West title.

4.  Matt Harvey: His 7-2, 2.35 ERA and 147 strikeout first half earned him an All-Star start in his first full season as pro. And while a torn UCL in his elbow ended his second half early and will keep him out until 2015, this year was a revelation on what could be: a top shelf arm of the highest degree.

3. Matt Carpenter: The Cardinals biggest catalyst went from utility man trying his hand at a new position, to becoming an All-Star second baseman that would go on to lead the National League in hits (199), runs scored (126) and doubles (55). And to cap off his transition story, he also led the NL in double plays turned as well.

2. Paul Goldschmidt: The next step in the career of Goldschmidt found him tied atop the National League in home runs (36) and sole leader in RBI (125). However, the third year first baseman was far from just a power conduit, as he hit .302 and stole over 15 bases for the second consecutive year. Add in leading the NL in slugging percentage, on-base + slugging percentage and total bases, and he’s on par to remain an overall force for years.

1. Chris Davis: How can it not be him? Davis did not exactly come out of nowhere; he hit 33 home runs and drove in 85 RBI in 2012, and had two other previous seasons of topping 17 long balls. But he broke out in rare air this year, topping the Majors with 55 homers this summer, becoming the first player since Jose Bautista in 2010 to do so. He also led the MLB in RBI, with 138 and ran direct interference with what was a very solid effort at a repeat Triple Crown for Miguel Cabrera.

What’s even more is how he did it. He had 37 first half home runs, and was on pace to run past 60 for over half of the year, and before hand and wrist injuries slowed his pace in August, he was creating a true debate about if he had the chance to be the “real” (read as non-Bonds) home run king.

 

For more on the postseason as it unravels and all other sorts of great things, such as what I’m thinking about eating for breakfast right now, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.