Posts Tagged ‘Top 100’

Justin Verlander

A couple of weeks ago, I broke the Top 100 Players in Baseball coming into 2013. As to be expected, it cause several levels of debate, from the way that such a decision was arrived at, all the way down to the results in the end. As the course of it went along, the players were ranked as a large pool, not by position, and in the end, some players landed interesting places.

But what is does this say about the strength of each position in game? If you go back and take it apart to assess “who’s the best (fill in blank position) in baseball, what does my Top 100 say about that. Well to save the time on that, I’ve done it for you. Today we’ll rank the Top 5 players by position, as well as breakdown what the game looks like at each spot both today, and moving forward.

To refresh on the entire list, head to The Sports Fan Journal, where the full Five Part Series is listed here.

 

Catcher

13. Buster Posey

15. Yadier Molina

38. Joe Mauer

81. Matt Wieters

92. Brian McCann

Catcher was tough at the top, with the margin between Posey and Molina nearly requiring a daily check of the box score to decide who’s better on that day. Overall, only six catchers made the list, with Miguel Montero being the only one missing here.

First Base

8. Joey Votto

9. Albert Pujols

23. Prince Fielder

33. Adrian Gonzalez

39. Mark Teixeira

Votto and Pujols are another pair that can trade off by the day, but overall the entire first base position could be in a different place by next year. Fielder, Gonzalez and Teixeira all had career-low efforts in some of their signature categories last season, which an upswing could pull each of them back to the top 25.

dustin-pedroia

Second Base

5. Robinson Cano

36. Brandon Phillips

47. Dustin Pedroia

58. Ian Kinsler

98. Chase Utley

It’s Cano, and then everybody else. Robby is on the verge of pushing for the best in the game period, but everybody else isn’t so bad overall; but they pale in comparison. The 31 slot difference between Cano and Phillips is easily the largest of any other everyday position.

Third Base

1. Miguel Cabrera

16. Evan Longoria

18. David Wright

22. Adrian Beltre

42. Ryan Zimmerman

Quiet as kept, the current group of third baseman around the league could be the most impressive group of any era in baseball history. This group has multiple MVP-caliber competitors as well as the last two World Series MVPs in Pablo Sandoval and David Freese as well.

Shortstop

24. Troy Tulowitzki

28. Jose Reyes

53. Elvis Andrus

56. Starlin Castro

59. Hanley Ramirez

Shortstop as a whole is a position that’s steady across the board, but is in transition some. Andrus, Castro and Ian Desmond are emerging, and prospect Jurickson Profar could easily force his way into the mix. But Tulowitzki remains the best due to a mixture of potential, and few legit challengers to his class thus far.

Carlos_Gonzalez white classic

Left Field

3. Ryan Braun

4. Mike Trout

19. Carlos Gonzalez

29. Matt Holliday

45. Bryce Harper

With Trout moving over to the left corner, the position has taken a swing upward. The Harper/Trout era will now pit them against each other from the same position, so for comparison’s sake, this is a story that just keeps getting better.

Center Field

7. Matt Kemp

10. Andrew McCutchen

35. Adam Jones

41. Curtis Granderson

61. Jacoby Ellsbury

What fantastically deep group there is roaming the middle of the outfield there is in the game today. Kemp, McCutchen, Jones and Ellsbury have each been major players in each of the last two MVP races. It’s a deep position as well, with Michael Bourn, Austin Jackson and Shin-Soo Choo all representing the diversity that comprises the spot now.

Right Field

12. Josh Hamilton

20. Jose Bautista

32. Giancarlo Stanton

54. Jason Heyward

62. Jay Bruce

No position may have more raw power than right field right now. Stanton is a 50 home run season waiting to happen, and Bautista has already passed the mark. Heyward and Bruce are as well-rounded players as imaginable on the corner, and neither is close to their 30th birthday.

Starting Pitcher

2. Justin Verlander

5. Clayton Kershaw

11. Felix Hernandez

14. David Price

21. Stephen Strasberg

Picking the top 5 pitchers in baseball is a task at best. Especially in the current era of wide spread dominance, staying on top is truly an impressive feat, which Verlander has pulled off in 2011-12. Strasberg appears after giving a glimpse of what could be in only 159 innings last year, but a case could be made for no less than 10 other arms to crack into the top 5 with no real arguments.

Relief Pitcher

17. Craig Kimbrel

37. Mariano Rivera

55. Jonathan Papelbon

78. Fernando Rodney

86. Jim Johnson

Considering that Aroldis Chapman will move to the starting rotation, Kimbrel’s position as the best ninth inning guy in the game is virtually untouched. Rivera and Papelbon have consistency on their side, but an emerging group of closers featuring Johnson, Jason Motte and Sergio Romo are all closing in on overall elite league status as well.

 

That’s what it is for now for the year in looking at the players, but coming up next week it’s time to look at the teams, with the third annual CSP divisional previews. Until then, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan for up the second info on everything I’m up to.

Advertisements

Los Angeles Dodgers Photo Day

It’s tough to do an intro to the very best of the game and just why they are, so I won’t bother. The credentials on the best of the top 100 players in baseball are below and speak for themselves. But just to quantify why they are who they are, this is a rundown of just what they have accomplished along the way:

  • 10 Players
  • Nine MVP/Cy Young Awards
  • 40 All-Star appearances
  • Five World Series Championships
  • And $134,000,000 coming their way this season

All things considered, they’re worth it. It is a level where 30 home run seasons are answered with “What’s wrong with him?” instead of congratulations for the effort. Where if they give up a home run from the mound, there’s legitimate shock. It’s also a place where there’s constantly someone else pushing you, where an injury or simple down year (by their standards) gets them seen as having a “bad” season. Dominance is what it takes to get to this level, but answering expectations, repeatedly, is what it takes to stay here.

Here’s the 10 best in the world at doing just that. For now at least …

 

10. Andrew McCutchen-Center Field-Pittsburgh Pirates: The Cutch nearly became not just the undisputed man in Pittsburgh a year ago, but nearly all of baseball. His tear through the first half landed him a starting All-Star gig and firm placement in the MVP race. While the Pirates faded in the second half, he still led the National League in hits with 194 and set other career highs in home runs (31), RBI (96) and average (.327), while also topping 20 stolen bases for the fourth consecutive year.

9. Albert Pujols-First Base-Los Angeles Angels: He had a down year in 2012, hitting “only” .285. But for the unmatched historic standard he set for himself in his first decade in the game (posting averages of 40 homers, 121 RBI and hitting .323), it’s understandable why  a career-low 30 home runs is frowned at. He’ll pass 500 home runs and 1,500 RBI in his upcoming 12th season and remains the most devastating first-base bat of all-time.

8. Joey Votto-First Base-Cincinnati Reds: For as good as Pujols still is, Votto’s all-around game has edged him to top of the first base heap. He hit 44 doubles before being curbed by a knee injury in July, which landed him 24 off of setting a new record, despite missing two months. He’s a line-drive hitting terror with a .313 career average and has led the NL in on-base percentage for the past three seasons. As testament to his steady approach, he has only popped out 10 times in his career.

7. Matt Kemp-Center Field-Los Angeles Dodgers: If not for a hamstring injury that sent him to the disabled list for the first time in his career, Kemp was set up for another tear through the summer. He launched 12 homers in April alone before the injury and still rebounded to hit a respectable 23 on the year despite missing 50 games. Consider that to be a glimpse of what could have been for the man one year removed from 39-homer/40-steal 2011…..

 

To see the rest of where this year’s CSP Top 100 Players ends at, head over to The Sports Fan Journal now: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-2013-top-100-players-in-baseball-the-top-10/#sthash.qpLfExvj.dpuf

 

And for more in real-time, as well as the world on the World Baseball Classic, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

David-Price

Here it is: the top 25 players in the game. If a true dream team of baseball was to be put together (not those watered-down versions they run out for the World Baseball Classic), this is what it would most likely look like. To be at this point, you’ve got to be in your prime and playing the best ball of your life. But what exactly is a prime? As this list has shown so far, you can play elite level baseball at age 20 all the way up to 43, so narrowing that down where the best baseball is played is a bit of a task in today’s game.

Of the Top 100 players in baseball today, the breakdown of where the best of the best baseball is played by age, it looks like this:

Age 20-25: 15

26-30: 54

31-35: 26

36 & up: 5

Late 20’s to early 30’s prime is still in control in a major way, and there are a few old veterans that are hanging on as well. But there is a real surge of impact players that are making their presence known in a major way early on. The youth movement produced an MVP last season, the game’s most dominant reliever and potentially a DC-based sensation that will do the same at the beginning of the game as well. Experience always plays, but the youth will be served…as the climb to #1 will show very clearly.

 

25. CC Sabathia-Pitcher-New York Yankees: Nobody carries more of load for a rotation than CC. He’s topped 200 innings for the last six seasons, while averaging 18 wins a year along the way. He also continued his big game flare in 2012, winning both the opening and closing games of the ALDS versus the Orioles last year.

24. Troy Tulowitzki-Shortstop-Colorado Rockies: When he makes it to the field (which he only managed to do 47 times last year), he’s by far the best overall shortstop in the game. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner that’s topped 27 homers three times. Numbers like these are what make the Rockies refuse offers for him. Risk can kill the reward.

23. Prince Fielder-First Base-Detroit Tigers: He’s become baseball’s most consistent pure power hitter. 2012 marked his sixth consecutive year topping 30 home runs, and he rounded it out by hitting for a career-best .313 average as well. For good measure, he took home a second Home Run Derby championship as well.

22. Adrian Beltre-Third Base-Texas Rangers: He played the best baseball of his life a year ago, hitting .321, with 36 home runs and continued his reign has arguably the best infield defender in baseball. He finished in third in AL MVP voting and is a huge reason why the Rangers will still be strong, post-Josh Hamilton.

21. Stephen Strasburg-Pitcher-Washington Nationals: Before the much-debated early ending to his year was put in place, he was every bit the sensation he has been billed as being. In only 28 starts, he won 15 games and struck out 197 to the tone of an 11.1 average per nine innings. Now with his first true full season upon him, the sky is the limit….

 

How’s this going to end up? It’s close to the time to crown who’s number one, and follow along the rest of the past at The Sports Fan Journal here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-2013-top-100-players-in-baseball-part-4/

 

And for the real time word and rundown, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

 

Pablo-Sandoval

In this year’s Top 100 Players in baseball, the talent is spread out all over the diamond’s 11 positions/roles in the everyday game. The totals by position are as follows:

  • 27 starting pitchers
  • 10 center fielders
  • Nine third basemen
  • Eight each from right field, left field and shortstop
  • Seven first basemen
  • Six catchers and relief pitchers, respectively
  • Five reps from second basemen and designated hitters

And one Ben Zobrist as well, for good measure.

In addition to that, 29 of the 30 MLB teams are represented, with only the () loss Houston Astros failing to send at least one representative on the list. The Cleveland Indians also nearly missed, until signing Michael Bourn last week. As for team representation, the Atlanta Braves lead the way with a major seven representatives in the top 100. On their heels are six other teams each bringing six delegates to the list this week.

Does this say anything about where everything willstack up in the end? Absolutely not, because on last year’s countdown, only four San Francisco Giants were in the mix, and they went on one of the most undeniable runs of any team in recent history. Even this year, there’s only four in the mix, with one already accounted for. Top-shelf talent is nice, but the right team, riding the right wave, will wreck even the most intimidating foes. Ask the Yankees and Detroit Tigers, who will post a total of 11 players on this list, yet won a total of zero games against the Giants last fall.

 

75. Ian Kennedy – Pitcher – Arizona Diamondbacks: He’s won 36 games over the last two years and has become the most underrated staff ace in baseball. His .840 win percentage in 2011 was tops in baseball, one of the few categories Justin Verlander was bested in during his 24-win season.

74. Michael Bourn – Center Field – Cleveland Indians: Despite having no home for a while, he is still the game’s premier speedster on the bases and best defensive centerfielder. He has led the NL in swipes for four of the last five years, averaging 51 per season.

73. Martin Prado – Third Base – Arizona Diamondbacks: The D’Backs traded for and then handed him $40 million this offseason, and for good reason. He can play three positions with equal ease, and while he’ll settle in at third full-time, as long as he continues to carry his .295 career average, he’ll be well worth the investment.

72. Derek Jeter – Shortstop – New York Yankees: Jeter had a renaissance in 2012 that made it clear that his demise was far from underway. His 216 hits led the American League, before he had his usual strong October, hitting .364 in the AL Division Series.

71. Yovani Gallardo – Pitcher – Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers set an MLB record for the most strikeouts by one pitching staff last year, and Gallardo led the way yet again. He topped 200 K’s for the fourth consecutive year and is only 26 years old.

 

The beat goes on today and for the rest of the week at The Sports Fan Journal, where you can find #70-51 right now, right here.

 

And for the debate in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Chase_Utley

It’s spring training, and it’s time to break in the season with the greatest debate in any sport: Who’s the best at it? And in the case of Major League Baseball, which has the longest marathon to crowning its champ, there are a lot of players to consider.

Who’s truly trending up, holding their places and standing among the rest in the game of baseball right now? This week, I’ll be working my way from the 100th best down to who is the best of all 750 players from all 30 MLB clubs today. The challenge is justifying and explaining it all along the way. The point is to determine the best player in baseball, not who had the best season or best career currently. It’s about finding the balance between statistics, talent, performance, consistency and potential impact on the upcoming year as well. Not an easy task, but I’m going for it.

We will get to breakdowns by position, who’s taken the biggest steps forward, and backward, as well as which teams have the most representation on this countdown as the week goes on, but for now … let’s get to it: the top 100 players in baseball for 2013.

 

100. Allen Craig – First Base – St. Louis Cardinals: After returning from a knee injury in early May, Craig went on a tear. He hit .400 with runners in scoring position for the season and added 35 doubles while driving in 92 runs in 119 games.

99. Miguel Montero – Catcher – Arizona Diamondbacks: The D’Backs backstop is one of the more underrated catchers in the game. He set career highs in batting average (.286), RBI (88) and on-base percentage (.391, third best in the National League) last summer.

98. Chase Utley – Second Base – Philadelphia Phillies: Utley proved he may have finally shaken off knee woes that had slowed him since 2010. The five-time all-star put up nearly identical 2012 totals as he did in 2011, only in 20 fewer games.

97. Victor Martinez – Designated Hitter – Detroit Tigers: V-Mart will return from an ACL injury that sidelined him for the Tigers’ entire 2012 season. A .303 career hitter who drove in 103 runs in 2011, he will join with the Cabrera-Fielder duo to form potentially the best heart of any lineup in baseball.

96. Dan Haren – Pitcher – Washington Nationals: There were few workhorses who have pulled a heavier load than him, but it caught up a year ago. The six-time winner of 14 games or more wore down in Anaheim last summer and couldn’t be himself. Now well-rested and back in the National League, he’ll be a part of the best rotation in baseball….

 

That’s just the beginning, and the best (literally) is yet to come. The rest of the #100-76 part 1, head over the Sports Fan Journal to get the low down here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-2013-top-100-players-in-baseball-part-1/

 

And for the debate in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

THE LINEUP: The 100 Best Players in Baseball, Part 4

Posted: February 20, 2012 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB, The Lineup
Tags: , , ,

I’m going to be honest, this was supposed to be the last part of this series. But alas, it is not. But the problem is not mine, I planned it out well: 100 players, 25 per, list done, argument goes frantic.

But these folks from these high numbers at the end of this list made that impossible. Either that or this would’ve cracked the 2000 word barrier, and nobody’s reading this blog with the desire to feel like they are reading a great novel or the instructions to working a Deloran.

Nah, it’s become clear that the Top 10 needs it’s own write up too, but that doesn’t mean that we’re settling in any fashion with today’s list. There’s Cy Young winners up and down the list to come today. An MVP or three or four as well. So in perfect kickoff style, lets start back up with a coast sailing, record breaker who fits into several of the promised upcoming categories, all in one….

25. Ichiro, Mariners: Yeah, he had a down year (which meant only 184 hits), but the big picture is still unchanged: he led the AL in hits for 5 consecutive years & collected 10 Gold Gloves in 10 years. What’s more, despite nine years in Japan before coming over, he’s still within range for 3,000 MLB hits and has topped the mark already as a professional. His 3,706 combined hits would be good for 4th all-time.

24. Joe Mauer, Twins: Injuries have kept him from being him recently, but let’s not be short sighted; this is already one of the greatest hitting catchers of all-time by the age of 28. His three batting titles in a four year span (’06 to ’09) are the most of any player at the position over their entire career.

23. Prince Fielder, Tigers: He may have the most raw power of any hitter in the game (nearly halfway to 500 3 years before he’s 30). He’s moving out to the spacious Comerica Field this year & a new league to boot, but he averaged over 430 feet per homer last year, so he’s immune to any ballpark’s confines.

Prince will set his sites on some new confines in 2012...with similar results to follow.

22. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: He got comfortable in a hurry in his new confines in Fenway Park. Released from the restrictions of both a cavernous park and lack of talent from his peers in San Diego, Gonzo had career highs in hits and average & won his fourth consecutive Gold Glove in his new league as well.

21. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: Another case of injuries keeping a superior talent of the game a year ago. Now he’ll return to a new look/name team, a new ballpark & even a new position at third base. If he’s the same player who averaged 27 homers and 86 RBI with a .319 average over his full-season career coming into last year, the Fish could be on their way to some familiar levels of success again.

20. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: He came back from an injury ravaged 2010 a new man last year. Always a premier speed threat (120 steals in 2008-09) he kept that part of his game, but hit 30 more homers than he had in his entire career and also set a career high in batting average by 20 points as well. All before coming into a contract summer this time around.

19. CC Sabathia, Yankees: Nobody wins like CC does. The lone dependable arm on the game’s most highlighted roster, he’s won 70% of his starts since re-locating to the Bronx, leading the league twice. He’s averaged 19 W’s a year since 2007, on an average of 240 innings a year.

CC's warrior mentality has made him a winner everywhere he's been, large or small spotlight.

18. Mark Teixeira, Yankees: A power bat & RBI machine as well (8 straight years over 30 homers & 105 RBI), he’s the axis the Yankee lineup works around. His well rounded attack doesn’t relent anywhere; the switch hitter’s 12 games with home runs from both sides of the plate is a Major League record, and he can make legit claim to best corner glove in the game as well.

17. Felix Hernandez, Mariners: Despite being supported by one of baseball’s worst offenses over the past few years, King Felix has still managed to dominate the game like few other pitchers. Despite only a 27-26 record over the last two years, batters have hit just .230 against him over 483 innings, and striking out 454 times.

16. Josh Hamilton, Rangers: What a ride he’s been on: his historical Home Run Derby run in 2009, a batting title, MVP & World Series trip in 2010, followed by a return to the Series in 2011. There may not be a more naturally skilled player in the game, and if he can keep his demon low, the sky may not even be limit enough for him.

Hamilton has all the tools to stay at the top; but there's few players with both as much gift & curse.

15. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: LA decided to take the restrictions off their 23 year old phenom and he responded with a 21 win, 248 strikeout, 2.28 ERA season. He won 80% of his games on the way to that pitching Triple Crown performance, which brought him home a Cy Young. He even grabbed a Gold Glove on his way out as well.

14. Tim Lincecum, Giants: For a guy with two Cy Young Awards in his first five years and three consecutive strikeout titles, his 13-14 record in 2011 should appear as a disappointment. However, when you look deeper and see he received the least run support of any pitcher in the game (zero runs in 10 starts, 2 or less in 21), and then see he still 2.74 ERA, it becomes clear he was still his usual self.

13. Cliff Lee, Phillies: He started the year by coming back to Philly & becoming half of the best 1-2 punch in the game. He finished it with 17 wins, six of which were shutouts and three came consecutively. Overall, he compiled a 34 inning shutout streak in June and had 0.21 ERA for the month.

12. Joey Votto, Reds: No MVP hangover for the Reds first baseman. Despite a rougher year for his club, he set career highs in doubles, hits, walks & on-base percentage, as well as took his overall game to another level in gathering his first Gold Glove.

11. Evan Longoria, Rays: The most complete infielder in the game. He kept a greatly depleted Rays in contention, and sealed their return to the playoffs with a walk-off homer in extra innings on the last day of the season. A complete hitter at the plate & a shutdown defender at third base, he’s the closest thing to Mike Schmidt since the original.

It's early, very early. But Longoria has a skill set that gives him a chance at third base immortality.

10….. It’s getting real tomorrow. We’re finishing this thing up & drawing baselines in the concrete all the way to #1.

Until then, follow me on Twitter for the word in-between at @CheapSeatFan

Last week, I started bringing the baseball season with the first section of the top 100 MLB players. Since the first part of the list dropped, pitchers and catchers have started to drop into camps down in Florida & Arizona. Also, keeping with the theme of the offseason, the unexpected has continued to rule as the Oakland Athletics pulled the upset and signed a big name, big money international free agent.

I’m sure that the next 25 players below will continue that theme as well. There were already a few claims of “There’s no way he’s that low!”, as well as a few “Overrated” calls that have started up, and now the gripe is sure to get a bit deeper. It has no choice but to when below there is a former Cy Young winner, a World Series MVP, Rookie of the Year, owner of a 30 game hit streak and the youngest hits king ever, all before I even crack the top 50.

So with no more delay, and no more intro intrigue, here are the 75th through 51st best players in baseball today.

75. Dan Uggla, Braves: Is feast WHILE famine possible? Well Uggla, who knocked out 30 homers for the 5th straight year last summer (the only second baseman to ever have 30 or more in three seasons), would know. He built up a 33-game hitting streak last summer….but didn’t hit .200 during the duration of it.

 

74. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers: When he finished with 207 strikeouts last summer, he hit the mile marker for the third time before his 25th birthday, becoming only the third pitcher to achieve this in the last 25 years.

73. Carlos Santana, Indians: His tear through the AL his rookie year in 2010 ended when he tore his ACL, but he still didn’t miss a step. He hit 27 home runs in his first complete season, the type of numbers that will make his move from catcher to first base this year seem natural.

72. Alex Avila, Tigers: Speaking of backstops swinging big sticks, Avila took a huge step into the forefront a year ago, hitting .295. With his 2010 mate in catching Victor Martinez out for this summer, another campaign like the breakout he came off of.

71. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks: He’s the run-producing heart of baseball’s fastest risers in Phoenix. A complete bat with 30 double power & a strong arm in the field, he’s the field general for a very talented young pitching staff with arms like…

70. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: …the most surprising 20-game winner in the game a year ago. He epitomized the spirit of Arizona club that took down the World Champs and pulled a last-to-first turnaround: 2010 (in 32 starts) 9-10, 3.80 ERA. One year later (in 33 starts) 21-4, 2.80 ERA.

69. Paul Konerko, White Sox: He doesn’t age does he? Either that or he’s drinking that water Ponce De Leon found. Regardless of how his method, Konerko keeps swatting, and at 36 he’s coming off yet another 30 homer/100 RBI year.

Since turning 30, Konerko's hit at least his age in homers four out of six seasons.

68. Shane Victorino, Phillies: In the middle of a star studded Phillies club, he may be the most balanced overall threat they have. There aren’t too many switch hitting, Gold Glove holding, 30 base stealing, double digit triple totaling, All-Star players on any team.

67. Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians: The Indians surprised the baseball world prying the sensational Jimenez out of the Rockies last summer. They paid a high price, but got a dynamic talent back: He threw 1,342 pitches OVER 95 mph, and his 97 mph average is the hardest average in the game.

66. Jose Valverde, Tigers: It was dramatic at times, but results are results. The uber-eccentric Valverde took the ball in 49 save situations and saved 49 games for the Tigers last year. He brings a 51 game streak into 2012.

65. CJ Wilson, Angels: The Angels paid a big price to lure him from the rival Rangers, but they got one of the toughest lefties in the game. In just his second full year starting, Wilson won 16 games and ERA below 3.00. His game is rising right along with his income.

64. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: It’s a bit hidden because he’s showcasing his talents in the longtime baseball Siberia of Pittsburgh, but McCutchen is one of the most dynamic talents in the game, at only 25. Last year, he top 20 homers & 20 steals and the number in front of those zeros could get much higher.

If he didn't spend most of his time in Pittsburgh's outfield, McCutchen's talents would be much better known.

63. Nelson Cruz, Rangers: Nobody has better long ball timing than Nelson. Just last year he became the first player to hit a walk off grand slam in a postseason game. Then two games later, he hit another game winning shot to become the first player to ever hit two game winning, extra inning homers in the same postseason series.

62. Starlin Castro, Cubs: There’s hasn’t been a whole to get excited about around North Chicago baseball recently, outside of their 21 year old shortstop. He’s kicked his career off with a tool set similar to a young Derek Jeter, and led the NL in hits a year ago with 207; becoming youngest hits king in MLB history.

61. Ben Zobrist, Rays: If intangibles had another name, it would probably be Zobrist. Tampa’s ultimate weapon can take a glove to any position, and few players do more to push their team to the next level. Last May, he turned in a 10 RBI double header performance.

60. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: The Massachusetts on-base machine had his year ended early, but a return back to even part of his usual form makes him one of the most dangerous bats in the game. His 3 year average from 2008-10: .308, 25 homers & 90 RBI, with a robust .404 on-base percentage.

59. Dan Haren, Angels: A workhorse, definitely not the quarter variety. Haren simply throws quality inning on top of quality inning, and when he’s right, there’s little that can be done. He went over 30 starts and 200 innings for the 7th consecutive year in 2011 and tossed a career high three shutouts.

58. Neftali Feliz, Rangers: It looks like he’ll take his dominant stuff to starting games instead of finishing them in 2012. Not that that status quo was a problem; in his first two seasons he saved 74 games with him high 100 mph fastball/low 90’s slider mix.

More than one inning of Feliz per game may have to be investigated as cheating. Seriously.

57. Tim Hudson, Braves: He’s frustrated batters into 33 wins games the last two years, and it’s really no surprise. Wins are what he’s all about: he’s only once not won at least 60% of his games in a season.

56. Elvis Andrus, Rangers: Watch enough Rangers games and you’ll realize that anything not hit straight down the first base line could potentially be Andrus’ property. That same speed he uses to steal hits also gets him over 30 base thefts annually as well.

55. Zack Greinke, Brewers: Zack locked the gates of Miller Park in his debut year in the National League, going 11-0 at home. Overall, he won 72% of his starts, and despite missing the first month of the year, he struck out 200 batters as well. This full year he’s about to get could be scary.

54. Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Please, don’t call it a comeback. The Big Puma finished in the top 10 in the NL in virtually every category that matters after nearly not even getting an invite to join a team headed into the season and having to fit into the outfield. His reward this year: getting to change positions again…and replace Albert Pujols.

53. Craig Kimbrel, Braves: He made being a “rookie” look like a mere formality, because his year one reset the record books. His 46 saves destroyed the former NL rookie record by 10 & passed the MLB mark by six. If this wasn’t enough, he struck out 127 batters in just 77 innings and set the consecutive scoreless innings mark for the season too.

In one season, Kimbrel dominated to the point of making a legit claim to best closer in the game.

52. David Price, Rays: 41 wins & two All-Star games in three seasons of starting don’t tell the full story of Price. His repertoire is so devastating that he often doesn’t even need to change speeds, because often…it’s really not necessary. He cracked 200 strikeouts for the first time last year, and he’s just getting a hold on this starter thing.

51. Cole Hamels, Phillies: There’s not a better third best starter on any team than Hamels is on the Phillies, because really, there aren’t many 1’s or 2’s better on most other squads. An artist on the mound, moving the ball in and out, he averaged less than one base runner per inning last year.

 

For more debate as the bottom 50 wraps up and moves into the Top 50 best ballplayers in the world, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatfan.