The Cabrera/Trout debate raged last year, so let it begin again for 2013. Here are my player rankings entering the 2013 season for the Top 50 players in MLB. I guess I should say what this list is, and what it is not. It’s not a value list, because Mike Trout making so little would impact the rankings more. It is also not a futures list, trying to build a team for seasons beyond this one. It does take things like past performance and injuries and age into account, but only to try to pick players in order for just this season.
Think of it as a “who would you take?” if there was a draft to build a team to win the World Series this year.
1. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers
2. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
3. Mike Trout, LF/CF, Anaheim Angels
4. Justin Verlander, P, Detroit Tigers
5. Ryan Braun, LF, Milwaukee Brewer
Mike Trout had a historic season, but also doesn’t have the track record of other top players. He’ll be good again, no doubt, but repeating a rare season is, well, rare at any age. Justin Verlander still has a ways to go to match Kate Upton in top five appearances on our website. Teammate Miguel Cabrera gets a slight boost for his appearance on Univision.
6. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants
7. Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
8. Clayton Kershaw, P, Los Angeles Dodgers
9. Albert Pujols, 1B, Anaheim Angels
10. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projection is really high on Albert Pujols’ returning to his status as the best hitter in the game. He was a lot better after that rough two month start as an Angel, but I’m not sure he gets all the way back to the top spot. Buster Posey should probably be higher based on the fielding metrics that his new glove will provide. Troy Tulowitzki is the wildcard, injured much of last year.
11. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates
12. Matt Kemp, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers
13. Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Miami Marlins
14. Felix Hernandez, P, Seattle Mariners
15. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Two star centerfielders make the list here. King Felix is still one of the best pitchers in the game, even though he clearly lacks that competitive drive proven only by waiting to get paid by the Yankees, rather than re-signing in Seattle. Giancarlo Stanton is going to be awfully lonely on this list, and in Miami this year, after Jeff Loria pulled a Jeff Loria.
16. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
17. Stephen Strasburg, P, Washington Nationals
18. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox
19. David Price, P, Tampa Bay Rays
20. Prince Fielder, 1B, Detroit Tigers
Evan Longoria gets the subliminal boost for having a child with Jaime Edmondson, joining teammate David Price here. I’m picking Stephen Strasburg here on the assumption that he is good to pitch for the entire season. Ty Duffy let me know how depressed he was that Pedroia is the only Red Sox on the list. Time to root for the Dodgers.
21. C.C. Sabathia, P, New York Yankees
22. Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
23. Yu Darvish, P, Texas Rangers
24. Jose Bautista, RF, Toronto Blue Jays
25. Jose Reyes, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
The two Jose’s in Toronto join the 70′s Super Group of C.C. and Yu.
26. Jered Weaver, P, Anaheim Angels
27. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals
28. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
29. Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants
30. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers
31. Cole Hamels, P, Philadelphia Phillies
32. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
33. Alex Gordon, LF, Kansas City Royals
34. Cliff Lee, P, Philadelphia Phillies
35. Bryce Harper, LF, Washington Nationals
The Philadelphia pitchers come off the board here, with the exception of Roy Halladay. Big Roy should bounce back some at age 36, but I’m not comfortable putting him in the top ten or so pitchers entering the year.
36. Ben Zobrist, RF/2B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays
37. Jason Heyward, RF, Atlanta Braves
38. B.J. and Justin Upton, LF/CF, Atlanta Braves
39. Derek Jeter, SS and Captain, New York Yankees
40. Matt Cain, P, San Francisco Giants
The Atlanta outfield goes off the board here. At least one of the Uptons probably should be on this list, but which one? We’ll just combine them here as a package deal. That move opens up the spot for Yankees Captain Derek Jeter. We saw the Yankees fall apart in the postseason last year after he went down, proving he is worth at least three wins above replacement based on his presence alone. (I’ll now be waiting for that gift basket).
41. Chris Sale, P, Chicago White Sox
42. Josh Hamilton, LF, Anaheim Angels
43. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians
44. Mat Latos, P, Cincinnati Reds
45. Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
Josh Hamilton was the best player in the history of the May 2012 internet era, then struggled, relatively, for stretches of the season. He just signed the big contract to move to the Angels. How comfortably are we that he is going to put together a full season like 2010 again? This is also the young pitchers with upside to have huge years segment of the rankings.
46. Yoenis Cespedes, LF, Oakland Athletics
47. Carlos Beltran, RF, St. Louis Cardinals
48. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers
49. Zack Greinke, P, Anaheim Angels
50. R.A. Dickey, P, Toronto Blue Jays
I had to throw my boy Carlos Beltran in here, and also former Missouri Tiger Ian Kinsler. R.A. Dickey may be old, but he throws that knuckleball, so I think he’ll be just fine this year north of the border.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]