Spring Training has started today, which means that the new MLB season is right around the corner. MLB.com is currently releasing the top 100 players in the league, which wraps up tonight. While we can't argue against The Shredder, the system that crunches every number you can think of to determine these rankings, I can still give you my top 10 list of the players that I think are the best in the league.
*NOTE: I will not be including pitchers in this list, as I think it's unfair to compare the stats of players who play once every five days to players who play almost every day.
10. Corey Seager (.307, 15 HR, 41 RBI, .358 OBP)
This might be a surprise for some, but I have Corey Seager at number 10 on my list. The defending World Series MVP had a stellar campaign, batting .307 with 15 home runs across 52 regular season games. While that is already an elite stat line, his postseason performance was even more notable, and one of the reasons why he is this high on my list. In the playoffs he batted .328 with 8 home runs and 20 RBI in 18 games. He was one of the main catalysts for the Dodgers World Series run, which is why he was named the most outstanding player in the postseason. He has established himself as a real star in this league, and his play backs it up.
9. Ronald Acuna Jr. (.250, 14 HR, 21 RBI, .406 OBP)
Ronald Acuna Jr. comes in at number 9 on my list. One of his teammates is coming up shortly on this list ahead of him, but that doesn’t disregard how good Acuna actually is. One of the most electrifying players in the league, Acuna was 9th in the league in on base percentage, with it being .406. He is also regarded as one of the great fielders in the league today. Oh, I forgot to mention that he’s only 23. A rare five-tool player, Acuna is certainly a top ten player in the MLB. Don’t let the .250 average fool you, this is one of the elite hitters in the league, and I expect him to make a case for National League MVP in 2021.
8. Nolan Arenado (.253, 8 HR, 26 RBI, .349 OBP)
The Colorado Rockies recently traded the face of their franchise, Nolan Arenado, to the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s probably an L for them, considering when Arenado is in top form, he’s easily a top five player in the league. He had a “subpar” 2020, only hitting 8 home runs and batting .253, but the fact that that is considered bad shows how good Arenado really is. He’s usually an around .300 hitter, so I’m expecting him to get near that number this season. Also, he is a serious power threat, averaging about 40 HR/year from 2016-2019. He is regarded the best fielder in the league, who is a perennial gold glove player with a platinum glove to his name. Switching teams is tough, but I expect a player of Arenado’s caliber to be just fine after the trade. He could definitely be a top five player on the end of season list if he goes back to playing like an MVP candidate.
7. Freddie Freeman (.341, 13 HR, 53 RBI, .462 OBP)
After the season that Freddie Freeman had last year, he is definitely a top ten player in the MLB. He was always a great player, but last year he made the jump into that elite category, which I guess explains why he won NL MVP. Freeman was third in batting average, posting a .341 clip, and was second in the entire MLB in on base percentage. Even with Ronald Acuna being the true star of the Atlanta Braves, Freeman separated himself from the rest of the Braves as the clear best player on the team, and the best First Baseman in the entire league. While I don’t expect him batting in the .340’s this upcoming season, he should hover around the .300 mark, and still stabilize his position as the top first baseman.
6. Christian Yelich (.205, 12 HR, 22 RBI, .356 OBP)
We can ignore the stats shown above, his 2020 season was terrible. Throw those 58 games in the trash, and Yelich is a top three player in the league. Yelich was battling for a second consecutive NL MVP in 2019 before a devastating knee injury cut his season short, causing him to fall to the man ranked right above him on this list. Yelich is an elite five-tool player, who is the only player in MLB history to bat .325, 30 HR and have 20 stolen bases in consecutive seasons (2018-19). Who knows, maybe the 2020 season was a product of coming off a shattered kneecap, but it definitely wasn’t good, which is why he is this low. However, I expect Yelich to bounce back in a big way and return to all-star form in 2021.
5. Cody Bellinger (.239, 12 HR, 30 RBI, .333 OBP)
There is a clear trend here: top ten players having below average 2020 seasons. Should they have played better? Sure. I definitely expect Cody Bellinger to bat higher that .239 and hit for more than 12 home runs, especially coming off a 2019 campaign where he took home NL MVP honors. But do I think that is a product of a small sample size, where if you had a slow start it was nearly impossible to get hot and increase those numbers? Yes, I do. Don’t let the fact that Bellinger looks stoned every time he is on the field fool you, the man can absolutely rake. Just watch game 7 of the NLCS this past year. He hit a moonshot to give the Dodgers the lead late in the game, which was the eventual winning run. He plays a great center field for the Dodgers, and he has a cannon of an arm. He’s the second best player for the league’s best team, and I expect him to come back in a big way in 2021.
4. Fernando Tatis Jr. (.277, 17 HR, 45 RBI, .366 OBP)
The most electrifying player in baseball and possibly the new face of the entire league, Fernando Tatis Jr. comes in at #4 on my list. At 22 years old, he already is the best shortstop in the MLB, a position where you have to be elite both in the field and at the plate. He is an outstanding hitter, posting great marks with 17 home runs and .366 on base percentage. His base running is just as good, as he always seems to fool defenders when he’s on the base paths. His fielding is great, he’s made many spectacular plays that will make your jaw drop in awe. Now that he is essentially universally recognized as a top five player in the game, he followed it up by signing a massive contract extension, which is worth 340 million dollars over 14 years. The San Diego Padres have found their franchise cornerstone for the next decade and possibly more.
3. Juan Soto (.351, 13 HR, 37 RBI, .490 OBP)
Tatis Jr. might be the most electrifying youngster in the league, but Juan Soto is certainly the best young player in the league. At 22 years old, Soto has already won a World Series with the Nationals, and then followed up that season with one for the ages, posting an outrageous .351 batting average paired with a .490 OBP, which was the highest in the league. Soto can do it all; he can hit moonshots, hit for contact, is very quick on the bases, and is a great fielder. You know you’re insanely good when you’re by far the best player on a team that also has Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on it. Soto is only going to get better, and he can legitimately be the best player in the entire league very soon.
2. Mike Trout (.281, 17 HR, 46 RBI, .390 OBP)
Mike Trout has been the unquestioned best player in the league for most of his career, but that title has been revoked for the time being. Trout is a future hall of famer, and his outstanding play consistently backs that title up year after year. He had himself a year slightly worse than his normal, albeit still better than the majority of players in 2020. Trout batted .281 with 17 HR and 46 RBI. His on base percentage of .390 was elite. He’s one of the best fielders in the league, and he’s incredibly fast. His swing is so pure, which is why he gets contact on the ball so often. His minor step back put him at the number two spot on my list, but by the end of the season he could easily have another American League MVP honor to his name, he’s that good. It’s a shame the Angels can’t make the playoffs, because a lot of people are missing out on watching this once in a lifetime player.
Mookie Betts (.292, 16 HR, 39 RBI, .366 OBP)
I believe Mookie Betts is the new best player in the league. The Red Sox traded him before last season to the Dodgers, and his impact was felt immediately. The Dodgers were a team that just couldn’t get over the hump in the postseason, and the addition of Betts helped with that. He batted .292 with a .366 on base percentage, both good enough to put him in serious discussion for NL MVP. Regardless, his play in the postseason was why I ultimately put him ahead of Trout. The plays that he was making in the field against the Rays in the World Series won them games, and his hitting was equally as good. He stepped on the field and was clearly the best player there, even on a Dodgers team that is filled with all-star caliber players. Mookie may drop to two again next year, sure. But that doesn’t mean that I expect him to have less than a stellar 2021 campaign. Look for the Dodgers to repeat as champs this upcoming season, and if they do, Betts will be a main reason why.
(All stats are from Baseball Reference and MLB.com)