It's that time of year -- time to rank the top 10 players at each position around MLB. It's always fun not only to do the ranking, but to see how the list has changed year over year and who the newcomers are.
The lists for the 2020 season are being unveiled each Saturday on MLB Network's Top 10 Right Now. Mike Trout and Juan Soto topped the list for center and left fielders, respectively. This week, we’re looking at right field and first base.
Top 10 right fielders
Mookie Betts hit .295/.391/.524, knocked 29 homers and led the American League with 135 runs. And that was considered somewhat of a disappointment following his otherworldly AL MVP season in 2018.
Betts’ impossibly high floor vaulted him back into the top spot in this year’s rankings, grabbing the No. 1 spot back from rival Aaron Judge. Injuries were really the only thing that caused the Yankees’ star to drop -- that and the meteoric rise of 2018 National League MVP and ’19 runner-up Christian Yelich, who clubbed 61 homers over a 162-game span beginning with his first post-All-Star break contest in ’18.
There’s as much power in right field right now as any position in the big leagues. Ronald Acuña Jr. finished three steals shy of a 40-40 season. Jorge Soler broke out for an AL-most (and Royals franchise-record-smashing) 48 dingers. And Joey Gallo, who is ticketed to shift to right field this year, was a legitimate AL MVP candidate before a left oblique strain and broken hamate bone in his right wrist cut his season short. This position is so stacked that Nicholas Castellanos, perhaps the world’s hottest hitter down the stretch with the Cubs, barely snuck into this year’s Top 10.
1) Mookie Betts, BOS (Last year: 2)
2) Christian Yelich, MIL (3)
3) Aaron Judge, NYY (1)
4) Ronald Acuña Jr., ATL (3, at LF)
5) J.D. Martinez, BOS (1, at LF)
6) Bryce Harper, PHI (5)
7) Jorge Soler, KC (unranked)
8) Joey Gallo, TEX (unranked)
9) Michael Conforto, NYM (8, at LF)
10) Nicholas Castellanos, free agent (9)
Top 10 first basemen
Freddie Freeman’s greatness is so easy to take for granted, but the MLB Network rankings avoided that mistake by putting Freeman in the top slot for the first time. The Braves’ veteran leader clubbed a career-high 38 homers in his 10th Major League season, captured his first Silver Slugger Award and provided his typical solid defense at first base.
Freeman might not hold this top spot for long. Mets youngster Pete Alonso is charging hard after a third-place spot following his rookie year. By now, you’re probably familiar: Alonso swatted a Mets record 53 dingers, also setting the rookie record and becoming the first freshman to lead the Majors outright in dingers. Sandwiched between Alonso and Freeman is Max Muncy, who proved his 2018 breakout was no fluke after another excellent campaign: 35 homers, .889 OPS.
Perennial standouts Anthony Rizzo (.405 OBP in 2019) and Paul Goldschmidt (34 HR, 97 RBIs) slot in behind Alonso. A’s slugger Matt Olson looks like he’ll take the baton from those two as steady forebearers of the position. He led all first basemen with 12 Outs Above Average, per Statcast, and tallied 36 homers in only 127 games.
1) Freddie Freeman , ATL (Last year: 2)
2) Max Muncy, LAD (4)
3) Pete Alonso, NYM (unranked)
4) Anthony Rizzo, CHC (5)
5) Paul Goldschmidt, STL (1)
6) Matt Olson, OAK (6)
7) Luke Voit, NYY (unranked)
8) Carlos Santana, CLE (unranked)
9) Josh Bell, PIT (unranked)
10) Edwin Encarnación, CWS (unranked)
Top 10 center fielders
In center we find the two 2019 MVP Award winners ranked No. 1 and No. 2, and the top slot goes to the American League winner, Mike Trout. He's been ranked the top center fielder in the game six straight years, and eight of nine years since he made his debut in 2012. The only year he wasn't atop the list was 2015, when Andrew McCutchen took the top spot. Cody Bellinger had a monstrous season, and takes the No. 2 spot for the second consecutive year.
George Springer and Starling Marte each jumped up two slots, while Lorenzo Cain and Aaron Hicks dropped four. There are some intriguing newcomers, too -- four of the 10 slots are occupied by first-timers: Ramón Laureano, Whit Merrifield, Brandon Nimmo and Brett Gardner.
In his first full Major League season, Laureano not only wowed with his cannon of an arm, but also at the plate -- he slashed .288/.340/.521 with 24 home runs and 13 steals in 123 games for the A's. Merrifield put together another great all-around season while continuing to show his versatility on defense (he was third among second basemen in 2018). He led the Majors in at-bats (681), hits (206) and triples (10). Nimmo's 2019 season was limited due to injury, but he was coming off a year when he was rated sixth among right fielders. At age 35, Gardner had a resurgent season, slashing .251/.325/.503 with a career-best 28 home runs for the Yankees.
1) Mike Trout, LAA (Last year: 1)
2) Cody Bellinger, LAD (2)
3) George Springer, HOU (5)
4) Ramón Laureano, OAK (unranked)
5) Whit Merrifield, KC (3, at 2B)
6) Starling Marte, PIT (8)
7) Lorenzo Cain, MIL (3)
8) Aaron Hicks, NYY (4)
9) Brandon Nimmo, NYM (6, at RF)
10) Brett Gardner, NYY (unranked)
Top 10 left fielders
For the seventh straight year, we have a new name atop the list in left -- Juan Soto. The Nationals phenom has become a full-blown superstar after posting a .949 OPS with 34 home runs for the World Series champions. He hit five postseason homers, including three in the World Series against the Astros. He ranked sixth after his rookie season a year ago.
Veteran Michael Brantley finds himself on the list for the fourth time, while Giancarlo Stanton drops from second place to 10th. Newcomers comprise half of the list, with Bryan Reynolds, Mark Canha, Austin Meadows, Joc Pederson and Kyle Schwarber appearing for the first time.
Reynolds finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year voting after posting an .880 OPS with 16 homers in 134 games for the Pirates. Canha had a breakout campaign, slashing .273/.396/.517 with 26 homers for Oakland. Meadows had a huge first full season in the Majors, posting a .922 OPS with 33 homers and 12 steals for the Rays. After a subpar 2017 season at the plate, Pederson bounced back in '18 and then put together his best season last year, setting career highs with an .876 OPS and 36 homers. And Schwarber did the same with a career-best .871 OPS and 38 homers for the Cubs.
1) Juan Soto, WSH (6)
2) Michael Brantley, HOU (unranked)
3) Bryan Reynolds, PIT (unranked)
4) Tommy Pham, SD (4)
5) Mark Canha, OAK (unranked)
6) Austin Meadows, TB (unranked)
7) Joc Pederson, LAD (unranked)
8) Kyle Schwarber, CHC (unranked)
9) David Peralta, ARI (10)
10) Giancarlo Stanton, NYY (2)
Top 10 Right Now continues next Saturday with catchers and second basemen. The five-week program uses rankings based on player performance over the last two seasons, a number of offensive and defensive metrics, both advanced data and traditional numbers and analysis by the MLB Network research team.
Here is the complete schedule (all times ET):
Jan. 25, 4 p.m.: Catchers
Jan. 25, 5 p.m.: Second basemen
Feb. 1, 6 p.m.: Shortstops
Feb. 1, 7 p.m.: Starting pitchers
Feb. 8: 8 p.m.: Relief pitchers
Feb. 8, 9 p.m.: Third basemen