Check out the top players at each position entering the '24 season

February 2nd, 2024

As we get ever closer to Spring Training, it’s a great time to ask: “Who is the best player in baseball at each position on the diamond?”

That can be a tough question to answer given the tremendous talent in the game today. Fortunately, MLB Network has conducted its annual “Top 10 Players Right Now” series, which concluded this week.

The Shredder ranked the top 10 at each position heading into the 2024 season. You can find those lists for each position here. But who was revealed as the best of the best at each spot? Here’s a look.

Starting pitcher: , Yankees
Cole finally won that elusive Cy Young Award in 2023, thanks to a sensational campaign in which he led the American League in ERA (2.63), ERA+ (165), innings pitched (209) and percentage of runners left on base (80.4%), among other categories. The 33-year-old right-hander is a throwback on the mound, eclipsing the 200-inning mark for the sixth time last year. His four-seam fastball, which averaged 96.7 mph, was the most valuable pitch -- by run value -- in the game in ’23.

Catcher: , Orioles
It didn’t take Rutschman long to get to the top of the list at his position, did it? After finishing second in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2022, he finished among the top 10 in AL MVP Award voting last year, hitting .277/.374/.435 with 20 home runs. Rutschman, who turns 26 this month, was actually somewhat unlucky at the plate -- according to Statcast, his expected batting average was 15 points higher than his actual batting average and his expected weighted on-base average of .373 was significantly higher than his actual wOBA of .352. He also ranked among the top 10% of qualified hitters in walk rate (13.4%) and strikeout rate (14.7%).

First base: , Dodgers
Freeman remains the gold standard for first basemen thanks to another fantastic season in 2023. In his age-33 campaign, he achieved the elite .300/.400/.500 slash line, hitting .331/.410/.567 (161 OPS+). He also led the Majors in doubles for the second straight year and third time in four years, finishing one shy of becoming the first player since 1936 to produce 60 in a season. The 2020 National League MVP finished third in MVP balloting in ’23, and he remained as durable as ever -- he appeared in 161 games and has played in all but 11 of his club’s games since ’18.

Second base: , Dodgers
The game’s premier second baseman has won six Gold Glove Awards in right field. And if it wasn’t for an unprecedented season by Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., he would have won his second MVP Award in 2023. Betts was primarily a second baseman in the Minor Leagues and then made the transition to the outfield beautifully upon joining the Red Sox. Now, he’ll be at the keystone position full-time again and, based on what we’ve seen from occasional stints there recently, he’ll be just fine. At the plate last year, the 31-year-old put together his best season since winning the AL MVP Award in 2018, posting a .987 OPS and slugging a career-best 39 homers.

Shortstop: , Rangers
Injury has taken much of Seager’s career to this point, but even though he was limited to 119 games last season, it was the finest offensive campaign of his career. In just 536 plate appearances, the 29-year-old slugger led the AL with 42 doubles while smashing 33 homers (equaling his total from the previous year in 116 fewer at-bats) and hitting .327/.390/.623. He finished runner-up to Shohei Ohtani in AL MVP voting despite missing a quarter of the season because of hamstring and thumb injuries. If this guy plays in 150 games next season, watch out -- we could see some truly eye-popping numbers.

Third base: , Braves
With names like Ronald Acuña Jr. and Matt Olson in the same lineup, Riley can easily get lost in the constellation of Braves stars. But he’s been integral to Atlanta’s success over the past several years, including when he helped the Braves win the World Series in 2021. Riley has produced 18.6 bWAR over the past three seasons, the most of any third baseman. Over that span, he averaged 36 homers and an .878 OPS.

Left field: , Astros
Alvarez has firmly established himself as one of the game’s elite hitters. When he was a rookie back in 2019, he smashed 27 homers in just 87 games to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. He was hurt in 2020, and only played in two games during the pandemic-shortened campaign. Injuries have been a problem for Alvarez, who hasn’t played in more than 144 games in a season so far in his young career. But he’s only entering his age-27 season and over the past three years, he’s averaged 34 home runs with a slash line of .292/.385/.573.

Center field: , Yankees
Judge has spent the majority of his career in right field, but he has 120 games of experience in center since his MLB debut in 2016. With the addition of Juan Soto to the Bronx Bombers’ lineup, Judge shifts to center. Given his defensive prowess, the concern with the move isn’t so much his ability to play the position as much as the toe injury that sidelined him for two months last season. Still, now that Judge is in center, he tops the list of the best players at the position, and why not? Despite being limited to 106 games in 2023, he belted 37 homers with a 1.019 OPS. And two years ago, he had a historic campaign in which he set a new AL record by smashing 62 homers. He remains among the most feared sluggers in the game, if not the most feared.

Right field: , Braves
It’s hard to top the first 40-70 season in AL/NL history. That’s exactly what Acuña accomplished last season when he belted 41 homers while stealing 73 bags in an unprecedented performance. In addition to steals, the reigning NL MVP led the Majors in hits (217), runs scored (149) and on-base percentage (.416). Acuña’s power-speed combination is unparalleled in the game today, and any questions about his durability following a torn ACL in 2021 were answered when he played in 159 games for Atlanta last year. He’s still just 26 years old, meaning we could see him reach even greater heights in the years ahead.

Relief pitcher: , Brewers
When Williams stepped in to replace Josh Hader as Milwaukee’s closer following the trade that sent Hader to San Diego in 2022, the youngster had some big shoes to fill. And he has been more than up to the task, posting a 1.53 ERA with a 37.6% strikeout rate and 36 saves last year. Over the past three seasons, Williams had a 1.97 ERA over 173 1/3 innings for the Brewers, utilizing his devastating changeup to stymie opposing hitters. Over that span, batters hit just .147 against Williams’ signature pitch, which he utilized nearly 58% of the time in 2023.