MLB Network's "Top 10 Right Now" series ranks Major League Baseball's top players at each position headed into 2018, with two episodes airing each Saturday night from Jan. 13 through Feb. 10. MLB.com's Mike Petriello participated in the show, and as each position is aired, we'll share his list, along
MLB Network's "Top 10 Right Now" series ranks Major League Baseball's top players at each position headed into 2018, with two episodes airing each Saturday night from Jan. 13 through Feb. 10. MLB.com's Mike Petriello participated in the show, and as each position is aired, we'll share his list, along with the reasoning behind it. Rankings were compiled with a combination of subjective and analytical data, and no, batting average and RBIs never matter.
Position overview: The changing of the guard is complete, as our top three shortstops are all under 24, and seven of the top 10 are 25 and under. There's essentially a three-way tie at the top between three of the brightest superstars in the game today, and the position overall breaks down pretty clearly into three tiers.
Eligibility notes: Players are eligible only at one position, and several players who saw time at shortstop in 2017 were considered in other spots for these rankings. They include Javier Baez (2B) and Zack Cozart (3B).
Before we get to my rankings, here is The Shredder's list -- the official ranking of Top 10 Right Now -- for comparison:
1.Carlos Correa, Astros
2.Corey Seager, Dodgers
3.Francisco Lindor, Indians
4.Trea Turner, Nationals
5.Andrelton Simmons, Angels
6.Jean Segura, Mariners
7.Paul DeJong, Cardinals
8.Elvis Andrus, Rangers
9.Trevor Story, Rockies
10.Timothy Beckham, Orioles
Last year, it was Seager/Lindor/Correa. This year, we're going Lindor/Correa/Seager. You could make a case for these three in literally any order you like, with Lindor considered to be the best fielder, Correa the best hitter and Seager the best combination of both.
Still, we had to make some tough choices to get to a ranking, and we promoted Lindor to No. 1 largely because of all the power he added to his game. After hitting 27 homers in his first two seasons, Lindor exploded for 33 in 2017, and it's not hard to see why: His ground-ball rate dropped from 51 percent in 2015 to 49 percent in 2016 to 39 percent last year. He did it while maintaining the same walk and strikeout rates, and while his fielding metrics did take a step back, he's still considered to be one of baseball's slickest fielders.
Had Correa not missed nearly two months due to a thumb injury, he would have ranked as one of the top 10 hitters in baseball, as his .315/.391/.550 line (152 wRC+) means he basically hit like Freddie Freeman or Josh Donaldson. On bat alone, he tops this list, but his defense is more "solid" than "elite," so we give Lindor the slight edge.
Seager, meanwhile, can do both. With a .295/.375/.479 (127 wRC+) line, he outhit Lindor (118 wRC+). With 10 DRS and a plus-7 UZR, he out-fielded Correa (4 DRS, minus-2 UZR). But he missed time late in the year due to a sore elbow, then he missed the NLCS entirely due to a back injury. Unlike Correa's freak thumb injury, those are things that can linger, so he'll need to show they aren't long-term concerns.
- Didi Gregorius, Yankees
There's a clear second tier here, made up of three productive players in the same 27-to-29 age range. They just got here in very different ways.
Simmons, for example, remains baseball's most elite defensive shortstop, and even that might be underselling him; when all is said and done, he's going to be in the conversation for "best ever." He's below the big three here because his bat doesn't come close to comparing to Lindor, Correa and Seager, but even Simmons took a big step forward in 2017, hitting 14 homers after just 15 over the previous three years. For the first time in his career, he rated as a league-average bat (.278/.331/.421, and a 103 wRC+), which, combined with the glove, made him a star.
Gregorius, like Simmons, hit more balls in the air, and hit more to his pull side, leading to a power surge. He has hit 45 homers over the past two seasons to go with a strong arm and good defense, and like Simmons, he was an above-average bat for the first time in 2017, hitting .287/.318/.478 (107 wRC+) while often batting cleanup for a stacked Yankees lineup.
It's a little different for Andrus, a capable shortstop but not one on par with the names above him. The difference here is that after seven years of being a speed-first offensive player with below-average production (.271/.332/.344 from 2010-2015, an 84 wRC+), he has blossomed into a threat, hitting .299/.348/.457 (111 wRC+) over the past two seasons. Andrus hit 20 homers after hitting all of 21 in the previous four years, and like Simmons and Gregorius, it's very easy to see a change in approach behind that.
- Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
- Addison Russell, Cubs
Our final tier has a great deal of similarities as well, in that we're looking at four players who had 2017 seasons that didn't live up to expectations (in part due to injury), but who also are good bets for strong 2018 seasons given their obvious talent level and youth (all are 24 or 25).
Turner's elite speed (in the top four percent of all runners, per Sprint Speed) has allowed him to steal 79 bags in the past two seasons, but he also missed time with a hamstring injury and a broken wrist in 2017. When he did play, his bat was fine (.284/.338/.451, 105 wRC+) but not near what his 2016 debut (.342/.370/.567, 147 wRC+) suggested it would be. Still, his speed and defense were so good that even in a partial season, he was worth three Wins Above Replacement.
Bogaerts got hurt as well, but his season was affected in a very different way. Entering play on July 6, he was hitting .308/.363/.455 (114 wRC+), which is basically the same line he'd put up in 2015 and 2016. But he was hit in the wrist by a Jake Faria pitch that day, and instead of coming out of the lineup, he played through it. Bogaerts hit just .232/.321/.340 (74 wRC+) the remainder of the season.
We all expected great things from Russell, but in addition to missing six weeks with a foot problem, he hit only .239/.304/.418 (84 wRC+), easily the weakest of his three seasons. However, he remained a plus defender at the position.
Finally, Story's attempt to follow up on his powerful 2016 debut got off to a pretty rough start, as he missed time in May due to a shoulder injury, and was hitting only .224/.303/.396 (68 wRC+) when the All-Star break arrived. There was hope in the second half, however, as he added more than 120 points of slugging (.254/.314/.520, 95 wRC+). To his credit, his defensive proved to be adept; he finished fourth among shortstops with 11 Defensive Runs Saved.
Just missed (in no particular order): DeJong; Brandon Crawford, Giants; Segura; Beckham; Ketel Marte, D-backs.
The last few names on our Top 10 list are talented players who come with questions, and you could say the same for these players, too. Is Beckham the star we saw in his red-hot August, or the guy struggling to stick as he had been before? Is Crawford's poor 2017 offensively (.253/.305/.403, 86 wRC+) a fluke, or a sign of trouble as he enters his thirties? Can DeJong, who hit 25 homers and slugged .532, avoid the sophomore slump that Aledmys Diaz could not?