A new season means it's 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 were unveiled on MLB Network's Top 10 Right Now. The five-week program used 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.
Mike Trout and Juan Soto topped the list for center and left fielders in the first week, followed by Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman being ranked as the top right fielder and first baseman. Yasmani Grandal led the list at catcher, while Ketel Marte was selected as the best second baseman. Trevor Story and Jacob deGrom were the premier players at shortstop and starting pitcher. This year's listings concluded with Kirby Yates being named the top reliever with Alex Bregman atop the list of third basemen.
Top 10 third basemen
There is a new No. 1 at the hot corner, and he made quite a jump from a year ago. The Astros' Alex Bregman had the best season of his young career, finishing runner-up to Mike Trout in American League MVP voting after slashing .296/.423/.592 with 41 home runs. He leapfrogged four spots to reach the top.
And then, of course, we have our staples of the list -- the Rockies' Nolan Arenado remains No. 3 after another prolific season at the plate and another Gold Glove Award for his shelf, the Angels' Anthony Rendon jumps two spots to No. 2 following his career year in '19 for the Nationals, the Athletics' Matt Chapman jumps up three places to fourth as he continues to only get better at the plate while maintaining his other-worldly defense, and the Twins' Josh Donaldson bumped up three slots to No. 6 after a strong bounce-back season with the Braves.
Top 10 relief pitchers
It's not surprising to see a lot of turnover on the top 10 relievers list for the simple reason that relief pitchers can vacillate between success and struggles pretty frequently. But there are some notable newcomers to this year's list, beginning at the very top with the Padres' Kirby Yates. Yates appears on the list for the first time, and if you're going to make your debut, why not be atop the leaderboard? Following a strong 2018 campaign, Yates had a breakout '19, posting a 1.19 ERA over 60 appearances and leading the Majors with 41 saves. Following Yates are the only two returning relievers, the Yankees' Aroldis Chapman and the Brewers' Josh Hader. Chapman vaulted up six slots and Hader remained at No. 3.
Nos. 4-10 on the list are all new names. The Athletics' Liam Hendriks had a breakout season of his own, which seemingly came out of nowhere at age 30 -- the right-hander had a 1.80 ERA over 75 appearances (two starts) for Oakland, picking up 25 saves. Astros right-hander Ryan Pressly has always been impressive, but took it to another level last season, finishing with a 2.32 ERA and 34 percent strikeout rate. Red Sox righty Brandon Workman had never posted an ERA below 3.18 in any season of his career, and last year pitched to a 1.88 mark with a 36 percent strikeout rate over 73 appearances.
Top 10 shortstops
As we've seen at other positions, there is a lot of turnover from last year on the list of top 10 shortstops. For the fifth straight year, there is a new name atop the list, and this time it's Trevor Story for the Rockies. Story, who just signed a two-year, $27.5 million contract with Colorado to buy out his remaining arbitration years, was again stellar both at the plate and in the field in 2019. He slashed .294/.363/.554 (118 OPS+) with 35 home runs and 23 steals while finishing third in NL Gold Glove Award voting with 15 Outs Above Average, per Statcast. The other players returning from last year are the Indians' Francisco Lindor, the Cubs' Javier Báez and the Padres' Fernando Tatis, Jr.
The Athletics' Marcus Semien, the Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts, the Yankees' Gleyber Torres, the Twins' Jorge Polanco, the Astros' Carlos Correa and the Cardinals' Paul DeJong all either make their debut on the list or are returning after a hiatus. Semien had a breakout season with an .892 OPS and 33 homers, finishing third in AL MVP voting. Bogaerts put together the performance Boston had been waiting for from him, posting a .939 OPS with 33 homers of his own. Torres was an All-Star in his second consecutive season, smashing 38 homers while posting an .871 OPS. Polanco enjoyed a breakout year, hitting 22 homers with an .841 OPS. Correa returns to the list after not appearing last year; despite being limited to 75 games by injury, he hit 21 homers with a .926 OPS. And DeJong makes his top 10 debut after belting a career-high 30 homers and being a Gold Glove finalist.
Top 10 starting pitchers
There's also a new name at the top of the list for starting pitchers -- the Mets' Jacob deGrom, who springs to the pinnacle after being ranked third last year. The Nationals' Max Scherzer had a down year by his standards after battling injury, dropping from the top spot to fourth. After his tremendous season for the Astros, new Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole makes his debut on the list at No. 3, right behind former teammate Justin Verlander, who jumped three spots.
Seven out of the 10 starters on this list weren't on it last year. In addition to Cole, the Blue Jays' Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Astros' Zack Greinke, the Cardinals' Jack Flaherty, the Nationals' Patrick Corbin, the Indians' Mike Clevinger and the Dodgers' Walker Buehler make their first appearances. Ryu made more than 25 starts for the first time since 2014, finishing second in NL Cy Young Award voting after posting an MLB-best 2.32 ERA for the Dodgers. Greinke turned in his best season since '15, finishing with a 2.93 ERA in 33 starts between Arizona and Houston. Flaherty had an epic second half of the season, posting a 0.91 ERA in 15 starts to help propel the Cardinals to an NL Central title. In his first season with the Nationals, Corbin had a 3.25 ERA and 29 percent strikeout rate. Clevinger had the best season of his young career, pitching to a 2.71 ERA with a 34 percent strikeout rate. And Buehler followed up a stellar rookie campaign with a 3.26 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 30 starts.
Top 10 catchers
For the first time in six years, Giants backstop Buster Posey is not atop the list. Posey falls to No. 8, and Yasmani Grandal, who recently signed as a free agent with the White Sox, is the new catcher at No. 1. Grandal bet on himself last offseason, when he signed a one-year deal with the Brewers, and it paid off -- he hit .246/.380/.468 with a career-high 28 home runs for the Brewers.
There's a familiar name at No. 2, as J.T. Realmuto remains in the same spot after putting together another superb all-around campaign in 2019. He posted an .820 OPS and hit 25 homers while throwing out an MLB-best 47 percent of runners attempting to steal.
Three backstops who had never appeared on the list before crashed the party, as the Twins' Mitch Garver, the Rangers' Robinson Chirinos and the Brewers' Omar Narváez make their debuts. Garver had an incredible season in the powerful Minnesota lineup, putting up a .995 OPS with 31 homers in just 93 games. Chirinos, who played for the Astros last year before signing as a free agent with Texas, hit 17 homers with a .790 OPS. And Narváez had a strong season with the Mariners, hitting .278/.353/.460 with 22 homers.
Top 10 second basemen
Talk about turnover! The 2020 list for second basemen includes eight new players -- only DJ LeMahieu and José Altuve return from '19. Ketel Marte tops the list after an MVP-caliber season in which he slashed .329/.389/.592 with 32 homers for the D-backs. He supplants Altuve at No. 1 after Altuve was there for four straight years.
A quartet of rookies burst onto the big league scene and onto this list, with the Brewers' Keston Hiura belting 19 homers with a .938 OPS in just 84 games, the Blue Jays' Cavan Biggio hitting 16 homers and stealing 14 bases in 100 games, the Rays' Brandon Lowe posting an .850 OPS with 17 homers in 82 games and the Twins' Luis Arraez slashing .334/.399/.439 in 92 games.
The rookies are joined by the Braves' Ozzie Albies, the Reds' Mike Moustakas and the Cardinals' Kolten Wong as newcomers on the list. Albies put together the best offensive campaign of his young career, leading the National League with 189 hits while posting an .852 OPS with 24 homers and 15 steals. Moustakas turned in another strong season while playing second base for the first time in his career, belting 35 homers in an All-Star campaign for the Brewers before joining Cincinnati this offseason. Wong had a bounce-back year, posting a .784 OPS with 11 homers and 24 steals while also winning his first career Gold Glove Award.
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.
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.
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.
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.