The 2020 season was shortened to 60 games, but that still provided individual players the chance to shine and either maintain their status as elite or crash the party and shake up our notions of which players are among the best at each spot on the diamond. So continuing an annual tradition, MLB Network aired the “Top 10 Players Right Now” for each position.
Using rankings based on past player performance, a number of offensive and defensive metrics, both advanced data and traditional numbers, and analysis by the MLB Network research team, “The Shredder” gives us its input (output?) on which players are the 10 best at their positions right now.
Top 10 right fielders
Mookie Betts leads the way in right field for the second straight year, after hitting .292/.366/.562 with 16 homers and 10 steals during his first season with the Dodgers. Betts also remained a strong defensive presence in right field and won his fifth career Gold Glove Award.
Betts is followed by two of baseball’s brightest young stars in Juan Soto (22 years old) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (23). Soto was the No. 1 left fielder a year ago, but he’ll shift over to right after the Nationals signed Kyle Schwarber. Soto won a batting title with a .351 average and led the Majors in on-base percentage (.490) and slugging (.695) over 47 games in 2020. Not to be outdone, Acuña has produced 55 homers with 45 steals since the beginning of 2019, and he had a career-best .987 OPS in ’20.
Aaron Judge dealt with injuries again last season, but he continued to mash the ball, launching nine homers with an .891 OPS in 28 games. The Yankees slugger ranks fourth, with Bryce Harper fifth. In his first two seasons with the Phillies, Harper has posted a .903 OPS with 48 homers in 215 games. In the sixth spot is Mike Yastrzemski, who has lived up to his Hall of Fame pedigree so far. Yastrzemski has registered an .892 OPS through his first two years in the big leagues, and he tied for second among outfielders behind Betts in FanGraphs wins above replacement (2.6) last season. Michael Conforto, Joey Gallo, Charlie Blackmon and Jorge Soler round out the top 10.
Top 10 shortstops
For the second consecutive year, the Rockies’ Trevor Story is the No. 1 shortstop in baseball, according to the Shredder. He hit .289/.355/.519 with an NL-leading four triples and 15 steals to go along with 11 home runs in 2020. Fernando Tatis Jr., unsurprisingly, makes the biggest jump over last year, vaulting four spots to No. 2 after finishing fourth in NL MVP Award voting and leading the Padres to the postseason.
Xander Bogaerts jumps two spots to No. 3 after following a huge 2019 campaign by posting an .867 OPS with 11 homers and eight steals for the Red Sox in ’20. Francisco Lindor drops two places, down to No. 4, but remains one of the best shortstops in the game and will have some new scenery in ’21 with the Mets. The Nationals’ Trea Turner jumps into the rankings at No. 5 after leading the Majors with 78 hits and posting a .982 OPS.
Corey Seager launched 15 homers with a .943 OPS during the regular season, then took home NLCS and World Series MVP honors for the Dodgers -- he crashes the list at No. 6. Carlos Correa bumps up two spots to No. 7 on the back of a huge postseason in which he belted six homers for the Astros. Following a tremendous rookie performance in 2019, Bo Bichette ranks eighth this year after hitting .301/.328/.512 with five homers in an injury-shortened 2020 season.
Javier Báez struggled at the plate in 2020, seeing a drop from No. 3 to No. 9 as a result, but he did earn his first Gold Glove Award. Tim Anderson made a name for himself by winning a batting title in 2019, and followed that up with a great ’20, coming in at 10th on the list after leading the AL with 45 runs scored while launching 10 homers to go with an .886 OPS for the White Sox.
Top 10 second basemen
Six players return from last year’s second-base rankings, led by DJ LeMahieu, who jumps from second to first. LeMahieu recently signed a six-year, $90 million deal with the Yankees after hitting .336 with 36 homers and a .922 OPS over his first two seasons with the club.
We’re staying in the same city for the No. 2 player on the list, as the Mets’ Jeff McNeil takes the spot. McNeil ranked fifth among third basemen last year, but he is set to handle regular keystone reps in 2021. McNeil has recorded a .316/.384/.511 slash line with 27 homers over 185 games for the Mets across the past two years.
Ketel Marte drops from first to third, followed by Brandon Lowe and Cavan Biggio. After that it’s three players who were unranked last year -- Jake Cronenworth, Donovan Solano and Chris Taylor. Jose Altuve remains on the list in spite of his 2020 struggles (.629 OPS), falling from third to ninth, and Ozzie Albies rounds out the Top 10.
Top 10 starting pitchers
The top three names on this year’s list are familiar. While he didn’t win a third consecutive National League Cy Young Award, Jacob deGrom posted a 2.38 ERA and struck out a whopping 39% of batters faced, holding on to the top spot. Gerrit Cole is ranked second after turning in a 2.84 ERA and 33% strikeout rate for the Yankees. Max Scherzer, who comes in at third, wasn’t as dominant as he’s been historically, pitching to a 3.74 ERA over 12 starts, but his reputation still precedes him.
Beginning with No. 4, there’s a big shakeup from last year -- NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer was overpowering for the Reds, leading the NL in ERA (1.73) and WHIP (0.80). The Indians’ Shane Bieber makes his debut on the list at No. 5, easily taking home the AL Cy Young Award after leading baseball in ERA (1.63), strikeouts (122) and FIP (2.07).
Hyun Jin Ryu is sixth, posting a 2.69 ERA over 67 innings in his first season with the Blue Jays. At No. 7, we find Clayton Kershaw, who bounced back from “no-rank” status last year with a vintage performance, finishing with a 2.16 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 10 starts.
Next, we find the Padres’ Dinelson Lamet and the Phillies’ Aaron Nola, neither of whom made the list last year. Lamet was a revelation for the Padres, giving San Diego a 2.09 ERA and a 35% strikeout rate. And Nola spun his wicked curveball to a 3.28 ERA while fanning 33% of opposing batters. The list is rounded out by the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler, who remains at No. 10 after posting a 3.44 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP.
Top 10 third basemen
This year’s third-base field is largely unchanged from last season, with nine holdovers. Anthony Rendon, whose first year with the Angels saw him produce a 151 OPS+, goes from second to first, trading places with 2020’s No. 1, Alex Bregman, while Nolan Arenado remains in the third spot. José Ramírez and Manny Machado round out the top five after each finished among the top three in his league’s MVP Award race in 2020.
Matt Chapman falls from fourth to seventh after dealing with a hip injury that required season-ending surgery and limited him to 37 games in 2020, although he still had 10 homers with a 122 OPS+ while continuing to provide outstanding defense at the hot corner. Chapman finds himself between Justin Turner at No. 6 and Josh Donaldson at No. 8, with Gio Urshela -- this year’s only new entrant -- taking the ninth spot. Urshela validated his 2019 breakout with a 136 OPS+ in ’20. Eugenio Suárez, who ranks second in the Majors with 64 homers since the beginning of 2019, completes the list.
Top 10 first basemen
Freddie Freeman was bound to win an MVP Award someday. Well, “someday” came in 2020, when the Braves’ first baseman slashed .341/.462/.640 with MLB bests in runs scored (51) and doubles (23) to go along with 13 homers in 60 games. He also accumulated 3.2 Baseball Reference WAR after finishing with 4.0 in 158 games in 2019. It’s no wonder he repeats as the No. 1 first baseman on The Shredder’s list.
Though the top remains unchanged, there’s a big shakeup throughout the rest of the lineup. The Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt bounces back from a fifth-place ranking in 2020 to finish No. 2 this time around. With his MLB-leading 22 homers, Yankees first baseman Luke Voit jumps four slots to No. 3. Crashing the party after not being ranked in 2020 is AL MVP José Abreu, who led the Majors with 60 RBIs and 148 total bases.
Max Muncy slips three places to fifth this year, and Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs moves two spots down to sixth. The biggest drop is Pete Alonso’s, to seventh after the Mets slugger had a down year at the plate following a sensational rookie campaign. Oakland’s Matt Olson ranks eighth, smashing 14 homers and leading all first basemen with 3 Outs Above Average. The Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins ranks ninth after posting an .887 OPS with 10 homers in 41 games. And new Royals first baseman Carlos Santana rounds out the list after leading the American League with 47 walks in 2020.
Top 10 left fielders
With Nationals star Juan Soto moving from left field to right after the club signed Kyle Schwarber, we have a new No. 1 left fielder in Christian Yelich. The Brewers slugger placed second among right fielders in last year’s rankings, but he’s now handling the other corner-outfield spot for Milwaukee. While Yelich had a down year in 2020, he still owns a 1.005 OPS in three seasons with the team. Up next are two holdovers from last year’s list, with Michael Brantley remaining in the second spot and the A’s Mark Canha jumping from fifth to third. The other seven players weren’t ranked last year.
Free agent Marcell Ozuna takes the fourth spot after hitting .338 with a National League-leading 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 2020. He’s followed by Jesse Winker of the Reds and Dominic Smith of the Mets, both of whom appeared in their fourth MLB season and set a career high in OPS last season. White Sox slugger Eloy Jiménez, who has produced 45 homers with an .848 OPS in his first 177 big league games, ranks seventh, and the Giants’ Alex Dickerson, the Yankees’ Clint Frazier and the Blue Jays’ Lourdes Gurriel Jr. complete the top 10.
Top 10 center fielders
It speaks volumes about the top three center fielders in baseball that they’ve all been in the top three spots in The Shredder’s rankings in each of the past two years -- in the same order, in fact. Mike Trout is no surprise at the top, of course, and he runs his streak of finishing as the No. 1 center fielder in the Top 10 Right Now to seven. He’s also been the top center fielder in eight of his 10 MLB seasons.
Cody Bellinger, the 2019 NL MVP Award winner, maintained his runner-up status despite a down year at the plate; it certainly didn’t hurt that he delivered some huge home runs and tremendous defensive plays in the postseason. And George Springer, who recently signed a six-year, $150 million deal with the Blue Jays, had another big year, posting an .899 OPS with 14 homers in 51 games for the Astros before launching four more in the postseason.
Meanwhile, four of the next seven slots are occupied this year by newcomers -- Alex Verdugo of the Red Sox is No. 4, AL Rookie of the Year Award winner Kyle Lewis is No. 6, the Padres’ Trent Grisham is eighth and the Twins’ Byron Buxton is 10th (though Buxton has been on the Top 10 Right Now list of center fielders before).
The Mets’ Brandon Nimmo made the biggest jump over last year, going from No. 9 to No. 5 after posting 1.8 Baseball-Reference WAR in 55 games. Oakland’s Ramón Laureano falls from fourth to seventh, and Miami’s Starling Marte goes from sixth to ninth.
Top 10 catchers
Last year’s top four catchers all made the top 10 again, but there’s a new No. 1, with J.T. Realmuto jumping from second to first. Realmuto is the total package, with a strong throwing arm, stellar pitch-framing skills and a powerful bat. He takes the place of White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal, who falls one spot to No. 2. The Cubs’ Willson Contreras, meanwhile, also drops one spot, from No. 3 to No. 4. And the Twins’ Mitch Garver (No. 4 in 2020) is now ninth. The rest of the top 10 consists entirely of newcomers, including the Dodgers’ Will Smith at No. 3 and the A’s Sean Murphy at No. 5. Neither player has even logged 100 games in the Majors yet, but both are off to strong starts in their first two seasons, with Smith posting a .937 OPS and Murphy an .846 OPS.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez finishes seventh behind the Padres’ Austin Nola after winning a Silver Slugger Award with a .333/.353/.633 slash line in 2020, and he might have ranked even higher if he didn’t miss all of '19 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Braves’ Travis d’Arnaud (.321/.386/.533), who was the NL Silver Slugger Award winner at catcher, places eighth, while new Mets backstop James McCann breaks into the top 10 on the heels of a career-best .896 OPS in 2020.
- J.T. Realmuto, PHI (Last year: 2)
- Yasmani Grandal, CWS (1)
- Will Smith, LAD (Not ranked)
- Willson Contreras, CHC (3)
- Sean Murphy, OAK (NR)
- Austin Nola, SD (NR)
- Salvador Perez, KC (NR)
- Travis d'Arnaud, ATL (NR)
- Mitch Garver, MIN (4)
- James McCann, NYM (NR)
Top 10 relief pitchers
While there are seven newcomers in the top 10 this year, a familiar face takes the top spot, with Liam Hendriks vaulting from No. 4 a year ago. On the night he was anointed as baseball's top reliever, the free-agent right-hander also found a new team, signing a three-year deal (plus a 2024 club option) with the White Sox that will guarantee him $54 million. Hendriks was brilliant once again for the A's in 2020, posting a 1.78 ERA with a 0.67 WHIP, 14 saves, 37 strikeouts and only three walks in 25 1/3 innings. The other two holdovers from last year are Aroldis Chapman, who falls from No. 2 to No. 7, and Josh Hader, who drops from third to 10th.
Following Hendriks is Drew Pomeranz, whose strong relief work late in 2019 earned him a four-year, $34 million deal with the Padres. The first season of that deal was a success, as the lefty had a 1.45 ERA with 29 K’s in 18 2/3 innings. Next up is National League Rookie of the Year Award winner Devin Williams, who dominated to the tune of a 0.33 ERA with a 17.7 K/9 rate in 27 innings. Nick Anderson (No. 4 on the list) also had a sub-1.00 ERA last season (0.55), and he has registered a 1.43 ERA with 67 K’s and five walks in 37 2/3 innings since joining the Rays in a trade in July 2019. Cleveland’s James Karinchak rounds out the top five after notching a 2.67 ERA with a 17.7 K/9 rate in 27 frames as a rookie. He’s the favorite to take over as Cleveland’s closer with Brad Hand (No. 6 on the list) joining the free-agent pool in November.