Now that Spring Training is almost in the books and we’re nearing the start of a new season, it’s a great time to ask: Who are the top players in baseball, and where do they rank when it comes to the best of the best? MLB Network answered those questions with its annual presentation of the Top 100 Players Right Now.
MLB Network’s production and research team ranked the very best players in Major League Baseball, using a formula that differs from the Shredder, which was used to determine the Network’s rankings for the top 10 players at each position.
Last year, the top player in baseball was -- no surprise here -- Mike Trout. But with Trout being hurt for much of last season, we have a new name at No. 1 going into the 2022 campaign.
1) Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, Angels (2021 rank: unranked)
How do you compete with a guy who posts a .965 OPS with 46 home runs and 26 steals while simultaneously pitching to a 3.18 ERA in 23 starts on the mound? Well, you don’t. That’s why Ohtani was named the American League MVP last year, and that’s why he’s No. 1 on this list. When has anyone ever done anything like what Ohtani did last season? You’d have to go back to none other than Babe Ruth in 1919.
2) Mike Trout, CF, Angels (2021 rank: 1)
If you flashed forward from last year’s list to this year’s, without knowing what had happened in the intervening season, you might wonder how Trout was knocked off the Top 100 throne. Then someone would tell you that he only played in 36 games due to injury. Following the inevitable wave of sadness that would wash over you, you’d understand (although it didn’t hurt that Ohtani did things we’ve never seen before in 2021). Still, Trout remains the gold standard when it comes to consistent excellence that makes him an MVP candidate year after year.
3) Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres (2021 rank: 6)
We often forget, if we even realized it in the first place, that due to injuries, Tatis has only played in 273 games – the equivalent of less than two full seasons. Imagine what we’d see from him in a full season. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until at least 2023 for that because he’s going to miss the first couple of months of the ’22 season with a wrist injury. Tatis is one of the most electric players in the game, and his power-speed combination, which produced 42 homers and 25 steals in just 130 games last year, is a thing to behold. He’s finished in the top four in National League MVP voting in each of the past two seasons even though he missed so much time with injuries.
4) Juan Soto, OF, Nationals (2021 rank: 5)
Soto’s combination of unparalleled strike zone discipline and prodigious slugging ability makes him unique in the game today – comparisons to Barry Bonds are not only not far-fetched, but warranted. Over the past two seasons, Soto hit .322/.471/.572 with 42 homers and 186 walks in 198 games. Look at that OBP – he’s reached base safely in nearly half of his plate appearances over a span of almost 200 games. He has power to all fields, a career OPS+ of 160, and, in case you haven’t heard, he’s only 23 years old.
5) Bryce Harper, RF, Phillies (2021 rank: 22)
Harper vaulted 17 spots year-over-year, and for good reason after he won his second career NL MVP Award with a tremendous season at the plate. It’s easy to overlook Harper because his excellence has at times flown under the radar while young stars like Tatis, Soto and others grabbed headlines. But as Harper demonstrated last year, he’s still among the game’s elite hitters. In 2021, he hit .309/.429/.615 with 35 homers to put him within striking distance of 300 for his career (he enters the ’22 season with 267) as he continues to build a Hall of Fame resume.
6) Mookie Betts, RF, Dodgers (2021 rank: 2)
Betts dropped a few spots on the list, partly because injuries limited him to 122 games last season. Despite missing time, he still hit .264/.367/.487 with 23 home runs. It wasn’t Mookie at his best, but there’s no reason to think that he won’t be in the NL MVP conversation again in 2022 – after all, he remains in his prime at age 29, and his initials aren’t M.L.B. for nothing.
7) Jacob deGrom, SP, NYM (2021 rank: 3)
Once again, injuries took their toll not only on a superstar’s season, but on his rank on the Top 100 list. deGrom was every bit as dominant as we would expect – maybe even more, somehow – in 2021, and yet he drops four spots here. That’s because the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner only made 15 starts. But in those 15 outings, he was better than ever over 92 innings, posting a 1.08 ERA, 0.55 WHIP and an unbelievable 45 percent strikeout rate. His 2022 season has become a bit of a question mark, too, as he was shut down April 1 and will be kept from throwing for at least four weeks due to a stress reaction in his right shoulder.
8) Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Blue Jays (2021 rank: unranked)
We all knew Guerrero was going to have a monster year, and we saw it in 2021, when he slugged 48 homers and posted a 1.002 OPS. In any season during which another player wasn’t both slamming homers and throwing 100 mph fastballs as a regular starter, Vlad is the MVP. As he enters his age-23 season, it’s easy to see not only one, but multiple MVP honors in his future as he anchors a Blue Jays lineup that keeps getting more and more exciting every year.
9) Freddie Freeman, 1B, Dodgers (2021 rank: 4)
It’ll take some getting used to, seeing Freeman in Dodger blue after he spent the first 12 years of his career with the Braves. But what won’t take any getting used to, is Freeman putting up big numbers at the plate after another stellar offensive season. It wasn’t as successful as his 2020 NL MVP campaign, but Freeman overcame a slow start in ’21 to lead the league in runs (120) while hitting .300/.393/.503 with 31 homers. The Dodgers already had a terrifying lineup prior to adding Freeman, and it’s going to be very interesting watching Los Angeles’ lineup, and particularly Freeman, hit in ’22.
10) Ronald Acuña Jr., CF, Braves (2021 rank: 7)
It’s only a matter of time (and health) until Acuña joins the 40-homer/40-steal club. In his last full season, he hit 41 homers and swiped an NL-leading 37 bases (2019). And that was only his second season in the Majors. He was well on his way last year, launching 24 homers and stealing 17 bases through July 10, when he tore his right ACL while chasing a fly ball at Marlins Park. Acuña could easily move up this list, toward the very top, if he stays healthy this year for the defending World Series champions.
No. 11-No. 20
A couple of big jumps over last year, with new Twins shortstop Carlos Correa going from 56th to 14th, and new Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien vaulting from 73rd to 20th. It helps, of course, that both had huge bounce-back seasons following an off-year in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign – Correa’s OPS improved 141 points, and Semien set an AL/NL record for second basemen by launching 45 homers in ’21.
11. Aaron Judge, RF, Yankees (2021 rank: 21)
12. Max Scherzer, SP, Mets (2021 rank: 28)
13. Trea Turner, SS, Dodgers (2021 rank: 26)
14. Carlos Correa, SS, Twins (2021 rank: 56)
15. José Ramírez, 3B, Guardians (2021 rank: 19)
16. Gerrit Cole, SP, Yankees (2021 rank: 11)
17. Walker Buehler, SP, Dodgers (2021 rank: 40)
18. Manny Machado, 3B, Padres (2021 rank: 18)
19. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Cardinals (2021 rank: 13)
20. Marcus Semien, 2B, Rangers (2021 rank: 73)
No. 21-No. 30
A trio of star infielders greatly improved their standing over last year, as Rafael Devers, Jose Altuve and new Braves first baseman Matt Olson moved into the top 30. Some previously unranked players have also crashed the party in this echelon, with right-handers Corbin Burnes – the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner – and Zack Wheeler appearing here, as well as Astros slugger Kyle Tucker.
21. Corey Seager, SS, Rangers (2021 rank: 24)
22. Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox (2021 rank: 65)
23. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (2021 rank: 25)
24. Corbin Burnes, SP, Brewers (2021 rank: unranked)
25. Zack Wheeler, SP, Phillies (2021 rank: unranked)
26. Matt Olson, 1B, Braves (2021 rank: 44)
27. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Cardinals (2021 rank: 32)
28. Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros (2021 rank: 55)
29. Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros (2021 rank: 17)
30. Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros (2021 rank: unranked)
No. 31-No. 40
Some first-timers on the list here, with Rays phenom Wander Franco debuting at No. 40 and Braves third baseman Austin Riley parlaying a tremendous 2021 campaign at the plate into the No. 34 spot. Twins center fielder Byron Buxton moved up 52 spots after demonstrating why he is thought to be one of the best power-speed guys in the game, even though he missed time with an injury.
31. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox (2021 rank: 27)
32. Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays (2021 rank: 57)
33. George Springer, CF, Blue Jays (2021 rank: 20)
34. Austin Riley, 3B, Braves (2021 rank: unranked)
35. Max Muncy, INF, Dodgers (2021 rank: 45)
36. Nick Castellanos, OF/DH, Phillies (2021 rank: unranked)
37. Shane Bieber, SP, Guardians (2021 rank: 12)
38. Brandon Woodruff, SP, Brewers (2021 rank: unranked)
39. Byron Buxton, CF, Twins (2021 rank: 91)
40. Wander Franco, SS, Rays (2021 rank: unranked)
No. 41-No. 50
Seven of the 10 players in this echelon were among the unranked last year, with new Mets outfielder Starling Marte, Cardinals slugger Tyler O’Neill, Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds, Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins, Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez, new Mariners left-hander Robbie Ray and Dodgers southpaw Julio Urías now appearing in the top 50.
41. Starling Marte, OF, Mets (2021 rank: unranked)
42. Tyler O’Neill, LF, Cardinals (2021 rank: unranked)
43. Bryan Reynolds, OF, Pirates (2021 rank: unranked)
44. Cedric Mullins, CF, Orioles (2021 rank: unranked)
45. José Abreu, 1B, White Sox (2021 rank: 31)
46. Yordan Alvarez, LF/DH, Astros (2021 rank: unranked)
47. Robbie Ray, SP, Mariners (2021 rank: unranked)
48. Max Fried, SP, Braves (2021 rank: 70)
49. Julio Urías, SP, Dodgers (2021 rank: unranked)
50. Luis Robert, CF, White Sox (2021 rank: 94)
No. 51-No. 60
Salvador Perez jumps 30 spots following a career year at the plate -- the veteran Royals catcher slugged 48 homers while driving in a Major League-leading 121 runs. Flamethrowing Brewers closer Josh Hader made a 35-spot leap after bouncing back from a relatively pedestrian 2020 performance, striking out 46 percent of the batters he faced while posting a 1.23 ERA with 34 saves for Milwaukee. The one newcomer here is Brandon Crawford, who was rejuvenated at the plate in his age-34 season, finishing fourth in NL MVP Award voting.
51. Lance Lynn, SP, White Sox (2021 rank: 75)
52. Salvador Perez, C, Royals (2021 rank: 82)
53. Will Smith, C, Dodgers (2021 rank: 50)
54. J.T. Realmuto, C, Phillies (2021 rank: 33)
55. Yasmani Grandal, C, White Sox (2021 rank: 49)
56. Brandon Lowe, 2B/OF, Rays (2021 rank: 53)
57. Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves (2021 rank: 72)
58. Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants (2021 rank: unranked)
59. Liam Hendriks, RP, White Sox (2021 rank: 58)
60. Josh Hader, RP, Brewers (2021 rank: 95)
No. 61-No. 70
Three star infielders saw significant drops on this list over last year, with Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon seeing the biggest fall among them, dropping 62 places after an injury-plagued 2021. New Red Sox second baseman Trevor Story dealt with an elbow injury last season, and he fell 53 spots. Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, meanwhile, is coming off the worst offensive season of his career, resulting in another 53-spot drop. The Mariners will be pleased to see recent outfield acquisition Jesse Winker debuting on this list at No. 63, while Blue Jays slugger Teoscar Hernández makes his first appearance at No. 65.
61. Giancarlo Stanton, RF/DH, Yankees (2021 rank: 97)
62. Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets (2021 rank: 66)
63. Jesse Winker, OF, Mariners (2021 rank: unranked)
64. Justin Turner, 3B, Dodgers (2021 rank: 46)
65. Teoscar Hernández, OF, Blue Jays (2021 rank: unranked)
66. Kris Bryant, INF/OF, Rockies (2021 rank: 62)
67. Javier Báez, SS, Tigers (2021 rank: 61)
68. Francisco Lindor, SS, Mets (2021 rank: 15)
69. Trevor Story, 2B, Red Sox (2021 rank: 16)
70. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Angels (2021 rank: 8)
No. 71-No. 80
Joey Votto is back on the list, checking in at No. 76 after enjoying a renaissance at the plate in 2021, when he smashed 36 homers with a .938 OPS in 129 games for the Reds. New Blue Jays right-hander Kevin Gausman was a revelation for the Giants last year, helping San Francisco win a franchise-record 107 games and the NL West. Fellow righty Freddy Peralta debuts on the list at No. 75 after a breakout campaign with Milwaukee. And new Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber can thank an incredible run of power – 16 of his 32 homers last year came in the span of 18 games (!) – for vaulting him onto the list.
71. Randy Arozarena, OF, Rays (2021 rank: 100)
72. Ketel Marte, INF/OF, D-backs (2021 rank: 48)
73. Jake Cronenworth, 2B, Padres (2021 rank: unranked)
74. Kevin Gausman, SP, Blue Jays (2021 rank: unranked)
75. Freddy Peralta, SP, Brewers (2021 rank: unranked)
76. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (2021 rank: unranked)
77. Michael Brantley, LF/DH, Astros (2021 rank: 36)
78. Yuli Gurriel, 1B, Astros (2021 rank: unranked)
79. J.D. Martinez, RF/DH, Red Sox (2021 rank: 98)
80. Kyle Schwarber, LF/DH, Phillies (2021 rank: unranked)
Third baseman Matt Chapman fell 60 spots from last year’s list, but he may benefit from a change of scenery in a powerful Blue Jays lineup. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Reds second baseman Jonathan India, debuts at No. 88. Four other previously unranked players appear in this section of the list thanks to big seasons in 2021 -- Brewers shortstop Willy Adames, Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara, Astros righty Lance McCullers Jr. and Giants first baseman Brandon Belt.
81. Willy Adames, SS, Brewers (2021 rank: unranked)
82. Yoán Moncada, 3B, White Sox (2021 rank: 90)
83. Matt Chapman, 3B, Blue Jays (2021 rank: 23)
84. Sandy Alcantara, SP, Marlins (2021 rank: unranked)
85. Lucas Giolito, SP, White Sox (2021 rank: 69)
86. Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals (2021 rank: 68)
87. Lance McCullers Jr., SP, Astros (2021 rank: unranked)
88. Jonathan India, 2B, Reds (2021 rank: unranked)
89. Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants (2021 rank: unranked)
90. Nelson Cruz, DH, Nationals (2021 rank: 42)
Among the final 10 players of the Top 100 Right Now list, three had major falls in ranks after subpar seasons at the plate. Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu is down 80 spots after posting a .711 OPS last year, a full 300 points below his league-leading OPS the prior season. And former NL MVP Award winners Cody Bellinger (down 89 spots) and Christian Yelich (down 91 spots) had the two largest year-over-year drops, each falling from the top 10.
91. Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals (2021 rank: unranked)
92. Justin Verlander, SP, Astros (2021 rank: unranked)
93. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers (2021 rank: 38)
94. DJ LeMahieu, INF, Yankees (2021 rank: 14)
95. Chris Taylor, UTIL, Dodgers (2021 rank: unranked)
96. Whit Merrifield, 2B, Royals (2021 rank: 77)
97. José Berríos, SP, Blue Jays (2021 rank: unranked)
98. Marcus Stroman, SP, Cubs (2021 rank: unranked)
99. Cody Bellinger, CF, Dodgers (2021 rank: 10)
100. Christian Yelich, OF, Brewers (2021 rank: 9)