In 2017, the Indians' Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor placed third and fifth, respectively, in American League MVP Award voting. In '18, they finished third and sixth.It's been an impressive run for the infield mates, who both rank in the top five among all MLB position players in FanGraphs' Wins
In 2017, the Indians' Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor placed third and fifth, respectively, in American League MVP Award voting. In '18, they finished third and sixth.
It's been an impressive run for the infield mates, who both rank in the top five among all MLB position players in FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement (WAR) over the past three seasons, helping Cleveland claim back-to-back-to-back division titles.
If that streak is going to extend to four, Ramirez and Lindor likely will be right in the middle of it again. But are they baseball's best position player duo heading into 2019?
To answer that question, MLB.com looked at each team's two highest-ranked position players in WAR, according to the Steamer projections. Below are the top 10, but keep in mind that things could change once Manny Machado and Bryce Harper find homes.
1 (tie). Lindor and Ramirez, Indians
Total projected WAR: 12.7
Here they are again. Lindor (6.7 WAR) and Ramirez (6.0) rank third and fourth, respectively, among MLB position players in projected WAR, as well as first and second among infielders. Depth matters over a 162-game grind. But for the Indians to have two elite players like that -- not to mention a few more in their rotation -- goes a long way toward explaining Cleveland's 93-win projection, despite its relatively quiet offseason.
1 (tie). Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons, Angels
Total projected WAR: 12.7
This is first and foremost about Trout, whose 8.7 WAR projection puts him more than a win in front of any other MLB player. Going into his age-27 season, Trout already has finished first or second in AL MVP Award voting six times and is rapidly climbing the all-time WAR leaderboard. But don't forget about Simmons, a four-time Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop who has been above average with the bat in back-to-back years.
3. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
Total projected WAR: 11.5
Betts, the defending AL MVP, is coming off a sensational season that includes a batting title, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards and a World Series championship. He trails only Trout, with a projection of 7.3 WAR. Some might expect J.D. Martinez to pair with Betts, and that's reasonable, given the slugger's recent track record. However, Bogaerts is five years younger, plays a premium defensive position and broke out with the bat in 2018.
4. Corey Seager and Justin Turner, Dodgers
Total projected WAR: 10.3
With Seager missing most of 2018 after Tommy John surgery, and the Dodgers filling his spot temporarily with Machado, some may have forgotten that the young shortstop had established himself as one of the game's best players over his first two-plus seasons. Turner has been a top-10 hitter, on a rate basis, in five years since arriving in Los Angeles. Health is the only thing that could hold back the left side of the Dodgers' infield.
5. Alex Bregman and José Altuve, Astros
Total projected WAR: 10.1
Carlos Correa and George Springer don't miss the cut by much here, making the Astros the only club projected to have four position players reach the 4-WAR mark. Bregman rose to stardom last year, just three years removed from Houston taking him second overall in the 2015 Draft. That helped the Astros take their second straight AL West title despite a bit of a drop-off from Altuve, who still batted .316.
6. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
Total projected WAR: 10.0
Steamer joins many Cubs fans in expecting more from this talented duo in 2019. Bryant is a candidate to rebound significantly after shoulder problems held him to 102 games and sapped his power last year. Rizzo endured a rough opening month and wound up with his weakest offensive output since '13. Both still were good, but both can be better.
7. Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner, Nationals
Total projected WAR: 9.7
If Harper returns, Washington would match Houston at four players projected at 4-plus WAR for 2019. Without Harper, the Nats still can stack this infield pair together with last year's teenage phenom, Juan Soto. Rendon rather quietly ranks sixth among MLB position players in WAR over the past five years, while Turner has proven himself one of the game's best baserunners as part of a solid all-around game.
8. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees
Total projected WAR: 9.1
If this were based on home runs, the Bronx Bombers would be No. 1, as Judge and Stanton are projected to swat 81 big flies. New York's two imposing sluggers don't rate quite as highly overall, but Steamer does project Stanton to contribute more with the bat in his second year in pinstripes than he did in his debut season.
9. Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, Brewers
Total projected WAR: 8.9
These two made up easily the National League's top tandem in 2018, and Milwaukee will hope for more of the same as it tries to defend its division title. With that said, Yelich blew well past his previous career high in WAR on his way to MVP honors and could be hard pressed to repeat that level of success, despite his obvious ability.
10. Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson, Braves
Total projected WAR: 8.4
Pending decisions from Harper and Machado, this is the only pair in the top 10 to feature a player who changed teams this offseason. The Braves snagged Donaldson in November on a lucrative one-year deal as the 33-year-old tries to rebuild his value coming off an injury-shortened campaign. One also could argue that NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuña Jr. should be here, after he generated 3.7 WAR in just 111 games last year.
Three more to watch:
Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story (8.3 WAR): The left side of the Rockies' infield is in great shape, especially if Colorado can agree to a contract extension with Arenado.
Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter (7.9 WAR): The Cardinals were able to add Goldy by shifting Carpenter from first base back to third.
Matt Chapman and Matt Olson (7.7 WAR): The Matts' first full season showed that the A's appear set at the infield corners for years to come.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.