October is always the most thrilling month for Major League Baseball. The drama, the intensity of every pitch, the late nights that leave you groggy the whole next day. This is baseball's month to strut its stuff. The game is at its absolute best.
It's also a chance for stars to truly shine. Baseball's greatest players have had their most indelible moments in October, from Reggie Jackson's World Series homers to Madison Bumgarner's dominance to Derek Jeter's clutch heroics. This is the month when you want to see the best MLB has to offer.
Thus, with the postseason set to begin, we rank the top 50 players competing in this year's tournament. It’s an interesting exercise when you consider that some of the game's biggest stars -- and some MVP favorites (including, of course, Shohei Ohtani) -- are not in the playoffs.
That said, there will still be plenty of stars on display, to say the least. Some of these players have been great for years; some have emerged in recent weeks. But all of them are absolutely pivotal to their team's success. These guys are as good as it gets. If I were picking a team based on trying to win in October, these are the guys I would pick. This list is not based solely on career value, but rather a mix of 2023 form, track record and health.
1. Mookie Betts, RF/2B, Dodgers
I’m not any more eager to get involved in another “Who should win the NL MVP?” debate than anyone else, but I will say: Deciding who tops this list is a slightly different question than that one. After all, Betts has been here before, winning two World Series, in addition to the fantastic year he’s had in 2023 -- which has included playing all over the diamond. Betts is at his absolute peak right now, and clearly eager to get that third ring.
2. Ronald Acuña Jr., RF, Braves
And this is why you can’t go wrong with whomever you vote for NL MVP. Acuña has put together a dominant season while leading the best team in baseball, the very definition of what you’d want from a player to top this list. I’m putting him second because of something that isn’t his fault: Due to injury, he wasn’t part of the Braves' 2021 championship run in the postseason. If they make another one this year, there is no doubt it will be, in large part, because of him.
3. Corey Seager, SS, Rangers
Seager has been one of the five best players in baseball according to WAR -- and according to anyone who has watched him play -- which is all the more remarkable because he played only 118 games this season. Despite that, he led the AL in doubles. We’ve seen what he can do in the postseason at Globe Life Field. Now, let’s see what he does as a member of the Rangers.
4. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Dodgers
For all the talk of how bizarre it would be to see Freeman wearing a uniform for a team other than the Braves, he has actually been better so far in his Dodgers career, if you can believe that. But don’t worry about the Braves too much, because …
5. Matt Olson, 1B, Braves
Olson never hit more than 39 homers with the A’s, but he has made himself right at home in Freeman’s old spot in Atlanta, smashing a stunning 54 homers this season. He led the Majors in RBIs and paced the NL in slugging percentage. For what it’s worth, his slugging percentage this year was higher than any Freeman has put up in a full season.
6. Bryce Harper, 1B/DH, Phillies
He hasn’t been 100% all year, but he wasn’t 100% last year and … you may remember him having a massive postseason moment or two.
7. Justin Verlander, SP, Astros
At this point, he’s as much a postseason staple as the MLB logo itself. The last stand of the grizzled veteran starting pitcher will be made by him.
8. Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs
Carroll is a player who is so great at everything that all his talents nearly blur together. He makes you forget just how hard all of this is. He’ll almost certainly win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, and if it weren’t for all those stars in Atlanta and Los Angeles, he might have won himself an MVP Award, too.
9. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers
So maybe he doesn’t have the stuff he used to have, and maybe you’ll always be a little worried about whether he’ll be healthy enough to make his next start. But he’s still Clayton Kershaw. He’s still a handful, and may well be so forever.
10. Luis Arraez, 2B, Marlins
For all the talk of Arraez being a throwback player -- hitting .354, with a bunch of singles will do that -- it should be noted that he was the best offensive player for the Marlins by nearly every other metric this year, too. He may be the single biggest reason this team made it to the postseason in the first place. Hopefully, that nagging ankle injury will be behind him before Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series.
11. Kyle Tucker, RF, Astros
It’s almost a cliché at this point to call Tucker underrated, but seriously … Kyle Tucker is so underrated. He was the best player on a World Series-winning team last year -- he even caught the last out -- and he’s well-positioned to do it again this year. Like all transcendent superstars, he just makes it all look so easy.
12. Gunnar Henderson, SS/3B, Orioles
Honestly, it can be difficult to keep all of these great young O's players straight. But Henderson immediately distinguished himself with his power, his defense and his clutch hitting. Is there an Oriole you want up at a big moment more than him?
13. Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
If you want to make the argument for Altuve as the best Astro, we can totally see that, too. His right thumb injury at the World Baseball Classic cost him nearly half the season, but he has been the Altuve we all know since returning -- or maybe even a little bit better?
14. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles
Based solely on numbers, Rutschman isn’t at the level of his teammate Henderson or some of the other names on this list -- but he’s the heart and soul of this team. The Orioles started winning nearly the second he arrived and haven’t stopped since.
15. Spencer Strider, RHP, Braves
The most electric stuff of any starter in baseball. Let’s see how willing the Braves are to ride him this October.
16. Devin Williams, RHP, Brewers
There’s nothing more important than a team’s bullpen in the postseason, and there’s no better reliever in baseball right now than Williams.
17. Marcus Semien, 2B, Rangers
Forever an advertisement for the value of playing at an excellent level nearly every single day, Semien is the American League leader in bWAR. That’s because he’s great, but that’s also because he keeps answering the bell in a way few players do anymore. He led the AL in games, plate appearances, runs and hits. He is perpetually underappreciated -- but not here.
18. Sonny Gray, RHP, Twins
One of the stranger, and perhaps most telling, things people will be noting this postseason is how few dominant starting pitchers we’ll be seeing. Neither of the likely Cy Young Award winners -- Gerrit Cole in the AL and Blake Snell in the NL -- made it. Gray, meanwhile, has enjoyed the best season of any starting pitcher in the playoffs, and the Twins’ hopes rely very much on him being the same this October.
19. Zac Gallen, SP, D-backs
Gallen was an NL Cy Young candidate for a while, but he may have run out of gas a little bit late. At his best, though, he’s one of the last guys you’d want to face in an elimination game.
20. Yordan Alvarez, DH, Astros
Alvarez had injury issues this year, but it didn’t diminish his well-documented power in the games he did play. He ended up with 30 homers and 100 RBIs despite missing more than 45 games. We’ve seen how he can carry a team when he’s hot.
21. Framber Valdez, LHP, Astros
He made his case as the team’s best starting pitcher and future Verlander replacement just in time for Verlander to return.
22. Corbin Burnes, RHP, Brewers
It took Burnes a while to get going, but he has been dynamite of late, posting a 2.71 ERA since the All-Star break. He’s one of the main reasons you want to get excited about the Brewers. He can shut down even the strongest opposing lineup.
23. Austin Riley, 3B, Braves
The Braves have so many power hitters that you almost forget about Riley sometimes, but you shouldn’t. He ended up with a career high in homers this year, after all. Riley’s growth as a player over the past five years has raised the ceiling on this Atlanta team. We saw just how high during the regular season.
25. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Blue Jays
His raw numbers never quite match up with his strikeout totals and peripheral stats, but in the postseason, you need guys who miss bats. Gausman does that as well as almost any starting pitcher.
26. Zack Wheeler, RHP, Phillies
As always, much of Wheeler’s value comes from just how many quality innings he throws, but don’t forget just how much he shut down the Padres in the NLCS last year.
27. Yandy Díaz, 1B, Rays
People tend to say the Rays don’t really have a superstar, but Díaz is beginning to resemble one. Do you realize he and Juan Soto have the same OBP (.410)?
28. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., DH, Blue Jays
Vlad Jr. still hasn’t played at the near-MVP level he was at two years ago, and he has been hurt lately, but the explosion every Blue Jays fan has been waiting for perpetually feels just around the corner.
29. J.T. Realmuto, C, Phillies
In many ways, the engine that makes the Phillies go, you can count on him to make some sort of heads-up play that wins them a game.
30. Jordan Montgomery, LHP, Rangers
The other guy the Rangers got at the Trade Deadline turned out to be their best pitcher down the stretch … and maybe even a season-saver.
31. Ketel Marte, 2B, D-backs
Long a little bit ignored out in the desert, and now overshadowed by Carroll, Marte just keeps putting up excellent season after excellent season. He sure seems like a guy primed for a big postseason moment, no?
32. Pablo López, RHP, Twins
Sure, Twins fans may miss Arraez. But they obviously needed pitching, and López has been exactly what they wanted. Is Gray-López the best 1-2 starting pitching punch in this postseason?
33. Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves
He’s never going to be an on-base specialist, but his power, defense and utter Ozzie-ness is essential for this Braves team. They’re never better than when he’s on and healthy.
34. Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays
The Blue Jays can be a bit mercurial, but they’re still otherworldly talented, and no one represents that better than Bichette.
35. Matt Chapman, 3B, Blue Jays
Chapman, in a way that’s not entirely different from when he was in Oakland, is always a bit under the radar while helping his team win. He’s a free agent this winter, and that will shine a spotlight on him like he’s never had before this October.
36. Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros
He has slumped down the stretch, and he may never again be the MVP candidate he once was, but it has still been a solid past couple of seasons for the two-time World Series champ.
37. Christian Yelich, LF, Brewers
He’s likely not going to win any more MVP Awards, but he has looked much closer to his once-elite self this year for a team that needs every run it can score.
38. Adolis García, RF, Rangers
You can find ways to get him out, but don’t make a mistake against him or he will hit the ball farther than anyone else on this list.
39. Josh Lowe, RF, Rays
Unlike teammate Brandon Lowe, this will be the first postseason for Josh (no relation), who joined the 20-30 club in a dynamic 2023 campaign.
41. Max Muncy, 3B, Dodgers
After a down year in 2022, Muncy has recovered to be a linchpin for the Dodgers' lineup. And he’s not half-bad at third base either.
42. Cedric Mullins, CF, Orioles
Is there an Orioles player you’re happier for to finally have this postseason moment than Mullins? The guy has seen a lot with this team.
43. Kyle Bradish, SP, Orioles
It’s tempting to put Grayson Rodriguez here, and he certainly has the upside to justify it. But Bradish has proven to be the ace of this team. Keep an eye on John Means, too.
44. Sean Murphy, C, Braves
Such a perfect fit in Atlanta that you forget he hasn’t been with the Braves his whole career.
45. Isaac Paredes, 3B, Rays
Of all the postseason players who hit 30 homers this year, it’s a safe bet the one you’d have the hardest time naming is Paredes.
46. Jhoan Duran, RHP, Twins
He throws insanely hard and he's awfully scary for any team to face with its season on the line. He also might have the best closer entrance of anyone in the postseason.
47. Aaron Nola, SP, Phillies
He hasn’t put together quite the contract year he might have wanted, but he’s still been good, and the Phillies will lean on him heavily in the postseason.
48. Anthony Santander, DH, Orioles
Because he’s so “old” -- he’s 28 -- Santander sometimes gets left off the list of young, talented Baltimore hitters. But Santander has been there every day for them -- almost a veteran rock.
49. Kyle Schwarber, LF/DH, Phillies
Like no leadoff man the game has ever seen, and one who is going to have lots of opportunities to launch balls deep into the Philadelphia night.
50. Jazz Chisholm Jr., CF, Marlins
It has been a frustrating season for Jazz, but he remains a dynamic talent, and he can make all that frustration disappear with a big-time performance in the postseason.
Honorable mention: Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Rays; Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Dodgers; Michael Harris II, CF, Braves; Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers; Royce Lewis, 3B, Twins; Jeremy Peña, SS, Astros; Freddy Peralta, RHP, Brewers; Evan Phillips, RHP, Dodgers; Will Smith, C, Dodgers; Bryson Stott, 2B, Phillies; Trea Turner, SS, Phillies; Christian Walker, 1B, D-backs; Brandon Woodruff, RHP, Brewers