Top 20 players in Major League Baseball for 2023
Ahead of Opening Day, we rank the top 20 players in MLB this season.
Just missed: Ronald Acuna Jr., Jose Altuve*, Xander Bogaerts, Corbin Burnes, Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper*, Austin Riley, Fernando Tatis Jr.*
*Player is injured/suspended to start the season
20. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
It speaks to Guerrero's prodigious pedigree and talent that a season in which he hit more than 30 home runs and posted an OPS above .800 is considered somewhat of a disappointment. However, after a transcendent 48-home run performance in 2021, Guerrero struggled to find the same level of consistency last campaign. The 24-year-old had a hard time getting the ball in the air as he had a ground ball rate of 52.1%, up from 44.8% in 2021. Guerrero said earlier in the offseason that he put too much pressure on himself at times last season and is entering the 2023 campaign with a renewed focus and approach. Betting on a big bounce-back season from Guerrero is probably a wise decision.
19. J.T. Realmuto, Phillies
A true force on both sides of the ball, Realmuto's coming off a 2022 campaign in which he threw out a league-best 44% of would-be base-stealers. He also became the second catcher ever with a 20-homer, 20-steal season en route to winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. The 32-year-old is incredibly durable for a catcher, appearing in over 130 games for the second straight season in 2022. When it comes to catchers, Realmuto is in a class unto himself as the best in the business.
18. Rafael Devers, Red Sox
It's easy to forget that Devers is just 26 years old and still at the beginning of his prime. That's a scary thought when you consider he already owns a World Series ring, two All-Star berths, a 50-double season, and a Silver Slugger. Devers is arguably the best third baseman in the AL and one of the Junior Circuit's best lefty sluggers. The Red Sox made him the face of their franchise over the winter with a $313.5-million extension, and it's easy to see why. He should have no trouble continuing his ascent in 2023.
17. Justin Verlander, Mets
Age is but a number for the 40-year-old Verlander, who remains firmly in the conversation for the title of baseball's best pitcher. Fresh off winning his third Cy Young Award during a historic comeback season with the Astros, Verlander is now the co-ace of a Mets squad with legitimate World Series aspirations. MLB's active strikeouts leader should still be good for 170-200 innings and around 200 strikeouts a season while limiting the long ball in a homer-heavy environment. Verlander's more than just an ace: he's an all-time great.
16. Yordan Alvarez, Astros
Since landing Alvarez in a lopsided trade with the Dodgers in 2016, the Astros have seen him develop into one of baseball's most fearsome power hitters. Alvarez trails only Mike Trout and Aaron Judge in wRC+ (164) and OPS (.973) since debuting in 2019. The 25-year-old signed a long-term extension last year, keeping him in Houston into his prime years. With the Astros firmly in a win-now mode, Alvarez has plenty of opportunity to author more memorable moments and climb the franchise's all-time leaderboard in a number of offensive categories.
15. Max Scherzer, Mets
Scherzer was as exceptional last year as he's ever been. However, his 2022 was treated as a disappointment because he didn't throw 170-plus innings for what would've been the 13th consecutive full-length season (omitting the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign). He's getting older, there's no avoiding that. But among pitchers with at least 140 innings thrown, the righty still ranked sixth by ERA, sixth by strikeout rate, sixth by FIP, and second by K-BB%. It seems like Scherzer will be the elite of the elite until he literally can't throw anymore. And with the pitch clock as an added weapon? Look out.
14. Francisco Lindor, Mets
After struggling in his first season with the Mets, Lindor rebounded in 2022. The star shortstop set a new career high with 107 RBIs and was extremely durable, appearing in 161 games. Lindor is a magnetic personality and has taken to the bright lights of New York City seamlessly. The Mets enter 2023 with high expectations and a lot of pressure to win the franchise's first championship since 1986. Lindor will be counted on to lead the charge as one of the league's best shortstops.
13. Sandy Alcantara, Marlins
Alcantara was a workhorse en route to winning his first career Cy Young last season. The big right-hander led the league in innings pitched and complete games, emerging as a throwback type of pitcher in an era where hurlers aren't pitching as deep into games. Alcantara's durability and ability to pile up quality starts should allow him to contend for another Cy Young in 2023.
12. Freddie Freeman, Dodgers
Freeman is quietly one of baseball's most consistent, durable and productive players. The 2020 NL MVP could have easily been a finalist for, or even won, last year's honor after leading his league in a slew of offensive categories. He should be in that conversation again in 2023 as the Dodgers' offensive anchor. Barring injury, Freeman will cross several important career milestones this summer. It's a bit strange he often gets overlooked, but that might just be the result of a glut of talented first basemen in the NL. Few in the majors are better or have a sweeter swing.
11. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
It always felt like a tragedy that Goldschmidt hadn't added an MVP award to his mantle, but last season finally put that to bed. The seven-time All-Star had previously been runner-up twice and finished as a finalist one other time. This past year, he led the Senior Circuit in slugging percentage and OPS with a career-best 180 OPS+. Still, somehow, the five-time Silver Slugger feels underappreciated even though he could easily threaten back-to-back MVPs in an incredibly deep Cardinals lineup.
10. Trea Turner, Phillies
Turner showed off at the World Baseball Classic, crushing five homers for Team USA and boasting a 1.483 OPS over six games. It was a great reminder heading into the upcoming campaign that Turner is so much more than just speed. His aggressiveness on the bases should obviously be noted entering a season in which MLB added rules to try to entice more base-stealing. But Turner is also an all-fields hitter with elite pop and the ability to play a demanding defensive position. He's the entire package.
9. Julio Rodriguez, Mariners
It only took one year for J-Rod to crack the top 10. Rodriguez announced his presence in the majors with a historic rookie season that rocketed him to superstardom and helped end the Mariners' long playoff drought. What can he do for an encore in his age-22 season? How about a 30-30 campaign? A Gold Glove? A .900 OPS? Nothing seems out of bounds for Rodriguez - and the scary thing is, he's yet to enter his prime. This might be the last year that J-Rod sits outside the top five players for a long time.
8. Juan Soto, Padres
It's a testament to how good Soto is that a season with an .853 OPS and a 145 wRC+ is considered disappointing. The slugger acknowledged that he battled some mechanical issues with his swing in 2022 and feels much more locked in heading into the new season. Soto's performance at the World Baseball Classic could be an indicator of what's in store for 2023. He's still only 24 years old and looks poised to return to the form he showcased in 2021 with the Nationals when he posted a staggering 7.0 fWAR with a .999 OPS. It wouldn't be shocking if Soto moves up into the top five on the list at this time next year.
7. Nolan Arenado, Cardinals
Arenado can stake a claim to being the greatest defensive third baseman of all time. The 31-year-old added a staggering 10th Gold Glove and sixth consecutive Platinum Glove last season. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Arenado has shown no signs of slowing down, ranking in the 99th percentile in Baseball Savant's outs above average in 2022. He also put together his best offensive season since 2019, posting an .891 OPS with 30 home runs and finishing third in NL MVP voting. It's fair to expect another strong year in 2023 from one of the game's most complete players.
6. Jose Ramirez, Guardians
Ramirez remains one of baseball's most underrated and underappreciated stars. The 30-year-old is fourth behind Judge, Betts, and Trout in FanGraphs' WAR since the 2017 season. Ramirez's ability to hit for power, use his legs, and play solid defense at a premium position allows him to provide tremendous value for the Guardians. He took a below-market extension to remain in Cleveland for the long haul and could end up as the greatest player in franchise history whenever he finishes his career.
5. Manny Machado, Padres
Machado and Ramirez are the only third basemen keeping Arenado from claiming the title of best at the hot corner. Machado, 30, is a perennial MVP candidate with light-tower power, a solid glove, and consistency that rivals any of the best hitters in the sport. When it's all said and done, Machado has a good chance to go down as one of the greatest all-around players of his generation - and he's not even close to being done. That's good news for baseball fans everywhere.
4. Mookie Betts, Dodgers
As if Betts wasn't satisfied with being the best right fielder in baseball, he's now adding the infield to his repertoire. Betts will play games at second base on a semi-regular basis this season, a level of versatility that makes him even more dangerous. Even if he stayed in right all year, we're still talking about a generational talent who covers right field with the effortless grace of a dancer and owns a cannon for an arm that baserunners would be fools to test. Oh, and lest we forget, Betts remains one of the most dangerous hitters in the sport and a virtual lock for an annual top-five MVP finish. It's hard to imagine how a player gets better than him.
3. Aaron Judge, Yankees
We might never see a season as special as Judge's 2022 again. With 62 homers, the Yankees' newest captain set the AL record for dingers in a single season, and he's the first player in any league to reach the 60-dinger plateau since Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa in 2001. If we omit players implicated with steroid use, he really is the home run king, surpassing Roger Maris (61 in 1961) and Babe Ruth (60 in 1927). Expecting the four-time All-Star to repeat would be ridiculous, but he's also more than just a slugger. Judge ranked in the 85th percentile in outs above average and 93rd percentile in arm strength, and he obviously possesses an incredibly keen eye with a walk rate in the 96th percentile.
2. Mike Trout, Angels
Trout's bona fides are unimpeachable. As a three-time MVP, 10-time All-Star, nine-time Silver Slugger, and two-time All-Star Game MVP, Trout would go down as one of the best to ever play if he retired today. And while he was held to 119 games last year, he still hit 40 homers and finished eighth in AL MVP voting ahead of Xander Bogaerts, Verlander, and Bo Bichette, to name a few. He took a step back defensively in center field and isn't trying to steal many bases anymore, but this next version of Trout seems to be a truly prolific slugger, boasting a .630 SLG. Pro-rated over a full season, his homer pace last year would equate to roughly 54 dingers. He's still the hitter everyone envies.
1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels
The fact Ohtani needs two different charts illustrates the entire point. The two-way phenom followed up his 2021 AL MVP season by getting even better and was only deprived of back-to-back honors because of a different historic achievement from Judge. So, the two-time All-Star had to settle for finishing runner-up in MVP voting and fourth in Cy Young voting. If Ohtani decided to only hit or pitch, it seems quite clear he'd be top of the league in whichever he chose. Instead, he's, at worst, the fourth best at both. Ohtani is beyond comprehension. It seems like his health is the only thing that could prevent him from winning his next MVP.
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