Top 10 MLB Players Going Into 2021

Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout makes a catch on a ball hit by Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chris Taylor during the first inning of a preseason baseball game Monday, March 26, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  1. OF Mike Trout- Trout recently said he had a “bad year” in 2020 when speaking to media. He would’ve easily eclipsed 40 homers, around a 6 WAR, and another top 5 MVP finish. He actually had his lowest MVP finish in any season since he was called up full time. He also did break his OPS streak over 1.000 that he had every year since 2017. He had a .993 OPS and in 2015 and 16 his OPS was .991. Trout has had a back and forth with defensive metrics but he is as exciting as any player in baseball during the home run or strikeout era and he still manages to draw walks and hit homers. He truly is the talent of this generation.  Per Sports Info Solutions he gained 308 bases since the start of his career too. Trout really doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses when he plays. He is the most complete player in baseball. All he needs to do now is get the Angels to build a pitching staff around him and Rendon because I can’t stand the slander against him about the playoffs when he is adding 10 wins over replacement and anywhere from 5-8 wins more than a league average player. Trout is a victim of his own success he does so many amazing things on the field and puts up consistent numbers from year to year so he’s never really had the one year where he just outplayed his amazing production and it usually gets buried unfortunately.

  2. OF Mookie Betts- Betts is definitely the second best player at this point. He has proven this over the last few seasons winning MVP and being a center piece on two World Series winners. One of his secrets to his play is his great baserunning too. He put it on display stealing a run last World Series and also had a net gain of 22 bases per Sports Info Solutions. He is also very consistent, he got off to a very slow start last season and still ended up as the Dodgers most productive player and challenged for another MVP. He was a human highlight reel on the biggest stage of the World Series too not cracking under pressure. Betts would be the best player in baseball if one of the top 5 position players to ever grace the field weren’t playing. Betts also has no glaring weakness as his athleticism in right field leads to many amazing and tough catches that most right fielders won’t make, let alone balls that athletes under 6 feet shouldn’t even be able to reach. Betts is also a really good hitter in any type of situation. He can take a tough pitch the other way for a hit or he will show you his massive power and ability to get the most out of his swing like he has in any of his 6 three home runs games, which is already tied for the record and he is just 28 this season. He is a 5 tool superstar.

  3. SS Fernando Tatis Jr.- Tatis Jr. had some concern about his ability to get hits to fall again coming into 2020 and he did cool down in September of 2020, but he even if he hits .275 he is the best defender at the most premium position in baseball and he is very fast and has lightening quick reflexes that help him the most at the plate getting to any pitch he needs to. He falls into the same category as Betts and Trout just with less of a track record at this point. I believe he will be a consistent .290 hitter who steals bases, plays elite defense and threatens 40 homers every season for the next decade while being one of the most valuable players in baseball. Tatis doesn’t get cheated when he’s playing and he hits the ball hard. The play we saw last year was no fluke and the honest truth is that the Padres might’ve gotten some really good value on that huge extension he just signed. Tatis Jr. has played less than 162 games so you could say ranking him number three is a bit aggressive but for a lot of last season we viewed him as the best player in baseball for the year and he is pretty much always the best player on the field and the Padres will benefit greatly from that.

  4. OF Juan Soto- There’s an argument to be made Soto is the best hitter in the game. He definitely is from the left side of the plate. He isn’t an all-around player but his career arc could rival that of Miguel Cabrera in milestones one day. He got off to the best start with the bat of any teenager ever a list that includes Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Alex Rodriguez, Mel Ott, Ty Cobb, Ken Griffey Jr, Tony Conigliaro, Jimmie Foxx and Al Kaline by OPS. He hasn’t stopped hitting since and is one of the favorites to win MVP this year in just his age 22 season. His approach at the plate is advanced and patient and he won’t be intimidated by anyone. He stared down pitchers and did an aggressive routine after pitches in the 2019 World Series and it reminded me of how Miguel Cabrera took a pitch from Roger Clemens up and in and then took him deep in the 2003 World Series. Another exciting sign is that Soto walked a decent amount more than he struck out last year, an improvement in an already elite bat. He has adjusted to adjustments made on him as well like how he saw more off-speed pitches and pitches out of the zone and improved his hitting ability against off-speed and became slightly more patient. He is hitting the ball as hard as ever and uses all fields. Even at 22, he isn’t a speedster and his defense is roughly adequate on the corners but his bat will take him places and he probably will not be leaving this list anytime soon, or in the next decade.

  5. OF Christian Yelich- Yelich had a down 2020 and was battling for second on this list before that, but he had a ton of hard hit outs and still managed good peripheral numbers and the season was only 60 games so it wouldn’t make sense to punish him too much for a bad stretch of games. For example he had an average exit velocity of 91.6 MPH on outs and was 9th in expected slugging on balls in play for outs. He also uses his legs to his advantage as a 30-30 man in 2019, not only that but as a Brewer he is 56-64 in stolen bases. He also still had an OBP of .350 when hitting around the Mendoza line if you needed further proof to be scared of the damage that he can do in 2021. Yelich turned a switch after all-star break in 2018 and he hasn’t looked back since. He will do a lot of damage with his swing that gets to the ball quick and is simple and repeatable. He is still among the best in the NL.

  6. SP Jacob DeGrom- In fantasy circles there is a constant DeGrom vs. Cole debate. DeGrom slightly outperforms the predictive stats better and in real life he gets the edge because of this dominance that he has been able to put up. He isn’t the best strikeout pitcher in baseball but he is the best all-around pitcher in baseball. He can strike out hitters, get them to make weak contact and has good command. He is also now touching 100 MPH which only adds to his repertoire. He also almost win 3 Cy Youngs in a row which would put him in company with Clemens and Johnson.  There’s no reason to see a decline as his age isn’t a great indicator because when he was young he didn’t get used much and he has a great work ethic. It will be interesting to see if he can make a run at 3 in 4 seasons and beyond because he is showing no signs of slowing down.

  7. 3B Alex Bregman- Bregman is another player who isn’t of fantastic physical stature who can still hit a baseball hard and makes the most of every aspect of his game. He outperforms his home run numbers and uses his ballpark to help him pull some balls into the boxes. He can also hit to all fields and he has probably the best eye in baseball as he gets pitches to hit and almost always has a K:BB ratio around 1:1. He also plays really good defense and can make some really good plays at the hot corner. He has been among the most valuable players in baseball since 2018 and he is only getting better and can make improvements to make his already valuable game even better.

  8. OF Cody Bellinger- Bellinger has the crazy uppercut swing and 40 homer power but the most underrated part of his game is his athleticism. He was considered a Gold Glove caliber first baseman coming up in the minors and has seamlessly turned into one of the best center fielders in baseball. He’s young and one day he will probably move back to first base and win a Gold Glove there but right now he is an elite center fielder on defense, something that really nobody expected, even the Dodgers who started him in the corner outfield at first. He may not repeat his 2019 every year either but he is going to be an All-Star level player who will be the 1b to Mookie Betts in that line-up. It’s hard to find more consistent power than that of Bellinger. He is the best pull hitter in baseball. He also has stopped striking out so much and that continued into 2020 even though the year was shortened and disappointing for Bellinger. I think with more time he would’ve ended up with better numbers.

  9. SP Gerrit Cole- It took Cole a few starts to settle into the Bronx but they do have a bona fide ace in him now. He has a nasty arsenal and can use it to make hitters chase and look silly. He has the raw talent to be the best pitcher in baseball but he needs to limit some of the longballs and I think if he used his changeup a little more he would fool more hitters. He is still neck and neck with the greats over his past 3 seasons though and in 2019 he could’ve won the Cy Young but his teammate, Justin Verlander, just edged him out. That Cy Young is coming for Cole though and I’d say he’s the AL favorite for the award coming into 2021. His ability to generate swings and misses and strikeouts along with his curveball that keeps hitters honest makes him one of the most complete pitchers in all of baseball.

  10. 3B Manny Machado- Machado gets the same Mike Trout type treatment I talk about. He is so consistently good that we have never thought “oh wow he is really just one of the best doing it.” He plays with a swagger and can man the hot corner with no issue. Padres pitchers will probably each be saved a few total runs by having him and Tatis in that infield. Machado is a bit streakier than every other guy on this list but he always puts together that great season. He developed his power and turned from being a 50 doubles guy to 30 homers consistently and he will still put up great numbers even playing in San Diego. I wouldn’t be surprised if he put up an MVP season in the next few years. Machado is still only going to be 28 too so he has peak seasons coming up. Through an age 27 season Machado has put up the 13th most WAR ever in the live ball era. With a full season last year he would probably be right next to Cal Ripken Jr. on that list. We are watching a future Hall of Fame player when we see him and the best is likely yet to come.

Just Missed: Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., Max Scherzer, Jose Ramirez, Anthony Rendon, Nolan Arenado, Matt Chapman, Francisco Lindor, Shane Bieber, Aaron Judge

It’s so hard to just rank 10 guys. The “next” 10 are all elite players as well. Acuna is super exciting, Freeman is one of the best hitters in today’s game and his left handed stroke is so easy and beautiful to watch that I have a hard time leaving him out. Scherzer might start to finally age a little, but he is still on a dominant level and is the best power pitcher in baseball. The plethora of third baseman each do things very well. Rendon can murder the ball and always seems work the pitcher to get the perfect pitch to hit with some of the best zone control in the game. Arenado put up video game numbers, though now in St. Louis he will lose a little bit of that (though will still be an elite bat). Him and Chapman are great defenders. Ramirez is an all-around player who can sock the baseball and would hit in the middle of any order. Lindor is a great defender and can do a lot with the bat. Bieber is breaking out and can fool hitters with his nice easy short arm action that is becoming popular in the MLB today. Lastly, if Aaron Judge could stay healthy he would be in the top 10 of this list because he has the talent and frankly he could be a tight end or power forward too.

Might Jump In After 2021: Bo Bichette

Bichette is a great pure hitter. He has power and will hit bombs but can also hit the gaps and will take what is given to him too. He is a .300 hitter and could lead the league in hits. He has a great process at the plate and has a big career ahead of him. I could see him taking that big step forward in 2021 and he has the power to put up an all-around gaudy stat line. Toronto trusts him now to man shortstop and he seems like he can at least be average there while he takes everything else about his game to the next level. He could make that jump like Tatis did in 2021.

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