MLB Playoffs 2013: Ranking the 25 Best Players
Ranking the 25 Best Players In the 2013 MLB Playoffs
The MLB season is by far the longest and most grueling out of the four major sports. 162 games is an absurd amount to be playing a professional sport. However, we are headed down the home-stretch and everything is falling into place for the time of year that matters in baseball: October.
With three games remaining for every team in the majors, the MLB Playoffs are just around the corner. In the National League we already know the participants, but are just waiting for the NL Central to sort out their madness and see which team wins that division and which two teams take the wildcard spots.
The American League has its three division winners settled, but the wildcard race is going to come down to the wire. The Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians both hold the wildcard spots as of right now, but the Texas Rangers trail the Indians by just a single game with only three games remaining for both organizations.
Assuming the standings finish the way they are now, though, that would put the Rays, Indians, Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers coming out of the AL. Out of the NL, we have the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds that will all be taking part in the postseason.
To get this far in the season and for these teams to now have an opportunity now at getting to the World Series, these teams obviously have a lot of talent. However, with the players now having a chance to actually carry their respective teams to the Promised Land, everyone is starting to look for the potential heroes. To me, there’s no better place to start than by looking at the best players that will be playing in October. Looking ahead, these are the 25 best players that will be a part of the postseason.
25. Jason Heyward – Atlanta Braves OF
The 2013 season has been less-than-ideal for Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, partially because he’s missed a significant amount of time with injuries and partially because he hasn’t had as big of a year as some projected or that he would have most likely wanted to have at the start of the season.
Even with that, though, you can’t ignore the threat that Heyward brings every time he steps into the batter’s box. Not only does he have solid power, with 14 home runs and 37 extra-base hits in 372 at-bats on the year, but he also has a solid eye at the plate and good speed, which gives him the ability to produce runs by getting on base and working well on the base paths. Heyward will be vital to Atlanta if they want to make a deep postseason run.
24. Zack Greinke – Los Angeles Dodgers SP
One of the reasons the Dodgers were able to turn their season around was their starting pitching and a big part of that was Zack Greinke. Though Greinke missed part of the season due to injuries resulting from a brawl early in the season, he still managed to put together a solid year.
With a 15-3 record, 2.67 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, Greinke has been incredibly reliable when he’s been on the hill. He hasn’t had the same velocity on his pitches that he has in recent years, but he’s been getting the job done. In the end, all that matters are the results and Greinke has gotten positive results all season long.
23. Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers SP
In recent seasons, you would call me insane for having Justin Verlander this low in these rankings, but the Tigers hurler is lucky to be here after the disappointing season he’s had (by his standards, at least).
Verlander has posted an uncharacteristic 13-12 record with a 3.56 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Granted he’s been getting unlucky for most of the season with a .317 BABIP against him, but he’s also seen his velocity dip slightly across the board on his pitches. When it comes to Verlander in the postseason, though, it’s hard to not give him love even if his season hasn’t been up to snuff.
22. Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati Reds RP
When the game’s on the line and you’re looking for your closer to finish the deal, it always helps to have an elite guy at the position and Aroldis Chapman is undoubtedly that for the Reds. After all, it’s not easy for anyone, even professionals, to catch up to a fastball that averages 98.4 miles per hour and routinely tops 100 mph.
Chapman submitted another dominant year this season with 38 saves, only five blown saves, and with him striking out just under two batters per inning pitched. Not many teams in the majors have a closer with the talent of Chapman that they can look to in the clutch.
21. Yasiel Puig – Los Angeles Dodgers OF
When Yasiel Puig lit the world and the Dodgers on fire in June when he was called up, everyone knew he wasn’t going to be able to maintain his absurd .436 average which is what has happened. However, you still can’t discount what a threat Puig is in the Dodgers’ lineup heading into the playoffs.
Not only does Puig present the threat to go deep, but he’s also shown a better eye at the plate in recent months, gives maximum effort in every situation, and might as well have a rocket launcher attached to his shoulder with the arm strength that he has in the outfield. You may be tired of the hype, but there’s a reason all of the ballyhoo began in the first place: the kid can flat out play.
20. Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves RP
If you’re down by a run or two against the Braves and you see Craig Kimbrel trotting to the mound, you might as well go ahead and shut it down for the evening. Despite some issues early in the season, Kimbrel settled down and has returned to his form as the league leader in saves with 49.
With the Braves somewhat inconsistent offense this season, their pitching has been vital. If they get into close games in the postseason, having the luxury of bringing in Kimbrel to close is something that could swing a game, or even a series, in their favor.
19. Anibal Sanchez – Detroit Tigers SP
In his first full season with Detroit, Anibal Sanchez was able to prove his worth and really help anchor their rotation, especially with the uncharacteristic season from Verlander. Had it not been for another guy in their rotation (who we’ll get to later), Sanchez could have easily qualified as the Tigers’ ace this season.
In 28 starts, missing several due to minor injuries, Sanchez posted a 14-8 record with a solid 2.64 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. He’s been striking guys out at the best rate of his career and has made a living off of not giving up the long-ball. When good pitching is so vital in the playoffs, Sanchez will be a key cog in their postseason run.
18. Bartolo Colon – Oakland Athletics SP
You may need a sundial to time his fastball and it may look like his pregame meal consists of a buffet and a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but Bartolo Colon has secretly been one of the best pitchers in the league this season.
The A’s starter has done more than they could have ever dreamed he would this season. He’s posted a 17-6 record with a 2.64 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. He’s not striking guys out, but he has had great command all season and has his walk-rate near a career-best right now. Colon is definitely the most unlikely addition to this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s undeserved.
17. David Ortiz – Boston Red Sox DH
David Ortiz has been hitting baseballs, hitting them hard, and hitting them at opportune times for the Red Sox for quite a while now and that didn’t stop this season. In 590 plate appearances, Ortiz has hit .307 with a .956 OPS while also adding 29 home runs, 100 RBIs, and, comically, a career-high four stolen bases.
At 37 years old, it’s hard to believe that Ortiz is still producing at the level that he is, but the numbers don’t lie. With a Red Sox lineup that has been in the business of run production all season, Big Papi has had a big part in that. With his success this year and his history of incredible postseason performances, he has to be accounted for in these rankings.
16. Hanley Ramirez – Los Angeles Dodgers SS
The only reason Hanley Ramirez isn’t higher in these rankings is simply because of inconsistency. Ramirez at the plate is like the weather in Florida: sunshine and clear skies one minute, torrential downpours the next.
When Ramirez is on, though, it’s a thing of beauty. He’s struggled to stay healthy this season, but has been on a tear to end the year. In September he’s hitting .373 with a 1.184 OPS, five home runs and 11 RBIs in just 51 at-bats. If he can continue that type of play in the playoffs, the rest of the NL should be concerned.
15. Jason Kipnis – Cleveland Indians 2B
Of the teams heading into the postseason, the Indians may be the least exciting. However, they continually go out and get the job done, largely due to the services of their second baseman, Jason Kipnis, who has submitted himself as a possible star with this year’s performance.
Kipnis is hitting .278 with an .807 OPS, knocking 17 homers and driving in 81 runs as well. Not only that, but he’s also stolen a solid 29 bases on the season. Kipnis has the ability to get on base and make big plays with his bat, but he can also make plays with his speed as well. If Cleveland goes anywhere in the playoffs, expect Kipnis to be a part of their success.
14. Jacoby Ellsbury – Boston Red Sox OF
Jacoby Ellsbury has toughed through a number of injuries with the Red Sox this season including a fracture foot most recently. Despite that, he’s still been an enormous factor as part of one of the best offenses in the entire league.
His power from the 2011 season hasn’t resurfaced as he’s hit only eight home runs this season, but he’s still managed to hit .299 and post an on-base percentage of .357. For a player with the elite speed of Ellsbury, getting on base is huge. The centerfielder has 52 steals on the season, meaning he gets a steal 20 percent of the time that he gets on base. In the business of producing runs, that’s a level of productivity you can’t ignore.
13. Evan Longoria – Tampa Bay Rays 3B
Evan Longoria is one of those players that people seem to have been waiting on a monstrous season from for years, but it’s never happened. However, he’s still managed to be arguably the biggest weapon for the Rays and that’s definitely not going to change heading into the playoffs.
Longoria is hitting .268 on the year with an .838 OPS, 31 homers, 87 runs scored and 85 RBIs. He might not be putting up MVP-caliber numbers, but if the Rays need a big hit in a crucial moment, it’s undoubtedly Longoria that they want at the plate in that situation.
12. Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals SP
After missing the 2011 season and looking mediocre in the 2012 campaign for the Cardinals, Adam Wainwright is back on the bump looking like an ace in St. Louis. With an 18-9 record, it’s pretty clear that he’s been doing some good things.
Wainwright’s 3.01 ERA and 1.08 WHIP are solid, but there are also indications that he’s been unlucky for much of the season and that he should probably have a slightly lower ERA. Regardless of that, though, Wainwright has proven to the baseball world that he’s still got some life left in his arm and that is bad news for opponents.
11. Clay Buchholz – Boston Red Sox SP
A strange neck/shoulder injury kept Clay Buchholz on the sidelines for much of the season, stunting what was on pace to be a career-year for the Red Sox hurler. After two starts since returning to the lineup, though, Buchholz looks ready to be an integral piece of a potential return to the World Series for Boston.
In his 15 starts he has an 11-1 record with a phenomenal 1.60 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and a .193 batting average against. In addition to that, Buchholz has his best strikeout-to-walk rate of his career and his lowest home run rate as well. If he can fully recover from his injuries and return to early season form, that’s going to be advantageous to the Sox.
10. Yadier Molina – St. Louis Cardinals C
He may not do it in the sexiest way you can play the game, but Yadier Molina straight up gets in done for the Cards. At the plate, Molina is having a phenomenal year as he’s hitting .315 with an .826 OPS and with 66 runs scored and 75 RBIs. Whether he’s driving in runs or putting himself in position to score, he’s been huge for St. Louis.
Possibly the biggest and most valuable thing about Molina, though, is his ability behind the plate, both defensively and in terms of calling a game and being a leader. There’s not many catchers who can do it as well as Molina and there’s certainly none better in the postseason at the position.
9. Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves 1B
With the Braves being without Chipper Jones for the first time in two decades, first baseman Freddie Freeman has stepped into the role as old reliable at the plate in Atlanta. At just 24 years old this season, Freeman has been extremely Chipper-like this year.
This season Freeman is hitting .317 with an .899 OPS. Freeman has also knocked 23 over the outfield fence this season, as well as driving in 107 runs and scoring another 87 runs. He’s shown he can hit for power, hit for average, and get whatever job that is asked of him done at the plate. If that’s not value, I don’t know what is.
8. Dustin Pedroia – Boston Red Sox 2B
With various injuries in the Red Sox lineup this season, Dustin Pedroia has been shuffled all over the batting order this year. The fantastic thing about the Laser Show, though, is his ability to succeed and do what’s asked of him in all of those different roles.
Though his power has dipped this season to only nine dingers, Pedroia has still hit .296 this year with a .778 OPS, as well as 88 runs scored and 83 RBIs. That also doesn’t take into account his solid total of 17 stolen bases this year. Pedroia is one of the most blue-collar, hard-working players in the league, but it’s his production coupled with that which makes him so highly valued.
7. Matt Carpenter – St. Louis Cardinals 2B
With the depth of the Cardinals lineup, hitting leadoff is a big responsibility. If you get on base, chances are that you are going to be brought across the plate. That’s exactly the job that Matt Carpenter has taken on and excelled at this season.
In 154 games he is hitting .321 with an .881 OPS. Not only does he have 11 homers and 78 RBIs, but he also has scored a fantastic 125 runs this season. In the playoffs, when a run-producing offense is so vital, having a player that can get on base so consistently in front of a talented lineup is enormous for St. Louis.
6. Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds 1B
Joey Votto makes plays with his bat like clockwork for the Reds. Hitting .304 this season with a .926 OPS. He’s also scored 100 runs, driven in 73 runs, put 24 balls over the fence, and has a solid 59 extra-base hits this year.
Votto is one of the most dangerous hitters in the league. He’s protected well in Cincinnati’s lineup, so it’s hard to pitch around him. With his situation and his ability with the bat, not having him near the top of these rankings heading into the postseason would be almost criminal.
5. Max Scherzer – Detroit Tigers SP
The Tigers have always had a lot of faith in and enjoyed nice results from Max Scherzer, but he’s never been on the level that he has been this season. In 32 starts, Scherzer has an outstanding 21-3 record. He also has a career-best 2.90 ERA and 0.97 WHIP.
With Verlander not being up to his normal standard this year, Scherzer’s performance has been much needed for the Tigers. The fact that he has stepped up for them so hugely this season bodes well for what he could show in high-pressure playoff situations. If he stays to form, it’s going to be hard to get a win against Detroit when he’s on the hill.
4. Josh Donaldson – Oakland Athletics 3B
It probably won’t happen, but A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson has looked every bit the part of an AL MVP candidate. In his first full season in the majors, Donaldson hasn’t had any rookie blues and has played more similar to a veteran ballplayer in his prime.
The most consistent and productive player for Oakland, Donaldson is hitting .305 on the season with an .892 OPS to go along with 24 home runs, 37 doubles, 92 RBIs and 88 runs scored. The 27-year-old has even improved in September when the stakes increased, only furthering his value. If he doesn’t show up big in the postseason, I’d be surprised.
3. Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh Pirates OF
There’s no player that’s going to be in the postseason that can affect a game in as many ways as the Pirates’ star outfielder Andrew McCutchen. He’s once again been dominant in Pittsburgh this season and is obviously one of the major reasons they are in the postseason for the first time since 1992.
On the year, McCutchen is hitting .318 with a .910 OPS. Moreover, he’s added 20 homers, 38 doubles, 95 runs scored and 83 RBIs. For good measure, he’s also stolen 27 bases for the season. McCutchen is a master of getting on base where his speed makes him a threat to score in a variety of situations. If the Pirates are going to shock the world, it’ll be on the shoulders of McCutchen.
2. Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers SP
The Dodgers should be ashamed of themselves that they have only helped Clayton Kershaw manage a 15-9 record on the season, because he’s been good enough to where he should almost be unbeaten on the year. Almost without debate, he’s been the most dominant pitcher in baseball this year.
Boasting an unreal 1.88 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, Kershaw has been near unhittable. He was already considered one of the best hurlers in the league coming into the season and now he’s setting career-best marks. In game one of a series with Kershaw on the mound, it should be a near automatic W for the Dodgers.
1. Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers 3B
I wish I was as good at anything in life as Miguel Cabrera is at hitting a baseball. One year after winning the Triple Crown, Miggy followed it up by falling just short of doing it two years in a row, had it not been for Chris Davis’ torrid home run pace.
Cabrera truly is one of the most remarkable players that we will see in our lifetime. It’s not every day that a player that can hit 44 home runs and drive in 137 runs in a season can also hit .345 with an almost surreal 1.077 OPS. Essentially you have two options when pitching to Cabrera: walk him or expect him to get a hit. Miggy is on another planet in terms of talent and it’d be certifiably insane to not have him at number one.