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MLB Top 10s: For career achievement, Pujols, Jeter, Hudson get top marks

by | Baseball Writer
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In the Eye On Baseball Top 10s, here's what we do: rank players according to criteria. Those criteria change depending upon week and whim, but the Top 10 will always be informed by some angle or another, painfully contrived or otherwise.

And that brings us to this week's guiding query: Which active players have had the best careers?

As you're surely aware, Derek Jeter's storied career is winding down, and that's put us in the "career achievement" frame of mind. So we're seeing which current players have provided the most value over their course of their MLB lives. Let's repeat ourselves at the outset: This is about total career value and not the 2014 season in isolation. Ergo, "But he's having a terrible season, you @#$%!" is not a valid complaint. As always, defense and base-running are very much part of the calculus for position players.

Omissions? Alex Rodriguez, first and foremost. He’s on the restricted list, of course, so we’re leaving him off. However, if he were eligible for inclusion, then A-Rod would be tops on the list. I also left off the criminally underrated Bobby Abreu, who isn’t on an MLB roster at the moment. If he were, then Abreu would be just outside the top five. Elsewhere, Jason Giambi was also given due consideration, as were Torii Hunter, David Wright, Mark Teixeira, Joe Mauer, Jimmy Rollins, Matt Holliday and others. On the pitching side, names like Adam Wainwright, Jered Weaver, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, Joe Nathan and Jonathan Papelbon were tough to leave off.

It's been a heck of a run for Albert Pujols and Derek Jeter. (USATSI)
It's been a heck of a run for Albert Pujols and Derek Jeter. (USATSI)

And now let us recite baseball names for the dual purposes of SEO and making you angry. Feel free to brandish your incorrect opinions and make idle threats in the comments section.

Weapons-grade complaints and spleen-venting? By all means, reach out to the author at hotmail@hotmail.jpg.

Batters
1. Albert Pujols, 1B - Los Angeles Angels
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 5
Tim Hudson Pujols leads all actives with a career OPS-plus of 163, and he's also got 516 home runs, 556 doubles and 4,629 total bases to his credit. The three-time NL MVP also has won a pair of Gold Gloves, and owns a career line of .330/.439/.607 in the postseason. Among current players, only A-Rod has a higher career WAR.
Key Stats: 537 AB, 24 HR, .276 AVG, 83 RBI, 74 R, 5 SB
2. Derek Jeter, SS - New York Yankees
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 30
Mark Buehrle Perhaps you've heard sketchy Internet rumors of his forthcoming retirement? The luminous Jeter ranks sixth on the all-time hits list, and he's second to only Omar Vizquel when it comes to games played at shortstop. He'll be a deserving first-ballot Hall of Famer in five years.
Key Stats: 494 AB, 3 HR, .261 AVG, 36 RBI, 39 R, 9 SB
3. Adrian Beltre, 3B - Texas Rangers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
CC Sabathia Beltre has been an enduring combination of power and defense. He's headed toward 10,000 career plate appearances, and he'll soon get to 400 homers to go with his 521 doubles. Beltre is also on the short-list of greatest defensive third baseman ever to play the game.
Key Stats: 464 AB, 17 HR, .323 AVG, 69 RBI, 68 R, 1 SB
4. Carlos Beltran, DH - New York Yankees
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 51
Clayton Kershaw In his younger days, Beltran was the most complete player in the game -- plus bat to go with perhaps the best fielding and base-running in baseball at the time. He's 37 and winding down, but Beltran's Cooperstown resume is a strong one. Before Beltran retires, he'll likely join Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, A-Rod and Andre Dawson as the only players to get to 500 doubles, 400 homers and 300 stolen bases.
Key Stats: 371 AB, 15 HR, .240 AVG, 47 RBI, 44 R, 3 SB
5. Chase Utley, 2B - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 12
Felix Hernandez Injuries waylaid what could've been a Hall of Fame career, but Utley's still put together a tremendous run. He's a career .286/.371/.490 hitter with years of elite defense and plus base-running to his credit.
Key Stats: 509 AB, 11 HR, .277 AVG, 69 RBI, 67 R, 6 SB
6. Robinson Cano, 2B - Seattle Mariners
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Cliff Lee All he does is hit (oh, and provide solid defense at an up-the-middle position). He's a career .310/.358/.501 hitter after more than 1,500 games, and Cano's success this season with the M's (146 OPS-plus) proves he can do it away from Yankee Stadium.
Key Stats: 500 AB, 12 HR, .322 AVG, 71 RBI, 70 R, 10 SB
7. Miguel Cabrera, 1B - Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Johan Santana He's the consummate pure hitter of his era. Cabrera has long been a net negative with the glove, but the more important reality is that he's a career .319/.396/.562 hitter in 1,793 games. Given the length of his current contract, he's a strong bet for 500 homers and 3,000 hits.
Key Stats: 513 AB, 19 HR, .304 AVG, 94 RBI, 86 R, 1 SB
8. Ichiro Suzuki, RF - New York Yankees
Justin Verlander Despite not making his US debut until age 27, Ichiro has more than 2,800 hits to his credit. During his prime, he was also a top-tier base-runner (his 483 stolen bases tops all actives) and defender. There's also his pioneering importance, as the player who proved Japanese hitters not only could survive but also excel in MLB.
Key Stats: 288 AB, 1 HR, .285 AVG, 17 RBI, 34 R, 11 SB
9. David Ortiz, DH - Boston Red Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 3
Zack Greinke The DH penalty is real and drops Big Papi a notch or three. Still, a career 140 OPS-plus, more than 1,100 walks and more than 1,000 extra-base hits make his case. That's to say nothing of his career playoff line of .295/.409/.553 in 357 plate appearances.
Key Stats: 460 AB, 30 HR, .265 AVG, 95 RBI, 52 R, 0 SB
10. Yadier Molina, C - St. Louis Cardinals
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 4
Bartolo Colon Molina is of course a superlative defender in all aspects of the catching game -- one of the best ever, in fact. He's also shown excellent development with the bat over the latter half of his career (.309/.358/.468 line since the start of the 2011 season). Too soon to include the 11-year vet? Actually, the six-time All-Star is already 57th all-time when it comes to career games caught.
Key Stats: 320 AB, 7 HR, .291 AVG, 32 RBI, 31 R, 1 SB
Pitchers
1. Tim Hudson, SP - San Francisco Giants
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 59
Tim Hudson The ageless ground-ball artist continues to pitch at a high level. Hudson will eclipse 3,000 career innings this season, and he's the active leader with 214 wins. As well, he's got a lifetime ERA of 3.41 (124 ERA-plus) and eight seasons of at least 200 innings to his credit. He's one of the best of his era when it comes to inducing weak contact off the bat.
Key Stats: 172.2 IP, 9-9 W-L, 0 SV, 3.08 ERA, 111 Ks, 30 BB
2. Mark Buehrle, SP - Toronto Blue Jays
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 88
Mark Buehrle The quickest-working pitcher in baseball also has been one of the best over the course of his career. Buehrle likely will notch his 200th win this year, and he owns an ERA-plus of 117 across 15 seasons. In addition to being one of the best fielding pitchers of his era, Buehrle also has a shot at notching his 14th straight season of 200 or more innings. That's astounding these days.
Key Stats: 167.0 IP, 11-9 W-L, 0 SV, 3.5 ERA, 98 Ks, 42 BB
3. CC Sabathia, SP - New York Yankees
CC Sabathia Once upon a time, Sabathia looked like he'd have a shot at 300 wins. Injuries almost certainly will prevent that, but it's still been a distinguished career for the big lefty: 120 ERA-plus, 423 starts, one Cy Young.
Key Stats: 46.0 IP, 3-4 W-L, 0 SV, 5.28 ERA, 48 Ks, 10 BB
4. Clayton Kershaw, SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Clayton Kershaw Kershaw, 26, is the youngest player on this list by a decent margin, but his relentless excellence makes him an easy choice despite the smaller body of work. Let's put it this way: In Kershaw's WORST full season, he pitched to a 2.91 ERA in 204 1/3 innings. He's likely headed for a third Cy Young in the past four seasons (he finished second in the year he didn't win).
Key Stats: 161.1 IP, 16-3 W-L, 0 SV, 1.73 ERA, 194 Ks, 23 BB
5. Felix Hernandez, SP - Seattle Mariners
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Felix Hernandez King Felix has made the successful transition from flame-thrower to change-up artist/command specialist, and he's been a front-line ace the whole way. In 2,022 2/3 career innings, he's pitched to a 130 ERA-plus and 3.40 K/BB ratio. Oh, and he's still only 28.
Key Stats: 198.0 IP, 13-5 W-L, 0 SV, 2.23 ERA, 205 Ks, 35 BB
6. Cliff Lee, SP - Philadelphia Phillies
Cliff Lee Lee, the best command pitcher of his generation, has a Cy on his mantel and a 118 ERA-plus across parts of 13 big-league seasons. His career K/BB ratio of 3.93 ranks sixth on the all-time list. Also to Lee's credit is a career ERA of 2.52 in 11 postseason starts.
Key Stats: 81.1 IP, 4-5 W-L, 0 SV, 3.65 ERA, 72 Ks, 12 BB
7. Johan Santana, SP - Baltimore Orioles
Johan Santana Santana won't pitch this season because of a ruptured Achilles' tendon, but he's still considered an active player. So he's on this list on the strength of a career ERA-plus of 136 (good for 19th all-time) and a pair of Cy Young awards (to go with four additional top-10 finishes in the balloting).
Key Stats: 0.0 IP, 0-0 W-L, 0 SV, 0.0 ERA, 0 Ks, 0 BB
8. Justin Verlander, SP - Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 39
Justin Verlander Verlander's 2011-12 peak is one of the best two-year runs ever, and for his career he's pitched to a 123 ERA-plus in almost 2,000 innings. He of course owns a Cy and an MVP, and he's 31st all-time in strikeout rate.
Key Stats: 171.1 IP, 12-11 W-L, 0 SV, 4.68 ERA, 132 Ks, 60 BB
9. Zack Greinke, SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 12
Zack Greinke Greinke's merits: 117 ERA-plus, almost 2,000 innings, Cy Young winner, 15th all-time in K/BB ratio. Still only 30 and signed through 2018, Greinke will add substantially to his counting totals.
Key Stats: 172.1 IP, 13-8 W-L, 0 SV, 2.72 ERA, 182 Ks, 38 BB
10. Bartolo Colon, SP - New York Mets
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 72
Bartolo Colon Colon owns a Cy and a career ERA-plus of 112 after 437 career games (431 of which have been starts). He's at 201 wins, and not long ago he topped 2,000 strikeouts. As well, Colon ranks second among active pitchers with 35 complete games.
Key Stats: 172.2 IP, 12-11 W-L, 0 SV, 4.01 ERA, 132 Ks, 22 BB
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