MLB Top 10s: Best of '14? Doesn't get any better than Trout, Kershaw

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 10s always will be informed by some angle or another, painfully contrived or otherwise.

And that brings us to this week's guiding query: Who have been the best players of the 2014 season?

As the question strongly implies, this is all about the position players and pitchers who have provided the most value in this, the 2014 season. I'm not interested in team-dependent definitions of the word "best" or "value." This is because team-dependent definitions of the word "best" or "value" are patently silly. So a team's place in the standings will have no bearing on these rankings. As always, defense and base-running matter for position players. It's not about the bat only.

Omissions? Derek Jeter will not be among those honored, in large part because he hasn't been very good. But there his name is -- Derek Jeter -- just the same. Derek Jeter. Did you hear that he's retiring? Derek Jeter.

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. Mike Trout, CF - Los Angeles Angels
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Clayton Kershaw There's no obvious best player in baseball this season, but Trout gets the nod. He's batting .291/.382/.568 (171 OPS-plus) while adding value on the bases and being a daily presence in center field (685 plate appearances and counting). Trout also leads the AL in RBI and paces the majors in runs scored, total bases and extra-base hits.
Key Stats: 587 AB, 35 HR, .291 AVG, 110 RBI, 113 R, 15 SB
2. Andrew McCutchen, CF - Pittsburgh Pirates
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 12
Felix Hernandez More of same from 'Cutch. His 162 OPS-plus leads the NL, and he's tallied 23 homers, 36 doubles, 77 walks and 17 stolen bases. That's to say nothing of his defensive value in center.
Key Stats: 529 AB, 24 HR, .310 AVG, 76 RBI, 83 R, 17 SB
3. Giancarlo Stanton, RF - Miami Marlins
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Corey Kluber Stanton's season is done, of course, thanks to taking a pitch to his face. Regardless of what the future holds for the young slugger (here's hoping for a full and swift recovery), his 2014 was an excellent age-24 campaign. In 145 games, he mashed an NL-leading 37 homers and batted .288/.395/.555.
Key Stats: 539 AB, 37 HR, .288 AVG, 105 RBI, 89 R, 13 SB
4. Michael Brantley, LF - Cleveland Indians
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 11
Adam Wainwright Here's your stealth AL MVP candidate. Brantley keyed the Cleveland offense this season with a line of .325/.384/.506, 20 homers, 43 doubles, 22 steals in 23 attempts and 300 total bases. That's some broad-based excellence.
Key Stats: 596 AB, 20 HR, .326 AVG, 97 RBI, 93 R, 23 SB
5. Jose Abreu, 1B - Chicago White Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 4
Chris Sale In the first half, he was one of the most devastating power threats in baseball. In the second half, he was one of the most complete hitters in baseball. Add it up, and you can call Abreu just one of the best: .319/.385/.589 (MLB-leading 172 OPS-plus) with 35 homers and 35 doubles.
Key Stats: 537 AB, 35 HR, .318 AVG, 105 RBI, 78 R, 2 SB
6. Jose Altuve, 2B - Houston Astros
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Johnny Cueto Altuve has a majors-leading 220 hits and counting and a line of .345/.381/.458 (excellent by the standards of middle infielders), and he's stolen 54 bases in 63 attempts. Is there a more enjoyable player to watch right now?
Key Stats: 641 AB, 7 HR, .345 AVG, 57 RBI, 84 R, 54 SB
7. Robinson Cano, 2B - Seattle Mariners
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Cole Hamels Ruthlessly consistent, relentlessly durable. For the eighth straight season, Cano has played in at least 150 games. As well, his line of .320/.386/.462 comes to an OPS-plus of 143, which is right in line with his peak-level norms. What a ballplayer.
Key Stats: 574 AB, 14 HR, .321 AVG, 80 RBI, 77 R, 10 SB
8. Jose Bautista, RF - Toronto Blue Jays
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 3
Max Scherzer Joey Bats enjoyed his best season since 2011 and his healthiest season since 2010. In 149 games, he's logged an MLB-leading OBP of .404, and he's also chipped in 34 homers. Bautista also boasts more walks than strikeouts.
Key Stats: 535 AB, 35 HR, .288 AVG, 103 RBI, 98 R, 5 SB
9. Victor Martinez, DH - Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Jon Lester In the current high-strikeout era, V-Mart stands out. This season, he's drawn 65 walks against just 40 strikeouts. And he's making contact at an elite rate despite, it would seem, hitting for power: 31 homers and a .563 SLG as the regular season draws to a close.
Key Stats: 544 AB, 31 HR, .336 AVG, 100 RBI, 85 R, 3 SB
10. Jonathan Lucroy, C - Milwaukee Brewers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 19
Dallas Keuchel Lucroy is one of the best pitch-framers in the game. As well, he's put up a 2014 batting line of .303/.372/.472, while the average catcher this season is hitting .247/.311/.382.
Key Stats: 564 AB, 13 HR, .303 AVG, 68 RBI, 72 R, 4 SB
Pitchers
1. Clayton Kershaw, SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Clayton Kershaw In 190 1/3 innings, he's pitched to a 1.80 ERA and allowed only three unearned runs. As well, Kershaw has struck out 228 batters against only 31 unintentional walks. He's also kept the ball in the park (nine homers allowed) and logged 23 quality starts in 26 trips to the mound. He's done it all, that is.
Key Stats: 190.1 IP, 20-3 W-L, 0 SV, 1.8 ERA, 228 Ks, 31 BB
2. Felix Hernandez, SP - Seattle Mariners
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Felix Hernandez A decline in velocity hasn't prevented King Felix from being anything less than a top-tier ace. In addition to working 226 innings, Hernandez leads the AL in ERA, ERA-plus and WHIP. He's also averaging more than seven innings per start.
Key Stats: 226.0 IP, 14-5 W-L, 0 SV, 2.07 ERA, 236 Ks, 43 BB
3. Corey Kluber, SP - Cleveland Indians
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 13
Corey Kluber You can make an AL Cy Young case for Kluber thanks to his 2.53 ERA, 5.27 K/BB ratio and majors-leading 258 strikeouts in 227 2/3 innings of work.
Key Stats: 227.2 IP, 17-9 W-L, 0 SV, 2.53 ERA, 258 Ks, 49 BB
4. Adam Wainwright, SP - St. Louis Cardinals
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 7
Adam Wainwright It's another ace-like season for Wainwright. After 227 innings, he owns a 2.38 ERA, and he's struck out 179 batters against 50 walks. He's also allowed only 10 homers in 32 starts.
Key Stats: 227.0 IP, 20-9 W-L, 0 SV, 2.38 ERA, 179 Ks, 50 BB
5. Chris Sale, SP - Chicago White Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 3
Chris Sale He missed time because of an elbow injury earlier this season, but the body of work remains dominant: 168 IP, 2.20 ERA, 177 ERA-plus, career-best 5.50 K/BB ratio. It's easy to forget that he's still only 25 years of age.
Key Stats: 168.0 IP, 12-4 W-L, 0 SV, 2.2 ERA, 198 Ks, 36 BB
6. Johnny Cueto, SP - Cincinnati Reds
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 8
Johnny Cueto Cueto's 227 2/3 innings leads the NL, and he also checks in with a 2.33 ERA and 155 ERA-plus. In 27 of 32 starts, he's given up three or fewer runs. He's also gone at least six innings in 27 of 32 starts.
Key Stats: 227.2 IP, 18-9 W-L, 0 SV, 2.33 ERA, 228 Ks, 64 BB
7. Cole Hamels, SP - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 6
Cole Hamels Hamels missed more than a month because of shoulder tendinitis, but since getting healthy he's been at his best ever. After 28 starts and 189 2/3 innings, he's pitched to a 2.47 ERA (149 ERA-plus), and he's struck out almost a batter per frame.
Key Stats: 189.2 IP, 9-7 W-L, 0 SV, 2.47 ERA, 187 Ks, 57 BB
8. Max Scherzer, SP - Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 5
Max Scherzer The reigning AL Cy Young-winner has turned in another fine campaign in advance of free agency. Scherzer has worked 214 1/3 innings, logged an ERA of 3.19 and struck out 27.7 percent of opposing batters while walking only 7.5 percent of same.
Key Stats: 214.1 IP, 17-5 W-L, 0 SV, 3.19 ERA, 243 Ks, 59 BB
9. Jon Lester, SP - Oakland Athletics
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 14
Jon Lester The last time Lester failed to log a quality start? June 7, when he was still a member of the Red Sox. In 21 starts for those Red Sox, Lester notched an ERA of 2.52 and a K/BB ratio of 4.66. In 10 starts for the A's, he's got an ERA of 2.20 and a K/BB ratio of 4.00. Simply put, the veteran lefty (and pending free agent) has been one of the most consistent starters in baseball this season.
Key Stats: 212.2 IP, 16-10 W-L, 0 SV, 2.41 ERA, 213 Ks, 48 BB
10. Dallas Keuchel, SP - Houston Astros
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 28
Dallas Keuchel Breakout! Thanks to increased reliance on his sinker, Keuchel has crafted a ridiculous 3.30 ground-ball/fly-ball ratio, which has helped him allow only 11 homers in 200 innings of work. He's also logged an ERA of 2.93 on the season.
Key Stats: 200.0 IP, 12-9 W-L, 0 SV, 2.93 ERA, 146 Ks, 48 BB
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