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MLB Top 10s: Pujols, Jeter best of best for sustained excellence

by | Baseball Writer

In the Eye On Baseball Top 10, 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. (Note that the absence of an angle is itself an angle!)

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

That is, these are the players who are still playing and who have accrued the most value over the course of their careers. As such, you're not going to see brilliant young phenoms like Mike Trout and Jose Fernandez on here because they haven't built up enough career value. As always, defense and base-running matter for position players. It's not about the bat only.

Notable exclusions? Alex Rodriguez won't be on here because he's not presently on the Yankees' roster. As well, this "went to press" before Bobby Abreu was called up by the Mets. Had he been promoted in time, then, yes, the deliriously underrated Abreu would be on the list to follow. Circumstances as they are, he must console himself with this shout-out.

Who is on the list? Albert Pujols, who's within spitting distance of his 500th home run. Derek Jeter also will make an appearance. On the pitching side, Tim Hudson and CC Sabathia have seats reserved.

So let us now recite baseball names for 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.

1. Albert Pujols, 1B - Los Angeles Angels
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 6
Tim Hudson By the time you read this, Pujols may have already hit his 500th career home run. During his prime, he was a standout fielder and underrated base-runner, and his career OPS+ of 165 easily tops all active players and ranks 10th all-time. Not much more needs to be said.
Key Stats: 75 AB, 6 HR, .280 AVG, 14 RBI, 12 R, 0 SB
2. Derek Jeter, SS - New York Yankees
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 17
Mark Buehrle Obviously, the Captain was going to be listed prominently. Toe-deep in his final season, Jeter ranks ninth on the all-time hits list, and he's third all-time in defensive games at shortstop. He's one of the very best ever to play the game, and he'll be an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Key Stats: 53 AB, 0 HR, .283 AVG, 2 RBI, 3 R, 0 SB
3. Carlos Beltran, RF - New York Yankees
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 41
CC Sabathia Beltran still hits for power these days (he'll likely get to 400 homers next season), and let's not forget his elite defense in center during his prime seasons. As well, Beltran has stolen 308 bases in 356 attempts and utterly pounded the ball in the playoffs.
Key Stats: 66 AB, 4 HR, .288 AVG, 11 RBI, 8 R, 0 SB
4. Adrian Beltre, 3B - Texas Rangers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 3
Cliff Lee Beltre is one of the top defensive third basemen of all-time, and this season he could get to 400 homers; 500 doubles; 2,500 hits and 10,000 plate appearances.
Key Stats: 28 AB, 0 HR, .286 AVG, 4 RBI, 7 R, 0 SB
5. David Ortiz, DH - Boston Red Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Bartolo Colon Ortiz gets dinged a bit for not playing a position, but the offensive outputs are unassailable: 139 OPS+; 434 homers; 523 doubles; 3,168 times on base; 3,902 total bases. Oh, and he's hitting .295/.409/.553 in the postseason.
Key Stats: 71 AB, 3 HR, .254 AVG, 10 RBI, 6 R, 0 SB
6. Miguel Cabrera, 1B - Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Justin Verlander Metronomic excellence, thy name is Miguel Cabrera. The two-time AL MVP's worst full-season OPS+ is 130, and he boasts a career slash line of .320/.398/.566. Provided he stays healthy, he'll make a strong run at 3,000 hits and 500 homers.
Key Stats: 59 AB, 1 HR, .220 AVG, 7 RBI, 3 R, 0 SB
7. Jason Giambi, DH - Cleveland Indians
Felix Hernandez Yes, Giambi is still kicking. The slugger emeritus is in his 20th major-league season, and he still owns an OPS+ of 140 to go with 438 homers and 3,538 times on base.
Key Stats: 0 AB, 0 HR, .000 AVG, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB
8. Chase Utley, 2B - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 10
Clayton Kershaw Utley's peak was Hall-worthy, as he combined outstanding production by positional standards, elite defense and plus base-running. Injuries, though, prevented him from reaching the career benchmarks needed for a realistic shot at Cooperstown. Still, his 2005-09 stretch was truly special.
Key Stats: 64 AB, 3 HR, .406 AVG, 12 RBI, 10 R, 0 SB
9. Ichiro Suzuki, RF - New York Yankees
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 94
Cole Hamels Despite not making his stateside debut until age 27, Ichiro has racked up 2,753 hits and 473 stolen bases. Throw in his Gold Glove defense and cultural import, and you've got a likely Hall of Famer.
Key Stats: 31 AB, 0 HR, .355 AVG, 0 RBI, 5 R, 1 SB
10. Robinson Cano, 2B - Seattle Mariners
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 1
Jake Peavy Cano's got plenty of baseball left, but he's already got 205 homers and 1,668 hits on his dossier. That's in addition to a pair of Gold Gloves and uncommon durability at the premium position of second base.
Key Stats: 71 AB, 1 HR, .268 AVG, 8 RBI, 7 R, 0 SB
1. Tim Hudson, SP - San Francisco Giants
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 78
Tim Hudson Hudson is one of the all-time greats when it comes to inducing weak contact, and that skill has allowed him to post a career ERA+ of 124, and he ranks just outside the top 150 on the all-time innings list.
Key Stats: 30.0 IP, 2-1 W-L, 0 SV, 2.4 ERA, 20 Ks, 0 BB
2. Mark Buehrle, SP - Toronto Blue Jays
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 91
Mark Buehrle Buehrle is on pace to notch his 14th straight season of at least 200 innings pitched. In a related matter, he's the current leader in career innings among active players, and he also boasts a career ERA+ of 118. There's also the fact that Buehrle's a four-time Gold Glove winner, and over the course of his career base-stealers have a meager success rate of 43 percent against him.
Key Stats: 28.0 IP, 4-0 W-L, 0 SV, 0.64 ERA, 19 Ks, 5 BB
3. CC Sabathia, SP - New York Yankees
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 51
CC Sabathia Sabathia has to his credit 207 wins, and within reach are 2,500 strikeouts (this season) and 3,000 innings (likely early 2015). He has a Cy Young and has registered four more top-five finishes in that voting.
Key Stats: 26.0 IP, 2-2 W-L, 0 SV, 5.19 ERA, 27 Ks, 5 BB
4. Cliff Lee, SP - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 7
Cliff Lee The best command pitcher of his era? Quite possibly. Lee might notch career victory No. 150 this season, and his career K/BB ratio of 3.92 ranks sixth all-time. At age 35, Lee is still going strong.
Key Stats: 27.0 IP, 2-2 W-L, 0 SV, 4.0 ERA, 28 Ks, 2 BB
5. Bartolo Colon, SP - New York Mets
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 85
Bartolo Colon Colon has a Cy Young award on his mantle, and he was also an All-Star at age 40. He's endured by drastically improving his control and relying heavily on his refined sinker. Colon's struggling thus far in 2014, but he's only 10 wins shy of 200.
Key Stats: 25.0 IP, 1-3 W-L, 0 SV, 5.4 ERA, 18 Ks, 3 BB
6. Justin Verlander, SP - Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 3
Justin Verlander Obviously, as Verlander accrues more career innings, he'll work his way up this list. Right now, though, his 1,798 career frames pushes him behind the more tenured arms noted above. With that said, Verlander has obviously made the most of those innings: 128 ERA+, AL Cy Young and AL MVP in 2011, four more Cy top-10 finishes, three times leading the majors in strikeouts, six All-Star appearances. Career win no. 150 likely comes this season.
Key Stats: 26.0 IP, 2-1 W-L, 0 SV, 2.08 ERA, 20 Ks, 10 BB
7. Felix Hernandez, SP - Seattle Mariners
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 10
Felix Hernandez In 2007, King Felix had a fastball that averaged 96.3 mph. This season, his fastball averages 91.7 mph. Hernandez, though, has remained a front-line ace despite the loss of velocity, and he's done so by deepening his repertoire and relying more on movement and location. What a pitcher.
Key Stats: 28.1 IP, 3-0 W-L, 0 SV, 1.91 ERA, 39 Ks, 3 BB
8. Clayton Kershaw, SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Clayton Kershaw Needless to say, it's hard to make a list like this when you have just 1,186 2/3 career innings to your credit. How do you overcome such a deficit? You win two Cy Youngs by age 25 and notch another second place finish. Kershaw entered this season with four straight campaigns of at least 200 innings, at least 200 strikeouts and a sub-3.00 ERA.
Key Stats: 6.2 IP, 1-0 W-L, 0 SV, 1.35 ERA, 7 Ks, 1 BB
9. Cole Hamels, SP - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 20
Cole Hamels Hamels boasts a career ERA+ of 123 and a K/BB ratio of 3.83 in 1,596 2/3 innings. He's also logged 158 quality starts in 244 attempts. The best changeup in baseball? Hamels is in that discussion.
Key Stats: 0.0 IP, 0-0 W-L, 0 SV, 0.0 ERA, 0 Ks, 0 BB
10. Jake Peavy, SP - Boston Red Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 80
Jake Peavy The 2007 NL Cy Young winner hasn't been blessed with the best health over his career, but he's closing in on 2,000 innings. As well, Peavy is also headed toward 2,000 strikeouts, and his career ERA+ of 115 is also praiseworthy.
Key Stats: 24.1 IP, 0-0 W-L, 0 SV, 3.33 ERA, 25 Ks, 14 BB

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