The 2016 regular season is now behind us, and now it's time for our final monthly look at the top 100 players in baseball.
When we did this coming into the season, the rankings were based upon reasonable expectations -- using things like age and recent performance history -- to make educated guesses at which players would provide the most value in 2016. Since the start of the season, though, each installment has been about performance to date. As such, the rankings you're about to see reflect nothing more than who was the best in 2016. The preceding has been italicized for emphasis.
In coming up with these rankings, your scribe paid no heed to what may or may not be sustainable. Some of the names will be very much at home among the game's best, while others belong to players who have solidly over-performed or are just establishing themselves as premium performers. Whatever the case, we're not worried about whether the performances will stick. It's all about what's happened in 2016 and 2016 alone. With regard to players who have been traded during the season, their overall body of work this year is what's being considered.
As for what matters, with position players it's a mix of batting, defense, and baserunning. On offense, we're not concerned with things like RBI. Getting on base and hitting for power matter above all, as do playing time, context of the player's home ballpark, and production relative to positional peers (e.g., the offensive bar is lower for shortstops and catchers than it is for first basemen and DHs). For pitchers -- and since this a backward-looking assessment of value provided -- run prevention and workload will be the drivers, but we'll also give some consideration to underlying fundamental indicators like strikeouts and walks. When it comes to relievers, leverage, or the relative importance of the innings a reliever works, are taken into account. This is why closers tend to beat out middle relievers for spots on this list. (And it's also hard for relievers to crack this list in the first place, given how much more valuable starting pitchers tend to be, thanks to their much higher innings loads.)
Again, this is all about 2016, and the rankings suggest nothing about whether the player in question can maintain the current level of performance next year or beyond. As such, the next time you see this list, it'll probably look very different.
Now let's roll out the final 2016 rankings of the top 100 players in baseball (click on each player's name to view his final 2016 regular season stats) ...
Perez is a durable backstop who handles pitchers well, and this season at the plate he tallied 22 homers. So here he is.
Miller spent the majority of his defensive innings at shortstop, and in the process he rang up 30 homers and an OPS+ of 113.
Santana turned in perhaps his best season in 2016. In 181 innings, he logged a 3.38 ERA and an ERA+ of 124.
On the downside, Trumbo doesn't draw walks and gives back runs on the bases and especially in the field. On the upside, he hit 47 homers to the lead the majors.
Chapman remains one of the most fearsome relievers ever. This season, he's pitched to a 1.55 ERA while striking out more than 40 percent of opposing hitters.
As Harper proved in 2016, "disappointing" and "good" are not mutually exclusive. This season, he was both, as he remained productive and durable despite tumbling from the heights he reached last year.
Price's early struggles are well-chronicled, but he came on to turn in a strong season. The lefty wound up leading the majors with 230 innings pitched, and his performance on Sunday pushed his ERA below the 4.00 mark. And bear in mind that's pitching his home games in Fenway, in the DH league, and in an up year for offense.
Frazier's still a quality glove-man at third, and in his first season on South Side of Chicago he accounted for 40 homers.
Cabrera's no Gold Glover at short, and we've known that for a while. But a line of .280/.336/.474 with 23 homers while manning said premium position? That'll play for sure.
Realmuto logged more than 1,100 innings behind the plate while batting .303/.343/.428 in 137 games. As catchers go, he can also run a little bit.
Davis logged 150 games for the A's, and over that stretch he cracked 42 homers and put up an OPS+ of 126.
Overall, Chatwood in 158 innings logged an ERA+ of 126. Outside of Coors Field? In 13 road starts this season, he put up an ERA of 1.69.
Pomeranz wound up working 170 ⅔ innings with a 3.32 ERA. He also struck out well more than a batter per inning for the year.
Prado's a plus defender at third, and this season he put up quality offensive numbers while pretty much playing the entire season. He's long earned praise as being a stellar teammate.
Cespedes' first full season in Queens went quite swimmingly, thank you: .280/.354/.530 with 31 homers in 132 games.
An elbow fracture cost Martinez a notable chunk of season, but when healthy he punished the baseball. In 517 plate appearances, he batted .307/.373/.535. He was a liability in the field, but the bat more than made up for it.
Carpenter was one of the Cards' most reliable power sources this season, as he compiled 21 homers, 36 doubles, and 81 walks while spending time at three different infield positions.
Arrieta slipped quite a bit from 2015, when he barged to the NL Cy Young award, but he remained an asset in the Chicago rotation. This season, he worked almost 200 innings with an ERA of 3.10.
E.E. was a steady power source for the Jays. The stalwart DH played in 160 games, and along the way he piled up 42 home runs and 87 walks.
Ramirez was indispensable during a season in which injuries hit the Indians' lineup pretty hard. He manned four different positions while batting .312/.363/.462 with 46 doubles and 22 stolen bases.
Zobrist stabilized second base for the Cubs while putting up an OPS of more than .800. Zobrist, one season removed from serious knee problems, also came close to playing in 150 games.
Pederson's "sophomore" campaign was indeed a successful one: quality defense in center field, 25 homers, and a walk in 13.2 percent of his plate appearances.
The upstart rookie Diaz was one of the Cardinals' most valuable contributors in 2016. Across 460 plate appearances, Diaz batted .300/.369/.510 with 17 homers while also pinning down shortstop for a contender.
The 31-year-old rookie out of Venezuela pitched to an impressive 2.81 ERA over the course of 20 starts. Injury problems kept him out of the NL Cy Young race.
Bogaerts proved capable of handling shortstop for a division champ, and the plate he put up strong numbers as shortstop go: .294/.356/.446 with 21 homers and 34 doubles.
Andrus remains a capable and durable shortstop who contributes on the bases. At the plate, he enjoyed the most productive season of his career.
Longoria's defense has slipped, but the bat rebounded nicely in 2016: .273/.318/.521 with 36 homers and 41 doubles.
Fowler missed significant time with a leg injury, but when healthy he was a difference-maker at the plate, in the field, and on the bases. His .393 OBP was huge at the top of that powerful Cubs lineup.
The 2016 season was another fine one for Kipnis, who racked up lots of playing time en route to 23 homers, 41 doubles, and 15 steals. Those are good outputs, especially for a second baseman.
Rendon came back nicely from the disappointments of 2015. He played almost a full season, reached 20 homers, ran the bases well, and played plus defense at third.
Kiermaier missed significant time with injury this season, but he has an OPS+ north of 100 and remains perhaps the leading defensive outfielder in the game today.
Pedroia remains a sound defender at the keystone and a productive hitter as second basemen go. As well, he topped 150 games played.
Miller turned in another utterly dominant season while working high-leverage innings. As well, after the trade to Cleveland he showed a willingness to be flexible in how he was deployed -- i.e., working not just clean ninth innings. That's a rare quality in closers.
Various maladies took a bite out of Hill's innings load, but the rate-based results were tremendous: 2.12 ERA over 20 starts, 3.91 K/BB ratio.
At the plate, Blackmon put up the best numbers of his career -- strong numbers even after you remove the influence of playing home games at a mile above sea level. He also spent more than 1,100 defensive innings in center field.
Braun's always been a "very good when healthy" kind of player, and even at age 32. This season, he registered his first 30-homer campaign since 2012.
Duffy enjoyed a strong season and has established himself as a long-term fixture in the KC rotation. Particularly impressive are his 188 strikeouts in 179 ⅔ innings against just 42 unintentional walks.
While a couple of other Giants position players -- Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, specifically -- were more valuable overall, Belt was pretty easily the best raw producer in the San Francisco lineup this season.
The former Rule 5 pick continues to be a solid contributor to Philly. In addition to playing a strong center field, Herrera put up solid numbers by the standards of an up-the-middle defender.
The improvements that Happ made in Pittsburgh certainly stuck in Toronto. The 33-year-old lefty set a career best in innings, and he put up his best ERA+ since 2009.
What a find Villar has been for Milwaukee. The shortstop topped 155 games played, put up strong numbers as shortstops go, and led the majors in stolen bases.
It's been a nice rebound campaign for Teheran, who's still just 25 years of age. This season, he set career-best marks in ERA+ and K/BB ratio.
The rookie Fulmer, acquired from the Mets in last year's Yoenis Cespedes trade, turned out to be just what Detroit needed this season. In 159 innings, he pitched to a 135 ERA+ with a K/BB ratio of 3.14.
Russell's emerged as one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball, and this season he made solid strides with the bat. Yep, he's still just 22 years of age.
Many of us expected Cruz to suffer once he left Texas. Well, he's done exactly the opposite. The 2016 season saw Cruz put up yet another 40-homer campaign.
Grandal's one of the best pitch-framers around, and this season he put up excellent power numbers, especially as catchers go.
Unquestionably, Britton was the most dominant closer of 2016, and he did it for a team that leaned heavily on its bullpen. Check out that ERA. Now check out his save percentage. Now check out his groundball rate. What a year.
Ramos' season is done because of a knee injury but not before he banked a lot of value for the NL East champs: He put up a 123 OPS+ with 22 homers and almost 1,100 defensive innings behind the plate.
We know all about Molina's superlative defensive skills, and his second-half surge at the plate put him on this list with ease.
Springer's a plus glove who led the majors in games played while providing Houston with good pop and on-base skills. The 2016 campaign was one of all-around value for Springer.
Eaton adapted incredibly well to right field and now profiles as perhaps the AL's best defensive right fielder. He also put up good gap power numbers and got on base at a nice clip.
Turner's a useful defender at the hot corner, and the power gains he made since joining the Dodgers have continued apace.
Crawford remains one of the top defensive shortstops in the game, and once again he's put up very good offensive numbers relative to his positional peers.
The terminally underrated Quintana enjoyed a career year in 2016 without departing too much from what he's been doing for the last half-decade.
Yep, Goldy's still a good one. Defense, baserunning, OBP and power at the plate -- The first baseman does it all for Arizona.
While Posey's offensive numbers took a dip this season, they remain quite strong by positional standards. He remains an excellent defensive catcher.
It's painful to type his name on this list in light of Fernandez's tragic death. In 2016 he was, of course, one of the best pitchers in baseball, which is how it should be. He'll always be remembered as such. He was something, wasn't he?
Sanchez came up big in his age-23 season. He handled a big jump in innings, did a remarkable job of keeping the ball in the park (particularly considering his home environment), and ran an ERA in the low 3.00s.
Yelich continues his steady progress toward being one of baseball's best players. He played pretty much every day, hit at a strong clip, and played a strong left field. He's looking like a future MVP.
He's one of the best defensive corner outfielders in baseball, he's put up good numbers with the bat, and he's an excellent baserunner.
Hamels may be in line for top 10 finish in the AL Cy Young vote thanks to his topping 200 innings and posting an ERA of 3.32.
Bradley's handled center field quite nicely for the Red Sox, and he's also produced at the plate, especially in terms of power.
Plus defense at the keystone, high batting average, strong overall production even after you correct for the influences of Coors Field -- LaMahieu's very much earned a spot in the rankings.
Segura had a bust-out season in the desert. He put up excellent numbers at the plate, especially as middle infielders go, and he also graded out as a highly productive baserunner.
Sale just keeps on churning out the excellent seasons. In 2016, he limited runs, worked a career-high number of innings, led the majors in complete games, and struck out more than five times as many as he walked.
Martinez absolutely carried the St. Louis rotation this season. In 2016, he approached 200 innings and for the second straight season ran an ERA in the low 3.00s.
The future Hall of Famer just keeps going. Once again, he's provided excellent fielding at the hot corner, and Beltre in 2016 also notched the fifth 30-homer season of his career.
Tanaka has just finished up the best season of his career in terms of innings and in terms of run prevention. The command-and-control indicators have remained strong, too.
Kinsler's given his team another season of broad-based value. He's a plus defender at a key position, he runs the bases well, and he puts up strong numbers at the plate.
The years go by, and Miggy just keeps raking. Once again, he's given his team lots of homers, on-base skills, and an OPS in the high 900s.
The 2016 season has been one heck of a victory lap for Big Papi. His is at forefront of the discussion of best final seasons in MLB history.
He's put up quality numbers at the plate by shortstop standards, and with the glove he's been one of baseball's best defenders in 2016.
Correa's a quality defensive shortstop who runs the bases well and produces at the plate. Given his age, he's one of baseball's most valuable long-term assets.
Rizzo's developed into one of the top take-and-rake hitters in the game today. His extra-base hits and walk tallies tell the story.
Yes, Kershaw missed more than two months because of back problems, but he's been so dominant when healthy that he easily earns a high ranking. Check out that absurd K/BB ratio.
Besides playing a plus-plus third base, Seager's also topped 30 homers despite playing his home games in a tough environment for hitters.
Roark isn't getting the attention he deserves this season, but he's been on the NL's best starters on a run-prevention basis.
If he'd spent his entire season in one league, he'd be an MVP candidate. This season, Lucroy's been durable, he's put up high-quality offensive numbers, and he remains one of the league's top defensive catchers.
Freeman's put those wrist problems behind him and come up with a career year at the plate. He definitely merits some down-ballot support for NL MVP.
The Mets' rotation savior has emerged as a true frontline ace in this, his age-23 season.
Dozier of course set the single-season record for home runs by a second baseman, so here he is -- high on the list.
He led all NL qualifiers in OPS+, OBP, and walks, and he also contributed plenty of power. He remains one of the best pure hitters in the game today.
What a remarkable renaissance season it's been for Verlander. He put up his best numbers since his 2011-12 peak.
It's been a true breakout season for Porcello. He's got a strong ERA, especially on a park-adjusted basis, and he paced the AL in K/BB ratio.
Lots of defensive innings at the most premium position on the diamond, lots of extra-base hits, and excellent rate-based production -- The no-doubt NL Rookie of the Year is also one of the best players in baseball this season.
Cueto's just a few ticks behind teammate Bumgarner in terms of overall value, which should tell you all you need to know about the quality of his season.
Murphy gives back some runs with his sub-par fielding, but the bat has been excellent, particularly by the standards of his position. No middle infielder this season did a better job of getting on base and hitting for power.
What a season the veteran lefty has turned in. In terms of keeping runs off the board relative to ballpark and league conditions, it's been a career year for Lester.
The Tribe's rotation stalwart has put up another Cy Young-caliber season. Given the injuries around him, he's also been a true stabilizer for Cleveland.
Surprised? Don't be. No one thrived like Hendricks when it comes to the fundamental job of run prevention.
Arenado's a leading power hitter, as you know. As well, he's not just one of the best defensive third basemen in all of baseball, he's one of the best defensive players at any position in all of baseball.
Machado's a rich source of power at the plate who's also one of the best defensive third basemen around. He also spent significant time at shortstop this season.
As he always does, Cano answered the bell at second base pretty much every game, and along the way he enjoyed a tremendous power renaissance at the plate.
It's been his finest season yet. He's worked a high innings load, and his ERA+ checks in at a strong 150.
Scherzer put up one of his best seasons in terms of innings volume, dominance at the command-and-control level, and run prevention.
The reigning AL MVP has been even better at the plate this season, and he remains an excellent defensive third baseman.
The favorite for the NL MVP award combined excellent plate production with plus fielding at multiple positions and a remarkable knack for not hitting into double plays.
An everyday second baseman who hit like an All-Star first baseman and also stole bases with regularity? Yep, he's high on this list with very good reason.
Betts is a standout defensive right fielder who was a plus base-runner and led the majors in total bases.
He played center field on a regular basis, he was the most productive hitter in all of baseball by a wide margin, and he's back to adding significant value on the bases. Trout was the best player of 2016, and it's not a close call.