The first month of the 2018 season is behind us, and it's time for our first monthly look at the top 50 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 2018. Starting now, though, each installment will be all about performance to date. As such, the rankings you're about to see reflect nothing more than who's been the best through the first month of the 2018 season. The preceding has been italicized for emphasis. Now we're going to bold it and italicize it -- and perhaps even brandish a larger font size -- for even more emphasis …

The rankings you're about to see reflect nothing more than who's been the best through the first month of the 2018 season.

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 2018 thus far.

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. (Note: It's 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 2018 to date, and the rankings suggest nothing about whether the player in question can maintain the current level of performance going forward. As such, the next time you see this list, it may look very different. Or not. Whatever, man.

As always, reach to the author at his personal email address -- hotmail@hotmail.jpg -- with all your complaints …


Matt Chapman Oakland Athletics 3B
Chapman's a standout fielder at the hot corner, and he's paired that glovework an OPS of .841.
Asdrubal Cabrera New York Mets 2B
No, Cabrera isn't much with the glove these days, but he's still a middle infielder who's batting .327/.383/.551.
Junior Guerra Milwaukee Brewers SP
He's made just four starts on the season, but across those four starts he's put up an ERA of 0.82.
Kurt Suzuki Atlanta Braves C
Suzuki's going to lose playing time now that Tyler Flowers is back, but his 145 OPS+ and 165 innings behind the plate are enough to get him a spot this time around.
Brandon Belt San Francisco Giants 1B
Belt's been a strong combination of power and patience in 2018. He's batting .304 and slugging .576, and he's drawn a walk in almost 16 percent of his plate appearances.
Reynaldo Lopez Chicago White Sox SP
Lopez has been bright spot for the Sox. After five starts, the 24-year-old righty boasts an ERA of 1.78 and four quality starts.
Rhys Hoskins Philadelphia Phillies LF
Since he arrived in the bigs last season, Hoskins hasn't stopped "taking and raking." Thus far in 2018, he's been an elite combination of power and on-base skills.
Chad Bettis Colorado Rockies SP
Bettis' merits? He's pitched to a 2.43 ERA/188 ERA+ after six starts. Four of those starts have come away from Coors Field, and in those he's got a 1.71 ERA.
Aaron Nola Philadelphia Phillies SP
Nola's been a stabilizer in the Philly rotation. Across 45 ⅔ innings, he's got an ERA of 2.17 with more than three times as many strikeouts as walks.
Jarlin Garcia Miami Marlins SP
Thanks largely to his allowing an opponents' slash line of .136/.228/.236, Garcia's running an ERA of 1.09 after four starts and two relief appearances.


Robinson Cano Seattle Mariners 2B
A durable middle infielder with an OPS+ in the 140s? The future Hall of Famer easily makes the cut.
Charlie Blackmon Colorado Rockies CF
He's an up-the-middle defender with a 2018 slash line of .284/.387/.608. That's strong production even after you correct for Coors Field.
Trevor Bauer Cleveland Indians SP
Is Bauer in the early stages of his long-awaited breakout? After six starts, he clocks in with an ERA+ of 186 and 46 strikeouts in 40 ⅓ innings.
Charlie Morton Houston Astros SP
Morton continues to excel in the stacked Houston rotation. In 36 ⅔ innings, he's allowed just eight runs and put up a K/BB ratio of 3.46.
Daniel Robertson Tampa Bay Rays 2B
The 24-year-old infielder has authored a batting line of .310/.456/.521 while seeing time at four different positions (and working a scoreless inning in relief).
Lorenzo Cain Milwaukee Brewers CF
Cain's still a plus fielder in center, and he's batting .279/.397/.462 with eight stolen bases in nine attempts.
Luis Severino New York Yankees SP
Fresh off a gem against the defending champs, Severino's pitched to a 2.11 ERA with 52 strikeouts and just two home runs allowed in 47 innings.
Patrick Corbin Arizona Diamondbacks SP
Maybe Corbin is taking the next step in 2018. He's made six starts (including one complete-game shutout), allowed 10 runs, and put up a K/BB ratio of 7.86.
J.D. Martinez Boston Red Sox DH
Thus far (and not surprisingly), Martinez has been a very wise investment on the part of the Sox. He's slugging close to .600 and running an OBP of almost .400.
Jacob deGrom New York Mets SP
DeGrom suffered a hyperextended elbow in his most recent start, so he may be facing an extended absence. For now, though, he easily makes the cut with a 1.87 ERA after seven starts.


Kris Bryant Chicago Cubs 3B
Bryant missed time after being hit in the head by a pitch, but when on the field he's produced in vintage fashion. He remains one of the best players in all of baseball.
Rick Porcello Boston Red Sox SP
The 2016 AL Cy Young winner looks back to Cy form thus far in 2018. After six starts, he's pitched to a 2.23 ERA with no unearned runs allowed and 38 strikeouts against just four walks.
Tommy Pham St. Louis Cardinals CF
Was 2017 an outlier for Pham? The early returns of 2018 suggest not. He's playing a nifty center field, he's getting on base at an elite clip, and he's showing some pop.
Christian Villanueva San Diego Padres 3B
In 99 plate appearances, the Padres' third sacker has thumped the ball to the tune of .299/.384/.667 with nine home runs.
Ozzie Albies Atlanta Braves 2B
Albies got a bit overlooked in the successive waves of Dansby Swanson and Ronald Acuna hype, but he's looking every bit the future superstar. He's an excellent fielder, and right now he leads the NL in homers and the majors in doubles.
Corey Kluber Cleveland Indians SP
On balance, Kluber has been a bit of a slow starter, but that hasn't been the case in 2018. He's also topped the 50-inning mark, and he's put up an ERA of 2.41 with 53 strikeouts against nine walks.
Aaron Judge New York Yankees RF
Sophomore slump? Not sign of such a thing so far. On a rate basis, Judge's 2018 numbers are better than his numbers in 2017, when he won AL Rookie of the Year honors and finished second in the MVP balloting.
Carlos Correa Houston Astros SS
Correa was on pretty much every preseason AL MVP watch-list, and the 23-year-old shortstop in the early going has very much met those expectations.
Mitch Haniger Seattle Mariners RF
Haniger's getting on base at a strong clip and putting up huge power numbers in the early going.
Jed Lowrie Oakland Athletics 2B
The veteran infielder has perhaps a career year at the plate in 2017, and this season he's been even better.


Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
Freeman soldiers on as one of the very best hitters in the game today. He's on target to set what will easily be a career-high OBP.
Javier Baez Chicago Cubs 2B
Is Baez leveling up? The 25-year-old remains a defensive asset at second base, and he's currently on pace to blow past 100 extra-base hits for the season.
Yasmani Grandal Los Angeles Dodgers C
L.A.'s season has been a disappointment thus far, but that's not because of Grandal. In addition to being a skilled pitch-framer and game-caller, Grandal has an OPS north of .900.
Chris Sale Boston Red Sox SP
Yep, more of the same from Sale. In 42 frames, he's allowed just 11 runs and registered five times as many strikeouts as walks.
Bryce Harper Washington Nationals RF
So far, Harper's looked like his vintage self with an OPS+ in the 170s and one of the highest OBPs in the game. That's timely, considering 2018 is of course his walk year.
Andrelton Simmons Los Angeles Angels SS
The best defensive shortstop in the game continues his development at the plate. He's walked more times than he's struck out, and he's on target to blow away his previous career bests in AVG/OBP/SLG and OPS+.
Nolan Arenado Colorado Rockies 3B
Arenado remains the best defensive third baseman in baseball, and thus far he's putting the best park- and league-adjusted offensive numbers of his career.
Gerrit Cole Houston Astros SP
On Houston's watch, Cole has ramped up his spin rate and looked dominant: He's got a 1.73 ERA on the season with 61 strikeouts in 41 ⅔ innings.
Max Scherzer Washington Nationals SP
Scherzer remains among the very best pitchers on the planet. He leads the NL in innings, he's got a sub-2.00 ERA, and he leads the majors in strikeouts. Oh, and "Sax McHerzer" is an outstanding spoonerism.
Kevin Pillar Toronto Blue Jays CF
Pillar is putting up big numbers with the bat -- including leading the majors in doubles -- and remains an elite run-saver with his defense in center.


Carlos Martinez St. Louis Cardinals SP
After the first month of the season, Martinez is on his way to a career year: 45 IP, 1.40 ERA, 45 strikeouts, one home run allowed.
Johnny Cueto San Francisco Giants SP
Cueto spent time on the DL with an ankle injury and is now laid up once again, but he's been completely dominant when healthy this season. In 32 innings, he's permitted just three runs.
Francisco Cervelli Pittsburgh Pirates C
Cervelli's pitch-framing skills are still highly regarded, and this season he boasts a line at the plate of .310/.388/.595. A catcher who hits like that will necessarily be ranked high in the top 50.
A.J. Pollock Arizona Diamondbacks CF
The Snakes' everyday center fielder is already at double digits in homers, and he's running his highest OBP since his All-Star season of 2015.
Justin Verlander Houston Astros SP
Yes, he's 35, but right now he's as dominant as he's ever been. Seven starts in, Verlander has a 1.13 ERA, he's struck out more than 35 percent of opposing batters, and he's averaged almost seven innings per start.
Manny Machado Baltimore Orioles SS
Machado's proved himself capable of handling shortstop on a daily basis, and right now he leads the majors in OPS+. It's possible he'll fetch a larger contract than Bryce Harper next winter.
Sean Manaea Oakland Athletics SP
The well regarded 26-year-old has a no-hitter to his credit, and his 1.03 ERA paces the AL. In his worst start of 2018, he allowed two runs in five innings.
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
Yep, you know who. He remains a center fielder who runs the bases well, and he's running an OPS of more than 1.000 while being on pace for more than 50 homers.
Didi Gregorius New York Yankees SS
Gregorius' production with the bat is such that he'd be near the top of this list even if he weren't a plus-fielding shortstop, which is what he is.
Mookie Betts Boston Red Sox RF
Betts continues to do it all on the field. Last season, he remained a valuable contributor despite a down year with the bat. This year, though, he's been absolutely destroying the baseball.

Until next month ...