MLB Top 50 Player Rankings: Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Jacob deGrom among the best in baseball

The first five months of the 2018 season are behind us, and thus it's time to take another 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. Since then, though, each installment has been 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 five months 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 five months 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 …

41-50.png
50
Andrelton Simmons Los Angeles Angels SS
He's still among the best defenders at any position in all of baseball, and he's also batting a useful .292/.338/.415.
49
Miles Mikolas St. Louis Cardinals SP
He's been huge for the contending Cards this season. In 167 innings, Mikolas has a 2.96 ERA and just 23 unintentional walks.
48
Ronald Acuna Atlanta Braves LF
If not for his belated call-up and knee injury, he'd be much higher on this list. The 20-year-old phenom is batting .289/.355/.563 with 23 home runs in 87 games. He's looking like a future MVP.
47
Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles Dodgers SP
Injuries have once again taken a bite out of Kershaw's workload, but he's still getting it done when healthy: 163 ERA+ and a 6.35 K/BB ratio through 21 starts.
46
Max Muncy Los Angeles Dodgers 1B
Muncy is running an OPS+ in the 170s while having seen time at four different defensive positions. That's more than enough to make up for the relative shortfall in playing time.
45
Jean Segura Seattle Mariners SS
Seattle's linchpin shortstop is batting better than .300 with an OPS+ of around 120 and plenty of gap power.
44
Mike Fiers Oakland Athletics SP
Fiers was quite good before the trade out of Detroit, and he's been even better since joining the contending A's. Overall, he's got a 130 ERA+ through 26 starts.
43
Francisco Cervelli Pittsburgh Pirates C
Cervelli's pitch-framing skills are still highly regarded, and he's also having his best full season at the plate. Relative to the catchers above him, though, his workload isn't on their level.
42
Gleyber Torres New York Yankees 2B
He's a 21-year-old middle infielder, and he's got an OPS+ of around 130 thus far in his rookie season. A delayed call-up and then a trip to the DL with a hip strain have taken a chunk out of his playing time, but he's still provided enough value to make the cut.
41
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
Freeman's numbers have dipped in the second half, but overall the numbers are still strong enough to earn him a spot in the rankings.
31-40.png
40
Yasmani Grandal Los Angeles Dodgers C
Grandal is quietly having an excellent season for L.A. He's closing in on 900 innings caught, and at the plate he's got an OPS of around .800.
39
Mike Foltynewicz Atlanta Braves SP
Folty has been a key part of Atlanta's surprise run at the NL East title. After 26 starts, he's got an ERA of 2.80, and he's struck out 174 batters in 151 innings.
38
Luis Severino New York Yankees SP
The 24-year-old All-Star has pitched to a 3.32 ERA and a 4.85 K/BB ratio through 28 starts.
37
Paul Goldschmidt Arizona Diamondbacks 1B
Remember when Goldy was struggling early in the season? That feels like a long time ago. He's topped 30 home runs for the year with rate-based production right in line with 2017.
36
Aaron Judge New York Yankees RF
Unfortunately, Judge is still on the DL with a wrist fracture, but he'd put up excellent numbers prior to the injury. In 447 plate appearances this season, he has a slash line of .285/.398/.548 with 26 homers.
35
Wilson Ramos Philadelphia Phillies C
Ramos missed some time due to injury earlier in the year, but he's thrived for the Rays and the Phillies this season. He recently topped 700 innings behind the plate, and he's got an OPS+ in the 130s.
34
Scooter Gennett Cincinnati Reds 2B
Gennett is the NL leader in batting. He's also slugging around .500 while topping 1,000 defensive innings at second base.
33
Whit Merrifield Kansas City Royals 2B
Here's a complete player. Merrifield has manned five different positions -- including significant time at second and center -- while running an OPS+ in the 120s and adding big value on the bases.
32
Trevor Story Colorado Rockies SS
The Coors Effect is duly noted, but we're still talking about a shortstop who recently reached 70 extra-base hits for the season.
31
Jose Altuve Houston Astros 2B
The reigning AL MVP spent significant time on the DL, which is why he's ranked lower than he'd otherwise be. Otherwise, it's been on-base skills plus gap power plus baserunning plus capable defense at an up-the-middle position.
21-30.png
30
Khris Davis Oakland Athletics DH
Despite playing his home games in a park that's squarely hostile to his efforts, Davis is at this writing the first and only player to get to 40 home runs in 2018.
29
Gerrit Cole Houston Astros SP
His first season in Houston has gone swimmingly: 2.86 ERA, 243 strikeouts in 176 1/3 innings.
28
Patrick Corbin Arizona Diamondbacks SP
Corbin's career year continues apace: 28 starts, one shutout, 3.06 ERA/146 ERA+, no unearned runs allowed, 5.22 K/BB ratio.
27
Eugenio Suarez Cincinnati Reds 3B
He's a plus defender at third, and he's got an OPS+ of around 150, and he's already topped 30 homers for the season.
26
Zack Greinke Arizona Diamondbacks SP
Greinke's having quite the age-34 campaign. In 176 innings, he's put up an ERA+ of 151 with more than five times as many strikeouts as walks.
25
Mike Clevinger Cleveland Indians SP
With an ERA+ in the 150s and more strikeouts than innings, Clevinger's been an underrated presence in the Cleveland rotation this season.
24
Jed Lowrie Oakland Athletics 2B
The veteran Lowrie continues to be a big producer for the upstart A's. In addition to playing second base on an everyday basis, Lowrie's got an OPS of more than .800 and more than 20 homers.
23
Justin Verlander Houston Astros SP
Age 35? No problem for the future Hall of Famer. In 188 innings, he's struck out 248 batters with an ERA+ of 143.
22
Christian Yelich Milwaukee Brewers LF
Yelich is a defensive plus at the outfield corners, he's got an OPS+ in the 140s, he's closing in on 30 homers, and he's got good speed on the bases. He's a darkhorse MVP candidate in the senior circuit.
21
Manny Machado Los Angeles Dodgers SS
Machado had been one of the AL's top players at the time of his trade out of Baltimore, and he's continued to produce -- albeit not at quite as high a level -- since joining the Dodgers.
11-20.png
20
Nolan Arenado Colorado Rockies 3B
Arenado remains a standout defender at the hot corner, and he's having perhaps the best career year at the plate. He remains in the running for NL MVP honors, despite an August dip in his numbers.
19
Matt Carpenter St. Louis Cardinals 1B
As recently as May 16, Carpenter's OPS was sitting in the .500s. His hot streak since then, though, has been such that he's on balance been perhaps the most productive hitter in the NL. Remarkably, he's yet to hit into a double play in 2018.
18
Lorenzo Cain Milwaukee Brewers CF
Cain has been an outstanding defensive center fielder again this season while also running the bases well and putting up an OBP of almost .400.
17
Javier Baez Chicago Cubs 2B
A plus-fielding second baseman with an OPS of more .900, 30 homers, and big value on the bases? Baez has definitely earned a high ranking.
16
Kyle Freeland Colorado Rockies SP
The Denver natives has been vital for the Rockies this season, as he's pitched to a sub-3.00 ERA in 170 1/3 innings. Those numbers include 12 starts at Coors Field.
15
J.T. Realmuto Miami Marlins C
Realmuto got a late start to the season thanks to injury, but he's been raking ever since. That's of course in addition to being a strong defensive catcher. On a rate basis, he's been the most productive catcher in baseball this season.
14
J.D. Martinez Boston Red Sox DH
Martinez has been a huge addition for Boston. He's got an OPS of more than 1.000, and he leads the majors in slugging and total bases.
13
Trevor Bauer Cleveland Indians SP
Bauer is still out with a stress fracture in his leg, but even accounting for that lost time he's been one of the best starters in baseball this season. After 166 innings, Bauer clocks in with an ERA+ of 217 and 214 strikeouts in 166 innings.
12
Corey Kluber Cleveland Indians SP
Kluber's slipped just a bit relative to his Cy Young campaign of last season, but he's still been a highly valuable moundsman this season. He's got an ERA+ of 173, and he's closing in on 200 innings.
11
Blake Snell Tampa Bay Rays SP
Snell spent some time on the DL with shoulder fatigue, but otherwise he's looking like a Cy Young candidate in the AL. Chief among his merits is a 2.02 ERA after 26 starts.
1-10.png
10
Chris Sale Boston Red Sox SP
Sale's on the DL with shoulder inflammation, but the body of work is exceptionally strong. In 23 starts, he leads the AL in ERA while leading the majors in ERA+ and strikeout rate.
9
Aaron Nola Philadelphia Phillies SP
Nola's been one of the league's best starters this season. He's worked 181 2/3 innings, and over that span he's put up a 2.23 ERA (despite playing in front of a subpar defense) and 188 strikeouts.
8
Matt Chapman Oakland Athletics 3B
The 25-year-old Chapman has already established himself as one of the top defensive third basemen in all of baseball, and at the plate right now he boasts an OPS+ in the 140s.
7
Alex Bregman Houston Astros 3B
A lava-hot June and July have put Bregman over the top. He can pick it at the hot corner, he's spent time at shortstop, and with the bat the 24-year-old has an OPS+ of around 160.
6
Francisco Lindor Cleveland Indians SS
He's a slick-fielding shortstop who runs the bases well and who's already got more than 70 extra-base hits for the season.
5
Jose Ramirez Cleveland Indians 3B
Ramirez is in line for another high finish in the AL MVP balloting. He's picking it at the hot corner, he's crushing at the plate, and he's been an elite baserunner, too.
4
Max Scherzer Washington Nationals SP
Scherzer remains among the very best pitchers on the planet. After 193 2/3 innings, he's struck out an MLB-best 260 batters and pitched to an ERA of 2.28.
3
Jacob deGrom New York Mets SP
The Mets ace has been brilliant through 28 starts: 1.68 ERA to lead the majors, 230 strikeouts against 39 unintentional walks in 188 innings. Only once this season has he allowed more than three runs in a start.
2
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
Trout is a plus-center fielder who adds value on the bases and who has the highest OPS+ in all of baseball. Yes, the missed time due to injury ate away at his overall value, but that overall value is still in the stratosphere.
1
Mookie Betts Boston Red Sox RF
Betts lost a little playing time to the disabled list earlier this year, but overall he's performed at an MVP level. Right now, he's at or near the top of the league in a host of offensive categories, and that's in addition to his standout baserunning and defense.
CBS Sports Writer

Dayn Perry has been a baseball writer for CBS Sports since early 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for FOXSports.com and ESPN.com. He's the author of three books, the most recent being Reggie Jackson: The... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories