The first two 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 is 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 two 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 two 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.)

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 …

Nos. 50-41

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's got pop and patience at the plate. Right now, he owns an OPS of .805.
Miles Mikolas St. Louis Cardinals SP
The signing of the offseason? Quite possibly. In his first back from Japan, Mikolas has an ERA+ of 155 with just eight walks in 72 ⅓ innings.
Sean Newcomb Atlanta Braves SP
The Braves are surprise contenders, and Newcomb's been central to that effort. He's got a 155 ERA+ and just three home runs allowed in 68 ⅔ innings.
Michael Wacha St. Louis Cardinals SP
Through 12 starts and 71 innings, Wacha's got a 160 ERA+, and he's allowed just four homers.
Ross Stripling Los Angeles Dodgers RP
Stripling's been an absolutely huge swingman for the injury-plagued Dodgers. In seven starts this season he's put up an ERA of 1.89, and in 11 relief appearances he's got an ERA of 0.59.
Jed Lowrie Oakland Athletics 2B
The veteran Lowrie has been pinning second base down for the A's on a daily basis, and at the plate he's getting on base while showing pop. Right now, he's on target for a career year.
Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Angels DH
At the plate, Ohtani has an OPS+ of 149 in 129 plate appearances. On the mound, he's got an ERA of 3.10 through nine starts. All that from a single roster spot.
Carlos Correa Houston Astros SS
Correa's offensive production has dropped off from last season, but he's still raking relative to the standards of shortstops.
Matt Kemp Los Angeles Dodgers LF
What a year he's having back in L.A. He's now over 200 plate appearances for the season, and he's got a slash line of .353/.384/.599.
Gleyber Torres New York Yankees 2B
He's a 21-year-old middle infielder, and he reached 10 home runs in just his 36th game. Torres is indeed looking like a current and future star.

Nos. 40-31

Patrick Corbin Arizona Diamondbacks SP
Corbin's career year continues apace: 13 starts, one shutout, 2.87 ERA, no unearned runs allowed, 4.77 K/BB ratio.
Eugenio Suarez Cincinnati Reds 3B
The Cincy third baseman has spent some time on the DL in 2018, but in 44 games he's slashed .305/.385/.581 with 23 extra-base knocks.
A.J. Pollock Arizona Diamondbacks CF
Pollock is still sidelined with a fractured thumb, but he's got enough value in the bank to stick on this list for now. In addition to spending 350 defensive innings in center, Pollock before the injury had a slash line of .293/.349/.620 with nine steals in 40 games.
Buster Posey San Francisco Giants C
Posey remains an asset behind the plate, and thus he's far batting .303/.370/.443 in more than 200 plate appearances.
Mike Foltynewicz Atlanta Braves SP
Folty's pitched like an ace for Atlanta this season. After 13 starts, he's got an ERA of 2.31, and he's struck out 88 batters in 74 innings.
Andrew Benintendi Boston Red Sox LF
Benintendi, who's still just 23 years of age, is hitting .296/.378/.544 with 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts. He's also got 16 doubles, five triples, and 10 homers.
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Nick Markakis Atlanta Braves RF
The veteran outfielder is thus far having one of the best seasons of his career. He presently leads the NL in doubles, and he's running an OBP of around .400.
George Springer Houston Astros RF
Springer's having another big year. The Astros' center fielder thus far in 2018 is batting .293/.362/.512 with 28 extra-base hits.
Eddie Rosario Minnesota Twins LF
The Minnesota left fielder is putting up big power numbers at the plate while also maintaining a strong on-base clip. He's also a useful defender at a corner spot.
Jose Altuve Houston Astros 2B
The reigning AL MVP hasn't been quite up to his 2017 standards, but he's still been a highly valuable contributor in pretty much every phase of the game.

Nos. 30-21

James Paxton Seattle Mariners SP
Paxton's been huge for the first-place (!) Mariners. He's got a pair of complete games, which leads the majors, and he's put up an ERA+ of 137 with 101 strikeouts in 82 ⅓ innings.
Trevor Bauer Cleveland Indians SP
After 12 starts, Bauer clocks in with an ERA+ of 162 and 97 strikeouts in 78 innings.
Chris Sale Boston Red Sox SP
Sale hasn't quite been his usual self over the last couple of starts, but his overall body of work in 2018 remains worthy of the Top 50: 81 innings over 13 starts, 3.00 ERA/148 ERA+, 5.24 K/BB ratio.
Brandon Belt San Francisco Giants 1B
Belt is sidelined after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. On the season, though, he's produced in a big way: 162 OPS+, 23 extra-base hits, and 25 unintentional walks.
Jon Lester Chicago Cubs SP
The 34-year-old lefty is still going strong. In 70 innings this season, he's put up a 2.44 ERA and 169 ERA+.
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.
Lorenzo Cain Milwaukee Brewers CF
Cain's putting up quality numbers at the plate, and he remains a real difference-maker in the field and on the bases.
Gio Gonzalez Washington Nationals SP
It's shaping up to be another strong season for Gonzalez. After 71 ⅓ innings, he's got an ERA of 2.27 and an ERA+ of 177.
Brandon Crawford San Francisco Giants SS
Crawford's an everyday shortstop who's batting .324/.372/.498 while playing his home games in a pitcher's ballpark.
Aaron Nola Philadelphia Phillies SP
Yes, Jake Arrieta has the pedigree and some strong numbers, but Nola has been Philly's best starter so far. In 84 ⅓ innings, he's put up an ERA of 2.35 and struck out 80 while getting grounders more than half the time.

Nos. 20-11

Kris Bryant Chicago Cubs 3B
Bryant remains one of the best players in baseball. He's playing a strong hot corner with production at the plate right in line with career norms. He's also yet to hit into a double play this season.
Aaron Judge New York Yankees RF
Thus far, Judge has performed pretty much in line with last season, when he won Rookie of the Year honors and finished second in the AL MVP vote.
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
Freeman's on target to set what will easily be a career-high OBP and OPS+. Consider him to be on the NL MVP watch-list.
J.D. Martinez Boston Red Sox DH
Thus far (and not surprisingly), Martinez has been a huge addition for Boston. He's got an OPS of more than 1.000, and he's on pace to threaten 60 homers for the season (he was the first to 20 homers this season). Martinez remains one of the very best power hitters in the game today.
Blake Snell Tampa Bay Rays SP
Snell was not so long ago one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and now it looks like he's starting to realize that potential. A 170 ERA+ and 3.83 K/BB ratio speak to his excellence in 2018.
Gerrit Cole Houston Astros SP
On Houston's watch, Cole has ramped up his spin rate, leaned more on his four-seamer and breaking stuff, and looked dominant as a result: He's got a 2.20 ERA on the season with 116 strikeouts in 81 ⅔ innings.
Scooter Gennett Cincinnati Reds 2B
Here's a stealth MVP candidate in the NL (and trade deadline candidate). The veteran second baseman enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2017, and he's been even better this year. An OPS+ in the 150s from a middle infielder is special indeed.
Francisco Cervelli Pittsburgh Pirates C
Cervelli's pitch-framing skills are still highly regarded, and this season he boasts an OPS+ in the 150s. That kind of production from a catcher puts you on target for some down-ballot MVP votes.
Jacob deGrom New York Mets SP
DeGrom's been brilliant through 12 starts: 1.49 ERA, 98 strikeouts against 19 unintentional walks in 72 ⅓ innings. Only once this season has he allowed more than three runs in a start.
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.

Nos. 10-1

Andrelton Simmons Los Angeles Angels SS
The best defensive shortstop in the game continues his development at the plate. He's walked more than twice as many times as he's struck out, and he's on target to blow away his previous career bests in AVG/OBP/SLG and OPS+.
Francisco Lindor Cleveland Indians SS
Thanks to a massive May, Lindor makes the list with a bullet. A slick-fielding shortstop who's getting on base and on target for more than 40 bombs? No-brainer.
Manny Machado Baltimore Orioles SS
Machado's proved himself capable of handling shortstop on a daily basis, and right now he's running an OPS of more than 1.000 while leading the majors in total bases. It's possible he's going to fetch a larger contract than Bryce Harper this coming offseason.
Luis Severino New York Yankees SP
Last year, Severino finished third in the AL Cy Young balloting, and thus far in 2018 he's been even better. In 86 innings, Severino has pitched to a 2.20 ERA with 102 strikeouts and 21 walks.
Corey Kluber Cleveland Indians SP
With his gem earlier this week, Kluber joined the "sub-2.00 ERA" club for 2018. He's already racked up more than 90 innings this season.
Max Scherzer Washington Nationals SP
Scherzer remains among the very best pitchers on the planet. After an NL-leading 87 ⅔ innings, he's struck out an MLB-best 133 batters and pitched to an ERA of 1.95. He's looking like a strong bet to the win the Cy Young for the fourth time.
Justin Verlander Houston Astros SP
Why make this complicated? The 35-year-old right-hander has a 1.24 ERA after 13 starts. So here he is.
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, and he's absolutely destroying it at the plate (.298/.396/.632 with 19 homers and 19 doubles).
Mookie Betts Boston Red Sox RF
Betts is presently on the DL, but a line of .359/.437/.750 with plus fielding and plus baserunning place him high on the list.
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
Mike Trout's career high for WAR in a season is 10.5 in both 2012 and 2016. This season, he was at 5.0 WAR by the end of May. At this rate, he'll wind up with one of the greatest seasons in MLB history.

No, the slumping Bryce Harper did not make the cut this time around. Thanks for noticing. Until next time, adoring readers ...