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Mike Meredith/CBS Sports

The 2021 regular season is nearly upon us, and it's time for us -- on pain of termination -- to rank the top 100 players in baseball.

The rankings you'll soon be yelling about are based upon reasonable expectations, using things like age, trajectory, scouting profile, and recent performance history to arrive at those expectations. In essence, we're making educated guesses at which players will provide the most value in 2021. While a player's performance in 2020 is very relevant to these rankings, it's not the sole consideration. This time around, the prior season is far less of a consideration than it usually is. That's of course because the 2020 season was played in the middle of a pandemic and entailed a sample size of just 60 regular season games. We won't ignore it entirely, but we'll put much less emphasis on it than we would a standard season. Again, these are in essence predictions of which players will be the very best in the season to come, and there's always more to it than just eyeballing last year's outputs. 

As for what matters, with position players it's a mix of batting, defense, and base-running. 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, run prevention and workload will be the drivers, but we'll also give some consideration to underlying fundamental indicators like strikeouts and walks. Also, we're ranking players based on actual baseball considerations as opposed to anything having anything to do with fantasy (although there's obviously some overlap). We're furthermore not concerned with how these players will fare in seasons beyond the upcoming one. This is all about anticipated value in 2021 alone. 

Above all, remember that this is Internet Street, and only righteous grievances live here. Let us commence. 

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Mike Meredith/CBS Sports
100
Luis Arraez Minnesota Twins 2B
Arraez, who soon turns 24, boasts excellent bat-to-ball skills and the ability to man a middle infield position.
99
Chris Sale Boston Red Sox SP
Sale's coming back from Tommy John surgery, and he hasn't pitched since 2019, when his effectiveness was compromised by those elbow issues. Still, he's not that deep into his thirties, and he's not that far removed from a dominant run with Boston from 2017-18. We'll bet on the track record. The Red Sox seem primed to play it conservatively with him in 2021, which will mean something less than a full season's innings load. We'll still say Sale accrues enough value to justify top-100 status.
98
J.D. Martinez Boston Red Sox DH
It's hard to hold 2020 against Martinez for a number of obvious reasons. He's not far removed from an outstanding first two seasons in Boston from 2018-19.
97
Yordan Alvarez Houston Astros DH
We'll fade him because of the major knee problems, but Alvarez has done nothing but display elite power and patience at the dish through his first 89 MLB games. If he proves he can stay healthy, then he'll be much higher on the next edition of this list.
96
Jesse Winker Cincinnati Reds DH
Winker, 27, owns a slash line of .280/.380/.479 across parts of four major-league seasons in Cincy. Pair that with his former standing as a top-50 overall prospect, and Winker has a bright outlook for 2021 and beyond.
95
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Kyle Lewis Seattle Mariners CF
Lewis took home AL Rookie of the Year laurels last season, and that's not surprising given that he's a former 11th overall pick and top-100 prospect. He's a center fielder with power and patience at the plate.
94
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Mike Soroka Atlanta Braves SP
Soroka is a bit of an unknown after tearing his Achilles last season, but the guess here is he comes close to a full season and gets back to keeping runs off the board thanks to his sinker-slider attack.
93
Michael Brantley Houston Astros DH
Remember when it seemed like Brantley's career might be effectively over after the 2017 season because of injuries? He's now churned out three straight highly productive seasons and stayed mostly healthy.
92
Anthony Rizzo Chicago Cubs 1B
Rizzo didn't hit up to his usual standards last season, but the overall body of work is much stronger. As well, there's no reason to think any kind of deep decline has set in given that he's in his early thirties.
91
Pete Alonso New York Mets 1B
The Mets' thumper is 26 year of age, and he has 69 home runs through his first 218 MLB games. His nickname? Petaters. You see, he's named Pete, and he hits taters.
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90
Josh Donaldson Minnesota Twins 3B
Donaldson's 35, which is cause for a conservative ranking even in light of his resurgence since the start of the 2019 season. That said, Donaldson figures to be a good source of power and capable defense at the hot corner for Minny.
89
Kris Bryant Chicago Cubs 3B
Bryant struggled badly last season, with an OPS+ of just 73. As noted, however, there are all sorts of reasons to be largely dismissive of 2020 struggles. Prior to last season, Bryant boasted a career OPS+ of 137 across a sample of more than 3,000 plate appearances. Assuming he's healthy, he should find his true level again in 2021.
88
Dallas Keuchel Chicago White Sox SP
Since 2016, Keuchel has an ERA+ of 116, and that stretch doesn't include his Cy Young campaign of 2015. He'll once again be a rotation stabilizer for the White Sox.
87
Eloy Jimenez Chicago White Sox LF
Sure, he's not much in the field or on the bases -- indeed, he might be actively harmful to himself in the outfield -- but the power is jaw-dropping. The 24-year-old Jimenez may contend for the AL home run crown this season.
86
Corbin Burnes Milwaukee Brewers SP
Burnes pivoted to heavy usage of his sinker and cutter last season, and it went quite well. That plus a nice array of secondary offerings bode quite well for the near- to long-term.
85
Luke Voit New York Yankees 1B
Since the Yankees acquired him from the Cardinals, Voit has been on another level: a .915 OPS and 57 home runs in 213 games.
84
Brandon Nimmo New York Mets CF
Nimmo can patrol all three outfield positions, he owns a career OBP of .390, he rarely hits into double plays, and he takes the extra base more than half the time.
83
Justin Turner Los Angeles Dodgers 3B
Turner's 36, yes, but he's shown no signs of slippage at the plate or in the field.
82
Byron Buxton Minnesota Twins CF
Injuries will always be a subplot with Buxton, but he remains an elite defensive center fielder and base-runner, and he's also tapping into his power potential.
81
Zach Plesac Cleveland Indians SP
Through the first 29 starts of his career in Cleveland, Plesac boasts an ERA+ of 142. Last season, he struck out 57 against just six walks in 55 1/3 innings.
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80
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Cavan Biggio Toronto Blue Jays 2B
The son of the Hall of Famer in two seasons boasts a .368 OBP and 20 steals in 20 attempts. As well, Biggio has spent time at six different positions.
79
Max Fried Atlanta Braves SP
The 27-year-old is coming off a fifth-place finish in the NL Cy Young vote, and he's got an ERA+ of 130 for his career.
78
Sean Murphy Oakland Athletics C
The Oakland catcher has outstanding patience at the plate, and for his young career he has 11 home runs in 63 games. Last season, he ranked in the top 10 percentile in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate.
77
Gio Urshela New York Yankees 3B
Sure, it sort of came out of nowhere, but, with the Yankees, Urshela found a new level with the bat and the glove. He's a player.
76
Jorge Soler Kansas City Royals DH
Over the last three seasons -- a span that encompasses 266 games -- Soler has hit 65 home runs with an OPS+ of 130.
75
Jose Berrios Minnesota Twins SP
Berrios remains the closest thing the Twins have to a long-term ace. Expect more of the same this season.
74
Javier Baez Chicago Cubs SS
Obviously Baez had terrible results at the plate in 2020, but we're inclined to dismiss 2020 struggles for reasons repeated often in this piece. We'll bet on Baez's glove at short and power at the plate lifting his value back up to familiar territory in 2021.
73
Nelson Cruz Minnesota Twins DH
This scribe once wrote off Cruz the better part of a decade ago. Cruz responded by deciding to hit home runs until the mountains crumble into the sea. So it shall be in 2021.
72
Zack Greinke Houston Astros SP
Greinke struggles to crack 90 mph with his fastball these days, but the command and deep pitch mix are still intact. He'll again be a highly useful starting pitcher, even at age 37.
71
Jeff McNeil New York Mets 2B
Everyone wants their own version of (peak) Ben Zobrist, and the Mets may have the genuine article. McNeil has batted .319/.383/.501 in three seasons and spent time at second, third, left, and right.
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70
Zack Wheeler Philadelphia Phillies SP
In Wheeler's first season with the Phillies, he was better than he's ever been in terms of results. The stuff is tremendous, and he's fared quite well over the last three seasons.
69
Salvador Perez Kansas City Royals C
The veteran backstop is a solidly above average hitter by positional standards who blends pop with good contact rates. If the recent extension is any guide, then the Royals are still believers in Salvy.
68
Mike Yastrzemski San Francisco Giants RF
Yastrzemski in two seasons has racked up basically one full season's worth if plate appearances, and over that span he's batted .281/.357/.535 with 31 home runs and time spent at all three outfield positions.
67
German Marquez Colorado Rockies SP
For all the attention Jon Gray gets as a potential trade candidate, it's Marquez who's the prize of the Colorado staff. In case that sounds like "damning with faint praise," know that Marquez has an ERA+ of 119 over his five full seasons in the majors.
66
Matt Olson Oakland Athletics 1B
Olson's a slick defender at first base, and at the plate he's got a 129 OPS+ since the start of his rookie season in 2017.
65
Rafael Devers Boston Red Sox 3B
Devers, who's still just 24, isn't far removed from a 2019 season in which he racked up 54 doubles and 359 total bases. That kind of power output is in keeping with his former status as a top prospect.
64
Sonny Gray Cincinnati Reds SP
Sonny Gray's post-Yankees surge continues. In two seasons since rebuilding his approach with the Reds, Gray has pitched to a 3.07 ERA with 277 strikeouts in 231 1/3 innings.
63
Kyle Tucker Houston Astros LF
Tucker, not so long ago one of the top prospects in all of baseball, got consistent playing time in 2020 and showed growth as a consequence. It says here the upward trajectory will continue in 2021.
62
Yoan Moncada Chicago White Sox 3B
Without question, a serious case of COVID-19 negatively affected Moncada's performance in 2020. As he puts more distance between himself and the malady, he should pick up where he left off after his breakout season in 2019.
61
Brandon Woodruff Milwaukee Brewers SP
Woodruff has excellent fastball spin and velocity, and he leans on the pitch to great effect. He's got a 121 ERA+ for his career and has gotten better every season. Consider him an NL Cy Young dark horse for 2021.
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60
Ketel Marte Arizona Diamondbacks 2B
Marte is an above-average hitter and base-runner, and he excels at three different up-the-middle positions.
59
Willson Contreras Chicago Cubs C
Contreras has made nice strides in terms of pitch-framing, and at the plate he remains one of the top power threats among catchers.
58
Marcus Semien Oakland Athletics SS
Semien has developed into a better hitter than he showed in 2020, and his plus glove at shortstop should play very well at second base for Toronto.
57
Zac Gallen Arizona Diamondbacks SP
In 27 career starts to date, the 25-year-old right-hander has achieved a 2.78 ERA (162 ERA+) and has struck out almost three batters for every walk. A hairline forearm fracture will cost him time to start the season, but the guess here is that he accumulates enough value to justify inclusion. If healthy, he'd be higher.
56
Luis Robert Chicago White Sox CF
Robert started off hot last season, but pitchers eventually adjusted to him. Now he'll adjust to those adjustments while continuing to add big value as an elite defensive center fielder.
55
Paul Goldschmidt St. Louis Cardinals 1B
Goldbird seemed to evolve as a hitter in 2020, as he shifted toward a more patient approach that focused on line drives and power to the gaps. The transition worked swimmingly for him, and he has the skills to make the gains last.
54
Eugenio Suarez Cincinnati Reds 3B
Suarez remains perhaps the most potent home run hitter among third basemen. His seeming decline in 2020 was driven by batting average and a small sample size. Pay little mind to it.
53
Bryce Harper Philadelphia Phillies RF
Harper last season managed more walks than strikeouts, which may be a promising sign moving forward. Even if that doesn't stick, he'll remain one of the top power hitters in MLB.
52
Jose Abreu Chicago White Sox 1B
The AL MVP hip-checked the aging curve last season in a major way. Sudden decline is possible at age 34 for first base/DH types, but Abreu's career to date has been nothing but consistent excellence at the plate.
51
Brandon Lowe Tampa Bay Rays 2B
Lowe wasn't the most heralded of prospects when he arrived in 2018, but he's done nothing but hit at the highest level thus far. Last season, he garnered a deserved top-10 finish in the AL MVP balloting.
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50
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Marcell Ozuna Atlanta Braves DH
Ozuna put up MVP-caliber numbers at the plate in 2020, and what bodes well moving forward is his elite quality-of-contact indicators from the last two seasons. Ideally he'd be able to DH, but his bat is more than enough to make up for whatever he gives back at a corner outfield spot.
49
Yasmani Grandal Chicago White Sox C
Grandal remains one of the few catchers who blends defensive excellence with strong outputs at the plate. That should again be the case in 2021.
48
Michael Conforto New York Mets RF
Since his breakout season of 2017, Conforto has an OPS+ of 134 while averaging 34 homers per 162 games played.
47
Hyun-Jin Ryu Toronto Blue Jays SP
Since the start of the 2018 season, Ryu has registered an ERA of 2.30 and a K/BB ratio of 5.79. Over the last two seasons, he's also been healthier than ever.
46
Jose Altuve Houston Astros 2B
Obviously it would be unwise to give too much weight to Altuve's 2020 struggles. He's still the guy who played an All-Star and or MVP level from 2014 through 2019.
45
Kyle Hendricks Chicago Cubs SP
The Chicago changeup artist remains one of the most underappreciated pitchers in baseball. Last season, Hendricks issued just seven unintentional walks in 12 starts.
44
Bo Bichette Toronto Blue Jays SS
When you're a 23-year-old shortstop with a career slash line of .307/.347/.549 across parts of two seasons, then you make the top 100. That's a local ordinance.
43
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Stephen Strasburg Washington Nationals SP
Strasburg last season made just two starts because of a nerve issue in his hand. He should be more healthy in 2021, and we anticipate a return to vintage results.
42
Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles Dodgers SP
Thanks to a deep repertoire and exceptional command of every pitch in it, the future Hall of Famer has been able to withstand velocity loss and remain among the game's best pitchers.
41
Ozzie Albies Atlanta Braves 2B
Young Albies is a plus fielding second baseman, a quality baserunner, and a reliable purveyor of extra-base power at the plate.
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40
Carlos Correa Houston Astros SS
Health will always be a concern for Correa, but he remains a 26-year-old shortstop with a career slash line of .276/.353/.480.
39
Dinelson Lamet San Diego Padres SP
Lamet may get overlooked in the suddenly deep San Diego rotation, but that would be a mistake. He leans on a big fastball and nasty slider, and he made huge, sustainable strides in 2020.
38
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Jack Flaherty St. Louis Cardinals SP
Flaherty endured a frustrating 2020 season, but he's still the guy with electric stuff from 2018 through 2019 had an ERA+ of 136 with 413 strikeouts in 347 1/3 frames.
37
Gleyber Torres New York Yankees SS
For all the usual reasons, last year's power outage isn't much of a concern for Torres moving forward. He'll get back to performing at an All-Star level in 2021.
36
Xander Bogaerts Boston Red Sox SS
He's a shortstop who over the last three seasons has a line of .300/.372/.535, and over that span he's averaged 32 home runs and 50 doubles (!) per 162 games played. The most underrated player in baseball? Bogaerts is very much in that subjective discussion.
35
Luis Castillo Cincinnati Reds SP
Owner of one of the best changeups on the planet, Castillo over the last two seasons has been one of the NL's top starting pitchers.
34
Tim Anderson Chicago White Sox SS
Anderson has established himself as one of the best-hitting shortstops around. At age 27, he should provide more of the same for years to come.
33
Christian Yelich Milwaukee Brewers LF
Obviously, there's cause for concern about when it comes to Yelich's production in 2020. It wasn't a bad season by any means, but it was well shy of the high bar he set in 2018 and 2019. Chiefly, a declining launch angle was to blame for his loss of power. In anticipating how Yelich will fare in 2021, we'll lean more on 2018-19.
32
Manny Machado San Diego Padres 3B
Machado on a rate basis had his finest season in 2020. So, new level unlocked or a temporary surge? We'll say he drifts a bit back toward career norms in 2021 while still remaining a highly valuable contributor.
31
Aaron Judge New York Yankees RF
As has long been the case with Judge, it's a matter of balancing his exceptional rate-based production with his ongoing injury concerns. Healthy Aaron Judge is probably a top-10 player, but he so rarely satisfies that qualifier.
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30
Patrick Corbin Washington Nationals SP
We wager that the Corbin of 2018-19, who authored an ERA+ of 136 with 484 strikeouts in 402 innings, is the Corbin of today.
29
Lucas Giolito Chicago White Sox SP
Giolito revamped his approach prior to the 2019 season, and as a result he's become the White Sox's ace. He'll keep it up this season.
28
Trea Turner Washington Nationals SS
Turner has evolved into a complete package of hitting, base-running, and defensive value at the vital position of shortstop.
27
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
The reigning NL MVP is one of the steadiest performers at the plate in the game today. Over the last five seasons, Freeman has averaged 83 extra-base hits and 90 walks per 162 games played.
26
DJ LeMahieu New York Yankees 2B
LeMahieu has been one of the game's best pure hitters since joining the Yankees prior to the 2019 season. As implied by LeMahieu's new contract in the Bronx, the Yanks expect that to continue.
25
Yu Darvish San Diego Padres SP
Darvish has enjoyed a major renaissance since deciding to lean more heavily on his slider. Sure, there's risk in believing in too much in a 34-year-old moundsman, but the skills are intact and the adjustments have paid off.
24
Will Smith Los Angeles Dodgers C
While Smith has just 91 big-league games to his credit, he's done nothing but hit over that span. His expected level of production in 2021 is top of the scale by positional standards.
23
Trevor Bauer Los Angeles Dodgers SP
There's no assailing Bauer's stuff and head for pitching, but is what he achieved in 2020 truly sustainable? His underlying indicators were strong (albeit not quite strong enough to justify a 1.73 ERA), but they came against weak opposing lineups. No doubt, he'll be a major boon to the Dodger rotation, but it's premature to rank him among the very best starters in baseball.
22
Max Scherzer Washington Nationals SP
Mad Max showed some results-based signs of decline last season, which tracks given that he's 36. However, the stuff was still as electric as ever, and of course the 2020 season was heavily compromised, particularly for creatures of routine like pitchers. The guess here is that Scherzer has at least one more top-tier season in him.
21
Alex Bregman Houston Astros 3B
Bregman's numbers were down a bit in 2020, but we're talking about a sample of just 180 plate appearances. In 2021, he should get back to the MVP-caliber form he flashed in 2018 and 2019.
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20
Walker Buehler Los Angeles Dodgers SP
Buehler's 26 and owns a career ERA+ of 129 with a K/BB ratio of 4.52. He throws a 97-mph fastball, and he's in an organization that's shown a tremendous recent knack for developing pitching. He hasn't yet reached his ceiling.
19
Aaron Nola Philadelphia Phillies SP
Over the last three seasons, the 27-year-old curveball-fastball specialist has an ERA+ of 138 with a K/BB ratio of 3.41.
18
Corey Seager Los Angeles Dodgers SS
Seager had a high-quality season in 2019 despite not being all that far removed from Tommy John surgery, and he was even better in 2020. Put him on the NL MVP watch list.
17
George Springer Toronto Blue Jays CF
The Blue Jays' big winter addition owns a career OPS+ of 131, and last year that figure was an even more impressive 140.
16
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Anthony Rendon Los Angeles Angels 3B
Over the last four seasons, Rendon has authored an OPS+ of 145 while being a defensive plus at the hot corner.
15
Trevor Story Colorado Rockies SS
Somewhat quietly, Story is in the discussion for best all-around shortstop in baseball right now. If the Rockies' efforts to sign him to an extension come to grief, then he could be one of the biggest names leading up to the trade deadline.
14
Cody Bellinger Los Angeles Dodgers CF
Bellinger's got an OPS+ of 141 and 123 home runs after 506 big-league games. He's also developed into a defensive plus in center field. At age 25, he's got much more where that came from.
13
Matt Chapman Oakland Athletics 3B
Assuming Chapman's recovery from hip surgery continues to go well, he should resume being the AL's premier combination of power and fielding value at third base.
12
Nolan Arenado St. Louis Cardinals 3B
Arenado's batted ball numbers have taken a dive over the last two seasons, and that -- not moving out of Coors Field -- is the bat-related concern moving forward. That said, Areando is such a difference-maker with the glove that he can endure some decline with the bat and still be an elite performer.
11
Jose Ramirez Cleveland Indians 3B
With good cause, Ramirez has finished in the top three of the AL MVP vote in three of the last four seasons. He's going into his age-28 campaign.
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10
J.T. Realmuto Philadelphia Phillies C
Realmuto in 2021 should once again combine strong contributions behind the plate with excellent numbers at it.
9
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Shane Bieber Cleveland Indians SP
Bieber was the unanimous choice for AL Cy Young last season, and his elite peripheral indicators and elite stuff bode well moving forward. Over the last two seasons, he boasts 381 strikeouts in 291 2/3 innings.
8
Francisco Lindor New York Mets SS
The freshly minted Met remains perhaps the best combination of offensive production and defensive excellence among current shortstops. That's to say nothing of his star power.
7
Gerrit Cole New York Yankees SP
Cole in his first season with the Yankees was just as dominant as he was during his two years in Houston, which is to say he was one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the game. That won't change in 2021.
6
Fernando Tatis San Diego Padres SS
Fresh off a (deserved) $340 million contract extension, Tatis Jr. figures to carry on as one of the most valuable and watchable players in MLB.
5
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Jacob deGrom New York Mets SP
Over the last three seasons, deGrom has put up a 2.10 ERA and a 5.81 K/BB ratio. That plus his elite-level stuff is why he's near the top of this list.
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Ronald Acuna Atlanta Braves CF
Acuna's blend of hitting, fielding, and base-running make him one of the most complete players around. Let's also not forget that he's just 23.
3
Juan Soto Washington Nationals LF
Soto's just 22 years of age, and he's already in the discussion for best pure hitter in the game today. His combination of power and patience belies that young age, and he's toe-deep into what should be a legendary career.
2
Mookie Betts Los Angeles Dodgers RF
Betts' first season with the Dodgers occasioned a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, and a second-place finish in the NL MVP balloting. At age 28, Betts should provide more of the same in 2021 (and well beyond).
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Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
Even in a season afflicted by small sample sizes and a global pandemic, Trout showed no signs of slippage. So we continue to declare him to be the best player until he comes down from his loftiest of performance peaks.

Outraged by that upon which you have just lain jaundiced eyes? As always, reach out to the author at his personal email address -- hotmail@aol.jpg -- with all your complaints.