With spring training in full gear, baseball has started to grab headlines of late—excluding of course Jeremy Lin news days. So it’s about time to get out the annual rankings of what players are the best in their leagues.
For offensive players, attributes like speed on the base paths, discipline at the plate, as well as ability to hit count in the rankings.
Age also matters as this is a projection for the 2012 season. For instance, Rangers infielder Michael Young hit .338 last season and led the league with 213 hits and is a career .304 hitter (16th among active players) but turned 35 in the offseason, so his projection for 2012 is to have a bit of a drop-off.
Conversely, consistency matters in projecting future seasons—for the most part. Obviously not all players are All-Stars in their rookie seasons but were minor-league All-Stars before that time.
10. Alex Gordon, 28 years old, Kansas City Royals; 2011 Offensive stats: (average/on-base/slugging) .303/.376/.502, 23 home runs, 87 RBIs, 101 runs scored, 67/139 walks/strikeouts, 17/25 steals/attempts. Career 162-game average: .262/.343/.434, 20 home runs, 72 RBIs, 85 runs scored, 66/145 walks/strikeouts, 13/19 steals/attempts—Kansas City’s second overall pick in the 2005 draft finally realized his potential in 2011 and is just entering his prime. Gordon’s surprise inclusion on this list bumps some good players for various reasons. Players like Evan Longoria (hit just .244 last year), Michael Young (is now 35), Curtis Granderson (needs another great year), Mark Teixeira (hit just .248 and .256 last two seasons), Adrian Beltre (inconsistent for years), David Ortiz (is now 36), Paul Konerko (turns 36 next month), Billy Butler (needs more power) and Joe Mauer (injuries).
9. Jacoby Ellsbury, 28 years old, Boston Red Sox; 2011 Offensive stats: .321/.376/.552, 32 home runs, 105 RBIs, 119 runs scored, 52/98 walks/strikeouts, 39/54 steals/attempts. Career 162-game average: .301/.354/.452, 17 home runs, 75 RBIs, 109 runs scored, 49/88 walks/strikeouts, 56/68 steals/attempts—Ellsbury’s projections for 2012 are a bit of a mystery. Having never hit more than nine home runs in any season he broke out for 32 last year. But his stolen base totals of 50 and 70 in 2008 and 2009 respectively (he played in just 18 games in 2010) dropped to 39 last year. A repeat performance of 2011 would bump him past teammate Dustin Pedroia.
8. Dustin Pedroia, 28 years old, Boston Red Sox; 2011 Offensive stats: .307/.387/.474, 21 home runs, 91 RBIs, 102 runs scored, 86/85 walks/strikeouts, 26/34 steals/attempts. Career 162-game average: .305/.373/.463, 17 home runs, 78 RBIs, 109 runs scored, 68/61 walks/strikeouts, 19/24 steals/attempts—Pedroia’s superior plate discipline and as well as being a consistently good hitter for longer than Ellsbury gives him the slight edge, despite Jacoby’s superior speed. Being injured for half of the 2010 season (played in just 75 games) and not playing at 100 percent in the games he did play hurt, dropped his career numbers a bit, keeping him slightly behind Cano.
7. Robinson Cano, 29 years old, New York Yankees; 2011 Offensive stats: .302/.349/.533, 28 home runs, 118 RBIs, 104 runs scored, 38/96 walks/strikeouts, 8/10 steals/attempts. Career 162-game average: .308/.347/.496, 22 home runs, 96 RBIs, 94 runs scored, 34/78 walks/strikeouts, 4/8 steals/attempts—Cano over Pedroia was the closest call on the list but Robinson’s stellar hitting the last three seasons (average of 27 home runs, 45 doubles, .314 batting average, and 104 RBIs) makes up for his lack of walks at the plate.
6. Josh Hamilton, 31 years old, Texas Rangers; 2011 Offensive stats: .298/.346/.536, 25 home runs, 94 RBIs, 80 runs scored, 39/93 walks/strikeouts, 8/9 steals/attempts. Career 162-game average: .308/.366/.543, 32 home runs, 117 RBIs, 101 runs scored, 56/126 walks/strikeouts, 10/12 steals/attempts—What could have been for the first overall pick in the 1999 draft had he not had drug/alcohol problems is anyone’s guess. Without various injuries since his arrival to the big leagues in 2007 that have cost him an average of 48 games per season the last three years, Hamilton could be right behind Pujols.
5. Adrian Gonzalez…