The Mapes Top 20 Right Now, Part Four
We’ve finally reached the pinnacle. You’ve climbed the mountain and finally get to see who I think is the best player in baseball right now! Or if this is the first one you’ve read, in that case check out 20-16, 15-11, and 10-6 that got us here. If you’d like to see the entire MLB Network “Top 100 Right Now” list, click here. Time for the top five, with a player who I think is underrated by MLB Network’s list.
I ended the last blog with a Dodger and starting this blog with a Dodger. Matt Kemp has the potential to be the best player in the game. We saw it in 2011 when he put together a near 40-40, Triple Crown season, while leading the NL in runs and RBI. That wasn’t enough to get him an MVP award, which is why I have the next player ahead of him. Hopefully, Kemp’s hamstring woes are behind him and he becomes the dominant, durable player he was before 2012. Ridiculous random list that this player is on! Players since 1980 to lead their league in runs scored, runs batted in, and home runs in the same season: Mike Schmidt (1981), Ken Griffey Jr. (1997), Alex Rodriguez (2007), Albert Pujols (2010), and Matt Kemp (2011).
What more does Ryan Braun need to do to get respect? He wins the NL MVP in 2011. Braun then loses his protector in the lineup in Prince Fielder to free agency, but has his first 40-homer season. The Hebrew Hammer also adds in 30+ plus stolen bases for good measure. Five-straight all-star appearances, five-straight Silver Sluggers, and he’s led the National League in OPS each of the past two seasons. The defense might not be spectacular, but you can make the argument that the other tools make Braun the best hitter in baseball. Ridiculous random list that this player is on! Players in the history of Major League Baseball to have a 30 home run, 30 stolen base season, while leading the league in OPS: Hank Aaron (1963), Dale Murphy (1983), Barry Bonds (1990, 1992, and 1995), Larry Walker (1997), and Ryan Braun (2011-2012). Braun is the ONLY player to achieve the feat in back-to-back seasons.
I have no qualms with Verlander being MLB Network’s runner-up, but I’m lowering him down to #3 only because I devalue pitching. I almost even dropped him behind Braun. Enough negative stuff though, Verlander is the clear best pitcher in the game today. There is no pitcher (Kershaw could get there) where you’re watching every start, because there’s a real chance a no-hitter will be thrown. That’s what Verlander brings to the ballpark every fifth day. Verlander also does so much for the Tigers bullpen by leading the league in innings pitched the past two years. He even went 63 straight starts pitching at least six innings. Verlander in 2011 was the first starting pitcher since 1986 to win an MVP award and does more to help his team than any pitcher in the game today. Ridiculous random list this player is on! Pitchers since 1946 to lead their league in innings pitched AND earned run average: Sandy Koufax (1965-66), Greg Maddux (1993-95), Randy Johnson (1999 & 2002), Johan Santana (2008), Felix Hernandez (2010), & Justin Verlander (2011).
What batter would you want to have up with your World Series on the line? Too soon, Tigers fans? Cabrera is the best slugger in the game and proved his with his monstrous 2012 season in which he became the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown. He doesn’t run much and the defense is still so-so adjusting to third base, but man can he hit. He’s not just a slugger with eight 30-homer seasons in his first nine full years, but also hits for average! Cabrera has never hit below .292 in a full season and has back-to-back batting titles on his mantle. He’s still in his prime too! I can’t imagine if he actually IMPROVES on his Triple Crown season. No random list, but here’s a fun stat: Every MLB Triple Crown winner, also led their league in OPS, maybe it should actually be the Quadruple Crown?
#1, Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (MLB Network’s #1)
It’s pretty anticlimactic that I actually agree with MLB Network’s best player in the league right now. The term “five-tool player” gets thrown around a lot, but in one season Trout has proved he’s the best all-around player in the game. Whether it’s home run-robbing catches, speed on the base paths, hitting for average, or blasting 30 home runs despite not being called up in the first three weeks of the season, there is nothing Mike Trout can’t do. Even if he regresses in his sophomore season, his numbers will still be eye-popping. If I told you last year that a kid that wasn’t even going to start the season in the Majors would be #1 on this year’s list you’d have thought I was crazy, but that’s where we are. One last time! Ridiculous random list this player is on! Players in American League history with 30+ home runs and 47+ stolen bases in the same season: Mike Trout (2012), that is all.
The list is complete! Who would top your list of the best players in MLB right now? Let me know in the comments or tweet me using the link below with #MapesRightNow!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)