By Matthew Ajaj
Over the past week, the Major League Baseball Network (MLBN) released its “Top 100 Right Now” list, in which the channel ranked the best players in Major League Baseball (MLB), supposedly based on “player performance over the past several seasons with an emphasis on 2015 and projected 2016 performance,” according to MLB.com.
Since the station is primarily owned by the MLB itself, it is quite evident that the league has done some meddling in hopes to get fans excited and gain viewership. Much of the list is downright absurd and misinformative of the reality of today’s player talent and the only way to know the truth is to hear the criticism.
Not Fit for the List?
The MLBN really missed the bag with these four players who apparently were not good enough to make the “Top 100” list:
• Noah Syndergaard – New York Mets, starting pitcher (S)
• Starlin Castro – New York Yankees, second baseman
• Maikel Franco – Philadelphia Phillies, third basemen (3B)
• Carlos Gonzalez – Colorado Rockies, outfielder (OF)
Syndergaard, a 2015 rookie, pitched 150 innings in his first season while posting a solid 3.24 earned run average (ERA) and his progress throughout the season will certainly carry over to 2016.
Castro, 25, already has six major league seasons and three All-Star appearances under his belt. Fellow youngster Franco smacked the ball around for a .280 batting average (BA), 14 home runs (HRs) and 15 runs batted in (RBIs), while only playing half of the season.
Gonzalez hit 40 HRs last year — what more do you want from the guy?
Of any position in baseball, the reliever (R) is perhaps the most underappreciated. These five men are unmatched in their ability to work through an inning:
98. Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati Reds, R
97. Andrew Miller – New York Yankees, R
90. Craig Kimbrel – Boston Red Sox, R
63. Dellin Betances – New York Yankees, R
46. Wade Davis – Kansas City Royals, R
Miller, Kimbrel and Betances can sling a fastball in the triple digits, while Chapman has hurled the top 100 fastest pitches ever thrown in MLB history, according to MLB.com — no joke.
One would be hard-pressed to find more consistent contributors to their teams’ successes on a near-daily basis. There is a reason the Kansas City Royals, who boast the best bullpen in baseball (including headliner Wade Davis), have made two World Series appearances in a row.
MLB knows that fans would rather see scoring, not shutouts, so the league clearly skewed this list to increase the notoriety of their electrifying hitters at the cost of undermining the game’s elite pitchers:
93. Jose Fernandez – Miami Marlins, S
92. Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals, S
71. Gerrit Cole – Pittsburgh Pirates, S
66. Chris Archer – Tampa Bay Rays, S
57. Sonny Gray – Oakland Athletics, S
40. Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants, S
37. Jacob deGrom – New York Mets, S
36. Matt Harvey – New York Mets, S
16. Zack Greinke – Arizona Diamondbacks, S
If Fernandez and Strasburg can actually stay on the field, they have the potential to be top five pitchers. Cole, Archer and Gray are already dominant, but still somehow rank below the likes of slightly above-average hitters, such as Detroit Tiger Justin Upton and Seattle Mariner Kyle Seager. Even though Bumgarner, 2014 World Series MVP, has had an ERA below 3.00 for three years in a row and despite deGrom’s and Harvey’s lights-out pitching that carried the Mets to the 2015 World Series, none of these fine players found their way into the top 30.
While these starting pitchers only play about once a week, when they do take the mound, they have the most profound impact of any player on the field on that given day. They are now getting paid like top-level players and it would be foolish not to recognize their importance.
Great Expectations While Lacking Experience
According to the MLBN, “youth” is a synonym for “great.” It’s no doubt these three players have bright futures ahead of them, but this is the “Top 100 Right Now,” not “Right Soon:”
68. George Springer – Houston Astros, right fielder
44. Randal Grichuk – St. Louis Cardinals, OF
13. Carlos Correa – Houston Astros, SS
Springer has merely mustered a .256 BA and has struck out 223 times in 180 games played. Grichuk and Correa have not even played a full season’s worth of games and even their small sample-sized numbers are barely worthy of “Top 100” recognition, let alone being ranked 44th and 13th, respectively. But the list’s biggest sin of them all is without a doubt…
33. Brandon Crawford – San Francisco Giants, short stop
A career .246 hitter, Crawford is just an above average shortstop and has absolutely no business being anywhere near the Edwin Encarnacions, Starling Martes and deGroms of the world, let alone ahead of them. Forget jumping the shark — the MLBN really jumped the Giant on this one.