- You thought we all unanimously agreed with the final rankings? Of course we didn't!
Now that we are one day removed from releasing our Top 100, it's time to determine just how capable we are of defending our own rankings. Several readers took issue with our inclusion of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as No. 100 as he has never taken a swing in the big leagues. Others thought there should have been better weighting of hitters and pitchers to improve the rankings. To determine just how confident we were, we concocted several different scenarios that would force a choice. These are the results. Meanwhile, please take our 2019 SI Top 100 Sporcle quiz designed by intrepid intern Tristan Jung.
Joining this conversation are several committee members from the Top 100 selection process: Emma Baccellieri, Gabriel Baumgaertner, Michael Beller, Jack Dickey, Connor Grossman and Jon Tayler.
Who would you rather sell the farm for: No. 8 Nolan Arenado or No. 12 Alex Bregman?
JACK DICKEY: The list is wrong; Alex Bregman is probably a better player than Arenado already. Oh, sure, Arenado has a longer track record and a better glove and is a phenomenal player all the same. But in 2018, at age 24, Bregman had a better offensive season than any Arenado has ever had—with a .286/.394/.532 line and more walks than strikeouts. His superior batting eye positions him well to build on last season’s success, while it’s hard to see much room for growth from Arenado.
Is Trea Turner seriously not on your list?
EMMA BACCELLIERI: There are 1,786 players ranked by WAR on the complete list that we used to make the Top 100. That’s every single guy with more than a tiny handful of plate appearances or innings since 2016, from Mike Trout on down to Hunter Dozier. Or, at least, it’s supposed to be that. Why isn’t it? Because one guy is missing. Yep, that’s right—Trea Turner was accidentally, in one way or another, left off the ranked spreadsheet that was used to make the final list. There’s Justin Turner (#36), Stuart Turner (#1418), and Jacob Turner (#1766). But, somehow, there’s no Trea Turner. I do not know how or why. Mea culpa!
Had he not mysteriously disappeared into the ether, Turner’s WAR-weighted ranking would have put him in the bottom half of the Top 100. A staff debate might have determined that he should be relegated to an honorable mention (Jon Tayler lays out a good case for just that below), or it might have earned him a spot. This is all just hypothetical, of course, because Trea Turner has apparently been swallowed by a spreadsheet, never to be seen again. My condolences.
JON TAYLER: I love Turner, and he has the skills to be a gamechanger if healthy. But “if healthy” is a Titanic-sized caveat here: Last year was his first season with more than 100 games played. And even though he appeared in all 162, he wasn’t particularly good when on the field: a flat 100 OPS+, a thoroughly average 9.3% walk rate, far too many pop-ups, middle-of-the-pack defense, and not enough consistent hard contact. The Turner who ripped line drives all over the field in his rookie season hasn’t shown up since. Until he does, it’s hard to carve out a space for him in this list.
GABRIEL BAUMGAERTNER: This isn't a glaring omission, whether or not he appeared in our spreadsheet. Turner's wOBA last year was .331, sandwiched between Asdrubal Cabrera and Ketel Marte. His 4.2 WAR is inflated by his stolen base total and his position. Turner has the talent to be a top-20 player, but he was sloppy and underwhelming in 2018.
Would Gleyber Torres be ranked No. 70 if he were on the Padres?
MICHAEL BELLER: The only way Torres wouldn’t be a top-70 player is if he somehow weren’t in the majors. We’re talking about a guy with an elite prospect pedigree who just hit .271/.340/.480 with 24 homers as a 21-year-old rookie. I don’t care what team he’s on. If anything, we’re underrating him.
BAUMGAERTNER: Torres is probably on the list as a Padre, but Franmil Reyes may be even higher than 70 if he were a Yankee. Over 285 plate appearances last season, Reyes compiled 16 homers and a 130 OPS+ over 87 games. His sample size is smaller, but his hard-hit rate (47.5%) places him ahead of guys like Khris Davis, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mike Trout and his exit velocity (92.3) ahead of Christian Yelich, Mookie Betts and Manny Machado.
The Reds can choose four starters from No. 91-100 to replace their current pitching staff. Pick them and tell me if they’ll make the playoffs.
BELLER: I’m taking Miles Mikolas, Jose Berrios, Charlie Morton and Germán Márquez (narrowly over David Price), and that team is absolutely making the playoffs. We do all realize that this team is going to mash, right? Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett and Yasiel Puig comprise one of the best offensive cores in the league. From those four to Matt Kemp, Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza and Tucker Barnhart, there’s no hole in the lineup, and that’s before considering gains associated with Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel. I think the Reds may make the playoffs with Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Alex Wood and Tanner Roark. Give them a top four of Mikolas/Berrios/Morton/Marquez and they could win the NL Central.
Who will be the biggest riser from this year onto the 2020 Top 100?
JUNG: I’m going to go with an offbeat pick and say Padres starter Joey Lucchesi will be the biggest riser. He’s very unranked right now (I’d imagine he’s somewhere in the 200s, if we did this) but he has the stuff and the peripheral numbers to make a big jump. Pitching in Petco with an improved team behind him should also help. If he makes the top 100 next year, that will be a massive jump for him.
TAYLER: Walker Buehler is already one of the 50 best pitchers in baseball right now, and he has the stuff to go much higher. The dude strikes out nearly 30% of the batters he faces, throws 97 mph, and has a power sinker. He’s perfectly built, stuff-wise, for today’s game. My only concern with him is his slight build and the perpetual fear of injury that surrounds all pitchers. But if he’s healthy, he’s going to dominate and earn a top-40 spot in next year’s list.
Which ranked player will be nowhere near the 2020 Top 100?
DICKEY: Craig Kimbrel will not be on this list again. When a 28-year-old closer looks ordinary, as Kimbrel did in 2016, it’s probably too soon to write him off, as Kimbrel proved with his electrifying 2017. But a 30-year-old closer who looks ordinary? Kimbrel’s walk rate more than doubled in 2018; his strikeout rate fell, as did his velocity. Baseball churns out too many unhittable one-inning relievers for a declining one to keep his spot among the sport’s best.
JUNG: Jesus Aguilar’s second half OPS was .760. That doesn’t show up in the cumulative numbers when your first half OPS is .995, but it’s hard to assume Aguilar’s career year is anywhere close to repeatable. His hard-hit rate actually declined from 2017 to 2018, as did his launch angle and exit velocity. As a poor defensive first baseman with limited baserunning skills, Aguilar needs to hit like crazy to stay on this list, which is unlikely.
Make the case for any other player besides Vlad Jr. to be No. 100
JUNG: I’m going to defend our choice of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. here, if he is 75% of what he’s expected to be in his rookie season, he will be an above-average outfielder. That’s more valuable than Jose Abreu (No. 99) or Jesus Aguilar (No. 92) right off the bat. Vladito doesn’t need to hit .300 with 30 homers to make this list. He merely needs to be somewhere near the 50th percentile of his expected production.
BAUMGAERTNER: As somebody who presided over the 2018 Top 100, I can leak the industry secret that we excluded Shohei Ohtani and Acuña Jr. from last year's list because they had no experience yet. Would you have made that mistake again if you were a committee member?
Your team is expected to compete for the 2019 pennant. Pick your ace:
No. 24 Aaron Nola
No. 26 Carlos Carrasco
No. 27 Clayton Kershaw
No. 28 Luis Severino
No. 30 Gerrit Cole
BAUMGAERTNER: It’s still Clayton Kershaw. There is serious concern about the ace’s obvious regression in 2018. His K/9 dropped by almost two (10.4 to 8.6). The percentage of balls hit hard off of him shot up by 9%. But consider that even in a down year, Kershaw finished with a 142 ERA+ and a 3.19 FIP, putting him between James Paxton and Corey Kluber. Kershaw’s ruthless competitiveness will drive him to alter his strategy and find new ways to retire hitters. Sometimes, you’ve gotta ride with track record, even if he probably would not be my answer for 2020.
JUNG: This is a very hard question, but I am going with Carlos Carrasco. Let’s go through process of elimination. Severino is the least attractive of the options given his inconsistency. Kershaw is the next off the list due to his injury issues. That leaves Cole, Carrasco and Nola, who are all worthy choices. I am going to select Carrasco because he had an equally good season as the other two, and, in an extremely non-analytical take, has done it for longer. His xFIP- of 69 was also the best of this group.
It’s Game 7 of the World Series. Pick your starter:
No. 3 Max Scherzer
No. 6 Chris Sale
No. 7 Jacob deGrom
CONNOR GROSSMAN: Believe it or not, this is actually what the top of the Padres’ rotation will look like in 2029. But in 2019, the pitcher I want in a do-or-die game is Jacob deGrom. To keep it simple: He allowed one or zero runs in 21 of his 31 starts. He allowed more than three runs in a start only once in 2018—and it was four runs. That’s giving your team the best chance to win.
TAYLER: I’m afraid to pick anyone but Max Scherzer, because if he finds out I went with someone else, there’s a solid chance he’ll murder me and dump my corpse in a public place. I’d pick Mad Max anyway, though, for reasons both analytical (the power stuff and durability) and intangible (the lunatic, borderline unhealthy competitive drive he has).
Who has more top 100 players in 2023: White Sox or Padres?
JUNG: Both teams currently have one player on the list (Jose Abreu and Manny Machado). Right now, numbers favor the Padres, who have the consensus best farm system in baseball. Fernando Tatis Jr., MacKenzie Gore, Chris Paddack and Luis Patino won’t all become All Stars, but it’s fair to say the Padres are going to get at least 1-2 top 100 players from their entire farm system right now. With Machado probably still on this list, we’ll say the Padres get to 4 by 2023.
Meanwhile, Keith Law ranked the White Sox as the No. 13 farm system. Some of the White Sox’s talent have already found their way to the majors (Carson Fulmer, Yoan Moncada), and uber-prospect Eloy Jimenez isn’t too far away either. The White Sox, by virtue of not signing Machado, also have the financial flexibility to go after a top free agent soon if Reinsdorf is willing. Still, even in the best case scenario, the White Sox can’t really be expected to have more than the four the Padres have, and probably aren’t as likely to reach that. So, advantage Padres in 2023, assuming this list still exists.
Who will be ranked higher in 2020? No. 44 Charlie Blackmon or No. 64 Nelson Cruz?
GROSSMAN: Nelson Cruz will be 39 when SI’s next Top 100 rolls out. He’s retained an astonishing amount of power over the last decade, averaging 34 homers per year for the last 10 seasons (and 41 over the last five seasons). Cruz may be joining the Twins and playing half his games in spacious Target Field, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him hit the 40 homers needed to reach 400 career bombs. No disrespect to Charlie Blackmon, but Cruz seems like a sure bet to continue producing.
I'm Ashamed to Be Affiliated With This List Because...
GROSSMAN: If I needed to fill a hole in my starting rotation, Madison Bumgarner is doing that before Jose Berrios, David Price, Miles Mikolas, German Marquez, Carlos Martinez, Kyle Freeland, Dallas Keuchel, Jameson Taillon and J.A. Happ, to name a few.
JUNG: Mike Foltynewicz should be on the list, and is better than a lot of the pitchers on here. 2.85 ERA, 3.33 FIP over 183 innings is legit!
DICKEY: Gleyber Torres, Walker Buehler, and Brandon Nimmo are ranked nos. 70, 71, and 72. If all three don’t produce more WAR in 2019 than, say, Stephen Strasburg and J.T. Realmuto, I’ll be stunned.
BELLER: We’re too high on Justin Upton. He’s a fine player who’s a good bet to hit 30 homers and take his walks, but how many players in the modern league will do that? A lot, right. Upton provides above-average offense from a non-premium position. He shouldn’t be anywhere near our top 50.
BAUMGAERTNER: Joey Gallo embodies exactly what I don’t like about contemporary baseball and I’d still rather have him than Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar will not only miss the Top 100 next year, he might end up like former teammate Domingo Santana, who went from 30-homer young stud to bench bat in one year.
Who is the best player not on the list?
BAUMGAERTNER: It’s Max Muncy. His .319 ISO was tops in MLB with players with at least 400 plate appearances (Mike Trout’s was .316). He finished in the top 1% of MLB in barrelling the ball up (17%) and walk percentage (16.4%), He was in the top 2% of weighted on-base average. He can play multiple infield positions and hit anywhere in the lineup. He should be ranked around where Rhys Hoskins is, but he was punished for his lack of track record. Another Dodger, but it’s also odd for Kenley Jansen not to be on here (the home run rate last year was a problem).
BELLER: You mean other than Trea Turner? I have to put in a vote for David Peralta. Was there a quieter .293/.352/.516, 30-homer season in baseball last year? Did you know Peralta got more WAR than Cody Bellinger, Joey Votto and Bryce Harper? Did you know he had a higher wOBA than Javy Baez, Charlie Blackmon and Jose Altuve? And now he’s like Will Smith at the end of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, looking around an empty living room wondering where Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and J.D. Martinez are. Spare a thought for one of the league’s most underappreciated players when the Diamondbacks are slogging their way to a 75-win season.
Who is the worst player on the list?
BELLER: I’m not exactly going out on a limb since I’m picking from near the bottom of the list, but it’s Jackie Bradley Jr. He’s here largely because of what he can do in center field, but there’s nothing more overrated in baseball than outfield defense. Over the course of a full season, how many additional plays does the best center field make compared with the worst one? I’m not sure, but I promise you that you don’t need all your fingers to count to the answer. The infield is where the best plays are made and where defense can truly make a big difference, while 99% of outfield plays are routine to 99% of outfielders. Meanwhile, Bradley’s got a .240/.319/.403 slash line and 91 OPS+ over the last two seasons.
JUNG: Jose Abreu only had a 113 wRC+ and was one of the worst defensive first basemen in baseball. He was also injured for a month and is entering his age-32 season. His traditional stats are bad (22 homers, 78 RBIs, .265 average). His advanced stats are not great (.798 OPS, career lows in launch angle, exit velocity, hard-hit rate). Even if you want to look at historical track record, Abreu only put up 6.1 fWAR in 2016 and 2017 combined, meaning that his total fWAR over three years is 7.3, which fits nicely into less than one season of Alex Bregman.
BAUMGAERTNER: So what if David Price pitched well in two postseason games? He's still barrelling toward regression. His 2018 HR rate was the highest of his career and his whiff rate was lower on every one of his pitches. Perhaps he can morph into a Derek Lowe-like sinkerballer specializing in soft contact, but until then, Price risks being tortured by launch-angle specialists. I sincerely hope that I can be cited as some of Price's bulletin board material the next time he criticizes the media for its negativity (though I probably would too if I played in Boston).