It’s a good time to question, “Who are the finest players in baseball, and where do they rank when it comes to the best of the best,” now that Spring Training is almost over and the new season is about to begin. These queries were addressed by MLB Network’s yearly presentation of the Top 100 Players Right Now.
The top players in Major League Baseball were ranked by MLB Network’s production and research staff using a different methodology than the Shredder, which was used to generate the Network’s rankings for the top 10 players at each position.
As expected, Mike Trout was the best baseball player of the previous year. But with Trout missing much of the 2018 season due to injury, there will be a new No. 1 player in 2022.
1) Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, Angels (2021 rank: unranked)
How do you match up against a player that has a 3.18 ERA in 23 starts while pitching to a.965 OPS with 46 home runs and 26 steals? Of course not. Ohtani was chosen as the American League MVP last season for this reason, which also accounts for his top ranking on this list. When has anyone ever performed in the same manner as Ohtani did last year? You would need to travel back to 1919 and none other than Babe Ruth.
2) Mike Trout, CF, Angels (2021 rank: 1)
Without understanding what had transpired in the season that had passed between last year’s ranking and this year’s, you may be perplexed as to how Trout had fallen from the Top 100. Then you would hear that he was injured and was limited to 36 games. You would comprehend when the inevitable feeling of melancholy passed over you (although it didn’t hurt that Ohtani accomplished things in 2021 that we had never seen before). Trout continues to be the gold standard when it comes to enduring performance, which makes him a perennial MVP contender.
3) Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres (2021 rank: 6)
Tatis has only participated in 273 games, or less than two full seasons, owing to injuries, which is something we frequently forget, assuming we even knew it in the first place. Just think of what a whole season of him would bring. He will unfortunately miss the first few months of the ’22 season due to a wrist injury, so we will have to wait until at least 2023 for that. Tatis is one of the game’s most electrifying players, and his power-speed combo, which resulted in 42 home runs and 25 steals in just 130 games last year, is incredible to watch. Despite missing the last two seasons, he consistently placed among the top four in the voting for the National League MVP.
4) Juan Soto, OF, Nationals (2021 rank: 5)
Soto stands out from other players in the game today thanks to his unmatched strike zone control and incredible slugging ability; comparisons to Barry Bonds are not only fair, but also merited. Soto hit.322/.471/.572 with 42 home runs and 186 walks in 198 games during the previous two seasons. Look at that OBP; over the course of almost 200 games, he has reached base safely in nearly half of his plate opportunities. In case you missed it, he is only 23 years old, possesses power in all fields, and has a career OPS+ of 160.
5) Bryce Harper, RF, Phillies (2021 rank: 22)
After winning his second NL MVP Award of his career and having a fantastic season at the plate, Harper rose 17 ranks year over year, and for good cause. It’s simple to ignore Harper because, despite his brilliance, he occasionally went unnoticed while rising stars like Tatis, Soto, and others made headlines. But Harper is still one of the best hitters in the game, as he showed last season. He continued to assemble a Hall of Fame CV in 2021, hitting.309/.429/.615 with 35 home runs to bring him within striking distance of 300 for his career (he starts the ’22 season with 267).
6) Mookie Betts, RF, Dodgers (2021 rank: 2)
Betts slid down the list a few slots, in part because injuries only allowed him to play 122 games in the previous season. He still hit.264/.367/.487 with 23 home runs while losing time. Although Mookie wasn’t at his best, there is no reason to believe that he won’t be a contender for the NL MVP award in 2022. After all, at age 29, he is still in the peak of his career, and his initials aren’t M.L.B. for nothing.
7) Jacob deGrom, SP, NYM (2021 rank: 3)
Once again, an athlete’s season and position among the Top 100 players were both negatively impacted by injury. DeGrom dropped four slots despite being just as dominating as we would have anticipated him to be in 2021 – maybe even more. Because he only made 15 starts, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner. But across 92 innings in his 15 appearances, he was better than ever, compiling a 1.08 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, and an astounding 45 percent strikeout rate. A stress response in his right shoulder forced him to be sidelined starting on April 1 and will prevent him from throwing for at least four weeks, casting some doubt on his 2022 campaign.
8) Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Blue Jays (2021 rank: unranked)
Guerrero had a fantastic year in 2021, which everyone anticipated, as seen by his 48 home runs and 1.002 OPS. Vlad is the MVP in any season that another player wasn’t hitting home runs and hurling 100 mph fastballs as a regular starter. It’s simple to imagine him winning several MVP awards as he approaches his age-23 season and heads a Blue Jays lineup that continues growing more and more spectacular every year.
9) Freddie Freeman, 1B, Dodgers (2021 rank: 4)
Seeing Freeman in Dodger blue after he spent the first 12 years of his career with the Braves will take some getting used to. However, Freeman putting up significant numbers at the bat following another outstanding offensive season won’t require much getting used to. Freeman overcame a sluggish start in ’21 to lead the league in runs (120) while batting.300/.393/.503 with 31 home runs, albeit it wasn’t as successful as his NL MVP performance in 2020. It was already a dangerous lineup for the Dodgers before Freeman joined, so it will be fascinating to see how Los Angeles’ lineup, and especially Freeman, perform in ’22.
10) Ronald Acuña Jr., CF, Braves (2021 rank: 7)
Acua will soon become a member of the 40-homer/40-steal club; it’s just a matter of time (and health). He blasted 41 home runs and stole 37 bases, which was the most in the NL, in his final season (2019). And that was just his second Major League season. Prior to tearing his right ACL while pursuing a fly ball at Marlins Park on July 10, he had been making good progress the previous season, hitting 24 home runs and swiping 17 bases. If Acua remains healthy this season for the reigning World Series winners, he may easily rise up this list, all the way to the top.