Spring training is at an end, and it’s about time to see some official game action. The big-time offseason issues worked themselves out. Alex Rodriguez ended up resigning with the New York Yankees, despite Yankee front office threats of no extension offers if A-Rod opted out of his previous contract. Johan Santana was finally traded, to the New York Mets – for a lot less than the Yankees or the Boston Red Sox offered.
There are more, but Day One makes the entire previous offseason erasable. It’s fun to debate who the best players are because generally no one can really agree. There are certain players who are absolute locks to be on every list, but their list placements are never assured.
My list is about baseball’s best players, and there are some who include pitchers and some who don't. I’d rather not get into that argument, so I’ll just stick to talking about position players.
1. Hanley Ramirez (SS) — Florida Marlins
I bet not many people knew Ramirez tied for the second most (NL) hits with Jimmy Rollins last year. If you look at his 2006 and 2007 stats, you’ll see a scary trend: in roughly the same number of at-bats, he had 33 fewer strikeouts and 27 more hits, with almost half of that hit increase being home runs (17 to 29). This is a good sign that Ramirez is beginning to find his power and could seriously contend for 30-30-30 (2B, HR, and SB) in only his third full season. He was traded in a deal involving Josh Beckett a couple years back and while the Red Sox probably wouldn’t have won a World Series without him, I bet Theo Epstein shakes his head whenever Julio Lugo steps up to the plate.
2. Alex Rodriguez (3B) — New York Yankees
No need to defend this pick.
3. Carl Crawford (LF) — Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays
He’s probably the most underrated player in baseball. Playing for the Rays can keep you unnoticed from most people. He posted his highest batting average (.315) and second highest OPS (.820) last year. He’s always had to carry the team, but looking at 25-player roster (no more Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young to watch over) his burden might not be so heavy this time around, especially considering the starting rotation.
4. David Wright (3B) — New York Mets
Wright was the only shiny September spot for the Mets last year. Had the team not collapsed as it did, he might have garnered at least one first place vote in the MVP balloting. And by the way, how many third basemen do you know had 30-30 seasons?
5. Curtis Granderson (CF) — Detroit Tigers
He starts the season on the disabled list, but I don’t think anyone doubts he’ll push for another seat in the 20-20-20-20 club (2B-3B-HR-SB). Here’s a scary fact, the only single digit number on his 2007 stat sheet is his CS (caught stealing)… at 1.
Jimmy Rollins (SS) — Philadelphia Phillies: The reigning National League MVP never seemed to the get the same attention for being a 20-20-20-20 player as Granderson did.
Chase Utley (2B) — Philadelphia Phillies: Had an MVP-caliber year last season despite missing the final month. Will be MVP come October.
Joe Mauer (C) — Minnesota Twins: His career high for games played is 140 in 2006. Will he ever reach that again?
Vladimir Guerrero (RF) – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: I still flinch every time he swings a bat. I couldn’t imagine pitching to him.
Jose Reyes (SS) – New York Mets: I guess you’d have to see this guy live to be as enamored as Peter Gammons is.
Grady Sizemore (CF) — Cleveland Indians: He falls in the same category as Reyes. Needs to bounce back if he wants to keep in Gammons’ good graces.
Troy Tulowitzki (SS) — Colorado Rockies: I haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, but I will if he explodes this year.