MLB Rank 2023: Ranking baseball’s top 100 players

MLB Rank 2023: Ranking baseball's top 100 players

Who will be the best player of the 2023 MLB season?

Opening Day is almost here, which means it’s time to break down how baseball’s elite stack up against each other.

To create our annual MLB Rank list of the top 100 players in the sport, we presented a panel of ESPN baseball experts with pairings upon pairings of the biggest names in the game and asked one simple question: Which player will be better in 2023?

But it raises the question: How do you compare a player like Shohei Ohtani to Mike Trout? Or Aaron Judge? And where do baseball’s best pitchers land? It seems impossible to pit these stars against one another, but we did it — and one player came out on top.

Our list features Cy Young Award winners, MVPs, veterans building Hall of Fame résumés and young megastars who could dominate MLB for years to come. But who’s No. 1? And where does the best player on your team rank?

ESPN MLB experts Alden Gonzalez, Dave Schoenfield, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Brad Doolittle broke down why each player is ranked where they are and what to expect from them in the upcoming season.

Watch: “Baseball Tonight” MLB Rank special, Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN

More: Snubs, surprises

Passan previews all 30 teams »

&nbspRising teams » | Due to fall? »

After two seasons of this, there’s no doubt that Riley has become one of the game’s shining stars and is perhaps even a little underrated from an attention standpoint. He is a pure basher who ranks in the top five percentile in Statcast metrics like exit velocity, barrel rate and hard-hit percentage. He swings big to generate that power and has the strikeout and swing-and-miss rates to show it. Those are the last dominoes to fall before Riley really makes a push for MVP and the time is right — he’s just hitting the prime of his career.

Season prediction: Now at a lofty, established performance level, expect Riley to make additional marginal gains. Look for him to tack on 20-25 walks and for a few more of his doubles to clear the fence, allowing him to reach the 40-homer mark for the first time in his career. — Doolittle

MLB offseason recap

Not sure what to make of your team’s offseason moves? We’ve got you covered.

Offseason grades for all 30 teams »

What the heck was your team thinking? »

The downside of that approach is that he chases too many pitches and given the care with which pitchers work him (he led the NL in intentional walks and among 130 qualified hitters, only eight saw a lower rate of pitches in the strike zone), that lack of selectivity is what stands in the way of him ranking with the game’s elite overall hitters.

Season prediction: Expect Alonso to hit around .267/.348/.518 with 40-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs, which is roughly an average of what he did over the past two seasons. While there are some obvious areas in which Alonso could improve, at 28 he is what he is. And for the Mets, that’s plenty good. — Doolittle

SP | Cleveland Guardians

The 2022 season brought with it an evolution for Bieber, the AL’s Cy Young Award winner in 2020. Bieber had seen the velocity on his four-seam fastball continually diminish, from 94 mph in 2020 to 93 mph in 2021 to 91 mph in 2022. But he has altered his pitch mix in order to combat it, beginning to use his slider more often than his curveball, and he has seen results. Bieber finished the 2022 season seventh in Cy Young voting, posting a 2.88 ERA and reaching precisely 200 innings. Alarm bells were ringing in Cleveland when Bieber got shelled by the Blue Jays on May 7, allowing seven runs with a fastball that barely cracked 90 mph. From that point forward, he posted the 10th-lowest ERA in the sport.

Season prediction: You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Bieber’s strikeout rate has dropped over time, from 41.1% in 2020 to 33.1% in 2021 to 25% in 2022. But his walk rate last season, 4.6%, was barely more than half what it was the year before. Bieber is a different pitcher, but still a very effective one. Expect that to continue. — Gonzalez

Few prospects over the past decade — maybe none since Bryce Harper — reached the majors with as much fanfare as Franco when the Rays called him up in 2021 as a 20-year-old who oozed future batting champ with his sweet line-drive stroke and exquisite contact ability. No, he hasn’t hit .300 … not yet anyway (he just turned 22). After hitting .331 in his first 28 games to start the season in 2022, he battled some injuries that affected his production and eventually landed him on the IL. He returned in September to hit .322 with more walks than whiffs. With this ranking, we’re still buying into that .300 potential and ability to smoke lasers all over the park while playing a solid shortstop.

Season prediction: After hitting .288 in his 2021 rookie season and .277 last season, the projection systems see Franco in the .280 to .285 range. I’m going a lot higher: .322 and the AL batting title. — Schoenfield

SP | Atlanta Braves

Only an epic season by Miami’s Alcantara stood in the way of Fried landing his first NL Cy Young Award. Still, the lefty ace keeps inching his way to new heights with each passing season. He was on the mound more in 2022, with 30 starts and a career-high 185⅓ innings while slicing his walk rate and allowing fewer homers.

Fried’s consistency and dominance for the annually contending Braves has allowed him to go 52-20 since 2019, a .722 winning percentage. His 32 games over .500 during that span is matched only by the Yankees’ Cole. Fried’s career strikeout rate (8.8 per nine innings) is a touch below the game’s top starters in this high-strikeout era and if anything is unnecessarily keeping him out of the conversation around baseball’s top pitchers, that’s probably the reason. It’s not hard to argue that he should maybe rank higher on this list.

Season prediction: According to Statcast, Fried’s use of his changeup went from 2.2% in 2021 to 14.1% last season. Hitters hit just .173 with a .218 slugging percentage against that offering. Fried is a hard worker and intense competitor who continues to evolve his arsenal with experience. That he keeps getting better is no accident. If he’s able to do that again in 2023, and he finished second in the Cy Young voting in 2022, where would that leave him? Exactly. — Doolittle

SP | Philadelphia Phillies

Injuries have slowed Wheeler at various times of his career but when he’s healthy, he’s a borderline top-20 player. In fact, he hasn’t produced an ERA over 3.00 since 2019. Wheeler finished second in Cy Young Award voting in 2021 and probably would have been closer to the award last season if not for an arm ailment that sidelined him for several starts in 2022. He made 26 starts overall and dealt with some fatigue in the World Series. A repeat of that 2021 season, when he made 32 starts, would probably return Wheeler to top-20 status. His fastball/curveball combination is among the best — and so is Wheeler.

Season prediction: Wheeler will join Nola as the only teammates to throw 200 innings this season. — Rogers

SP | New York Yankees

There’s no doubt that when Rodon is healthy, he’s one of the best in the game. Over the past two seasons, he has lived up to the potential that made him a top-3 pick in the 2014 MLB draft out of NC State. With the Giants, he had 31 starts with a 2.88 ERA and 1.03 WHIP while striking out 237 in 178 innings. The major question mark will be health, though. A forearm strain has already put him on the IL to start the 2023 season. Last year marked the first time in Rodon’s career that he made more than 30 starts in a season. Whenever he is on the mound, he will certainly show why he earned himself a six-year, $162 million deal, but the question is how many times he will actually toe the rubber.

Season prediction: When healthy, he takes the Yankees rotation to another level. What’s harder to predict is how many starts the lefty will actually make. If the Yankees make a deep run this postseason, Rodon will play a major role. — Lee

Baltimore needed Rutschman to live up to the hype as one of the top prospects in baseball and he exceeded all expectations, displaying a strong ability to get on base while providing some of the best defense in baseball behind the plate. In 113 games, Rustchman hit .254/.362/.445 with 13 homers and a 5.2 bWAR, placing him second in all of baseball behind Realmuto. If the Orioles expect to take another step forward, they will need Rutschman to continue looking like one of the best catchers in the sport.

Season prediction: Rutschman will keep building on his status as one of the game’s best defensive catchers while taking a step forward offensively as he continues adjusting to big league pitching. Any increased production will make him among the game’s most valuable players. — Lee

SP | Tampa Bay Rays

There was perhaps no more dominant pitcher in last year’s first half than McClanahan. Armed with a devastating four-pitch mix, McClanahan posted a 1.71 ERA in 110⅔ innings, striking out 147 batters while walking only 19 and starting the All-Star Game. But the second half featured a non-serious shoulder injury and mediocre results, including four starts in which he gave up more than three runs and didn’t get into the sixth inning. So McClanahan went about working on his body this offseason. He stretched more diligently and improved his diet, and the Rays believe the 25-year-old right-hander can be even better in 2023. There’s no reason why his first-half success can’t extend for a full season. The stuff is there.

Season prediction: McClanahan will rise to another level in 2023 and contend for the AL Cy Young Award, displaying some of the best stuff in the sport and tapping into more consistency throughout the year. — Gonzalez

SP | Seattle Mariners

During Castillo’s years with the Cincinnati Reds, there were frustrating bouts of inconsistency and control lapses, though he was an All-Star in 2019 and then again in 2022 before his trade to the Mariners. He seemed to put everything together last season, going 8-6 with a 2.99 ERA and the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career.

It took less than two months for the Mariners to love what they saw and sign him to a five-year, $108 extension and then give him the ball for the franchise’s first playoff game in 22 years. He promptly dominated the Blue Jays with 7⅓ scoreless innings. He throws 97 with a great changeup and wipeout slider, and with a full year at T-Mobile Park — it must feel like the Columbia River Gorge after all those years in Cincinnati — he’s primed for his best season yet.

Season prediction: Castillo has won just 16 games the past two seasons combined. He’s going to win 16 in 2023 and pick up some down-ballot Cy Young votes for the first time in his career. — Schoenfield

RF | Houston Astros

Tucker is slowly advancing up the list of most dangerous lefties in the game, in part because of his ability to hit lefties. His career .808 OPS against left-handed pitching isn’t all that different from his .853 one vs. righties. Of course, that was all achieved with the shift in place. Without it, Tucker’s 2023 batting average should go up after hitting .257 in 2022.

Tucker just keeps getting better. He has an 11 bWAR combined over the past two seasons, finishing 20th in MVP voting in 2021 and then 15th in 2022 to go along with his first All-Star appearance and first Gold Glove for his outfield defense. More of the same will keep Tucker rising in the ratings. It’s not impossible for him to be a top-20 player going into 2024. He has the talent.

Season prediction: Tucker takes another leap, repeating as Gold Glove winner while hitting 35-plus home runs with a batting average at least 20 points higher than his 2022 mark. — Rogers

3B | Houston Astros

When we last ran MLB rank in 2021, Bregman was a top-15 fixture. He was sixth in 2019, 12th in 2020 and 13th in 2021. But after three solid seasons that were well off his peak in 2018-2019, he’s landed here. It seems about right given what his new level of play seems to be after three years and over 1,200 plate appearances. Peak Bregman was the full package — elite power, lots of walks, elite run run production, even some steals. The new version has similar strike-zone mastery and exit velocities but the BABIP results just haven’t been the same. Though he hits righty, the shift has been a bane for Bregman and perhaps its departure will be a boost.

Season prediction: While Bregman might not have any more 40-homer seasons in him, it would be surprising if there isn’t another MVP-level season or two in his future. The Astros will be fine either way: Houston has advanced at least to the ALCS in all six seasons since Bregman became a regular. — Doolittle

If you want a poster boy for how the elimination of the shift might help some hitters, Seager is your guy. According to Baseball Info Solutions, Seager hit .112 on ground balls and short line drives hit between first and second base in 2022. As a result, Seager, who hit .297 in seven seasons with the Dodgers, saw his average plummet to .245 in his first year with the Rangers. BIS estimates Seager would have gained 29 additional hits under 2023 rules — and his average would thus climb to .293. Look for better numbers from Seager with the new rules and perhaps an even higher ranking in 2024 as he tops 30 home runs again and hits much closer to .300.

Season prediction: Look for better numbers from Seager with the new rules and perhaps an even higher ranking in 2024 as he tops 30 home runs again and hits much closer to .300. — Schoenfield

CF | Atlanta Braves

No young player had as meteoric a rise in 2022 as Harris. While he was a consensus top 100 prospect entering the season, his highest ranking was ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel at No. 38 and he had played all of 2021 in High-A. It looked like he would spend the season at Double-A Mississippi.

Nobody expected this: just 43 games in Double-A, a rushed promotion to the majors when the Braves needed a center fielder, a sudden development in his power and, frankly, emerging as one of the best players in the league over the final four months. He finished at .297/.339/.514 with 19 home runs, 20 stolen bases, excellent defense and a nice Rookie of the Year trophy. Some expect pitchers to figure out how to exploit his aggressive approach, but Harris can flat hit. Imagine what will happen if he improves his plate discipline.

Season prediction: If there’s a Michael Harris fan club, sign me up. The computers forecast regression, but I’m predicting more of the same: Let’s go with a 30-30 season, a trip to the All-Star Game and a Gold Glove. — Schoenfield

2023 MLB prospect rankings

How bright is your team’s future? Kiley McDaniel ranks the best prospects and farm systems in baseball.

Top 100 prospects » | Bold predictions »
Ranking all 30 MLB systems for 2023 »
Team-by-team top 10 lists: NL » | AL »

The Cubs are also paying for leadership. Swanson is known for wanting one thing out of his baseball life: to win. He did that in Atlanta, and now he’ll pave the way for a new roster of Cubs trying to find their way back to the postseason.

Season prediction: There might be some early struggles as Swanson tries to live up to his big contract — it happens all the time — but he should find his power stroke to left field once the summer hits Wrigley. Thirty home runs is not out of the question — but neither is 150 strikeouts (again). — Rogers

SP | Milwaukee Brewers

Woodruff has been one of the game’s most consistent starters over the last four seasons, a span in which his per-inning production has been truly elite. At 6’4″ and 244 lbs., Woodruff has the look of a classic top-of-the-rotation starter. He has the repertoire and stuff to dominate consistently and enough diversity in his offerings to remain effective deep into games. And yet Woodruff’s career high in innings as he enters his age-30 season is 179⅓. Injuries have usually diverted his run to the top ranks of big league starters, though arm injuries, strangely enough, haven’t been the issue. As such, it feels like his career season is still in his future.

Season prediction: Like co-ace teammate Burnes, Woodruff has not been extended by the Brewers and has one more season of arbitration eligibility before he hits free agency. Over the second half of last season, Woodruff was as good as any pitcher in the game. If the intersection of momentum and motivation means anything, the portents for 2023 are lined up in his favor. — Doolittle

CF | Baltimore Orioles

Mullins’ offensive numbers took a slight dip from 2021 to 2022, with his OPS going from .878 to .721. He walked less, didn’t slug nearly as much and produced slightly fewer line drives. But he also produced elite center-field defense, contributing nine outs above average, and added 34 stolen bases. In other words: He hit enough to still be considered one of the sport’s best all-around players at his position. His 9.3 fWAR over the last two years ranks fifth among outfielders, topped only by Judge, Soto, Betts and Alvarez. That’s pretty good company.

Season prediction: Mullins isn’t an elite exit-velocity guy, and his numbers will often be susceptible to batted-ball luck. Is he the hitter of 2021 or 2022? Something in the middle is probably a safe bet, though his 2022 drop in barrel percentage should warrant some concern. He should still be young enough (28) to bring all the other speed-related elements that make him stand out. — Gonzalez

2B | New York Mets

McNeil put together one of the best seasons of his career in 2022, hitting .326/.382/.454 with nine homers, winning the batting title and posting a career-high 5.7 bWAR. The Mets rewarded his success with a new four-year, $50 million contract, locking up a key member of New York’s core lineup. The second baseman is one of the best contact hitters in the sport, striking out just 242 times in 2,039 career plate appearances, bested by just nine players with at least 1,000 plate appearances since his debut in 2018. His versatility continues to be an asset as well, with 100 games at second base and 46 in the outfield in 2022.

Season prediction: McNeil’s game figures to age well — he turns 31 in April — given his reliance on contact over power. While it’s unfair to expect him to win the batting title again in 2023, he has just one season in the big leagues where he has hit below .300, and the Mets expect him to be a lineup catalyst for a group hoping to compete for the World Series. — Lee

RF/DH | Philadelphia Phillies

It doesn’t take a baseball expert to understand why Harper is where he is on the list, as he’ll be out more than half the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. His return will certainly boost the Phillies’ chances, and he’ll undoubtedly continue as one of the most feared hitters in the game. But for the rankings, availability is as important as productivity, so for now Harper is on the outside of the top 50 — though, he easily could be in a different place going into next season.

Season prediction: Harper returns with a bang in late July but struggles to find his footing. He’ll be a .230 hitter while hitting 12 home runs in the second half. — Rogers

RP | Cleveland Guardians

In the original incarnation of our rankings, there were but two relievers so dominant that they earned a spot on the list. Edwin Diaz then suffered that devastating knee injury in the WCS, so now Clase, who won last year’s Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year award, stands alone as baseball’s top fireman entering the season. He’s earned that status by becoming one of the rarest of baseball phenomenons: The consistent reliever.

In his case, Clase isn’t just consistent — he’s consistently dominant. Over the last two seasons, Clase has a surreal 1.33 ERA over 142⅓ innings. In 2022, he saved 42 games in 46 chances and earned wins in two of the games in which he blew the save. He does this with a cutter-slider combination so unhittable that to describe it as “nasty” hardly seems sufficient. The cutter in particular is almost — dare we say? — Rivera-esque.

Season prediction: There is zero reason to think that Clase’s game is going to tail off any time soon, especially when a “bad” season for him at this point would be a two-something ERA. — Doolittle

CF | Miami Marlins

He’s on the cover of “MLB The Show” video game, he was named to his first All-Star Game in 2022 and he popularized the ice cream-themed glove. Now, Chisholm has to stay healthy after missing the second half with a stress fracture in his lower back and adjust to a new position as the Marlins move him from second base to center field. To his credit, it was Chisholm who went to the Marlins with the idea, so he has embraced the change with enthusiasm. There’s no doubting the massive upside here after he hit 14 home runs with 45 RBIs and slugged .535 in 60 games. Those numbers over 150 games: 35 home runs and 112 RBIs. That sounds like an All-Star center fielder.

Season prediction: Hey, don’t dismiss that 35-homer potential. He’s averaged 27 per 162 games in his short career, and he’s just 25 with only 205 career games. With his tools, there’s still a chance he could explode if everything comes together. I’ll go 30 home runs and 25 steals, and if he can cut down on the K’s, he has superstar potential. — Schoenfield

SS | Chicago White Sox

There was a time when Anderson would have ranked higher on the list, since he has a batting title under his belt. But injuries zapped some of his ability last season and though he hit over .300 for the fourth consecutive year, it came in only 79 games. A healthy, available Anderson may move him back up the rankings.

Meanwhile, playing in the WBC this spring can only help raise his game and potentially his leadership. During the tournament, Trout said that Anderson had the best opposite field swing in the game. That’s some high praise. If he’s on the field the entire season, he may win another batting title yet.

Season prediction: Anderson hits over .320 while he and Elvis Andrus make a surprisingly good double play combination. Anderson might even get some time at second base, where he shined during the WBC. — Rogers

In four months, Reynolds — one of few baseball players to publicly request a trade — is expected to be one of the most coveted players from executives looking to solidify their teams for the stretch run. Toss aside a fan-less shortened 2020 season, and he has been about as productive as they come, slashing .292/.371/.496 in his three full major league seasons. The Pirates have expressed a desire to keep Reynolds long term, but there are no indications that the two sides are close on an extension. He is coming off a sluggish — by his standards — 2022 season, one that saw his OPS drop by more than 100 points and his defensive metrics fall off even more dramatically. But several GMs would undoubtedly line up to trade for him nonetheless.

Season prediction: Reynolds’ strikeouts picked up and his walks declined in 2022, which is usually a troubling sign. He chased more often, particularly against fastballs. He saw more high fastballs last year, and he struggled mightily against them, slashing .074/.133/.185. Reynolds won’t get back to his 2021 self until he makes that adjustment. — Gonzalez

OF | Toronto Blue Jays

Springer remains a top-of-the-lineup catalyst with his blend of power, speed and patience. Among 64 hitters with at least 100 plate appearances from the lead-off spot last season, Springer ranked in the top five in hits, runs, homers and RBIs, while landing at 14th in OPS. He still plays the game with panache via his big swings at the plate and daring dives on the basepaths.

Still, after finishing in the top 40 of the last five editions of these rankings, Springer fell down the pecking order mostly because he just can’t stay on the field enough. He hasn’t played in more than 140 games since 2018 and made it into just 133 contests last season for Toronto. During his two seasons with the Blue Jays, Springer has hit the IL with an oblique strain, a strained quadriceps, a sprained knee and an inflamed elbow. This last malady resulted in surgery last fall to remove bone spurs.

Season prediction: Now 33, Springer’s playing time has to be carefully managed, especially as it seems unlikely that the abandon with which he has always played is going to disappear. The injuries will come, and rest will be needed. That’s all fine for the Blue Jays if Springer is right when October comes around and he gets another shot to show why he’s one of the great postseason players of his generation. — Doolittle

CF | Minnesota Twins

We all know the story. Over the past four seasons, Buxton has hit .258/.316/.558 while playing Willie Mays defense in center field. He has averaged an incredible 8.3 WAR per 650 plate appearances since 2019 — except that’s more PAs than he had in 2021 and 2022 combined. Of his 28 home runs in 2022, 11 of them went more than 425 feet, including two over 450. The power/defense combo is so impressive that if he could play 130 games, he’d be one of the best players in baseball with top-15 overall potential. But he’s now 29 and played 100 games just once in his career. There have been players who had careers ruined or shortened with injuries, but Buxton’s career is turning into a weird, one-of-a-kind “what if?”

Season prediction: Yeah, right — you may as well ask me to make my stock picks for the next 12 months or predict the weather for the first game of the World Series. There’s 40-homer power here if he stays healthy, but I wouldn’t count on that. — Schoenfield

2B | Texas Rangers

After a very slow start for his new team in 2022, Semien brought the lumber. All but one of his 26 home runs was hit after June 1. That kind of volatility might be expected for a player joining a new organization with a big contract. Semien isn’t going to go up the rankings as he enters his mid-30’s, but that doesn’t mean he has to go down either. He should age well playing second base after giving up on shortstop in signing with Texas a year ago. His power at that position makes him special, though he’s not likely to repeat his 2021 performance, when he hit 45 home runs for Toronto.

Season prediction: Semien’s power numbers will continue to decrease playing in pitcher-friendly Globe Life Field. He’ll hit under 20 home runs in a full season for the first time since 2018. — Rogers

C | Atlanta Braves

As much as anything, the Braves seem to believe in certainty when it comes to their long-term design. Find a young player you like and keep that player for as long as you can in an exchange of security (for the player) and team-friendly terms. And so Murphy becomes the latest example of that design after Atlanta acquired him in a hot stove trade and almost immediately inked him to a six-year, $73 million extension to become Atlanta’s backstop now and for the foreseeable future.

This ranking, which is well-deserved, illustrates why the Braves have such faith in a player who has yet to play a regular season inning for them. Murphy is one of the game’s top two-way backstops who hits for power, draws walks, handles his position so well that he was the AL’s Gold Glove catcher in 2021 and even has some postseason experience. He’s also durable and hits well enough that he can help out frequently at DH on days he isn’t catching.

Season prediction: The only catchers to have won a Gold Glove in both leagues are Bob Boone and Tony Pena. Supplanting Realmuto in the NL won’t be easy for Murphy, but he’s got a chance to join the list. He frames well and with an elite pop time, his ability to gun down would-be base thieves could be accentuated under the new rules. — Doolittle

2B | Houston Astros

As with Harper, Altuve would have ranked a lot higher, but the broken thumb he suffered in the World Baseball Classic will keep him sidelined indefinitely and well into the season. When Altuve scuffled through a rough COVID-shortened 2020 season, it appeared Father Time might have been starting his victory lap, even if it was just a 48-game sample. Altuve has proven every skeptic wrong throughout his career and did so again. The 2022 season was one of his best, as he matched his MVP year of 2017 with a 160 OPS+ and finished fifth in the AL MVP voting.

Even without the injury, Altuve was a good bet to regress, at least a little. He turns 33 in May, and despite launching 39 doubles and 28 home runs last season, his hard-hit rate was the lowest of his career. That’s cause for concern, although he doesn’t swing and miss much, and he did show sudden growth in his plate discipline, with big improvements in chase rate and walk rate. If that holds, he’ll continue to age well.

Season prediction: Altuve’s .300 batting average last year was 31 points higher than his expected batting average going into the season. We don’t know how the injury will ultimately affect his power, but his launch angle and ability to pull everything is ideal for home runs. I think the average takes a dip back into the .270 range that it was in 2021. — Schoenfield

David Schoenfield »

Over these last two years, Melvin has gained a deep level of respect for the way Darvish works and cares about his craft, a trait that could allow him to overcome the issues that plague pitchers in their late 30s and early 40s. From 2017 to 2022, the 36-year-old ranks ninth in the majors in strikeouts and 17th in innings while posting a 3.66 ERA.

Season prediction: Darvish’s expansive repertoire allows him to adjust better than anybody, and last year was no different. He featured the lowest strikeout rate of his career, but also one of his lowest walk rates. His cutter, fastball and slider continue to make up the vast majority of his offerings, but Darvish can constantly change their sequencing and introduce several other pitches that continually keep hitters honest. With such a potent offense behind him, he can be an All-Star for the second time in three years in 2023. — Gonzalez

LF | Philadelphia Phillies

Schwarber went from being DFA’d after the 2020 season to hitting 46 home runs last year for Philadelphia. He’s played in the postseason for three different teams and just completed his first stint on Team USA in the WBC. That’s why he’s a top-100 player. But unless he reduces his strikeouts — he had exactly 200 last year — and raises his career .233 batting average, he’ll remain in the lower half of these rankings. He has vowed to address the former stat, and the elimination of the shift should address the latter one. As is, Schwarber is a valuable power hitter with playoff experience up-and-down his resume.

Season prediction: The elimination of the shift will indeed raise his batting average — one scout said as high as .270 — but the strikeouts and home run totals will remain the same. — Rogers

3B | Toronto Blue Jays

Chapman has not replicated his breakout 2018 season, but he maintained his status as one of the game’s best defensive third basemen in 2022 while providing power at the plate, hitting 27 homers and slashing .229/.324/.433. He is entering a contract year, and with the free-agent market hitting a new apex this past offseason, he could be poised to receive a major payday if he puts together a strong season — especially if he improves his batting average, which has not been above .232 since the 2019 season. Chapman will be the biggest name on the third base free-agent market with Machado having already signed an extension.

Season prediction: Chapman will continue his reign as one of the game’s premier defenders. Many around the Blue Jays believe that 2022 represented Chapman’s floor, and that with a major incentive to improve at the plate this season, the third baseman could put together his best year since 2018. — Lee

2B | Miami Marlins

Any Marlins fan in attendance at the WBC quarterfinal in Miami might have gotten the wrong idea when Arraez mashed a pair of homers for Venezuela against the U.S. That’s not the player they’ll see for the most part now that he’s joined the Fish. Instead they’ll see a hitter with such elite bat control and contact ability that in his Minnesota days, one could compare him to Rod Carew without being scoffed at. Arraez won his first batting title last season, hitting .316 for the Twins in the AL. Miami, in case you’re wondering, has had two batting champs: Hanley Ramirez and Dee Strange-Gordon. Arraez will be a strong candidate to join the list as long as he’s in Miami.

Season prediction: DJ LeMahieu is the only hitter to win a batting crown in both the AL and the NL. Arraez owns a career average of .314, a number good enough to win the crown in the senior circuit twice in the last five years. Now that he has switched leagues, LeMahieu may have company on this very short list a year from now. — Doolittle

LF | Tampa Bay Rays

First it was the 2020 MLB playoffs, then the 2023 World Baseball Classic. There is something about this guy in big moments. Arozarena will spend the rest of his career in the shadow of his postseason exploits of 2020 when he homered 10 times in 18 games, but he has settled into a solid all-around player who does a little bit of everything, posting seasons of 4.1 bWAR in 2021 and 2.9 in 2022. He had 41 doubles, 20 home runs and 32 steals last season. Yes, that’s a bit of statistical spaghetti, but that was just the 25th time that has been done, and the first since Mookie Betts did it in 2018. He cut his strikeout rate 4% last season, and if he can cut it another 4%, he can climb a little higher on this list.

Season prediction: Arozarena is already 28, so you wouldn’t really expect improvement at this point. His swing and launch angle are more conducive to doubles than home runs, so I’ll stick with 20 home runs. It will be interesting to see if the Rays let him run, as he loves to be aggressive on the bases (sometimes TOO aggressive). Don’t rule out 40 steals. — Schoenfield

SP | Toronto Blue Jays

Gausman was solid in his first season with the Blue Jays in 2022, but the numbers didn’t necessarily pop the way they did with the Giants in the prior season. Look closer, though. Gausman had a 3.35 ERA that ranked 25th in the majors, but a 2.38 FIP that ranked second. Opponents’ batting average on balls in play against Gausman was .364, by far the highest for any qualified pitcher (second, interestingly enough, was Gausman’s teammate, Jose Berrios). The Blue Jays essentially needed better defense. And they took major steps there by adding Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho to their outfield.

Season prediction: Backed by a better defense, Gausman will make one of the biggest leaps in the sport, ERA-wise, and re-establish himself as a top-flight pitcher for a team that will contend for a division title. — Gonzalez

RF | New York Mets

If Marte could put together an injury-free season, he might be higher on this list. Nagging injuries have kept him from his full potential the last couple of seasons, though he continues to produce .800-plus OPS seasons through them. After having offseason surgery on his groin, it remains to be seen if he’ll be fully healthy come Opening Day. Even this spring, he had a scare after getting hit in the helmet by a pitch. Marte still has three years remaining on his deal with the Mets, who could use a big season out of him considering injuries they’ve incurred elsewhere on the roster. Marte dropped from 47 stolen bases in 2021 to 18 last season. Will that number increase again if he’s healthy for a full season?

Season prediction: Marte will steal 30 bases again, providing at least a 20/20 season for the Mets — if he’s healthy. — Rogers

SP | Los Angeles Dodgers

The fastball velocity erodes, the back continues to be a problem, and yet Kershaw is still pitching at a Hall of Fame level. Take just these last two years, when the proverbial thought was that he had fallen off. There were 105 pitchers who made at least 40 starts from 2021 to 2022. Only 13 had a lower ERA, only three had a lower WHIP and only two had a higher strikeout-to-walk ratio. When he’s on the mound, few are better than Kershaw. He’s 35 now, and there’s no reason why that still wouldn’t be the case. The only question is how much longer he wants to do this.

Season prediction: Kershaw has basically settled into who he is at this point. He’ll be susceptible to home runs and perhaps spend a stint or two on the IL, but he’ll pound the strike zone, prevent runs and, when he’s out there, continue to perform at an elite level, even if the radar gun indicates that he shouldn’t. — Gonzalez

SP | Tampa Bay Rays

There’s an argument to be made that Glasnow’s torn UCL was the difference between the Rays making a run to the World Series in 2021 versus exiting in the first round after a 100-win season. A healthy Glasnow still holds that potential. The 29-year-old righty returned in 2022 after recovering from Tommy John surgery and started Game 2 of the wild-card series between the Rays and the Guardians, allowing two hits and no runs in five innings while striking out five. If Glasnow stays healthy, he’s a critical part of Tampa’s success, but he’s started more than 20 games just once in his career.

Season prediction: It’s undeniable that Glasnow is one of the best pitchers in the game when he’s on the mound, but how much he’s on the mound is the actual question. He’s already missing the start of the 2023 season with a strained oblique, and his career numbers suggest that making more than 20 starts is an anomaly rather than a trend. But if he stays healthy, watch out for the Rays. — Lee

1B | Houston Astros

If all you knew about Abreu was that he was two years removed from an MVP award and just signed a three-year free agent contract, you’d think the champion Astros just snagged themselves an in-his-prime superstar. That might not be precisely the case, but even at 36, Abreu remains a premier run producer who will likely slot right into the cleanup slot in Houston.

His RBI count dropped to 75 last season, and it wasn’t just a function of diminished opportunity, as his RBI percentage fell from 42% to 31%. His homers fell from 30 to 15 and isolated power fell from .219 to a career low .141. Still, Abreu hit .304, and his exit velocities and barrel rates remained largely unchanged. Clearly, the Astros noticed.

Season prediction: Abreu is a hard worker, remarkably consistent, a leading clubhouse voice and enters the coming season on a quest for his first World Series ring. You can pretty much count on another 100-RBI season even if his power doesn’t rebound all the way back to pre-2022 levels. — Doolittle

SS | Milwaukee Brewers

Adames continued his ascent as one of the game’s best shortstops in his first full season with the Brewers, hitting 31 homers with a .238/.298/.458 batting line in 139 games. Adames has been especially lethal in high-leverage situations, hitting .306/.333/.514 in 120 plate appearances in 2022. Additionally, the shortstop has been strong with runners in scoring position with two outs, hitting .302/.429/.603 in 77 plate appearances in 2022. And that’s before you factor in his glove. Adames has one of the best arms for a shortstop in baseball and ranks among the best NL shortstops in outs above average and runs prevented.

Season prediction: The biggest variable is the batting average. Expect Adames to hit for power, but if he’s also able to add hitting for a higher average to his repertoire, he will be flying up these charts, especially considering his defensive prowess. — Lee

SP | Seattle Mariners

After a strong rookie season in which he went 8-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 25 starts, Kirby is a popular breakout candidate for 2023 — especially after posting a 3.02 ERA in a second half in which he allowed just one home run. With excellent control (just 22 walks), a 95-mph fastball that he can dial up to the upper 90s and a six-pitch repertoire (he threw each at least 8% of the time), it’s easy to see why many expect a big season.

He needs to get better against right-handers after they hit .324 against him, and he’s working on a new splitter since six pitches apparently aren’t enough. Improving the slider to give him a better swing-and-miss pitch against right-handed batters will be vital in order for him to make a leap.

Season prediction: If the new splitter and the new slider that he started late last season prove effective, Kirby is a great sleeper Cy Young pick. I won’t go that far yet, but look for 15 wins and an ERA around 3.00. — Schoenfield

CF | Chicago White Sox

Perhaps the most talented player to be this low on the top 100, Robert simply has yet to put it all together in the big leagues. Injuries have stopped him in his tracks — he’s played the equivalent of one season over the last two. He just hasn’t been impactful in any meaningful way, but few can deny his talent. On paper, Robert is a five-tool player but nagging ailments have limited his ability to hit or run. For now, he’s a top-100 talent, but that may be all he’ll be unless he can stay healthy.

Season prediction: Robert made it through the WBC without injury, so that’s a good sign. A 30-30 season isn’t out of the question if he stays on the field. — Rogers

OF | Toronto Blue Jays

Varsho’s days behind the plate are probably over. He’s just too good of an outfielder. He contributed a major league-best 18 outs above average last year for the D-backs, who dealt him to the Blue Jays because they simply had too many young, promising, left-handed-hitting outfielders. The 26-year-old also contributed some with the bat, adding 27 home runs and 16 stolen bases to finish with a 4.6 fWAR. The Blue Jays, though, need him mostly to cover ground in their outfield. They’re hoping the steps they took on the run-prevention side — adding Varsho, Kevin Kiermaier, Chris Bassitt and Erik Swanson — will be enough to take the AL East.

Season prediction: Varsho will once again be basically a league-average hitter, but he’ll steal at least 20 bases, play Gold Glove-caliber defense and be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 5.0 WAR. The Blue Jays will gladly take it. — Gonzalez

C | St. Louis Cardinals

The project of Contreras stepping into the proverbial shoes of retired Redbirds legend Yadier Molina has many levels. He’s replacing the best catcher in franchise history. He’s replacing a nine-time Gold Glover. He’s replacing one of St. Louis’ most beloved athletes and the leader of the clubhouse. And, in Contreras’ new partnership with Adam Wainwright, he’s taking Molina’s place in baseball’s most prolific battery. On top of all that, Contreras has to live up to a five-year, $87.5 million contract in an intense baseball city. It’s a lot. But if any player has the make-up to fill all of those shoes, it’s the hyper-competitive Contreras. It won’t take long for Cardinals fans to realize they now have their best everyday offensive catcher since Ted Simmons.

Season prediction: From a numbers standpoint, it is all but certain that Contreras will be a sizable offensive upgrade from Molina because of his combination of power and patience. But initially, the focus will be on Contreras’ defense and ability to work with the St. Louis pitching staff. Don’t expect him to fail. — Doolittle

3B | Pittsburgh Pirates

Hayes represents the hope that Pirates fans have for the future of the ballclub. The 26-year-old third baseman put together a strong season in 2022, posting a 4.3 bWAR while hitting .244/.314/.345 with seven homers and 20 stolen bases in 136 games. He added muscle to his frame this offseason in hopes of improving his power numbers. While Hayes certainly has room for improvement offensively, he’s already among the league’s best defensively at the hot corner, routinely making highlight reel plays.

Season prediction: Hayes takes a big step forward, developing his power stroke while continuing to improve the strides he’s made as a base stealer in the major leagues. He represents a potential franchise cornerstone if he can keep improving in the manner he has over the last few seasons. This could be the year he goes from one of the game’s most overlooked players to a top-tier star. — Lee

2B | Arizona Diamondbacks

One more season like 2022 and Marte will find himself outside the top 100. His OBP dipped to .321 last year (his lowest since 2016), he struck out over 100 times for the first time in his career and his defense declined. A hamstring injury may have contributed to his struggles, but he was scuffling before he got hurt. The Diamondbacks are counting on Marte to lead their team to postseason contention, and while some of his underlying numbers are worrisome, he remains a candidate for a rebound season.

Season prediction: Marte improves on some of his offensive numbers but remains a high strikeout player. He’ll whiff over 100 times for the second consecutive season and second time in his career. — Rogers

After getting down-ballot Cy Young votes each season from 2019 to 2021, Giolito thought it was a good idea to add more mass. The 6-foot-6 right-hander weighed a hulking 280 pounds in 2022, but it didn’t lead to better results as he went 11-9 with a 4.90 ERA. He’s back to his old weight, dropping 35 pounds, but it was a decline in fastball velocity that was perhaps what hurt him most last year. His four-seamer averaged 94.2 mph in 2019, but it has steadily dropped since then and was down to 92.6 in 2022. In 2019, batters hit .203 and slugged .364 against it; in 2022, they hit .283 and slugged .449. He’s going to have to regain some fastball mojo to stay in the top 100.

Season prediction: That fastball velocity is trending in the wrong direction. He wasn’t as bad as that 4.90 ERA indicates, and he should be better in 2023, but I wouldn’t put him at the top of my Cy Young contenders. — Schoenfield

SP | Seattle Mariners

Gilbert made some encouraging strides in his second season as a major league starting pitcher, lowering his ERA from 4.68 to 3.20 and accumulating 185⅔ innings. But his exit data — 91 mph average exit velocity, 45.6% hard-hit rate — offered up some troubling signs. Gilbert rose through the ranks largely off his fastball command; however, it’s the development of his slider that is going to elevate him. A curveball with more depth has been incorporated to offer another variation from the two pitches.

Season prediction: Expect another step forward for Gilbert in his age-26 season, but also some ups and downs. His exit data has been consistently subpar the last two years, with hitters slugging both his fastball and his slider. Those offerings need to improve. — Gonzalez

RF | Seattle Mariners

Calling an established big league player “toolsy” can almost be looked at as a pejorative, but the label works for Hernandez because he’s paired his strengths in tools with enough skill to build up a solid track record of production. He ranks in the top five percentile in exit velocity and hard-hit percentage, per StatCast, and also ranks high in barrel rate, sprint speed and arm strength. There are holes in his game, to be sure. He chases too much and has a high swing-and-miss rate. His metrics as a defender lag behind his tools. But over the last five seasons, he’s averaged 34 homers, 97 RBIs and 89 runs per 162 games with a 121 OPS+. After moving from Toronto to Seattle via trade over the winter, he’ll now try to help the Mariners get over the hump in their pursuit of their first AL pennant.

Season prediction: There will be a lot on Hernandez’s shoulders in 2022. Not only will he be hitting cleanup for a new team, the coming season will be the platform campaign before his first foray into free agency. He’s already 30, which is not a great age for a first-time free agent, so he, and the Mariners, have a lot riding on a big season. A forecast: He’ll get it. — Doolittle

OF/DH | Chicago White Sox

The former top prospect came into spring training on a mission, after having lost 25 to 30 pounds this offseason. Jimenez changed his diet, giving up red meat while eating more chicken and salmon in an effort to replicate the body that helped him emerge as one of the game’s most promising young players in the minor leagues. The White Sox outfielder is still just 26 years old, although he has yet to show the superstar production many expected out of him as one of the game’s best young prospects, struggling with injuries in 2021 and 2022. When he was on the field in 2022, Jimenez looked solid, hitting .295/.358/.500 with 16 homers in 84 games.

Season prediction: Jimenez takes a step forward after an offseason of hard work. Health will be the biggest x-factor, but his success is one of the focal points of Chicago’s progress in 2023, with a clubhouse of young players struggling to fulfill their true potential. — Lee