Top 10 Right Now Series: Part 5

For the final installment of the Top 10 Right Now series, I will reveal my top 10 at two very loaded positions; relief pitcher and shortstop. With the shift by front offices recently to a more analytical way of breaking down numbers, relief pitching has come to the forefront of importance in the roster building process. Velocity is way up, the “bullpen game” has started to see more and more appearances, and the late inning chess match to figure out batter/pitcher matchups have, once again, made relief pitching an incredibly important and fascinating part of the game. Meanwhile, at the shortstop position, we are truly in the middle of a golden age. There are an incredible number of talented, multi-dimensional shortstops that are so exciting to watch day in and day out. The days of the weak hitting, strong defender model of shortstop are long gone, only to be replaced by a crop of fantastic all around players who are vital to their teams’ success.

Top 10 Relief Pitchers Right Now (according to Nathan White):

  1. Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox
  2. Josh Hader, Brewers
  3. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
  4. Aroldis Chapman, Yankees
  5. Blake Treinen, Athletics
  6. Corey Knebel, Brewers
  7. Adam Ottavino, Yankees
  8. Edwin Diaz, Mets
  9. Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks
  10. Andrew Miller, Cardinals

Just Missed: Brad Hand, Indians; Chad Green, Yankees; Sean Doolittle, Nationals; Felipe Vazquez, Pirates

Craig Kimbrel needs no introduction. The intimidation factor alone puts him at the top of this list. Oh, and let’s not forget his stuff or K/9. Josh Hader broke onto the scene in 2017 and followed that up with quite possibly the most dominant season out of a reliever for a very long time. He can work multiple innings, he gets both lefties and righties out, and he strikes A LOT of hitters out. Kenley Jansen struggled coming out of the gate in 2018, then looked like his normal self, then towards the latter part of the year he had an abnormal heart condition that sidelined him for much of the stretch run. Regardless, this guy is absolutely dominant, and incredibly consistent at the back end of the Dodger bullpen. Aroldis Chapman struggled (by his standards) at times in 2018, but at the end of the day, he throws 100+ with improving command over a slider that he hardly even needs. Plain filthy. Blake Treinen, when he was with the Nats, still had the upper 90’s heat with filthy movement on his pitches, but since he’s been with Oakland, he has become “the guy” in that bullpen, and is in contention for filthiest pure stuff in the game. Corey Knebel, much like his teammate Josh Hader, had a breakout year in 2018, and although he was injured for a bit in 2018, as well as going through some command issues, he is still one of the best backend relievers in the game. Adam Ottavino enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2018, even though hitters still knew about his wipeout slider and hard fastball well before last year. Edwin Diaz, since coming onto the scene a few years back, has been held back by one thing; command. In 2018 he found it, and turned in an exceptional year. Archie Bradley had his ups and downs in 2018, as does every player, but he can go multiple innings as a ‘fireman’, and features an upper 90’s fastball with a wipeout slider. Andrew Miller just a few years ago was at the top of this list, but injuries and spurts of command loss somewhat derailed him last season. However, I believe Miller Time will flourish as a fireman in St. Louis.

Top 10 SS Right Now (according to Nathan White):

  1. Francisco Lindor, Indians
  2. Manny Machado, FA
  3. Corey Seager, Dodgers
  4. Carlos Correa, Astros
  5. Andrelton Simmons, Angels
  6. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
  7. Javier Baez, Cubs
  8. Trevor Story, Rockies
  9. Elvis Andrus, Rangers
  10. Trea Turner, Nationals

Just Missed: Jean Segura, Phillies; Didi Gregorious, Yankees; Paul DeJong, Cardinals; Marcus Semien, Athletics

Francisco Lindor is truly a treat to watch play. He is the definition of a 5 tool player, brings it everyday, and quite possibly is the 2nd best player in all of baseball, behind some guy named Trout. Manny Machado shifted from 3rd to short before his contract year and even though he passed the eye test at short, the defensive metrics like him better at 3rd. Nevertheless, he is one of the premiere bats in our game, can pick it at short, and has an absolute cannon. Corey Seager was injured for the 2018 season, but that does not change the fact that he hit for average & power, plays good defense at an incredibly hard defensive position, and has great intangibles for such a young player. Carlos Correa surely took his lumps (injuries and struggled at the plate by his standards) in 2018, but like Seager, it does not change the fact that he is incredibly talented and will only get better as he enters his prime. Andrelton Simmons has always been an absolute wizard (giving Ozzie a little competition) defensively, but his bat has come alive the past 2 years and change, making him an absolute game changer. Xander Bogaerts struggled a bit in 2018, but he is solid in all phases of the game, and plays everyday for a loaded Red Sox team. Javier Baez did not start playing short everyday until Addison Russell got injured (and the domestic dispute problem reared its ugly, ugly head). Had he been at short the whole year, he might be higher on this list because he is an incredibly dynamic talent. Pre-2018, he was inconsistent at best at the plate, but he cleaned that up in a major way, and is now a true 5 tool talent in the middle of the Cubs lineup. Trevor Story has been very streaky since his breakout in 2016, but this past season he was a legit MVP candidate until he faded a bit in September. He has massive power, plays good defense, and can run. Elvis Andrus is as consistent as they come for a Texas team that looks like they will be in the cellar again in 2019. He plays very good defense and can get it done very well at the plate. Trea Turner struggled in 2018 at times. But much like some others on this list, he is a very young player, who has a tremendous amount of talent. Turner possesses sneaky pop, incredible speed, and plays very good defense.

This concludes the “Top 10 Right Now” Series, as we look ahead to Spring Training games, and eventually at long last, the start of the regular season. Making these lists was a very enlightening exercise for me, as digging into and comparing players who might have similar numbers is a very interesting task. Thank you for reading, comparing my lists with yours, and probably laughing at a few of my selections. Opening Day, please hurry.

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