Alex Gallardo/Associated Press
No. 20: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
FanGraphs WAR: 1.6
Only injuries place the best pitcher of his generation so low on the list.
Back and bicep issues have limited Clayton Kershaw to 75.2 innings. During that span, the Dodgers southpaw and three-time NL Cy Young Award winner has a 2.74 ERA with 9.3 strikeouts per nine.
Those are very Kershaw-esque numbers. Meaning, if he can avoid further ailments, he should shoot back up these rankings as L.A. concurrently maintains its position atop the NL West standings.
No. 19: Nelson Cruz, DH, Seattle Mariners
FanGraphs WAR: 1.8
With second baseman Robinson Cano in performance-enhancing drugs suspension purgatory, Nelson Cruz becomes the biggest star on the Seattle Mariners.
The six-time All-Star has clubbed 22 homers with a .902 OPS for the M’s. His value is dinged by his role as a DH, since he accumulates no defensive credit.
Nevertheless, he’ll be a key piece of Seattle’s effort to end 16 years of postseason futility.
No. 18: Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants
FanGraphs WAR: 2.0
The stats might suggest Buster Posey has ceded his title as the best catcher in baseball (more on that in a moment).
Let’s get real, though: With apologies to Madison Bumgarner, Posey is the face of the San Francisco Giants and remains an all-world catcher with three world championships, an NL MVP Award and a batting title in his back pocket.
This season, he’s slashing a steady .288/.366/.408, though a balky hip that caused him to miss the All-Star Game could slow him in the second half.
No. 17: Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
FanGraphs WAR: 2.2
If anything, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is a victim of his own success.
He won NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2015. He took home the NL MVP Award and helped break baseball’s longest, most infamous World Series drought. Last season, he finished seventh in NL MVP balloting.
In 2018, he’s hitting .280 with an .867 OPS and 10 home runs. For most guys, that would be a solid output.
Bryant isn’t most guys.
No. 16: Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
FanGraphs WAR: 2.6
Joey Votto leads the National League with a .422 on-base percentage. His OPS is down to .863 from 2017’s NL-leading 1.032.
Overall, however, the Cincinnati Reds first baseman is having a very Joey Votto season.
The 34-year-old plays for a last-place team that’s probably at least a year or two away from contention, meaning just as the Reds hit their stride, Votto could be on the downslope. Yet he’s signed at least through 2023, and in 2015 indicated he had no intention of waiving his no-trade clause.
A Red for life? Maybe.
No. 15: Starling Marte, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates
FanGraphs WAR: 2.9
After a PED suspension tarnished his reputation in 2017, two-time Gold Glove winner and 2016 All-Star Starling Marte has been on a forgiveness tour with his performance for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season.
Marte posted an .813 OPS prior to the break with 13 homers and an MLB-leading 25 stolen bases.
On a Bucs club that’s floating around .500 but unlikely to seriously enter the NL playoff picture, Marte has been a nice redemption story.
No. 14: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
FanGraphs WAR: 3.3
At his best, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt is not only one of the best first basemen on the planet, he is one of the best players on the planet. Period.
Goldy hasn’t quite lived up to his lofty reputation in 2018. There are warts, including his NL-leading 110 strikeouts.
Then again, he’s got 21 homers and a .921 OPS. He’s still Goldschmidt, and he’ll be the centerpiece of the Snakes chase for a second straight playoff berth.
No. 13: Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics
FanGraphs WAR: 3.5
The Oakland Athletics are among the coolest under-the-radar stories in baseball. At 55-42, they’re playoff contenders coming out of the break.
Who saw that coming?
Maybe third baseman Matt Chapman, who has 10 homers and a .342 OBP to pair with an eye-popping 22 defensive runs saved at third base.
The A’s face an uphill climb to make the dance, but Chapman’s presence at the hot corner is an unequivocal plus.
No. 12: Lorenzo Cain, CF, Milwaukee Brewers
FanGraphs WAR: 3.5
As the Milwaukee Brewers jostle for alpha dog status in the NL Central, they’ve gotten a big boost from Lorenzo Cain.
Signed over the winter for an in-hindsight bargain five-year, $80 million pact, Cain is hitting .293 with eight home runs, 18 stolen bases and an .820 OPS.
Yes, that contract might sting in 2022 when the Brew Crew will pay Cain $18 million in his age-36 season. For now, they’re reaping the rewards of a toolsy veteran with extensive playoff experience from his days with Kansas City.
No. 11: J.T. Realmuto, C, Miami Marlins
FanGraphs WAR: 3.5
So about that catcher who might have eclipsed Posey?
It’s Miami Marlins receiver J.T. Realmuto, who has a .310 average and .902 OPS for the Fish. Will he be the next star player to exit South Beach?
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported to the contrary.
“The Marlins want to keep Realmuto, who is under team control through 2020, and have internally discussed the possibility of making a long-term offer,” Jackson noted. “A team would need to make an astronomical offer for Miami to even consider a trade.”