Right before the season started, MLB Network was airing their Top 100 Right Now, using last year's and the last 3 years' stats, plus intangibles and accolades. The list can be found here. As you can see, there are some players in some befuddling positions, such as Evan Longoria at #21 and Michael Young at #29. Alex and I were watching this and decided to pursue the arduous task of compiling our Top 100, using sabermetric principles as our basis.
We each made our own list, and then combined them on a 100-1 point scale to make our final list. We used expected 2012 WAR as our main guide, but also used past years, position versatility, injuries, early 2012 performance, and per PA/IP WAR rate to fine-tune the rankings. In the player's synopsis, each of us will provide a brief summary, along with our individual ranking plus MLB Network's ranking. Since we are going in reverse order, honorable mention will be done right away.
Ricky Romero - SP - TOR - Lee (100), Alex (NR), MLB (65)
Elvis Andrus - SS - TEX - Lee (NR), Alex (99), MLB (NR)
Yu Darvish - SP - TEX - Lee (98), Alex (NR), MLB (NR)
Derek Holland - SP - TEX - Lee (NR), Alex (97), MLB (NR)
Jaime Garcia - SP - STL - Lee (97), Alex (NR), MLB (NR)
Yoenis Cespedes - CF - OAK - Lee (NR), Alex (96), MLB (NR)
Alex Avila - C - DET - Lee (99), Alex (98), MLB (39)
T100 - Jordan Zimmermann - SP - WAS - MLB (NR)
Lee (NR) - Very close to making my list, Zimmermann had a very good 2011, not walking many and keeping the ball in the park. I kept him off due to his decreasing K's, which are further decreasing this year, and low GB%, which has turned around so far this year.
Alex (95) - While Zimmermann might not be as good as teammate Stephen Strasburg, he's showing that he can be a really good pitcher for the Nationals. He doesn't have the stuff Strasburg has, but so far he has a 3.51 career FIP.
T100 - Michael Bourn - CF - ATL - MLB (94)
Lee (95) - Bourn is able to use his speed well not only on the bases, but also in the outfield, making him a reliable player. His lack of power and, at best, average plate discipline limit his potential.
Alex (NR) - Bourn is one of the better defensive outfielders in baseball, and his speed is a large contributor to that. Since 2008 he's been one of the league leaders in stolen bases, and that trend should continue this season.
T98 - Gio Gonzalez - SP - WAS - MLB (88)
Lee (NR) - Owner of one of the most devastating curveballs in the league, Gonzalez's walks kept him off my list. If he can keep his GB% around 50% and BB% below 10%, he would very likely find his way on my list next year.
Alex (92) - If Gonzalez can get his walks under control, he has the making of a really good pitcher. In the three starts this year, he looks as if he might have found a way to control that problem. It's still early, but if he continues this trend he could have a career year.
T98 - Nick Swisher - RF - NYY - MLB (NR)
Lee (92) - Perhaps more known for his high-energy style, Swisher is a 125 wRC+ switch-hitter and plays the corner outfield at an average level, making him an undervalued 3-4 WAR player.
Alex (NR) - Being surrounded by guys like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mariano Rivera, Swisher tends to be forgotten when talking about the New York Yankees. He's always displayed good power, and this season that trend looks to continue.
97 - Nelson Cruz - RF - TEX - MLB (35)
Lee (93) - In terms of pure talent, Cruz would fall much higher on this list, but injuries and poor plate discipline have disrupted his path to stardom.
Alex (100) - Cruz could be one of the better outfielders in the league, but he has one problem: he can never stay healthy. If he could somehow get over that, he could hit 35+ home runs.
96 - B.J. Upton - CF - TBR - MLB (NR)
Lee (NR) - Upton is so close to being a great player, but he's just a notch below good in all offensive skills. If he could cut his K's, hit the ball out of the park more, or square up the ball more, he would jump up the list fast.
Alex (90) - Like Bourn, Upton is also one of the faster players in baseball, stealing over 35 bases every year since 2008. He has also displayed above-average power the past couple seasons.
95 - Jayson Werth - OF - WAS- MLB (NR)
Lee (89) - Coming off a disappointed, but still average, 2011, Werth hopes to regain some of the homerun and gap power that disappeared. Moving out of Citizens Bank Park may have a bigger effect on him than the average hitter, however.
Alex (NR) - During Werth's tenure with the Phillies, he was one of the bigger power threats in baseball. Last season he saw a small spike in the amount of groundballs that he hit, and his power suffered as a result.
94 - Miguel Montero - C - ARI - MLB (48)
Lee (88) - Despite forgetting how to hit against lefties, Montero is an above-average hitter at a premium position, making him a very good player. As Justin Upton's protection, Arizona's success will greatly depend on him.
Alex (NR) - When healthy, Montero is one of the better offensive catchers in the game. His power rates as above average, and if he has another strong season, he could get a nice new contract.
93 - Lance Berkman - 1B/RF - STL - MLB (51)
Lee (96) - With his constant great plate discipline, Berkman recaptured his power last year and started hitting line drives more consistently, helping his BABIP. The move to first base this year will also help his defensive value.
Alex (93) - At the end of the 2010 it seemed like Berkman's career may be coming to a close, but his power returned last season and he had another all-star year.
92 - Ubaldo Jimenez - SP - CLE - MLB (NR)
Lee (80) - Posting an ERA a full run higher than his FIP, a lot of people are dismissing Jimenez as a great pitcher. His SIERA has remained unchanged the past three years, right around 3.75, which is good for a guy pitching in Coors and the AL.
Alex (NR) - From 2008-2010, Jimenez was one of the best pitchers in baseball, but last year he had his struggles. He saw a dip in velocity, but was still able to have a 3.5 WAR season. He's only 28 years old, so he has a lot of time to get back to his pre-2011 days.
91 - Yunel Escobar - SS - TOR - MLB (NR)
Lee (87) - Consistent defense and plate discipline get Escobar on the list, though his lack of gap power and the injury bug keep him from being elite.
Alex (94) - Escobar is known much more for his defense then his offense. He still has average power, and last year was a pretty typical year for him.
Already, you can see the great differences between our list and the MLB list, with us rating Avila, Romero, Berkman, Cruz, and Montero much lower. In the bottom 50, the players are so close in value that I don't consider players ten spots apart to be significantly different. #90-81 should be coming up in the next few days.