Major League Baseball Spring Training is well underway, so the regular season is just around the corner. We have the World Baseball Classic during this time which should be a lot of fun. There is so much baseball talent in the world that these games will be very competitive. These games will give additional insight into how well players are performing before the season begins. Everyone is going to be rusty, but some players are showing that they are still the best of the best. With all of this in mind, I am going to make predictions for who I think is going to be the best player at each position in the American League (AL) and the National League (NL) at the end of this upcoming season. I am going to compare my prediction with Fangraphs Steamer 2023 projections.
The catcher position is not the deepest position in baseball. There are a few good talents, but it is probably the sport’s weakest position. Anyways, I am going to say that Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman is going to be not just the best AL catcher but the best catcher in baseball by the end of the season. Rutschman came in second place in the AL Rookie of the Year race after making the Major Leagues in the middle of the season. At first, he was not great. But he quickly showed the world why he was the best prospect in all of baseball. He’s a switch-hitting catcher that plays excellent defense. I would argue that Toronto Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk has a better season offensively, however Rutschman’s defense will definitely make up for it. Fangraphs agrees with me. Kirk is projected to have the better season offensively, however overall, Rutschamn’s projected 5.2 wins above replacement (WAR) is higher than Kirk’s 4.4.
This is 100% biased but I am going to say that Washington Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz is going to be the best catcher in the NL. I have watched Ruiz play plenty of games since he was traded to the Nationals and I have to say he does not strike out. He strikes out well below average. I think this is going to benefit him for this season. If he just has better pitch selection, then next season is going to be a great one for him. Last year he was great defensively, so any improvement is only going to make him more elite. Fangraphs definitely disagrees with me here and that is totally understandable. Here Philadelphia Phillies catcher J. T. Realmuto is ranked number one, while Ruiz ranks fifth. This definitely makes sense considering Realmuto has been the best catcher in baseball for a few years, while Ruiz still has a lot to prove.
AL first baseman
I don’t really need to say a lot about this one. Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is going to be the best AL first baseman. I think he is going to be very good next season. In Spring Training, he is already hitting plenty of home runs. Seattle Mariners first baseman Ty France is going to have a great year, just not as great as Guerrero. Fangraphs agrees with me and also agrees that this is not going to be a close battle. Guerrero is projected to have 2.3 more WAR than France in second place. I think Guerrero is going to finish second in the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award voting.
NL first baseman
This one’s a bit tougher. I have been a Freddie Freeman fan for a long time. I think he plays the game the right way. He hits line drives all over the field and plays solid defense. The only reason why this is a difficult decision is because St. Louis. Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt just won the MVP award last season after an absurd offensive season. Fangraphs currently predicts Freeman to be the better player next season. I am inclined to agree. Although Goldschmidt has been great his entire career, he hasn’t been consistently that good. Freeman has consistently been one of the best players in all of baseball.
AL second baseman
Cleveland Guardians second baseman Andrés Giménez was surprisingly good last year. I think he will continue to get better and become the best second baseman in all of baseball. Fangraphs disagrees and projects Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve to be better. Gut feeling is telling me that this is the year where Altuve takes a big step back.
NL second baseman
There is strangely not a lot of talent here. I am just going to agree with what Fangraphs says. Fangraphs says that Tommy Edman from the Cardinals is going to be the best and I don’t have any complaints.
Shortstop is a loaded position. In the AL there are a lot of options, but I am going to go with Carlos Correa from the Minnesota Twins. He had all that drama in the offseason and now I think he goes nuts with a ridiculous offensive and defensive season. Fangraphs disagrees and thinks Wander Franco from the Tampa Bay Rays is going to be slightly better.
I can’t believe I am saying this, but I think New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor is going to be the best NL shortstop next season. Fernando Tatis Jr. is currently projected by Fangraphs to be the best, but I think he is going to play outfield this season. Lindor is projected to be fourth, but I think he edges out Xander Bogaerts and Trea Turner, who are ahead of him, because he is definitely better on defense than them.
AL third baseman
This one does not have a discussion. It is going to be Jose Ramirez from the Guardians. He is always underrated, but he has consistently been a top three third baseman in all of baseball. Fangraphs agrees with me.
NL third baseman
There are two options here. The battle is between Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado. Fangraphs thinks Arenado is going to have a better season. I am inclined to agree because I think they are going to put up similar offensive numbers. However, Arenado is just so good at defense. Machado is good, just not nearly as good as Arenado.
AL left field
Apparently Yordan Alvarez is playing left field this year. He is not going to be good at defense, but he is one of the best hitters if not the best hitter in all of baseball. So, I don’t really care about his defense. Fangraphs is on my side here. His offensive production is just too high for his defense to matter.
NL left field
Fangraphs thinks Christian Yelich from the Milwaukee Brewers will finally come back and take his throne as the best left fielder. I am instead going out on a limb and say that the rookie Corbin Carroll is going to be the best. He may be young, but he can hit and fly. The Arizona Diamondbacks are probably not going to be good next season, so he doesn’t have that much pressure. Let’s see what he can do.
AL center field
Now this is a tough one. There are a lot of good players here. Obviously, there is Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Julio Rodriguez and George Springer. However, there are some other guys that could have very good seasons and be up there with these top guys. This includes players like Luis Robert Jr., Byron Buxton and Cedric Mullins. Health definitely should play a role here because all these players are very talented. However, you can’t be the best if you don’t play. Fangraphs thinks that Trout is going to regress a little bit with Judge taking the number one spot, but I disagree. I think Trout stays fully healthy this season and shows the world why he has been the best player in the world for the past decade.
NL center field
Interestingly enough, this position is a lot less deep in the NL. Fangraphs has Brandon Nimmo, Michael Harris II and Bryan Reynolds as the top three in the position. I think it could really be anyone though. Harris II had a great rookie year, but his minor league numbers suggest that he is not that great of a hitter. I am just going to say Trent Grisham from the San Diego Padres because I think last year he was really bad.
AL right field
Judge is also listed here, but I am just going to say he is playing center field. This one also feels very easy. It has to be Kyle Tucker from the Astros. Tucker has quickly become one of the best outfielders in baseball. He gets a lot of extra base hits and plays a solid outfield. If you don’t include Judge, Fangraphs agrees with me and it is not particularly close.
NL right field
Now that Tatis is playing right field, this has become a very strong position. There’s Juan Soto, Mookie Betts, Ronald Acuna Jr. and even Seiya Suzuki after a strong second half of last season. Fangraphs currently projects Soto to be the best player in all of baseball with 7.1 WAR. I am a big fan of Soto. He hits for power and gets on base. Fangraphs projects him to have the highest on base percentage (OBP) by .042 points. He had a relatively disappointing year last year for his standards, but he still first in all of baseball in walks and got on base over 40% of the time. I think you can see where I am going with this. Tatis and Betts are really good, but I think Soto has a “bounceback year” and hits over 40 home runs and gets on base over 45% of the time.
AL designated hitter
Shohei Ohtani is the best player in baseball. He is going to be a top five pitcher in all of baseball next year and the best designated hitter in the AL. What he is doing on a daily basis is ridiculous. In his MVP season, he hit 46 home runs and was a solid pitcher. Last year, he was an elite pitcher and still hit 34 home runs. He’s going to top that this year by being a top five hitter and pitcher in baseball. Fangraphs is a bit mixed up considering Alvarez is here, but Ohtani is listed fifth.
NL designated hitter
I don’t really know what position some of these players are going to play so I am just going to say Bryce Harper from the Phillies. He is probably still going to be recovering from injury, so he is going to be a designated hitter a lot. Harper was ridiculous last year in the postseason. It makes sense to believe that that is not going to change. Fangraphs is being confusing and has Luis Arraez at one, but I think he’s playing second base.
AL starting pitcher
I am banking on a healthy season from Jacob deGrom. He is one of the most dominant pitchers I have seen with my own two eyes. If he just stays healthy, then he is going to have one of the best pitching seasons ever. Fangraphs agrees with me. He might pitch less innings than the guys behind him, but he is just going to be so much better when he does pitch.
NL starting pitcher
For this one I am going to throw a bit of a curveball in there. I am going to say that Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias is going to be the best NL starting pitcher. There are a lot of guys ahead of him in the Fangraphs projections. Guys like Corbin Burnes, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are a lot safer options, but Urias is in a contract year. I think he shows why teams should break the bank for him and pitch his best season yet.
I could have separated this into multiple positions, but Fangraphs does not do that. Relievers have a bit more variance because it is harder to calculate their value. I am just going to say an ambitious one and go with Matt Brash from the Mariners. Brash has a ridiculous pitch arsenal. He straight up makes hitters look like they have never swung the bat before. His issue has always been with walks. Last season as a rookie, he walked 33 batters in just 50.2 innings. If he can just limit those walks, I think he is going to be extremely effective. Fangraphs projects his teammate Andrés Munõz to be the most valuable reliever. I can definitely see that but it’s relievers. There is a ton of variance.
Devin Williams from the Brewers has the best change up I have ever seen. The “airbender” is so nasty that I often gasp when I see him pitch. I am going to say that he is the best reliever in the NL just because of that pitch. He also has been one of the best relievers in the league since he was a rookie. Fangraphs disagrees and projects Edwin Diaz of the Mets to be the best. Williams actually ranks eighth.