At the end of each MLB season, baseball writers cast their votes for MVP, Cy Young, Rookie and other award winners. But have you ever wondered who the players think is the best in the game?
We did and that's why Athlon Sports polled today's players on who they think is the best when it comes to certain categories, such as best pure hitter, best defender and best baserunner. These questions were part of a larger survey through which we gauged the opinions, tastes and preferences of today's players on a variety of topics related to both on and off-field issues. More than a fifth of all MLB players responded for this survey, which appears in full in the upcoming June issue of Athlon Sports Magazine, so we feel this is a fair representation of the mindset of today’s major-leaguers.
Best Pure Hitter?
(Numbers following name represent the percentage of the vote player received)
1. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit (61.0%)
2. Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees (6.2%)
3. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati (5.5%)
4. Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota (4.8%)
T-5. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee (4.1%)
T-5. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (4.1%)
7. Albert Pujols, 1B/DH, Los Angeles Angels (3.4%)
No one should be surprised that Cabrera, the reigning AL Triple Crown winner and MVP, was the runaway winner here. The Tigers' slugger is leading the majors in both batting average and RBIs once again and at his current pace, he would top his Triple Crown-winning numbers from last season. In 2012, Cabrera posted the following line: .330-44-139. Through 64 games this season, he's batting .358 and is on pace to finish with 45 home runs and 174 RBIs, along with 129 runs scored (109 last year) and 101 walks (just 66 in 2012).
If there were any surprises in this vote, it's probably that Mauer, a catcher by trade, finished fourth and Mike Trout, who is in his first full season in the majors, came in tied for fifth with 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun. Mauer, now in his 10th season, is a career .323 hitter who currently is third in the AL with a .332 average. On the other hand, Trout has played in less than 250 career games and is eight years younger than anyone else on this list. Trout is 21 years old, Braun and Joey Votto are the next youngest at 29. Trout's career batting average currently stands at .304, but it's obvious his peers like what they see from the young superstar at the plate.
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (19.3%)
2. Michael Bourn, OF, Cleveland (13.1%)
3. Dee Gordon, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (9.7%)
4. Peter Bourjos, OF, Los Angeles Angels (8.3%)
T-5. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (4.8%)
T-5. Ben Revere, OF, Philadelphia (4.8%)
7. Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/OF, Toronto (4.1%)
T-8. Jarrod Dyson, OF, Kansas City (3.4%)
T-8. Tony Campana, OF, Arizona (3.4%)
There's that Trout kid again. The AL Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up to Miguel Cabrera last season, Trout led the league in stolen bases in 2012 with 49 in just 139 games. He's added 14 more this season and has been caught just eight times in 75 career attempts (89 percent success rate).
Bourn averaged 53 steals a season from 2008-12 and McCutchen has swiped at least 20 in each of his first four full seasons. Outside of these three, however, there are no other All-Stars among the top vote getters. Bourjos and Revere see plenty of playing time for their respective teams, but Bonifacio and Dyson (who is currently on the DL) are part-time players, while Campana and Gordon are currently in the minor leagues.
1. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis (13.5%)
2. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (10.6%)
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Cleveland (9.2%)
4. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado (5.7%)
5. Brendan Ryan, SS/2B, Seattle (5.0%)
T-6. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas (4.3%)
T-6. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati (4.3%)
8. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh (3.6%)
A five-time Gold Glove recipient, Molina's reputation as the best defensive catcher in baseball is well established and it's clear his work doesn't go unnoticed by his peers. His defense and ability to shut down a team's running game have been critical to the Cardinals' pitching success during his tenure in St. Louis. His defensive contributions go beyond his glove, as he often will direct the positioning of the other fielders from behind the plate.
Trout's range and athleticism have already produced a number of highlight-reel catches and more than likely will net the young outfielder a Gold Glove in the near future, perhaps as early as this season. Cabrera has yet to take home any hardware for his defense, but he's put together a nice collection of "Web Gems" for his wizardry at shortstop. Beltre has won four Gold Gloves at third while Phillips has three at second and has turned the over-the-shoulder catch into an art form. It's also nice to see that players respect defense on its own, as evidenced by Ryan's inclusion in this list. The Mariners' versatile middle infielder is as slick and smooth as they come with the glove, which is a good thing considering Ryan is hitting just .210 this season.
Best Throwing Catcher
1. Yadier Molina, St. Louis (65.5%)
2. Matt Wieters, Baltimore (7.6%)
3. Joe Mauer, Minnesota (5.5%)
4. Sal Perez, Kansas City (3.5%)
5. Miguel Olivo, Miami (2.8%)
No real surprise here. For his career, Molina has cut down nearly half (45 percent) of the baserunners who have tried to steal on him. His reputation alone is enough to cause would-be base stealers to shorten their lead from first, making the pitcher's job of holding them close that much easier.
While he has not developed into the offensive player many expected, Wieters has been every bit as good as advertised behind the plate. The winner of the last two Gold Gloves in the AL, the Orioles' backstop has nailed more than half (52 percent) of those attempting to steal thus far. Mauer's defense can get lost because of his ability as a hitter, but he's won three Gold Gloves (2008-10) and has shown he's more than capable at first base too. Perez is only 23 years old, while Olivo is a 12-year veteran who has played for six different teams and has thrown out 34 percent of those attempting to steal in his career (1,041 GP at C).
Best Outfield Arm
1. Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City (16.6%)
2. Rick Ankiel, Free Agent (15.4%)
3. Gerrardo Parra, Diamondbacks (6.3%)
T-4. Jose Bautista, Toronto (5.6%)
T-4. Carlos Gonzalez (right), Colorado (5.6%)
6. Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati (4.9%)
T-7. Nelson Cruz, Texas (2.8%)
T-7. Bryce Harper, Washington (2.8%)
Francoeur has a cannon for an arm, which he has used to rack up 119 outfield assists in his nine-year career. Unfortunately, it appears that his days as a full-time player are over. Unable to successfully hit the catcher's mitt from 60 feet, six inches, Ankiel found more use for his howitzer of a left arm when he moved from the pitcher's mound to the outfield. He's currently looking for a job following his release by the Mets, the second team (Astros) he's played for this season.
Parra has finally gotten a chance to showcase his all-around game this season with the Diamondbacks, while Bautista and Gonzalez have big arms to go with their big bats. Even though he's currently on the DL with a knee issue, Harper will more than likely continue to rise on this list in the years to come.
Best Pickoff Move
1. Andy Pettitte, SP, New York Yankees (40.6%)
2. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (12.6%)
3. Mark Buehrle, SP, Toronto (10.5%)
4. Clayton Richard, SP, San Digeo (7.7%)
5. Travis Blackley, RP, Houston (5.6%)
6. James Shields, SP, Kansas City (4.9%)
7. Chris Capuano, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (3.5%)
Pettitte, who will turn 41 on Saturday, may be one of the oldest players in the majors, but that doesn't mean he still can't teach the young guys a thing or two. The active pitcher with the most wins (250), Pettitte has 97 career pickoffs in his 18 seasons. Kershaw is 16 years younger than Pettitte, but he already has one Cy Young award to his credit and he has 40 career pickoffs so far.
One thing all these pitchers have in common, with the exception of Shields, is they are left-handed, giving them a natural sight line of the man on first as they get ready to deliver the pitch. Even though Blackley is a southpaw, his inclusion is interesting as he is by far the least accomplished pitcher on this list. Currently a reliever for Houston, Blackley has started games for Seattle, Oakland and San Francisco, and his career record stands at 7-7 with a 5.25 ERA. So why did he get the fifth-most votes you ask? How about seven pickoffs last season in less than 108 innings pitched. Obviously that got the attention of his peers, not to mention a few votes.
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