North America is dominated by four main sports: football, hockey, basketball, and baseball, each of which requires an individual to learn a certain set of skills and gameplay mechanics that could lead them into becoming a professional athlete within either the NFL, NHL, NBA, or MLB. The game of baseball has been around since the 18th century, and it has been played professionally in North America for over 100 years; but despite being around for so long, the game itself has barely changed, The game itself is played between two teams made up of nine players who alternate between hitting and fielding a ball for at least nine innings, and these games can usually take over two hours to complete, which is why the game can be a relaxing and fun outing for friends and families.
Baseball is considered to be America’s national pastime, and even though it may appear boring and slow to some people, it is actually one of the hardest games to play at a professional level. It also happens to be a game that is steeped in tradition and filled with an almost unlimited amount of statistics that many people follow, sometimes on a game-to-game basis; making baseball fans some of the most devoted in all of sports. Like every sport, baseball has had great players in every decade, and this decade is no different even though we are only six years into it; but just because the 2010s are not over yet, does not mean we cannot acknowledge some of the decade’s best players. Here is a list of the top 15 baseball players of the 2010s.
15 Craig Kimbrel
Nowadays, most major league starting pitchers stay in a game for up to 6 or 7 innings, and if by chance they are having a very poor outing, they may sometimes not even make it through the second inning. In either case, when the starter is taken out of the game, it is up to the team’s bullpen to simply keep the opposition from scoring more runs, and at the head of every team’s bullpen, is a closer, whose job is to mainly finish off the opposing team in the 9th inning, and successfully save his team’s lead. Craig Kimbrel was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2008, and after two years in the minors, he was called up and proceeded to pitch very well, especially in the postseason. 2011 was his first official MLB season, and it is also when his career truly took off, as he was named Atlanta’s closer, and went on to win the National League MVP, as well as the Rookie of the Year award. Since then, Kimbrel has continued to be one of the most effective closers in the game, and his now 7-year career with Atlanta, San Diego, and Boston, has seen him become a five-time All-Star, with multiple 40-or-more save seasons, and a career ERA of only 1.79.
14 Edwin Encarnacion
Edwin Encarnacion has been in Major League Baseball since 2005, when he made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds, a team that he ultimately spent five years with while putting up some decent numbers despite not playing that much. In 2009, the Reds traded Encarnacion to the Toronto Blue Jays, the team that he continues to play for today, and the team with which he was able to become one of the league’s best power hitters. Edwin has hit over 30 home runs for the Blue Jays for five consecutive seasons, including this year where just a short while ago he hit his 300th career dinger. In his time with Toronto, Edwin has been a three-time All-Star, while alternating between being the team’s first baseman and designated hitter; and he has also managed to raise his batting average to .267, while also batting-in over 650 runs. This is a contract year for Edwin, and whether he stays in Toronto or goes elsewhere, one thing is for sure, he will definitely be getting paid this offseason.
13 Joe Mauer
Being a baseball catcher may not sound all that hard, but it is actually the position that likely requires the most stamina, as a catcher is almost always in a crouched position while having to track and receive a baseball that can travel at over 100 miles per hour; and then they have to go out and try to hit the ball and run the bases. It is partly due to the physical strain of being a catcher, that the Minnesota Twins converted their star catcher into a first baseman/designated hitter. Joe Mauer has been a part of the Twins s roster since 2004, and in his 13 year career, he became the first catcher to ever win the American League MVP award in 2009, and the first catcher to ever win three American League batting titles (the league’s highest batting average). Ever since being moved into the role of first baseman/designated hitter back in 2013, his offensive numbers have not suffered that significantly, and as of now he has a career .310 batting average to go along with his over 1,800 hits.
12 Eric Hosmer
Since 2014, the Kansas City Royals have been considered one of the best teams in all of baseball, a statement that no one can really argue with considering the fact that they have been to the World Series two straight years, and are currently still the defending world champions. One of the biggest reasons for the Royals’ recent success, has been their first baseman Eric Hosmer, who has been with the team since they drafted him in 2008. Hosmer was not called up to the main roster until 2011 when a spot became available due to another player getting injured, and since then Kansas City has not regretted that decision. In his now 6-year Major League career, Hosmer has a .279 batting average, which goes well with his World Series ring, and the three consecutive Gold Glove Awards which are given to the best player of each position. In 2018, he will become a free agent, and based on his skill level, he is going to get an obscenely appealing contract.
11 Giancarlo Stanton
In their 23 year history, the Florida/Miami Marlins have won 2 World Series Championships, but ever since their second title in 2003, the franchise has not enjoyed that much success; but this year, the team hopes to make it into the postseason to try and contend for a third title. They may actually have a shot of getting into the playoffs this year, thanks to the players that they have added to the lineup to help out their superstar second baseman, Giancarlo Stanton, who they originally drafted in 2007. Stanton was not called up until 2010, and since then he has become a three-time All-Star, and a winner of the 2014 Silver Slugger Award, which is given to the best offensive player at each position. In November of 2014, the Marlin’s awarded Stanton with a 13-year 325 million dollar contract, and even though last season he suffered a season-ending injury during what appeared to be a career year, he has so far lived up to his contract.
10 Jose Bautista
In every sport there are late bloomers, athletes who did not become good players until they got higher up in age, and Jose Bautista can be considered as one such example. Bautista was initially drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000, but he debuted in 2004 with Baltimore, and went on to play for three other teams that season, including Pittsburgh. He stayed with the Pirates organization until 2008 when he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, which is the team he has spent the last 9 years with, and the team with which he flourished as an offensive player. Since 2010, the right fielder has gone on to become a six-time All-Star, a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and a two-time MLB home run leader. This season may not be a good one for Bautista production wise thanks to injuries, but it does not tarnish the fact that he has been one of the best and most feared power hitters in baseball since 2010.
9 Michael Brantley
The Cleveland Indians are currently having a very good season, which is a welcomed site considering the fact that for many years they found themselves near the bottom of their division, thanks to good teams like Detroit, Kansas City, and Chicago being better. It may have taken some time, but Cleveland has put together an impressive team which has continued to play well even though one of their best players has been out nearly the entire season with a shoulder injury. Michael Brantley may not get a lot of attention because of the team he plays for, but statistically speaking, he has been one of baseball’s best hitters the past four years. Brantly has spent the entirety of his 9-year Major League career with Cleveland, but it was not until 2011, that he started to become a proficient hitter. The last two seasons especially, saw the leftfielder finish his season with a batting average over .300, which led him to become an All-Star and Silver Slugger winner; and had his season not been cut short early, he would have definitely improved upon both his career .292 average, and his team’s record.
8 Yadier Molina
The catcher is without a doubt one of the most important positions in baseball, as it is up to the catcher to actually call the game for his team’s pitchers, while also having to both make sure no balls get past him, and no opposing players steal a base. For the past decade, the St. Louis Cardinals have had one of the best catchers in all of baseball in Yadier Molina, and he certainly has the stats and hardware to prove it. Molina made his debut with the team in 2004, but it was not until 2006 that his prowess as a catcher became evident when he helped the team to win the World Series. Since 2010, his career batting average has now reached .282, and he has added a second championship to his resume, as well as 6 Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger Award, and 6 All-Star appearances. Not many catchers have accomplished as much as Molina has, which is why he is included on this list.
7 Madison Bumgarner
For a team to win the World Series, there is one thing they need above all else, and that would be great pitching, primarily from starters, but from relievers as well. Since 2010, the San Francisco Giants have been the most successful team in all of baseball, as they have won three World Series Championships in that time, and the reason for that is because they do in fact have a very good team that has had great pitching. One of those pitchers is Madison Bumgarner, who has been a part of the Giants’ roster since 2009, and even though he is a 4-time All-Star who has had good regular season numbers which includes a career 2.96 earned run average, his reason for appearing on this list is primarily because of his postseason performances. Bumgarner is a beast in the playoffs, especially in the World Series, where he has an undefeated record of 4-0, a 0.25 ERA (which is literally unheard of), and he also holds several other impressive postseason pitching records.
6 Manny Machado
The American League East is considered to be the toughest division in all of baseball, primarily thanks to the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, but the division’s other three teams are no pushovers either, especially the past few seasons. The Baltimore Orioles are currently in the middle of a pennant race, and if it were not for their sub par pitching this season, they would have likely already walked away with the division title, because they certainly have good hitters. Manny Machado is one of these hitters, and he made his debut with Baltimore in 2012, but since 2013, he has arguably been one of the best hitters in the entire division. In his now 6-year career, Machado has a .287 batting average, which goes along with his three All-Star Game appearances and two Gold Gloves. What is really impressive about Machado, is the fact that his numbers have actually steadily improved each year, including this year which is shaping up to maybe be a career year.
5 Bryce Harper
It was a dark day in Canadian sports when the Montreal Expos were relocated to become the Washington Nationals, and the move has left an even worse taste in the mouths of Montreal baseball fans because of the players the franchise has managed to acquire and develop. One of these players is rightfielder Bryce Harper, who Washington took with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft, and ever since he debuted with the team in 2012, he has been considered one of the best players in the majors. In his five-year career, Harper has been a 4-time All-Star, the 2012 Rookie of the Year, and last year’s National League MVP. This season, his batting average may not be as high as he might have wished it to be at .252, but he is still having a rather productive year. It is believed that Harper may become baseball’s first ever 500 million dollar player, and if his production remains the same or improves, he may very well get paid that.
4 Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera will undoubtedly be a first ballot Hall of Famer, the question though, will be if he has 3,000 hits or not when he gets inducted. His Major League career began with the Florida Marlins in 2003, and he stayed with the team until he was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 2007. He has been one of baseball’s top hitters for thirteen years now, and believe it or not, he has actually gotten better with age, as his batting average since 2010 has never fallen below .310, with his best season coming in 2012 when he won the American League triple crown for finishing with the highest batting average (.330), most home runs (44), and most runs batted in (139). Since 2010, Cabrera has been a 7-time All-Star, a 4-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and a 2-time American League MVP, an honor that he received in back-to-back years in 2012 and 2013.
3 Buster Posey
As mentioned earlier, the San Francisco Giants have won three World Series Championships since 2010, with their pitching being a big reason why, but the other members of those rosters were important as well. Buster Posey is considered by many to be the best catcher in baseball, and he was behind home plate for all three of the Giants’ World Series wins; but not only is he great on defense, he is also a great offensive player as well. In his eight years with San Francisco, Posey now has a career .308 batting average, which is part of the reason why he is a 4-time All-Star and a 3-time Silver Slugger Award winner; he also managed to be named the National League Rookie of the Year in 2010, as well as the league's MVP in 2012. It may still be early to make this statement, but if Posey continues to perform the way he has, he will definitely be getting his own plaque in the Hall of Fame.
2 Clayton Kershaw
The Los Angeles Dodgers struck gold in 2006 when they drafted left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the man who has been regarded as the best pitcher in baseball for the past six years. Kershaw did not debut with the Dodgers until 2008, but it was not until the 2011 season that he became the superstar pitcher who so far has the lowest earned run average, the fewest walks issued, and the fewest hits allowed through 1,000 games than any other pitcher since the 1920s. Since 2011, Kershaw has been a 5-time All-Star, who has won the National League Cy Young Award for being that league’s best pitcher three times; and he was also named the MVP of the National League in 2014. It is true that his season this year was cut short due to injury, and that he does not have a good playoff record, but those things do not negate the fact that he is still the most dominant pitcher in the game.
1 Mike Trout
The Dodgers might have the best pitcher in baseball, but the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have the good fortune of possessing the game’s all around best player, a statement that is echoed by many analysts and writers. Mike Trout was drafted by the Angels in 2009, and even though the centerfielder made his debut with the team in 2011, it was the 2012 season where he began to shine. In his six years with the Angels, Trout has a .306 career batting average, which is why he is currently a 4-time Silver Slugger Award winner; but he is not just a potent offensive threat, he is also a great defensive player as well, which is why he was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2012, and that league’s MVP in 2014. Many inside the baseball world believe that Trout should have been named the American League’s MVP the past four years, but even though that did not happen, there is no denying that he is indeed the best baseball player of the 2010s.