Aug 17, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays right fielderJose Bautista
(19) hits a solo home run during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
1. Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays)- It wouldn’t be all that much of a stretch to say that Jose Bautista is currently the most prolific power hitter in Major League Baseball. Despite spending a considerable amount of each of the last two years on the disabled list (he played 92 in 2012 and 118 in 2013), Bautista has hit 27 and 28 home runs, respectively. Last season, despite being shut down early with a left hip bone bruise, was able to slash .259/.358/.498 with 28 homers and 73 RBIs. It’s reasonable to say that if Bautista can stay healthy for the entire 2014 season, he can go back to his heyday in 2010 and 2011 when he hit 54 and 43 home runs respectively.
2. Shane Victorino (Boston Red Sox)- In most individual tools, Victorino would not be anywhere close to the the ranks of the elite MLB players. However, there’s also not one tool that he is exceptional poor at and the combination of all of his skills make him an incredibly valuable player and made him a key part of the World Championship team last season. After missing much of the middle of the season due to hamstring injuries, he put up an impressive .294/.351/.451 slash line with 15 home runs and 21 stolen bases. It would be reasonable to expect some regression, especially in the power department, but Victorino’s defense will still make him an excellent player going forward.
3. Carlos Beltran (New York Yankees)- It was extremely difficult to pick between Beltran and Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays. The deciding factors were that Beltran is almost a sure thing at this stage in his career (so long as he can stay healthy) and Beltran, already an elite offensive player, will be moving from Busch Stadium in St. Louis (a pitcher’s park) to Yankee Stadium– a notorious hitter’s haven. Beltran just continues to defy Father Time as he slashed .296/.339/.491 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs in 145 games last season. There’s a good chance he could at least repeat those numbers in 2014; however, the only question is whether he’ll get the chance given his declining health and bad outfield defense.
4. Wil Myers (Tampa Bay Rays)- Now here is Myers himself, without a doubt one of the brightest young stars in baseball after a huge rookie season which saw him slash .293/.354/.478 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs and take home the AL Rookie of the Year Award. As great as that slash line looks, and especially considering that he was just 22 last season, there are some red flags to take home. First off, Myers benefited from an enormous .362 BABIP which will likely regress in 2014 and secondly he had a 24.4% strikeout rate which could absolutely come into play if his average does regress. Still, Myers is one of the best young players in the game and should anchor the middle of the Rays’ lineup for years.
5. Nick Markakis (Baltimore Orioles)- Just a few years ago, Markakis would have ranked at or near the top of this list. However, he is coming off his worst season in the league which raised serious concerns over his future performance. Markakis is coming off a season that gave him -0.1 WAR according to FanGraphs as he slashed just .271/.329/.356 and saw his power mysteriously vanish as he hit just 10 home runs and 24 doubles, both career worsts for the 30-year old. He’s still a good defender, but he’ll need to turn his hitting around if he wants to remain a solid player in the league.