No. 5. Grady Sizemore, CF, Indians, Age 24 (14)
Like Reyes, Sizemore has substantially increased his walk rate this season; his 25 free passes rank him second in the American League. That has to be terrifying to the competition, because drawing walks was the one area in which Sizemore was merely very good, as opposed to supernaturally great. There are few upper bounds on how good he could become.
No. 4. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Marlins, Age 24 (4)
Cabrera invariably gets profiled as Manny Ramirez v2.0, and in terms of his ability to drive in runs, that's pretty fair. PECOTA anticipates that Cabrera will have 932 career RBIs by the time he completes his age-28 season; only 10 players in baseball history are ahead of that pace. But while Manny was always an oaf in the field, Cabrera not only plays third base, but he plays it pretty darn well. He's less exciting than the Sizemores and the Reyeses, but in terms of pure production, Cabrera's the man.
No. 3. Johan Santana, P, Twins, Age 28 (5)
If Barry Zito got $126 million from the Giants, what is Johan Santana worth? We maintain a statistic called Marginal Value Over Replacement Player (MORP), which anticipates the market price for players based on recent transactions in the free agent market. That statistic estimates that, if Santana were a free agent, his services this season would be worth $28 million.
No. 2. Joe Mauer, C, Twins, Age 24 (6)
Everyone in the Top 10 is in rarified air, but there has probably never been a baseball player like Mauer. As everyone knows by now, he was the first American League catcher to win a batting title, but that's really just the start of his skill set. Mauer also takes walks, hits plenty of doubles, plays Gold Glove-caliber defense, has 25 steals in 29 lifetime attempts and is big and strong enough to develop into a 20-homer threat. Combine any two of those skills in one package, and you have a potential All-Star catcher. Mauer has all of them. There's some concern that Mauer is too tall to stay at the catcher position, but considering how unique he is in every other department, why fret about that?
No. 1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals, Age 27 (1)
Sports Illustrated was gracious enough to have me cover the World Series for them last year. The one thing I remember from that experience, except how cold it can be in Detroit in October, is just how good Pujols' defense was around the bag. Pujols could play Chris Duncan defense and he'd still probably be the best player in the game. Instead his glove is on a par with Scott Rolen's, which means he has found yet another way to contribute value to the Cardinals. There's no real argument right now about who deserves the top spot on this list. If something very special happens -- Reyes maintains his pace over an entire season, Mauer hits .380, A-Rod hits 74 -- next year will be interesting.
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