The 2023 MLB season ended last week with the Texas Rangers winning the World Series. This has led to many people debating which players were the best of the best.
Without further ado, here are my picks for each position based on regular-season production.
Players are only eligible for the position at which they played the majority of their games.
First Team: William Contreras
Second Team: Adley Rutschman
In my opinion, it was not so hard deciding who the two best catchers were, but which one was better. While there could be arguments made for Will Smith or Sean Murphy, Contreras and Rutschman were more consistent all year long. They were the only two catchers to play over 125 games and have a WRC+ over 120. Contreras was also fourth in baseball in framing. While Rutschman was nothing special behind the plate, both of their bats were good enough to finish first and second in fWAR, respectively. Both of these guys are only 25, so it will be a lot of fun seeing them grow over the years.
William Contreras: Silver Slugger finalist.
— Bally Sports Wisconsin (@BallySportWI) November 2, 2023
First Team: Freddie Freeman
Second Team: Matt Olson
Similar to the catchers, picking the top two first basemen was not hard, but deciding between the two was quite challenging. Freeman hit 29 homers, drove in 102 runs, and had a .331/.410/.567 slash line with 163 WRC+. Olson hit 54 homers, drove in 139 runs, and had a .283/.389/.604 slash line with 160 WRC+. They were both split in the defensive metrics, where Freeman had positive OAA and negative DRS while the inverse was true for Olson. Freeman was also a slightly better base runner than Olson. If you combine hitting, fielding, and base running, Freeman had 7.9 fWAR and Olson had 6.7.
Freddie Freeman gets down 0-2, ends up winning 10-pitch battle with a three-run homer. pic.twitter.com/qAG8OPnNSR
— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) August 6, 2023
First Team: Marcus Semien
Second Team: Ketel Marte
Picking Semien was the easiest part of this process. He hit 29 homers, drove in 100 runs, and had a .276/.348/.478 slash line while adding a 124 WRC+. He also led all second basemen with 6.3 fWAR, which was 1.6 wins more than second place. Picking the Second Team’s honoree was harder, and it came down to Marte, Nico Hoerner, or Ha-Seong Kim. I chose Marte because he was much better at the plate, posting a 127 WRC+, as opposed to Hoerner’s 102 and Kim’s 112. While the two of them were much better than Marte in the field and on the basepaths, I think the gap at the plate was far greater.
— MLB (@MLB) November 2, 2023
First Team: Corey Seager
Second Team: Francisco Lindor
This was probably the tightest gap between the first- and second-best at each position. One might argue that Lindor’s overall impact should trump Seager’s, but on a per-game basis, Seager was a lot more dominant and more consistent. At the plate, Seager hit 33 homers, drove in 96 runs, and had a .327/.390/.623 slash line with a 169 WRC+. Lindor hit 31 homers, drove in 101 runs, and had a .254/.336/.470 slash line with a 121 WRC+. Based on those offensive stats, why is this even a question? Well, Lindor blows Seager out of the water in other major categories.
First Lindor played 160 games to Seager’s 119. In the field, Lindor had 7.0 DRS to Seager’s 5.0, Lindor had 6.0 OAA to Seager’s -2.0, and Lindor had a 9.1 UZR to Seager’s 4.8. Furthermore, on the basepaths, Lindor had 7.7 baserunning runs above average (sixth in baseball and second amongst shortstops) and Seager had -5.4, which was second to last amongst shortstops.
It was truly neck-and-neck. While Lindor was better at everything from fielding to baserunning to availability, the gap at the plate was far too big to pick him over Seager.
Corey Seager: "Everybody was wondering what would happen if the Rangers didn't win the World Series. I guess we'll never know."
— Dallas Texas TV (@DallasTexasTV) November 3, 2023
First Team: Austin Riley
Second Team: Jose Ramirez
This was another tough one. Both were extremely solid in all aspects of the game. Riley hit 37 homers, drove in 97 runs, and had a .281/.345/.516 triple slash with a 127 WRC+. Ramirez hit 24 homers, drove in 80 runs, and had a .282/.356/.475 with a 124 WRC+. They were both split in DRS and OAA, but Ramirez had the edge in UZR where his 2.4 topped Riley’s -2.3. Ramirez was also the better base runner, so it was super close. In the tiebreaker, I’m usually going to choose the guy with the better bat. Advantage, Riley.
AUSTIN RILEY IN THE CLUTCH‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/I2smLFiUk8
— Kevin Keneely (@KevinKeneely1) October 10, 2023
When having to choose three guys for two different groups, it gets tough to nitpick. Acuna and Betts are probably going to finish first and second in NL MVP voting, so they were the only guarantees for the All-MLB First Team. However, it got more complicated after that.
The toughest decision was between Carroll and Rodriguez. They both played 155 games, and Carroll had a 6.0 fWAR compared to Rodriguez’s 5.9. Carroll was better at the plate with a 133 WRC+, but Rodriguez closed the gap by playing better in the field. Nevertheless, you’re probably better off choosing the guy with the better bat when it is so close.
After choosing Carroll for the First Team, that would default Rodriguez and Juan Soto to the Second Team. The last spot was between Kyle Tucker and Luis Robert. Back in July, I thought Robert was having the best season for any American League outfielder. From the beginning of the season until the end of June, he had a 140 WRC+. However, for the last three months of the season, he only had a 112 WRC+. As a whole, Tucker finished with a WRC+ 12 points higher than Robert’s. Though Robert was better in the field, think about it: would you rather have Tucker or Robert in a big game? The overwhelming majority of fans outside of Chicago are taking Tucker.
Ronald Acuña Jr. joins an elite club.
Are MVP honors next for the @Braves star?
— MLB (@MLB) August 2, 2023
First Team: Shohei Ohtani
Second Team: Bryce Harper
Despite not playing a game for nearly the last month of the season, Ohtani was above and beyond the best designated hitter in the league. He hit 40 homers and had a 180 WRC+. He did not miss a crazy amount of time (27 games), but the fact that he missed the last month and remains the runaway favorite is truly insane.
The second-best designated hitter was a little harder to pick because of how many games each candidate played. Yordan Alvarez was intriguing, but he had fewer than 500 plate appearances, as did Aaron Judge. Out of everyone with at least 500 plate appearances, Harper would be the next choice, though Marcell Ozuna has a good argument (off-the-field crimes aside). Harper missed part of the season due to surgery but came back just as good, posting an .883 OPS and 142 WRC+. Though playoffs are not a factor in this, October helped Harper to showcase that he is one of the best hitters in baseball.
Ohtani in a DOUBLEHEADER:
Game 1: Ohtani the Pitcher🤾🏻♂️ pitched CG Shutout.
(40-minute break with interviews🎤)
Game 2: Ohtani the Hitter🏌🏻 hit 2 Home Runs💣💣 in a row.
Ohtani in a international tournament:
👑Fastest as a pitcher🤾🏻♂️
👑Highest as a hitter🏌🏻
👑Longest as a hitter🏌🏻 pic.twitter.com/MVT79ftTyQ
— shome4ever (@jJ45KSUQ3D128Xc) October 30, 2023
I could break down every single one of these pitchers and explain why they deserve to be honored here, but that could get long and repetitive. With that said, what I found interesting when evaluating all of these pitchers was how many outside factors exist. I always knew this to be true, but it reached another extreme this year. The two best examples are Snell and Strider. The former was the ERA champion this year but doesn’t get much love from advanced metrics. Strider is the complete opposite; while he was 27th in ERA among qualified starters, he was a top-two finisher in many advanced categories. While it is important to look at the full picture, at the end of the day, when a pitcher plays for an entire season, there comes a point where the argument of “talent” debunks accusations of “luck.”
MLB pitchers with an ERA of 1.20 or lower over a 23-start span in a single season, live-ball era (since 1920):
— OptaSTATS (@OptaSTATS) September 26, 2023
I evaluated relief pitchers the same way I did starters, except I placed a slight emphasis on saves. Having all of the “stuff” and results matters, but being able to close the door in a close game is something I value, too.
Happy birthday to the best closer in MLB, David Bednar!!!
• 39 saves (tied for most in NL)
• 92.9% save percentage (best in MLB)
• His bobblehead plays Renegade
• 222 ERA+ pic.twitter.com/1fzeCw7Z7t
— Platinum Ke’Bryan (@PlatinumKey13) October 10, 2023
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