As 2019 winds down, so does the decade of the 2010s. So, naturally, the best thing to do is sit back and reminisce about some of the highlights of the past 10 years.
Some people will look back at a first date with a longtime significant other, others might think of their top 10 movies they saw in theaters. But then, you get to the magical world of sports, and particularly baseball.
There were some great teams and some great players we got the pleasure of watching on a nightly basis over the past 10 seasons. We also bid goodbye to the legends of Mariano Rivera, Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, and David Ortiz.
But how does each player rank among the best at their position for the entire decade?
I’ve taken the liberty of drafting an entire lineup of eight fielders, five starters, two relievers, and a designated hitter to form a collection of players that I like to call my own MLB All-Decade Team.
Let’s start with the all-important position of catcher.
C: Buster Posey
This one was incredibly difficult. Posey did the bulk of his damage before 2016 but has still posted respectable seasons in 2017-2019. That being said, Posey leads all catchers with a 53.0 fWAR since 2010, as well as a 129 wRC+, and 168.4 fielding runs above average (FRAA).
To add to it, Posey has won a Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, four Silver Sluggers, three World Series, a Gold Glove, and a batting title this decade.
Also considered: Yadier Molina
First Base: Joey Votto
Here’s another difficult one to choose, considering the monster that Votto went up toe-to-toe with for the bulk of the 2010s as baseball’s best first baseman. Ultimately, the steady play of Votto post-2016 helped him in a great way.
But that’s not to say Votto got lucky by any means. This decade, Votto slashed .306/.428/.516 with 153 wRC+ and 48.1 fWAR. That’s not to mention six All-Star selections, a Gold Glove, and an MVP.
If I was basing this off of absolute peak, then it has to be Miguel Cabrera. But consistency is key, and Votto is the pinnacle of that.
Also considered: Miguel Cabrera
Second base: Robinson Cano
This one I chose with no hesitation. While Jose Altuve played at a high throughout the decade, Robinson Cano was just a powerhouse.
Cano had a 10.1-win lead in fWAR for the decade, and also posted a staggering slash line of .300/.359/.496. Even with the suspension for performance-enhancing substances, there was just too much of a gap between him and second place for me to consider somebody else with great depth.
Also considered: Jose Altuve, Ben Zobrist, Dustin Pedroia
Third base: Josh Donaldson
This one was uncharacteristic from most of my other selections. I based this selection solely off of peak because Donaldson was one of the most feared hitters in the game from 2013 until the end of 2017.
For those five seasons, Donaldson slashed .282/.377/.524 with a 148 wRC+. Over that stretch, Donaldson held an 11.0-win lead in fWAR over second-place Adrian Beltre (23.4), who was closer to 13th place (Jose Ramirez, 12.9) than he was Donaldson (34.4).
Donaldson has by no means regressed as a power hitter, despite the injury-shortened 2018 season. His slugging percentage dropped from .524 from 2013 to 2017 down to .503 the previous two seasons, one of which was shortened due to a shoulder injury.
But Donaldson managed to maximize his peak, winning an MVP award and two Silver Sluggers plus four All-Star Game selections.
Also considered: Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria, Anthony Rendon
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons
This one was chosen solely off of Simmons’ defense. The man can flat-out field the position of shortstop with the all-time greats.
Simmons has posted 198 defensive runs saved (DRS) this decade, with the closest to him being Brandon Crawford with 78. Brandon Crawford, widely regarded as a very good defensive shortstop, is closer to an average fan who has never played baseball in defensive runs saved than he is Andrelton Simmons.
And that speaks volumes when creating this list. He might not be the greatest with the bat, but the man’s defense more than makes up for it.
Also considered: Troy Tulowitzki, Fransisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts
Left field: Josh Hamilton
Much like Donaldson, Josh Hamilton makes this list due to nothing more than his peak. He was finished with baseball by the end of the 2015 season but managed to slash .289/.346/.519 for the decade with a 131 wRC+.
Hamilton’s peak was just three seasons in the 2010s, but he pumped out some special performances. From 2010 to 2012, Hamilton hit 100 home runs (tied for fifth in baseball) and had a 148 wRC+.
Also considered: Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich, Justin Upton
Center field: Mike Trout
Need I go on?
Also considered: Nobody
Right field: Mookie Betts
Betts had the lowest volume of any of the players I considered, but he’s just been so productive that it doesn’t matter that much.
Betts ranks second in fWAR with 37.2 and has emerged as one of baseball’s few true five-tool players (run, field, throw, hit, and hit with power). He has also added an MVP, an MVP runner-up, four All-Star Games, four Gold Gloves, and three Silver Sluggers since his call-up in 2014.
It’s no wonder he’s going to break the bank in free agency after the 2020 season.
Also considered: Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
I know Ortiz doesn’t have the same numbers as some of the other designated hitters worthy of consideration, especially since he retired after the 2016 season. However, the man they call ‘Big Papi’ is my All-Decade Team’s DH.
Being the lone player in that 2013 Red Sox lineup that showed a pulse throughout the World Series and being one of the most widely-respected figures in sports (both nationally and internationally) played a role not even numbers could defeat.
Also considered: Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion
1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Justin Verlander
3. Max Scherzer
4. Chris Sale
5. Felix Hernandez
There’s not too much explaining to do from the de facto ‘ace’ in Kershaw to my ‘No. 4 starter’ in Sale. So, I will take the liberty of defending why I believe Felix Hernandez should be a part of this rotation.
This is thanks in large part to Hernandez’s first half of the decade. From 2010 to 2015, King Felix posted a 2.89 ERA with a 2.97 FIP. He also was second in fWAR during that stretch behind none other than Clayton Kershaw.
I can’t fault Hernandez for having a lot of miles on his arm. His past four seasons don’t tell the whole story of just how dominant the longtime Mariners right-hander was for a while.
Also considered: David Price, Zack Greinke, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Stephen Strasburg
Reliever: Zack Britton
This one was difficult at first, especially since Britton didn’t begin the 2010s as a reliever. But when you factor in that Britton is the MLB’s all-time leader in reliever ERA at 1.81 and he spun one of the most dominant seasons a reliever has ever exhibited, it quickly became a no-brainer to me.
Also considered: Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, David Robertson
Closer: Aroldis Chapman
I made this selection based solely on domination. While Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen both recorded more saves this decade, Aroldis Chapman was busy throwing 105 mile-per-hour fastballs and a devastating slider the likes of which you’d be honored to get embarrassed by.
Also considered: Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Mariano Rivera
Jordan, I enjoyed reading this. Hard to disagree with your arguments. ????
Good choices, Jordan. Only one I might quibble with is Hamilton; not sure who to put in LF but I find it hard to honor a guy who squandered his greatness (but took the money) twice. It’s too bad King Felix fell from his throne prematurely — he looked to be on a HOF trajectory and was always fun to watch. Nice touch your including him here. Like your Trout logic as well.