MLB Rank 2021 – Ranking baseball’s best players, from 100 to 51

will be the best player of the 2021 MLB season?

As the countdown to Opening Day (Thursday, April 1) continues, we gathered the baseball experts at ESPN to compile our annual rankings of the top 100 players in the MLB.

To arrive at the final order, we presented some of the game’s biggest names to our panel and simply asked them: Which player will be the best in 2021? Below are the first results of this year’s survey.

The bottom half of our list, 100-51, includes rising stars, veteran relievers, the reigning Rookie of the Year and the 2020 Major League Home Run King.

For each of the players, a member of our panel provided the relevant statistics or history to put their position on the list in context. What if the players determined their results in 2021? What could stop them? In other words: Why are they where they are?

We will reveal #50-26 on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we count down the top 25.

More: So let’s put together a list of the 30 teams (ESPN+) | 2020 Top 100.

Grade 2020: 90

Why is he here? Meadows entered the Rays camp 10-15 pounds lighter and hopes to regain his form after struggling in the 2019 All-Star season. He didn’t make his season debut until the 4th. In August, after testing positive for COWID-19, he hit just .205/.296/.371 in 36 games after hitting .291 with 33 home runs in 138 games the season before. -Jung Lee

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Anderson first appeared in major league action at the end of the 2020 season as the third pick in the 2016 draft. Including the playoffs, Anderson started 5-2 in 10 with an ERA of minus-1.59. It won’t always be this easy for the brilliant right-hander, but with a great lineup and possibly an elite rotation, Anderson has given enough reason to believe the Braves are the real deal. — Bradford Doolittle

Grade 2020: 61

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Why is he here? Last season’s extra rest was meant to help Suarez recover from shoulder surgery, but he didn’t make a single appearance in 2020. His OPS dropped to .781 after a record of .930 in 2019. At least by 2021, home runs should be back to their previous levels. — Jesse Rogers.

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why it’s there: The 6-foot-8 right-hander with the big red curly hair is still more of a prospect than a finished product at this point, though he has a 2.98 ERA in 90 innings of his career. Go electric with a top 90 washer, a high ball head, a cutter and a shift. Expect him to start this season and easily find his way. -David Schoenfield.

96. Justin Turner, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers

Grade 2020: 68

Why is he here? Turner goes down, but only slowly. In the 2020 season, as a 35-year-old, he remains one of the Dodgers’ most consistent outfielder producers, batting .307/.400/.460 during the regular season and .804 OPS in the playoffs. After finally winning a World Series for his hometown team – and doing well at COWID-19 during that game – Turner rightfully returned to the Dodgers in the offseason and signed a two-year, $34 million contract. — Alden Gonzalez

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? The least expected of Toronto’s trio of sons of former Major Leaguers – along with Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr – hopes to build on his 2020 campaign, in which he hit .250/.375/.432 with eight homers after slugging .234/.364/.429 in 100 games in 2019. — Lee…

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Williams, an NL rookie in 2020 who allowed just one earned run in 27 innings, has perhaps the most unhittable pitch in baseball: the dart, the dive and the changeup. The hitters went 2-for-62 (.032) with 41 strikeouts and his 53% strikeout rate was his best ever in at least 20 innings pitched. — Shoefield

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? If there’s one player who informs Red Sox fans about the Mookie Betts trade, it’s probably Verdugo. In the midst of a terrible year for Boston, Verdugo has been one of Boston’s few bright spots. He hit .308/.367/.478 with six home runs in 53 games and provided the last-place team with a daily spark of energy. — Lee…

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Marquez is 30-22 with a 4.14 ERA over the last three seasons and led the NL in innings pitched and batters faced last season, but he is still underrated because he has to play half of his games at Coors Field. However, he ranks seventh in the majors in 2018 with a 3.08 ERA on the road – behind guys named DeGrom, Verlander, Scherzer, Cole, Kershaw and Bieber. — Shoefield

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Lynn is consistently underrated – this ranking reflects that – but his acquisition by the young White Sox in the offseason is a major reason why the South Side now has a championship-caliber rotation. The 2021 Winner of the Year, Lynn is one of 11 pitchers with 10+ fWAR over the past three seasons. — Doolittle.

Grade 2020: 33

Why is he here? Corbin was one of the best pitchers in baseball during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, but he struggled in 2020 with a 4.66 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 11 starts. These are his worst numbers since the 2017 season, when he posted a 4.03 ERA with the Diamondbacks. In many ways, 2020 was an anomaly, and the Nationals hope the shortened season will be an anomaly for Corbin. — Lee…

Grade 2020: 62

Why is he here? Alvarez’s position is a statement of confidence in one of the most exciting battles in baseball. After knee problems wiped out Alvarez’s 2020 season, he begins a new campaign as a full-time health risk and DH at age 23. Alvarez’s presence at the plate, however, is so predictable and without weakness that his return is the main reason why the Astros’ elite offense should remain after George Springer’s departure. — Doolittle.

Grade 2020: Not classified

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Why is he here? Marte was a big, albeit unsurprising, acquisition for the Marlins last summer, so picking him for this 2020 playoff team was a no-brainer. Last year, he played 61 regular season games thanks to the offseason trade, before a finger injury prematurely ended his postseason. On a team where the strength is on the mound, Marte is a key piece at the top of the Marlins’ lineup. — Rogers

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Lamet, 28, who has 97 mph and a slider, had a short breakthrough season in 2020. After recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2018, he posted a 2.09 ERA with 93 whiffs in 69 innings. The concern goes to 2021: He missed the postseason with a sore elbow. — Shoefield

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

86. Will Smith, C, Los Angeles Dodgers

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Smith produced a 2.9 WAR FanGraphs in his first 91 major league games and should only get better. He’s only 25, but he leads the pitching staff like a veteran and has already established himself as an elite hitter. — Gonzalez

Grade 2020: 45

Why is he here? Grandal is a solid defender, a great hitter and a positive presence in the clubhouse. He’s a complete pillar of support that you don’t see very often these days. Over the past three seasons, only J.T. Realmuto of Philadelphia has been in FWAR. They are both more than double any other support. — Doolittle.

Grade 2020: 93

Why is he here? Brantley remains one of the most consistent players of the last decade, with a .300 batting average and also good in the field. In a shortened season, Brantley hit .300/.364/.476 with five homers in 46 games, not far off his career mark of .297/.354/.440 before re-signing with Houston this season. — Lee…

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? In 2019, the Diamondbacks acquired Gallen from the Marlins in a rare move for young players in the trade that sent shortstop Jazz Chisholm to Miami. Gallen has a 2.78 ERA in 27 starts in his career, and while he doesn’t excel, his changeup and curveball come out well and hitters are hitting just .190 against his ball. — Shoefield

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Voight said he’s ready to tone down his football mentality and aggressive playing style this spring, which could help the MLB home run champion from last year avoid the injuries that have limited him at times. Since joining the Yankees in 2018, his 57 home runs led the team. — Marley Rivera

Grade 2020: 67

Why is he here? Well aged and then aged like Nelson Cruz. From 2014 to 2020, at age 33-39, Cruz hit .286/.363/.557 with 260 home runs and 663 RBIs in 938 games. Only three players – Mike Trout, Juan Soto and Aaron Judge – have generated more points in the plus column during that time. Cruz is 40 now, he’ll be 41 on July 1, and there’s no reason to think he’ll slow down. — Gonzalez

From fantasy to play to rest: Passan has a lot of thoughts on runners and teams that will be very successful next year.

Jeff Passan’s predictions for 2021

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Swanson was traded to the Braves in December 2015, just six months after the Diamondbacks took him first in the draft. Last season was Swanson’s fourth as a daily shortstop in Atlanta, but it was the first season in which Swanson’s production reflected his elevated status. Last season, he became a full-fledged offensive lineman while still managing to accumulate some strength. Swanson’s development prepared him well for the peak of his career. — Doolittle.

Grade 2020: 24

Why is he here? It’s now or never for Bryant before he’s released this year. Like many others, he had a 2020 season to forget, and injuries contributed to the deterioration as the year progressed. In what could be his final year as a Cub, can Bryant return healthy and sound at .900 or better than the OPS that previously placed him at the top of our list? If he does, does that move the Chicago trade deadline to July? — Rogers

78. Mike Soroka, MS, Atlanta Braves

Grade 2020: 42

Why is he here? After going 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA as a 21-year-old rookie in 2019, Soroka made just three starts in 2020 before tearing his right Achilles tendon. He may not be ready for opening day, but he should be back early in the season. The Calgary native relies on a sinker, slider and changeup, a feel for the ball to be ready to throw and keep the ball on the ground. — Shoefield

Grade 2020: 82

Why is he here? Injuries have kept Stanton out of nearly half the games in his three seasons with the Yankees, so his goal this spring is simply to show up. He adjusted his training regimen to incorporate more agility and flexibility, and that, combined with the fact that he’ll be primarily a DH in 2021, should keep him in the field. — Rivera.

76. Kenta Maeda, MS, Minnesota Twins

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Maeda had his best major league season in 2020 in his first year with the Twins, posting a 2.70 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP in 11 starts and finishing second to Shane Bieber in the Cy Young. Maeda recorded a 1.35 BB/9 and a career-high 49% ground ball percentage. — Lee…

75. Yoan Moncada, 3B, Chicago White Sox

Grade 2020: 87

Why is he here? Expect a big return season from Moncada. After confirming his former status as perhaps the best option for a star rotation in 2019, Moncada signed with COVID-19 before last season and never settled during the sprint that was the 2020 season. When he’s good, Moncada has an elite combination of power, patience and speed. — Doolittle.

74. Jose Berrios, MS, Minnesota Twins

Grade 2020: 75

Why is he here? The two-time All-Star has been consistent and reliable for four seasons, with his ERA fluctuating between 3.68 and 4.00 each year. His curveball was better than ever in 2020, as batters hit just .167 against him and his fastball velocity increased, perhaps indicating that 2021 will be his best season. — Shoefield

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Shohei Ohtani hit a leadoff single as part of a two-hit day, and he struck out five batters in the Padres’ loss against the Angels.

Grade 2020: 34

Why is he here? All we have as proof that Ohtani can maintain a two-way game in the big leagues is two months into his rookie season in 2018. He has since undergone Tommy John surgery and then struggled mightily as a pitcher and hitter during the lockout-shortened 2020 season in COVID-19. But the Angels are very optimistic about what Ohtani can bring in 2021.

They have followed his progress through an aggressive, data-driven offseason, diving into more game-changing situations and watching all of his undeniable skills this spring on the mound and in the batter’s box. This could be Ohtani’s last chance to prove he can handle the demands of a two-way role. But if anyone can do it, it’s him. — Gonzalez

Grade 2020: 83

Why is he here? Big free contracts for pitchers don’t always work. They are especially risky if they involve someone who is injured, like Zack Wheeler. Fortunately, Wheeler justified the Phillies’ investment in him with a good 2020 season in which he earned Cy Young recognition. He will be Aaron Nola’s Batman Robin for years to come. — Doolittle.

Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? It’s entirely reasonable to assume Arozarena won’t be able to repeat what he did last season, when he hit .377 with 10 home runs in 20 games that became a must-win. But then note the solid numbers he put up in the 2020 regular season (.281/.382/.641 in 76 appearances), and the fact that he gained 15 pounds of muscle over the winter, and that he’s only 26 and still eligible as a rookie, and is loaded with tools. And then you think… Arozarena can do anything. — Gonzalez

Grade 2020: 77

Why is he here? The 2019 All-Star has played in every game the past two seasons, led the AL in hits in 2018 and 2019, including 206 in 2019, and played all over the field. The Royals placed him in right field for 2021, but his versatility makes him a reserve center fielder and second baseman. — Shoefield

69. Josh Hader, RP, Milwaukee Brewers

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Grade 2020: 36

Why is he here? Hader leads the Big League in win chances over the last three seasons, a period in which he has become a more traditional one-run stopper than the multi-run beast he was in his heyday. Hader was more focused on the slider last season, and whether that had anything to do with it or not, there were occasional issues with his command, which contributed to a worst 3.79 ERA of his career. Hader is still one of the most feared relievers in the game and will be watched closely early in the season to see if last season’s trend continues. — Doolittle.

68. Marcus Semien, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays

Grade 2020: 35

Why is he here? During his time with the Athletics, Semien has become a player that sabermetric observers like to rank as one of the most underrated players in the game, as he has put up 4.7 bWAR in 2018 and 8.9 bWAR in 2019. The center fielder struggled in the lockout-shortened 2020 season, hitting .223/.305/.374, but hopes to regain his form in 2021 after signing a one-year, $18 million contract with Toronto. — Lee…

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Hendricks, who has reached the top of the Cubs’ rotation, is money in the bank. Over the past half decade, he has become one of the most consistent starters in the league, with an ERA+ of 121 or higher on the year. — Rogers

Grade 2020: 38

Why is he here? For the former MVP, it’s all about staying healthy. He only played in 52 games in 2018 and 28 in 2020, but appeared in 155 games with the Braves in 2019 and was one of the league’s best players with 37 home runs and 100 walks, finishing 11th in MVP voting. — Shoefield

65. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Jimenez showed as much potential in 2019 as really consistent production, but he improved in every way last season and ended up winning his first Silver Slugger Award. Jimenez ranks fourth among all batters in runs scored and fifth in hits. That trait – the ability to flatten mashed potatoes – will be a hallmark of Jimenez’s growth, as will the infectious smile he wears wherever he goes. — Doolittle.

64. Kettle Marte, 2B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Grade 2020: 44

Why is he here? Malta’s OPS is over 200 points away from his career high of .981 in 2019, but he remains a versatile infielder/outfielder with the potential to be a solid all-around player. Despite this break in the season, the last time the MLB played a full schedule, Marte appears to remain one of the lesser known star players. — Rogers

63. Max Muncie, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers

Grade 2020: 69

Why is he here? After two very productive seasons, Muncy struggled in 2020, posting a .192/.331/.389 batting average with 60 strikeouts in 58 games. Although he struggled greatly, he still reached base at a decent level and found his niche in the postseason, posting an OPS of .961 in the final three rounds. Muncy is an advanced hitter who has greatly improved his defensive versatility in recent years. A normal season can also normalize the numbers. — Gonzalez

62. Max Freed, MS, Atlanta Braves

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Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? After a 17-win season in 2019, Freed was even better in 2020, going 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA. He doesn’t have as high a strikeout rate as some of the other top starters, and instead relies on incentives for soft contacts. He ranks 98th in strikeouts and has allowed just two home runs in 56 innings. — Shoefield

Grade 2020: 54

Why is he here? Olson embodies the prototype of the baseball player of that era: a man who can hit the ball a mile and still have plenty of time. In 2020, he posted a slugging percentage of 31.4%, along with 14 home runs in 50 games. — Lee…

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Grade 2020: 96

Why is he here? Woodruff has the makings of a real starter at the top of the rotation. The only thing missing from his resume is a full season as the Brewers’ ace. Last season, outside of his excellent four-strikeout game, Woodruff’s arsenal improved in every way. Woodruff, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 243 pounds, is in his 28th year. Birthday, seems poised to have seasons at the All-Star level as an elite hitter, if only he can extend what he has done the past two seasons to a full 162 games. — Doolittle.

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? Players like Yastrzemski are the reason we love baseball. He was selected in the 14th round, didn’t make his debut until the age of 20 and quickly became the catalyst for a growing Giants team. Yastrzemski only improved on his incredible rookie season in 2020, with an OPS of .968, good for four record-breaking triples. He was a joy to watch, playing with a penchant for drama and ultimately not reaching base in just seven of 54 games. — Gonzalez

Grade 2020: 76

Why is he here? He didn’t reach the majors until he was 26, but McNeil can flat out hit with one of the best contact rates in the majors. In his three seasons with the Mets, he’s hit .329, .318 and .311, and his .319 average is his best in the majors since 2018 (at least 1,000 PA). — Shoefield

57. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

Grade 2020: 29

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Why is he here? Altuve took advantage of the wind in his 20s to finish strong, even though his first season in his 30s was the worst of his career. Altuve hit a meager .219/.286/.344 in the regular season and didn’t hit a single time in Houston’s championship series against Minnesota. Suddenly, the former Altuve resurfaced, hit five home runs in 11 games in the ALDS and ALCS, and almost helped Houston to a championship again. So the Astros will be anxiously watching him as he enters one of the four remaining seasons of his contract, which will pay him $26 million each. — Doolittle.

Grade 2020: 56

Why is he here? Rizzo’s ability to hit 30 home runs as a lefty is crucial to the Cubs’ offense. He has accomplished this four times in 10 MLB seasons. In Chicago, they hope his fall in 2020 was just a blip in an otherwise steady career. — Rogers

Grade 2020: 74

Why is he here? The Blue Jays are hoping Guerrero can live up to the massive hype surrounding the 21-year-old after he lost 40 pounds in the offseason. Amid the hype about the power of the first baseman, Guerrero has struggled to hit the ball in the air in recent years after hitting .262/.329/.462 in 2020 with nine homers in 60 games. — Lee…

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? A 2019 rookie, Lowe finished eighth in the 2020 MVP voting after hitting 14 home runs and a .554 slugging percentage. His combined line over 138 games in 2019-20: .270/.347/.530 with 31 home runs. All he has to do is get through the season and he’s in the top 50. — Shoefield

2020 Rating: 100

Why is he here? Conforto is coming off perhaps his best season ever, which translates into a .322/.412/.515 slugging mark and a career-best 30.3% line drive rate. His 128 more weighted runs created from 2018-20 ranks 15th among major league outfielders. The Mets would probably like to contract him before he becomes a free agent, but Conforto also has every interest in being the best player at his position next season. — Gonzalez

52. Louis Robert, OR, Chicago White Sox

Grade 2020: Not classified

Why is he here? He didn’t win Rookie of the Year, but many in the game believe Robert could be an MVP candidate once he burns some stuff at the plate, starting with improving his on-base percentage to .302 by 2020. The 20/20 season could easily be seen as 30/30, which is not outside the realm of possibility for one of the highest rated young players in all of sports. — Rogers

51. Aaron Nola, MS, Philadelphia Phillies

Grade 2020: 52

Why is he here? Nola is a starter who probably would have been on the mound 40 or 45 times if only Joe Girardi had let him. (Which he doesn’t want to do.) Only Jacob deGrom has pitched more innings in the last three seasons, and no one has started more games. Only seven pitchers got more than fWAR, suggesting his rating is low here. It’s sustainable, it’s consistent, and it keeps getting better. — Doolittle.

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