MLB Rank 50-1: Trout stays No. 1; Bryce bounced from top 10


Who will be the best players in major league baseball for the 2019 season?

To determine this, ESPN formed a panel of almost 50 MLB writers, analysts, contributors and Insiders to determine the top 100 and rank them, voting on more than 200 players. We unveiled Nos. 100-51 on Tuesday, and now it's time for us to reveal this year's top 50.

Using some of the leading forecast models publicly available, we've identified one key stat from each player's forecast, as well as some additional info to consider about each player going into the season.

Surprises, reaction to top 100 | How did we do last year? | More MLB Rank

No. 50. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox

2018 rank: 61

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS projects Benintendi to have a career-high in RBIs with 91.

Did you know? Alex Cora has said he's going to hit Benintendi in the leadoff spot this season. Last year, the outfielder hit .322 in 21 games atop the Red Sox order.

No. 49. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

2018 rank: 20

One key 2019 projection: FanGraphs projects Seager to tie his career-best RBI total (77) in just 129 games.

Did you know? Seager played only 26 games last season and is coming off elbow and hip operations. If he recovers sooner than expected, his projections could soar.

No. 48. Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies

2018 rank: Not ranked.

One key 2019 projection: Story is one of only two NL players predicted by ZiPS to hit 30-plus home runs and steal 20-plus bases.

Did you know? Over the past three seasons, no NL player has struck out as many times as Story (489). That said, his ZiPS-projected OBP of .326 should help keep his stolen base count high.

No. 47. Aroldis Chapman, RP, New York Yankees

2018 rank: 55

One key 2019 projection: Chapman is projected by ZiPS to be the AL leader in K/9 rate at 14.84.

Did you know? A Yankees bullpen that also includes Dellin Betances, Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino could eat into Chapman's saves. But it also could allow him some extra rest and keep him healthy all season long.

No. 46. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals

2018 rank: 19

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS sees Strasburg with a 4.5 K/BB rate, which would be his best since 2015.

Did you know? Strasburg made two trips to the disabled list in 2018, resulting in his lowest start total (22) since 2011. But over eight starts to close out the season, he didn't lose a game.

No. 45. Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies

2018 rank: 90

One key 2019 projection: Incredible growth is expected from Hoskins in his second full season in the majors. ZiPS says he'll drive in 113 runs.

Did you know? Hoskins came close to 100 RBIs last season primarily batting second on a Phillies team ranked in the bottom third of the league in runs scored. Now he should move to cleanup -- behind Bryce Harper.

No. 44. Carlos Carrasco, SP, Cleveland Indians

2018 rank: 39

One key 2019 projection: According to ZiPS, Carrasco will finish the year No. 6 in the AL in strikeouts with 198.

Did you know? Since becoming a full-time starting pitcher in 2015, he is one of only five pitchers with at least seven complete games and 800-plus strikeouts.

No. 43. James Paxton, SP, New York Yankees

2018 rank: 73

One key 2019 projection: Paxton's projected 9.90 K/9 rate ranks behind only Luis Severino in the Yankees' rotation -- and Severino might not be ready for Opening Day.

Did you know? Paxton's swinging-strike rate has increased every year since 2015, up to 14.3 percent last season. If hitters can't catch up to his fastball, the change in stadium might not impact him as much as some fear.

No. 42. Walker Buehler, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

2018 rank: Not ranked.

One key 2019 projection: An increase in dominance, in the form of a 10.38 K/9 rate from ZiPS, points to an almost-certain solid sophomore effort.

Did you know? His 1.58 ERA and .154 opponents' batting average over the final two months of his rookie season certainly should quell fears that hitters are certain to adjust to him once there's more of a book. If anything, the 2019 projections are too cautious.

No. 41. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

2018 rank: 2

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS predicts Kershaw will post a 2.91 ERA, which would match his career worst from all the way back in 2010.

Did you know? It's all about health with the Dodgers' ace. He's dealing with shoulder soreness this spring and has not managed even 28 starts in a season since 2015.

No. 40. Matt Carpenter, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals

2018 rank: Not ranked.

One key 2019 projection: Though Carpenter blasted a career-best 36 home runs last year, none of the main projection systems sees him hitting 30 again.

Did you know? A key to Carpenter's success could be his continuing to get and crush fastballs. He saw the second-most heaters in MLB last season, slugging .627 against them, while his OPS against breaking stuff was .649 with an NL-worst 48.3 strikeout rate.

No. 39. Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians

2018 rank: Not ranked.

One key 2019 projection: After last year's 221 whiffs, the Bill James Handbook pegs Bauer to surpass 200 strikeouts for the second time.

Did you know? The two key reasons Bauer finished second in the AL in ERA were his career-best 22 percent rate of swinging strikes and his career-low 4.3 percent home run rate on fly balls. If he keeps fooling hitters and creating weak contact, he'll climb higher.

No. 38. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs

2018 rank: 21

One key 2019 projection: His streak of four straight 30-homer seasons was snapped last year, but Steamer says he'll get back there with 30.

Did you know? Using either flavor of WAR, Rizzo's total value has dropped four straight seasons, not good news heading into the last guaranteed season of his seven-year contract with club options for 2020 and 2021 on the line.

No. 37. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

2018 rank: 24

One key 2019 projection: The Bill James Handbook projects Springer's power stroke to return: 29 homers after last year's decline to 22.

Did you know? Springer hit 63 homers combined in 2016 and 2017, so it wouldn't be crazy to see him re-enter the ranks of the top two dozen players if he can avoid the injuries that slowed him last season (thumb and shoulder).

No. 36. Edwin Diaz, RP, New York Mets

2018 rank: Not ranked.

One key 2019 projection: Steamer and ZiPS both project Diaz to have the best ERA among MLB relievers.

Did you know? Just three pitchers have had two 50-save seasons in a career -- Mariano Rivera (both with the Yankees), Eric Gagne (both with the Dodgers) and Jim Johnson (both with the Orioles). If Diaz adds another as a Met, he'll become the first player ever to reach 50 with two different teams.

No. 35. Juan Soto, LF, Washington Nationals

2018 rank: Not ranked.

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS projects Soto to tie for the NL lead in home runs with 36, as a 20-year-old.

Did you know? To put that into context, Bryce Harper didn't lead the league in home runs until his fourth season, as a 22-year-old. Can Soto get there two years earlier than the Nats' former right fielder?

No. 34. Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics

2018 rank: Not ranked.

One key 2019 projection: Steamer projects Chapman and Jose Ramirez to hit the most homers among AL third basemen (28 each).

Did you know? Chapman's defensive WAR value of 3.5 last season ranked ninth all time, according to Baseball-Reference.com, and only two active third basemen have topped that: Manny Machado (4.4) and Nolan Arenado (3.6), both in 2013.

No. 33. Josh Hader, RP, Milwaukee Brewers

2018 rank: Not ranked.

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS projects Hader to lead the major leagues in K/9 with 15.34, almost no drop-off from last year's 15.8

Did you know? Our top-ranked reliever will likely have to share save opportunities with teammates Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress, but last year's rate of whiffs was an MLB record for anyone with 80 or more innings pitched, and nobody else has ever topped 15 K/9.

No. 32. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals

2018 rank: 37

One key 2019 projection: The Bill James Handbook projects Rendon to smack 43 doubles for his third straight season of 40-plus.

Did you know? Rendon ranks third in WAR among third basemen in Nats/Expos franchise history, behind teammate Ryan Zimmerman and Tim Wallach, but he has yet to be an All-Star.

No. 31. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, New York Yankees

2018 rank: 13

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS projects Stanton to lead MLB with 47 home runs.

Did you know? With the 59 homers he hit as a Marlin in 2017 on his résumé, it's worth noting that since 1969, just two Yankees have hit more than 50 homers in a season: Alex Rodriguez in 2007 and teammate Aaron Judge in 2017.

No. 30. Gerrit Cole, SP, Houston Astros

2018 rank: 82

One key 2019 projection: PECOTA projects Cole to lead all American League pitchers with 224 strikeouts and 18 quality starts.

Did you know? In his first season for the Astros in 2018, Cole posted a professional career-best 34.5 percent strikeout rate and averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball, third best among starters.

No. 29. Javier Baez, UT, Chicago Cubs

2018 rank: Not ranked.

One key 2019 projection: He is one of only five players, along with Ronald Acuna Jr., Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story and Mike Trout, whom ZiPS projects to have at least 30 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 2019.

Did you know? What changed most for Baez during his breakthrough 2018 was his performance against right-handed pitchers (.286/.317/.549) and his aggressiveness early in the count (top-ranked 49 percent swing rate at the first pitch).

No. 28. J.T. Realmuto, C, Philadelphia Phillies

2018 rank: 79

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS projects Realmuto to set personal bests with 25 home runs, 84 RBIs and a .503 slugging percentage, with the latter also pacing his position.

Did you know? Realmuto was a .309/.356/.492 hitter on the road during his Miami Marlins career and hit 37 of his 48 home runs away from Miami.

No. 27. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

2018 rank: 10

One key 2019 projection: His Marcel projection has him with an .817 OPS, which is just 16 points shy of his four-year career number to date (.833).

Did you know? Correa has totaled 18.3 WAR through his age-24 season, 10th-most through that age by any active player and 11th-most through that age among shortstops in baseball history.

No. 26. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

2018 rank: 9

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS expects Votto to pace the National League with a .421 on-base percentage, just 12 points off projected major league leader Mike Trout's number (.433).

Did you know? Per Statcast, Votto hit only 30 popups the past five seasons combined. Ninety players hit more than 30 popups last season alone.

No. 25. Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets

2018 rank: 34

One key 2019 projection: ESPN Fantasy projects Syndergaard to match his pro career high of 30 starts and set a new best with 185 innings pitched.

Did you know? Since Syndergaard's major league debut on May 12, 2015, he ranks sixth in ERA (2.93) and 14th in strikeout rate (27.1 percent) among pitchers who have worked at least 350 innings.

No. 24. Aaron Nola, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

2018 rank: 100

One key 2019 projection: His PECOTA projection of a 27.8 percent strikeout rate would set a new professional career best.

Did you know? Nola was the only ERA qualifier (minimum 162 innings pitched) in baseball to manage at least 25 percent strikeout and 50 percent ground ball rates with no greater than a 7.5 percent walk rate in 2018.

No. 23. Luis Severino, SP, New York Yankees

2018 rank: 31

One key 2019 projection: Both PECOTA and ZiPS project Severino's K/9 ratio to drop below 10 (9.92 each), a threshold he reached in each of his full big league seasons, in 2017 (10.71) and 2018 (10.35).

Did you know? Severino's 2.31/5.57 ERA split between the first and second half last season represented a major-league-worst (among qualifiers) decline of minus-3.26 runs.

No. 22. Justin Verlander, SP, Houston Astros

2018 rank: 29

One key 2019 projection: Steamer projects Verlander to strike out 249 hitters, which would be the 12th-most by a pitcher age 36 or older in baseball history.

Did you know? Verlander's 34.8 percent strikeout and 4.4 percent walk rates in 2018 were by far the best among his 14 professional seasons, but his 30.7 percent ground ball rate was also easily his lowest as a pro.

No. 21. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

2018 rank: 12

One key 2019 projection: ESPN Fantasy projects Bryant to have a .382 on-base percentage and a .506 slugging percentage, only six and 21 points off his combined marks from 2015 to '17.

Did you know? Through the first two months of last season, before his shoulder issues began to surface, Bryant was a .286/.401/.524 hitter in 48 games.

No. 20. Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves

2018 rank: Not ranked.

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS forecasts Acuna to hit an Atlanta-best 30 homers in his second big league season.

Did you know? Acuna's .917 OPS was the 11th-highest ever for a player 20 or younger, but one of the players ahead of him on the list was another 2018 rookie, Washington's Juan Soto.

No. 19. Manny Machado, 3B, San Diego Padres

2018 rank: 15

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS projects Machado to lead all NL third basemen with 5.4 fWAR.

Did you know? Machado has hit at least 33 homers in each of the past four seasons. The Padres haven't had a third baseman hit that many since Phil Nevin hit 41 in 2001.

No. 18. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves

2018 rank: 25

One key 2019 projection: Freeman's gap power shows up in ZiPS' NL-leading forecast of 39 doubles.

Did you know? Freeman, 29, already ranks second among Braves first basemen in career fWAR (30.8).

No. 17. J.D. Martinez, DH, Boston Red Sox

2018 rank: 27

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS projects Martinez to lead the potent Red Sox lineup in homers (36) and RBIs (106).

Did you know? Martinez's 43 homers in his first season with Boston were the most by a Red Sox right-handed hitter since Manny Ramirez's 45 in 2005.

No. 16. Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians

2018 rank: 6

One key 2019 projection: Part of Kluber's greatness is just showing up; Steamer projects him to lead the majors in innings (209).

Did you know? Kluber's 33.6 WAR ranks eighth among pitchers on Cleveland's all-time list, and if he tops 5.0 WAR for a fourth straight season, he'll move up to sixth.

No. 15. Bryce Harper, RF, Philadelphia Phillies

2018 rank: 5

One key 2019 projection: In Harper's first Phillies season, ZiPS projects him to lead the team in homers (36), runs (104), walks (119), on-base percentage (.407) and slugging percentage (.537).

Did you know? PECOTA tabs Hall of Famer Mel Ott as the most comparable player to Harper. Ott feasted on his home venue, the Polo Grounds, just as the Phillies hope Harper will get fat on Citizens Bank Park.

No. 14. Jose Ramirez, 3B, Cleveland Indians

2018 rank: 30

One key 2019 projection: According to Steamer, Ramirez is one of five players forecast to steal at least 20 bases and hit at least 20 homers.

Did you know? Last season, Ramirez and Francisco Lindor became the first Indians duo to both surpass 7.5 WAR in the same season since Ray Chapman and Tris Speaker in 1917.

No. 13. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals

2018 rank: 11

One key 2019 projection: Steamer projects that Goldschmidt's .874 OPS will be the best on the Cardinals, but it would be his worst showing since 2012.

Did you know? Goldschmidt's 120 stolen bases since 2012 are more than double the total of any other first baseman.

No. 12. Blake Snell, SP, Tampa Rays

2018 rank: Not ranked.

One key 2019 projection: Among pitchers Steamer forecasts to qualify for the ERA title, Snell's 3.24 projection is the fifth-best in baseball.

Did you know? Hitters managed a meek .126 average with 93 strikeouts and only one home run against Snell's curveball in 2018.

No. 11. Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees

2018 rank: 16

One key 2019 projection: All the leading projection systems are forecasting Judge to take a strikeout-driven plunge in batting average, from his career-best .273 mark to a range between .251 and .260.

Did you know? What happens when Judge does make contact? Over the past two seasons, his .362 average on balls in play ranks third in the majors.

10. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

2018 rank: 3

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS forecasts a .308 batting average for Altuve, best among AL hitters.

Did you know? Altuve has actually beaten that figure the past five seasons, a stretch that includes three batting titles. He hit .332 in the first half but, bothered by a sore knee, hit just .276 in the second half and finished at .316.

No. 9. Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox

2018 rank: 8

One key 2019 projection: His projected FanGraphs ERA of 2.70 is lowest among starting pitchers.

Did you know? Sale's 158 innings in 2018 were his fewest as a starter, but his .181 batting average against and 38.4 percent strikeout rate were career highs.

No. 8. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

2018 rank: 14

One key 2019 projection: Lindor leads all shortstops with a projected WAR of 6.9.

Did you know? Lindor cracked 38 home runs in 2018, one more than Trevor Story and Manny Machado to lead all shortstops. Only four shortstops have ever hit more in a season: Alex Rodriguez, Ernie Banks, Rico Petrocelli and Vern Stephens.

No. 7. Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

2018 rank: 41

One key 2019 projection: Yelich is one of just four players FanGraphs projects to both score and drive in 100 runs (he scored 118 and drove in 110 in 2018).

Did you know? Yelich led the NL in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS en route to winning the MVP award. He became the first Brewers player to win a batting crown.

No. 6. Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros

2018 rank: 57

One key 2019 projection: His FanGraphs projection of 5.5 WAR is highest on a loaded Astros team.

Did you know? In his breakout season, Bregman finished fifth in the MVP voting. His 83 extra-base hits ranked third in the majors.

No. 5. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

2018 rank: 7

One key 2019 projection: His FanGraphs projection of 36 home runs tops all National Leaguers. He has led the league in three of the past four seasons (including his 38 in 2018).

Did you know? If Arenado does lead the league again for the fourth time, he would be the first National Leaguer to do so since Mike Schmidt did it eight times (the last in 1986).

No. 4. Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets

2018 rank: 32

One key 2019 projection: His FanGraphs projected strikeout total of 248 is second-highest in the majors, 21 fewer than the 269 he fanned last season.

Did you know? Four Mets pitchers have led the NL in K's -- R.A. Dickey, David Cone (twice), Dwight Gooden (twice) and Tom Seaver (five times). Seaver's 289 in 1971 is the club record.

No. 3. Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals

2018 rank: 4

One key 2019 projection: ZiPS projects Scherzer to throw 193⅓ innings, the third-highest total in the majors.

Did you know? Only six pitchers have topped 200 innings the past two seasons, but Scherzer has done it six seasons in a row, the only player to do that. He's dominant and durable.

No. 2. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

2018 rank: 17

One key 2019 projection: Steamer and ZiPS both project Betts to score 114 runs, most in the majors.

Did you know? Last season, Betts tied for the major league lead with 129 runs -- while playing just 136 games. That was the best runs-to-games ratio since Jeff Bagwell scored 152 runs in 159 games in 2000.

No. 1. Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels

2018 rank: 1

One key 2019 projection: No surprise, but Trout easily owns the highest WAR projection. His 8.6 ZiPS forecast is 1.6 WAR higher than Betts'.

Did you know? Trout has actually beat that 8.6 figure in five of his seven seasons, averaging 9.1 per year, according to Baseball-Reference. The exceptions were 2014 (7.6), when he still won MVP honors, and 2017 (6.7), when he was injured and played 114 games.

Player write-ups for Nos. 1-50 by David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle and Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com, and Tristan H. Cockcroft and AJ Mass of ESPN Fantasy.