There’s a lot that goes into being the best position player in baseball. Lots of time, attentiveness to one’s conditioning, personal will, and determination all play a key role in the feat. As we come to the close of yet another baseball campaign, we must stop and ask ourselves who had these factors. It’s not difficult to find the response. All one has to do is look at a website. For this particular series, we will be utilizing Fangraphs and examining the ten best positional weapons baseball had to offer this season. They are many, and they are varied. From catchers to outfielders, designated hitters to first basemen, no spot is left unvalidated.
Pitching will be discussed in our next series. For now, we are going to focus solely on position players. There are a great many familiar names on this list. A lot of them populate the rosters on this season’s World Series participants. However, that being said, the mark of the best position player does not rest in a trophy case. It rests in the accomplishments of the season at large, building resumes toward future endeavors. So, without further ado, here are numbers ten through five.
Best Position Player #10: J.T. Realmuto
(.276/.342/.478, 6.5 fWAR)
Our best player list kicks off with J.T. Realmuto, the catcher for the new National League champion Philadelphia Phillies. Ever since he made his debut in 2014 with the Miami Marlins, Realmuto has turned heads. In 2022, he did the same, posting the second highest total bases mark of his career (241). He had the second highest wRC+ (128) and wOBA (.354) among catchers with at least 400 plate appearances. His defense was excellent as well, as his dWAR of 19.8 ranked behind only Dansby Swanson, among all position players in the National League. One of the best to wear a mask in today’s game, Realmuto definitely earned his spot here.
#9: Jose Altuve
(.300/.387/.533, 6.6 fWAR)
Ever the model of consistency, Jose Altuve had yet another brilliant season. The Houston Astros‘ second baseman finished third in the American League in wRC+ (164). He posted a 41.8 oWAR, which was third as well. His BABIP of .315 was in the top-25, and his wOBA of .397 was third. He tied a career high with a 160 OPS+. Defensively, he had an up and down season, posting a 1.8 dWAR, but the league’s worst DRS among second basemen (-15). But, it is Altuve’s bat that carries him, and he added another notch to a body of work that may be Cooperstown bound.
#8: Mookie Betts
(.269/.340/.533, 6.6 fWAR)
Much like Altuve, Mookie Betts has made a name for himself via consistency. The former AL MVP and current Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder made another excellent case for best position player honors this season. He finished in the top-ten in the NL in homers (35) and doubles (117). His 117 runs scored were tied with Freddie Freeman for the league lead. He was eighth in wRC (105) and sixth in wRC+ (144). A wOBA of .373 was better than names like Pete Alonso, and league batting champion Jeff McNeil. All told, Betts had a season worthy of his resume. Only time will tell if he can back it up.
#7: Yordan Alvarez
(.306/.406/.613, 6.6 fWAR)
Yordan Alvarez has exploded onto the scene over the past few seasons. This year, he proved yet again why he is one of the best young players in the game. He ranked second in the AL in homers (37), fourth in runs (95), and fifth in RBI (97). His oWAR of 52.8 was second best and his wRC+ of a staggering 185 ranked the same. His only struggle came with the glove, as he had an OAA in the negative and a dWAR of 0.8. That said, he did tie for the fifth highest DRS among AL left fielders with 100 innings or more. If he can get a little more balanced in the field, he should move up the best player list next season. His offensive talent, on the other hand, is absolutely undeniable.
#6: Francisco Lindor
(.270/.339/.449, 6.8 fWAR)
The battle between Francisco Lindor and Dansby Swanson over who was the National League’s best shortstop paralleled their clubs’ fight over the division. In the end, in terms of overall performance, Lindor just barely squeezes out the top spot. He finished 2022 in the top positional spot in homers (26), and RBI (107). He was also very patient at the plate, posting the league’s second best walk rate among shortstops. Defensively, he wasn’t quite as good as Swanson. However, an OAA of 13 and dWAR of 16.1 still place him among the league’s elite. In all, it was yet another successful season for the New York Mets superstar.
Best Position Player #5: Freddie Freeman
(.325/.407/.511, 7.1 fWAR)
Freddie Freeman’s departure from the Atlanta Braves came as a complete shock. However, his first year with the Dodgers has been an absolute triumph. He finished second to the Mets’ Jeff McNeil in the NL batting race. While his overall power hasn’t quite reached its zenith, he did post a respectable 21-homer campaign. Freeman’s value came in his contact work, posting an 83.1% contact rate. This was best among first basemen on the senior circuit. His defense, on the other hand, was concerning. Negatives in both dWAR and DRS knock him back a peg. Still, Freeman continues to be a constant on the best position player list. Continuous improvement shouldn’t be an issue.
These six men are all terrific players in their own right. However, they fall the tiniest bit short of topping our best position player list. Next time, we will be discussing the final four entrants on the list, along with some honorable mentions. Again, there is no shame in finishing below number one on this list. All that means is that even more legitimate effort needs to be put in to acquire that coveted number one slot. This season, that particular spot was something of a runaway. But, that is another story for another day.
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