If there is an entity who is constantly making eye-rolling rankings for professional athletes who need to stop, it’s the Major League Baseball Network. They usually garner a lot of controversy regarding their annual MLB rankings by position, mainly for a lack of real ranking criteria. That trend of theirs has seeped into their official Top 100 player rankings and it is mind-numbingly bad, not only because players don’t seem to be in the right spots or have been given proper consideration, but also because it feels lazily put together.
The list was revealed in groups of 20 every couple of days until the list was completed, so naturally, I kept myself updated on which players were placed where in comparison to other players on the list. Just about every time new players were announced I had some type of issue with it. Though, I couldn’t really place my finger on what it was, there was definitely something not right about how this list was constructed. I did a deeper dive into the list and was able to pull out two major points as to why this is a miserable attempt at an MLB Top 100.
MLB Network can’t help but rank by position even when they’re not ranking by position. I started noticing this trend with catchers, but then realized it was all over the list. There are clusters of players who play the same position everywhere, showing that MLB Network was just too lazy to actually rank players based on actual merit and simply just recycled their position rankings. To illustrate this, of the 11 shortstops that made the list in some capacity, only three of them are ranked without another shortstop either directly in front or behind them, leaving the other eight in clusters to be directly compared to one another. The point of a Top 100 list should be to actually compare players of different positions to stir some sort of debate. Recycling positional rankings and scattering them across a larger list is lazy and throws any type of credibility out the window.
Looking at numbers 30 through 28 on this list will always make me ask the question, “What is this based on?” The players ranked from 30 to 28 are Yu Darvish (second in 2020 National League Cy Young voting), Trevor Bauer (2020 NL Cy Young winner), and Max Scherzer (three-time Cy Young winner), respectively per Baseball Reference. I don’t even know where to begin, so I will start with the imposter here: Trevor Bauer. Bauer has had a pretty average career thus far, posting a career 3.90 earned run average with one All-Star selection in 2018. If before 2020 you had told me Bauer would be ranked 29 on the MLB Top 100, I would have thought you were insane. Lo and behold, Bauer had himself a fantastic 2020 season, which should have given him a boost in the rankings, right? I would agree if the 2020 season wasn’t already such a small sample size for pitchers to take advantage of. Bauer’s free agency fiasco along with the amount of money he ended up getting is absolutely astonishing to me. Not only is he one of the ten highest paid pitchers in baseball, but most agree that his 2020 season was a fluke.
That being said about Bauer, to have him ranked so close to an all-time great like Max Scherzer is insulting. Scherzer, who is still performing at a high level, is a three-time Cy Young winner, seven-time All-Star and 2019 World Series winner. However, his 2020 season was definitely not as good as Bauer’s was. So, I ask the question again: “What is this based on?” If it were based solely on 2020 stats, then Bauer should be ranked a lot higher than Max Scherzer. But since it clearly isn’t based on just last year, Scherzer’s last two seasons alone are a lot better than Bauer’s. If it isn’t based on last season, I see no reason why Scherzer shouldn’t be ranked a lot higher than Trevor Bauer.
Enter Yu Darvish. Darvish, being one spot behind Bauer, makes a strong case for this list being heavily based off of last season, as they finished number one and two in Cy Young voting. But again, since Scherzer is ranked higher than both, we have to assume that there are other factors being considered as well. In that case, Yu Darvish has stronger “other factors” than Trevor Bauer does. Darvish is a four time All-Star and has placed second in Cy Young voting twice in his career. Not to mention, he holds an all-time record for the highest K/9 (strikeouts per 9 innings) in MLB history, making him one of the best strikeout pitchers ever. With all these additional stats in mind that dwarf Bauer’s career numbers, why isn’t Yu Darvish ranked higher than Bauer? I never thought I would get this frustrated about numbers 30 to 28 on an MLB Top 100, but I’ve also never seen one great year (in a shortened season no less) be rewarded so much.
MLB Network has a lot of work to do to improve their Top 100 lists. There should really be a strong criteria that lays the groundwork for more conversation and debate so that it isn’t the most plain, uncontroversial list out there. These should be built for out of position debates or even a scale for how to draft a fantasy team. It takes a little bit of thought, but I think MLB Network should get some better guys on it next year.