Making a list that ranks the Top 50 of anything can be an inexact science, and in this case, with Major League Baseball, we’re lumping together position players and pitchers, just for the sake of argument. So we weighed not only talent and statistics, but resume and star potential as well. Also, how a player may have excelled in his particular role, compared to similar positions.
Note: For those discovering this list now, here's the 2017 edition
50. ADAM WAINWRIGHT, 34, Cardinals, RHP
If not for Tommy John surgery and recent Achilles repair, Wainwright would be ranked higher. Four top-three Cy Young finishes, including twice a runner-up. A lock sub-3.00 ERA and 200-plus innings when healthy.
49. XANDER BOGAERTS, 23, Red Sox, SS
After splitting the '14 season at third base, the slimmer, stronger Bogaerts returned to excel at shortstop last year, batting .320 and finishing second in the AL with 197 hits.
48. CURTIS GRANDERSON, 34, Mets, RF
Granderson switched gears last season, filling the Mets' leadoff void by becoming a more patient hitter and posting a .364 on-base percentage, his top mark since 2011. His .821 OPS was best since '11 as well.
47. CHRIS SALE, 26, White Sox, LHP
Sale doesn't end up with big win totals toiling on the South Side, but a career 2.91 ERA and a ridiculous 274 strikeouts last season illustrate his dominance. Four straight top-six finishes for the Cy Young Award, too.
46. DAVID ORTIZ, 40, Red Sox, DH
Ortiz hasn't worn a glove for more than a handful of games since 2004, but Big Papi remains one of the game's most intimidating bats as he begins his 20th and final season. Has 503 homers and a career .925 OPS.
45. ALEX RODRIGUEZ, 40, Yankees, DH
Advancing age and two hip surgeries have reduced A-Rod to a one-dimensional threat. But he proved last season to still be a legit power threat (.842 OPS) in hitting more than 30 homers (33) for first time since '08.
44. MARK TEIXEIRA, 35, Yankees, 1B
In recent years, the only thing holding back Teixeira has been his own body. Limited to 111 games last season, he still hit 31 homers, with a .906 OPS, in addition to providing Gold Glove-caliber defense at first.
43. JOSE ABREU, 29, White Sox, 1B
Chicago took a big leap of faith in signing the Cuban defector to a six-year, $68-million deal, but the gamble has paid off big. In two seasons, Abreu has averaged 33 homers and 104 RBIs, making him a bargain.
42. CHRIS ARCHER, 27, Rays, RHP
Aside from his MVP hair, Archer turned into an intimidating ace last season, with a career-high 252 strikeouts -- nearly 100 more than his previous best. Also a first-time All-Star and placed fifth in Cy Young voting.
41. CARLOS CORREA, 21, Astros, SS
As the top pick of the 2012 draft, and last season's Rookie of the Year, Correa provided a glimpse of his huge potential with 22 homers and an .857 OPS in his 99-game debut.
40. ALBERT PUJOLS, 36, Angels, 1B
It seems unlikely Pujols can ever live up to his $240-million deal, but recent seasons indicate he still can do damage despite nagging health issues. Pujols hit 40 homers last year, in 157 games, for the first time since 2010.
39. ROBINSON CANO, 33, Mariners, 2B
Saddled with a $240-million price tag, Cano is trying to live up to his Bronx reputation since moving to the Pacific Northwest. Has a slash line of .300/.358/.450 in two seasons with Seattle.
38. YADIER MOLINA, 33, Cardinals, C
Molina is getting to a dangerous age for lifelong catchers, but his value to St. Louis as an eight-time Gold Glove winner and seven-time All-Star cannot be overemphasized.
37. ADRIAN BELTRE, 36, Rangers, 3B
Beltre has four top-10 finishes for MVP in the past six seasons for his combination of Gold Glove defense and steady run production. Already a member of the 400-homer club, Beltre slipped below 20 in past two years.
36. NELSON CRUZ, 35, Mariners, RF/DH
Cruz seemingly had a chip on his shoulder after going unsigned until late February in 2014, and he's averaged 42 homers with 100 RBIs since, along with two top-seven finishes in the MVP voting.
35. MATT HARVEY, 26, Mets, RHP
Harvey quickly shook off any rust from Tommy John surgery, as well as the innings-limit hullabaloo, to regain his spot as one of the sport's most dominant pitchers with a 2.71 ERA and 1.019 WHIP last season.
34. JOSE ALTUVE, 25, Astros, 2B
The pint-sized hit machine has back-to-back seasons of 200-plus hits, and in the past four years averaged 41 stolen bases. Three All-Star appearances, two Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove also on his resume.
33. YOENIS CESPEDES, 30, Mets, CF
Coveted as a righthanded power threat, Cespedes outperformed his career profile with a blistering final two months last season after his trade to the Mets. Great am, but can he stay focused enough to be a plus-defender in center?
32. GIANCARLO STANTON, 26, Marlins, RF
Stanton slugged 27 homers in only 74 games during last year's injury-shortened campaign, and already has 181 in six seasons. Biggest question for him moving forward is staying healthy.
31. ADAM JONES, 30, Orioles, CF
The heartbeat of Baltimore, Jones has regressed some since his high-water marks of 33 homers and 108 RBIs in 2013. But the four-time Gold Glover and five-time All-Star is still good for 25-plus homers and 90 RBIs.
30. JACOB DEGROM, 27, Mets, RHP
No sophomore jinx for deGrom, who followed up his Rookie of the Year season with 205 strikeouts, a 2.54 ERA and a seventh-place Cy finish. Striking out side on 10 pitches in his first All-Star Game appearance was a nice touch, too.
29. EDWIN ENCARNACION, 33, Blue Jays, 1B/DH
All Encarnacion has done is average 38 homers and 106 RBIs the past four seasons while eclipsing .900 OPS during that same stretch. If not for such a deep Jays lineup, he'd get more MVP consideration.
28. J.D. MARTINEZ, 28, Tigers, RF
Hard to believe the Astros released Martinez, who was scooped up by the Tigers two days later in 2014. In two seasons since, Martinez has a slash line of .296/.350/.543, and hit 38 homers with 102 RBIs last year.
27. SONNY GRAY, 26, Athletics, RHP
Gray is 33-20 with a 2.88 ERA in his first three seasons, spanning 76 appearances (74 starts). Had a career-best 1.082 WHIP last year, earning his first All-Star trip and third place in the Cy Young balloting.
26. LORENZO CAIN, 29, Royals, CF
A first-time All-Star, Cain finished third in the MVP voting for the world champs, both for his stellar glove and balanced offensive game. Ranked second in AL with 26 stolen bases and scored 101 runs.
25. DALLAS KEUCHEL, 28, Astros, LHP
Keuchel was a workhorse (232 innings) en route to a 20-8 record, 2.48 ERA and 216 strikeouts in earning his first Cy Young Award last season. Also finished fifth in MVP balloting.
24. JOSE BAUTISTA, 35, Blue Jays, RF
A six-time All-Star, Bautista has four top-10 MVP finishes in the past six years while averaging 38 homers over that span. Also had four 100-plus RBI seasons during that stretch.
23. NOLAN ARENADO, 24, Rockies, 3B
In what seems like the Rockies' constant rebuilding process, Arenado is a legitimate star, coming off a breakout season of 42 homers and 130 RBIs. Also won third Gold Glove and finished eighth in MVP voting.
22. FELIX HERNANDEZ, 29, Mariners, RHP
King Felix hasn't won a Cy since 2010, but has five other top-10 finishes, including two second place. Slipped under 200 Ks last season (191) for first time since 2008 but still went 18-9 with a 3.53 ERA.
21. A.J. POLLOCK, 28, Diamondbacks, CF
A nifty combo of speed (39 stolen bases) and power (20 homers) with a shiny Gold Glove, Pollock also led NL centerfielders in defensive runs saved (14) last season.
20. CHRIS DAVIS, 29, Orioles, 1B
Davis has averaged 40 homers the past four seasons, including 53 in 2013, earning him a $161-million extension from the Orioles this winter. Free swinger who also led MLB with 208 strikeouts last year.
19. JASON HEYWARD, 26, Cubs, CF
Heyward has never hit 30 homers or driven in 100 runs, but Cubs paid him $184 million for his ability to get on base and his run prevention in a new position, rightfield. Still fairly young, maybe the power numbers will grow.
18. GERRIT COLE, 25, Pirates, RHP
The top pick in '11 draft, Cole showed why during last year's breakout season, with 208 innings, 202 strikeouts and a 2.60 ERA. Also finished 19-8 to help place him fourth in the Cy Young balloting.
17. KRIS BRYANT, 24, Cubs, 3B
Cubs looked silly in delaying Bryant's debut for service-clock reasons, but he still won Rookie of the Year honors with 26 homers and .858 OPS. Placed 11th in MVP balloting.
16. JAKE ARRIETA, 29, Cubs, RHP
Arrieta earned his first Cy Young last season, at 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA. Arrieta had a historic second half, going 11-0 with a 0.41 ERA from the start of August, the lowest since the stat was invented in 1913.
15. BUSTER POSEY, 28, Giants, C
Posey rebounded from a devastating 2011 plate collision, which prompted the rule change, to win the 2012 MVP and three Silver Sluggers. Last season's .849 OPS easily tops among catchers.
14. MADISON BUMGARNER, 26, Giants, LHP
Three consecutive sub-3.00 ERA seasons, and five straight with 30-plus starts, Bumgarner is a reliable and durable ace. A 7-3 record with a 2.14 ERA in 14 playoff appearances enhances his sterling rep.
13. MAX SCHERZER, 31, Nationals, RHP
Scherzer's 14 wins last season were his fewest since 2010, despite a career-best ERA (2.79) and top innings total (228 2/3). Somewhat lost amid Nats' disappointment, Scherzer was better than ever.
12. ANTHONY RIZZO, 26, Cubs, 1B
Rizzo is practically an elder statesman on the baby Cubs, and developed into one of the lineup's stabilizing forces, with consecutive 30-plus homer seasons and 101 RBIs last year, when he reached base at a career-best .387 clip.
11. DAVID PRICE, 30, Red Sox, LHP
Price has one Cy Young on his resume, in 2012, but this winter's $217-million contract topped Clayton Kershaw to make him the highest-paid pitcher in guaranteed money. As good as it gets before October.
10. MANNY MACHADO, 23, Orioles, 3B
Machado did it all for the Orioles while playing all 162 games last season, mixing his stellar defense with breakthrough power (35 homers) in finishing fourth in the MVP balloting.
9. ANDREW McCUTCHEN, 29, Pirates, CF
McCutchen won MVP in 2013 but also has finished in the top five in four straight seasons. Factor in a .298/.388/.496 slash line, with five seasons of 154-plus games, and McCutchen is as consistent as he is talented
8. ZACK GREINKE, 32, Diamondbacks, RHP
Greinke parlayed his Cy Young runner-up into a six-year, $206.5-million contract with Arizona. By bolting his LA partnership with Kershaw, Greinke may have single-handedly shifted the balance of power in the NL West.
7. JOEY VOTTO, 32, Reds, 1B
Votto endured a lost '14 season because of a nagging quad injury but rebounded (1.000 OPS/158 games) to finish third in MVP voting last year, his best showing since winning the award in 2010.
6. MIGUEL CABRERA, 32, Tigers, 1B
Cabrera remains the sport's highest-paid position player by virtue of his $31-million annual salary, but he's showed some slippage since his back-to-back MVPs (2012-13). When healthy, still the most lethal run-producer.
5. PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT, 28, Diamondbacks, 1B
Goldschmidt sandwiched a fractured hand between two second-place MVP finishes, so the only way to stop him is to keep him off the field.
4. CLAYTON KERSHAW, 27, Dodgers, LHP
There's no higher praise then being called a modern-day Sandy Koufax, but three Cy Young trophies in five years almost put Kershaw in a class by himself. Postseason record (2-6) needs polishing.
3. JOSH DONALDSON, 30, Blue Jays, 3B
Whatever ego boost Billy Beane got from being played by Brad Pitt on the big screen, it's been obliterated by the trade that sent Donaldson to Toronto. And it was the A's who moved him out from behind the plate.
2. BRYCE HARPER, 23, Nationals, RF
After a breakthrough 2015, which earned Harper his first MVP, maybe he should be listed as 1-A. If he stays healthy, Harper could become the sport's first $500-million player when he reaches free agency in two years.
1. MIKE TROUT, 24, Angels, CF
The whole package. In four years, Mike Trout won the MVP once and finished second three times. The consensus first pick of anyone building a team from scratch.