Top 10 MLB Players of the Decade
The best MLB players of the past decade have all reached the pinnacle of their sport in a variety of areas.
Whether it be with the bat, the arm, or the glove, these top ten players personify the best the game has had to offer since the decade began in 2010.
1. Mike Trout
Mike Trout has 45 homers and is making over 33 million this year.
Yet, he is still hustling and beating out routine ground balls. You can’t teach heart. 💯 pic.twitter.com/IjIxdfWXJI
— Baseball Lifestyle™ (@BsbLifestyle__) September 9, 2019
If you’re curious how valuable Mike Trout has been to the Los Angeles Angels since his debut in late 2011, Fangraphs has placed a dollar amount of $562.2 million in value thus far in his career.
That monetary figure is what a career line of 285 homers, 903 runs, 752 RBI, 200 stolen bases and an OPS of 1.000 is worth on the open market.
Since his first full season in 2012, Trout has won the Rookie of the Year award and two American League Most Valuable Player trophies.
But his consistently elite play has made him this generation’s version of Mickey Mantle, as Trout has racked up seven Silver Slugger awards and been named the runner up to the AL MVP in four different seasons.
And let’s not forget the damage to opposing pitchers that he inflicted in 2019.
Trout has put together his most valuable season yet, among MLB leaders currently in home runs with 45. However, due to scheduled foot surgery, he will miss the rest of the season.
Another year without getting to see Mike Trout in October ☹️ pic.twitter.com/M2H8KRzgWK
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) September 11, 2019
If you are a believer that great baseball players need championships, then Trout indeed suffers a bit as the Angels have wasted his career with nothing to show for it.
But World Series wins aside, Trout dazzled crowds each night as the decade’s best hitter, and a top-flight defender who provides highlight catches that will live forever on YouTube.
2. Clayton Kershaw
There has not been a pitcher this decade as exceptional than the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
The big lefty has claimed three National League Cy Young Awards over his career. And in 2014, he pulled off the rare double winning both the NL Cy Young and an MVP trophy.
Since 2010, Kershaw has won 153 games. A mark only topped by Max Scherzer’s 159 and Justin Verlander’s 154 victories during the decade.
But while those two pitchers might have clipped Kershaw in wins, the Dodgers’ ace has posted an ERA over the last ten seasons of just 2.28, while keeping a strikeout rate above a batter per inning.
Across any metric, Kershaw has been better than Scherzer and Verlander. According to Fangraphs, Kershaw’s Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, has been the highest of any starting pitcher since 2010 at 59.1.
If there has been a general knock on Kershaw over the past decade it involves his mediocre performance during the postseason.
And there is some validity to that argument as Kershaw has posted a 4.32 ERA over eight postseasons and 30 appearances.
Yet, Kershaw has been a mainstay on a Dodgers squad that is closing in on their seventh straight NL West title and posted as favorites to return to their third
consecutive World Series in 2019.
3. Max Scherzer
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 8, 2019
“Mad Max” has undoubtedly given Kershaw a run for his money in the battle for the best pitcher of the decade, especially since the right-hander has won three Cy Young Awards during the ten seasons.
Traded to the Detroit Tigers in 2010, Max Scherzer quickly established himself as a fierce competitor on the mound that racked up strikeouts and wins over the past ten seasons.
Scherzer currently sits at 2398 strikeouts for the decade, close to 200 Ks more than the runner-up Justin Verlander.
The Nationals’ ace has won 10 or more games in every year since 2010 and led the league in strikeouts three straight seasons from 2016 to 2018.
For Scherzer, the Cy Young Awards started coming in 2013 where the fireballer won 21 games for the Tigers while posting an ERA of 2.90.
Three seasons later, Scherzer won back-to-back Cy Youngs as a member of the Nationals.
In his Cy Young season of 2016, Max won 20 games and struck out 284 opposing hitters, leading the National League in both categories.
The following season, Scherzer posted a 2.51 ERA, won 16 games, and struck out a whopping 268 batters. The line was good for his third career Cy Young trophy.
Even at 35, Scherzer shows no signs of slowing down and continues to baffle hitters with a devastating slider and elite fastball.
4. Justin Verlander
The Houston Astros’ ace has been a stellar number one starter since his rookie season of 2006.
Along the way, Verlander has put up some incredible seasons but also began to flounder midway through the decade.
But what makes the right-hander one of the most prolific pitchers of the last ten years is that he overcame injury, reset his career, and won a World Series title with Houston.
For the decade, Verlander has won the second-most games with 154, ranked second in total strikeouts with 2199, and thrown the most innings by a starting pitcher since 2010 with 2097.2 innings.
The high point in Verlander’s career came in 2011 when the right-hander won both the AL Cy Young and MVP trophies.
That season, Verlander won 24 games, posted a 2.40 ERA, and struck out a league-leading 250 batters.
It was a dominant performance that foreshadowed Verlander’s brilliance for the remainder of the decade. The Astros’ righty finished as the runner-up for the Cy Young three times and was named to the AL All-Star team six times.
Aside from his brilliant 2011 season, Verlander will be most remembered for his last-minute trade to the Astros in August of 2017.
After the deal, Verlander went on to win all five of his regular-season starts for the Astros and dominated in the postseason to lead Houston to their first-ever World Series crown.
5. Joey Votto
Although Joey Votto debuted as the Reds’ first baseman in 2007, his career year came in 2010, whereas a 26-year old, he hit .324, stole 16 bases, hit 37 homers and drove in 113 runs in a performance that earned him the 2010 NL MVP.
But what Votto does better than anyone gets on base and if you subscribe to the Moneyball way of scoring runs, then Votto is Billy Beane’s favorite player.
In the current decade, Votto’s On-Base Percentage, or OBP, stands at .429. A mark that is best for any hitter over the last ten seasons and that field includes Mike Trout.
Since the start of the decade, Votto won the 2010 NL MVP trophy, came in second for the honor in 2017 and placed third in 2015.
He has been to the All-Star game as a representative of the National League six times and won a Gold Glove for his play at first base in 2011.
Known for his wit in interviews and the way he warmly treats kids at games, Votto is nearing the end of his career, but for the last decade, he has been an ambassador of what’s great about the game.
6. Miguel Cabrera
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) September 9, 2019
Cabrera started the 2010 season as a 27-year old with several seasons of stellar baseball under his belt at that point.
But “Miggy” has established himself as one of the game’s great hitters, regardless of what decade he’s in.
Starting in 2010, Cabrera went to seven straight All-Star games, receiving MVP votes in each season and claiming several batting titles during that stretch.
But those accolades aside, Cabrera put up a few of the most jaw-dropping offensive seasons that baseball has seen in recent memory.
In 2012, Cabrera became the first non-outfielder since 1934 to win the Triple Crown. Cabrera led the American League in homers (44), RBI (139) and batting average (.330).
For his efforts, the Tigers’ first baseman won the MVP that season, clipping Mike Trout for the honor.
The following year, Miguel put up another season for the ages as he hit 44 homers, drove in 137 runs and led the league with a .348 average. Again, the baseball writers awarded him with his second consecutive AL MVP.
For the decade, Cabrera leads all hitters with a .318 batting average and ranks 4th with 933 RBI.
7. Buster Posey
So you might be wondering why a catcher is on the list, but Posey is no ordinary backstop.
In a career that began in earnest in 2010, Posey has won three World Series titles, an NL MVP trophy, been named to six NL All-Star teams, won NL Rookie of the Year and taken home a Gold Glove for his defensive play.
As good as Posey has been at the plate, one of the biggest reasons he belongs on this list is how durable and consistent he has been behind the plate.
In an era where catchers rarely play more than 120 games, Posey played 140 games or more in six straight seasons.
In his career year of 2012, a year that San Francisco won the World Series title against Detroit, Posey hit .336 with 24 homers and 103 RBI while playing 148 games for the Giants.
While his offensive performance never reached that pinnacle again, Posey received MVP votes in each of the following four seasons, including the Giants last World Series in 2014.
8. Chris Sale
Although Sale might not have the hardware that pitchers like Kershaw, Verlander, and Scherzer can place on their mantle, the left-hander has been one of the most superb pitchers since 2010.
Starting in 2012, Sale reached seven straight All-Star games representing the American League and never finished outside of the top-6 in the AL Cy Young voting.
His best season came in 2017 as Sale began the year by being traded to the Boston Red Sox. The lefty won 17 games for the second straight season, posted a 2.90 ERA and struck out a staggering 308 hitter in 214.1 innings.
The following year, Sale would help the Red Sox with their fourth World Series title since 2004, although due to injuries he had to pitch primarily from the bullpen.
Even though Sale doesn’t have the mileage like some of the other premier starters on this list, he has the best strikeout rate of any pitcher this decade, averaging 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
9. Adrian Beltre
He’s one of 4 players ever with 3 career cycles and the first to do it since 1933. pic.twitter.com/JJnFwZysEv
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) August 3, 2019
The charismatic third baseman began the decade playing for the Boston Red Sox before leaving the following season via free agency and leading the Texas Rangers to their second straight World Series appearance.
During the decade, Beltre was the consummate professional, dazzling spectators with defense that brought home three Gold Glove awards in his time with Texas.
He also topped all third basemen in homers (227) and RBI (696) for the decade and ranked 4th among all hitters over the ten-year span with a .307 batting average.
Beltre pulled down four All-Star game appearances and received MVP votes in seven straight seasons starting with his lone year in Boston in 2010.
Among position players, Beltre ranks seventh in WAR for the decade at 43.0. Just 0.4 WAR behind Miguel Cabrera, even though Beltre retired at the end of 2018.
The soon-to-be Hall of Famer became widely known over the final decade of his career for his infectious smile, clutch hitting, and highlight-reel plays at the hot corner.
10. Zack Greinke
Our final player on the list is right-handed pitcher, Zack Greinke.
Not particularly known for any one specific skill, Greinke has made his way through the decade as one of the most dependable pitchers who continually has posted outstanding results.
Greinke, like Sale, has never won a Cy Young Award, but since 2010, he has been to five All-Star Games, won five Gold Gloves, and was runner-up for the Cy Young in 2015.
The right-hander ranks fourth in wins over the past decade with 150, just nine shy of the leader Max Scherzer.
Greinke has also thrown the fifth-most innings since 2010 with 1940.1 innings and struck out the 8th highest number of batters with 1834.
Among the 20 pitchers that have thrown over 1500 innings this decade, Greinke’s ERA of 3.18 ranks sixth on the list.
With his recent trade to the Houston Astros, Greinke might finally get the one thing that has eluded him throughout his long career, and that’s a World Series title.