AL Team by Team Best Players

New York Yankees slugger, Robinson Cano.
New York Yankees slugger, Robinson Cano. | Source

The Best Players in Major League Baseball's American League

Every American League baseball team has one or more players who stand out among their peers. It happens every year, and a player that had terrific numbers last year might be slumping this year. That's one of the aspects of the game that makes baseball meaningful; it's very difficult to excel year after year on the field. The best players are those who are able to do so.

The players mentioned in this article are the AL pitchers and hitters who are currently playing high above any average level. It is a team by team examination, instead of an overall player ranking. The game of baseball is all about winning - why else would the MVP award be given to the player who has most helped his team win?

The American League has some well-known names. Still, there are young players breaking out every year, and then there are the veteran stars that seemingly never have off years. The players mentioned here are mentioned because they are actively performing above the norm to help their teams win; it is not meant to be a scouting report, nor does it take into account fine players that have missed considerable playing time lately.

Past feats are taken into account, but to be listed here requires that long-term stars are currently hitting or pitching at a high level.

AL East Best Players

New York Yankees

2B Robinson Cano: An All-Star the past three seasons, the 30-year old second-baseman struck out 85 times in 2014, but drew 65 walks. Finished fourth in AL MVP voting in 2012. Cano is a free agent and is seeking a big, long-term deal to stay in pinstripes in 2014 and beyond.

Final 2012 stats: .313, 33 HR, 94 RBI, .550 SLG PCT (rank 9 in AL).

Final 2013 stats: .314, 27 HR, 107 RBI, .516 SLG PCT

Significant injuries past two seasons: None.

CL Mariano Rivera: No relief pitcher has ever contributed so much to his team as Rivera has for the Yanks. Though he spent most of 2012 on the disabled list, a healthy Rivera made his last season an unforgettable one in 2013.

Final 2012 stats: 1-1, 2.16 ERA, 5 saves.

Final 2013 stats: 6-2, 2.11, 44 saves in 51 opportunities, 52 strikeouts.

Final Career stats: 82-60, 652 saves in 732 opportunities, career WHIP: 1.00.

Baltimore Orioles

1B Chris Davis has bashed 88 homeruns over the past two seasons for the Orioles. His detractors say he strikes out too much (199 times in 2013), but he alone stopped Miguel Cabrera of Detroit from winning back to back Triple Crowns in the American League. In fact, 'Crush' and Cabrera were the only two major leaguers to post OPS (On Base Pct.+Slugging Pct.) over 1.000 this past season.

Final 2012 stats: .270, 33 HR, 85 RBI, .501 SLG PCT

Final 2013 stats: .286, 53 HR (1st in MLB), 138 RBI (1st in MLB), .634 SLG PCT (2nd in MLB)

Injuries in 2013: None significant.

CF Adam Jones. Baltimore's capable center fielder is one of those rare guys who can do it all on the field. He's 28 years old and a three time All-Star.

Final 2012 stats: .287, 32 HR, 82 RBI, 103 runs scored, 16 SB in 23 attempts, .505 SLG PCT.

Final 2013 stats: .285, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 100 runs scored, 14 SB in 17 attempts, .493 SLG PCT

Significant injuries past two seasons: None

RP Darren O'Day: The 31-year old submarine pitcher was sidelined by injuries for much of the 2011 season, but other than that, he's been dominant since 2009. Opposing batters managed to hit .210 with seven homers against the right-hander in 2013; O'Day allowed a stingy 47 hits in 62 innings of work for the Orioles.

Final 2012 stats: 7-1, 2.28 ERA, 69 strikeouts.

Final 2013 stats: 5-3, 2.18, 59 strikeouts.

Significant injuries past two season: Numbness in right wrist/hand at end of 2013.

CL Jim Johnson: The big, right-handed stopper (and former starter) had an amazing year in 2012--he was voted an All-Star and AL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year. Johnson wasn't as befuddling to hitters in 2013 (allowed 72 hits in 70 1/3 innings pitched), but his noteworthy work over the past two seasons still earned him a spot as one of the American League's top players. If O'Day is healthy in 2014, there is an outside possibility he could supplant Johnson as closer for the Orioles.

Final 2012 stats: 2-1, 2.49 ERA, 51 saves in 54 chances.

Final 2013 stats: 3-8, 2.94 ERA, 50 saves in 59 chances.

Significant injuries past two seasons: None.

Toronto Blue Jays

DH-1B Edwin Encarnacion. The 30-year old right-handed power hitter was a first-time All-Star in 2013. He's slugged 78 homers and drove in 214 over the past two seasons.

Final 2012 stats: .280, 42 HR, 110 RBI, .557 SLG PCT.

Final 2013 stats: .272, 36 HR, 104 RBI, .534 SLG PCT.

Significant injuries past two seasons: Season-ending left wrist surgery to repair cartilage; two months rehab expected. Looks like he'll be fine before Spring Training 2014.

CL Casey Janssen. After missing 2008 with a torn labrum (shoulder) and again undergoing surgery on his right shoulder (AC joint) after the 2012 season, the odds of Janssen dominating in 2013 weren't high, but the 32-year old right-hander continues to surprise.

Final 2012 stats: 1-1, 2.54 ERA, 22 saves in 25 chances.

Final 2013 stats: 4-1, 2.56 ERA, 34 saves in 36 chances, 50 strikeouts.

Baltimore's big 'Crush' Davis prevented Detroit's Miguel Cabrera from winning back to back Triple Crown titles.
Baltimore's big 'Crush' Davis prevented Detroit's Miguel Cabrera from winning back to back Triple Crown titles. | Source

Boston Red Sox

DH David Ortiz: Big Papi, the most prolific power-hitting designated hitter of all-time, had a great year in helping the BoSox reach the World Series in 2013.

Final 2013 stats: .309, 30 HR, 103 RBI, .564 SLG PCT

Significant injuries past two seasons: Right Achilles (season-ending 2012 injury, seemed properly healed by early Spring 2013).

CL Koji Uehara: It's a pity Uehara is 38 years old. His statistics in 2013 are some of the most impressive this writer has ever seen. The right-hander from Osaka won the hearts of Boston fans with his ability and his youthful exuberance for the game.

Final 2013 stats: 4-1, 1.09 ERA, 21 saves in 24 chances, 101 strikeouts and 33 hits allowed in 74 1/3 innings pitched. WHIP: 0.57.

Significant injuries past two seasons: None.

Tampa Bay Rays

SP Matt Moore: 24-year old left-hander is another fine pitcher drafted by the Rays. On a formidable pitching staff, Moore has stood out. Opposing hitters managed to hit only .216 against him in 2013. The scary part: he will probably get better.

Final 2012 stats: 11-11, 3.81 ERA, 175 strikeouts.

Final 2013 stats: 17-4, 3.29 ERA, 143 strikeouts.

Significant injuries past two seasons: Left elbow strain in 2013.

RP Jesse Crain: The Canadian reliever didn't play for the Rays after he was traded from the White Sox at the end of July due to injury. He will be a big part of Tampa Bay's bullpen in 2014 if he can stay healthy. In addition to the right shoulder strain the 32-year old right-hander suffered last year, Crain had surgery on his right shoulder in 2007 (rotator cuff, labrum).

Final 2012 stats: 2-3, 2.44 ERA, 60 strikeouts.

Final 2013 stats: 2-3, 0.74 ERA, 46 strikeouts.

Young left-hander Matt Moore went 17-4 for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013.
Young left-hander Matt Moore went 17-4 for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013. | Source

AL Central Best Players

Detroit Tigers

3B Miguel Cabrera: The 30-year old, eight-time All-Star had another amazing year for the Tigers in 2013. The 2012 MVP has won the American League batting title the past three seasons. During that span, he has 118 home runs and 381 RBI.

Final 2012 stats: .330, 44 HR, 139 RBI, .606 SLG PCT.

Final 2013 stats: .348, 44 HR, 137 RBI, .636 SLG PCT.

Significant injuries past two seasons: hip, back, abdomen, serious groin tear (this last injury may require off-season surgery).

1B Prince Fielder: The giant slugger has been impressive protecting Cabrera in the lineup--a rather unheralded task. Though Fielder's power numbers slipped a bit in 2013, he still made AL pitchers pay for pitching to him.

Final 2012 stats: .313, 30 HR, 108 RBI, .528 SLG.

Final 2013 stats: .279, 25 HR, 106 RBI, .457 SLG.

Significant injuries past two seasons: None. The durable 29-year old has missed only one game since the end of the 2008 season.

SP Justin Verlander: The intimidating Virginian had an off year in 2013; there's no denying that. Don't fret, Verlander fans; the hard-working, six-time All-Star turns 31 before the 2014 season and will undoubtedly have plenty left in the tank to stymie AL hitters all over again.

Final 2012 stats: 17-8, 2.64 ERA, 239 strikeouts.

Final 2013 stats: 13-12, 3.46 ERA, 217 strikeouts, 218 1/3 IP (seventh season in a row with at least 200 innings pitched).

Significant injuries past two seasons: None.

SP Max Scherzer. The 29-year old fireballer from Chesterfield, Missouri started 2013 with twelve straight wins. He's won 52 over the past three seasons for Detroit. Opposing batters batted only .198 against him in 2013.

Final 2012 stats: 16-7, 3.74 ERA, 231 strikeouts.

Final 2013 stats: 21-3, 2.90 ERA, 240 strikeouts.

Significant injuries past two seasons: None.

SP Anibal Sanchez. It's hard to believe, but Sanchez will be 30 for the 2014 season and has a decidedly unimpressive career record of 62-59. Fans who've followed the five-pitch phenomenon know he's capable of much, much more if his team gets behind him and scores runs when he's on the mound.

Final 2012 stats: 9-13, 3.86 ERA, 167 strikeouts.

Final 2013 stats: 14-8, 2.57 ERA, 202 strikeouts.

Significant injuries past two seasons: Right shoulder stiffness mid-2013.

Detroit's Justin Verlander is feared and respected by MLB hitters.
Detroit's Justin Verlander is feared and respected by MLB hitters. | Source

Chicago White Sox

SP Chris Sale: The 6'6" left-hander will turn 25 at the start of the 2014 season. He's already won 32 games and logged over 500 innings pitched in the majors. He throws a nasty slider that's resulted in 418 strikeouts over the past two seasons.

Final 2012 stats: 17-8, 3.05 ERA, 192 strikeouts.

Final 2013 stats: 11-14, 3.07 ERA, 226 strikeouts.

Significant injuries past two seasons: None.

Cleveland Indians

RP Joe Smith: Having put together three stellar seasons in a row, Smith will entertain considerable offers as a free agent this off-season. The Indians hope to retain the right-handed reliever but may not be able to match offers from big-market teams.

Final 2012 stats: 7-4, 2.96 ERA, 53 strikeouts.

Final 2013 stats: 6-2, 2.29 ERA, 54 strikeouts.

Significant injuries past two seasons: None.

Minnesota Twins

C Joe Mauer: 30-years old now, the left-handed hitting backstop has three batting titles and three gold gloves. The past two seasons, the Twins have tried to spare Mauer from becoming more injury-prone by limiting him to 74 and 75 games behind the plate respectively in 2012 and 2013.

Final 2012 stats: .319, 10 HR, 85 RBI.

Final 2013 stats: .324, 11 HR, 47 RBI.

Significant injuries past two seasons: back, serious concussion symptoms.

CL Glen Perkins: Over the past two seasons, the left-handed stopper has allowed only 100 hits (13 of them homers, though) in 133 innings pitched.

Final 2012 stats: 3-1, 2.56 ERA, 78 strikeouts, 16 saves in 20 chances.

Final 2013 stats: 2-0, 2.30 ERA, 77 strikeouts, 36 saves in 40 chances.

Significant injuries past two seasons: Right knee (should be ready for Spring Training 2014).

Kansas City Royals

SP James Shields: The reliable right-hander didn't disappoint after coming to the Royals after seven years in Tampa Bay. He hasn't pitched less than 200 innings since his rookie seasons (2006).

Final 2012 stats: 15-10, 3.52 ERA, 223 strikeouts.

Final 2013 stats: 13-9, 3.15 ERA, 196 strikeouts.

Significant injuries past two seasons: None.

CL Greg Holland: The 5'10" tall right-hander has been dominant the past two seasons for Kansas City. Holland was an All-Star for the first time in 2013.

Final 2012 stats: 7-4, 2.96 ERA, 91 strikeouts, 16 saves in 20 chances.

Final 2013 stats: 2-1, 1.21 ERA, 103 strikeouts, 47 saves in 50 chances.

Significant injuries past two seasons: None.

AL West Best Players

Los Angeles Angels

CF Mike Trout: The 25th overall draft pick in the 2009 draft went from low level minor leaguer to top prospect to major league star, all before the age of 21 (he turned 21 on Aug. 7, 2012). Over the past two seasons, he's got 372 hits and drawn 177 base on balls. It seems every time you look up, he's on base.

Final 2012 stats: .326, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB in 54 attempts.

Final 2013 stats: .323, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 33 SB in 40 attempts.

Significant injuries past two seasons: None.

SP Jered Weaver: The 31-year old right-handed starter has won nearly twice as many games as he's lost spanning his career (113-60). A freak incident in April, 2013 had Weaver diving away from a line drive and he came down hard on his left elbow, breaking it. He returned, a feat in itself, and provided some impressive starts for the Angels.

Final 2012 stats: 20-5, 2.81 ERA, 142 strikeouts.

Final 2013 stats: 11-8, 3.27 ERA, 117 strikeouts.

Texas Rangers

3B Adrian Beltre: Through 94 games, the right-handed hitting Beltre posted a .317 batting average with a .519 slugging percentage.

LF Josh Hamilton: The former AL MVP has struggled in the second half of 2012. Still, through 91 games, the left-handed slugger had 28 homers and 83 RBI.

CL Joe Nathan: The veteran right-hander had 20 saves in 21 opportunities through July 25, 2012.

RP Robbie Ross: Through 50 innings pitched, the lefty sported a 1.08 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP. Opposing hitters were batting .213 against him.

Seattle Mariners

SP Felix Hernandez: One of the finest right-handed starters in the game, Hernandez was 9-5 with a 2.80 ERA through 21 starts.

RP Charlie Furbush: The situational lefty has been amazing in 2012. Through 37 1/3 innings pitched, the 26-year old had allowed only 19 hits and 11 walks (0.80 WHIP).

CL Tom Wilhelmsen: In his second season in the Major Leagues, the 6'6" tall right-hander won Seattle's stopper job. Through July 26, 2012, Wilhelmsen had saved 12 of 14 games and had an ERA of 2.26.

Oakland Athletics

RF Josh Reddick: Through 96 games, the right fielder had 10 outfield assists (good for 3rd among right fielders in the American League). The 25-year old with the sweet left-handed swing was hitting .272 with 22 home runs and 50 RBI through 96 games.

CL Ryan Cook: An interesting prospect, Cook's only saved 10 games in 15 opportunities. But his other numbers are intriguing. Through 42 2/3 innings pitched, the 25-year old right-hander had only allowed 19 hits and two home runs. Opposing batters were hitting a paltry .134 against him.

The Mariner's Felix Hernandez is one of most feared starting pitchers in the American League.
The Mariner's Felix Hernandez is one of most feared starting pitchers in the American League. | Source

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Comments 6 comments

whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

An excellent hub and most informative for all of us who are so interested in the sport of baseball. You have organized this article very well and is interesting in its content. Well done.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

Thank you so much, whonunuwho.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

Very well done....I enjoyed reading this well researched hub.... could not come up with a single player that should be on this list that is not....although I am sure some underachieving players will rebound in the second half of the season....Carlos Santana of the Indians, Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox(had a great Saturday) and Delmon Young of the Tigers(he always tears in up in the second half) come to mind....voted up and awesome.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

I agree, Cogerson. Quality players don't stay off the mark for long. Gonzalez is an amazing hitter, Santana a proven power hitting catcher, and Young a late-season-to-playoffs asset in a formidable Tigers lineup. Thanks for stopping by!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

I hate to admit I'm not an avid BB fan though I love to watch the Yankees. This was a very informative hub and I know true fans will love it.

Voted up and interesting.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks, tillsontitan.

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