Comprehensive guide examines what to expect from more than 800 Major Leaguers
By Zachary Finkelstein
We're roughly two months away from Opening Day, when hope will spring anew at a ballpark near you.
Are you ready to swap sweater weather for fitted hats and baseball stats? If so, we have just what you need. Welcome to MLB.com's Player Preview, your one-stop information shop for the upcoming campaign.
The preview comprehensively chronicles more than 800 Major Leaguers. From baseball's brightest stars to the final man on your favorite franchise's bench, all of the need-to-know info can be found with one click on your computer or mobile device.
Each big league club is covered in the preview, your go-to source for write-ups, rankings, stats and video about your hometown heroes. You'll have to scroll through the preview for the full scoop, but let's break down the 10 best players right here, right now:
1. Mike Trout: The top spot for the third straight season belongs to Trout, a player with virtually unparalleled on-field clout. The 23-year-old possesses a precocious blend of power, speed and on-base ability -- skills that allowed him to lead the American League in RBIs during 2014 and runs scored in each season since '12.
Fresh off winning his first AL MVP Award, the outfielder will enter 2015 with near-limitless potential. The numbers buttress such a claim, as Trout appears to be on an early pace for the Hall of Fame. Through his age-22 campaign, he has authored a career in close resemblance to that of a young Mickey Mantle.
In summation, the Millville Meteor may still be on the rise.
2. Giancarlo Stanton: As you know by now, the conversation concerning the No. 1 slot was short and sweet. Thus, this is where the Hot Stove discussion begins to really burn. And, after a great deal of debate, Stanton took ranking No. 2 thanks to his light-tower power and potential.
One of the most likely Major Leaguers to belt 40 long balls during the upcoming campaign, Stanton possesses impressive plate discipline and a bit of speed to boot. Surrounded by an augmented Marlins lineup, the 25-year-old could even be set to drive in and score 100 runs.
Looking ahead, the Marlins outfielder likely has what it takes to challenge Trout's reign of supremacy in 2015.
3. Andrew McCutchen: Among everyone on this list -- Trout included -- McCutchen may be the safest pick entering 2015. Before you protest, take a look at the back of the outfielder's baseball card. He's about as consistent as they come.
The four-time All-Star and 2013 National League MVP Award winner has:
• Five straight seasons with more than 146 games played
• Four consecutive campaigns with at least 20 long balls
• Back-to-back-to-back years with at least a .314 batting average
Sure, the most fastidious of fans may point to McCutchen's stolen-base total from last year, when he swiped fewer than 20 bags for the first time in his career. He fell only two shy of that plateau, though, doing so in 146 contests.
4. Paul Goldschmidt: Simply put, the D-backs' first baseman sets the gold standard for power among infielders. After breaking out in a big way during 2013, Goldschmidt was on pace to again produce big results last year. That dream was fractured in early August, though, as the slugger sustained a broken left hand on a hit-by-pitch.
But despite that season-ending injury, Goldschmidt enters 2015 amid sky-high hopes. One of a select few with 30-homer, 100-RBI potential, the 27-year-old will look to continue his mashing ways while maintaining a .300 average -- a feat he's accomplished in each of the past two campaigns. Goldy has also swiped 42 bases since the start of 2012 -- tops at his position by a wide margin.
5. Clayton Kershaw: Some may disagree when they see a starting pitcher ranked this high. Rotation arms rarely toe the rubber more than 35 times per season, after all.
Kershaw has done more than enough to justify his place, though, winning the 2014 National League MVP and three NL Cy Young Awards in the past four years while wedging in a second-place finish during '12.
Right now, the left-hander is baseball's pitcher nonpareil. He has claimed four consecutive MLB ERA crowns, including two straight with a sub-1.85 ERA and a WHIP below 0.95. He strikes out batters at an elite level, as evidenced by a 10.8 K/9 rate in 2014 that led all qualified starters. And, believe it or not, he is just 26 years old. As tough as it may be to fathom, the Dodgers' ace could carry his recent pace into '15.
Although baseball's impressive starting-pitching depth precludes Kershaw from ranking first overall, those who were to place him as high as second would not be making a bad call.
• Knocked in at least 100 in 11 consecutive campaigns
• Surpassed the century mark in runs during every season since 2010
Those feats aside, some have suggested that Miggy may be on the downswing. The first baseman did decline in most major offensive categories from 2013 to '14 -- so such claims are not entirely baseless -- but he nonetheless finished last season as one of just three players with 25 homers, 100 RBIs and an average in the .300s.
True, Cabrera has endured some injuries and underwent surgery during each of the past two offseasons. Sans health concerns, he'd surely be higher on this list. But if pain-free during 2015, the 31-year-old would likely mash as well as anyone in the game.
7. Carlos Gomez: Gomez, in the minds of many, will enter 2015 as the NL's premier power-speed star.
After all, the Brewers' center fielder finished 2014 as the Majors' lone 20-homer, 30-steal man. And the year prior, he was one of just two on this extremely exclusive list.
But we would be selling Gomez short by lauding him only for his thunder and lightning. Because, frankly, he does it all with aplomb.
A solid batting average? Check. He's hit precisely .284 in each of the past two seasons.
The potential to again excel in 2015? Checkmate. Gomez is just 29 and likely a few seasons away from any substantial regression.
8. Jose Abreu: Baseball's latest Cuban sensation unanimously took home the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2014. In fact, he was the lone Junior Circuit star to finish in the top five of all three Triple Crown categories.
But despite Abreu's indisputable excellence, fans may not be completely sure of what to expect from the phenom in 2015. Will he resemble the prodigious power hitter who belted 29 long balls with a .292 average during last year's first half? Or will he more closely mirror his post-All-Star-break self, the one who batted .350 with seven homers?
Either way, Abreu figures to be a focal point of a lineup made more formidable during the offseason.
9. Jose Altuve: Altuve excelled at the plate and on the bases last year, leading the big leagues with a .341 average and pacing the AL with 56 steals. Now entering his age-25 season, the second baseman could easily hit .300 across the next decade. And though his steals total may dip a bit during the upcoming campaign -- 41 of his 56 swipes last year came before the All-Star break -- he should be good to again wreak havoc once on base.
Expected to bat near the top of a high-powered lineup, the second baseman also has the potential to tally his first 100-run season.
After factoring in all considerations, Altuve appears to be the crème de la crème of middle infielders at this time.
10. Adam Jones: The O's outfielder could challenge McCutchen for the title of most consistent star on this list. Jones has posted four straight 25-homer seasons, averaging 31 per across the past three campaigns. He's also hit at least .280 in each of the past five while never playing in fewer than 149 contests in that span.
And though his stolen-base tally dropped into the single digits last year, Jones remains capable of swiping a dozen bags.
Still in his prime at 29, and with a hitter-friendly park to call home, the four-time AL All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner should be set for another season with strong across-the-board stats.
So there you have it, MLB.com's Top 10 stars entering 2015. That's 10 down with more than 800 to go.
Check out the preview for daily updates through the end of winter and deep into the spring, as the living online magazine will be constantly updated until the cry of "Play" is heard on Opening Day.
Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.