Alphabet Soup: Ranking the Best MLB Player from A to Z

Ranking the best active MLB player for each letter of the alphabet

As the chill of winter winds down, let’s make ourselves one final bowl of nice, warm, alphabet soup. But instead of carrots, celery, and noodles, our brothy bowl of lettered goodness will be chock-full of tasty WAR, wOBA, and PLV. Nutritious!

The ingredients for this alphabet soup will consist of only the best players currently playing in Major League Baseball – one player for each letter of the alphabet. How do I find such rare ingredients? I scour video, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and the fantastic Pitcher List Player Pages. Then I hand-select each player, examine their career statistics to ensure peak performance, and carefully add them to the pot.

I will primarily use career bWAR to make my selections since that cleanly encompasses many of a player’s skills on both sides of the diamond. It will be our broth and our noodles. I will also be adding a healthy helping of potential. The player may not have the career statistics now, but a glimpse into my handy crystal ball may show me glimmering images of Cooperstown.

Next, I’ll add a sprinkle of elite performance in a given role. Perhaps a player doesn’t have the WAR, but they have consistently been elite at the tasks they were asked to perform (I’m looking at you, Raisel Iglesias). And finally, I will add a little personal opinion to taste.

So without further ado, let’s go over the 26 savory selections.


A – Nolan Arenado

Arenado’s all-star ability at the hot corner ranks him among the most amazing 3rd basemen in the sport. Since first appearing in 2013, Arenado is second overall in defensive runs saved with 155 and has 10 gold gloves. In 2022, Arenado proved that his offense can still be awesome away from Coors, acquiring a .381 wOBA and finishing 3rd in National League MVP voting.


B – Mookie Betts

From belting bombs to bee-lining it around the basepaths, Mookie Betts is brilliant in just about every facet of baseball. His 2018 AL MVP and 56.4 career bWAR (7th among active batters) are just a few of the badges that bear out his belonging on the list. Of course, Betts isn’t just one of baseball’s best bashers, he’s also a brilliant bowler with several 300 games, including one on his 30th birthday.


C – Miguel Cabrera

In his heyday, Miguel Cabrera was in a class of his own. Not only did he compile two AL MVP awards while composing a 67.7 bWAR, but in 2012 he was also the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to collect a triple crown. And as his coronation into Cooperstown creeps closer, we can reflect cheerfully on the captivating career of one of baseball’s consummate hitters.


D – Jacob deGrom

When healthy, there is no denying the dominance of Jacob deGrom. The way his pitches dodge bats and dance around the strike zone is downright diabolical. His K% over the past 5 years has been a daunting 35.5%. And with the 7th-best active pitcher WAR (at 41.1) and dual NL Cy Young awards (2018 & 2019), there is little doubt that he deserves to represent D.


E – Nathan Eovaldi

Selecting Nathan Eovaldi to represent the letter E wasn’t an easy endeavor. But no other electable candidate has had the effectiveness or endurance over eleven esteemed seasons as Nate. In that time, he excelled to a career bWAR of 16.3 (44th among active pitchers) which is enough to earn him a place on this esteemed list.


F – Freddie Freeman

Freddie Freeman is one of the finest first basemen to set foot on the field. His flashy career 140 WRC+ and his fantastic 88th percentile hard hit rate make him a fearsome foe in the batter’s box. With a 49 bWAR that is 10th among active batters, few other hitters find themselves in the same level of fame as Freddie.


G – Paul Goldschmidt

It’s not just the four gold glove awards that galvanize Paul Goldschmidt as the gentleman representing G. Goldy was just gifted his first MVP award in 2022, and he has gathered together a glorious 58.5 bWAR – which is the 5th greatest among active batters. The fact he garnered a 144 WRC+ is simply the garnish of his grand career.


H – Bryce Harper

There’s no hiding that Harper has the hardware to handle being the representative for the letter H. His on-field heroics have earned him the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2012 and two NL MVP awards in 2015 and 2021. And with a 42.5 career bWAR before the age of 30, it’s only a matter of time before he hikes into the Hall of Fame.


I – Raisel Iglesias

Iglesias’ resume may not be as impeccable as some of the iconic talent included in this list, but he has still had an impressive career as one of the game’s most incredible closers. His 157 career saves are enough to place him 81st all-time. And while his WAR isn’t as inspiring as a few other “I” candidates, his impact as one of baseball’s top relievers can’t be ignored.


J – Aaron Judge

It’s easy to justify adding the Yankees’ crown jewel to this alphabet jambalaya. Last season Judge’s jaw-dropping 62 jacks and AL MVP award jumped him to the top of the list as one of the game’s juggernauts. Even without that jolt, however, Judge’s career .977 OPS and 163 WRC+ gives him the offensive juice to join this list.


K – Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw’s 2807 Ks alone would be enough to crown him king of the letter K. His knee-bending slider and curve have tied hitters in knots since he was just a 20-year-old kid. And with the second highest bWAR among active pitchers at 73.1, three NL CY Young awards, and an MVP, Kershaw keeps putting the kibosh on hitters’ dreams of hitting a baseball.


L – Francisco Lindor

Lindor locks in the letter L with a laudable list of accolades. From his low 15.5% career K% to his lively 8.3% barrel rate, there is a lot to like about New York’s loveable shortstop. He may not be a legitimate legend yet, but with a little more time Lindor could live up to that label.


M – Manny Machado

Manny Machado mashes baseballs into mush with his monstrous max exit velocity of 119.6 mph. But it’s more than his mammoth power that makes Machado the monarch of the letter M. Manny’s marvelous 124 career WRC+ is a monument to his offensive mastery. His magical 95th-percentile Outs Above Average and his 9th-best career bWAR among active players at 52.0 are models of Machado’s magnificence in all aspects of baseball.


N – Aaron Nola

Nola’s pitches nick the strike zone with ninja-like precision. His nasty four-seamer generates a 22% called strike rate, while his 5.49 PLV curveball neutralizes bats and leaves hitters nonplussed. When we also note the fact that he’s 17th overall in bWAR for active pitchers at 29.9, it’s easy to notice why Nola nabbed the N slot.


O – Shohei Ohtani

It is impossible to overstate the overwhelming and otherworldly ability of Shohei Ohtani. He obliterates bad pitches with his 100th-percentile max exit velocity and he outwits opposing hitters with his outstanding 5.39 PLV. Ohtani’s truly a one-of-a-kind, and it wouldn’t be an overstatement to ordain him the best active player in baseball, not just the optimal option for the letter O.


P – Salvador Perez

Salvador Perez is one of the premier players at his position. In his prime from 2013-2018, he procured five gold gloves and produced 20 defensive runs saved. With a career OBP of around .300, Salvy may not be a patient hitter, but he still popped over 220 home runs and played to a 32.3 bWAR. That puts his performance 34th among active batters.


Q – José Quintana

Over the past decade, José Quintana has quietly constructed a quality career. He never quite reached the ace-caliber ceiling he was given as a rookie. Still, with over 1500 strikeouts and a career bWAR of 27.4, there is no question he has the qualifications to represent Q.


R – José Ramírez

With a remarkable resume that includes a career .857 OPS and a 128 WRC+, I have little reluctance in saying José Ramírez can really rake. Not only does he raise eyebrows when he rips baseballs with a resounding 114 mph max exit velocity, he can also run. His 174 career stolen bases are proof of his resourcefulness in racing around the basepaths.


S – Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer’s superhuman ability to strike out opposing batters is enough to strike fear into the soul of any sap that squares off against him. But it’s more than the 3,193 strikeouts that sanction this sultan of the swing-and-miss as the selection for the letter S. His superb 70.7 bWAR slots him at 4th among active pitchers, and his three Cy Young awards more than secure his spot.


T – Mike Trout

Mike Trout’s talent truly transcends time and space. He has torpedoed into the top 100 of the all-time WAR leaders in just over ten seasons and has taken home three AL MVP awards. With 8 seasons still to go on his contract, there is no telling how much higher he’ll travel up that list. One thing is true, however, watching him has been a treasure.


U – Julio Urías

It’s easy to underestimate the unbelievable talent of Julio Urías. In 2022, his PLV was an undeniably good 5.29. Specifically, the 2.31 PLA on his curveball was unapologetically unfair to opposing hitters. With a 9.3 bWAR in the past two seasons, Urías is unrivaled as the ultimate representative for the letter U.


V – Justin Verlander

Verlander is to throwing baseballs, what Vivaldi is to the violin. He is a veritable pitching virtuoso. As the best active pitcher by bWAR at 78.1, Justin Verlander has proved to be a verifiable ace for a very long time. Even as his fastball velocity wanes, the venerated veteran continues to show his versatility with his varied repertoire of viable pitches.


W – Adam Wainwright

As Wainwright’s career winds down, we can wistfully reflect upon his wonderful catalog of accomplishments. Waino’s workhorse work ethic has produced the 7th best bWAR among active pitchers at 42.4. In his over 17 seasons in the majors, he twirled a whopping 2500 innings and worked 2100 strikeouts. We can safely say this curveball wizard warrants winning the W-slot in this alphabet soup.


X – Xander Bogaerts

After examining the active player pool, there appear to be no current Major Leaguers whose last name starts with X. So, we turn to first names, and luckily Xander Bogaerts has that x-factor to make it into this extraordinary list of exemplary players. Xander exudes excellence. His career 118 WRC+, 71st percentile xBA., and a 34.9 career bWAR are just a few examples of his ability to excel and represent X.


Y – Christian Yelich

Recent performances may leave us yearning for the youthful MVP-caliber Yelich of yesteryear. However, Milwaukee’s yeoman of left field has yet to yield a WRC+ under 100 in his ten Major League seasons. His 36.1 bWAR puts him 26th among active players and is enough to make me say yes to Yelich as the representative for Y.


Z – Mike Zunino

Despite Mike Zunino’s lackluster 75% career zone-contact rate, baseballs still zip off of his bat when he connects. His 2022 max exit velocity of 115 mph added plenty of zest to any pitch that zeroed in on his barrel.

Photo by Sigmund/Unsplash | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)

Brian Martin

Brian is primarily the SEO Specialist for Pitcher List, but he will sometimes dabble in the wonderful world of article writing. When he isn't neck deep into his fantasy baseball spreadsheets, he is usually watching classic cinema or working part-time at the St. Louis Zoo.

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