Here's an easy question for you: Who's the best player in baseball? Mike Trout. The answer is Mike Trout. It's an easy question because Trout is so clearly sitting above his competition in total value to his team and he's young enough that you're not worrying about aging in the very immediate future. So here's a slightly harder question: Who's the second best player in baseball? Is it Clayton Kershaw? Andrew McCutchen? Giancarlo Stanton? Miguel Cabrera?
It's a much harder question to answer, and it gets even more difficult as you move down the list. Who's third? Who's seventh? The "best player in baseball" discussion has become dreadfully boring over the last three years, but if you're willing to to dive into the next nine or fourteen players on the list, it actually gets extremely challenging.
So we're going to try to do just that.
I proposed this project before the holidays, and have been badgering the staff for the last few weeks to sit down and rank the best twenty or so players for the 2015 season. The goal was to create a Top Ten Players for 2015 list based on the wisdom of our terrific group of writers and analysts. They were given very limited instructions, but seemed to all take the exercise in the right direction.
Voters were told to consider only the 2015 season. This isn't a list based on who the best players are going to be for the next few years or who has the most trade value. No Byron Buxtons, essentially. They were also specifically told that pitchers were eligible and that they were to vote in accordance with who they thought would play the best, not who would "win the MVP award".
The voters were to rank the best players in baseball based on how they saw the 2015 season playing out, and the idea was to sort of approximate the player's WAR. They were not told to just take projected WAR and sort, but rather to think about the rankings as a personal WAR projection in a world in which WAR was given to us from on high. You get the idea.
As I write this, voting is still open to our staff, so I can't give you an official vote count, but it will have about 8-12 carefully considered ballots. The scoring system will be based on where the players ranked and what "WAR" value the voter placed on each.
We'll be rolling out the top ten over the next ten weeks, bringing us up to Opening Day. We'll also reveal the players who just missed and let you go crazy in the comments when we disrespect your favorite player.
This is an analytical site, but this won't just be Steamer and ZiPS on the page. Our voters also submitted their methodology which ranges from incorporating normal statistical data, injury, age, projections, and even a little #TWTW. It's a comprehensive approach. There will obviously be statistics, but everyone seems to have taken a slightly different angle, especially after the top two slots on the ballot.
So watch this space and our Twitter handle as we head into the 2015 season by counting down the best players in the game, week by week. There's no disagreement at the top, I'll tell you, but the results in the middle of the ballot are amazingly diverse. It should be a fun series with lots of room for debate.
Neil Weinberg is the Associate Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score, the Site Educator at FanGraphs, and writes enthusiastically at New English D.