Numbers Game: Picking The MLB Team Of The 2010s

Image credit: Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw (Photo by Matt Brown/Angels via Getty Images)

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Mike Trout will be remembered as the player of the 2010s. He has accomplished things in his 20s that boggle the mind—and will continue to boggle minds in the future.

So as we head into the final season of the 2010s, we reflect on the best players of the decade in our final Major League Preview of the decade.

We used wins above replacement (WAR) to winnow our list of finalists at each position, but we emphasize peak value over career value when making our final selections. So take a walk with us around the diamond to celebrate the players who will join Trout on the Baseball America team of the decade.

Catcher: Buster Posey
This Decade: 133 OPS+ | 41 WAR | 6 ASG | 2012 NL MVP

As a rookie in 2010, Posey helped guide the Giants to their first World Series championship in San Francisco. Then he helped the Giants win again in 2012 and 2014. National League rivals Posey and Yadier Molina alternated being the best catcher in the baseball all decade.

Also considered: Yadier Molina, Salvador Perez

First Base: Miguel Cabrera
This Decade:
160 OPS+ | 43 WAR | 7 ASG | 2012 and 2013 AL MVP

In his first of back-to-back MVP seasons, Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in 45 years by hitting .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. His résumé in the 2010s is littered with black ink, including for batting average (four times), on-base percentage (four) and slugging (two). With a return to health, Cabrera is a few good seasons away from 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.

Also considered: Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt

Second Base: Robinson Cano
This Decade:
135 OPS+ | 54 WAR | 7 ASG

Even in a crowded American League field of second basemen that included Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler and later Jose Altuve, Cano earned the starting nod in five straight All-Star Games to begin the decade. He leads all players with 575 extra-base hits this decade.

Also considered: Dustin Pedroia, Jose Altuve

Third Base: Adrian Beltre
This Decade:
130 OPS+ | 51 WAR | 4 ASG

Third base should be regarded as the position of the decade. Beyond Beltre, Josh Donaldson and Evan Longoria, young stars Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado are staking their claims as all-time greats. But even in a crowded field, the future Hall of Famer Beltre stands out. He didn’t make his first all-star team until he was 31 in 2010, but he then had one of the most graceful decline phases ever.

Also considered: Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki
This Decade: 123 OPS+ | 30 WAR | 5 ASG

A number of franchise shortstops emerged in the second half of the decade, beginning with Xander Bogaerts and continuing with Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. But Tulowitzki spent the first half of the decade as the best shortstop in baseball, showcasing huge power, defensive acrobatics and a cannon arm.

Fun fact: defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons leads all shortstops this decade with 35 WAR, yet his career 92 OPS+ ranks outside the top 25 for shortstops of the 2010s.

Also considered: Francisco Lindor, Andrelton Simmons

Left Field: Ryan Braun
This Decade: 134 OPS+ | 34 WAR | 4 ASG | 2011 NL MVP

Though stained by a Biogenesis suspension in 2013, Braun is one of the hardest-hitting outfielders of the decade. What sets him apart from his corner outfielder contemporaries is his ability to hit for average (.295 for the decade) and steal bases (155) while delivering power.

Also considered: Justin Upton, Christian Yelich

Center Field: Mike Trout
This Decade:
175 OPS+ | 64 WAR | 7 ASG | 2014 and 2016 AL MVP

Like Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez or Ken Griffey Jr. in their primes, Trout is a perfect player who plays with grace and makes the game look easy. He seems to improve some facet of his game each season.

Also considered: Andrew McCutchen, Curtis Granderson

Right Field: Giancarlo Stanton
This Decade:
143 OPS+ | 40 WAR | 4 ASG | 2017 NL MVP

The game’s premier slugger, Stanton enters this season tied with Nelson Cruz with a major league-high 305 home runs in the 2010s. Edwin Encarnacion is the only other hitter with 300.

Also considered: Jose Bautista, Mookie Betts

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
This Decade: 151 OPS+ | 25 WAR | 5 ASG

Who else but Big Papi, who keyed the 2013 Red Sox to a World Series and in his final season led the AL with 48 home runs, 127 RBIs and a .620 slugging percentage—at age 40.

Also considered: Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion

Starter: Clayton Kershaw
This Decade:
168 ERA+ | 56 WAR | 7 ASG | 2011, 2013 and 2014 NL CYA

Even in an era of incredible starting pitchers, Kershaw is the best of the decade. He achieved that status with five NL ERA titles, including four in a row at his Cy Young peak. Plus, when he struck out 301 batters in 2015, he was the first pitcher to reach three bills since Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in 2002.

Starter: Max Scherzer
This Decade:
133 ERA+ | 50 WAR | 6 ASG | 2013 AL CYA, 2016 and 2017 NL CYA

Scherzer seems to get better with age. Since moving to the NL in 2015 at age 30, he leads all pitchers in strikeouts and wins and ranks third in ERA. Scherzer is 551 strikeouts shy of 3,000, which is a milestone that would punch his ticket to Cooperstown.

Starter: Justin Verlander
This Decade:
132 ERA+ | 49 WAR | 5 ASG | 2011 AL CYA

The only pitcher on our all-decade team who had big seasons in the 2000s, Verlander is a marvel who has built his credentials exclusively in the AL, where he hasn’t goosed his numbers by preying on pitchers batting. It’s almost criminal that Verlander narrowly missed out on Cy Young Awards in 2012, 2016 and 2018—but we don’t hold that against him.

Starter: Chris Sale
This Decade:
144 ERA+ | 43 WAR | 7 ASG

Sale is a strikeout machine who has made seven straight all-star teams—and started the past three—yet has never won a Cy Young Award. He holds the single-season high mark this decade with 308 strikeouts, which he notched in 2017, when he finished runner-up to Corey Kluber for the Cy.

Also considered: Zack Greinke, David Price, Corey Kluber, Cole Hamels

Closer: Craig Kimbrel
This Decade:
211 ERA+ | 20 WAR | 7 ASG

Kimbrel is the most stable commodity in the unstable world of closers. He is the most unhittable pitcher ever, with a .154 opponent average that is the lowest by any reliever with at least 450 innings—though Aroldis Chapman is close at .158.

Also considered: Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman

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