Annually, MLB Network produces a series of programs highlighting the ‘Top 10 Right Now,’ going position by position to produce a list of the best players at each one. The Cardinals had six players featured in the series.
After missing out on Giancarlo Stanton, the Cardinals acquired another All-Star Marlins outfielder via trade: left fielder Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna is ranked as the top left fielder in the game, outranking the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes and Angels’ Justin Upton.
Ozuna is fresh off a career year in 2017. In 159 games with Miami, Ozuna slashed .312/.376/.548 with 30 doubles, 37 home runs, and a 142 wRC+ - all personal highs. Ozuna will handle St. Louis’s left-field duties, allowing a teammate and fellow high-rated outfielder to handle center.
Tommy Pham defined ‘breakout season’ with his performance last year. After beginning the season as a member of the Triple-A squad, Pham was recalled from Memphis on May 5 and didn’t look back. Now, Pham is ranked as the second-best center fielder in the game and only trails two-time AL MVP Mike Trout. What an uphill season.
In 128 contests, Pham led the Cardinals with a 5.9 WAR. Complementing a 148 wRC+ and a .398 wOBA, Pham smashed 23 long balls and stole 25 bases. A 20/20 guy, Pham was one of only eight in the game last year. The other seven: Trout, Jose Altuve of the Astros, Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, Elvis Andrus of the Rangers, Brett Gardner of the Yankees, Andrew Benintendi of the Red Sox, and Wil Myers of the Padres. Pretty good company for a guy with only 314 big-league at-bats prior to 2017.
The first year of his four-year contract was shorter than expected (just 118 games), with a heel spur and wrist sprain lingering for most of the season’s second half and affecting his overall stat line. Nonetheless, Dexter Fowler enters the 2018 season healthy and ready to further prove himself as the 10-best right fielder in baseball.
Yankees stars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are rated at the top of the right-field class, with Betts, Bryce Harper, and J.D. Martinez in the middle of the list.
(Note: Although he was a center fielder in 2017, MLB Network acknowledged that Fowler will be the team’s right fielder for the following season.)
Fowler bested his previous career-high of 17 homers with 18, and his .488 slugging percentage and 64 RBIs were personal bests as well.
In what was a bit of a down year overall, Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter was among the team’s offensive leaders in 2017 and figures to remain there for years to come. At a position that features the likes of Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt, Carpenter is rated as the ninth-best first baseman entering this season.
Carpenter’s 23 home runs were tied with Pham for second on the team, and Carpenter’s .384 on-base percentage was behind Pham’s .411 mark for the team lead.
A homer off three-time All-Star Greg Holland on his first swing in the big leagues set the tone for shortstop Paul DeJong in his rookie season. Ultimately finishing in second place to prized Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger for the NL Rookie of the Year Award, DeJong enters his first full season in the Majors rated as the seventh-best shortstop.
Remember, the position is enriched with talent. Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Francisco Lindor are the cream of the crop, and DeJong ranks just below Jean Segura and ahead of Andrus, Trevor Story, and Tim Beckham.
DeJong led the team with 25 home runs in 2017 and finished the year with a 3.0 WAR in 108 games.
A perennial listee, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is ranked as the eighth-best in the Majors entering his age-35 season. Offensive stars Buster Posey, Gary Sanchez, and Willson Contreras occupy the top third of the list, and Molina is ranked between Mike Zunino and Tyler Flowers.
Molina batted .273 and slammed 18 home runs, his most since 22 in 2012. His 82 RBIs were a career high and his nine stolen bases were his most since he stole 12 - also in 2012. Molina was named to his eighth All-Star team in 2017.
The video of Ozuna is credited to the official Fox Sports Midwest YouTube channel. The videos of Pham, Fowler, Carpenter, DeJong, and Molina are credited to the official Major League Baseball YouTube channel.