MLB Rank 2024: Top snubs, overrated and underrated players

Olney, Passan discuss what they would change on ESPN's 2024 MLB Rank (4:06)

Buster Olney and Jeff Passan break down the 2024 MLB Rank list and what changes they would make. (4:06)

Our ranking of the top 100 MLB players in 2024 is here! And you know what that means: It's time to talk about what we got right -- and wrong.

We asked five of our voters -- Buster Olney, Jeff Passan, Jorge Castillo, Bradford Doolittle and David Schoenfield -- to take a look at our MLB Rank list and tell us what they and their colleagues messed up and what surprised them the most. Who did we leave out? Who's too high or too low? And what players will crack the top 100 -- and even the top five -- in the future?

Let's hear what they had to say.

What surprised you most on this year's list?

Olney: The presence of relievers, as well as their collective impact, is growing in MLB. But it was Atlanta Braves reliever A.J. Minter who noted, as he looked over our top 100 list, how few relievers we had on it. Devin Williams, who could be one of the most important players to move before this year's trade deadline, is at No. 99. Given the volume of innings that individual relievers throw, the lack of bullpen guys makes sense, but it doesn't square with the collective impact that bullpens have on the game in this era.

Passan: Just how few starting pitchers populate the top of the list. Gerrit Cole is the only one in the top 10. Just four are among the top 30: Cole, Spencer Strider, Corbin Burnes and Zack Wheeler. Of the top 50 players, 22% are starting pitchers; on the whole list, it's 28%. The degradation of the starting pitcher is one of the biggest stories of the past 20 years in baseball, and the consequence is evident when the person who dictates the game -- the one standing on the mound -- is seen almost as an afterthought by those weighing the best players.

Castillo: Seeing just one catcher in the top 45 and just six overall. Adley Rutschman, the Baltimore Orioles' franchise cornerstone, is the first catcher on the list at No. 11. Next up? Will Smith at No. 46. Catchers, for good reason, usually don't put up the huge offensive numbers that stars at other positions produce. The position is a grind; the physical toll and daily responsibilities are tiresome. You could argue they should be graded on a curve. The best teams often feature a standout behind the plate. But this list doesn't attach the necessary value to the position. If it did, Smith, J.T. Realmuto and Sean Murphy -- a trio of starting catchers for playoff clubs in 2023 -- would undoubtedly be higher.

Doolittle: We get very excited about good, young players, but sometimes the thrill we get from watching them seems to overwhelm our empirical sense. So we've got a few too many very young players who have flashed their potential at the big league level but probably shouldn't be counted among the top 100 just yet. There are exceptions -- Corbin Carroll and Gunnar Henderson, among last year's rookies -- but we've probably gotten a bit over our skis on others, especially Eury Perez, Elly De La Cruz and Anthony Volpe.

Schoenfield: Name recognition still matters a lot -- even if some of the statistical evidence doesn't always back up the ranking. Bryce Harper has missed time each of the past two seasons and is moving to first base on a full-time basis, a position that requires a higher offensive threshold and at which we've only seen him play 36 games. He still comes in at No. 13. Trea Turner didn't have his best season and is a below-average defensive shortstop but is still at No. 20. Mike Trout, while one season removed from slugging .630, was injured and had the worst rate stats of his career (.263/.367/.490) in 2023. He's one spot ahead of Turner. All three could absolutely end up justifying those rankings, but they all feel a little high to me.

Who is the biggest snub from our list?

Olney: Jose Ramirez is going to go down in history as one of the most underrated players ever, and this is reflected in his standing at No. 17 on our list. Since the start of the 2020 season, these are the leaders in WAR among position players (Shohei Ohtani not included, because of his special circumstance): Aaron Judge, Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts and Ramirez. Maybe it's because Ramirez plays in a small market or maybe it's because he seems to shy away from the spotlight, but his numbers don't speak for him in the way they should. Every year, he carries the Cleveland Guardians' lineup with a bunch of extra-base hits and stolen bases, while playing well defensively. We have done him wrong.

Passan: It's understandable that Cole Ragans didn't make the list. At 26 years old, he has started all of a dozen big league games. At one point, he didn't throw a professional pitch for three years because of injuries. He also plays for the Kansas City Royals, not exactly a team anyone with functional eyes cared to watch last season. Well, do yourself a favor this season: Watch one start. See the 100 mph fastball from the left side. And the cutter. And changeup. And slider. And curveball. And do so knowing that as long as he stays healthy -- no sure thing -- he's a lock for this list next year.

Castillo: Yainer Diaz was a force in the batter's box when he was in the Houston Astros' lineup last season. The problem was he didn't get regular at-bats as the team's backup catcher. As a rookie, Diaz batted .282 with 23 home runs and an .846 OPS in just 104 games. Now, after Martin Maldonado's departure, Diaz will be the Astros' starting catcher. The 25-year-old Dominican will need to work more walks -- he accumulated just 11 last season -- but he's primed for a big season with increased playing time.

Doolittle: Jung Hoo Lee. We should be at the vanguard ringing the bell for the "Grandson of the Wind." His projections justify a top-60 slot, but -- and I get it -- that's based on KBO translations, and Lee doesn't have anywhere near the same level of Pacific Rim-based hype as Yoshinobu Yamamoto or Ohtani. But as a career .340 hitter in Korea with a minuscule strikeout rate, Lee is the kind of player I want to see overtake baseball. We've got Luis Arraez on the East Coast; now we need a peer for him on the West Coast. Then we can work on the middle of the country. Is it too late for Nick Madrigal?

Schoenfield: I'll go with the player with the highest WAR last season not to crack our top 100: Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford at 5.1, which ranked tied for 20th among position players. He hit .266/.380/.438 in 2023 while leading the American League with 94 walks, and he also added more power to his game, hitting 19 home runs and 35 doubles. I'm buying the swing change will stick as he hit for a much higher exit velocity and a better launch angle.

Which player in the top 100 is most underrated?

Passan: Over his first two seasons, Julio Rodriguez produced more than 11 WAR by FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. Both agreed that he ranked among the eight most productive position players in baseball. To see Rodriguez ranked 18th then -- below a number of players he has outplayed -- feels like an oversight.

Certainly there's a case to be made for all of those who rank higher than Rodriguez, but add the fact that he's 23 years old and on the upswing in his career, and it's difficult to peg him below some of those ahead of him. In the last two years, only one player has hit at least 60 home runs and stolen at least 60 bases: Rodriguez. An elite center fielder who hits for power and runs like a madman seems a lot better than the 18th-ranked player in baseball.

Castillo: Not often (maybe never?) do you see an uninjured reigning Cy Young winner in his early 30s ranked 59th on a list of the best players in MLB. Blake Snell is one of 22 people to have ever won the Cy Young award twice. He is one of just seven to earn it in both leagues. But here we are. The skepticism surrounding Snell is understandable. It's March and he has yet to sign with a team, which could especially hinder someone who historically has been a slow starter. The highest ERA+ he has posted outside of his two elite seasons is 113. He hasn't logged more than 180⅔ innings in a campaign. He even led the majors in walks in 2023. But results are results. The point is to stop the other team from scoring. Snell has shown he can be one of the best -- and certainly better than the 17th-ranked starting pitcher in the majors.

Doolittle: Kyle Tucker, at No. 28, still doesn't get enough recognition for how good he is. Maybe it's the team, as Jose Altuve and (the also underrated) Alex Bregman were already there when he became a regular in Houston. Both are still playing at an All-Star level. Then Yordan Alvarez came around and immediately morphed into perhaps baseball's best all-around hitter. But there are a number of teams -- good teams -- on which Tucker would be the best player. He is one of the best 15-to-20 hitters in the game, plays elite defense and stole 30 bags in 2023. This year marks his age-27 season. It's time for Tucker to take his place under the spotlight.

Schoenfield: Marcus Semien was third in the AL MVP voting in 2023. He was third in 2021. Over the past three seasons, he has averaged 33 home runs, 95 RBIs and 113 runs scored while ranking second behind only Andres Gimenez in fielding runs at second base. In that time frame, he ranks third among all hitters in extra-base hits, second in runs and second in WAR, behind only Judge ... and yet comes in just 24th on our list. He has missed one game in three years. Durability is a skill, and it makes Semien one of the most valuable players in the league.

Which player in the top 100 is most overrated?

Olney: Luis Robert Jr. has the ability to be an MVP candidate, but he should not be at No. 23 on this list. Just once in his four-year career has he played in at least 100 games, and in that year (2023), he had an on-base percentage of .315. He had 30 walks and 172 strikeouts. He is clearly improving, especially on defense, but he shouldn't be that high on this list merely because of his potential. Blame injuries, blame inconsistency, blame the Chicago White Sox's seasons of weirdness lately, but he shouldn't be ahead of Semien, Manny Machado, Altuve and others.

Passan: Maybe this one is a little unfair. Kodai Senga, after all, is currently on the injured list with a strain in the posterior capsule of his right shoulder -- an injury that concerns even the best orthopedists. Elbow issues tend to be pretty straightforward. Shoulders, with their tangle of muscles and ball-and-socket joints, present far more complicated cases. Still, the voting was going on after the New York Mets had shut down Senga, so really there's no excuse. He may wind up just fine, of course, in which case he warrants a spot in the range of No. 75. Add a heaping helping of uncertainty, though, and his case for any spot on the list is questionable at best.

Castillo: The truth is nobody knows where Yamamoto belongs on this list, but No. 45 -- above the likes of fellow starters Kevin Gausman, Aaron Nola and Snell -- seems high for someone who hasn't thrown a pitch in the majors. The Los Angeles Dodgers obviously disagree. The organization chose to invest $325 million in Yamamoto, their likely Opening Day starter, for a reason. The right-hander is just 25 years old, and his pitching résumé in Japan is unparalleled for someone making the jump to the United States.

The Dodgers believe he'll be elite right away, but there will be a learning curve. He's on a new team in a new league in a new country. He'll throw a different, slicker ball. He'll face better hitters. He'll be occasionally asked to pitch every fifth day for the first time. And yet he might end up being better than his spot on this list. But for now, 45th is aggressive.

Doolittle: Adolis Garcia is fun to watch, and he was awesome during the Texas Rangers' playoff run. But No. 34 is way too high for him. He's still a player with a baseline OBP that barely cracks .300 and who strikes out too much. He's very much a winning player, with an adjusted OPS that should be at least 10% better than the league average, excellent defense, a few steals and a competitive demeanor. But he just turned 31 years old, and any kind of decline with his power exposes his lack of secondary skills at the plate. Garcia is a very good player, but more 80-100 good, not No. 34.

Schoenfield: I mentioned Turner earlier, and it's possible he will hit all season like he did the final two months of 2023, when he hit .339 with a 1.069 OPS. He's obviously a good, valuable player and one of the most exciting in the game, but I also see a player who has gone from 6.4 WAR in 2021 to 4.9 to 3.4 and is now 31 years old with declining defensive metrics (and who hit just .242/.296/.387 on the road). He's definitely worthy of the top 100 and maybe the top 50, but I'm not sure about the top 20.

Which player could make the biggest jump on our list next year?

Olney: Triston Casas is going to be an absolute masher, something he showed in the second half of last season, and in the years to come, he'll be the sort of player for whom you can pencil in 35 homers and a .400 on-base percentage. Between his command of the strike zone, his strength, his bat-to-ball skills and the inherent advantage of being a talented left-handed hitter in Fenway Park, he will soon become one of the game's pre-eminent sluggers. A perfect candidate for the Home Run Derby.

Passan: Ten days after his 21st birthday, Evan Carter made his major league debut for the Rangers. In 75 regular-season plate appearances, he posted a 1.058 OPS. He chased that with one of the best Octobers for a neophyte in recent memory, wrecking Tampa Bay in the wild-card series and finishing the month with a .300/.417/.500 line. Carter ranks 92nd on the list, and with full-time at-bats coming his way for the first time, he is a Kyle Tucker starter kit, with a sweet left-handed swing that goes for average and power, savviness on the basepaths and plenty of glove to be one of the best all-around outfielders in baseball.

Castillo: Being named the New York Yankees' starting shortstop out of spring training as a 21-year-old rookie came with outsized pressure. Add being a hometown kid who idolized Derek Jeter growing up and that pressure turned up a notch. Volpe adeptly handled the assignment in 2023. He became the first Yankees rookie to ever post a 20-20 season. He won a Gold Glove. He played in 159 games. But he hit just .209 with 167 strikeouts. To improve those numbers, he's implemented swing adjustments to better cover the plate and handle high fastballs. Better contact should generate better results. That, in combination with his speed and power, should make him a more dangerous weapon at the bottom of the Yankees' lineup in 2024 -- and a riser on the 2025 list.

Doolittle: I think we've probably underrated Henderson this season and it's not far-fetched that he could go from No. 37 to top 10 (or better) by this time next year. If he can make a leap against lefties and cut his whiffs just a tad, all while continuing to produce defensively at a Gold Glove level, that's superstar stuff. Even if he doesn't quite get there in 2024, I suspect we'll know he's on the cusp of it when we make our picks next year.

Schoenfield: I'm still on the Michael Harris II bandwagon and I think he'll climb a lot higher than this year's No. 53 ranking. He started off slow last season, landed on the IL and was hitting .163 on June 3. He still finished at .293 with 19 home runs after slashing .335/.360/.552 over his final 100 games. He's still just 23 years old, has good range and a plus arm in center field. I'd like to see a few more walks and a little less chase. If he can do that, there's top-25 potential here.

Predict the top five for 2027


1. Shohei Ohtani
2. Julio Rodriguez
3. Ronald Acuña Jr.
4. Juan Soto
5. Bobby Witt Jr.

My list effectively parrots the opinion of some players who looked over our Top 100 list -- they view J-Rod as a monster talent who is zooming into superstardom with his broad range of skills. It didn't surprise me that other players recognized J-Rod's ability; what's surprising is how adamant they already are about his preeminence.


1. Shohei Ohtani
2. Ronald Acuña Jr.
3. Julio Rodriguez
4. Bobby Witt Jr.
5. Corbin Carroll

All of this is subject to Ohtani returning as a starting pitcher, of course, but if he does and is even just a league-average performer, he will top this list ad infinitum. While putting Acuña second when he's going to be 29 years old is iffy, he's leaps and bounds better than the other position players today, and the king must be usurped. It could be any of the Millennium Trio: Rodriguez, Witt and Carroll all were born in 2000, and they'll all be 26, smack in the middle of their prime.


1. Shohei Ohtani
2. Juan Soto
3. Aaron Judge
4. Julio Rodriguez
5. Bobby Witt Jr.

This list starts with two assumptions: Ohtani has another monster season as a hitter in 2024 and is 100% ready to pitch in 2025. Wherever Soto ends up in 2025, he'll be fresh off thriving in the Bronx hitting in front of Judge -- giving the Yankees the best one-two punch in the majors for at least one season. Rodriguez and Witt will each take another leap in Year 3 to cement themselves as two of the game's best all-around players. Wondering where Acuña is? He would've made the cut had it not been for the ominous knee trouble that surfaced early in spring training.


1. Shohei Ohtani
2. Julio Rodriguez
3. Bobby Witt Jr.
4. Juan Soto
5. Ronald Acuña Jr.

This is tough. I wanted to include Carroll, who, like Soto, Rodriguez and Witt, will be at a career-peak age in 2027. But Ohtani is Ohtani and may deserve to be here even if he gives up pitching before then because, at that point, he could become a Gold Glove outfielder. And Acuña is just too good to leave off even though he'll be closing in on 30. Meanwhile, I'm assuming Judge and Betts are starting to age out. I could see injuries becoming even more of a problem for Judge. As for Betts ... I certainly wouldn't want to put any money down that he'll fall out of the top five. And there are others -- Rutschman, Fernando Tatis Jr, Henderson. The future is hard to predict -- but is looking bright.


1. Ronald Acuña Jr.
2. Gunnar Henderson
3. Julio Rodriguez
4. Jackson Holliday
5. Bobby Witt Jr.

Enjoy it, Orioles fans.