Last week, I began of a three part series ranking the top pairs of position players and pitchers in all of baseball. Today’s installment features pairs 11-20, who are almost uniformly composed of awesome players. Unfortunately for these pairs, the top ten only has, well, ten slots, squeezing some fantastic players to the outside.
20. Philadelphia Phillies, Cole Hamels /Chase Utley:
There may not be any individual pair that has given more to the team they play for throughout their careers than these two. While Utley is certainly no longer the superstar he once was, he’s still a heckuva ballplayer, who is among the best second basemen in baseball when healthy. Hamels, on the other hand, is in the prime of his career, and probably one of the top ten pitchers in all of baseball. Your proposed package to pry him from the Phillies probably isn’t enough.
19. San Diego Padres, James Shields/Justin Upton:
The only pair on this list who are both newly minted acquisitions, Shields and Upton headline a massive haul of players acquired by the Padres this offseason. Whether or not it will be enough to turn a garbage team into legit contenders is still questionable, but this pair is certainly better than Andrew Cashner and (whoever the best Padres hitter last year was).
18. Texas Rangers, Derek Holland/Adrian Beltre
Just days ago, this pairing would’ve looked a lot better with a seemingly healthy Yu Darvish and the consistently amazing Beltre. Darvish, of course, has since succumbed to a torn UCL, and will miss the season, and while Adrian Beltre remains an absolute stud, Derek Holland isn’t good or consistent enough to be ranked as high. I hope Yu get well soon.
17. Oakland A’s Sonny Gray/Ben Zobrist:
Another pair of fantastic players, one of whom is past his peak and the other possibly on the verge of a breakout. Zobrist has been an absolutely awesome player for the better part of a decade now, among the very best in the league since his massive 2009. He’s pushing 34 now, however, and his ability to put up elite numbers seems to be declining. Gray, on the other hand, may be on the cusp on stardom at the front of the A’s rotation. His 2014 was very good at the young age of 24, and more could be on the horizon.
16. Tampa Bay Rays, Alex Cobb/Evan Longoria:
The Rays rotation is fascinating in that it has many not-quite-ace pitchers who are very good nonetheless, making choosing Cobb difficult. A healthy Matt Moore might take this spot, and Chris Archer has a case of his own. On the position side, however, there really isn’t much of a debate. Beyond Longoria, there’s really no standouts whatsoever in the Rays’ positional depths
15. Toronto Blue Jays Mark Buehrle/Jose Bautista:
Another pair hampered quite a bit with injuries in the last week when Marcus Stroman saw his 2015 end prematurely with a torn ACL. Though Buehrle is not the pitcher he once was, he’s still good enough to have this pair ranked in the top half of the league when paired with the monstrous Jose Bautista. Since his breakout in 2010, only Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera have had higher wRC+ than Bautista. He’s a destructive presence in the Jays lineup, and could be terrifying this year with both Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson in the same lineup.
14. St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright and Jason Heyward:
If you are the type who takes advanced defensive metrics at face value, this pair might belong in the top five. Obviously, I don’t. I think Jason Heyward is an awesome player, but not quite what WAR totals including +30 run defensive components say. If he hits his offensive ceiling, this pairing is fearsome, instead of just very good as it is now.
13. Cincinnati Reds, Johnny Cueto/Joey Votto:
In most years, Jonny Cueto’s 2014 season would have been a no-brainer Cy Young award winner. Obviously, 2014 wasn’t any other season, and the guy who made it that way is still yet to come, but Cueto is still a devastating pitcher. If I were more confident a 31 year old Joey Votto coming off injury is the player he once was, this may be a top five pair itself.
12. Chicago Cubs, Jon Lester/Anthony Rizzo:
One of two Chicago teams with a left-handed starter, slugging first basemen combo on this list, and by a bit the lesser. That’s not to take away from this pair, both of whom are awesome players. Both these players are awesome to watch, and incredible stories having overcome cancer to flirt with superstardom. When the Cubs emerge as a playoff contender, these two will assuredly be major reasons why.
11. Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole/Andrew McCutchen:
By some coincidence, this is the fourth consecutive NL Central team in these rankings, and (in my opinion) the best of the bunch. I’m not quite yet sold on Cole as an ace, but he’s a really solid pitcher who is more than enough to complement Andrew McCutchen, who may be MLB’s crown jewel right now. Players with such a combination of skill, charisma, and production are quite the rarity.