The second decade of the 'aughts' is in the books, making it a prime time to look back at the players who defined it in Major League Baseball. In an era rich with Hall of Famers-to-be, who would comprise the best possible MLB roster. This piece takes a look at what the team would be in All-Star terms: 35 players, selected by position, role and impact on the 2010 through 2019 era.
Posey’s first full season came in 2010, and he quickly became one of the most decorated catchers in history. He won Rookie of the Year in 2010 while winning the first of his three World Series titles with the San Francisco Giants. During his second championship season in 2012, he also led the National League in hitting at .336 and won NL MVP honors. Along the way, Posey made six All-Star teams, picked up four Silver Slugger Awards and a Gold Glove, in 2016. He led all MLB catchers in hits (1,378), runs scored (594), RBI (673) and batting average (.302) in the decade.
Cabrera spent the decade establishing himself among the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time. Cabrera won four of five AL batting titles between 2011 and 2015, averaging a .340 average across those years. He won consecutive AL MVP honors in 2012-2013, completing baseball’s first Triple Crown in 45 years in ’12. His .317 average led all of baseball for the decade, while he also finished in the top five for hits (1,595), doubles (324), RBI (941) and OPS (.943).
Cano led the decade in hits (1,695), doubles (363) and total bases (2,801), while his 54.2 WAR is second behind only Mike Trout. He had five seasons of at least 180 hits and 100 runs scored and finished within the top 10 of AL MVP voting six times. Among second basemen, in addition to hits and doubles, Cano sits atop the list for home runs (237 – 45 more than the runner-up), slugging percentage (.496) and OPS (.855).
Beltre spent the 2010s solidifying a Hall of Fame resume. He made his All-Star debut in 2010 and by 2017, he had joined the 3,000 hit club before retiring following the 2018 season. In between, he carried a .307 average for the decade, drove in 100 runs four times, won three Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting five times. Beltre finished his career the all-time leader among third basemen in hits (3,166), RBI (1,707) and runs scored (1,524).
The decade was a tale of two halves for Tulowitzki, who was unquestionably the game’s most brilliant all-around shortstop to open the decade before injuries set in. Between 2010 and 2015, Tulo was an All-Star five times, topped 20 home runs four times and hit for a .306 average. He also remained brilliant defensively, picking up a pair of Gold Gloves. No shortstop in the decade had more than Tulo's five seasons of both 20 home runs and a defensive WAR of 2.0 or greater.
The player of the decade and he only needed to play in roughly 80 percent of it do so. Trout’s 72.5 WAR is over 18 games better than any other player, the largest difference between the impact of a first and second player in a decade in MLB history. Of the 10 highest WAR seasons of the decade, Trout owns five of them. He has two MVP wins while never finishing lower than fourth in voting during any season. No player scored more runs than his 906, and he is the only player to post both over 200 home runs and steal 200 bases.
A true jack of all trades on the diamond, there is nothing that Betts can’t only do, but do well. In 2018 he became the first player in MLB history to win MVP, a batting title, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and World Series in the same season. Along with Francisco Lindor, Betts is the only player with multiple seasons of 30 home runs, 40 doubles, 100 runs scored and 100 RBI, doing so in 2016 and 2018. His 10.9 WAR in 2018 is the highest of the decade.
At his peak, McCutchen resurrected the Pirates from the depths of professional sports most prolonged losing stint. He made five consecutive All-Star appearances from 2011 to 2015, finishing in the top five in NL MVP voting four out of five of those years. In 2012, he won NL MVP honors, hitting .317 with 38 doubles and 27 stolen bases and owned the second-best outfield range in the National League.
No player hit more home runs than Cruz over the past 10 years. Spread among the Rangers, Orioles, Mariners and Twins, his 346 homers are nine more than any other player. Cruz hit at least 40 home runs in four different seasons and had two more years of 37 and 39. Likewise, his 961 RBI are the second-most of any player, only bested by Albert Pujols’ total of 963.
The game’s most versatile impact player, Zobrist was a pioneering part of creating the “super utility man." In Tampa Bay he received MVP votes in two different seasons where he played over 30 games at three different positions. With the Royals, he hit .304 while helping Kansas City to a World Series ring. The following year, Zobrist was World Series MVP after hitting .357 in the Fall Classic and delivering a series-winning double.
Kershaw owned his decade on the mound like few pitchers have before him. In addition to picking up three Cy Young Awards, in 2011, 2013 and 2014 – and adding in the NL MVP in 2014, he became the first pitcher in history to lead his league in ERA for four consecutive seasons. Overall, he finished in the top five in NL Cy Young Award voting in seven consecutive seasons. Kershaw was the only pitcher who worked over 1,000 innings to win 70 percent of his games for the decade.
An All-Star in nine seasons, Molina remained the standard behind the plate for the St. Louis Cardinals, picking up six Gold Glove Awards during the decade. He also led the Cardinals to two World Series appearances, including a win in 2011. He finished in the top five in NL MVP voting in both 2012 and 2013 and capped the decade by setting the all-time (respective) records for both regular and postseason games caught with one team.
Votto’s 52.1 WAR was tops among all MLB first basemen for the decade. He won NL MVP in 2010, hitting a career-best 37 home runs and led the NL in on-base percentage for the first of seven different occasions. A master of strike zone judgement, Votto walked 102 more times than any other player in past 10 seasons, and his .421 career on-base percentage is 11th best all time.
Altuve evolved into the game’s greatest spark plug by mid-decade, becoming the most relentless hitter in the game. Altuve led the American League in hits annually between 2014 and 2017, becoming the fifth player since 1947 to reach 200 hits in four consecutive years. He also was the first player ever to lead his league in hits, outright, for four straight years. Altuve led the AL with a .346 batting average in 2017, the same year he won AL MVP, and he helped to bring the first World Series title to Houston.
Arenado spent the decade becoming the standard bearer for the hot corner. Since debuting in 2013, he has reached 40 home runs three times, not connecting for fewer than 37 since 2015. Overall Arenado, has five seasons of at least 30 home runs, 30 doubles and 100 RBI — no other third baseman has more than two. Despite his offensive presence, it could be argued he is even more brilliant with the glove than the bat. Arenado is only infielder in history to win a Gold Glove Award in his first seven seasons.
Donaldson started the decade as a backup catcher and within five seasons turned himself into a leading All-Star vote recipient and AL MVP. Donaldson produced four of the top 10 WAR seasons among third basemen, including the top year in 2015, at 8.5. A three-time All-Star who received top 10 AL MVP votes in four straight seasons, Donaldson finished the decade producing the fifth-most overall win shares in the game, at 44.5.
After finishing as AL Rookie of the Year runner-up in just 99 games in 2015, Lindor has gone on to be named to each AL All-Star team since. He has three consecutive 30 homers, 20 stolen bases and 40 doubles seasons, along with regularly being one of the top defensive players in the game. At just 25, ( he turns 26 later this month) the next decade could be the one where he truly fixes himself in history.
Harper was the anticipated player of the decade…and also one of the most controversial. At his best, he was one of the most rightfully feared players in the game — such as when he won Rookie of the Year at 19 in 2012, and in 2015 when he hit 42 home runs en route to becoming the third-youngest MVP in history. However, he often ran cold (2016, 2018), leading to questions about his talent vs. his hype debate that continues on for the six-time All-Star.
After arriving in Toronto in 2009, Bautista transformed himself into one of the most dangerous power hitters in the game. He led the American League in home runs in 2010 (54) and 2011 (43), the beginning of run where he hit 227 during a stretch of making six consecutive All-Star Games. "Joey Bats" also had a memorable moment via an emphatic bat flip vs. the Texas Rangers in the Blue Jays’ first playoff series in 22 years in 2015.
Stanton was responsible for many of the most awe-inspiring feats of power for the era. He was at his best in 2017 when he erupted for 59 home runs in route to NL MVP honors. Overall, Stanton topped 30 home runs in five different seasons and hit the third-most homers of the decade. Without the constant cloud of injuries that followed his career, Stanton could realistically have approached 100 long balls this decade.
Scherzer picked up a Cy Young Award in both leagues, first with the Detroit Tigers in 2013, then with the Washington Nationals in both 2016 and 2017. Scherzer’s 161 wins were the most of the decade. His 2,452 strikeouts were the best by nearly 200, with him averaging 262 per year between 2012-2019. Scherzer pitched two no-hitters during the 2015 season and tied an MLB single-game record with 20 strikeouts in 2016.
Verlander led the American League in strikeouts in four different seasons, topping over 250 on each occurrence. In 2011 he became the first AL starting pitcher to double as both MVP and Cy Young Award winner since Roger Clemens in 1986. Verlander threw the second and third no-hitters of his career in 2011 and 2019. En route to winning the 2017 World Series with the Astros, Verlander was named MVP of the 2017 ALCS and was the winningest postseason pitcher of the decade.
The era’s premier hired gun on the mound, Greinke suited up for six different teams during the 2010s. But regardless of what uniform he wore, his success on the mound remained constant. Greinke finished in the top five of wins, games started and innings pitched during the decade, with only Clayton Kershaw having a better win percentage. His 1.66 ERA over 222.2 innings in 2015 was the lowest of the decade by a player who started at least 20 games.
Sale became a starting pitcher in 2012 and immediately became one of the most dominant strikeout artists of all time. His 5.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best all time, and he reached 1,500 career strikeouts in the second-fewest innings all time. In 2017, Sale joined Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in history to strike out 200 batters in their first 20 starts of the year, en route to finishing with 308 strikeouts.
Bumgarner was one of the most consistent pitchers of the decade, reaching double digits in wins in six consecutive seasons and finishing in the top 10 in NL Cy Young Award voting four straight times. However his greatest impact came in October, where he played a pivotal role in three Giants World Series wins. His 2014 effort ranks among the greatest in postseason history, as in over 52.1 heroic innings, Bumgarner allowed just six earned runs, winning MVP of both the NLCS and World Series.
Lester played a vital role for a pair of championship teams, first with the Red Sox and later the Chicago Cubs. Overall, Lester won seven postseason games and the fifth-most regular-season games (148) during the decade, highlighted by a 2.10 ERA over 30 World Series innings. Lester also made five All-Star Games and won 15 or more games in six seasons.
Following an 18-win breakout season in 2014, Kluber became one of the most surprising Cy Young Award winners in history. He proved to be no fluke afterward, winning the honor again in 2017, a season where he led or tied for the American League lead in 10 different categories. Kluber won 18 games or more four times, and he never finished lower than ninth in voting between 2014 and 2018.
Jacob deGrom won NL Rookie of the Year in 2014 and was a top 10 Cy Young Award finalist in 2015 and 2017 before winning the award in 2018 when he produced the most dominant season of the decade, striking out 269 and going 25 straight games allowing three or fewer runs. His 1.70 ERA was the third-lowest since 1968. He put himself into position to repeat as Cy Young winner after posting a 1.44 ERA in the second half of 2019.
After moving to the bullpen full time in 2012, Miller revolutionized the "fireman" role, capable of making a closer-like impact earlier in games and often working multiple innings. As a reliever, Miller averaged 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings, with a 0.98 WHIP and opponents hitting just .209 against him. In the postseason, Miller owned a 0.95 ERA over 38 innings, with 54 strikeouts.
One of the most prolific strikeout pitchers of the decade, Robertson excelled as both a setup man and closer. Robertson’s 15.2 WAR for the decade was the highest by a reliever who did not exclusively work as a closer. Working at least 60 innings in nine of 10 years, he notched 147 holds and 137 saves, making Robertson the only reliever in the decade to total 100 in both categories.
Another converted starter who made a far greater impact out of the bullpen, Davis twice finished in the top 10 of AL Cy Young Award voting as a relief ace. Initially working as a setup man behind Greg Holland, from 2014-2017, Davis produced a 1.45 ERA while opponents hit just .172 against him. Over two consecutive postseasons with Kansas City, in 2014-15, Davis allowed one run over 25 innings (0.36 ERA), with the Royals going 18-2 in games he appeared in.
Although he saved only 36 games, Betances was arguably the best reliever of the decade who spent least amount of time as a closer. A four-time All-Star, Betances struck out 44 percent of all batters he faced, the third-best ratio of any reliever to appear in at least 200 games. In 2018, he became the only reliever in history to strike out 100 batters in five consecutive seasons.
Between stints with the Reds, Cubs and Yankees (twice), Chapman converted the third-most saves of the decade (273) and did so in often overwhelming fashion. His 14.8 strikeouts per nine innings is the highest ratio in MLB history, and Chapman also owns four of the top 10 per nine inning seasons of all time, highlighted by his 17.6 showing in 2016. In 2014, Chapman struck out 52.5 percent of batters he faced, an all-time record, and he also set a record for the most consecutive games with a K, with 49.
Jansen was the reliable back end force for the Dodgers who closed out many of their NL-leading 919 wins during the decade. Jansen was responsible for converting saves in 301 of those victories, the second-highest total of the decade. Durability was also a strength of his, as no reliever with 150 saves worked more than his 611.2 innings. Between 2013 and 2017, Jansen converted 91.6 percent of his save chances with a 2.01 ERA while adding an additional 13 saves in the postseason.
Kimbrel was an elite closer upon arrival to the big leagues, setting an MLB record with 46 saves during his rookie campaign in 2011. He led the National League in saves over his first four seasons and set records for being the youngest pitcher to reach both 200 and 300 saves. An All-Star in seven of his 10 seasons and World Series champion in 2018, Kimbrel posted a sub-2.00 ERA in four seasons while leading the decade in saves (346), save percentage (90.3), relief ERA (2.08), lowest batting average against (.158) and strikeout percentage (41.1 percent).