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Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Updated: March 27, 11:54 AM ET
The Next No. 1

ESPN.com

Day 8 of the BBTN 500 consists of players ranked 25-11, which includes Albert Pujols, the player who was ranked No. 1 a year ago. Will his fall continue? Our panelists will tell you.

1. Who from No. 11-25 is most likely to be No. 1 next year?

David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield), SweetSpot: If Matt Kemp (No. 13) has another year like 2011, he's right up there, but I'm wondering if that was a career year. So I'm going with a guy who hasn't yet reached his limits: the great and powerful Giancarlo Stanton (No. 16). He's just 23 and led the NL last year in slugging percentage. His OPS wasn't much off Kemp's 2011 mark. He'll hit 40 home runs. He may hit 50.

Christina Kahrl (@ChristinaKahrl), SweetSpot: Tough one, but given a choice between Andrew McCutchen (No. 12) and Stanton, I'll go with McCutchen finally getting his due after the Pirates finally win an 81st game this year. McCutchen should be higher than this right here, right now. Next year will just be the overdue cherry on top for the man closest to the perfect player, at least to my way of thinking.

Matt Meyers (@mtmeyers), ESPN.com: I think voters have a tendency to favor guys on really good teams, so that rules out Andrew McCutchen (No. 12) and Stanton, two guys who would have a shot on a better club. I'll say Matt Kemp, who could lead a 95-win Dodgers team this year.


2. Who from 11-25 is most likely to be off the top 100 next year?

Schoenfield: It seems unfathomable, but if Albert Pujols (No. 18) declines some more -- and you wonder if his bout with plantar fasciitis isn't an ominous sign for 2013 -- he may no longer be worthy of the top 100. He ranked just 57th in on-base percentage and 17th in slugging percentage among qualified hitters a year ago. Basically, he got on base like Jamey Carroll and slugged like Garrett Jones. Is that a top-100 player?

Kahrl: Craig Kimbrel (No. 14), but that's because a reliever needs only a bad fortnight to ruin his full-season stats, let alone an actual injury and the chances that totally alters his career trajectory. Nothing against Kimbrel, as good as he has been, but there's a reason why Mariano Rivera is a no-doubt Hall of Famer, and every other reliever ever wasn't and won't be.

Meyers: Josh Hamilton's (No. 20) strikeout rate has been rising and he is moving to a much tougher park for hitters. I could see his raw numbers taking a tumble and a "he couldn't handle the big contract" narrative forming that would knock down his perceived value significantly.


3. Who from 11-25 is most likely to stay right where he is?

Schoenfield: Death, taxes and Prince Fielder (No. 17). He's durable, consistent and good for 30-plus home runs and a .400-plus OBP, something he has done the past four seasons (when he has missed one game total). Unless he suddenly drops 75 pounds and turns into Keith Hernandez at first base, he's probably the easiest player in the majors to project.

Kahrl: Cole Hamels (No. 21). He's a known quantity (posting an ERA+ in the 130 range each of the past three years), he's durable and he's headed into his age-29 season so he's still in his prime. In short, he's completely awesome but nevertheless a notch below guys like Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw, which is why he won't crack the top 10 or fall far from the top teens.

Meyers: Evan Longoria (No. 15) derives a lot of value from his defense, and that will prevent him from making a major leap. And since his OPS has stayed between .850 and .896 for his whole career, we know he's consistent. He's right in his prime at age 27, so I think he'll be right at the same spot in 2014.