With its unveiling of the top 500 players in baseball, ESPN.com is launching Triple Play, a weekday feature that will run throughout the season and include three ESPN contributors answering three topical questions. For now, the feature will focus on the top 500 rankings, but Triple Play's concentration will shift to the daily MLB buzz once the season begins.
1. The player here most likely to crack the top five in 2013 is _____
Jayson Stark (@jaysonst), ESPN.com
Giancarlo Stanton (No. 40). What does it take to be considered one of the top five players in the entire sport? The ability to put together an off-the-charts season, that's what. And I can say with complete confidence that one of these years, Giancarlo (Don't Call Me Mike) Stanton is going to hit 50 homers. If this is the year, just try to keep him out of the top five next year. I dare you.
Mark Simon (@msimonespn), ESPN Stats & Info
Giancarlo Stanton. If you look at this list, he's the player with the highest ceiling, the one most likely to go for 40 home runs and 120 RBIs this season. If former "Baseball Tonight" analyst Eduardo Perez, who is now the Marlins hitting coach, can get him to cut down on his strikeouts and teach him some of his secrets about the mental side (catching pitchers tipping pitches), he could very well reach that this season.
Kevin Orris (@kevinorris), Capital Avenue Club
Due to the unpredictable nature of pitchers, the odds of taking a hitter are much higher. It is hard to argue against Andrew McCutchen (No. 41) considering he's only 25 years old and can make an impact in every offensive category across the board, not to mention his impressive range in center field.
2. Which catcher would you rather have for the next five years: Joe Mauer (No. 39) or Brian McCann (No. 34)?
Stark: Mauer. I know it's fashionable to say he's done, but I don't get that vibe. He looks healthy this spring, and I have no doubt he's going to hit. If he does, we're talking about a guy whose lifetime average (.323) is nearly 50 points higher than McCann's, whose career OBP (.403) is 45 points higher than McCann's and whose average season over the last five years has been worth nearly 6 wins above replacement, which is almost double McCann's 3.0. Any more questions?
Simon: I'd take the consistency of McCann. I feel much more certain that he's going to average .280 with 20 home runs over the next five seasons than Mauer, whose career is much more likely to be a roller coaster. I'd also expect Mauer to be playing another position in 2017.
Orris: Even with McCann's incredible consistency, Mauer has one of the best bats in baseball regardless of his position. I'd take the gamble, even with his injuries.
3. Will Alex Rodriguez (No. 43) break Barry Bonds' home run record?
Stark: No. I've always been a no, and I'm not changing now. A-Rod looks as if he's already breaking down, so do I see him averaging the 27 homers a year over the next five years it would take to break this record, as he heads into his late 30s and then his 40s? In a post-PED/greenies age, I'll take the under.
Simon: I'll say no. He has 629 homers now and I don't see a lot of 140-game seasons in his future, and he's going to need those to rack up the homers needed to get him past 762. I think he may have two seasons of that nature left in him, but not four or five.
Orris: No chance. His production has slowed down and he has injured nearly every body part imaginable of the last four seasons. I can't imagine he will be in the league in five years, much less hitting more than 25 home runs each season.