Molina isn't just the best defensive catcher of his era, he's up there with Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez among the best of all time. Molina eliminates the running game and adds a late-blooming bat.
1B MIGUEL CABRERA
Cabrera moves back across the diamond and immediately becomes the best player in baseball at the position. He is a better defender at this corner, but it's his bat that puts the two-time MVP on this team.
2B ROBINSON CANO
There's a reason Seattle broke the bank for Cano. The 31-year-old has been a model of consistency, batting above .300 and slugging over .500 for four years straight—while missing a total of eight games.
3B DAVID WRIGHT
Wright has found his star fading, not because of his play but because of his association with the train wreck that is the Mets. A hamstring injury last year derailed what was shaping up to be a career-best season.
SS ANDRELTON SIMMONS
He isn't just a great defender. By advanced metrics Simmons had one of the greatest defensive seasons ever, warranting MVP votes for his glove and arm alone. His low K rate and power bode well for improvement in 2014.
LF ALEX GORDON
Players at this position tend to be guys who are missing something that keeps them from playing center or right. Not Gordon, who combines a corner bat with an accurate arm that racks up base runner kills.
CF MIKE TROUT
The best player in baseball, Trout does everything well except throw. Now he moves over for a full season at his preferred position, adding even more value to the overall package. MVPlease?
RF JASON HEYWARD
Heyward is a centerfielder playing right because of a cannon arm. At the plate he was beginning to find his stroke when a Jon Niese fastball broke his jaw last August. He'll pick up where he left off.
DH DAVID ORTIZ
Every time it seems like Ortiz is winding down, he hangs a line out of the '90s: .309/.395/.564 last year, with 30 homers. Of course he's better remembered for a World Series in which it seemed he'd never make an out.
RHP YU DARVISH
Darvish combines the velocity of an American hurler with the broad arsenal of a Japanese one. Darvish, who whiffed 277 hitters last season, could become the first pitcher with 300 K's since Randy Johnson in 2002.
LHP CLAYTON KERSHAW
The best pitcher in baseball has the lowest career ERA (2.60 in his six seasons) of any starter in the live-ball era. He combines that effectiveness with uncanny durability: He's missed no starts in the last four years.
RP CRAIG KIMBREL
Relievers burn hot and fast; what separates the ones we remember from the other guys is longevity. Kimbrel has struck out 43% of batters in his three seasons. What happens now determines which category he ends up in.
It's hard to find a skipper who blends the interpersonal skills of a players' manager with roster and game skills. Tampa Bay found Joe Maddon, and it has four trips to the postseason in the last six years to show for it. Maddon is the ideal manager, with deft people skills and an eagerness to work with a modern front office. Terry Francona and Bob Melvin are not far behind him.
POUYA DIANAT/ATLANTA BRAVES/GETTY IMAGES (SIMMONS)
DEFENSE MINISTER Even if he never gets a hit, Simmons's performance in the field makes him the most valuable shortstop in the game.
PORTER BINKS FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MADDON)
Photograph by MARK CUNNINGHAM/MLB PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES
BACKHANDER COMPLIMENT Gordon's career didn't develop as quickly as some predicted it would, but he has blossomed into the game's best leftfielder.