Even with a shortened 2020 season, there were some changes to the Mount Rushmores of many franchises in 2020. For those who have read these posts in past years, thanks so much! If you’re new, you can check out the original preview post, the 2018 NL update, the 2018 AL update, the 2019 NL update, and the 2019 AL update as well. If you’re super-interested, you can find the individual 2017 posts by typing “Rushmore” into our search engine.
If you’re new to this series but don’t want to do a lot of work to familiarize yourself with the rules, I’ll keep ‘em simple right here. Each franchise’s Rushmore is composed of their four players with the greatest WAR, as long as they never played for another franchise. So you won’t see Babe Ruth with the Yankees, Tom Seaver with the Mets, or Ivan Rodriguez with the Rangers. And you certainly won’t see Edwin Jackson anywhere. You’ll see some surprises, that’s for sure. And the quality of names below may give you an indication about how your favorite franchise has operated through the years.
In the past commenters have been disappointed with the rules for these particular Rushmores. I understand. It you’re looking for each franchise’s top players by WAR, Baseball Reference is a great place to explore. Here’s the Marlin’s Franchise Page. Play around to find their top players.
Today it’s the National League. In a week, we take a look at the Junior Circuit.
- Brandon Webb (31.4) remains on top and seems locked in for some time.
- David Peralta (14.2) is signed through 2022, so perhaps he lasts for a bit.
- Nick Ahmed (12.0) is gaining on Peralta, seems to be the better player these days, and is locked in for an extra year. On the other hand, he’s a defense-first shortstop now on the wrong side of 30, so maybe he never catches Peralta.
- With Jake Lamb released and signing in Oakland, it’s Archie Bradley who steps up. Oh, scratch that. He was shipped to Cincinnati in August. That same day, Andrew Chafin became a Cub, so we’re really scratching the bottom of the barrel here. It appears that Merrill Kelly (1.8), a rookie in 2019 at age 30, stepped up with five good starts and is now one of the four best D’back-only players of all-time by WAR. Makes sense when there are pitchers among the best 50 Arizona hitters ever.
- Chipper Jones (85.0) remains safe. MVP Freddie Freeman (38.8) is signed for another year, so he remains in the #2 spot. If he’s getting to the HoME one day, it’ll be on the super long and low path. Unfortunately for him, I don’t see him churning out these seasons for another decade. Last year’s #3, Julio Teheran became an Angel, so we need someone new here. And at least temporarily, that new guy is Rick Camp (12.1), Atlanta’s closer in 1980 and 1981. But he’s not hanging around here for long. Ronald Acuña Jr. (12.1) comes in next, tied with Camp. And he’s not alone. He brings Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Max Fried with him. It doesn’t seem like we’ll Camp’s name here again after 2021.
- The Cub Rushmore remains the same. For now. Ernie Banks (67.8), Stan Hack (54.8), Kris Bryant (24.3), and Charlie Hollocher (23.2) represent the North Side. Bryant looks like he’ll make $20 million plus in arbitration, so he could be on the chopping block, as the Cubs cry poverty, despite the Ricketts family being worth in excess of $5 billion. Maybe 19th century star Bill Lange will replace Bryant here a year from now, or maybe Kyle Hendricks will step up.
- No changes here with Johnny Bench (75.2), Barry Larkin (70.5), Joey Votto (62.1), and Bid McPhee (52.5) atop the façade. Since Votto is looking more and more like a career Red, we don’t have to worry about Dave Concepcion yet. And guys like Luis Castillo and Tucker Barnhart are a long way off.
- Todd Helton (61.8) still waits here for the call from the Hall of Fame, and with his progress this year it actually seems possible. Last I checked Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall Tracker, he’s just over 55%. While he’s likely to drop a good deal between now and the time results are revealed, he’s made great progress from 16.5% and 29.2% in his first two years on the ballot.
- Nolan Arenado (39.1) had a down year at the plate, but he continues to pick it at the hot corner as he keeps climbing.
- We have a new #3 in Trevor Story (21.0) who jumps from fifth to fourth to third the last three years. Rockie fans pray the climb doesn’t continue a year from now.
- Also chugging along is Charlie Blackmon (17.9), though he drops to fourth. While his best days are behind him, he’s signed for 2021 and has player options for two years after that. Come 2024 he’ll be 37, so perhaps he’ll walk off into the sunset as a career Rockie. Should something happen and Colorado move one of the active players, they’re decently stocked with German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray, and Antonio Sanzatella.
- Clayton Kershaw (69.6) remains at the top and now has his ring after some wonderful pitching in the World Series. Hopefully he doesn’t go anywhere, so some kid who’s not even alive yet passes him.
- For the second straight year, we have a new #2 in town, as Pee Wee Reese (68.2) regains his spot after having been passed by Kershaw in 2019.
- Don Drysdale (67.1) drops from first two years ago, to second, and not to third. How? Well, the folks at BBREF are always tinkering, trying to make things as perfect as they can, and there was a flip with their 2020 WAR update. I don’t expect Drysdale to fall again next year.
- Jackie Robinson (61.5) remains in fourth. Maybe Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager are coming, but it’ll be a while.
- Somehow, there have been no changes here. Jose Fernandez (14.0) continues to top this list, Brian Anderson (7.6) is next, and since he remains cheap, I think he’ll last for a couple of years. Showing how awful this franchise has been, I’m pretty sure the next two guys are Renyel Pinto (3.3) a 2006-2010 reliever, and Chuck Smith (3.2) a 2000-2001 starter. Do you like Pablo Lopez and Sixto Sanchez? Either could make the list a year from now. Or the Marlins could trade them for one of Jeter’s fruit baskets.
- Robin Yount (77.3) leads the way. Ryan Braun (48.9), he of 13.8 WAR over the last eight years is next. Teddy Higuera (30.3) and Jim Gantner (22.4) still follow. Should Braun ever play for someone else, Dave Nilsson waits in the wings. Among active guys, it’s Josh Hader and Brandon Woodruff who are best situated.
- David Wright (49.2) proudly leads the way.
- Next and climbing is Jacob deGrom (38.1). Could he catch Wright in three years? In two? He’ll make $71 million the next two years and then has the chance to opt out. We shall see what happens.
- Noah Syndergaard (15.7) missed 2020 with Tommy John surgery. Unless he pitches for someone else, he’ll remain on this list for at least a little while.
- He may drop to fourth though as Michael Conforto (14.6) continues to climb. He’s not the player who Mets fans though he’d be back in 2015, but he has been a solid contributor over they years. He can become a free agent after next season, and it’s possible the Mets should let him walk. Maybe sign him for four years from 29-32? If you can get him for three, that’s wonderful, but I don’t suspect it’ll happen. Juan Lagares remains a Met only, and there are four other current Mets with 7.0 WAR or better so at least there’s something if and when someone leaves.
- Mike Schmidt (106.9) starts us off. Charlie Ferguson (31.6), a Quaker from 1884-1887 follows. Aaron Nola (21.7) is next. He bounced back some in 2020, and his numbers might be a bit better than they appeared, given the Philadelphia defenses and the offenses Nola faced. Ryan Howard (14.7) remains in fourth.
- With Starling Marte shipped away, this isn’t changing forever. It’s Roberto Clemente (94.8), Willie Stargell (57.5), Sam Leever (40.9), and Bill Mazeroski (36.5).
- The players remain the same for the Cards, but the order of the final two flipped in 2020. Stan Musial (128.3) leads things off with Bob Gibson (89.2) following. But Adam Wainwright (41.0) has passed Yadier Molina (40.4) for third place. It’s kind of amazing that many people consider Molina a first-ballot Hall of Famer, while essentially nobody uses Wainwright’s name and Cooperstown in the same sentence. Amazing, yet sensible. Catchers with massive WAR totals exist throughout the game’s history less frequently than players of any other position, and it seems Yadi has a good deal of value not captured by straight WAR. What’ll happen this off-season as both Molina and Wainwright are free agents remains anyone’s guess. Should either play for another team in 2021, Matt Carpenter is waiting in the wings, and Whitey Kurowski follows.
- Tony Gwynn (69.2) will remain atop this list seemingly forever, as the Padres haven’t been a franchise to keep their best players. Maybe things are turning around in SoCal? They’ll need to stay that way for more than a decade before Gwynn is in jeopardy.
- How embarrassing is it that Tim Flannery (9.1) is second on this list? The guy played 100 games only four times.
- With Manuel Margot shipped to Tampa, this third spot opened up. And since Hunter Renfroe went there as well in a separate trade, it couldn’t be him. With just 629 plate appearances to his name, Fernando Tatis Jr. (7.0) steps up. The Padres would be incredibly disappointed if he didn’t pass Flannery in 2021.
- The kids continue to be well represented with Dinelson Lamet (3.5). Well, Lamet isn’t a kid. He’ll be 28 next year. But he’s headed in the right direction. Assuming health, there’s reason to believe that he can help the Padres in their quest to dethrone the Dodgers in the NL West in 2021.
- Mel Ott (110.7) won’t be leaving this top spot for a long, long time. Carl Hubbell (67.5) remains second and Bill Terry (54.2) third. It’s unclear what the future will hold for Buster Posey (41.8), but for now at least, he’s in the fourth spot.
- Steve Rogers (44.7) remains the best player in Expos/Nats history. Maybe Ryan Zimmerman (38.5) will be back, but he’s unlikely to build much even if he is. Carpel tunnel syndrome cost Stephen Strasburg (33.3) most of 2020. He looks to pass Zimmerman if he can bounce back in 2021. Trea Turner (16.6) should be in the middle of his prime about now, but he’s going to have to play a full season a few times if he wants to move up this mountain.
Well, that’s it for the National League. The AL update drops next Monday.