As the 2010s decade comes to a close, the 21st Century is now one-fifth complete. With that being said, it is fun to look back at the remarkable MLB careers that have taken place so far this century. While it is impossible to speculate who, in the next 80 years, will garner recognition of the definitive All-21st-Century team in 2099, but there is a clear group of players who would be named to the All-Century team through two decades. Without further ado, it is time to unveil the All-21st-Century team through 2019.
This list was composed by taking the players with the best careers in the 21st Century (2000-2019). This varies slightly from the Last Word On Baseball All-Decade teams list which took the best individual seasons. Players whose careers began prior to the year 2000 were still considered for this list although none of their statistics or accolades prior to 2000 were counted.
Please note that players were chosen based on their statistics, longevity, and significance to the sport of baseball from 2000-2019. Allegations of PED use did not impact a player’s candidacy. Additionally all mentions of Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) is as of 2003 when the statistic first started being tracked.
Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander
There has been a surplus of tremendous starting pitchers making their mark in the 21st Century. That being said, Justin Verlander stands out among them all. Debuting in 2005 and pitching through 2019, he has built up a legacy that will land him in the Hall of Fame after he retires. There have been pitchers who were more dominant than Verlander at their best, but Verlander has seen sustained dominance throughout the majority of this century, epitomizing starting pitching of this era.
He has a Rookie of the Year Award from 2006, two Cy Young Awards from 2011 and 2019, and an MVP from 2011. In addition to these accolades, he has six additional top-five finishes in the Cy Young voting, three of which were as the runner-up. He has led the league in strikeouts five times, WHIP four times, innings pitched three times, wins and ERA+ twice, and ERA and K/9 once.
He also has thrown three no-hitters with the first and third coming 12 years apart. When he was traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Houston Astros, he led the Astros to their first ever World Series championship, capturing the ALCS MVP in the process.
His overall numbers speak volumes as well. In 15 seasons, he has amassed 225 wins and .636 winning percentage, a 3.33 ERA, and 3,006 strikeouts in just under 3,000 innings pitched. Verlander is a no-brainer to be the starting pitcher on the All-21st-Century team.
Honorable Mention: Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw
Relief Pitcher: Mariano Rivera
From 1995-2013, Mariano Rivera made his case as one of the greatest relief pitchers of all-time. Even omitting his 1995-1999 numbers the sake of this list, he is the obvious choice for the All-21st-Century team.
Rivera saved 523 of his record 652 during this century while pitching to a 2.05 ERA in 907 innings pitched. His WHIP is 0.954, and his ERA+ is 217. Rivera’s K/BB rate further emphasizes his greatness in the 21st Century, sitting at 5.01. He was also an 11-time All-Star in this time span.
The postseason is what separates Rivera as one of the greatest relievers ever. Since the turn of the century, Rivera closed out two World Series championships with the New York Yankees, and appearing in two others. He won the 2003 ALCS MVP and only allowed nine earned runs in 93.2 postseason innings pitched.
Honorable Mention: Aroldis Chapman, Joe Nathan
Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez
Ivan Rodriguez was a star in the 1990s, but he stands as the best catcher in the 21st Century, as well. This claim holds true when looking at his overall numbers and his longevity. ‘Pudge’ played from 2000-2011, earning six All-Star appearances, four of which came with the Tigers. He won a World Series championship in 2003 with the Florida Marlins, winning NLCS MVP along the way.
While staying as primarily a catcher for the entirety of his 21st Century playing career, Rodriguez slashed .293/.330/.463 with 146 home runs and 711 RBI and a 106 OPS+. This is all solid production relative to the catching position, but Rodriguez’s defense is what puts him on top of the All-21st-Century team. His DRS sits at 22, and he led the league in caught stealing percentage four times. Additionally, his caught stealing percentage was above league average every season from 2000-2011.
Honorable Mention: Buster Posey, Joe Mauer
First Baseman: Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols has played exclusively in the 21st century and has established himself as one of the greatest players of all time. He won three MVP awards in the 2000s as well as the 2006 and 2011 Word Series championships while with the St. Louis Cardinals before heading to the Los Angeles Angels after 2011.
Pujols currently has a .300/.379/.579 slash line with 3,202 hits, 652 home runs, and 2,075 RBI. Although he has not been the same player in recent years, his career OPS+ still sits at 147, showing just how good he was at the start of his career.
His DRS of 142 shows that he has been a great defender as well despite only winning two Gold Gloves. He has also appeared in ten All-Star games. In addition to his two rings, he has excelled in the postseason with 90 hits, including 19 home runs and 54 RBI, in 77 games.
Honorable Mention: Miguel Cabrera, Todd Helton
Second Baseman: Jose Altuve
One of the best spark plugs in MLB, Jose Altuve has done everything that a player could want to do with the Astros. He endured a rough rebuild with the team. That paid off in the long run when he won the 2017 AL MVP and a World Series Championship. He has six All-Star appearances and five Silver Sluggers, as well.
Although he has only played nine seasons in MLB, Altuve already has four 200-hit seasons. They all came consecutively and he led the league in hits all four years. He has also led the league in on-base percentage three times and stolen bases twice. In separate seasons, he has stolen over 50 bases and hit over 30 home runs. His slash line is .315/.364/.463 with 128 home runs and 254 stolen bases.
In 50 postseason games, he has 60 hits. That includes his walk-off home run against the Yankees to clinch the 2019 ALCS, when he was named series MVP.
Honorable Mention: Robinson Cano, Jeff Kent
Shortstop: Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter almost became synonymous with the term ‘winning’ during his career. He won five World Series championships with the Yankees, two of which came during this century, and he played in the postseason in 17 of his 20 MLB seasons, including 12 of 15 since 2000.
Jeter was known primarily for his bat, and his ability to get hits and reach base at the top of the order. 2,658 of his 3,465 career hits came in this century, and he hit .300 nine times from 2000-2014. The hitting didn’t stop in the postseason. Jeter collected 130 hits in 102 postseason games during this time span.
Other accolades for Jeter in this century include five Gold Glove Awards, 12 All-Star appearances, and being named the 2000 World Series MVP. Jeter proved incredibly durable as well. In 15 seasons, he appeared in at least 148 games 12 times.
Honorable Mention: Jimmy Rollins, Miguel Tejada
Third Baseman: Alex Rodriguez
The 21st Century is marked by consistency and dominance from Alex Rodriguez. From 2000-2016, he hit .291/.385/.550 with 548 home runs and 1,623 RBI. All of this equates to a 143 ERA+. He won three MVPs and would make 11 All-Star games.
Rodriguez’s name has a surplus of black-type statistics, indicating that he led the league in numerous categories, various times. What is most impressive about his consistency is that he hit at least 30 home runs with 100 RBI every year from 2000-2010 (when looking at his entire career, the streak extends back to 1998). That includes three 50-home run seasons and six 120-RBI seasons.
In 2009, he helped lead the Yankees to a World Series championship, winning World Series MVP. He also won two Gold Gloves as a shortstop before moving over to third base after being traded from the Texas Rangers to the Yankees.
Honorable Mention: Chipper Jones, Adrian Beltre
Left Field: Barry Bonds
Of all of the players who dominated in the 21st Century, none dominated quite like Barry Bonds did for the San Francisco Giants with his keen eye and massive power on full display. Bonds only played eight seasons in the 21st Century, yet he hit 317 home runs. He walked 1,128 times, 390 of which were intentional, signifying how feared a hitter he was. Additionally, he won four consecutive MVP awards.
His slash line was .322/.517/.724 with a 221 OPS+. He led the league in walks seven times, on-base percentage six times, OPS+ and intentional walks five times, slugging percentage and OPS four times, batting average twice, and home runs once.
The one year he led the league in home runs was when he hit a record 73 in 2001. In 2007, he passed Hank Aaron for the all-time home run record.
Honorable Mention: Manny Ramirez, Ryan Braun
Center Field: Mike Trout
When the century started, Mike Trout was in elementary school, and he did not play in its first decade. In spite of that, he is the obvious choice for best center fielder since 2000. Trout debuted in 2011, playing 40 games at age 19 before playing his first full season as a 20-year-old in 2012. He won the Rookie of the Year, and he has spent his entire career with the Angels.
In his eight full seasons, he has won three MVP awards, finished second four times, and fourth once. He is a true five-tool player with the ability to hit for average and power, run, field, and throw. Through his age-27 season, Trout has a .305/.419/.581 slash line with 285 home runs, 200 stolen bases as well as seven Silver Slugger awards and eight-straight All Star games. Although he has yet to win a Gold Glove, he has a DRS of 8 for his career and 38 career assists. He led the league in RBI and stolen bases once each and runs scored four times.
While Trout matches the old-school description of a star, he also epitomizes the new age of player evaluation. He has had a WAR of 6.6 or higher in all eight of his full seasons. That includes two seasons with a WAR over 10.0 and three others of 8.3 or higher. He has also led the league in OPS+ six times, OPS and on-base percentage four times, and slugging percentage and walks three times.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Beltran, Torii Hunter
Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki
Although he did not debut in MLB until he was 27, Ichiro Suzuki put together a Hall of Fame caliber career. In an era where home runs and high strikeout totals have become the norm in MLB, Suzuki stands out for not conforming to that trend.
He won both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in 2001 as a Seattle Mariner, and he never looked back from there. He would lead the league in hits seven of his first ten seasons and set the single season record for hits in one season with 262 in 2004. His ten, 200-hit seasons are tied with Pete Rose for the most all time. That being said, he recorded his ten in consecutive years, which Rose did not do. He won two batting titles, as well.
Suzuki would also play for the Yankees before recording his 3,000th career hit with the Marlins. He retired in 2019 with 3,089 hits in just 2,653 games. He never struck out more than 86 times in one season, finishing with 1,080. Therefore, he averaged almost three hits per one strikeout for his career.
Suzuki was more than just a hitter, he could play the field and run the bases, as well. He won ten consecutive Gold Gloves. His speed played well on the base paths, stealing 509 for his career. Additionally, he was named to ten All-Star games and won three Silver Sluggers.
Honorable Mention: Vladimir Guerrero, Bryce Harper
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
David Ortiz debuted in 1997, but did not play in a full season until 2000. From 2000-2016, he averaged 31 home runs and 101 RBI, warranting inclusion on the All-21st-Century team. He won three World Series championships, was the heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox, and proved to be the best designated hitter in terms of longevity and production of this generation.
In that time span, his slash line sat at .287/.380/.557 with an OPS+ of 143. His totals were 531 home runs, 1,716 RBI, and 4,619 total bases with Boston and the Minnesota Twins.
After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Ortiz was the symbol of a Red Sox team that rallied for the city, capping off the season by winning the World Series MVP as they defeated the Cardinals in six games. Ortiz had a plethora of clutch postseason moments. In 18 postseason series, he collected 88 hits, 17 of which were home runs, and drove in 61 RBI. In addition to his 2013 World Series MVP, he was also named MVP of the 2004 ALCS.
Honorable Mention: Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images