MLB Player Poll 2024: Worst organizations, most overrated peer, best vibes guy and more


In last year’s edition of The Athletic’s annual MLB Player Poll, almost 60 percent of the players we spoke to predicted Shohei Ohtani would be playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2024. None of them likely could have imagined the record-shattering contract (and deferrals) that went alongside that move, but they definitely have thoughts about it now.

This spring, over the course of two and half months, we interviewed more than 100 players — almost evenly split between the American and National Leagues — across 18 teams and granted them anonymity to get their unfiltered takes on some of the biggest and most controversial storylines in baseball. In addition to their thoughts on Los Angeles’ prolific offseason spending spree, we learned who they think is the most overrated player and the things former players say that irk them the most.

This is not exactly a scientific poll — not every player we spoke to answered every question, and we have listed the number of responses for transparency — but it provides an interesting look into the minds of those currently playing and shaping the game.

Let’s see what they had to say.

Note: Some player quotes have been lightly edited for length and clarity.


1. Who is the best player in baseball?

It appears, once again, that Ohtani is inevitable. Even for many who see him up close regularly, the luster has yet to wear off.

Forty-six percent of our voting pool named the two-time MVP as their pick for the best player in the sport. Several more players even acknowledged that Ohtani was the real answer, but they elected to provide a different response for fear of being too predictable.

Said one player: “Such a stupid answer. So vanilla. But … he is.”

Ronald Acuña Jr., who suffered an ACL tear in May and is out for the season, was the players’ second pick with over a quarter of the vote. Ohtani’s fellow Dodger Mookie Betts, along with the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, came in third with 8.8 percent each. Mike Trout rounded out the group with 3.9 percent.

Other players receiving votes were the Phillies’ Bryce Harper and Zack Wheeler, the Orioles’ Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman, the Guardians’ José Ramirez, and the Rangers’ Corey Seager.

In their own words

More on Ohtani:

“There’s no comparison. Everybody has a comp, he’s got no comp.”

“Shohei Ruth or Babe Ohtani — no question.”

On Acuña:

“It’s tough not to go with Ohtani, but Acuña is pretty close. I saw BP the other day, I was impressed. And playing against (him) for the past five years. But it’s tough. (With Ohtani) you’ve got two guys in one.”

“I think he’s the best player in baseball right now.”

On Betts:

“He’s awesome to watch. He can do it all.”

On Trout: 

“From everything he’s done over the past decade. It’s honestly incredible. You always pull for him. He’s just the true American kid, just goes out there and plays baseball, and it’s fun to watch every time.”


2. Who is the most overrated player in baseball?

Unsurprisingly, players were not as keen to respond to this question, and those who did were less aligned on their answers. At the top was Marlins center fielder Chisholm, who took home 20 percent of the vote. Though most respondents did not elaborate on their reasoning, one player did question how the former All-Star ended up on the cover of last year’s “MLB The Show” video game.

This year’s runner-up was Angels infielder Rendon, with 10.2 percent of the total. Long-time readers of The Athletic might be surprised to see his name here, as he was voted the most underrated player in baseball by his peers in our player poll back in 2019. Said one player at the time: “He makes every single play. I think he’s a superstar.” A lot can change in five years.

Carlos Correa (6.7 percent), Tim Anderson and Jack Flaherty (5 percent) were next, while Pete Alonso, Cody Bellinger, Alex Bregman, Elly De La Cruz, Manny Machado and Blake Snell (3.3 percent) rounded out our leaderboard.

Other players receiving votes were Yordan Alvarez, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Jeimer Candelario, Emmanuel Clase, Gerrit Cole, Rafael Devers, Adolis García, Alek Manoah, Carlos Rodón, Julio Rodríguez, Juan Soto, Giancarlo Stanton, Spencer Strider, Marcus Stroman, Alex Verdugo, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Christian Yelich.

Several players we asked said they would hesitate to call anyone at the pro level overrated. “I just feel like this game is too hard,” said one AL pitcher. “I don’t want to be talking bad about someone else’s game.”

One notable data point is Bryce Harper, who received just one vote despite making up almost half the votes for this category back in 2018 and 62 percent of the responses in 2019. Said one player who was informed of this fact: “It’s not Bryce anymore.”

In their own words

On Rodríguez:

“I think he’s a great player, but just rated so high. Throwing him around with Trout and Acuña and those guys — maybe eventually, but right now, I don’t know how you can say that.”

On Soto:

“Could be a spite pick, to be honest. I feel like all he does is walk and hit singles, and doesn’t hit for power like he’s portrayed. Also not a good fielder.”


3. Putting aside their stats and going solely on vibes, who do you most want on your team?

(Must be someone the player is not friends with/doesn’t know well)

Earlier this year, we asked our readers to submit questions they’d like to see included in this survey. This one comes courtesy of Michael S., and the players were quite game to answer. They provided a variety of names and reasons, ranging from “I’m a big fan” to “That guy just seems cool.”

Betts, known for his smile on the field and leadership skills in the clubhouse, was the overall top pick. “He’s a really good player and he’s figured out how to get the most out of himself,” according to an NL outfielder.

Not far behind was Betts’ teammate Ohtani (6.3 percent), who stood a chance of being crowned the best player and the player with the best vibes before several respondents chose someone else to avoid doubling up. One player, who eventually voted for a different NL candidate, had to give himself a pep talk beforehand: “I’m not going to say Shohei. I’m not doing it.”

Acuña, Harper, Judge and Kyle Schwarber tied for third place (4.2 percent). Trout, Marcus Semien, Lance Lynn, and Willy Adames all had 3.1 percent of the vote, followed by Jose Altuve, Orlando Arcia, Gerrit Cole, Kiké Hernández, Francisco Lindor and Garrett Stubbs (2.1 percent).

In their own words

On Cole: “Never met him, but I’ve been a big fan of him for a long time.”

On Freddie Freeman: “He’s clutch, and he’s consistent, day in and day out.”

On Tyler Glasnow: “Great vibes, great energy. Brings his personality with him.”

On Liam Hendriks: “His energy on the mound is contagious.”

On Ryan Pressly: “(He) is my favorite pitcher to watch. He’s electric and kind of gets overlooked, how good he is.”

On Gleyber Torres: “I think (he) is pretty vibey.”


4.  Evaluate this statement: Anthony Rendon was right — the season is too long.

Though he may be an imperfect messenger, Rendon’s comments earlier this year on the length of the MLB season resonated with many and sparked vigorous conversations both online and off.

“There’s too many dang games — 162 games and 185 days or whatever it is,” Rendon told the Jack Vita podcast in January. “Man, no. We gotta shorten this bad boy up.”

The logistics and odds of that happening aside, it is an interesting question. Is the modern MLB season too long?

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Almost one-third of those polled agreed with Rendon. Some respondents offered that 140-150 games would be ideal, while a few even suggested 120 would be a better target. Several admitted that they thought the season was too long but acknowledged it would be too difficult to change for historical and record-keeping purposes and ultimately voted “no.”

However, the overwhelming view of those we polled was that the schedule is fine as is. “I think (the season) feels long, but I also think it’s fair for everyone,” said an AL pitcher. ”It’s part of the grind. It’s part of what makes it so hard.”

And for at least one anonymous baseball diehard, the question didn’t even compute.

“Is the season too long? It’s not long enough.”

In their own words

Those who voted Yes:

“It’s a grind and a half. But I think there’s worse things that we could be doing.”

“Yes, but that’s the easy way out. We get paid a lot of money.”

“There’s no reason we can’t reformat it to make it 120-125 games with more off days and recovery. The game is made for us to get hurt … But it would ruin records, and the world likes records.”

“There’s a lot of layers to that. I don’t think it’s as easy as yes or no. But I would say that he’s right.”

“I think maybe we could use like 15 fewer games and start camp later. Spring training is too long.”

“He’s right. I think cut out like 10 games. That’s all. Nothing crazy. I think September gets a little washy at the end.”

Those who voted No:

“It’s long, but I don’t see a problem with it. It’s not like football where they get their asses beat.”

“The length of the season is what kind of separates the big boys from the one-timers. That’s what makes like a Gerrit Cole special, 32 starts every year.”

“I’ve never been a position player, so I can’t comment on how they feel after an entire season, but 32+ starts is perfect.”

“F— that. I get paid more.”

“We’ve been doing this for 150 years. Anyone who complains is soft.”

“I don’t mind the 162 part, but I think the schedule could be spread out even longer.”

Read more: Is MLB’s 162-game season too long? Players are split on whether changes are needed


5. Which team would you sign with if contracts, state taxes and rosters were not a factor?

This was another reader-sourced question, courtesy of Josh N., who wanted to know where players would most like to sign, all things being equal.

The responses skewed toward players’ residential preferences, with many citing that they’d like to play for the team closest to where they live in the offseason or where they grew up. It’s also no surprise that teams in moderate climates or those with significant history scored high on the list. Some players even wanted to join a team for the stadium they play in. (Said one Texas voter: “Their new ballpark is really nice.”)

But one major franchise stood above the rest: The Atlanta Braves, who captured 12.7 percent of the vote.

In their own words

On the Braves:

“Just because I was a Braves fan growing up.”

“I would sign with the Braves, knowing what I know. If I didn’t know, I would probably try and play one year for the Red Sox or the Yankees. Just to do it. Just to experience that. Probably the Red Sox.”

“I love that stadium.”

On the Padres:

“San Diego is a beautiful place to play.”

On the Red Sox:

“(Fenway Park) is basically a museum.”

Read more: Why MLB players would most want to sign with Atlanta if money, rosters were not a factor


6. What organizations have bad reputations among players? (Multiple answers allowed)

Thanks to reader Carson C. for this one. We invited players to offer more than one response to this question, so the above graph represents the number of times a team was mentioned. Of the 79 players who responded, 40 named the beleaguered Oakland Athletics as a team with a bad rep, the highest response overall. They were followed, in order, by the White Sox, Angels, Rockies, Mets, Pirates, Marlins, Rays, Padres, Yankees, Nationals and Royals.

The Orioles, Red Sox, Guardians, Tigers, Astros, Giants, Mariners and Cardinals were all mentioned once.

The reasons players listed were varied, but mostly involved an organization’s lack of spending or player development.

One NL player declined to name a specific team but was blunt in his general assessment: “Any place that is not trying to win consistently. So, a fourth of the league.”

In their own words

On the Athletics:

“I mean, have you seen what they’re doing to the city of Oakland and their fans?”

“It doesn’t seem like they want to win.”

“I’ve heard Oakland is pretty rough. Sacramento for three years? I’ve been to that ballpark before. They can’t find something better?”

On the White Sox:

“I’ve never heard a good thing.”

“Unlike some other bad teams, they have more potential to be good.”

“It sounds like no one wants to be there day in and day out …  like it’s a grind just to show up to the ballpark. I couldn’t imagine.”

“It’s not good over there. You can tell by how often there’s turnover that it usually means something’s going on. Players leaving the organization and automatically doing better (with their new team).”

“Poor communication.”

On the Rays:

“When it comes time to pay players, they usually trade them.”

“They get rid of you once you get expensive — or close to it.”

“They’re not player-friendly.”

On the Angels:

“(I’ve heard that they) treat their minor-leaguers like crap.”

“The organization is just run pretty poorly and pretty cheap.”

“General dysfunction.”

“Been there, done that, and I have never heard a good thing about them.”

On the Pirates:

“Because I’ve known so many guys who’ve gone through there … (it seems like) everybody there is just kind of trying to figure it out.”

“They actually have money and just won’t spend it on players.”

“I don’t know what’s going on over there.”

On the Rockies:

“I think it’s better now, but when I was there, it was horses—t.”

“(Heard from another player that) it’s like going back to the Stone Age.”

On the Yankees:

“No one wants to play for them. A bunch of rules.”


7.  What is the most irritating criticism of the current game coming from former players?

We let players answer this question however they saw fit, and they gave us a variety of wide-ranging responses. Eight-two responses, in fact. Most touched on one of three topics they were most tired of hearing about from former players.

In their own words

Celebrations

“We’re having too much fun.”

“I think everybody gets tired of hearing it, just let them celebrate and have fun.”

“The bat flips.”

“Complaining about pimping home runs.”

Overlooking the current game’s degree of difficulty

“You have to understand that players today are so damn good. … The length of the lineups and the length of pitching staffs has changed, even in the last seven, eight years.”

“The lack of respect for difference in pitching quality.”

“I feel like they’re too far removed to understand how hard this game is.”

“Just throw strikes — their strike zone was three times the size.”

“‘Too many strikeouts’ — they had three guys in the league who threw 95, and now the first guy in from the bullpen throws 100.”

“That it’s the same game. I don’t think that’s true. I think, unfortunately for us, the talent is just way better across the board. There’s not an at-bat you have off or where you’re like, ‘Finally, this guy.’ It’s always a new arm that’s just nasty — splitters, sweepers. They’re reinventing the wheel. Everyone’s throwing 97-plus now. It’s the same game but played at a much higher level.”

Toughness (or lack thereof)

“I think a lot of them say some guys don’t run hard. I think guys are a little bit better at managing their bodies (now).”

“You hear older players say that the game is a little softer. … I just think the game has changed. … They also say pitchers only care about velocity and stuff, but I don’t think that’s true. I think pitchers still are pitchers down to their core. The main focus is to get outs. We’ve just found different ways to go about (it).”

“That we complain too much. ‘Back in my day’ or ‘If we had all this stuff…’”

Read more: MLB players hear the criticism from former pros. Here’s which comments irritate them the most


8. Should MLB shut down midseason so players can participate in the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles?

In their own words

Those who said Yes:

“It depends on how serious every country would take it. If the Dominican fields a good roster and Venezuela, that would be pretty cool.”

“It is the Olympics. You have only so many times (to participate).”

“I think it would be a blast.”

“If the players aren’t affected with pay. I’m all about representing your country; if we can somehow still get a full season, then I’m on board with it.”

“If there’s a way they could get rid of the All-Star Game that year, that would be pretty cool. It’s a unique opportunity, and now that baseball is back in (the 2028 Olympics), I feel like guys would want to do it.”

“I know the logistics would be a pain in the butt. It would be doable and you’d have the best players representing their countries when they’re in the best shape to perform.”

“It’d be really cool. The Olympics are my favorite thing to watch. I really like the idea of doing that. Soccer does that, and hockey, too. I don’t think it’s realistic because how long are you going to shut the season down? That’s a lot of owners losing money.”

“You hear stories about the World Baseball Classic and guys with 10-plus years, one of the best players to ever set foot on planet Earth, Mike Trout, saying he had the most fun he’s ever had playing in the WBC. I think there’s something to that when you play for your country and it says USA across your chest or Japan or whatever it is. It gives the fans just a little bit more enthusiasm.”

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 Those who said No:

“I’d love to play in the Olympics, but I don’t know what that would look like. I come back from three days off, and my timing is shot.”

“The WBC is better anyway.”

“Injuries would go through the roof.”

“To be honest, we (the U.S.) would be too good, and we’d destroy and win everything.”

“No one would care unless you paid them a ton of money.”

“I think being an Olympian and being on a 40-man roster gave me an opportunity to play at a high level while I was still in the minor leagues. …  it gives other kids and older vets an opportunity to get their name back on the map and potentially find a job.”

“I think it would be awesome, but I don’t think there’s a good way to do it.”

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9. Have analytics helped your career, hurt your career, or made no difference to your career?

In their own words

Those who said Helped:

“It definitely helped. All data is useful, any information. There’s value everywhere; you’ve got to look anywhere you can.”

“I think it has helped, but it depends on what analytics we are talking about. Player development or in-game situations? Player development, for sure, 100 percent. With all the technology we have, player development is huge. It’s helped me the most. But it’s hard to say with the in-game decisions.”

“It allowed the world to know I’m good at defense.”

“Analytics is the only reason I got signed again. I wasn’t passing the eye test.”

“Analytics are a big part of (my) team, and I feel like they help more than the public knows. Analytics get a bad rep, but why wouldn’t you want more information to help better inform your decisions?”

“It’s helped everyone so it’s made the game very hard. Everyone’s better, so even though maybe I’m better, everyone around me is better. It makes it harder, in a sense.”

Those who said Hurt:

“I’m not a power guy. I like to put it in play and analytics say you need to hit for power.”

“The less I know, the better. I think when you don’t look into that too much, you can truly use your instincts better because you can be aware of your body instead of looking for something to give you an answer. And finding the answer within yourself, I think, is the most important thing. There have been times where it’s it’s kind of screwed me because I’ve been looking for a number instead of just feeling it.”

Those who said Both:

“Analytics hurt my career by overthinking it but helped it by learning the game and how it’s going. You had to like analytics to learn how to adapt.”

“It’s probably done both. I think it can help you, but it can also create a ceiling for you.”


10. Have you ever seen or heard of a player being put on the injured list when they weren’t injured enough to merit it?

This topic became a major talking point in February, when former Mets GM Billy Eppler was suspended through this year’s World Series for improper use of the injured list, including the “deliberate fabrication of injuries,” according to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

It’s a difficult practice to police and there’s plenty of gray area, but just how often are the rules being bent? We polled players to see if they’ve ever heard of or seen anyone placed on the “phantom IL” who was not, in their eyes, injured enough to require it. Almost two-thirds of those we asked answered in the affirmative.

In their own words

Those who said Yes:

“All the time. … ‘We’re either going to option you to Triple A because we need a fresh arm or we’ll put you on the IL and get you big-league time.’ That’s real.”

“I don’t know how the league can make a rule that combats that though. Trainers have notes that cover everything. You can go on the IL for fatigue.”

“LOL. Just a few times.”

“I’ve seen it a lot. I came from a system that did it all the time.”

[While nodding his head, widening his eyes] “No.”

“Oh yeah, 100 percent.”

Those who said No:

“(I’ve seen it) in the minors, that’s all I’m going to say”

“No one has ever been like, ‘I’m completely fine,’ and they put them on the IL.”

“I’ve had my suspicions, but I don’t know.”


11. Was the Dodgers’ offseason spending good for the game?

In their own words

Those who said Yes:

“It’s good for baseball, and any team could have done it.”

“I think it’s good for baseball, but only if it results in wins. Like the Los Angeles Rams a couple years ago going all-in to win a Super Bowl.”

“The numbers are outrageous, but I bet the Dodgers are already halfway through making that back in what (Ohtani) is for the game. I think it’s cool with him and Yamamoto.”

“I think that $700 million should apply toward some kind of luxury tax, I’m not sure if it applies on the backend. Granted, Ohtani is a unicorn, and you have to pull all types of strings to accommodate that kind of contract, but that was the first thing I thought about. Overall, I think it was good for the game and eye-opening to other teams, the loopholes you can find to make a great team.”

“Good for players and good for the game if the right team does it. The game needs the Dodgers, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Braves, now the Astros. But when you have that, it really makes those matchups interesting. And then if every team has a $300 million player, but it doesn’t really make a difference — like Mike Trout on the Angels. You’d rather see Mike Trout on the Phillies if you’re a baseball fan. So is everybody complaining and saying, ‘They’re just buying their championship’? Not really. Because we’ve proven that the Rays can win, the Yankees can lose.”

“It should be a mark for all owners.”

“Of course. I loved it. They got the best team money could buy.”

“It makes the Dodgers must-see TV and everyone plays the Dodgers, so that’s good for everybody.”

“Yes, absolutely great for the game. People like box office-type stuff. When the game was at its best, big-market teams were spending a lot of money. In basketball, the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors were crushing, they were getting more views. Fans don’t like to admit it, but they do like super teams.”

“It makes them a really hard team to beat now. All the money out there, some more guys get motivated to win and play better. It’s good for the market.”

“That’s what makes baseball beautiful. Those guys spend $1 billion and will still get swept in the first round.”

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Those who said No:

“I want to say good … but not good.”

“I don’t think it was. I just think other teams should be able to spend like that. I feel like the Dodgers are always the team that can get all the best players in the world.”

“We’ll have a documentary about that in the next few years. But the deferred money, (that) I don’t agree with. I think they should have to pay right now while he’s playing. I just think it’s a loophole. It’s not even their money, (president of baseball operations Andrew) Friedman’s money or the owner’s right now.”


12. Are you in favor of or opposed to MLB adopting the salary cap and floor system used in other major sports leagues?

Once you send these questions out into the wild, you never quite know what players will do with them. We originally intended for this question to serve as a simple yes-or-no: Are you opposed or in favor of a salary cap and floor system? We quickly learned that this question is just not that simple — as demonstrated by the CBA negotiations back in 2021-22 — and those we spoke to had considered it from many different angles, so we’ll let them elaborate.

In their own words

Those who are opposed:

“I think the no cap is what makes baseball unique.”

“It could result in some teams just having to spend money on guys who aren’t worth it.”

“Players-wise, I want (them) to get as much as they can. You don’t play the game forever, so you try to make as much and do as good of a job as you can while you do it.”

“There kind of already is a floor with the league minimum. Even if you pay 26 guys the minimum, that’s the floor.”

“It wouldn’t be nearly as beneficial as it sounds. And there are a lot of players who act like we should — going back to the Dodgers question — help the bottom 70 percent of good major-league players. Right now, the advantage is to the 1 percent of players getting those huge contracts, which is great, but you also have guys signing minor-league deals (not long after) making an All-Star team.”

“If they move the floor, is that going to compensate for the ceiling? The answer is no. … The money that the Yankees spend over the tax will be more than just the three teams that have to move up to the floor. It’s just not going to make sense for us.”

“Nobody’s telling the other teams they can’t spend more money.”

Those in favor of a floor but not a cap:

“Yeah of course, there are definitely organizations that have great rosters that don’t rake in nine figures, so for those players on teams like that, they should be able to make more money.”

“I think there should be a floor but no ceiling. I do think there is probably a third of the league that doesn’t even try to put out a good product. But if you made teams be at a certain point, I think the spending drives each other to match.”

“I’m certainly in support of a floor system. … (the lack of) cap — it’s unique to baseball. I think teams need to be competitive, and of course you’re never going to have a situation where a small-market team like the Royals is competing financially the same way the Yankees are. But I think the adversity is what makes a small-market World Series that much more meaningful. So for me, that’s why I don’t like the cap. I don’t really think it has to do with spending necessarily. It just creates a more diverse environment.”

Those in favor:

“I’m in favor of it; if you can raise team spending, and of course, you have to have a cap, I’m for it. I think it will help the mid-level players.”

“(It would help) even the playing field, though you still have to play the games. But some of these rosters are outrageous.”

“I would say in favor because there are definitely teams that don’t compete. So a floor would probably be more beneficial than the ceiling would hurt.”

(Top illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photo of Shohei Ohtani: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images; Carlos Correa: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images; Mookie Betts: Gene Wang / Getty Images)



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