It’s not always easy to compare baseball players of different eras, especially when it comes to the best MLB players of the 2000s.
Some of the top baseball players in the 21st century played in an era plagued by steroid use but also at a time when MLB made an effort to eradicate performance-enhancing drugs. This makes the task of ranking the greatest baseball players of the 2000s even more difficult, especially with the great young players bursting onto the scene in recent years.
Best MLB players of the 2000s
Let’s keep in mind that a list of the best MLB players of the 2000s that we’re putting together in 2022 will look a lot different five or 10 years from now. However, it’s fair to say that some of the top baseball players in the 21st century will have no problem holding up over time. As mentioned, this is bound to change over time, but for right now, let’s take a look at our ranking of the greatest baseball players of the 2000s.
25. Andruw Jones
Andruw Jones was so brilliant defensively that he has to be included on our list of the greatest baseball players of the 2000s. He won 10 Gold Gloves, eight of which came in the 2000 season or later.
Few center fielders of any generation could cover ground the way he could. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with his 434 career home runs, making Jones one of the best two-way players of the 21st century.
24. Manny Ramirez
Whether you liked some of his antics or not, there’s no denying that Manny Ramirez could hit. He was a 12-time all-star with nine of those coming in 2000 or later.
Ramirez also took home seven Silver Slugger Awards and a batting title in the 21st century, finishing his career with over 2,500 hits and 555 home runs. Of course, like so many great hitters of the early 2000s, Ramirez is linked to steroids, knocking him down several spots on our list.
23. Chipper Jones
Unfortunately for Chipper Jones, everything he accomplished in his first handful of seasons doesn’t help him on this list.
But even if you take away everything he did before the 2000 season, Jones was still a five-time all-star and a batting champion. Plus, most of his 2,726 hits and 468 home runs came this century.
22. Felix Hernandez
King Felix is often overlooked and underappreciated because he spent his entire career in Seattle. But just because he played for a losing team doesn’t mean he wasn’t one of the best pitchers of his generation or one of the best MLB players of the 2000s.
He was a six-time all-star and won the Cy Young in 2010 despite not being named an all-star that year. His career is also punctuated by a perfect game in 2012.
21. Adam Wainwright
Since he made his debut in 2005 and is still going strong, Adam Wainwright is surely one of the most accomplished pitchers of the 21st century.
While he’s never won the Cy Young and has just three all-star appearances, Wainwright’s longevity is impressive. He’s won over 10 games in a season 11 times, and there aren’t many pitchers this century who can claim to have done the same.
20. Vladimir Guerrero
One day, his son might pass him on this list, but for now, the elder Vladimir Guerrero surely belongs on a list of the greatest baseball players of the 2000s.
He got to the league late in the 1996 season and started to hit his prime right around 2000. Starting with the 2000 season, Guerrero went to eight All-Star Games and won seven Silver Slugger Awards.
He also won MVP honors in 2004 on his way to hitting .318 in his career with 449 home runs. He’s undoubtedly one of the best bad ball hitters in baseball history, but he’s also one of the great players we’ve seen this century, period.
19. Pedro Martinez
Only half of his career came this century, but Pedro Martinez was so good that even half of his career is good enough to make him one of the greatest baseball players of the 2000s. Starting with the 2000 season, he still made four All-Star teams and did win the 2000 Cy Young.
He stayed in Boston until winning the World Series in 2004, and those last years with the Red Sox were some of the best of his career.
18. Randy Johnson
Despite starting his big league career in 1988, Johnson still did enough to be considered one of the best pitchers of the 2000s.
After all, he did win World Series MVP honors in 2001 and was a Cy Young recipient every year from 1999 to 2002, including the 2002 season when he won the Triple Crown. Also, let’s not forget his perfect game in 2004, giving Johnson’s post-2000 resume a huge boost.
17. Adrian Beltre
Adrian Beltre played 21 seasons in the majors, most of which came in the 2000s, so it’d be impossible to leave him off our list.
His production was as steady as any player could hope, even if he was never a bonafide superstar. Over his career, Beltre racked up over 3,000 hits and nearly made it to 500 home runs. He was also a five-time Gold Glove winner and four-time Silver Slugger recipient, so he did it all, and he did it for a long time.
16. CC Sabathia
CC Sabathia made his big league debut in 2001 and ended up playing 19 seasons, making him a no-brainer as one of the top baseball players in the 21st century.
Somehow, he only won the Cy Young once, although he led the majors in wins twice. The southpaw was named an all-star six times and was at his absolute best late in the 2008 season when he carried the Brewers to the playoffs.
At the end of his career, Sabathia had amassed 251 wins and over 3,000 strikeouts, putting him in exclusive company.
15. Johan Santana
Johan Santana may not have longevity on his side, as injuries got the best of him late in his career. But during his prime, there were few pitchers in the game on his level.
He won the Cy Young twice in a three-year span and led the American League in strikeouts for three straight seasons. His changeup was just filthy, helping him win the Triple Crown in 2006. We also can’t forget that Santana threw a no-hitter in 2012 in what would become the final season of his big league career.
14. Barry Bonds
In terms of the greatest baseball players of the 2000s, Barry Bonds has a rather complicated case. On the one hand, five of his 14 all-star seasons and four of his seven MVP awards came in the year 2000 or later.
Both of his batting titles also came after 2000. Bonds also hit at least 45 home runs in five straight seasons beginning with the 2000 season, including the year he set the single-season record with 73 homers. On the other hand, we know he was using steroids during this time, so he gets on our list, but because of his link to PEDs, we can’t put him among the best of the best MLB players of the 2000s.
13. Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod’s spot on our list of the best MLB players of the 2000s takes a little bit of a tumble because of his connection with steroids. Plus, we have to ignore the first six seasons of his career that came before 2000.
But illegally juiced or not, A-Rod could hit, making 11 All-Star Games between 2000 and the end of his career while also winning MVP honors three times. Even if he got some outside help, that’s still enough to earn a spot on our list.
12. Yadier Molina
Yadier Molina has played for so long and been so good on both sides of the ball that it would be criminal to leave him off a list of the top baseball players in the 21st century. He’s going to end up playing 19 seasons in the majors, which is rare by any standards but especially for a catcher.
During that time, he’s been an all-star 10 times and won nine Gold Gloves, as well as four Platinum Gloves. He’s surely one of the best defensive catchers in MLB history but has also racked up over 2,000 hits and been an underrated offensive player, making Molina truly a special player.
11. David Ortiz
Despite some whispers of David Ortiz using PEDs, there is no question that he was one of the best hitters of the 2000s.
Once he got to Boston in 2003, his career took off. He blossomed into a 10-time all-star, a seven-time Silver Slugger winner, and a World Series MVP in 2003. Of course, he loses some points because he was a full-time DH.
But that didn’t stop him from being a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Ortiz will go down as one of the great clutch hitters in baseball history, not to mention someone who hit 541 home runs and racked up over 2,400 hits, most of which came after the year 2000.
10. Carlos Beltran
His involvement in Houston’s sign-stealing scandal aside, Carlos Beltran had a brilliant career. He made the All-Star Team for the first time in 2004 and proceeded to put together one of the best postseason performances we’ve ever seen later that year.
Beltran would go on to be named an all-star nine times while also winning three Gold Gloves. He was one of the great five-tool players of the 21st century and a member of the 30-30 club who continued to be a productive hitter deep into his 30s.
9. Mike Trout
When his career is over, Mike Trout will likely be much higher on this list. But his resume to this point is impressive enough to get him on this list. He was the unanimous Rookie of the Year winner in 2012, which was also the year of his first all-star selection, which has been an annual occurrence outside of the shortened 2020 season.
Trout has undoubtedly been the best player of his generation, winning MVP three times despite playing on a losing team almost every season. Despite all of that, he still might be a little underrated and has a lot left to accomplish in his career.
8. Justin Verlander
It’s difficult to find another pitcher who’s been as dominant as Justin Verlander for so long. It’s shocking that he’s only won two Cy Young Awards because it feels like he should have at least three or four.
Keep in mind that Verlander has led the American League in strikeouts five times. He also won MVP honors in 2011 when he won the Triple Crown. With eight all-star selections and three no-hitters under his belt, Verlander will undoubtedly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when the time comes.
7. Clayton Kershaw
The longer Clayton Kershaw pitches, the easier it is to place him among the best pitchers of the 21st century. During the prime of his career, it was hard to find a more dominant pitcher, at least during the regular season. Between 2011 and 2014, he had the lowest ERA in the National League in four straight seasons.
Kershaw has been to eight All-Star Games, won three Cy Young Awards, and even MVP honors in 2014. Ironically, he didn’t win MVP the year that he won the Triple Crown in 2011. While the southpaw has broken down a little late in his career, we haven’t seen many pitchers better than him during the 21st century.
6. Mariano Rivera
There’s only one closer who deserves to be mentioned among the top baseball players in the 21st century, and it’s Rivera.
Even if you take away everything that Rivera accomplished before the year 2000, he was still a 12-time all-star and an absolutely dominant closer for well over a decade. The most amazing part is that Rivera did it all with basically one pitch, helping him to make him the first unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame, which says everything you need to know about his career.
5. Roy Halladay
One could make a strong case that Roy Halladay is the best pitcher since 2000. While he made his debut in 1998, Halladay’s career took off in the early 2000s. In some ways, he was the antithesis of what pitchers have become in the 21st century. “Doc” was durable, leading the league in complete games on seven occasions, which helped him rack up 203 career wins and over 2,000 career strikeouts.
Halladay finished his career with eight all-star appearances and two Cy Young Awards. He also achieved baseball immortality with a perfect game in 2010 and a postseason no-hitter later that year. It was more than enough to make Halladay a first-ballot Hall of Famer, although sadly he was posthumously inducted into Cooperstown after his untimely passing in 2017.
4. Derek Jeter
Unfortunately, we have to deprive Derek Jeter of some of his accomplishments because they came in the late 90s. Nevertheless, he’s clearly among the top baseball players in the 21st century with 12 of his 14 all-star appearances coming in 2000 or later.
All five of his Gold Glove awards and all five of his Silver Sluggers also came after 2000, so he had some of his best seasons in the 21st century. Jeter was also able to play until 2014 and was never pushed away from shortstop, which says a lot about him. For his career, Jeter hit .310 during the regular season and .321 in the World Series while racking up well over 3,000 hits, which is why he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
3. Albert Pujols
There are reasons why Albert Pujols earned the nickname “The Machine.”
He was machine-like in his ability to hit for contact, hit for power, and show patience all at the same time.
During his prime years, he was one of those hitters that pitchers never wanted to face in any situation. In fact, The Machine has kept running into his early 40s, making Pujols one of just four players in MLB history to amass over 3,000 hits and 600 home runs.
He’s going to approach 700 career homers before all is said and done. It’s also worth noting that before he became mostly a DH, Pujols won two Gold Gloves, not to mention three MVP awards.
Even though he didn’t make it to the big leagues until his late 20s, Ichiro Suzuki still played 19 seasons in the majors and racked up over 3,000 hits. Since he was an accomplished player in Japan, he has the rare distinction of winning Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season.
Ichiro was also a 10-time all-star and a 10-time Gold Glove winner, doing so in each of his first 10 seasons in the majors. Just for good measure, he also won two batting titles.
Eventually, age caught up with him and Ichiro was mostly a part-time player. However, for his first 10 seasons in the majors, it’d be impossible to find a more accomplished player on both sides of the ball, making it clear that he was one of the greatest baseball players of the 2000s and a special player in baseball history.
1. Miguel Cabrera
Since he made his debut in 2003 and is still playing nearly 20 years later, Miguel Cabrera gets a huge edge over his competition.
It’s also easy to argue that he’s the best pure hitter of his generation. Cabrera has hit over .300 in 11 seasons, matching his number of all-star appearances. Keep in mind that he hit at least .320 in nine of those 11 seasons on top of 10 seasons with at least 30 home runs.
Naturally, Cabrera won four batting titles and two MVP awards, including the year that he won the Triple Crown.
While he’s slowed down a little late in his career, Cabrera is still hitting, showing impressive longevity and a dominant force in his prime. When all is said done, Cabrera will have over 3,000 hits and over 500 home runs, earning him a one-way trip to Cooperstown, where he’ll go down as one of the best hitters in MLB history.