By: Chris Larson
Every season, there are plenty of players that seemingly fly under-the-radar over the course of the entire season. Whether it be because their team is a non-contender, due to the fact that other teams within their own division are playing at a higher level, or because their position is so deep, there are numerous reasons why a player might get overlooked or not given nearly enough attention.
Despite the fact that there are a large handful of teams that have been playing non-competitive baseball this year, there are still plenty of bright spots among that grouping of teams. Sometimes those bright spots end up turning into pillars for the team to build around moving forward or an anchor to help guide the team through the sometimes dark, painful path of the rebuild process.
With that being said, here are seven players having better seasons than you realize.
* Stats are current as of the start of play today and do not include today's games. *
1. OF Mike Tauchman (New York Yankees) - Mike Tauchman has been pretty much a gift given to the New York Yankees so far this season and has really helped the team to navigate the muddy waters of having to deal with multiple injuries at the same time. Up to today, Mike Tauchman is batting: .290/.370/.528 over 262 plate appearances. In that span, Tauchman has put up 67 hits, 17 doubles, 1 triple, 12 home runs, 45 RBI, 30 walks, and 68 strikeouts. Furthermore, Tauchman does quite well when it comes to his speed as well as illustrated by his overall Speed value of (5.7) which is slightly below his career high (6.1) Speed value that he set with the Colorado Rockies last season. When you think of the New York Yankees, you likely think of the big sluggers such as Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gleyber Torres, but Mike Tauchman has been just as impactful in the absence of many of the Yankees stars.
2. 3B Rafael Devers (Boston Red Sox) - When you begin to survey the Boston Red Sox 25-man roster, third baseman Rafael Devers, likely isn't a name that sticks out because he hasn't developed the track record of being an established major league hitter yet. However, Devers is having quite a season, in what has turned out to be a disappointing year for the reigning World Series Champions and is proving that he is a nice pillar to build around moving forward. Among qualified third baseman around baseball, Devers ranks seventh in on-base percentage (.373), third in Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) (142), and second in Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) (.353) over the span of 569 plate appearances. If the Red Sox were playing at a more competitive level, there likely would be a lot more talk about Rafael Devers than there currently is.
3. OF Bryan Reynolds (Pittsburgh Pirates) - Prior to the All-Star Break, the Piitsburgh Pirates looked like a potential postseason contender, but seemingly fell off the cliff very quickly when the second half started and haven't been able to rebound since. Despite that fact, there is always a bright spot in the rough and for the Pirates that bright spot is outfielder, Bryan Reynolds. Among qualified outfielders around the league, Reynolds ranks fifth in on-base percentage (.401), is tied for seventh in Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) at (142), and has plenty of pop when he hits the ball as displayed by his Hard Hit Percentage of (45.1%), which ranks eleventh among the group in that category. This season marks Reynolds first year in the big leagues, but he is going to be a nice pillar for the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield trio moving forward and could eventually turn into a tremendous middle-of-the-order bat.
4. 3B Eugenio Suarez (Cincinnati Reds) - Eugenio Suarez seems to never get enough attention nationally regardless of what year it is and this season is no different. Despite the struggles of the Cincinnati Reds as of late, Suarez continues to bring his A-game to the field everyday and continually provides valuable offense to a Reds lineup that has struggled for long periods of time this year. Among qualified third baseman around baseball, Suarez is one of the more disciplined hitters as illustrated by his (9.6%) walk rate, which ties him with Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians, for seventh place among the position group in that category. Additionally, Eugenio Suarez has quite a bit of pop when you take a look at his Isolated Value ranking which comes in at (.271), putting him third in that category behind two superstar third baseman, Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals and Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros.
5. SP Lucas Giolito (Chicago White Sox) - The Chicago White Sox are another team that is having a subpar year, but starting pitcher Lucas Giolito sure is beginning to look like the future ace of the team. So far this season, Giolito has posted a 3.20 ERA over 151.2 IP with an (11.51) strikeouts-per-9 rate and a (78.0%) opponent left on-base percentage. While those are certainly shiny numbers, the past month has been really great for Giolito in particular. Over the last 28 days, Giolito has put up a 2.12 ERA over 34.0 IP with an Opponent Batting Average Against of (.200) and (53) strikeouts. Given that, there is plenty of buzz among Chicago White Sox fans trying to get Lucas Giolito in consideration for the American League Cy Young Award this year and understandably so. Although Giolito probably won't beat out Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros for the award, there's still plenty to cheer about regarding the future upward trajectory of Lucas Giolito.
6. 2B Ketel Marte (Arizona Diamondbacks) - During a season of transition for the Arizona Diamondbacks, second baseman Ketel Marte, has emerged as a true star and a terrific pillar for Arizona to build around moving forward. Prior to being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Marte was on the cusp of becoming a breakout player with the Seattle Mariners, but no one likely ever saw this type of season coming for him. Among qualified second baseman around the game, Marte ranks fourth in home runs (27), fifth in Isolated Power (.251), first in on-base percentage (.383), and first overall in WAR (6.0). It's impressive to see that WAR value because that means that Marte has been so valuable that he's helped lead the Arizona Diamondbacks to 6 additional wins. In case you are wondering, among all position players in the MLB, Marte's WAR ranks fourth behind three MVP candidates in Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers.
7. RP Kirby Yates (San Diego Padres) - Often times when you look at relief pitching, it's a volatile area because there is so much back-and-forth switch among relievers from one year to the next. However, Kirby Yates of the San Diego Padres has been tremendously valuable all year long and is bringing back plenty of memories, in Padres fans heads of the glory days of, Trevor Hoffman. So far this season, Yates has a 1.33 ERA over 54.0 innings of work with a very impressive (93%) save percentage rate (38 saves in 41 save opportunities) and an excellent (14.67) strikeouts-per-9 rate. Beyond those numbers, Yates has a very shiny (1.38) Fielding Independent Percentage and an Opponent Batting Average Against of (.190). While the San Diego Padres aren't going to be contending this season despite some promise of that at the start of the year, there's talk that they are open to an extension with Kirby Yates and it's no wonder why. If Yates is able to replicate these numbers again next year, it could very well be just enough to help get the Padres into the postseason.