This season in baseball has been interesting from the perspective of player performances. Though the usual list of MLB stalwarts are all playing very well, a plethora of new name players have made their mark this year and challenged for the title of best on their respective team.
I watched a video on YouTube back in April before the season began that stated who the best player on every team was going into the new year. It now has me thinking, who is the best player on every team heading into Pennant Chase season? So I’ll give you my picks. Some may not surprise you, but some very well may.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Paul Goldschmidt
Even though the D-Backs have had a great comeback season and many players have stood out, including Cy Young contender, Zack Greinke, and RBI machine Jake Lamb, Goldy is still leading the charge in the desert. One of the most underappreciated players in the game by far, Goldschmidt is (as always) in NL MVP contention. Though there is plenty of praise to go around for Torey LoVullo’s squad, Goldy’s .315 AVG, 29 homers and 98 RBI are the biggest reason Arizona is primed for a playoff return.
Atlanta Braves- Freddie Freeman
Had it not been for a fractured hand suffered at the hands of the crybaby Blue Jays that caused him to miss over a month, Freddie Freeman could very well be a cinch for NL MVP right now. He was putting together a season for the ages. Though he’s probably not in MVP contention anymore, Freeman is still the MLB’s most underrated player. He’s been all the Braves have had to brag about for the past few years, and you have to believe his accolades would be far greater if he was on a better team. As Atlanta continues to improve, so will Freeman’s resume.
Baltimore Orioles- Jonathan Schoop
It can be argued that Manny Machado is pretty overrated, but he is still the franchise cornerstone for the Birds. But this year his numbers have slumped majorly, even if he still has 26 home runs. In the midst of this uncharacteristic performance, the club’s second baseman has picked up the slack. Jonathan Schoop has enjoyed a fine breakout 2017 season, batting .302 with 27 HR, and 93 RBI. Though Baltimore will not contend for the playoffs this season, Schoop could be a darkhorse for AL MVP.
Boston Red Sox- Chris Sale
Boston’s blockbuster trade with the White Sox this past off-season has worked out to near perfection. Chris Sale has been all that and more for his new team and currently owns the AL Pitching Triple Crown. It’s been something of an off year for Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, so it’s easy to call Sale the best Red Sox. The tall lefty has been dynamite all season and is the front runner for the AL Cy Young award.
Chicago Cubs- Kris Bryant
The Cubs’ first World Series hangover in 108 years proved to be far greater than any of us expected. The same can be said for the MVP hangover Kris Bryant experienced. But, it seems that both KB and his squad have steadied the ship and the Cubs are back atop the NL Central, though Milwaukee and St. Louis are nipping at their heels. Though Bryant’s RBI total is only 56, no where near where he was this time last year, his .930 OPS is formidable. He will need to keep it up if Chicago wants to become the first team since the 2012 Cardinals to make the playoffs the year after a World Championship.
Chicago White Sox- Avisail Garcia
The White Sox have dedicated themselves admirably to their impressive rebuild. Though practically all of the team’s top talent has departed during this stretch, a new star has emerged in the form of Avisail Garcia. The 6’4″ right fielder leads the White Sox with a .318 AVG among other things. He is maintaining the ship for the Pale Hose while the rebuild continues and all the team’s talented young returns develop.
Cincinnati Reds- Joey Votto
The Reds’ slugging first baseman has been the one constant throughout the team’s up-and-down last few years. The Reds themselves may not be performing well and haven’t for a few years, but this has not slowed Votto at all, currently batting .313 with 32 homers, 87 RBI and an NL leading 1.038 OPS. Being named an All-Star this year for the first time since 2013, Votto’s name is rightfully in MVP talks as he continues to put Cincy on his back.
Cleveland Indians- Corey Kluber
Like the Cubs, the Indians struggled to get their bearings about them this season, but now lead the AL Central once again. Jose Ramirez is in the midst of an incredible season with his .300 AVG, but the man on the mound is Cleveland’s pride and joy. Corey Kluber has only gotten better with age for the Tribe and is the only real competitor Chris Sale has for the AL Cy Young right now. His brilliance last October was a prime reason for the Indians’ run to the Fall Classic. He may have won Game 7 had he been fully rested. It’s been business as usual for Kluber this year.
Colorado Rockies- Nolan Arenado
Earlier this season I may have thrown you for a loop and said Charlie Blackmon, but he’s cooled off a tad lately. Nolan Arenado, however, continues to shine. His power hitting is becoming more and more formidable and he has become the gold-standard for defensive excellence at third base. His 107 RBI leads all of baseball and, maybe just maybe, this will be the year Arenado gets the MVP finalist spot that he has deserved each of the past two years. The Coors Effect is often blamed for the success of Colorado players, but Arenado is not a product of it and the Rockies are in playoff contention largely thanks to him.
Detroit Tigers- Justin Upton
The Tigers continue to trend downward with each new season while ignoring the call for a rebuild. Despite this, Justin Upton has become the team’s new leader. With 90 RBI on the season, Upton is carrying the Tigers and proving that he has not slowed. Unfortunately, apart from he and Michael Fulmer, Detroit doesn’t boast much at all.
Houston Astros- Jose Altuve
The Houston Astros have struggled a bit as of late, but the team has been something else in 2017. With a talented core of formidable young players like Carlos Correa, George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, and Alex Bregman, Houston is looking to have liftoff this year. The man at the center of it all is the biggest little man in MLB history. Jose Altuve has upped his batting excellence to another level and currently leads baseball with a .359 AVG. He’s been the guy for Houston since his emergence in 2014 and rightfully holds the title of the team’s best player. AL MVP could also be his title at the end of the year.
Kansas City Royals- Eric Hosmer
One of a few All-Star Game snubs this year, Eric Hosmer has not let that stop him. Kansas City got off to an awful start this year and many were speculating a rebuild, but it was the strong showings of guys like Hos who proved that it wasn’t necessary. Though many may argue that Salvador Perez is the best for the Royals (and his defense certainly is), I’m giving the title to Hosmer because his strong offense has been steadying force for the Boys in Blue. KC is not out of playoff contention and could snatch one of the two AL Wild Card spots if things keep going well. With Hosmer batting .315, the opportunity is there.
Los Angeles Angeles- Mike Trout
Does this need explanation?
Los Angeles Dodgers- Justin Turner
This one is tough with how formidable LA has been this year. But since Clayton Kershaw is on the DL and Cody Bellinger is still just a rookie, the crazy redhead takes this one. Turner has arguably been the breakout star of the year in baseball and his .336 AVG leads the Senior Circuit. The Dodgers have a lot to prove in the playoffs this year since they’ve similarly dominated in the past only to sink come October. But when Kershaw returns to a scary rotation that now includes Yu Darvish and Turner continuing to pace Dave Roberts’ offense, the Dodgers just might be World Series bound.
After injuries slowed him over the past two and a half seasons, Giancarlo Stanton has rediscovered his muse and reclaimed his place at the MLB’s most formidable power hitter. It’s only the end of August and Stanton has already come within one of eclipsing Mark Trumbo’s 47 mark from last year. He is on pace to break 60 if he can keep it up. I’m not sure if this guarantees him MVP, but Stanton has been incredibly fun to watch this season. Marcell Ozuna has been excellent for the Marlins as well, but Stanton stands alone at the top.
Milwaukee Brewers- Travis Shaw
Boston probably regrets this one, don’t they? Traded to the Brewers by the Red Sox for Tyler Thornburg last December, Shaw has broken out in a major way and wasted no time in cementing Milwaukee as his team. Currently batting .285 with 27 home runs and 81 RBI, Shaw has out shined even Ryan Braun this season. Milwaukee is fighting valiantly for the NL Central with Chicago and St. Louis, and Shaw’s contributions have been the reason why. If the team can stay hot, they could eclipse their rivals and head to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Minnesota Twins- Miguel Sano
It hasn’t been a bad year for the Twins, but a lack of depth has killed the team’s chances at the playoffs. One pleasant surprise for the team, however, has been the resurgence of Ervin Santana and the emergence of Miguel Sano. Though Santana’s strong pitching against a tough division has been remarkable, Miguel Sano gets the title of best Twin because his offense has been all the team has had this season. Along with Santana, Sano was named an All-Star this year and his 28 homers and 77 RBI have him among the game’s best third baseman.
New York Mets- Michael Conforto
How the Mets got so bad so quickly this year is still a mystery, but injury after injury after injury is probably why. With half of the team’s star power on the shelf, young gun Michael Conforto returned from Triple-A with a vengeance and became the new face of the Amazins. Batting .281 with 66 RBI and 27 HR, the 24-year-old appears to be the Met of the future. If the team’s pitching can heal up, New York will be very good in a hurry. Conforto’s season was recently ended by a shoulder injury, however. It really sucks to be a Mets fan sometimes.
New York Yankees- Dellin Betances
If he hadn’t gone so stone cold after the All-Star break, this title would go to Aaron Judge with ease. But alas, the hulking 6’9″ right fielder has come back down to Earth majorly. With that having been said, the team’s other giant, Dellin Betances, has continued to dazzle as one of baseball’s best relievers. With Aroldis Chapman recently ousted as Yankees closer, the 6’8″ behemoth, is back to shut down games. That is good news for the Bombers as they try to catch the Red Sox in the AL East.
Oakland Athletics- Khris Davis
It really blows my mind. How in the world does this guy not get more attention than he does? Khris with-a-‘K’ Davis is without question the most underrated power hitter in Major League Baseball. He hit 42 homers last year, already has 34 this year, and somehow never gets talked about. I understand he’s on the bum Oakland A’s, but Davis has proved throughout the last few years that he’s no fluke and can hit the ball hard with the best of them. Put him on any other team and he’d be the talk of the League.
Philadelphia Phillies- Odubel Herrera
It’s been a very, very bad few years for the Phillies and any big name player the team has had in recent memory has been traded away in a rebuild that has no end in sight. All-Star, Pat Neshek, had a solid comeback season for Philly, but was traded to Colorado. With that move, Odubel Herrera, is once again the best at Citizen’s Bank Park. Say what you want about his attitude issues but Herrera has been a consistent positive on an otherwise horrendous team over the last few seasons. He’s currently batting .287 with a .333 OBP.
Pittsburgh Pirates- Andrew McCutchen
Last year was an off year for ‘Cutch, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still the face of the Bucs. Revered for his attitude as well as his ability, McCutchen has returned to form respectably this season with 23 homers and 73 RBI alongside a .283 AVG and .872 OPS. Pittsburgh may be faltering, but its favorite Pirate is as good as ever.
San Diego Padres- Wil Myers
Who wants to play for the San Diego Padres these days? Just like Herrera of the Phillies, Wil Myers’ offensive numbers would likely be far greater if he had even a little protection in the lineup. Though the 2013 ROY with Tampa is batting just .234 this year, his 24 homers and 59 RBI are very impressive, all things considered. A .324 OBP isn’t bad either. It’s just too bad he’s stuck at PETCO Park, that’s a shame.
San Francisco Giants- Buster Posey
The prospect of postseason success for the Giants always hinges on two players, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. And since the latter erased a majority of his 2013 season via a frankly ridiculous dirt biking accident, Posey was left to carry the load. And though ‘Frisco has struggled mightily this year, the 3x World Series Champion has continued to shine, demonstrating just how incredible he is. He’s currently batting .317.
Seattle Mariners- Nelson Cruz
37 years of age hasn’t slowed the Boomstick at all. Cruz has proven over the last eight years that he is one of the game’s most lethal power threats, even if his positive steroid test in 2013 taints that. 100 RBI and 31 home runs at Cruz’ age is remarkable. He was rightfully named an All-Star this year and continues to pace the Mariners, even if the team can’t ever put a playoff run together.
St. Louis Cardinals- Yadier Molina
Same as Cruz, age hasn’t slowed Molina. It looked as if his career was beginning to decline last year. The defensive wiz behind the plate has shown everyone this year that that was not the case. He was named an All-Star once again and hit a homer in the game, the NL’s only tally. He’s 35, but Molina is proving he’s still got it.
Tampa Bay Rays- Chris Archer
A 3.76 ERA is pretty impressive for a pitcher who plays half his games at the Dump (Trop, excuse me). Chris Archer’s continued success is good news for Tampa Bay, because he’s just about the only good pitcher they have. Flaco has also earned the respect of fans for his dedication to children’s baseball programs. There’s no way you can’t tip your hat to him.
Texas Rangers- Joey Gallo
23-year-old Joey Gallo’s .205 AVG next to his 35 HR pretty much means that every time he hits the ball, it goes far. After being dominant in 2016, Texas has fallen off pretty hard. A lack of any quality pitching apart from Yu Darvish will do that to you. But, Gallo’s power has been fun to watch.
Toronto Blue Jays- Justin Smoak
Smoak has been a revelation for the Jays this year; “Where did this guy come from?”, the entire League has asked this season. The first baseman’s performance in the first half of the season earned him a well-deserved start at the All-Star Game, and he hasn’t slowed since. His 34 homers and 81 RBI have filled the void left by Edwin Encarnacion, even if the Blue Jays as a whole have not recovered from the loss.
Washington Nationals- Bryce Harper
After an off 2016 season, Harper is back to the form that earns him all the hype. Good news for the Nats, bad news for any team they come across.
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