Clearing The Bases
Last week we discussed the most disappointing players at each position, this week we’ll go with the most surprising, players who are playing well and above what we thought they might in spring training.Â Some of the players listed are no longer playing at that position but that is where they qualified at coming into the season.
Catcher:Â Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers:Â When the Tigers signed Victor Martinez as a free agent this past off-season some may have thought that would be the end of any significant playing time for Avila, but the Tigers had made it known from day one that VMart would not be playing catcher everyday as defense was not his forte.Â Avila was playing 3-4 times a week since Opening Day but when Martinez was placed on the DL and Avila was given the chance to play every day, that is when he showed his true talents and has forced the Tigers to play him as much as possible.
Honorable Mention:Â JP Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays;Â Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks;Â Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
First Base: Â Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals:Â If someone had told you that Berkman would have 17 home runs the entire season, you might have taken that and run, instead he has 17 HRs, 48 RBIs, and a .313 BA before the All-Star Break.Â Just incredible.Â Where would the Cardinals be without Berkman who has been their most consistent offensive force due to the injuries to Matt Holliday and the slow start of Albert Pujols.Â Still one does have to wonder if playing the outfield everyday during the stifling St. Louis heat in the summer will lead to a downfall in his numbers during the second half.
Honorable Mention:Â Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays;Â Michael Morse, Washington Nationals
Second Base:Â Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves:Â Prado was moved to Left Field with the acquisition of Dan Uggla during the off-season, and he hasn’t let the change of position affect his offense.Â Currently though he is on the disabled list (seemingly like every other Brave OF) with a staph infection in his calf, an injury that doesn’t always heal the way a player would like.
Honorable Mention:Â Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates;Â Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels
Third Base:Â Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals:Â It’s not so much his numbers that put Gordon on this list, 7 HR, 37 RBIs, .795 OPS, but that Gordon may finally be realizing some of the potential that many have seen in him.Â He is playing Left Field now and perhaps no longer having to worry about defense as much has allowed his offense to bloom.Â Either way he is well on his way to his best offensive season in the majors, and with all the young players on the Royals, this could be a fun team to watch in the coming seasons.
Honorable Mention:Â Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Shortstop:Â Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians:Â Where 3B was sort of void of surprise candidates, shortstop is loaded with them.Â Cabrera gets the nod as he has been mentioned as a possible MVP candidate with the numbers he has been putting up.Â Apparently a conversation with teammate Orlando Cabrera about hitting the ball with more authority in spring training has led to a dramatic increase in his home runs.Â He already has 12 so far this season where he only had 18 in his career coming in to the season.Â Cabrera is quickly becoming one of the elite shortstops in the game.
Honorable Mention:Â Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox;Â Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks;Â Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
Outfield:Â Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers;Â Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays;Â Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees:Â Matt Kemp has a terrible season last year with the Dodgers as most team executives believe they didn’t get his best effort game in and game out.Â One of the reasons Don Mattingly got the manager’s job was that he had a good relationship with Kemp and the team thought that Mattingly could get the best out of him.Â How right they were as Kemp may be the leading candidate for MVP in the National League.
Yeah I know Bautista hit 54 HRs last season, but there were many pundits who thought that was just a mirage and he couldn’t possibly repeat those numbers.Â Repeat, okay, probably not, but 40+ HRs is nothing to sneeze at.Â He has 21 HRs in 60 games so far this season with an OPS of 1.175 and SLG of .686, you’re talking Barry Bonds numbers in his hay day, just off the hook.Â Since changing his stance in September of 2009 he has been a power machine and now the return of Adam Lind should force teams once again to pitch to him.
Like Bautista Granderson was forced to change his batting stance.Â The Yankees took him out of the lineup last summer to work on the change with hitting coach Kevin Long and he has seen a dramatic improvement in both power numbers and his average against lefties ever since.Â Granderson bats 2nd in what is one of the best lineups in MLB so teams are forced to pitch to him.Â His swing seems tailor made for the short porch in Yankee Stadium, and although it seems unlikely he will hit 45+ HRs I can’t say it’s completely out of the question either.
Honorable Mention:Â Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds;Â Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox;Â Drew Stubbs, Cincinnati Reds;Â Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins
Starting Pitcher:Â James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays:Â Big game James as he is known as for his propensity to pitch fantastic in big games has figured out how to pitch just as well during the small games as well.Â Shields has four complete games with a 2.60 ERA and a WHIP of 1.051 with 98 strikeouts.Â Outstanding numbers from someone who’s ERA was nearly double that last season.
Honorable Mention:Â Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado Rockies;Â Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves;Â Michael Pineda, Seattle Mariners
Relief Pitcher:Â Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets:Â Unless you have been living in a cave you know that KRod has a player option next season that calls for a salary of around $16 million if he finishes 55 games or more this season.Â He will almost certainly reach that number as he is having a All-Star season for the Mets so far with 19 saves as of this writing.Â Here is the catch though, the Mets will almost certainly try to deal KRod, and he may end up with a team that has an established closer but is looking for an 8th inning setup man, thus not having to worry about the games finished clause.Â Outside of Carlos Beltran, KRod seems the most likely Met to be dealt before the deadline as they are a team in financial trouble and need to shed as much salary as possible.
Honorable Mention:Â Drew Storen, Washington Nationals;Â JJ Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks;Â Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Rays