Under-appreciated seasons in the MLB
Every year in every sport, there are players who put together really nice, though unfortunately unnoticed, seasons. They may be unnoticed for a range of reasons: the player is young, they haven’t been in the Majors or on their current team for very long, coming into the season they weren't expected to perform, they play for a small market team, etc. As a small-time guy, I feel it my responsibility, ney, my DUTY, to report upon these unsung heroes and shine light on their excellent efforts. To be clear, these are guys who previous to this year were unknowns, receiving zero media coverage but still working their tails off. With that being said, let’s take a look at some position players who are having great, though not public, seasons that deserve some love.
Ramon Laureano, CF, Oakland Athletics: .283 BA, 20 HR, 54 RBI
Last year, Laureano put himself on the map with the amazing, 321-foot throw he made against the Angels, showcasing what we now know is one of the strongest arms in baseball. Speaking of defense, Laureano leads all Major League outfielders in putouts and is tied for third in assists. However, his bat has caught up with his glove this year, and he has gained slight attention for his other-worldly July where he is so far hitting well over .400. If that doesn't impress you, over the past 30 days he’s hit .346 and posted a 1.157 OPS, good for fifth in the MLB in that stretch.
Garrett Cooper, RF, Miami Marlins: .304 BA, 11 HR, 37 RBI
With only 76 career at bats before this season, it’s no wonder Cooper has yet to be covered by the media. However, he has quietly put together one of the best seasons on this otherwise uninspiring Marlins team. He has split time between right field and first base, and he’s played above-average defense at both positions. Though he is already 28, Cooper could prove a valuable piece for the future as Miami looks for youngsters to rebuild around.
Jeff McNeil, LF, New York Mets: .342 BA, 9 HR, 41 RBI
Despite the fact that he made the NL All Star team, McNeil might be at the top of this list of “guys having great seasons but getting no recognition.” I mean heck, the guy LEADS ALL OF BASEBALL in batting average, yet they couldn't even get his face right on the scoreboard at the ASG in Cleveland. Throw in the fact that he’s played four positions this year and you have a super-talented guy that has the chance to produce for a long time at the Major League level.
Marcus Semien, SS, Oakland Athletics: .267 BA, 15 HR, 50 RBI
Semien kind of breaks the rules here, because he got some attention years ago for being the worst defensive shortstop in the Majors. In 2015, he lead the league in errors with 35 and posted an ugly .947 fielding percentage. However, Semien has worked hard to change the narrative surrounding his defense, and the past two seasons he has transformed into one of the top defensive shortstops in the MLB. Last year, he had the third-highest defensive WAR among AL shortstops, and this year he has been even better. A few stats for you: he is tied for second in the Majors in assists, he has the fourth-best fielding percentage of all MLB shortstops, he is second among all AL position players in SABR defensive index (which accounts for 25 percent of the Gold Glove selection process) and he is third among Major League shortstops in Fangraphs’ DEF and UZR ratings. Woah.
Brian Reynolds, LF, Pittsburgh Pirates: .328 BA, 7 HR, 39 RBI
Reynolds holds a few key factors for going unnoticed: he plays in a small market for a team that is not especially good, he’s a rookie, and he does not play a marquee position. That doesn't mean anything he’s doing should be discounted though: if he had 11 more plate appearances then he would be qualified for the sixth-highest batting average in the Majors as a rookie. He has also played solid defense at each of the three outfield positions this year, giving the Pirates arguably their most valuable position player of 2019 (if not, he’s a close second to Josh Bell).
Omar Narvaez, C, Seattle Mariners: .294 BA, 16 HR, 40 RBI
A bright spot on an otherwise dull Mariners team, Narvaez has cemented himself as the starting catcher and is doing a darn fine job at it. While his defense may leave something to be desired, he leads the team in average and is third in homers. His coming on in his age-27 season softens the sting of letting former catcher and bust Mike Zunino go only to see him blossom with the Rays.
Eric Sogard, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays: .300 BA, 10 HR, 30 RBI
A clubhouse favorite in Oakland, Sogard never really saw that likability translate to media attention. He got off to a torrid start this year and still failed to receive much fanfare, most likely because people (including me) were awaiting the eventual drop-off. However, he has kept it up, and his .300 batting average would be good for 16th in the Majors if he had about 40 more plate appearances. Plus he continues to provide great defense at the keystone.