Ok, fine, maybe you’ve heard of a few of these guys, but they aren’t getting nearly as much coverage as they deserve. A quick note- the “Dare to Compare” is applicable for this season, I’m not judging a player’s entire body of work in this piece.
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Catcher –Wilson Ramos , Nationals DARE TO COMPARE- Salvador Perez, Royals
Wilson’s .997 fielding percentage ranks second in the MLB, tied with Buster Posey and ahead of Salvador Perez. This year, he has a higher batting average (.326- 1st among all catchers), home run total (19-tied 2nd), and RBI count (67- 1st) than either of those two catchers. Why has he suddenly burst onto the scene? Well, Ramos was dealing with a vision problem for the last few years, and this offseason he finally decided to get that fixed up. While Wilson’s entire body of work falls a little short of Perez, he is outperforming the Kansas City backstop on both sides of the ball in 2016, providing the best all-around contribution any catcher has offered to their team this year.
First Base – Wil Myers, Padres DARE TO COMPARE- PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT, D-Backs
Myers won the Rookie of the Year in 2011 with 13 homers and 5 steals. In 2015, Myers homered 8 times and stole 5 bags. This year, he is the only first baseman, and one of two players overall, to have 20 homers and 20 steals. I picked Goldy as a comp for him this year because both players would not fit the mold of your prototypical bag swiper, but they are smart baserunners. Goldschmidt is on pace to reach 20/20 as well, and he has just three more HRs and RBIs than Wil. Even though he came up as a catcher, and was moved to the outfield, Myers has a league-leading .998 fielding pct., committing just 2 errors in 981 chances, a testament to how great an athlete he is. The one thing that he needs to work on is cutting down on strikeouts, as he already has 117.
Second Base –DJ LeMahieu, Rockies DARE TO COMPARE- DANIEL MURPHY, Nationals
In the Rockies’ recent series against the Nationals, LeMahieu recorded a hit in 8 straight times up to the plate, among those his 7th triple and 9th home run.
That last name is pronounced, Luh-may-who, for those wondering. “Who?” was probably the reaction of most of you upon reading this article. But DJ has transformed himself into an All-Star player. This year, he is hitting a robust .342, yeah- .342. That is third in the majors behind fellow second baseman Daniel Murphy and Jose Altuve. He is a benificiary of Coors Field, hitting .399 at home. Still, there is no excuse for someone hitting over .340 who has a Gold Glove to his name to be swept under the rug like he is. Well, it sure doesn’t help that he is sandwiched between Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, and Nolan Arenado at the top of the Rockies’ lineup. DJ is also a tough out, as he is hitting .383 when behind in the count, something that translates to any altitude. And, unlike Murphy, he plays a stellar second base. The only thing holding DJ LeMahieu back from superstar status is the same thing that catapulted Daniel Murphy into it- a power stroke.
Shortstop –Jonathan Villar, Brewers
Villar, who was acquired from Houston as part of the Carlos Gomez trade last year, has blossomed in 2016. He is hitting .296 with 28 doubles and an amazing 46 stolen bases. There is not any type of power/speed combo like that at shortstop, so it was difficult coming up with a comp. A possible comparison could be Giants’ shortstop Eduardo Nunez, who like Villar is a subpar fielder, but has 30 swipes on the year and 22 extra base knocks. Villar looks to be a building block around the Brewers’ rebuild, as he is only 25.
Third Base – Kyle Seager, Mariners DARE TO COMPARE- KRIS BRYANT, Cubs
Seager is about as close as you can be to a sure bet. He has homered at least 20 times in 5 straight seasons while playing in spacious Safeco Park, yet does not seem to be getting anywhere near the attention of the Cubs’ second-year phenom Kris Bryant. Bryant enjoys the luxury of playing in Wrigley Field. He has 8 more bombs than Seager’s 22, but actually one less RBI than Kyle’s 79. Also, Seager strikes out as a much lower clip than Kris does, and the defensive comparison doesn’t even merit an argument. While Seager has already won a Gold Glove at the position, Bryant has been shuttled around between third and left field as the Cubs look for a position for their superstar.
Outfield –Starling Marte, Pirates DARE TO COMPARE- ANDREW MCCUTCHEN, Pirates
Marte has burst onto the scene in 2016, starting in his first ever All Star game. His power numbers- 7 HR, 40 RBI, are admittedly a little low, but where he wows is with his speed. Marte has matched a career-high with 41 stolen bases; Cutch’s career high was 33, achieved in 2010. Starling plays great defense, as well. He was the recipient of an NL Gold Glove award last year, and paces the NL with 14 assists in 2016. Like his teammate, Marte also brings energy and fun onto the field every day.
Starting Pitcher –Kyle Hendricks, Cubs DARE TO COMPARE: Jake Arrieta, Cubs
For all the attention the Cubs have been receiving this year, this guy seems to be missing the boat. Kyle Hendricks has a sparkling MLB-best 2.17 ERA in 2016. While he only has 124 punchouts, he recorded 12 in his most recent start. 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta has posted a 2.75 ERA this year, but has allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his last 7 starts, including yesterday, when he gave up 5 runs to the Brewers while walking a career-high 7. As Arrieta is reeling down the stretch, Hendricks has appeared to take the reins of this Cubs staff.