25 Under-the-Radar MLB Names to Know Heading into 2014
25 Under-the-Radar MLB Names to Know Heading into 2014
There are few fans of Major League Baseball who do not love the superstars of their favorite teams. This is the guy that comes up in the bottom of the ninth when their team is down by two with the bases loaded with two outs and gives them hope. That doesn’t mean he will always come through but there is no doubt that he can and more times than a “normal” baseball player will. How about the guy who beat out an infield single for only his fourth hit of the week to keep the inning going?
That is just one example of an unsung hero in MLB. Without a doubt we love our big bat heroes but there has to be room for an under-the-radar name to shine whether it is in one at-bat here and there, in a strictly defensive role all season long or in a big comeback season where he becomes a reliable clutch hitter when no one thought he had it in him. It could be almost any of those or more situations for an offensive or position player.
Pitchers can get in on this as well though. The fourth starter that has a solid couple of months mid-way through the season when the team needs a lift the most or the second or third starter that steps up out of nowhere when an unfortunate injury places the big name ace on the bench. For my money the big hero name is one that we all should love to know well but the under-the-radar, unsung heroes of baseball are more entertaining.
With that in mind here is a list of 25 guys that most will not be talking about in terms of how great they will play this year. Some will be mentioned in trade rumors or other talks with the team but they will not be in a standard conversation about the game’s best players. Whether that is warranted in the past or not, this article is suggesting that you look out for these guys and don’t be surprised when you find their impact is much greater than we all thought. Leave a comment below if you feel the need.
25 – Adam Lind
Lind is the DH for the Toronto Blue Jays. He hasn’t gotten a ton of press outside of a few trade rumors during the Winter Meetings. Take a look at his numbers though and you are talking about someone who is capable of 20+ homers and 80+ RBI for the year. That is nothing to sneeze at. Keep an extra watch on his 2014 to see if trade rumors spur him to a career year.
24 – Daniel Murphy
Murphy is the second baseman for the New York Mets and while the Mets fans might not be surprised to know he is one of the better second basemen in the game. You might not hear his name beside that of Brandon Phillips, Robinson Cano and others but his production is quickly getting to the same level.
23 – Kelly Johnson
Johnson is far from Robinson Cano level in the way of offensive output but he is far from worthless as a second baseman as well. He does have some pop but he knows how to play the game the right way. With the Yankees getting the power from newly signed free agents, Johnson could win the hearts of many Yankees fans with his play.
22 – Rafael Furcal
Furcal would be about as far from under the radar as any infielder in the game just a few short years ago. Now with a very slight downward trend and a year off from injury, many are saying the Marlins were foolish to sign him. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. He is going to prove this year to be someone surprisingly important to the Marlins team I believe.
21 – David Murphy
This might not seem like a good move to most teams in the game but I think Murphy will find a comfortable home with the Indians in 2014. He could end up in a platoon role if they hold on to other newly signed outfielders but either way he will be someone that should surprise a few people with his run production.
20 – Martin Prado
Prado got some press last season because he was part of the big Justin Upton trade. As the season started and he was simply doing his job well, the press around his name faded. Going into 2014 there will be little talk about him especially with the big additions for the DBacks. Don’t be surprised when he is a critical part of the team and their winning ways.
19 – Logan Schafer
The Milwaukee Brewers are very possibly heading towards a flop season in 2014 but in the case that things turn around for them; their fourth outfielder/bench bat Logan Schafer would be a big part of it. His offensive production hasn’t been awesome but he has potential for sure that could come out at any time.
18 – Lucas Harrell
Harrell most certainly doesn’t look to be an ace caliber starter when looking at his stats but it isn’t quite that simple. Not only as a starter but also relief pitching; Harrell has a ton of up-side working for him. Looking at him last season as a starter, he had as many starts where he appeared to be the best pitcher on the field as he did where things fell completely apart. It appears that he is extremely close to being very special and if he can just get over that hump the Astros will begin to look like one of the better young staffs in the game.
17 – Scott Kazmir
Most would think the Mets signing of Bartolo Colon would be one of the bigger pitching moves of the offseason. That was a big one but Colon’s former team grabbed Kazmir in a move that could be sneaky good as 2014 develops. Keep an eye out here because he could hit a new gear as he now plays “green-collar baseball”.
16 – Skip Schumaker
Schumaker found himself on a playoff team last season. I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see him and the Cincinnati Reds fully in the playoffs again and if they are this guy will be one of the reasons. He’s one of those unsung heroes of a season who can really save a team in numerous ways.
15 – Jeff Francoeur
The beginning of Francoeur’s career looked awesome but last season he was released from the Royals and they got better because of it. Now the Indians are signing him on a minor league deal. Something like that might seem to mark the downhill side of his career coming early but not so fast. He might not be a perfect everyday guy but the Indians might be able to coax a good platoon/fourth outfielder guy out of him which would be huge for the team.
14 – Jose Veras
Veras is one of those versatile relief pitchers who thrives in all kinds of situations. He isn’t necessarily the most automatic closer but he gets the job done. He can also set-up or even pitch in another deeper spot in the bullpen. Whatever the Cubs need from Veras will get done to the best of his ability and that is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
13 – Peter Moylan
Though he isn’t necessarily on everyone’s list of who’s who in relief pitchers, Moylan has had a few good years in his career and is capable of a great season. Especially if he is placed into a more significant role with the Astros we could see a good bit of numbers from him in 2014.
12 – Paul Maholm
Maholm had his ups and downs with the Atlanta Braves but when it comes down to it he is a veteran starter who will keep a team in the game and give them a chance to win. That is the description of what most teams are looking for yet he is still on the free agent market. He isn’t talked about as being such but he could be one of the more consistent options left available.
11 – Wilson Betemit
This guy is just someone that needs to be given another shot. Especially with the third base situation the way it is for many teams around the league, someone has got to have a spot for him. He can do more than just play third, brings a veteran presence to the bench and could really be a game changer for the right team.
10 – John Buck
Whether he serves as a back-up catcher or an everyday starter behind the plate, Buck is a name that can quickly fade into the background of the many great catchers in baseball. There are great defensive catchers, great offensive catchers, catchers who are great at both and those who are just solid all-around game callers. Buck would seem to fit into that last slot there as a solid fit for someone in 2014.
9 – Scott Baker
Baker is a pitcher who should be able to pop into the 2014 season and leave a huge mark. There have been ups and downs but he has the potential to be much more than some think he can be. Keep an eye on him at least for a while.
8 – Paul Janish
Janish won’t be unemployed for long when spring training breaks. He won’t do much with the bat but when it comes to a solid and reliable defensive infielder, look no further than Janish. He can handle every position there is and usually performs quite well when given the chance to do anything.
7 – Ike Davis
Davis seems to have fallen into the wilderness of great first baseman. He has been around for four seasons or parts of four seasons. Two of them have been great and two have been miserable. The short-term memory of a lot of fans wants to just write him off and trade him for next to nothing but Davis could be worth much more than nothing if he has another great season which he very well might do.
6 – Scott Atchison
Atchison had a nasty ERA in 2013 but he is still just one year removed from a season where he saw an ERA below 2.00. His WHIP stat was up a little but still in decent range. Something tells me Atchison is better than his 2013 ERA and should show up in a big way in 2014.
5 – Kurt Suzuki
What is the perfect way to replace the catching ability of Joe Mauer without having to worry about replacing his offense since he is just down the line at first base? Signing a solid all-around backstop like Suzuki is a wonderful move by this Twins team and they will definitely be glad they made the move.
4 – Scott Downs
Downs burst onto the NL scene last season and the lefty reliever was an instant member of the final few bullpen team. He is going to be a huge member of the bullpen for his new team as well. There is little doubt that if healthy he could be one of the more successful left-handers in the league.
3 – Bobby Abreu
It might seem like forever since we last saw Abreu but he actually played in 2012. Recently his attempts at a comeback are showing well enough to get quite a bit of buzz from the Indians. He could be headed towards the Tribe as they try and prepare to possibly give him a fighting chance. He has torn the cover off of the ball of late and could prove to be a surprisingly effective comeback story.
2 – Juan Francisco
There aren’t many players currently playing baseball who can hit a ball as far as Juan Francisco. The problem of course is that he has to make consistent contact and he has yet to do that. We aren’t talking about a veteran player here though. He could very well become just the first baseman that the Brewers thought he could be when they originally traded for him.
1 – Elliot Johnson
Not only did Johnson walk into the Braves situation and immediately threaten to take over the everyday second base job, he did so with a smile on his face that he was readily able to shift towards others on the team. He was important to team chemistry when it could have been a huge problem for them. He is going to be a bigger signing than most figure he will be.