By Illya Harrell on July 6, 2014
Having too many unheralded ballplayers on a team means one thing, no butts in the seats. Fortunately, most teams don't have but two or three. Let's take this time to give a huge shout out to each team's most underrated player.
What? Oliver Perez, the former Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets' starting pitcher, is still in the league? Indeed he is, and doing quite well out of the Arizona Diamondbacks' bullpen. In 37 games, his ERA stands at 2.18, has a WHIP of 1.182 and a 9.3 K/9.
Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis is an iffy underrated player. Most of baseball remembers his torrid start last season while Brian McCann was hurt. Many thought it was a fluke. Gattis is proving the naysayers wrong this season. Before he hit the DL on June 28, he was slashing .290/.558/.900 with a team-leading 16 jacks. Atlanta fans are counting down the days until his return.
When left-handed reliever Darren O'Day has entered ballgames this season, opposing batters have resigned themselves to an out of some sort. With his 1.23 ERA and 1.009 WHIP, O'Day would be closing games on most teams.
Red Sox fans don't have a lot to cheer about this season. However, Brock Holt has nothing to do with their underachieving play. First off, Holt can play just about any position besides catcher. Better yet is he owns a .321 batting average.
Now that Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are donning Oakland uniforms, Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta is the ace of the staff. Not by default, though, the dude has been dealing this season. In 11 starts, he has a 1.81 ERA, 1.005 WHIP and 10.3 K/9.
Former San Francisco first-round draft pick Conor Gillaspie was traded to the White Sox for Jeff Soptic, a pitcher with a 5.73 ERA in single-A ball. That must've ticked Gillaspie off a bit. Now comfy playing third base on Chicago's South side, he's hitting above .300 for the season.
How is Skip Schumaker, a .252 hitter with no pop, the Reds' most underrated player? When the scrappy utility man starts games, the team is 20-11. When he does not start the game, the Reds are 24-31. Schumaker is a lucky rabbit's foot.
Keep calm, Cleveland fans. Michael Brantley no longer qualifies as "underrated." Right-handed starter Josh Tomlin threw a one-hit shutout in Seattle, and did not allow more than three earned in his first seven starts of 2014.
Corey Dickerson is quietly having a fantastic season. He didn't begin to get regular playing time until late May. In 191 at-bats, Dickerson is slashing .340/.618/1.020 with 11 home runs.
Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez is another guy who didn't see regular playing time until late May. He hit .345, with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in June.
Below .500 by 18 games, the Houston Astros don't have much to talk about. They've got Jose Altuve and George Springer scoring and driving in most of their runs. But neither of those guys qualify as "underrated." Starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel sports a 3.06 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and has fashioned an 8-5 record.
The Royals are one of the least paid attention to teams in the league. So let's pretend they are the Yankees for a second, and Salvador Perez jerseys are all the rage. Who does that leave? Kansas City outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who has been rocking a plus-.300 average since mid-April.
Former Oklahoma Sooner Garrett Richards is doing his best to let people know the Angels are more than just Mike Trout and a bunch of overpaid free-agent position players. In 2014, Richards is 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. And that includes a a start at Oakland where he allowed eight base runners, five earned runs and had to be relieved during the first inning.
Eleven-year veteran Brandon League looked like he was toast after his 2013 campaign. He ended the season with a 5.30 ERA. Then a hug from Britney Spears turned his career around. In 34 games of middle relief for the Dodgers this season, he's posting a 2.01 ERA and has not allowed a long ball in 40.1 innings pitched.
Even after missing the entire 2013 season, most baseball fans still remember Casey McGehee. He's healthy again and batting clean-up for the Miami Marlins, allowing Giancarlo Stanton to see hittable pitches. McGehee is batting .317 and leading all NL third basemen in RBIs with 52.
Scooter Gennett snatched the second-base job away from Rickie Weeks about two weeks into the 2014 season. He's hitting .310 and, at 2.0, his offensive WAR is better than Ryan Braun's by 0.3 points.
Although he's hitting only .235, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier leads the team with 16 home runs. That is twice as many as any other Minnesota player.
The New York Mets' Jon Niese has allowed no more than three earned runs in any of his 17 games started this season.
Is it even possible to be an "underrated" New York Yankee? Only if your name is Dellin Betances. In 50.1 innings, his ERA stands at 1.61 with a WHIP of 0.75. His pitching WAR of 2.0 is second on the team behind Masahiro Tanaka. With a K/9 of 13.95, Betances' pitches can officially be dubbed "filthy."
Splitting time with fellow catcher John Jaso, Derek Norris is trying hard to win the job outright. He's slashing .302/.495/.899 with eight homers and 35 RBIs.
It's not the speedy Ben Revere's fault that the Philadelphia Phillies are in last place. The center fielder is batting .290 and has stolen 25 bases in 28 attempts.
Pittsburgh fans must love a guy like Josh Harrison. Besides catcher, he'll play anywhere on the field. He even pitched a third of an inning last season and retired the only stick he faced. Harrison is hitting .299 with five homers this season.
Side-winding St. Louis setup man Pat Neshek's stats look like those of a very accomplished video gamer. In 34 innings, he has yielded only 16 hits and four walks, translating into a 0.59 WHIP. With a 0.79 ERA, he's one of the nastiest eighth-inning guys in the game.
How Tyson Ross has a losing record (7-8) is anybody's guess. Oh yeah, he plays for the offensively-inept Padres. He throws 95 mph and a torpedo slider. His ERA stands at 2.93 with a 1.2 WHIP.
Angel Pagan has not played for the San Francisco Giants since injuring his lower back in mid-June. Their record when he starts is 36-21. With Pagan out of the lineup, the Giants are playing .379 ball (11-18). That's .025 lower than Arizona and Houston, who are tied for the worst record in baseball. Not only is Pagan the most underrated player on the team, a case could be made that he is their most valuable position player.
James Jones, Seattle's center fielder, is a .279 hitter. Of his 60 hits, 50 have been singles. But he, much like Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton, disrupts the mindsets of pitchers with his speed. Jones has stolen 17 while being caught only once.
Jake McGee of the Tampa Bay Rays is not likely to remain on the "underrated" list much longer. The Rays will likely deal their closer Grant Balfour before the deadline. McGee is their future closer. In 38.1 innings, he's yet to allow a home run, and is sitting on an ERA of 1.17, 0.81 WHIP and 10.3 K/9.
When you're an underrated player on a bad team, it causes odd behavior. For example, that is Texas relief pitcher Neil Cotts catching a quick nap on the playing field against the Seattle Mariners.
Another guy who won't be under the radar much longer is Marcus Stroman. Toronto's 5-foot-9 rookie was called to the bigs in early May. The team first had him pitch out of the bullpen. In his five relief appearances, he registered a 12.79 ERA and .419 BAA. Toronto's brass decided they should probably do what Stroman had done all his life, start games. The 23-year-old has allowed two or less earned runs in six of seven starts.
Tanner Roark fought for the fifth starter role. The Nationals are fortunate he won the battle. He leads the team in wins and pitching WAR. He's a large reason the Nats did not fold when Gio Gonzolez, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman were on the shelf with injuries.
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