By Pat O'Rourke @patorourke_29 on July 8, 2014
From established veterans to blossoming stars, it's been another season of standout performances in the majors leagues in 2014. Here's the best of the best in the AL through the first half of the season, sorted by position.
Perez has been the best all-around catcher in the AL in 2014. Hitting .284 with a .769 OPS, 10 home runs and 29 RBIs while handling a strong Royals pitching staff, the 24-year-old has been one of the most valuable pieces of Kansas City's emergence this season.
A clear-cut AL MVP candidate, Encarnacion has been the biggest bat in the Toronto lineup, hitting 49 hits for extra bases, 26 home runs and 70 RBIs through 88 games. He hit 16 home runs in May, leading the Jays to a 21-9 record.
Altuve has been the centerpiece of the exciting, young Houston Astros team in 2014. In his third full season as a major leaguer, the 24-year-old has broken out. He currently leads the league in hits (124), steals (39) and batting average (.338).
Donaldson is hitting just .242, but the damage is there. 83 hits, 34 for extra bases, 19 home runs and 63 RBIs. The A's lead the AL with 444 runs scored in large part because of Donaldson's bat in the middle of the order.
His .729 OPS is tied with Kansas City's Alcides Escobar for the highest among AL shortstops. He's been stellar defensively as well, with just five errors in 324 chances at short.
Another breakout star in 2014, the 27-year-old Brantley is hitting .323 while slugging .511. He has 105 hits, 13 HRs, 57 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 84 games for the Indians.
Could this be the year Mike Trout wins the MVP? It could be. The Angels look poised to reach the postseason for the first time since 2009, and Trout's play has a lot to do with it. He has an outstanding slash line of .304/.399/.596, and 48 of his 97 hits have gone for extra bases. He has 20 HRs to go along with 64 RBIs. Trout is the best player in baseball, without a doubt.
Bautista continues to be the best pure hitter north of the border, hitting .293 with a .931 OPS to go along with 17 HRs and 52 RBIs. He's on pace for his first 30-100 season since 2011.
At the age of 35, Martinez is having the best season of his career, putting together one of the best single-season hitting performances we've seen in quite some time. Hitting .328 with a .991 OPS, the Tigers DH has 21 HRs and 55 RBIs, while striking out just 23 times in 302 at-bats.
Going 10-2 with a 2.11 ERA in 19 starts for the Mariners, Hernandez is also second in the AL in innings pitched (136.1) and strikeouts (145). His 0.895 WHIP leads the AL, as well as his ERA.
Betances has been lights out as the Yankees' setup man in 2014, allowing just nine runs on 23 hits and 16 walks over 52.1 innings of relief for New York. With 79 strikeouts, he has averaged a ridiculous 13.6 K/9.
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