The upcoming MLB season has us itching to see what treasures might be discovered as players emerge from seemingly nowhere to capture our attention in a big way. When it comes to evaluating an underrated MLB player, you’re looking at someone who could eventually become a household name and turn into a fan favorite.
Between a couple of players in Miami and a few promising, young infielders, the 2017 season is filled to the brim with talent. Most of these players you likely haven’t heard of.
Here are eight underrated players that are worth paying attention to this season.
Justin Bour, first baseman, Miami Marlins
Miami Marlins first baseman Justin Bour has a lot of low-key power. Despite his struggles against lefties, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone better than him (especially when it comes to a fantasy scenario in the third round).
Bour suffered an ankle sprain in July last year which kept him out until September. He was well on his way to having what could have been a breakout season for the 28-year-old, but still showed signs of power.
He finished the season with a .264/.348/.475 line including 15 bombs and 51 RBI. He hit all of those home runs before his injury.
This season, the Marlins plan on having him bat against southpaws, giving him more opportunities to prove himself. And he will.
Christian Yelich, outfielder, Miami Marlins
There are two Miami Marlins on this list, and we don’t feel bad about it.
Christian Yelich is one of the most underrated players in the game right now, but Miami clearly noticed something in him. The team recently signed the 25-year-old to a seven-year, $49.57 million contract. So he will be around for a while, and the team was more than happy to do it.
The outfielder finished his 2016 campaign with a .298/.376/.483 line that included 21 home runs (more than his first three seasons combined) and 98 RBI. FanGraphs Steamer has him dropping slightly in batting average, but he should put on yet another great season for fans and fantasy owners.
Kyle Seager, third baseman, Seattle Mariners
We know the other Seager, but not many of us are enamored with his brother Kyle Seager, who plays for the Seattle Mariners. (This is always brought up, so let’s make sure the spotlight is shined upon Kyle today.)
Seager had a strong first half last season hitting .287/.365/.537. He hit a bit of a speed bump in production but came on strong in August. His September and October months weren’t so great, and he struggled towards the beginning of the season. But once he starts cranking his stride he shows tremendous promise.
This is seen in the .278 batting average he finished the season with, not to mention a 5.5 WAR, which is a career high for the 29-year-old.
Seager has a lot of attention on him this season, and while the American League West isn’t the toughest division, he will certainly hold his own.
Khris Davis, left fielder, Oakland A’s
Khris Davis made a case for himself as a star last season when he hit 42 bombs for the A’s. He also has a lot of respect for the city of Oakland and proved that during the offseason.
Khris Davis spent offseason in Oakland. "I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it. I love the city."
— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) February 19, 2017
In 2016, the 29-year-old, in addition to home runs, hit a career high 102 RBI’s with a .247/.307/.524 line. He of course did all of this at O.co Coliseum, which is difficult on either side of the ball.
Davis does well against lefties and will be an under-the-radar fantasy pick for those who feel inclined.
Jean Segura, second baseman, Seattle Mariners
The Mariners made a lot of trades this offseason.
According to Stephen Cohen of the Seattle Times, the Mariners made an MLB-high 13 trades, including trading pitcher Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte to Arizona for shortstop Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis.
Segura was the main chunk in the deal, and the change in scenery will only benefit the 26-year-old infielder.
Cohen said Segura’s 2016 campaign “has to be considered one of the greatest statistical seasons by a leadoff hitter in major league history.” That leaves an impression on you. The 2013 All-Star had a strong 2016, hitting .319 and a National League-leading 203 hits, 20 home runs, 41 doubles, 33 stolen bases and 102 runs.
General Manager Jerry Dipoto hopes he will continue his success in the Pacific Northwest. And he will.
Adam Eaton, centerfielder, Washington Nationals
Lefties struggle against lefties. It’s weird, but it happens. Not when you’re Adam Eaton, however.
Last season, Eaton slashed a .285/.359/.352 line, but don’t expect a lot of home runs out of him. If you glance at the slugging percentage, you get that impression.
Now that he’s with the Nationals, the centerfielder has a different mentality, especially about his “shorter” stature.
“I’m living proof that you don’t have to be 6-3 to play in this league,” Eaton said to MLB.com. “You don’t have to be the most athletic and the prettiest runner, and everything doesn’t have to be beautiful. Just go out and have a drive, and reach your goal.”
We’re expecting the diminutive outfielder to be a veritable giant on the diamond this year.
Odubel Herrera, centerfielder, Philadelphia Phillies
One of the keys to the Phillies finding success this season is young centerfielder Odubel Herrera.
I spoke to High Heat Stats back in December about Herrera, and he mentioned noticeable imptovement for him since 2015.
“His walks are good against lefties,” he adds. “Big increase there. This indicates he’s trying to be more patient against lefties and not flail so much, but he’s going to have to make better contact as well.”
Herrera earned $528,000 in 2016. He will now receive an annual salary of $7.1 million through 2021. And according to Forbes, he’s the first “of the Phillies’ youth to be extended to-date.”
A career .291/.353/.419 line for the 25-year-old marks a wonderful beginning to a promising career.
Jonathan Schoop, second baseman, Baltimore Orioles
One of the most underrated guys on the list giving Yelich a run for his money is Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop. The infielder slashed a .267/.298/.454 line with 25 home runs and 82 RBI in 2016 and is now considered one of the best fantasy second basemen in 2017.
FanGraphs Steamer has the 25-year-old hitting a .261/.297/.449 this season with 23 home runs and 73 RBI. He’s also going to be playing at the hitter-friendly Camden Yards.
This could very well be a breakout year for Schoop.