MLB players can be overrated for a number of reasons. Some darn good players are completely overlooked. Others are acknowledged as good, but are actually great. No matter what, they just don’t get the recognition that they deserve.
We’re going to change that. We’re going to recognize some of the unheralded bright spots on disappointing teams like the Giants, Mets and Tigers. Of course, we’re also going to acknowledge the guys who have helped the surprising teams like the Brewers, Diamondbacks and Rockies. Every team in the league has an underrated player. We’re here to honor those guys.
Who is the most underrated player on every MLB team?
Note: The stats reflected here are accurate through play on Monday, August 21.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Robbie Ray, starting pitcher
For the most part, discussions about the Diamondbacks tend to focus on the Paul Goldschmidt-led offense. When the subject does switch to the pitching staff, Zack Greinke gets the attention. But Robbie Ray has been tremendous in 2017, helping Arizona into playoff contention.
Ray has struck out 151 hitters in 118.2 innings, has a 1.23 WHIP and a 3.11 ERA. Those are good numbers anywhere, but they’re especially impressive for a pitcher whose home games come at the hitter-friendly Chase Field. Ray did make the All-Star team in 2017, but he deserves even more recognition for the stellar season he’s had.
Atlanta Braves: Tyler Flowers, catcher
Once something of a disappointing player for the White Sox, Flowers has emerged into a legitimate offensive force for the Braves. He hit at .270/.357/.420 with eight home runs in only 83 games in 2016. In 2017, he’s slashing at .292/.384/.468 with 11 homers, and still more than a month to go. While most of his at-bats have come against right-handed pitching, a .302/.434/.419 line against lefties shows that Flowers can handle the southpaws, as well.
Flowers may not be Buster Posey. But for two straight years, he’s put up solid offensive numbers at a position that generally doesn’t offer much in the way of good hitters.
Baltimore Orioles: Mychal Givens, relief pitcher
How good has Mychal Givens been since showing up in the majors? Consider that in his worst season (2016), Givens posted a 3.13 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Those numbers are not bad for anyone, let alone a reliever who can have his numbers thrown off by a few bad outings. For his career, Givens has a 2.54 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and a 10.9 K/9 ratio.
Givens may not get the recognition of someone like teammate Zach Britton. But the Orioles are not a team that contends around strong starting pitching. They get good offense and hope that the starters can turn the game over to the bullpen with a lead. Givens has been a big part of the success of that model. Since debuting in the majors in 2015, he’s been one of the best relievers in baseball.
Boston Red Sox: Eduardo Nunez, third baseman
In each of the last two seasons, Nunez has been an under-the-radar trade deadline acquisition for a contending team. The fact that both trades were so under the radar is a sign that the right people aren’t paying attention to just how good this guy has been.
In 2016, he slashed at .288/.325/.432 with 16 home runs and 40 steals between the Twins and Giants. In 2017, he’s hit .312/.339/.442 with eight homers and 21 steals for the for the Giants and Red Sox. He’s done all of this while playing multiple positions, including the always important shortstop spot. Plenty of teams, contenders and otherwise, can use someone like that.
Chicago Cubs: Jon Jay, left fielder
While he’s never been much in the power department, Jay has always been a nice player. He’s been a decent hitter, a good base runner and someone who can play all three outfield positions. In 2017, he’s stepped it up a notch.
While Jay’s .283 average is actually down from his 2016 total (.291), his .382 OBP is well ahead of his clip last year (.339). More importantly, he’s helped create lineup versatility and a general spark to the uber-talented defending champs, a team that has gone through the motions at times throughout 2017.
Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu, first baseman
Abreu came to the White Sox from Cuba in 2014 and caused quite a splash. He hit 36 home runs, slashed at .317/.383/.581, made the All-Star team, and won the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Since then, Abreu hasn’t returned to the All-Star Game, but it hasn’t been for a lack of production.
He hasn’t topped the 36 home runs, but has also never dipped below 25, either. In fact, Abreu has never had a batting average under .290, an OBP under .347, a slugging percentage under .468, or driven in under 100 runs (though he’s at 77 in 2017). Abreu’s biggest problem has been his timing.
The Cubs reached the NLCS in 2015, won the World Series in 2016 and for all intents and purposes, have completely owned baseball in the Windy City. It hasn’t helped that the White Sox have been more or less irrelevant (they’ve never been better than 78-84 in Abreu’s career and won’t be in 2017, either) in the same stretch. It’s a shame, because Abreu has been nothing but a consistently elite hitter since Day 1.
Cincinnati Reds: Eugenio Suarez, third baseman
Given how much talent is at the third base position in the National League and how bad the Reds have been in 2017, it’s easy to understand how Suarez has fallen under the radar. While it’s understandable, it’s also unfortunate, because Suarez is quietly having a fantastic year.
Granted, a .266 batting average isn’t much to write home about. But that looks a lot better when it’s grouped with a .378 OBP, a .478 slugging percentage, and 21 home runs. He may not have the star power of fellow Senior Circuit third basemen like Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Justin Turner and Anthony Rendon, but Suarez is having a stellar season that deserves recognition.
Cleveland Indians: Carlos Carrasco, starting pitcher
Since 2014, Carrasco has posted a 3.35 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and has struck out nearly 10 hitters per nine innings. He’s certainly not the only starter in this era with a prolific strikeout rate, but few can strike out that many guys while also never walking more than 2.4 hitters per nine innings in the same stretch. Carrasco has done that.
His injury in the 2016 postseason may well have been the biggest single deciding factor in the Cubs beating the Indians in the World Series. He’s just that good. But not only is Carrasco rarely recognized as one of the game’s best pitchers, he’s never made a single All-Star team. But if you had one game to win, you could do a lot worse than this guy.
Colorado Rockies: Gerardo Parra, left fielder
When you play in the outfield at Coors Field, you need to have range. The gaps are simply too big to hide anyone. Parra has more than enough range to get by. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner and can play left, center, or right. But the glove isn’t necessarily our focus here.
At the plate, Parra has a .343/.373/.520 slash line with 10 home runs. Without the contributions of Parra, the down offensive years of people like Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story would stand out quite a bit more. And frankly, the Rockies wouldn’t be in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon deservedly get most of the attention in Colorado. But quietly, Parra been a driving force behind one of baseball’s best, most surprising teams.
Detroit Tigers: Nick Castellanos, third baseman
Teams like the Tigers are certainly in a spot where they’re wondering who should be a part of the team’s long term plan. In Detroit, Castellanos clearly should be.
He’s emerged into a solid power hitter who will hit nearly 20 home runs this year. Those numbers may not be eye popping when looking at some of the other home run totals around baseball, but Castellanos is only 25. Most hitters don’t reach their power stride until their late 20s or early 30s. Castellanos has work to do in becoming an overall hitter, but he’s well ahead of the curve and should be a cornerstone for the Tigers.
Houston Astros: Marwin Gonzalez, left fielder
It’s easy to get overlooked when you’re in a lineup that includes people like Jose Altuve, George Springer, and when he’s healthy, Carlos Correa. We know how it happens. But that doesn’t mean that Gonzalez’s brilliant season shouldn’t be acknowledged.
Gonzalez has slashed at .307/.382/.554, hit 21 home runs, and only only struck out 79 times. Even in bygone eras, that wouldn’t have been such a high strikeout total for a guy with his power. But in this era, 79 strikeouts and 21 homers is a darn fine ratio. Imagine being a pitcher and getting through the stars like Altuve, Springer, and Correa, thinking you’re done, and then seeing someone with Gonzalez’s stats walking to the plate. It’s one of the main reasons that Houston is the clear favorite to win the American League pennant.
Kansas City Royals: Mike Minor, relief pitcher
The names from the once vaunted bullpen that the Royals rode to success in 2014 and 2015 are largely gone. Wade Davis is in Chicago. Greg Holland is in Colorado. Kelvin Herrera is still in Kansas City, but isn’t having a great year. So, how is the bullpen still the strength of this pitching staff?
That would be because of guys like Minor, even if he doesn’t get a ton of mention. In 60 innings pitched, Minor has a 2.85 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 66 strikeouts. He’s not a one or two out guy, either. Minor has amassed those 60 innings over 49 outings. So, he can get a few outs when called upon.
Small market teams like the Royals need to find hidden gems to compete. In Minor, Kansas City has found just that.
Los Angeles Angels: Andrelton Simmons, shortstop
While he keeps giving us new things to marvel at, Simmons has long been known as a slick fielding shortstop. That part of his game is great, but not necessarily underrated. What Simmons doesn’t get enough credit for is his ever improving bat.
Every one of Simmons’ three slash stats have improved over each of the last three seasons. He’s gone from a below average hitter, to a passable one, to a genuinely good bat, as his .293/.348/.451 line in 2017 will attest. With 13 homers and 18 steals, Simmons also has an outside shot at a 20/20 season. Almost any offensive production is a bonus when you field that well a shortstop. But Simmons’ glove and bat is working to make him one of baseball’s most complete players.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Chris Taylor, left fielder
We know all about the great players in Los Angeles. Cody Bellinger has been phenomenal. Corey Seager is a star. The Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen led pitching staff is exceptional. But as good as all of those players are, a team doesn’t put itself in position to threaten the single-season wins record this late in the year without some unheralded performances. Taylor has led that charge for the Dodgers.
He’s been a Swiss Army Knife, playing five different positions for Los Angeles. But as 14 home runs and a .306/.377/.540 slash line will tell you, he’s far from a light hitting utility man. The Dodgers have been good for the last several years. But in 2017, they’ve turned into a juggernaut, a team that simply doesn’t give the opponents any breaks. That’s not a leap that’s made without guys like Taylor.
Miami Marlins: J.T. Realmuto, catcher
Most chatter around the Marlins is either about their pending sale, or the brilliant hitting outfield of Marcell Ozuna, Chrsitian Yelich, and of course, Giancarlo Stanton. But the offensive production of Realmuto shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Over the last two seasons, Realmuto has slashed at .296/.344/.442 and hit 25 homers while playing a position not exactly known for its offense. The 14 home runs he’s hit in 2017 are already a career high.
The Derek Jeter led ownership group has a lot of work to do building a winner in Miami. But with good, young, unheralded players at key positions (like Realmuto), it’s something that can be done.
Milwaukee Brewers: Domingo Santana, right fielder
Santana has always shown well in small spurts. But prior to 2017, he couldn’t stay on the field long enough to make a big impact. But he’s already hit 20 home runs this year. Additionally, those 20 home runs have come with a respectable .267/.363/.465 line, showing that he’s not a one-dimensional offensive force.
The Brewers have been another surprising team, a cause that’s been aided by one of baseball’s best outfields. It’s hard to imagine the outfield or team being anywhere near as good without the unheralded performance of Santana.
Minnesota Twins: Eddie Rosario, left fielder
Not too long ago, it seemed like Minnesota was about ready to fade away from the playoff race. That has not happened, though, and Rosario has been a big reason why.
While Miguel Sano has slumped coming out of the All-Star Game, Rosario has thrived. He’s slashing .328/.370/.608 with seven home runs in the second half and .300/.340/.505 with 17 bombs all year. Aided by his performance, the once fading Twins hold a one-half game lead for the second American League Wild Card spot. Without Rosario stepping up his game, Minnesota would be down with the rest of the pack.
New York Mets: Jacob deGrom, starting pitcher
Year in and year out, deGrom has been the best, most dependable pitcher on the Mets since coming into the league. If you’ve overlooked that fact, we don’t blame you. It’s an easy mistake to make. But it absolutely true.
deGrom doesn’t have the big personality of Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard. Quite honestly, when those pitchers have been at their best, they’be been fantastic. The problem is that they haven’t been at their best anywhere near as often as deGrom. deGrom has gone along relatively quietly, but has a career ERA of 2.93, a WHIP of 1.12, and a K/9 rate of 9.5.
Big personality or not, that’s just brilliant pitching for four straight years.
New York Yankees: Chad Green, relief pitcher
New York’s starting rotation is not a particular strength of its team. The offense is good, but if the Yankees’ bullpen doesn’t thrive, the team doesn’t win. Fortunately, it has thrived. And while he doesn’t get the recognition of people like Dellin Betances, trade acquisitions like David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, and even the displaced Aroldis Chapman get noticed, Green has been an absolute stud.
He has a 2.25 ERA, a 0.77 WHIP, and strikes out 13 hitters for every nine innings pitched. Perhaps even more important than all of that, Green has pitched 52 innings over 28 outings. That’s someone who can come in for extended work and be a dominant bridge from the starters to the late inning guys. Even with a starting rotation that may not stack up to other postseason teams, guys like Green that will make the Yankees a very tough out come playoff time.
Oakland Athletics: Khris Davis, left fielder
As we’ve already established, the Brewers resurgence has been largely buoyed by one of the best outfields in the game. But imagine how good that outfield would be if it still had Davis. But despite hitting 27 home runs in only 121 games in 2015, Milwaukee sent him to the A’s before the 2016 season.
Davis has turned in to quite the acquisition in Oakland. He hit 42 home runs in 2016 and has 33 in 2017. But despite all of that, and the fact that Davis is in the middle of his third season in a row with a slugging percentage above .400, he’s never made an All-Star team. Davis has gone overlooked playing on mediocre, small market teams. Maybe that will change if he gets moved to a contender or if the A’s’ rebuilding plan starts working. But until then, we can bet on Davis remaining one of baseball’s most overlooked players, even if he’s one of its most elite sluggers.
Philadelphia Phillies: Cesar Hernandez, second baseman
It’s been a rough couple of years for the Phillies. That’s been unfortunate for Hernandez, as it’s caused his emergence to go essentially unnoticed.
Over the last two years, Hernandez has slashed at .290/.363/.399. Granted, the power isn’t great and he’s only hit 13 home runs. But he’s also stolen 30 bases over the last two years and led the National League in triples in 2016. That’s more than enough production from second base, which generally isn’t thought of as a position for great hitters. When Philadelphia does re-emerge as a contender, a good bet would be that Hernandez will be a big part of that team.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Josh Bell, first baseman
Because Cody Bellinger has put the National League Rookie of the Year Award, little attention has gone to some of the other elite rookies in the Senior Circuit. No rookie has been more overlooked than Bell.
If Pittsburgh’s first baseman maintains his current pace, he’ll finish the year with 27 home runs, 95 RBI, and 111 strikeouts. As a point of reference, while Bellinger will be the runaway Rookie of the Year winner (and deservedly so), he already has 108 strikeouts, and barely played in April.
Bell can certainly work on being more selective at the plate. There’s certainly room to improve on a .262 average and .342 OBP. But a .493 slugging percentage is pretty darn good for a rookie. Bell is showing that he’ll be a force in the middle of the Pirates’ lineup for years to come.
San Diego Padres: Brad Hand, closer
How do we know that Brad Hand is underrated? Because he’s still on a non-contending team. On the season, Hand has a 2.15 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 11 saves, and 83 strikeouts in 62.2 innings. That’s the kind of reliever that contending teams should have been lining up to get at the deadline. When we get into October and see teams struggling to finish games, remember that one of them could have had one of the best relievers in the league.
San Francisco Giants: Joe Panik, second baseman
Since coming into the league, Panik has found a way to consistently reach base. In 2016, he had a .315 OBP while hitting less than .240. In 2017, he has a .271 average with a .330 OBP. He’s an old school player in that he doesn’t hit for great power, but he’s also a world class pest at the plate, one who’s never struck out even 50 times in a season.
He’s done all of this while playing stellar defense. Panik won the 2016 NL Gold Glove at shortstop and realistically, Madison Bumgarner may not even have entered Game 7 of the 2014 World Series with a lead were it not for an otherworldly double play turned by Panik and Brandon Crawford. The Giants have been dismal in 2017, creating a natural question about who should be back as the team tries to regain its mojo in 2018. Panik is clearly in that group.
Seattle Mariners: Jean Segura, shortstop
We can point out a few exceptions to this. But in both leagues, shortstop is not a position that gives us great offensive numbers. Keep that in mind when we look at what Segura has done over the last two years.
In 2016 with the Diamondbacks, he led the National League with 203 hits. He added 20 home runs with a .319/.368/.499 slash line. The power numbers have been down 2017 with the Mariners (seven homers), but he’s still hitting .311/.363/.426. Yet Segura didn’t make the All-Star team in either season. He’ll have to settle for being one of baseball’s most-underrated players.
St. Louis Cardinals: Lance Lynn, starting pitcher
Since the beginning of 2014, Lynn has made 89 starts (he missed all of 2016 with Tommy John Surgery). In that time, he’s posted a 2.92 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and generated a K/9 rate of 8.0. Those numbers belong at the top of the rotation.
Yet generally, conversations about St. Louis’ ace tend to revolve around the new guy (Carlos Martinez) or the old one (Adam Wainwright). But if the Cardinals were in a winner-take-all game and could choose any of their starters, Lynn would be the most logical selection.
Tampa Bay Rays: Steven Souza Jr., right fielder
With the exceptions of Evan Longoria, Chris Archer and Logan Morrison, we can really call Tampa’s entire roster underrated. Nobody embodies that more than Souza.
Each of Souza’s slash stats have improved as he’s progressed in baseball. This year, he’s hitting .256, which isn’t great. But that’s more than made up for by a .361 OBP, a .495 slugging percentage, 26 home runs, 47 extra-base hits, and 11 steals. That’s an incredibly diverse offensive skill set. When we mix all of that in with a good glove, we get one of MLB’s most complete players, even if that’s not entirely recognized.
Texas Rangers: Alex Claudio, closer
The Texas bullpen has earned a lot of scorn over the last few years, which has led to Claudio getting overlooked. That’s unfortunate. Because while he does it differently than most relievers, Claudio has been nothing but effective.
Claudio has a career K/9 rate of 6.7, which is not what teams look for in the modern game. But while Claudio does allow a lot of contact, it’s usually not loud. He has a career ERA of 2.70, WHIP of 1.17, and his 2017 totals are even better (2.55/1.06). Maybe the Rangers shouldn’t have waited so long to make Claudio the closer.
Toronto Blue Jays: Danny Barnes, relief pitcher
We move from Claudio to a more classic and no less effective reliever. Barnes has a 2.89 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, with 55 strikeouts in 53 innings. His walk rate (2.7 per nine) is a little higher than we’d like to see for a reliever, but it’s not outrageous, especially since Barnes allows only 6.1 hits per nine.
It’s easy to overlook relief pitchers, especially when they’re not closers. But even if it’s come with a team that’s generally disappointed, Barnes’ breakout season deserves praise. He’s an extremely effective reliever, and we’re happy to acknowledge that.
Washington Nationals: Gio Gonzalez, starting pitcher
We know that Max Scherzer is the ace of the Nationals. But who’s the number two? The conventional answer would be Stephen Strasburg, but the more logical one is Gonzalez.
While his WHIP (1.12) is slightly higher than Strasburg’s (1.10), Gonzalez’s ERA is nearly a full point lower (2.39 to 3.24). In fact, no Washington pitcher — including Scherzer — has thrown more innings (162) or has a higher WAR (6.2) than Gonzalez. Gonzalez may not get a lot of attention on a star-filled team. But he’s going to be an integral part of the Nats’ playoff run in 2017, especially if they expect to beat the juggernaut Dodgers.