In a lot of ways, the MLB’s middle class has a marketing problem. The headlines and social media posts in the realm of baseball are often dominated by the game’s brightest, most animated stars such as Aaron Judge, Yasiel Puig and, of course, Bryce Harper.
Making headlines for the wrong reasons is just as easy. Chris Davis received intense media focus over the course of his 0-for-54 slide that finally concluded April 13. Chris Sale’s disastrous start to the season has been well-documented, too. But we’re not here to look at the players that are making the media rounds already — we’re here to look at those who aren’t.
The big picture: There are a number of budding stars and even seasoned powers in today’s MLB that simply aren’t getting enough credit. So here’s eight current MLB standouts, ranging from up-and-comers to established mainstays, who just haven’t generated the buzz they should.
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox: A rising star on the South Side
- The starting shortstop for the Chicago White Sox has opened the season on an absolute tear, leading the American League with a .424 average
- Anderson’s name still may be relatively new to casual fans, in part due to the fact that he was mostly mediocre the last two seasons while playing on one of the worst teams in the league.
- Anderson made a splash April 17 when he spiked his bat after hitting a two-run bomb in the bottom of the fourth against the Kansas City Royals, later leading to a bench-clearing shoving match.
- Anderson is slowly but surely putting himself and the Sox on the rest of the league’s radar.
Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics: The poor man’s Manny Machado
- Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman might never quite possess the same flare as San Diego Padres star Manny Machado, but the pair have pretty comparable splits at the plate.
- Last season, Chapman hit .278 with a .356 OBP and 24 homers. Machado, meanwhile, hit .273 while getting on base at a .338 clip and launching 24 homers splitting time between Baltimore and Los Angeles a year ago. It’s almost uncanny.
- Chapman’s defense is comparable to that of Machado, too, and is perhaps even better. In 2018 (Chapman’s first as a starter), he grabbed a Gold Glove for his defense in the hot corner, and he’s started 2019 on a similar note, making plays like this.
Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals: Washington’s slept-on star
- It’s not really Anthony Rendon’s fault the Washington Nationals third baseman’s darn-good play has gone somewhat unnoticed. He’s shared the diamond with guys like Harper, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman for most of his career.
- With Harper in Philly and Turner seeming to be injured more often than not, Rendon’s .397 batting average and 1.308 OPS have the Nats sitting at .500 in the ultra-competitive National League East.
- Rendon’s solid play is nothing new. The third baseman hasn’t hit below .300 in a season since 2014 and has only hit below .270 twice in seven seasons. He’s been a model of consistency for a franchise plagued by inconsistencies lately.
Brad Keller, Kansas City Royals: A Rule 5 pick-turned-budding ace
- If you don’t have much interest in the Kansas City Royals or baseball teams meddling well-below .500, you might not have heard of Brad Keller yet. Consider this your wake up call.
- Keller, who was a rookie last year for the Royals after they robbed the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds blind in the Rule 5 Draft, posted a 3.08 ERA in his first big league season while pitching 140 innings.
- Keller went from being left off Arizona’s 40-man roster to being Kansas City’s Opening Day starter in a little more than a year and has been worth 4.4 WAR in the process, 0.9 of which has come in the early going of the 2019 season.
Jean Segura, Philadelphia Phillies: An underrated infielder
- If Anthony Rendon is a model of consistency then Jean Segura has reinvented what it means to be consistent over the last four years. Since getting traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to Arizona before the 2016 season, Segura has hit at least .300 every year.
- The shortstop’s best full season to date came in his sole year with the D-Backs, when Segura recorded 203 hits on the season while touting a .319 batting average.
- Segura’s 2019 campaign has started on a hot streak, as the shortstop is hitting .328 and leading the way for the Phillies. Signing Harper was heralded as the Phillies’ best move this offseason, for obvious reasons. But making the trade for Segura was the club’s smartest move of the winter.
David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks: A hidden diamond in the desert
- It’s hard to fathom why Arizona outfielder David Peralta isn’t really a recognizable name among casual fans. Though, the guess here is because he plays in one of baseball’s most boring markets for a team that can only stay relevant for a few months at a time.
- Peralta hit .293 in both 2017 and 2018 while showing impressive pop a season ago, launching 30 home runs in 146 games for the Diamondbacks.
- This season, the outfielder has gotten off to a scorching start, touting a .371 average and a .999 OPS.
- With AJ Pollock signing in Los Angeles last winter and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt getting shipped to St. Louis, Peralta will have to be the guy down in the desert if the Diamondbacks stand any chance of competing for an NL West title.
Collin McHugh, Houston Astros: The ‘Stros forgotten star
- Houston, you have an ace. It’s not former Cy Young Dallas Keuchel, who’s still a free agent, nor is it Charlie Morton, the All-Star who helped the Astros clinch a World Series before signing in Tampa Bay. It’s Collin-freaking-McHugh.
- McHugh quietly logged a 1.99 ERA a season ago in a bullpen role for Houston but has continued his dominance as a starter for the Stros this season.
- With Keuchel and Morton singed nowhere and elsewhere, and starting pitcher Lance McCullers recovering from Tommy John surgery, McHugh has filled in Houston’s rotation nicely, possessing a 1.96 ERA through four starts this season. That’ll definitely play.
Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals: A professional’s professional
- It would be easier to list the things Whit Merrifield doesn’t do well on a baseball field than to try to list the things he excels at. He’s that good. And he’s one of baseball’s best-kept secrets.
- Since entering the league as a late-blooming 27-year-old in 2016, Merrifield has hit for a .294 average across parts of four seasons. He stepped it up a season ago, leading the AL in both hits and stolen bases, yet somehow didn’t make the All-Star game.
- Merrifield has kept up his impressive play into the 2019 season, building a Royals franchise record 31-game hit streak and doing so with a .828 OPS while playing all across the diamond.