When the Mike Trouts and the Jose Altuves of baseball have noteworthy seasons, their success is well-documented. This article, however, focuses on the names that may not be as publicized, but who have still had prolific 2016 campaigns.
Odubel Herrera (Phillies, OF): One of few bright spots for the Phillies in an otherwise frustrating season, Herrera promises to anchor the outfield at Citizens Bank Park for years to come. The 24 year old is batting .278 with 13 homers and 42 RBI. Although the power numbers are not startling, he has shown off the speed that could become his most significant asset, swiping 20 bags on the season. On a team that ranks dead last in runs per game, Herrera has put up consistent numbers all season and has shown that he can become the foundation upon which the Phillies can rebuild.
Jake Lamb (Diamondbacks, 3B): In the midst of all the postseason talk and all the major offseason acquisitions (i.e. Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller), the Diamondbacks have had arguably the most disappointing year of any MLB team. D-backs fans can find solace, however, in their up-and-coming third baseman, Jake Lamb. Lamb has slashed a mediocre .257 this season, but his power and run production have really stood out, as he ranks eighth in the NL in homeruns (27) and eleventh in RBI (85). He also sits in the top thirty in all of baseball for average exit velocity, making him one of the most dangerous hitters in the MLB.
Freddie Freeman (Braves, 1B): Considering his consistent production over the past six seasons, it seems easy to forget that the Braves first baseman is only 26. Although his Braves have had a rough year, it has not stopped Freeman from having another fantastic season. His .293 average, 29 homers, and 73 runs batted in make him one of the best middle-of-the-lineup hitters in all of baseball. Should the Braves find a way to build around Freeman, they could become one of the scarier teams in the MLB.
Charlie Blackmon (Rockies, OF): On a team that is full of offensive firepower (but unfortunately, no pitching) Blackmon has seemed to stand out the most. At 30 years old, the center fielder has hit an incredible .317 to go along with 23 dingers and 67 RBI (out of the leadoff hole, no less). Pairing these power numbers with his superb speed, his performance out of the top of the order has sparked the second ranked offense in the league. Since he plays in such a small market, however, and for a non-playoff contender, his performance has gone rather unnoticed.
Evan Longoria (Rays, 3B): His only curse is that he has played in such a small market, and in a stadium as dull as Tropicana, for his entire career. Longoria’s performance this season, perhaps because of his unbelievable year-to-year consistency, has flown completely under the radar. His .280 average, 31 homers (good for 11th in the AL), and 85 RBI highlight another stellar campaign from one of the league’s premier third basemen. Although it is certainly not a surprise that he has played so well, the Rays’ poor record has served to dim the shine of Longoria’s impressive campaign.
Hanley Ramirez (Red Sox, 1B): The first on this list who does not either play in a small market or for an underperforming team, Ramirez’s season has gotten lost in the shuffle of Boston’s offensive firepower. While Mookie Betts makes his MVP case and David Ortiz ends his prolific career with a bang, however, Ramirez has quietly been a major producer within the Red Sox lineup. Slashing .283 with 21 homeruns and 90 runs batted in, the Sox first baseman has had a great comeback year, if nothing else. Whether the new position or the lowered expectations have primed his impressive season, there is no denying that he has been a key member of the MLB’s most successful offense.
Justin Verlander (Tigers, RHP): Another huge comeback player this season, Verlander has seemed to reclaim some of the success he has had in the past. His record of 14-7 and ERA of 3.28 place him in the AL’s top ten for both categories, while his 209 strikeouts are second only to Chris Archer. With his average fastball sitting right around 94 mph, he may not have the overpowering stuff he once did, but he has proven himself to be a force once again at the top of the Tigers’ rotation.
J.A. Happ (Blue Jays, LHP): With all the praise surrounding the performance of Aaron Sanchez, and whether he will end up in the bullpen (innings cap), his teammate J.A. Happ has gone relatively unnoticed. Somewhat of a ham-and-egger his entire career, Happ has outperformed all expectations this season. Trailing only Rick Porcello for the MLB lead in wins, Happ has posted a 3.34 earned run average and has fanned 144 batters, playing a major part in the success of his Toronto Blue Jays.
Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees, RHP): Aside from the immediate effect of Gary Sanchez, the constant attention surrounding the Yankees this season has been negative. They did not live up to New York standards, forcing them to sell at the deadline for the first time in two decades. The one consistent producer for the bombers this season, however, has been their ace, Masahiro Tanaka. He has posted a 12-4 record to go along with a 3.11 ERA and 150 strikeouts, giving the offensively-challenged Yanks a chance to win almost every time out. Still, in spite of all the struggles they have encountered this season, the Yankees are in playoff contention thanks in large part to the consistent performance of their Japanese hurler.