|Top 5 Underrated Players This Season||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on September 26, 2011
Every year, a handful of players fly under the radar due to either their low-key personalities or team they play on. It's unfortunate that these players don't get the recognition they deserve, since they don't routinely make the daily headlines and media personnel rarely interview them.
However, these are the type of players that give the game of baseball a good name: the guys who go out there everyday, don't complain and still produce at a high level.
Here is AtHomePlate's ranking of the top five underrated players from this season.
5. Brett Gardner
While the team has certainly received contributions from those players, Brett Gardner is worth mentioning. He has very quietly led the AL in steals with 46, and he has also scored 83 runs. He has a career-high eight triples and seven home runs as well.
Keep in mind he is the team's No. 9 hitter.
The Yankees have the luxury (and the payroll) to sport a productive top to bottom lineup. Gardner serves as the sparkplug at the bottom to set the table for the guys at the top.
4. Melky Cabrera
If at the beginning of the season you predicted that Melky Cabrera would have a higher batting average than Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Carlos Gonzalez this late in the season, you would have been considered crazy.
However, such is the case with only a few games remaining.
The Royals are a team of the future, but even heading into the season prospects like Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain were getting more attention than the players on the Major league roster.
But Cabrera has been a great find this year. Finally in an everyday role, he's ninth in the AL in batting average and has added 18 home runs, 84 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.
His versatility in the outfield should allow him to stick around in Kansas City, despite some good young prospects.
Maybe another team would be willing to give him a starting job now that he's shown he can produce?
3. Casey Kotchman
Not too long ago, Casey Kotchman had the makings of a journeyman player.
The Tampa Bay Rays were his fifth team in just five full seasons.
However, Kotchman regained his stroke this season. He's led the Rays with a .309 batting average and has also posted a .380 on-base percentage.
More importantly than his play on the field, Kotchman has been a clubhouse leader for this young team. It has definitely helped, since the Rays find themselves still in the playoff hunt with the season coming to a close.
2. Mike Stanton
Looking back at the Marlins 2011 season, several points stick out. Ace Josh Johnson has missed 4 1/2 months due to injury, the team brought in 80-year-old manager Jack McKeon midseason, the new stadium appears ready, and recently we found out closer Leo Nunez isn't who he said he was.
But as for their play on the field, it hasn't been as sunny as the South Florida climate.
Still, Mike Stanton continued his development this season as a raw power hitter. He's fifth in the NL with 34 home runs, and he's still just 21 years-old.
Though the left-field fence at Marlins Ballpark will be 340 feet from home plate, it will be no match for Stanton's power. Expect him to be a force for the Miami Marlins for years to come.
1. Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli's disappointing 2010 season -- a .238 batting average with 137 strikeouts -- led to two teams trading him this offseason. The Angels traded him to the Blue Jays for disappointing Vernon Wells and then to the Rangers.
His goal this year must have been to stick it to the teams that moved him, because that's exactly what he's doing. He's seen time at catcher and designated hitter, and he is tied with Carlos Santana with the league-lead in home runs among catchers (26).
In a Rangers order that features Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler, it was easy for Napoli to get lost in the shuffle.
His .320 batting average would be best among catchers if he had enough at-bats. He's split catching duties with Yorvit Torrealba. Napoli's previous career-high average was .273 in 2008.
While Napoli has arguably been the most productive catcher in the league this year, he's hands down the most underrated.