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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Each MLB team’s best player in 2018 so far

Mookie Betts

For most teams, we’re a quarter of the way through the Major League Baseball season, and right about at the point that teams can begin assessing what their prospects are. It’s also a point where we can review performances to date and look at who’s struggling and who’s starring for each team. Here, we’re going to be focusing on the players who have led their teams, no matter how the club is doing in the grand scheme of things.

Here is the best player for each MLB team so far in 2018.

Arizona Diamondbacks — A.J. Pollock, OF

A couple of pitchers have a case here, but in a year where the Arizona offense has been surprisingly underwhelming, Pollock has carried them. The outfielder is hitting .293 with 11 home runs and 10 doubles, easily pacing the team in OPS. Unfortunately he is expected to miss 4-8 weeks with a thumb injury, because he was working on a potential MVP season before that.

Atlanta Braves — Ozzie Albies, 2B

Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman both have better numbers, but nobody has jumpstarted the Braves’ revolution like Albies has. Playing a good second base, he’s only hit .283, but his 15 doubles and 13 home runs are both team bests. He’s brought an energy to the field that they clearly lacked. Sure, he strikes out too much and it would be nice if he walked more, but he’s been a breath of fresh air in Atlanta.

Baltimore Orioles — Manny Machado, SS

It hasn’t been a particularly good season for anyone in Baltimore except Machado, who has reasserted himself as one of the game’s foremost superstars. Now at his preferred position of shortstop, he’s hitting .339 with 14 home runs, and he’s doing it despite none of his teammates being much of a threat whatsoever. Someone please send the man to a contender so he can show out in the playoffs, even if he does want to stay.

Boston Red Sox — Mookie Betts, OF

It speaks to Betts’ talent that he’s basically forced his way into the conversation about the best player in baseball, and it’s entirely justified. His average is up to .364, he hits for power, he steals bases, and he plays an outstanding right field. There’s very little that he can’t do. Considering he’s still just 25, he’s poised to become one of MLB’s leading stars for years to come.

Chicago Cubs — Kris Bryant, 3B

Javier Baez may have more home runs, but Bryant remains Chicago’s most valuable piece. He’s no slouch in his own right, with a team-best .429 OBP to go with eight home runs. He’s a versatile defender, though he’s mostly settled in at third base now. At 26, he is only just now entering the prime of his career.

Chicago White Sox — Reynaldo Lopez, P

It may not last forever, but for now, Lopez is the standout on the struggling White Sox. With an underwhelming offense and a pitching staff that has struggled, it’s Lopez who’s brought consistency. Through eight starts, he’s posted a 3.50 ERA in 46.1 innings. His 0-3 record shows how abject the team is that he has failed to win a game despite those solid numbers.

Cincinnati Reds — Raisel Iglesias, P

Joey Votto has been good, but not quite where he was last year. The rest of the offense has been hit or miss. The starting pitching has been flawed. But the Reds can count on Iglesias, who has posted a 1.31 ERA in 19 appearances so far. He’s allowed three runs in just over 20 innings. Even though the Reds don’t give him a ton of save opportunities, he does not fail when he gets them.

Cleveland Indians — Francisco Lindor, SS

Though the Indians have gotten off to an underwhelming start, Lindor certainly has not. The 24-year-old continues to be one of the sport’s brightest stars, hitting .314 with 12 home runs and slick defense. He’s a legitimate MVP candidate if he keeps it up, especially if the Indians eventually turn it on and win the AL Central, as many still expect them to do.

Colorado Rockies — Nolan Arenado, 3B

Coors or no Coors, Arenado is still crushing it. He’s hitting .319, though his power is slightly off-pace so far this season. There’s also a good argument to be made that he’s the best defensive third baseman in the sport. Arenado will always have to bat away accusations that his numbers are fueled by his home ballpark, but there is no denying how good they are — he’s flirting with a 1.000 OPS, which would be the highest of his career.

Detroit Tigers — Nicholas Castellanos, OF

The Tigers are holding their own, though they haven’t had many standouts. With Miguel Cabrera sidelined, the best bat on the team belongs to Castellanos, and given how much he struggles defensively it says a lot that he’s still a stalwart in the lineup. He’s hitting .318, and if his power returns (he’s only hit four home runs so far) he’s going to be an All-Star caliber player.

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