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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Each MLB team’s top performer this season

Bryce Harper

Every baseball team needs a star — someone who can pace the team either offensively or defensively — or perhaps both. On the pitching side, a star can be the ace of a staff or the stopper in the bullpen.

Here’s a list of each MLB team’s top performer so far in 2017.

Arizona Diamondbacks — Paul Goldschmidt

One of the league’s most complete first basemen, Goldschmidt remains Arizona’s biggest star. Beyond playing quality defense, he has hit .319 with 29 home runs while also stealing 16 bases. His contributions are a big part of why Arizona is poised for their first playoff appearance since 2011. He also is a top contender for NL MVP.

Atlanta Braves — Freddie Freeman

Freeman has been limited to just 72 games by injury in 2017, but he’s still been Atlanta’s best player. Not only has he been his usual productive self offensively, hitting .321 with 21 home runs, he has taken a shot at a new position, stepping away from his usual first base and helping the team by playing some at third.

Baltimore Orioles — Jonathan Schoop

Suddenly hitting for a higher average and more power than ever, Schoop has provided the Orioles with offensive punch at a position that is typically more defensive-minded. Schoop is hitting over .300 in a year where Baltimore’s star players haven’t produced as much as they would have hoped — and he’s added 26 home runs to the mix as well.

Boston Red Sox — Chris Sale

Perhaps someday the Red Sox may regret parting with top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech to acquire Sale, but it won’t be anytime soon. Sale has been the best pitcher in the American League, putting up eye-popping numbers in a year where offense is up. With a 2.51 ERA and 241 strikeouts in just 168.1 innings, Sale has been everything Boston could have hoped for and then some.

Chicago Cubs — Kris Bryant

No, the reigning National League MVP hasn’t quite reached the same heights as he did in 2016, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been very good. He’s hitting a healthy .291 with 22 home runs and has been the same steady, reliable presence at third base and in the heart of Chicago’s lineup. His .404 on-base percentage also represents a career-best mark.

Chicago White Sox — Avisail Garcia

Once a highly-thought of prospect, Garcia’s career looked like it had stalled for good before 2017. He’s changed that narrative with a very good year, lifting his average to .307 and adding 13 home runs while also playing a solid right field. While teammate Jose Abreu has been hitting for more power, Garcia plays a tougher position and has hit for a better average, giving him the nod this season.

Cincinnati Reds — Joey Votto

Those who felt that Votto was overpaid and no longer elite are much quieter these days now that the first baseman is putting up numbers much more in line with the ones he posted during his glorious prime. Votto’s hit 31 home runs — topping 30 for the first time since 2010. He’s put up the usual gaudy on-base numbers, with a .317 average and a .447 OBP.

Cleveland Indians — Corey Kluber

The former American League Cy Young winner is back to his best. Kluber has been dominant for the Tribe after dealing with some injuries. He has a WHIP of 0.909, and he’s already closing in on 200 strikeouts. With a 2.71 ERA, he’s pacing a pitching staff that is quickly rounding into form and becoming what everyone expected.

Colorado Rockies — Nolan Arenado

You can talk about the Coors Field effect all you want, but Arenado is hitting for average and power away from home, too. Overall, he’s a .300 hitter well on his way to another 30 homer season. Coors also doesn’t factor into his defense, which is among the best in baseball at any position. The 26-year-old leads the NL in RBIs and is in the mix for NL MVP.

Detroit Tigers — Justin Upton

Upton looked like a major free agent bust for much of 2016, but he kicked on in the second half and has not let up since. The left fielder is hitting a healthy .278 with 23 home runs. His current .898 OPS matches a career-high. Upton has been, by far, the best offensive player on a team that has seen a number of its veterans regress heavily in 2017.

See the next 10 teams on Page 2

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