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#pounditFriday, June 2, 2023

Each MLB team’s best player in 2018 so far

Sean Manaea

Oakland Athletics — Sean Manaea, P

The man who crafted the season’s first no-hitter — against one of baseball’s best lineups, no less — has well and truly come into his own. That start against the Red Sox is just one of a number of great outings this season as Manaea matures into the ace of the staff, posting a 2.35 ERA and a WHIP just under 0.8. He’s blossoming into a legitimate star.

Philadelphia Phillies — Aaron Nola, P

Nola is another player who has long been touted as a premium pitching prospect, but has started to back up that label with results. Nola isn’t a prospect anymore — he’s an ace. His 1.99 ERA is outstanding, as is his 6-1 record, and he looks mature beyond his years. Philadelphia may have added Jake Arrieta in the offseason, but Nola is outpitching even him.

Pittsburgh Pirates — Francisco Cervelli, C

Out of nowhere, Cervelli is posting the best season of his career in his age 32 season. He’s hitting .296 with a .418 OBP, and he’s hit more home runs this season — six — than he did in all of 2017. Will it last? It’s hard to say, but at least for now, it’s Cervelli who’s leading the Pittsburgh offense and helping the team be somewhat surprisingly successful.

San Diego Padres — Eric Hosmer, 1B

His .269 batting average is lower than he and his team would probably like, but otherwise, Hosmer has mostly lived up to expectations since joining the Padres. Though Christian Villanueva has delivered more home runs, Hosmer is more consistent; his .367 OBP is solid, and he’s a decent defender. He’s more or less getting the job done and giving San Diego a dependable player.

San Francisco Giants — Brandon Belt, 1B

An untimely Johnny Cueto DL trip derailed what had been an outstanding season for him, but Belt claims the title as best Giant so far. The hard-hitting first baseman has a .400 OBP and leads the team with nine home runs. Add in the extra-base power he possesses — nine doubles and a triple — and you have a very valuable player.

Seattle Mariners — Mitch Haniger, OF

James Paxton may have thrown the no-hitter, but Haniger has consistently been the best part of the Seattle offense. He has a .381 OBP and, more importantly, 10 home runs in 43 games. His .297 average is very good for a power guy, too. The Mariners will need Haniger to keep producing given how shorthanded they’ll be for a long while.

St. Louis Cardinals — Carlos Martinez, P

Long viewed as a potential ace, Martinez has matured into one this season. Though his walk total is still on the high side, it hasn’t hindered the results much, as Martinez has a 1.62 ERA through eight starts. The only worry is a lat injury that currently has him on the disabled list, with no word on a potential return date.

Tampa Bay Rays — Blake Snell, P

The Rays have so few standout players, but Snell has turned in a solid season on the mound so far. His 3.12 ERA leads all starters on the team, and he’s striking out batters at a rate of one per inning. For all their issues, the Rays have a solid record of developing and producing good starters. Snell looks like the next in that line.

Texas Rangers — Nomar Mazara, OF

Mazara strikes out a lot and doesn’t draw a ton of walks, but when he makes contact, the ball can go far. He’s second on the team with 10 home runs and is tied for the team lead with 27 RBI. Even without the walks, he’s hitting .278 with a .333 OBP. He’s been the best hitter on the team through what has been an uneven season overall for the Rangers.

Toronto Blue Jays — Kevin Pillar, OF

Pillar has long been regarded as one of baseball’s best outfield defenders, but this season his offense has taken a massive step forward. He’s hitting .300 for the first time in his career — .308, to be exact — and his 18 doubles lead the American League. If it keeps up, it will make Pillar one of the better all-around players in the AL, and a nice piece for the Jays.

Washington Nationals — Max Scherzer, P

Scherzer just seems to get better and better. Yes, the 1.69 ERA is impressive, but the rate at which he strikes out opposing batters is downright remarkable. He’s fanned 91 in 58.2 innings, good for 14 strikeouts per nine innings, both of which easily lead the league. So far, many of his numbers are career bests. It doesn’t even seem to matter that he turns 34 in July. Another Cy Young may be in his future.

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