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Friday, January 18, 2019

10 lesser-known MLB players who deserve to be All-Stars

Aaron Nola

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is a neat event for a lot of reasons. It is an opportunity to see the best baseball has to offer all on the same field. Matchups of star vs. star are commonplace on the evening.

There’s more to it than that, though. The All-Star Game is an opportunity for lesser-known players who might not have tons of national publicity to make an impression and show their stuff on a big stage. Since every team gets a representative, nobody gets left out, and fans are exposed to players that might not be otherwise.

Here are ten lesser-known MLB players who deserve to be All-Stars in 2018.

1) Aaron Nola, Phillies

Nola’s success isn’t necessarily a surprise. He’s a seventh overall pick who has been touted for stardom since he entered professional baseball, and he has fulfilled that potential. He has a 2.41 ERA in 18 starts, a WHIP barely above one, and 116 strikeouts in 116 innings pitched. On a staff featuring Jake Arrieta, it’s Nola who can claim the mantle of ace.

2) Eddie Rosario, Twins

Rosario, still fairly anonymous on the national stage, is having his second consecutive quality season in a row and probably deserves more publicity. He’s on pace to hit .300 for the first time, currently sitting comfortably at .308. His 18 home runs easily lead the Twins. He also ranks in the top 10 in the AL for OPS. He doesn’t walk enough and his defense is only average, but we’re nitpicking.

3) Mitch Haniger, Mariners

Haniger’s 2018 numbers aren’t a lot different than his 2017 ones. The difference is he’s been given a full-time role and told to run with it, and he’s done exactly that. Though his average is down to .269, he’s compensating by walking a lot more than he did in 2017. He’s also surpassed his 2017 tally of 16 home runs. The Mariners have been one of the surprise teams of the season in Major League Baseball, but with Robinson Cano suspended and Felix Hernandez not at his best, they don’t really have a natural face of their rise. Haniger is as good a choice as any.

4) Eugenio Suarez, Reds

Suarez has quietly been putting up solid numbers for a few years now, but he’s taken it to another level for Cincinnati this season. He’s tied for the National League lead in RBIs with 63, even though he seems like a rather unlikely source of them at first glimpse. He’s hit 17 home runs and doesn’t appear to be slowing down in that department. His .308 average is second on the team. He’s even a good defender, too. That all combines to make him very deserving of an All-Star bid.

5) Scooter Gennett, Reds

Suarez isn’t the only one doing solid work in the Reds lineup that you may not have heard of. Gennett made some headlines in 2017 when he hit four home runs in one game, but has otherwise remained largely anonymous outside of Cincinnati as he puts up gaudy offensive numbers. His .331 average leads the National League, and he has 14 home runs and stands a good chance of reaching the 27 he hit last year again, perhaps even surpassing it. Yes, the Reds should have two All-Stars, as both Gennett and Suarez are richly deserving.

6) Brandon Nimmo, Mets

Nimmo looked like he was headed for failed prospect status as a 25-year-old former first-round pick who hadn’t really stuck at the big league level. That has all changed in 2018, as Nimmo has enjoyed a breakout season. He’s hitting .265 with a .386 OBP. Add in 12 home runs and six triples and you have a player who’s making things happen. In a Mets season blighted by injury and underperformance, he’s been one of the few bright spots.

7) Jose Berrios, Twins

Berrios is another player who has long been mooted as a potential top player — in fact, he’s received extremely high praise from his foes. Perhaps it’s the fact that he plays in Minnesota that has limited his national exposure. It shouldn’t. Berrios has been good and steady for much of the season, with exemplary numbers in many departments beyond his 3.54 ERA. His WHIP is at 1.00, he’s walked just 26 batters in 114.1 innings, and he’s striking out just about a batter an inning as well. He has star written all over him.

8) Mike Foltynewicz, Braves

The Braves have had a whole lot of breakout players in their rotation — don’t ignore what Sean Newcomb has done either — but Foltynewicz is certainly the story. With 107 strikeouts in 89 innings and a 2.02 ERA, he’s paced the rotation for the resurgent Braves, even though the young hitting stars like Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna are getting the lion’s share of attention. His walks are too high, which may bite him eventually, but for now they haven’t really done that. Not bad for a guy who’d never had an ERA below four before this season.

9) Nicholas Castellanos, Tigers

With most of their longtime stalwarts gone and Miguel Cabrera out for the season, the Tigers, at least offensively, are Castellanos’s team. As it stands, he’s on pace for his first career .300 season, with 14 home runs and a .358 OBP adding to his resume. He’s become regarded as something of a team leader as well in the absence of Detroit’s usual veteran talent. His defense is bad, but the offensive numbers are good enough that he’ll find a spot in the lineup no matter what.

10) Miles Mikolas, Cardinals

Mikolas spent three years in Japan between 2015 and 2017, but he decided to come back stateside for 2018 and give the majors another shot. He must be glad he did. While he doesn’t post the flashy strikeout numbers of some of his peers, Mikolas barely walks anyone — just 17 in 109.1 innings so far in 2018. His 2.69 ERA leads the team’s starters. It’s no guarantee that he’ll make it to the All-Star Game, but he certainly deserves strong consideration and maybe a nod as he’s been key to the Cardinals this year.



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