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.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is an extremely cool event that showcases many of baseball’s best players. One of the best storylines every summer involves those who are making it to the Midsummer Classic for the first time in their careers. Their stories often vary. Some are young guys who have long been touted for superstardom and are living up to their potential, while others are journeymen or veterans who never really expected to be in the position they’re in.
Here are ten players who could certainly find themselves in Washington, D.C. in July for their first All-Star appearances.
1) Shohei Ohtani, Angels
At the rate he’s going, the question isn’t whether Ohtani will be an All-Star, but how he gets in. Given how he’s captured the sport’s imagination, it seems eminently possible he’ll be voted in as a possible starter by the fans, though it will be very intriguing to see how the league handles his ability to both hit and pitch. Whatever the case, the guy has potential to be an All-Star as both a hitter, where he’s off to a fine start, or as a pitcher. Barring a dropoff, he’ll be in Washington.
2) Carlos Carrasco, Indians
Carrasco has been pitching at an ace level for Cleveland for several years now, and this could be the year he gets All-Star recognition for it. He’s given up just 29 hits in 38 innings, winning four of his first five starts with an ERA of 3.08 on the season. Often overshadowed by Corey Kluber, Carrasco finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting a year ago. The time has come for him to get the recognition he’s owed from the rest of the sport.
3) Javier Baez, Cubs
One of the flashiest and most fun players to watch, Baez has begun to put up star numbers to go with his awesome personality. The slick-fielding infielder is off to a very good start in 2018, hitting .304, walking more than he has in years past, and leading the NL in RBIs through the first few weeks of the season. He’s still fielding his position well, and when you combine all this, there’s a real chance he becomes an All-Star for the first time.
4) Didi Gregorius, Yankees
It’s tough to fill Derek Jeter’s shoes at shortstop for the Yankees, but Gregorius has done about as well as anyone conceivably could have. In a lineup that features Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, it is Gregorius who leads the the team — and league — with an .800 slugging percentage. He’s begun the season with eight doubles and ten home runs in 26 games. He continues to come into his own as a legitimate star at short, and there’s a real possibility he could push Carlos Correa in the fan vote this time around.
5) Tommy Pham, Cardinals
Pham took a very long time to cement himself as a Cardinals starter — much to his annoyance — but his play might have them wondering what they were waiting for. After hitting .306 and picking up MVP votes in 2017, Pham is showing that it was no fluke. He’s hitting .353 thus far in his role as the Cardinals’ starting center fielder. His .461 OBP stands out as well, and it could very easily get him a trip to D.C. later this summer.
6) Rick Porcello, Red Sox
Porcello seems like he’s been around forever, but he’s still only 29 and has really just come into his own as a pitcher. He’s won a Cy Young Award, but amazingly, he doesn’t have an All-Star appearance to his credit. That could change this year. Porcello bounced back from a down 2017 by winning his first four starts with a 1.93 ERA, striking out more batters and walking fewer than he ever has before. Porcello won’t be denied if he continues pitching at an ace level.
7) Sean Manaea, Athletics
Even before he threw the 2018 season’s first no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox, Manaea was showing signs of a breakout campaign. Once the prize in the 2015 Ben Zobrist trade with the Kansas City Royals, Manaea looks like he’s developing into an ace, with a 1.03 ERA over 43.2 innings. The Athletics have a lot of young talent, but Manaea stands out among the bunch, and he looks like he’s only getting better.
8) Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks
MLB has more consistently recognized non-closers, including the game’s elite setup men — remember when Wade Davis was simply a Kansas City Royals eighth inning guy? That culture shift could benefit Bradley, who was outstanding enough to earn MVP votes in 2017. Still not Arizona’s closer, he continues to be deployed in a fireman role, sometimes pitching multiple innings to help Arizona out of jams. He has a 1.76 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 15.1 innings. All-Star recognition could well follow for one of the game’s best relievers.
9) Jose Berrios, Twins
Long touted as one of the better pitching prospects in baseball, Berrios looks like he’s finally putting it all together for the Twins and evolving into the ace they hoped he would be. Still just 23, Berrios has demonstrated unbelievable dominance so far in 2018, striking out 36 and walking just three over 31.2 outstanding innings of work. It’s impossible to expect him to keep that up, but he’s making a huge impression, and he would fit in perfectly in D.C. this summer.
10) Charlie Morton, Astros
Morton didn’t look like a big impact signing when he joined the Astros before 2017. He proceeded to get the last out of Houston’s first World Series title, and he’s following that up with one of the best starts to 2018 of any pitcher in baseball. He’s given up seven runs (six earned) in his first 29 innings of work, good for a 1.76 ERA. He’s also striking a lot of guys out, with 35 of them, good for a career-best 10.9 per nine innings. Morton looks excellent. The only thing that could cost him an All-Star bid will be that Houston will have plenty of candidates. Still, Morton is doing everything he can to not be denied.
Sean Manaea threw the first no-hitter of the 2018 MLB season, and he got some help from the umpires on a controversial call in order to achieve the milestone.
With two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi hit a slow grounder to first. Oakland A’s first baseman Matt Olson fielded it and reached out to tag Benintendi, who veered away from the base line in order to avoid the tag.
Benintendi avoided the tag and was initially given a hit, but the A’s challenged the call. The umpires overturned the initial call and ruled that Benintendi was out of the base path.
The rule states that if a runner goes more than three feet to avoid a tag, the runner is out.
Benintendi said after the game he thought the umpires missed the call.
With the help of the call, Manaea was through six hitless innings. He then recorded nine more outs to complete the no-hitter, finishing with just two walks allowed and 10 strikeouts in the 3-0 win. It was quite a feat by Manaea, even if he benefited from a call. And it didn’t stop folks on Twitter from gushing about it.