Every year the stars are acknowledged and the scrubs are erased from the fans whiteboard, but there are a few players that can’t be written off from making a name for themselves. Below are Major League players in the MLB Eastern divisions (AL and NL) that may surprise us this year.
Joely Rodriguez (Philadelphia Phillies) – With nowhere left to turn, Philadelphia’s Phinest chose a young gun that has shown promise. I like the guts this kid shows on the mound and his ability to locate will challenge the likes of Bryce Harper, Christian Yelich, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy (all of whom are left-handed hitters). With the help of Rodriguez, I can see the Phillies recreating stability in their pen which could scare teams this MLB season.
Logan Verrett (Baltimore Orioles) – Despite having a high ERA at times, teams like Verrett because he’s only 26 years old and he can strike out a lot of batters. His postseason experience will come into play if the O’s can make the playoffs in 2017. Verrett’s versatility can’t be denied either. Last season he started a dozen games as a member of the Mets. I know the O’s acquired Alec Asher, but that certainly doesn’t rule out Verret from pitching his way into a Baltimore rotation that contains the likes of Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Verrett’s versatility can’t be denied either. Last season he started a dozen games as a member of the Mets. I know the O’s acquired Alec Asher, but that certainly doesn’t rule out Verret from pitching his way into a Baltimore rotation that contains the likes of Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Adam Warren (New York Yankees) -Even though Spring 2017 hasn’t been kind to Warren he still has value. In 2016 he had a 3.26 ERA in 29 games with the Yanks. In 2015 Warren keep hitters to a batting average of .236 and in 2014 an average of .219. The 29-year-old doesn’t give up the long ball very often and keeps his walks at a minimum. The Yankees will lean on him especially since they have a bunch of youngsters still adjusting to life in the Bronx. The icing on this paragraphs word cake? Warren isn’t pleased that he is being placed in the bullpen which could mean he will take over the diamond to a point where finally returns to the rotation a place the Yanks aren’t very strong.
The Yankees will lean on him especially since they have a bunch of youngsters still adjusting to life in the Bronx. The icing on this paragraphs word cake? Warren isn’t pleased that he is being placed in the bullpen which could mean he will take over the diamond to a point where finally returns to the rotation a place the Yanks aren’t very strong.
Adam Conley (Miami Marlins) – Somebody must take control of the Miami rotation, so why not Conley? The Washington State Alumnus is in a rotation with Wei-Yin Chen, Edinson Volquez, and Tom Koehler…yeah…I had to read that twice too. Conley has only allowed 20 homers and 83 walks in 200.1 big league innings. The left-hander also knows how to put Ks on the board. The kid has potential and Miami needs to turn him loose this season if they want to make progress moving forward.
Mitch Moreland (Boston Red Sox) – We know the BoSox are loaded in their lineup, but Moreland can pack a punch. Over the past three seasons, the 8-year veteran has hit 20 plus homers three times. He also had 114 RBI in the past two seasons combined. Moreland should flourish in a hitter friendly ballpark like Fenway Park and because of the excellent hitters in that Boston lineup, he should get good pitches to hit during this MLB season.
Nick Markakis (Atlanta Braves) – Here’s a guy that represents consistency in the MLB and will once again help the Braves in 2017. The veteran outfielder hit .269 last year with an on-base percentage of .346. Markakis also drove in 89 runs in his second season as a Brave.
He was literally the second best hitter on the Braces last year, but no one talked about him as such. With Atlanta focused on a rebuild he could get dealt before the deadline if the right trade partner comes along and if enough prospects come to the surface. I respect the career he’s had over the years and I fully expect him to rub off some of his wisdom to Dansby Swanson and Adonis Garcia.
Matt Duffy (Tampa Bay Rays) – Tampa Bay can’t rely solely on Evan Longoria to produce consistently. With Duffy, the Rays are getting a guy that can hit for average. In three seasons the 26-year-old has an overall average of .281 and during his time in Tampa Bay he put up an average of .276 which should put some optimism into Rays fans.
With Steve Pearce and Logan Forsythe departing over the offseason the Rays needed to help their franchise player in Longoria. Duffy is also a good defender and the Rays witnessed that first hand as he didn’t commit an error in any of the 19 games he was in the field.
Seth Lugo (New York Mets) – Lugo was fantastic in 64 innings pitched in 2016. He allowed only seven homers, 21 walks and posted a 2.67 ERA. With injuries to Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz over the past calendar year, the Mets need a new face to show dominance.
Losing Bartolo Colon and Logan Verret in the offseason only pushes that challenge onto Lugo’s shoulders. I expect him to make Mets fans stand and call for an encore nearly every time he touches the mound. That curveball of his is no laughing matter.
Steve Pearce (Toronto Blue Jays) – His versatility is what stands out to me. The veteran utilityman has played first base, second base and the corner outfield spots during his decade long career. It wouldn’t be reasonable to think Melvin Upton, Jr. (OF), Ezequiel Carrera(OF) and Justin Smoak (1) will produce at a high level for Toronto.
Losing Edwin Encarnacion in free agency only stresses the need for someone to take a few extra balls deep. The additions of Kendrys Morales (30 HR in 2016) and Pearce (49 HR the past 3 years combined) should make up for that loss. Over the past four seasons, Pearce has played 85 or more games three times. In the previous six seasons, Pearce never played in more than 61 games.
Shawn Kelley (Washington Nationals) – Whether he comes in to get a save or not this season Kelley has been a proven commodity in the MLB for a while now. That shouldn’t be forgotten. The 8-year reliever has shown that he can get holds and saves. And he can also achieve a low ERA (2.64 ERA in 2016 and 2.45 ERA in 2015). Kelley doesn’t give up the long ball (only 13 HR allowed in his last 109.1 innings). He also won’t hand out a free pass (46 walks in last 161 innings pitched). If the Nats capture the NL East in 2017 expect Kelley to play a major role in the team’s postseason push.