The 2016 MLB season has hit the halfway mark and the Midsummer Classic is upon us once again. Baseball fans from across the world will tune in on July 12th to watch the game’s top sluggers like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado step into the batter’s box to face the major’s top ace pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale. Watching the game’s biggest and brightest stars go at each other in a game that does actually mean something is unlike any other event in professional sports right now (that is until the Warriors start playing). Outside of watching the superstars of baseball do what they do best, it is also a blast to see lesser known names who slide under the national radar. Players that are on the verge of becoming superstars or are just flat out fun to watch play the game finally getting a chance to showcase their skills on the big stage. The following list includes guys to keep an eye on during the game Tuesday night, to admire throughout the rest of the season and then follow the rest of what should be long and successful careers.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies:
Big fantasy baseball players and Colorado Rockies’ fans are already aware of what Arenado has been doing so far in 2016 and even how good he was in 2015. For most everyone else’s knowledge, last season Arenado set career highs in every major hitting category including 42 home runs and 103 RBIs. Entering play Wednesday, Arenado is hitting .290 with 23 home runs, 69 RBIs and has scored 59 runs. Along with flat out raking at the plate this year, Arenado is handling the hot corner with the best of them as he is tied for third in all of baseball in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). If the Rockies were in any kind of playoff race, Arenado would no doubt be getting N.L. MVP consideration. Arenado does benefit from playing half his games in Coors Field, but his road numbers this season (.841 OPS in road games) show that Arenado can hit in any park, any league and basically any planet he steps on.
Odubel Herrera, OF, Philadelphia Phillies:
Herrera is probably my favorite player of this group. I am sure that when the rosters were announced on Tuesday night some people probably thought that Herrera was on the team because there needs to at least one representative from all 30 clubs and someone on the Phillies had to make it. While there may be some truth to that, if you look closer at the Phillies’ centerfielder you see that he does in fact deserve to be playing in San Diego for this year’s game. If you are not someone who watches baseball from around the league almost every night like I do (I do not recommend doing this) or watches a lot of Phillies games (something I also do not recommend doing) there is a chance you have never even heard of Odubel Herrera. The numbers for Herrera are good across the board: .302 batting average, 10 home runs, 12 stolen bases, top 20 in the majors in walk rate. While there are not official statistics for the amount of flare, swagger or number of bat flips after a home run is hit, Herrera continues to top the leaderboard in those categories as well. Nothing would make me happier than a Herrera bat flip on the game’s biggest stage.
Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves:
I almost kept Teheran off of this list after he was recently scratched from a start due to a thigh infection caused by an ingrown hair. I swear you cannot make up some of the injuries baseball players get. However entering the 2013 season, Teheran was listed at number 31 on MLB’s top 100 prospects, adding another name to the long list of Braves pitching prospects over the last 20 years. Teheran’s career had been up and down entering 2016 with season ERA’s of 3.20, 2.89 and 4.04 as well as an All-Star appearance in 2014 on his resume. He has always mixed showing flashes of brilliance with head scratching performances. So far in 2016, Teheran appears to have finally put it all together and man is it fun to watch. After two shaky performances to kick off 2016, Teheran has been nothing short of amazing. Showing excellent control and command of the strike zone, Teheran has his walks per 9 innings at what would be a career best rate of 1.92 which is good enough for the 15th best in all of baseball ahead of fellow all stars Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Cole Hamels. In an era of baseball mostly dominated by starting pitching, Teheran could be the next name to join the list of elite hurlers in baseball.
Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers:
The top hitting prospect entering 2016 has immediately lived up to the hype. Seager has done his best to keep the Dodgers playoff chances alive despite the struggles of basically everyone else in their lineup. A .304 batting average and 17 home runs at the break is impressive for most anyone, but it is borderline amazing for a 22 year old rookie shortstop. Baseball has had an influx of young, talented shortstops like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Addison Russell; Seager appears to have a chance to be the best of the group. What makes Seager’s 2016 success especially great for me? My H&H colleague Sean Demetrakis had the chance to trade for Seager before the season in our fantasy baseball keeper league, but he turned the deal down so he could keep Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon who is currently serving an 80 game suspension for PED’s…. Happy All-Star break baseball fans!
Photo credit: CSN Philly
Statistics are as of 7/5/16 and courtesy of baseballreference.com