MLB All-Underrated Team 2017
By John Sanchez Jr.
Tis' the season for awards. This is the great time of year where baseball writers come out of the shadows to award players for their efforts. I enjoy this time of year with playoff season in full swing. This is the time of year stars shine the brightest. However, since the postseason is here and all the attention on the superstars of the game, I would like to start That Baseball-Talk's award season by awarding the underappreciated guys of the game. I will give a winner and a runner-up to every position with only one requirement for eligibility: the player could not be on the 2017 All-Star team.
Contreras is a great way to start off this post recognizing the underappreciated men of our game. Contreras has quietly been the 3rd best catcher in the bigs in 2017 behind obviously Buster Posey and Gary Sanchez. While his catch framing numbers aren't great, his bat has been good enough to solidify himself as an elite catcher (sorry Yadier Molina, but Contreras is now more productive). Posting the 3rd best wRC+ (min. 300 PA) in the NL at 120, Contreras has been solid for a Cubs lineup who desperately needed him to step up, and he answered the call. Getting on base at a .353 clip and hitting 22 HR's (2nd in NL among catchers), he has proven to be a force at the plate.
Runner Up: Tyler Flowers
Jose Abreu is perhaps THE most underappreciated player in baseball. This man has been exceptionally consistent ever since he made his MLB debut. Although he has been overshadowed by playing probably the strongest position in baseball, he deserves more recognition than just "that first baseman on that terrible team." A hitter that should truly strike fear in any opposing pitcher, Abreu was yet again terrific in 2017, hitting 33 HR's and 102 RBI on his way to becoming just the 3rd player in MLB history to have at least 25 HR and 100 RBI in each of his first 4 seasons. The other two players on that list? Joe Dimaggio and Albert Pujols. That speaks for itself (as does his .378 wOBA and 139 wRC+).
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Runner Up: Carlos Santana
I wanted to cheat and give this award to Johnathan Schoop, but I refrained and stuck to my rule of no 2017 All-Stars, even though Schoop does not get the recognition he deserves for his terrific last two seasons. Anyways, Brian Dozier didn't make the All-Star Game thanks to a lackluster first half of the season which coincided with the Twins terrible offensive first half. But, Dozier returned to his 2016 form in the second half of the season, hitting a ridiculous 21 HR (most by 2B in second half by 7 HR's), and posted the highest 2nd half WAR among 2B in the league at 3.5 (yes, even higher than Jose Altuve). Leading all 2B in HR for the 4th consecutive year, this man definitely deserves some more recognition as a Top-5 second baseman.
Runner Up: Jed Lowrie
How this man did not make the 2017 All-Star Game with the performance he put up this year, is beyond belief. Rendon has been the single best 3B all season and has almost no recognition to go along with it (except maybe Nats fans). Remember when Rendon went 6-for-6 with 3 HR and 10 RBI against the Mets earlier in the season? Few people do, but that day was a signal for a significant turnaround for Rendon that would last all year after a poor first couple weeks to start the season. A key part in a Nationals team who needed him to step up his production this year, Rendon answered the call and more. Part of the reason he's not garnering more recognition is because he hasn't really gone all-in on the home run revolution hitting only 24. But when you factor in his terrific defense (13.5 UZR rating, best among MLB 3B), his tendency to NOT strike out (13.6% K%), and his ability to walk (14.0% BB%), you have a perennial all-star on your hands, and for some reason, he still went under-the-radar in 2017.
Brad Mills- USA TODAY Sports
Runner Up: Eugenio Suarez
Elvis Andrus quietly had a very nice season for the Rangers who did not see a lot of bright spots in 2017. Joining the HR revolution in his own way, hitting a career high 20 HR's (previous high was 8), Andrus seemingly has reinvented his game from a slap hitting, great defense SS, to more of a well-rounded hitter with an average glove. This year’s version of Andrus saw much more power than in years past, and consequentially this was the most productive year of his career, posting a 4.0 WAR which was tied for the highest of his career. While Andrus enjoyed the best year of his career, I'm afraid this season may be the best he has to offer; I wouldn't expect more than a 3-4 WAR season from the soon-to-be 30-year-old SS in the future. But Andrus should still get recognition as a top-7 SS while he still can.
Runner Up: Didi Gregorious
Putting up back-to-back 40 HR seasons, one would assume Davis would not fly under the radar as much as he does, but somehow the HR leader from the past 2 years manages to be underrated. Placing 3rd in the HR race this year with 43, Davis has indeed been one of the faces of this new all-or-nothing revolution. Much like Jose Abreu, Davis should no longer be recognized as "that one outfielder on that sub-par team," but rather should be recognized as THE Khris Davis (the Baltimore Orioles Chris Davis should be labeled as "The Other Chris Davis").
Runner Up: Brett Gardner
Carlos Carrasco/Jacob deGrom
I just could not decide between these two, so I decided to have them share the distinction. Both pitchers share one thing in common: Both would be #1 SP on most teams in the MLB had they not play for their respective teams (Carrasco playing in the shadow of Corey Kluber, deGrom playing in the shadow of Syndergaard). Carrasco has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the AL the past two years, posting a total WAR of 8.0 (3rd in AL), with a 3.30 ERA (3.29 ERA was 6th in AL in 2017). deGrom completely balled out in 2017, throwing over 200 innings in the absence of Noah Syndergaard. deGrom had a career year in terms of striking out batters in 2017, posting a 10.68 K/9 (3rd best in NL), and striking out a total of 239 batters (2nd in NL, 5th in MLB). How neither one of these guys made the All-Star team is beyond me, but both these guys are top-tier starters, and should stop being overlooked.
Photo Creds- Carrasco: www.sportingnews.com deGrom: www.mlb.com
Runner Up: Aaron Nola
The entire Yankees bullpen could also be an acceptable answer here, but i'll pick out one and go with Chad Green. A breakout performance in 2017, Green posted a ridiculous 13.49 K/9, and a 2.3 WAR. A legit relief ace, Green flew under the radar mostly due to the fact the Yankees sported a historically great bullpen, posting an MLB record with 6 relief pitchers posting a K/9 over 10.00, minimum 30 IP (if you include Tyler Clippard). Sporting a terrific fastball/slider combo, look for Green to continue to dominate hitters throughout his career.
Chad Green — www.newsday.com
Runner Up: Tommy Kahnle
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed! Disagree? Feel free to comment and discuss!