In somewhat of an alternate voice from the norm; don’t you ever get tired of hearing the same old names making the same old headlines in 2015? Full credit to the top performers of the regular season thus far. The Bryce Harper’s, Bartolo Colon’s and Giancarlo Stanton’s are always going to be dominating the story-lines throughout the summer. But this article is aimed towards aiming the spotlight on a collection of unsung top performers, excelling in ways that won’t always succeed first time at breaking the internet.
Nori Aoki OF San Fransisco Giants: 69 Hits
The anticipated return of spiritual leader Hunter Pence from the disabled list would dominate over any given storyline heading into June for the world champion Giants. Prior to his return, the breakout performances of homegrown talent 2B Joe Panik (.316 AVG) and SS Brandon Crawford (.853 OPS) were the key momentum builders in the bay area.
But the play of Aoki of recent has gone surprisingly on quiet notice on a team that has always found pitching to be their holy grail at At&T Park. In his last 15 games, the newly acquired OF this past offseason has tallied a .383 batting average and an astounding .448 on-base percentage.
The Giants’ current series against the Phillies saw a performance out of their Japanese superstar that may just start making fans turn their heads and giving him the nod for a deserved All-Star berth. Aoki went 3-for-3 on June 6th and drove in 2 whilst walking on his other plate appearance.
Carlos Santana 1B Cleveland Indians: 44 Base On Balls
Patience is key in baseball. As similar with the Giants and Aoki, the stellar discipline of Carlos Santana at the plate has played second fiddle to the recent performance of the starting rotation. But that being said, Santana’s incredible tally of walks has made up for his lacklustre batting average. Sitting on just .230, his OBP is at a surprising .383. It means that .153 of that OBP has not come from hitting the baseball, which is an incredible amount given his 214 plate appearances so far in 2015.
J.T. Realmuto C Miami Marlins: 4 3B
You would expect Dee Gordon to lead the Marlins in triples, right? Think again. Whilst the go-ahead All-Star 2B has notched 2 triples so far this year, it’s the fact that the backup Catcher to start the 2015 season has double that amount.
J.T. Realmuto probably wouldn’t have expected to be the regular guy behind the plate this early into the season. Whilst one of the many promising youngsters in the Marlins’ 40 man roster heading into Spring Training, it came as a big surprise when starter Jared Saltalamacchia was designated for assignment on April 27th.
Scouting reports noted of Realmuto’s unusually average speed behind the plate, not to mention a good set of quick feet between the bases. That, in a nutshell, is ridiculously underwhelming given that he’s tallied 4 triples already this year. Realmuto has proven to be a dark-horse contributor for the Marlins in all areas of his game thus far. It’s worth nothing that he’s one of only two Catchers in the major leagues to have notched more than one triple this season. The other is Oakland Athletics’ Stephen Vogt with 2.
Jason Hammel P Chicago Cubs: Leads MLB Pitchers with 7 Hits:
Move over Bartolo Colon. As as impressive and hilarious your at-bats have been so far in 2015, the fact that Jason Hammel is breaking away from the pack should be given more notice. Only Max Scherzer of the Nationals is anywhere close with 6 hits. Currently sporting an impressive .233 AVG, Hammel has also records an extra-base hit of his own at the plate, coming back on April 17th against the Padres.
Mike Leake P Cincinnati Reds: 2 2B and 1 Home Run
While we’re at it with Pitchers’ bats getting blanked for the mass that is Bartolo Colon, Mike Leake is the only Pitcher who has hit a Home Run and tallied an extra-base hit besides that. He currently has 3 XBH including the HR. Though not as consistent at the plate than Hammel (only .160 AVG), Leake’s power is hard to ignore from a Pitcher given that he’s only taken 25 at-bats in 2015.
Mike Pelfrey P Minnesota Twins (2.28 ERA) and Aaron Harang P Philadelphia Phillies (2.45 ERA)
Both of these 6″ 7 Pitchers are cast aside in favour of the likes of Phil Hughes and Cole Hamels respectively. The fact that both of these unheralded starters are cracking the top 10 in ERA, it’s surprising that neither veteran is on the top of either team’s headlines. Pelfrey has been terrific for the Twins thus far. His 1.22 WHIP this season is a career low and has only allowed 3 Home Runs to this point. While the credit may go to other guys on the mound such as Kyle Gibson and elite Closer Glen Perkins, look for Mike Pelfrey to make a very serious case for a spot in the summer classic.
While the Twins’ winning ways may give Pelfrey some press, Aaron Harang should be seen as the Phillies brightest spot in a miserable 2015 season thus far. The 37-year-old has ridden the momentum generated from his resurrection season with the Braves last year and has continued the great form into his time in Philadelphia. Call Cole Hamels the top trade chip all you want, Aaron Harang still owns a better ERA+ (157 over 134), WHIP (1.06 over 1.10) and HR/9 (0.5 over 1.1).
Nate Karns P Tampa Bay Rays: .202 Opposition Batting Average
Chris Archer is not only carving through the AL East Pitching staff, but he’s making the young Rays squad his own and pioneering an unlikely run at the divisional crown heading into June. That being said, another Pitcher is trying to give Archer a run for his money. Whilst Nate Karns (3.63) is sporting an ERA of nearly double of Archer (1.84), the fact that the 27 year old veteran is sporting a nearly identical opposition batting average is the minute detail that reveals the true story of the Rays pitching staff.
This is no one-man band leading the parade in Tropicana Field. In his first season as a starter, Karns has more than held his own in the hitting frenzy that is the AL East. Holding teams like the Blue Jays and the Yankees to a batting average so low is a real accomplishment so far in 2015.
Carlos Rodon P Chicago White Sox: 1 HR Allowed
First things first, this incredibly talented left-handed Pitcher is pitching at US Cellular Field. A nightmare for allowing Home Runs. With powerful right-handed line-ups like the Tigers and Twins calling around on a regular basis, the fact that a lefty is avoiding the long ball against such dangerous opposition is a great achievement.
It’s a shame the White Sox can’t feel happiness now. A disappointing campaign to call it lightly, Carlos Rodon should have much more light shone on him entering the summer months. It could be the lifeline that brings the White Sox back into contention in the AL Central.
Sergio Romo RP San Francisco Giants: 16 Holds in 18.1 Innings
What a difference a year makes for a Relief Pitcher. When a Closer begins to malfunction in the 9th and gets shipped off to middle-relief, you usually see the finale of the inevitable self-destruction (Grant Balfour, Jim Johnson, Casey Janssen). When Sergio Romo was demoted from the Closer’s role in last June, he turns things around and produced a second-half ERA of 1.80.
While Romo’s ERA is slightly bloated at 3.93, his 16 Holds in just 18.1 innings not only leads the NL in that department, but he’s keeping teams behind on the scoreboard in a ridiculously low amount of innings. Romo has also kept his number of Pitches per Game in Relief to 11, his lowest tally since 2011.