It never fails. There’s always going to be the one player that isn’t flashy enough to make fans love him. Perhaps he lacks Matt Kemps good looks, Torii Hunter’s smile or Derek Jeter’s unquestionable leadership, but owners and General Managers are aware of this player’s value. They come back year after year, aren’t demanding $100 million contracts, rarely speak to the media. These guys are Major League Baseball’s version of the blue collar worker, the man who shows up, gets the job done and goes home. Every team needs him, and it’s a safe bet that every team has him. Here are the most under rated players in each organization headed into the 2012 season.
New York Yankees – RF Nick Swisher. It’s hard to make over $10 million a year and be over rated, but Swisher pulls it off nicely. Despite trade rumors swirling, Swisher has been nothing but spectacular for the Bombers. He’s a good man off the field and usually worth 3-4 wins on the field.
Tampa Bay Rays – UTIL Ben Zobrist. Zobrist isn’t under rated by his own team or fans, but surprisingly, fans across the country are unaware of this man’s ability. Switch hitter, gets on base, hits for power, steals bases, inexpensive and can play 1B, 2B, or RF. If Zobrist put up the kind of numbers in Boston or New York as he does in St. Petersburg, he’d probably be a perennial all-star and MVP candidate.
Boston Red Sox – C Jarrod Saltalamacchia. We get it Red Sox fans, you have a soft spot for Varitek, but it’s been a long time since he was a capable option offensively or defensively. Salty was a solid defensive catcher last year and pounded 16 homeruns in only 103 games. Show the man some appreciation, he deserves it.
Toronto Blue Jays – SS Yunel Escobar. When someone asks who are the best shortstops in baseball, named like Hanley, Tulo, Jeter and Reyes come up. Rarely does Escobar get the credit he deserves. He’s got a team friendly contract, plays solid defense and hit .290 with 11 HR’s last year. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but coming from a shortstop, you could do much worse.
Baltimore Orioles – RF Nick Markakis. Oriole fans appreciate the guy, but he deserves so much more love from fans of other teams. Team friendly contract? Check. Gold Glove defense? Check. Power? Check. Speed? Check. This guy does it all, yet has never been an all-star. He’s averaging .295/.365, 41 doubles and 18 homers a year!
Detroit Tigers – OF Brennan Boesch. The Tigers supposed backup corner outfielder hit .283/.341 with 25 doubles and 16 homers last year in a non-full time role. Plenty of teams wouldn’t mind getting that from their RF/LF on a full time basis. It’s easy to be overshadowed when you play on the same team as Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Justin Verlander though.
Cleveland Indians – 2B Jason Kipnis. When someone talks about the Indians shiny new infield prospect, they’re usually referring to 3B Lonnie Chisenhall. But Kipnis is solid in his own right. In only 36 games he hit .272/.333 with nine doubles and seven HRs. That comes out to 41 doubles and 32 home runs across 162 games! He never hit below .300 before this season, played baseball at ASU and is essentially everything Dustin Ackley is supposed to be minus the hype. Well played Cleveland.
Chicago White Sox – 3B/1B Dayan Viciedo. When your team is playing Adam Dunn and Omar Vizquel on a regular basis, you know you’re in trouble. Why not give the last Cuban sensation a try? This past season in AAA, Viciedo hit .296/.364 with 28 doubles and 20 homers in a pitcher’s league. The White Sox could use some help and Viciedo can provide it. For someone that could potentially be the next Miguel Cabrera and was a high profile Cuban exile, Viciedo has gotten surprisingly little national press.
Kansas City Royals – OF Jeff Francoeur. Jeff signed with the Royals for $2.5 million last season. In return for their generosity he gave them .285/.329, 47 doubles, 20 homers and 22 stolen baes. After spending the season before bouncing between the Mets and the Rangers bench, Francoeuer proved that not only is he a legit starting outfielder, but he’s also a dangerous hitter that can hurt you a number of different ways.
Minnesota Twins – OF Ben Revere. For whatever reason, scouts fell out of love with Ben Revere after 2009, no one is really sure why. It’s probably because they all pay attention to physical stature and Revere stands at all of 5’9 and 170 lbs if he’s lucky. Still, can’t argue with what he did in only 117 games. 34 stolen bases and some of the best defense in the game. Once he reaches his prime, Revere may be one of the most feared leadoff hitters in the game.
Texas Rangers – UTIL David Murphy. The Rangers apparently are in need of outfielder, because they have no one fit for full time duty out there, well except for David Murphy whom they stash on their bench for a quarter of the year. Most teams wouldn’t mind having a former first round pick that hits for average, power, steals bases and can play multiple positions in their starting outfield, but the Rangers seem happy to only give Murphy this role in a pinch. What’s more, the guy absolutely murders their division rival LA Angels.
Los Angeles Angels – 3B Alberto Callaspo. Can’t believe fans are calling for Callaspo’s replacement in Anaheim. The switch hitter produced .288/.366 with Gold Glove level defense all for only $2 million. In contrast, Adrian Beltre who made 16 million last season had an OBP south of .300 and only 9 HR’s away from the homer friendly state of Texas last season. David Wright, though immensely talented, made 14 million last season and simply couldn’t stay on the field. There were plenty of reasons why the Angels lineup was dysfunctional in 2011, Albert Callaspo wasn’t one of them.
Oakland A’s – 1B Daric Barton. When healthy, Barton gives Oakland solid defense at 1B and an OBP near .400. Granted, Barton struggled to stay on the field in 2011, but even if he did play, Oakland was simply outgunned by their AL West rivals. The A’s need more offense, but keeping Barton’s bat in the lineup should be a priority in Oakland.
Seattle Mariners – LF Mike Carp. Carp wasn’t regarded as an elite prospect or even someone that could hold a job in the majors before 2011. After posting .276/.326 with 17 doubles and 12 homers in only 79 games, perhaps scouts and fans alike are whistling a different tune. Seattle has one of the worst offenses in baseball and needs more players like Carp in the middle of their lineup.