Welcome back to the Post Up. In this article we will be looking at a special kind of player. These players are players that no one expected would be off to the amazing starts they are in this MLB season and therefore they have made the All-Stud Team. We will give one player per position for the All-Stud Team and tell you why they are there.
Before I get started, I would like to say thank you to Keegan M. for his help. I may have written the article, but it has his idea and he helped greatly with it. So a massive shout out to you. So with that said let us take a look at the All-Stud Team.
Catcher: Derek Norris (Oakland Athletics)
Derek Norris is probably someone you have never heard of for one of two reasons. The obvious reason is that he is playing in Oakland where there is little to zero publicity. The other main reason though is that this guy came out of no where. He has played three years in the MLB and has not done very well as far as hitting is concerned. He has always been a more than serviceable catcher with his ability to call a game and play defense, however his offense was lack luster. He has never batted above .246 in a season and has never really contributed in other categories being that his career high in home runs is 9 and doubles is 16.
This season however has been a much different story. So far this season he has split the number of at-bats for catchers with his back-up, John Jaso, but he has out-produced Jaso by a long shot. Norris is hitting .365 this year with already 6 doubles and 4 home runs to his name. His career high in RBI’s is 34 and he already has 20 this year! This guy is off to a superb start. He is seeing the ball very well at the plate and swinging less at balls outside the strike zone, he would swing at 22% of balls outside last year and that is down to 18% this year. The most important part is that he is also making contact. In his past two seasons he was making contact 79% and 80% of the time, this season however he has brought that up to 82% and more importantly he is hitting the ball 95% of the time in the strike zone!
Those are some major improvements which is why Derek Norris is the catcher for our All-Stud Team.
First Base: José Abreu (Chicago White Sox)
Unlike with catcher, there were many how could have qualified and easily won this award, but the issue here is that Jose Abreu is just absolutely crushing everything. The 27-year-old (allegedly) rookie from Cuba has come over this past off-season and signed with the Chicago White Sox. Everyone was aware this kid was going to be good, the question was how good? I do not think anyone expected the numbers he has put up so far. He is hitting an okay average of .272 but has 11 doubles, 14 home runs and 38 RBI’s, oh and by the way his home run and RBI totals lead all first basemen so far. He swings outside the zone a little more than desired, but is making contact 72% of the time and believe me, when he makes contact you know it.
This young man is a rookie and he has taken the MLB by storm so far, which is why he has been named the first baseman for the All-Stud Team.
Second Base: Dee Gordon (LA Dodgers)
Unlike Mr. Abreu, Dee Gordon has been around the league for a long while, and the Dodgers and everyone else knew what this kid was good for, terrible batting average but massive speed if he got on base. His rookie season he showed promise hitting .304, 9 doubles and 24 stolen bases all in 56 games. The real question was if he could be able to pull that together for an entire season. The answer to that was a no. He was demoted half way through his next season hitting .228 with 9 doubles and 32 stolen bases in 87 games. He also imploded at the plate, striking out 62 times compared to 27 the year before. His next season was not great either, he saw 38 games and hit .234 and did not do much.
However, this season has been a beautiful new one for Dee Gordon. In 38 games, he is hitting, .322 with 8 doubles and 24 stolen bases. His strike outs are still high, but considering his average, that is not an issue for the Dodgers right now. What is really helping Dee is his plate approach. At one point he was swinging at 40% of balls outside the strike zone, but this year has lowered it to 31%. He is also seeing more pitches and making much more contact in the strike zone.
All of this has helped to improve his batting average and his overall play which is why Dee Gordon is the second baseman for the All-Stud Team.
Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez (Chicago White Sox)
As a Cubs fan it hurts me to say that the White Sox are absolutely rolling in it when it comes to hitting and fielders this year. Outside Sale their pitching is lackluster, but that is for another article. Alexei Ramirez has been a STUD this season so far. In the past his highest average was .284, but with that came a lack of power. He has power and has put it on display before hitting 21 home runs in his rookie season and hitting for above 15 in his first four seasons. But, when the power came, the average dipped dramatically. What his issue seemed to be is that he was never able to put it all together.
This season that has all changed. He is hitting .327 with 5 home runs, 27 RBI’s and 7 doubles. Compared to last seasons numbers, he is on pace to smash all of those. What has really helped Ramirez is that he is not swinging wildly anymore. In the past he was swinging at over 55% of pitches he saw, and he has now brought that down to 50%. He is also hitting the ball a career high 96% of the time.
With all of this and his slight reduction in errors, Alexei has really turned it around and figured it out, which is why he is our shortstop for the All-Stud Team.
Third Base: Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies)
Like the White Sox, the Rockies have been rolling in it so far this year when it comes to their position players. No one has surprised us more however, than Nolan. His rookie season last year was decent, and showed great signs of potential, but not like what he was done this year so far. Last year he hit .267 with 29 doubles, 10 home runs and 52 RBI’s. Pretty good numbers for a rookie and all this showed signs of something pretty good.
However, so far this season he has done even more. He is hitting .315 (including a 25+ hit streak), 14 doubles, 6 home runs and 26 RBI’s. Much like Ramirez, if he keeps this up he will shatter his records from last season. What Nolan has improved upon in the off-season is his approach at the plate, like everyone else we have talked about and will talk about. His numbers have not improved greatly, but he is swinging less at 53% and seeing more pitches at 49%. His contact is relatively the same but because he is seeing the ball much better, his contact has not needed to improve.
Therefore because of all this, Nolan Arenado is the third baseman for the All-Stud Team.
Outfield Spot One: Charlie Blackmon (Colorado Rockies)
Who? Yeah if I did not know baseball, I would be saying the same thing. Charlie has been in the league for 4 years but never anything more than a bench player. Last year he hit a solid .304 and he has hit for career highs of 17 doubles, 6 home runs and 22 RBI’s. He has been a solid player and therefore because of that the Rockies tried him out more in the field and so far he has given them everything they wanted and more.
This year Blackmon is hitting .342 with 9 doubles, 9 home runs and 29 RBI’s. At this pace he will more than shatter his previous records. Blackmon is also seeing the ball very well. He is only swinging at 50% of pitches and hitting the ball 97% of the time in the strike zone! That is ridiculous. There is nothing more to really say about Blackmon since he has been a career bench player so far. He did lower his swing percentage and raised his contact percentage so that is all good things for the Rockies.
Therefore with all that being said, out first outfielder for the All-Stud Team is Charlie Blackmon.
Outfield Spot Two: Emilio Bonifacio (Chicago Cubs)
The next starter in the outfield does not play a lot in the outfield, but it is impossible to keep him off the list. Emilio has been a wanderer for his career and has never really shown his true potential. In 8 years he has played for 9 clubs, including 3 last year. He has never hit above .300 and has usually been a serviceable players and a key bench guy for a team. After getting cut and coming to the Cubs, no one expected much of him. However, he has gone on to prove to be very valuable to the successes of the Cubs so far this season.
At this moment, Emilio is hitting .313 with 9 doubles and 11 stolen bases. He is a lead off guy, much like Dee Gordon, so therefore home runs and RBI’s do not really matter. However, those numbers he is posting are very good and look to replace those of his previous high which are, .298, 26 doubles and 40 stolen bases. Now, while the stolen bases are a stretch, I do believe he can bit and get more doubles than before. Emilio is seeing the ball very well with a swing rate of 45% and a contact rate of 81%.
All this together has Emilio off to a great start for the Cubs which is why he is the second outfielder for the All-Stud Team.
Outfield Spot Three: Yangervis Solarte (New York Yankees)
Much like Emilio, Solarte splits his time in positions but is too good to leave off this list. Another nobody, Solarte is a rookie this year. Unlike Abreu, no one really knew what to expect of him and are genuinely surprised at what he has brought to the table so far. He is hitting .336 with 10 doubles, 3 home runs and 22 RBI’s. There is more power in him just by seeing his frame and his numbers should all continue to rise as time goes on. He is making great contact at 89% and only swinging 43% of the time. He is a form Rangers prospect and no one should be surprised that he is doing this as the Rangers, much like the Cardinals, have a knack for prospects.
Solarte is off to a very impressive start and should only continue to get better with his contact first approach. Therefore because of that he is out third outfielder for the All-Stud Team.
Starting Pitcher: Mark Buehrle (Toronto Blue Jays)
Mark Buehrle is one of those players that has struggled since his move away from his former team. Since moving away from the Chicago White Sox, the former Cy Young contender and perfect game pitcher has struggled to find form. His ERA in Chicago was right around a 3.85 and he was never pitching out of his mind but he was still pitching well. Since his move away, Buehrle has never had his ERA below his White Sox days and even last year, his ERA was above 4.
This year is a completely different story for Mark. His ERA is at a 2.04 and he already has a major leagues leading 7 wins. Buehrle has found his form again and is thriving in Toronto this year. He is getting more ground outs 43% and less fly balls at 32%. According to fansgraph, he is also hitting his spots a lot more and more consistently than he was in the last few years.
All this together has made for a very amazing start to the season for Mark Buehrle and that is why he is the starter in the All-Stud Team.
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez (Milwaukee Brewers)
K-Rod, man this guy used to be amazing back in the day. With his time with the Angels, he was so good that he even broke the record for most saves in a season with 62. Ever since those days he has been on a decline. He left the Angels and headed to numerous teams and found little to zero success there. He seems to have finally tapped out, he finally peaked and his time at the top was now gone.
Then 2014 happens. He is in his second tour with Milwaukee and he seems to have channeled his old mojo again. Again, according to graphs on fansgraph, K-Rod is hitting his spots very well again. He already has 16 saves and is now producing much more ground balls 23% and less fly balls at 32% all with only giving up 1 earned run so far.
His command is good and he seems to be finding his rhythm again and that is why K-Rod is in the closer role for the All-Stud Team.
So there you have it, do you agree with the team? Do you not? Let us know by leaving any comments and feedback! We also as that you Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter and Subscribe on Reddit.
All stats and information courtesy of espn.com, baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com