Statistics. Sabermetrics. Smartphone apps. Satellite radio. Digital television packages that beam games throughout the world.
We follow baseball more comprehensively and intelligently than ever before. But even though players appear and reappear on our screens – televisions, computers, other gadgets – some should-be stars don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Yes, it’s possible to be underrated in the 21st century.
After consulting with scouts and executives around the game, here are the 10 most underrated players in the majors today. If you made an All-Star team this year, you don’t qualify. Sorry. In my mind, it’s hard to be an overlooked All-Star.
– Jon Paul Morosi
Gaby Sanchez, Florida Marlins
It’s easy to get lost amid all the young talent in South Florida. Chris Coghlan, felled by a bizarre knee injury, was nonetheless the NL Rookie of the Year in 2009. Outfielder Mike Stanton was the Marlins’ most highly touted prospect entering this year. Logan Morrison had been viewed by some as the team’s first baseman of the future. But Sanchez is the first baseman of the present, and he’s performing like the job is his. The soon-to-be 27-year-old could finish with close to 80 RBIs in his first year as a regular, while batting over .290.
Gio Gonzalez, Oakland Athletics
Teammates Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill are better known, but Gonzalez has been perhaps Oakland’s most improved starter this year. For a team that has put too many players on the disabled list in recent seasons, it matters that Gonzalez leads the staff in both innings and strikeouts. Gonzalez, who turns 25 next month, still struggles with his control at times. But he’s becoming the plus-stuff left-hander scouts envisioned years ago.
Shaun Marcum, Toronto Blue Jays
Some are wary of Marcum because he missed all of last season due to elbow surgery and again spent time on the disabled list this year. But when he’s healthy – and he is now – Marcum can match up well against the best lineups in baseball. He has beaten the Twins, Red Sox, Padres and Phillies this season. Marcum leads the surprising Blue Jays with 11 wins and won’t become a free agent until 2012.
Casey McGehee, Milwaukee Brewers
It’s easy to rip the Cubs for signing Carlos Zambrano. But simply allowing McGehee to leave by way of a waiver claim after the 2008 season may have been the greater sin. McGehee appeared in only nine big-league games with his original organization before the Brewers plucked him off the wire. He became a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2009 and entered Wednesday with the third-most RBIs in the NL; it’s hard to say which feat came as a greater surprise.
Luke Gregerson, San Diego Padres
Because he throws so many sliders, Gregerson looked like a second-half breakdown candidate. Instead, he’s allowed earned runs in only three of 19 outings since the All-Star break. An air-tight bullpen has made the Padres a near-lock to reach the postseason, and Gregerson is a big reason why. He has issued just 11 unintentional walks in 61 1/3 innings this season – while striking out 72.
Michael Cuddyer, Minnesota Twins
Baseball-Reference.com tells us that Cuddyer’s closest statistical comparisons are Jeffrey Hammonds, Fernando Tatis and the immortal Rip Repulski. Our eyes tell us otherwise. Cuddyer’s power is down at Target Field – a common lament – but he’s still getting his hits. Just as importantly, he’s started at five defensive positions. Cuddyer has a great throwing arm from right field, but Justin Morneau’s concussion has forced him into duty at first base. No problem there for one of the game’s most selfless players.
John Danks, Chicago White Sox
It’s shocking that a pitcher can be this good while performing in the nation’s third-largest media market and not get more credit. Sure, he isn’t even the most accomplished left-handed starter in his own rotation. That would be Mark Buehrle. But Danks is one of only four left-handers to win 10-plus games in the American League in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The others are Buehrle, Jon Lester and Andy Pettitte. And of that group, only Lester has a lower ERA.
Andres Torres, San Francisco Giants
Money is a perpetual consideration in baseball, to the point that it’s never a surprise when expensive (and perhaps declining) veterans get playing time. Often, the tie belongs to the richer man. So, there must be something special about Torres. He is an everyday outfielder for the Giants – at a salary of $426,000 – while Aaron Rowand has fallen into part-time duty despite his $12 million per year price tag. Torres, 32, has set career highs in virtually every offensive category this year and is second in the NL with 41 doubles.
Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians
If Choo hadn’t missed that time in July due to a sprained right thumb, his numbers would be a better indication of his value. Instead, we need to look a little deeper. Going back to last season, Choo has totaled 22 home runs and 85 RBIs while batting roughly .300 in his last 159 games. He has a chance to steal 20 bases for a second straight season. He leads the AL in assists from right field. For the statistically inclined, he ranks among the AL’s top 10 in Wins Above Replacement. A rare, legitimate five-tool player.
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
It’s becoming an accepted fact: Carlos Gonzalez is the most underrated player in baseball today. You name the category, and he ranks among the NL’s top 10: batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, runs scored, runs batted in, hits, triples. Put the numbers together, and Gonzalez is one of the top three or four candidates for NL MVP. So, yes, he should have been an All-Star this year.