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10 Most Exciting Players in the MLB

Phillip BrownSenior Analyst IIFebruary 11, 2012

10 Most Exciting Players in the MLB

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    Everybody loves an exciting play—it can be a game-changer and change momentum.

    Everybody's two favorite segments on ESPN are Sportscenter's "Top 10 Plays" and Baseball Tonight's "Web Gems." Everything from diving catches to walk-off home runs are exciting to watch.

    Almost any player can have one big play in a season or a career, but who can do it on a consistent basis? Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey, Jr. ruled the late 1990s and early 2000s but Griffey retired, and at 37 years old, Jeter is not what he used to be.

    Who are the most exciting players in the MLB right now? Let's find out.

Honorable Mention

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    Asdrubal Cabrera

    Starlin Castro

    Mike Stanton

    Shane Victorino

    Clayton Kershaw

    Jacoby Ellsbury

    Curtis Granderson

10. Stephen Strasburg

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    Most Exciting Performance of 2011: First start after coming back from Tommy John surgery

    Stephen Strasburg has been a hype-machine ever since his sensational career at San Diego State University. He was then drafted No. 1 overall by the Washington Nationals in 2009. He signed a record-breaking deal for $15.1 million, tore through the minors and in his first career start went seven innings, gave up two runs and struckout 14 batters.

    Strasburg had Tommy John surgery in 2010 but is still only 23 years old and can still reach triple digits on the radar gun. In the first 92 innings of his career he has a 2.54 ERA and an 11.4 K/9.

    Young pitchers that can reach 100 miles per hour and strike batters out at will are exciting to watch.

9. Andrew McCutchen

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    Most Exciting Play of 2011: Sliding Catch vs. New York Mets

    Surprised to see Andrew McCutchen on this list? Don't be.

    Not only does he make incredible defensive plays but he also hits for power and steals bases. That is the positional player trifecta when it comes to excitement.

    At only 25 years old, McCutchen is the face of the Pittsburgh Pirates' franchise—and for good reason. In his short three-year career he has averaged 20 HR, 77 RBI and 30 SB per 162 games.

8. CC Sabathia

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    Most Exciting Performance of 2011: Strikes Out 14 vs. Seattle Mariners

    CC Sabathia is a lefty workhorse, and over the last five seasons he has averaged 240 innings pitched—you just do not see many of those.

    On top of that he is not afraid of wearing his emotions on his sleeve. He gets pumped very easily and for good reasons; over the last five seasons he has averaged 217 strikeouts and a 3.09 ERA per season. Add in a World Series ring and a Cy Young Award and Sabathia has the credentials of a great and exciting pitcher.

    In the end, he is everybody's favorite 6'7", 290-pound pitcher.

7. Matt Kemp

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    Most Exciting Play of 2011: Diving Catch vs. San Diego Padres

    How many players in the majors right now are legitimate 40-40 and Triple Crown threats? Just one: Matt Kemp.

    Sabermetrics may say Kemp plays well below average defense, but he makes exciting diving catches and throws out runners at an alarming rate.

    Any 27-year-old center fielder who can hit .324 with 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB and a Gold Glove is an exciting player.

6. Jose Reyes

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    Most Exciting Play of 2011: Double Play vs. Washington Nationals

    Jose Reyes, like Kemp, steals a ton of bases, hits for a high batting average and makes incredible defensive plays.

    Reyes led the NL with a .337 BA and stole 39 bases, despite only playing in 126 games due to recurring hamstring injuries. In a full 162-game season Reyes would project to steal 50 bases, which would only be the fifth highest total of his career after a four-year stretch from 2005 to 2008 where he hit 60, 64, 78 and 56 bases.

    Reyes will make more than his fair share of defensive mistakes at shortstop, but he will also make more than his fair share of plays that will make you ask yourself, "How did he get to that ball?" or "How did he make that throw?"

    Major League Baseball has annual "GIBBY Awards," and one of the categories is for "Wow Factor." Well, as you probably guessed, in 2011 Jose Reyes was nominated and finished in second place out of every single player in the majors.

5. Dustin Pedroia

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    Most Exciting Play of 2011: Nice Stop vs. New York Yankees in Bottom of the 13th Inning

    Don't lie. Everybody loves Dustin Pedroia—it is impossible not to.

    You can hate the Boston Red Sox, but Pedroia, other than Derek Jeter, embodies baseball better than anybody else in the majors.

    Pedroia was not endowed with a prototypical frame or incredible talent, but he goes out 110-percent on every play and has incredible passion for the game.

    This is exciting to watch because he does things you do not expect from somebody measuring in at only 5'8".

    Bottomline, there is a reason he is nicknamed "Laser Show."

4. Tim Lincecum

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    Most Exciting Play of 2011: Diving Catch vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

    Tim Lincecum is nicknamed "The Freak" for a reason.

    Everything from his quirky unorthodox delivery to his career 9.9 K/9 is exciting.

    His strikeout rate has regressed over the last few years, but he did top 260 strikeouts in 2008 and 2009, so there was nowhere to go but down. Despite this regression, he still strikes out over a batter an inning.

    Lincecum already had two Cy Young Awards by 25 years old, has an impressive 2.98 career ERA and a World Series ring.

3. Justin Verlander

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    Most Exciting Performance of 2011: No-Hitter vs. Toronto Blue Jays

    Two no-hitters, two 250-plus strikeout seasons, a 2.40 ERA, a Cy Young Award, an MVP Trophy and a trip to the World Series. Sounds pretty exciting, doesn't it?

    Only two things are more exciting in baseball than a no-hitter: a perfect game and winning the World Series.

    Verlander is only 28 years old and is tied for sixth in major league history with two no-hitters, only Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Larry Corcoran, Bob Feller and Cy Young have more than Verlander.

    The amount of hype that surrounded Verlander's incredible 2011 season was off the charts, and it ended in the first pitcher winning a MVP Award since Roger Clemens in 1986.

2. Brian Wilson

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    Most Exciting Play of 2011: Save vs. Philadelphia Phillies

    Fear the beard.

    Brian Wilson has a huge amount of swagger—it is just how he plays the game of baseball. When he is on the mound, you watch him. Do not think it is just because of his signature beard and big personality, it is also because he is a dominant closer.

    He has a career 9.6 K/9, a 3.17 career ERA and has averaged 41 saves over the last four years. Add in a 0.00 ERA, six saves and 16 strikeouts in 11.2 career postseason innings and Wilson is must-see TV.

1. Robinson Cano

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    Most Exciting Play of 2011: Grand Slam vs. Detroit Tigers in ALDS

    Robinson Cano won the 2011 MLB GIBBY Award for "Wow Factor," and for good reason. Cano changes games by himself and can single handedly silence Fenway Park, which is no small feat.

    Cano hit four grand slams in 2011, including one in the ALDS against the Tigers. He also makes incredible defensive plays. You can say he is sabermetrically a bad defensive second baseman, but you cannot deny he makes incredible plays that you did not believe were possible.

    Over the last three years Cano has hit .314/.361/.529 with 28 HR and 104 RBI. How many second basemen have that type of power but still hit over .310? Just one.

    You can question his effort all you want but the fact is, he goes all out, and is just so talented it looks easy.

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